Saturday, March 31, 2012

Making Our Way Up

I wonder as I work on ways to be a better person, how do I know that I’m not spending all of my energy cultivating my own ego? Some of the greatest people I admire seem to have egos larger than life. Yet others are so humble, so unassuming, so quietly wonderful. I strive to be the latter and fear that I fumble much too often on being the kind of person who sees everything in black and white. I am either good or bad. Some days I just can’t keep up. Other days I have it all going on.

I was reminded in a comment made by one of my favourite readers and bloggers, Panther Creek Cottage that in all the great things we do, we do not do them alone. We are every moment working beside Jesus (or God, or higher powers, or connections, or universes or whatever word suits you here) to get us through. That our success does not belong to us alone. In every magical step, we are led and we are supported.

For a control freak who’s pretty certain she can do everything by herself this is a humbling realization. Ah, that I am not only not alone. But that nothing I do can be credited to my efforts alone.

I thought about this a lot. All week in fact. And towards the end of the week as I made my way to my usual parking spot and meandered to my work building I noticed the church on the corner that has been part of my landscape for a couple of decades. It was no longer a church. It had been converted to an altitude gym.

You see, the thing I find about working out, exercising, setting physical goals for myself is that the work is incredibly self-satisfying. It is inherently selfish. And in a life where the demands on me are far greater than the attention I give myself, exercise creates a much-needed balance. It gives me a refuge, some time to think and move in ways of my own choosing (well, it seems that way when I make the commitment beforehand, there can be some resistance part way through).

But I get caught up in it every time. It takes me to that place of black and white. Good and bad. Better or worse. And I thrive when I am doing better – especially than myself. And there is no end to the opportunities to beat myself up. For not going far enough, often enough, fast enough, long enough. So I don’t let those opportunities in. I ride the high. And push and push and push until I find my happy place. Rich with endorphins or whatever hormones are at play.

I am relieved to know that I am not doing this alone. I think ego is a lonely place. Actually an insecure place. A place where a body has a lot to prove. And is separate from everything. And it is hard work being separate from everything. Being connected to something larger than ourselves, that is the place where we can excel to our highest potential. To realize that it is not ALL ME is actually quite a comfort. If I could kick the ego aside, I’d see that. I’m not in this alone.

So what does it look like for a person to show up at a building where thousands of people have gone to worship their higher power every week for decades and decades and – well – strap on some ropes and climb the walls? Do you reach any higher? Can you find God better from the ceiling? Do you prove to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to?

I’m not dissing the rock-climbing world. I’m only attaching my own state of 'elated' physical strength to the experience. Would I climb those walls and know that in this building, I am most definitely reaching a higher place? Or could I just as well sit on the floor and gaze up from my spot and experience all there was to know from that vantage point? Or for that matter take my feet for a run through the woods and find the same thing?

What beautiful creations we all are. I believe we show God a great deal of gratitude when we take good care of the form we were given. And I don’t believe any of us serve God better by neglecting ourselves. But I would argue that when you feel separate from yourself, you are not very good at taking care of yourself, and so much more likely to feel separate from your protector and creator. And to feel separate from that, well, that’s a scary place that I have known too well in the past. And I’m willing to use whatever tool it takes in any way I can to prevent that. If it means I have to strap on some ropes and show the gang how high I can climb, then so be it.

Now I’m not much for testing gravity, so I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon. But my own strength? I cannot short-change myself here. If I am healthy and my bones are intact and my muscles are still working and my heart and lungs are still willing, then I am blessed. I will invite my ego to join me while I will push and push and push until I feel totally and completely in the company of that something great.

And only now, thanks to my dear friend in the blogger world, I realize I am not doing it alone.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Study of Grains

Anyone who has lived on this planet can tell you that seeking nutrition information can be mind-boggling, contradictory and pretty much make you throw up your hands and forget the whole thing.

I’ve lately been thinking about grains. Morning porridge grains in particular but also flours, rice, barley, groats, wheatberries, quinoa, couscous, bulgur… So I’ve done a little research. We’ve also had the privilege of growing many-a-grain around here – rye, wheat, rice, and though technically not a grain, buckwheat galore as a green manure cover crop. Organic grains in my book can look a whole lot like a field of lovely grains mixed with a great diversity of weeds. But that is a story for another day.

Near as I can tell there are five factors to consider when choosing your grains:
• fibre content (whether the bran is left in),
• acidity (related to gluten content),
• glycemic index (how much it is processed and how quickly the sugars move into the bloodstream),
• protein content (whether the germ is left in)
• usable nutrients (are the nutrients added/enriched or naturally occurring?).

First a little bit about processing grains for consumption. The way I see it, the more a grain is processed, the more it seems to be readily available as sugar to the blood stream. The more simple (or broken down, or pre-digested, or processed) a grain or carbohydrate is, the more quickly it brings energy to the body. But these quick sugars lead to the release of an insulin roller coaster and a subsequent crash and hunger and the cycle starts all over again. Along the gradient I see white sugar at one end (smooth, sweet, finely textured) and a complete, intact whole grain (crunchy, nutty-flavoured) on the other.

An intact grain is made up of an endosperm, a germ and a bran – and often a hull as well but that is generally removed before it hits the market. The germ contains the protein and most of the nutrients while the bran houses most of the fibre. When white flour is made the germ and the bran are taken out. Often whole wheat flours have the germ and bran removed and then the bran is put back. The trouble with the germ is that it doesn’t keep so well. Hence, a more nutritious, higher quality flour won’t keep on the shelf as well as its more processed cousin. If it is nutrition you are after, then buy the truly whole grain products (that include the germ and the bran) in small quantities and keep them in the fridge or freezer.

You’ve heard me go on about processed cereals before. The part about the rats doing better on cardboard than some brands of cereal. The issue is simple. Many boxed cereals are without the germ (protein component) and sometimes don’t contain the bran either (fibre). Usually there is also an added amount of sugar nobody wants to hear out about. So the food value is there. It likely digests really easily (read: high glycemic index, therefore quick to raise blood sugar), lots of calories, little contribution to long-term energy and probably very efficient at fat storage. My personal vice is Cheerios. I include them in my diet knowing full well what they are - and balance them with better choices for the rest of my meals.

A quick aside to two ‘grains’ that I want to eat more of. We make crepes around here with buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is made from the small seed (groat) of a white flowering plant. It is an excellent choice for folks with gluten intolerance. It is also long-lasting as an energy source and more alkaline than acidic. Apparently our bodies are supposed to run on alkaline foods and we are all running around addicted to heartburn medication due to the high acidity in our bodies.

Barley is seemingly another wonder food – also more alkaline. It is often prepared as pearl barley which has had the germ removed and is an excellent source of energy, reasonably long lasting.

I’m an oatmeal fan. I eat it almost every morning for breakfast (as do my children). For a treat we will have Cream of Wheat. We put a wee pat of butter and brown sugar or maple syrup on there – maybe some berries. Its my lifelong love. But it doesn’t contain the same amount of fibre and protein that other hot cereals do. And I’m hoping to make a shift. Cream of wheat is like baby food. And I love it. Who wouldn’t? But it’s time to face the fact that its a highly processed version of a whole grain.

The difference between the oat cereals out there? Here is where I was getting deeply confused.

Oats of any kind are usually roasted to remove an enzyme that makes them go rancid quicker.

Steel cut oats are the whole oat groats chopped into pieces. They take longer to cook and have the best nutritional benefits in the way of proteins, healthy fats and fibre (also release their sugars more slowly into the bloodstream). The problem with all oats is they tend towards being an acidic grain. Kamut and spelt are considered far less acidic than oats and wheat, for example. From one whole grain to the next, the protein content in the germ seems to be about the same between whole grain wheat, kamut, barley, oats, rye and spelt.

Rolled oats are the result of steaming the groats and then rolling them out into flakes. Quick oats are large-flake rolled oats cut into smaller pieces. Old-fashioned and large-flake oats take longer to cook than quick oats. Instant oatmeal are quick oats cut into smaller pieces yet. The smaller the pieces, the easier for your body to take up the sugars, the quicker the sugars spike in your bloodstream, the faster you crash and get hungry again. Instant oats are fine but are often sold in small packets with added sugars, salt and chemicals.

Oat bran is simply the isolated bran from the whole oat grain and are very high in fibre. High fibre foods such as these have been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol).

The more I learn about the food available to us, the more I realize that an egg is not an egg. That all milk is not the same. That one side of beef is not equal to another. That one large, beautiful orange carrot does not have the same nutrient value as the next one.

And now I know that the ‘usability’ (digestibility, acidity, glycemic index, nutrient density) from one grain to the next is highly variable. I don’t think we should throw away every ‘wrong’ food in our cupboards but I truly believe that when we’re standing in the grocery store aisle scratching our heads we need to consider the following:

1. What do we like because that is likely what we are going to eat. Thinking you should be a Quinoa fan does not automatically make you a Quinoa fan. (I tried a Quinoa prune thing recently and nearly gagged – perhaps one day my taste buds will be so refined).
2. Eat your Cheerios. Love your Cheerios. Buy the squishy cheap, airy ‘whole wheat’ breads, just know what they offer and fill in the gaps.
3. When in doubt, head for the germ. ‘Whole wheat’ is not necessarily germ and bran-containing. Read about the products you buy and find out if the germ and bran are still in there. Best way to tell? Does it keep in your cupboard for months or go rancid after a few weeks? If it is the latter, you’ve got the right stuff (and need to clear a spot in your fridge or freezer for it).

All for now. Over and out.

Happy Grain Eating.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Independence Defined

Studies have shown that happiness has been linked to a person’s independence. Great, I think. But what defines independence? Is it the ability to spend money in whatever way you want to? Is it freedom and control over how you spend your time? Is it when you don’t need help for doing what you need to do? When you are not dependent on anyone to make things happen in your life?

The context I was reading about this correlation was about a recently divorced woman who was learning how to make her own decisions. She was paying bills for the first time in her life, buying cars, signing mortgages. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have no idea how it feels to do any of those things. A long time ago women were told they were lucky to not have to worry about such burdensome matters. All I know is that there is a certain power and strength in knowing that no matter what happens, a person can know they are capable of taking care of themselves.

I remember the first time I ran a half marathon distance. That day I learned that all I needed was a pair of running shoes to get me to the nearest gas station, grocery store, telephone, friend’s house – no matter where I was. Really and truly no matter where I was, if my car was the break down I could get somewhere I needed to on my own steam, with my own two feet. This is a very empowering feeling. I have covered these kinds of miles on major highways, logging roads, seaside trails, small villages, large European cities, around lakes, over mountains, across sand. I have taught myself that no obstacle is too great (although the list of potential dangers – wierdos and creeps, transport trucks, grizzly bears and cougars, thunderstorms, stray dogs - were vastly different, my own engine was never the limitation).

There is something inside of me that has come back to life since I have returned to work. I realize now that during those childbearing years, I wasn’t really showing up at work. I was physically there but mentally at home. I was often mentally nowhere no matter where I showed up.

What I have only now just realized is that having others depend on you does not make you independent. Let me say that again. Meeting the needs of everyone and everything around you does not make you independent. It does not automatically mean that you are meeting your own needs. It does not mean you are free and in control and doing what you want to do.

Further, taking time to ‘do things for yourself’ does not necessarily mean you are independent. I have practiced going through the motions of ‘things for myself’ without reaping the feeling of being in control of my own life, my own power. Taking a moment to breath was always more a survival mechanism instead of an opportunity to grow or build trust in my abilities.

All of this independence I speak of is separate from whether or not you are earning a wage or being ‘supported’ by someone else. None of this is about financial independence although that can lead to other kinds of freedom and control. What I am referring to is the feeling that you could do whatever you had to, wanted to, needed to in a pinch. The feeling that if your car broke down you could cover the distance you had to even if you couldn’t get any help.

You see, what I failed to notice is that helping others all of the time is not the same as NOT NEEDING help. I’ll say it again (for me, more than for you). Just because you can care for the planet, the neighbours, your kids, your husband, your dogs, your unicorns and your laundry pile does not mean you do not need support. It may be financial. But it is likely far more complicated than that.

Likely you need an ear to listen once in a while. You need time to think. To sleep. To move your body. To breathe and digest. To use your brain. To apply your ambitions. You need to hear your own laughter, often. To build dreams. To give them form. To paint pictures. To write those words down. Maybe you need a new pair of pants that fit better. Perhaps you need to make a doctor’s appointment to deal with that nagging issue. You need a haircut or maybe just a hair wash. You need things. Surprise Mama. You need things.

Independence. The ability to feel like you can take care of yourself when you need to. The knowledge that you could be there for yourself when asked. The certainty of where you stand – where you begin and end – not in relation to the needs of another person. I’m not saying you should leave a hungry baby without food to get in a run. But becoming a mother for me required a re-learning post extreme-dependence stages of what it means to take care of myself. It took time for me to remember what it really meant to meet my own needs.

I feel I have arrived there again. The place where I have a pair of running shoes in my trunk. Both literally and figuratively, I know I could do whatever was needed of me.

Independence is not about whether you depend on someone else or not. And not about whether you have others depending on you.

It is about whether you trust that you can depend on yourself.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Insanity, Unlimited

In response to my desire to increase resistance-type training in place of the long cardio adventures I was doing, I have started doing the Insanity Workout DVD series. They consist of 10 different 40-minute workouts that are done in a certain sequence over a 60 day period. I think I’m supposed to do them over 60 days straight but I’m doing an every other day thing to accommodate some of the other exercise commitments I have (walking at lunch with colleagues, squash games, and my weekend runs with my dogs). Its all going really well and I’m enjoying the mix of activities I have on the go right now. I’m definitely not getting bored and there is a nice balance between cardio and weighted exercise, lone and social stuff, at-home-with-kids-critiquing and adult-uninterrupted experiences. It seems trendy right now this sort of Jillian Michals/Biggest Loser, bootcamp, plyometrics kind of workout. There are things like burpees and stride jumps and squats and planks and fancy push-ups – all things that make me want to put on my 1970s striped Adidas outfits and head bands and get jumping!

Now I was told the Insanity workouts were going to be hard before I began. I braced myself for a big challenge, perhaps an impossible one. I worried that I was too old. That I was too heavy (when your own body weight is the resistance, weighing more can be a detriment or a bonus depending on how you look at it!) That I would get injured. That I couldn’t keep up to those hard body types. Aside from the fact that I regularly call the facilitator on the screen an asshole (pardon my choice of words), I am glad that it is possible to follow along reasonably well even if I can't do it all. No matter how much I do, it still pretty much kills me whether I am keeping up to the gang or not. It isn’t uncommon for me to find myself soaking wet with sweat, face down on the floor, moaning on the sixth push up of the fourth set while the bunch on the tv are on their 30th.

I love the simplicity, the lack of equipment, the anywhere/anytime way about it, the intensity over such a relatively short period of time that makes me feel as though I’ve just run a 10km (plus bonus muscle aching) every time.

At one point I had finished a round of some knee-up, plank, arms outstretched physical fandangling and turned over onto the floor with a thunk to rest for a while (this is just around the time I might have called the instructor, Shaun T., one of those profanity words). Lying on my back with my eyes closed, I imagined the keen, glistening sweaty bunch on the tv popping up with vigour and starting into their second set but I didn’t look. I didn’t want to know what I couldn’t do while I caught my breath. Then I peeked out of the corner of my eye. There they were outstretched on their back getting a nudge from the instructor to get up and keep going. It was then that I realized. Nobody can do this. There is not meant to be an end to it.

Enter permission here.

Permission to go as far as you can until you feel like you can’t and knowing that is enough. Permission to get up and try again even if you can only do one-third of the things everyone else is doing. Permission to congratulate yourself on pushing to your own limits and knowing that is exactly where you are supposed to be right now. Permission to do another round even when you are scared of how much it hurts, how much you might fall short, how much you wish you were in better shape. Permission to feel your body sweating, your heart beating, your muscles aching. Permission to be alive.

I would really recommend something like this for anyone who is reasonably active and fit, not prone to pushing themselves to the point of injury, and willing to get their butt kicked every single time. It is excellent if you find you have reached a plateau in your current activities and are not finding your fitness is improving. After taking a 3 week hiatus from running, I went for my first run yesterday and was quite surprised how I was able to go for much longer at a faster speed with my new found strength and endurance from these exercises.

Though I recently posted about how I appreciate that my current job has some semblance of boundaries where farming and parenting life did not, I am now becoming more of a fan of the unlimited. For it is there that we discover the kindness we need to offer ourselves in every life situation. Life will ask too much of us. We must go forward where we can. And decline when it gets too much. Unlimited is real. So too will become my new job tasks, I am certain.
Give it time.

It isn't what is being asked of us that is the problem. It is okay for us to be capable beyond measure, but know our own limits. It is okay to venture forth towards our greatest potential and not be afraid of falling. Our job is to find the edge, to move towards it always knowing that when we start to teeter we’ve gone too far. To know that we have the right to stop, slow down, close our eyes and lie on our backs while the rest of the world continues around us. We have the right to stand up and be our best. And lie down when we need a break.

And using profanity can sometimes help as well.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Boxed In

I have been placed in many-a-box in my day. We all have categories in our minds that help us know what people will do and what they believe and what they value. It helps us organize people. Makes them predictable. Makes them easier to get to know. Helps us know if they are on our team. But don’t you ever come across someone who surprises you? A woman with hairy legs and dread-locks devouring a steak? A hunter concerning himself with an orphan wild animal? Someone who belongs to a certain political party displaying characteristics of the ‘other side’? Sometimes its not that easy to keep track of who people are.

For some reason I have been exposed to a lot of political dialogue lately on facebook, the radio and especially with my socio-psychological interest in the current President of the United States. I have never been one to take sides politically. Most of my decisions in life happen intuitively and how I vote at election time is no different. I listen to what people are saying, ask questions, sporadically follow the issues and make a choice based on a variety of factors that include local, provincial, federal and global concerns and the history of the candidate. But I do not subscribe to any one team, side, or party and I am UTTERLY fascinated with people who do. What I find so incredibly interesting is the ability of a person to know without a doubt that they are wholeheartedly congruent with any one group’s ideas. No matter what. Even if the ideas change. Even in a storm of resistance (following a political scandal, for example). Even if it means sending their children off to war. Even if their party just stole millions of dollars from taxpayers. There is a loyalty and a faith and trust there that is often foreign to me. Fascinating.

I think there is great comfort in adhering to a specific set of rules. And great strength in any unity. If we can find a set of people who see the world the way we do this helps us feel as though we belong. I think that is the most important thing we can know as humans. We can also feel a part of something when we are willing to listen to another point of view, however, or are inspired to understand a different way of thinking – that is a resource not to be overlooked!

It is also important to know where we have come from. What our parents believed and what values governed their lives. What their parents believed. And what their parents believed before them. We have histories of belief systems buried so deep that they seem to literally become the fibre of our being. All of these things play a part as we choose what team to play on.

All I know is that I despise being put in a box. Because I seem to reside in many standard stereotypical roles, I often hear assumptions from people about who I must be and what I believe. Again I find this fascinating. Most of the assumptions I hear about myself are so dead wrong I am embarrassed to correct the assumptor. Even people that know me very well will fumble into these follies - my own mother included. I do not judge. But I cannot say that I do not cringe every time. In fact I want to scream at the top of my lungs: ‘that is NOT WHO I AM!!!!’ Doth I protest too much? Perhaps. But more than likely I just don’t think we as people are that static. We have different ways of coping with change, but we are not wired to be totally fixed in our thinking. What is good for us in one decade may be terrible in the next. What worked in one life phase will fail miserably in another. I believe that one of the greatest life skills is to be able to adapt to the changes around us. If you believe in evolution as I do, our very survival is based on this principal.

Here are some fun examples of ‘who I am’ told back to me in what I continue to find comical:

1. I am an organic farmer. Therefore, I grow pot and sit around all day complaining about my government and receiving social assistance cheques. I also despise all forms of conventional agriculture.
2. I am a female singer/songwriter with a guitar. Therefore, I am either Phoebe from Friends (whom I never knew because I didn’t have a tv in those days) or I am a Lilith Fair wannabe. Full stop.
3. I am a federal government worker. Therefore, I do nothing all day and get paid too much to do it. I have settled for working for the ‘man’ instead of doing real things in the real world.
4. I am a wildlife conservationist. Therefore, I abhor hunters and do not agree with any harm done to any animals anywhere.
5. I worry about the future of our planet. Therefore, I do not drive a car, I recycle at every opportunity, and I attend all protests related to the environment.
6. I once shaved my head. Therefore, I must definitely be either a cancer victim, a lesbian or a Buddhist.
7. I believe in restoring useful skills from the past (woodwork, clothing, food processing). Therefore, I never eat foods in packages with bears on them, I never buy anything from a dollar store and I make all of my own clothes. Or I must not yet have heard of pancake mix if I was bothering to make them from scratch.
8. I buy most everything second hand. Therefore, I have low standards, I’m cheap, and I don’t have enough money to buy the real thing.
9. I care about the fate of our natural resources. Therefore, I think making money from natural resources is evil, I think all industrial activity is wrong and I would rather enjoy looking at a forest full of trees than work for a living.
10. I was recently told that I was seen as a 'pretty girl’ in high school. That must be why I was not welcome in the enriched math class that I asked to take. I was also told I would be unable to run in track and field because there were no mirrors on the track. I should take up modeling instead.

I can assure you that all of these original statements are true. And every assumption that follows is a bunch of complete and total hogwash. But I have heard each and every one of them straight to my face. They are so far from reality that I could spend a whole post on each of them defending myself. But I won’t. Because my job is to get comfortable in my own skin and accept that I cannot change how people view me. I can only change what I do with my days.

I work hard. I believe in hard work. I really love a well written song no matter who is singing it and what instrument they are playing. I care about the environment. I care equally about the ability of people to earn a fair wage. I think there is something to be learned from the past. I look forward to what we will newly discover in the future. I like to be useful. I like to make good use of the things around me. I think it is my responsibility to make good use of our natural resources. Good use. Not waste. Not contaminating. I am older now and am no longer concerned with what it means to be a ‘pretty girl’. I got 93% on my first enriched math class test (where the class average had been 46%). I ran the 1500m and came in fourth. Without a mirror.

Please don’t box me in. I want to hear what you have to say too. So let’s chat.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dormant in the Ground

Inside any bed of living soil in a field there lies a bank of seeds waiting dormant. When the conditions of moisture and temperature are just right they will germinate into a growing plant. In our fields these can look like stray sunflowers, rogue heritage tomato plants, squash vines, or other welcome specimens. But most of the time they are quack grass, sorrel and other pesky competitors for the organic vegetables.

I am listening to an audio CD written/spoken by an author who described a time where he centered himself in his home. When a certain success did not materialize, there was more time for enjoying his kids, nurturing his relationship with his spouse, reading more books, exercising more. During this time the author realized something in himself that allowed him to make a decision that would change his life forever. Incidentally it also changed American history. The decision that followed this period of ‘dormancy’ was to run for Senate instead of pursuing a career in law. The author’s name is Barack Obama.

I am a firm believer that being humble is an excellent trait. I value wisdom and talent over showmanship. Yet when an art form appears inside of us, whether in a song, a sculpture, a picture or a garden, it is our duty as a human to give it form. We must let the form exhibit itself. I find the trouble comes when showing ones art tumbles over onto the side of exhibitionism. By definition exhibitionism is loud, exaggerated, or boastful and designed to attract attention.

I do not believe we are meant to serve our own egos. There is a subtle place just before that kind of misplaced arrogance where a person learns to meet their fullest potential. Where they dive so deep down into the light that shines inside of them that there is no chance of every returning. Like a seed that has cracked and formed its first cotyledon, the energy of the universe has found its path in that one living moment. When we find our path, there is no going back.

When we find our path we are given energy, not burned out. When we find our true form, we feed others, inspire others and awaken others. When we serve the God inside of us, the God in our community, the God that lives in every living thing, the God that watches over our loved ones, we expand towards the best representation of ourselves.

I recently read a perception that all bloggers were exhibitionists. I highly disagree. It really depends on the intention and purpose of the writer and whether they are coming from a place of true light (sorry for the flaky word but it really is the right one) or a place of confused narcissism. I personally find this line a thin one but do my best to stay on the better side of it.

Last night I participated in a songwriter’s night with 20 very talented songwriters in Ottawa. The event involves writing a song on a short list of topics and then taking turns on a stage to share these songs with each other. Some friends and family show up, but mostly it is songwriters sharing their work with other songwriters.

Some of the performers are taking the stage for the first time. Yet many of them have released multiple CDs, played at large festivals around the country, received ample media attention for their work and honed a craft over years if not decades with the help of fellow songwriters. They could fill a room on their very own. But instead they were all tucked intimately into this small room together giving it all they had.

The evening lasted just over four hours. There will be another of its kind again tonight with yet another round of similar artists sharing their work. When the invitation came to participate in this event, I recalled a decade ago when I came faithfully year after year to this exquisite evening. I wrote some of my best songs for this night, always fumbling over them as they came to life in front of an audience for the first time. I heard some of the most inspired, genuine music I have ever known on these evenings. There is something about serving the pure art of songwriting that really gets me excited. Last night was no different. A true gift. I felt blessed to be in the same room as this gang. If ever you should be in Ottawa on the night of the Great Canadian Songalong, do find out where it will be held.

I know a lot of artistic types of people who have multiple talents. They paint, sing, write, knit, grow, build, photograph, teach and/or explore. These people sometimes find themselves expanding in too many directions. They also often tell a tale of having found certain aspects of school very difficult. They might have even dropped out or been treated as though they were belligerent or unfocused. Instead I believe these folks had not yet figured out the form that the jumble of energy inside of them was going to take. I was one of these kids. Failed miserably at many subjects in school, while excelling beyond measure at certain others that tapped into those hidden strengths.

It can be confusing when everyone around you is finding a path that is straight and narrow and you’re still looking around wondering what your supposed to do with yourself. It can lead to feeling lost and out of place in high school. But as a forty year old I’m finding this state downright amusing. I used to wonder how I’d lived so many years and still not found what I was meant to do. Now I realize that it was never about the thing I was choosing to do. It was about whether I was willing to nurture the seed bank inside of me. Whether I was ready to give water and heat and eventually light to the energy that lay dormant inside of me.

One bit of advice that I was given last night as the butterflies overtook me before going on stage was to plant my feet firmly on the ground. Apparently you can’t fly away if you can feel your feet under you. I was always a barefoot performer and certainly never able to sing with any kind of high heel on. This must have been why.

Obama describes the day he realized that the seasons changed, that the earth turned, that the darkness and light all played their parts without any particular effort on his part. It seems with this realization he gained permission to go out into the world and serve from the greatest position of power. And I’m not talking about the part where he became President of the United States. In that moment he found the thing that allowed him to effectively put his energy out into the world. All the while remembering how precarious this can be. How easy it would be to let his feet leave the ground.

I have no comment on what kind of President this man is - I'm not a writer with a political slant. What I see here is that a little time spent in the right kind of dormancy seemed to burst this guy into expressing remarkable potential. And no matter who you are, it all starts with a seed, a bed of soil and the recognition of the important role the ground beneath us plays.

We are not meant to move mountains. But we are meant to grow these seeds. Lets not let our fields be full of unwanted weeds finding their way into our space. Lets choose which seeds we will nurture and believe that with a little focus, a little attention in the right direction we can let the most beautiful garden grow.

Where you may be someone who is concerned about taking up too much space. About showing too much of yourself, attracting too much attention, it is time to realize that the world turns with or without you. And it is now time to dive in and give those seeds some light.