Thursday, July 19, 2012

Learning to be Flexible...

Sometimes someone says something that just rubs the wrong way.  Chances are they meant nothing at all when they said those loaded words that have pierced me to the core.

There's probably a multitude of lesson to be learned if I analyze, dissect and explore that statement but the one I'm grasping onto now is that perhaps I need to be a little less rigid and just role with the punches, pick myself up and get back to business.

This is what I have been attempting to do as I have found myself occupying much time pruning, tying and tending the vines in our vineyard.  I am dealing with a tightly woven mess of too many branches, a lot of fruit and attempting to make order and sense of this tangled garden. 

From the vineyard perspective the best advice we've received to date is to prune with your head and not your heart.  After living through trying to control the rampant and voracious growth that comes with my cold climate hybrid vines I'm slowly learning that using my head is the best way to operate and I might also add my own piece of advice which is to look to the future and not dwell in the present too much.  So what if a few grapes-okay-A LOT of them!  get hacked off in the process, the plants will be stronger and better for the experience next year.

Certain chosen vines flex in the right direction to be tied exactly where they need to be and others that I want to keep snap off in my attempt to control.  I need to apply this concept to my life and learn to let the words that hurt weave in and around my consciousness but not turn my heart into a tangled mess.  Experiences and people will meander in and out of my days, which I decide to prune and which I decide to hang onto will make all the difference in how I will grow.  Letting others' twisted words affect my productivity is something I need to contemplate with my head so my heart never gets too sore!  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Anniversary day

'Tis our anniversary today.  Seventeen years married, not a particularly momentous number but an accomplishment none the less.  I now wait for many relatives to descend upon us as today correlates to a Christmas in July party that is happening at our home I'm reflecting quietly on how much I've changed over the past 17 years of married life.  Although I can look in the mirror and lament some not so favourable changes to many parts of my anatomy, I can say without a doubt that marrying my high school sweetheart and hanging on for dear life through the years and rocky roads and roller coasters that ensued is the single best decision I ever made.  Years back I would be in total panic mode at the present time as I wait for 30 plus people to arrive and in my mind scrutinize how I look, how my kids are dressed, how clean the house is, if the environment is favourable and so on....   Today I'm not throwing all my standards out the window, not at all as the passage of time has guaranteed us the privilege of a nicer home and more mature kids that can (for the most part) act accordingly but I am remarkably very relaxed.  I am what I am, warts and all and if people haven't accepted me for who I am by now, no sense getting my knickers in a knot!  

A huge part of this self acceptance comes with the love and unconditional support of the wonderful boy, now a man that I fell for all those years ago.  Lets face it-there's only so many occasions, so many years that can pass with me acting like a psychotic whirling dervish of panicked energy while this calm, cool and casual man remains completely unfazed by my side before even I, slow learner that I am realize that I'm expending quite a bit of energy on really nothing much! 
A glass breaks, clean it up.  The button pops on my pants as I head to the bathroom one last time before guests arrive...oh bloody hell!....but no biggie, go get the needle and thread it will be long fixed before anyone comes!, the house is unbearably hot as we endure yet another week of unbroken heat wave, so what! I cannot control these things, so why stress? 
I have so much to be thankful for, my great children, beautiful home, financial comfort, friends, family and of course Scott, the rock in my life, unwavering and unshakable. 

I do still have complete psychotic moments, no doubt, life does still deliver many, many bumps and yes, I still over-react at least half the time but I calm down quicker, explode a little slower and I don't believe it's simply because I care less or am too old only that I was very blessed to find the Yin to my Yang so very long ago.  He compliments whatever it is that I've got and makes this journey such a fun and terrific adventure!  Thanks Mr. Judd for spending your life by my side!        

Monday, June 4, 2012

How lucky am I?...on Marathons & Relays

I am once again prepping for the Pontiac Artists' Studio Tour.  June 9th, 10th, 16th  and 17th, I and 14 other artists will be opening our homes and studios to anyone who cares to see.  The prep is long and seems endless but it's not really it just seems like a veritable marathon that I welcomed into my life.  I sit now typing away on my keyboard knowing I could make better use of my time as I squint sideways at a very disorganized and chaotic home with paintings propped up everywhere, furniture, books, tchotchkies and other decorative accessories pulled away from walls awaiting storage elsewhere while the tour takes place. Add to that the general clutter and dirt that comes with spring, 4 kids, farm life, 2 dogs, a cat and more surrounding me I realize I'm not even near the finish line yet!

How lucky am I?
I am choosing my challenges, choosing life and chaos and risking hurt and disappointment and chancing success and welcoming failures and vulnerability and friends and strangers.

I'm so blessed to be able to choose.
I was not handed the burden of sickness like so many others are. I need to remind myself that whatever walls I build around my abilities are just fluff compared to what others are battling and although it all matters, some things matter more than others.  My art show will be fine even if, God forbid I don't get this house all fixed up by Saturday.

Perspective is important. 

I participated in my very first Relay for Life activity this past Saturday night in Shawville, it was a bit more of a marathon than I expected...after all I'm not 19 or even 29 anymore, an all nighter hits me a bit harder these days! 

I imagine the event needs no introduction but as some of my readers are half a world away I will give a general outline.  This is a 12 hour overnight relay where teams enter and participate and walk all night long. Breaks in the walk are given by trading off with other teammates.  The point is to have someone walking all night for your team.  The larger point is to raise funds for cancer research. 
I'm really not qualified to comment on the importance or the scope of this event.  I joined a good friend's team who is coming up to two years since being diagnosed, her story in some ways mimics my mother's story:  Breast cancer, extremely young, very aggressive type and treatments.  The 12 hour overnight relay's ad campaign is "because cancer doesn't sleep".  I'm not going to comment on their objectives, initiatives or anything else as I've never explored the back story and don't intend to, if there's a cause I believe in I donate when possible -you don't need to sell anything to me. 

I've got very little ground of reference in my adult life for living with or with someone who is affected by cancer and I hope and pray that I can always say this.  Some observations I've made though:

-OMG and all things bordering every profane word I've ever heard!!!  My legs are killing me!  My feet and knees are swollen and I am exhausted!
-I suspect my first day after was a mild comparison of what a cancer patient who is undergoing treatment might feel which is likely what the event hopes to illustrate to participants.
-I feel better today.  I know those cancer patients do not
-The Relay was tiring but cancer is overwhelming.
-I am surrounded by fighters and winners.  They are my friends, my mom, my acquaintances, they're everywhere.
-Unfortunately many of these fighters were not there on Saturday evening because their battles have been lost, these include a grandma and many other acquaintances some who were remembered with luminaries, many not.

While walking and talking to others, even those who similar to me have been lucky enough to avoid direct contact with cancer I concluded that we all fight battles.  Everyone's battles are different though.  These are battles with disease, emotions, work activities, expectations, families, children, spouses.  We all have marathons.  We all have challenges, some fabricated through our own activities, some welcomed, some not. 

My marathons are minor, not non existent but really small potatoes.  I am just like most everyone else.  I'll win some and lose some, I'll ace some things and fail at others and be mediocre at most.  The important thing is to keep going and just like the event on Saturday night I need to realize that I'm not alone.  This marathon of life is not a solo performance but really more of a relay because people are there to take the baton and run with it for a bit on my behalf, let me breathe, change things up and let me see things in a new light.

As I prepare for the tour those around me have been in my camp, carrying the baton.  You know who you are and I thank you because as insignificant as my event is in the grand scheme of life and real challenges, you never leave me to run alone and this pretty much guarantees that all will be well.  More than wishing for success during the tour though, I am thrilled that I decided to participate in the relay.  Others need me from time to time too and it is really the very least I can do when their journeys are so much harder.  Did my presence make a difference?  A very minuscule one, I know that much -but my hope is I'll always remember to think of others' marathons and offer to take the baton for a turn only if it makes their journey just a little less lonely.

Sure it's a bit of a sacrifice, and perhaps I'm a bit behind in tour preparations but what really is more important than the people who surround and hold you up through it all and the opportunity to do the same for them?

Most important though I  hope that someday very soon we kick cancer's ass right out the door and all the way to the curb and it never, ever comes back to touch anyone again!  


Monday, April 23, 2012

Coffee Bag Art

I agreed to participate in an exhibit some time back and the deadline is looming.  One of our local artists has a great coffee shop and art gallery called Art Brulant and Impressions.  Since he has begun roasting coffee he has accumulated quite a collection of bags that hold the green coffee beans so being resourceful he's decided to hand them out to other artists to transform into art of their choice.  The exhibit will be called "Beyond the Bag" and starts on May 5th in Shawville.
I've discovered a couple things about these burlap bags.

-I really like them...just as is.  I hope to get my hands on a few more and make some great toss cushions for outdoors under my porch, love the graphics on them and think they are pretty awesome all on their own!
-But also, even after a good thick coat of gesso and then some more acrylic primer I've discovered that this stuff really sucks up the paint!  I'm going to go broke painting this bag! We are so fortunate to have a plethora of quality art supplies on hand just about everywhere these days, I'll be happy to return to the ease of  my regular canvases shortly.

Meanwhile the coarse nature of the ground means I have very little control over the detail in the painting and this has forced me to loosen up and just go with it.  What the end result will be remains to be seen but I'm doing a bit of a tongue in cheek thing, not getting too serious about the subject and just relaxing about the process. 

I was told in college that I took tasks very literally, I see that literal interpretation popping up yet again in my project but at least I'm stretching my creative legs and moving outside my box even if I'm not getting very far beyond the coffee bag... I just couldn't kill all the printing on the bag- my love of coffee and all the rough, natural burlap and yes- cows are coming through and I'm having thanks, Raymond for the experience!

I cannot wait to see everyone else's interpretations and creations.  I'm sure most will be far more ingenious than this and it will be a really energetic and entertaining exhibit!  

'Cafe au Lait'  -with miles to go!   ;)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

God given Talent

I spend too much time worrying about my talents.  Am I using them to the best of my ability?  Which ones should I focus on?  Am I wasting my most important ones and instead imparting too much time and energy on ones that won’t deliver optimal results?  Some days I create intricate excuses or just throw up my hands in frustration and bury my time in some useless activity then invariably feel all the more miserable after for the time wasted.  Should I not have done something, made something, achieved something?  What a messed up ‘canvas’ I’m creating!  Maybe I was right where I needed to be at that moment and maybe I’d save so very much anxiety if I just learn to accept who I am as I am.

What I am slowly coming to realize is I am very much affected by the seasons and the weather.  William Shakespeare long ago wrote “At Christmas I no more desire a rose than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth; but like of each thing that in season grows.”  That is me.  There are seasons when I cannot force myself to put paint to canvas.  There are seasons when I cannot resist the allure of some warm wool in my hands as I turn it into something else.  There are times when I cannot put down a novel and other times when I have no desire whatsoever to pick one up.  I even wonder sometimes why I fill my space with things that I have no desire to use.  There are seasons that I embrace the pull of warm, rich soil in my hands as I plant and nourish and grow and there are seasons that relieve me of my guilt in not tending to all my outside spaces with the precision and attention they undoubtedly deserve, I am then elated to be finally buried inside, in the warmth, with a new set of goals in hand.

So, I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t worry.  I also don’t need to categorize and itemize every task and talent and numerically order them from greatest to least.  I make mental lists, but then my head gets so full of all I haven’t done that I go through fits of despondency when really I might need to step back and check out the ‘canvas’ I’ve been creating from a different angle.

So what if every moment of every day is not spent with artist’s brush in hand?  Sometimes I trade it out for a hammer or a pen or a shovel or someone else’s hand.  Perhaps I’m not wasting my talents at all but using every single last one which was given to me.  I imagine it’ll take more than my lifetime to perfect any one of them but in the meantime the picture I’m creating is pretty rich.  Instead of worrying about efficiency or people’s perceptions I’m listening to the quiet…and the silence isn’t telling me that I’m wasting space or energy, the silence allows me to breathe and maybe just whispers ever so softly that I’m doing just fine.  Relax and get on with it…whatever “it” may be.

Meanwhile..."it" is painting again! ;)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dear Sam,

Once upon a time back in the very early days of motherhood I made a promise to myself, at the time I was basking in the delicate beauty of my firstborn's new tiny face, hands and toes it seemed like an entirely realistic promise.  I'm sure too, there are many moms out there who made similar promises and managed to keep them.  I'm also equally as sure that there are a few who will understand just why I broke it.
You see, my promise was that I would write a letter to my child each and every year upon the anniversary of their birth outlining all the wonderful things about them, how far they'd come, how much they meant to me and the wishes that I had for their future.  I admit that Emma, being the first will someday receive a small pile of letters, perhaps 3, maybe 4...they're tucked safely away somewhere among the detrious of our busy lives, April being our second has at least 1 maybe 2, Isaac, our third has one for sure but Samuel...the last little miracle that appeared in our lives hasn't got even a one and for that I am ashamed.
I remember being a kid and wondering why there were albums dedicated to my older sister whereas when I arrived I dotted the albums but certainly never became the prime focus.  Being a relatively vocal individual in and around our home I didn't hesitate to whine about my lack of importance in my parents obviously displayed by their disinterest in capturing my precious and fleeting baby and childhood days with the same attention they devoted to their first.  Mom and Dad, just in case you're reading...please rest assured that even back then I kind of got it, I was only half upset and being the cantankerous kid I was, I was simply doing my best to stir the pot, but then I suspect you know that too!  ;)

Life was easy with one baby, she slept, I slept or did work around the house or wrote my love letters, life with two was somewhat more challenging, when baby slept, I gave my attention to number one, with three I just kept up and with four I ran.  Not to say anything was harder because I firmly believe you grow and adapt to your circumstances and you are only forced to grow as fast as your children do so it was all a very intrinsic and necessary process but the promise of beautiful letters went by the wayside so for today I will take just a few moments to honour my little Samuel, who may never even see this but if I'm being honest with myself, that's okay too because I hope that if we raise our children half as well as we ourselves were raised with time and maturity they will know too that they were loved, each individually and differently but unequivocally loved. 

So Happy Birthday sweet Samuel!, it seems like only yesterday I was meeting you for the very first time but in fact five years have gone and you being my last baby have received quite a lot from us all.  Your mom and dad have spoiled you in ways we know we may someday soon regret and still find it excessively hard to set boundaries when we hate to see that cute little smile turn upside down.  You know that though and it's a constant struggle to remind ourselves just how much you're really playing us!  We must remain firm to help you to become the caring, compassionate and unspoiled individual we hope you will grow to be. 
The day of your birth was different from all your siblings, mom had been through two normal deliveries and then when Isaac appeared all bets were off, he became an emergency section and so 3 years later my choices were taken from me and you were my first elective C-section.  So your birth was really quite simple and straightforward, I knew what to expect and just couldn't wait to see who you were.  Being a farm family, when the doctor lifted you out he congratulated your daddy saying, "You've got yourself a farmer!"  That was our first laugh because dad quickly asked the doctor what that meant since the best farmers in the family have been the girls.  We were so happy to have a second little boy though and felt like we'd won a jackpot, two sisters close in age and now two brothers perfect! 
And really, it has been.  You've been a calm and sweet kid from the day of your birth,  maybe requiring a little more attention and longer cuddle times as a baby when we were helping you to sleep, but then we were only too happy to supply as we realized fully by then just how fleeting baby days are.  Otherwise you've always been thoughtful and interested in examining or discussing how things were put together or what was said and analyzing it all.  Quite a little man actually.  Last year your wish was to be a scientist or a vaccuumer when you grow up, this year, I think the scientist still makes the list but with your own little responsibilities made clear by now in assisting your siblings with picking toys up and putting bedrooms back together the other occupation has gone by the wayside.  You love your lego and although delight in getting a new kit to construct are at your happiest with a fistful of mismatched pieces that you will spend hours working and reworking into different creations each night after your school aged siblings have gone to bed and showing us your self proclaimed "latest vention".  We still let you cuddle down occassionally between us in bed as much for us as you, there's absolutely nothing sweeter than watching you drift asleep little guy and I know too soon you'll be too grown up to even ask.  I savour each of those nights and it really doesn't require much effort at all to lift you up and gently settle you back into your own bed just a little later.  You are the image of your father, the cutest little thing Emma has ever seen, perfect little student for April and the best of chum Isaac could ever have.  For me you are more precious and wonderful than I could ever attempt to vocalize.   I wish you health and dignity, I hope you continue to grow to be as thoughtful and analytical as you have always been, always thinking things through first, I think that's a trait that will serve you well in years to come.  I hope you're kind and compassionate and treat all people with respect and honour.  I look forward to seeing the man you will someday become but for now I hope you are happy and that life is joyous, I know you are smart, I hope kindergarten is wonderful...and I hope that not a day goes by that you don't know that we love you!  Happy Birthday!  Love, Mom



Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just Breathing

I don't know about you, but I think for many rural individuals the seasons set the pace of our lives. 

In spring the urgent rush to prepare and plant the fields seems not unlike a long distance race where results are never immediate but the outcome is imminent and the only way to cross that finish line is to invest copious amounts of time moving steadily forward one foot in front of the other and never ever giving up. The list of tasks seem endless and urgent and yet there's a celebratory note in spring because we've just survived the winter, that enthusiasm propels us forward, has us take on things we'd otherwise never make time to do, we are energized and refreshed by the smell of earth as it thaws, the gentle breezes, the warm rain and the reappearance of life, first little bubbles appearing in the earth as it drinks up the melting snow, then tiny blades of strong lime sprouts push through last year's dead, dried grass.  Finally the song birds return home for the season and the land erupts and the season that seemed like it would never quite come is upon us and explodes chaotically all around.  Plants grow so quickly the daily results are measurable and never, ever cease to amaze. 

Then quickly and quietly summer arrives.  She comes in a blast.  One day you are working in the garden, a gentle breeze on your back and the next you are stifled with a wall of heat so thick that it takes your breath and streams of sweat run down your back.  Flowers bud and explode.  One day a garden plant bears a tiny blossom and the next long, crunchy beans, squash or peas appear.  The world becomes a buffet but the work is harder and hot. Still we adapt, the icy waters of spring quickly warm and become our playground, we alternate between basking in summer's hot rays and thick dappled shade to plunging into it's warm refreshing pools.  Summer stifles with her intensity but all too swiftly just when we wonder if we'll ever need the blankets on our beds again or if a breeze will ever ruffle the curtain, if those peepers in the pond will ever stop their incessant night time chatter she gracefully bows out and gives center stage to Fall. 

Autumn comes with a change of clothes from green to yellow.   We welcome his cooler days and are reinvigorated once again to tackle jobs that Summer's heat just couldn't inspire.  We cannot help but pause and marvel at all his splendour, he simply amazes with his riotous brightness from leaves to crops, to the squawking of flocks as they fly over beginning their journey to warmer places but he's a fast one that a shaking of his robes the brightly coloured leaves swirl and madly whirl around encircling us with a frosty promise that work will soon slow down.  First, we must hurry, we have things to tidy, harvests to collect, jobs to finish because Winter is waiting.

Sometimes Winter sits impatient on the doorstep and she can be harsh and merciless and we don't want to be caught unprepared.  She blows into every corner sending chill everywhere.  The trees become lifeless statues frozen in her stillness, buried deep inside themselves as they set up a long vigil against her icy madness, swirling blizzards and deep cold.  She is also beautiful this winter, with her long, thick robes  that glimmer on moonlit nights and blind on sunshine days, but for me winter is a time to breathe, regroup and reorganize as the world around lays blanketed thick and white.  A time to rest and plan for the cacophony of spring that is sure to follow.  A time to not wish away but to enjoy and breathe because all too soon the cycle will start again.

Already the days are longer and I know my rest is coming to an end.  I am trying to collect myself, my thoughts, my ideas and organize them in a way that they won't spiral madly out of control at the first sigh of spring.  For now I plan and slowly I will begin again just as the seasons unfold, I guess time will tell exactly what that looks like and what the world has in store for me but for now I chose to simply be and appreciate all this world has to offer us if we only just open our eyes and see! 

Changing Seasons

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Year...

A time for new beginnings,
new possibilities, new challenges, adventures, complications.
Who knows what the New Year will hold?

Not I.

I’m not making any resolutions…I am big on planning but I don’t like making promises I know I won’t likely keep…to myself or others.  So, I will go quietly on my journey, one day at a time since we really don’t know what the future will hold, I will only attempt to do my best at whatever moment I find myself in and I know I’ll fall short of the mark a thousand times over…but I’ll keep trying again and again.  
So, for today…a time to celebrate how far I’ve come, the wonderful world around me, the family we’ve created and the blessings we’ve been given.

For tomorrow…Who knows?

St. Theresa’s Prayer

“May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.”

Happy New Year!  Jen