About Me

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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lobsters & gratitude

It is late Monday night, almost Tuesday morning. In six hours my alarm will go off, drawing me into another full day. Life has been rather insane lately, but it has also been well-lived. Every moment of my day is filled...so much so that I find myself yearning for time to rest or sit in silence and read a good book. Sometimes the speed at which my life is moving feels like a bit much. But then I look around me and realize that I am only feeling run off my feet because doors are opening. Many doors. And some windows too! I would not be awake this late if I had come straight home this evening. But one of my closest friends turned up downtown to surprise me after work, and asked me to join her for supper, so I got home later than I had planned. I also had a superb supper with a good friend filled with laughter, and a lovely walk home in excellent company, which put me in a much better space to get a lot of work done tonight, which I did. So I will get less sleep tonight. After two years of too much sleep and too little work, in a way this experience is refreshing.

I am feeling grateful for a hell of a lot today, but here's my abbreviated gratitude list for today:

1. My friend Honeylyn, who turns up for me and makes me smile and laugh out loud on a regular basis.
2. My work, which, despite being a non-stop barrage of work, is nevertheless exceptionally awesome.
3. Lobsters. Because the season starts tomorrow, and because I get to go pick up the first lobsters of the season on Wednesday with a fisherman straight from the wharf.
4. Chloe, the dog I walk, who is a constant source of amusement and fun.
5. Good coffee shops, and great people to share them with.
6. Free internet connections. Because I am rarely home. And because I am going through a cheap phase.
7. A warm coat. Because it was bloody cold today despite being the end of April.
8. The public library. Because I do not own a television, and books are my epic adventure every night before I fall asleep.
9. Hot showers, warm beds, and late night bowls of gluten free maple nut cereal. Just because.

And with that, I wish you a great Tuesday, friends!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Change. Here it comes, ready or not

If I am to go on my life of the last week, it seems that the saying it never just rains, it pours, may in fact be true. Today it was pouring for hours. After making it downtown, I cocooned myself into one of the local coffee shops and stayed put until the rain let up enough for me to walk home. I have been thinking a lot about change today -- for a number of reasons. First because so much of my life right now feels completely out of my control, and the next few months, no matter what happens, are guaranteed to bring even more change into my world. Second because I have been thinking a lot about one of my best friends today who is battling lung cancer at age 34 and I am struggling with the idea of her suffering on the opposite side of the world and my not being able to be there, even though she is a battle axe, and I know she intends to fight this with everything she has got. I have also been thinking about my mother this week -- possibly because of the woman I met the other day who seemed to be so fragile, who turned out to be five years younger than my mom. It gets you thinking, you know? And then I came home this evening, and sat down to write this blog entry, and was told that Blogger is updating the look of my blog. It will have a new format. One I did not ask for, nor do I particularly want. I like my blog the way it is, dammit! But there it is nevertheless. Change staring me in the face whether I like it or not.

Change is constant. It is as necessary as the annual cycle of seasons renewing the landscape. It is exciting in ways. It is also painful. In my faith's writings it says that pain is a blessing. That the more pain we experience, the more opportunities we have to grow in new directions. I believe this wholeheartedly.

My friend Ahava, who has a radio show every Monday afternoon called Love in the Afternoon was speaking about Paradox this week, and it is interesting to me that my life this last week has been so full of paradox. Or perhaps I have just been more aware of the paradoxes because she called my attention to them.

I struggle with not having a home right now, and yet in reality I am absolutely certain that this time of homelessness will only make the experience of having a home, when this happens, so much sweeter. I have been struggling with blogging this past week. Because this blog is so public, and so much of what I am experiencing right now -- my thoughts and reflections -- are so personal. It is hard to share the experiences I am going through right now without having people judge or misinterpret where I am coming from. Think, for example, that I am unhappy or ungrateful, when in reality I am perfectly content in the most profound way right now despite all of the spiritual and physical challenges.

Writing is all about having the courage to share experience or perception even when I know people may not understand, or may misunderstand or misinterpret what I am trying to say. It is about reflecting the world around me and the experience of being human, so much of which is the experience of willingly allowing the world to grind away all of the rough edges of the self--a process beautiful and joyful and deeply painful all at once.

The rain clouds have cleared just in time for the sunset. The room I am writing in is suddenly flooded with the last warm light of the day. Tomorrow calls for more rain. I am amused by the way in which the constantly, and unpredictably fluctuating weather patterns are almost a perfect mirror image of my life right now. Or, more likely, my life is a mirror image of the pressure systems moving across the sky.

It is interesting the lengths to which the universe will go to help us grow, isn't it? This evening I am quite certain that all the external turmoil in my own life and in the world has one purpose: to help me, and the rest of humanity focus on the one thing that is stable and consistent-- our relationship with God and our spiritual growth. Because I have never been one to learn the easy way I am not sure I would be as focused on the internal stillness if it were not for the constant churning and renewal of the world around me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Trusting uncertainty

It is Thursday evening. The last light of the day is filtering in my bedroom window as I write. It was a beautiful clear blue sky and sunshine day despite the cold wind that blew and blew. It is Springtime on Prince Edward island, and Spring here comes real slow, with a couple of warmer days to tease us out of our winter wardrobes before more rain, frozen rain and snow move in to remind us where we are.

This morning I walked downtown to walk a dog that I care for, taking in the details around me: birds singing on electricity wires; piles of old furniture stacked out front from a Spring clean; the green grass pressing up around the leaning, eroded gravestones in the old cemetery I walk past every day; the tiniest of flowers testing the waters before they unfurl fully into daylight; the guy dressed from head to toe in a bright red maple leaf outfit standing outside the income tax services business waving at cars as they drive by and making us all feel deeply grateful for our jobs and professions -- whatever they may be.

This past week the reality of my choices over the last few weeks have been slowly sinking in. I often lie in bed at night listening to the wind or just looking around me at the empty room that I currently inhabit and feeling an odd mixture of certainty and relief and joy and fear. It is hard to feel certainty when so much is still uncertain. Certainty that I am in the right place when I will not know for at least three more weeks whether immigration will approve my papers and give me a work visa. How do you feel certain about something when you are completely at the mercy of powers that you have no control over whatsoever? I don't have an answer to that. My only certainty is that I am happy. Fear also rises up on and off -- fear that if my papers are approved I am out in the vast world again with no security net beneath my feet. That I have to somehow manage to find a new apartment and move my life yet again in the next couple of months. That while it feels good to be out on my own again, my parents are now thousands of miles away, and that if I remain here I will not be seeing them very often, which is harder as they get older. And that if things, for whatever reason, do not work out, I have no plan B. My fears makes me realize that maybe security is another of life's illusions.  

This evening after walking Chloe for the second time today I stopped by the home of some friends who live downtown. They recently moved into a new home, started new jobs, and are experiencing a lot of the same questions and uncertainties that I am, despite being Canadian. We sat and had tea together and got caught up on how everyone was surviving, and it made me realize that uncertainty runs through everyone's life -- single or married, Canadian or American or Asian or African, employed or not.....

My flatmate is snoring, as she does most nights. It is something that ordinarily would drive me crazy, but over the past few weeks has become reassuring -- a reminder that there is someone else right on the the other side of the wall who is just as human and living with just as many questions and just as much uncertainty as I am, in her own way. I don't know why that is reassuring right now, but it is.

I feel as though I am standing on the edge of another rather steep cliff, thinking I am ready to fly, but not sure if God agrees. There is some guidance, given by Shoghi Effendi to someone trying to make a difficult decision. One of the steps that he recommends is that the person trying to make the decision act as if it (whatever it is that the person wanted or was aiming for) has already been accomplished. I remind myself of this quote often these days as I transfer my Baha'i membership back to Canada and consider having my belongings shipped over to Canada so I have more than the contents of the one suitcase that I brought with me when I came in December, thinking I would only be staying two weeks, and that I am still living out of today. It takes courage to make plans and decisions knowing very well that the rug could be pulled out from under me any day, but standing still seems fruitless, so I continue to walk forward, trying to have faith in the process.

This evening I was thinking about what will happen if my paperwork is not approved. Having this thought, which I have repeatedly throughout the day every day, made me realize that while it seems like the end of the world, whatever happens is what God intends to happen, and that if I can learn to truly believe this, all the anxiety that I am experiencing would be gone. Another opportunity to practice faith and trust in God.

It is dark now. Time for a my novel, some quiet time, and a night full of dreams. And you, friends? How do you practice trust in God when life is full and overflowing with uncertainties? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why I will probably never know the woes and sufferings of the destitute

(c) Ariana Salvo. May not be used without permission
I have been realizing this week that no matter how little I have in the way of financial resources, I will never, unless some major catastrophe hits my entire network of friends and family scattered across the globe, experience the physical hardship of poverty. When I say this I mean that kind of poverty that the majority of the global population lives with every single day. The kind that results in homelessness and starvation.

The reason that I will likely never experience poverty has nothing to do with me. It has to do with where I happen, by chance, to have been born, and with my incredible family and friends who would never allow me to be homeless or go hungry. Which has had me considering the idea that poverty may not be a symptom of a lack of financial resources, but rather an indication that our global family may actually be experiencing a lack of love. Because if we really, truly loved one-another the way my friends and family love me, we would simply not allow them to be homeless and hungry. That's what I'm thinking.

I have a number of new mantras. One is THE UNIVERSE IS ABUNDANT. I repeat this to myself often throughout my day and week, especially when I am operating on a shoestring and am hungry or tired or just wishing that one of the vehicles that speeds by me as I walk home at the end of the day would pull over and offer me a ride. Repeating this does not immediately change my circumstances, but it does make me reflect on all the good in my life, and focusing on what is truly awesome somehow makes the awesome expand. I guess it is the idea that whatever you focus your attention on will grow, so if you focus on abundance, you will attract more and more abundance in your life.

I find that not only do I attract abundance when I think this way....I also notice myself doing things for other people to help add to their share of abundance: holding doors open for elderly people, giving someone a compliment, smiling at strangers, making my friends laugh, baking muffins and sharing them with my flatmate, giving someone who needs one a hug or saying a healing prayer for someone in need. Abundance need not be big things. Often it is small details or gestures or words that completely reorient a day.

This evening a friend treated me to supper. I had not eaten since breakfast and was very hungry. This same friend then accompanied me while I walked a dog that I am caring for, and then walked home with me, inviting me in when we reached her home for a cup of tea and a break before I continued on my walk home. Having her company all afternoon added so much joy to my day. This afternoon another friend gave me a ride back downtown so I did not have to walk, saving me some valuable energy. My mother sends me notes on Facebook and Gmail expressing her love and sharing her news, which not only makes me feel valued, but also makes her feel a little bit closer despite the vast geographic distance that is now between us.

Abundance is a choice -- one that is easily overlooked when we get caught up in the hectic pace and details of life. Love is also a choice. One that I find tends to blossom out of a life of abundance. Wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances, try taking the time today to recognize all of the abundance in your life and to share some of it with those around you. What do you notice?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A picture's worth a thousand words

I have seen a tremendous amount of beauty in the last week. Walking through a snowstorm can be rough on the eyes, but being out there with the snow blowing every which way on the day that I took the photo above made me wonder why I don't go out in snowstorms more often. It is such a different experience when I am standing in the middle of the whirling snow than it is from behind a pane of glass. It is beautiful, but in a raw, humbling way. The distinction between my body and the air around me feel porous somehow standing out there exposed to the elements.

I walk down this street every day. this is the quickly melting aftermath of the previous photo. I love the icicles hanging from the eaves of this building. They can be rather brutal if you happen to be unfortunately to be walking beneath one of them when it decides to give in to the pull of gravity and let go, and in reality they are simply caused by bad insulation, but there is nevertheless something magical about them, don't you think?

I had a business meeting the other day with a client whose business is just off to the left of the edge of this photo. Walking down to the waterfront to meet him that morning I had the thought "I WORK HERE..." I get to see the deep blue of the Atlantic with the sun shining down on it every day. I get to meet with clients in a room flooded with the brilliance of light dancing off water. I mean, seriously. Can you imagine waking up to this every day?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Late night gratitude notes

We had a wild last hurrah wild winter storm this weekend, so when I left to head downtown this morning I found myself trudging through more snow just when I thought the last of it had melted. After my morning dog-walking job I headed down to Young Folk & the Kettle Black for a tea date with a new friend who just got back from a whirlwind trip to Italy. One of the commitments I made to myself when I moved back to Prince Edward Island was that I would make extra effort to get to know new people, so today was my first effort in that direction! My friend Natasha told me the incredible story of her grandparents' escape from Nazi labour camps, and their journey across Europe and then migration to Canada. I am always blown away by the stories of people who by some miracle of life managed to survive those dark times and go on to create a new life full of so much joy in a new land.

This afternoon I migrated over to the public library to do some work for my social media clients. I am really excited about the work I am doing right now, and about the season ahead, and all the possibility that it brings to explore and grow and engage both with my clients and with their customers!

Later this afternoon I again migrated, this time to Timothy's Coffee Shop to brainstorm for a meeting I have with a new client tomorrow afternoon. Sitting in the window of Timothy's with the spring afternoon light flooding in over the page of my notebook and my hot cup of tea as I worked I felt intensely content to have some time to myself to reflect and come up with new ideas that I can share with my client tomorrow. It made me realize both how much I love my work, and how happy I am to be where I am doing what I am doing right now.

Later this afternoon I took Chloe, the dog I walk, for her second stroll of the day. Chloe is always full of so much joy. I do not know many other beings who express such complete and utter joy when they see me. Seeing her bounding across the living room floor and sliding to a halt at my feet every day makes me smile--every single time.

This evening I stopped by the apartment of a good friend, Sonjel. She and her husband recently moved back from Israel, and just moved into a new house this week. It is exciting to see how they are creating their new home -- the space they will inhabit for the next few years as they build a life on Prince Edward Island together. It is also exciting to see someone else doing what I hope to be doing too in the next two months....finding a new apartment or house for myself and creating a new home here on the island. Watching my friends settle into their new home I can feel my own yearning for a place to call my own rising steady from somewhere deep inside me.

This evening Sonjel and I walked to the Baha'i Centre for the Nineteen Day Feast together -- the gathering that marks the beginning of a new month. It was a lovely Feast with beautiful, uplifting readings, some great stories, and lovely social time after the formal portion of the evening. Sitting there listening to the voices of people who I love deeply recite such beautiful verses I felt something joyful surge in my chest. I feel so incredibly grateful to be part of a community that is so awesome. And I feel grateful to have a faith that is such a constant source of inspiration and joy.

I am home now, listening to the sound of wind outside and thinking about the remainder of the week, stretching out ahead of me. I cannot wait for the week ahead. For all the work and the moments of play with friends. But in this moment right now I cannot wait for sleep, and for dreams to carry me through the clear starry night.

How about you friends? What are you feeling grateful for today?

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Photo credit: Eylon Israely, 2007 (From Flickr's Creative Commons)

I was talking to my good friend Ahava Shira the other day. She is in the process of organizing an incredible retreat called Opening to Joy on Salt Spring Island, British Colombia, at the end of this month. Ahava is doing some incredible work with men and women -- empowering them to take the entrepreneurial leap creatively, confidently, and with the support and encouragement to ensure that they succeed. This is the first retreat that she is organizing, and as such is both very exciting and a little bit overwhelming at the same time. Ahava mentioned that so far registration has been low, and that as she was driving home from hosting her weekly Radio Show, Love in the Afternoon, she had started thinking about postponing the retreat until the Fall. As she was driving and thinking about this, she looked up and noticed a truck driving down the road in front of her decorated with a bumper sticker that read: "Don't postpone Joy." Ahava is one of the most intuitive people I know, and like me, she is a strong believer in signs, so receiving such a blatantly clear response to her deliberations made her decide to use the weekend to reconsider her idea of postponing, using the time to instead try to come up with a creative way of overcoming the barriers that are preventing those who have expressed an interest in participating in her retreat from registering for it.

I have been thinking a lot about her story this weekend myself, and reflecting on the deceptively simple message on that bumper sticker. It is so easy, with the stresses and challenges of everyday life, to keep putting joy off until later. Until I have a job. Until I have a better salary. Until I have a place to call home. Until I have met a man to share my life with. Until I have a family.....There are so many excuses for putting joy off, and yet when it comes down to it, being joyful is an art form that really has nothing to do with what you have or do not have, who is in your life or not, or whether you have achieved your version of success. It is an art form that can be mastered at any given moment simply by practicing making the choice at every turn to recognize and celebrate joy. In reality, if you cannot be joyful when things are tough, how can you be sure that you will be any better at it when your circumstances change?

For my part I am not at all sure that I would be any better at it in different circumstances, so I have decided that DON'T POSTPONE JOY is going to be my mantra for the new year. There will be no more putting joy off til later. Laundry, taxes, shopping and bills--yes. Joy--no.

What about you, friends? How do you practice the art of joy in the now?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Where I hang my heart

Yesterday was Gratitude Monday. Unfortunately it was also the final hurrah for the virus that has been clinging to me for dear life for the last week, so I was not up for my regular blog entry.  Tonight, having enjoyed a delicious home-cooked supper and some gluten free chocolate chip cookies still hot and soft from the oven, I am in much better shape for blogging :-).

The home-cooked meal, the cookies, and the heavenly bed I am lying in as I type this entry are all thanks to my good friends Ann and Stephen, who are, at this point, really more family than friends. It has been dawning on me lately that someone, somewhere in my extended family must have done something very, very right at some point, the effects on which are for some reason unknown to me manifesting themselves in my life in the form of exceptionally good fortune in the friend department. I am certain that Ann and Stephen will be simply thrilled that I have chosen this photo of us to post. Fortunately I am equally certain that they will forgive me by tomorrow morning -- it isn't in their genes to be irritated long.

Since returning to PEI a number of my friends have had me sleeping in their homes so much that it really is a miracle that they haven't had a restraining order taken out against me yet. The friends in the photo above are two such people. Although I did, for the record, move into an apartment a few weeks ago, when I came down with the virus that I have been fighting for the past ten days, Ann and Stephen suggested that I come stay at their place for a few days until I was feeling better. Little did they know that I would still be here five days later. Still.... after five days of good food, a cozy bed, hot baths and lots of hot tea and sleep, I am finally feeling a lot better, and am planning on moving back to my current home tomorrow afternoon.

As I was walking back to Ann and Stephen's house yesterday afternoon that old saying "home is where you hang your heart" came to mind, and I realized that Prince Edward Island is home because of the exceptional people living here who have opened their hearts and homes to me. And then I realized that in reality exceptional people are not exceptional here at all. Since returning to the island everyone I meet has been exceptional. Strangers help me out or offer a kind word on a regular basis. The public bus driver worries when I am not on the bus. People give me discounts or do not charge me knowing that I am living on a tight budget until I find full time work. People offer rides when I am tired. Friends turn up to walk with me when I take the dog that I am currently walking as a job for her daily walk when they can tell I am not feeling well. Friends invite me over to supper. Friends help me get to the doctor. Someone offers me paid work for the day at the farmer's market. Friends invite me into their homes to give me the chance to rest and heal when I am sick. I am surrounded by so many exceptionally kind and loving people that it has become the norm.

Many people have asked me why I moved back to Prince Edward Island after having left two years ago. Many of my friends do not really understand how I could choose this seemingly remote island in the north Atlantic over the sunshine state of California. I love islands because they are small and tightly knit. Everyone knows everyone else. Because there are so few people, every single person is important to the health and well being of the community. This means a greater degree of responsibility  on the one hand, but also a greater sense of mutual support and recognition of interconnectedness on the other. It should be this way everywhere, and some day I am sure it will be. For my part I am just grateful to know what it means to belong to a place and community. To want to be an active, responsible, engaged member of this island family. To love and know, without having to ask, that the love is coming right back at me. And to be certain in my core that I have a place and a valuable role to play on this vast and infinitely beautiful planet earth.