cup of kindness

IMG_0525As we turn the corner on Christmas and approach the New Year, I realize that, once again, I didn’t get to Christmas cards. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given my sporadic track record. This year perhaps more than any other I’ve realized that our holidays are overloaded. By Christmas night I was exhausted and dispirited. I am sure that is not God’s intent for the season. Next year I resolve to streamline and simplify all things holiday, including and especially Christmas.

But I am getting ahead of myself, eh? We’ve yet to finish this year. I hoped 2014 would finish more smoothly than 2013, when a barn fell to ice and other calamaties beset us and our extended family. Weeks of unfortunate events occurred from early December and into January. It was a long, slow slog to recovery on farm and home fronts in 2014. We were more than half-way through the year before it felt like we had lift-off.

SONY DSCThe brightest moments of 2014 were in the double blessings of new grandgirls, the first arriving in late February and the second early August. This brought the grandchids count to four: Oliver, Henry, Sadie and Rosie. I cannot express how much these wee ones matter. Just a moment in their presence lifts my heart and fills me with joy.

The next best thing about 2014 was turning fifty. I never thought I would be able to talk about that milestone in those terms! I enjoyed a series of small celebrations with family and friends over the course of a month or more that made for a most pleasant summer. Then a joint fiftieth birthday sailabration, starting and ending in Quebec City, sailing to Saint Pierre & Miquelon, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island provided wonderful memories and invaluable time together. A few weeks after we returned, I threw a surprise party to close out on fifty.

Soon thereafter, we were into the holiday season. But not before my mom suddenly landed the perfect opportunity to relocate nearby. This has been a big but happy transition for her and another 2014 blessing for my family.

All of those wonderful events notwithstanding, the past few days I’ve been struggling with a very difficult situation and resultant emotions; working toward healing has been hard work. I really didn’t want 2014 to end on a down-note but wasn’t sure how to pull it back up.

If it was entirely up to me, I might hang on to my ugly feelings. On the face of it, that sometimes seems easier if not justified. But in the big scheme, it is neither. Yesterday afternoon I took yet another long, brisk walk to wrestle with my inner spirit.  In that hour, Matthew West’s powerful lyrics in Forgiveness (listen in) spoke deep into my heart and sealed my resolve.


Its the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

Its the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word

Forgiveness…

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy

Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
Its the whisper in your ear saying Set It Free

Forgiveness…

Finally, with God’s help, I began to set it free. And then I received the most amazing gift in an email from another continent from a young woman who I haven’t seen in a few years. Her home country is Zimbabwe, her current home is England, and our paths crossed while she attended the local university. I became her host mother and we became friends. Her loving message and fond remembrance was a balm to my wounded spirit and a gift of grace to treasure.

This morning, I was thinking on the past year, with all of its trials and tribulations when the song Auld Lang Syne (i.e. for old time’s sake) came to mind. That phrase, cup of kindness, struck a chord with me. To share a cup of kindness is to extend goodwill and the most generous fare-thee-well sentiments. A cup of kindness is the essence of right living.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne
And surely (you’ll buy your pint)
And surely I’ll (buy) mine
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

I wish I had opportunity to share such a cup with each and every one who has impacted my life for good this past year. To you who have honored me with good will and generosity of spirit, I offer a virtual cup. Cheers! Happy, happy New Year. May all of God’s best be extended to you and to yours in 2015.

~ René Morley

P.S. The chids collaborated on a family photo shoot. Sweetness.

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cheers! to 50 years

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It’s hard to believe nearly four weeks have passed since those memorable Newfoundland brews. I recalled our experience while preparing a surprise party for the Hubs’ this past weekend: Cheers to 50 years! At the local craft brew exchange, I selected the Great Lakes Octoberfest, Sam Adams Octoberfest, Abita Pecan Harvest, and Stella Cidre (for the gluten-averse crowd). Yummylicious!

One of his sisters assembled a cool tiered beer “cake” with some of his faves, sparkly and trimmed with battery-operated candles. Other friends and family prepared a delectable variety of chili or fresh corn bread, assembled platters of cheese, crackers, and dried fruit or set tables and lit fires in a scurry of activity. We had barely an hour before the Hubs returned from the pleasant diversion of purchasing a first pair of hockey skates for grandboy, Henry.*

image The guest of greatest honor in this particular celebration was my mother-in-law. We were blessed that Betty (a.k.a. Ma Bet or Betty Boo) could be present, smack dab in the middle of the hubbub and surprise. We cranked the fireplace for interior ambiance and her cozy comfort. Thankfully, the weather also cooperated for patio time. Roaring warm fires outside accompanied good conversation well into the evening. Turning fifty never felt so good.

~ Rene Morley

*His mama played a tough defense on boys’ teams growing up and on two girls teams through high school. We owe our craft brew affinity to amateur girls hockey and a pleasant evening at the Big Buck Brewery near Detroit. When her No Co girls team was playing in the national championships, the Hubs insisted we find place to watch the skating Saints make their championship bid. The rest is brewstory.

cheers! to newfoundland

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Our second port of call on the fiftieth birthday sailabration was St. John’s, Newfoundland. Once again, I had sketched out a skeleton of a plan and the Hubs was game.

It was early morning and pitch dark when we pulled into port, so we couldn’t fully appreciate the navigational challenges or just how fitting the nickname “The Rock.” Newfoundland is a massive slab of the oldest rock on earth rising sharply from the beautiful but deadly sea. It was only when we left port, much later, that the perils became clear, waves cresting, crashing and churning with furor at the entrance to the harbor.

We spent a wonderful day in St. John’s. It started with a chuckle. Our ship was perhaps half-full of French Canadians this cruise; we were surrounded by the constant babble of French. I don’t mind in the least (a Francophile, a wannabe) although I understand very little. Of course, the Quebecers didn’t miss a beat in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, while most of the rest of us were skirting the language barrier.

However, in Newfoundland, the table delightfully turned. There were just a few small cabs waiting at the pier and piles of people trying to find their way hither and yon in sizable groups. A sole, rather overwhelmed man was working to bring calm to chaos. I stepped up to the curb and spoke to a cabbie, who told me to speak to the man to be sure there was no one else in line ahead of me. The man, inundated by a barrage of French, said in exasperation, “I don’t understand a word!” Then he was only too happy to hear my plea in English to release the cab. The Hubs and I were off!

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It was perhaps ten minutes’ drive from the pier on Water Street to the top of Signal Hill. Along the way, our cabbie filled in a few gaps about the history of the city and features of the surrounding landscape. Approximately mid-point of the hill, we passed the Johnson GEO CENTRE on our left and on our right, the innocuous looking but ominously named Deadman’s Pond. In addition to being the site for public hanging years’ past, our cabbie insisted this was a bottomless pond emptying into the ocean, supposedly proven by a few people who drowned in the pond and their bodies recovered in the ocean. It makes for a great story.

Cabot Tower, sitting atop Signal Hill, was built in the late 1800s to commemorate John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland in the 1400s. The tower now houses a fascinating exhibit of the first transatlantic wireless signal received by Marconi in 1901. The hill was a defensive site for the British from the 18th century through the Second World War, when American soldiers joined Canadians stationed there. A line of cold black cannons perched atop the cliff at what remains of the Queens Battery harken to an earlier era. 

At this point, we were quite near the outermost edge of the island and mouth of the harbor. From here we could see miles of trails traversing rocks, cliffs and hills — some of them, no doubt, treacherous, especially in Nfdld’s foggy damp climate. We were blessed with a relatively clear day and sure footing but I had no trouble imagining the difficulty with mobility issues. We followed one trail for awhile and could see so many more beckoning. It’s was pretty cool to realize we were standing atop the easternmost point of North America (excluding Greenland, I suppose). If only we had more time to explore. Next time, for sure.

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We walked out to the road and down the hill to the Johnson GEO CENTRE, a marvelous place with, as the name suggests, geographical exhibits and more. Newfoundland is celebrating its “550 millionth year” of rocks. (Give or take a few, eh?)  This beautiful, modern natural history museum is built down into the earth so that rock slab becomes part of the exhibit. The CENTRE’s brief introductory video must be among the most innovative in museumland. Video integrated with a holographic speaker, water, atmospheric, sound, and light effects are unrivaled in my experience. Walking through the main exhibit area, recalling some of the characteristics of rock, I remembered why I found geography with Dr. Revetta so enjoyable.

I think my favorite exhibit, however, was the Titanic Story, presenting a critical perspective of a needless tragedy. Putting aside the apparently unmatched greed and ego fueling construction of the RMS Titanic, it seems especially ironic that the wireless signal so recently developed and proven here — the technology that should have saved lives — was a source of distraction contributing to tremendous loss of life, also near.

Multiple transmissions were sent to the Titanic from ships warning of dangerous icebergs in the immediate vicinity. It was an abundant year for icebergs; currents carrying many further south than typical. Some of these messages were relayed to the bridge. Arrogant to the point of foolhardy, Captain Smith chose to ignore them, steaming full speed ahead. Other messages were never relayed. Caught up in relaying fee-based personal messages for passengers, the wireless operator responded in frustration, “Shut up! Shut up!”  He later worked feverishly to rectify his mistake. It was too little, too late. The Titanic Story was a sobering exhibit.

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By then it was well past lunch time and we were ready to lighten up a bit, figuratively speaking. We took our young lady cabbie’s advice for lunch and local brews at the Yellow Belly Brewery. I think they must serve the best seafood chowder in North America, if not the entire planet.  Served with a delectable fresh and tender selection of seafood and topped with steamed mussels, The Yellow Belly gets it just right. (And bumps the market on the pier in San Fran serving chowder in a chewy sourdough bread bowl to #2.)

St. John’s is a great brew town, too. We’ll try local brews anywhere we can find them. The Hubs had the Fighting Irish Red and I, the Yellow Belly Pale Ale. We toasted turning fifty and a perfect ending to a great day on The Rock.

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I must say, in all of our travels, we’ve never been bid so warm a farewell as we were on this day. Dozens of Newfoundlanders with big smiles hailed from cliffside homes or hiking trails stretching like thin ribbons high and low alongside the narrow channel. Look closely in these photos for tiny specs dotting the uppermost rock: friendly, hardy, colorful, brave Newfoundlanders!

~ René Morley

celebrate

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This was a Big. Birthday. Weekend. A birthday I’d been thinking about for a long time. Yes, the big Five-Oh. Fifty! Me? Yes, indeed.

I’m big on celebrations for just about any reason. Especially as we age, we must be purposeful in maintaining joie de vivre — the enjoyment of life. My personal motto has become, Celebrate: just because.

Celebrate the interview, don’t wait to see if you get an offer. Celebrate the friendship, don’t wait for her birthday or promotion. Celebrate the journey, don’t wait for the next big transition. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring; celebrate today.

So that is what I did about turning Five-Oh: I celebrated.

Two Saturdays past, I spent with my girls at my favorite Adirondack destination, Lake Placid, NY. One of the girls is very pregnant, so this might well have been her last luxury for awhile. Both of the others are mommies who appreciate a few hours baby-free. We enjoyed lovely spa treatments and lunch, refreshing margaritas and laughter. The best part is that it was their idea.

The next day, I left for a week of work in Boston. The final day of my trip, I dropped by the Apple store on Boylston just before the airport. What a treat! I knew what I wanted to buy before I stepped through the doors. It was easy enough to justify, with a big birthday ahead. It was just so much more fun to buy in a beautiful Apple store store than online. The sales clerks were all too happy to help me celebrate. ;=)

On Wednesday past, I had dinner and drinks with some dear colleagues … who could not resist a round of the birthday song. I embraced their harmonious effort as a gift, an expression of love. It was wonderful to spend an evening among treasured friends.

On Friday night, the Hubs treated the family to dinner on the back patio at one of our favorite restaurants. Fresh lobster on any North Country menu is cause for celebration in and of itself! It was quiet on the patio, the river slipping easily over the dam behind us as daylight faded into a lovely summer evening. What a gift.

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On Saturday, I rose early to grocery shop and pack a picnic lunch. We set off with the grandboys, Ollie and Henry, and lady baby, Sadie, for the Central Agricultural Farm and Museum in  the heart of Ottawa. What a fantastic place and so much fun to return, after all these years, with grandchids.

The Hubs couldn’t take time off, what with Rosie due to arrive any moment and knowing he will cover for her daddy when she does. But the rest of us sure enjoyed the squeals and giggles of little boys surrounded by farm animals they’ve seen only in storybooks  — except for cows and kitties, of course. Goats, sheep, and alpaca; horses and cows; ducks, chickens and rabbits — oh my! It was a near-perfect day.

The only thing lacking was baby Rosie. Then we will surely celebrate again!

But truth be told, I’m not planning to close out this birthday celebration yet. I’m still trying to connect with a few friends spread afar. And I’m waiting for two of my sisters to arrive, mid-August. Then there’s another get-away day planned and a lot of catching up to do.

Finally, in October, the Hubs has planned a wonderful cruise. His big Five-Oh is still ahead. We’re celebrating in between our birthdays this year by visiting a few bucket list places: Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland. Bonus: Saint Pierre and Miquelon! Who knew France still owned territory in the “New World”? So exciting!

One thing I hope is clear: it’s neither about turning fifty nor is it about me. It’s about richness of relationships that make life worth living, maintained across decades and generations. It’s a privilege to turn 50 or 60, or 70 or 80. It’s a joy to live in proximity to family. It’s an honor to remain close to sisters from childhood and girlfriends from grade school, to reconnect with colleagues spanning a career and good friends gathered up like treasures over time. To each I say, let’s celebrate.

~ Rene Morley

20140608-223252.jpgThe babies’ blue Ts were a gift from my cousin, as we were celebrating this spring in Arizona. The boys’ Ts say: If you mess with me, you mess with my Grandma. You don’t want to mess with my Grandma! Sadie’s T says: She’s not my Grandma, she’s my Glamma!  ;=)