What if We Chose to Be Here?

It seemed like a simple question, but the more I pondered it the more I recognized it was rewriting how I told my story. For years, I’ve said, “I think I chose to be here” and in a recent conversation with a friend, I turned it around and said, “What if we all chose to be here?”

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It rearranges everything we’ve been focusing on. A few things fall from this premise and it is interesting to explore them, knowing full well the premise may be faulty. So, first, the most obvious is that if we “chose” we must have existed. Which, pretty much means we must exist after this body dies because we had to come from somewhere and we just go back. This is going back to a place from where we could chose what we want to experience.

There are many religions that have spoke to the range of possibilities, from returning here in a better or worse situation; living forever in a new reality that is either good or bad; or simply not existing after we are here. Truth is, no one knows for sure, but lets just stick with the possibility that we chose to be here for a while.

_____________

 

Believing we exist after we die,

has the power to eliminate all of the fear

of our own death.

_____________

 

When we no longer exist here, if we knew we existed somewhere else, it would make death a whole lot less frightening. Not necessarily for those we leave behind who suffer the loss of our presence and the emotional impact of losing someone you love, but for us, ourselves.

The idea that we may actually be able to choose to do this again, or that we might choose another set of parameters gives this inevitability known as death a whole new interpretation. It becomes more of a transition, a change in our reality, a new opportunity to chose to experience another life in an incalculable number of paradigms of reality.

You being you, even before you had the body you are in now, decided to experience life here. It allows us to refocus on the idea we wanted to come here and perhaps we should be exploring that instead of just getting by in a day. Why did you chose to be here? What did you want to experience, do, see, be involved in? You bought the ticket, and decided to go for the ride. What were you hoping you would get a chance to do? Trying to remember who you are and what your motivation was is a good place to start.

Even if this premise is wrong, and the only way to test it is to die, it has the power to allow us to think about life differently. We can look around with new eyes and see the world in a different way. A way that emphasizes why we would want to be here, what we enjoy and how we want to live.

Consider it for a moment. Is it possible you chose to be here? Perhaps, not in the exact situation you are in, but using a card game as an analogy, you decided to play cards and now you are faced with the hand you were dealt. How would you live differently if you no longer were preoccupied with prolonging your life, avoiding death and instead focused on the good things you enjoy around you?

It becomes possible to let go of the fear. We know we are going to die and if that is not a bad thing, we can now focus on living the most satisfying life we can imagine.

Magic on the Camino

IMG_2232Suddenly my feet had no traction and I was beginning to fall. My hiking pole bent nearly ninety degrees and I almost went down when a young man from Turkey grabbed my arm and saved me from landing in the mud. Such is the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Whether it be the thousands of small acts of kindness or the synchronicities that line up, there is no doubt that there is a ‘flow’ about this place.

Climbing the Pyrennes, in the fog and the rain, wishing I had packed gloves, I thought that I had started to hallucinate when I thought that I could smell coffee. This was highly unlikely on an unpopulated trail almost 1500 metres above sea level.

I had just passed a flock of sheep that hurried over to the side of the trail. They appeared astonished and acutely interested in me as I walked by. I could see a truck with a makeshift enclosure up ahead. Could it be a coffee mirage? Was I experiencing the type of illusion common to people traveling across the desert? Would I lose my way in search of a phantom caffeine fix? I assumed that the vehicle was associated with the sheep in some way, but I was wrong. It was coffee.

Everyone that I have met along the way can tell at least one story about exactly what they needed coming into their possession just when they wanted it. A taxi appears just as the decision is made to call one; a stand selling hats opens right next to your table, right after you’ve lost your hat; or someone simply picks up your hiking poles for you. No small thing when you have a full pack on your back and muscles sore enough to discourage movement of any kind.

Dropping the timetable and deadlines has a way of allowing things to happen that becomes clear when all you can focus on is getting to the next rock large enough to sit on without too much effort.

And on we go down the Camino. Day six and counting…..

100 KM Loop

Meseta

Changing Landscapes of the Camino

Albergue? 

The Camino Walk

Another Night on the Camino

Hiking Poles for the Camino 

Camino de Santiago

www.wendypowell.ca

Spring a Reminder of Change

Today is the quintessential first day of spring. Not the calendar month or the day with the highest temperature, the first day of the season. It is no longer winter. There may yet be snow but the snow that is here is melting. There is a slow rhythm of the drips as winter washes away.

The birds are back. The sky is filled with flight and sound. It is funny how much I’ve missed the beauty of the birds and their song. They sit on branches that show no sign of thickening, that precursor to the actual buds. The trees are bare. There are no spring flowers up yet and no hint of summer green.

I slept late and awoke to this fabulous day. I’ve often wondered if those Canadians that choose to move to warmer climes miss the change of seasons. It is always something new and more appreciated for its absence.

A reminder that time moves on and we are all part of a larger cycle of birth and death and renewal. Change is inevitable. Nothing is permanent. By being present we ensure that we are always appreciative of what we enjoy. To stop and give gratitude for all that we have and the exceptional lives we’re being allowed to lead. Showing this gratitude seems to open a door that lets more good come in. If you don’t think that your life is exceptional perhaps this deserves some attention. Stop to appreciate what you do like, it will bring more good in.

I have a fabulous east facing balcony on the second floor. From there I can see the sunrise in the morning and the constellation Bootes after dark, at least this time of year.

The universe conspired with humour while I enjoyed my balcony today. Three different men with three different dogs all had to clean up poop on the lawn in front of my house. The first guy had to come back, for the package, after he realized that I had watched his dog poop and him walk away.

The third guy had the further indignity of knowing that I was watching him. I came out onto my balcony mid poo and he had heard me. It is a fine example of how our lives happen in the moments in which they occur. We like to tell our stories about how great things will be in the future when we get that or move there or buy the next best thing but the true experience is always now. Simply by paying attention to the moment, my experience became about now. It may not be a grand trip to an exotic place, but it was funny watching these men deal with their dogs. Enjoying the first day of spring. Feeling gratitude for the humour, even if it was potty humour.

From the deck on the west part of my house, think sunsets and the Big Dipper at night, I can see a small pond that is frozen. There are geese walking across it as though to check it out as a future prospect. My pool is frozen as well and I crave its languid embrace. I still find it hard to believe that I have a pool and currently it is just as much a part of a dream as any other part of the future.

We don’t need to be reminded of how quickly our lives can be washed away, possibly before that next new thing even gets here. So perhaps we should appreciate today. Take the arrival of spring as a reminder that all things come to pass and feel gratitude for the things in our lives that bring us joy. How would you spend your day if you knew that everything was taken care of? Isn’t it, just for this moment?

Just Say No — Chapter 3

I can’t possibly IMGP0503keep referring to this guy as the “guy” so lets call him Bob. That is not his real name but we will all know whom I am talking about. Bob finished up his degree and I still had a few years before I would finish my vet degree, so he decided to stick around and begin another degree as a way of being able to stay in the same city.

The relationship was rocky, but everything that I had read and all of the people that I had spoken to assured me that the first years of living with someone were always difficult. There are many books written about how to survive the first year together. So, I did not put too much stock in it.

By the next summer we were quite an item and decided to go away for a week together near the end of the break from school. We borrowed his mother’s car to go camping in our home province. We did not really set out a plan, but we loosely were going to drive to the areas where there were campsites, not the commercial, provincial ones where there were hundreds of people, but the more secluded ones where you could get out into nature, even if you did have water and electricity provided.

My idea of a nice vacation is to reach a destination that is enjoyable and relax there. Currently, my favourite vacations are to go to an all inclusive resort in the Caribbean where the weather is good, the scenery can be breathtaking and all of your needs are met without any thought. Food, drinks and entertainment are all available without any planning, total relaxation.

His idea of a vacation was to cover territory. He wanted to be doing things. We ended up going from campsite to campsite ever in search of the ultimate destination. There was always something that could be improved upon, the possibility of a better place to stay for a couple of days.

This meant that our holiday consisted of driving from place to place, setting up a campsite and taking the campsite down the next day and moving again. These places were often quite a distance from each other so we might spend a few hours on the road each day. Not my idea of relaxing.

To be fair in all of this, Ontario is gorgeous. We were driving through open expanses of fields, mature trees, small towns and waterways. There were all kinds of interesting things to see and nice places to stop and look around. We did not stop and look around. One of the priorities when driving anywhere is to get there as efficiently as possible, so stopping is never an option unless absolutely required. But I digress, the scenery was quite nice.

The bit that I’ve left out so far was that he did not have a driver’s license, or rather he had one and it had been suspended. In high school he had been in a serious car accident. They were never able to prove whether or not alcohol was involved because they were too busy trying to save lives to remember to take the required samples for blood alcohol analysis.

So, in summary, I drove for most of this holiday and he sat in the passenger seat and drank. Wow! The metaphor there is absolutely frightening.

We arrived at a particularly scenic place near the end of our week together and set up camp. The site was on the edge of a small inlet of water quite a ways back from the main body of water. This inlet was surrounded by mature trees with a majority of evergreens giving it a very secluded and private feel. The deep green and total coverage of the evergreen trees is quite appealing. We spent the day at the campsite and in the water.

Have you ever had the experience of blurting something out and then regretting it immediately? Have you ever realized later that it was the right thing to say even though you did not realize it at the time? Sometimes, the sensation feels like you knew what was going to be said, before it was said, and that you had the answer waiting and ready. These answers should be trusted.

At one point during our stay, we swam out to a small dock that was suspended near the edge of this large inlet. We were completely alone and there was this blissful feeling of being surrounded by nature and beauty. I climbed up onto the dock and sat there enjoying the scenery and Bob said something along the lines of, “Will you marry me?”

With no thought, no consideration and no hesitation I just blurted out, “No.”

Keep Reading: The Fish Bowl

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A Little Manifestation

IMG_1004If you ask someone what they want, the answer that you’ll most likely get is, “to win the lottery” or more to the point, money. The truth is that most people (I can’t speak for everyone, because there do seem to be some that believe that whoever has the most money when they die wins!) do not actually want money they want what money can do for them.

Money is seen as the route to freedom, security, nice things, a new pet turtle and possibly a lawn ornament. It is important, from a manifestation point of view that you focus on the lawn ornament, or whatever it is that you actually want, not the method to get it.

Bringing things into your life can be quite easy and straightforward. Some people use visualization, vision boards or requests during meditation. The reason that this type of exercise is used is because of the “vision” aspect. You want to connect with the part of you that actually desires what you want to bring into your life. It is the feeling, the knowing, the craving that you want to feel. Picturing something in your mind or creating it in a vision board goes a long way to helping you connect with this part of yourself.

The process that many people get tangled up in, is using the “logical” or left-brain part of the request. If you have to go through a series of statements to get what you want, it is unlikely that the law of attraction will be as successful. For instance, if I said that I wanted to win the lottery so that I could buy a new pet turtle, that is a series of thoughts. The way to manifest is to picture yourself holding the turtle and dressing it in the outfits that you have designed. Picture the lawn ornament scaring away the neighbour dogs and how much joy it would bring you.

There is a little exercise that you can try. The value of the exercise is that you do not get as invested in attracting the item that you are going to request as you might for some other, more important thing that you want to bring into your life.

Here is what you do:

1. Think of something that you never see in your life. This is something concrete that you want to see. It cannot be chosen in a way that it is “impossible” to see. We are looking for something improbable. Something that if you saw it you would be convinced that you are only seeing it because you tried this little exercise.

2. Accept the fact that you might see it in any context. For instance, you cannot specify that you must see the unicorn standing on your front lawn. If you decide on a pink envelope, you might see it at the store, on your desk, in a movie or a catalogue or anywhere else that you might see an object.

3. Write the object down on a piece of paper. Tell someone that you are trying this exercise and what you wrote down.

4. Determine what time frame would be suitable for your request. I would suggest that it not be too long or it has less meaning.

5. Forget about the request. Put the paper somewhere that you will encounter it in the future.

6. Let me know what happens.

How to make a vision board, based on the book Steering by Starlight. 

Admission — Chapter 2

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http://margaretsphotoplace.com/projects/paper/

The only thing that still remained unresolved was my application for veterinary medicine. In order to apply to veterinary medicine there were several things that you had to complete. First, you had to fill out the paperwork and sign a release saying that they could access your marks. Then, you had to write an essay explaining why you wanted to be a veterinarian and finally you were interviewed by a panel of professors that would evaluate your suitability as an applicant.

The essay that I had to write was a disaster. I wrote it while I was still working on the dairy farm. I was not given time off or allowed to leave the farm, before I quit the job, so I had to make due with what they had on hand. What they had on hand was an old typewriter that was in need of repair.

When you insert paper into a typewriter, the paper goes down the back of a barrel that is slightly longer than the paper is wide and it is guided to go around this barrel and come up at the front of the machine. The paper is held snug against the barrel as you type. The typing mechanism moves to the right the distance of one letter each time you hit a key stroke. At the end of each line a bell rings to let you know that you have five spaces left before the end. When you reach the end, you use a return paddle to move the paper up one line and move the typing mechanism back to the left so that you can continue.

This particular typewriter had something loose inside. As I typed the page would shift down giving it a droopy appearance. The essay had to be typed, that was stipulated in the application, and I had no other typewriter that I could use so I would type a bit and then try to pull the paper up to where it was supposed to be. It is painful now to think about this.

I likely could have used a typewriter at a local library or hired someone to do the typing for me, but I did not know this at the time. Even though the farmer’s wife was a teacher, she did not offer any insights into how to improve the appearance of the essay. It brings into focus how much of a disadvantage students are at if their parents did not get any higher education. So, my essay was probably a frightful mess.

The interview went OK, but I have learned that unless you know what they are looking for there is no way to tell if you have given them what they want. They asked me some specific questions about the Pre Vet Club. I had been elected to its board, but I had never done any work. I did not know what I was supposed to do and the other people on the board never let me know.

In general, my marks were all good except for two courses. During grade 12, I had made the mistake of taking grade 13 biology. The high school I was attending went on strike the year that I was in grade 12 and we missed several weeks of classes. Many of the people that I was in grade 12 with never did graduate, or did not graduate that year, because the teachers were on strike so long that the students got full time jobs and then it didn’t make sense to go back to school.

The drawback for me was that the instructors for first year Zoology assumed that you had learned the material in grade 13 biology. I had not. I had been given the credit, so it would appear as though I knew the stuff, but I hadn’t even seen most of it before. The course amounted to a huge amount of anatomy of various creatures and it required a lot of memorization. I am explaining this in a great amount of detail because Zoology was my lowest mark, by far.

The other course that I got a poor mark in was an accident. It turns out that this particular professor was the father of a woman that would later become one of my best friends, but I did not know her at the time. There was a mistake in recording my mark. When I calculated how poorly I would have had to have done on the final exam to get my final mark, I would have had to have received less than zero. I knew it was an error. I went in to see the professor and he acknowledged that it must have just been an error and assured me that he would change the mark. He never did.

So, I waitressed for the remainder of the summer and eagerly anticipated a reply to my veterinary application. I knew that I was going back to university regardless of whether or not I got accepted. I did not get accepted.

The letter that came with my rejection said that I could go in to the office of the veterinary college and find out why I did not get in. So, I decided that I would do this. In those days, computer paper was about 20 inches wide and had edges that were separated from the main paper by perforations. These edges had holes in them. The holes fit over the mechanism that moved the paper through the printer. Computer paper was not similar to regular paper in shape or texture. When I went in to see why I had not been accepted, the man explaining it to me pulled out this long piece of computer paper that was probably three or four feet long.

Each line of the paper had a name followed by the overall average that the person had on the test scores. This was followed by the mark given for the essay, the average mark from their course work and the mark that they received for their interview. The most important mark was the overall average and the list had been organized with the highest average at the top and decreasing averages below in order.

Some very talented individual had taken the time to highlight a large block of names in pink. So, when he held the paper up, there were a bunch of names at the top, followed by a huge area of pink and then the vast majority of the names were below the pink area. He explained to me that the people in the pink area all had the same overall average. About one third of the way down the pink area was a bold blue line that had been drawn in to mark the bottom of the list of accepted applicants. I was in the pink, just below the line.

Being that close is a strange feeling. I was just as good as a group of students that were accepted that year (based on the way that they were evaluated). Unfortunately for me, my last name was not ‘Abbot’ or ‘Burns’. Several things could have put me above that pink patch: taking grade 13 biology in grade 13; having the professor actually correct my grade; and having a decent typewriter to do my essay on. Any one of these things could have given me a fraction of a point advantage and I would have been accepted. I did not know if I would ever be accepted. It felt like there were a few fail-safes to make sure that I did not get in that year.

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Happy New Year — September is the real beginning…

IMG_2198This is the first day of school and it is still my New Year. I have started a new cycle each September for as long as I can remember. New Year’s eve may mark the actual change in the calendar, but September changes my life. The days of summer are waning. My focus changes from holidays and relaxation, from sunshine and time away from work to planning for the year ahead.

Every year either I’ve personally gone to school, or one of my children has. This year is no different. My daughter starts a new program and things will once again change for her.

Living in a university town means that the students are coming back and some have already arrived. This changes everything. Grocery stores will be depleted (this week at least!), traffic is snarled because everyone is trying to avoid the roads around the university and don’t even try to buy alcohol; the parking lot is jammed.

I myself feel like I am at a new beginning. I started a simple program. Instead of letting my workday pull me along until I am exhausted, I’ve carved out time in my morning for meditation, reflection and writing. Sitting down each morning and having time set aside to write has had a huge impact on my entire outlook.

When you stand up and say to the world, I am making myself and my interests my priority, it shifts things. After just over a month of doing this, my entire attitude has changed. I am writing prolifically, both blogs and fiction (I’m testing the waters with fiction which is unpublished-even as blogs) and I seem to be drawing opportunity into my life.

My book sales have skyrocketed, my website visits are way up and I am receiving more and more requests for coaching. I have developed a whole new style in what I wear and how I present myself to the world and things simply feel like they are expanding. I will continue to let you know how this plays out, but let me put it this way, “I’ve put myself first and the universe has responded in kind.”

Back To Work — Chapter 4

IMG_3467Now the pressure was on. I had no income, but I had a job. I could go back to the job whenever I “wanted,” so Bob was constantly explaining how much money we were wasting with me not back at work. He saw no value in me staying home with the girls. He knew that we could pay someone a fraction of what I made in order for me to go back to work.

I was not going back while I was still wholly breastfeeding. I completely ignored the baby books on this one. There is a lot of pressure to start feeding cereals and formula to babies. It comes at you from all directions. One of the ways that mothers are persuaded to feed cereal is with the promise of the baby sleeping through the night. Formula is marketed as a way that dad can help out. Even he can sit and hold a bottle to a baby’s mouth!! If someone was going to actually help, wouldn’t it be nicer to have them do some of the more unpleasant jobs like changing diapers or doing laundry?

I decided that the information from our society had been so wrong about birth that it was probably wrong about how to feed a baby as well. When I look around now and see how many children and adults are afflicted with food allergies, I have to wonder how much of this is created by the way we are taught to take care of our babies. So I decided that we were probably designed perfectly. I would breast feed completely, until the baby was able to pick up food and put it into her mouth herself.

This worked quite well for me. Not only did I never sit and spoon goop into a child’s mouth, but I was putting her in complete control of what she ate, what went into her mouth and when it went in. I had been given a baby grinder from some friends so I would mush up whatever we were eating into particles that were not smooth but were too small to choke the baby.

These are the sort of details that you cannot control if you go back to work. I can feel the anger as I write this because this was very important to me and I had to fight with Bob about it. None of my children have any chronic diseases or allergies at all. This may have just been luck, but I did my best to ensure that they received the best care that was available.

By nine months, he had me worn down. They placed me in a slaughter plant that was in another city 60 miles or 100 kilometers from where I lived, driving into a large city. Every time it snowed, the highway would slow to a crawl or a complete stop. It was relentless. We had more single snow falls that winter than I ever remember. One day it took me over three hours to get into work.

I was beside myself. I almost ditched the car on the way to work one morning because I had to leave before the plows were on the highway. I was miserable. My entire life seemed to be fighting traffic to get to a job in a slaughter plant. I started to apply to other jobs within the government that were closer to where I lived.

I got screened into a job that was in a town 18 miles (30 km) from where I lived. I had an interview set up. It was a job interview that required a lot of studying. It was a program that I did not know and the way that the interview was conducted was more like an oral exam. I sat on my breaks at work and studied for this exam. The person organizing the interviews explained that I would receive a document before the exam and I was to read it and to be able to comment on it for the interview.

It was arranged that the document would be faxed to the house. We did not have a fax machine, but Bob’s computer could receive faxes electronically and then they could be printed out or read on the computer screen. The fax never came.

I went into the interview knowing that if they had not sent the fax, it was their oversight and that once I explained that then something would be worked out. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the fourth time that Bob had actively interfered with my career. He had “lost” the fax and was amazed that he had actually received it. He apologized. Everyone can make a mistake right? As I said, individually these all seemed like unfortunate accidents. It was not until hindsight that I realized that they were part of a larger pattern of sabotage.

The universe was still protecting me though. I made a decision one morning while fighting traffic that I would rather be unemployed. I would face Bob and just tell him that there was more to life than driving all day to a job that I didn’t like. I knew that I would be the target of his anger and his need to control me. I knew that it would make things tense at home. I knew that he would be verbally abusive and would let me know how useless I was, but it was my life and I wasn’t going to spend it this way.

I had three children under six at home and I intended to be there. I made the decision to quit. Before I had the opportunity to discuss this with Bob, something strange happened. The slaughter plant that I was hired to work in decided to close permanently. This interesting fact meant that I was “surplussed”. Surplussed is one of my favourite words.

As a government employee there are all kinds of regulations about job loss. If there is a job available, it has to go to someone that is already employed. So, by being surplussed, it meant that if any job became available it was mine. It also meant that I was eligible for a cash-out. How convenient. They would pay me the equivalent of sixty percent of a single year’s income to just walk away from my job. Done.

Keep Reading:  My Sister Vicki

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My Father — Chapter 4

IMG_3282While I was pregnant with my second daughter my father had what we all thought was a stroke. He was unable to stand on his own and ended up in the hospital. The tests failed to confirm that it was a stroke and my understanding is that they came to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis by default. After hearing this, many things fell into place.

During the time that I was getting to know Bob I was working for a professor. He was a shy, gregarious guy, which is a hard combination to imagine, but once he felt comfortable with the people involved, he was great in groups. It was the getting to know you part that could set him off balance. Anyhow, this guy stepped in for a while as my father.

One thing that I know for sure is that whether or not you realize it, if you need something, the universe will give it to you. When I got engaged my father was estranged, more or less, so one became available. It had been quite a while since I had seen my father. My attempt to contact him after I left my mother’s place had been hurtful for me, so I really hadn’t bothered much after that.

I asked the professor if he would walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was wonderful for this and remembered to ask me if I actually wanted to go through with it. I was certain, of course, that I wanted to get married. He provided a jovial and calming presence during my descent.

When my father arrived in town for my wedding, I made sure that I told him that someone else was walking me down the aisle and he looked surprisingly happy. He got up to dance with me at my wedding, but that was the only time that he got up to dance and we only danced the one song. I did not know at the time that he was probably unable to stand for much longer or walk all the way down the aisle.

My father was a proud man and his wife was a great cook. I suspect that he attributed his inability to walk to being heavier than he had ever been in his life and his total lack of exercise. Coming to this conclusion may have precluded the need to go to the doctor’s and have a checkup, but I am only guessing about this. I also knew that when he took his wife shopping, he would wait in the car for her. So, there is a good chance that he had been feeling the symptoms of this disease for a lot longer than he was letting on.

When I got called about the stroke, I went to the hospital to see him. I knew that I was pregnant with my second daughter at that time. He had been devastated when he had been alone after his separation and I’m sure that he was glad that I had reconciled with Bob.

So, after my second daughter was born, he visited me and we sat on the front porch. He loved the porch. The house was on a fairly busy street and he had fond memories of sitting on his front porch when he was young and how there was so much going on. His mother’s place was the one with the store on the one side, so there would have been people coming just to go to the store, when he was a boy.

He was a little uncomfortable about breast feeding and announced once while I was feeding the baby that he thought it was inappropriate for the family room. To be honest, I don’t think that he knew that I was doing it while we were having the discussion.

When you are having a baby at home, there is no one telling you to get out of the way, or that you can or cannot photograph anything, so we had a very extensive photographic account of the entire process. I had sorted the photos into general; share with everyone photos; those that had some redeeming qualities but were not for general viewing and the final pile that I needed to burn. I had set the burn pile aside so that they would not get passed around when people visited.

During my father’s stay, while we were discussing the birth in very general broad terms, my oldest daughter decided that this was her chance to share the photos with my father. She ran up to my room and grabbed photos and presented them to my dad. My father was a very conservative man that easily got squeamish and certainly did not want to view explicit photos of his daughter. You know which pile was handed to him.

I was sitting with the baby on my lap when my daughter handed him the photos and it took me a moment to realize what pile she likely gave to him. I jumped up and grabbed the pile out of his hands before he was forever traumatized.

My father was never strong enough to visit again. It was nice to have him come and see my place. It was also comforting for me to know that he liked the place and was happy with where I was in life.

The multiple sclerosis would come in waves. Each wave would knock him down and then he would not fully recover the strength and independence that he had before that particular bout. As each successive wave hit he found himself increasingly reliant on his wife to help him do the simplest tasks. Finally, she was unable to give him all of the support that he needed and he had to go into the hospital.

This must have been the ultimate insult to him as a person. My mother had always used her illnesses as a way to get attention and to make herself feel important. I know that my father resented this. He had told me that he hated playing cards with people that could not hold their cards properly or deal quickly. He said that it slowed the game down and made playing unpleasant. It was important to him to be strong and capable and his final days, weeks, months and years were the opposite of that.

 

Keep reading: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

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Read the entire book, now available

 

 

Just Say No — Chapter 3

I can’t possibly IMGP0503keep referring to this guy as the “guy” so lets call him Bob. That is not his real name but we will all know whom I am talking about. Bob finished up his degree and I still had a few years before I would finish my vet degree, so he decided to stick around and begin another degree as a way of being able to stay in the same city.

The relationship was rocky, but everything that I had read and all of the people that I had spoken to assured me that the first years of living with someone were always difficult. There are many books written about how to survive the first year together. So, I did not put too much stock in it.

By the next summer we were quite an item and decided to go away for a week together near the end of the break from school. We borrowed his mother’s car to go camping in our home province. We did not really set out a plan, but we loosely were going to drive to the areas where there were campsites, not the commercial, provincial ones where there were hundreds of people, but the more secluded ones where you could get out into nature, even if you did have water and electricity provided.

My idea of a nice vacation is to reach a destination that is enjoyable and relax there. Currently, my favourite vacations are to go to an all inclusive resort in the Caribbean where the weather is good, the scenery can be breathtaking and all of your needs are met without any thought. Food, drinks and entertainment are all available without any planning, total relaxation.

His idea of a vacation was to cover territory. He wanted to be doing things. We ended up going from campsite to campsite ever in search of the ultimate destination. There was always something that could be improved upon, the possibility of a better place to stay for a couple of days.

This meant that our holiday consisted of driving from place to place, setting up a campsite and taking the campsite down the next day and moving again. These places were often quite a distance from each other so we might spend a few hours on the road each day. Not my idea of relaxing.

To be fair in all of this, Ontario is gorgeous. We were driving through open expanses of fields, mature trees, small towns and waterways. There were all kinds of interesting things to see and nice places to stop and look around. We did not stop and look around. One of the priorities when driving anywhere is to get there as efficiently as possible, so stopping is never an option unless absolutely required. But I digress, the scenery was quite nice.

The bit that I’ve left out so far was that he did not have a driver’s license, or rather he had one and it had been suspended. In high school he had been in a serious car accident. They were never able to prove whether or not alcohol was involved because they were too busy trying to save lives to remember to take the required samples for blood alcohol analysis.

So, in summary, I drove for most of this holiday and he sat in the passenger seat and drank. Wow! The metaphor there is absolutely frightening.

We arrived at a particularly scenic place near the end of our week together and set up camp. The site was on the edge of a small inlet of water quite a ways back from the main body of water. This inlet was surrounded by mature trees with a majority of evergreens giving it a very secluded and private feel. The deep green and total coverage of the evergreen trees is quite appealing. We spent the day at the campsite and in the water.

Have you ever had the experience of blurting something out and then regretting it immediately? Have you ever realized later that it was the right thing to say even though you did not realize it at the time? Sometimes, the sensation feels like you knew what was going to be said, before it was said, and that you had the answer waiting and ready. These answers should be trusted.

At one point during our stay, we swam out to a small dock that was suspended near the edge of this large inlet. We were completely alone and there was this blissful feeling of being surrounded by nature and beauty. I climbed up onto the dock and sat there enjoying the scenery and Bob said something along the lines of, “Will you marry me?”

With no thought, no consideration and no hesitation I just blurted out, “No.”

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