Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Bumpy Journey

In our local paper this week, there was a column by a local writer.  It was quite enjoyable and funny as it described driving on our city streets.  The column was called "Pothole Purgatory" where the writer described three moves in this game "pothole purgatory".  There was the swerve and avoid manoeuver.  There was the straddle manoeuver.  There was also the hit and sink manoeuver.  As it is the season for potholes, our roads are much worse this year than other years.  It makes for a slow and bumpy drive down some of the roads where the potholes are the width of the entire street.  There's no choice but to slow right down and bump through the series of holes in the street.

As I drove around this week, it reminded me of how bumpy our journey through life can be.  Just like driving the van through the potholes because they are unavoidable, I have to slow down as I am forced to go through the bumpy stretch of life.  Some of these potholes of life really feel like they could swallow me up whole!  This is when I have to make sure that I am well rested so that I have the mental energy to focus, be patient and carry on.  When the road of life is so bumpy that it feels like I'm being swallowed up whole, like when I had lymphoma, I also make more time for quiet reflection, prayer and meditation.  It helps!!  If nothing else, it calms my fears and anxieties.  Praying also lets me share my burden with my God.  I feel like I'm not walking through these major foot deep potholes alone.  That God is with me, holding my hand and helping to guide me around the biggest craters. As I reflect on this picture, I also wonder if God perhaps picks me up and carries me over the potholes of life that devour the whole road.  How comforting that image is!

An earlier reading that I encountered this week, talked about Mary (the mother of Jesus) and how she accepted God's plan.  As it is Lent, I reflected on how it must have felt for Mary as a mother to watch her son push the boundaries of people's accepted norms of the time.  She must have been filled with anxiety and fear as Jesus challenged the "accepted order".  And then when Jesus was arrested, how Mary must have cried!  Knowing that her son was going to be beaten and abused at best, must have torn her apart inside.   I can only imagine the inner pain Mary must have felt!  As a mother, I think I would feel my heart breaking.  I would think that I would have sleepless nights as I worried about my child's safety.  I can imagine I would have a tight ball of fear inside as I watched the week's events unfold.  Seeing my child arrested, judged, ridiculed, starved, beaten and made to parade in front of everyone as he carried dragged his instrument of death to the hill, would hurt so deeply.  And I can imagine that I would only be able to stand by and watch as my child's activities and actions had brought him to the very bottom of this "pothole".  How sad and weary Mary must have felt as she watched her son hanging on the cross, dying a slow and painful death.

But then I thought of how when Mary was pregnant with the Son of God and knew that this baby inside her was the Son of God, she must have had a very deep belief and relationship with God.  I imagine that relationship with God carried her through the many years of "rabble rousing" that her son participated in.  Mary, as a mother most likely felt everything very deeply as a human mother, must have had a deep and living relationship with God.  I think this would have carried her through the very darkest days of seeing her son die on the cross.

This is the type of relationship I strive to have with my God.  Where God is beside me, holding me, comforting me and helping me through the darkest days of my journey through the potholes of life.  I've experienced some of this as God walked beside me when I was a child, teenager and young adult while I was teased, ridiculed and physically bullied.  I think the term now is "swarmed".  I still remember the bruises, physical aches and pains as well as the hidden emotional wounds.  God always helped me to continue on.  Sometimes I was aware of this "being" walking with me and other times I was too young to intuitively feel the presence of God.  I definitely know that God walked with me and carried me while I went through my bout with lymphoma.  I also feel God's presence with me as I run into stressful situations that occur now.  I was once asked, how do you manage to stay so positive through the various situations?  I see and feel God is with me when I see beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  I know that God is surrounding me when the birds come to visit my bird feeder as they sing and chatter.  Even watching the wild waves on the lake near my home, I feel the force of God.  I know that God journeys along beside me which gives me some peace.  Do I still have fear and anxiety for my children.  Absolutely!  Especially as I watch them make choices in their own journeys of life.  My husband and I have tried to teach and guide them when they were younger.  We still offer advice and guidance but we realize that our children are their own beings and growing into young adults to make their own choices.  As a mother who cares deeply, I worry about them.  I then turn my worry over to God.

I was given a poem that I have found very comforting.  It is an old poem but I'd like to share it.  It's called "What God Hath Promised".

God hath not promised skies always blue.
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through,
God hath not promised sun without rain.
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe.
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide.
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest after labour, light for our way,
Grace for all trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Rhythmic Waves of Life

Breathe in, breathe out….the wave rolls in and brings seaweed, dirt, floating driftwood in to touch the shore but then the wave ebbs out and recedes taking with it the majority of the residue that has touched the shore.  However, some of the dirt and debris stick to the shore.  As the water continuously moves around and over the debris, the tiny particles of sand wash away the rough edges leaving a smooth, polished stone or a beautiful piece of driftwood.

Life is like this.  An individual day can be like this.  We experience all manner of situations and feelings throughout our day.  Some of the “dirty” residue clings to us.  As it accumulates, it can bury us and change our demeanour or it can be smoothed out or it can be kept on the outside to be smoothed out by the rest of the day.   Then it can be used as a beautiful piece of adornment to our being.  We can also choose to keep it close and dwell on it so it can’t be smoothed over by the continuing movement of waves.  We can choose to keep unhappy memories alive and current.  They continue to keep us “stuck” in that place in the past.  Or we can choose to bring them forward, let the waves of our present polish them or remove them.

For many years, I have struggled with past memories of being bullied, hurt feelings, manipulation and other negative events in my childhood.  Through a long process (many, many years) of reading, talking and trying to apply new strategies, I have finally found one that works.  It is very much like the waves of water in a lake.  I have reached in deep to dislodge the residue that has clung to me for many years.  I’m allowing the waves of my present existence to bring in the sand particles to rub the rough edges off these stones and make them smooth.  Or I’m letting the waves of the present carry the dead driftwood away.  Breathe in, breath out….the wave rolls in and rolls out.

I also find the analogy of an onion to be helpful.  If an onion has some rotten areas in the centre, then the whole onion will not be healthy and useful.  However, if you peel away the layers of the onion, you can get to the rotting centre and remove it.  Then, you have some healthy parts of the onion that can still be used.  This has been a very long journey that spans decades.  The experience of being diagnosed with lymphoma and going through the subsequent chemotherapy to bring me into remission, has helped me to renew my motivation to continue the journey of healing from past hurts.

I have to also admit that the vision of Jesus walking beside me and holding my hand for the majority of these experiences is very comforting.  Like in the poem “Footprints”, I can also see Jesus bending down to gently lift me and carry me through the roughest times like when I was in chemotherapy.  He continues to walk beside me and hold my hand each day.  I can even imagine him lifting me to my feet, just like a parent of a young child, when I’ve stumbled, and failed.  Just like that parent, He brushes off my skinned knees, sets me back on my feet and helps me limp along through life.

I know not everyone agrees with this belief, but it works for me.  Too many times in my life, I have had someone or something looking out for me.  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are very much with me in my journey through life.  The nasty events in life would be much too overwhelming for me if God was not with me.  In university, I was first introduced to the idea that man creates God not that God creates man.  There has and continues to be much debate about this.  Perhaps I’m childish and na├»ve but I’ve removed myself from the debate.  God is too real to me for me to believe that I created Him.  There have been too many Godcidences in my life for me to believe that He is created by man’s need to believe in something.  I don’t try to “convert” people.  I just believe and try to travel through life as a better person myself.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Lent and Today's Reflections.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm not giving anything up for Lent (unless it is some "time") but I am focusing more on deepening my faith.  I'm focusing on daily prayer using a Lenten Prayer Calendar as well as I've added a daily reflection using the guide "Lamentations for Lent".  This is in addition to my regular daily faith retreat that I've been doing for the last number of months.  I found a site online that offers a "3-Minute Retreat" that I visit every morning.

Today it was really interesting that all three of my faith deepening activities were similar and involved the same idea of following God's voice and direction for my day.  The "3-Minute Retreat" always offers two questions for me to ponder throughout my day.  Today's retreat dealt with "throwing the first stone" or gossip and judgement.  The questions were "What stones have I thrown recently in judgement of another?" and "How does recalling my own sinfulness help me relate to others?"  My Lenten Prayer Calendar suggestion for prayer today was "Pray that your decisions will be guided by the spirit".  The final line in the prayer at the end of my "Lamentations for Lent" reflection was "Let us not be in fear as we follow your voice."  All of these smacked me full force as I sat quietly and thought.  In my stillness and calmness this morning, I felt the urge (heard the voice?) of God's presence.

"What stones have I thrown recently in judgement of another?"  I believe we all do this whether it is in thoughts or spoken aloud.  Yesterday I was driving and was frustrated with another driver in front of me.  I sat in judgement of the older gentleman driving that car.  Did I tell anyone what I was thinking?  No.  But I thought it.  Have I spoken in judgement of others through conversations in the past?  Yes. Am I proud of this? No.  Last night I watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play against the Tampa Bay Lightning and saw a terrible hit where the Toronto Maple Leaf player laid motionless on the ice and was removed by stretcher.  I sat in judgement on the Tampa Bay Lightning player that delivered the hit.  Every time that I have these judgemental thoughts or make judgemental statements of other people, I feel negative energy within myself.  Do I want to call this sin?  No.  Do I want to admit that I sin?  No.  It doesn't feel good to acknowledge my failings.  But isn't this the whole reason for Lent and Easter?

"How does recalling my own sinfulness help me relate to others?"  So as I thought about this, I realized that by recognizing my "throwing stones" and admitting that I've been sinning, I was able to have compassion and empathy for the people that I was judging.  Such as the old man that was driving yesterday.  I realized that he is towards the end of his years on earth and was perhaps scared and terrified of being surrounded by all these vehicles in  multiple lanes going around a corner.  I thought that he's probably someone's grandfather who deserves some compassion.  In thinking about this gentleman in this manner, I felt myself fill with positive emotions and energy instead of the negative.  Amazing!!  So I then thought about the hockey player that delivered that terrible hit.  I tried to imagine what he was feeling as he saw his opponent motionless on the ice.  If it was me, I'd feel really bad.  Anxious.  Not anxious about what sort of discipline I'm going to get but anxious about whether this player on the ice is going to be permanently paralyzed.  Anxious about his future with his family.  Now my anger and judgemental emotions about the Tampa Bay Lightning player was switched to compassion.  So I recognize and will try to implement compassion and empathy instead of judgement and gossip.

So onto my Prayer Calendar.  Pray that my decisions will be guided by the spirit.  Hmmmm....that sounds easy but is it?  No.  I know that I will get busy in my day and forget.  So I'll try to remember to let my decisions (what I say, how I say it, how I act) be guided by the Holy Spirit that lives within me.  I know that I have spent more time in prayer this morning.  I was going to anyway because a young girl (19 yrs. old) that I know is facing brain surgery today to find out if a tumour in her brain is benign (non cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).  I'm praying really hard for her and have been for the last month.  Her family has had a rough number of years.  She lost her mother in September while she valiantly waited for a lung transplant that didn't happen.  So my prayers are for her family and I really am praying that this tumour is benign.  Life seems so unfair but prayer does help.  Letting my decisions be guided by the spirit....well this post is one of them.  I'm going to be late meeting a friend but I felt the urge that this post was more important.

"Let us not be in fear as we follow your voice".  It does fill me with anxiety to trust and follow God's voice and urgings of the Holy Spirit.  Our society does not understand and tends to lean towards judging people and stomping on them in an effort to climb the social, corporate and organizational ladders.  So my challenge today is to follow God's voice, not throw any figurative stones and pray that my decisions will be guided by the spirit.

Have a super day everyone.  I expect mine is going to be spiritually challenging every step of the way.  Let's hope I'm up to it.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Ordinary Life

As I post this today, there is a clear, blue sky with lots of sunshine.  I haven't been outside yet but it looks warm and inviting.  I've seen the birds flitting in to feed at my birdfeeder which my husband moved to the front of the house this winter so we could watch the birds throughout the winter.  There wasn't much activity at the feeder this winter because it has been too blustery, windy and stormy.  This past week and this morning there are more visitors to our seed buffet.  Even the squirrels have been trying to snatch some of the seeds.  I saw my neighbour walk by with his dog and realized that it must be much colder than it looks as his coat collar was turned up and he was hunkered down into his coat to keep warm.  He was also walking very quickly.

I have always loved nature but I find that in the two years of remission from my lymphoma, I still see the beauty in nature more than I ever did before.  I'm also continuing to make time each morning for meditation, reflection and prayer.  There is so much to pray for!!  Prayers for health for myself, family, friends and acquaintances.  Prayers for guidance as I try to be the best parent I can be.  Prayers for wisdom.  Prayers of support for community leaders and my church leaders.  Sometimes when I wake up during the night, I lay in bed and pray for the safety of my children and their friends as they all navigate becoming their own persons.

I'm currently in the season of Lent.  I don't give up anything for Lent but I do try to focus on my faith a little more.  I try to recognize and pray for the various injustices in the world without becoming depressed and overwhelmed.  I'm currently following a prayer calendar where there are daily suggestions on what to pray for as well as ideas for where to pray.  Today's suggestion was to pray while I walk silently.  I'm hoping to go out for a walk this afternoon and do this.  To me prayer does not mean always speaking out loud or thinking the prayer in my head.  Sometimes, I think that prayer can be just "being" and communing with God.  I envision the walk this afternoon to be me and God side by side walking along maybe holding hands.  I find this mental picture to be very peaceful and comforting.  I'm also using a study guide called "Lamentations for Lent" which uses the psalms and reflects on them.  My minister is constantly challenging us to live and search for joy in this time of Lent.  I'm finding the "Lamentations for Lent" paradoxical as it could be very depressing but I find hope and joy through the comfort of God.  It's kind of like when I was feeling really sick, achy and tired when in chemotherapy.  I remember laying on my side in bed and looking at my grandma's crucifix on my wall.  I felt really miserable and weak.  Certainly not something that inspires joy.  But I also felt God's presence and compassion.  This transformed all the "crap" I felt to something much better and almost akin to a deep joy in my soul.  I don't mean happiness but a joy that God was with me and comforted me.

As I've started to live an ordinary life since returning to health after my chemotherapy two years ago, I wanted to live in such a way that I make a real difference to the world.  This has been a struggle. It's one thing to want to make a difference but HOW do you make a difference?  I'm just a wife.  I'm just a mother.  I'm just a piano teacher.  I'm not a corporate executive overseeing business decisions that affect the world greatly.  I saw a quote a couple of weeks ago that has resonated within.  It was something like "To be happy you need to make ordinary moments extraordinary."  So that's my attempt to make a difference.  I truly care about my piano students.  I encourage them at every lesson.  Yesterday, I was out shopping and a former student came up to me and said hi.  I was so pleased to see her and with her was one of my current students!  I felt such joy and love for these two girls and was very pleased that they went out of their way to say hello.  Maybe I'm making a difference.  I try to make a difference as a mother by being interested in what my children are doing and being their cheerleader and supporter.  I try to offer guidance.  I don't know if it is working but I'm continually hoping and praying that I do make a difference.

I try to make a difference in my daily routine by focusing in on the moments of my day.  I must admit that I'm able to do this better now especially since my brain is not able to handle multiple ideas and distractions anymore.  This means I am living fully in the moments with my friends and family.  I don't know if it makes a big difference in "the world" but it might make a difference to the people I interact with.  I do know that by playing piano at the Cancer Centre once a week, my music touches various people in ways that I am not aware of.

Just think how different our world would be if people were focused and fully in the moment with other people that they interact with.  What a difference it would make in the world if we could just extend some love and kindness to everyone we met such as ourselves (how can we love someone else if we hate/dislike something about ourselves?), family, friends and even strangers.  A simple smile and hello such as what my students extended to me can make such a difference!

So maybe I can and am able to make a difference in my ordinary life and routines. The experience of having had lymphoma and chemotherapy continues to transform me even two years later.  I continue to work on improving my faults to make me a better person so that I can live in this world and make a positive difference to the world through my existence.  I will continue to enter my team "Cathy Conquers Cancer" in the Relay for Life each year.  It is one way that I can help raise money to fund the cancer research and support programs that can make a difference to those who suffer from cancer in the future.

If you're interested in making a donation to "Cathy Conquers Cancer" follow this link and click on "Make a Donation":

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Aging Brain.....Chemo Brain and Menopause

Because I have been feeling so good, I've been keeping extra busy.  I have been feeling a little tired and just kept charging forward with all my social activities, work responsibilities and family responsibilities.  I'm not complaining at all because I'm very happy that I'm healthy and able to do all this.  I forgot to mention in my last post that I spend a wonderful evening with my husband and friends at the end of February.  We went to a local German restaurant for a leisurely dinner and then off to the local large entertainment venue to watch a Chicago concert.  You know, the group from the 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and even now.  They are continuing to write new music.  It was wonderful to see the real wind instruments and they put on an amazing show.  But I know that my body is telling me to stop, slow down and recharge.  I've ignored the tiredness up to now.  But now my brain is reminding me that I need to listen to the body.

One night earlier this week, I asked my husband "Did you put out the lunch?".  That wasn't what I was thinking and as soon as it came out of my mouth I knew that wasn't what I wanted to say.  I had to stop and think.  Then I said "I mean did you put out the garbage?"  You see it was our garbage collection the next day.  I know that I am adjusting to my new reality because if this had happened 6 months ago, I would have been panicking and thinking it was chemo brain.  All it is menopause combined with tiredness.  My husband and I can laugh about these little instances now.  It still bothers me especially when I can't think of the correct word that I'm wanting to use.  That same day earlier this week, I was teaching piano and I wanted to draw my student's attention to the staccato markings in the music.  She is still just learning how to play a light staccato and doesn't always remember the term "staccato".  So there I was sitting in the chair and I pointed to the music and said "Don't forget to play the butter tarts."  Immediately, I knew that wasn't right and I wondered where on earth did that come from!!.  I knew what I wanted to say but I couldn't remember the word!  My student just looked at me like I had lost my mind.  I apologized and indicated that I was tired and we had a good laugh.  Then I continued on with saying "Don't forget to play the staccato".  I reviewed with her the term and as she continued with the giggles (butter tarts?!!  Sheesh!!!) as she practised playing a light staccato.

This morning this happened again.  I was playing piano duets and I couldn't remember the term "fingerboard" which refers to a part of the wood portion of the piano at the back of the keys.  Thanks goodness I was playing with a good friend.  I just substituted the word "wood part" and pointed.  She graciously gave me the word I was looking for.  We again had a good laugh as this is all part of menopause (or mental pause as good friends refer to it).

Generally, my brain is working well.  My new reality is that I can't multi-task well anymore.  I can't do things and talk to people at the same time.  So I'm adjusting and just do one thing at a time.  As my son so nicely said "You are just down at everyone else's level now, Mom."  He has said this when I get frustrated because my memory is not a sharp and I mentally can't keep track of things as well.  I have to refer to this as my new reality and accept it.

With March Break occurring this week, I will have a reduced teaching schedule which is probably good considering that my brain is reminding me to slow down.  So Happy March Break everyone.  Let's hope that Spring will arrive soon.  Two years ago at this time, the weather was so warm that I was able to sit on the patio and listen to the birds.  Now I still have 2 feet of snow on the patio and there are still mountains of snow banks.  The warmth of the sun is still enjoyable though.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Belated Update

Oh my!!!  How time has flown past so quickly.  I can't believe that I've neglected updating my blog for so long!!!

I was inspired to write this morning because I saw a blue jay hop around in my tree outside my living room window.  His blue feathers caught the glorious sunshine and he was very blue.  It reminded me of how much I enjoy nature and the birds.  It's been a long winter and we still have lots of snow.  There are robins around and I wonder how they are managing.  I've seen them and I've heard them singing but I wonder how they manage to survive with everything still deeply covered with snow.

The last time I posted, I had just come through another time of anxiety due to a lump that had been found.  Everything is fine and I have been busy working and enjoying a hectic social life.  My singing continues to improve as I'm singing in my church choir regularly again.  I went for a check up with the throat doctor and everything looked fine.  The undetermined swelling has subsided and he does not need to see me again.

At the end of January, my son surprised me with a visit home for the weekend.  My husband knew about it as he was the one that paid for the bus tickets but I did not know.  On the Friday night, I was watching television at 9:30 and I heard the front door open.  I thought it was my daughter arriving home from being out with friends but when I looked around the corner there was my son's face smiling broadly at me.  What a surprise!!!  He, of course, burst into laughter at the look of shock on my face.  We enjoyed a wonderful weekend that was much too short.  But he was back again 3 weeks later for Reading Week.  It's hard to believe that he is the majority of the way through his first year at university.  Again, all I can say is "time flies"!!

I must admit that the snow hasn't bothered me too much until lately.  We have had a lot more snowfall than in recent years.  This year is reminiscent of when I was a young child and the snow banks were very high.  I am the one who does the majority of the shovelling and I really don't mind as it is good exercise and I get my fresh air.  However, I am finding now that it is harder to lift the snow and throw it.  I am ready for the snow to melt so I can sit on my patio and listen to the birds in the morning.  That won't happen for a while though because I have 2 to 3 feet of snow covering the patio at the moment.  Today the sky is a brilliant blue with lots of sunshine.  But with the wind, it feels like -28 degrees Celsius.

February was a busy month socially for us.  My husband had a gala to attend with me at his side at the beginning of February.  Then it was Valentine's Day where we enjoyed going to a hockey game with friends and then out to hear a band from Ottawa play. The next day, we picked my son up from university and brought him back home for Reading Week.  We enjoyed our time with him.  I was blessed in that he turned 20 while he was home.  We enjoyed a family dinner out at a "posh" local restaurant.  We shared laughter and memories.  It is so nice to have the family home together.  I was just chatting about this yesterday and it is like I want to grab these moments and cling to them as they are so precious.  Of course, I can't really cling to my children as that would smother them and keep them from maturing.  But how I miss when they were younger and I used to play with them.  I find myself silently remembering how much fun I had with my children when they were small.  During the birthday dinner, we revisited some of the memories of both children and these memories brought smiles and laughter.

My daughter was always very quiet when she was small.  I remember when she was about 2 years old, she and I played hide and seek in the house while my son and husband were at school and work respectively.  While I counted, my daughter hid.  I looked in all the usual places where she would hide.  I looked behind the living room chair by the front door.  Was she there?  Nope.  I looked in my bedroom as she used to hide under the covers thinking that if she couldn't see me, then I wouldn't see her.  Was she there?  No.  I looked in the closets.  I looked in the bathtub behind the shower curtain.  I looked downstairs.  I couldn't find her.  I looked in the storage space under the stairs.  I looked everywhere and I couldn't find her.  I remember starting to feel panicky because there was nowhere else left to hide.  I had been in her room and looked under the bed.  I had looked in the closet.  I remember I started to call her name.  Silence!  I revisited her room and noticed that the door on her wardrobe was slightly ajar.  I went to close it as it was full of shelving and clothes.  There was my daughter curled up in a tight ball and crammed into a tiny space under the bottom shelf.  I was so happy to see her!!  I had been really worried!!  She was full of smiles because she had hid so well.  As I retold this at my son's birthday dinner, we all enjoyed a good laugh.

Then my son asked me to tell about the Valentine's Day when he was almost 2.  At the time we had a black lab/shepherd cross named Indy.  My son and Indy were inseparable.  It was in the afternoon and I was on the phone visiting with my mother-in-law.  I realized that things were much too quiet so I ended the call and went looking for my son.  I could hear giggles down in the basement so I went to the top of the stairs to go down.  The wooden steps were full of white/grey dust!  I took my socks off and went down in my bare feet.  You could see my footprints in the dust.  As I descended into the basement I couldn't believe my eyes!!  There was my small son and our black dog, Indy, completely covered in white wood ash!!!  My son was grabbing handfuls of cold wood ash from our bucket beside the woodstove and throwing it up into the air!  Indy was no longer a black dog but was completely white!!  My son, who has red hair, was completely white from head to toe!!!  What a mess!!! The walls, floor and furniture was completely covered with wood ash!  I remember asking what he was doing.  He answered me that he was "rolling in the soot" just like the 101 Dalmatians.  So I took our dog and put him outside on the snow-covered deck.  I would give him a bath later.  Then I took my son and carried him up the stairs to the bathtub where I stripped him.  There was wood ash in his ears, scalp and every other crevice in his body.  After his bath and multiple hair washings, I put him into clean clothes and closed the door to basement.  I would clean it the next day because it was Valentine's Day and I had a special meal to prepare for my husband.  But first I had to give the dog a bath.  Then I had to clean the bathtub to get all the wet wood ash from off the tub.  Then I had to vacuum my ashy foot prints off the carpet.  I had to cancel all my lessons in my music studio for the next 2 days while I cleaned the basement.  As I relived this memory at my son's 20th birthday dinner, we all enjoyed a good laugh.  I do remember that I could even see the humour of it at the time.  What an imagination my kids had!!

As always, I have digressed from my update.  Life is great!  When we drove our son back to university, we stopped into a Motorcycle Show in Toronto.  It motivated me to think ahead to Spring.  I'm looking forward to Spring when my husband and I can get back on his motorcycle and enjoy some day trips.  Spring...when the snow is melted away and I can start working in the garden again.  Spring...when the warmth of the sun can soak into me as I hang my laundry out on the line to dry.  It will be here soon enough.  In the meantime, while the snow is on the ground, I'm enjoying hearing the birds and the warmth of the sun as it shines into my living room and I can enjoy the warm rays because I'm not outside in the harsh cold.  I also need to get moving on putting together my Relay For Life team again this year.

I can honestly say that I am blessed with friends, family, health and a deep inner joy.  Life is great!