Spreading a little Love

My little dog and I were on a long, meandering Sunday beach walk when I came across a fellow neighbourhood dog owner sitting with a friend. She is a large, elderly Eastern European woman and I can never remember her name. I always remember her dog’s name though and, in my mind, refer to her as her dog’s mom.

I waved to her, smiled and asked where her dog was. Her face crunched into a funny look and, in her thick European accent, she told me that she had given her dog up for adoption. I stared at her. He needed an operation she couldn’t afford she continued, so now he’s living with a family up the street. I was shocked. She and her pup seemed inseparable. Do you get to see him, I asked. Before she could answer, her friend piped up “The last time he saw her he looked at her like you’re my mama. Why did you give me to these people?”

I looked back at the former dog mama and saw her eyes well up with tears. In that second, I realized that the last thing this lady needed was my judgement. Everything about her energy told me that she had not had an easy life and her friend was, right now, attempting to pile more guilt on an already heartbreaking situation. I moved towards her, looked her in the eyes and said “You did the right thing” and gave her a big hug.

Did I really think she did the right thing? It doesn’t matter. She needed a little love and compassion and I was honoured to give it to her.

Sometimes we all let our egos and big opinions get in the way of just being there for another person. But when we just let the ego and opinions go and allow ourselves to support someone else without judging, it feels beautiful…for both people.

A world without empathy and compassion would be a horrible thing so I thank my neighbor for reminding me of this today and allowing me to let my better self shine through.

Where the wild things are

Growing up in rural Ontario, nature has always been my preferred place to be. When things became too boring inside the house, I headed outdoors with my cats and used my imagination to create fantastic jungle stories where my kittens were fierce lions and tigers and the wild grasses were the deep, dark, exciting jungle. I could play for hours in a abandoned lot covered in wild flowers. And this is how I developed a deep love for nature.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more. – Lord Byron

And because of this life long love of nature, I can’t help but be concerned about wildlife during BC’s monster fires this summer. Their homes are being destroyed and they can’t get away from the smoky air by going inside an air conditioned building the way we can.

I am incredibly saddened that so many beautiful trees and wild animals have been going up in flames this summer with no end in sight. By building bigger and bigger cities with bigger and bigger homes, we are already encroaching so much on the habitat of the beautiful wild things of our planet. If even more of their home burns, what will be left for them?

Even forests near my Vancouver home (a temperate rain forest) are tinder dry with leaves starting to wilt from lack of rain. It’s hard not to have a heavy heart when I see the forest suffering. We are so connected to the earth but I feel like so many of us have become disconnected from that reality. If Mother Nature is in distress, we are all, sooner or later, going to be in distress with her.

If you would like to help out in this desperate situation,  local wildlife rescues are being bombarded with displaced and distressed wildlife, two great ones to contribute to are BCSPCA and The Furbearer Defenders.

These fine people need all the help they can get right now.

Just let go

I’ve been thinking about people who offer unsolicited advice to others (and the uncomfortable realization that I’m occasionally guilty of this behaviour).

This is on my mind today because I was out with the girls last weekend and a friend of a friend went on the attack over a decision I had recently made. I was surprised at her reaction but defended myself pretty well, the whole time thinking ‘why is this almost stranger so invested in my life?’ The whole exchange was emotionally charged though and managed to bring down what could have been a fun evening out.

By the end of the evening I had the sense that the only personal power this woman could muster was at the expense of others and with the conviction that her opinions were ‘right’. A very sad and, ultimately, powerless way to walk through the world.

The silver lining of this experience, however, is a wonderful one. It made me realize that if someone wants my opinion, he or she will actually ask and if they don’t ask, then my opinion is probably not needed. It also made me realize that I don’t need to defend or explain my life to anyone.

Imagine if we were all a little less judgy and just let people be who they want to be and do want they want to do. Imagine if we focused on understanding and acceptance instead of the upmanship (upwomanship) of judgement.

Imagine how much more wonderful the world would be.

Disclaimer: None of this applies if someone is being abused or harming themselves. Then it’s our duty to, with love, make their business our business.

Gentle

My word for 2017: Gentleness

Dictionary definition: “Gentleness is the quality of being kind and careful. Your gentleness with a frightened stray dog will eventually convince her to let you feed and pet her. The noun gentleness is perfect for describing the way someone acts when they are soft and calm and sweet to other people.”

We are all in this world together, doing the best we can and often our best isn’t all that great. We mess up, hurt each other (hopefully accidentally) and are just in general perfectly imperfect.

Imagine if we practiced more compassion and gave each other the benefit of the doubt more often. Imagine how we could transform the world if enough of us did that. So 2017 is my year of learning how to be gentle, with myself and with everyone around me. 

I think it’s going to be a good year 💖

For the Love of Volleyball

I lived to play volleyball in high school. For two years it was my full time, happy obsession. I tried out for and made the team in grade 10 and started out as a decent player. But then, a deep, deep love for the sport took hold of me and I started practicing for a couple of hours every evening and as much as I could on weekends. When there was no one around to play with I’d go out behind the house and serve the ball against the wall and dive and lunge to keep it slamming against the wall without touching the ground. So, in a pretty short time I went from a decent player to a really good player. And I practiced for a couple of hours every night not because I thought I  should or I had to but because I wanted to. Desperately wanted to. Playing volleyball was the happiest I felt in life. It gave me structure, a great physical outlet for stress and, last but not least, hope. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I lived for the game for those two years.

Then, in grade 12 I had to stop playing. The story of why I had to stop is too long and too sad to write about here. But I had to give it up. And I buried my love of the game…for almost 40 years. Oh, occasionally I’d try to get friends to play beach volleyball with me and once in a while they’d say yes. But some people are intimidated by the game and other people just don’t love it the way I do (which I can’t quite understand lol) so my games were few and far between.

But, this year, magically and happily, I found a group of friends who want to play. And they want to play every weekend, and, as I play with them, and my moves from high school are slowly but surely coming back to me. Something I had to bury a long, long time ago is un-burying (is that a word?) itself deep within my being and I’m starting to feel the happiness and joy that I used to feel when I was one of the tallest girls on the team spiking the ball mercilessly over the net. And I’m starting to practice my moves with a beach ball in my apartment just like I practiced in the “old days”. My dog gets in on the act to and pounces on the beach ball every chance he gets, so he’s loving the volleyball life too.

volleyball

volleyball

It’s too late to take this love of the game to a professional level like I dreamt of doing as a teenager but it’s not to late to let myself incorporate something that makes me feel such deep happiness and excitement back into my life. It’s funny how some of the things that bring such get buried over time.

The obsession is back and it’s a happy one.

Coffee, Chocolate and a Whole Lotta Love

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Picture yourself walking into a room with high, vaulted ceilings, exposed red brick walls and beautiful dark wood accents. The air is filled with the rich aroma of cocoa beans mixed with the irresistible scent of fresh, organic coffee and everything is blanketed in an atmosphere of love. Are you there? Yes. Then you’ve just imagined what the atmosphere at East Van Roasters is like. Located in the ground floor of the Rainer Hotel, this is a very special place.

I found out about East Van Roasters from an article in a local magazine and the piece not only made me drool with their description of the cafe’s artisan chocolate but also explained how they hire women in the DTES with “barriers to employment” ie: drug addiction, alcohol addiction and emotional issues. Working at East Van Roasters gives women battling these challenges the helping hand they need to get back on their feet and maybe even transform their lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

So when I also found out that the cafe hosts volunteer nights every other Wednesday, I signed myself up. The volunteer nights are called “Winnow Wednesdays” and winnowing means taking the hard shell off of cocoa beans. All of the volunteers sit together at a long, communal table and get down to work. We’re a bunch of strangers, sitting side by side and learning how to remove the sometimes finicky shell from it’s cocoa bean but working together helps the conversation flow easily and brings a lovely camaraderie too.

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During the volunteer evenings, East Van’s Director, Shelley, explains to everyone what the cafe is all about. East Van only buys fair trade, organic beans and pride themselves on the relationships they have built with their suppliers around the world.  She also tells us that the only pre-requisite for a shift here is to show up clean and sober. Then she explains that sometimes it’s just not possible for someone to show up clean and sober. So they are sent away and told to come back the next day, clean and sober. And if they don’t, they are told to come back the next day and the next day…until finally they do show up clean and sober and get a shift. She says that sometimes we all need a lot of chances and East Van Roasters is the land of 1,000 chances.

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The description of the many chances at East Van touched a place deep in my heart. My sister, Inga, and my niece, Crystal, both lived in the DTES (my niece got out but my sister spent the last years of her life here) and I know how much we all need a number of chances at times but residents of the DTES, in particular, need 1,000 chances and a lot of love and patience to go along with those chances.

Love, patience and a chance can be hard to find in our world so places like East Van Roasters are so special and so necessary. If we ever hope to create a functioning, compassionate society, we need many, many more places just like this.

 East Van Smoothie

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 organic bananas
  • 1 T. cashew butter
  • 6 East Van Roasters cocoa beans

Blend together (with love).

Serve.

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