Three Is A Crowd?

I am reading a second book by Robin Wall Kimmerer titled “Braiding Sweetgrass”.

The first book I read of hers was “The Gathering Moss” and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thriving through mutual growth

A few pages into “Braiding Sweetgrass” Robin dedicates a chapter to what she calls the “epiphany of beans” and then moves onto a chapter called “The Three Sisters”. The chapter talks about compatible planting of, in this case, vegetables that are complementary to each other. Specifically, corn, beans and squash are the ones she mentions. Nature has an amazing ability for reciprocity and finding balance with sustainable relationships. The partnership here starts with the corn. They grow tall and thin with shallow root systems. The beanstalks wrap around the corn for support and take advantage of spreading upward with the cornstalks. The corn seem to accept the hitchhikers and separate their leaves to make room for the bean vines. The Indigenous theory on the “Three Sisters”  states that when planted together these plants can feed the people, feed the land and feed our imaginations by telling us how we can live together.

She goes on to talk about the theory that starts with the planting of the corn which shoots up vertically as fast as it can soaking up water and producing sugars. The bean comes next but takes a different root by firmly planting itself with deep roots before it seeks to go upward. The squash comes later and is last to germinate.The birth order is critical to the successful relationship of the trio. I recommend the read as it’s utterly fascinating to learn about this type of gardening techniques. The method is as old as time and yet not commonly practiced or known.

Further she talks about the intimate relationship between the sisters and how they embrace and support each other in order for the greater good. Without the support of the corn, the bean would be unruly on the ground and at risk by predators. The squash provides shade and reduction of weeds while enjoying the corn provides spots of sunshine strategically placed back on the squash. The corn roots are fine and fibrous and make a shallow network where they drink their fill of water. They provide a channel for the excess water to flow downward to the roots of the beans. The squash taps into the excess and there seems to be enough for them all to thrive better together than apart.

Plants are amazing. Beans grow oxygen-free nodules to house bacterium that shares nitrogen with the plant. This nitrogen enters the soil and helps to fuel added growth to the corn and squash. It has been proven that these plants do better together than grown separately. I am sure there are more examples of these combination growth methods to explore.

I find myself wondering about this phonenom. I come from a family of six girls and one boy. There are three girls, a boy and then three more girls. I am second to the last in the grouping. We seemed to rotate our friendships as we grew. I would hang out with my sister who was two years older than me the most. If I was to label us as plants I wouldn’t say we fit neatly into the “Three Sisters”.  What I noticed is that as we get older the message from the sisters rings true.

Following my path

I’m back. When I looked to see when I had last posted I was shocked to see it was April. I knew it had been a long time, but not that long!

This quote speaks to me. What have I been doing the past 7 months? Well, I’ve been working on “me”.

Those who have followed this site from the start know that my life has gone through quite a few changes in the past three years. I’ve been working on shedding where I thought I’d be at this stage of life, what it would look like, the path I took to get here.

During the spring and summer, I worked on understanding my core motivations with a friend who is also an Enneagram coach. He was starting his coaching business. He needed clients and I can always learn more about myself. I figured, “Why not?”. I learned a great deal. My learnings will be shared in upcoming blogs. (I’m a 7 on the Enneagram, if you’re familiar with it. Actually, the poster child for a 7).

Over the summer, I met quite a few of my neighbours. We’d have regular social gatherings (a.k.a. wine and beer) in the green space between our condos (and move into my garage if we were still there after 10:00 p.m). We’d also go to karaoke and live music nights at the local pub, the summer festivals in the park across the street, and visit at each other’s homes.

I watched my son get, and lose, his first job. However, as so often happens, it was the stepping stone needed to find another, better, job he truly enjoys. I never, in a million years, would have guessed my son would willingly – and consistently – get up at 0530 to be at work for 0630 and work 12 – 14 hour days.

This fall, we moved Martin’s dad to Chestermere from Kelowna. I’ve been able to get to know him better. What a sweet, quirky man. He will be 94 years old at the beginning of December. His stories are amazing. The things he’s lived through! He’s so different from my dad. As extroverted and talkative as my dad is, Martin’s dad is not (Martin comes by his introverted nature genetically). We found out they both love perogies, sausage, stuffing, and pumpkin pie so we may have the weirdest Christmas dinner this year. With them being 94 and 84 years of age, it’s all about giving them what they want and creating happy memories.

The last big change was for me to leave permanent, full-time employment and go out on my own. I now own a business called Synapse Learning, Inc. I started my instructional design career as a freelancer and I want to go into retirement the same way. I’m also looking at, eventually, going back into psychoeducational assessments and helping children with learning and behavioural problems.

Martin and I just celebrated three years since our first date and are considering buying home together in the next couple of years. Who knew relationships could be so easy?? Usually, after three years, I was starting to form an exit strategy. Not this time.

As you can see, I have quite a few stories to share as I reflect on the past several months and start my own business. My path is very different from where I thought I’d be, but I’m not lost. I welcome you to walk along with me.

The Difference A Year Makes

I was reading through our blogs from the past year and came across “Bah…humbug,or not”. I was NOT feeling Christmas last year. It felt like an obligation I had to endure because it was expected of me.

This year, it’s completely different. Initially, I wasn’t going to decorate because it’s just me living here most of the time. Martin and Nathan (my son) aren’t really “into” Christmas, so it wouldn’t matter to them. Yet, as we moved into fall, I felt I *wanted* to decorate.

I found this “pencil tree” on sale. It’s perfect for my space. It holds all my ornaments, which is a feat unto itself! I have an ornament I made in Kindergarten, all the ornaments my grandmother made for me, and all the ornaments my mom bought for my son over the years so his first Christmas tree has something from her. Every trip I take, I bring home an ornament representative of where I’ve been. I even have one or two that were given to me from students when I was a teacher. I really didn’t think this narrow tree would hold all of them and am delighted it does.

Christmas isn’t the big event it’s been most of my life. Mom would spend weeks making chocolates, baking, writing cards and working herself into a tizzy of stress. Every year, she wanted to have “the perfect Christmas” and it always drove her depression to its lowest depths. Rather ironic, really, but not uncommon.

This year, we are changing things. Instead of buying gifts for EVERYONE, we have drawn names. It’ll be the first Christmas in, probably, twelve years I am not hosting. My niece and nephew-in-law have bought a beautiful home and will be taking over that function. The goal is to have less stress and more fun.

It will be fun. We can’t get everyone together in December, so we are celebrating Ukrainian Christmas in January. My nephew-in-law is Chinese, so instead of a turkey, he is cooking an authentic Chinese dinner. Nathan, at 19, is now the youngest in the family. We can play games such as “Cards Against Humanity” and spend time together as adults.

I’ll help make the krumkake this year because I *want* to, not because it’s expected. I’ll help make the lefse for the same reason. It’s amazing how removing the sense of obligation is helping me enjoy the season and all that goes with it.

It’ll be the first Ukrainian Christmas with home made Chinese food and Norwegian treats. I can’t wait.

We Are Family

I got my brother and sisters with me…

I decide to pull out the old rotten carpet out of the cab of the van only to discover that the floor has some serious looking rust spots. It’s been a couple of weeks since I came upon the damage and it’s been a cause for concern. My whole career has been based on solving problems. Taking complex learning and translating it into easy to follow steps for others to understand and use. This situation is no different. I got a hole and it needs to be fixed.

My sister and brother in law just happened to be down for the weekend. They are a handy pair. I have always admired my sister’s choice of professions. She had spent many years in the Canadian Air Force as a metal fabricator working on airplanes. I found out my brother in law has some experience with welding. My brother, well he is a jack of all trades and has been helping me with the project since day 1. So, in true project management fashion, I assembled the very competent team of experts who are up for the challenge and we get to work. 

With resources and know-how in place we decide a change of clothes is necessary to tackle the potentially dirty job. My sister bought my mom’s old house and some of the contents are still there. My mom’s coat still hangs in the closet next to the kitchen door. It’s coming up on the two year anniversary of my mom’s death in September. As I stand in her bedroom looking for something to wear in the closet I am overwhelmed with her presence. I take a couple of shirts off the hangers and smell them. Oh mom, they still smell like you. You are still here. Tears well up as I close my eyes for a moment. This is a pretty big hole we are trying to fix. Not just on the van floor but my heart. I hear my mom talking to me from other rooms as I walk through the house. She would call from the living room when you entered from the kitchen door to welcome you. Sometimes I can hear her voice echo through the space.

The family has had its share of challenges over the last few years and yet here we are coming together to problem solve and rebuild this van. I have heard you can’t choose your family. I am glad for that because you never know what you might need at any given moment. The universe is a way better judge on future needs than I am.

It takes some discussion and a few brainstorming sessions but finally we get to work patching the worn floor. Grinding away the rust where we can and applying new support when needed. I can’t help but make the comparison between the work on the van and work being done to heal our family relationships. You have to clear away the toxins that eat at your dynamics. Find new ways to communicate and come together. Mom would be ecstatic to see us all collaborating and getting along.

The van has helped us to find ways to connect again. It’s been a new beginning for me too. I am using tools I never thought I would have the confidence to even try. A little patience from my brother and determination to continue the work has made me excited about the possibilities for future projects and work.

We are family, I got my brother and sisters with me. I am truly blessed.

Reflective Moments

It’s the last day of a long weekend, and I’m up so the dogs can be fed. I’m also up to enjoy some solitude in my house. Everyone else is asleep. It’s the only time of day where there is absolute quiet and no expectations of me.

When I invited my parents to live with us four years ago, I had no idea how much work it would be. In my mind, I’d pictured fishing trips with my dad, working together in the yard, and going shopping with Mom when she felt like it.

Little did I know it would become an endless parade of medical appointments, that their health would decline so rapidly, or that Mom would die from a massive head injury sustained from a fall in our garage. In the past year, my Dad started to lose his vision and is failing before my eyes.

So much has changed in the past four years in addition to my parents. My marriage ended. My son graduated high school. I found a new partner. I lost my job, and found another. We’re also one year into a global pandemic.

There are days I’m overwhelmed. Most days, I’m grateful. As much work, and at times frustration it’s been, being able to care for my parents at the end of their lives gave me time with them I haven’t had for years. I moved away from home in my early 20’s and never again lived in the same city. Visits were three or four times a year and weekly phone calls.

The job loss was a blessing in disguise. It gave me time to take stock of where I’m at and where I want to go. I realized I’m not ready to retire, despite how much the idea appeals to me. I learned how much I’d ‘muted’ my true self to try to make the marriage work, and began to bring my ‘self’ forward. I examined what it was about me that made me choose partners who, in the end, were not good matches. I can go forward with new self-awareness.

I do not live a conventional life. When we realized our marriage no longer served us as a couple and acknowledged we were – indeed – roommates, my husband and I opened our marriage. Through that, we both found people who give us the relationships we want. When the pandemic hit, he invited my partner to stay with us on his days off so we didn’t have to rent AirBnbs. Both his partner and mine helped us build our deck.

Yesterday, Valentine’s day was marked by formally signing our separation agreement. We’ve decided to stay in the house together, but separate. I occupy the second floor, and he is finishing the basement to live there. We will share the main floor. This arrangement gives us an economical way to live independently of each other, keep the house we like, the yard we love, and our pets. How long it will last, we don’t know. It works for now.

My day is about to start. I hear Dad coughing in his room. Soon, he will need me to guide him to the kitchen, make his breakfast, and get his medications ready for him. The silence will be shattered by the sound of game shows and “The Big Bang Theory” coming from his TV. When my son wakes, he will start chatting and gaming with his friends. This will carry on long after I go to bed.

I cherish these moments of solitude where I can sit in a sunbeam, drink my coffee, and not have any immediate responsibilities. It’s a gentle way to start the day.

Missed Connections

February is about connections for us at midlife arises. Ever heard the saying that “what you don’t say it just as important as what you do?” I think that’s pretty accurate. I am sitting at my kitchen table in the Yasodhara Ashram looking out the window at the most incredible view of Kootenay Lake. It’s my first night here and the peacefullness hugs me like a friend. I am feeling truly blessed and at the same time hurt by moments of missed communication between my husband and I over the last few weeks. He has never been a man to express his feelings. Especially ones that involve being vulnerable. As he holds onto an argument over an electric grill staying in a kitchen cupboard the moment to talk it out, as rational adults, has passed.

We have created a negative pattern of exchanging concerns years ago. We used to argue and talk back and forth for days to try and resolve issues. There were some tears, some words and a night on the couch sometimes. Now? There is silence. When we get mad at each we just stop talking to each other. The trouble is that neither person gets heard or understood. It resolves nothing and if left, it leads to more division than devotion.

Accountability to speak up is crucial to a healthy relationship. To be heard and mutually understood is extremely important. You must be wondering why I am opening up about this here? As adults we are always being watched. Our kids, young relatives are always looking at our relationships and trying to figure how to communicate. They watch us, mimic us and repeat our patterns whether they are great examples or bad ones.

Let’s not live a life of unsaid feelings, suppressed emotions and missed connections. Regret happens for what we don’t do more often than for what we do.

I am excited about opportunities for personal growth over the next few months and learning more about how I express how I think and feel. It’s healthy and key to finding happiness.


The Healing Springs of Bali

The healing powers of Bali

Unpacking space: Past, Present and Future

I am forever grateful I have this gift of past travels. To bask in my adventures through memories, meditation and photos is priceless. To give gratitude everyday for having the presence of mind to soak up every minute of it helps me now to cope with our current present. To know that you are part of something greater than yourself and to be open to the customs and healing rituals of other cultures and beliefs enriches our humanity. It’s an amazing world and we are lucky to have it! You don’t have to travel to exotic places to enjoy and take part of wellness( I know that’s easy for me to say as I have done that many times). The wilderness by my house is full of medicine for my soul. It’s the intention to create a space for healing that counts in the long run to what we put in our “spaces”.

In a time when the world is in turmoil, the need to open a sanctuary of comfort and kindness is desperately welcomed. I was lucky to have experienced such a place in 2019. Accompanied by my neice and a mutual friend, we traveled for three glorious weeks throughout Bali. As was our way in Bali, the guide found us at the entrance to the springs. He then proceeded to spend the day giving us guidance, history and acted as our personal photographer (didn’t expect that but now I am grateful for the wonderful photos). It was an opportunity for us to reflect on our past, be fully aware of our present and to create an inviting space for our futures.

The Titra Empul Healing Springs in Bali has a rich history, sense of sacredness and truly a wonder of nature. The temple was built in 926 AD during the rule of Warmadewa. The location was chosen because of the presence of a sacred spring. The legend tells a tale of an epic battle between a magical king named Mayadenawa and a god called Indra.

Mayadenawa possessed great spiritual powers of transformation. As with any great power the temptation to exploit it caused him to use it for evil instead of good. The god, Indra, took exception to this practice and planned an attack on the king. Mayadenawa caught wind of the plan and snuck into Indra’s camp as the army slept one night. He decided to create an enticing pond where the army would drink from when they awoke in the morning.

Indra discovered many of his men had perished and many more were sick or dying. Indra, with his almighty power, pierced the ground with his staff and converted the water to a sacred spring that was thought to be holy.

Today the spring still flows and many locals, countrymen and seekers of healing line the pathways eager to immerse themselves or fill their water bottles in the ponds.There is an interesting property about how the water bubbles up to the surface. The earth in which it emerges is a combination of sand and gravel. One would think it would be cloudy or discoloured. Any yet, it comes up crystal clear. I watched as many visitors fill their jugs, canteens and water bottles. I was curious so asked the guide what the purpose of doing this is? Since the water is believed to be sacred and full of healing properties, many use it in ceremonies, blessings and personal rituals.

Before we got to the temple we had stopped at a local market to purchase a sarong as the dress code was very strict in the pools and on the grounds. The guide was very helpful in showing us the right way to tie a sarong. I was skeptical that it would cover my bits but he was an expert and in no time we were ready to make our way to the gates of the first set of pools. We purchased a small bamboo container and some flowers and incense to make an offering then made our way to the entrance.

Opening space…

Centering your being with intent and focus is part of the protocol and practice. We found a space to sit on the stone benches facing the water. Ah the energy in a place like that is mystical, thick with culture, history and balm for your soul. In silent meditation we drew on our own desires and needs. We opened our hearts and mind to the knowing support was available from these ancient spirit guides.

Saying “goodbye” to the past…

The guide instructed us that there were 3 sets of fountains in the maze of pools. They represented the past, the present and the future. As you approach each flowing tap, meditate on what you want most then fullfill the actions as directed. 

My heart was beating out of my chest as I worried about remembering all of the instructions. I wanted to do it right! It was my turn. The past, what wrong doings did I want to let go of? Who did I need to forgive, forget and release? I cupped the water as instructed and with a downward motion washed away my past three times in quick succession. To seal the deal, I then dunked my head under the spigot to get rid of any lingering negative energy. Even as I write this now, I still feel the release and a sense of being lighter somehow.

Bring awareness to the present…

We navigated out of the first pool and made our way to the second set.

In this meditative labyrinth we contemplated the present and future. Invited positive energy to fill our hearts and minds. I cupped the water and let it flow from the back of my head this time to the front. Welcoming the exchange of energy instead of pushing it away. An invitation to heal within my being.

By this time I am feeling pretty wonderful. Almost like the water is full of happy juice. I start to notice the people around us clearer. I can see the generations of families that are here together from newborn babies to great grandmas. I am in awe and a bit jealous of the bond they must be feeling. As we make our way to the stairs, one of the families is right in front of me. Great grandma is making her way up the stairs to rise up out of the water. I reach to help and all of the sudden there are numerous relatives surrounding us. She smiles at me, my heart clenches. Can she see into my soul? I think she can as the joy is reflected back at me through her generational eyes.

A drink to the future…

Our final wade leads us towards the future. The ritual changes slightly. We dip our heads three times under the fountain and then take a sip from the spring. This will ensure any lingering negative energy or toxins are released and we ingest positive energy for our future.

We came away from the springs refreshed. Each of us wanting to find a quiet space to savor and take in all we had been blessed to be part of. 

My heart was full. My mind was sharp and clear and my soul? It was soaring!!

%d bloggers like this: