pursue stuff that matters

pursue stuff that matters

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What is your liveitaph?

As an epitaph lovingly describes the deceased, I propose that we earth-bound folks start using liveitaphs.

“Liveitaph” is more than a personal credo; it cuts through the bull and defines you at a core level. It is also a neologism. One of my made up words. Another example is “inflatulation”—one who’s enamored with their own wind. I coined it in a hot tub, it was inspired by a man who will remain nameless.

Here’s how I’d use my liveitaph. When I am introduced to someone for the first time, instead of the predictable rote script of, “Nice to meet you. I’m Deb Cripps. Brrr… isn’t it chilly!” I’d say: “Hi, I believe that thought creates reality. We have co-manifested this moment. How does that grab you?”

This liveitaph of manifesting started to come at me around the age of 16, when I realized that ‘my people’ firmly believed that life happened to them. It was a profound discovery to understand, that in fact, I was happening to life and would have no one to give credit to or blame. I was accountable. How I chose to create storms and then weather them, choose change, and stick-handle perceived failures and successes was all up to me. And it scared the hell out of me.

Now in my 50’s, I embrace this radical concept. Not only are we totally responsible for what happens to us in life... we are creating it like an artist applying paint to a canvas. Stroke by stroke. Traffic jams, rude servers, sick babies, apple blossoms, camp fires.

Can you image the possibilities? You are the director, producer and casting agent of your own life. You choose the events and people necessary to fulfill a contract that you made before you chose this form.

This intriguing concept has a lot of sex appeal in good times, during those years of taking the kids to art camp and hockey practices, and occasionally sipping Cerveza on a beach in Cuba. But when things get shitty (because they will), when relationships screw up, when you create false busy worlds, when you stare terminal illness in the face, or walk down the road of mental illness with a loved one…. my liveitaph requires a painful surrender.

But truth is, we don’t learn anything sitting on a resort beach. Our challenges define us. And I’m not fooled by my eyes, no matter what’s going on around me, it’s all there for a reason; even if the moment is a hardship beyond comprehension.

Failures, mistakes and flaws are just our perceptions. Like warm rain, stubborn dandelions, misspelled poetry, burnt raspberry jam, snorting laughter.

My liveitaph, “Thought creates reality” reminds me that the world is magical and limitless,and that life is beautifully flawed and worth living.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I just want a drive-through and sweet Jian Ghomeshi’s voice…

It saddens me to report that a 25-year long protest has come to a sorrowful ending.

This is not courageous activism like raw milk crusader, Michael Schmidt’s hunger strike; a protest for freedom of choice and recognition of the importance of farmers and food production in Canada. Mine is a prideful protest.

You see, for over two decades, I have strategically planned fuel fill-ups. When necessary, I’d drive on fumes to the other end of the city or an adjacent town to avoid being a ‘create your own reality’ victim of Self-Serve gas stations. But, on October 29, 2011 at 3:00, I pumped gas into a vehicle for the first time in my life.

The protest started back in the mid-eighties. It was during a gawd-awful “Why-do-I-live-in-Canada snow storm,” where snowplows can’t keep up, the wind is howling 40 miles… and I noticed that the number of full-service pumps at gas stations were dwindling. I’d watch the grimaces of people being pelted with snow while they pumped gas and stumble through the blizzard to the pay station and wonder…. WHY?

When I told others about this little boycott, the response has usually been a dim smile and disbelief. “Really! In your whole adult life, you’ve never put gas in your own car?”

But now, has it come to this? The city of Waterloo doesn’t have one full service gas station? I called Suncor Energy, they say no full service. Husky says no. Esso says no. Shell says no. Our progressive, beautiful city, that represents visitors in the hundreds of thousands, does not serve my needs (and yes, I understand this added service will cost more), or that of seniors or the disabled community.

How does a vulnerable senior or a paraplegic in a wheelchair pump her own gas and then maneuver through snow to pay?

So for the fist time I pumped gas and have one question: “If I can spend $1.40 at a Tim Horton’s in mid-February at a drive-through in my cozy Mustang listening to sweet Jian Ghomeshi’s voice, then why the hell can I not get someone to fill up my tank for $60.00?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Living real.

Artist Bill Lishman recently said to me that originality trumps everything. He was talking about making art that is authentic and not kowtowing to critics and the people around you.

Being original requires guts. It is essential to living well.

You know you’re living real when you regularly get the “You are going to do WHAT?” question from people around you.

This question, usually delivered with the expression of disbelief, is familiar to me.

I got it when I bobbed like a cork in the Johnstone Straits, kayaking beside gigantic Orca whales. I got it when I learned to drive a motor home from the Rockies to Newfoundland, so I could chat up farmers in their kitchens. I got when I quit great paying jobs because they bored me. I got it when I invented the game “Pass the Buck” – and took a leap of faith, filling 100 bags with loonies to try out a national fundraiser. And I got it last night ... on the shittiest, rainy night in fall when I lounged in the hot tub.

Lishman is right on... originality trumps everything.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I reach out and TOUCH the clouds

It is late afternoon as I help my partner Carl check controls, tires, bolts; preflighting our ultralight, Dream-maker. She’s a canary yellow, two-seater open cockpit.

Racing down the grass strip runway, we take off and he pulls the nose up toward a perfect blue sky. I can feel him smiling.

We take turns flying dual controls—Carl in the front, while I stick it in the back without the advantage of a windshield. Within minutes my breasts ache as the wind penetrates my bomber jacket.

Ignoring the cold, we soar higher and higher. Carl flies with a grip on the control stick, waiting for a thermal to bring up one of our wing tips. And there it is! He turns left, sensing the exact position and ecstatically shouts into headset, “I got it!”

Round and round we glide. Each 360 degrees gives us 200 feet of altitude. Round and round, up and up.

At 7,000 feet we arrive at cloud level. It is heaven. Wisps of white, moist air surrounds us as we lollygag from one small mass to another. We laugh, engulfed in cumulus and glide with clouds gracefully dancing around us.

I reach out and touch its wetness, watching it pass through my fingertips.

It is magic.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Mood of Food

Food changes us. It causes chemical reactions that bring us up, or when necessary is blissfully numbing. I have spent several decades cooking with the intention to relax, arouse, soothe.

Several years ago, I cooked for an older woman who hadn’t eaten for two days following the death of her husband. She was lost in the hardship of grief. After hours of creating a Wonton Soup (dumpling dough & stuffing and broth) I watched this pale, lifeless woman eat my soup.....

At her first scoop; a balance of broth, rings of green onion and stuffed dumplings; she tilts her head as if caught off guard, and lets out a quiet “umm”. Her face flushes. She eats slowly, finishing the whole bowl, then quietly rises to go about the business of putting her beloved to rest.

At my last dinner party I cooked with the intention of creating friendship. Strangers meeting strangers to share food. I planned an inspired menu to present packages of comforting things... food to bond.

Endive boats & avocado veg jalapeno wraps
Shrimp jambalaya & banana bread
Ravioli (home made dough) stuffed with soy, walnuts, ricotta hot peepers, asiago, spinach - in my fresh tomato sauce
Whole trout stuffed (I don’t know why, but I love to stuff fish) with rice & wild mushrooms
Chocolate dipped strawberries & jasmine tea

Do you have a food story?

If so, please email me.
I’m collecting stories for a book.... “The Mood of Food”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Laundry in Delhi

The best travel stories are those you could not have predicted in a million years. I will never forget this hotel and laundry situation that occurred mid way on a trip of 56 days around the world. I only wish I had a web cam.

I arrived in Delhi on a dark, smoggy night. As our car pulled onto a narrow alley, my partner and I smile. This is our hotel?

The dingy lobby is hot—and stuffed with a lot of unhappy people.

It’s late, so we unload 3 weeks of dirty laundry and ask to see
our room. We are escorted to a tiny windowless room back behind the kitchen. The d├ęcor is prison-grey with accents from the grime-deco period that consist of two sleeping cots, two packages of cigarettes (American), and two dirty towels. I park my partner’s wheelchair in front of the door… for extra security. At six o’clock we get our wake up call of staff yelling (sounds like a fight is about to break out) and slamming doors.

No need for breakfast. We inform the manager we’re checking out, and ‘could he please return our laundry’.

After a lengthy discussion, it appears that I will be required to follow his staff “just around the corner to the laundry house to identify belongings”, while my partner waits in the lobby on bag guard.

Better than a scene from Peter Seller’s ‘The Party’, I scurry after my two hotel escorts, crossing streets of cars honking, rickshaws, speeding bikers, ox carts, barking dogs and an unbelievable number of people.

Down winding alleys, I’m ushered past garbage-filled rooms thick with haze that are family homes as well as work places. We go into a narrow concrete hallway where I’m introduced to the CEO of laundry. A large grey-haired cranky looking lady in an orange sari looks me up and down, then points at a lump in the corner.

We walk to a mini-mountain of dirty laundry (about the size of my 3-tonne rock in the front yard), and I realize that she wants me to find my stuff.

I begin sifting through several hundred pieces of smelly socks, stranger’s underwear, and t-shirts all bundled together. I feel like a prospector looking for gold nuggets. Every now and then I’d find something that belonged to me and I’d hand the gem to the woman, who would then pass the article to staff members for examination. I watched, as my underwear went from hand to hand.

When I discover my favourite blouse, I let out a “Yes!” and throw it with my other finds. The CEO is not pleased. Every few minutes, she barks and gives me a sharp jab in the back. She’s speaking in Hindi, but I catch her drift. She’s inferring that I am taking advantage and “helping” myself to this lovely cotton blouse. But one poke too many and I have had enough. I gesture to my escort to scoop up my stuff.

And away we run. Through the alleys and streets with my bras dangled from his arms.

Back at the hotel the manager pulls me into the office with Pajahabon and another fellow, insisting I sit down. I decline. Apparently, we must make a plan… eight garments are still missing and we need to do an official audit of the found items. I watch as my dirty clothes: 1 blouse, 2 panties, 1 bra, 2 pants are counted and handed from man to man.

After ten minutes of heated conversation in Hindi, they look confident. “Pajahabon will take me to the ‘big shop’ to locate the rest of the missing clothing.” I counter-offer. Find our stuff and have it delivered to us at our next stop. I need a bath.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Ah... to have a daughter like that.”

This Friday is better than Good, it is Glorious. The sun shines, mussel lime-curry broth simmers, I have 4 dark chocolate almond bars stashed, and my friend’s remark: “Ah... to have a daughter like that,” echo’s in my head.

Last month my old friend Virginia and I reconnected by phone after several years of no communication. She was shocked when I retold my story of how our family recently overcame several years of life-altering challenges.

She listened empathetically, but was clearly surprised by the concentration and severity of the suffering and pain we endured. After sharing the gory details of disease and hardship, I told her of the daughter I would call daily with, ‘I need you NOW’ requests of her company, fresh clothes, dog sitting, meetings with specialists. I told Virginia how this daughter never failed to respond with an immediate, “No problem mom, I’m on my way!” and she’d run from work, leave her latest art project or friends to sit with me overnight in emergency rooms, hotels and at my bedside.

But when I told Virginia this daughter did not once even hint at my burden, not once hesitate, or even give a sigh during yet another 3:00am call, .... she fell silent, and after a long pause, she softly whispered, “Ah... to have a daughter like that.”

Chills ran up my spine. In that moment I got it. Yes, we can all do what is required of us at a time of need, but to do so with such a light and open heart is truly an act of grace. And, ah... I have a daughter like this!

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moral dilemma... what would you do?

I’m at Zellers when I spot a paunched middle-aged man crouching on the floor with an L-shaped periscope. He appears to be using a spy device to look up over and into the next isle. I follow him.

He slides, slowly inching along the floor with his peeping pipe, while I nonchalantly fondle scarves and panty hose. I am watching the watcher.

At the end of row ‘J’, I see a young girl. She has blonde and bright purple streaks of hair, heavy black made-up eyes, and a cherub face that is no more than 14 or 15. She is oblivious to her situation.

Later, lined up at one of several busy cashiers... lo and behold; cherub is in the line next to mine. She appears even younger close up. She is pouty with an “I’m pretending I don’t know you” attitude. She’s with her mother.

And of course.... just beyond the purchase area, waits Mr. Periscope. He has that smug face people with small power get. He is swaggering, one hand on his hip and the other rubbing his neck.

I hear a whisper, “Go and warn her!” The voice is telling me what I already feel. My gut says to step into their lives, and save this baby and mom from the pain and anguish of what is about to happen.

But I don’t.

My heart sinks as the store cop pounces. His face is filled with intensity, but behind the strain there is also pride and a hint of delight at capturing his prey. Cherub cries out and I can’t stop my eyes from welling up with tears as she sobs and is forcibly shoved back into the store. Her mom follows behind in shock.

When retelling this story to friends, almost 100% agree... I probably saved the wee one from a life of kleptomania and nipped her criminal activity in the bud. They are of mother Alice’s persuasion – “You made your bed, now lie in it.”

But if I had to do it over again, I would have heeded ‘the voice’ and altered reality with the whisper: “Sweetie, empty your pockets before that security dude jumps all over you!”

What would you do?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pursue stuff that matters: I’m finally in therapy...

Pursue stuff that matters: I’m finally in therapy...: "Stress can do you in. It’s sneaky business that can bushwhack you with elusive aches and pains that even Dr. Oz won’t tackle. On a recent ..."

I’m finally in therapy...

Stress can do you in. It’s sneaky business that can bushwhack you with elusive aches and pains that even Dr. Oz won’t tackle.

On a recent trip to Shoppers Drug Mart, for yet one more overpriced medical product to mask yet, one more embarrassing symptom, a pack of 24 crayons caught my eye. I was at a mental health crossroad: for a couple of bucks I could buy myself an art project or another tube of Preparation H.

Science tells us that when you feel like shit – pardon the segue— you need to find ways to decrease the level of stress hormones and increase your neurotransmitters and endorphins to feel better. And when I cracked open the crayola and instinctively took a whiff, I started sniffing like a glue head looking for a hit and knew I was on track. What a buzz! It was an instant sliding door back to a rainy afternoon in 1962 where I’m wearing my brother Louis’ horse and cowboy pajamas, sprawled out on the living room floor.

When I held those perfectly sharpened reds, blues, yellows, and began stroking waxy gritty rainbows, the tension in my neck and shoulders eased and was replaced with the knowing smile that cellular cravings were being miraculously satiated.

For colouring fans, there’s a Facebook page: “Eating Crayons!” http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eating-Crayons/102649674259 where members say: “Purple tastes like eggplant, and the pink ones taste like vagina.” And if you have a moment, read “Crayon Freak’s” blog, but be forewarned it sounds butt-painful. She’s a 35-year-old woman with four children with an advanced degree, who has been compulsively and secretly eating crayons for months and says, she’s not chewing the odd one; she’s eating an entire 64-count box. And doing it several times a week.

As I sat crossed legged on the floor, I admit a slight temptation: What if I mix pink with a little brown? Who knows, maybe a little wax will adhere to parts down-under. Either way, colouring offers opportunity. It is an elixir that allows JOY to leap off of Bristol board and say, YES choose me, CHOOSE happiness. And I do.

Happy colouring!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pursue stuff that matters: Dance in the rain

Pursue stuff that matters: Dance in the rain: "I wrote this Sunday morning. When someone you love is suffering, you quickly learn that there is no separateness, we are all in this journey..."

Dance in the rain

I wrote this Sunday morning.
When someone you love is suffering, you quickly learn that there is no separateness, we are all in this journey together.

Dance in the rain

When the storm broke...
I hunkered into protective mode, braced for pain.  
When the storm raged...
I became ridged until lines formed on this face too young. 
When I dared to look into the eye of the storm...
I stopped asking why.
When I surrendered to the storm...
I danced in its rain.

Dance in the rain