Walking away is not an option... dialogue must prevail.

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with."
- Kenneth A. Wells

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller

Monday, November 30, 2009

if it's going to be winter...

You'd think a Canadian such as myself would like winter... and to be honest, there are SOME things about it that I do enjoy. My issue with the season is how LONG it lasts (but I won't dwell... trying to stay positive).

So this morning, I woke up to snow on the ground. Sticky, wet snow... the good snowball and snowman kind (see?! still staying positive... until someone lobs one of them there snowballs at me and it falls down the back of my shirt...).

And I actually caught myself smiling. I felt a little squeeeee in my heart.

Chicklet loves winter. I did too when I was her age. Laying in the snow that covered the front lawn, after dark with the multi coloured BIG bulbs covering the tree... big snowflakes the size of quarters falling slowly and landing on my rosy cheeks, my nose and yes, even my eyelashes (which, when you're laying on your back, isn't really that pleasant if bits of the snowflake pokes you in the eyeball and deprive you of your sight... but let's not think about that, staying positive.) And everything sparkled.

But like Frank says... watch out where the huskies go...

This snowfall was just what I needed to get my rump in gear. Of course this means I have to yank the tree out of the attic (some other day). Something Daddy used to do when I was a kid. He'd always let me climb up the ladder and peak up there. Of course, he held me so I wouldn't fall.

There I'll be, perched on the stepladder (some other day), probably on my tippy toes (I should put on shoes, yeah?), with the top half of my body cold (like I'm going to put a coat on for this! but then I might catch pneumonia and die), the smell of the attic filling my nostrils (where's the nose plug or Febreze when you need it?), trying to grab the boxes of Christmas stuff (who pushed them so dang far? Oh yeah... I did...).

And of course, in the attic, there's that pink insulation wool thing... and I'll be itchy... And then the lights. You know, some lights won't work.

Yeah... I'm positive. I mostly hate winter.

Sigh. Maybe just half a drink more...

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's a joyous day for The Hive

It's our beloved Queen Mimi's birthday.
Please stop by her castle and send her your well wishes.

I love you Mims... I truly do.

You have inspired me (and countless others) to continue seeing the best in people and to work for Peace.
You have made me laugh and cry... sometimes both at once.
You have been a comforting friend, a confidant.
You have shared of yourself with grace.

May this new beginning bring you everything you so richly deserve.

When I hear this lovely song, I think of you, a truly bee-autiful lady.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

"to the moon!"

Have you ever been around a couple like this? I have.

It's exhausting yet morbidly entertaining.

An ex-boyfriend of mine's parents were like this. His mother was a piece of work. His dad was a wreck. I always wondered how they ended up together, much less stayed together.

Once, I actually heard her ask him: "MUST you BREATHE?"
To which he answered without a moment's hesitation: " I have to, I let my life insurance lapse so we'd have money for your wigs."

To my astonishment, she let him live - and the next day, she called the insurance company.

They survived adopting two kids in a culture that doesn't always see this as a positive, sarcasm of monumental proportions, a business (and personal) bankruptcy, his God awful taste in clothes (that actually prompted a ban on his shopping at a certain store in the mall - they had her on speed dial for whenever he came in alone), her many wigs, his travelling throughout the kids' childhood, her gardening despite his sciatic (or was in to spite it), having my ex as a son and his breathing.

They were made for each other, were excellent friends and never accused each other of being spiteful or mean.

As uncomfortable as it was being around them at times, I learned a lot.

Love and friendship can help you overcome anything. If you're only willing to. People don't change "for" someone, so if you love them despite their faults, all will be well. If you feel you have to change the other person, you're doomed.

Of course, it has occurred to me that one day, under pretense of her "gardening" she'll have him dig his own grave.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

lessons learned at my father's side

It’s Friday the 13th. To some people, the superstitious kind, it’s a bad day.

What if I told you that I do not, ever, walk under a ladder? You could assume that it’s some quaint superstition. But if you asked me, I would tell you: I’m safety-minded. It was my job for nearly a decade. I don’t walk under ladders because I know something could fall on me (at the very least, the ladder could).

My dad was superstitious, so was my mom but to a lesser degree. Some of the superstitions he believed in just plain made me giggle. I’d tease him about it and he didn’t mind.

Dad had a thing about black cats (he also wouldn’t walk under a ladder and it WAS because of superstition). Now, it seems harmless enough, right? Yeah. Except one day, when Mom and Dad came home to what had been their first apartment. An event occurred that would become part of family lore.

Mom was pregnant (with me). So pregnant that she probably would have blocked a parking spot by the curb if she stood on the edge of it facing the street.

What do they find as they’re about to pull into the parking area of the apartment complex?

A black cat.
Sitting on a white car (this apparently makes it worse).
In dad’s way.
Staring at him.

Yeah… guess what happened next? My father stopped the car and just sat there. Dad couldn’t back up and park elsewhere. There was no place to turn (Montreal streets can be really narrow when there are cars parked on either side) and if he went forward, he would have to cross the cat’s eye line or something and risk the cat getting up and crossing his path (oh the horror). He turned to my mother and told her either he would leave the car right there where it was (and risk a ticket), or she would have to drive it in herself.
There was no negotiating.

Mom, couldn’t believe it. She tried to “talk some sense into him”… but nope. He stood firm. And then he got out of the car.

So, with all the grace that only the very pregnant woman can muster, Mom got herself out of the passenger side, waddled around the car over to the driver’s side and fiddled with the steering wheel to try and get enough clearance so that she might be able to wedge herself in there and drive the car in.

Mom almost got stuck. She was not happy. I can’t tell you how many times my mother recited this story, always rolling her eyes… and shooting looks at dad who just sat and crossed his arms. Mom almost injured herself in the groin when she tried to get out from behind the steering wheel sideways.
Everyone that heard this story chided my dad a little for putting the superstition first. Fortunately, it didn’t end badly.

One day, when I was older and wiser (well, as wise as a 6 year old can be)… I looked up at my dad and the following conversation took place:

“Um, Daddy?” said I, sitting on the floor and looking at the Saturday Comics section of the Montreal Gazette.
“Yes, Ann?”, he was reading the paper in his armchair.
“You know that story about the black cat and the car that Mom always tells?” (By the time I was six, I knew this story by heart.)
Dad sighed.
“Yes”, he answered, not looking up from behind the paper.
“It’s because black cats are bad luck, right?”
“Right”, Dad was a really patient man. He would always let me ask as many questions as I felt compelled to and he’d always answer me as best he could.
“Mom says that’s a silly stuperstition. Are stuperstitions real?”
“I believe so.” he answered, without correcting my pronunciation of the word as I was also known to say “pasghetti”. I think he figured I’d work it out in time.
“But Daddy, if they’re real, why did you let Mommy drive the car? Did she end up with bad luck?”
Apparently my mother had never brought this point up.
Dad lowered his paper, smiled at me and after a moment, the answer came to him and he said, “I let your mother make up her own mind. She’s old enough.”

Best answer he ever gave me.

It was a teaching moment. I had challenged him, not out of spite because as far as I was concerned, my Daddy hung the moon and there was nothing he couldn't do. I just needed to figure things out for myself and Daddy let me.

I still think the superstition is silly. But every time I see a black cat, I think of my dad... and I smile.

Teasing Daddy

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Charter for Compassion

The quest…

In the last days, I’ve read, lived, and witnessed interesting discussions. I don’t know about you, but it dawned on me that when you open your mind to a concept, it’s as if a floodgate opened and all of a sudden, it’s everywhere. It’s the concept of visualizing what you want and putting it out into the world.

Someone once said to me “your perception is your reality”.

I truly get it now…

So, what will I be sending out into the world? A desire to converse, the willingness to create understanding, compassion for others, love for every human being... Peace.

If we treat each other with respect, are willing to co-exist, renounce violence, the world would be a better place.

Recently, I chose to converse with someone whose views offended me. I was on a message board and witnessed others who, instead of listening and discussing, merely dismissed the other person. I was told to ignore the person. I saw people call him an idiot. People who said they admired our veterans and active duty troops for their sacrifices so that we may enjoy freedom, were telling this person to shut up.

I chose to converse. I refused to marginalize... and you know what? It was interesting. The tone changed... We may not have come to a mutual agreement, but at least we respected each other and we learned temperance.

Please read the Charter for Compassion in that nifty widget up there or go to their website by clicking HERE... and join us.

When having a discussion, if you ever feel exasperated... remember this:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

At the going down of the sun and in the morning...

... we will remember them.

After Mom passed just over two years ago, I discovered some holidays were harder to get through than others. Parents leave their marks on them differently...

This is my first Remembrance Day without my Dad.

I cherish the Canadian flag. My father signed up to defend it, as a proud first generation Canadian just short of his 22nd birthday. And when he passed in May after his 89th birthday, the V.A. covered his body with that flag, he had earned that honour... He was the very example of the values Canadians cherish. My father was compassionate, honest, hard-working, respectful and tolerant of differences.

My Dad, Trooper Frank Dixon (first from the left)

My father is my hero.

I am Canadian. And on this 11th day, of the 11th month at the 11th hour, my daughter and I will be bowing our heads in Remembrance. I will wrap myself in Daddy's Legion sweater and think back to the thousands of soldiers, heroes, who died in the service of my country. They fought for their homeland, their families, to right injustices, for the weak and defenseless and so that Peace may be returned to the world. And I will remember the people who live in war ravaged countries, and ask that Peace be restored to them. I like to imagine that those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and the veterans who have passed will be uniting and doing their best from heaven to work for Peace, each one of them a guardian angel for the troops who serve today.

The Ode of Remembrance

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.

In what has become tradition for me... I repost the following:

I cry…

For the men and women who died, fighting for our Nation, for my freedom and the freedom of others…
For the mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters in the fight for Peace…
For the men and women who have lost their soul mate…
For the children, those who are left behind… and those who shall never come to be…
For the friends who are left with only memories…
For those who have no PEACE…
For those who forget what makes the sacrifice so meaningful...
For those who miss so many important moments of everyday life because they are fighting for justice... the first step, the first tooth, the first goal, the first school play…
For my country, for we have lost so many fine Canadians…
For those who died alone... and for those who are buried so far from home...
For those who confuse their opinions on war and the respect and appreciation owed for the sacrifice of our soldiers...
For those who have lost their brothers and sisters in arms and parts of themselves...
For those who will not take the time to remember…

For my father who gave me life and unconditional love... for him I shall work for Peace...

This is one of the best Remembrance tributes I have seen... and I've seen many.

God keep all the men and women who serve their countries safe. If you see a veteran or a member of the military on this day, remember to extend your hand in thanks. It's the least you can do.

For Ashley Caffrey who is deployed abroad, stay safe. You are loved.
For Matt Caffrey, who serves stateside and is raising a fine boy, thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This post is brought to you by the letter S and the number 40

For another birthday post, scroll down.

Once upon a time, a little girl in pigtails was lying on her stomach watching TV.

And the whole world opened up for her.

She improved her English... she even learned some Spanish. She learned big words, like Snuffleupagus and ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ (phonetically known as Abcedeckicheckelmonokwerstuweitsyz). She learned to love monsters (even the ones that say "Wubba Wubba"). She was encouraged to use her imagination. She learned to count with a Count. She learned her ABCs and that C stands for all sorts of Cool stuff like Cookies... and CAKE. She developed compassion because she found out that being green and different isn't always easy, but it can be beautiful.

And she made some forever friends.

To the fine people (and monsters...) on Sesame Street, thank you... and Happy 40th birthday!

You made mine and my daughter's childhoods most magical. You taught both of us to stand up, and sing... out loud! That we, all the kids who watched, mattered. We KNOW how to get to Sesame Street.

I'm sharing many clips with you... feel free to watch any you want. It's good to share, they taught me THAT too!



Being Green

The sillies are fun

The longest word *grin*

The Count and Cookie Monster bring you - cooperation, another great C word

Grover and Christopher talk about LOVE

"What kind of people can you love?" "Any kind."

Rest in Peace Mr Hooper (Will Lee), I still miss you. Kids learned it's ok to be sad... but when we remember, the people we love live on. And some things happen just because.

a celebration of beginnings... and remembrance

As we prepare for tomorrow's Remembrance Day (in Canada) and Veterans Day (in the U.S.) we roll out a CAKE in celebration of the United States Marine Corps, a fine institution serving proudly and with Honor since 1775.

Marines of the 28th Regiment of the 5th Division Raise the American Flag Atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, 1945
Joe Rosenthal ©The Associated Press

Thank you, Matt. It's a priviledge to know you.

On this, the anniversary of their beginning... I will take a few minutes to remember those who have fallen. For them, I truly believe it was not an ending, but the beginning of a new journey.

Semper Fi

For a truly wonderful post about The Marines, visit Travis... he has the spirit of those fine men and women down to a T

Monday, November 9, 2009

remembering... peace... freedom

It's been an emotional journey...

I've visited so many Peace Bloggers over the past few days. I'm still not done. The great thing about that is that it means that so many participated in this community effort for Peace.

For me, the BlogBlast for Peace was the first day in what is shaping up to be a very important and moving time.

On this day, in 1938, Germany was filled with fire and hate. It was one of the worst demonstrations of the hatred that can fill a human heart... hate that comes from fear and lack of understanding - Kristallnacht. It lasted two days... but it was one event in a long series of human tragedies.

Synagogues were destroyed, windows broken... shards of glass were everywhere.

I strongly encourage you to listen to Johanna (Gerechter) Neumann, a Holocaust survivor, as she shares her account of Kristallnacht. She was just a few years younger than my daughter is now. We can never forget what hate and fear can do.

"When we Jews talk about the Torah scrolls, this is the basis of our belief. This is the basis of our observance. This is the basis of our lives. This was thrown into the streets. It was torn up. It was desecrated by hordes of people who had absolutely lost all respect of any other people’s religion. It works itself right into the fact that you hate for the sake of hating, but you really don’t know why you are hating."
-Johanna Neumann, survivor

On this day, 20 years ago... the Berlin Wall gates were opened. And a divided people felt immense hope. A much happier anniversary.

I've gathered two videos... and cried buckets in the process.

The first one, gives you a portrait of what happened during the first year. It talks of the families that were separated, the people who were killed...

This one, is about it's fall...

I remember the joy of that day. I was 20 and full of "piss and vinegar" as my Dad used to say. I was going to change the world. I think I have, in a small way. I brought a wonderful child into the world, and that's one of the most positive things a human being can do.

The Human Spirit is stronger than the concrete of a wall, than it's steel reinforcements... The Human Spirit can overcome everything.

"The remembrance of Nov. 9, 1989, not to mention the remembrance of the horrific proceedings of the (Kristallnacht) pogrom on Nov. 9, 1938, unmistakably teaches us: Walls — whether real or in the heads and hearts of people — walls do not solve any problems."
— Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of Germany's Bishop's Conference.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dona Nobis Pacem

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched. You got to ride it like you find it. You got to change with it. If a day goes by that don't change some of your old notions for new ones, that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow.”
– Woody Guthrie

BlogBlast for Peace is finally here. Yay!

I’ve been struggling with this post (yes, me too Mimi). I’ve started about 5 different versions. This is because for one, I’m a procrastinator and when a procrastinator tries to go against her character and starts something too early… well, it gets complicated. The other reason is that a lot has happened in my life since the last BlogBlast of November 2008. I joined the ranks of the unemployed, I’ve had my share of illness, I lost my Dad… and through all this, I’ve been trying to find a new path to my Peace in this challenging year.

This BlogBlast finds me asking myself about My Peace… Where does it reside? There’s the obvious “All you need is Love” and “Peace begins with Me”, and they are both true. By loving those around me, by showing kindness to strangers, by offering a friend a comforting hug, by giving of my time at my Chicklet’s school, I send out a ripple into the world. Letting people know they matter. That someone cares.

Love and Understanding…

The losses I’ve lived through, struggled with in the past couple of years, prepared me for the past few weeks… That’s what life is, isn’t it? Woody was right. We change and grow.

I’m one of many, a bee, a part of The Hive.

The understanding reached and the beliefs that were forged during those challenges life threw at me prepared me to sit vigil with the woman who inspired this day. It allowed me to fulfill my part in her journey. Each bee in her hive had something to do, a specific task. Some bees, who had lost a parent or sat vigil themselves with a family member, shared their insight. Some bees, kept collecting the pollen and scouring the earth for new and undiscovered fields. The Hive hummed and buzzed. Friends came together.

So… My Peace…

“I'd rather have friends who care than friends who agree with me.”
– Arlo Guthrie

Arlo (Woody’s son and a fine troubadour in his own right) once said that accepting someone else’s opinion brings with it a “challenge to your own understanding”.

I like that… a challenge to your understanding. I’ve long held in my heart that if you can’t be bothered with finding out why people hold to certain beliefs, you’ll never achieve understanding… and you’ll never achieve Peace.

I recently read this quote:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
– Aristotle

It’s a statement that governs my life. Not that I tout myself as an “educated mind”... But this is why I have to pick things apart. So I can understand where people come from, what their reality is. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember.

I can’t walk away from differences… I need to understand. It’s the only path I know to acceptance, to Love and Understanding… to Peace.

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.”
- Harry S. Truman

In all these days I’ve been posting about Peace, I have never asked the question.

I mean, from what I see, with Peace Globes being crafted all throughout the Bloggosphere, and people marching for peace worldwide… and groups popping up everywhere on Facebook and iPeace and BloggerUnite…

Why is it that with what feels like the whole world asking for Peace, why are we not there yet?
How is this possible?
How can we look into a child’s eyes and not want Peace? And not FEEL Peace?!
What is keeping us from achieving what the clear majority of human beings on Earth seem to want?

I just don’t get it.

It would help if we knew why. I mean really… Because when you know what the obstacle is, you can overcome it. Understanding.

Recently, I accompanied my Chicklet as she embarks on her journey towards High School *sigh* HIGH SCHOOL!!! (um, excuse me, I need to take a moment and regroup… hug each other in the mean time… I’ll be right back…)

Ok… So, Chicklet goes off to do her thing while I sit in the same auditorium I used to sit in as a teenager, watching the plays the theatre group had put on, watching movies the school felt they wanted us young minds to experience… I sat there listening to the vice-principal tell us about the program we were, as families, considering for our precious children.

She talked about the values the program was based on.

One in particular stood out. Because lately, Peace is everywhere I look... like spooooooky… but in the best possible way.

It was about diversity, and about being able to come together and challenge our ideas and views and opinions.

She talked about how the children were encouraged to put on debates, to take positions, to listen to other people’s points of view… but that just walking away after each opinion was stated wasn’t where it would stop at the school.

As she said (or something like it - in French): “when you discuss, have multiple exchanges back and forth,… each time clarifying each position… at some point you just might find that both parties meet in the middle and come to a unified and slightly different point of view than each of them held in the very beginning. Sometimes, one person learns something knew, or gets a different angle about something and it affects their position. But even if nothing changes, at least they know each other a little more.”

“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
- Mark Twain

I participate in BlogBlast, because I believe in Peace. I participate because, like Mimi and my fellow Peace Bees, I believe in the power of words…. I believe that we might reach people through them. It’s not enough to preach to the choir. We need to reach the people who are skeptical about the feasibility of achieving Peace. We’re after a culture of Peace…
This means getting through to people who are pessimistic about Peace, who may have hatred and fear in their hearts, who are just cynical and refuse to join a movement that’s about Hope. We must get through to the people who have wrapped themselves in the “woobies” that are their opinions… because you don’t grow if you don’t challenge yourself and your beliefs. You end up stuck trying to milk a dead cow.

If we stop just because someone crosses their arms, we’ll have let Peace down… We’ll have let each other down.
Walking away is not an option. It just isn’t… Not if you care.
I can only imagine how many wars were sparked by someone leaving the discussion too early. To achieve Love and Understanding, we must be willing to stay and talk, even if it’s uncomfortable, even if we don’t agree.

When someone walks away, stay… wait for them to come back. Sometimes the wait is long… we are now taking up what was started by those who came before us.

Words matter. The words to this song were written by Woody Guthrie. He was one of the first artists to realize that music could be an agent for change. I was born on the anniversary of Woody’s passing.
As Arlo tells us in this video, his father never wrote down the music that went with the words and took it with him when he passed… it was up to Arlo to set his father’s words to music. Much like it was up to Mimi to take her Papa's marbles and start the BlogBlast for Peace.
I know you’ve already spent some time here reading my ramblings and I appreciate it (maybe you’re a masochist), and there are many Peace Bloggers and Bees to visit… but listening to Arlo is one of those gifts of Love and Understanding. I hope you’ll listen. If not now, maybe soon… we’ll wait.

Like Arlo says.. it’s about the little peace that’s in you that makes people happy to see you, the one that makes the dogs lick you and the babies smile…

I've included the lyrics, should you be in a kumbaya state of mind and feel the urge to sing along. *smile*

My Peace

My peace, my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you
My peace is all I ever had, that’s all I ever knew
I give my peace to green and black and red and white and blue
My peace, my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you.

My peace, my peace is all I’ve got and all I've ever known
My peace is worth a thousand times more than anything I own
I pass my peace around and about ‘cross hands of every hue;
My peace, my peace is all I've got that I can give to you.

Words by Woody Guthrie
Music by Arlo Guthrie