Chronicles of Neubergthal: We Effed Up

So in early spring my daughter Maxine, and I purposed to attend as many of the ‘Thursdays in the Village‘ nights as we could.  We’ve been to a Weed Walk and Bread Making Workshop.  We listened as our First Nations neighbours to the east shared stories.  We sat in a circle listening to poetry and story-telling.  We learned how to felt wool and darn socks.  And mostly, we felt community.

So tonight we headed over for a fermentation, tea-making, something-something we don’t really care… We just like to learn new things and connect with people in an old-timey way.  And, when it boils right down to it, we like to do these mother-daughter things together.

After an omelette supper at my place (I am lazy), we left in separate vehicles to meet at the  Neubergthal Commons for the Wild Tea Fermentation, whatever it was…

Maxine arrived ahead of me.. Most of the events are held at the Altbergthal School.  There was her car.  And mine.  And that’s it.  No problem.  Sometimes they do stuff at the Community Centre, or the Friesen Housebarn.

I said, “Let’s check out the other places… if no one is there, let’s come back here and sit under the cottonwood… “

And here’s why I said that…

Last Sunday Maxine, and my brother Dave and his family, took some time to visit Geraldine Yvonne Mcmanus at Spirit of the Buffalo Camp and resistance against the Line 3 pipeline (near Gretna).  I have not been there, but here is something that Maxine shared about Geraldine.  She says, that Geraldine says that the trees are alive and they speak to us.  Her words were something like, “If you’re ever feeling angry or upset, go sit under a tree for an hour, and see how you feel.  You try it.  Just try it.”

This is how Maxine and I ended up on a Thursday evening, just the two of us, sitting under a giant cottonwood on a Thursday night in Neubergthal.  You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night.  The wind was warm, and if you know Cottonwoods, they have a special sound, even when you don’t think the wind is even moving.

We talked.  And we were silent.  We asked questions of God.  And we didn’t have answers.  But we have seen signs.  And we were okay with it.  And we cried.  Well, I cried.

And for crying out loud, eventually one of us really had to pee.  And guess who of the over-forty, having had several children one of us was going to have real issues if we didn’t think of something soon.

As far as we could see, we (by we, I mean, I) had one of two options.  I could head out behind the barn and hope for the best (but apparently, behind the barn was quite open to the neighbouring volley ball court.)  Or I could ask one of the neighbours.

We opted for a neighbour because with iPhones and social media these days, you just never know… And the LAST thing me and my kids need is a picture of my lily-white behind plastered all over Instagram.

So we headed over to some place that looked like someone was at home.  And of course we could use their bathroom… And of course we were invited to sit on the porch.. And we went through all the essentials of who my parents are, and if my dad is still farming…

And after a while, another couple, out for a walk, showed up… And more lawn chairs were set up to accommodate…  And there were deep discussions on who came from where, and how all the ‘problems’ of Neubergthal were solved on this porch…

And because we came from west of Hiway 30, were we the types who put fruit on their vereniki?  I explained that we generally did NOT put fruit on our vereniki, but my mom would try to sneak some in sometimes and we ate them, and secretly thought that was okay, even though we were officially opposed.

Darkness fell and the neighbours figured it was time to go home, so Maxine and I decided it was time to leave, too.  I said I had left my car keys on a picnic table and we joked about how they’d get stolen.  As if.

But when Maxine and I lingered at the Commons, chatting and saying goodnight, our bathroom reprieve host drove his truck over to see if maybe I actually wasn’t able to find my keys…  He just wanted to make sure we were okay.

We were.

This is the Village of Neubergthal.  And this is many folks in all corners of the place where I live.

And maybe the trees speak.  They did tonight.  I heard them as I sat with Maxine, and as we sat with the neighbours.  I don’t know how to describe Kindness that is felt in someone who invites you, a stranger, to sit.  Or checks on you to see if you found your keys.

It’s not forced.  It just is.

Our host on Thursday nights often says that he believes that the people who show up to a thing, are the ones who were meant to be there.  I think tonight was no different.

Neubergthal Culture Day is September 15th.  They will host music, seminars and and artisan market.  Andrew J. Bergman of “The Daily Bonnet” will be there (I want a freaking autograph), as well as The Letkeman Brothers.

We’ve been there the past two years.  It’s beautiful.  It’s fall.  It’s our heritage.


Chronicles of Neubergthal: Darn/Knit Workshop

First off, I am tremendously appreciative of the clever title of this workshop.  But I have to confess that there was an exact moment during the evening where I actually caught on to it.

Darn/Knit.  Darn. Knit.  Darnit.  DARNIT!!!!  I’m sure my eyes got wide as the realization overtook me.  I know — when it comes to smarts, I’m often half a bubble off plumb.

On a July Thursday in the Village, Anna-Marie of Reclaim Mending was on hand to walk us through basic hand stitches on how to mend a sock.  A real sock!  With a real hole!

I have heard of darning, but I didn’t think anyone did it anymore.  Also, I thought you had to be a master needler (there’s probably a better word), to do it.

As it turns out, people DO still do it, and you DON’T have to be a master needler.  I don’t think that’s actually a thing.

I snooped around Anna-Marie’s website and found her super-happy picture, and read about her memories of her grandmother, her love of sewing and creativity.  I read of her dedication to justice surrounding issues of fair and ethical fashion, as well the environmental effects of consumerism.

Which are EXACTLY the same things that were important to our Mennonite forebearers who also made a priority of mending things, or buying used.  Making things last.

There were about a dozen of us sitting around the table.  We’d all brought something broken — most of us brought socks, or a T-shirt.  We were learning to darn.  I was mildly disappointed at the lack of cussing puns, but we were all reasonably polite company so I held back.

As per usual, our host asked us to go around the table and introduce ourselves, say where we’re from, what brought us here.  A few folks around the table darned regularly, and wanted to improve, or share what they knew.  Most of us had never darned, except in the cussing sense.  Personally, I came for my usual reason — to learn something new and to be around people who love what they are doing.

As we stitched away, we shared stories and laughs and I realized that this is why people in the olden days had sewing circles.  Or more recently it might have been known as a Stitch ‘n’ B!#ch.  It was good community.

I have a lot of memories of my maternal grandmother.  She was an excellent (except a stronger word) seamstress, knitter, needle-pointer.  All the cloth-y things.

I remember her setting me up with some needle point on a hoop.  And I worked on it so carefully, only to find that I had stitched it to my pyjamas.  She tried teaching me to knit, and it was tricky because I was left-handed.  But I managed to eek out this square of knitting — the beginnings of a scarf, so I thought.  When I showed it to her, she noticed a mistake, and so she took it all apart so I could start over.  Yeah.  I was disappointing.

We have largely lost (or left) the art of fixing things.  Busy lives, consumerism, keeping up with the Joneses — it all pushes us more and more towards a throw-away culture.  So much of what’s on the market has been designed to break, or wear out quickly.  If it can even out-last our craving for the next ‘better’ thing.

But not that Thursday in the Village at Darn/Knit night!!  That Thursday we were inspired to try something new, look at our clothes and our purchases, and ourselves differently.  We were taught a skill, and we discovered another thing we were capable of.

Anna-Marie talked about kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of ‘repairing pottery with gold or silver,’ and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.  That there is beauty in a repair — a patch, some darning, or some golden glue if you’ve got it.

This is good news for those of us who feel like we’re just barely holding our broken pieces together.  Or we feel like we’ve got some loss, some gaping hole that leaves us exposed and cold.  Or we’re afraid that if we ever do get those pieces back together, it’ll still just be a mess.  But maybe it will be like threads, carefully laced together.  Beautiful.

Anna-Marie did say that there are some holes too big, some damage too extensive.  These items can’t be darned.  There’s just not enough of what’s left to hold it together.  That happens too, and maybe they could have been tended to sooner.  But they weren’t.  And so we need to find another way.

I don’t know how many of us will continue on with what we learned… I haven’t actually totally finished my sock… DARNIT!!!!  (ok, I’ll stop)

But maybe we can take the time we had in the village, and let it shift something inside us.  Help us think twice about what we need.  Think twice about what we buy, how it was made, how it affects society and the earth.  Think twice before throwing something out.

And maybe don’t be too quick to write ourselves off, either.

Chronicles of Neubergthal: Weed Walk


weed  noun  \ˈwēd\ :  a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth  (Merriam-Webster)

Personally, I like the description on the Neubergthal Heritage site that describes a weed as simply, a wild plant.

If you walk down any country road in summer, you can come across some of the prettiest flowers you’ll ever see, growing wild.  Some of these are technically weeds, I suppose.  But no one would argue their beauty.

A few weeks ago, Thursdays in the Village hosted a ‘Weed Walk with Laura Reeves of Prairie Shore Botanicals’.  Laura is a botanist with over 20 years experience.  She received her BSc. (Botany) from the University of Manitoba in 1997.  Listening to her is speak is fascinating.  She has a wealth of information on wild plants; but to me, even more fascinating is her natural curiosity about the living world.  She spoke about the different plants she has tried in different forms — teas, flours, meal.  She speaks in a way that feels as though she is simply driven to see what happens…

To be clear, she absolutely did stress the importance of knowing what you’re eating.  And she also did say that stinging nettle is edible (wait, what??!!), and completely handle-able, if you know how to do it.  Maybe don’t quote me on that, I wasn’t writing stuff down.

As she spoke, she was so excited about everything.  And it made me wonder, what draws someone to this?  What is it in a person that causes them to look at a weed and think, “I wonder how that would taste in a cupcake?”  And how is this urge strong enough to actually try it?  And then build a business around it?

Does everyone have this?  I don’t think everyone is necessarily drawn to be a weed gourmet.  But I think everyone is drawn to something.  Something that catches our attention, and lights this little flame of curiosity and interest to try it out!  And try it again.  And even when it doesn’t work, to try it in a different way.  Laura spoke of cookies that tasted like fish, and of her body being pretty annoyed after eating too much of something.  But that just seemed to be chalked up to experience, and even the opportunity to adjust your taste buds to see if maybe fish cookies aren’t so bad?

As a farmer’s daughter, I would have said that weeds served one purpose:  Battle.  And that’s fair. My dad’s daily battle with weeds kept a roof over our heads and even the odd luxury like a Sony Walkman, or a trip to Mexico.  I don’t mean the sandy beaches kind of Mexico.  More like the Chihuahua-destined road trip to visit ‘frindchoff’.

The weed walk didn’t necessarily tell me that we should push for some kind of trade embargo on Treflan.  But it did show me how to look at things differently.  Who decides what’s a weed?  What makes a plant ‘unwanted’?

I don’t think I’m especially drawn to weed harvesting.  But I was drawn to her excitement and curiosity and adventurous nature.  We might not all have the same gifts, but Thursdays in Neubergthal give me the gift of happiness and openness to try new things.

Some of us have been told that our gifts and interests are weeds.  Unwanted, faulty, fruitless — choking out some of the more saintly gifts.

As a society we are often quick to over-value some things, and under-value others, especially our own individuality.  What if finding our groove isn’t selfish?  What if it doesn’t matter so much what our groove is, as long as we run with it?  What if we’re supposed to run with it?

What’s the thing that fascinated you as a kid (or adult)?  Animals?  Engines?  Time Travel?  Samurai swords?

Were you told it was weird, or a waste of time?  Did it get stifled by convention or practicality?  Maybe we can’t all build a career around our interests, but we can all carve out a chunk of our lives to pursue them.

One of the best things I’ve ever read is a quote by Howard Thurman, “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.”

This is what we experience every week in Neubergthal.  People who have found their thing, and come alive in it.  It is energizing to be around people who love what they do.

Take a look at what you love — Weeds?  Running?  Baking? Juggling?  Don’t be too quick to dismiss it.

Find that thing.  Do that thing.  And share it, even if it’s only with one other person.  Even if it’s only with your dog, or your diary.

Don’t listen to the voice that tells you it doesn’t have value — even if sometimes that voice is yours.

Chronicles of Neubergthal: Tobacco and Rollkuchen

Urban Exploration is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins.  I  suspect that to participate in this you need an attorney who specializes in trespassing laws (if that’s a thing).  You also need the ability to run a pretty quick quarter-mile to avoid the inevitable confrontation with the owners of aforementioned ruins.  I have neither the speed nor the attorney, but I’d still love this hobby.

I love old places, like the buildings in the village of Neubergthal.  I love being in a space where someone lived long ago.  Being in a house or a school or a barn that was built 100 years ago feels sacred.  As though you can imagine and feel the lives that lived in that space.  What might be a bit harder for some of us to see, is that before that school or barn was built, the land itself had stories of life, too — stories of Indigenous people.

Two stories in the same space, just not at the same time.

The other Thursday we attended an event at the Neubergthal Commons Barn called “An Evening with Loretta Ross, Treaty Commissioner of Manitoba, with elders from Roseau River First Nation.”  Loretta has an impressive bio that you can read a bit about on the site.  In person she comes across super likeable, smart and funny.  Two elders from the Roseau First Nation also joined her — this was an evening of information, stories and ideas.  It was also a time to join multiple cultures in one safe, kind and respectful space.

One reason I go to Thursdays in the Village is because people are passionate about what they are doing there.  Also, last time there were rollkuchen.  I go to these things to learn, and hopefully be changed.  Even a little.

I am far from knowledgeable about the Treaties, or the Treaties Relations Commission, or the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs or very much at all.  And this is part of the problem, and this is part of why I went.

I was introduced to perspectives I’d never heard.  I crave this kind of thing — the older I get the more I know that the world is not black and white, and somehow I want to go deeper into the grey.

One of the elders, Charlie, shared a story about how he and nine other men ran the torch 800 kilometres from Minneapolis to Winnipeg for the 1967 Pan Am Games.  When they arrived, they were told to hand off the torch to a non-indigenous runner to carry it into the stadium.

EIGHT HUNDRED KILOMETRES.  That’s a freaking long run.  But instead of running it into the stadium, they were given breakfast at a nearby restaurant, to watch the ceremony on TV.   Let that sink in a little.

And yet Charlie’s first words of the evening were about doing everything with kindness. And I could feel kindness in him.

The next morning, I’m scrolling through facebook, and a CBC news story pops up on my feed.  And it’s the story and the men and the run and the torch and the 1967 Pan Am games.  And there in the video is Charlie!  What?!  Coincidence??!!

I have two theories about this.  One is that the CBC planted spies in Neubergthal for some sort of low-tech surveillance slash Neilsens rating hack.

Another is that maybe I have heard this story before.  Maybe I heard it, and mindlessly filed it among the plethora of stories and news we hear every week.  We are at that level of information consumption where it’s easy to numb ourselves to the human experience.

I wondered, because I was in the same space, face to face with the person involved, if this story went to my heart, as opposed to some back closet in my brain.  So that when I saw the CBC clip, it touched something that had been opened inside me.

The importance of dialogue and sharing space was mentioned several times throughout the evening in Neubergthal.  It wasn’t just about 3 people speaking to a crowd.  We stood around eating watermelon and rollkuchen before, and were welcomed to hang out and chat afterwards.  Ask questions, offer ourselves.  Get to know each other.

How do we move forward?  What is the solution to the challenges being faced?

To some, the answers seem simple.  Very black and white.

For most of my life, I’ve felt warned about straying into the grey areas — questioning, searching, releasing.  There was a sense of danger that if you let in an ‘outside thought’, everything will crash down around you.  I think sometimes it does crash down around you.  And sometimes it needs to.  What I’ve found is that that deeper you go into the grey, you find that it’s not grey at all.  It’s full of color.  There are hard things, and there are beautiful things.

But it’s very complex… And yet, maybe the act of sharing space, listening, hearing, accepting, being kind — is a start.

And maybe we need to wade into the grey, be open to the idea of being open.  Keep going, moving through all the grey, until we reach the colors.

That evening was two stories in the same place, at the same time.  That simple, and that hard.  But maybe that’s a start.

The Chronicles of Neubergthal: We Felt It


If you’d asked me if I was a creative person, for most of my life the answer would have been, NO.  I like math.  I like things to balance.  I like to know when I’m done.  I’m not really artistic or musical.  Ergo… I’m not creative.   Or so I used to think.

Last week I went to a felting workshop in Neubergthal.  I’ve had some felted soap, but I didn’t know what the process was.  Basically, it involved blobs of colored wool, soapy water, a vinyl disc, and a bit of elbow grease.  Long story short, we crafted some felted vessels.  Bowls.  Pretty, fuzzy, colorful little bowls.

To be clear, these should not be used for cereal or pudding, but perhaps as a decorative piece to hold your collection of pet rocks.

We sat around a large table with a pile of colorful wool bits and tried to choose artsy color combinations, not really knowing what the outcome would be.  We didn’t really know the process, and we didn’t really all know each other.

Our instructor had forgotten her sample.  I wasn’t sure how I could create something with my hands, that I couldn’t even picture in my mind. Now right here is a source of anxiety for me — this might be the only felt bowl I ever make — what if I don’t like the colors?  What if it sucks?

In hindsight, it was probably good that we didn’t have a sample.  It took a little more courage to keep going in the process, with no real proof of the end result.

We sat for the next while, felting our wool, not knowing what we’re doing.  It’s repetitive work and I find that  relaxing.  And even though we didn’t all know each other super well, we talked and shared.  And I’m pretty sure that if we’d had a few more hours we’d have started to feel connected on a whole nuther level.

There’s something about creating something.  Maybe because we were created by a Creator, to create.  Sometimes we feel like the purpose of creating something is to impress and be appreciated by other people.  And that can happen — painters, musicians, authors, architects.

But what if the purpose of creating something, is that it is simply a need we all have?

I think it’s both.   Mozart was built in a way that he could create music that moves people.  I think Paul Simon was built the same way.  But I have a feeling they were both driven to write the music whether anyone would have ever played it or not.

When I think about Mennonites, I don’t alway think creative.  I think hard-working.  I think function over form.  And there is that.  But there is creativity too.  We know it’s there in many forms, because there is creativity in anything you do with your hands — baking bread, sewing, carving, painting patterns on floors.  But I think we also can know it’s there because it’s in all of us.  Even if our creativity comes in the form of ice skating, or running a company, or growing a vegetable garden.

It comes in the ways that we reinvent ourselves — as we get older, or after a major life shift.

True transformation happens when we embrace the process, even when we can’t see the end result.  As we felted, we chose our colors, even though we didn’t know exactly how they would look when it was finished.

When we focus so much on the result, we lose something.  But when we embrace the process as having just as much, or more, value than the result, we gain something.

If someone had given me a felted bowl from IKEA, I probably would have smiled and thought, “What the #$%^ am I supposed to do with THIS?”  So why is it so special when I made it myself?  Because I took a chance, and opened myself up to something.

I want meaningful change in my life, but I’m afraid to fail, or I’m afraid it will be too hard — and so I stay stuck.  But if I embrace the process and let go of the results and expectations, I’m free to be creative in my life.

But there is also a risk.  Felting in Neubergthal was a pretty safe space.  And yet there is always some apprehension when you put your “skills” out there.  But every time you do, you build a little more courage.  And you’ve opened yourself to something new.

In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them… So this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges:  Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

At the end of the evening we put our bowls together for a group photo.  As I set mine down on the old wooden school desk, the words, “I feel happy…” popped in to my head.  I’m THAT cheesy.

Why was I happy?  Had I created a masterpiece?  Probably not.

Because I finally had the perfect bobby pin holder?  Not really.

I don’t know why, exactly.

I guess because I made something.  And it was pretty.

And I didn’t know I could do that.

P.S.  This Thursday (June 14):  Fermented Sodas with Edible Alchemy

(Sounds healthy… like the good kind)

The Chronicles of Neubergthal: Storytelling

“Life is an uphill climb… ” said the lady next to me.

Kind of ironic as we sat in the Bergthal School House in Neubergthal.  I’m guessing it was a pretty uphill climb for the folks who built it and settled here.  Except maybe not uphill, so much as unspeakably cold and, “Hey did anyone pack trees?  There are no trees here.”

My daughter, Maxine, and I attended “Thursday in the Village”, put on by the Neubergthal Heritage Foundation.  Maxine and I have attended several of these events.  Last summer we went to a fermentation workshop and Culture Day.  And there were a whole schwack of other events that went something like, “Dangit, was that last week?  Argh, missed it again.”

We’ve been waiting patiently for the NHF to put out their summer schedule, and this year we have decided to be intentional about attending as many Thursdays in the Village as we can.  And I’ve challenged myself to write about them.

There is something about these events.  Something I can’t quite explain, except to say that the people involved love what they do.  You can feel it — it’s an energy.

There is something about being in the space of someone who is doing what they love.  It’s life giving.

There is a quote by Harold Whitman that I’m pretty sure is true. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive.  And then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

This is what I love about Neubergthal.

Tonight was storytelling.  We sat in a circle in the school house.  We were joined by Delores Gosselin, a Métis storyteller.  She told stories, and beat the drum, and there was something serene about it.  Somehow she conveyed peace and intuition and humour and hope.  A lot of peace.  She said her drum was for healing.  I believed her.

We passed a talking stick around the circle — a piece of bark that had fallen from one of the giant cottonwoods that line the street of the village.  Some people told stories.  Some shared thoughts.  Others shared connections and hope and gratitude.

And something happened.  Something happened as people spoke.  (One at a time because of the stick rule.)  Something happened as the drum beat, and we sat quietly and listened.

Something changed in us in those two hours.  I felt it.  Maxine felt it.  I didn’t know everyone there.  At the beginning we smiled timid smiles and made pleasant small talk.  By the end we were laughing and chatting.  And we’d hugged and made connections.  Real ones.

I had come there exhausted.  Physically tired, emotionally worn down, my brain scattered.

Delores told a story of a bear climbing a mountain, and The Great Spirit, and beauty and trust.  And it taught me that I don’t need to see everything right now, but if I keep going, I might see something beautiful.  I have heard this before, in other ways, from different voices.  It felt reassuring.

It wasn’t a huge group.  But our host said he thought that in these kinds of events, whoever shows up, is meant to be here.  And he seemed old enough to know what he was talking about.  So I wondered why I was meant to be there tonight.

I think one reason was to practice being present.  When you don’t have the stick, your only option is to listen.  And as the drum beats and someone else speaks, your mind can start to settle.  A little peace comes in.

Two times this week I’ve come across the word, “Commons”.  Once at the Altona Community Garden, and now here in the village.  I wondered why that word was chosen.  Essentially it means “a place for everyone”.

Parks Canada designated Neubergthal as a national historic site.  It is evidence of a people who settled in a place with no river and no trees.  Talk about an uphill battle.  There is something about sitting in a building, being in the same space as folks who lived 100 years ago, and listening to their stories.  And listening to stories of the ones who were there before the settlers.

It’s almost ghostly to think that even in some small way, this energy has been passed down to me through generations.

I’m not a history buff, but I like to learn about it.  I don’t know a pile about Neubergthal — I was born on yant zeed of Highway 30.  The facts are interesting, but I’m more interested in the vibes.  The spirit of people.

Thursdays in the Village will include a darning workshop, weed walk, bread making, poetry — the typical early Menno stuff.  I look forward to showing up with my giant repertoire of stuff I don’t know.  And I look forward to  coming away a little bit changed.

Next week:  A felting workshop.    

I do not know what that is, but I think it might feel old-timey and creative.  And good for the spirit.




En Route


It was a day like many others — crisp air, bright sun, and an after-school schedule that needed to be planned with the precision of a Navy SEALs team if it have any chance of success.

It hadn’t, and so it didn’t.

We were en route to a soccer game, except that we couldn’t seem to get ourselves en route.  The kids were in the van, and we were ready to go.  Mostly.  I kept running back into the house to get things I’d forgotten – lawn chair, snacks, arctic-rated jacket and boots.

We even made it to the end of the driveway once, until the OCD voices wondered if I’d left my hair straightener on.

Finally we were on our way.  I looked out the window and noticed a flock of Canada Geese flying north. North? In fall? Thinking out loud I said, “Why would those guys be heading NORTH at this time of year?”

The quick and only half-amused reply from the back seat was, “Maybe their MOM forgot something… “  Heh.

Okay, a little background here.   One – my kids make me laugh, so much. They’re so clever.  Those kinds of cracks, while generally at my expense, speak love to me.

B – I’m pretty good at some things: I can name a lot of 80’s rock songs in less than 5 seconds. I can power nap in 11 minutes.   And while I don’t really like cooking, I make a pretty amazing peach pie.

iii – In a lot of the non-essentials (aka not pie), I’m pretty scatterbrained and disorganized.  I forget things.  I’m not a great planner.  I don’t put any of this on my resume, of course…

I fly by the seat of my pants. When people talk about events in the far-distant future (ie later that week), I find myself not even listening.  Because what would I do with that kind of unrelated information?

So what happens when you throw my kind of personality together with the kind of personality who plans?  Someone who plans and organizes and just seems to be more comfortable that way?

When you put these personalities together, there can be, ummm…. tension.

For most of my life, I thought that there was really only one way to do things. That there is always a right way and a wrong way. That all conflicts must have a winner and a loser.  That everything is black and white.

I’ve gotten (ahem) older, and life has happened, and I’ve gotten to know more people — people who are different from me.  And as I hear their stories, it seems that very few things (if any) are black and white.

I think I’m finally getting to the age where I know enough to know that I don’t know very much.  Too often it’s been the opposite.

I’m not saying there aren’t certainties.  But I am saying that I’m pretty sure I now have way less of them than I used to.  Especially regarding a path I’ve never walked. Or a pain I’ve never felt.  I’ve been wrong about this often enough that I’m starting to get the picture.

Before I had kids, I could look at a child and quickly diagnose any parenting failure.  Bad behaviour in the grocery store?  If these folks would just take their child by the hand, look them in the eye and gently but firmly say, “We do not write our names in spray-cheese before we’ve paid for it.”

The list of things I used to be an expert on is extensive.  (see Appendix A)  Ha.

Or maybe I’ve take a hard and clear stance on something my whole life.  And then a friend or family member is smack dab in the middle of it, and the answers don’t seem so simple anymore.

I have my own experiences.  And those are, in many ways, the only things I really know.  And they are valuable — to me and to others.  Just like others’ are to me, if I am willing to listen.

I like reading memoirs, hearing people’s stories.  We see their path, and we think, “That must be the right path.  That’s the right way to do it.”  But that was their path.  And it may have included many side roads, stumbles and rising again.  Some of which may even have been needed.

We connect to people who are real. Maybe connection is more valuable than finding a single right way.  Somehow we all need to walk our own path.  It’s how we grow, and it’s how we help others grow.

We can create space for that.  Maybe this is a good space to start.