Category Archives: thoughts about life


Recently, someone spoke to me of walking in the park during her lunch hour, being passed by the runners and racers who occupy Prince’s Island Park on weekdays over the noon hour. Her initial thought was that she needed to up … Continue reading


It’s that time of year again – when it’s good, it’s very very good, and when it’s bad, it’s, well, much much worse. We see great acts of kindness and goodwill, and when there’s conflict or sadness, we feel it … Continue reading

When I follow the rules, things should work, right?

I’ve had a few incidents recently where I found myself frustrated with how things work. They had a similar theme – I thought I was following the rules to get things done and it didn’t work! Because this is not infrequent, and I hear the same from others, I’ve been reflecting on what I can do to reduce my own frustration. While what triggered this post is more about business, the same challenges exist and are maybe more important to pay attention to in relationships with people important to us.

To put this in context, I’m a bit of a detail person – not that I love details that much, but I can’t seem to ignore them, especially when it seems to me that if I don’t  take care of them, someone else might be affected or there would be consequences to me. I have come to understand that we don’t all see the same thing. My brain that recognizes detail is my own quirky blessing/annoyance (equal parts of both!). My natural temperament most enjoys ignoring the detail and letting things unfold as they may, but my brain wants to follow the rules. Others have their own particular blend of skills, preferences and capacities.

Here are some basic principles that I’m trying to put into practice:

  1. Remember that all of us are following values that matter to us. Just because I value service to others and put it into play by paying attention to details, doesn’t mean that someone else who misses the detail or communicates it in a way I don’t understand, doesn’t care. Yes I can call them (hopefully with my inside voice!) all kinds of unkind names, but I can also assume that they don’t see things in the same way I do, don’t have the same priorities, don’t have the same information at hand, are having their own bad day, or lack the resources to cover the bases that affect the particular issue I’m facing.
  2. We all have our own internalized “rules” that tell us what is nice, kind, respectful, funny, helpful, etcetera. If I follow my rules and someone else takes it wrong, feels hurt or angry, reacts to what they assume about me, I have a choice. I can make my own assumptions about them, react and escalate the conflict. Or, I can back up a bit and assume a misunderstanding, try to find out what went wrong, ask some genuinely curious questions, and maybe improve the situation.
  3. All of us have the natural limitations of how our brains organize information and rules. This also applies to information that ends up on our computers and other electronic devices. As much as it might be nice, there is no universal standard of how to do things right. My failure to understand how someone organizes their thinking, is my problem and one I’m usually able to solve, even if it takes some time and effort. If I don’t get someone’s logic, chances are they don’t get mine either. Who’s to say which of us is right?
  4. Yes it is entirely possible to come to the conclusion that those who don’t see things the way I do are just wrong (or lazy, or immoral, or flawed in some way).  But, you know, if I conclude that, I’m less happy and peaceful than I’d like to be. Can we assume at the outset that we just have different influences (capacity, experience, temperament, upbringing, culture, and biology – basically both nature and nurture)? I might actually have the opportunity to add positively to those influences if I’m willing to be respectful, or add negatively to those influences if I let myself become disrespectful or abusive.
  5. Curiosity is a wonderful tool to work through differences in communication, processes, and lack of understanding. Genuine curiosity means being able to step back for a moment and ask respectfully for clarification, maybe look for an example, and consider different ways of communicating. Some people communicate better in written form, or visually, or in spoken words. Try to be creative in how you illustrate your concerns. If you are building a piece of furniture and the tool at hand doesn’t fit, it is always easier to find a better tool than it is to fix what you broke by forcing a square peg into a round hole.

My bottom line here is that there always is a choice about how we deal with interactions or processes that seem to go wrong. I choose to believe that if I assume the best of others, we can work towards resolve our differences. While I don’t know for sure that I’ll get what I want in any given situation, I do know for sure that positive assumptions, slowing down the process and not getting caught up in needing to be right, is more rewarding to my soul.


On the weekend, I did something new to me – I had a yard sale. Actually not on my own, but with a couple of my neighbours. Not a big deal, perhaps to many, but for me, somewhat anxiety provoking. … Continue reading

In Remembrance…….. Once Again, and Still

In light of recent events, and as Remembrance Day approaches, I thought to write a new post, but find that this post from 4 years ago still resonates for me. I hope that it can find a place in your thoughts as well:

“In remembrance of those who serve, this post is more personal than some, a reflection on two brave men who served in our country’s armed forces: my grandfather who was in the trenches of World War I, and my father who was a fighter pilot in World War II.  Both volunteered for reasons of their own, which, like many reasons for actions we take in our lives, were undoubtedly complex. I choose though to focus on the one reason I do understand: they believed. Believed in a better world, in doing the right thing whatever that may have seemed at the time, in participating in something bigger than themselves, in honour and responsibility, and in their own capacity to survive (as young men often do) the risks of war. Both came back injured, carried scars and pain which never fully receded.

In honour of them, I want to remember the lessons they taught me. That’s hard in the case of my grandfather, as I barely knew him. A quiet man who died when I was eight, eclipsed by the far more vocal presence of my grandmother, he did show me how to quietly love, usually without a lot of words, but always with his presence, a scratchy whiskery chin to rub against my cheek. What I didn’t know then was that he persevered in constant pain from shrapnel embedded in his leg, working every day until turning the farm over to my uncle. So my lesson from him is to be present in the lives of your family and community, participate in your role to the best of your ability, and accept that your private pain, whatever it may be, is simply a part, not the determinant of your life.

My father was gravely wounded, burned when his fighter plane was shot down, pulled from the flames by another brave man, an Italian farmer. He didn’t speak of his experiences, but we know from letters to my grandparents which my mother shared after his death in 1992, that he was, at first, a typical young man of the time. He wrote of his excitement learning flying maneuvers, until the letters changed and he wrote only of small matters, inquiring and commenting on family, the farm and people from home. After his injuries, he wrote, through the pen of a priest, because he didn’t have the use of his hands, as though all was fine, which it was not.

A year and a half in hospital in East Grinstead, England, many surgeries, then another year in and out of hospital in Toronto, gave him a new face, and salvaged the skin of his hands and legs. More importantly, it gave him the experiences that made him the man I knew. There he became a member of a club no-one wanted to join, the Guinea Pig Club, where not only bodies and faces were recreated by experimental, daring and desperate advances in reconstructive surgery, but lives were reclaimed. The surgeons, Sir Archibald MacIndoe and Dr. Ross Tilley (read and see documentaries about them and the club for a fascinating piece of living history) believed that these scarred, misshapen and hurting men, needed not only their bodies restored, but their rightful place in the community.

Their surgeons sent them out into the village, some wheeled, some under their own steam,  frightening of appearance, with partial grafts and odd appendages (pedicle grafts growing skin from one part of the body to another), to face the world. An experiment to be sure, as the villagers of East Grinstead could have rejected and run screaming from the strange sights. But it worked …….they were welcomed, poured beer (quite a bit I think) and fed, became beloved sons of the village, welcomed back year after year, to reunions, which continued until very recently, as the club has wound down, most members having died in the intervening years.

As a child, I didn’t know my father was scarred…….he was just my Dad, but I remember visits from his fellow Guinea Pig Club members, some of them with more graphic facial scars, odd versions of hands which were functional but twisted. As an adult, I met many more of them, priveleged to attend a reunion in East Grinstead with my parents,before my father’s death. It was there, I believe, that I truly understood the lesson of this story.

Recovery of the spirit is as important as recovery of the wounds. Understanding of the contributions a community makes to rebuilding a life is as meaningful as understanding of the contributions the wounded and persevering make to the community. The small acceptances and kindnesses mean as much as the big gestures. Looking beyond appearance allows you to see so much that is brave, proud and redeeming. Everyone has a story worth telling and worth hearing.

As you read this and in the days to come, I hope that you will look for those stories, some older, as my father’s and my grandfather’s. Some newer, the stories of the men and women who serve today. Many are the stories of those who were and are served………all of us in this great country. They serve and did serve. We don’t have to understand all of the reasons, but we can all believe that we can be a part of building a better world.

In Remembrance……………”


I have been dealing with some frustrations recently, insurance issues mainly, which don’t require detailing here, except to say that communication between a number of different parties with competing interests is, to say the least, a delicate matter. So I … Continue reading


Since my last post (has it really been a few months?), I continue to work away at de-cluttering, a task that raises more questions than solutions. A conversation this morning about life stresses seemed to echo my own challenges with … Continue reading