Friday, October 28, 2011

Not just an amazing vacation - a vacation full of amazing!

Everything about this vacation has been I wanted to list a few really cool things. I'm pretty thankful!
  • Energy to do the drive in one day. We had planned to stop in Kamloops, but were full of energy, so we continued to Vancouver on our first day! This gave us an entire day in the city to have sushi for lunch, visit Granville, a hopeful trip to see raccoons at Prospect Point, and a superb dinner with friends. Could not have been a better day to start our holiday.
  • A surprisingly lovely hotel. The Georgian Court on Beatty in Vancouver. Highly recommended. They have a fantastic hot tub and spa area.
  • Vancouver sunshine. Even in late October, we got to see the sun. I love that city!
  • First on-first off the ferry. A minor pleasure, but made for a great way to start in Victoria!
  • Cafe Mexico. As much fun with my family as it was with my friends, and the food and service could not have been more perfect.
  • Lunch with harbour seals. Fish and chips at Barb's in Victoria were made better by the fact that the seals wanted some too.
  • 6 hours of dancing on heels. My feet were so sore, I could hardly walk back to the hotel! Need to wear the heels more, and the laughs made the pain totally worth it!
  • Seeing a bald eagle sitting at the top of a dead tree beside a bridge. Randomly cool. And I almost missed it. The binoculars brought him right into my vision, and I've never seen a more majestic bird.
  • Point Defiance Zoo (Seattle). There was almost no other human life. We saw baby cloud leopards (adorable!), a walrus (he was HUGE!), and a Sumatran tiger that was awake, out, and wandering. I have never seen a tiger that active in a zoo before.
  • Mount St. Helens. Need I say more? One of the most surreal experiences, and again, there was no one there. We took the detour, and stood where a geologist lost his life to the volcano in 1980. The mountain is amazing, still steaming, and just a little terrifying.
  • Carl's Jr. I have never eaten here, and it's been a quest for us for a couple of years. It wasn't worth the wait, but is worth a mention because we triumphed!
  • Getting a room for a second night in Hood River. Expedia claimed there was only room in the inn for us for one night. The front desk said otherwise. I love this town. So much. Spending a second night here is awesome! Especially at our favourite hotel - the Hood River Inn. It's a Best Western, but the best Best Western we've ever been to. We will always return here!
  • Beer cheese soup. A brewery is bound to make great beer cheese soup, but this stuff was out of this world. Thanks, Full Sail Brewery!
  • Alpaca wool. It's so soft! I want to learn how to knit so that I can make something with alpaca wool. Can anyone teach me?
  • Glass apples and pumpkins. Could this be the start of a new love-affair? Glass-blowing was fun, and I am rapturous about the process. I've wanted to do this for years, and Blaine made it happen for me. I am anxious to spend more time in a glass studio.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On graduating from university

Two years of work are complete. I walked across the stage last Friday, and have spent the last 5 days thinking about what this means to me.

Please allow me break it down:

1. I finally completed something all the way through! My mom and dad will appreciate this one the most, because my entire growing up years were trying new things, but never mastering anything. I'm proud because this was something that I set out to do, and I did it.

2. Graduating university was an entirely dependent experience. Each of my classmates brought something to my experience that would have been impossible without the structure and plans of the Royal Roads program. I depended on my family and friends to be understanding and supportive (which they totally came through on!) while I neglected life to study.

3. I didn't have to neglect that much of my life! The program was totally geared towards people like me (need to keep working!), and the workload was rarely unmanageable. That said, if I was like many of my other classmates who tried to juggle class, children, work, exercise, and health, I may tell another story. My prayers are continually with Maria - of whom I am exceedingly proud - she graduated while battling leukemia. If I ever think my journey was difficult, I only need to think of her, and I reconsider.

4. If success can be measured by the relationships that one builds, I am blessed out of my socks with success. Not only did I get to know people in this program, I have added to my repertoire of "best friends," and know that my network has grown, not only with professional contacts, but with people who care about me and about whom I care deeply.

5. Walking the stage was meaningful, but it was nothing in comparison to another weekend with my cohort-mates. What I will always remember is their faces, the laughing, and the hugs. Walking across a stage to receive a piece of paper could never trump the value that I place on those people.

6. Sarah was right: even though it's expensive, just purchase the frame at the time that you graduate. I know that when I get home, the last thing I'd be thinking about will be trying to figure out how to frame that document. I'm grateful because my in-laws bought it as a graduation gift for me, so my degree will look very professional, and will make me look very important (just kidding!).

Although I didn't graduate summa cum laude, I did walk away from my university experience with knowledge about communications, a renewed desire to keep learning, a collection of friends with varied backgrounds and geography, and an appreciation for how my support system played a huge role in this degree. I wish I could have put everyone's name on the document. You all deserve it as much as I do.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Following the Shepherd and Paying the Piper

His body is now back to dust, in a pasture where the sheep graze. Look closely: that's them in the distance - white dots trimming the green grass.

The sky is cloudy, and the wind is blowing. We stand with our faces to that wind, taking handfuls of his ashes and watching what is left of his body fly on the wind. I know that his soul is smiling - he's at home.

His body is home in Scotland, and his soul is home in heaven. I hear his voice claiming this experience:

"God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to Your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction."

"Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side. 
Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure."

"You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. 
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing."

"Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life."

Psalm 23, Message

Oh, the way that peace enters my soul as I stand there. I sob, wishing that he could be there too, but smile, knowing that he truly understands a God that chased after him every day of his life.

I'm the DJ. My iPhone rings with a rich squeal of bagpipes playing, "Going Home." My eyes fill with tears.

My uncle Rick, with a strong, clear voice, offers these words to the wind:

Paying the Piper (Linda Hatfield)

Ages ago,
in the heathered highlands
of a far off land,
a piper played –
the wailing notes of his
somber song
echoing off the barren hillsides
the minds and hearts
of his countrymen.

So deeply the sad notes
imprinted on their souls
that none could forget
their tune,
and those that tried
were sure to feel their
painful tug
if ‘ere they wandered far.

But life was harsh,
and as the years passed
those who carried the song
in their hearts
suffered battles and
as they built a nation
hewn of courage and sacrifice.

Centuries later,
life was gritty and raw, and
a restless young lad
of seventeen
ventured out
far across the ocean
to seek his fortune
in a city of the same name as a
windblown island meadow
in his homeland.

There, he met a bonnie lass,
in whose heart a different song
was buried deep,
and together they built their dream –
with three strong children
and a career whose gifts
were a modern home and
a comfortable life,
far from the soot and scarcity
that had once
burned his body and
stung his pride.

But the song –
it hadn’t gone;
it hunted and haunted,
and softened by the years away
he followed it back,
challenging the ghosts
of his past
and embracing the long lost
stories of land of his birth.

And so it grew
his interest and admiration
for the land of his forefathers,
and he came into the twilight of his life
with a strong sense of self
and a clear understanding
of his place and purpose.

And when the moment of truth arrived,
so suddenly, yet expected,
he calmly agreed to
pay the piper,
singing his song
loudly and proudly
as he was carried gently away,
returning the song
to it’s home.

And the song, it plays still;
it’s calling him back,

and in Drimmie its notes
will settle and rest
at last, on the soft heathered hills.
I have the song in my heart too, Grampa. All of us do. We found it here in Drimmie where you left it, and it resonates in our souls as we think of you.

Coming Home

I sit in the garden of a home that my Grampa considered to be his second for the last almost 20 years. Blairgowrie. His favourite place in the world. 

I feel the same. It's my second home, and one of my favourite places in the world.

Earlier, I wandered through the woods, noting that it's impossible to ignore the extravagant beauty that has been left for me to discover. I am grateful. Home should be beautiful. I search for familiarity and find it.

I wander and wonder. How is it possible that my soul can also feel so at home in this place? I am peaceful. I rest, taking in the wonder that is Scotland. With a wet boot and a place to sit in the middle of a river, I find something to treasure here: my family.

There is a slight sense of longing: I miss Blaine, and I wish that he was here in this place with me. I also miss Grampa, for the last time I saw these sights, he was beside me.

But I have something new too...kinship with people who have known me my entire life, and whom I have known their entire lives. Seven people between whom are undeniable bonds, even more strong than just simple family ties. We became a family here.

And some new family members: Charles and Sue Collings. I met them in 2000, and felt like I was reuniting with family as I greeted them again. They loved Grampa, and he loved them. They offer that same love to all of us, and we take it, with pleasure! What a blessing to live in their home and be in community with them for a couple of days.

It might seem weird that the places in Scotland that I found treasures were not the places that I was checking off on my checklist. They were the places where relationships took top priority, where meeting people meant more than meeting history.

I have so much more to say.

To be continued...