From the monthly archives:

December 2008

Let’s get together, ya, ya, ya

by lulujane on December 31, 2008

lily-10The Iler clan – me and my five brothers and sisters like to get together as a group at least once during the Christmas holiday season.

One of the very special treats – not on the snack table – was meeting nephew Ryan’s daughter Lily for the first time.  Niece (by marriage) Barbara also brought her daughter Brooke who is a delight to photograph.



Gifts that keep on giving

by lulujane on December 30, 2008

For a number of years now I receive a gift of flowers at Christmas-time from my daughter-in-law Martha’s family.  I enjoy them beyond having them sitting on a table where I already enjoy them immensely.  I like to get up close so I can look deep into them and focus on their amazing beauty beyond what I already see.






Thanks Toni!


From Point A to Point B

by lulujane on December 30, 2008


Sometimes the distance from Point A to Point B can be a straight line.  Other times the journey leaves a meandering trail before connecting with the Point B destination.  Such is the case in point.

While visiting my friend Betty yesterday, as she went off to have her shower she invited me to scour through some old photos her daughter had given her the previous day.  I know some of her family members and I knew her husband who passed away a few years ago so I spent some enjoyable time looking at familiar faces at varying stages of aging.

When she emerged fresh from the shower and ready to go to lunch she handed me a 1956 Crusader year book.  The Crusader is the team logo for Windsor’s Assumption High School.  She offered it to me and suggested I keep it.  Silently scratching my head with thought, having absolutely no idea what I might do with it, I accepted it anyway.

I asked Betty’s how she came by this yearbook and she relayed it to me.  A few years ago, as her daughter was closing her store for the day, a gentleman came in with the book and said that she (Nancy) should have it as it would mean something.   The yearbook was from 1956. Nancy was born in 61. The only thing she could think of was that maybe her dad had placed an ad in it. Nancy just had it on a shelf in her home and recently thought her mother (Betty) would like it or know something about it. Nancy has no idea why this total stranger walked into her store and gave it to her saying it would mean something to her.

Listening to the story of this book’s journey into Betty’s hands I lifted the first few pages and quickly recognized a face.  This fellow had been a lifeguard at Ford City Bathing Beach when I was in my early teens.  He was a twin.  I had a crush on his younger brother.  Four of my five sons went to Assumption High School and I pondered the possible connection of them or some of their teachers to this year book.

dsc_0002x1Flipping a few more pages I started to do a bit of math.  My former husband, the father of my sons, was born in 1939 and he went to Assumption High School.  My heart started to skip as I pondered the possibility that this book might be meant for him.  And wouldn’t you just know it – thanks to each grade’s student individual photos being listed alphabetically, within just a few seconds my unspoken question was answered.  The book is for him.

When I shared this revelation with Betty she was on the verge of getting emotional on me – joy at finding the book a home, and knowing that we all had a mysterious and synchronistic hand in it.

It was a winding, crooked path from Point A to Point B; the man who gave the book to my friend’s daughter Nancy, Nancy who gave it to Betty, Betty who gave it to me… all not knowing where it would end up or why they had it, and me who will give it to Gene, where it is meant to be.

As Meryl Streep’s right-hand man (in the movie ‘Out of Africa’) said when they removed a rock dam from a downhill moving stream, “now the river can go back to Mombasa”.

And so this book will be delivered to Gene. He is Point B.


Getting ‘another chance’

by lulujane on December 27, 2008

001xHow many of us would recognize when we are given another chance?

While on a mild morning slushy, puddly walk with my sister Joyce, dodging accumulated ice and snow where homeowners didn’t have the energy or the means to shovel, I walked past a small piece of paper sticking up from a snowbank. Breaking my stride I quickly reversed direction and picked it up.  It was a 649 lottery ticket purchased on December 17th.

This might be a chance, or it might turn out to be just another piece of useless paper.  I like to consider the possibility and opportunity to consider the metaphor.

Lucky me! I have been given a chance.


I hate to pack

by lulujane on December 23, 2008

untitled-1Don’t know if there is a solution, but the absolute worst thing for me related to travel is the dreaded P word…. PACKING  –  and despite efforts to do it a different way, I always leave it until the last minute.  I have no idea how my problem can be solved.  Luggage  feels like a necessary evil – if I want to travel and if I don’t want to be caught short I gotta do what I gotta do. I sense that  my dilemma has something to do with making choices.

In my day-to-day I am organized, prepared and best of all – I am spontaneous. I do have to admit that my Ford Escape is usually a storage place for extra jackets, tripod, Kleenex, books, gum, hand lotion, eye glasses, sun glasses…. I think you get the picture.  Right now I have three pairs of gloves and mitts in my back seat.  When I have the freedom to have my personal vehicle accessible, the sky is the limit in what I am able to bring with me.

Packing for air travel is another story.  I have limitations. Shoes are always a challenge when packing for a flight – do I need running shoes, sandals, high heels, beach shoes?  Heck, that alone probably weighs five pounds.  It is always necessary to pack a hair dryer and curling iron.  I have travelled with other people who choose not to pack theirs and ask to borrow mine.  Why can’t I do that?

Florida bound in January for a month-long stay, so I’d better go prepared.  On the other hand, my host and I both love exploring in the vintage/resale/consignment stores where there are always lots of treasures to be found.  I’m wondering aloud – hmmmmmmm – going empty  and returning home full might be a good idea.  Then the suitcase is only burdensome one-way.

It is quite shocking when I realize just how heavy my clothes are.  I notice this more when I have to carry it, drag it, lift it.  Dropping it into the suitcase requires little effort but lugging it around does.  Sort of like another kind of baggage, problems, judgments and anger.   I know that the weight of these could deplete me if I choose to drag them along like a sack of rocks.  So I take the path of least resistance by hanging on to the lighter things like laughter,  joy, appreciation, gratitude,  acceptance, etc.

Gee, I wonder if I could do the same thing with packing – taking along only the lighter things – the  things that give me joy!

Note:  A post/post – I am feeling a bit vindicated; like, I’m not alone in this.  Within about a half hour of posting this I was working on a crossword.  One of the clues was ‘traveler’s burden’.  Guess what the answer was.

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Accepting invitations

by lulujane on December 21, 2008

chads-cd-release-dec-08-84201How many times do we turn down invitations to do something outside what is normal for us?  The invitation is offered, we think for a short moment, shake our head and simply say ‘no’…  I am thinking it really limits our life experience when we shut out what might not ‘speak to us’  for the simple reason that we aren’t open to trying new things.  My friend Gail often laughs at me when I say that something doesn’t ‘speak to ME’.

My youngest son, Tom, coaxes me out – to explore, experience new things and new people.  He is a supporter, person of great encouragement, not only to me, but to family, friends, planners, dreamers, organizers, people of vision, people of action, musicians, writers, visual artists, etc.  Through his invitation to me, I meet with him and a group of this demographic once a week.  I hear ideas, plans, projects.  One of this group’s members is Chad Howson. Chad is lead singer, musician, song writer of a band called Another Saturday Knight.  Their Chad-designed logo is ASK.

Yesterday, Another Saturday Knight had a CD release party – two really;  an all ages one at Dr. Disc on Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, Ontario and an evening show at Phog Lounge on University Avenue in the same city.

Project Thunderwind – Members of our Thursday meeting group are encouraged to invite others to echads-cd-release-dec-08-4xbwx420vents and activities outside their norm.  So, to this CD release party, I invited my 14 year old granddaughter Krista.  Tom brought his brother-in-law Trevor.  In addition to supporting people in the arts and music, he is big on supporting people who are also supporting these things.  Hence, my invitation to Krista to Dr. Disc.   Dr. Disc is an independent music store whose owner/operator is one of these people.  Tom has often praised Liam to me and even though I only had a quick introduction and a warm handshake, I understood.

I took early retirement from my full time job in June of this year (soon to be last year) and it is with gratitude and joy that I sit in the circle with these young people with passion and talent.  Chad, being one of these people, is what made me want to attend the CD release party.  This was also an opportunity for me to check out this independent music venue.  Likely typical for someone of my age, encouraged by Tom to browse while listening to Another Saturday Knight, I ended up buying CD’s by Enya, Josh Groban, Sarah McLachlan and, believe it or not, Marty Robbins.  We even threw one in for Krista – her choice – for a grand total purchase of around $48.  I will be back.

And so, invited and encouraged, I have learned, I have been open to adventure, and I have grown.


Southampton Art School

by lulujane on December 19, 2008

As a single person planning my summer vacation in 1999 I was conscious of wanting my first solo travel experience to be a good one. It was important to find a place where I could occupy part of my time in a place where I would be able to meet people. When I decided on Southampton I called their tourist bureau to see if they had a community centre where I might sign up for a craft class. Lucky for me they recommended the Southampton Art School.

For nine years now I have honored a part of me that wants to learn something new, to create, to meet new friends and to celebrate my joy. Following a personal discovery of the Southampton Art School in the lakeside town of Southampton, Ontario in the region of Grey-Bruce, just north of Port Elgin, along the shore of Lake Huron, I registered for “Learn to Play”. I found the course title to be inviting as opposed to intimidating at a time in my life when I needed to learn to play again. Learn to Play was the perfect invitation for me to register for my first art class.

This was a learner’s program familiarizing me with some basic concepts and techniques. Even though I initially planned to travel alone, I ended up inviting my friend Bonnie to join me in this art adventure. As she so often does when we strike out on an adventure she started to giggle the moment she climbed into my car. Feeling like a fourteen year old I joined her in this. Something inside told me that we were embarking on something special. We had no idea that nine years later we would still be making an annual trek to our summer playground to take art classes and visit with friends.

I certainly did not consider myself an artist and was open to learn… whatever. Me, the beginner, loved the course, and was gently encouraged and delighted in the gift of a generous teacher, Al Downs. Al’s influence is proudly reflected in a framed colorful fish print hanging in my home. Just looking at this image brings back the memory of his resonant throaty laughter. I can picture him with his hands on his hips, leaning over a student’s work to pass on some positive encouragement.

In year two Bonnie and I selected a Watercolour Monoprinting course with internationally known gifted artist, Stephanie Rayner. Stephanie teaches from a kind, gentle, spirit filled place. Previous students were oldsters” and new ones were called “newlets”. We were often asked to bring our stools up to huddle around her little table for a talk. These talks touched my heart and often evoked emotion at the beauty and message in her words.

In year three Bonnie had other obligations during my scheduled Art School week and my daughter-on-law, Martha, came along. In the nurturing womb of the historical Art School building, with positive energy surrounding us, both Martha and I created some pieces of work that we were excited about. As a reflection of the great teacher she is, Peri Jolley wisely and gently pushed me beyond my comfort zone, sometimes into a bit of anxiety, to help me make new discoveries in her Collograph and Mixed Media Monoprinting course.

I have participated in Solar printmaking – mixed media monoprinting and collograph – calligraphy – designing greeting cards – painted floor cloths. Courses vary in length. We have taken weekend, half day, 3-day and 5-day courses. The menu is inviting, versatile, accommodating, and so very delicious.

I have learned so much more at art school than the creative aspect of “art”. Through observation I have learned about approaching my work and others from a place of gentleness, love, caring and generosity. In order for my creative energy to flourish I know that I have to be gentle with myself and tune out my inner critic. I also realized that I am happiest and more in the flow when able to let go of attachment to outcome.

I love this town, the Art School and the people of the Southampton area. Martha commented to me about what a wonderful situation I manifested for myself in Southampton. Each year when I go back to “school” I renew old friendships and make new ones as we are welcomed into the community and the hearts of these nurturing connections.

Art School is not an escape for me. Each time I go to Southampton I am moving toward a new exciting adventure, open to the possibilities. This has been an opportunity for me to experience freedom in a new way, spread my wings and discover more about who I am.

In our second year we enjoyed a sailboat ride with barber shopper Tom Marcotte who took us around Chantry Island. We appreciated his jokes and information about things of historical significance. Each year we participate in familiar little rituals that make us feel at home – extensive clean and sandy beaches, casual ice cream-in-hand strolls toward incredible sunsets at the foot of High Street, musical concerts at Fairy Lake; Thursday classic car cruise nights complete with 60’s music and fund raising raffles at the base of the lakeside 35 ft. Canadian flag. Surrounding small towns and villages invite us to explore and experience their unique personalities. All this, combined with the kindness and generosity of this community, combine to make my heart sing. It is important that I use the word “fun” in describing my experiences – a perfect blend of work and play.

The Southampton Art School catalogue is rich with possibilities. If anyone is interested in a personal adventure, and if this sounds like a place where you might find it, I invite you to call 1-800- 806-8838 to ask for information. You can email them at or check out their website presence at where you can peruse a long list of exciting program offerings.

With the philosophy that sometimes the anticipation can be even greater than the event “Wow”. I know that our next program choice will be another great one, filled with laughter, peace, friendship, celebration, wonder and accomplishment. And as we drive into town toward a friend’s house, usually Pat and Tom, they can expect that the first words out of our mouth will be “Hi hons’ – we’re home”.


An online Saugeen Shores Tourism bulletin reports that: The Southampton Art School is where it’s ART. For over 50 years, the School has been – and still is –dedicated to celebrating the joy of creativity, and developing artistic talent, no matter what the age or experience. It’s a non-profit registered charitable organization charging affordable fees. Our instructors are accomplished artists who have proven their worth as creators and teachers with a gift for passing on their knowledge, expertise and joy in their art to beginners, professionals and every stage in between. Adults and children are encouraged to recover or rejuvenate their creativity – and a surprising number of accomplished painters have re-dedicated their lives to art after attending the School.

Some of the high calibre teachers I have had the privilege of learning from are listed below, with biographies excerpted from previous years Art School class catalogues.

Wesley Bates was born in Yukon, educated at Mount Alison University, N.B., and pursued a career as a painter and printmaker in Hamilton, where he also established West Meadow Press. Primarily known as a wood engraver, Wesley has illustrated books for prestigious publishing houses and for well-known writers such as Timothy Findley, W.O. Mitchell, and Stuart McLean. His work is represented in numerous public collections and is in private collections worldwide. He received the Hamilton Arts Award in 2000, and now lives in Clifford, where he works at wood engraving, painting and fine press printing.

Al Downs is an original in his approach to art, and variety is his middle name. He’s a former consultant in Visual Arts for the North York Board of Education, an instructor in the Ministry of Education’s Visual Arts course, and, before taking early retirement, a Visual Arts instructor at the Faculty of Education (OISE), University of Toronto. Since moving to Southampton, he has been an active teacher and volunteer at the Art School and Gallery Shop, as well as an accomplished painter and printmaker.

Peri Jolley is a painter and printmaker who works in watercolour, inks, oils, acrylics, and mixed media, as well as in hand-dyed silks, in a range of styles from realism to abstraction. Peri was elected to the Society of Canadian Artists in 1987 and is an active member of a number of arts organizations. She has exhibited in many locations, including the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Art Gallery of Peel-Brampton, Thames Gallery-Chatham Cultural Centre and the John Black Aird Gallery-Toronto. Peri’s work is included in many private and corporate collections. A graduate of the Sheridan College Creative and Visual Arts programme, she also has a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Windsor. A longtime Southampton summer resident, Peri teaches workshops in Oakville, Mississauga, Dundas, Hamilton and Southampton.

Margot Miller has taught at Sheridan College, St. Lawrence College, Queen’s University and Sir Sandford dscn1645xFleming College. She is an Honour Graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and the Ecotourism Management Programme, Fleming College. She worked in the textile design industry in India and has traveled extensively in India and Asia, documenting traditional textile techniques. Currently she teaches and operates her own textile studio and shop in the village of Rockport. She is a recipient of a Design Canada Award and has exhibited at numerous galleries including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Film Board of Canada and the Ontario Craft Council. Her passion is a dedication to preserving our natural and cultural resources. Margot is a board member of the Leeds Stewardship Council and the Algonquin to Adirondack Conservation Association.

Stephanie Rayner is one of Canada’s best-known printmakers and conceptual artists. She believes that art and the human spirit are indivisible. A graduate of Ryerson, past vice-president of Open Studio in Toronto, she has exhibited and taught extensively. For the past several years she has been lecturing with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Spirituality in the U.S. and Africa on the importance of nourishing the spirit. With often-unexpected results in her students’ work her workshops are noted for changing more than one artist’s direction and style.

Lois Sander is a waterloo based multi-media artist whose passion first and foremost is calligraphy. She has been on a journey of learning and adventure with the alphabet ever since her employer paid for her first calligraphy lessons in 1985. From those humble beginnings she has constantly pursued her love of letters and to date has studied at two international calligraphy conferences, belongs to three calligraphy guilds. Her interests have taken her to South Carolina where she studied “Contemporary Decorated Letters” . Whet it be one of her handmade boxes, books, collages, painted floor cloths or unique art cards, you are likely to discover at least one of the 26 letter forms expressed in her work.

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Shift in Perception

by lulujane on December 19, 2008

It is said that the miracle is in our shift in perception.

I remember my early days of active photography.  I thought my photographs were incredibly wonderful.  When I look at these now I am embarrassed that I excitedly touted them around showing them to friends and family.  I am grateful that they didn’t burst my balloon and  I am glad that I perceived them that way initially because that is what kept me at it and moved me forward.

My vision, the way I see the world, often the way I choose to see the world, is my perception of it.  As I tiptoe through the tulips so to speak, I silently ask to be shown the beauty.  And I do find it.  I believe it is the same in the people we meet.  By opening my heart and asking to see it, it is revealed to me.  This makes me a softer, gentler, more accepting person.

As human beings, when we make judgments about others, it doesn’t say so much about them as it does about us.  If we choose to hold a negative opinion or a grudge and seize it tightly so that no one an wrench it from us, it holds us back. It keeps us stuck.  Holding firmly to the belief that we are superior or right and the other person is wrong leaves no room for negotiation. No space to breathe.  No way to escape. We become imprisoned.

I  had the personal experience of praying for a solution to an uncomfortable working relationship.  And then one day, totally out of the blue I had peace around it.  Where once I saw him as a jerk, and names worse that I won’t write here, I began to see the other person as a good man and became his friend.

Oddly enough, after I stopped fixating on what an awful person I believed him to be, I also learned to detach from outcome of the things in my job that I felt I had to control.  I see this as a big life lesson and appreciate the connection I had with him because ‘I got it’. My willingness to want peace around my daily interactions with this gentleman surprisingly gave me the gift of letting go of my need to control.

It is said that the miracle is in our shift of perception.


Thank you VISA

by lulujane on December 17, 2008

Prompted by a 50% discount off Via Rail travel offer by I enjoyed an inexpensive round trip train ride to Burlington to visit my sister Brenda last week.  I had an early morning ride to the station so got up before the birds to catch the 5:45 a.m. train out of Windsor.  Via Rail was shipping me to the Aldershot exit.

I took along a paperback.  Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx This book was a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1994.  I saw the movie quite a while ago, liked it and picked up this prize book at a yard sale this summer.  This was a small investment with a high yield.  What joy it gave me.  I had a hard time following the story because I was entranced by the author’s descriptive sentences/paragraphs/chapters.  I kept thinking with envy ‘wow – what a gifted writer’.  So, between my thoughts of envy and admiring her style of writing, I traveled my through the passages of my book.  Shipping News occupied me well on my outbound travel from Windsor, Ontario.

Why does my luggage always seem heavier when I am on the return leg of a trip?  Anyway, my luggage stowed overhead and between my feet, my occasional swaying ride on the train was pretty uneventful.  I am an antsy traveller.  I often cross and uncross my legs, wiggle in my seat, move my hands between brochures and magazines in the pouch hanging from the seat in front of me, checking things in my purse, looking for snacks.  I’m glad I don’t have to sit next to me on the train.  The seemingly constant activity of another person sitting so close to me would drive me crazy.

As we were nearing Windsor I moved to the front part of the train where we would disembark.  I did this because my luggage was awkward and heavy.  My camera bag, my heavy book bag, my backpack purse and an over-the-shoulder soft piece of overstuffed luggage. I moved it all nearer the exit while the aisle was clear of other passengers.

About ten minutes before our arrival at the Windsor station, the conductor stood near me waiting for the squeaking wheels grinding to a halt.  Little did I know that he was the prize of my trip – the jewel – something golden.  As I did on my journey from Windsor I asked this conductor how long he had been with Via Rail. This started a relatively short conversation that made a routine mundane trip an exciting one for me.

Shortly after I boarded in Aldershot I only raised my head when he walked through the two cars in his charge with a large box of candy canes offering it side to side as he moved past his seated passengers.  A Christmas greeting came with it.  I wondered silently if this was a first, a Via Rail initiative, but after our later conversation my belief is that it was a personal gift he offered.

He revealed to me that he has been in his job for a year, that he just loves it, loves people, and can’t believe he is getting paid for doing what he loves.  He shared that he is from Morocco and returns home once every year.  When he made mention of fondness for the children on our train, even the hyper excitable ones, he reflected about his young sons at home in Toronto.  Without getting into the nuts and bolts of what he told me of his family and travels home I learned much in our short exchange that cheered me.

As other passengers queued up to disembark, friendly conversations were exchanged with, and among them by this gentle man.  He made them smile and was obvious to me that they appreciated his warm and friendly dialogue exchange.

I could tell that he was inspired to do a good job and that it was a pleasure for him to be of service to Via Rail’s customers. If this is the kind of person Via Rail is hiring these days – Bravo for them.

No surprise that this gentleman’s name in his home country translates into our word ‘miracle’.

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Angels in my life

by lulujane on December 17, 2008

I often reflect on the caring people I have attracted into my life.  Attracted in an innocent, uncontrolling, out-of-the blue, sometimes synchronistic way.  These include my family doctor, massage therapist, hair dresser, nail technician, friends, fellow-travellers, etc.

Lorie is one of these people.  Lorie is a beautiful young woman who has no concept of just how lovely she is. She is creative, artistic, caring and generous, among many other things.  Lorie is the professional who keeps my fingernails brightly coloured and well cared for.  Our nail sessions normally include personal conversations, sharing, and a feeling of trust, respect and gratitude one for the other.

Prior to my retirement in June of this year my appointments were always scheduled for 4:30 p.m. so that I could go to her home on my way home from work.  During that period of time, in addition to working on my nails, she provided dinner for me.  I was often met by apologies if dinner was left overs, or ‘just a hamburger’. She revealed that early in the day of my appointment she would be thinking ‘Linda is coming today – I can’t give her leftovers.  What can I make for dinner?’ …. lucky me!

My hair is normally worn in a pony tail swept toward either the right, or the left side of my neck. At present a French braid winds its way down one side and around the back of my head toward the pony tail.  At my Monday appointment she commented on my braid.  Followed by a revelation that she loves doing French braiding and that she has been doing it for years.  An invitation was offered that if I stopped by any time she would be happy to do it for me.

So, yesterday, on my way to visit another friend I stopped in at her workplace (by invitation) and she took a 10 minute break to wind my hair.  I am quite literally blown away by the continual flowing of her kindness and generosity to me.  And I appreciate her.  She knows this.

The apple does not fall far from the tree.  Her mother Rosie is also a good friend with a big heart.

I often reflect on the caring people I have attracted into my life.