50 Years Without My Father

January 21, 1970. It was a typical Wednesday and we got up to get ready for school. I have vague memories of what happened earlier that morning, but I do have clear memories of my mother telling us to go see my sister Monique who was waiting for my 5-year-old brother and me to join her in her bed.

We snuggled in, and as best as she could, having just a short while before learned of the news, she explained to us that our father had passed away. I was 9 years old.

Where most of the following days were sketchy at best in this 59-year-old mind, I do have strong vivid detailed snippets of specific moments. I remember writing a letter (which I have to this day) and asking the priest who stopped by the house why angels didn’t have any bodies.

I was very much involved with our church, not only as part of the children’s choir but also as one of the first few girls to help serve mass. I loved going to church and I always saw it as a house of quietness. I was a student at a school run by nuns and was proud to have had my first communion a few years my father’s passing.

Reading back the letter I wrote, and I have no issues sharing it with the world, I realized I had a very strong belief in heaven. At least, I had learned my catholicism lessons well. What is very interesting, is that I could not actually write the word “died or dead” unless it was in parenthesis. I’m sure many therapists and psychologists would have a term for such behaviour.

At 9 years of age, I did not speak a word of English, therefore the letter is in French. I will, however, attempt to parts I feel relevant to how I saw my father’s passing.

“Oh my father, he was well on earth, he raised us like Jesus was raised by Joseph and Mary. I loved him with all my heart and he was the joy of our family. He was handsome, lovable and never did he argue with mom. I feel he trained us well to love each other and do always do what must be done. It was on the 21 of January that he (died). But he is always with us. I know well that his SOUL is with GOD. I think of him every night, he speaks to me in my heart. He tells me that when I need something I need to ask it of him. At night I dream: He is with us always and watches us from high above the sky. Because dad loves us always even if he is (dead).”

I believe, even at the young age of 9 that my spiritual upbringing helped me through the initial years after his passig.

50 years without my father – it seems unreal to think it has been so very long. However, I can say that there are few days when I don’t think of him. I missed him just as much during my big life events, my wedding, the birth of our daughters, seeing my girls grow up as during the small, little moments of everyday life.

I wonder how my life would have been had he lived past his 45th year. Would he have been the disciplinary one, would he have left me to spend three summers in Spain in my late teens, would he have encouraged my choice of career, would he have, would he have, would he have…

Tomorrow I will focus on the beautiful memories I do recall, and of those, I will remember to be grateful that I had at least those 9 years with him. So many people live without ever having known their parents, I had enough days to understand that he was a loving wonderful dad. I hold a strong belief that somehow, one day, we will be together again.

Je t’aime toujours, Popa!

Never too late to learn

Brain

It’s the summer of 1966, a few days after school had closed for the summer. I sat outside by the back fence at a little makeshift table made from an upside-down cardboard box. I had my pencils lined up perfectly, a small ruler and some pieces of paper on my make-believe desk.

I was ready to imagine I was in school. Yes, only a few days after my summer holidays had started I found myself playing school. I loved school, I loved reading and I loved learning.

Throughout my career as a consultant, I took as many classes as the organization would allow. I always used up my learning budget, and often would ask for more. Sometimes it worked and I expanded my learning wish list, other times it didn’t. I, however, always asked.

When I first learned about distance learning I admit that I saw thousands of doors opening up for me. My work required that I continuously travel and this made it impossible for me to commit to an in-person learning program, but oh, when the location was no longer a challenge, I signed up.

Early versions of this now sophisticated mainstream way of learning offered a lot of opportunities for those who were passionate about learning because the challenges were plenty.

Over time distance ed, remote learning, distance learning, online, internet-based method of learning has evolved in leaps and bounds. To me, distance ed is a door opening to a vast paradise of knowledge!

I’ve enjoyed taking classes in anthropology, philosophy, business management, writing, and Italian. A few months ago, I took an introductory Program Management course, and within 4 weeks the bug bit me and bit me hard. I started dreaming about attending university with the Millenials and taking all sorts of courses.

Then, upon introspect and reviewing my wish list, it occurred to me that I need to walk the talk, in that I always am the first to tell people “Carpe Diem”, ‘Seize the Day!” or “this moment may never come again”. Time goes by so quickly, exponentially in fact. I’m about to turn 60 and I’m excited for the next decades ahead.

I have registered to complete an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) specializing in Big Data and Business Intelligence. My love of data has been reignited at my current assignment; during my days of working for a large consulting firm, I learned to truly appreciate what bits and pieces of information can reveal and how interesting the theories can be.

It’s an aggressive project, this MBA, given I have 18 months, with a possible extension of 6 months, during the time I will continue to work 4 days a week and will have close to us our future grandson! But I thrive on challenges. Let’s see if this first year of my 60s is as exciting as I imagine it will be!

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” — Eartha Kitt

Bravo Meghan and Prince Harry

This blog has been resting for quite a while and today I felt the need to resurrect this channel for my imagination, my dreams, my thoughts (well some thoughts), and my opinions. I hold no one else but myself accountable for my words.

So what inspired me to dust off the cobwebs on these pages? The news that Prince Harry and Meghan have decided to take a different direction with their lives; a life mostly detached from the British Monarchy.

I cannot even imagine how many thousands of hours of discussions this must have brought on. I also imagine there must have quite some serious differences of opinion. I see, however, a beautiful horizon for the couple, who will no doubt be the sources of an endless amount of negativism. Hopefully, the encouragement of those who support the bold move will help them navigate through the challenges.

I was raised in a French Canadian family, and my mother was a true Royalist! I remember that in our kitchen, we had three pictures on one of the cupboards, and the order was important.

Centred was a picture of the Pope. Below was a picture of the Queen on the left, and a picture of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the Prime Minister at the time, on the right. Later in life, she took what she called her epic trip and went to England with my younger brother.

I have a reverence to history, to the Popes and the Queens. There are places for tradition, and these figures do represent much to many. Ironically, of late I’ve binged watched The Crown and Two Popes. Both show the behind the scenes of a life that is constantly on parade, and the loneliness of a scheduled and organized existence.

I think this is why I admire Prince Harry and Meghan so very much. How hard must this be for them to pull away from a life of tradition, of pomp, of schedules and events, of rules and what-not-to-dos… They have opted for something different, something more… normal.

It will be interesting to see just how the decision they have taken pans out. However it becomes for them, it must be something so wanted by both to be willing to face the newness of a decision that few have taken. Maybe the Prince of Wales, Edward paved a bit of the way for them.

Time will tell. Times, they are changing!

My big Aha Moment

Holiday 2018 books

I’m officially on holiday, until January 3rd 2019! Whohoo! And I intend to do quite a few things, such as tidying my art studio, finishing a few art projects and reading. Oh how I love reading.

My books choices have changed recently, and as I was driving to work this morning, I noticed I had a smile on my face. I’m a relatively positive person and that’s not unusual but this time, I actually felt it on my face. I had one of the biggest AHA MOMENT at that exact second – I was truly happy going to my work and take part in the new project that started a few weeks ago.

“Aren’t you retired” many have asked me recently. “I thought you stopped working” or more often than not “Why are you working???” I 2011 I did retire from consulting and a 20-year career with Accenture. When I planned my goals when I was 23, one of my bucket list item was to retire by the time I reached 50. Well, turns out I was in my 50th year, as it was just before I turned 51. I was elated to be able to travel more often, write, do crafts etc. Early on after I retired, I was offered many job opportunities but turned them all down.

After three years of travels and leisure, I was offered a contract and I decided I would rebuild my travel savings and keep my feet in the business. Well, that is what I thought.

The project was interesting, but I realized I missed travelling, so I headed back to Spain and other travel trips. This past summer I returned to the Camino in Spain, to volunteering at the albergue. I also completed the Camino walk (I had 114 km left on the Camino I dedicated to my sister Denise who passed away in 2014. That last part of the Camino was by far the most emotional one so far. I believe it was a grieving Camino, not only for my sister but for everyone in my life who had passed. I cried often, I hurt, I felt grief constantly, but I understood it was a needed step in my ongoing personal growth. I also felt there was a need that was growing in me.

On my second of six days of walk, I started thinking that I might want to return to work. I have a strong belief in putting thoughts “out there” and let the universe do its thing. I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes right now, and that’s great. We all need to believe our own philosophy, follow our instincts, and mine include a sense of faith in the universe. Some call this faith in God, in destiny, in Providence, or just hogwash.

The next day, I got two calls for two offers of contract work. I now find myself working at one contract 4 days a week. This contract is all about service centre, or call centre, and it’s a real challenge as there are many challenges but I realize I am in my element.

And yesterday, it hit me hard – I truly and honestly love this type of work. I realized my brain needs the stimulation that this type of work provides me. I realized I thrive on this type of challenge. I openly am stating that I am not ready to retire. I am ready to work on my terms, on projects I find interesting and challenging keeping my options open for additional travels between projects.

My hunger for new knowledge, my joy in helping out organizations, my ability to quickly adapt to demands of a project, my excitement in being part of a program of change, all these things point to the fact I still have lots to give.

Therefore, I realize that my definition of retiring is not the traditional one, but I am blessed to have the option of working or not, and of travelling or planning for future travels.

The year is almost over, and I look forward to starting 2019 doing what I really enjoy!

I hope you will begin 2019 doing what you really enjoy!

Happy holidays!

 

 

Last is the New First

The alarm rang at 6:15 am on Saturday July 1st; a very special Canada day as the country was celebrating our 150th Anniversary of Confederation. I had registered to participate in a 10K race, however, planned on walking the distance.

I’ve done many walking races, some as difficult as marathons, half marathons and of the last 6 years or so, only 10k events. I’m far from being a runner, I’m seldom a jogger, and mostly experience the race from the back of the file.

I get to see the elite front end runners coming back on the second half of the race, well into my second or third kilometer. It’s something not too many people see as they typically follow the front runners, usually 2 or 3 kilometers behind. I get to see them coming towards me, their feet landing with little sound, their gait long, their bodies elegant and strong… what a beautiful sight! They swish by me and disappear quickly as they aim to break their personal best record.

I get to thank the volunteers as I rapidly walk by, with enough time to share a few words with them. Running fast doesn’t allow one to do this! I don’t have to crowd in to try to get some water at the water station, I’m typically one of the last they serve. I am typically alone in the photographs the run team take, no chance of losing sight of me among the big crowds of runners.

I am proud to say I completed the 10K. Despite wanting to go back to bed, I completed the race. Despite the rain pouring as I arrived, forcing some runners to return to their homes, I completed the race. Despite the start of the event in torrential rain, I completed the race. Despite shivering at some point and getting a huge leg cramp at kilometer 4, I completed the race.

I finished third from last. There were still lots of people at the finish line encouraging us “slow ones” as we arrived. And, that is what counts. I finished, and I even was able to shave off almost 4 minutes from my last 10K race. Ultimately, it’s not about the completion time. It’s about getting out there, regardless of the adversity, and finishing what I set out to do.

It’s always a new race, a new setting, new challenges and the key is to simply push through the effort and meet my personal goals. Last place is MY first place – keeping my personal promise to complete my event.

  before the racesoaking wet arrival

13 Reasons Why – and why it should be seen by ALL

I knew a bit about these episodes, I knew they dealt with teen suicide, but nothing more.

I binged watched, because once the first episode started, I was compelled to watch episode after episode after episode. My heart broke for many reasons, mostly for the young people who have gone through difficult and at times devastating life challenging and life changing events.

Everyone is aware, to some level, of the challenges today with the social media component. It is a good tool but can also be deadly, in many ways… cyber bullying, cyber shaming, cyber incrimination, cyber discrimination, cyber intimidating matched with real life bullying, shaming, incriminating, discriminating and intimidating destroy self esteem, self worth, self-value, self confidence…

It’s a different world than when I was in high school – bullying happened then as well, but without the cyber component.

Reputations have been tarnished, shredded, torn, misinterpreted, misshaped, invented, blown up, misrepresented… each and every time the affect is often for life. Oh, as we “grow” up we may remember less and less, and talk ourselves into believing that we need to overcome these situations.

We are taught that these actions are “common” and that everyone at one time, has been bullied. People can be very cruel to others, without really knowing the impact that the actions can have, for decades on.

This series, in my opinion, is a MUST SEE, for EVERYONE. For teenagers to help them understand how their actions affect others, and understand that they are  not alone, that they are loved. For parents to understand how very complex this world is for teenagers, and for young adults. For grandparents to understand that the world today is so vastly different than the world of their youth.

This series has shaken me to my core – has made me recall some memories I would have preferred not to remember, but it has empowered me to speak out, and recommend this series to EVERYONE. We all can be more aware, more open, more receptive, more understanding, more questioning, more able to reach out, whether to others who may need  support, or to GET support ourselves.

Needing help is not a sign of weakness, and if anyone out there ever need to reach out, for whatever reason, I hope that you know that I WILL LISTEN and support… This is always always always available… I venture to say, most people, and those around you and me would do the same.

Life is precious… very precious.

 

Evolution of my self

OM Times Magazine states that personal evolution is a change of perspective. How one’s beliefs, self-image and self-knowledge affect us emotionally, mentally and spiritually is determined by testing new knowledge through experience and turning it into wisdom.

This said, this past year I’ve been going through a lot of re-evaluation of so many things in my life. Never as often as this summer, where I had some beliefs take a complete turn on so many subjects. I spent many hours with acquaintances and friends this summer, and many of them offered some interesting view points.

I also had the opportunity to have very deep philosophical conversations with priests and one brother who came to Moratinos to be part of a chaplain program. I posed some very tough questions, and the conversations that ensued put my beliefs in need of re-evaluation.

I also found myself trying to understand certain reactions I had to people’s ways, looks and habits. I deliberately took notice of my attitude and found myself aware of preconceived notions that turned out to not be as sound as they may have seemed 10 or even 5 years ago.

A big one for me is the concept of aging.  I met a man who was 79 walking the Camino with is 19 year old (wait for it) … SON. Yes, his 19 year old son. This man didn’t look 79, and he was fit and had so much energy and was a joy to get to know. I met a woman who was 85 who still gardened every day, who walked 5 km a day and swam in the ocean every week of the year! So what is aging? One of my misconception was regarding grey hair. In my own mind, I was ok with having loads of wrinkles, but somehow, couldn’t accept having grey hair. I’m fine with anyone else having silver strands, but I refused to let mine show… Until now.

I had a very vivid dream where a toddler (that I knew somehow was my grandchild) was playing with my long curly beautiful silver hair. IT looked fabulous! Soon afterwards, I had another dream where a voice told me “Your body or your hair do not define you. Be your authentic self – and don’t worry about what others think.”

Today, I took the first step to adding authenticity for my self. I made the first pass at letting my hair be its real colour. It will be a multiple step effort, but from this point on, I will embrace who I truly am… and let my ACTIONS, attitude, my “joie de vivre” define me.

with my new lighter hair

with my new lighter hair

The Father we know or have known

dad 3Syls DadThere are moments in life that simply bring us to our knees in sheer emotions… Today was one of those moments… I heard this song that was written for Celine Dion by the amazing artist Pink.

It is such a totally emotional “cry out your heart song” of gratitude and love, and the constant reach to manage life’s most crippling and humbling experiences… the lost of a loved one. Out of nowhere, I chanced through the channels between housecleaning activities, and in a moment, was sitting down in amazed concentration to the show StandUp2Cancer. It was late, but I chanced on the channel as I heard the first note played on the piano, and I was riveted. And Celine started to sing – like the angel whose voice she has, this haunting, disturbing and comforting song….

I am recovering…. Aren’t we all recovering from something? An old hurt, a failed project, a lost member(s) of family, a failed marriage, a heartbreak or more…  We all have SOMETHING, acknowledged or not, that is likely in need of recovery.

I lost my Dad 46 years ago – and to this day, I still think of him. I lost my Mom, my sister Denise, my aunts, uncles, friends, grandparents, in laws… we all have. Many wish just one more moment with them, one more thought, one more “I love you”. I believe, and this is my own personal belief, than they are still with us, but in different “state or form”.

They are still missed and loved. My girls still have their father and they are so blessed.

Humbled and grateful for those I loved

Sylvie

 

 

 

The wonders of nostalgia

“Live in the present” we hear, almost on a daily basis. My philosophy differs somewhat. I see validity and value in the past, the present and the future.

old coffee cup

Memories galore…

I found myself busy cleaning the kitchen and chanced upon this beautiful cup. How many of us remember our parents or grandparents drinking from such a cup.

These flashbacks to my younger days are to me, a gift… A gift from the past. Such gifts make me remember the great moments of my childhood or my growing up days.

I feel happiness and security when I see such treasures. Granted, LIVING in the past is not something I would recommend, but the past has tremendous value to add to our growth. Notice I didn’t say growing up, but wise! Up is not a direction I aspire.

Nor, I truly believe, should we live in the future ALL the time, but I truly aspire to do so to enable me to see and feel myself in my own created future. It allows me to dream, to create, to imagine, to picture myself in a better version of who I am today. All of us can use some “tweaking” to be our best selves.

I also live in the present – enjoy these feelings of nostalgia I have from being items of my past, and being thankful for my life… each and every day.

So perhaps you might consider doing some “downsizing” and sharing what you have that you can give out to others. And in the interim, if you find those “treasures” that fling you into some past experiences or time, well then, keep those in a special place. We can live a balanced life in all three spaces… the value of past positive and happy memories, the present of appreciating what we have and what we had, and projecting what we could be.

I am forever thankful for my charmed life, my beautiful family members and friends…

Love and appreciation.

Sylvie

 

 

New appreciation for my ancestors

On June 27th, I, along with 47 other pilgrims (mostly from Bordeaux France) set sail from Bordeaux to A Coruna in Spain. The 3 mast sailboat made its maiden voyage in June of 1896. Its original cargo was of cocoa beans from Brazil to Nantes in France for the french chocolatier Menier.

Belem

Belem

Today it serves as a training vessel for various groups, including ours. We spent 5 days learning and doing many of the tasks needed to keep the vessel in working order. Although the very able crew of 15 sailors could do this on their own, they included us in many of the maneuvers such as raising the sails, navigating and maintaining the ship.

A sailor I am not I soon discovered as I suffered seasickness during most of the trip; extreme seasickness that plagued me during 4 of the 5 days of sailing. I will omit the details, suffice to say I managed to lose a few kilos along the way.

One of my many thoughts (other than the dream of terra ferma) was that of our newly found ancestor information. Through research, my brother Paul was able to trace our father’s ancestors right up to the migration of Andre Poutré dit Lavigne who opted to set his sights on la Nouvelle France (Québec) in 1655.

He, along with 224 other brave individuals crossed the ocean on a ship called l’Aigle d’Or on what must have been nothing less than a hellish trip lasting 111 days. I cannot even fathom the hardship of such travels. The conditions of their surroundings must have been near impossible to survive with so many people for such a long period of time with limited rations, limited space and treacherous waters.

How many actually arrived in Nouvelle France is not noted, but he, along with his future wife who sailed a different ship as a chosen “Fille du Roi” established themselves in Canada and had a total of 12 children.

I have such a respect and admiration for those like them who defied the odds and headed towards a new life in a newly inhabited country which included extreme cold, snow, undeveloped land, and much hardship. I planned to visit the birth place of André, but due to changes to my schedule, I have to postpone this visit until my next trip.

Today, I salute those that made that extreme leap of faith and traveled to our country.