After the Pruning Comes the Harvest

People around here who know me know that I love lavender. It all started in 2009 when I went out looking for my first job in 20 years and ended up working at a lavender farm in St Eustache, Quebec. It was a rough time in my life, post-divorce, and I couldn’t imagine anything better than working with lavender to calm me down. I loved my job so much that when I moved to Nova Scotia the next year, having a lavender farm of my own was the logical next step.

Well, it is actually a lavender hobby farm, as there are about 80 mature plants that cover the front lawn. These plants have gone through maturing and pruning over the past seven years, just as I have- – and we both have grown stronger as a result.

Growing lavender has been a calming, maturing, learning, patience-practicing and beautiful part of my life and I am grateful. After the rough winter of 2015 when it just did not stop snowing, the plants took a beating. Did you know that the biggest enemy of growing lavender is having its roots sit in water? That’s what happened after that winter. So last year I noticed a lot of old wood and dead branches on many of the plants and decided to give them a ruthless pruning.

As Spring came on this year I was anxious to see what would result from that pruning…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Here are a few pics taken this past week as I harvested the lavender for some special projects coming up.

I will share them with you in the coming weeks!

img_0575

Ahh…lavender!

img_0582

Oh Yeah!

img_0585

Lavender tied in bundles and ready to dry.

img_0592

Lavender drying in the basement, with fans working overtime to circulate the air.

img_0573

Happy Canada Day!

img_0598

Cutting, bundling, tying…

Shell Shocked!

Many years ago I went through a life situation that pulled the carpet right out from under me. I was sad and depressed for a long time, a couple of years in fact. During that time I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror staring back at me.

My 21 year marriage had ended in divorce and it tore my life into shreds. I thought I would never smile again, never experience joy, and never be at peace. During the worst of it all I fled to Myrtle Beach for two months just to settle my thoughts and perhaps figure out a new direction for my life. While there, I did a lot of talking to God and I wrote an account of something major that happened as an answer to my prayers. Here it is:

2006,  February

Since my arrival here at Myrtle Beach, I have gone for walks on the beach just about every day, about three miles. I have gone at high tide, low tide, and everything in between. I have gone early in the morning before most other people are out and I have gone later in the day. I have walked in wind, calm, rain, mist, fog and cold.

Most days as I walked, I searched for seashells….nice ones, big, not broken. There just never seemed to be much down there on the beach. I saw some little ones, many old ones full of holes and many broken pieces. There were always people looking, with their plastic bags at the ready, but they weren’t finding anything either. In fact, I heard lots of complaining about the dearth of treasures to be found.

Most days as I walked and searched, I also prayed. I prayed for God to fix me and make me whole again after my divorce. I prayed for him to manifest himself to me and give me direction for my life.

And as I walked and searched and prayed, I grieved. I grieved my failed marriage; my lost dreams, and my broken family.

One day mid January as I walked and searched and prayed and cried, I did something I had never done before. I did something that I always thought people were hokey for doing. I asked God for a sign that he really heard my prayers and that he loved me. I asked him for a shell, whole and complete; unbroken and bigger than the others. I knew that if I ever found it, that it would be His doing, because what I was asking for I had only seen in shell shops and craft stores, never on the beach.

Well, I didn’t find one that day, or the next day, and not the day after that either. That made me rail all the more. Never mind that I had seen whales by twos and once by threes on three separate occasions, right outside my window; never mind all the other ways He had shown me grace, including the upgrade in my accommodation. I wanted my shell.

Sometime after that, I stopped looking, stopped striving, planning,

stopped asking God for my shell. I relaxed and just enjoyed the beach. I didn’t care that I looked like a crazy woman in a cowboy hat and running shoes. I could see the beauty all around me, and it made me happy. I kind of forgot about my request.

Then, just days before leaving to go back home to the reality of my life in Quebec, and more than a month since asking for it, I found my shell. I wasn’t searching, striving, plotting or planning. I was just walking, being happy and at peace. I was thankful for my first two nights’ sleep without medication in eighteen months. My shell was big, whole, no holes or cracks, and unbroken, just like I asked God to make me. (not that I asked God to make me big!) People had walked right past my shell, not noticing it, but it stood out like a beacon for me. I couldn’t understand how they all missed it. Funny, like sometimes when it is only by standing still that an elusive butterfly will light on your shoulder, you have to be still in your heart to see what God wants to show you.

I experienced joy on that day. True joy.

Sometimes by just letting things take their time and natural course, joy can be found when you least expect it.

The shell sits on a shelf in my office as a reminder that joy is not so terribly elusive and that God answers prayer.

knobbed_whelk_bb_01_l

 

IBS Is No Joke…

It all started back in 1983 when I got married. I’m not kidding; that was really the beginning of my digestive issues. Back then not much was known about solving these things other than to ‘drink more water, eat more fiber and get more exercise’. It is now commonly accepted that there is a gut-brain connection; that what is going on in your psyche and emotions will affect your digestion.

Back then we just didn’t make the connection.

I was in a stressful marriage (and that’s an understatement). It was a patriarchal union, meaning the husband would be the head of the home and by consequence, the head of the woman. That would be me. At the time I was kind of grateful to have husbie take charge of just about everything; I married at 30 years old and was tired of doing it all for myself. I didn’t realize it, but I became the proverbial ‘frog in the water’ and as time passed, I became a different person, one that my old friends would not have recognized. I slowly gave up my rights, the ability to express an opinion and I became fearful of just about everything. Even though I didn’t see my life from the outside, my family did, and my guts knew back then that I was in a difficult situation. We were ‘born again’ Christians. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but we kept going to Bill Gothard’s Basic Seminar, Advanced Seminar and finally we homeschooled our children with Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. Our lives were governed by rules and regulations. For example, I was not allowed to wear pants; I had to defer to my husband in everything; modesty ruled; men couldn’t have a beard; we were to accept as many children as God brought, so there was no birth control. From age 31 to age 40 I had five pregnancies which included two miscarriages, all the while homeschooling my children with no real curriculum except for the Bible and 40 ‘wisdom booklets’.

I cried every four weeks.

Throughout all this I started to have IBS symptoms, although I didn’t know then what it was. I thought I just didn’t eat enough fiber, drink enough water and exercise enough. Well, who would have had the time with all the pregnancies, homeschooling and a demanding husband? But the stress took its toll and I alternated between bloating, constipation, tummy ache, diarrhea, more bloating, and general misery. I had a hard time to eat out and when I did, I came home with an 8-month pregnant looking stomach. And it hurt. On the 30 minute drive to church every Sunday, we would have to stop a couple of times for ‘Mommy to do her business’. It was a standing family joke, but I wasn’t laughing.

A doctor never attended to these problems of mine and they persisted for the 21-year duration of my marriage, and beyond.

More to come…

Divorce, AA and IBS

Many years ago I gave a testimony to the women in my church about divorce. During my talk I told them, “I am divorced. I am divorced and I never thought it would happen to me.” It was sort of like in AA when each person stands up and says, “I am _____ and I am an alcoholic.”
It is only in the acknowledgement of our state that we can begin to heal. Stating it like that in front of all those women with whom I shared mutual respect was truly an act of bravery.

story

And once I publicly acknowledged my divorce, people literally came out of the woodwork to talk to me about it: divorced people, single moms, hurting people and lonely people who just wanted to be heard. Some people asked for the transcript of my talk so that they could refer back to it or share it with someone who was going through the same thing. Back then my talk was called Being Chrissie. It told the story of who I was before my marriage, who I became during my marriage and how I was slowly returning to my old self, along with some steps I took to recovery.
It’s funny, but it’s only when people talk about things that they can begin to move forward and heal. I don’t think that very many people heal on their own, in a vacuum.
There is something in my life that I have been in denial about and didn’t tell anyone but those very close to me. That is, until last year. I struggled on my own for 32 years, and I am still struggling. However it is only when you put a name to something that you can climb out of the pit in which it puts you.
So I will say it here.
“I have IBS – C. I have IBS – C and I never thought it would happen to me. My digestion sucketh.”
In 1983 I quit smoking.
In 1983 I got married.
And that’s when my problem / distress / shame started. It is no coincidence that the IBS – C started shortly after those other two major events in my life. There is a correlation and I will get into that later on.
I know that I am not alone in my constipated world because Google tells me that IBS is one of the most prevalent reasons why people visit their doctors.
I know that I am not alone because I see that the laxative section of my drug store has expanded incredibly in the past few years. Every year there is a glut of new products to make you ‘go’.
I know that I am not alone because every time I mention IBS – C, or food sensitivities to anyone, they have a story or one of their friends or family members has a story.
But no one is talking about it.
So in the next several blog entries I will attempt to tell you my story and maybe we can get a conversation going.
My hope in sharing my journey is not so that you can have an intimate look into my life. My wish is that in talking about my journey someone (maybe you?) can have hope, be helped and learn from my mistakes and rabbit trails.

beach

 

My Personal D-Day

August 21, 2004…
On this date ten years ago, my world split in two.
It was the summer I was sick with mononucleosis that I wondered where on earth I had gotten. I had been suffering from fever and terrible headaches for a couple of weeks and had convinced myself that the doctor was going to tell me I had brain cancer. When she told me I had mononucleosis I was dumbfounded. How do you get mono when you’re in a monogamous relationship? At 51 years old?
It was also the summer I took my youngest son to Newfoundland for two weeks in an attempt to reconnect with family and to have some peace. I had always prayed for peace in my life, but homeschooling our three boys, and my husband’s chiropractic clinic in the house made sure I never had it.
But that was all before August 21.
You know how sometimes things happen in your life that, had you known the dark days that were to follow, you would never have permitted them to happen? Not that I really had any control over what happened in August 2004, but I often wondered that if I could go back in time and change things, would I do it? Today I think not.
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. My husband and older sons were to go with some friends for a day of paintball, leaving my youngest son and I home alone. My husband was acting strangely that morning, like he had something on his mind that he was afraid of. He finally said he didn’t feel well and that maybe the boys should go on to paintball without him. He said he had to talk to me about something.
Something big.
Something that could change our lives forever.
So when the boys left the house my husband said he wanted to talk in his office. I thought that sounded official, so I decided that whatever it was that he had on his mind, I would be dressed, complete with makeup to hear it.
And then came the bomb.
Nothing could have prepared me for it. He told me that he had been seeing an old girlfriend from high school, and that he wanted to spend time with her to see whether or not he would stay with me or go with her. He told me all his thoughts and finished by crying in my arms. I thought of my mononucleosis…
Hello? We had been married for 21 years. We were a right wing, fundamentalist, homeschooling Christian family. I was a submitted and fearful woman who was afraid to express an opinion, who thought that everything outside her kitchen window was evil.
How did that ever happen to us?
How ever would I manage on my own? With three bewildered children.
And so began a very dark night of my life. Those of you who have gone through a divorce know very well that there is a lifetime in those ‘dark night ‘ years. I was so ashamed that this had happened to me at the age of 51.
I had to relearn how to be in this world, how to stand up for myself and fight for my children and myself.
I did it!
Looking back now, 10 years later, it’s difficult to imagine that from the ashes of my broken marriage could rise anything beautiful and of value. I remember during those dry years, thinking that I would figuratively bury my old self and never think of ‘that person’ again. But a wise person pointed out to me that who I am today is a result of all my experiences, including what I lived during the past ten years. The fire that I went through made me a much more compassionate, tolerant and loving woman.
I accomplished much.
I bought a house and sold it.
I married a man who loves me just the way I am and does not try to change me.
I wrote a book and had it published.
I got a job for the first time in 24 years. I learned to speak French fluently.
And I became somewhat of an expert on growing and using lavender.

But most of all I learned that I am a loveable person in my own right; that I don’t have to be anything more than myself for people to like me.
And I learned to love and accept myself.
After some time I was able to say “Thank you” for my divorce. I could not have imagined being grateful that I am divorced, but I am very grateful. If going through that kind of ‘refiner’s fire’ was able to change me into who I am today, then I am happy.
And so, being that today is the anniversary of my personal D-Day, I will celebrate my ten years of freedom. I will also celebrate that God’s grace has been with me all the time, and even more so now that I have understood and experienced what Grace actually is. I have this frame hanging in my office as a reminder.

grace

An Attitude Of Gratitude Will Make Your Day

Positively No Negativity Challenge

Day 71 of 84

Have you noticed that at the end of each post I list five things to be thankful for? This was a part of my Positively No Negativity Challenge, but I didn’t mention it before now. I did it because I wanted to see if an attitude of Gratitude would boost my positivity.

It did.

Robert Eammons is one of today’s authorities on gratitude. He outlines four benefits of gratitude:

– it allows us to celebrate the present: when we appreciate the value of something we notice the positives. The thing we are appreciating increases in value because we are grateful for it. If I am grateful for a fridge full of food, I will put that food together into a beautiful meal.

– Gratitude blocks negative emotions like depression, envy, resentment and regret; these can block our happiness. You can’t be grateful and resentful at the same time. Try it!

– Grateful people are less prone to stress. In the face of life emotions, like suffering, grief and anxiety, gratefulness can give a better perspective on your situation.

– It gives a sense of self worth in that you notice that there are people looking out for you. You can recognize the contributions they have made in your life. If you actually call those people up or write a note to acknowledge and thank them, you both benefit.

I have noticed that the happiest and most positive people are the ones who are grateful. When they are healthy, they are grateful for their health; when they are not healthy they are grateful to be alive. Grateful people realize that they are not self-made, but that other people have contributed to and influenced who they are today.

Back in 2005 when I was going through the dark days of my divorce, often those days were filled with self-pity and a ‘woe is me’ attitude. And then I would meet someone who was worse off than me. One day I was telling someone about my sad tale of woe, and she told me about her mom who also went through a divorce while going through chemo treatments for breast cancer.

This type of thing happened to me time and again. It was as if God was telling me that things could have been much worse and to be thankful for what I had. It was difficult to be thankful but I tried.

 grateful

I begrudgingly started to think about what was going right in my life rather than what was hurting my children and me. And when I took the time to show gratefulness to the people who helped me move house, the friends who called me relentlessly to check up on me and even the strangers who showed kindness, it lifted my spirits. It gave me cause to smile and to realize that I wasn’t alone in this world and that I would be OK.

Are there people who have benefited your life? Was there someone who was there for you during a difficult time? Did someone help you out financially? How about someone who pointed out something you were doing wrong and their words made you realize and correct your error?

When you start to think about it, no one is self-made. There are people in all of our lives who helped us along the way.  Maybe it’s time to thank them.

Today I am thankful:

1. For my parents who have been such a great example, supporting, guiding, accepting.

2. For my brother and sisters who have stood by me forever, believing in me and offering support

3. For a dear friend who helped me move house a few years ago, and then gave me money to get Christmas gifts for my children.

4. For my neighbour who always greets me with a smile and who helped me out with my car purchase

5. For Nancie Ferron, who gave me a job at La Maison Lavande, and that launched my love of lavender. (I now have 70 lavender plants in my front yard!)

To Burn Or Not To Burn…

Positively No Negativity Challenge

Day 62 of 84

Every now and then I root through a certain cupboard to pull out journals that have been filled over the past eight years. I sit quietly and read them, all of them, and ask myself why I keep them. These journals are filled with post divorce angst, dealing with my ex, being single in my 50s and my awakening creative writing process.

One year I was engaged to be married but was having second thoughts. I wasn’t sure if this union would be good for my adolescent son or me. I was in a battle with myself until the day I decided to reread my journals for the previous year, just to get a feel of my mindset over that time.  As I read, a pattern began to emerge. I was able to see that much of the time I was frustrated with the direction of the relationship and that there were important character issues involved. I underlined in red every negative thing and every concern I had written about the person I was about to marry. Those red lines made me able to see clearly what I had to do.

I’ve kept those journals and many more over the next few years. Sometimes when I read them I get into a negative funk as I relive situations that have been resolved and are gone forever.

So why do I keep reading my journals? Why do I keep them?

Do I want to let go of the past or not?

Yesterday, the first day of the year, I got them all out once again and read through. My plan was to read and then burn every last journal.

journals

There were some that deserved to be burned and I did burn them. Those were the ones with whining over my lot in life and death wishes for my ex. However, there were others that chronicled the awakening of my writing processes and outlined the book that I would later write and publish. There were recipes, revelations, notes and menus, but there was also the logical working out of certain issues. Reading some of them made me proud of where I am now compared to where I was then.  It made me more positive about the life I have now and much more grateful for it.

At the end of the day I decided to keep some of my journals for yet another year. I’m not sure what it is that makes me want to hang on to them, but something Stuart McLean said makes sense to me in this instance.

                  “You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”

I want to let go of the parts of my past that are negative, but the positive awakenings and ideas are a part of my past that I cherish. Would I be mortified if someone read them after I’m gone?

I don’t think so.

Today I am grateful:

1. For lobster chowder

2. Music

3. Clean air to breathe

4. Creativity

5. Friends, near, far and cyber