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My “tradition” since I moved West has been to take two weeks and explore closer to home, then to fly to Ontario and visit family/friends. This year, the first two weeks of vacation I spent visiting doctors and specialists. I visited some friends who live close by and spent time cleaning my flat and resting. It was not ideal, yet it was what I needed.

In August I flew back to Ontario. This year was different. I decided not to schedule every moment of every day. I decided to visit only those people I truly wanted to, especially folks I haven’t visited in many years…even before I left Ontario. I didn’t rent a car, instead I used the train to move from one place to another and it was wonderful.

When I lived in Ontario I used the train quite regularly. Where I live now there isn’t a passenger train service and I find myself longing for it.

I spent time with my brother and sister-in-law and two nephews. They are old enough now I can tell them embarrassing stories about their dad (being 8 years older has it’s advantages).

I went to Church the first Sunday I was away with a very good friend of mine. Back in 2014 when I was dealing with a mental and physical health issue that meant I was off work for a month, I drove to his community every Sunday for worship. It was life-giving to be with a group of people providing support, and having absolutely no idea that they were doing it.

My friend picked me up at the hotel where I was staying at an ungodly hour and we went to three services together. I heard him preach the same homily three times, twice at one church, once at another. And it was a marvellous homily. He invited me to con-celebrate with him, which was very powerful. And at my request he blessed and anointed me in the midst of his congregation as I await test results. It was a very powerful moment in which I physically felt the power and love of the Holy Spirit moving through him and the congregation.

The second Sunday I was staying with dear friends, one of whom first recognized a call to service. It was because of his gentle nudges that I tested the call to be a priest. He had not shared communion in four years because of many reasons and it was a tremendous honour to celebrate with he and his lovely wife. Needless to say, we were all in tears by the end off the service. We met outside, used a piece of bread and some red wine left over from the previous night’s dinner. we lit a candle, settled into lawn chairs and worshipped God in God’s creation. It too was a very powerful moment where the Holy Spirit blew through our gathering, gently and lovingly.

I spent time listening, walking, laughing and loving.

I taught my grandson and grand-daughter how to build and successfully light a campfire.

I enjoyed shenanigating with friends.

I spent time in the arms of one I have loved for a long time.

I said goodbye to the old and hello to the new. I disposed of things which no longer bring me joy in order that I can be prepared to receive the good that is yet to come.

I left home feeling anxious and exhausted. I returned home feeling grateful, refreshed and mostly well-rested.

I’m toying with the idea of driving to Ontario next summer, taking a full month of vacation and taking my time…stopping at the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg etc., on the way. I may even see if I can convince a certain someone to drive back with me and explore my corner of creation with me.

I ate well, slept well, laughed until it hurt, cried until it stopped hurting, spent time outside, watched a movie, did some laundry, got a tattoo (tree of life between my shoulder blades) and generally, had the best time.

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This is the presentation I made a week ago at the First Women Talk Fernie Conference.

Some of the jokes may not translate to the written word, I’ll apologise in advance for that.

All You Need Is Love

Good Afternoon;

My name is Andrea. I’d like you to turn to the person to your left and say “It’s wonderful to see you here today.” Now I’d like you to turn to the person to your right and say “It’s wonderful to see you here today.” For folks who are standing alone, just speak to yourself. We know you already do. 🙂

I’m here today to talk to you about love.
Before I get to that, I want to talk about “norms”.
For the record, “Normal” is not a societal standard, it’s a setting on the dryer…just sayin’.

What society says is “normal” and “acceptable” as a woman is to be between 18 and 25 years of age, naturally blonde, 125 lbs with a thigh gap. Now, as you can see I am naturally blonde :-), I’m twice 25 plus one. My left thigh is 100 lbs, my right is 100 lbs and when I stand straight, my legs touch to the knee. No thigh gap, but I reckon that makes me half way to a Mermaid…and who doesn’t want to be a Mermaid? 🙂

For society today, “normal” is measured through three lenses: straight, white and male.
I’m one of those…can you guess which one? 🙂

In my life I’ve come out five times about five different things…

I came out as a Vegetarian in my mid-20’s. My mother had the strongest reaction when I went home for Thanksgiving.

What are you going to eat?

What are you cooking?

Turkey.

And that’s all?

Well no, there’s two kinds of potatoes, three vegetables, bread, salad, etc.

Then I’ll eat everything but the turkey. And as you can see, I’ve never gone hungry.

I came out as a Follower of Jesus in my early 30’s when I’d gone back to Church after a decade or so lapse. Friends and co-workers would inquire to my weekend plans which always included Church. And for the most part they were supportive.

I came out as a Seminarian in my late 30’s after spending nearly two years in discernment. When I told my friends and co-workers they were not surprised. I can totally see you doing that! Great! Where were you two years ago when I started discerning?!? 🙂

I’ve known from a very young age that I was not straight. I wasn’t truly a lesbian, so I
wondered if it was possible to be attracted to both genders. What was it called? Was I the only one? Then I discovered MCC or Metropolitan Community Church. Also known as “The Gay Church” where everyone is truly welcome.

Throughout Seminary I attended service most Sunday evenings where I felt I was with good friends who became family. I brought my Mother to Church one Sunday night and afterwards I asked what she thought.

It was different.

In what way?

Well, everyone was dressed for Church.

My Mother made friends with several of my friends in the LGBTQ community, many of whom she is still in touch with today. One homosexual couple she refers to as “My Boys”. She can’t remember their names, so that’s how they’re known to her. And when they sign a birthday or Christmas Card for her they write “With Love from Joe and Tim, Mam’s Boys”.

When I told my Mam I was Queer she was her usual, clueless self.

There’s something I need to tell you.

Oh?

Yes, I wanted you to know that I’m Queer.

Oh Andrea, you’ve always been queer.

Um, not like that Mam. It means I like Women as well as Men.

Oh. Um. Oh. Okay. You’re not getting married are you?

Who me? Definitely not.

Good, because you’re not very good at it.

Thanks Mam.

Have you told your brother?

No, I sent him an email and haven’t yet heard back.

Well, I won’t say anything until I hear from him.

Thanks Mam.

Five minutes later she calls back.

Does this mean you like rainbows and unicorns now?

I’m sorry, what?

Well, as A Gay, doesn’t that mean you have to like rainbows and unicorns?

Um, well, I love rainbow, it’s my favourite colour, but I don’t like unicorns.

And you can still be a A Gay?

Mam, it’s not “A Gay”, it’s simply Gay. But I identify as Queer.

Oh, okay.

Five minutes later she calls back.

You’re not going to lose your job are you?

What?

You know, for being A Gay…no, I mean A Queer.

It’s Queer, and no Mam, that’s against the law. I told my Bishop and he’s supportive.

Oh, well that’s good. Because you don’t want to lose your job. It’s the only thing you’re any good at.

Thanks Mam.

To be honest, I’ve never really done a “coming out” as Queer. My closest friends knew and I really didn’t think it was a big deal. When I meet new people I tease out where or if to mention it in conversation. And that’s been great. Until September.

I got a phone call from the local newspaper asking if they could write an article about me and my ministry. I thought it strange that anyone would want to know about me, and was intrigued, so I said yes. We met at the Blessing of the Animals in early October then went over to the Church and chatted. Phil did a wonderful job, wrote a very thorough article.

A couple of weeks later I was coming back for Sorrento where I’d been attending Clergy Conference and my cell phone was pinging like crazy…Congratulations on the article. You’re so brave. I’m so proud to know you. I had no idea, but I think it’s awesome.
When I got to a place with WiFi I looked online and found the article (unfold newspaper) GAY CLERGY CHALLENGES NORMS Oh, um Hi Everybody!

So on that Sunday morning I started worship with Welcomes and then asked “Did anyone read the paper this week?” There was some laughter and I continued “The headline is a bit sensational, but it is true. I’m actually not Gay, but Queer. And if you want to talk about that or the article itself, we can chat at coffee hour.

Our service begins on page 185 of the Green Book of Alternative Services –

Feedback was, and continues to be overwhelmingly positive.
I am who God created. For better or for worse, this is who I am.

1. Vegetarian 2. Follower of Jesus 3. Clergy 4. Queer

And now the last “coming out”. I struggle with Mental Illness. I have Depression and Anxiety, I have obtrusive thoughts and compulsive actions.
I am as far outside the lenses of “normal” as one can be.

Honestly? I like that.

Because I have learned through my life that God creates only from Love. And if we choose to begin with love we will always find a way through.

I have been told I am NOT a Christian because…

I am female – Women should NOT speak in Church, St. Paul says so

I am Queer – It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, let’s pray the Gay away

I am pierced – But technically, so was Jesus I am tattooed – If you want to throw down over the Book of Leviticus, let’s go!

I am Mentally Ill – If you think positive thoughts and pray to Jesus you will be healed.

True Story – A woman told me she was worried for my salvation because I am not a “true believer” and I do not know “the truth”. She said she prayed for me because I needed to give my repugnant lifestyle and give my life to Jesus. Or I would be condemned to hell. I asked her what, in her opinion, Hell looks like. It’s filled with people like you…those who don’t know the truth. And what’s Heaven look like? It’s filled with people like me…we know the truth and we are true Christian. [Pause] I really think you need to work on your threats. Because if what you say is true, Hell sounds like a helluva fun place. 🙂
So, what does this have to do with Love?

Love is the only way to survive in this mad world. In the Bible we were given 10 commandments, but they were complicated and too numerous to keep. So Jesus rolled them into two main commandments.

Love God Love your Neighbour as Yourself.
Simple, eh? No, not even a little bit.

When we are called to love someone, it means we have to accept them just as they are, not try to change them. It means we love them without fixing them. It means we enter into relationship with them. And relationships are difficult.

Anybody here married? You know EXACTLY what I mean…it’s hard.

When we stand as those on the outside, it’s easy to be isolated and feel “less than”. And that’s why love is so important.

I’m not talking about ooey, gooey romantic love. I’m talking about the down and dirty, imperfect, difficult love of relationships.

We are commanded to love, not to like. Which is a good thing because there are times when I will love you, but not stand the sight of you. And that’s okay.

For those who struggle with mental illness, love is absolutely necessary because for many of us, myself included, we feel unworthy of love.

They tell us at Seminary that we often preach the homilies we need to hear. I preach generally about one thing. Wanna guess what that is?
LOVE.

It’s not easy. It’s not light. It’s not breezy. It’s difficult, messy, ugly, uncoordinated, dangerous and exhausting.

So why do I do it? Because it’s worth it.

You may wonder why I’ve chosen now and why I’ve chosen this place to come out as Mentally Ill.

If one person here today can hear this story and it sound familiar, then this is worth it.
Am I taking a risk in sharing this with you? Most definitely.

And it’s most definitely worth it.

In mid-November I started feeling “not myself”. I was bursting into tears for no apparent reason, and those who know me, know, as a rule, I rarely cry. Usually only when I’m really angry.

I would burst into uncontrolled tears for hours at a time. And have no idea why. I went to see my family doctor and she listened to me…really listened to me. We decided to change out my antidepressant which I had been on for 9 years. The change over was a nightmare, and it began in mid-December. It took a good 6 weeks before I started feeling better and in that time I was also referred to Elk Valley Mental Health Services.

I saw an intake worker who did an assessment, and I was then referred to a counsellor at the Health Unit. She, too, is a rock star. On Thursday I finished a program in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that has been a life-changer for me. It’s equipped me with tools to counter negative thoughts and behaviour.

Does this mean I’m cured?

Oh HELL no. It means I have tools to help me not get into that dark place again. There will be good days and bad days. There will be highs and lows, and if I start to lurch towards great darkness, I know I can get help.

If you know someone who is Mentally ill, let me give you some advice. You might want a notebook and pen.
I’ll wait.
Ready?

Don’t try to fix them. Write that down. Don’t try to fix them. There’s no pithy aphorism that can snap a person out of depression or anxiety. They have to do the work themselves. And sometimes, before we can get to that work, we have to sit in the dark.
And that’s okay. Showing love to a person who is struggling mentally often means not saying one damn word. Sitting with, in the dark, holding space with them.

Think of it as a mental blanket fort. In some circumstances, it may be an actual blanket fort, and that’s good. Bring blankets, pillows, comfy pjs and snacks.
Loving your neighbour means loving all of them, as you are loved. In your perfect imperfection as the one God created.

The most loving thing you can do for someone who is struggling is to love them through the tough time. And loving them through it means taking the horrible with the not so horrible. It means risking being vulnerable to let them know you care.

People tell me they don’t believe I’m depressed. When I’m out and about I look bubbly, give hugs and seem to be in perfect health.

The thing is, us Depressives are great actors and when we are not well, we will stay home unless we absolutely have to go out and then we will lie to your face to hide how dark we are feeling. It’s true.

We all wear masks and when you struggle with Depression and/or Anxiety, the masks get thicker and may be more than one. While we’re out saying hello and looking completely “normal” it took us two hours to get out of bed and another two hours to work up having a shower. When we get home we get back into pjs and back into bed.

I’m delighted to tell you that today is a good day. And this week has been pretty good as well.

So, if you call or text me and I don’t answer you straight away, it probably means I’m away from my phone, or I’m in the middle of something else and I will get back to you. If it’s a few days and I’ve not responded it may mean I’m in the darkness and I’m trying to fight my way back.

Be patient with me. I’ll get there.

I’d like you to stand up and take the hands of people on either side of you. In just a moment, we’re going to sing….

In the immortal words of the Prophet Paul McCartney
There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known

Nothing you can see that isn’t shown

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be It’s easy
[everybody]
All you need is love [Da da da da daaaaa]

All you need is love [Da da da da daaaaa]

All you need is love, love Love is all you need.
[AGAIN]
All you need is love [Da da da da daaaa]

All you need is love [Da da da da daaaa]

All you need is love, love Love is all you need.

Thank you.

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Buddy

A week ago my cat died.  He was 11, diabetic, cranky and generally a cantankerous old guy.  But he was MY cantankerous old guy.  He was the first cat I’d ever been staff to, and as much as I didn’t think I’d fall in love with him, I did.

Two weeks ago I took him for his annual check-up and he was diagnosed with diabetes.  The vet asked if I wanted to treat Buddy’s diabetes.  I was still processing my shock with the diagnosis.  And that damn cat, who usually did not cuddle or even like sitting near me put his paw on my leg and looked up at me.  How could I say no?

So, I asked the questions I thought needed asking…how long do we try this?  What do I need to watch for?  How much will this cost?  Is he in pain?  Armed with insulin and needles I brought Buddy home and explained what was happening.  He looked at me with his usual disdain and proceeded to hide behind his chair and groom himself.

He started his insulin that night and received it every day.  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, no change in him.  He was still thirsty, still hungry, still cranky.  Monday and Tuesday he started slowing down.  Not as thirsty, not as hungry, still cranky, and moving less.  Wednesday he didn’t get up from his favourite place under the kitchen table.  When I got home Wednesday afternoon he had lost control of his back end and his breathing was shallow and laboured.

I called the Vet to see if I could take him in and be put down but they were unable to take him in as they’d had two emergencies just arrive at the clinic.  So, I wrapped him in a towel, cuddled him and talked to him.  He didn’t want to eat, he didn’t want to drink.  He didn’t want to live.

All through the night I cradled him and stroked his head.  He was doze and wake.  He seemed confused and had seizures.  And about 11:30 pm he died in my arms.

I thought it ironic that he died on All Hallows Eve.  The night the curtain between this life and the next is the thinnest.  As much as I couldn’t imagine having a cat, I had one.  And the experience, while painful and sometimes frustrating, was worth it.

Thursday morning I brought him, bundled in a towel, to the Vet.  I answered a few questions, filled out a form and after spending a few last minutes with him he was taken to be cremated.  All Saint’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong.  Buddy was no saint, but I thought it, again, ironic, that he was being cremated on a Holy Day.

I came home and got to work cleaning.  Scrubbing the bathroom floor, kitchen floor, bedding.  Vacuuming, cleaning all this “stuff” and giving it away.

I have a photograph of him taken just after I brought him home.  I put a feather beside it with which I used to tease him, and lit a candle.  I opened the windows and welcomed in the fresh air.  And I cried.  And I cried.  And I cried.

In my heart I know that there will never be another Buddy.  I intentionally adopted a 10 year old cat because I couldn’t stand the idea of an elderly cat living his last days in a cage.  We lived together mostly in harmony, and I appreciated the company.  But not the mess.

I don’t want another cat.  I don’t want another pet.  Right now I need to let my heart heal and to live with the loss.  Eventually it will heal.  I cannot imagine having another pet.  Not now, and possibly not ever.

I look for him when I come home.  I remember most vividly every morning when I am once again allowed to perform my morning ablutions without supervision.  And I keep stepping in cat litter.  Thanks for the memories Buddy.  Follow the rainbow bridge to everlasting laser pointers and more snacks that you can imagine.  But no belly rubs.  Definitely no belly rubs.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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