Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Twenty Third Post – Review

Dashing Through the Snow
by Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark
From beloved mother-daughter duo Mary Higgins Clark, America's Queen of Suspense, and Carol Higgins Clark, author of the hugely popular Regan Reilly mystery series, comes Dashing Through the Snow, a holiday treat you won't want to miss.
In the picturesque village of Branscombe, New Hampshire, the townsfolk are all pitching in to prepare for the first (and many hope annual) Festival of Joy. The night before the festival begins, a group of employees at the local market learn that they have won $160 million in the lottery. One of their co-workers, Duncan, decided at the last minute, on the advice of a pair of crooks masquerading as financial advisers, not to play. Then he goes missing. A second winning lottery ticket was purchased in the next town, but the winner hasn't come forward. Could Duncan have secretly bought it?
The Clarks' endearing heroes — Alvirah Meehan, the amateur sleuth, and private investigator Regan Reilly — have arrived in Branscombe for the festival. They are just the people to find out what is amiss. As they dig beneath the surface, they find that life in Branscombe is not as tranquil as it appears. So much for an old-fashioned weekend in the country. This fast-paced holiday caper will keep you dashing through the pages! (Goodreads)

This was book four on my Christmas Reading Challenge list. I cheated somewhat by listening to the audio book rather than actually reading it. Does that put me on the naughty list? I had never read nor listened to any books by Mary Higgins Clark, or Carol Higgins Clark and Dashing Through the Snow was a pleasant surprise. The book was read by one of the authors and grabbed my attention from chapter one. Often when I listen to audio books while driving, my mind drifts in and out of the story. Not so with this book. I found myself eager to get to my car, to continue with the story. I had to resist the urge to drive the 'long' way to get places – gas is just too expensive. Although the story was predictable, it was fun and well worth my time. I will be looking for more books by these authors….

What is your favourite Mary Higgins Clark and/or Carol Higgins Clark novel?
Happy reading,
Carol (as in Christmas)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty Second Post – Review

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS | September 7, 1988 | Trade Paperback

Hey! Unto you a child is born!
The Herdmans are absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie and steal and smoke cigars (even the girls). They talk dirty, hit little kids, cuss their teachers, set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toolhouse, and take the name of the Lord in vain. So no one is prepared when the Herdmans invade church one Sunday-and decide to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of them has ever heard the Christmas story before. Their interpretation -- the Wise Men are a bunch of dirty spies and Herod needs a good beating-- has a lot of people up in arms. But the actual pageant is full of surprises for everyone, starting with the Herdmans themselves! Chapters/Indigo


Without a doubt this is one my top five favourite Christmas novels. I first stumbled upon it when it was made into a TV movie starring Loretta Swit and Jackson Davies. It was filmed in my hometown of Vancouver, BC and it immediately became one of our Christmas staples. Years later, when my children were a bit older I found it in novel form. I was out of this world with delight. I believe I was teaching grade 7 at the time and read it to my class during that Christmas season…..a tradition that carried on until I moved from classroom teacher to counsellor. I never could get through the reading without stopping to control my quivery voice and impending tears. I recall one student (who could have fit nicely with the Herdman clan) scooping up the box of classroom Kleenex and bringing it to this weepy teacher. "Here, Mrs. O. I think you need these!" How fitting that this story brought out such kindness in my student. If you haven't read this book and have a spare hour or two, it is so worth the time. It is a treasure. Many local theatre groups have performed this lovely story during Christmas and it is still my hope (albeit a fading hope as I move nearer to retirement) to have one of my schools present this story as their Christmas production.

Merry Christmas and….
Hey! Unto you a child IS born!
Carol (as in Christmas)

My third Book for the Holiday Reading Challenge 2010  and Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twenty First Post - Transition

Transitioning from the intense pace of work to the relaxed pace of holidaying is often a challenge and this year has been no different. My life as a school counsellor - at two Elementary schools, and one Middle school is rewarding but hovers at the cusp of doable/not doable. Work goes full tilt until the final bell before break brrrringsss, and then my momentum comes screeching to a halt. All or nothing! This year brought several added challenges and by the time I pulled out of the school parking lot, I was sooooo done!
Saturday was spent cocooning at home. No visitors, no visiting, no Christmas cheer; only tears of exhaustion. I'm glad to report that by Sunday, my emotions were getting back on track. I finished a book and moved into another one - part of the Holiday Reading Challenge. I got out to the mall EARLY and finished up my Christmas shopping. My husband is visiting family way up in the cold, cold north for a few more days and so the remainder of my solitary day was spent, reading and planning the menu for Christmas week.
The transition was a rocky one, but it is so tranquil and peaceful on the other side; to have balance restored.'s time to move from my comfy bed to my comfy couch and read some more.......I could get used to this!

How do you manage the transition from work to holidaying?

The transition can be like trying to go up the icy driveway.
It's slippery and you can lose your footing for a while,
 but eventually equilibrium is re established and all is well.!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twentieth Post – Book

How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas
by Jeff Guinn, Mark Hoffer (Illustrator)

In How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas, Jeff Guinn combines solid historical fact with glorious legend to deliver another heart-warming holiday book for the whole family. It's 1620 and Mrs. Claus's dear husband is off in the New World planting the seeds of what will become a glorious Christmas tradition. Meanwhile, Mrs. Claus has chosen to stay in England, where the first signs of a dangerous threat to Yuletide cheer are in evidence. The Puritans have gained control of Parliament and appear determined to take all the fun out of Christmas. But Mrs. Claus knows that it's time for serious action when, in 1647, a law is passed by Parliament that actually punishes anyone who celebrates Christmas. Using as its springboard the actual events of a day in 1647 when ten thousand peasants marched through the streets of Canterbury demanding their right to celebrate a beloved holiday, How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas is rich in historical detail, adventure, and   plain ol'  Christmas fun.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 19th 2006 by Tarcher (first published 2005) Goodreads

The title of this book intrigued me -  Mrs. Claus as the hero...hmmm, sounded interesting.  I wished I had heard of it when I was still a classroom teacher. It would have made an excellent "read to" book for most intermediate grades. Admittedly, I'm not much of an historian, however I love reading about historical events in fiction format. I loved the storytelling by Mrs. Claus. The middle of the book got a tad slow and it took me longer to finish then I had intended. By the time I got to the last quarter, the pace picked up again. It was a gripping account of the 1647 peasant march through Canterbury. It was surprising to read how close the celebration of Christmas came to being banished - something I'd never considered.  Ultimately the book reminded me of the importance of passing on Christmas traditions to our children and grandchildren. We must not take for granted the freedom we have to celebrate a faith based holiday. The blend of sacred with secular was nicely woven.  Hooray for Mrs. Claus and the part she played in the liberation of Christmas!

Peace and Hope to you,
Carol - as in Christmas 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nineteenth Post - Wonder

Why are snow globes so entrancing? Why do we keep shaking them and watching them, shaking them and watching them, over and over and over? Why do music boxes capture our imagination? Why can we wind them up and listen to them, wind them up and listen to them, over and over and over? Why can we gaze upon twinkle lights on a tree, or at decorations, or the outside of a house lit up with a delicious display of all things Christmas, and have them remain fresh and new.

Wonder. It captures our hearts and magically lifts us out of THIS moment into another realm.

Do we lose our sense of wonder as we age? I don't want to. Will we lose our ability to wonder as we learn more about how things really work or are? As we make new discoveries about neuroscience and how our brain functions and how its function affects our thoughts, behaviours and feelings, will wonder cease? When will we know so much that we won't have to wonder? With Christmas upon us, it is the perfect time for joy, delight, amazement and wonder. My wish today is that my life will be filled with moments of wonder and that I will cherish them. I will let myself set aside hypotheses, science and fact to relish in the pure joy of not knowing why, but being amazed and delighted in the mystery. My prayer is that I will always have a sense of wonder about God…….that I will awash myself in His Mystery and Love. I will cloak myself with the wonder that because He is who He is, I am enough! What wonder!

What do you wonder about?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eighteenth Post - Advent

My earliest memories of Christmas may well be my fondest. Our family was held together by a glue we lovingly called Omie! Omie was my mom's mom and the family matriarch.There were (still are) ten cousins (three girls and seven boys). Christmas celebrations began on Christmas Eve with the entire family attending the yearly Sunday School Christmas Pageant. Our classes would perform, the congregation would sing Carols, and the pastor would give a short sermon which would include the Christmas Story. We'd sit with minimal squirming - our parents may disagree -knowing that at the end of the service all the children would be given a brown paper bag filled to the brim with an assortment of Christmas goodies. The best treat of all was the mandarin orange – what a treasure! I vaguely remember my older brother trying to scam me out of my orange. Once church was over and friends were properly greeted, we'd head to Omie's house to eat and exchange gifts. Uncles, aunts, and cousins would all arrive at similar times. We'd pile our coats high on the bed in Nanny's old room and then gather in the living room. Omie would have her tree decorated and food prepared. Our Christmas Eve feast included  rye bread (from the German Bakery), a baked ham, deli meats including summer and hunter sausage, homemade head cheese, liver sausage, pickled herring (my dad's favourite) stollen, mohnkuchen (poppy seed cake), poppy seed roll, pfeffernuesse  (brown honey cookies) as well as other German Christmas foods. 

1960 (before our two younger
 brothers were born)

Magically,  Christmas Eve would morph into Christmas Day. Off the family would go to another church service (German Baptists really
liked their Christmas Services). I'd snuggle beside Omie, breathing in the smell of her fur coat, which was soft and had the familiar smell of mothballs and cough candies. Christmas dinner was hosted at one of the Auntie's houses. There was a huge turkey dinner, and an afternoon filled with lots and lots of singing and music making around the piano. Those were such precious times.

Random memories of my childhood Christmas:
  • New nighties for all three girl cousins
  •  Marjorie (NOT Barbie) dolls for the girl cousins
  •  Playing in Omie's l o n g hallway
  •  Graduating from the kid's table in the kitchen, to the kid's table in the living room
  •  A flute, trumpet, clarinet, French horn, trombone to accompany the piano 
  •  Singing through Handel's Messiah – most of it anyhow
  • Omie's special Christmas decorations – the 'bird', icicles, and her very special baubles (some of which I still have)
  • Auntie Trudy and Uncle Longin arguing – everyone had an opinion
  • Uncle Rainer describing his newest car – of course the BEST car EVER!
  • Omie's honey cookies
  • Cousins at play
  • Lots and lots of loud laughing and talking

Omie and me at a time other
than Christmas

I'm now in my fifties and have never successfully recaptured the sweetness of my earliest Christmases. If the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ, we did it in grand style. Omie never made a big deal about talking about Christ's birth, she never preached at us, but I remember vividly that HE was with us. Our celebration was wrapped with love and trimmed with an enduring legacy of warm memories.  Auntie Trudy, Omie, Uncle Longin and Auntie Mildred have all passed away. I suspect they're having their own celebration in the heavenlies. I miss those good old days, but have been blessed with the opportunity to lay down another generation of memories with my own children, who are now passing them on to their children.
And the Gift goes on…………

 Merry Christmas,
 Carol (as in Christmas)

If you want to read other posts on the Virtual Advent Tour, look at the dedicated Virtual Advent Tour blog to see the schedule of postings, including others today.

December 6:
Natasha @ Maw Books

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seventeenth Post - Extra

You are invited you to visit my new PAGE gadget called, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" The first entry is about the Holiday Reading challenges I've joined.

What are you planning on reading this Christmas?
Carol - as in Christmas,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sixteenth Post - Magazines

It's true. I'm a magazine-aholic! I don't remember when I first stepped out of denial, perhaps in my teens, but here I am in my fifties still struggling to pass by the display of glossies without putting a little 'something' into my cart. It started with Soap Opera digest. It was my little secret. Then Seventeen, ah the pictures, how they called out to me – "pick me, pick me....take me home, no one needs to know".

I blame genetics. My Omie had her own stash: Family Circle; TV Guide; and under the guise of spirituality, Moments with God. Some stayed hidden discreetly beside her red velvet couch and some were defiantly left out in the open. My mother has her morphed version of the addiction. She buys up to five "Love Inspired" novels per month. Her collection has spread to the tops of her kitchen cupboards.

Recently I felt the need to surrender – to give up my need for the 'zine! I cancelled subscriptions to House and Home, Reader's Digest, Country Home, Shape, Allure, Canadian Gardening, the list goes on. I couldn't go cold turkey; I kept More, Style at Home, and Best Health. On occasion I guiltily place an O mag in my cart amongst my groceries, slyly bringing it home, hoping Jim is too busy to notice.

When I realized that I didn't have the strength to overcome this "habit", I opted for harm reduction. Online magazines…..sent directly to my inbox. Who, but me, would know? Then unwittingly my husband enabled me further by gifting me with an eReader……..from the laptop to the Kobo. Is it a book or a magazine? Another little secret.

There is no happy ending. I have not overcome my magazineism. When pressed I claim I am merely relapsing, it's all part of my recovery. The consequences are costly, but not dire enough for me to stop. The magazines pile up, I can't discard them, what if I want to look at them again. The initial thrill, the adrenaline rush complete with euphoric dreaming, comes crashing down eventually leaving only the remains of wrinkled, used paper. The gloss so quickly disappears.

Christmas comes with a whole new challenge. The recipes, the decorations, the 'to do list of not gaining weight during the holidays', they grip my imagination, I must have them. Chatelaine, like a dealer sends me a free Christmas copy with the price slashed almost to nothing for a year's subscription. To entice me further, it will come with a free stylish watch. How do I resist? Why would I resist? Who am I harming? It's just a little escape now and then. Maybe I'll quit in 2011. But for now, I see an article on NEW FICTION by Steve Martin calling me.

What are your favourite magazines? Could you let them go?

Magazine, or art?

The beginning of the habit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fifteenth Post - Cookies

First Review - Christmas Reading Challenge 2010
The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman
Atria Book @2009

Cookies and Christmas! Pause, breath, dream…..can you smell them? Do you have a favourite? Does it have a story? I recently stumbled across a delicious book called, "The Christmas Cookie Club" by Ann Pearlman. The novel is about a Christmas Cookie Club (I know, the title gave it away). It's about twelve women who meet yearly on the first Monday of December to exchange cookies, drink wine, and kvetch - albeit in a somewhat structured manner. Each cookie 'bitch' (not my word - a bit harsh, I think)  brings thirteen dozen cookies – wrapped festively in one dozen portions. One dozen for each member, with the thirteenth dozen going to the local hospice. There are rules for this club that are clearly laid out in the beginning of the book. My favourites are rule 1 – No chocolate chip cookies, and rule 3 – No plates covered in saran wrap and bows! There are 8 rules in total and I'm sure they could be tweaked to fit your own gathering. The novel includes: recipes; interesting information about ingredients [P. 127 Cinnamon - 'improves attention, virtual recognition memory, working memory and visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program. So chew cinnamon-flavoured gum when taking tests`.  P.157 Vanilla - `our ancestors thought it was an aphrodisiac and that it cured impotence, making it our first Viagra`]; woven between threads of stories from each of the club members. I love how this author has stirred  a niggling in my heart  to host a Carol's Christmas Cookie Club. I realize this is not a unique concept, but the addition of rules, an annual date, and a prescribed format for the evening, has piquied my imagination. Who will I invite? What cookie recipe will I make? The dreams, smells and `visions of sugarplums` are dancing in my head.

What cookie would you bake and bring to Carol's Christmas Cookie Club?

Time to start baking

A fun Christmas read

The rest of my list......(I may need to check it twice!)
The Memory Quilt: A Christmas Story for Our Times by T.D. Jakes
Grace: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans
An Amish Christmas by Cynthia Keller
The Christmas Pearl by Dorthea Benton Frank

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fourteenth Post - Five

Today at 11am precisely, Jim and I will have been married for five years.  Five years ago, as I waited outside the ministers office with my husband to be and two close friends, I remember vividly the fear.......I know, fear before a new marriage, not exactly the typical feeling. Jim and I agonized about the perfect wedding. Life experience told us that 'perfect for everyone' was impossible, so we settled on 'perfect for us' and acceptable for everyone else. We decided to have a very small - one minister, one groom, one bride, two friends - ceremony. Ironically, we were married in what was Jim's former office at VAC. Two days later we had a reception for our family and a few friends. Then we parted, Jim to live in Vancouver and me to live in Vernon for the next year. I chuckle in remembrance.
Since that day, much has changed.. We now live together in the lower mainland. I finished my MA in Counselling and am working as a school counsellor, with a private business 'on the side'. Jim has been welcomed back into pastoral ministry from his denomination. My Reverend is currently working on completing a Masters of Divinity degree and going to school full time.
Jim's mom passed away a little over a year ago. She lived to be 94 years old.....what a lady! We've welcomed three more grandchildren into our family bringing the total to seven. Life is BUSY!!!! We continue to love each other deeply....

           My vows to Jim.......(maybe I'll post Jim's on year ten)


  It's hard to believe that I’m here standing with you exchanging wedding vows.  It’s been a long journey. You’ve been a big part of my life for so long and for much of that time you’ve been my best friend. You, more than anyone, know how I resisted the idea of getting married, again. So why am I here today? I need you to know how deeply I am committed to being your friend, your companion, and your wife. I promise to love you with all my heart and when things get tough, I am still committed to love you and be your wife. Both of us know that life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. Neither of us could have anticipated our marriage, yet here we are today. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know how much you love me and how trustworthy you are. You’ve already clearly shown me those qualities. I hear and see how you care for your mom and your children and I know again that I can cling to your care and love. I also want you to know that I am committed to love your children, and your grandchildren. Our home is a place where they will always be welcome. In that same vein, I trust you to love my children and future grandchildren and I am already assured that you will make them a welcome part of our lives.

            I love  that you love me even though you know me so well. I cherish that you encourage me to pursue things that are important to me. Please know that I will do the same for you. I don’t need you to be anything other than the person you are. If your interests change, I promise to encourage and support you. I promise to remind you to chase down your dreams. The ones you have now and the ones that are to come. My prayer for you is that you will be happy, content, safe and confident of my love, loyalty and life long support. I am so happy to become your wife and have you be my husband. To be with you as long as I live is my solemn vow to you.  

Happy Anniversary!


Grow old with me!  The best is yet to be…”
                     Robert Browning

Waiting to get married

OK, let's do this!

Saying our vows




Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thirteenth Post - Addiction

I am not an expert on addiction. Neither from personal experience nor education. Addiction has always been on my list as a 'disorder' to be referred. Well, never say never! It would appear that within the last year and more poignantly this past month, I've come face to face with young people and/or adults grappling with addiction. Some are in denial, some are ready for change, some are blaming others, some are stuck and almost all are in the midst of significant destruction. 
As stated in my opening I am not an addictions counsellor.  It would, however, seem that more and more of my clients are coming to me coping (or not coping)  with the impact of addiction. In an almost humorous twist, my 'out of work' world has been inundated with stories of recovery and treatment. At church - a Pastor resigns because of his addiction; at my husband's pastoral counselling class (which I audit), the guest speaker is teaching on addiction; the last two novels I've chosen to read strictly for recreation, have focused on addiction. Rachel's Holiday - would you think that by the title, it's about a girl in treatment?
Yes, God.....You have my attention!
There are many good resources available. I've added some new sites to my links box as well as below.
If you are a parent and you suspect your child is experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs, don't keep silent.  has some great suggestions to get a conversation going. is another website that you can share with your child. I suggest, if possible, you look at it with them.  If your child is moving along the spectrum of addiction and is willing may be a helpful site for them to explore on those days they are contemplating getting help.
This is a complex, societal as well as personal issue. There is no easy or quick fix. In a short month I've learned alot. I've been reminded of what I already knew and have discovered some great resources - people as well as books and websites.
Today is Sunday and I share one short anecdote before closing.
My husband loves to record the Gaither Gospel Hour on Saturday nights to watch as he begins his Sunday mornings. I rarely watch this with him, but I decided that this morning I would. And of course you know what came up...... another addiction story! The Crabb Family - the featured group - told the story of their father, who was an alcoholic. In a crisis of belief, and a moment of lucidness, the song 'Please Forgive Me' was born. That moment of surrender had a profound impact on the whole family. Out of humility, strength and courage were gained. In this family, surrender equalled victory!

If addiction has impacted you or your family, are you ready for change?

                        Please Forgive Me, sung by the Crabb Family

My sleep is gone, my heart is full of sorrow
I can't believe how much I've let you down
I dread the pain that waits for me tomorrow
When the sun reveals my broken dreams scattered on the ground

Please forgive me
I need your grace to make it through
All I have is you, I'm at your mercy
Lord, I'll serve you
Until my dying day
Help others find the way
At your mercy, please forgive me

I can't believe the god of earth and glory
Would take the time to care for one like me
But i read in the bible that old story
How he plead for my forgiveness while he was dying on a tree

Repeat chorus 2x

Freedom, Hope, Faith...Better is Possible

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twelveth Post - Walnuts

When I bought my' new to me' home and property it came with a mature and nut bearing walnut tree. Sadly the post I wrote about walnuts was inadvertently deleted, by me. My bad! Rather that even trying to rewrite the post, I've replaced it with a picture post.

Here is my tree. Enjoy!

My reverend going after some walnuts.

Looking up through the leaves and branches to the sun.

Almost ready to drop

It is so much easier when they fall to the ground 
already out of the thick green husk.

Peeling off some of the husks

On guard

The walnuts fall all around the ivy (and everywhere else)

Oh dear!

One of the last roses of the season

At rest

Checking to see how many are left on the tree.

Now we're off to begin the shelling, roasting, storing and baking!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eleventh Post - Perspective

It's old news that people see things differently. We all have our unique perspective of, well, of just about everything. Each of us are influenced by the impact of events on our lives. How often have you and your siblings reflected differently on your family of origin? How often do you and your spouse have "discussions" because of how each of you perceive circumstances/situations/past events?
There is an old, old story, about a Dad and Daughter who went on the same road trip year after year. One day Dad and Daughter were reflecting on the scenery they had passed on their journey. Dad
commented about a beautiful pond  that he had seen on the side of the roadway. Daughter shook her head and declared that there was absolutely no pond anywhere along the way. An argument ensued with neither Dad nor Daughter shifting their position. It wasn't until years later, when Daughter took the trip herself, and while now sitting in the drivers seat, saw the most beautiful pond on the left side of the highway. For all the years she was the passenger - sitting on the other side of the car, she never saw the beautiful sight her Dad had enjoyed. It took a shift in her perspective (not to mention seat) to be able to see what her Dad had seen all along.

How many disagreements could be resolved if we allowed for "where we're sitting in the car"?

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
— Ana├»s Nin

Dad and Daughter - same store - different perspective!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Tenth Post - Control

I like to fantasize that I'm not controlling. In actuality I'm NOT controlling, I just like to be in control. I think there is a difference. I have no need to control what others do or feel. I can easily let you be you. BUT, I have this near obsessive need to absolutely know that I am in charge of all circumstances that involve and/or surround my life.
I missed a couple of days of work this week due to a silly and ill timed back injury. Something as simple as moving my sand tray (used for play therapy with my clients) strained a rib as well as intercostal muscle. That mindless action resulted in me being flat on my back for the better part of three days. Five days later the spasming has stopped and I can move about slowly and cautiously -  no quick movements.
Being bedridden had a way of making me relinquish control in many areas of my life. At first the pain took precedence and I gave little notice to anything that couldn't fit on the bed beside me. As the pain subsided, life's responsibilities came floating back into my little universe. The Universe of Carol. Thoughts, worries, to do lists now joined me on my bed. It got very crowded. And then it happened. I was overcome with fear, remorse, worry, and anger about circumstances - about life - that had dared to continue on while I was incapacitated. Then I was flooded with the need to fix mistakes, to do damage control, to undo things that were done in my absence. The scope of my discontent swirled around leaving me dizzy with a frantic sense of helplessness. My mind, emotions and body had gone into its default mode - PANIC!
Once again I was back at the start line. Once again, I was forced to press the reset button. And thankfully, my inner wisdom along with the gentle nudging of a loving husband - who coincidentally is taking a counselling course and is diligently practicing listening skills, congruence has been reestablished. I count it as success and growth that equilibrium can be restored in mere hours rather that the weeks and months it took decades ago.
What was the lesson? Life goes on without me. I can be sick and am not responsible for decisions and actions taken by others in my absence. I don't have to FIX what others have done because what others do is not necessarily wrong. I don't have to convince people that my way is the only right way and they'll be sorry if they take a different route. I can give people the opportunity to be in charge, to make decisions, to learn and grow. I can and am willing to let go! Even as I write this I can feel the relief flowing into my heart and over my soul and mind.

How do you let go of your need to control?

Peace restored

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ninth Post - Hope

Does hope really make a difference? My hope or yours? Can I pour my hope over your hope and help your hope to grow? Does hope simply require a fertilizer of caring to help it sprout? I hope so!!!!!
According to "research" (Miller, Duncan, and Hubble) instillation of hope accounts for 15 percentage points towards "success" in counselling. {For those that care to know: 40% is extratherapeutic factors, 30% is the therapeutic relationship, 15% is skills and techniques, and that leaves the 15% called hope}.
Whenever I enter into a new relationship with a young person who has already given up on EVERYTHING! I lose part of my heart. That's probably a really bad way to state it. As a therapist, I'm supposed to keep my heart intact, however, lately I've been moved to tears by the heartbreaking stories of several of the young people that I've begun to work with. What are we doing as a society that the barely teens are ready to, or already have, pretty much thrown in the towel? I marvel  that they are even at school. That they are still alive. They they have the energy to walk down the hall to my office.
Recently I asked a young person if they had any hope at all.  A shrug - a very familiar teenage shrug,  and a mumble were the reply. But I coaxed about this much? 2 cm? How about this much? 1 cm?  How about this much? 1/2 cm....that got a mumbled maybe. Success! So, how about  I take my hope and add it to yours and see if we can grow some more. The response was slight, but enough to grab it and hold it dear.
So, what will make the difference this time? My hope is that I can work long enough with these emerging and young teens to help them understand that they matter. That at their core, at their SELF, they can BE and take a step or 1/2 step toward healing.
This was a discouraging week. It was a week of revelations of pain and hurt that ones so young should absolutely not have to experience. Yet, in our imperfect world, (call it sin, if you like), it exists. My job, as I see it - in it's simplest response - is to get my clients "hooked on hope". Maybe nothing will change today or tomorrow, but bit by bit, Better is Possible.

Will you add your hope to mine?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Eighth Post - Sleepovers

Growing up, I had the kind of mom who loved to have our home filled with friends. With four kids, that often made for a lot of friends/noise/chaos etc. Mom was also very generous when it came to allowing sleepovers (although I'm not sure we really called them that back in the 60's). What fun! Endless chatter, limitless snacks, cramped quarters - these ranged from camping on the trampoline outside to sleeping under the grand piano in the living room. We'd share stories; fact and fiction, crushes, secrets. This summer I had some fun sleepovers with grandchildren, children and most recently a good friend. Who'd have thought that in my 50's I'd still get a kick out of staying up all night talking  - albeit, all night meant a 10:30 pm bedtime. Three nights with a visiting friend who came to keep me company while my husband was away for a few days. We laughed, we drank, we talked endlessly, and laughed some more. We shared stories, fact and fiction, secrets of  long ago. We bragged about our children, we complained about our children. With age we've become wiser and to our sleepover repertoire, we added solving a world problem or two! As the evening progressed - along with our consumption of wine, we shared our dreams of things yet to come, our hopes for our children and eventually their children .........We sat outside in the cool evening and I marvelled in the joy of fellowship with a friend. And we did all this in our jammies, because this was a sleepover. By 10:30 (let's round that up to 11:00) my friend was settled on our cozy red couch, and I in my own sleeping on the floor for these gals. (until the third night, but that's another story involving a couple of party crashers). I'm heading to work tomorrow more tired than usual, but satisfied with a weekend well spent.

When was the last time you had an old fashioned, talk all night, eat all night, sleepover?

Who knows? It was a sleepover!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Seventh Post - Options

This morning I was greeted by the sun shimmering through my living room window. The brightness juxtaposed with the cool, crisp temperature, was indeed a cheery way to begin the day. Not quite summer, not yet autumn. I'm facing a weekend with NO plans. No appointments, no commitments. That, of course, leaves me with options. Shall I walk, shop, read, clean, visit, nap, cook, organize? Two consecutive free days seldom come my way and I feel gifted with the opportunity for choice.  Enveloped by contentment, peace, and calmness, I am mindful and grateful for all the options I have today. True to my "self", these options come with a profound sense of responsibility - that I not waste this opportunity for aloneness. After a busy week, filled with chatter, this lack of noise is saturating my being. I think I shall sit in silence for a while.

What do you do when you have alone time?

Come sit with me

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sixth Post - Newness

I have always equated September with newness. Not because of summer morphing into fall, but because of SCHOOL! When I was young, it was about a new grade, a new teacher, new notebooks, new pencils/pens, new clothes and new friends. Upon graduation from Secondary school, I moved on to University and again, was delighted with the newness of September - new courses, new textbooks, new notebooks, new pens, new profs, new clothes and new friends. Following graduation from University I began my teaching career (31 years ago, but that's a whole other blog). For thirty one years, September has brought a new assignment, new students, new curriculum, new daybooks, new clothes and new friends. I've been a school counsellor since the mid 2000's and here I am once again on the doorstep of new school assignments, new students, new parents, new stories, new clothes and new friends! It is not infrequently that I remind myself how blessed I am to have a profession that has evolved with me and one that I truly love. Of course there are seems they are 'new every morning', but I can't think of a career that would have been a better fit.
What newness are you anticipating this September?


New Shoes

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fifth Post - Fit

Once a year a dear friend of mine takes me for a walk. This friend, walks hills regularly, rides her bike, swims, works out at the gym and looks fantastic. In contrast, I walk the halls at work when I go to pick up students.The halls are flat! Last year we went on a 10K walk up at Silver Star Mountain. She assured me there wouldn't be hills - I believed her. A mountain with no hills, not likely. Anyhow we had a wonderful walk. Her dog, complete with bell, accompanies us and she carries bear spray....although I'm always reassured that it's not bear season. So this year, it took until yesterday to team up for our walk. This was billed as a medium walk with no hills (ha, I didn't fall for that this year.) We headed out to a park in town and our goal was to walk down (there's a hint) to Kal Lake and back. I've already mentioned that I am far from being a regular fitness walker, however, I don't like to turn down a challenge, nor miss an opportunity to spend time with my friend, so off we went. The first 20 minutes were all uphill. Not a little hill, a big hill. I like to talk when I walk and when I walk with Mrs. C, I can't talk. I can barely breath. Hmmm, maybe that's why she takes me on these walks. So I can practice listening.
At any rate I made it up the hill and what a reward was waiting. The most spectacular view of one of God's most beautiful creations - Kalmalka Lake. The walk down to the lake was a breeze. Conversation was good, energy was good. However, what goes down, must go up! After a brief reprise at the Lake front, it was time to turn around. Mrs. C had calculated 1 hour 15 for the 7 km walk, so off - or should I say, up, we went. I won't go into details, about gasping for air, about sheepishly asking for a rest - more than once,  but I made it. Exercise and friendship, the best combination for fitness. By the way, it's now the day after and I feel great!
Apparently we're heading on a 40K bike ride next year - with no hills.

What did you do to promote personal fitness this summer?

Kalmalka Lake, Vernon, BC 

Silver Star Mountain (2009)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fourth Post - Links

Contrary to the ads on television showing parents doing the happy dance as September gets closer, many parents, teens, children and TEACHERS, are experiencing some fairly typical, back to school anxiety. This anxious state often goes hand in hand with the anticipation and expectation of a new year. I'm not sure who's more excited or nervous; parents, teens, children or teachers. Rather than listing strategies to "cope" with the emotions of the next several weeks, I've decided to add a "links" gadget and list some useful resources surrounding anxiety and its partner depression. The link "Peace of Mind" includes a brief depression screening as well as an anxiety screening that you may find helpful. Several sites are applicable to adults and parents as well as teens and children. For a bit of balance I've included a link to an ADD/ADHD website. If you decide to view a link or two, please send me some feedback.

How do you approach the "Back to School" days?


Enjoying the last days of summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Third Post - Change

I wonder why some people can look forward to change...and embrace the unknown. Not me! I want to. I make big plans, dream big and then when the "change" gets closer, I panic. Really panic. Anxiety, nausea, headaches...... I get flooded with thoughts of all that will go wrong. Even though I know this about myself, even though I have done the "work" to limit/control the effects of anxiety, those nasty feelings keep on coming. I'm in the middle of reading, "mindsight - The new Science of Personal Transformation" by Daniel J Siegel, M.D. I understand how my brain works (yes, it's working). The science all makes sense, yet, when change is imminent, my body seems to default back to the familiarity of anxiety and worry. According to Dr. Siegel, what I'm working towards is called "bilateral" or "horizontal" integration. This occurs when the left and right hemispheres of our brain collaborate. Sounds so easy. I get this. It makes sense, but when push comes to shove, I still "feel" anxious. REALLY big time anxious! The "I think I'm going to die" or, "Jim, do you think I have <insert worst case scenario illness>? kind of anxiety.
So, now what? Here I am again, so what am I going to do? Well, first off, I have to sort out if what I'm feeling is anxiety or perhaps a bit of a flu bug, or maybe something I ate. It gets confusing because they all feel pretty much the same. Then, ruling out illness - this may involve a visit to the Doctor, I force myself to pause, to breathe, to think calm thoughts. In my worst days (almost two decades ago) I used to quote my verse....."I have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and a SOUND MIND!"  2nd Timothy 1:7 (Bible) Over time I have come to believe and accept and rejoice in my sound mind. So now, when these dips come, I'm not starting right from the beginning but am able to accept the fear. To acknowledge the fear, and then to slowly speak to the fear. If you have ever had an experience with anxiety you know that the fear is absolutely real. The feeling of fear, that is. The triggers are always highly exaggerated and usually involve absolutes like never or always.
As silly or as simple as this sounds, the best thing for me is to get up and move around. I need to have my feet grounded. They need to feel the floor. I need to be connected with the here and now. Once I do that (and trust me, that simple step can take a great deal of effort), my eyes are open and I breathe more naturally. Once I do those steps, the flow of information from my left to right brain (or the other way around) is released. What a difference that makes. I'm not dancing yet, but I can physically "feel" and intellectually "know" that I'm headed in a healthy direction. Peace and balance is restored.
I'm not going to lie to you, this mental health thing can be hard work. It is a lifetime journey. But it is worth it. Why? Because we are worth it! We are worth a life of health and balance! We are worth the knowing of self! We are worth the experience and beauty of life.
Bottom line...........WE ARE WORTH THE WORK!
Are you ready? 


How do you "do" Change?