Loading Quotes...

BACK to front

Anyone who has ever worked on a project, organized an event, or planned a trip, will know what it means to work from the end position, to start with the deadline, working back to the start.  It gives you a sense of what is needed in order to achieve the result.  It helps you plan how much of your time to devote to the project, each day, week, or month.  You can look at the overall timing and at the measures of accomplishment along the way. You can visualize the ‘big picture’ and then break down the project into smaller more manageable chunks, with milestones and success markers along the path; looking long makes it look less overwhelming.

What if we did that with our children?  What if we looked down the road twenty years, at the adult destined for greatness, whole and heading out? What if we saw the big picture, a vision of what is possible, and then did everything we could to help them ‘become’.  What if we changed how we raised them up?

Having a vision helps keep you on your path, heading in a forward direction. Decision-making is simplified, “if it doesn’t match the vision, then it doesn’t get incorporated into the project.” What if we had a vision for the kind of parent we wanted to be and kind of child we wanted to help raise, it makes sense to me that we could plan for that. With the end in mind, we could focus less on the details, and on what matters more.

We could look past the dirt and the stitches, knowing that the adventurer was already on his path.  We could look past the mismatched clothing and odd socks and know the designer was finding her way.

We could help her feel good in her own skin with positive ‘body’ messages, worry less about the outside, and more about the inside, move the mirror and raise the bar.

We could help him become strong and healthy; provide fresh and hand-made food, take him to dance, to hockey, to yoga.  We could get out of his way so he could go the distance.

We could help her fear less and live large; avoid apprehension and add a map, do more and have less, help her wonder and wander, clear the path instead of building more walls.

We could help him create more; introduce music and magic, say yes more than no, be open to what he sees, help him believe and share his art.   We would mean it when we say, “be whoever you want to be”, even if it’s not what we had in mind.

We could help her stay safe, introduce her to her own voice, the one that hears the message that she can’t ignore, teach her where her strength comes from, how to trust, where to find support.

We could help him be of service, provide opportunities, open doors, find a road less traveled, help him share his gifts with grace. We could help her mediate through madness, share her spirit, find her faith, walk with peace.

If we worked toward helping them get there, we could stay focused on the end game.  Worry less about how they look or what others may think.  We could understand how they feel and what moves them to be who they are. We could provide the microscope they want instead of the books we think they should read.  We could bring a bike home instead of a movie, give them paintbrushes instead of hairbrushes, and know that the video game she is creating moves her mind when she’s in her chair. We could see them for who they are becoming, instead of who we dreamed they might become.

We could help them monitor the progress, face the challenges and track results along the way.   We could acknowledge the milestones and celebrate the successes, changing course as needed. Our children could be the designers, and we could help manage the project; let them own their own journey.  We could stay true to the vision, offer up resources, tools and support.  We could help them face the challenges, and they could solve their own problems.

How about we plan for AMAZING, make it possible to dream, offer up a safe place to land and get out of their way.

hindsight is 20 20 -post, Isabella-5793

Photography credit: Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

The times they are a CHANGING

No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but you can be fairly certain, it will not look like today.  Somewhere it will be different, and if not tomorrow, then next week, or next month. You can count on it, bet money on it, be sure of it; change is coming, and it is coming fast.

We live in a fast-paced world, a world that is spinning, often out of control.  People are constantly making a move, leaving home, their jobs, their city, their relationship, their country.  Some are checking out, going off the ‘grid’, in a world that is in a constant state of flux.  Technology, science, design, farming, music, it’s all progressing, moving ahead. We can no longer ignore what is going on globally, because we are so connected to the news of the day. Wired for witnessing, we cannot help but see and hear all the change that surrounds us. Even if we choose to unplug from the machine, so many others are tuned in, you cannot catch your breath before hearing the next and then the next piece of information, it’s unavoidable.

In many ways, it’s a good thing – disasters happen and before you can charge your phone, the aid relief ‘asks’ are coming and people are responding, faster than ever.  We are all part of the human experience, we feel ‘their’ pain as ‘our’ pain and we want to be part of the solution.  We are a mobile planet, moving fast and furious and before you know it, there is a remake, a new version of everything; your phone, your cereal, your computer, your favourite classic movie, the app you love, airport security, the time management system you use – new, improved, faster, and necessary.  Families break away, people die, whole forests are destroyed, whole cities are brought to the ground, in minutes.   It can all be a bit overwhelming.

One of the most important skills we can teach our children is to ‘ADAPT’, to learn the ability to go with the flow, a flow that is forever moving and constantly changing shape, to swim with the tide, not against it.  It’s important to not become ‘attached’ to one way of thinking or doing, to what we know or believe, to what seems concrete and immovable today, to what seems certain.  As soon as you think you have it figured out, it is different or gone; time does not stand still.

We can teach them to become less accustomed to the status quo and more accustomed to being flexible, to being open, to what comes next, to what we cannot control.  We can look at change as a ‘possibility’ an opportunity, something to be at least curious about if not embraced.  We can get ‘unstuck’ from how we ‘think it should be’ and open up to what it could be, what it might be?  We can lean into change just a little and rather than see it as a positive or a negative, see it simply as change.  We can stop trying to figure it out, to analyze it, judge it or overcome it. Rather than be rigid, we can be more fluid, able to change direction, to walk a slightly altered path, to see with more than our eyes, to trust our own compass when we don’t yet have the map.

If we learn to accept and even embrace change, perhaps we can fear less, step more lightly into the next place, take the next turn with less trepidation, feel more confident, less hesitant, worry less and welcome more.   In his last days, my father in law told me “resistance is what makes things hard; acceptance paves a path to grace”.  So why not try to ease in, get comfortable with the changes and pave the way, wade in and ride the wave, rather than swim upstream.  We can wander along with it rather than be run over by it.  It can be a gentle rolling hill instead of a mountain that needs scaling.  Soften the edges around what feels hard about change and if you can’t open the door, at least crack open the window, at the very least, open the curtains.

The bottom line is whether you are ready or not, willing or not, able or not, prepared or not, change is coming.  We so often fear what we don’t know or understand.  Ask more questions, get more informed – understanding breeds wisdom.  If  what you don’t know or understand scares you, find out more.  If you don’t like what you see, change the lens through which you view it.  And in the end, once you have gathered what you know, if you are convinced that this change is not for you, if ultimately you cannot accept or adapt to the change coming your way, then make your own change, or as Gandhi  said “be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Rise up, turn the tide, champion your own revolution, transform what is coming, move it in another direction.  Nothing remains static; our lives are alive, large and looming.  Change or be changed.  Discover what works for you and yours, and find a way to teach your children the truth –  that nothing is certain except this PRESENT moment; everything else can and will change.

 

adapting, May 17th -Morocco-5259

Photo credit: Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

 

We are all MOTHERS

All women are mothers; not all give birth, not all are able, not all want to. Some have not seen their own child in years, some have lost them, some are searching, and some have said goodbye.   Some have healed, some have moved on, some have left this lifetime, some live in hope, all are mothers.

Being a woman, means you are a mother.  We are connected to the planet, to the air and the ocean, to the land and the living, like no other.  We are born with hearts that are open, with a hardwired sense of nurture, whether it is giving birth or giving love, providing a hand or providing a home.   We read stories, we share time and space, and we participate in the ‘mothering’ of all.  We call out to them when we see danger, we share food when they are hungry, dress their wounds and heal their hearts.  We include them in our lives, in our space, in our memories.  We cannot pass a child, without smiling at those who are happy, without aching for those who are sad; we wish them well when they are ailing, and feel their pain as though our own.

We are all raising children.  We may not share their name, their home, or their story, but we are all a part of the planet’s young.  We have cleared a path so they can walk, we have shone a light so they can see, we have held them close, if only in our thoughts.  It makes no difference to us, how or why they are, whether they are ours through blood or through belonging, through circumstance, or happenstance.  We are all connected to Mother earth and to our Earth mothers.  Our presence on the planet is a gift and I for one am grateful, to a global village of women for making a difference in the lives of all children; for those who have raised them and those who have raised them up.

OPEN Door Policy

In the 80’s in corporate Toronto, the company I worked for introduced a strategy that would allow the management team to engage more with our staff; we were encouraged to adopt ‘an open door’ policy.  It was believed that by opening the doors to our offices, we were indeed opening up the lines of communication, encouraging people to come in through those doors, to participate in conversation, share ideas, and to feel more connected. For me, this was an easy one… I had staff that reported to me, but no office and no door, and I worked in a cubicle that was open to all, so anyone and everyone could wander in and I welcomed their visit.

Life has not changed much for me, at least, in terms of the door.  I left the corporate world behind a very long time ago, and my home is now my office, but my ‘open door’ policy has never changed.  In fact, my door has at times, not only been open, it’s been off its hinges. I do however, recognize, that there are times when we must keep our door, not only closed, but locked.  We rely on our space to be a ‘safe place to land’ and that safety comes with the ability to shut others out and to find a way to stay within our own walls and our own psyche, so that we can survive, regroup, relax, turn off, or even heal. But for all those other times, when we are feeling strong and safe, and we have the room to let others in, I would encourage you to open the door, and to open it wide.

We have been receiving invited guests, neighbours, travelers, students, loved ones, and even a few strangers into our home and our hearts, for as long as I can remember.  Over the years, we have opened our arms and welcomed many to our table, to lay down their head, and to celebrate with us. And while our visitors have relayed the benefits to us, I would argue that our harvest has been so much greater.

By opening our doors along with our hearts and our minds, we have enjoyed so many wonderful conversations and shared stories and been able to learn and grow from our connections to ‘community’.  These times have helped us widen our perspective and experience new viewpoints and we have learned so much and so ‘different’ by leaning into what others have to say.  Holding time and space with others has heightened our sense of belonging, our trust in what it is to be human and our understanding that we are all in this together, no one is ever really alone, and we are not so very different.  It has increased our awareness of the lives that others lead, of the goodness there is in gathering, and we have been part of the most personal and private of times, loaning shoulders and hammocks as needed.

While I have enjoyed everything about keeping our door open, what has been the best part for me is the love that has floated through our space, has landed in our laps, and has stayed long past the visit.  So while I understand and appreciate what it is to have time alone, to have private space, and to enjoy your solitude, I would encourage you to invite others in, and to remain ‘open’ to the possibility and to know that we are absolutely connected to each and every person, inside and outside of these walls.

open door policy stars imagePhotography credit: Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

 

Cause for CELEBRATION

Let us face it; most of us are living an ordinary life.  We are born, we die, and in between, we live… a fairly ordinary life.

We grow up; go to school, work, and rest.  We have relationships, pay bills, travel, share meals, make money, handle hardships, play, travel, endure tragedy, learn, and grow old. Our journeys and circumstances are all somewhat different; some see more joy, more blessings, more happiness while others find more tragedy, fight harder battles, endure more heartache.  In a few short years, less than one hundred, it’s all over and we are gone from this lifetime.

One of the antidotes to living an ordinary life is in creating extraordinary moments, in ‘celebration’.  I believe it is essential, should happen often and be shared with many.  I am not talking about being joyful, or being present, or enjoying time spent alone, these are also important.  I am talking about sharing food, space, music, love, and memories – with others. And I don’t just mean the big stuff, we are all good at celebrating the big stuff; birth, graduation, birthdays, anniversaries, a new house, holidays, a new job, new baby, and a life well lived.  I am talking about all the things that happen on the other days, before and after the big stuff.  Celebrating takes you out of the mundane and the everyday and turns your focus and your attention to what is good, what is joyful and often, what is fleeting and important.

In Scotland, a ‘Ceilidh’ is a traditional Gaelic social gathering that includes Scottish folk music, singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling. It is a celebration and a source of joy and to this day, folks can be found near and far, ‘having a ceilidh’ whenever there is something to celebrate – we chose this same name for our daughter, to celebrate her birth and our love.  We spend much of our days doing what we must, in order to feed and care for others, to provide what is essential and often material, to our existence.  We are ‘busy’ being human doings, and checking off the boxes on ‘to do’ lists, and trying valiantly to ‘get it all done’.  Spend some time with those who are dying, and ask them what matters, how they would spend their time over again, and you will find out what I did; that what matters is the people; being with them, spending time together, and making memories.

So, how about adding this to your ‘to do’ list’, find something to celebrate!  There are so many things to celebrate – a new haircut, garden’s first harvest, the tide coming in, the sun rising, Spring, learning a new skill, a great recipe, a new song on the guitar, seeing an old friend, completing the renovation, helping someone out, meeting a new neighbour, finishing a course, catching a fish, building a fence , mastering a dance move, running a personal best, finally finishing the laundry, finding a new flavor of ice cream, cleaning out the garage, renewing your passport, completing your taxes, watching a child’s first steps, being cancer free, finding peace.

Start planning your next celebration…..if not now, WHEN?

Celebration - April 12th, 2015

Photography credit:  Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

 

Yours, Mine, OURS

Who decided that accumulation of the ‘most’ wins.  What if our success was measured by having the least amount of stuff, rather than the max.  What if we considered it a triumph to have the smallest home on the block instead of the largest.  What if owning was less cool than loaning. What if that childhood lesson in sharing stayed with us. What if you took only what you actually need and shared everything you already have.  What if ‘community’ were the currency that people banked, instead of money.

I have often wondered about the concept of ‘owning’ and the fact that we like to attach to things, to call them ‘mine’, to identify items by their belonging.  We focus on how much we have as though the more we acquire, the more we have achieved and the more significant our lives. And while many might argue that ownership brings with it a sense of pride, the feeling that we have somehow done it right and done it well, I think it also breeds a different kind of feeling; a feeling of lack that leads to a comparison between scarcity and abundance, a place of envy and greed, where ‘enough’ is never really ‘enough’.

What happens to all this ‘stuff’ we acquire is that we become emotional about it,  we want more or better or bigger; we are only ever temporarily satisfied. The more something costs or the more difficult it is to attain, the more tightly we hold on; our grip is in direct proportion to what it took to finally get it and own it. The tighter the grip, the harder it is to soften your hold, and to offer that item up for others, to share, to enjoy, to borrow, to hold, to have, or to keep.  Rather than recognizing it for what it is, a ‘thing’, we attach emotion to it. The closer we bring it to us, the further from others it becomes; we become guarded and reluctant to share it; we feel the need to keep it near.  We fear what might happen if we take it out of our sight and out of our space.  We think about the hard-earned money that it took to acquire it, and that we deserve to have it.  We longed for it, then worked hard to get it and now we work even harder to keep it.

If we were more honest with ourselves, many of us might admit that we already have everything we need, and so much more.  What if we had a shift in thinking, and loosened our grip.   What if we started to consider everything as belonging to all, part of a larger community of things, and freed ourselves of the attachment, and the longing.  Perhaps if we focused on need instead of want, we could let more of what we have go; to those who need it,  who are living with less or living with different, who might benefit from it now , who could return it to us later.

What if we simply found a way to fill their need with what we have, knowing it might make something easier for someone else, saving them time, money, energy.    What if we gave away more than we gathered, fought the feeling and found the freedom of loaning what is ours, rather than owning what is mine.   Imagine what we could accomplish if we pooled our resources, and made as much as possible, communal.  We could share much more than the community rink, the neighbourhood swimming pool, and the city bike path.

What if we then extended our understanding and our willingness to share, beyond our table and our townhouse, knowing that no man is an island and all life is connected. We could move beyond those who share our bloodline and our border and begin to see everything as ‘ours’ and nothing as ‘mine’ or ‘yours’.   We wouldn’t need to make the beach private, buy an island, own a mountain, or restrict airspace. We could leave the shells on the beach, the wood in the forest, the art in the gallery, and we could learn to hold something without having it and to share our gifts with grace.

Yours Mine OURS March 29 post

Photography credit: Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

 

Fact or FICTION

We are all a product of the messages we hear, the information we take in, the underlying tale.  We learn from others ”don’t go to the edge, save your money, the world is tough, you are great with animals, people cannot be trusted,  you should go to university, we are not as rich as they are, you are so talented, acting is not a real job, you look unwell, it’s dangerous to travel, you need to be thinner, you are not good at math , you are beautiful, it’s a dog eat dog world, first is best, God is good.”

And for the most part, their messages come from a place of love, they want to save us from ourselves, and while they don’t mean to stand in our way, they don’t realize that the words stick, we start to believe them. The more that that they are heard, the truer they sound; we begin to trust that their truth is ours.  And when it is not them, it is television, Facebook, magazines, music lyrics, and movies.  Powerful stories are told about the state of the world, the worst of humankind, why the best is being offered, today, on special, just for you.   We tend to believe what is said, what is written, what is on the screen.  And then we take what we are told, what we hear, what we believe, and we begin to write our own story, based on facts that could actually be fictional. What you hear is not necessarily THE truth; it is the storyteller’s version of THEIR truth.

And, the story you are now sharing with the world, your truth or someone else’s? That tale you are telling yourself, is it really yours or have you just been repeating it for so long, that even you have started to believe it.  The great and wonderful thing about being an author, of your own story and your own life, is that you can make edits, change direction, create a new ending, tell a different story all together.  You are in charge of the words, the actions, the plot and in many cases, even the ending.  And even if you can’t change all the facts, you can decide how they are delivered, in upper or lower case letters, in a quiet short story or in movie format on a much larger screen.  And while you can’t control how it is interpreted, you can decide if the version you are currently telling is fact or fiction, the truth or a version of it, worth sharing, a bestseller, or something you prefer to hide on the back shelf.  You can be a ghostwriter, never revealing who you are, or you can write an autobiography, full of details and facts, a history that cannot be altered.  It is in fact yours to tell, so perhaps the first thing to do is check the information you are about to include in the ‘story of your life’.  Check the research, make sure it is real, true, factual, or at least represents the story you are willing to share with the world.   Decide how to present it, what it looks like, how the cover will be designed, how the content will read, what the ending might look like. It is completely 100% up to you what you write, how much you tell, and how honest you want to be, how little you want to reveal.  Put it out there and let the reader decide how it is heard, you are only in charge of how it is told.

Once you have had a chance to sift through what is coming in and to apply your own filter to what is going out, now you need to check yourself, when you start to judge others, and think you know their story.  What you are hearing from others, interpreting to suit your vision of reality, are you sure that it’s real, are you really seeing them and knowing them, or are you judging them by the cover, looking at what’s in front without reaching in a little further.  Start looking a little harder, start reading between the lines.  What we see is not only what is in front of us but also what is in our mind’s eye, and what ‘they’ want us to see; you do not know their truth, it may look like fact and be a clever piece of fiction.

That beautiful girl next to you at the market, is hiding her secret, behind the latest fashion, and a face full of fresh, she goes home to an empty room and an empty heart.  That man you so admire for his prowess at work, and his endearing smile, hides insecurity and falsehoods, old hurt behind a new suit.  That girlfriend, who reads like a success story, is hiding her fears and her downfall.  That child, who is running in the park, is fighting a losing battle with illness.  That doctor was last in his class, that taxi driver is keeping seven people fed, and that woman who isn’t at the meeting, does care about the cause, but is too busy caring for her dying father.

Assume nothing, question everything, listen loudly, speak softly, believe some of what you see, tell only what you can, be the author as well as the storyteller.

 

Morocco-5382 - Fact or FICTION

 

Photography credit:  Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

Life after DEATH

What if time were not on your side? What if you were running out of months, weeks days?  What if your number was up, and you were not long for the planet?  Would you reflect and regret, wish for something different; to have seen more, done more, been more? Would you have wanted to live a different truth?

Many are currently quietly fighting battles for which there is no victory, other than peace.  Many are living lives that are not full but diminished by illness or by suffering.  Some have been told of their fate, some are waiting on the news, still others have no idea what is coming.  Some have embraced it as a gift, learning and living more in their last days than all the days before, some are resigned, some have accepted, many are walking a path of grace.

For anyone who has this day and perhaps more in store, we may want to take a look at the life we are living, and use this precious time, to do what we need to do – live the life we were are meant to live.

Years ago, I participated in an exercise that changed things for me. I was in my early twenties, lots of time, plenty of promise.  I was asked to write my obituary, not an easy task; to imagine that day, that final day, and what my life might represent as I faced my end.  The idea was to imagine the life you want to live, and to write down how you might like to be remembered, what legacy you would leave, what contribution to the world you would make along the journey.  Then, once you had written it, and were happy with this life you led, the idea was to go out and live it; by looking forward and reaching back, you could pave the way.

At some point, it will be too late to go back, to do or undo.  Time and space, and age and health will determine what we are able, no matter what we dream.  Perhaps today, if you are in good health and have a vibrant spirit, you can live the life you imagine, long before the story is written about you, you can actually WRITE your own story, starting now.

And while the journey is often filled with challenge, for the most part, we stand in our own way.  We doubt that we are able, believe we not worthy, talk ourselves out of what is possible, and into what is probable.  We pile our reasons high enough to cast a shadow on our dreams, and we walk a path that is most traveled, fearing what we don’t know, can’t imagine, are not sure of.  We leave it all for later, believe there will be another time, when we are more comfortable, better suited, have enough money, time, energy, inspiration; when it feels right.

Well, time is running out, whether you know it, believe it, or acknowledge it. Every day, the chance to live the life, YOUR life, the one you are meant to live, is slipping away.  It is not about how much you accomplish or earn, where you travel, what you own, the degrees or accolades you accumulate, how many know your face, listen to you talk, or show up at the end to wish you well.  It’s about living the life, you and only you were meant to live, the real and authentic one that was gifted to you at birth.  It is not about proving you lived a big life, a great life, a loud life; it’s about knowing you lived the right life, the right life for you.

For me, many years have passed and I have now lived on the planet longer than I will remain.  My obituary has changed with me and with time and it now simply reads, “I walked this earth. I tread lightly. I loved deeply.”

Life After Death-5326

Photography credit: Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

Fast FORWARD

What is it about the future that we are convinced will be better than now, than this very moment? Why are we always reaching beyond our grasp; do we imagine the future is more hopeful, holds more promise or more possibility? Do we realize that all of those future moments that we once wished upon, have already come and gone and have been our present, and become our past; today is last week’s future. Is it what you dreamed?

On Monday morning, the news shows are already predicting the upcoming weekend weather. By Wednesday, friends are sharing their plans, wishing the remaining three days away until Saturday arrives; living for what is yet to come. In our most difficult times we can be heard saying “as soon as this is over” or “I just have to get through this” or we can hear ourselves lamenting, “I need a break, need to get away, need a vacation”. For many, their happy place is in the distance; a cool calm forest, a warm beach, a sun filled destination. It’s a place where they can relax, a future with no deadlines, no worries, a sense of calm, a place of peace, a sigh of relief. It’s as though there is a place in that future moment where they can create some space, catch their breath, find a moment for themselves, where they can think beyond their present thoughts, put it all together, where there will be more quiet, more calm, less to concern themselves with.

The problem with this thinking is that we are never able to find refuge in the present, that future moment becomes the next present moment, and once again we are looking forward, into a future moment. What we need to understand is that it’s not a place to get to; it’s a place to be. We can find that quiet place, anytime we want to, it’s within us, and it’s always available. We have to trust that when we need it most, it will appear. We can call it up and take a moment, separate ourselves from what’ is going on outside of us, and go within. What if we learned to stop what we are doing, for the moment, to simply close our eyes ,unplug, turn off, shut down, if only for a moment. What if we could turn inward, find that destination inside ourselves; we could travel there, anytime we need a safe and still place to be, to hide, to stay. What if we carved out own sun filled destination, a place of peace in the present rather than in a dream of the future. What if instead of waiting for a Saturday stroll, we pulled the car over on the way home today, walked the beach or the trail this afternoon, or simply sat by the edge of the park right now. What if we didn’t wait to get through it, but found a way to be in it, to surrender to it, to live it and to add some calm right now, in this moment, where we are. What if we didn’t wish it away but wished instead for courage, strength and grace in the moment, took a breath or a few and then moved forward. What if we understood that all we truly have is this very moment, and that we can determine how that moment is spent, and that living for a future moment last week or yesterday, brought us here to this one, right now, this is that future, right now, where we are standing, the one we were thinking about, dreaming of, wishing for, not so long ago.

The problem with waiting to get through something or over something or for things to slow down, change, get better or get different is that it may be a very long time before any of that happens. And even with change, the next thing that’s just around the corner may be harder, sadder, even more difficult. So, we find ourselves in ‘waiting and wishing’ mode. And in the meantime, we are no longer in the moment, nor are we able to summon what we need in that moment; asylum, shelter, grace.

If we could just breathe a little longer, stand still in our own shadow, quietly, not thinking about the next thing, but being in this thing, if only for a short time, it might be enough. We might learn to summon it anytime; to get good at it, find a way to have it on tap, close by, within earshot and heartshot and we could call it up. We could start to string these ’being present’ moments together; allowing us to live today without wishing for another.  Then the weekend might not be what we need in order to escape what we have, but would in fact be,  just the present moment, once it arrived.  Perhaps then, we could embrace a future that no longer holds any power, and instead holds only promise.

Future - Feb 15th -USA_RT-3468Photo credit:  Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)

 

The Measure of a Man

What if you didn’t open the report card? What if instead, you relied upon their actions, on what you see before you, on what you know to be true? Would you know how your child is doing in school, at home, in life, in the world?

We need school teachers;  those who lift us up from where we are lying, who impart information and wisdom , who cause a shift in perspective, who teach us what we need to know and what we don’t want to hear.  We need teachers who reach out to a part of us that is inaccessible, hardened to the news, who cause us to open, to awaken, to move onward.

I am not convinced, however, that we need the report cards.

I never quite understood why report cards are so valued, considered so important.  Dreaded by many who don’t want to disappoint parents, report cards reflect if you are on par, how much effort has been made, how smart you are, how far you have come, what’s needed in order to ‘improve’. They reflect how you measure up, if you are like the rest, on track; ready for moving up or moving on. Celebrated by those who hold the highest letter grade, the best report cards somehow show you have learned it well, are smarter than the rest, better in some way, achieved, ready for the next phase.  Report cards are meant to show and measure progress.

When our children were small, I didn’t need a report card to tell me what they knew or how they were progressing.  I knew that our daughter understood the story we were reading, the message in the movie, how to measure wet and dry ingredients for baking cookies.  I recognized that one son couldn’t put the letters or sounds together, that he understood the concept of equality and justice, and that his frustration was difficult to manage but would later be seen as a sign of strength.  We knew that our other son who hardly spoke, knew the words, but was selective; preferring to say only what was meaningful, which meant being quiet much of the time.  We knew they could write because they created ‘thank you’ cards when appropriate, found the right groceries on the shelves, and recognized their name on the gift.  We knew they understood math, when they saw their height on the door frame, ran out of extra money, knew what time it was when the sun went down.  They could read numbers from delivering newspapers, understood train timetables from traveling, and discovered that one pair doesn’t last when you are away for a whole month.  We knew they understood; the value of friendship, what World War II meant to their grandfather, how to be compassionate when a sibling was in a cast.  They learned about sharing at the dinner table, about abundance from the garden, about scarcity from the food bank, about animals from watching pets live and die.  They figured out what it means to be first in line, last in the race, and the middle child.  They figured out what bullying is, what kindness is, what sorrow is.  They knew how to make a muffin, make a mess, make a difference. They learned about the world from going there, about science from building and biking.  They figured out what to wear by putting their hands out the window and their feet in the puddle.  They found out about honesty when things went missing, about love when someone died, about commitment when the team wasn’t winning.  They learned about sharing when they were hungry, about fear at the top of the slide, about physics while riding a skateboard. They understood that they grew taller with time, more knowing with experience, more enlightened as they opened up.

What I believe might be a more accurate measure of who our children are, is the way in which they walk their journey, interact with those with whom they share the road, and what they offer up to others along the way.

My thought is that we keep the teachers and throw away the report cards.  That we replace the reports with rapport, with a conversation that is meaningful, with an open and honest look at the progress of a person.  I don’t remember what my children’s grades were in grade seven English, Math or Geography. But I know they write me beautiful messages, can cook with the right amount of curry, and know exactly in what part of the world, their next plane is landing.  I know they walk a gentle and meaningful path in this world, are heart centred and spirit fed, and they measure their own worth, without input or grades but by sentiment and service. They are lifelong learners, figuring out what matters most, what’s worthy of their time, what no longer serves them; they are making their mark.

Boy on Shoulders

Photo credit: Andrew Chambers Photography (andrew.chambers@live.ca)