Love thy neighbour….or at least know them

Tragedy struck our neighbourhood this week.

Our neighbour across from us….diagonally from us to be exact.  They have lived there for five years. We had never met them.  A mom and her two young adult sons. She lost one tragically on Saturday.

As the shock rippled from house to house on our quiet crescent.  I asked myself why I never bothered to go over and introduce myself when they moved in.  I remember saying to myself, I’ll say hello whenever I see them. I never did.   We always seemed at a distance… busy, rushing.  Hopping into respective cars and taking off to “important” destinations.

I felt her grief. I didn’t know her but I felt it. I couldn’t sleep…  at 2am that Saturday night my next door neighbour and I (who I have known for the entire 12 years we have lived in this house) texted each other in disbelief. Our kids are practically the same age.  Awful. Sickening.

I regretted not having met her son.   A close friend of mine reminded me that “you can’t know EVERYONE”   She was right.   Still as Sunday passed I felt compelled to meet her and tell her how very very sorry I was.

On Monday afternoon armed with baked goods and in the company of a few other neighbours I crossed the street.  Not wanting to intrude on their grief, I still felt it was the right thing to do.

I didn’t know what to expect….meeting at a time like this.  The door was answered by the grief stricken mother; we introduced ourselves and in minutes felt like family. Coming together at a difficult time like this she was the picture of grace. We were introduced to her other son, her parents, her sister, friends. Offered food and given coffee. All at the same time she showed us pictures of her boy from babyhood to the previous week at his university graduation.  We held her hand and hugged her…a collective sadness among us mothers.

I told her I would be back to see her late next week. I thought to myself this would be a good time when everyone had left and resumed their lives. I wanted her to know I am her neighbour and friend.

It`s a good thing a correct thing.    Mark 12:31 “Love thy neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. “   

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Giving Back

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The comfy leather chairs in malls are designed for the tired old parents who just can’t keep up with their fast paced shopping children. Normally I would smile sympathetically and breeze by these older folks with my best shopping partner my daughter. Recently, after being in my third shopping mall, I literally dove onto one of those leather chairs at Sherway Gardens.  A sigh of relief and happiness escaping my lips, eyes closed I was pretty pleased with myself. Until I felt someone staring at me. I opened my eyes:

Kaitlin: Really mom? What’s wrong with you? Let’s go!!!

Me:  I can’t. I can no longer go on. Go on without me, leave me here! Save yourself!!!! (I thought it was funny, she was not amused).

Anyway, she is amazed and shocked all at once. Mom is tired.  Yes I am 45. I feel my age at this moment. She heaps her 100 shopping bags and winter jacket on me and I swear she skips down the mall with a wave! Wow.

So I look around me. In another chair is an exasperated looking father, poor soul. He has just as many bags as me, we exchange nods. I guess this is the protocol. In another chair is an old guy snoring, another chair has a dad reading a book and calmly sipping a coffee. These are my chair mates. Hmmm..

Before long I start to look around at the shoppers. All carrying similar bags to us, Abercrombie and Fitch, Nine West, Guess. I look at everyone laughing and talking, animated smiles and laughs. Before long, I find myself thinking about all these shoppers. I mean everyone has a story right? But here on boxing week, all our stories are the same. To come out and score the best deals possible. Find the items that we can say. “Guess how much this was???”  And pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Then all of a sudden, I feel guilty.

I start to think about those less fortunate who probably would be happy to hold up a very used sweater and say “I finally have something warm to wear.”

Sitting in my chair, I shift around uncomfortably.  Text messages are vibrating on my phone. I look down at my Iphone and consider someone who does not even have a home to live in.

I’m getting sad.  I remember a few weeks ago when my Lexus was hit in a mall shopping parking lot and the person did not even having the decency to leave their number to discuss repairs. I had a temper tantrum that day of enormous magnitude. I’m embarrassed when I think of my behaviour and those less fortunate who probably have to take numerous busses or walk very far to even get to their low paying jobs.

I wish Kaitlin would hurry up and finish shopping so these thoughts can go away. That’s the thing, you can make the thoughts go away but it doesn’t change reality. Reality stays. So what am I going to do about it?

I make a decision.

2012, will be chock full of resolutions for everyone. The usual, eat healthier, exercise more, and stop smoking blah blah blah….but my decision. Is here:  http://www.habitat.ca/

Not just to stop the guilt. But for God’s sake to help out others. Yes I give to the food bank, yes I help out at Soup Kitchens, and yes I donate to the Salvation Army. But how about building a house here or abroad? How about doing MORE? What about doing some volunteering. I will, this year.

Who’s coming with me?

The Road Not Taken

       In a matter of days 2011 will be drawing to a close.  So, it is natural at this time that many will be thinking of not only this past year but of years gone by. Good times, bad times, mistakes that were made or opportunities that were lost.  Many will also be thinking of the future and what it may hold; hopes, dreams and wishes.

      For others this time of year might bring about vulnerable feelings, doubts and regrets. Often these regrets surround the road not taken. The what if’s? What if I had become a doctor, where would I be now? What if I had relocated to the South Pacific when I wanted too, what would life be like? What if I had three kids instead of one?

      The road not taken is an interesting one. For many it is in the past safely closed. Road Closed sign so to speak. For others, it represents an opportunity to go back and change some things. Maybe find that person you were not so nice to in public school and apologize for your behaviour or look into the career you always wanted but didn’t think you were good enough for. Or find that long lost love and find out what might have been.

It is on this latter note that I am thinking of my good friend Cameron*. Cameron lives out west, lucky him. I was jealous when he told me he was moving to British Columbia.  I always say that God gave all the beauty of this land to that one province. Anyway, he was going to pick himself up, leaving and go out there to start fresh, where he told me that he knew no one. (Or so I thought). He left in the fall of 2000, and we stayed in touch. He bragged about the beauty of the province I kept him up to date about my child rearing adventures. A couple of years later he told me that he had actually moved to B.C. to find a woman. A woman he used to know when he was a teenager. He never got to date her or even know her on an intimate level but felt so drawn to her that the idea of her has followed him all these years. It was his road not taken. At first I was shocked and asked him why was he walking backwards in life? I suggested that if things did not happen between them, maybe it was not meant to be. A few emails back and forth and he showed me how much this woman had haunted his mind and dreams and he had to find out if something was there. Eventually we started to lose touch, not because I thought he was crazy, I actually admired his tenacity and determination, but mainly because I was busy raising kids.

Tonight I heard from Cameron. He emailed me a very heart warming email. He asked if I would be interested in attending a wedding in May 2012. I felt a lump in my throat as I kept reading. He did find the lady he was looking for in 2000 almost as soon as he got there. It just took almost 12 years for them to move their relationship forward to the point of commitment. Wow I thought. Wow……I have come to view the need to turn around and revisit something as admirable. Why spend the rest of your life wondering? Take the steps and find out. It may well be worth it. Do I believe in the power of true love? Damn right I do.  While the New Year is approaching, think about the road you have not taken. Is it worth pursuing a long forgotten dream? If so tell me about it.

*Name change

Finding Balance

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I’m in tree pose.

Struggling for balance
in the yoga studio. The sweat is trickling down my neck.

My yoga instructor softly says “Now concentrate on one spot in the room and balance, don’t forget to breathe, let your thoughts go and relax.” Is she serious? I can’t do all those things at once.

Then I realize this struggle is not any different then what most of us go through on a daily basis. Finding balance in life. Is there such a thing?

There are spouses that have work days that do not end at 5pm. I know too many people who take work home, stuff that HAS to get done. Where is the balance? Where is the time to spend with family? Where is the time for themselves?

Finding the perfect balance in life is not easy. What do I mean you ask? Hell if I know.
I know this much, the concept of balance in life has come up many times this summer. Recently a good friend and I were out for dinner when she mentioned
that her son seemed to lack balance, that he was spending far too much time
with a new girlfriend. They have been together less than six months yet my friend
lamented “he spends every waking hour with her” hmmm. He was missing other
family events. She complained. I considered it just new love and it would work itself out.

“No.” My friend disagreed he does this every time. No balance.

It’s almost as though people are consumed with what they consider important and they forget the supporting cast that is around them.

Our lives are full of different things that we have to balance. In fact the best way to blog about this would have probably been to break it all down in little subheadings. Career, Spouse, Kids, Finances, Hobbies…etc. Then discuss them all individually, but, that would lack any realism. We don’t have our lives organized like that in our heads do we? It would be nice if we did.

It is a difficult concept for many people to realize. Husbands can’t play tennis with their buddies for 7 hours straight in a given day, or golf or cycle. They need to balance things out, a couple of hours here or there. You just can’t have it all. Wives can’t be out with the girls all the time, movies, drinks, shopping and forget about spending time with their husband and kids. Find the balance.

What about the mom, who makes time for the kids and husband all
the time? The mother who never says no. She’s always there, a phone call or text message away. She is like an on call button. Where is her personal time? Where is her sense of balance?

Giving attention to equal areas in your life is paramount.
Relationships die if they are not fed or maintained. Have a look at where you spend
your time, how equal are these areas? Have you called your mom lately? Told
your spouse you love them? Had lunch with one of your kids? Look around and listen
there could be loved ones who would love to spend more time with you. Life is
too short. Work on balance.

In the meantime, I’ll
keep practicing my tree pose.

Music…bringing us together

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I am amazed by the power of music.

It’s a beautiful, sultry… okay hot as hell
night in Toronto at the Rogers Centre. Finally the long wait for the
rescheduled 2010 U2 concert has arrived.  As I make my way to my seat I’m checking out the crowd. Every age, every race is here. When I sit down in my own row, I giggle as I look at the seven people I came with. They range from 17 to 68!

There exists some music that can bring all ages and races together. During the concert, I watched people. They were dancing,laughing, hips gyrating, hands waving in the air. I saw happiness.
The concert itself? Fantastic. That is U2. It’s a show that is large enough to
bring Mark Kelly at the International Space Station by video to introduce
Beautiful Day. Amazing I say.

I always hear criticisms about Bono’s political leanings and his “pulpit” ways. In fact
the most criticisms I heard were from his previous concerts in Montreal. I was
prepared, but in all honesty I was pleased.

Some would say that a concert is not the forum to be political. Perhaps, but it depends I think.  Bono showed images of Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and told the crowd about the years she spent in prison just becauseshe believed in democracy. There was even a video message from her. I knew all about her, upon her release in the fall her picture and story were constantly in the newspaper. I followed the stories, I was intrigued. But how many other people in the 60 000 plus crowd did not know of her and her struggles? A brief moment to educate or inform us? I’m okay with that. No I’m damn good with that!

He mentioned his own campaign ONE, which focuses on the international fight against extreme poverty.  I had never heard of it. When I arrived home armed with a cup of tea I checked out the web page for ONE. Yes at 2:30 in the morning. It’s good stuff, he’s doing good things.

He got me thinking, keep talking Bono, keep singing. I’m listening.

Text, Call, Tweet, Update F.b. ~ Cell phones!

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A few weeks ago I was enjoying dinner at a rather upscale Thai
restaurant. Quite suddenly my conversation was interrupted by the theme from
batman.  A cellphone ring! Whattt??? Huh??? I surveyed my surroundings and spied the culprit picking her phone up. “Sheesh” I thought “how rude?” Honestly, what can be so incredibly important that one has to take a call in the middle of a nice
restaurant and in the process disturb others? Really! Funny thing though, I seemed to be the only one who noticed. Everyone else was carrying on with their evening. “Wow” I frowned. What the heck is wrong with this world?

A few days ago while on a shopping trip with my 17 year old daughter Kaitlin. I
heard someone say: “Who are you texting? “ Hmmm no kidding!!!! ( I thought) I looked up distractedly into the big brown eyes of my daughter.

Me: What? (is she talking to me?)

Kaitlin: Well?

Me: (clutching my iphone protectively to my chest..SHE IS TALKING TO ME) I-I  w-was just answering a text.

Kaitlin: No Mom you have been on that thing ALL DAY! Her eyes held
a flicker of accusation.

Me: I have?

Kaitlin: yes you have!!

Me: Oh

At that point I swallowed sheepishly realizing she was right. Crap! I had
become swallowed up in the constant chime of my phone. Responding to texts,
tweets, emails the whole afternoon! Nothing was that important, I don’t even work in the summer! Where was my self restraint? What was I doing??? My eyes lowered to her Coach bag where her iphone comfortably rested untouched. She had been carefully ignoring the beckoning chimes and beeps of
her phone.

I put my phone away and started ignoring the alerts and beeps that
continued. If she can do it I can too!! Not soon after Kaitlin heads to the
washroom and I steal a chance to look at my phone. What did I miss???

I realized at that moment not as much as I would if I didn’t participate in
this shopping trip with my daughter and actually stop looking at my phone.

Have we become hostages to our phones or laptops? We know the instant
messaging world holds so much for all of us, but are we risking the loss of
human connection by allowing ourselves to be smothered by it? Are we driving
our family, spouses or significant others crazy?

I want to hear from all of you: How do you deal with it?

Hi…I’m the new kid..

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How many times in our lives do we go through this? Yet here I am again, how can a woman in her mid forties be the new kid again?

Well apparently my media-happy sister thinks I should be blogging, so this past weekend she gave me a little nudge or shall we say SHOVE and here I am.

I can’t promise you that what I have to say will be amazing and entertaining or that my words will be profound and deep. What I will write will be my thoughts, open and truthful.  Pieces of me…here and there.

In the meantime, I’m new….is this seat taken?