Finding the Family

I lost whole centuries of my family when my recent Ancestry. Ca membership lapsed. Luckily I painstakingly recorded information on index cards.
The next task will be to reinstall the information on my new Ancestry. com tree and onto my brother’s “family” tree.


Much of the walking through the past is in preparation for two events. On November 6th I will be in Yorkshire walking in the footsteps of my ancestors. I have stumbled upon video clips of life in West Yorkshire in 1940 and 1945 and feel more ready to experience the real deal.

I now know why I was obsessed with the Bronte’s and spent so much time seeking out British shows shot in the ocean of short grass on the Moors. My mother’s family resided there as far back as I can ascertain as the 1600’s.

My father’s family were Serbian and I have been pillaging on line sources to learn about the Covitchs. The Serbs underwent ethnic cleansing by the Croats and 700,000 of them were exterminated at the least accounting. Serbs perhaps riled up by the death purges, or by some other historic catastrophe even further back in their history went on to try to kill every Muslim they could and took a punitive swipe at dispensing death to all Croats that crossed their path.

I have always though of the chaotic, insane and violent nature of the males in my family as it worked its way out into my life.

Now I have a clearer view. When my grandfather left Serbia in 1911, he had already experienced horrors I can only imagine. He inflicted demeaning and soul destroying damage onto my father. And so it goes.

Our history is what happened to us. It is what happened to our ancestors. We carry it in our DNA. But luckily the Yorkshire part of me is beyond stubborn.
Yorkshire motto, “We shall do it whatever the opposition.”
It is why I come out swinging. It is why I could not be crushed.
I am learning so much that will appear in my biography which I begin in January. Disassociations is my working title.
As Aaron Sorkin said in a CBC interview recently, the getting ready to write is the important part of the work. I am making deep connections that start to provide me with clarity enough to both be “in” the memories and to be able to understand what happened.
Stay tuned.

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Warm sun, flocks of moving birds through falling gold maple leaves, the sound of my neighbours’ toddlers and in my house the nine of us together.

My son with his wife and new born baby; my daughter with her husband and three children gather. It is a small house but there is room for us comfortably. It has been a long time since we were all together. I moved to Kelowna. My daughter attended school in Prince George. My son moved to Edmonton to marry. My daughter and husband moved to Edmonton for work. Marriages failed. People got sick and close to death. Children were born. Life.
On the day of the feast, I cleaned and kept the tiny counter clear. And I love to clean. My daughter and her husband chopped, stirred, planned and created glorious smells of roasting turkey and various foods.
The three girls played outside with the neighbours son and they were running in the leaves, wielding sticks or swords or magic wands while following mysterious maps they had drawn.
The air was clear and the day warm. The colors intensely sharp. We all knew that this gathering had been a long time coming, had been a long time absent.

blue heart
The simple domestic ordinariness of it was spectacular. To watch my son and his wife so deeply in love with their daughter; to watch my dresden skinned blonde curled grand daughters playing happily; to see my daughter married for 25 years and her husband sneak a kiss was a miracle. There were only three of us once upon a time.


Natalyia Hanson 7 weeks old

Natalyia Hanson 7 weeks old

The three of us were exiled to a Northern town for my work and had no one we knew around us. I was frightened, in an unsettling environment and not confident I could rise to the challenge.
But somehow they survived me, the North, the operations and hospital stays and we are now nine.

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Losing the way. Is it necessary?

I was born into a war zone. The chaos and random, unpredictable violence along with the lack of a sense of protection left me in a world in which I believed that “the work of her hands” would allow me to enter the gate. Only through effort would I ever be free.


2013-03-04 18.57.02
I climbed upon the skinny horse of striving and kicked me heels into her sides.
All of my adolescent reading was about real people who had emerged from adversity through the virtues of stoicism, stamina and able strategy. Marie Curie, Sacagawea, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Maier fascinated me.


Golda Meir, Prime Minister, Israel

Golda Meir, Prime Minister, Israel

To be able to create the self triumphant using discipline, focus and momentum was my waking dream.
I earned two degrees, took three minors because a choreographer and a dancer in the three and a half years of undergraduate school.
I was driven, fired up, hungry for knowledge and it carried me. It carried me until it did not.
All systems failed in a spectacular fashion when my body developed cancer then rheumatoid arthritis. I had whipped my self with the stick of my goals.


I was not at home in the physical connection with myself. And so I failed again and again until I finally knew.
As I lay on the bathroom floor in the hospital with a twisted bowel, I prayed it would just stop. I prayed I would just stop. I had endured enough.


all is effort and confusion

all is effort and confusion

Work no longer worked for me. Badges and degrees and certificates and plaques with recognition and accolades no longer worked for me.
None of it could kill the pain.
It was while I was baby curled on that floor that I could feel the c old truth. I knew that I had no clue.
I had done art therapy, group therapy, one on one therapy, dance therapy, journal writing and it left me outside alone.
I had walked like a vampire under the full moon, under partially lit trees, outside the picture life windows of others. I was alone. I was outside my body, outside my spirit, outside of society. I was a vagrant soul.
All doors closed and it was then I knew that I did not know and so I fell into love.
I sat meditation to save myself. I sat with Gabor Mate and with shamans and with mystics. And what I discovered was myself.
What I discovered was that no matter how many assaults I had experienced first from others and then from myself, my super power was that I could love. No matter what, my heart could find a way to love my mother, to love my father and that is why I did not perish.
I could find a way to love like one stepping from rock to rock crossing a wild water river. My love for my brother, my love for my children, my love for my students, my love for my friends. One each of these points of balance I could stand for a while and be safe.
It sustained me so that I did not perish.
And it changed everything. It changed my life in ways I could not anticipate. I began again.

And as I said, “I don’t know,” I fell in love. I fell in love with the silence in my house. I fell in love with a peaceful body not pushing, not striving. I fell in love with the bird choir in my Maple tree.
I got off of the dying, scrawny horse whose ribs were showing and I sat.
I sat in circles, I sat in groups, I sat alone, I sat in not knowing.
Within a year my body begin to trust me. It began to heal.
Five years ago I had Rheumatoid Arthritis and all of my testing showed me to be operating as a fifty year old.
Because my body knows it is safe with me now, it has healed. I have no signs of R.A. I have the bone mass density of a 20 year old and medical tests indicate that I am average for a 30 year old woman.
What I have learned is that no attack, no scar, no broken bone, no onslaught of injury has ever, in truth, touched me.
My spirit is loved and supported. I am here to be a source of love, to see and create beauty and to speak words that heal. I was born into a disaster zone and it has not touched me.
Because I can love.
It is by allowing the not knowing that I have not perished but instead have flourished. I have become curious. What will next arrive?

I don’t know.

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What I am told by those who say they know, is that the first year of a new decade is a bit like a toddler just pushing up off of the floor and into a wobbling stance. The progress is hesitant, lacking confidence and more about adjusting to the new point of view than anything else.
The teachers say the first year of a new decade is a bit like the first pancake in the pan. It is basically a throw away.


speaking from the heart
It is in the place of being 41 or 51 or 61 that the individual goes, “Oh so this is how the new decade feels.”

Becoming acclimatized to 70 is, apparently, what last year was about.

That is not to say it was a throw away. I learned new technology; I learned new methods of meditation; I established new habits which serve me well.


growing into self

growing into self

However, I clearly see that I am in a period in my life of reconciliation which includes: reunion, fence mending, remedying, harmonizing, balancing and achieving peace.

All of the ferocity of my youthful and adolescent desires are still burning in me. However, my confidence in my abilities is at an all time high.
I know how it is I wish to be in the world. That image has never been more clearly reflecting in the preceding hours of my life.

I organized a family reunion and set the intention of ending the chasms that had grown in the clan. Part of those rifts were from left over stories; from connections that were forged in violence and addiction; from my defence mechanism of running away from the pain of connection.


head shot 4

In my 71st year, my remaining family who have not passed are closer to me than ever before. With joy, I watch them discover and connect with one another. Like tribes in a war zone the emotional diaspora sent groups fleeing. There is a stronger tie between us today.

As far as remedying goes, at this stage in my life I have come to understand from my reading; from my experiences; from my patterns that I am nothing more than a bundle of habits. To create another aspect of self, I see with clarity that the remedy is in watchfulness. Like any good author, I sit back and observe. What story will unfold? If “the character” moves forward with these particular sets of behaviors what is the inevitable outcome?

And so, I use mindfulness practice and watch myself. To reconstruct the ending, I need to teach myself new behaviors and new habits. In my 71st year, this will be my main “project.”

The inevitable outcome will be to harmonize my youthful, jagged and unskilled methods of reacting while keeping the goals and the heart felt yearnings in place.


fitting in

fitting in

The result for me, in this year of finding my feet is to allow fire. The result for me will be knowing how to rest peacefully at times and how to burn brightly at others. I am finally reconciled to my own nature. And I thank whatever miracle happened to keep me alive to experience this time of acceptance.
“Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough,” Tony Bennett said.

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Picking Threads

I am systematically working on building new habits. Researchers have said that we are nothing more than a bundle of habits.



We believe ourselves to be this face, this body, this story, this history, this actor, this receiver, this age, this cohort, this tapestry of threads woven into our energy field. We believe ourselves to be conscious and operating from the Executive decision function section of the frontal lobe.

All brain studies point to this assumption as flawed.
We are in the thrall of habit mind. If 95% of what we are telling ourselves throughout the day is simply old drama that is recalculating and interpreting current data, then it is no real surprise that the movie, the plot we are enacting is the same story. However,  this time the narrative is in a different setting. We are the same being only this time wearing as a costume a slightly altered body.
Did I mention, I am systematically working on building new habits.

I have a notebook. I have set up a grid. I am checking off squares.
What this does is it releases me from the interpretive dance of what is or could or would or should or will or did happen. The Loie Fuller scarf dance of swooping justifications, lyrical rationalizations, slight of eye, feign of hand, performances of inner dialogue music that normally occur.
I either check off the square or I don’t.

I admire my ego self. It is so stalwart.

I hover my pen over a square saying, “Well I did walk around in the mall. That is exercise.” The creativity is admirable. The translation is not unlike that on Babble Fish. In one field I put the words and in the other a strange, otherworldly version appears. Breathing is exercise. Napping is physical. Sitting and reading about exercise is working toward my goals. Shopping for an exercise outfit is focus on that desired outcome. Right. Right? Right!
How I untangle the threads is with alertness. I have set up my reticular activation system to recognize successes. I have checked off doing weight for three days in a row because I do not have a vague goal of “exercise”. My goals are specific habits which I am entraining: yoga, weight lifting, and walking for no purpose.
Walking for no purpose gets rid of the “automatic out,” that ego tries to create. Mowing the lawn is walking. But it is not walking unleashed from a secondary goal. I cannot ingrain a habit without the recognition of the very habit which I am constructing.
That way lies madness. Or strange babblefish translations of ego talk.
I could be “burning calories” by eating with an incredibly heavy fork that I need to place 500 yards away and run back and forth to take that satisfying chomp of food.
All I have done is entrain eating.
Oh, the ego monster is sooo tricky.
For now, I am happy with my list. I am pleased when I put down a check mark and I stay in a place wherein I know who I will effortlessly be after a three month focus on building those particular habits.
Because, it ain’t magic. It ain’t a tragedy. It ain’t a heroic struggle to climb out of an awakening volcanic cone to the tiny pin light of the surface.
I am just a bundle of habits.
Did you follow my thread?

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Limitless Compassion

The “controllers of the matrix” want us to believe that if we speak out for a slaughtered lion we have no voice left to speak out for abused children; if we fund cancer research there is no money left for aids research; if we raise our voices to end death penalties for homosexuality we become too hoarse to speak up to defend those who are imprisoned for shining the light of truth across the internet.

My desire is for all of us, each of us to step away from this concept of scarcity and competition. It is exactly what the prison keepers want of us.

It silences us. It turns us against one another when one speaks out for a cause.

What I do know is that when compassion is awaken in the heart, it is not small and limited. When empathy is unleashed in the soul, it is not restricted. Those who awake, those who sign petitions and give money and pay attention are now fully alive.

It is those sudden understandings that make us effective in the world. We now have the understanding that we can and must protect animals, both wild and domestic. We now are cognizant that we are capable of putting a sheltering arm around people chosen to die for their life styles, their courageous acts, their attempts to speak truth. We shelter others by signing petitions and sharing information with others.

We are now fully aware that all who are weak need us. The children dying of hunger; the women trapped in cement factories; the old cast aside with no medical care and the homeless are all capable of lighting us up with the desire to change the world.
Do not turn against another when you see that person is being made more humane by feeling deeply the call to be more kind in the world. Let us celebrate one another.
There is no scarcity of compassion. Do not believe the controllers.

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Negative Space

During my morning meditation, it came to me how so much of my existence has been about “available” space. I fit into the places between, at the edges. When I move through a crowd, it has been my habit to squeeze into openings successfully avoiding touching, or pushing against anyone.

As I sat in another absolutely abysmal presentation recently, I felt words building up in my mouth moving from my mind to my throat and clamped so that they fell castrated onto my tongue.

“No, No, No,” my head was saying. There is no content. There is no stimulating new information. Yet all sat quietly as if something were going on. As if there were life in the room.

I envisioned a hard shelled bug that stays small in order not to be seen, not to be in danger. Self discipline has been my method of growth.
Occupying negative space, hiding in plain sight, gagging on my own thoughts, apologetically moving through only those corridors of available space creates entropy. My fear of discovery, of chastisement, of punishment, of being found out. Found out in the open. Found.

Lady bug
Lady bug
fly to the sky
Your wings are the fire
with the songs of desire.

The child in me. The child in me wants to be disruptive,
spectacular. I want to climb all over the boundaries as if they were not restrictions but rather structures for challenging myself.
Perthaps, there is nothing to fear in just making space for everything I am.

july 19 12

Perhaps there is no essential flaw but only space and sky and passion.

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Heat and Healing

The sauna of sitting meditation in the heat is an experience I have run away from this past week. Watching myself cycle into and out of practices and habits is fascinating for me. How long does it take to move desire into destiny?

Recent Self

Recent Self

I went to a beautiful family reunion the weekend before last and met those who were simply children the last time we interacted. They were the nieces and nephew of my ex-husband. I was 22 and a university student. I was filled with knowledge and certainty. I was focused, hard working, finishing two degrees in under four years handily.




And I met my husband at Western. Through him, I connected with his family.
The family reunion was important to me. First of all, I really fell in love with those kids. They were so different from one another but so full of life and imagination.
At the reunion, I watched my daughter and her husband make the connection to their cousins. I watched the nephew and nieces meet and fall in love with my grandchildren.
It makes me feel better about the world to know that these little girls from my daughter’s family have people in the world who are substantially present in their lives.
I was raised in a situation that was bleak and the connecting of family members was not a source of security or pleasure in the least.
What I have observed is forgiveness. What I have observed is that the desire to be loved, to be with those who share a history in life with you, to be with those that you have set the intention to love no matter what, operates successfully in the world.
I am thankful for the experience of setting up the reconnection.
There comes a time when sitting alone and “working” on myself is not the quickest path to growth. There comes a time when stepping out into the world and risking love is the more powerful path.

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Is there a place between?

I am sitting on the deck which rests as part of the house yet is surrounded by not house. The gardens spread to my right, before me and on my left. Birds are in their offices high in the trees communicating in the wind to one another that which I cannot understand.


Ego Mind says there is something and emptiness.

Ego Mind says there is something and emptiness.

It has been very hot in this semi-desert of the Okanagan and for days my roses evoked my pity. Their petals drooped. New buds were so stunned by the heat that they did not form the perfect roundness they were programmed to achieve.


Roses richness viewed from my deck

Roses richness viewed from my deck

Today, however, I sit in the wind which shimmies the leaves on the fifty year old Maple tree over head. It waves grape vines and hanging Nasturtium leaves up and down and then back and forth in some rhythmic choreography that encompasses the entire yard.
The sky is overcast and then in momentary breaks when the clouds are pushed aside the heat of sun blasts down.

The clouds swim in an ocean of wind

The clouds swim in an ocean of wind

The idea that the day is trying to get started, that I am trying to get started that this time in my life, my year, my summer is a time between is such a seductive idea.
However, in the reality of each moment there is no hiatius. It is all all. The times when the wind is calm and the sun burns my shoulders as if some one with fire hands were touching me is This time. The moments when the sun is tucked behind dark clouds, when the wind speaks seductively of rain or change is This time.
The idea of waiting comes from a place of delusion. It is formed by a society that resides in the concepts of competition and scarcity.

“One day my prince will come. One day I won’t have to go to the dentist; pay my taxes; have the roof repaired; have the unexpected lesson show up,” the theme song sirens to us.
I have to laugh because at precisely that moment, at precisely the end of the last sentence a hornet came to hover above my hands.
As the weather changes from moment to moment, I sit here thinking about how each now is never a time in between. It is just this. This gray. This wind. This hot sun. This breath.
The problem with waiting is the waiting becomes everything. It expands to fill up everything that the mind refuses to see. The problem with waiting is it becomes the dark place we reject. Only when the mind can attach to “excitement”, “reward”, “winning” is there something. The rest becomes void. The entirety of life becomes a place between except for brief openings.
The work of the mind is to recognize that everything is. The work of the trained thinker is to see how glorious it is to sit in wind, in rain, in hot sun and just say “It is.”


The rose creates beauty from al

The rose creates beauty from all

There is such joy and peace in working to the goal of knowing there is no place between. Let’s Get the Party Started! Why wait! Now is now.

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Summer Bright

The thing about summer is I always wait for it during all the long, gray preceding months and then one day while I am bending over the spring flowers, putting in new seeds and weeding the snake like vines slithering between the strawberries, it hits.


bare foot gardening

Living in the Okanagan means that it hits at 38 degrees celsius. Living in the Okanagan means it explodes through the windows after days of over cast semi-light and flirtatious temperatures. “Hi, there,” the day says, with its 20 degrees followed by a manic wind storm, bolting off the sky with dark clouds and monsoons.

It toys and coys and ploys with us, the weather. And then it blasts us stupid. It was 42 on my deck today. I spent most of it with my face turned side ways on my bed, dog sweating from my tongue. I think I either slept or hallucinated for a good two hours. There is an entirely separate brain wave patterning for that heat zapped coma.


Turning the fan on is just an annoyance because that entails readjusting the stream over several hours.

The first night of heat I did not get to sleep until 3 am. The fan was always off target. It was too high and passed innocuously over my bed. Then it was cooling the space under my bed doing nothing more than making aesthetic choreographies with dust motes.


I identify with this response to heat

I identify with this response to heat

My friend and I decided to go for a walk at 5 pm because surely by all that is rational it would have cooled down by then. The cement buildings and sidewalks were just beginning to off gas stored up heat. It was rather like being dropped onto an Urban barbeque. I turned to her as she said, “Maybe we could just walk up a few blocks to a coffee shop?” Her forehead was a glistening water fall of sweat. Her eyes looked a bit dazed and she was leaning to the right away from the building’s blast as she walked.

The day that I decide I can’t take it any more is when I turn on the Paddle Wheel sound of the wall shaker air conditioner. The room throbs a bit but if I turn my body just right, a cool stream of air blows the sweat off of me into the room somewhere. That is a good feeling. It is the season I have so longed for.


Georgia O Keefe Rose1

And then the beauty of blossoms begins again.

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