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!

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.

 

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.

Santa wore mascara

The tree was beautifully decorated and the sweet smell of cookies wafted from the kitchen. We were all gathered at my Mom’s house and I had planned to be Santa for the young ones.

We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company, and I quietly left the living room, making sure no one saw me. Granted, I didn’t make a tall Santa, but I was a very well dressed Santa. I stuffed a cushion to make my belly round, slipped the white wig and lifelike white beard, and sneaked out of the house by the side door.

I waited a few minutes, adjusting my bag of toys over my shoulder and in my best deep voice, practiced my Santa laugh. I noticed the kids had taken notice and ran to the front bay window to catch a glimpse of  the jolly guest.

I walked into the house, and the children gathered all around me, and others spoke so my words wouldn’t give me away. I did throw out a few loud “Ho ho” that seem to satisfy the children. So not to overstay my welcome, I waved goodbye and left the children to open their Santa presents. I noticed a few of them watching me through the window so I walked over to our neighbor to make it seem a bit more real.

After a short while, I softly crept back in, unnoticed, and went upstairs to change back into my regular clothes. I walked back down and a few of the kids told me that Santa had come by to visit. One of the youngest girls was a beautiful dark eyed dark hair little one who hardly spoke. She was a bit on the shy side, and hadn’t even spoken to me earlier during the evening. I caught her staring at me a few times, and an hour later, she approached me and sat beside me and took my hand in hers. This was quite unexpected coming from this shy little one.

After a few minutes, she motioned me to get close to her, and with her soft voice, she whispered “You know, Santa is a girl” she said quite proudly. “A girl?” I asked with a surprised tone. “Why do you say that?” She looked at me and smiled, and after a minute or so, she replied “Because Santa wore mascara”!

Did she really know I had taken on that role or was she simply sharing her discovery with me? I won’t ever be sure but she spent the rest of the evening sitting close to me.

By the way, that little girl was Anna Lee! this remains as one of my favorite Santa stories!

Merry Christmas to you all,

Santa Sylvie

A Special Camino post – honoring my sister Denise

Say not in grief thaPoppiest she is no more
But say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
But the putting out of the lamp
Because the dawn has come
– R. Tagore

This month I am photo blogging about the Camino, and at this time last year, on this very day, I said goodbye to my wonderful sister Denise, promising her that my next Camino would be in her honor. She loved poppies and she would always comment on my poppy pictures I took for her on previous Caminos.

It is said that the first year after a loved one has left, is the hardest. We live all the typical celebrations, events, moments without them and these are all different – slightly tarnished in their incompleteness. I choose to let the tears fall but ask her spirit  to help my heart be guided by the love we shared together.

I choose to let myself drift in thoughts of shared experiences, shred vacations, shared simple moments and shared quiet moments. I choose to  smile at the sight of poppies (and there have been so many these past few weeks), the symbol I have made hers and hers alone.

I choose to rejoice in the fact that we siblings are very close and we share much love among ourselves. Love is a strong thread that keeps us together regardless if our presence is physical or spiritual.

alto del perdon 1When I undertook last year’s Camino I felt her presence with me at all times. Unfortunately, I was faced with cutting my journey short but I vowed with all my heart to return and finish the trek we both undertook.

It with this plan in mind, on this special day, that I renew my commitment to walk beside the fields of poppies, to feel the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, and her presence in my heart.

header-poppies1.jpg

 

 

The best plans don’t always work out

well life happens and even the best laid plans don’t always work out. I am very disappointed to have to cut short my current Camino plans due to a health issue I must address at this time.

I don’t want to go into details other than the fact that all will be ok AND I will be back to resume my Camino in honor of my sister at some point in the next few years. The Camino will always be there!

My biggest disappointment and heartfelt regret is that I will not be able to fulfill my volunteering in both Moratinos with my good friend Bruno and in Santiago with my good friend Daniel.

If any of you have extra time and were considering volunteering either during the period of June 9-30th on the meseta or July 1-7 in Santiago, please let me know.

I am sad that I must change my plans but I do want to give a shout out to the great folks in Burgos who took care of me. I want to let folks know that I still stand by my original statement shared back during my first Camino in 2011 – so many people in Spain really care for us pilgrims in so many ways.

I WILL be back, healthy and able to continue my pilgrim trek.
I have lots of gratitude in my heart…