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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kirkpatrick wisdom

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 7, 2010

The more research I do into the Kirkpatrick clan, the more I love and respect ‘em. No doubt there were exceptions, but for the most part I’m finding tales of love, strength, dignity and loyalty. Those who knew them seemed to be unwaveringly devoted to them. The Kirkpatricks as a whole lived life with a wicked sense of humour, strong family ties and a mighty work ethic.

My grand-uncle, Samuel D. Kirkpatrick’s “words for posterity” pretty much sum up the family code: “Live life with enthusiasm, with moderation, with service, and sympathy for less fortunate people in the world.”

More examples of the Kirkpatrick viewpoint:

Family legend tells that when many Native children in Canada were being put into residential schools the B.C. Kirkpatricks refused to break up their families in this way. They chose to remain strong family units, teaching their children how to play musical instruments and become industrious, contributing members of society. (Most of us Western Canadian Kirks have at least a smattering of Native blood.)

Another family legend tells of how some of the first American generations went south to Georgia, then came back north again because they were disgusted with the idea of slavery.

Going back even further to old Scotland, we see this about Sir James Kirkpatrick (d. 1804) in Records of the Closeburn Kirkpatricks by Major-General C. Kirkpatrick:

The Dumfries Weekly Journal of the 12th June 1804 described him as “the representative of an ancient and respectable family, which had inherited that estate in succession, for upwards of seven hundred years. Descended from this ancient race, he was inferior to none of his predecessors in that generous spirit and fortitude by which they were distinguished. Mild, gentle and courteous in his manners, he possessed at the same time that firmness and stability of mind which made him tenacious of his purposes, constant in his friendships, and steady in his principles. His principles were no other than the two great sources of human excellence – piety to God, and benevolence to men”. etc.

In another obituary reference to him it was said:- “His publick character was strongly marked by disinterestedness [free from bias or partiality] by generosity and by a firm determined spirit. Possessing in a high degree all the publick and social affections, he was always amongst the first to promote any measure which he considered as of general utility and never suffered his own private interest to stand in the way of what appeared to him to be a publick good. Warm and stead in his friendships, he never deserted those to whom he once attached himself, nor declined any exertions, however inconvenient for himself, that could [be] beneficial to them.

When I was tramping through graveyards in Scotland, over and over again I saw words like “deeply loved” and “we miss thee, dear” on Kirkpatrick gravestones.

But the story that has moved me the most in my genealogical studies so far is the tale of Alexander Richard Kirkpatrick of Dublin, Ireland (1813 – 1891). He was a scholar at Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1840, according to Chronicles of the Kirkpatrick Family written by Alexander de Lapere Kirkpatrick.

From the book:

Mr. Kirkpatrick was beloved by all who knew him, rich and poor; the grief evinced by the latter at his funeral was very striking, and many and most touching were the tokens received by his family of their affection for him. Whilst on his other properties it was said by both Priests and others that they had never seen such deep and widespread grief, extending even to the children. He was carried to his grave by his own tenants, several of them quite poor, who had come a long distance, and at no small cost, but they looked on him as a Father and a Friend.

Wow. Would that we all could be remembered this way upon our passing.


Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 2, 2009

[kiz-met], noun – fate; destiny.

I have thought about writing as a career choice off and on for years. I’ve dabbled a bit here and there and even got published once or twice. But I have never taken that BIG step to writership.

Today I found this little blurb that got me thinking about it again. I wrote it several years ago.


Yesterday, I found myself thinking of a dream I’d had awhile back. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was sufficiently strong and symbol-laden to make me take notice. One part of the dream had Oprah telling me that I need to write – that I have a gift that the world needs right now. As I remembered it yesterday, I wondered idly if the dream were true. I found myself picking up a Writer’s Digest magazine about journaling.

Coincidentally, I came home to a package in the mail. It was from the editor of a magazine I had sold a story to. Inside was a book called Canyon, which contains stunning images of the Grand Canyon. She said she received it for review and thought of me. She also praised my writing and encouraged me to keep it up, letting her know of anything I get published.

I got a little emotional, I must admit, but the word from the Universe was not lost on me, and who am I to argue?

Sometimes things happen just by chance; other times events take you past the realm of the realistic expectation of chance and into the wild unknown. Like the series of “coincidences” and small miracles that preceded the purchase of our home, or the in-your-face word from the Universe when I was debating whether to homeschool my children.

I emailed the magazine editor and thanked her profusely, both for the book and for the words. I mentioned to her that she should try to see the movie Grand Canyon sometime. It is a little-known movie (full of big-name stars) about how our lives are inexorably interwoven and how we touch each other in ways we can’t even imagine.

Shortly after sending the email, I got an email from a friend in Phoenix. She offered a place to stay if I ever wanted to come see Arizona again. I told her, “funny you should say that now.” I told her I had just been thinking of visiting the Grand Canyon again. Maybe I should, to focus my thoughts. Maybe it’s just marvelous symbolism…

OK, Universe, I’ll start writing. With any luck, I will reach and touch people in a way that is unique to me.

Elephant painting

Posted by Dawn-Ann on April 25, 2009

I’ve been theorizing for a little while that animals are evolving intellectually (except for yappy little dogs, who have IQs of -3). Seriously, though. Doesn’t it seem that way to you? Or are we just more aware of some animals’ higher intelligence now, with the availability of the Internet?

Whatever it is, I’m always really amazed and tickled when I see something like this. This will blow you away.

Notes from the C-Train

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 19, 2009

My daily commute to and from work is starting to look like a huge, wonderful classroom experience for me. Let me explain.

My travels through life have often been solitary. I generally avoided contact with others, even if it was eye contact in a crowd of strangers. Aside from my kids and Tom, there was nothing I loved more than being completely by myself. Lately, though, I have been trying to really look at people and understand them. I’ve been making eye contact, cracking jokes to get conversations going and generally giving people a chance. As a result, I have been privy to some amazing interactions. You have read about some of them here. These experiences have taught me so much and I think they are actually helping me to become a better person.

Yesterday, for example.

I was standing on the train and a woman moved up from the seats behind me to stand between me and the door. I was gazing out the window at the passing scenery when I noticed her fuzzy-blue-gloved hand come up, flipping the bird to someone in the seats behind me. I looked at her face, wondering if I should be alarmed. She was muttering something under her breath about “stupid bitch,” but her eyes didn’t look scary. I somehow sensed that she was very angry, but behind the anger was fear. I wondered if I should reach out somehow but something inside me said, “Just observe.”

So I did. After a little bit more mumbling and muttering, she turned her head to gaze out the window. Her large brown eyes were sad. From the corner of my eye I caught her fuzzy gloves swiping at her eyes from time to time when she thought no one was looking. I was right. I had no idea what had happened in the seats behind me but she was hurting. When she started using her glove as a kleenex I took it as an opportunity to step in. I rummaged in my purse and found a napkin and offered it to her. She looked at me gratefully and said something about a “cold” she was battling.

A couple of stops later, as I was preparing to leave the train, I almost didn’t hear her quiet, “Thank you.” I looked up and there was no denying the huge tears standing in her eyes, not quite wanting to drop. I touched her blue glove gently. “You’re welcome,” I said, and left.

What I learned from this is something I already knew but needed to be reminded of. Sometimes a person’s anger is really only her hurt being manifested in a way that is easier to deal with. Look behind any angry face and you’ll see eyes of fear and pain.

Someone I love dearly is hiding behind her own shield of anger right now. Unfortunately, it is me she is angry with and she rebuffs my overtures at communication, but I know our immense love for each other will allow us to work it out eventually.


Posted by Dawn-Ann on January 28, 2009

We shall not cease from exploring,
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
~T.S. Eliot

Life never stands still for us. It winds and spirals in great waves and cycles, sometimes taking us back to where we started, other times dropping us somewhere new and uncharted. My life, of late, has been one of rites of passage.

What I mean by that is that I have passed some personal milestones and ends of personal eras. The last of my grandparents passed away. The last of my children grew up and struck out on his own. I turned fifty. And now I have been called upon to help my mother get her things sifted through in preparation for her own new beginning. And I’m getting the cabin ready for sale.

This tiny cabin has been in our family for years. Situated on a lake in Montana, my grandparents made it their final home until they could not live unassisted any longer. When they left, it became a staying place for my sisters and I, and finally it is being used for storage of mom’s “stuff” – boxes and boxes that fill the rooms to jam-packed. This is what my sis and I will be sorting through in a couple of weeks.

Grandma and Grandpa's cabin in Montana.

Grandma and Grandpa's cabin in Montana.

I had occasion to spend a little time there a couple of weeks ago, wandering from room to room. Looking past all the “stuff,” I gazed instead at the memories. I remembered star gazing with Grandma, bundled against the cold, stretched out on deck chairs with drinks in our hands. I recalled my children sitting in the sunny living room, surrounded by soft, warm daylight and the warmer glow of being loved by family. I envisioned Grandma’s gardens and her eternal fight with the squirrels. Once again I saw Papa making smart cracks about Grandma’s cooking as he wandered on by.

Some of us at various times have tried to keep the cabin in the family but now we know it is time to let this cycle come to a close. Thank goodness for photos and video and memories. For even though we occasionally have to let go and be swept into the next cycle, it’s still good to look back from time to time to see where we’ve been.

Apples and oranges, elephants and dogs

Posted by Dawn-Ann on January 8, 2009

Every now and then you see something in nature that sets you back on your heels in awe. Nature has her rules and her ways of doing things, right? Survival of the fittest. Ordered seasons. Weather patterns. And generally, one species of animal is rivaled with – or at least uninterested in – the other.

But is all that changing? Does it seem to you that we’re seeing more and more cases of oddly-paired animal couples popping up here and there? The little hippo who has bonded with a giant tortoise. The dog that is raising tiger cubs. Are animals somehow evolving, just like (I hope) we are? More importantly, what can we learn from this?

Have a look at this story and be inspired.

Pay attention: multitasking is highly overrated

Posted by Dawn-Ann on January 6, 2009

I used to have a young, upwardly-mobile coworker who took great pride in her “multitasking” abilities. She would type while she was talking on the phone, at the same time keeping an eye on her instant messaging and what was going on in the office around her. Whenever I talked to her I got the distinct impression she was not really hearing me (how could she be?) and everything she did was halfway, filled with errors and omissions. Let’s just say attention to detail was not her strong point.

I, on the other hand, take pride in my precision. It may take me a little longer to get a job done, but it is done really well when I do. This saves a lot of time in the long run because when a task is done right the first time, it can be put aside and not revisited. My young coworker was constantly having to go back and fix what she’d missed or messed up on.

Therefore, I was extremely gratified to see Mike Elgan’s recent article entitled Work Ethic 2.0: Attention Control. I hate to say I told you so, but – yeah… Mike says:

A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who’s “multi-tasking” all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption. Read the rest here.

Try though we might, we can really only focus properly on one thing at a time. Doing too many things at once causes them all to suffer. If you give your undivided attention to the task at hand and get it done right the first time, it will save you a ton of time, frustration and embarrassment in the long run.


Posted by Dawn-Ann on December 4, 2008

To have lived well,
Laughed often and loved much;
To have gained the respect
Of intelligent men
And the love of children;
To have filled a niche
And accomplished a task;
To have left the world better -
Whether by an improved poppy,
A perfect poem or a rescued soul;
To have appreciated earth’s beauty
And not failed to express it;
To have looked for the best in others,
And to have given the best of yourself.
That is achievement.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Sir Richard’s thoughts on success

Posted by Dawn-Ann on December 2, 2008

Sometimes you just can’t think of something to write, right?  So I dug up an old post from last year.  Enjoy!

Originally posted March 2007:

Sir Richard Branson is someone I admire for his daringness, adventurousness and smarts. I devoured his biography last year (it reads like an adventure novel) and just finished his latest book called Screw It, Let’s Do It, a small book of life lessons. Here are a couple of quotes I like that illustrate the kind of guy Sir Richard is.

“I was brought up to think we could all change the world. I believed that it was our duty to help others and to do good when we could. I’m sure my headmaster was stunned when I wrote a long report about how he could run the school better. I ended grandly with the words, ‘I would be very interested in your views on this, and any money saved could be put towards my next plan…’

“He didn’t laugh, or even cane me for my cheek. He handed back my report and said dryly, ‘Very good, Branson. Put it in the school magazine.’

“Instead, I left school and started my own magazine.”


“You don’t have to fill your time rushing about in order to use your time wisely… Bill Gates – the world’s top charity donor – said his staff could spend two hours gazing into space, as long as their minds were working, and Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity in his head without paper or pen.”

The Unexpected Community

Posted by Dawn-Ann on November 21, 2008

Sometimes you’ll be doing something random in life and all of a sudden you’re surrounded by people who form an unexpected community. Maybe you’ll be stuck on a bus in traffic and someone will tell a joke and soon everyone is smiling and talking.

Here is a lovely little story about just such a thing. One man, Shel Israel, is grocery shopping one day when he finds out he is a grandfather. He says, “Slowly, I realized that my eyes were misting up. And then I was bawling like Isla [the new baby] must have done a few hours earlier. I stood there wondering if I could shoplift a Kleenex when some guy came up to me, concerned, asking what was wrong. I told him I had just learned I had a new granddaughter. He stared for second, then, beaming, stuck out his hand.”

Read the rest of Shel’s story here.

I’d be interested to hear other stories of spontaneous, “unexpected” community!