All The Love In The World

All The Love In The World
...painting, writing, reading, gardening, pudding, homeschooling, daydreaming, friends, music, chocolate, HOME...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Aunt Shirley - Vivacious, Outrageous, Smart, Generous, Kind



 I have heard people say "Oh, all families are dysfunctional" when you tell them there are issues in yours. I don't believe that is true, or if it is, then a small percentage of all dysfunctional families are truly toxic. Secrets. Lies. Intentional shunning. Actions deliberately taken to cause others harm or despair. My family of origin is one of those.

But this post is not about the particular goings on in my FOO, but how a single, significant event gets handled in a family that is broken.

Last week I found out that my aunt had died. I got this information third hand. My other aunt emailed my father with the news, (emailed!) and asked that he give the news to his children. My father forwarded her email (with no embellishment of his own) to my three siblings, as he refuses to communicate with me. My sister, who is the only family member who behaves lovingly with me and whom I can trust implicitly, gave me the news. When she mentioned to the rest of the family that she had passed the information on to me as I was family and deserved to know that my aunt had died, she was admonished severely and told that no, I am not family.

That is dysfunction.

What I really want to tell here though, is the story that doesn't get told when families do not operate from a core of love and respect. In my family the issues go back a generation on my mother's side. Because my aunt was a little "outside the box", she received her share of indifference, dismissal, and shunning. I don't know how she was treated by my grandparents, but I do know that growing up just about every story involving Shirl was accompanied with an eye roll or a sarcastic comment from both my mother and other aunt.

This is my aunt's obituary, which was published in the  Montreal Gazette on March 14th:



SPROULE, Marion Isabel Shirley
Died peacefully at the Montreal General Hospital on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Shirley, born in Montreal on September 11, 1924. She was the first born child of Clive and Eunice Sproule. Dear sister of Gwyneth, of Victoria, B.C. and Arlene, of Montreal. Shirley studied voice at McGill University, University of Toronto and on scholarship with Lotte Lehmann at Santa Barbara. Her operatic career was primarily in Germany. On retirement, she returned to Canada to teach voice at the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. During this period she was also a straight A student taking her Doctorate in Performance degree at the University of Arizona. She retired to Tucson, where she lived for many years. Shirley returned to Montreal in March 2009 to live at Place Kensington. She will be greatly missed. Private service will be held.

I have been given no information about the private service - I guess it is so private that her sister's family is not invited, nor is there any information about a charity to support in lieu of attendance or flowers. 

Here is some of the untold story of my aunt's life, told by me, her niece who spent maybe 6 weeks total with her in my entire life. Imagine the rest of her fascinating story, unknown to me, untold by others.


My Aunt Shirley was a hoot. She was vivacious, filled with life, always smiling, a terrific tale teller, mischievous, and kind. She was well travelled, well read, deeply interested in people and world events, and generous to a fault. Growing up, my siblings and I would eagerly await a Christmas parcel from her, which would arrive without fail at least a week before Christmas. Sometimes there would be two parcels - often accompanied by a box marked "for the tree." As she had lived in Germany for some time she would always include German candies and beautiful foil wrapped edible Christmas ornaments for the tree. Her gifts were wildly unique - sunglasses with eyelashes on them, unique clothes and trinkets from exotic locations, and given the fact that I actually spent time with my aunt a handful of times in my entire life, those gifts somehow managed to be perfectly suited to the growing, changing, unique personalities in our family. Even at a young age I could sense the care and delight she took with her gift giving. I could never understand why my mother's attitude to this generosity seemed so un-Christmas like, so unhappy. Her mouth would say "Oh, Shirl is too generous" but her voice and body were telling me another story entirely. For many years I was unable to fathom what the problem was with my mother's relationship with my aunt.


From the Lotte Lehmann League: Shirley Sproule, soprano, (left) was born in Canada and trained and sang there until first studying opera and Lieder with Lehmann at the MAW in 1953. She continued there with Lehmann, working in the winters as well as the regular summer sessions and after 1956 sang in Europe (Munich, Mainz, etc.). She sang in Lehmann’s London Masterclasses in 1957. In 1965 Dr. Sproule returned to Regina, Saskatchewan to teach voice and sing there. In 1970 she began her doctoral studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson, breaking her work there to cover sabaticals and sing in Canada in 1971-72. After she returned and finished her doctoral degree in Tucson, she stayed there, teaching until her retirement.

My aunt was an opera singer in Europe before moving to Regina in the '60s, where she taught voice at the University of Saskachewan. She and her life partner of over 30 years, Anne K Miller, were living in Regina when I visited them with my parents. I can't remember how old I was on this visit, but what I remember most is how warm and welcoming Shirley and Anne were. The house was filled with interesting artifacts from their travels. They loved to cook and experiment in the kitchen, and served us cold avocado soup (very chic!) as an appetizer to a wonderful meal. Music and laughter filled the house. It felt like another world to me. What was tangible, too, was the love and affection they had for each other. It was an eye-opening visit for me to see for myself what a truly loving and welcoming atmosphere in a home looked and felt like. My aunt was very demonstrative and loving, and called Anne by various endearments - Anna Kat, Anna Katherine, or Anna K, all with hugs and looks of love.

Anne was a quiet, fiercely intelligent, no-nonsense counterpart to my aunt's larger than life personality. Usually dressed in jeans and a checked shirt, she looked like a lean cowgirl (cow woman? Anne had grown up on a ranch in California) with a face prematurely lined by the California sun. I loved the lines on her face, as they radiated out from her eyes and mouth and I knew they were the evidence of a lifetime of smiling and laughter. She could shoot rifles, herd cattle, and fix cars, and she had an extremely sweet, gentle nature. She was interested in finding out who I was, what I cared about, what I thought. I loved both Auntie Shirley and Anne equally; they were a matched set - Shirl and Anne - and growing up I never gave their relationship a second thought.


When I was 17 I decided at Easter Break to go by myself to Tucson to visit Shirley and Anne. By this time Shirley had received her doctorate at the University of Arizona and was teaching there. They had bought a large, sprawling rancher with a pool in the hills outside the city. During my visit my aunts took me to Nogales, Mexico where Shirley proudly introduced me to her favorite shopkeepers, whom she seemed to know quite well. We went to Kitt Peak Observatory, to a dinner theatre where we saw Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap performed, to an amazing restaurant called The Beehive - a huge dome filled with plants, to the artist Ted DeGrazia's Gallery in the Sun, as she knew I loved art. She took me to a place where I met indigenous women weaving baskets. We ate wonderful meals and swam in the pool and played with their Old English Sheepdog Mucho. They took me to huge shopping malls and dropped me off, making sure I had money to spend, and coming back to get me after I had shopped to my heart's content.

I had so much fun on that visit that the following year, when I was 18, I took my friend Lori back with me. This time Shirl and Anne gave up their master suite and Lori and I enjoyed a huge poolside bedroom with a massive, tesserae glass soaker tub. Again - fabulous meals, engaging conversations on subjects ranging from cattle ranching to LSD (which they admitted to trying as part of university experiment.)

After the death of her life partner Anne, Shirley continued to live in the Tucson house, surrounded by the memories and mementos of their life together, but a bad fall several years ago caused her to be hospitalized with a broken hip. At that time it was decided that she no longer could live on her own, and she was immediately moved back to Montreal, a city that hadn't been her own for many decades. My aunt and mother flew down and emptied the "clutter" - a life collection of art and craft from the world over - and that was that chapter of her life firmly closed. My mother could not understand why Shirley couldn't just "get over it", settle down in the nursing home, and make things easy for my other aunt. I think Shirl was heartbroken in every sense of the word. Her life, her history with her partner, her story, gone.

My aunt was a woman whose life had a huge impact on others. She was beloved by her students, some of whom I met at her Tucson house when they came for voice lessons. She remained in contact with many of them long after she retired.

The brief, lacklustre obituary above tells the reader nothing about the vibrant, lively woman that my aunt was. It gives no indication of how much she was loved, and how much she loved. It doesn't even mention the extent of the family she left behind, so I will:

Dr Shirley Isabel Marion Sproule left behind more than her two sisters. As well as many extended family members in the Montreal area and worldwide she will be missed and fondly remembered by her three nieces and one nephew and their families: Heather James of Kalispell, Montana, Pam Moreside of Dawson City, Yukon, her son Jeff Parrish and girlfriend Amanda Scott of Prince George, BC,  Lesley Fountain, husband Michael Fountain, their daughter Lena Fountain of Mill Bay, BC, their son Andrew Daniels and his wife Mary Fox Daniels and daughters Kinley and Hazel Fox Daniels of Kansas City, Missouri, and Gordon Moreside and his wife Eron Chorney of Vancouver, BC.

Every life is a story that deserves to be told.

SPROULE, Marion Isabel Shirley
Died peacefully at the Montreal General Hospital on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Shirley, born in Montreal on September 11, 1924. She was the first born child of Clive and Eunice Sproule. Dear sister of Gwyneth, of Victoria, B.C. and Arlene, of Montreal. Shirley studied voice at McGill University, University of Toronto and on scholarship with Lotte Lehmann at Santa Barbara. Her operatic career was primarily in Germany. On retirement, she returned to Canada to teach voice at the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. During this period she was also a straight A student taking her Doctorate in Performance degree at the University of Arizona. She retired to Tucson, where she lived for many years. Shirley returned to Montreal in March 2009 to live at Place Kensington. She will be greatly missed. Private service will be held. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/montrealgazette/obituary.aspx?n=marion-sproule&pid=170145120#sthash.KiQhTcJ3.dpuf

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Passionate Life - Creativity, Connection, and Community

My book tells the stories of 22 women living their lives of passion in the Cowichan Valley. It is available on a print on demand basis through blurb.com. To preview the book or place an order click here:



For more information on the book take a gander at my other blog:
www.thepassionatelifecowichan.wordpress.com

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Book!


My Book

Finally, after 6 months of interviews, tinkering with layouts and images, and sending the first 2 books back to the printers, then editing all of the images again, I have the completed book in my hot little hands, finished to my satisfaction and ready to release to the world. I have to say that I felt a feeling of pure pride when I held it for the first time - a feeling that at 52 years of age was an absolute first in my life. Hard to believe one can get to such a (relatively) advanced age without ever feeling it. Never mind. It is a sweet feeling at any age - kind of  like chocolate and lattes and twinkly lights and fresh sheets and big hugs from your favorite person all rolled into one. Plus we get to eat cake soon! For a thank you to all of the wonderful women who participated in this project I am going to order up the yummiest cake from a talented local pastry chef and we are all going to scarf it down, along with some hot and creamy drinks (caffeinated for some, not for others who cry and get crabby with too much of that good stuff tingling through their veins). Thank you thank you thank you, all of you fabulous Cowichan Valley Women. You know who you are. You inspire me with your enthusiasm, talents and joie de vivre.Your stories had me crying, laughing, and feeling so blessed to live in such a beautiful place surrounded by warm, friendly, talented and kind women. And men. 

Maybe they can be in my next book.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Not Just a Cobalt Blue Glass


It looks like a blue glass with a 2 dollar price sticker on it, but it is worth a lot more to me than the 2 dollars I paid for it.

Today my friend held a garage sale. She and her family are moving to California, and they need to get rid of some of their stuff. It happens every day, all over the world. People are on the move - new horizons beckon, new opportunities present themselves. They keep what they cherish, part with stuff they can part with, pack up, wave goodbye, and are gone.

My friend will leave me with this cobalt blue glass and 4 others like it. She will hug me goodbye and drive off with her boxes and bags. She can live without this cobalt blue glass. It's just a glass, right?

Well, to me, the new owner of this glass, it is not just a glass. It is a beautiful reminder of my friend and our 14 years of friendship, and every time I drink out of it or admire it on my shelf I will think of her and all that she has done for me and all that we have shared.

We met 14 years ago; both Canadians living in the same townhouse development in the Bay area in California. She was a young mother, I was newly married but had not entered my mothering years yet. We were both enamoured with California and the US in general - we loved the sunshine, the enthusiasm and enterprenurial bent of many of our American friends, and the relaxed California lifestyle. We both thought we would stay forever - why would we want to go back to the wet and dark winters of the Pacific Northwest when we could ride our bikes and rollerblade to Starbucks every day, baking in that California sunshine? Everyone here has great ideas! They are fearless! Life is exciting and interesting! We love it here!

That was the summer of 1997. Fast forward to the spring of 2003. The horrific events of 9/11 had caused both my friend and me to feel very homesick for Canada; in fact she and her family had already returned to Vancouver Island.  The economy had tanked and my husband was out of work. The US was gearing up to invade Iraq and I was madly painting my house while I listened to the news - Britain offering their support to the war, Canada deciding against it. I painted the entire inside of the house while I listened to the news of the pending war. I painted the outside of the house, beginning my work at 5 a.m. to beat the merciless midsummer heat. The clock was ticking and I wanted to go home. The house sold within a week, thankfully, and at the end of August 2003 we stuck our for sale tags on our glasses, loaded up our car, said tearful goodbyes to friends, and drove north.

Which brings me back to the cobalt blue glasses. We arrived at my friend's house, broke and completely at a loose end. My husband was still unemployed, all of our stuff was in storage, and we had no idea what we were going to do. My friend and her family welcomed us into their home. They generously offered it to us for 5 weeks, as they were looking after their parent's place while they were away. For 5 weeks I decompressed, drinking out of those cobalt blue glasses and planning our next strategy. My friend, with her amazing generosity and kindness, helped me transition out of this bumpy and trying time in my life. She cut me slack when I was uptight and tearful, and introduced me to many wonderful people that I now call my good friends. Through her friendship she helped me to accept and make peace with events that had led to this move. She smoothed and facilitated, and even though we have never talked too much about that crazy time, I am endlessly grateful for her generosity and kind deeds.

Life is a river. I know that. You can no more stop life and hold it in your hand than you can a moving river. As humans we must adapt or perish. My friend and her family have a wonderful opportunity that, ironically, is taking them right back to where they were when we first met, whereas we, completely enamoured with this Valley that we now call home, wouldn't budge for all the opportunities in the world. I live here, a place that I love, because of my friend. I have dear friends that I cherish because she introduced them to me. She has changed my life for the better in so many ways. That is what I will think of every time I drink from that glass.

So it may look like just a pretty cobalt glass, but to me it is much, much more.




Thursday, July 14, 2011

More Local Government Idiocy - This Time Closer to Home

 Vegetables - They seem innocuous enough - unless they violate Lantzville's Bylaw 60

Sent to:

letters@nanaimodailynews.com, editor@nanaimobulletin.com, council@lantzville.ca, district@lantzville.ca

Compassion Farm

I am writing this letter with regard to Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw's property Compassion Farm, on Fernmar Road in Lantzville. Becker and Shaw have been served with a demand to “cease all agricultural activity” after being charged with violating Zoning Bylaw 60 by growing organic food on what was once essentially a strip mined gravel pit. Thanks to the enormous efforts of Becker and Shaw, they have transformed the property and received certification from the Canadian Wildlife Federation for creating “Backyard Habitat” for wildlife.

I live in Mill Bay. My family has a small orchard, chickens, and a large vegetable and fruit patch, all in an effort to a) keep our food costs down, b) insure that the food we eat is both nutritious and pesticide free, and 3) take personal responsibility for feeding ourselves, as humans have done for millions of years until recent times, in an increasingly unstable and unsustainable worldwide food supply scenario. Here on Vancouver Island we are particularly vulnerable. We now grow only 5% of the food we consume locally. In the event of a compromise to the supplies of our on Island grocery stores we are all in very dire straits indeed.

Becker and Shaw have taken the initiative, responsibility, and time to transform their property in an effort to be a part of the solution to this problem. They are setting a timely and forward thinking example to us all, and should be lauded for their efforts instead of prosecuted. They are shining examples of how to take back personal responsibility for sustaining ourselves as families, and communities, rather than being dependent on corporations and governments for our basic needs. We all, all of us, need to take active steps to turn this situation we find ourselves in around, otherwise the future of our Island food supply is tenuous.

I sincerely hope that the Lantzville Council can acknowledge that there are times when common sense should prevail, trumping a bylaw that may have been originally instituted for a very different application. The Council has a certain amount of latitude regarding the enforcement of its bylaws. Surely transforming an eyesore property and bringing dead soil back to life to grow healthy food for the community can only be perceived as a positive under any circumstances.

The mission and values of council, as listed on the District of Lantzville website, are: “Act in a professional manner at all times, having respect for each other, the roles of council and staff, the decision making process, opinions of all of our constituents, and carry out adequate research and thoughtfully consider the issues before us, while serving and representing all of our community.”

I think the Lantzville Council will find that its constituents, as well as a larger global audience following this story, have very strong opinions on the rights of people to grow food, bylaws notwithstanding.

I am posting my letter on facebook and my blog, and encouraging others to write to the council and local media regarding this issue.

Regards,

Lesley Fountain
Mill Bay

Dirk Becker says: Please send letters to the two Nanaimo newspapers and please also send the story to magazines throughout North America. Thank You!

Nanaimo Daily News
letters@nanaimodailynews.com

Nanaimo News Bulletin
editor@nanaimobulletin.com

The link below will take you to the District of Lantzville Council website with contact emails and phone numbers for all.

http://www.lantzville.ca/cms.asp?wpID=465

Friday, July 8, 2011

Veggie Lovers Unite - Oak Park Michigan needs to hear it!

Photo by Clare Bloomfield


Okay, this Oak Park situation got me so peeved that I wrote a letter to City Planner Kevin Rilkowski today. Julie Bass of Oak Park Michigan faces possible jail time for growing vegetables in her front yard. Anyone who cares about people's rights to grow their own food, or just bristles when seeing extreme stupidity and misuse of justice in action, please feel free to cut and paste my letter, (below), altering pertinent bits to suit. For more on story -

 http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/region/oakland_county/oak-park-battles-city-over-vegetable-garden-in-their-front-yard

Here is a list of city officials and their contact information. If you are going to send email address it to Mr. Rulkowski, since he is the person Julie Bass has had to deal with with (and he is the person was quoted on the news as Julie not knowing what "suitable" meant vis a vis vegetation for an Oak Park front yard) ,and then just "cc"ing the rest of the addresses. There is also a petition you can sign: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/oak-park-hates-veggies/


City Planner:
Kevin Rulkowski
248.691.7450
krulkowski@ci.oak-park.mi.us    

City Manager (Mr. Rulkowski's boss):
Rick Fox
248.691.7406
rfox@ci.oak-park.mi.us

Mayor:
Gerald E. Naftaly
248.691.7410    
gnaftaly@att.net


Mayor Pro Tem:
Michael M. Seligson
248.691.7410
mmseligson@comcast.net

City Council:
all phone calls go to 248.691.7410

Angela Diggs Jackson
adjack@comcast.net

Paul Levine
paul4oakpark@yahoo.com

Emily Duplessis
duplessis2@aol.com

All snail mail goes to the person you are mailing it to:
c/o City of Oak Park
13600 Oak Park Blvd
Oak Park, MI 48237


Dear Mr. Rulkowski,
I am writing to you regarding Julie Bass and her front lawn controversy. Julie, who I believe is a law abiding citizen and taxpayer - therefore contributing to paying your salary - is being charged with growing her own food in her own yard in your fair city of Oak Park. What mockery and misuse of justice is this?
I live on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. My family has a small orchard, chickens, and a large vegetable and fruit patch, all in an effort to a) keep our food costs down, b) insure that the food we eat is both nutritious and pesticide free, and 3) take personal responsibility for feeding ourselves, as humans have done for millions of years until recent times, in an increasingly unstable and unsustainable worldwide food supply scenario.

Julie and her family are taking the initiative, responsibility, and time to feed themselves. They are setting a timely and forward thinking example to their children, neighbours, the city of Oak Park, and the larger world, and should be lauded for their efforts instead of prosecuted. They are shining examples of how to take back more personal responsibility for sustaining ourselves as families, rather than being dependent on corporations and governments for our basic needs. We all, all of us, including you, need to take active steps to turn this situation we find ourselves in around, otherwise the future is bleak, and we are mere steps away from a "food crisis" to follow the housing crisis, the banking crisis and the credit crisis. It is one thing to lose your house and have to rent, lose your retirement savings and have to continue to work, lose your job and have to find one that pays less.

It is another thing entirely to not be able to feed yourself and your children.

Hungry people get really desperate. Denying people the right to feed themselves by arcane and foolish laws is not only a move in the wrong direction but a grave misstep, and the world is watching you, Mr. Rulkowski, as well as your City Council members. Your little city of Oak Park, that I had never heard of until this story hit the internet, now has a growing worldwide audience who firmly believe in their rights as humans to feed themselves, and whatever you choose to do next in the case against Julie Bass will be watched closely. I suggest that you think on that. The internet forces transparency; whatever you do will be made public, whatever you do will have consequences, so please - do the right thing. Come at this "problem" from a completely different angle. Change the bylaws. Get Julie Bass teaching workshops on how to grow vegetables in raised beds. Turn this thing on it's head, and make the city of Oak Park an example to all of how to be part of the solution.

I am posting my letter on facebook and my blog, and encouraging others to write to you regarding this issue.

Regards,

Lesley Fountain

 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is This Person Fat?


My almost 11 year old daughter is not fat. Not plump, chubby, or any other descriptive that means packing too much poundage. How much she weighs seems irrelevant to her - in fact neither of us actually know how much she does weigh - because she has a healthy body image and does not compare herself to others, real or animated, and find herself wanting.

I make this point because of the shorts she is wearing in these photos. The last person who wore them was me, I was 37 years old, and yes, I thought I was fat when I was wearing them.

Looking back over many decades of photos of myself I am often shocked and saddened to see, with the perspective of middle age, how many opportunities I denied myself and how much time I wasted obsessing over my weight. Not wanting to wear a bathing suit in public, fretting that a pair of pants felt tighter than before, worrying about rolls around the midriff in a sitting position - it all seems insane, and has so little to do with who I really am. My perception of myself in human form was warped by severe mishandling of my slight plumpness as a child, and has set me up for a lifetime,  - well half a lifetime, I hope - of chronic disappointment and dismay with my looks and a dysfunctional relationship with food. I have felt fat my entire life, and yet my photo albums tell me that this is just not true.

At almost 52 years of age I am making a conscious decision to cut myself a big hunk of slack. To love my body for its strength and beauty, just the way it is. To eat sensibly, when I am truly hungry, the way humans are meant to eat, instead of to soothe or stuff uncomfortable emotions. To feel grateful for the fact that I am healthy and able. To revel in the wonder of how the human body functions - a true miracle that most of us take completely for granted, as we regard our image in the distorted glass of our minds, forever finding fault with what we see.

So for all of my female friends and family out there, young and not so young, be proud and happy of your form. Walk tall, dress the way you have always wanted to dress, spend time admiring your body instead of giving it the drill sergeant treatment - "Drop and give me 20". If you have health concerns by all means address them - if you truly need to lose excess poundage do so safely and healthily, and from a place of self love, not self hate. Appreciate the miracles that we all are. Most importantly, spread the word. Encourage healthy body image with the girls in your life. Call your friends on it when they make disparaging remarks about their bodies.

I may not ever wear those shorts again, but my daughter will, and I'll be damned if she is going to look in the mirror and think she looks fat.