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On Monday night I attended a Veteran’s and First Responders Dinner as Chaplain to the local Legion.  The dinner was a catered event and well attended.  I was surprised to see so many men and women in uniform and also saddened that each year there are fewer and fewer veterans that attend.

It’s quite sad to see our Veteran’s dying.  They are ageing; some of them are ageing well and others, well, life has not been as kind.  I remember my Dad, who was not a Veteran of WWII, he was too young.  But he was a Veteran of the Royal Air Force.  He served in Cyprus and Egypt, and was part of the last group to leave the Suez Canal when it was returned to their government in the late 1950’s.  He didn’t speak much of his time in the forces, other than to comment on how lousy the food rations were.

For me, I like to hear stories of where different servicemen and servicewomen served, whether at home or overseas.  Whether they served through combat or not.  And I’m always curious about medals, faraway places travelled and what memories they are willing to share with me.

It’s important to us to encourage these stories, as they are the foundation of who we are.  One day we will leave this physical place and what will be left is our legacy.

I’d like to investigate through the local museum, a way to record stories of our Veterans and First Responders, not to glorify war, but to remember the soldiers are service people who put their country and their first.

At every Legion gathering there is the act of remembrance, “Lord God of Host, be with us yet, Lest we Forget, Lest we Forget.

Amen.

I’ve not been here for awhile.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say…I simply wasn’t sure how to say it.  Much has happened.  I moved from the Rectory where I was living into a one-bedroom flat.  It seemed so silly for myself, a middle-aged single woman and a geriatric cat to live in a four-bedroom house.  Now we live in a flat that we both love.  He likes to go into the hallway and pace.  He’ll get about half way down the hallway and then lay down.  Sometimes he’ll snooze there, and as soon as I shake the treat bag he’ll come back.

My commute to work used to be roughly 100 steps.  Now it’s a 3 minute drive.  And that’s okay.  Eventually I’ll walk to work, once I get into a better routine.  I live on the top of a hill, in a ground-floor flat where I can see mountains.  Walking to work is marvellous, the views are spectacular!  Walking home, uphill…takes a little longer.  But I get there.

My flat came partially furnished, which was perfect.  I work on my dining room table, and I moved my bedroom furniture in.  I’ve got only two more boxes to sort through, which I will do by the end of summer.  Right now I’m learning new paths and exploring a new part of the village where I live.

I have a wall in my new flat that has my university degrees, a photo of myself in uniform, my letters of Orders and my license to be at the parish were I am.  It also has a hand-drawn picture of me and God, drawn by a young friend.  And finally, it also contains my dad’s university degree.

Another smaller wall has a series of icons of St. Peter, Jesus and St. Jude.

Just after I moved in I was gifted with a beautiful painting from my family at an Independent Living facility.  Every resident painted a part of the picture and it hangs in a place of honour in my home.  It is something I will treasure forever.

I thought long and hard before I made the decision to move from the Rectory.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy living there, it was more that I was longing for a place that was uniquely mine.  The Rectory is a church building, meaning it belongs to the Church, and while it was my home, there were times when I didn’t feel that I had a lot of privacy.

I was always mindful of whether I was dressed every day, even on my days off.  I would feel guilty for napping even when I was up half the night working or if I wasn’t feeling well.

Now I’m in a place where I find myself coming and going a lot.  I enjoy living here, learning new ways to get here and finding side-streets and trails to explore.  It feels like home.

I haven’t got all my pictures up yet.  I will soon.  I’m figuring out where things need to be and I’m finding places for all my stuff.  I did a lot of purging before I moved, which was awesome.  I couldn’t believe how much stuff I’d accumulated in the time I’ve been here.  There were several trips to the charity shop and a ton of paper for recycling.  I purged clothes, kitchen stuff, electronics and assorted bric-a-brac.

So for now, I’m looking forward to settling into my new home.  I’m still figuring out where my drop zone is.  Right now it’s the dining room table, but I’ll get there.

A room of one’s own.

CAMH or Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is hosting an event called “One Brave Night”.  The idea behind it is  between now and Friday 6th April as an individual or a team you promote CAMH and their mental health services.  As an individual I’m going to use that night to keep silent, mediate and pray.  I will journal, remember and likely, also cry.

This coming Monday, the 2nd of April I will enter five days of silence.  I will be travelling to a retreat house and spending time there in silence.  During that time I will do many of the same things I intend to do during One Brave Night.

Silence is not difficult for me.  Although I do talk a lot, when I make the decision to not speak, I can do it.  The first few hours are difficult because my ears are ringing.  My mind starts racing and I feel strange, but once I relax into silence it’s beautiful.

Things appear sharper.  Sounds are clearer.  My mind thinks clearer.  It’s difficult to explain if you’ve never spent time in silence.  I don’t mean a couple of hours at home, but days out in the world.

It’s interesting how little talking you need to do to function in the world.  With technology today you can pump gas, buy groceries, and use a bank machine without speaking.  Facial expressions, gestures, all easy to replace conversation.  And with it being more and more difficult to make eye contact with people, verbal conversation is not as necessary as it once was.

One Brave Night will be, for me, the end of a week of silence. It will be an opportunity to do some deep reflection…to truly listen for the voice of the Divine.  So often, when I’m in prayer I’m speaking without listening.  I hurry through my petitions, thinking of what I’m going to do or say next.  I don’t usually allow myself to take the time to deeply listen.  But next week that will all change.

I intend to journal, to breathe deeply, to see more clearly, to listen intently and to “recalibrate” myself.  And I can’t wait.

V-Day

in this case V is not for Valentine but for vagina.

Twenty years ago Eve Ensler wrote a series of monologues after interviewing women from all over the world.  She talked to young women, elderly women, shy women, bold women.  She talked to survivors of genital mutilation, rape camps, First Nations Women who had experienced Domestic Violence, and other horrific experiences.  In 2014 she interviewed a group of Trans* Women and wrote a new monologue sharing a new kind of discrimination and experience.

This weekend is V-Day in Fernie.  The Vagina Monologues are showing at the Arts Station on Friday at 7:00 pm, Saturday at 1:00 and 7:00 pm.  I have the honour of sharing a monologue about a Trans* Woman.  Her story is poignant, heart-breaking and just a little bit sassy.  Every woman who is part of the Monologues is sharing a bit of herself through the sharing of her monologue.

Unfortunately, my Church is also having their Annual Valentines Supper on Saturday evening, so I won’t be able to attend as I’ll be back-stage preparing for the evening performance.  As we’ve prepared for the show, in hearing the diverse number of stories it’s made me think of my own story.  It’s made me curious of the stories of the women who are in the show.  We are a diverse crowd of women from various backgrounds.  We are gay, straight, bisexual.  We are mothers, daughters, single, divorced, married.  We are stay at home moms, students, entrepreneurs, artists, retired, self-employed and under-employed.

What we share in common is the desire to make a stand about the rights of women.  We stand shoulder to shoulder and share a piece at the end called “My Revolution”.  It’s a very powerful piece that unites the sisterhood of women from all over the globe.  Some of the monologues will make you laugh.  Others will make you cry.  Others will make you gasp in horror. Others will make you reflect.

Valentines Day has always been a day of over-commercialized, over-wrought, insidious measurement of how well-regarded one is…but maybe that’s just me.

Eve Ensler has shown me a new way to celebrate V-Day.  It’s not about excluding or hating men.  It’s about embracing what it is to be female, in all it’s glory and strangeness. And as a special quirk, this year Ash Wednesday falls on the 14th of February.  How completely awesome is that?

I give thanks to God for the women I have met in preparation of this production of The Vagina Monologues.  We have laughed together and cried together.  We have supported each other and with our community’s support, we will be supporting the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre.

Oh and there may, or may not be Doritos.

Happy V-Day!

Today is the 31st of January, Bell Let’s Talk Day.  As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I am absolutely aware of the dangers of isolation.  I am aware of the shame that accompanies the struggles in getting out of bed, forcing yourself to get dressed, plaster on a smile and pretend that everything is okay.  Then, at the first available opportunity dashing home, closing the curtains, turning off the lights and rocking in the silence.

I’m grateful that I’ve not had many of these days lately, but there have been some.  And they frighten me because I’m never sure when they will pass.  If I’m completely honest, when I’m going through them I’m not sure THAT they will pass.  But as the sun rises tomorrow, the new day dawns, with time these feelings pass.

It’s been a very hectic few weeks with multiple deaths in the congregation and the community.  Since the beginning of January there have been 5 deaths.  Last week I presided funerals on Monday and Friday.  This Saturday I will preside two funerals in one day, which is highly unusual, but in this case, absolutely necessary.

Next weekend I’m on stage as part of the Vagina Monologues.  I’m excited and terrified at standing on stage in a local venue and baring my soul for strangers.  I play the role of a transgender woman who discovers she’s different at a young age.  The monologue contains humour, rage, and at times poignant moments.  It will be a challenge, but at the same time I’m excited to have this opportunity.  It will take me places I have never been before and while I do have deep-seated anxiety about forgetting my lines or somehow letting down the other cast members, I know I can do this.  I know I will make this happen.  There will be friends in the audience who will be there to support me.  And it will be amazing.

Behind my left ear I have a tattoo.  It is of an infinity symbol with a semi-colon over the cross in the infinity symbol.  I see it every time I look in a mirror and it has generated some wonderful conversations.  Recently, at a funeral reception someone noticed it and asked what it was about.  I told them: the infinity symbol reminds me that I will struggle with mental health issues for the rest of my life; and the semi-colon tells me that my story is not yet over.  She looked up at said “I’d never have guessed you have anxiety and depression.  You look so pulled together and confident.”  I smiled and thanked her for the compliment.

Yes, I could have corrected her about the fear I feel.  But I decided to accept her compliment with grace.

On this day I wanted to jot down a few meanderings on what Mental Health Awareness means to me.  It means standing up and telling your story; without shame or fear.  It means asking people to share their stories.  It means being a person with whom others can share without judgment or criticism.  You will never hear me say “Snap out of it”.  Because I’ve had that said to me, and it’s not helpful.

I am an advocate for many things…and the biggest thing I advocate with Mental Health Awareness is that we are not alone.  We are not ashamed.  We are warriors.

So, let’s talk…

Balance is a strange word…it has multiple meanings.  My sense of balance isn’t great, ask anyone whose walked beside me and I careen into them.   The balance I’m talking about is life balance.  I am my own worst critic and my own worst enemy.  I am harder on myself then anyone else has eve been, and I’ve had some critics and enemies.

The still small voice gets loud at times and tells me I’m worthless, useless, lazy, stupid, etc.  The well part of my brain tells me to ignore the voice, or fight back against that voice.  The sick part of my brain says “See?  Told ya!”

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I find winter difficult for many reasons.  So knowing I’m already emotionally “down” in the darker months, why set myself up for failure with promises I mean when I make them, but don’t really think them through…so for this year, as I was sitting at home with a glass of wine and a purring cat a word came to me — BALANCE.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  It can be both/and.  I can be conscious of my health and still enjoy a lazy day at home or an ice cream when I’m out.  I can walk 10,000 steps some days and 3,000 another.  I can sleep a full night and have a nap, or work through the night and sleep part of the day.  Balance.

I am many things to many people and I believe I treat everyone the same.  Or that is my intention.  I am drawn to the underdog…to the one who feels invisible.  That is the story I seek.  And in most cases as trust is earned and stories are shared, there is a great deal of similarity.

There was a funeral for a gentleman from the congregation in early January.  He was a much-loved member of the congregation and the community.  The Church was filled to capacity (and then some) and we laughed, cried and remembered him.  I have another funeral on Monday for a gentleman I knew through visiting and services at a local retirement home.  He has a similar story to R.  But a very different story as well.  Isn’t that the same for all of us?

Our stories overlap with others, our experiences are similar until they are not.  We make choices that don’t seem to matter hundreds of times a day.  And on occasion we make choices are that more difficult.  There is always choice.

I eat as well as I can but on occasion I like to treat myself.  I like to eat something that I don’t usually have at home…or enjoy dessert.  I’m beginning to learn that food is not punishment or reward…it’s simply something with which to fuel our bodies.  I just re-read the first sentence in this paragraph…and I’ve got some work to do with my relationship to food.  BALANCE.

I love the way my body feels when I move it.  I joined a gym and go when I can…which is not often enough.  I walk as much as I can and sometimes that’s just around the block or across town and back.  I do yoga and I meditate, focusing on breathing.  I will not be an extreme athlete or run triathlons because I don’t want to.

My big purchase this Spring will be a bicycle.  One with a few gears that I can use to get around town.  Not off-road or in the bush, but on the trails and streets of town.

For the first time, likely ever in my life, I’m feeling good about who I am and how I look.  I’m working on lowering the numbers on the scale, and I’ve realised that those numbers do not define who I am as a woman of God, as priest, as a friend.  I may be fat, but I’m also kind, generous, loving.  I am respected in my vocation and in my community.  In my own small way I make a difference in the lives of others, in this community and in the world.

I am me, because that’s the only person I can be.  Everyone else is taken.

This year, 2017, has only a few hours to go where I live in British Columbia.  Elsewhere it’s already 2018.  I was looking back at the note I wrote this time last year and while much has changed, a lot has also stayed the same.

I had two worship services this year and plans for a fabulous night at a gala event out of town.  Worship went really well, even though it’s been bitterly cold.  When I woke this morning the tap wasn’t working.  I came downstairs and flipped on the kettle to boil water for tea.  I turned on the kitchen tap and there was nothing.  No water.

Frozen pipes?  Yes, but I had more important things to worry about…like my morning tea and getting ready for worship.  Both services were wonderful and we celebrated Epiphany.  I enjoyed a bit of fellowship and collected hints and tips for how to deal with frozen pipes.  I came home, made another cup of tea and pulled out my hair dryer and extension cord.  Plugged them in, aimed them at the pipes under the sink in the kitchen and after about two minutes the hairdryer stopped.  So did the kettle.  I flipped a fuse switch.

My Warden is a Godsend.  When she heard I had frozen pipes she offered me water, a place to shower, even a bed for the night.  On New Year’s Eve!  As things unfolded we kept in touch with each other…and thankfully this means I’ll have water for the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.  Yay!

After consulting a friend for advice I called the plumber.  He told me what to look for if it was a frozen pipe.  Then he suggested I call the City which I did and was able to talk to someone on call.  I then cleared off my car and drove to Canadian Tire.  Bought a space heater and came home.  Plugged the space heater in downstairs and after about 10 minutes heard water running…in a good way.  I called the plumber back and he told me I had been successful in thawing the pipes and what I needed to do to keep them that way.  He’s coming back on Tuesday to check everything out.  I celebrated with a hot bath.

My plans to go out of town were scuppered by Mother Nature.  And instead of being angry and upset about that I realised that I likely needed a quiet night at home more than anything else.

A few months ago I adopted an 11 year old black Domestic short-haired cat.  His name is Buddy.  He’s beginning to like me…I think.  He doesn’t hiss as much at me and purrs when he’s around me…especially when I’m in the bath.  I don’t know why.  I never imagined myself to be a cat person…but here I am.  He’s messier than I’d like him to be but chances are I’m dumber than he’d like me to be.  He “talks” to me quite often and I have no idea what he wants.  Although I am pretty sure he’s told me off a time or two.

About a month ago I turned 50.  It’s been awesome!  I’m enjoying this age more than any other so far.  I’m hoping that continues.  I’ve auditioned for and been accepted into the Vagina Monologues which will be happening in February.  It’s been more than 20 years since I was on a stage.  So this will really be something.  I’m scared to death, but also quite excited.  It’s a tremendous group of women who are coming together to make something amazing happen in this small corner of the world we call home.

This year has been about learning…about myself, my heart, my mind and my soul.  I meditate most every day.  I walk outside most every day.  I set goals for myself and while my weight is not as low as I’d like it to be, over the past year I’ve lost 15 pounds.  So that’s something.  I’m eating better, drinking more water, and moving more.

I’d have to say I’m more content then I’ve ever been.  I love who I am, and who I am going to be.  I’ve said goodbye to a couple of toxic relationships and feel a tremendous sense of freedom from that.  I’m sleeping better and don’t fret if I choose an afternoon nap.

My goals for 2018 are to laugh more, love more, read more and learn a new skill.  I’m thinking of learning the ukulele.  I want to lose more weight but more importantly I want to be comfortable in the skin I’m in.  I want to be as healthy as I can be and I have a women’s fitness membership that I intend to use more regularly in 2018.

This is my 50th year on Earth.  I’ve been through a lot.  Seen a lot.  Hugged a lot.  Cried a lot.  Learned a lot.  I drove through parts of Northern Ontario that I’d not seen in 20+ years last summer and it was amazing what had changed; and what had stayed the same.  I visited my father’s grave for the first time since he was interred in 2012.

My goal is not to be famous, wealthy or revered.  I long for a simple life filled with amazing people.  I want to live within my means, make a difference in my community and in some small way contribute to the love in the world.  I truly believe that through love we can change the world.  One heart at a time, one relationship at a time, one encounter at a time.

I am fifty, fat and fabulous.  I will learn, love and listen.  In my own small, quirky way I intend to change the world.  Care to join me?