Celebrating ‘My Circle’

For me, this year’s International Women’s Day is deeply personal. It is a celebration and acknowledgement of the amazing circle of women who inspire, encourage and support me.

Last fall depression came knocking on my door. I struggled, stumbled and fell. But instead of hiding, I spoke my truth.  The rally from my circle was overwhelming.  I was full of gratitude and awe. Friends and family, both in person and on-line, reached out to lift me up when I needed it most.

Looking back, the evolution was so natural, so subtle, that at first I wasn’t even aware of it forming. But through life’s experiences – education, work, recreational activities, conferences, meetings, travel, and even on-line connections – my circle has grown and is diverse, dynamic and robust.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more cognizant of what I admire, respect and value in the women around me, both personally and professionally.

Authenticity. Gratitude. Kindness. Joy. Compassion. Empathy. Humour. Positivity. Encouragement. Dedication. Fearlessness. Teamwork. Determination. Life-long learning.

I am fortunate to have so many phenomenal women who support me not only within my comfort zone, but also nudge – or sometimes pull me – beyond my safety net showing me how much more I am capable of accomplishing. They help me shine brightly when all I want to do is hide under the covers. They celebrate my successes and help me learn when things don’t go as planned.  They point me in the right direction when I’m feeling lost.  They laugh with me, dance with me, listen to and stand by me. They inspire me with their intentional lives, acts of kindness and bravery.  Their presence in my life has made me a better person.  Knowing they are there for me is both reassuring and empowering.

Allowing myself to be vulnerable and honest about my struggles last fall made me acutely aware of the expanse and depth of my circle. A reminder to continue to build, nurture and embrace it. A reminder to express my appreciation to the incredible women who inspire and support me.

This quote sums it up well. Here’s to my circle and to yours.  Happy International Women’s Day!

A circle of women may just be the most powerful force known to humanity. If you have one, embrace it. If you need one, seek it. If you find one, for the love of all that is good and holy, dive in. Hold on. Love it up. Get Naked. Let them see you. Let them hold you. Let your reluctant tears fall. Let yourself rise fierce and love gentle. You will be changed. The very fabric of your being will be altered by this, if you allow it. Please, please allow it.”
― Jeanette LeBlanc

 

 

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I want you to laugh

It has been a week since the Final Farewell and celebration of life for my dear friend, Claire. Our friendship, cultivated over 30 years, was rich with laughter, joy and a touch of mischief. We didn’t allow cancer to steal that and continued to celebrate life, share laughter and lattes, and create memories which will always make me smile. 💞

But grief is difficult to navigate, and at times overwhelming.  So often when someone dies the message we hear is, “Rest in Peace”.  I have never liked that phrase, and even less so, the acronym “RIP”.  So instead, I penned and posted this letter.  The response was overwhelming. We all need to find a way to carry our grief, and this has helped me, as well as others who loved her. 

Dear Claire,

You know me, always the rebel…I don’t want you to rest in peace. I know…can you believe it?

I want you to laugh. I want you to breathe and move with ease. Free of pain at last, I want you to golf, garden, walk and ride your bike. I want you to cruise in the ’66, windows down, music blasting. I want you to have shopping, lunch and movie dates. I want you to wander through your flower garden as you sip your morning coffee. I want you to enjoy a glass of wine, or two, as you watch sunsets from your favourite balcony in Maui.

I want you to look others in the eye and truthfully say, “I’m fine,” or better yet, “I’m fabulous!” I want your treasured moments of solitude to be free of worry and concern. I want you to sleep only because you are tired from a day well spent.

All those things cancer stole from you, I want you to have back. No resting easy for you my friend.  I want you to be joyful, content and happy. I want you to do whatever you damn well please, whenever you want. And just maybe you can find a friend or two, to stir up trouble with…but only the good kind, of course! 😉

Always with much love and laughter,

 Sandi

xoxoxoxo

The Collection

If we are fortunate, we have many circles of friendship, support and encouragement in our lives.  My writing group, “Prairie Pens”, is one such circle.  I wrote this in August 2008 as a tribute to them. Subsequently it was published in the introduction to our anthology, “From All Directions” in 2009.  

I’m not sure I would have had the courage and resolve to continue to put to paper without them. They have helped, and continue to help me, develop as a writer.  This craft is ever-evolving as we strive to hone and fine-tune the art of story-telling.  Their motivating and inspiring guidance over the last thirteen years will forever be appreciated. ♥


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Conversation, rippled with laughter, drifts out the screen windows toward the lake. A chickadee calls out from a nearby window branch, joining in the light-hearted banter.
Hummingbirds zip back and forth, drawn to blooms of scarlet geraniums and brilliant-blue salvia in overflowing window boxes. A flash of black and orange…yes, an oriole, heard earlier but seemingly reluctant to make an appearance. Elegant dragonflies float by; the hum of a cicada speaks to the heat of this perfect summer day.

Inside, simple plaques grace the walls – Wiggle Your Toes in the Sand; Life is Good at the Beach; and above the doorway, Home is Where Your Story Begins. How appropriate for this collection. They are comfortable, at ease, as they arrange themselves on rich chocolate-brown wicker topped with floral-green cushions. Soon the visiting ends as stories begin to pour out around the room. Emotions rise and fall; then advice freely flows.

The love of this art of etching words, simple words on paper, binds this group together. Women of all ages, different backgrounds, diverse life stories, offering each other support, encouragement, resolve – to imagine, to create, to write and keep writing.

One woman sits back for a moment, takes it all in – the surroundings, the setting, the vibrant group. Her eyes revert to the plaque Home is Where Your Story Begins. Yes, but it is here, with these women, where the courage is found to put pen to paper, to share words without fear. She glances out at the lake. Mid-day sun bounces off the water, sparkling as beautifully as the dynamic collection of writers surrounding her.

Anna’s Poppies

March 8th is International Women’s Day.  Since 1911 this annual event has celebrated women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements.  Women’s groups from all around the world, take part in thousands of diverse events to commermorate IWD.

It is not only a time to reflect and look to the future, but also a time to encourage and uplift each other.  For me, Anna K. Storgaard, a university professor turned life-long friend,  was a woman who exemplified encouragement and support.  

She cheered me on, no matter where I was, or what I was doing in my life. I think of her often, and am grateful for the positive influence she had on my life. 

The following tribute was written in  2010 for the Brucedale Press Acrostic Contest.  The judge commented, “A sense of quiet dignity and restrained mourning characterizes this third-place story.” 


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Adored by many who visited her garden, Anna’s poppies now grace my flowerbed. Because I had admired them on my last visit, she insisted I dig some up to take home.

Care had to be taken, as late June is far from ideal for transplanting perennials. Dedicated gardeners would have shuddered as I dug in the late afternoon heat, but I am thankful I did not pass on the opportunity. Every year when they bloom I am reminded of my friendship with Anna.

20160306_134055For twenty-two years after my university graduation we kept in touch, mostly through Christmas cards and letters. Giving her annual updates on jobs, family and friends always resulted in enthusiastic and encouraging responses.

Having been a professor for over thirty years, she deeply touched the lives of many with her avocation for nurturing. I feel fortunate to have known her, been accepted as I was, and forever cheered on as I made my way in life.

Jovial in nature, she seemed to appreciate my quirky sense of humour. Kindred spirits, some would say. Laughter was always welcome in her classroom making the lessons learned enjoyable and memorable.

University of Manitoba

Modest through and through,  Anna would have been uncomfortable with the many accolades expressed at her memorial service. No one was prepared to lose this remarkable spirit who embraced life with humour, curiosity, determination and dedication. One person can indeed make a difference as our dear Anna so aptly proved.

People of all ages and from all walks of life benefited from knowing her, whether as a teacher, colleague, neighbour, community member or friend. Quietly she slipped away from us but forever she will hold a special place in our hearts.

Recalling memories of Anna in her flower garden that lovely June afternoon brings me comfort. She welcomed me to sit with her amongst the vibrant blooms, sip lemonade and reminisce of days gone by. Time passed quickly as we shared stories, laughed and talked of our passion for all things green and growing.

Undaunted by her macular degeneration, she continued to garden, coping with laughter when things went awry. Venturing into her garden late one day resulted in Anna falling bottom first into a hole intended for a new plant. Without hesitation she quipped, “If my neighbours hadn’t come to my rescue, I wonder if I would have bloomed before the first killing frost!” X-rays revealed no broken bones so all was well with the bonus being an entertaining story to share.

HPIM2966Years have now passed and I still miss Anna, especially when Christmas arrives and the first card I receive is not from her. Zestfully she lived her life and as I gaze at the brilliant blossoms dancing playfully in my garden, I remember her with admiration, fondness and a smile.


 Anna Storgaard photo courtesy of University of Manitoba