Waking Up In Canada

Time Out Just To See

The firmness of friendship March 29, 2012

Filed under: Friendship — wakingupincanada @ 6:00 pm
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When I was 16, our English teacher, a cheery, wise and happy man with a smock of white hair and thick black eyebrows commented that for our final exams, our poems would largely be based on transience, a mis-balance he believed, as in life, poems were mostly about love. I have become to wonder if he was wrong.

Banff is a transient town, and the lives of people like me are built upon hellos and goodbyes. Much revolves around the workplace here. In Banff, living space is everything, and many employers provide subsidised accommodation to their staff. The people I work with, I live with, ski with, eat with and socialise with.

Every week, people walk into our store, resumes in hand, and we don’t know if this is our new best friend standing in front of us. In our team, we have a plethora of characters  – the high energy people, the super-organised individuals, the laid-back crew, the super sellers and the super helpers. This mesh of personalities is like a microscopic view on the world and all that it takes to make it go around every day.

And just when you fall in love with it all, it is time for another goodbye. This week, we have a double dose of departure, with 2 beautiful people heading home. Unlike before in my life, when treasured companions move on to a better job or better home but stay in the area or at least the friendship circle, the international melting pot that is Banff sees possible Best Friends Forever fly off to the far reaches of the world, to a different career, a different lifestyle.

Somehow here, you connect with the transience that is life, the constant ebb and flow that is people. With every changing staff member or housemate, there is a change in the balance, the routine, the atmosphere. Sometimes it is a little shift barely noticeable, other times, for better or worse, a sudden movement occurs forcing ripples out in all directions. Sometimes the only thing is to stand firm in yourself and allow others the same courtesy. Other times, it seems to me, it is about learning from them, trusting them and enjoying them for as long as you have them.

It has been 7 months and many friends now. As 2 of my BFFs move on, I see all that they have given me: 6 mile runs through the mountains and gym workouts; pyramid hill sprints and scrabble in Tim Hortons, indulgent breakfasts and cheap cinema nights, wine and crackers and double dates. Only a true friend allows you to swear at them at the beginning of a 3 minute hill sprint or shares the joy in playing scrabble over good coffee at Tim Hortons, and offers to share the car she will win in Roll Up the Rim. A BFF gets lost with you and enjoys the views regardless.

It strikes me at these times, not how tough it is to say goodbye, but just how brilliant a good friend is. As we move through life and all its phases, a good friend grounds you, wherever your roots may be.




Hamstrings do not define me January 25, 2012

Filed under: life — wakingupincanada @ 4:06 pm
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According to my yoga instructor, tight hamstrings do not make you a bad person. Apparently, it is ok if you cannot fully extend your leg into the air.

My hamstrings are actually pretty good, which, of course, does not make me a good person.There are other places though, that I can apply her wisdom:

  • Tensing up when I think on the future does not make me foolish or short sighted.
  • Having a weakness for chocolate and wine does not make me a glutton.
  • Taking the drama out of situations does not make me boring.
  • Forgetting to send my sister a Leaving Card does not make me a bad sister.
  • Not focusing on “career” does not make me lazy.
  • Being kind does not make me a pushover.
  • Being lost does not mean I am missing.
  • Not being pretty does not mean I can never be beautiful.
  • Being quiet does not mean I am not participating.
  • Being angry does not make me wrong.
  • Being sad does not mean I made a mistake.
  • Crying does not mean I regret one single thing.
  • Being afraid does not mean I will not take the risk.






A Bad Day January 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 12:21 pm
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It was just one of those days when things didn’t fall into place, where the forged relationships did not sync as easily as they normally do, when the smile seemed further from my face for no exact reason and where a sense of change rippled through us in waves of tiny fears.

As I stood , I wondered aloud, maybe my lesson is to be Me throughout it all.

It is very easy to be kind and considerate when people around you are acting in kind. It is like skiing down a gentle slope with just a straight snow plough: Easy, but you will learn nothing. Skill means doing it when there are steep drops and trees in the way and blind bends in the trail. When I think that people are rude, grumpy, petulant, selfish, then they are having a bad day,  a bad week, a bad year. Be kinder. Be more considerate. That is when you find out who you really are.

Understand that I may just be reflecting my mood onto them.

Understand that I too will have bad days, bad weeks but I will do my upmost to avoid a bad year.

When love is offered, that I say yes. Let people help. Saying no to help is refusing a gift as it is being handed to you.

That I trust others and ask for help, to be vulnerable and to need. No Man is an Island and I don’t want to be one either.

When someone irks me, as everyone we love will do at some point, that I stay who I am through and through and realise that this too will pass. We will meet again happily on the other side. No cold shoulders or back-handed comments, but a loving heart all day.

Never let the fear of the outcome get in the way of something that needs to be said. “Needs to be said “can be defined with 2 questions: will it help and is it true?

That I forgive in advance. Somedays they are against you, somedays they are with you, but throughout it all, respect and openness go a long way.

When change comes that I realise no matter how I examine it, there are angles I cannot see yet, and to step into it lightly, with a sense of wonder, not a sense of worry.

I am not always right, and as my older and wiser sister taught me, someone who seeks to be right always is seeking a fight always.

When I’m tired and weary, that I smile. A frown does not get me to bed faster.

Trust that this too will pass by.




The confusion of kindness December 12, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 8:21 pm
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Kindness is a funny thing.

I read today that giving until it hurts may just end up hurting the other person, taking their dignity, their own opportunities to grow, taking away the set time they need to make their own dreams come true.

Is kindness about the intention to freely give or does it also involve the wisdom of knowing what to give? Sometimes it seems that not accepting the gift is rude, yet many people are uncomfortable with giving, not wanting to feel indebted or pitied or even just that they are not important enough to have someone else help.

On the other hand, is selfishness about being maliciously self-centred or is it about unthinkingly hurting someone?

When we look at our actions, do we look at the intention behind them and the diligence in seeing it through or do we look at the effect the action has on the world around us?

What do you think?


Loaves and fishes November 21, 2011

Filed under: Abundance — wakingupincanada @ 7:58 am
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I remember a priest who served in our parish at home a few years back reading the gospel of the loaves and the fishes. Miracles are often hard to believe, and in the 21st century, we often wonder why they are so far and few between.

During his sermon, he wondered aloud a different scenario. The Bible is sketchy on the exact details of the day and our priest took a different angle than I had heard in 20 years of this event.

Jesus asked if people had food, so that they could eat after coming to listen and see him one day. People within their own groups and families were worried. There was a very large crowd. “I have some” they whispered quietly to each other, “but in this large crowd, we may have to share it and then we’d get nothing”. Or, “there is a lot of hungry people here, there could be a fight over the little food we have and then we’d have nothing but bruises”. One little boy came forward; I often wonder did his Mother push him, afraid to walk up to the front of the crowd herself. The boy carried his 5 loaves and 2 fish. He, or maybe he representing his family, was willing to share. They did not have much, but this man in front of them often talked about feeding the needy and working together in love, and they trusted Him. Someone at the front saw the little boy’s offering, and took their family’s rations and passed it to the apostles. “If a little boy can share, then so too will I”. Another and another saw that people were trusting Jesus and the apostles with their food. “I will share too” and so they passed forward their food, and so it continued through the crowd. I like to think the great diversity of food offered up gave people a selection to choose from perhaps, a little butter for the bread, maybe some vegetables, a little water or ale to wash it down with. At the end, there was food left over. “Look”, they said to themselves, “we had enough food between us to start with, we had no need to worry and hoard it”.

Our priest wondered if the miracle in the story was sharing, that people trusted to put forward their own much needed resources, that it would be distributed evenly and fairly and that there would be enough to go around. He ended by saying, “and wouldn’t that be a greater kind of miracle”.

I loved his take on it. It does not leave the miracles to God, but gives to each individual the power to help make them happen. God is like a teacher or a manager or a parent, He can do it Himself but he wants to help you to figure it out so that you can learn and do better yourself. The message showed that love, trust and sharing make a massive difference in a world where so many go without. Without food, shelter, love, safety, justice, equality, education.

To me, the importance was to offer to everyone what I have and in doing so, trusting that, while I may do with less, nobody would go without. It would also mean that when I am in need, I too will be looked after and to trust in that. I have often heard that there is enough food to feed the world many times over. Some countries rack up debt that the interest alone is keeping them hungry. I left a country that is getting help from the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission to get back on its feet. Ireland is in conflict over whether it wants their help or needs their help, or whether they asked for the help in the first place.

I can’t speak for countries or powerful institutions. I can only choose how to live myself. I wonder if I too can trust that by sharing what I have today, I will live in a better world tomorrow. By giving of my talents, my possessions, other people will give of theirs and so we will all do better, for each other. As I travel, with less material things to my name, it is amazing to see how easily people share, barter and pass on things, from hemming t-shirts to giving goggles and gloves.  A traveller needs to travel lightly and the accumulation of material goods does not gel well with that. We are the better for it.

I’m not sure why I am reflecting today on a sermon from years ago. I wonder do pastors and priests and wise people we overhear on the bus realise how far their words can travel. I guess they too are sharing of their talent, the best of themselves.



I Got Mail October 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — wakingupincanada @ 2:03 pm
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There it was, my first letter in the mailbox.

I had waited on a package of contact lenses from Ireland. (Other people would get Lyons Tea and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Tayto Crisps, not me!). It was approaching the 3 week mark and I was getting concerned. To familiarise you, in Banff, my mailbox is not outside my house. Nope, Postman Pat doesn’t deliver here. We have to set up a Post Office Box at the Post Office. Banff is small, it’s a ten minute brisk walk, but still, when you decide to go to check for mail and all you get are Safeway promotions and applications for credit cards, it does get dispiriting.

This morning, I turned the key and there, sitting in the tiny square space was a brown envelope. I knew it was from home, we rarely have the normal white envelopes in stock. My heart soared taking it out, and there, tucked in behind, was the notification to collect the package at the counter. I wondered whether I should wait until I got home to read my letter, but I was already opening it. Seeing Mum’s handwriting brought a tear to my eye, a rush of love into my gut and an overall sigh of happiness. She told me about the football final (we lost), the sick and ill, my sisters’ upcoming interviews: the regular news from home. With it was a letter from my niece. She is 4, so I imagine an aunt was putting her thoughts in writing, but the picture of her and her nearly 2 year old sister was definitely all hers. She even included a rainbow and a rosebush.

“With all the fancy phones you don’t seem so far away”. Yet, there is something very special about getting a letter. A letter takes time and thought: it can’t be written quickly like a text or even an e-mail. Once written, you have to find the envelope. Then comes the part where my good intentions fall down: you must remember to go on one’s errand to the Post Office and mail it. Receiving a letter that is not a bill, a “vote for me for President” flyer or your supermarket’s upcoming sales is a gift like no other. It takes seconds to open the envelope and pull out the letter yet the feeling of excitement lasts for hours, like a child opening her gifts at Christmas. I don’t want to go back to before the internet, before texting and mobiles (or cells, as I need to say here). 3 weeks is far too long to get urgent information and I like knowing right away about the game, the interview, the dinner, or to text a photo instantly of the thing that just says “Saw this and thought on you”. For other things, a timely, measured letter is perfect. It gives you time to say what is important. It says “I thought on you for longer than an instant and decided to take time out and get this to you”. It says “what I really wanted you to know is..”. In an envelope, you can get your niece’s drawing, not just a copy.

My favourite people

I love letters; writing them, receiving them. A letter can be more meaningful than a massive gift. More importantly, you don’t have to wait for an occasion.

A letter makes my walk to my mailbox worth it.


My park bench October 7, 2011

Filed under: Inspiration — wakingupincanada @ 7:43 am
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One day, I want to have a bench with my name on it. I wonder, what will it say?

I was on my way home and decided to walk a different way. Seeing the sign for the river, I took a dander. It was a beautiful day, cold but sunny and a slight breeze was whirling up the fallen leaves. By the river stood 2 benches and I took a seat. The sun was making golden a river bend up ahead, the snow lay on the mountain peaks and the only noises were a bird above me somewhere, the bubbling river, the laughs of a gentleman across the river and traffic crossing the bridge further upstream. I concentrated on stopping and listening, just letting go and enjoying the spontaneous seat by a river. Oddly, my feet did not touch the ground at all. I am shorter than some, but usually my tip toes reach, but here they swung freely, and I felt like a child.

Jumping off to leave, I noticed the inscription:

“Bonnie Wiegele

Athlete, Philanthropist

Living Inspiration To All”

Immediately, I wanted to be her. How does one become a living inspiration to all? It sounds a lot better that inspiring after you have gone, which in itself is a sign of a useful life. Walking home, I thought on Bonnie Wiegele. Athlete? I wondered did it count that I ran, not fast, sometimes far, but with consistency and with joy. Philanthropist was definitely one I needed to work on so I checked the (online) dictionary as a good starting point.

Philanthropy: 1.the practice of performing charitable or benevolent actions

2. the love of humanity

While I do love humanity, I am  more empty-handed when it comes to performing charitable actions. Did one have to be a philanthropist to be a living inspiration? How could I practice performing charitable actions  regularly? And I realised, by having this inscription on a park bench, this lady, whom I never met, was inspiring me to become a better person. Furthermore, it did not seem out of my grasp. I realised that a living inspiration means, to me, someone who looks at what she values in life and goes about doing it. I may myself be the only person I inspire, and that is ok with me. I took time to think up some things I could do simply to be the person I wanted to be. What did I want my park bench to say about me?

Firstly, I bought re-useable bags for my grocery shopping, stopping the conflict in my head over whether I could afford them anymore. I believe in reducing plastic bags and this is the best way I know to do that. Next, I bought free run eggs. They again cost more, but I wanted my eggs to come from happy hens, and while they might not be as happy as the hens my mother keeps at home, they are no doubt happier than being raised stuck in a tiny nest night and day. I decided to do an act of kindness daily, and to put thought into these actions, and I stumbled upon the kindness girl blog to help me. I decided to pay attention to where I put my money. This means trying to become a more ethical shopper and a more generous donator to charity. The ethical shopper is hard and I am only beginning. All advice would be gratefully appreciated as I begin to look at what I spend my money on. Any ideas where to start?

“Kellie Gallagher

Lives the life she believes in”

(Thank you Bonnie, for your bench and your inspiration)