Posted in Family, Love

Kindness and compassion makes life better and easier… always!

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I was touched today to see two young men host a birthday dinner party for their moms.  The two young men were my son Jelan and his friend Zac.  Zac and his family are also our next door neighbours.  Zac’s mom and I celebrate our birthdays a day apart and Jelan and Zac celebrate their birthdays one day apart too!  Strange coincidence!

We have watched the boys grow up over the years and it is quite remarkable to see them take on more and more responsibility for their lives but more importantly to practice kindness and compassion towards others.  The effort and love which the two of them put into creating this little dinner party for the two families touched my heart.  They planned the menu, took the afternoon off and created a joyful space for the celebration. Neither one of them cook much at home – so I was very impressed with the culinary skills and the great  BBQ.

 

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As a parent, I have held my breath many times as I raise my kids for all kinds of reasons. I have lived with the fear that they would take the wrong path; I have had doubts about my parenting skills; I have spent sleepless nights wondering if they would get home on a particular night and I have prayed millions of times for God to guide them and protect them wherever they are.  Parenting, as most of us who are parents know, does not come with a manual for our unique children.  We apply some best practices and common knowledge but the soul is each child is so uniquely different that we must also allow them the freedom to explore and have the confidence that they will turn out to be fine individuals.

I have repeatedly asked myself the question, “What evidence would I need to have, to know that my children would be fine in the world and be good, contributing citizens?” My answers have been to complete their education, have a good job, be financially responsible, have their own families, own their own home and to have great relationships with others.

Lately, I have added a few more items to the list.  I want them to be able to live harmoniously  with other people and to have compassion and kindness in their hearts towards ALL people, not simply those whom they know or are privileged to spend time with them on a regular basis. As easy as this sounds, it is not always easy to practice kindness and compassion because we have grown to be quite a cautious society with judgements about others which can cause us to be indifferent, unkind or sometimes even hostile.

After watching them in action today, it is my hope that they will continue to remain grounded in humility and find small and big ways to add beauty to the planet through the consciousness of kindness and compassion.

Love,

Magdalene

Posted in Inspiration, Love, Relationships

First and last drink with my father – a life changing experience.

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At 43, I had the first and last drink with my father, a man whom I loved dearly but we had a great divide between us – alcoholism. Upon the request of a friend on my way to Saint Lucia in 2012, I brought my dad a beautiful bottle of Crown Royal, a Canadian whisky. At first, I resisted getting that bottle, knowing full well that if I gave it to him, none of us would have peace in the house until it was finished. My friend said, “You must bring him something he likes.” Alcohol was the thing and against my better judgement I brought if for him.

One night, after visiting my mom from the hospital, my dad and I were sitting in the verandah and I had the sudden feeling to have a drink with him.  I got the bottle of Crown Royal and I poured a drink for both of us. It was the first time in my life where I was having a drink with my father, as a “comrade” and a “daughter.” We raised our glasses for a toast and drank that wonderful whisky. Unexpectedly, a quiet feeling of relief settled somewhere deep in me and there was a feeling of unity with my father – sharing with him that thing which he loved  and which was a huge part of his life. In that moment, my eyes saw my father in a light of compassion and love. I suddenly saw the little child in him who had grown up with a habit which had obviously given him some comfort. I saw that bottle taking all his fears away and making him feel like a strong man.  I saw the young man who had no one to counsel him and befriend him or to give him an alternative to drinking. I saw the father who provided for us and did his best, even with the demons of alcoholism. The resentment which I held against him for so many years, suddenly released it’s grip on me and a feeling of acceptance came over me. In the quietness of the evening, we drank, laughed and had a deep conversation about life.

Several nights later, after my mom crossed over, we spent hours looking for him, worried that something dreadful had happened to him. Someone referred us to a small rum shop  a distance away from where we lived. My sister and I found him there without shoes, completely drunk and “preaching” away to the folks in the rum shop. That evening, when he saw me, he said, “My child, how did you find me here? How did you know I was here?” He came towards me in his drunkenness and held me, half falling over. I held him, put on his shoes, paid his bill and led him to the car to take him home. A man in the rum shop shouted, “Mr. Cooman, you have a beautiful daughter.” He laughed, swaying away,  as I struggled to help him keep his balance.

The funny thing is that I too felt I had become a beautiful daughter by accepting him for who he was.

For the days that followed, even after his death, I realized that I had let go of all the pent-up anger I had towards him. It did not matter any more. That anger  had prevented me from seeing all the wonderful things my father brought to my life. All my life, I wanted to change him to be a good man who did not drink and felt disappointed that no matter how hard I tried, he did not change. The truth is that it was not my work to change him. My dad was a good dad who had a generous spirit, a genuine concern for others, a deep mind and a humble spirit which I have  found in few people.

Alcoholism puts a different spin on everything and I know from first hand experience the damage it can cause to a family. I remain grateful that God gave me the opportunity to heal this wound with my father before he crossed over. One of my greatest moments was having that first and last drink with him and accepting him for who he is, without having the need to change him anymore.

All of us have our imperfections. Maybe we come into each other’s lives to teach love, compassion and acceptance.

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Love,

Magdalene

Posted in Uncategorized

He has held 31 different jobs – a few tips on embracing life’s unexpected journeys…

“If I can put a smile on two people’s face each day, I will give back to my parents what they did for me.” This is the philosophy which Kyle Wannermaker lives by and which many of us in our neighbourhood have experienced with him. A single dad of three daughters for a good part of his life, although he is now happily married, he has faced several challenges in his life but his upbeat and positive attitude about life can’t help but give hope to others. His constant message is “Don’t give up!” His mom was a Mohawk and his dad a German – an interesting combination which has had a strong influence in his love for the earth and his entrepreneurship spirit. Kyle’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances especially with the workforce is incredible.
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His first diploma was in electronic engineering and he worked back then with Nortel until the crash which forced him into new career pathways. He has another diploma in recreation management and in festivals and community events management from Algonquin College. He showed me his folder which has business cards of about 31 different job titles he has held over the years ranging from being a mason’s helper, a plant specialist, running a taxi service, the owner of three retail flower stores, staffing supervisor, marketing director, landscape, event manager, property manager, banker, auto sales and repair and so many others. He has done all combinations from having a full-time job to having two jobs at a time, to being his own boss and to sometimes having no work at all! When I asked him what his best job was, he asked me “Economically?” And so I was surprised when he said he netted $78,000 as a flower delivery staff for a flower store. I would have never imagined there was so much money to be made in delivering flowers… this was what led him to owning three flower stores later on. His experience in life is so broad and varied that he also describes himself as an “old fashion encyclopedia” and encourages people to ask him anything!

How can one shift from so many jobs? In North America, I have learnt that it is normal to change careers 3 – 5 times, but Kyle has far broken that record. His response to that is to embrace the journey. “Every time I search for a new journey, I meet amazing people. However the key dominator is gardening!”

Interestingly enough, it was his garden that ignited my interest in wanting to talk to him. He has a passion for gardening and you can feel it immediately as you look into his yard which is very close to the bus-stop where many of us catch the bus in the morning. His garden is usually the topic of conversation because of the combination of flowers and vegetables in there but more importantly, the people in he area feel connected to the garden because he has opened it up to us to use whatever vegetables he has growing. Last week, a neighbour was joyfully telling us that she had picked about 20 lettuce leaves the night before. He gave a few of us some tips about harvesting the lettuce by pulling the leaves from the outside of the plant and not pull out the entire plant. This allows the plant to continue producing more leaves from the centre.
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“I try to put a positive spin on the eco system as well and use what people throw away into something useful.” This is clear in the many recycled things he showed me in his garden from the stones he used to create his walkway to the flower pots and my favourite one was the small tomato plants he rescued from a neighbour who was throwing them away. He created a lovely row of tomato plants at the curb.
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Kyle also shared with me that he took thrift management courses which has also helped him to be wise about how he uses things as well as to think more carefully between needs and wants. Over the years, he has learnt that he does not have to buy everything. For example, most of the plants in his garden came from “somewhere” or “someone”. He shared one story of being able to get about $6000 worth of plants from a person who was changing his front yard to interlocking bricks. Kyle took all the plants which would have been discarded and beautified his cottage property. Similarly when someone else was changing his front yard and Kyle received six truck loads of topsoil for this garden. He also gives back a hundred fold to others from this garden or if someone gives him a plant he would happily be of some service in their garden. Instead of buying plants full price, he waits for them to go on sale and then buys them. He starts plants from seeds in his small greenhouse in the basement – so from a packet of seeds which cost $2.49, he can get up 19 plants which could cost as much as $60.00!
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It is hard not to notice the deep gratitude that Kyle has for everything in his life and the compassion which he has for people. Regardless of the challenges he has faced, he seem to attract good things to him and I could not help but ask him how he does that. His simple answer was “Give back to others” He feels blessed and that feeling of gratitude and trusting that life will offer all that he needs as he also plays his part in making an effort to move forward, is really the key to personal success.

For those of us who think that we don’t have a green thumb to start a garden, his message is “Can you care for a seed?”

We are living in times where our ability to adapt to change is critical for survival. More importantly though, is our ability to embrace those changes as part of our journey but to also stay rooted in our values and who we are at our core. One of the things that Kyle has learnt about himself, regardless of all the career/job changes, is that being with the earth matters to him. “When I am with the earth, I feel I can get access to higher powers within me… it is my inspiration.”
TuneIn today to that inner place within you. What would you need to remain connected to in your toughest moments in life? StepUp to offer something to someone… giving and receiving is the continuous natural cycle of life which keeps all things flourishing. Sometimes, we perhaps don’t need more money… maybe we need to re-think the difference between our needs and wants and how to better use what we do have!
Love,
Magdalene