Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Taking time to Create

Hi there, it's Tuesday, time to tap my computer keys and create a blog.

I've been thankful for this weekly rhythm, and often reflect that this journalling and writing on-line is good discipline for me.  And if it touches someone's heart, or makes someone think or offers some encouragement, all the better!  Thank you for your comments and feedback whenever you are able - it is so very helpful!

Today's blog is about creativity and intentionality. 

I never considered myself much of an artist, but I knew I loved to create.  There were periods in my life where life was so full and intense that writing or creating was a pure luxury.

But those times also felt barren; it wasn't until I found myself in a creative space that some inner need was met.  There are a lot of ways to create!  I do love a blank sheet of paper and some wonderful pens;  wondering what will emerge.

I felt that way when I dabbled with pottery, there was something powerful about a lump of clay being shaped and formed into something beautiful, and often into something useful as well.  I thought about that last night as I served crackers on the leaf-shaped pottery dish I had made some years ago; what fun I had making plates imprinted with leaves!

It is worth saying again, if we are made in the image of God, the Creator, we all have the tools to create!  Some do it with incredible gardening, or creating beauty in their homes, or even in the food they prepare.  Everything around us has been formed and created, I look around and see my wonderful collection of books, containers for holding things, pictures that adorn my walls, greeting cards that sit on my shelf... hey, even someone created the desk I'm sitting at, and the very comfy chair and the stylish lamp that lights this space. 

Sometimes creativity is less tangible, like creating space with a smile, or helping someone to feel comfortable in their surroundings. Parents of little ones... grandparents too, can be very creative as they offer a safe and often fun environment for the children we love.  How I've enjoyed just colouring with our grandchildren, or exploring our world and observing Creation from their perspective.

Even for the very elderly or infirm, I've watched art, or simple colouring transform a person's world as they enter into a world of creativity.  Picasso said it so well: "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life".  He also said: "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."   
Perhaps that is where the intentionality comes in!  For me, part of self-care is taking time to write, to create, to enjoy our beautiful world and be inspired by it.  

Here's to a creative week - however that looks for you!

<3 Grace


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Seize the Day... and the Strawberries!

I had some time last Thursday and did one of my favourite things - visit our local Farmer's Market!

Strawberries were everywhere - tis the season!  When I was a girl, this was a big deal, strawberries were not available year round as they are now.  We live in plenty, and when we go to the grocery store, we have become accustomed to having most things accessible - most of the time.

But there is nothing like a strawberry picked fresh, in season; the taste is incredible.  I have a few plants in my garden, just enough for a taste.  It is delightful!

I picked this little handful last week, along with fresh lavender close by.

In my journal list I have written:  Pick lavender!  Every day if you can...!  In a few short weeks, this season is done, and it seems this time of year the seasons rush by, and if I don't take the time to savour it, it is gone.

During asparagus season we eat a lot of asparagus... but it takes planning to find local sources, to go to the market, and before you know it the season has passed by.

So last week, at the market, I splurged and bought a flat of strawberries... I knew that time would not allow me to go picking.  I froze a pile, and we have been eating them every day... on porridge, on yogurt, on icecream!  Tonight they might find their way into my salad.  So very yummy.

I have been working on a series "Quotes to live by", and thought about that old Latin saying:  Carpe Diem... Seize the Day!  So today I will pick some lavender (and hang it to dry), eat some strawberries, smell some roses, breathe in deeply some fresh air, and take time to gaze at the beauty around me.

Enjoy this precious day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ticks, Mosquitos and Rattlesnakes

You could say I'm ticked.

Actually, I try to write positive stuff, most of the time, but this topic just keeps surfacing for me, so I'll write about it and call it therapy.

I probably had you at rattlesnakes.  I'll admit right up front, I'm terrified of them, most any creature that slithers.  If a snake appears in a movie, I'll leave the room, and likely my heart will be pounding.  (As if it could pop out of the screen).  And I know I'm not alone.  It doesn't have to be a rattler, although I do find them awfully scary, and to boot, they are poisonous and live in our surroundings.  I don't care to think about this too much.

I realize for some this is not a big deal, but I know I'm not alone.  Years ago, when my kids were little, our cat brought a snake into the house.  It wasn't big, but it was one.  That was enough for me, and in terror, I fled upstairs, calling our very brave neighbour who knew no fear to come and rescue me.

She was such a good friend, and in no time I heard her laughing... the snake was quite dead. (the cat had taken care of that).. and I had nothing to fear.  She removed the creature, and I think she laughed all the way home.  Oh well...

A couple of years ago I was walking in my neighbourhood, going down the long stairs to the street below.  Some joggers bounced up and said... "Watch out for the snake!", and sure enough, just below us a large long snake, with rattler markings was stretched along the stair.  I still shiver to think I could have stepped on it.  But forewarned, we just watched him slither away... and I didn't use those stairs for a long time afterwards.

Recently I noted (Facebook News!) that there have been more rattlesnake sightings in our area, some along the wonderful Okanagan Trail we love to walk.  I wondered if I would be brave enough to keep walking there.  It helped to talk to a rather sensible friend who told me that if the rattlesnakes were stretched out full length, they could do no harm, it was just when they were coiled you had to stay your distance.  And the trail is wide... so beware of your surroundings!

So I'm trying to be brave... and beware.

Of course there are always pests to be aware of.  Lately, I've been aware of an invasive plant that can blind you if you touch it... yikes!... and it seems to be a bad year for mosquitos.  And then there are the ticks, which can carry disease... Ticks could use up another whole blog, but I'm not going to let them.

I had a conversation with some gals at the hospital lately, and said I had a few questions for God.  They were all ears... and had a few suggestions of their own.  Why did God make mosquitoes?  And what are the use of ticks?

And honestly I don't know the answers to these questions, although we did agree that mosquitos were good bat food... and bats are supposed to be good for something... :-)

It seems that our broken down world is affected by chemicals and air quality and pests, which can carry disease... we all need to be aware. Sometimes that is downright depressing.

So what is the point of this tongue in cheek dialogue?  Just had to get it out there I suppose!  Oh yes, I think it was therapy!

I do know a few things...

I do know I don't want fear to dominate my life and keep me from being outside.
I do know the sun comes up every morning, and the beautiful world we live in always surprises me with never-ending colour, variety, new life... it is a gift I delight in!
I do know it helps to laugh at myself...and a sense of humour goes a long way, whatever our fears.

Fear can be crippling.  I admire people who venture forth without a care, this is freedom!  Courage is not the absense of fear, but the acknowledgement of it and choosing to face it.  Nelson Mandala put it this way:  "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."  (I'm thinking this might be good advice for women too!!)

For whatever we face, those are good words!  

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Exploring the World of Dementia

A couple of months ago I was invited to a symposium on dementia, grateful to my denomination for their forward thinking in caring for this ever-increasing group in our population.

Being a baby-boomer myself, among many, we know that statistics tell us we are at risk, we are vulnerable, this could happen to us. 

My dear mom, who worked in a nursing home, and also cared for our gentle grandmother,  was afraid she would succumb to dementia.    Mom, who wasn't afraid of most things, feared the loss of her memory.  Perhaps that is why she and dad played games every night, she was determined to keep her mind active!  And when she died, five years ago, I was grateful her mind was sound to the end, grateful for our communication.

Because I know not everyone has that gift.

Our grandmother, mom's mom was a beautiful soul, and it was hard to watch her diminish with age.  I remember vividly my mom describing the night my grandmother lost it, it was a very stormy night, and she was trying to convince the staff in the nursing home she resided in. that her husband was out in that storm.  She was very determined to go out into the elements to find him.... even though he had been in heaven some ten years at that time.  The staff couldn't settle her... and finally called my mom to help.  Somehow they finally convinced Grandma to go to sleep, Grandpa was safe.  And indeed he was.

And yet Grandma had lucid moments, and I remember her telling me with regret that she wished she could have gone to heaven instead of my young husband.  The New Years after he died, she was 92, and I remember singing and praying in the New Year with our family. She sang with the rest of us, she knew all the words.   We didn't know she was entering her last months with us, and I cherish those moments.

These are my stories... and many of us have stories too.  Recently I was privileged to listen to a story of a patient in hospital, and she gave me permission to share a bit of it.  She, with a life-threatening illness was much more concerned about her husband, in one of the dementia units in our community.  She talked of him not knowing her much anymore, and her great love for him.  When I asked her how I could pray for her, she always said... please pray for my husband.

She was struggling with not being able to visit him daily, something she always did, helping him with his meals.  On many visits they shared this intimate moment where she sang to him a song "In a World of Your own!"  She would ask him... can I enter your world?  And as she sang, she honoured her husband, and was truly present.  What a gift!

There is much to learn about this world.  There were a number of things I gleaned from Dr. Gemma Jones who lead this workshop I was able to attend.  Dr. Jones is a leading educator on this subject.  One of the interesting things she shared is that dementia has four stages... and it is often in the earlier stages that people are the most frightened and confused.  It is a very difficult time for them, and for those who love them and live with them.

In later stages, their world diminishes... and according to Jones even their peripheral vision becomes much smaller.  She encouraged us who visit to wear bright clothing, and even bright lipstick so that the person can see you better, can follow your lips. 

Jones is part of the Alzheimer's Cafe moment, which started in Great Britain, offering safe and welcoming places for those with dementia, their families, caregivers and other professionals.  They are now offering these meetings in Vancouver, 

I am not an expert in this field, but am grateful for these resources. I have much to learn.  Jones encouraged me to share the information... and I'd love to see more public forums and discussions as we seek to better understand, have more compassion, and support the often fatigued care-givers, both at home, and those working with these precious people. 

This is a wonderful resource, I couldn't find it on Amazon, but you can find information about this resource here. And I do have a copy!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Exploring my World, unfiltered.

I set off on an early morning walk, this mid-spring which feels like summer.

I left my phone/camera behind, it was charging, and at 94% of full charge, felt it deserved the full 100.

Besides, I was inspired by this picture that I saw on the internet... an elderly lady, taking in the sites of the royal wedding party due to drive by... she was peering, radiant... this was a moment she had been waiting for.

All around her were faces, faces with cell phones.  All of them.  Except her... and she was the one who captured the scene with all of her senses.

I love to take pictures, so I get it... but sometimes, can I just take a break and see my world through an unfiltered lense?

And so the pictures I captured this morning are all in my mind...  as I walked the neighbourhood.

I saw a number of guys, work vehicles ready to go, gathering things, dressed in their work-stained clothes... a bob-cat operator who cheerily nodded at me, and I hoped he would stay cool through this warm day... another with a plumbing vehicle, loading up, and I wondered what problems he would solve this day... I thought of my own hubby, dressed in his paint-stained white, painting people's buildings; he left early to beat the heat.  These are precious folk, we need them in our world.

I looked at our neighbourhood yards... and wondered about the people who lived there.  There are the well manicured places, beautiful and tidy, and I'm always thinking either they are retired and have a great deal of time, or are well off and can afford some help!  Some people just love to garden, it is their world.

Others, and we would probably fall among them, have kept yards, but not perfect.  Busy lives don't always catch all the weeds, prolific at this time of year.  It is usually a work in progress.

And then there are the neglected yards, swaths of weeks mixed in with brave flowers making their way to the sun.  And before I get annoyed, I wonder... what is their life like?  So busy they can hardly breathe?  Are they the "sandwich" people, carrying for their elderly parents and their children?  Or has illness or difficulty taken up their time, and the yard is hardly a priority?

I think of my dear elderly friend, energetic and full of life in her prime, now grieving her husband and just living has its challenges.  He won't be teetering on their ladder pruning this year, a task she always worried about... I heard that recently a neighbour of hers came over and offered to mow her grass.  And even better, he brought over his little girl to visit with her while he completed the task.  How delightful... and that is what community should be all about.  Do I know my neighbour?

This is my world, my thoughts, unfiltered, on a beautiful spring morning in May.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Being the Noticer

Have you ever wondered what you miss by not noticing?

Some people are very good at this, they spot wildlife from a distance, they know what to watch for. Others know the world of flowers and plants and even insects. They have a unique awareness that is honed and comes with a curious mind.

The world around us is always full of things to observe, of beauty to drink in, even of comic delight.

Yesterday I left my to-do-list at the urging of my hubby and we had a lovely day trip in our own back yard, in the lovely Okanagan. There will always be dust, paperwork, and the endless weeds, although I’m very grateful for my friend Violet who helps me keep those at bay.

Keeping the critters who want to share the garden with us is another whole subject, and we notice the footprints, the nibbles, and other unmentionables and wonder... who was here??

The other day I was leaving the hospital and heard the words... Lady, lady!  I paid no mind, I was on my way, in a hurry, on to the next thing.

But he persisted and I turned around. “I noticed the books you are carrying “, he said, “are you the chaplain?”

I confessed to being the same and took a few moments to talk, making an appointment for when I had more time to really listen.

He was paying attention, I was rather lost in my own world when he called me...and it reminded me again to pay attention.

Sometimes we pay attention to the wrong things. We joke about this in our house... I notice the “mess” long before my hubby does... and although having a clean and tidy house does have its virtues, it is the living and loving that is far more important.

So here is a photo collection of my last few days of noticing, and you will notice, there are no pictures of dust!!

Aren't these spectacular? Could anyone tell me what kind of flower they are?

These giant irises were giving out their last moments of glory before fading.  Glad to capture their beauty.

This ground squirrel provided us with comic relief and joined us on our picnic.

A beautiful boat we spied between the trees.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Mountain Top Experience - Living in the Valley

There is something so majestic about mountains.  We travelled home through my old dwelling place of Agassiz the other day, and as we drove into the valley we are greeted with this...

Mt. Cheam always moves me, and I gazed upon the beauty.  We stopped the car and I took pictures, wanting to capture the moment.  It was a beautiful day.

This is a mountain that captured my imagination as a child, it was the mountain that was the sentinel of our village in Harrison Hot springs, growing up, always there in the distance.

When I was fifteen I climbed this mountain, and it was a crazy day.  Our youth group ignored any easy way up and climbed on the face-side, 12 miles up from the bottom.  It was a hard climb.  When we finally stepped over the loose shale that formed the peak, reaching the top, we had only minutes to enjoy our mountain top experience.  It was exhilarating and I will never forget it. I think of it every time I see this mountain.

My dad also loved this mountain, but found a much easier path... up the back side, with logging roads part-way up.  He and mother and a host of other travellers climbed this mountain year after year. 

A few weeks after I climbed this mountain I was diagnosed with a very low thyroid, and low blood sugar.  Looking back I could understand why coming down from that mountain was so excruciatingly hard, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  I was exhausted for days.  And perhaps because of this, I have never desired to go again.

I think of the mountain top experiences of my life... and of the valleys.  There is that gospel country song by Lynda Randle speaks of this:
"for the God on the mountain, is still God in the valley...
the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times
the God of the day, is still God in the night."  

I find that often after a "high" moment in my life, I can crash... and know I can't sustain mountain top living.  Rather I find God in the ordinary, the everyday.  It is often in the hard times, the valley, that I learn the most.

When my first husband died, we buried him in a lovely cemetery in Hope, ironically called Mountain View Cemetery.  It seemed appropriate to me that he would have a resting place there, in the shadow of Mt. Cheam.  We had lived most of our lives close to this mountain, and experienced mountain top experiences as well as deep places of learning and shadows and grief. 

So I looked to this mountain again on Saturday, and remembered.  My soul is always stirred, and I come to these favourite words from Psalm 121: "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." 

This is sustaining help, full of grace, and it fills me with hope.