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Archive for the ‘Self Care’ Category

I’ve been trying to write a blog post for awhile…apparently a few months.  From the last time I blogged time has flown.  There’s been a wonderful community event called Chautauqua, the adoption of an 11 year old Domestic Shorthair cat called Buddy, the Ordination of our Deacon, a terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of three men, a Memorial Service for those men, and a surprise birthday party for my 50th.

Chautauqua took on a life of it’s own this year in a new format that had all events taking place in the historic downtown core.  The Fall Fair took place the same weekend and the grounds at City Hall were filled with animals of all shapes and sizes, vendors showing their wares, artists and crafters showing their trades and a community out to enjoy a beautiful Autumn celebration.  My little parish hosted the Community Ecumenical Service and it was an absolute success.  Folks started coming in just before the official event time and kept coming in for the first 20 minutes.  It was glorious.  We finished the service in time to get to the Senior’s Centre that was hosting a High English Tea.  A Harvest Supper at the Catholic Church rounded out a weekend filled with activity, history, wonder and joy.

Buddy is a cranky black cat, missing one canine tooth who was looking for a forever home.  The other cats on the SPCA website were all cuddly and adorable.  Buddy looked at the photographer like he could care less…or if he had pose-able digits would have raised his middle finger.  He’s cranky, he hisses a lot, has a mean meow and reminds me of my late father.  So of course, I was hooked.  He doesn’t like being picked up…or touched…I am allowed to pet him within very strict parameters that I have not yet learned.  He’s not particularly patient with me, hence the hissing.  He likes to hide under the dining room table.  He likes to be in the same room as me, but not too close.  He’s afraid of the mop and the vacuum and doesn’t climb.  So far so good…but I’m unsure of his assessment of me as his staff.  After all, they say dogs have owners and cats have staff.

Ordination is one of the great celebrations of the Church.  A faithful woman of God was Ordained in Christ’s Holy catholic Church and we gathered to celebrate.  We sang her favourite hymns, surprised her with an Anthem.  She was feted and celebrated and the parish commissioned a red Deacon’s stole for her which she helped to design.  An absolutely gorgeous design featuring flames and doves in shades of red, blue and white.  Absolutely spectacular for an absolutely spectacular child of God.

On the 17th of October my brother was returning to Calgary after visiting me overnight.  I took him to see the Church and he signed the Guest Book.  I went to a meeting at a Retirement home across the street from the local Arena.  Little did I know that our community would be rocked to it’s very core that day.  The winds were high and sky was a strange colour.  The atmosphere around town was eerie.  Hurricane force winds blew the power out twice and we were in the dark for a couple of hours the second time.  I was checking my Facebook feed and saw that there had been an accident at the Arena and the surrounding neighbourhood had been evacuated…including the residents I had visited earlier that day.  I went to the evacuation centre and tried to provide some comfort, some humour and a few hugs.  Three men died that day.  They went to work and didn’t come home.  And even now, months later, there is still a void in the community.  The residents returned home within a week, but there is still a sense of unease.  However, this community did what it does best and came together in a show of support.  We will always remember those who died, but too will we remember the community that showed support and love to one another.  The road is long before us but we will get there…together.

A Community Memorial Service was held on the 12th of November on the grounds of the high school.  It was damp, overcast, chilly day but there was an air of hope.  The community choir sang, my United Church colleague and I offered prayer at the beginning and ending of the service.  Three eulogies were shared, many tears were shed and a group of strangers gathered as family.

I don’t like surprise parties…especially when I’m the one being surprised…but that’s exactly what happened on the 25th of November, the day before my 50th birthday.  My congregation decided that I needed to celebrate this milestone and so I was duped into leaving town for the day with a friend who needed to run errands and I was there to be company in the car, navigate and carry stuff.  We got back at 5:30 and the street was lined with cars.  I thought my Roman colleague was having a larger than average attendance at Mass.  And then I saw a parishioners car parked where it usually isn’t.  Then I looked at the lawn of the Rectory and saw 50 pink flamingos…and a sign notifying all and sundry that is was my 50th.  I walked into the Church, down to the parish hall and opening the door heard “SURPRISE!”  I was shaking and smiling and unable to remember my name at that point as I saw friends, neighbours, parishioners and colleagues gathered to celebrate a half-century.  I was presented with a “birthday girl” pink sash, pink star sunglasses and a birthday tiara.  Many of the guests wore pink.  And everyone knew I was surprised…  We feasted on potluck fare, a birthday cake that read “Happy Birthday Princess Flamingo”  I took many photographs and opened many cards and gifts, one of the most special being a painting a parishioner and friend painted with birch trees and a winter sun…it is spectacular.  There was a trivia game with 50 questions related to my life…and those assembling the game had help from my brother, my spiritual advisor and friend.  It was great fun…and while I still don’t like surprises, it was a blessing to celebrate with so many wonderful people.

When the tragedy took place in October I realised just how much this community has become home for me…and how the folks that live here are my family.  Seeing such a large collection of people at the birthday party reinforced this to me.  I am loved very much here and I love this place very much.

If the rest of my 50th year is anywhere near as awesome as the first few weeks, I’m in for an absolutely AWESOME year!

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I am blessed to receive four weeks of vacation every year.  Some of my colleagues take all four weeks at once.  I can’t do that.  I’m too much a creature of habit; of routine.

I usually take my vacation in blocks of two weeks…this year was no exception.

The first week I stayed with a friend and we did some day trips and worked around his house, getting some outdoor stuff done.  The weather was grand and we enjoyed exploring somewhat close to home.  The focus of that week was relaxing, unwinding and practicing Sabbath.

The second week I came home and challenged myself with a couple of hikes that were more difficult then I thought they’d be but learned a great deal about myself…I don’t have to walk all the way to the end to finish the hike.  I can turn around when I’m ready and I’ve still accomplished something.  I also did something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but was never able…I got two tattoos.  I’ll write more about them in another post.

I was back to work for a week, which wasn’t quite enough time to get things back organized, cleaned out my home office and it’s now quite efficient, clean and bright.  I love the space in there and working in it makes me very happy.  It also means I can relax in the living space of the rectory to try and separate work and home.

The third and fourth weeks of vacation I flew to Ontario and drove a lot.  I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see.  Some of the trip felt like I was attending Old Home Week as I drove across parts of Ontario I’d not seen in two decades.  I visited graves, places in which I’ve lived.  Hiked trails that I’d hiked before and explored new areas that I’d always wanted to but never made time.  The weather didn’t cooperate as much as I’d have liked it to, but it was still a good time away.

In reflecting on my vacation it was incredible.  I spent a great deal of time in prayer and have re-established meditative prayer.  I do this while walking and had forgotten how it makes my soul sing to pray while I walk or hike.

I’m practicing mindfulness in what I eat and in how I eat.  I’m walking every single day without exception and walking to places in the community when I can.

I very much missed my standard transmission car when I was away as I was driving an automatic transmission for the first time in years.  I kept forgetting to put it in park before I shut off the engine.  Ugh.

I learned that home is where I am.  It is not a far off destination.  It is not a house, a parent, a partner.  It is me.  And that makes me very happy.

The mountains are home to me.  I felt, at times, terribly homesick when I was back East.  I wasn’t sure if it was homesickness for a place I once knew, but eventually I realised that I was homesick for Fernie.  For the beautiful part of creation in which I now live.

As I drove home from Calgary I was giddy with the anticipation of seeing the mountains. Once I reached the Crowsnest Pass the smile on my face was broad and bright.  Climbing into my own bed made me deliriously happy and having a shower in my own bathroom meant all was right with the small world in which I live.

It was wonderful to visit places and see people I’d not seen in a long time.  And it was equally wonderful to put the key in lock and come home to my house.  A place I’ve not lived for that long and yet I can’t imagine leaving.  The Elk Valley is my home.  The mountains are my home.  They are a part of me as much as the air I breathe.  May it always be so.

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I went away last week for 5 days of retreat time on Vancouver Island with a friend of mine.  The first two days were absolute bliss…we talked, we walked, we saw the sights together and enjoyed all that the community had to offer.

Wednesday we had a lazy start to the day then went to an open air market about an hour away for lunch and a wander around.  Lunch was great, the market was fun and then we poked our heads through a doorway and explored some more market area.  When we’d had enough wandering about we decided to head back to the car and meander back where we’d come from.

She was walking ahead of me down these long, wide stairs.  There were four of them.  I only stepped on three of them.  I missed a step and fell hard onto my face.  The bridge of my glasses was embedded into my forehead and I started to bleed.  A lot.  Caused quite a scene at this market.  The bridge of my glasses is scratched up as is one of the lenses.  I bled for quite some time.  My forehead has an abrasion on it.  As does both knees and my left hand.

The shock was incredible.  I was handed clean serviettes and told to apply pressure.  A zipper bag filled with ice was given me.  I was examined by two nurses (one of whom was traveling with me).  I was asked questions to determine how alert I was.  I think I passed them all, at this point I can’t quite remember when I heard.  What I do know is that I was embarrassed at how quickly it happened, what a scene I’d caused and what a mess my face had become.

My friend drove us to the hospital half way home.  I waited an hour in emergency as the bleeding lessened and the swelling increased.  I ended up in hospital for 3 1/2 hours and was treated very well.  The nurses were helpful, the doctors were kind.  I got a tetanus shot and got to experience skin glue.  It burned as it was being applied but has done a great job of keeping the skin together as it heals.  I’ll likely have a scar but it will be hidden by my glasses.

The good news is, nothing was broken.  The unfortunate news was my body’s reaction to the shock.  It’s now 4 days afterwards and I’m still feeling it.

I need new glasses.

The morning after the fall I woke feeling like I’d been hit by a car.  Arms and legs ached.  Face was swollen and sore.  Jaw throbbing.

I contacted one of my Wardens and she made arrangements for the two services this morning to be covered.  I slept in on a Sunday, something I haven’t done for a very, very long time.

Yesterday I went for a walk through the community.  Not as long as I’d have liked to, but as long as my body would allow me.

So the benefit of this experience was that I have incredible friends.  I have the best Wardens, Licensed Lay Ministers and congregation.  I will heal from these scars. Eventually the pain will go away.  Gravity is still not my friend.  That’s not new, but it bears repeating.

Two days after the fall I had to fly home.  I was terrified about the stairs into and out of the small airplanes on which I’d be flying.  I took my time, accepted help when it was offered and made every single step.  Yay me.  It’s the small things, you know?

The flight had three parts to it, one of which I had to change planes.  And the last leg of the flight was turbulent, but we survived it.  After we landed I was helping the lady sitting in front of me put on her cardigan and she elbowed me in the nose.  I saw stars.  She apologised and I told her she didn’t cause the injury, it was already there.  But yes, my nose hurts.

My friend collected me at the airport and I drove home.  It was good to rest in my own bed.  Bathe in my own tub.  But until the glue falls off I can’t submerge my face or wash it properly.  THAT is starting to bug me.  But the wound will heal, the scar will get smaller and life will continue.

I do want to go back where I was on retreat, but not to that open market again…and I’ll be very wary of stairs, especially cement stairs, from now on.

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Around this time, 9 years ago I bought a beautiful Red Kia Soul whose was named Aretha.  She was a good car and took me many places I’d never been before.  We journeyed to hospitals, nursing homes, clergy conferences, cemeteries and even across the country.  I loaded my most prized possessions into her and on a cold week in January 2016 drove her from Southwestern Ontario to Southeastern British Columbia.

She was a great vehicle.

When I traveled West I decided to give her a final year and then trade her in so she could enjoy retirement.  I’ve been looking at many different makes of vehicles, all in the compact or subcompact range.  I like a smaller car.  I feel safe in a smaller car and I know how to drive well in a smaller car.

After many months of research I went to test drive a 2016 Nissan Versa Note.  She’s white.  I feel for her almost instantly.  She’s a 5 speed, like Aretha.  She’s great on hills and holds the road well.  She’s sporty and fun.  And a week ago I brought her home.  She’s called Melody and has already been welcomed to the community from a neighbours Mini.

It’s strange seeing a white car on the drive where a red car used to be.  But there she is.  Aretha had 208,000 kms on her.  She has earned a rest.  Melody had less than 100 kms on her when I test drove her.  I’m looking to clocking as many kilometers with Melody and having all kinds of adventures with her.

It’s the end of an era for me, and the beginning of a new one at the same time.

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All my life I’ve been an emotional eater…food was used as punishment and as reward. Over the winter my eating habits were atrocious…I would eat non-nutritional food far too often and usually I’d eat mindlessly.  This winter was a tough one because I couldn’t get out and walk, which is one of my favourite forms of self-care.

So winter finally ended and Spring is trying really hard to get to the East Kootenays and especially the Elk Valley, but we’re getting there.  I’ve discovered the trail system that links around and through the community.  During Holy Week I discovered a new trail that I hadn’t hiked before and I hiked it.  It rained and snowed, but I hiked it.

Easter Sunday I went out and hiked it again, and went a little bit farther.  Again, it rained, but I hiked it.

I’ve been out every day this week (granted it’s only Wednesday) but each day I’ve gone a bit further or tried a new path or link.

Today was a crappy day.  I had an argument with a friend and I can remember a time when I would have eaten my feelings, as much fat and salt as possible…the emptier the calories the better.  But today I didn’t do that.  I went for a walk instead and had a conversation with them (they weren’t with me, this conversation was in my head). Originally the walk was going to be around the block…and then it was to the end of the street…and then to part of the trail…and instead of turning back I kept going and walked/hiked a 5 km loop of trail and then came home again.  I was gone just over an hour.

I learned today that I don’t have to eat my feelings.  I can walk them.  I’m still learning to feel my feelings, but today I learned a new way to express myself.  It may not seem like a big deal to you, yet to me it’s huge.

I am strong.  I am capable.  I am in control of myself.  And my food choices today have all been healthy.  This is a good step in the right direction.  I’m proud of me…and it isn’t often I say that.

I’m learning a new way.  I’m teaching myself to listen to myself.  And that’s pretty awesome.  Yay me!

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You don’t have to look far to stumble across Year in Review articles, posts and memories.

For a lot of the world 2016 was a bad year.  For me, it was a year of new beginnings.  This time last year I knew I was moving to British Columbia, and only about 10 other people did.  A handful from both congregations.  It was not an easy decision to make, to leave my parish, my friends and family behind.

God was beckoning me to something I had never experienced…I had always imagined if I was going to leave Ontario, it would be for the Maritimes, not the Mountains…and here I am.  The province of British Columbia is different.  I live about as East as you can and still be in BC.  I live about a south as you can and still be in BC.  The closest neighbouring “city” is an hour away (West).  I can get to the state of Montana in less than half an hour.

The climate here has reminded me of Northeastern Ontario.  Nearly two weeks of bitter cold, and bright sun.  A part on the furnace at the Church froze and we were without a furnace on Sunday.  So we all snuggled together on the side of the Church that still had heat and it was grand.

I’ve not written as much as I thought I would over this past year.  It’s been a year of firsts and yet my 9th year in ministry.  I’ve reflected on times as a student, a lay pastor, a summer pastor, a Deacon and a Priest.  It’s been wonderful participating in the life of the community; both of the Church and of Fernie itself.  I’m becoming “known” in the community, and in (mostly) good ways.

I am blessed to have made some friends here and one or two very close friends.  I have experienced a deep, abiding love from this congregation.  I’ve heard a few times “we’re so glad you came” and I feel very much the same.  2016 has been a year of transition, a year of anticipation, expectation, participation…moving with what could fit in my car plus another 20 or so boxes across the country to a furnished house.

Slowly, I am making this house a home…personal touches, hanging artwork, acquiring little things for the house.  I am able to keep in touch with my family and friends “back East” thanks to technology and even letter writing.

In speaking with a colleague and friend who was worried about me living so far from family and friends, he asked how I was doing.  I told him I was happy; truly happy for the first time in a very long time.

I am content in who I am.  In who God has called me to be and where God has called me to serve.  I am part of the LGBTQ+ community in Fernie and beyond.  I am part of the Arts community in Fernie and beyond.  I am joining the Symphony of the Kootenays Chorus in January.  I am a patron of the Arts Station, the Library and the Museum.

I have met people who love me and who I love.  And for that I feel incredibly blessed.

My Mam turned 80 in 2016 and I was able to be with her for her birthday in August.  I saw friends I had not seen in decades and it was wonderful.  And yet I found myself pining for the mountains.  When I flew over the Rockies towards home I felt a catch in my chest.  Is this where I was meant to be?  Driving from Cranbrook to Fernie, I saw the mountains again and felt as though I were home.  It was a wonderful feeling.

This winter I am going to learn to snowshoe.  I am going to explore hiking trails.  Some days I will stay inside, wrapped in a blanket and sip tea.  And some days I will laugh until my sides hurt, or cry until I can’t breathe.

Here, in the Elk Valley, is where God called me to be.  I am a child of God, created in God’s image, which is one of perfection.  I am waiting with baited breath for the birth of the one who will set us all free…waiting to receive the perfect gift.

I am nervous about my first Christmas in the West.  But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and know I am loved.  I will look through the windshield more than the rear view mirror because 2017 will be my best year yet.  I will turn 50, I will savour every moment of every day.  I will continue to love and be loved.  I will continue to work towards the coming of God’s kingdom, knowing that together; heart to heart, hand in hand, we can and we will change the world.

From my heart to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy and Healthy New Year and a Blessed Epiphany.

 

 

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I struggle, at times, with depression and anxiety.  Most of the time I can cope with medication, relaxation, proper diet, exercise and rest.  Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and it’s completely understandable why I’m feeling this way.

On Friday I’m having surgery.  For the second time in my life I will go under general anesthetic.  I’m not afraid of the surgery.  The surgeon has reassured me that he anticipates the procedure will go well.  The procedures I’m having are minor, taking 20 minutes in total.  The anesthesiologist has reassured me that all shall be well.  She asked if I was nervous and I said I wasn’t and smiled.  She asked why I was smiling and I replied “if things don’t go well, it won’t be my problem…it will be yours.  As you’ll get to tell my congregation”. And we both laughed.

What I fear is the unknown.  Which is truly a silly thing to fear.  And I participate in mental gymnastics…what if I get an infection…what if it takes me hours to come out of the anesthetic…what if something goes wrong?  All legitimate questions, all with unknown answers.  Try to explain that to my anxiety.

I’m not worried about the congregation.  My Wardens and Licensed Lay Ministers will take care of everything in the parish.  My Regional Dean will look after any pastoral emergencies.  And still my innards flutter.

So, between now and Thursday morning when I find out the actual time of the surgery I will keep myself busy, which isn’t difficult to do.  The difficult part is remembering to take time to breathe, to care for myself…to do everything I can to release the anxiety I feel.

I’m staying with a good friend in the community where I’m having the surgery to make sure that I properly rest and don’t overdo things.  Left to my own devices I would push myself too hard and too soon.  I’m told it will be approximately 10 days before I can return to work…I’m giving myself 14 days.  And I fully anticipate returning to work at a bit slower pace then I am maintaining right now.

If you are a person who prays, I ask for your prayers for myself, and also for the doctor’s, nurses and support staff who will take care of me through the surgery.  I ask for your prayers for those who will care for me after the surgery until I am able to care for myself.

Thanks!

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