Sunday, 27 December 2015

This Messy Life

Christmas 2015 has come and gone.

There's a photo-bomber in every crowd!

Trying to arrange everyone for the annual Christmas shot is a challenge.

...but finally, it happens. Quick, shoot before someone moves.
This year, we were the ones to decorate the little tree in the woods.
The Christmas visitors packed up and left yesterday morning. The last sticky kisses and lingering hugs have been exchanged, and off they go. No more “Five Fat Days of Christmas” -- non-stop feeding of 12 hungry mouths. No more noise of children playing and running through the house, computers pinging, adults discussing lofty issues. No more dishwasher running non-stop. No more coats and shoes piled up by the door, and suitcases lying open in hallways. No more mattresses on the floor and pillows on the sofa and stray socks and mittens under the coffee table. Oh bliss, the house is ours again. But I miss them already!

I miss them already, but ... The hardest thing for me when the kids come home is giving up  my office/studio, my own space, my circle of quiet where I am free to create and dream without interruption. When the family comes home, however, the work table collapses, the design wall comes down, and the Murphy wall-bed descends. My space becomes “Bedrooms R Us” for whoever needs the space.

Right now, I have a number of projects on the go. What will happen to those budding ideas that still need development? Will the ideas still be there when I pull the projects out of the closet where I tucked them a few weeks ago? In Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic, she suggests that ideas have a life of their own; they visit you, calling out, “Okay, here I am! I’ve chosen you to make me real and send me out into the world.” But if you tell those ideas, “Later, later, I haven’t time now,” they may just give up on you; they may skip town and lodge in someone else’s heart, one who is more receptive! That may sound  hokey, but I suspect there’s some truth to the theory. I have more than a box full of unfinished pieces that were begun with a passion and fizzled out through neglect.

It’s a conundrum: I love my family, I love it when they come home, I love the bustling and busy times, the photobombers who mess up photos, the bits of tinsel stuck to the carpet. I love the deep bond that’s strengthened when we spend time together.  But I also love my calling, to follow creative ideas, do something with them, and send them out to the world.

[Interlude: at this point I stop writing, stumped. You  shouldn’t be writing things like that, the voice in my head tells me sternly. Your calling as a mother is sacred. How can you even compare it to something like this creative urge you have to make sense out of your life and then share it with others? Surely you know what your priority is. Bad mother! Bad mother! Ah, guilt. The gift that keeps on keeping on.]

So, defeated, I go to bed. Overnight, something happens. We are in the season leading up to the Festival of Epiphany, January 6, observed as a church festival to celebrate the coming of the Magi, the first non-Jewish people to worship the Christ child. In non-church language, epiphany has come to mean a flash of insight or realization. My epiphany arrives overnight.

Messy: life is messy! It is not an either/or proposition, with clear lines around discrete packages, which you must choose between;  it’s a “all this and more” event. You say it’s a conundrum? NO! It’s blessings upon blessings! And really, at its heart, that is the message of Christmas.

Whether you believe the facts of the Biblical story or not, the kernel of truth embedded in this sacred literature, to me, tells the story of a Creator who had infinite possibilities to choose from, and what did (s)he choose? To enter our messy world and be one of us for a time, to pour out love into this world indiscriminately and recklessly and generously, inviting  us to swim in it, to drink it in, to enjoy it in all its messy ramifications, and pass it on to others.

With love comes pain. With love comes hard decisions, disappointments, anxiety, sacrifices, discomfort ... and more. But to live without it? Unthinkable. What a gift!

This insight eases my soul. It’s time to pull out my latest project and see if the ideas chose to stay and bless me, or to leave and bless someone else. That too is good.

May your life this season and all year long be blessed with messiness, beauty, ideas, hugs and sticky kisses, and all the other things that spell love. 

Post Script: When I pulled out my project and looked at it with fresh eyes, I realized some parts of it would need to change. Apparently, ideas do have a life of their own, and they, like us, need a time of quietness and rest to develop properly. Another lesson learned in this messy life!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Popping Down the Rabbit Hole

“Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be late,” says the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Louis Caroll, author of Alice, explains what this creature is meant to portray: “ 'elderly,' 'timid,' 'feeble,' and 'nervously shilly-shallying,' and you will get something of what I meant him to be ..." (Wikipedia quote). Weak. Quivery. Fearful.

Thanks, Louis, you’ve described me to a T these days.

In the past few weeks, we’ve all been challenged with tragedies and horrors that show the worst aspects of humanity.  Personally, that’s left me feeling wrung out – “What to do, what to think?” I worry and fuss, as I wring my hands nervously. My friends ask the same questions I’m asking: Why? How did this come to be? How do I respond? We share our anxiety, but no answers are forthcoming.  I read vitriolic facebook posts, and am afraid to say the wrong thing, so they come out more like “vaguebook.” Or perhaps I just shut those “friends” down: too much, too much, I don’t want to deal with this, I think.

I’m with you, rabbit: I think I’ll just pop down into the fantasy world of your rabbit hole and have myself a warm and soothing cup of tea and some buttered crumpets. After that I’ll take a nap, and perhaps when I wake up the world will be alright.

Yes, and the queen wears spandex yoga pants. Not likely.

Hiding is not a good thing, is it? Well, no, but also, well, yes.

As I’m reflecting on my anxieties, a Facebook friend shares a post written by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. She says that, distressed by all that’s happened, she’s done what she can – writing letters to her Member of Parliament, giving money to charitable organizations that support immigrants, looking for ways to give hands-on help if and when refugees arrive, and praying for all who are hurt, grieving, homeless, frightened and feeling paralyzed.

“But there is something else I can do,” she says. “I can recognize that after five days of reading too many opinions that make no sense to me (and arguing with them in my head) I need to give myself the silence and stillness and centering that grounds me in this moment, so I can see with clear eyes and follow the wisdom of the heart. Some of what I have read makes my heart ache and makes me fearful for our world.

Being grounded in Presence is the way I know to listen and act from a place of heart wisdom - but, when there is a lot of fear flying around it can take a little silence and stillness to make myself available to that Presence.”

Do what you can ... but don’t forget to listen. There are answers meant just for you if you will take the time to be open and hear them.

We all have our own way of listening, of popping down the rabbit hole for a while, retreating from the world as we know it so we can become grounded in the presence of the Divine.  Some  might take a silent retreat in a monastery, while others serve soup in the soup kitchen, offering deep love with each ladle of broth, looking into each face and seeing Christ there. Long walks, journaling, sitting in silence, prayer, enlightening ourselves through books and study –  a host of spiritual disciplines can help us listen.  The resident sweetie has been cleaning up his mason bee hives and finds that the cleaning and sorting of 2,000 cocoons is a meditative activity that frees his mind from anxieties and worries. Who knew that sorting bees could be a spiritual discipline?

My way, I find, is to create beauty as I “work, listening.” I am in my studio this weekend, as much as possible, to do that: write and create art. From experience I know that has been the best way to be open and listening, to eventually see my way clear to a new direction.

"I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It distresses me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about," writes author Toyohiko Kagawa.

Yes, me too – but I also know that before I go about doing good, I will have to quiet down. And listen.  And fill this world with beauty.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Crow Reflects

So it’s over. The election hype that filled our newspapers, Facebook posts, and conversations – it’s all over but the shouting, as the cliche goes.  There may still be a lot of noise, but we know without doubt who won and who lost.

The Crow felt a wave of relief. She could back to tucking her head under her wing and keeping quiet.

And yes, there’s been noise. The newspapers are dissecting what happened, and my Facebook page features commentary, analysis, blog posts, and cartoons. Even some complaints and rants. When we get together with friends, the talk is still mostly about the election.

“I guess I’ll have to learn to talk Liberal,” said a friend a little morosely (his party lost).

The Crow raised her head. Hmmm. That doesn’t sound right, she thought. So here’s one last post about the election (Maybe!)

Really, politics is not all about left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, East coast vs. west coast,  pro-this vs. anti-that, or any of the differences of conviction that guide us when we make choices.

Quote attributed to Butler Schaffer.
Politics is about the things that are important to all of us in life: freedom of expression and belief, justice, work, family, health, money, about how to create a community and a society where people are able to live and work together for the common good.

The thing is, though, we all have different opinions about what’s most important in that list, and how to go about achieving it. That’s when we begin shouting at each other, thinking we can convince the other of our rightness. That ain’t gonna happen! Research has shown many times that trying to convince someone to change their deeply held convictions is more likely to deepen the convictions then to effect a conversion.

Do we really believe that it will ever be possible to speak in one voice? To be unified and move forward under the banner of Total and Utter Agreement? That ain’t gonna happen! Even when all people passionately share a goal – for instance, declaring independence as the USA did in 1776 – they often have different ideas of what that goal means. So of the 55 delegates who gathered in 1787 to create the Constitution by which their land would be governed, only 39 signed it. Almost 30% were so strongly opposed they couldn’t go along with those who did sign.

There will always be tension. There will always be differing opinions and convictions. In a country that takes such pride in its cultural mosaic, there are many “others” and “thems” – those people who are different from us. That makes for an uncomfortable life. Wouldn’t it be nicer if we all shared the same political and cultural beliefs? Wouldn’t our neighbourhoods, our schools, our churches and other institutions be safer if we all thought the same? But common sense tells me that ain’t gonna happen, either.

Nor would it be good. We need each other. Each voice has something to offer, and if we listen hard enough, we will appreciate the gifts we all bring to the table. We are like a sweater that is knit together, each stitch looped into the one ahead of it and behind it, embedded in the row above and the row below. To drop stitches makes the sweater unwearable. It will unravel in the end.*

What has the crow learned from all this? Less squawking, more listening. Less division, more community. What we have in common is bigger and more important than the things that set us apart. Democracy depends on all of us.

It's like 13th Century poet Hafiz wrote:
Of a great need
We are all holding hands 
And climbing,
Not loving is a letting go.
The terrain around here
Far to dangerous 

(from The Gift: Poems of Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky.) 
Let’s figure out how to live respectfully and work with each other. If Trudeau and Harper can do it, so can we.

*The image of the sweater is from the play Grace and Glorie by Tom Ziegler. Thanks to friends who shared the story with me. What would we do without our friends for inspiration and insights?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Crow Votes Yes

The crow started these two weeks of posts when she became enveloped in the cloud of negativity generated by the election.

You’ve seen and heard as much as I have: this person is a liar, that one doesn’t tell the truth, and you can’t believe what so-and-so says.  Like Chicken Little, many people are running around in a panic, sure the world will come to an end if their chosen candidate doesn’t get elected.

Sadly, spiritual people are not immune from the Chicken Little syndrome. More than a large share of the posts I’ve received on Facebook come from people who would normally be sending me Scripture verses that tell me that God has a plan for us so we can live in trust.

Living in a web of tension and anxiety is tiring and discouraging. When that happens,  you have a choice: choose to live in that  dark fog, or create some light. The inner crow banged on the bars of her cage and squawked loudly and insistently: “Let me out! I have something to say.” So I opened the door. The Crow’s posts were my small attempt to elevate the level of discussion beyond propaganda and partisanship.

By the time you read this, the politicians will be down to their last desperate grab for the undecided voter. Another day, and all the shouting and posturing will be over (and we’ll find new things to complain about.)

And then what? Business as usual?

If there is one thing I’ve learned from this experience, it is that we cannot leave politics only to the politicians. The word “politics” derives from the Greek word for citizen, and all of us are that. As Parker Palmer says, “Politics is the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day.”

The day after the election, the business of politics will still be responsible for welcoming immigrants to this country; it will ensure that the weakest of our citizens is cared for; it will enforce laws that protect the community, guard the freedom to practice our faith, enact laws to protect our environment, regulate the finances of the land, safeguard freedom of expression. And that’s only the beginning of a very long list of responsibilities that affect us all. As citizens, it’s not only our privilege to vote, but also our business to engage in our communities for the good of all.

I’ve had enough of negativity and the darkness, cynicism and discouragement it creates in our communities and in our country. Instead, I timidly raise my hand; I’ll vote for Yes.

It’s just a little yes, but then, good things come in many sizes. I’m not sure what my quiet little yes will lead to – more involvement in environmental issues in our community? Helping a refugee family? Writing a letter to the editor of the paper? All of it is good...

As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of community activist Parker Palmer. In one of his blogs, he writes about waking up cranky one morning (just like some of us will likely be waking up cranky the day after the election!) Then he reads this poem by Mary Oliver, called “Landscape.”

    Isn't it plain the sheets of moss, except that
    they have no tongues, could lecture
    all day if they wanted about

    spiritual patience? Isn't it clear
    the black oaks along the path are standing
    as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

    Every morning I walk like this around
    the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
    ever close, I am as good as dead.

    Every morning, so far, I'm alive. And now
    the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
    and burst up into the sky—as though

    all night they had thought of what they would like
    their lives to be, and imagined
    their strong, thick wings.

“Grace comes from surprising places,” writes Palmer. “This time it came from those crows. They reminded me that, though I was entangled in the darkness, I am not one with it — any more than the crows’ strong black wings are one with the night from which they fly. They reminded me that I, too, have wings to lift me out of the darkness toward the light I would like my life to be, wings of faith and will, imagination and skill.”

And to that, I say Yes!

The Crow Needs a Laugh

Is this the worst election campaign ever? Do you wish it were over?

The crow was looking through political cartoons, wishing there was something she could laugh about, but alas, the funny stuff seemed too close to the truth. It made her want to weep.

Then the article linked below appeared on the radar. It reminded the crow that politics -- "the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day" (Parker Palmer) doesn't have to be a dirty word.

And sometimes it can even be funny, because laughter is great medicine. Hurrah!

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Crow is Pensive

A big word: Justice. Lofty. Rarely mentioned in an election campaign that seems to be narrowing its focus to economics.

Justice:  The quality of being just; fairness. The principle of moral rightness; decency.

Great thinkers have written widely about the importance of justice, which is the foundation of our society. Consider this quote:

“ Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale?” (St. Augustine, City of God)

I wonder what this campaign would have been like if it had focused on justice rather than money? I wonder how our country’s character would change if candidates fought for justice with as much passion as they do for the middle class? Wouldn’t that message raise our hopes, inspire works of mercy, and help us be better than we are? And wouldn’t that filter out into the world? Just wondering today...

The final word goes to Plato: "Justice in the life and conduct of the state is only possible as first it resides in the hearts and souls of its citizens." I guess I have some work to do on myself today.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Crow Posts another Survival Tip

Globe and Mail Reporter David Parkinson starts an article this way: “There’s a saying that dates back to ancient Greece:  In war, truth is the first casualty...”

He continues with a list of political ads that tell only a very small part of the truth. Parties put out these ads hoping you will not dig too deep to find the rest of the story. However, Parkinson did dig a little deeper, and shared the “rest of the story” with his readers.

“...It would have been nice if voters weren’t forced to wade through the fear-mongering muck to compare and contrast what our leaders are proposing,” concludes Parkinson. “I guess maybe the second casualty of this war is respect for the intelligence of the electorate caught in the crossfire.”

Ironically, the headline of the article speaks of “Conservative ads that are full of half-truths” but further into the article he admits it’s not just the Conservatives that are doing this, and also lists Liberal and NDP ads filled with half-truths. The crow thinks, therefore, that the headline is misleading, not quite truthful, you might say.

Crows have managed to survive in a harsh and changing world because they are wary and alert, and help each other by cawing out when they sense that something is wrong. Let’s be like the crows.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Crow Checks Out Character

Crow Point to Ponder:

When you vote, you're voting to reflect the character traits you believe are important to build up in our country.

Consider this checklist: how are we doing?


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Crow Murmurs

 Day 8: Words of Encouragement

The attack ads are coming fast and furious now, attack and counterattack. It’s enough to make a grown crow weep.

Then she remembers that the anger in these ads comes from someone’s deep need to shape the world into a certain vision of what’s right. If our vision is different, we can lash back in anger, or we can take the energy of that anger, turn it around and use if for the common good to heal the world. Sure, it’s simplistic, but the world will be healed not by grandiose plans and projects, but one little bit at a time. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King didn’t hatch big campaigns backed by mega dollars, they started with a seed of a desire to right a wrong, to see justice prevail.

After the votes are cast, and the winner is announced, life will go on. The campaign signs will be put away, but the lights won’t go out on the world’s needs. When we recognize what gives us joy, and it intersects with a deep need in the world around us, that’s where we’re supposed to be at work.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Crow Ponders Facts and Figures

Thanksgiving Day, when many are counting their blessings, is a worthy day to consider some facts and figures.
Lots of numbers are flying around the internet these days. Various indexes are quoted to show that our country is doing very well financially, that our citizens enjoy an enviable standard of living.
Using a calculator found at a family of four making $35,000 (close to the poverty line in Canada) would still be in the richest 15.4% of the world’s population. You can check out your own statistics at that site. Yes, we are on top of the world.
In 1993, the UN designated October 17 the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In this day and age with a global economy and global conflicts, we can’t live in splendid isolation, patting ourselves on the back. When we’re pointing at the few rich people who have most of the world’s wealth in their hands, we’re pointing at ourselves, too. The question we need to ask ourselves as Canadians is this: What is our responsibility to the world in eradication of poverty?
And closer to home, how are we alleviating poverty in our own land? There’s lots of it around.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Silence of the Crow

I was going to write another squawking post. But guess what: the inner crow today is very quiet. Doesn’t have a lot to say. And that too, is good, for as the Preacher said, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” A time to squawk, and a time to be quiet. A time to speak, and a time to listen.

So I am listening. I am listening to posts you graciously shared with me when I asked you what you valued in this country. They were lovely values: Clean air and clean water. An incredible environment.  Freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Peace and prosperity. A society that cares and takes care of others when needed. A spirit of volunteerism. Caring for our neighbours at home and in the world. A concern for justice. A classless social structure. The freedom to fulfill one’s dreams.

To these, I would add my own values: a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot; social and health safety nets, which while not perfect, ensure that we have access to the services we need; education; and a general  acknowledgement that there are problems that need fixing and a will to do so.  On this Thanksgiving Day weekend, we especially remember all these wonderful qualities and are thankful.

I listened to what you didn’t say: a balanced budget, financial security (is there such a thing?), law and order, lower taxes. Yet, so much of the election debate is focussed on these things.

I listened to what the leaders didn’t say. Mostly, with the exception of one party leader, they haven’t been talking about climate change, one of the biggest elephants in the room. They didn’t talk about the huge challenge we have in dealing with aboriginal issues, nor did they propose starting over on this issue. They didn’t talk about living within a global context, and being dominated by forces bigger than ourselves – big money, big powerful neighbour, big fears.

I listened to people talk when I went to the all-candidates forum held this week. I was struck by the excellent candidates and their eloquent presentations about what they consider to be important, by the credentials they represented – so many hours of volunteer service in so many worthy causes. I listened to the murmurs in the mostly respectful crowd when someone said something they just couldn’t believe. It occurred to me that people are engaged by stories more than by facts and figures.

I listened to people in shops and stores. One man yesterday told me he’d gone to the advance poll, and had to wait more than an hour to vote. “But it’s all good, it’s all good,” he beamed. “We live in a country where we can vote. Isn’t that great?”

I listened to Facebook posts. Some I didn’t like it all, and they set my inner crow to shaking the bars of her cage. But I kept my beak shut (mostly) unless I found I could engage in meaningful, not reactive dialogue. I also listened to thought-provoking posts that opened my eyes to truths I had not considered. Sometimes, we need to understand that people say what they say because they have experiences I haven’t had. When we are confronted by rants and fearmongering, we can choose to view life as a fearful scary experience so that we must protect ourselves against all possible problems, or as an experience that challenges us to rise up and do better. I choose hope. And in Canada, we have that choice.

I listened to stories. The newspapers and media are full of stories in this week leading up to Thanksgiving, stories about people who came to this land as refugees and immigrants, and who have an ongoing love affair with our country. They teach me to value even more the good that we can do in this world if we have the will to do it.

I listened to voices way wiser than mine by reading and researching. This week, the book beside my reading chair is What’s Happened to Politics?, written by Bob Rae. Yes, he’s often been vilified, but as someone who has participated in politics all his life, he has a unique perspective. This was an enlightening, informative read, and a clear explanation of how global involvement has affected this land and its policies. He calls for parties to work together to solve the problems and meet the challenges. It occurs to me that Rae has been NDP and Liberal, but it seems he also has a tinge of Green in his blood!

Listening is good. It is good to stand still for a moment, to disengage ourselves from the voting machine, and to hear what others have to say. Then, when the listening is done, in the space we create, we can finally, perhaps, hear our own voice, our own heart, and make a choice.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Crow Confession

Day 6

Yesterday I was discouraged. I read an anxiety-filled post on Facebook that told me I’d better start praying that a certain party would win, or we would all be in huge trouble. The leader of this party was a saint, while the leaders of the other parties would destroy our country. The same day I read statistics to prove that statistics one party was using were lies. I read cheery thanksgiving messages telling me how blessed I was to live in North America (true), and read a post by Richard Gere who posed as a homeless man on the streets of New York – perhaps his best role ever! – where everybody but one person passed him by. I was filled with righteous indignation ... until I recalled that the day before I myself had crossed the street to avoid an unsavory character begging on a street corner.

“The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers [and ordinary people like you and me] is the best way to take their place.” (From a recent address by Pope Francis to the United States Congress)

(Gere's story appeared on my Facebook page under the banner of The Humans of New York.)

Friday, 9 October 2015

Survival of the Informed

Crow Wisdom: Day 5

One of the reasons crows thrive is that they are constantly observing and adapting their behaviour to changing circumstances.

Confession: while I was merrily living my life on the fringes, massive changes have been happening in political life, and I didn’t notice.

My eyes are somewhat open, now that I am searching for information. If we are determined not to be manipulated by anger, lies, and fear, we need to be like the crow. The survival of the things we value in our country depend on our vigilance, our adaptation, and our squawking loudly (with an informed voice.)
It’s not too late to do a little research on the campaign strategies and understand the implications for ourselves as we try to decipher the various messages being hurled at us. For instance, we are in a world where campaigns are now not confined to times of election, but go year round. This requires lots of money. Fundraising is fed by outraged supporters whose anger needs to be constantly stoked. In these circumstances, there is little room for compromise.

And there’s more. Voter Suppression, Data Mining, Using the media in election campaigns -- Google these terms, and you will learn a lot!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Crow Comfort

Crow Encouragement: Day 4

Think politics is a dirty word? Think again. This quote is from Parker Palmer's blog at On Being, a website of thoughtful heart and brain food. Palmer begins by quoting a poem, then launches into his thoughts:

“Though much of our political discourse is toxic, “politics” itself is not a dirty word. It’s the ancient and honorable effort to come together across our differences and create a community in which the weak as well as the strong flourish, love and power collaborate, and justice and mercy have their day.
Yes, that’s a vision of politics that will never be fully achieved. But every time someone abandons that vision and turns to cynicism, democracy suffers one more wound in the death of a thousand cuts.”

Read the whole blog at

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Still Squawking

The Crow Quotes: Day 3

Attack ads -- political advertising that portrays a leader in a negative way -- are a fact of life in election campaigns. Unfortunately research shows that, the more negative the ad, the more it sticks in people's minds. (Of course, that can backfire, too.) You can read more about attack ads at

A daily diet of negative ads may create in us a desire to fight fire with fire, and become negative ourselves. We may talk with disdain about a candidate we don't like, disparaging them. Yup, I do it all the time, even though I don't think that's the best of me. And it only feeds disgust, anxiety and discouragement.

I like this quote, a point to ponder when we are tempted to follow the trend to negativity:

"Are our words imparting life or death? Are they building [up] or feeding ... fears? Are they bringing forth love and reconciliation, or division and strife? Remember, whatever fruit [the tree] is bearing, we ourselves will have to eat it eventually" (Rick Joyner)

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Squawking: Special Edition

When I started CrowDayOne, I promised I would only send these out once a week on Sundays. That's why I call this is a special edition. Think of it as "EXTRA! EXTRA! Read all about it!" 

In Canada, October 19 is voting day for a new government. In the US, electioneering is also in full swing, leading up to next year's election.

In my previous post, I lamented the fact that I felt so discouraged by all the election rhetoric, which often elevated my levels of anxiety about the future. So the old inner crow told me to start squawking. I promised to send out questions, opinions, cartoons, thoughtful quotes  and whatever I run across that may help us all to be better citizens.

Yesterday, I posted a question on Facebook, and e-mailed it to those who receive Crowdayone by e-mail. Thus, you may be getting this twice -- and for that, I apologize. As I said yesterday in my e-mail, I will not be offended if you ignore or turn off my feed or don't participate. However, if you are like me, wishing there was more civility in the political rhetoric that's swirling around us and fills the media, read on! And maybe do a little squawking of your own. It couldn't hurt, could it?

Yesterday's question was this:

The Crow's question: Day 1
What do you value in this country that you hope will still be a strong value for the next generation to experience?

I got some great responses, and will use those answers in my longer post next Sunday.

Today, I sent out this message:

The Crow's point to ponder: Day 2
When you read in the paper that a recent poll shows that 80% of us believe X, Y, or Z, consider this:

"Election polling is in near crisis, and we pollsters know. Two trends are driving the increasing unreliability of election and other polling ...: the growth of cellphones and the decline in people willing to answer surveys. ... When I first started doing telephone surveys in New Jersey in the late 1970s, we considered an 80 percent response rate acceptable, and even then we worried if the 20 percent we missed were different in attitudes and behaviors than the 80 percent we got. Enter answering machines and other technologies. By 1997, Pew’s response rate was 36 percent, and the decline has accelerated. By 2014 the response rate had fallen to 8 percent."

(New York Times op-ed piece, June 30, 2015 written by Cliff Zukin, professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers University and a past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.)
for those of you not familiar with Western Canada politics, Alison Redford was elected premier of Alberta; Christy Clark was elected premier of British Columbia. Both were surprise wins.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Squawking Again

After my 100th post, my inner crow heaved a sigh of relief, tucked her head under her wing, and took a long, well-deserved rest.

In the meantime, the resident sweetie and I had a grand adventure in Europe. We live in an amazing world; our feet took us through busy streets, ancient buildings, valleys where Cro-Magnon man walked thousands of years ago, awesome cathedrals, marketplaces, and along quiet rivers.

the beginnings of a small piece of wall art, showing my impression of a town in the south of France.
We heard street musicians, church bells, bird song, and the excited chatter of children. We saw sunsets over country villages, green fields, and ocean waves. The impressions we had will take a while to sort through, but each has left an indelible mark on our souls. And we loved it all.

See how relaxed and happy we appear to be? (That's Mont St. Michel in the background.)
But back at the ranch, things were happening in Canada. An election had been called, and every time I checked my e-mail and Facebook, political posts were popping up, sent by well-meaning friends and family. I’d like to say my inner crow – the part of me that observes and  creatively responds to the world around me – was able to ignore this, but I began to sense a restlessness within. Soon the crow was fully awake and banging on the bars of the cage I’d put her in. “Let me out and let me talk about this,” she squawked. By the time I got home, Old Crow was in full cry.

I’m not a political person, and conflict makes me want to leave the room. I’d rather let the world go by – maybe tuck my head in, hunker down, and wait for the commotion to pass. But I’ve also learned that to ignore these inner promptings is not healthy. I may be able to keep them contained for a while, but you don’t want to be around when the top blows off. Not pretty. Feathers everywhere. The crow reminded me that I had dealt with this issue several times in my blogs. Now it was time to ante up, to walk the talk.

"Squawk On!" a piece I created to remind myself that it's important to speak up when you feel something is wrong.
So I’m going to let the crow squawk – not about who to vote for, and not to point out the strengths and failings of the various political parties and their leaders – that’s already being done ad infinitum. Instead, I’d like to suggest a moratorium on partisan rhetoric, all those words that are aimed at telling others why this politician is the greatest, or why that one is a clone of the devil.

In the introduction to his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, Parker Palmer explains why all this rhetoric is so divisive. We each have in our hearts and minds, he says, an image of what our country should be in order for us to feel good. But of course, reality never lives up to this image – horrible things happen, people lie, the budget goes in the hole, promises are not kept –  and we get angry because our needs aren’t being met. We look for someone to blame, and it’s always the other guy – the one who has a different image of what our country should be. Hence the angry diatribes and alarmist propaganda on the web and on social media. Does this get us what we need? No. It only makes us fearful, anxious, and under attack. I know this because I’ve been there, done that, engaged in the p***ing contests that nobody wins. I don’t want to do that anymore.

Palmer says, “Understand that it’s more important to be in right relationship than it is to be right. This does not mean compromising your convictions for the sake of “niceness.” It means holding your differences with others in a way that can sustain dialogue over time, giving everyone a chance to speak, listen, and learn. The issues that divide us are complex; if we don’t hang in with each other long enough to sort them out we will never get anywhere near the best solutions.” http ://   We have resources and gifts that the world badly needs, but we can’t offer them if our fists are clenched and we’re busy yelling at each other.

So I turned off all political feeds that landed on Facebook. No more political ads from any party, for political ads only tell you half the story. I attended a non-partisan workshop that showed me how the system works, and how the media portrays issues. It gave me lots of food for thought, and also gave me hope. I’ve been trolling the internet to find practical and encouraging information on civic actions every citizen can practice that will make a difference. I’ve started asking myself questions: what do I value? What am I willing to sacrifice for the good of more people? When I vote – and for sure I will –  I want my vote to align with my beliefs, as much as I am able. 

And I’ve taught my inner crow some manners; there are things she may believe, but in the interests of meaningful dialogue, it’s not wise to say them.  “Okay, okay, I get it,” she said irritably. “But I still think there’s more to say.” (She’s a feisty old bird, and it’s hard to shut her up.)

So I’ve decided to let her out every day till October 18 to ask one question, or quote someone wise, or give you a giggle at our human foibles, or suggest some research to check out and chew on. It’ll appear on your Facebook page, or in your e-mail box. “Alright, alright, much better,” says the old crow within, brightening up considerably.

Every time we vote, we have the privilege of saying what kind of country we want to live in. To do that, we need to be sure of our values, and consider our options away from propaganda and partisanship, which often breed fear and encourage anger. I hope you’ll check out the crow’s squawkings , and hopefully some of the snippets will give you food for thought and will help you define what’s important to you.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

1, 2, 3 ... 100!

This is post #100 on CrowDayOne.

When I posted my first blog piece more than two years ago, I never envisioned where this journey would lead. Now, 99 posts later, I look back and realize the truth of Confucius’ statement:

Blogging on CrowDayOne step by step by step has been an amazing journey.

I think back on the that first single step I took – and even before that, the decision to take that first step. For many years, I had been dreaming of bringing my art and my writing together, and using these two mediums to address spiritual issues common to women of “a certain age.” I had no idea how that would happen – a book? A giant quilt? A series of pieces? –  but I traveled on in faith, learning more about quilting, about women’s issues, about writing genres, and about my own changing spirituality.

Then the crow appeared at the top of my winter tree, and I heard her say, “The time has come.” (No, not literally – but that’s the creative thought that appeared as I worked on the piece, and how that happens? Only God knows.)

I marvel at the threads that come together so wonderfully at certain points in one’s life. This was perfect timing. I began, and oh, wow! I felt as though I was doing what I’d been created to do. Such joy! I’d have done it even if nobody read it, because all the thoughts and questions and ideas that had been percolating in my head over so many years had found a home at CrowDayOne.

And the bonus was that you responded to let me know that I was on the right track, that my observations and questions were often the same ones you had. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are the icing on the cake.

But all journeys come to an end eventually. If this blog is a train, then it is running out of steam. Some days, it’s hard to get it started. It stutters and complains and seems reluctant to go. I think the time has come to take it out of service for an assessment and inspection. Actually, though, deep down, I know that while the train may need a bit of work, the problem really is with the engineer who is driving the train.

The writing and the art that has appeared on this blog has come out of me, out of my heart, out of my deepest truths. But I found that with a blog on the go, I rarely journaled anymore, even though journaling had always been a spiritual practice of mine, a way to grow and stay connected with the Creator. Journals from years past line a shelf, holding stories of spiritual struggles fought and (sometimes)  resolved, hard won insights that worked for me, and quotes from authors who have helped me on the journey. (And I’ll be honest: a whole lot of drivel, too.) While you can live on stored-up nourishment for a long time, there comes a time when the larder is empty. That, I think, is what has happened to me. Now I’ve begun to journal and walk again, and feeling more at peace.

Just as the timing was perfect for the beginning of the blog, so now the timing is also right for this ending. 100 is a nice number! And in a few weeks, DV, the resident sweetie and I are embarking on a journey of a different kind. We’ll be in Europe, during which time we are meeting up with all our children and grandchildren in an old Frisian farmhouse for a Family Roots trip. We’ll visit where Al and I were born, meet up with some relatives, check out windmills and historic places, visit the graves of ancestors, and oh, yes, just hang out with each other.  It will be a time to be, not a time to do. We will be traveling in a spirit of openness, welcoming new experiences. With my ears, my eyes, my mind and my heart receptive, who knows what will happen? It will be another adventure on the journey of life, exploring possible new pathways to follow into the future.

A new blog reader posted this the other day on Facebook.

I love it! There’s a time to sit in the second and third rows for a while to catch your breath, but when I’m ready, I hope to be in that front row again!

I am so grateful for these last two years of my life. I am especially grateful for the support and encouragement of the resident sweetie, who is my first reader and truthteller. He put up with a lot of ribbing about his nickname and he took it graciously. As well, my writing group has been a Godsend, whether they believe it or not. I wouldn’t have started this without their cheering me on. And for all you friends and loved ones who were long-suffering and patient listeners as I shared  my dreams over and over again  – you know who you are – bless you! – an enormous hug goes out to you. What a long list I could compile of other gratitudes – I feel incredibly blessed.

And in September ... ??? We shall see. The journey continues ...

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Letters to Live By

We live in an age that is awash in messages composed of a few letters that stand for a whole lot more. I wrote a post about that a while back when I entered the brave new world of smart phones with messaging capabilities. LOL. Well, the folks who popularized cell phones may think they invented all this cool internet slang language, but I have news for them. Back when we were youngsters, there were initials too, that we used to communicate meaning.

In fact, we even had a weighty word for these initials: acronyms – i.e. (that is), initials that are short forms of phrases or expressions. For example,  e.g., which  means ... ta dah!: for example!

I did a little prowling on the internet, and discovered that acronyms were rarely used before the 1950s. Those that were common at that time were often short forms of Latin phrases: e.g. (Exempli gratia), AD (anno Domini), a.m. (Ante Meridien) etc. (et cetera).

Mom often included the letters DV in her letters to Holland when she wrote about events that were being planned.
Mom's letters to Holland after she and dad immigrated were a real life line. I'm fortunate to have a treasure trove of them.

“We will be going to Dunnville to visit Klaas and Martje DV next weekend,” DV meaning Deo Volente – the Lord willing. Those two letters were so ingrained into my upbringing, that I still have a hard time talking about plans with others without including DV in the sentence. After all, “Man proposes, God disposes” – an old-fashioned phrase that has not yet been acronymatized – but these days, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to include MPGD in our internet lexicon to remind us that we’re not totally in control of our destinies.

Letter writing was something we did a lot. I had a pen pal, and most of the letters I wrote to her ended with a PS (post scriptum), where I wrote bits of news that I’d forgotten in the main body of the letter. Then, getting silly, I would add PPS, PPPS, and sometimes even PPPPS. PS could also stand for public school. (Today, PS can mean a host of other things, Play Station being one of the more common ones.) Sometimes, I’d add SWAK to the back flap of the envelope: Sealed With a Kiss. Apparently, those initials became popular during the 20s and 30s, when military men posted overseas sent letters home to their sweethearts.

Another great set of initials was D.A. Only guys could have a DA hairstyle, but oh my, they were cool dudes, rocking the boat and thumbing their noses at society. We teenaged girls swooned!

DA stands for Duck's Arse

Fonzie had one, too, plus lots of stuff going on up front. What a dude!
In the 60s, we gathered around our TV (if we were fortunate enough to have one) to watch NHL games on Saturday night on CBC -- or we'd play a game of table hockey.

Or we'd watch The Man From UNCLE later in the week. U.N.C.L.E  stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, an organization that was at war with  T.H.R.U.S.H. "Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity." Is it my imagination, or is THRUSH still around these days? That just may be the explanation for so many instances of dehumanization these days. Time to send out an SOS to the men -- and women -- from UNCLE.

We had many other important acronyms “way back then”: UN, NATO, NAACP, USA, OPEC, NASA, RCMP. And no, LOL was not invented by teenyboppers. Doctors have been writing that on hospital charts since the olden days to denote Little Old Lady, usually with some extra initials to describe her condition: LOLWNAA – "little old lady with no apparent ailment" being an example.

Which brings me to my current letters to live by. NB: these are important!

The first is LIG. My wise baby sister taught me these three little letters when I was spazzing out a couple of years ago, trying to manage oodles of  details with two sons getting married 2 months apart. LIG stands for Let It Go. When you’ve done what you can, but there’s still more on the list, you need to LIG. Will the world come to an end if everything you thought was important doesn’t get done? No. And will you be happier if you just LIG? Yes. (More importantly, would the people who love you be happier if you would just LIG? Yes.)  And this does not only apply to weddings. Surprise, surprise, it also applies to life. We are not totally, utterly, always responsible for everything.

The corollary to LIG is NMP – another acronym Fran taught me. NMP means Not My Problem. Certainly I have problems I am responsible for, but not everything is my problem. I can't fix it all. When I have done my best to live at peace with a fractious person who wants to keep fighting, then it is NMP anymore. I need to LIG. When I’ve suggested a solution to a difficult situation, and the people in charge aren’t interested in what I have to say, then it is NMP. I will LIG. My responsibility is to sort through situations and decide which are my problems, and which are not.

Because, in the end, IIWII, and IWBWIWB: It is what it is, and it will be what it will be. MPGD.

And thank God for that.