Tag: family (page 1 of 2)

A Surprising Gift for Christmas

Christmas…

Excited children, twinkling lights, the smell of fresh baking…

Sweat pooling under the armpits as you  trudge on the treadmill…

RECORD SCRATCH

Okay, maybe that’s not what comes to mind for most people when they think about Christmas. But this year, it’s been part of my ‘MO’ for quite awhile now.

I’ve been faithfully attending cardiac rehabilitation for almost ten weeks now. My last session is on December 22 – just in time for Christmas. I started going back at the end of August but had some ‘setbacks’ (namely two trips to the emergency ward and more time in hospital) so ‘restarted’ in October. Since the program is not available in my community, I have been driving almost two hours one way to attend in Fort St John. Fortunately, I have three children who live there, so I’ve invited myself to stay over most weeks, and have been spending a lot of time with the grandkids. I sometimes feel as if I should just move permanently!

Kidding, of course. I am amazed at how much stronger I feel. What a gift! I jokingly say I haven’t felt this physically fit for years.

Most of all, I am grateful for the gift of life. Near death experiences will do that to you. For those that don’t know, I had a heart attack in May of this year and then had to have triple bypass surgery. Many people shrug when they hear those words – bypass surgery. It is a common procedure these days and most people know someone who has gone through it. No biggy, right?

For those of us who have experienced it, let me just say, I hope to never have to go through that again. Having your chest cut wide open and having your heart stopped so that it can be operated on, is a bit disconcerting, to say the least, no matter how ‘common’ it might be! The months of painful recovery are no picnic either. It’s why I am so amazed by the fact that I can sustain a ninety minute work-out that actually makes me sweat.

Reasonably good health is a gift not to be taken for granted. It’s the one I’m most grateful for this Christmas.

Remembering Remebrance Day

As a child, I had to sit through two Remembrance Day ceremonies. The first usually took place on Nov. 10 at my school. Hundreds of students would cram in the gym and sit quietly through the familiar reading of ‘In Flanders Fields’ and the 23rd Psalm. Amazingly, everyone was able to remain still – even the normally fidgety ones – during the minute of silence. Somehow, the sense that this was something REVERENT had gotten through.

The second service took place at the Elks Hall. For some reason, this service had even more impact. It followed much the same program with the reading of ‘thee’ poem and ‘thee’ psalm, but there was something more. All the aging soldiers were there, medals jangling on their breasts as they marched in as best they could and sat in a place of honour near the front. After the playing of ‘Reveille’ by our local trumpet player came what was – and still is – perhaps the most moving aspect of all: Reading the roll call.

There is something very poignant about hearing name after name being called; all young men and women who fell defending democracy. The other thing that made my heart flutter was the fact that I recognized most of the surnames. Many of these last names were repeated during my morning attendance at school. You see, I come from a small prairie town where everyone knows everyone. These were relatives of people I knew; fallen soldiers that claimed Mossbank as their home.

Added to this was the fact that my hometown of Mossbank used to be home to an airbase during World War Two. A lot of air force veterans trained there during the war years, so anything military was kind of a big deal. After the war, most of the activity was moved to nearby Moose Jaw, a much larger and better equipped air base. (And currently still the home of the famous Canadian ‘Snow Birds’.) When I was a child we could watch for free as the Snow Birds did much of their flight training over our town, and you could still go exploring many of the abandoned hangers. They have since all been removed and the former base is now the home of the golf course.

When I moved away from Mossbank I continued to make attending a Remembrance Day service a part of my life. We moved a lot, so I’ve been at many different types of services. Most contain the same basis elements, but some seem more reverent than others. Still, I find it one of the most touching ceremonies, despite the sense of ‘ritual’ that it most often contains. I inevitably shed a tear or two, and usually go home to spend the rest of the day in reflection. One year I was able to take my children back to Mossbank for Remembrance Day. They were all a lot younger then, but I think it may have helped them understand the deep meaning that the day continues to hold for me. As we listened to the ‘Roll Call’, I think they may have recognized a name or two, as well.

May we never forget that these are not just story book heroes that we read about years later. They were real men and women who sacrificed themselves for our freedoms. No words can really express the gratitude that we owe. Thank you.

Thankful for New Life

It’s thanksgiving here in Canada and I wanted to share a quick update. I am SO  thankful for new life – especially my new granddaughter, Ingrid! 

This has been a year of challenges but also many victories. In short, I am thankful for LIFE itself, having gone through major heart surgery earlier this year. ‘Thankfully’, I’m back  on the road to recovery and anticipate many more good things before the year is over. (Including another grandchild in December!)

Passing On the Legacy – A Post Mother’s Day Tribute

This post was originally shared on my previous blog ‘Expression Express’. Since Mother’s Day has just come and gone, I share it here again. Enjoy!

My mother was a very vibrant and eccentric individual. She was known for her whimsical ways and inspired a family phrase that perfectly described the way she lived her life. The Doreen Method is our way of saying ‘make it up as you go along’. This applied to recipes, sewing, carpentry… just about anything. Mom wasn’t afraid to tackle tasks if she had no previous experience or skill, but the outcome might not be the norm. As an artist she loved to paint on any surface from canvas to rocks to whole buildings. When my sister and her husband moved into Mom’s old house they were faced with a dilemma.  There were lots of funny little murals she had painted in obscure nooks and crannies. How could one paint over them?

Mom was also a storyteller, and some of my favourite childhood memories include listening to bedtime stories and songs. We were well acquainted with Thornton W. Burgess’ Adventures of Reddy Fox, for instance. In fact, foxes and mice were the favourite characters in her repertoire of stories and songs. She shared them with her children and nieces and nephews, and the tradition was carried forward to her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren.

Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, we lost her seven years earlier to dementia. It was so difficult to see such a formerly vibrant individual reduced to the shell that she became. I had the privilege of sitting with her during the hours before she passed away. Somewhere around four o’clock in the morning on January 17, 2007, she slipped away to be with Jesus, free from the mental constraints that had kept her trapped for those seven years.

While I sat with her, holding her hand, I sang some of those old songs. One particularly special song was an old Haven Gillespie tune written in the 1930s called ‘The Sleepytown Express’. (listen here!) This is the song that ushered her into the presence of the Lord.  Strangely, my sisters and my two female cousins all woke at around four o’clock, dreaming about the Sleepytown Express…

I decided soon afterward that I would like to publish a book illustrating the song as a tribute to my mother. It took several years to do the paintings and quite a bit of  research to obtain permission to use the lyrics, but finally, in February of 2014, seven years after Mom passed, The Sleepytown Express was published.

For me this project was so much more than another book under my belt. It was about sharing Mom’s legacy with the extended family and passing it on to the next generation. This is not a book to be kept in pristine or precious condition; it is a book to be sung and celebrated as we pass the memorial torch on to the next generation.

 

The Doreen Method – A Recipe For Life

Today marks an important milestone for me. It is the tenth anniversary of my dear mother’s passing. In honour of her memory I am reposting an article I wrote several years ago on my previous blog, and which has been shared multiple others times, probably because of its impact. It is the story of a vibrant and amazing woman. So here, for the first time on this blog, I present to you… THE DOREEN METHOD. Enjoy

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The Doreen Method.  That’s what we call it at our house when I cook something strange or new off the top of my head, or sew something without a pattern, or clean in a haphazard whirlwind …. or do just about anything in a somewhat off the wall and non-traditional way. It’s a tribute to my mother, Doreen, and in a few minutes you’ll understand the full connotation of the phrase.

My mother was the most awesome, unique, creative, wild, crazy, loving, off the wall, caring, artsy, forgiving, nut case, wonderful women I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. Really. I know what you’re thinking. We all think our own mother’s are the best – or at least we say those kinds of things … especially when our mother’s are dead and gone, as mine is. It’s easy to remember the good traits and amplify them to some degree. So forgive me if my memory is somewhat biased.

But, cutting past all the platitudes and nice fuzzy feelings, my mother truly was an inspiration to not only me, but many other people, including family, friends and former students.  You see, she wasn’t perfect, but it was the way she embraced life and saw the beauty and creativity in things that I think inspired so many.  She was a teacher, an artist, a musician, a mother and grandmother, a prayer warrior, and a true and loyal friend. Somehow, she had a knack for making everything into a creative adventure. Some might even have called her eccentric. (Okay, maybe even a ‘loon’ as my brother in law so affectionately likes to say!)

Let me give you some examples. As a dutiful wife in the fifties and sixties, she managed to keep up with the expected house hold chores, but she was never one much for canning, sewing, baking … all those things a ‘good’ wife did.  She was much more apt to play with her kids – create magical forts out of blankets, or have impromptu picnics on the kitchen floor.  She never shied away from building, sewing, or painting if it meant some kind of fun and creative project that we kids could share.  I remember how she made ‘treasure’ out of tin foil (I think) and put it in the root cellar that we had for potatoes and such when I was very small.  We went down there together and with wide eyed amazement, she showed me the buried treasure that she had found! No matter what magical adventure she created, I always knew it was just a game – but I enjoyed every moment of those fun filled childhood trips invented by my mother. I wonder how many mother’s actually take the time to play with their kids any more?  Usually the best times were those that were fairly impromptu and had little in the way of preparation.  Her vivid imagination was enough to spark the ongoing ‘play’ when she had other chores. I never remember being bored as a child.

As an artist, my mother would paint just about anything she could get her hands on.  Rocks, doors, walls, stair wells – even entire buildings! She painted many murals over the course of her life, some on the sides of old buildings (long before this was a common sight) and painted every backdrop for every figure skating carnival/church concert/school play for decades. Of course, being the creative free spirit that she was, making a mess was just a hazard of the job. She was not known for being pristine!  So what was her solution?  Well, if there wasn’t anything else suitable, she could be found wearing a pair of under-panties on her head to keep her hair clean!  (True story on more than one occasion!)

She was also ‘famous’ for her fabulous bedtime songs.  Bedtime rarely took place without a story or a song or both.  One that she was especially renowned for within the family was an old thirties song called “The Sleepy Town Express”.  It was this very song that I sang to her as I sat by her bed during her last hours on earth.  She fell asleep to it’s tune at around four am.  The next day both of my sisters and my two female cousins reported being awakened at that hour ‘dreaming’ the song.  I painted a series of pictures based on this song that was later published as a children’s book.

I could keep rambling on and on.  As a teacher, History, English, and Science all came alive with her imaginative projects. She loved putting on class plays and musicals at both school and church.  She continued to invent stories and imaginary worlds with her grandchildren and great grandchildren and always came to visit armed with a new craft or some other fun and messy project.

Somehow I feel as if I am not truly expressing how truly individualistic and inspiring she was. She was a maverick for her day – into health foods and yoga (standing on her head each morning) back in the sixties and seventies long before either of those thing had become mainstream. Her artistic nature and creative talents inspired me to pursue my own life of creativity, although I will admit that as a teenager I was sometimes embarrassed by her free spirited and artsy ways.

I’ve long since gotten over that, obviously. As I get older I recognize that the old saying ‘You get more like your own mother’ is true. In my case, I say ‘bring it on’. I would be honoured to be like her in any small way and to carry on the legacy of creativity that she embodied. Even more than that, however, I want to be that kind of woman of faith.  When she came to Jesus, after searching and experimenting with all kinds of other religious philosophies, she embraced her faith wholeheartedly and set such a high standard that I am sure I can not ever measure up.  I’ve talked about all the fun and freedom that she projected, but hers was also a life of great sorrow and personal pain. (Another story for another time perhaps.) Despite her own tragedy and mistreatment, she was steadfast, loving and forgiving. She was an uber-prayer-warrior if ever there was one, and I know for a fact that it was her tenacity in prayer that brought me to faith in Christ, as well as my then boyfriend. (Who later became my husband.) He always cites her as his spiritual mother and one of the most influential people in his walk with Christ, and I know it’s true.  She was a shining example – all cliche and fluffiness aside!

So, to end this post, let me just say, “Long live the Doreen method!” This is our family’s affectionate way of saying, “If you don’t have a recipe, make it up; if you don’t have the directions, experiment; if you like something, do it; if you feel like singing/painting/ whatever – go for it.” This is a tribute to her – Doreen – that fearless woman of faith that paved the way with a life of creativity and inner joy that still stands above the crowd as an example that I am proud to emulate.

a page from ‘Sleepytown’

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