Monday, July 24, 2017

There But for the Grace of God Go I

Spiritual Awakening is what Brenè Brown calls a nervous or mental breakdown or at least her therapist does. Brenè actually jokes about this term. However, I see truth in it and knows that she does as well.

There but for the grace of God go I. This reemerges in my life over and over again and I am so grateful to have experienced it yet again.

Who am I to judge someone else’s pain? No one. It seems to me, as a whole, that North Americans, are awful at truly dealing with another’s pain and so I continue to work at being present with anyone I love or anyone who steps onto my path that is in pain. I am continually reminded not to rescue but to be available and useful, of service so to speak, just as people have been present and of service for me.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Brenè Brown speaks to vulnerability and this crucial way of being in The Gift of Imperfection, a book that has played a key role in my life. Her first TED Talk was the 3rd talk I had ever seen. It resonated so deeply and after 7 years, still does. I have experienced and want to keep having joy in my life and so I too have to deal with the messiness of life and know that at the core of “vulnerability is shame and fear and our struggle with worthiness but it appears that it is also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love”... (B. Brown)

This summer as I reconnect with so many people that currently seem to be on the sidelines of my life, Brenè’s talk found its way back too.

Thank you Brenè.

There but for the grace of God go I.

~ Ellyn

Monday, July 10, 2017

Showering Jenna...

Change is inevitable. It happens. And, it is a good thing. It may be upsetting, disappointing, sad, and at its worst, devastating, which by the way it rarely is. When in the midst of what we think is awful and unfair, it feels devastating and then just like that it is over and we remain complete, not irreparable, devastated. Without judgment, I have accepted that change quite simply, just is.

And so it was my privilege and pleasure to open up my yard to a group of neighbourhood women, most of whom I first met as girlies, so that they could shower their friend in love and good wishes before she marries one of her soulmates. For me, it was easy and wonderful but for the bride, some stress surrounded the event. Outwardly, she handled it in the way that she handles all things, with ease and grace… 

The bride and bridesmaids
Jenna & Friends
The history of showers for a new bride dates back to the 16th century and was an alternative to the dowry system. Without offending anyone, in 2017, it needs to be changed. It would seem that for many people getting married, that very little needs to be showered on them with regard to physical items, but good wishes and love still do. This particular bride and groom are minimalists and prefer to live a life of simplicity. When Brent and I were married, I had three showers and felt so gluttonous. We were in our thirties and had established households and yet we were gifted so many things. Not that I wasn’t appreciative or grateful. Showers have just lost their meaning and usefulness.

For this beautiful bride to be, I wanted to gift her something that I had re-purposed and made with love and because I am so far from being a DIYer, I was also proud of my simple accomplishment. Isn’t that what a gift really is? Something created or chosen from one heart to another.

Jenna & Tiger Lily (The 5th bridesmaid)

Jenna's Tree Chandelier

Now that the event is over, I am grateful to all who came out to gift Jenna with love and good wishes, and her bridesmaids, who worked hard to honour Jenna’s feelings and way of life. 

‘The secret of change is not to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old but on building the new.” Socrates

~ Ellyn

Monday, July 3, 2017

O' Canada

"My country is not 150 years old. My country is as old as the forests, as old as the rivers. As old as the first people, countless millennia ago. Even the name is old: Kanata. Not a name from king or conqueror. It means a village, a place for people to live." ~ Joseph McLean
I openly love my country and feel that I am fortunate to be one of the 36 million people who call Canada home. This year in particular, I have acknowledged and am fully aware that July 1st, Canada’s birthday, is a date chosen by a group of European men who claim to have settled this country, my ancestors. You see, I am little white woman who has had a privileged life and have been incredibly fortunate to never have had to be plucked from my family and treated with such unworthiness. We are flawed, I know this. I know that the people of the past in my country, have committed atrocities that should not have occurred and that these ways of treating people have had a resounding effect on other individuals within an entire culture and generation, and that this has carried on to another generation and another and it is time to reconcile. I don't want to just pass this off and pretend that enough years have gone by and people should be over this. I want to remember so that mistreatment doesn't happen again.

I personally apologize for my ancestors and will continue to listen to all of the people of my country with an open heart, but an apology isn’t all that is needed. I too want to reconcile a friendship and what better place to do this but in the Canada of today, where we are free to have these dialogues and fully open conversations with each other so as to understand and respect our amazing diversity and past misunderstandings and treatment. 

"Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad but it's what's in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will." ~ Ramona Calvert

The how of doing something is always the challenge, but as I read and listen, reflect, say and do, I hope that I too will learn how to live a life of utmost respect and peace, with and among all people of this beautiful country of ours because "hope is a verb with it's shirtsleeves rolled up" ~ David Orr

O, Canada...

~ Ellyn

Friday, October 28, 2016

Flight Day

“The most valuable resource that all teachers have... is each other”. R. J. Meehan

Four teachers with Stettler Elementary School demonstrated this with such effectiveness that I have asked them to be guest bloggers here today. Have a look at this extraordinary endeavour.

The project itself was about flight with an original driving question surrounding the importance of flight, how it has evolved and is evolving, and how these changes will affect us in the future. Albeit brief, the following are some of the curriculum implications that align with the project.

During a directed Math lesson, the students started by finding the local airport using Google Maps. After printing the maps, the scale had to be determined by measuring the bar line offered and comparing it to the actual distances. The scale given was used to calculate the actual length and width of one of the buildings and of the runway.  When students were finished these tasks, they were encouraged to research the lengths of other runways at larger airports and were in awe of the amount land belonging to airport authorities.

During their Social Studies lessons, the students have been studying the different types of taxes people pay, including income tax, property tax and the Goods and Services Tax, mainly with regard to how the government keeps things equitable for Canadian citizens by using tax dollars to provide services. They used an authentic airline itinerary to explore the cost of flying, and the types of taxes that may be added to flight costs.

On the actual Flight Day, the students created a fleet of paper airplanes that they had to design in order to complete four given tasks. That being: to sustain the longest flight, to be able to hit a target, to fly in a straight line and finally to have the longest flight. They focused on the parts of the plane in order to control the direction the paper airplane flew.

In Language Arts the students discussed imagery and envisioned their flights on Saturday.  They wrote descriptive paragraphs to demonstrate what they thought they would see, hear, smell, and feel.  With that task completed and the compiled information, the students wrote short narratives that they acted out.

The photos that are included in this post are but a few, but demonstrate how engaged the students were and the true joy of working together through this valuable endeavour.

I'm so grateful for dedicated people who continue to reach and teach our children.

~ Ellyn

Thursday, October 20, 2016

“We’re here because we’re here, because we’re here because we’re here…” I first heard these words sung, by my brother, when I was a young girl.  Any of you who came up through the Boy Scout movement, will recognize this questionable war chant but for the better part of my life, I have allowed those words to resonate throughout my being and they have meant something different to me at different times.

I am a goalsetter.

Even from my earliest days in elementary school when the Main Librarian from our downtown public library would show up in school in June, and present a summer reading program to all of us, I would think about how many books I would read that summer and make a plan. After that, I would make a promise to myself to keep waking up early and to ride my bike a certain number of times a day. I would promise myself to make my bed, even through the long summer days and, the thing is, for the most part, I remember being able to make rules for myself and keep them.

As a teacher, I make professional goals all of the time and I reflect on them, evaluating and adjusting and looking for resources to help me meet these goals. I also still create short term personal goals.  

When I was asked if I had the heart to work with a team of people to help a ministry student achieve his goals, my answer was, of course I do. And I am thrilled to be working with someone who is driven and excited about his calling. As I read through his goals, I began to wonder about my own personal ones. I always seem to have so many professional dreams that I have to pare my goals down to only three but for personal goals, I rarely set more than one at a time. And then I thought again. Well maybe that’s a good thing. Quite a few years ago now, my minister and friend suggested that I read the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and for me, it was profound. I began to work at unitasking and on being present in as many moments as I could. And I became better and better at it and, it is time for me to work at this again.

My one personal goal for the rest of this year will be to live in the present moment as much as possible. To look my KinderKids on their level and listen to their words, to smile warmly and notice nature, to enjoy each bite of food that I put in my body, to feel the warm earthy slate on the floor at my desk, through the soles of my feet, and let it warm my body, to breathe deeply and be grateful for all of the tiny miracles that are before me each day and to continually remind myself that I am here because I’m here…

~ Ellyn

Friday, October 14, 2016

Home is where my babies are.

On September 11th, 2001, my mama had to call all of her children. That very next weekend, she drove to the farm to visit us and she sat by our firepit outside, cradling a barn cat and said that she just needed to see or talk to her babies. At the time, I didn’t understand it. I thought she was overreacting. After all, we live on a farm in rural Alberta and the treacherous act happened in New York. On American soil for the simple reason that it was American soil and would harm mostly American people. But the thing is, it didn’t. It sent shockwaves everywhere, including, our little corner of the world.

Fast forward, 15 years, and I get it. My babies are 20 and 21 and they live in closeby cities. I’m thankful that I can get to them relatively quickly, if need be, because home is where my babies are too.

My mama died 11 years ago this past Thanksgiving and this year was the first year that I have actually felt present for the celebration weekend. I wasn’t numb. It was also the first year since my mama has left this earth, that I didn’t consult my dad or invite him for Thanksgiving, I didn’t fall into an obligatory dinner with anyone and I just spent it with my husband and my babies, somewhere else, not at our house. And it was wonderful.

Sometimes it takes years to step away from something one feels duty bound to be a part of. For me, this year, it was necessary to just take care of me and be present. Integrity of word, even to self, this is my focus right now and if home is where my babies are, then that is where I need to be.

~ Ellyn

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Job Guy

My 21 year old son Max has a cool summer job. He’s working as the Recreation “Guy” at our small town seniors’ lodge and he loves it.

A couple of weeks after he started, Mother’s Day was upon us and a Tea at the lodge ensued. He dressed up in his finery complete with a bow tie and just happened to be standing by the entryway when an elderly cousin of ours, walked into the building, towards the gathering area and assumed Max was there to seat her. He immediately held out his arm and lead her to her table, which caused the other ladies to assume that he was there to do that for them too. And so, of course, he did. One by one he escorted each lady to their table and then helped serve tea. There are about 58 ladies in our local lodge and they were delighted. But more importantly, so was he. The Monday following that event, he mentioned to his supervisor that he really wanted to do something special for the fellas that lived in the lodge, for Father’s Day. They started to brainstorm when his supervisor mentioned that maybe they should take the guys to the local pub for beer and wings. Max was thrilled and added that he would find some men in town that he knew of that had vintage vehicles to come up to the lodge, pick up the gentlemen and then head to the pub. I was in awe and Max came home so satisfied that the few men that resided there, I think 14, enjoyed their celebration.

Fast forward to yesterday, July 4th, a male resident died. Overnight. In his sleep. Max came home from work last night in such a funk and I knew something was wrong. It’s hard to make relationships and then lose them so quickly and Max is in an industry where he is going to experience this. He began to tell me about this man… 
Clifford was quiet. He mostly operated in a solitary manner. He didn’t have a television, nor radio, but he did read. He didn’t take part in any of the activities that were offered at the lodge. However, after the Mother’s Day Tea, Max noticed that Clifford had yet to receive any visitors and he asked him if he had any children. Clifford said that he had a son but that his son was very busy and would probably not be around on Father’s Day weekend. When the plans were in place for the Father’s Day event, Max encouraged Clifford to join a good friend of ours in an old fixed-up 1948 Fargo truck and to head to the pub for wings. Clifford came out of his shell and talked and talked and talked. He ordered a beer and enjoyed a few wings but most of all he loved the old truck and the camaraderie.

I hope that Max knows just how important this summer job is. 

I do.

~ Ellyn