The miracle of a single flower

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change” Buddha

This has been a wonderful week. Many moments have reminded me why I do what I do.

Life is good.

To the world, it may seem like a little thing, but on Tuesday, I helped a student learn how to use scissors. The excitement in his eyes was amazing. All week, whenever he had another achievement, he sought me out – “Look Mrs. Turner, I zipped my zipper!”

I figured out how to teach two other students how to tie a knot. When someone has no hand/eye coordination, life’s simplest tasks can frustrate them. One student took more than 25 tries and finally I figured out what would work. I felt like I’d made a scientific discovery.  

So, I am looking at the miracle of a single flower. The tasks that most people skim over, can do while not fully engaging their minds actually create the single moments that add up to success for other people. I might not be curing cancer or discovering another gadget, but I am looking more closely at life.

The upside

The earth laughs in flowers – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Laughter is one of the tools that helps me in my day to day reality. I have worked in situations with students who are medically fragile or aggressive or otherwise challenging. We often say, you can laugh or you can cry.

I have worked with other staff who are so focussed on themselves they forget why we do what we do, or they have to belittle me to feel better about themselves. 

There are parents who can appear to be the greatest obstacle to their child’s success but who are convinced YOU are the problem. You have to laugh about it.

It’s not about laughing AT someone – it’s about finding that moment that makes you say, it’s okay, here’s the upside. Walking by kindergarten and hearing kids talking about their parents (“My dad LOVES beer”). You laugh. Or when you are frustrated by a student, and someone else steps in to help, you can look over the heads of the children and smile together about those frustrations.

Or after an “event” when everyone gathers and debriefs, you can chuckle at your ability to read each other, the realization of how you had each other’s back  or simply to say, “What the heck was that?” You need trust to do this work and sharing a smile can signify you’re there.  

It’s that shared experience, that laughter, that lightens the load. That is what makes it possible to come to work with a fresh perspective, not feel alone in the journey. Without that it would feel like a “job” not something more, something meaningful.

My funny valentine

My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine, you make me smile with my heart – Rodgers & Hart

Without question, I have the greatest sweetheart in the world. His specialty is not romantic gifts per se.

No, my hubby’s specialty is the caring and thoughtful things he does for me. Every day, he makes me a smoothie for breakfast, packs my lunch for work (sometimes with little love notes) and makes dinner every night. If I’m cold, he turns up the heat and brings me a blanket. Scouts out the best shots for me when taking walks with my camera. Passes me the remote when we sit down to watch tv. Tells me that he loves me. A lot.

I’m not spoiled once a year. I’m spoiled every single day.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to send much love and appreciation to my sweetie who makes me feel special every day.

The waste of worrying

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” – Arthur Somers Roche

I am a person who sleeps best when everyone is under the same roof and I can count heads before mine hits the pillow. If I am not able to do that, the next best thing is to send a text or an email and get updates. Of course, that only works when one of those heads to be counted is NOT busily working at a “research center in lowland Amazonian forest at the base of Peru’s southern Andes”, putting him somewhat out of range of phones and the internet.

Logically speaking, I know that everything is fine. Not only is Kyle capable and experienced in working at this location but he is among a group that includes his supervising professor and her Peruvian born husband. It is not a concern about his safety (ok, maybe just a little). I miss hearing about his experiences and his life. (Not to mention, the last we heard, he was still recovering from “Peru stomach” which occurred in the 5 days of travel from here to there.)

My brain knows I am wasting valuable time worrying. My mama heart says, whatever.

(I bought some “Not to worry beads” recently. I might need a refund.)

As an update: word came last night from Peru and all is well in the world.

Call it what you may

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don’t matter and those that matter, don’t mind.”   – Dr. Seuss.

I cannot figure out what to call this age and stage that I find myself in, but because of my work, I am not a fan of labels anyway.

For more than 22 years, I have first and foremost defined myself as a mom, or more aptly Kyle and Laura’s mom. I love that role and it has fulfilled me and consumed me in the best possible way. But now that my children have figuratively (and literally) “flown the coop”, a re-definition is due. Of course, I’m still a “mom”, but the full-time status has been relegated to the past. 

It is the process of moving out of their lives as they move into their own that is proving to be a challenge.  

They are truly capable, truly able to do everything they want to do and I am here if they need help. And yet, it does take a conscious effort to remove myself. To stop having their wellbeing be the first and last thought of my day.

It’s not a matter of missing them. I do, but my heart does not ache every minute. It’s the practicality of moving from focussing on their lives and their wellbeing to….something else. When every decision has been made for more than 22 years with full consideration being given to everyone, it feels oddly selfish to just do things for myself.

The “finished product”, so to speak, is an accomplishment – we did do a great job raising our children. It was not a perfect job, and I didn’t know what I was doing a lot of the time, but they know they are loved and I hope that I instilled in them the knowledge, as was said in The Help, that they are smart, kind and important. 

The greatest compliment they paid me was to ask me how I did it, how I raised them to be good people. I could not answer that because they raised me too. It was a joint effort.

And now, I have to find a new path just as they are finding theirs.

Perhaps if I just keep doing more and seeing the world from this new perspective, life will point me in the right direction.

Adventurer’s soul

I do not possess an adventurer’s soul. Sometimes I wish I did. I grew up afraid. My mother swears I had no fear which perhaps was true when I was very young. Or I hid it well.  I was a very overprotective mom when my children were younger (some may say I still am, but I think this past year has proven those people wrong. Mostly.).

 If I did have an adventurer’s soul, though, I would go to India and try to make a difference in the lives of women, especially in Northern India. That might not be the most adventurous thing in the world to some people, but it certainly would take me WAY out of my comfort zone.

I would, though, do that with less hesitation than kite boarding on Lake Ontario in November. Or perhaps kite boarding anywhere, anytime.

Today, as I drove into Toronto, a saw a kite boarder, but I had passed all the available parking lots and had set a time to meet someone. Perhaps I sensed that this guy was a determined soul and would be there on my trip back a few hours later. He was. I parked and rushed out to get some shots in what turned out to be his last few minutes on the Lake. I wished I had stopped earlier as it was a lot of fun to shoot.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kensington Market

The first time I ever visited Kensington Market was in the spring of 1989. My strongest recollection is being overwhelmed by the smells of the many different foods being prepared. This was slightly problematic as I was pregnant with Kyle and those smells cut short our visit.

September 1, 2010 began a new Kensington adventure, with Kyle taking an apartment in the heart of the amazing neighbourhood. That day taught me about how crazy it is to think about taking a huge truck through the streets of one of the busiest pedestrian areas in Toronto; I did but only because I didn’t know any better.

So, today, I walked through Kensington, taking photos and being distracted by the incredibly diverse shopping experiences. And, best of all, hanging out.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo contests

This summer, I decided to enter a couple of photo contests. I shot pretty high, I have to admit. I went with My Shot through National Geographic and Cottage Life’s annual photo contest.

The National Geographic entry was not about me classifying myself along side some of the world’s greatest photographers; instead, I have other people’s submissions and have found comments among the entrants to be helpful and insightful. My Shot allows you to enter one shot per month and then the editor’s look at all the entries and decide which are the best ones to be shared. It’s amazing to see the range of subjects and types of shooting abilities that are of interest to the editors. It encourages me to look at photography differently. And the entire National Geographic website can cause me to lose hours on the computer.

The Cottage Life photo contest entry came about because I looked at the type of work that was being submitted and felt that my work was similar in that it was not polished and glossy, but rather the work of someone interested in learning more about photography, while trying to capture the essence of an experience like cottaging. Admittedly, I also entered this contest because many years ago, I entered a poem and photo in a Cottage Life contest and was chosen as a finalist. (It was about cottage shoes and Tim had an unbelievably beat up pair of shoes which I wrote an ode to. It was a lark to enter and I’m confident it was the state of the shoes that won the judge’s eye!) I am hoping that luck may strike again.

My next goal is to submit photos to a Mississauga News contest. I have an idea about what I want to capture about Mississauga and it would be interesting to see how the vision plays out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.