A Story of Gratitude on Thanksgiving

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Me, Shannon and Dad in 1985

Never let things you want, make you forget the things you have.

In the summer of 2015, Dad called and insisted that I visit that September. Looking back, I am grateful he did so, as unknown to any of us, Dad would pass away two months later.

When I reflect on what I am grateful for, Dad is at the top of the list. I know how fortunate I am to have had a father who loved me, and kept me safe, who was in my life for 52 years.

Dad also was a grateful man. During that 2015 visit, from the couch he practically lived on due to the back pain he’d suffered, he looked at me and said, “You know, Diana…I cannot really complain about anything, I’ve had a great life.”

“A great life, Dad? You grew up in war-torn Berlin. Your windows imploded when bombs were dropped. You were hungry much of the time!”

I don’t remember his answer verbatim, but it was something like, “yes, but we looked out for each other on our street, we shared everything. I was loved.”

~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~

This Thanksgiving, don’t forget what you have…

 

 

 

#RideForRefuge Well I Did It…Kinda

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Post registration, pre-ride photo.

WE HAD ANTICIPATED WARMER WEATHER, 19c/67f degrees to be exact, but in Calgary, it is hard to predict weather beyond 48 hours. On ride day, it seemed nice enough outside early in the morning, but it got quite windy and cold after the riders were sent out. And I swear, that no matter what direction the route took, the wind was blowing cold and full blast, into my face. Coupled with that, having gained at least 15 pounds since last year’s ride, I ended up having to dismount, a couple of times, part way up hills, and walk them.

I can laugh about it today, but another thing I did on ride day, was miss the 10km turn off, so I unwittingly rode about 5km more than I signed up for,(probably a good thing, seeing as I have gained weight), but I took two others with me! So you’d have to ask Earl and Kellie how they felt about me misleading them – sorry guys!

None of that is important when compared to the benefit that resulted through the compassionate efforts of the riders, walkers, donors and volunteers, who all played a role in raising over $20,000 for Oxford House. Practically speaking, this means that eight men or women in recovery, will have a home, and support in their recovery, for an entire year!

I personally want to thank those 20 people who supported my ride – together we raised $1,335! Also, I want to thank the 12 people who joined my team  who along with you, fundraised $5,460 in total for Oxford House.

My team, the Riders for Recovery

(L-R) Diana, Earl, Kellie, Tracey, Trish, Dean, Michael, Leanne, Ava and Pat. And missing from this photo are: Jaidyn, Ziyan, Karim and Donald

Who says you can’t goof around and work hard at the same time?

~ HUMP DAY CHRONICLES ~

 

Say What You Will About Millennials, But…

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…on Sunday, I hopped on my bike, knowing that there aren’t that many bike-riding days left until winter hits Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I planned to do my usual ride to St. Patrick Island, but first I wanted to stop at the alley between 4th and 5th Street.

You see, there’s been construction on 17th Avenue, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t cursed about a lot in the last year. But I was intrigued when I heard they were closing the alley to cars and opening it up to foot traffic so that local businesses could create a space in the alley.

A bar set up a grassy area and picnic tables, the pet food place set up booth and an apartment building laid down turf and set up lawn bowling and other games.

The City of Calgary also had an information tent and that’s where I met Kate. Say what you will about Millennials, but I love them! They’re bright, creative and love to build community.

The alley idea is a pilot project, Kate explained. To see if it would work to open up alleys in other blocks as 17th Avenue construction works its way to 14th Street over the next three years.

We got talking about other cool projects like the Red Boardwalk Project on Rue St. Denis in Montreal and the Skyline Park in NYC. And we talked about ways to build community; community that would even welcome homeless people! I asked her if she was afraid of, or uncomfortable around homeless people and she said it depended on the person. But, she had “a very cool story to tell me, something that happened just last night!”

Kate is an urbanite, and like most neighbourhoods in the core, her backyard borders an alley. And over time, she met “Tom.” Tom is homeless and collects recyclables from the alley behind Kate’s home. Kate and Tom chat a lot and she saves her bottles and cans for him.

Well the night before, Tom surprised her with a gift. There’s a street artist named Raven who paints native art and Tom chose, and bought a piece from him for Kate.

I felt my eyes moisten as Kate told me the story, and you can say what you want about Millennials, but I just love them.

On my way to the alley, I heard the thunder of motorcycles. Turns out “The Distinguished Gentlemen” were riding for men’s health.

The alley pilot project

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~ HUMP DAY CHRONICLES ~

The Storm Creates Space for Love and Compassionate Action

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Mike, Dad and Mom

Life isn’t always fair,

Mom and Dad

Something I heard said, while growing up in my hometown of Chateauguay many times. And it isn’t fair, it certainly doesn’t seem to be at times.

We plan, we work and we dream about the life we are building, and things don’t always work out the way we hoped. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it crashes down on us like the destructive force of a storm. Yet, sometimes when the storm has passed, we look back and are able to say, “if not for the storm, I wouldn’t have learned (fill in the blank).”

I’m learning that in the storm, in spite of its force, in spite of my fears, I have to be brave. I have to trust that things will settle down, and I have to believe things may even be better than they were before.

The storm wakes us up. It shakes our foundations, and causes us to pay attention. It reveals what is important. It reprioritizes our priorities. And it creates a huge space for love and compassionate action.

Mom is teaching me this. My brother is showing me this, through this frightening time of transitioning Mom to a retirement home.

A new stage in life. A profound sense of not knowing and loss of autonomy.  A shaking up of a life hard-worked for, painstakingly planned for, and callously turned upside down.

Yet love is there. Courage to believe is there. Hope that it may even be better than it currently is in this storm, is there.

~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~

Mom and Mike, I am so proud of you. You may feel fear and helplessness, but I see your courage, love and hope; and I know that Dad does too. I love you!

Diana Goes to Washington, DC

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On Thursday, August 31st, I boarded a plane for Washington, DC via Toronto, with Board Chair of Oxford House Foundation, Debra Johnstone, to attend the 19th Oxford House World Convention.

It was both inspiring and educational! While there, Debra and I took the opportunity to tour the National Mall. I have to say that the White House is smaller than I imagined it would be, but just as guarded as I had imagined. And the Lincoln Memorial which I have always wanted to visit, was grander than I’d ever imagined. In total we walked about 13km, and believe me, I was feeling it the next day!

Here are some photos I took at the National Mall and around our hotel.

If you would like to see a video of my finger and a group of people gathered to support and defend DACA, play the video below.

 

~ HUMP DAY CHRONICLES ~

A Little Water Between Neighbours

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When you look at a field of Dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds, or a thousand wishes.

~ Unknown

My apartment building was painted a while back, including my balcony. It looks so nice that I bought one of those outdoor carpets to enhance the look. Next year, I plan to buy a couple of potted wild grass pots and comfy chairs to spruce it up even more – maybe I will even get outdoor solar lights to string on the railing!

Today my upstairs neighbor watered her balcony plants. Honestly, she used so much water, it poured onto my balcony, drenching it, drenching the carpet, splashing up onto my patio door.

“HEY!” I called up, “you’re messing up my balcony, creating a mucky mess!”

I don’t think she heard me. She just kept watering. I would have run upstairs and pounded on her door, but I was still in my jammies – maybe that was a good thing. 🙂

Instead, I focused my adrenaline flooded body to the task of hanging my carpet on the rail, and mopping the mucky water from my freshly painted balcony.

I’ve laid the carpet back down and my balcony is once again my urban oasis. You know, in retrospect, I’d been thinking of mopping the balcony anyway. It looks great.

It was just a little water between neighbours. Nobody died. What’s the big deal?

~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~

Kindness and Friendship

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Sprinkle joy.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

The act of spreading joy does not often come from a place of my own joy. In fact, every time I can recall my own joy, it’s been a deeply personal experience, felt by an audience of one – me.

The wondrous privilege of witnessing nature; a dragonfly landing on me with wings glistening in the sunlight when I was a child in Chateauguay, a hawk calling while soaring across a central BC sky, a spider’s web sparkling in the pre-dawn light of a full moon in Brown County Indiana, the lull of the ocean’s waves crashing against the shore and receding, crashing against the shore and receding in the Dominican Republic, and more profoundly moving of late in Calgary, dogs approaching me with the same trust and love they used to approach dad with.

My joy comes while living in the moment and is deeply personal.

Spreading joy often comes from a place of brokenness; cycles of dysfunction in relationships or, stubborn ways of thinking or being, when I finally reach out with forgiveness, when I decide to break the cycle to relieve someone else’s pain through kindness and friendship.

~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~

What Are You Passionate About?

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:

How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.

– Coco Chanel

I once asked a man what he was passionate about and he replied, leadership. “Leadership of what?” I asked. “I just want to be a leader, it doesn’t matter what.”

I could be wrong, but that sounds a bit like a power grab to me.

It’s a bit sad, if you ask me. But it’s not an unusual answer.

So many of us seek the most coveted position, which isn’t a bad thing if we’re seeking it in an area that we are passionate about and we have the gift-set, but when we want it just for the sake of having it, we will find ourselves in an excruciating uphill journey that feels mostly like trying to run quickly under water.

Worst of all, we’ll not be happy with the experience.

Co Co had it right. I think she knew well that putting aside our wish to be something, and seeking to be true to who we are and act from where we are passionate, immediately releases us from unnecessary cares.

~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~

So, what are you passionate about?

7 Things Dad would want you to know

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This post has been sitting in my draft folder since December 2015, just a short month after Dad passed. It hasn’t felt right to publish it until now. ♡

*******

Dear Mom,

I’ve been thinking about you and Dad and our family.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how Dad and I could just sit in the same room, not saying anything, yet somehow be on the same page. And I’ve been thinking about some of the conversations Dad and I have had over the years and I think there are at least seven things that Dad would want you to know.

I’ve listed them below in the form of a letter to you from Dad.

Meine Liebe Salat Schnecke,

1.       Don’t ever doubt how much I loved you

002aRemember our Wedding night? It wasn’t a fancy party. We did the best we could though and we had fun right? I can still see you running through the street singing in the middle of the night when you’d had a little too much to drink.

What the neighbours must have thought!

But I didn’t care, you seemed happy and honestly Margot, I may not have been able to express myself well, but that’s what I wanted for you. I always wanted you to be happy.

I knew how hard your life had been, I wanted to show you how good it could be.

Remember when we arrived in Canada and once we got on our feet a bit? You have no idea how happy it made me to see you eat butter, eat at a restaurant, eat fruit and cakes and whatever you could get your hands on. Remember that time I brought a dozen lemon donuts home when you were pregnant and you ate 11 of them? I didn’t mind that there was only one donut left for me.

It made me smile to watch you eat all the foods you missed in your childhood.

2.       Building our family

I know you were scared and so determined that our children would never be harmed like you had been. I was shocked that time you would even think I might hurt them but I grew to understand where this fear came from. I loved our kids – I would have done anything for them, and I think I was able to convince you of that with time, right?

No regrets Margot.  Don’t ever underestimate the value of what we were able to give our kids. Sure we weren’t perfect parents, we made mistakes along the way, but we did everything to the best of our ability for them and I think they turned out pretty good, don’t you?

3.       Our 50th anniversary

Mom and Dad's 50th Anniversary

Mom and Dad’s 50th Anniversary

Wasn’t that a fun party, Margot? I was so excited to celebrate with you. You looked so beautiful in that blue dress, I was so proud beside you in my new suit. And look how many friends came to celebrate with us!

And our trip to Germany! Yes Canada was our home now, but how wonderful it was to go to the place where we met and married to celebrate our 50th.

4.       You were a real handful sometimes

A fighter. A hard worker. You had fire in your eyes!

Yeah there were times I wished you would just calm down, relax a little. Just let go of stuff, but maybe it was your pushing that got us as far as we got. And even when you were angry, I knew it was because you were afraid that things wouldn’t work out – those ghosts from the past were haunting you. I knew that you were fighting for the very best.

And you know what? I think I may have originally been drawn to that about you. You have spunk!

I mean who else would have moved to a new country, not knowing the language to start a new life with me? I chose well. You were the right partner for me.

You worked just as hard as me. Remember our job at that summer camp? Picking apples?  Making hats? And all the other jobs we had until I got that job at Kraft Foods and we bought our first home? And even then you cleaned houses to help out with the expenses. Yes we worked hard for what we built.

5.       Regrets

Maybe I could have been more supportive at times. Like when you were seasick on our voyage to Canada or when you broke your ankle. Maybe I could have told you more how much I appreciated you. I just never was one for words. But make no mistake; I was grateful and I really cared about you, even if I wasn’t very good at saying it.

6.       The last few years

I know how hard it was for you to watch me on the couch in pain. It was hard for me too. I wanted to be healed. And sometimes you made me angry when you pushed so hard for me to get up or exercise. But when I would think about it, I knew you were scared. I knew you meant well.

But the hardest thing, Margot was to see what my poor health was doing to you. You were so brave. That’s why I tried so hard to be brave too. That’s why I tried not to complain even when I couldn’t drive the car anymore. You did everything. I really wish I could have helped around the house more. I was so sure I would get better and things would go back to normal. But I didn’t. I’m so sorry things didn’t work out the way we had hoped. If I had known that I wouldn’t get better, perhaps we could have made arrangements that would have made the last years easier for both of us.

7.       Now that I’m gone

Our last few years together were hard, and I am so thankful for all you did for me. I know you’re sad and that you must grieve – after all we spent 56 years together, one doesn’t get over that quickly. But don’t just remember the last years. Remember the fun times. The family vacations. The German Club New Year’s dances. When I taught you how to drive. Those nights we walked around the block when the kids were in bed.

And don’t grieve too long. There is so much more for you to experience. Spend time with our kids, our grandkids, our wonderful friends. Get back out there doing the stuff you love to do. Simplify your life. Laugh, live and love. Life is far too precious to do otherwise. Grab onto life with both hands and enjoy it as much as you can. And know that when your time comes, I’ll be here, waiting for you.

Dein Mann, Heinz

Her Diminished Size is in Me — Not in Her

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I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone where?
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.

And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying…

Henry Van Dyke

~ DIANA’S ENORMOUS BOOK OF QUOTES ~