Monday, March 19, 2018

it was shared over 650 times and liked over 800.

a black (relevant) male wrote a frustrating status about a gaming/coffee establishment, claiming that he and his date were refused alcohol at 10:00 on a saturday night because "the server was racist". people went buck wild; friends and strangers alike drafted comment after comment stating that they, too, were disgusted with this company and had planned on boycotting it from that moment on.

now, let it be said that racism still exists and is terribly wrong, and truthfully, as a white female, i cant speak of it (i wont here, either), but what i can speak of is our tendency to view things through our insecurities and/or through the lens of our pain.

let me explain what i mean using this specific example (followed by an example out of my own life.)

let it be said that i was able to read this particular status and the comments below it as an outsider; i had no personal connection to the man who wrote it or any opinion of snakes and lattes whatsoever. i was just simply a girl reading a status that a friend of mine had shared.

a few observations.

one, he started off his status stating his race and how successful he was as a black male (which he has since taken down.) to me, this shows his desire to prove himself because of his race, which again, is not something i can personally understand, but also a level of insecurity (which we all have) and a desire to 'prove people wrong' because of it.

he then sets the scene stating that he and his latin american girlfriend were the only visible "non white people in the whole establishment" (which is hard to believe seeing as how this particular coffee shop is located right in the heart of one of north america's most multi-cultural cities, but i wasn't there) and were not greeted at the door by a cheerful hostess. (i am one of the most energetic people you will meet and there were times in my hospitality career as a server and a manager that i did not greet people in a cheerful manner, either. it's unfortunate, but it happens, especially in the midst of a chaotic night.)

after a nice staff member helped them find a game they'd like, their server, "emma" dropped some waters off and said she would be right back. "15-30 minutes" later, she returned and apologized for the delay (again, this sadly happens during peak hours.). long story short (too late?), they asked for alcohol and emma said she wasn't comfortable serving them because she is liable for any decisions she makes as a server (which is true) and thought they were intoxicated.

next thing you know, she's being accused of being racist because 1) she allegedly mistook his girlfriend's accent for slurring (his words) and 2) she, as he claims, wasn't comfortable serving them because of the colour of the skin. so he took it to facebook, tagging every single news source out there. the scary thing? over 1000 people took on his hurt and hate and spread it without even knowing the truth.

again, let it be said that racism does exist and it's terrible, but none of us know what happened that day (including myself) because we weren't there. the almost 700 people who shared his status weren't there. nor were the 800 people who liked it or commented on it. or the countless other people who took it upon themselves to fuel the fire by trash talking snakes and lattes on their business page and by refusing to go back. the only person who really knows if she's racist is emma.

but what i do know is this: if we're not careful, we may start to look at things through the lens of our previous experience and just as likely to start viewing things through our present wounds.

"i got fired because i'm black" (something someone once said to me). is this possible? yes. does racism exist? absolutely. but truth be told, they hired you while you were black, too.

"my boss hates me because i'm gay". could this be true? sure - homophobia is real (and just as terrible) - but it may not be the case, either. maybe the boss 'hates' you because you're late all of the time and unproductive. or (insert any other reason here.)

"i keep getting overlooked because i'm overweight" (something i tricked myself into believing for a time). ummmmm not true; fat people get married, too. (being overweight cant be compared to racism or homophobia, i know. but the same principle can be applied here, too; if we let our insecurities and wounds lead the way, we can all find reasons why we aren't our boss's favourite, don't get served alcohol, miss a job opportunity, etc.)

i've been thinking about this status for a month now. not just because of this particular one, but because of countless other things i have seen and heard of similar accord lately. even, and especially, in my own life.

i'm going to be vulnerable here.

i'm petrified of being rejected and abandoned. like P-E-T-R-I-F-I-E-D. the healthy part of me (which thanks to my healing journey is 90-95% of the time), doesn't let my past full of either seep into my present and current relationships, but, if i'm not careful, the unhealthy side of me can, and will.

i've felt like a basket case ever since my montreal team left. so many emotions all at once. excitement and happiness. pride (of good and bad nature.). gratitude. insecurity. deep bouts of loneliness. unpredictable waves of grief. (i haven't experienced the gut wrenching cries like i have this week since shortly after my mom passed away.) - and the list goes on.

truth be told, i feel like my wounds are exposed, and because of that, i feel extra vulnerable, and because of that, i have been living and leading out of place of fear, insecurity and brokenness, instead of health, wholeness and security, and quite frankly, i'm feeling quite overwhelmed because of it.

that's why posts like the above are hard to let go of for me. because i get it. and because i know how damaging it can be when we don't recognize our wounds and cleanse our lens. (rhyming intentional.)

so, i've put some time aside this week to do just that: reflect, recognize, heal, and find my footing again. perhaps, if needed, this week can be that for you, too.

Friday, March 16, 2018

my friend and i sat on the chair she cleared off for us while another sat on the edge of her bed. there were years of collected stuff piled everywhere; random paraphernalia, a picture of her deceased husband on the bookshelf and one of her son on the table, and boxes upon boxes filled with things i couldn't see. she was proud of her home, i could tell. and she invited me into it without knowing anything but my name.

it didn't take long for her to pull out a stack of paper and start showing us how to make one of her 'special' puppets. she was so passionate about these puppets. so much, in fact, that she handed us a 'how to' manual so that we could make them, too.

part of her reminded me of my favourite bible character, dorcas, whom i had just so passionately shared about with a church a few weeks a go and the group of students from montreal. and another part reminded me of my mom, whom i seem to miss more and more with each passing day (they say it gets easier, but i don't think it does.) and how sweet she was.

she started sharing part of her story, how the doctor thinks she has cancer (also brought back memories of my hero of a mom) and how she is ready to go. i guess a lot of older people get to that point (especially after hearing the C word and knowing what that battle entails.) and then, even though she had just shared some of her pain, asked if she could pray for us. i was so touched; somehow, this elderly lady, whom i had met a measly ten minutes prior, quickly made her way into my heart.

as we're saying our goodbyes, she asked us if we would come visit her again because 'she doesn't have any friends.' her eyes filled with tears as she asked. so did mine.

loneliness always strikes a chord in my heart. because i get it. and i think it's one of the hardest things to struggle through and wrestle with, and something i believe we can all help each other with in a small way.

yes, people love me. a lot of people, in fact. i'd be dumb to think otherwise, but i can't shake the deep loneliness i feel on an almost daily basis.

this past week was one of my all-time favourites. walking alongside of the students from montreal brought me so much joy and confirmed the calling on my life (blog coming early next week).

i struggled the next day when i had no one to share it with. i wanted so bad to be able to call my mom and dad and let them know how great it was, that i finally found my niche. all they wanted was for their daughter, the one who struggled so much emotionally, to be happy. and i was. i am. and i want so badly for them to be able to see it; i long to be able to share my life with them, but i can't. so i'm left with this unfillable void. a void i want to fill, but can't. hence the word unfillable.

i packed my week with babysitting some of my favourite kids and had a blast. it was nice to have some company - albeit that of an almost ten year old and a six year old - but company none the less. would you believe me when i say that i cried when i left them? LIKE WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? the thought of coming home to an empty house made me sad. because, well, loneliness.

i have so much i want to process and talk through. i'm a processor (you all know that) and i have so much to talk about.

like how great the montreal team was and how alive i felt when i was teaching them about my city and sharing the ins and outs of poverty with them. where i feel like i failed and how i want to improve and grow. how i cant wait until the next team comes and how scared i am that i have a lot of space to fill in between now and then. how much i long for companionship and a family of my own and how i spend way too much time wracking my brain trying to figure out why everyone else seems to have one and i don't. how my feed is full of "i don't know what i would do without my mom/dad/parents/husband" posts and how i want to scream, and how social media has been affecting me in the most negative way lately but how i can't seem to stop scrolling any ways.

but i sit here and blog instead. because it helps me and i know it helps some of you, too. (even those of you who have the kind of family i long for.) and i know that you, too, will be able to take comfort in my honesty the same way i was able to take comfort in a lovely lady by the name of helen who allowed me the honour of sitting in her home for twenty minutes last week...twenty minutes where she felt less alone, and twenty minutes where i did, too.

Friday, February 23, 2018

i don't really know how to go about saying what i'm about to say in regards to something that has been keeping me up at night this past week, but i'm going to try and attempt to express my thoughts any way. (this is my blog, after all.) ;)

a lot of it is has to do with people's opinions, mind you. i mean, we all have them. but there's a difference between sharing our educated opinion in a respectful manner and spewing our pain and personal agenda onto others in a hateful and hurtful one. especially while using a public platform.

so, i'm going to practice what i preach here and assure you that the issues i am about to unpack in this (and my next) blog have been well thought out and researched, and will be done so from a posture of respect. (that being said, as always, i am open for discussion providing that this, too, can be done so in a respectful manner.)

i think we can all agree (at least 99% of us) that the shooting that happened in florida last week was tragic and preventable. why some teenager had access to a gun (although we all know why) and had the audacity to take innocent people's lives with it is extremely heartbreaking, and frankly, quite scary.

but the response that has come from all of this has left me feeling sad, too.

i get it. it's in our nature to point fingers in attempt to try and make sense of something (even when we can't) with the hope of coming up with the proper solution, but our approach is off when we start believing that social media debates are helpful and/or worth our time.

i'm speaking from experience here. i have spent more time than i'd like to admit reading (and rereading) my friends' facebook posts and scrolling my own twitter feed this past week, and frankly, this is probably why certain issues have been on the forefront of my mind as of late. but i can't be the only one being affected by this, and i surely can't be the only one thinking that there isn't only one solution to preventing a mass shooting from ever happening again. call me crazy, or even naive, but i believe that there are many things that played a factor in this tragedy and the 18 shootings that have happened in america so far this year, starting with the obvious: (lack of) gun control.

i don't live in america (thanks, captain obvious) and so my research on gun laws and such is limited to the several articles i've read and clips that i've watched, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that an AR-15 (or anything similar, whether it has a certain grip or folding stock or not) has no place in the hands of a mentally unstable teenager. or any teenager for that matter. or a 64 year old man hanging out of a hotel window in vegas. or a teacher in the name of defence. or anyone, really. (unless you're a soldier at war which is a whole other blog and not something i necessarily agree with, either.) so trying to eliminate semi-automatic rifles is a start; that florida kid (i refuse to put his name in print) wouldn't have done as much damage with a pistol or a knife. or (enter any other available weapon here.)

of course, lenient background checks play a factor, too. AND inadequate mental health care. AND the lack of thorough FBI follow ups and training. AND society's inability to be able to recognize warning signs and report them (there were many people in this case specifically who heard the kid say some really questionable things including expressing interest in school shootings). AND sometimes, (certain) video games/the isolation they can create, AND at times, poor parenting.

now let it be said that in no ways am i about to jump on the "lazy parenting is to blame here" bandwagon, - parenting is really, really hard - in fact, reading through these types of comments infuriate me (especially this time around seeing as how this specific kid lost both of his parents within the last few years due to death, which also could have played a part in this), but at the risk of sounding like john lennon here, i do believe that 'love is all we need' and that the love and sense of belonging we (should) receive from our parents (in its various forms), the love that we share with each other day in and day out, and the unconditional love that i believe that God has available for all of us, is part of the solution.


that's the whole point to this blog, actually; there are so many factors involved in finding a solution and so many steps required for change.

so what do we do? (a question that has kept me up at night this week.)

if i'm being honest, i still don't know.

for some, it may look like getting rid of your gun(s) like that new york man (scott pappalardo) did, changing your vote OR actually voting. (i'm not here to preach at you or to tell you who to vote for; my name may be paula, but i am not a pro when it comes to PAULAtics). for students and survivors like emma gonzalez, cameron kasky and david hogg, or fred guttenburg, one of the victim's parents, it may look like standing up to the marco rubios (florida's senator) and the dana loeschs (spokeswoman for the NRA) and demanding answers. to others, it may not look like anything at all; truthfully, sometimes, all we know how to do is offer ‘thoughts & prayers’ or write blogs ...

but for goodness' sake, people, can we please stop wasting our time and tearing each other apart on facebook and twitter and have serious, action-based conversations instead?

Monday, February 12, 2018

my program director called me into the office and passed me an envelope with my mom's handwriting on it. outside of a tiny 'alliston, ontario' on the top left corner, it had no return address, but i could tell it was from her.

confused as to why my director handed it to me, i looked up.

"just open it", she said.

inside this mysterious envelope was not only a $20 bill, but explicit instructions to “give this money to a student in need". a paragraph later, it explained how grateful this 'anonymous lady' was for all the help other people had given her daughter (that would be me) that year and wanted to pay it forward. my mom was thoughtful and generous.

i had a teacher call me fat in high school. the minute i came home and told my mom what she said is the minute she picked up the phone and gave it to her. and by gave it to her i mean she pretty much threatened her life (or at least her teaching career.) my mom was feisty and protective.

but she was also softhearted; she hugged every nurse that helped her throughout her cancer treatment and hospital visits, including her family doctor minutes after he reluctantly told her that her cancer was terminal and that there was nothing else they could do for her. (i know this because i was there and i can't stop thinking about it.) my mom was appeciative.

during her stay at the princess margaret cancer lodge, my mom would often galavant into the neighbourhood in between appointments. on her stroll one afternoon, she saw a homeless man diving through the garbage looking for food. "i took my wallet out and gave him my last $5", she said. "could you imagine having to do that?". my mom was compassionate.

not to mention selfless. she spent the last sixteen years of her marriage taking care of my dad as he deteriorated, 'forcing' her to sacrifice so many things (some of which i wouldn't even dare to write in this blog) to ensure that my dad never suffered alone. she pushed through the stress and 'burden' of it all with minimal complaint - even when it cost her her own health - proving to my dad that she stood by the vows she made on her wedding day and proving to my siblings and i that although love can be messy, it’s also durable. my mom exemplified sacrificial love.

and influence. i'll never forget reading a post a woman had written on her facebook wall the week she passed away. she recounted time after time when my mom's sense of humour and welcoming nature helped her overcome her battles with (school related) anxiety.

when i was young, my mom drove a school bus and she was great at it. even won first place in their annual bus driving competition. i remember that day so well, actually - just as much as i remember sitting in the front seat as a young kid as she drove around making her rounds - but what i don't remember, and would have had no way of knowing at the time, is how much of a difference she made in the lives of the students who boarded her bus each day. reading this particular tribute three decades later made me beam with pride; my mom was a difference maker.

of course, she was one of the funniest people you'd ever meet, too. you couldn't possibly be in her presence for more than a few minutes without laughing uncontrollably and getting your ab workout for the day.

she was hilarious, thoughtful, generous, feisty, protective, appreciative, soft hearted, compassionate, influential, an example and a difference maker, and so much more, but today, above all of these things, on what would have been her 72nd birthday, she is fondly remembered and still worth celebrating.

happy birthday, mom. love you and miss you every. single. day. xo

Thursday, February 1, 2018

the phone rang. it was my sister calling to let me know that my mom fell in the middle of the night, banged her head and was on route to the hospital via ambulance. my heart sank. when would this woman ever catch a break? when would we?

i felt sick to my stomach just thinking about it. i had planned on going to ottawa a week later to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday but was it wise for me to go now? my busy calendar told me no but my gut told me yes.

no joke, within the hour, i get an email from a high school friend telling me that she not only thinks that i should go and see my mom right away, but that she wants to pay for my flight there. soon after, not only did i have a flight booked to ottawa the next a.m., but a ride to the airport at the butt crack of dawn.

unbeknownst to any of us at the time, the day i landed in ottawa proved to be my mom’s very last day on earth and because of the kindness of a few of my friends, i got to experience many lasts with my mom; her last words and pep talk, last hand squeeze, her last breath.

and even though it pains me to type (and retype) the word 'last', am i ever grateful for that day, because, as painful as it was, it was also full of beautiful, memorable moments and what i like to call 'pockets of grace'; moments in life that enable you to pause, take a deep breath and give thanks amidst hardship.

so today, i’m thankful for ‘gut feelings’, the faith to follow them, people who make it easier to, the day i got to spend with my mom before she died, and the friends who let me crash on their couch two years later to assure me that i’m not alone as i relive her final days, either.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

i'll never forget what she said as long as i live.

it was the summer of 2010 and i had packed my bags to move to penticton, BC for a few months to help my friend manage her home while her husband was away for school.

though i spent most of my time cleaning, making mean shepherd's pie, hanging out with her two 16 year old foster boys, biking through the mountains and sitting by the lake (tough life), i needed to find a job.

'WANTED: ONE AMAZING, FUNNY, BEAUTIFUL, DOWN TO EARTH FEMALE TO RUN MY KAYAK SHOP', the ad read (okay, okay, maybe i made that up), but it had something to do with being by the lake all day so i (obviously) sent in my resume.

a few days, later, i was sitting at a picnic table lakeside having a pretty relaxed conversation with ms. kayak herself.

she asked me the typical questions, where i'm from, what brought me here, what i liked about my previous jobs etc.

and then? then my friend's two foster boys walked by (they were spying the whole time) and waved.

"who are they?", she asked, and i answered (that's the way Q&A's work, people).

a big smile came across her face.

"you know, paula", she said. "when you were talking about your previous experience, you did so in a passionate manner, but when you talked about those boys and youth, you lit up. i would love to hire you, but i would being a disservice to you and the world".

i have never heard such a powerful and uplifting no in all of my life.

and you know something, she was right; when something brings us life, it shows. when something makes us feel alive, other people see it.

“don’t ask what the world needs. ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (howard thurman).

what makes YOU feel alive? put the kayak down and get to it! (unless kayaking’s your thing, of course).

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

love your neighbour as ... wait for it ... yourself.


as in you.

as in, at the risk of sounding like the beibs, you need to love yourself.

you see, i love a part of me. i love the funny (well, really funny) side to me. the thoughtful, kind, generous, encouraging (okay, okay) part of me. most of me. but i despise the 'other part. the moody, impatient, angry me. the part of me that shuts down and withdraws; the insecure, scared little girl that pushes people away.

so what do you do with that? what do YOU do with that? (because i know i'm not alone in this.)

1. practice acceptance.

i need to learn to accept me for me. the whole package. the fact that i'm flawed and imperfect. not who people want me to be at times. not who i want to be, either. at best, i'm content and full of life. at worst, fragile and insecure.

2. say no to shame.

shame, defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour, is my go-to. i feel humiliated when i react poorly, bury myself in guilt, and withdraw. of course, the degree of this looks different depending on other factors (who i hurt or frustrated, how stressed i feel, how tired i am etc), but i walk through the same process every single time.

which leads me to next point:

3. give yourself some grace and try, try again.

sometimes this looks like not letting my brain trick me into believing that everyone is going to give up on me. other times, forcing myself to look people in the eye, be vulnerable, open up and have difficult conversations (which i suck at, by the way.) and sometimes, it means taking a deep breath and reminding myself of how far i've come, that God isn't done with me yet, and that i actually do have a lot of patient people in my life who love me enough to see me through.

having a hard time loving yourself at times, too? practice acceptance, say no to shame, extend grace to yourself and keep on trucking.