Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is The Glass Half Full or Mostly Empty?

A visit from My Second Son wouldn't be complete without harassing our cat. He had to share his milk with Andre ... but it just wasn't fun until the glass was almost empty. If only we knew what our pets were thinking:

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's Been a Charmed Year

It used to terrify me when things in my life felt good. Felt tied up. Felt complete. I ran in circles for a good part of my younger life, expecting the worst (and you always get what you expect in life). Then when all good things came to me, I knew it couldn't last (so of course it didn't). And if the good feeling stayed, I felt that maybe my mission here on earth was complete and I was terrified that my life would be complete as well.

It has been a very long time since I was terrified of feeling happy. It was so long ago that I had forgotten how it felt. Until the last few days. It's been creeping up on me. And this morning ... I feel that fear again.

I look back on this year and I know for a fact that it has been the best year in my life. And things continue to get better! Every day is a small miracle. I live in a state of gratitude (and according to scientific studies, that means that I am going to live a long life) and I am in constant awe of all that is right and good and precious in my life.

I feel like a complete and whole person. I feel like I'm treating myself with respect and I feel like I'm giving a small piece of myself and this 'feeling' inside of me to those in my life. There is a perspective that I've never really truly felt before. Acceptance. This is me. This is my life. I have been blessed. I have truly been blessed.

As I have neatly tied up this year with my various Christmas presents, I feel like I've put myself out on a limb. I've told the world that this has been the best year of my life so far. I feel like the people who are important to me know that. And it's scary. Is my mission complete?

I have been asking myself that a lot these past few days. And the answer is always "no"! I've got grand plans for the days, months and years ahead. My family is healing and it gets better with every encounter. I have dreams! I have goals to achieve and a long term agenda. My job is far from done.

There is a sense of contentment in knowing that I am happy, whole and appreciative of every day of wonder that is my life. There is an old part of me that is waiting for the axe to fall. But the new part of me knows that there is too much to be done.

Is it crazy to be wary of happiness? Yes. Ignore the fear. Chase the dreams. Accomplish those goals. And keep enhancing all that is good in the world.

Savor the day!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Most Wonderful Christmas of All

It was a day that was simple in its pleasures, rich in memories and gifts that money can't buy.

I really had no expectations of today and as each hour unfolded, I was pleasantly surprised with many quiet blessings. The greatest gift of all is the harmony within my family.

There have been some rough roads in our relationships with each other, but each time we get together it seems a little better. Our 'history' hasn't without some painful times, but it seems that bit by bit, things keep getting better.

My boys. They each reflect a different part of the person I am and the person I have been.

I was a shell of a person when Wes was young. I didn't think for myself, let guilt guide my choices and I took a few detours in my life that directly impacted Wes. I can still see a glimmer of that pain when I see my reflection in Wes' eyes.

It was during Dale's young years when I started to forgive myself and make better choices for my family. I was a stronger, more confident and happier person when I raised him. And I see those traits in Dale.

Kurt is still young and we have some road left to travel. But what I see in him is appreciation of his family, a sense of humor and brothers that he looks up to.

Today was a gift. Wes welcomed our family into his home and hosted a most special Christmas day together. Dale seasoned the festivities with a perfect blend of humor, generosity and the gifts he gives that have little to do with what is under the wrapping. Kurt seems to realize that he is a very fortunate little brother. He has witnessed just enough of our family's troubles to appreciate a happy occasion such as today.

Dale's gift to me included a quote from the bible that tells me that he sees the whole picture. Triumph over adversity ...

"My son, peace be unto thy soul, thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes."

- Doctrine and Covenants 121
As said by 'Joseph Smith the prophet'

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Delightful Christmas Eve

As Christmas Day was fast approaching this week, I seemed to come down with a case of 'scrooge'. I love the spirit of the holiday season ... but I resent the expectations (commercial and otherwise) of the 'day' itself. I was getting down right cranky.

As this evening (Christmas Eve) was unfolding, I started doing normal, everyday things. I had some bookwork to work on and that took care of some time. I was starting to feel exhausted and I could have went to bed shortly after 7:00 ... but Dale and his girlfriend came over.

We had the most comfortable, easy visit. We shared stories, reminisced a bit, we laughed ... it was simply enjoyable. We all sat in the living room and conversation was light and easy.

We don't have many Christmas traditions or expectations in our little family. I've always downplayed the Christmas festivities - partially because of the high expectations/let down feeling that I had as a child (I thought if my kids learned not to expect much, they wouldn't be disappointed??). Partially because of my financial situation. Partially because we weren't the 'normal', 2 parent family unit. I've had many excuses over the years, but the theme has always been a very low key Christmas.

Dale and I even joked about it tonight. He blames me for the way he is (he threatened to make his girlfriend wait until New Years to open her gifts), but it was all in good fun. Dale has probably carried the spirit of Christmas within him more than any of us. He has managed to keep his expectations relatively low key for most of his life. I found the Christmas list he wrote for me from 1996 (he was 9 yrs old at the time):

I remember the list, but I don't remember whether he got everything he hoped for or not. I sure hope that he did!

"Blessed are those who expect nothing. For they shall not be disappointed."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Traditions of Christmas, Gone Awry

Be warned. This is not another holly-jolly-Christmas-is-a-most-wonderful-feeling kind of message. It contains details and descriptions which may taint your view on life, Christmas, baking and other things. You have been warned. You may wish to exit this blog site immediately and not look back.

Okay. Are you still reading? It's still not too late to turn back. Do it now!!

The Grinch is Back. He arrived at about 8:45 this morning when I decided I would face the dreaded task of making 'The Wreath Cookies'.

Okay, this part of the story is still very readable. It has a traditional Christmas feel about it and it goes back to my childhood and a family that made a huge impact on ours ... (you can keep reading).

When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I started the tradition of making iced and decorated sugar cookies. A neighboring family of ours had many warm and fuzzy Christmas traditions. The whole family was involved in the preparations of Christmas. The baking, advent candles that were lit, on the 4 Sundays that preceded Christmas. The crafts, the excitement and joy, the wholesome 'Walton Christmas' and many family traditions was something to behold. In our house, Christmas was more of a bother when it came to the whole holly jolliness of the festivities. Not that we lacked for anything that was related to Christmas - it's just that we knew that it all involved work.

They made beautiful Christmas cookies with their cookie press - a kitchen tool that I had no idea existed until we knew this family. Mom appeased my desire to make fancy cookies like our neighbors and bought a cookie press. And I baked. Mom helped me out in those early years. And the huge task of making the wreath cookies that some how became synonymous with my name and Christmas was a much easier task with the 2 of us. First, you make the cookie dough. Next, you load it into the cookie press and make your cookies. Then, you ice and decorate them. The green icing sugar icing was a must and we soon discovered that a red Tic Tac, severed in 2 had the right look of a bow on the wreath and the cinnamon flavor enhanced the 100% sugarness of these cookies. Mom helped me through the laborious task (probably to get the mess out of the kitchen faster), and so began the tradition of the wreath cookies.

Mom was probably relieved that I moved out before I was 18. No more wreath cookies in her kitchen! But the tradition continued. I have a picture of my oldest son helping me decorate cookies. In later years, I enlisted a friend and we doubled the batch so we could both keep a batch after our efforts and it didn't even feel like work when the 2 of us did it. Out of the 36 years between the age of 12 and present date, I can only recall one Christmas when I didn't make those cookies (I was in between houses at the time).

My oldest son had a lot of upheaval in his life. I was young and inexperienced as a mom, we endured a lot of change and stressful times during his young years. But one thing was a constant. The Christmas wreath cookies. And it is the one thing that he still asks of me at Christmas. The only thing he asks for.

Okay, now the story I had planned to tell when I started writing this feels pathetic and small. But this is the twist to the cookie-making story for Christmas, 2008.

I have followed my whims this Christmas and not pushed myself to do anything that I didn't feel like doing this year. Somehow, baking slipped to the bottom of the list. And then I decided to cross it off all together. I give 90% of my baking away, my family nibbles on .25% of the remainder and it is my duty to consume the remaining 9.75% myself. It's a tough job, but some one has got to do it. Thus, my decision not to bake this year.

Then came the inevitable request. A Christmas supper invitation over to my oldest son and girlfriend's house. I asked if I could do or bring anything. From the turkey itself, to any and all of the vegetables or a few salads. I was in. And what was I asked to bring? The Wreath Cookies.

I kept waiting. Surely if I waited long enough, turned on some Christmas tunes and got myself into the spirit, I could make these cookies without knocking some years off my life. Today is 2 days before C-day ... and it's not happening. No amount of lack of pressure was making it easier (in fact, it is probably just that, that made it so hard).

Today was the day. I could do it. One, half batch of these tedious Christmas cookies. I can do this. Yes I can.

#1 - The batter. For some reason, it was rock hard and unworkable. I added some extra egg and it seemed to pull the batter together, but it was still pretty hard to work with.

#2 - I decided to go ahead and load the cookie press with this hard, unworkable dough anyway. I'd make it work. I'd done it before, I'd do it again.

#3 - By cookie #7, I was ready to throw in the towel. It took every muscle and every kitchen devise that I had, to give me the traction to get some of this dough forced out of that tiny little hole and make the wreaths.

#4 - I discovered if I held the cookie press on the counter and used that as leverage, I could make my wreaths. It was a full body work out, but I had almost filled 2 cookie sheets. 29 cookies to be exact.

#5 - The cookie press broke. No possible way to make any more cookies. In fact, there were little silver shavings off of a piece of the cookie press, on the counter. I used the last of the dough I could force out, to pick up all the shavings I could see and threw everything out. The cookie press, the dough in the press (I couldn't even unscrew the ends to salvage the dough or cookie press attachment or anything) and the smidgen of dough that was left in the bowl. It all went into the garbage.

#6 - All I could do was bake and ice what I had. I couldn't afford to break or burn any. Thankfully, none burnt ... though I did break 2.

#7 - How much icing does one make for 29 wreath cookies? 1/4 of a batch? Sounded good.

#8 - I was icing my 3rd cookie when my 2 yr old of the day arrived. His grandma couldn't figure out why he smelled in the car and took home his snowsuit to wash, figuring that was it. I had other ideas as to why he smelled. As soon as she walked out (this is the part you want to turn away and never look back from), I checked his diaper. Not only was he dirty, but it had run up his back and I not only stuck my fingers in it, but got it under my fingernail. Oh! Gross beyond words.

#9 - I scrubbed like a surgeon before operating. I cleaned under my nails with hot, sudsy water. I rinsed, scrubbed and repeated the process. Finally, I was able to return to the cookies.

#10 - I ran out of icing. Drats! To make more icing for 5 cookies? Hardly worth it. But I couldn't afford not to. Light bulb moment!! I had store bought icing in my fridge. I could add green food coloring to that and call it good.

Well, short story long ... that is my tale. All the while, I was thinking "This is the end of a tradition". Each step of the way I was more convinced ''This is it!" "I'm never doing this again".

Then ... I started writing this story. It's a tradition. I may not enhance the glowing Christmas spirit of the family that set the bar for me, but it's coming. I find joy sprinkled among this season where you least expect it.

And next year, I'll turn on my Christmas music and sing my heart out as I attempt my baking once again. That is ... if I find a new cookie press before then.

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Inspirational Story

This is an email that was forwarded to me today. I read this and decided on the spot that I want to be like the 'Rose' in this story. The sentence that rang true to me is: "You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die." I have found that to be true time and again in my life. When I stop dreaming, a part of me dies.

This is the story:

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.

I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, 'Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?'

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, 'Of course you may!' and she gave me a giant squeeze.

'Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?' I asked.

She jokingly replied, 'I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids...'

'No seriously,' I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

'I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!' she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.

We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this 'time machine' as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, 'I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.'

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, ' We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.

There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.'

She concluded her speech by courageously singing 'The Rose.'

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.

One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they'll really enjoy it!

These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Deep Freeze

It is -37 this morning (feels like -49 with the wind). Brrrrr.

Thankfully we went out last night and ran all of our errands. The car got a chance to get good and warm in our 2 hour errand marathon.

So that means today, we should be able to hibernate like a few little bears. So much for our cold weather ending. When I looked at the long range forecast, it looks like there is no end in sight.

These are the days I am so grateful for a furnace that runs and a house stocked with everything we need and desire to get through this cold snap.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is it the Caffeine or Is it Pure Joy?

I consumed a little more caffeine than usual, today. No big occasion. No company. It just tasted rather good and it really hit the spot.

I got my kids down for a nap and was out shovelling the driveway, thinking my merry little thoughts. Because I had been to the dance studio last night, my thoughts quickly drifted to dancing.

I love blogging (or is that obvious?). I love dancing. And I know that I must combine the two. I must blog about dancing. I must! I was shovelling my snow, thinking my dancing and blogging thoughts ... and wouldn't you know it. The phone rang. Who was it, you ask? It was the owner of the dance studio, curious about my blog idea and wondering if it could be added as a link on their new and upcoming website. Ohmigosh!!! It happened again! I think these thoughts ... and they materialize.

I wanted to toss my shovel and race in and start the blog. Right then and there!!! I was so thrilled. I love how I feel about dancing. I love writing. I simply can't wait to put it all together. I have ideas galore. Ideas that should put me into the studio a little bit more (video tape some group classes and splice them together ... I even have a theme song picked out!). I'd love to do little mini biographies of students and let it be known that people of all walks of life are drawn to dancing for a variety of reasons. I'd like to write about the little stuff, the big stuff and everything in between.

My 'dance blog' idea ... I rather aggressively pursued that by dropping off an envelope at the dance studio (with my thoughts on dancing, ideas about blogging and a DVD with video clips and a photo slide show of October's dance showcase), back in October. Not that I need anyone's okay to write what I want to write about, but because I would really like to highlight the dance studio. It is the dynamics of the studio that has greatly influenced my desire to pursue this passion. And he picked today to let me know he was curious about what I had in mind. I set the wheels in motion! I'm becoming an active participant in my life and I'm enjoying the ride!

I am intoxicated with life right now. I have dared to dream this past year. I've put myself out on a ledge, made some of my dreams reality and I'm chasing others. I have a 10 year plan. I can visualize it. I can almost feel myself living it.

I visualized 'a cheque in the mail' and got that and then some (see previous blog entry). The sky is the limit!

From the Field of Dreams:
"If you build it, they will come"

From me:
"If you cook it, they will come"
"If you write it, they will read it"
"If you believe anything is possible ... it is!"

I believe in miracles. And I believe that this elation is pure joy. The caffeine was just an excuse to let my thoughts go wild.

Visualize What You Want

Quote from "The Secret" calendar I have for December 17th:

"Visualize checks in the mail."

That's it. Short and to the point. That was 2 days ago.

Fast forward to today ... I received a cheque in the mail (a Christmas 'gift'). As if that wasn't enough, the doorbell rang a few hours later and it was another envelope that was couriered to me. And it contained a hundred dollar bill. Cash.

I shall amend The Secret's quote. This is my advise:

"Visualize checks and cash in the mail."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pushing Out of My Comfort Zone

I did it! I wanted to do it. I was nervous about doing it. I would have accepted almost any excuse not to do it. But I did it!! And I'm so glad that I did ...

There was a Christmas dance at the dance studio tonight. I knew that I wanted to go. Just being at the Dance Showcase in October made me realize how much I wanted to go back and feel like I belong once again. It was so great to see everyone then and tonight.

The fates seemed to be working towards finding excuses to stay home tonight. I had bookwork that kept me busy until 7:20. Mom called. Dale called. Kurt and I negotiated a time that he would like me home by and the wheels were in motion. I showered, dressed and was out the door within 30 minutes (my hair was still a little damp when I got to the studio).

And it was everything I hoped it could be. Lots of familiar faces, light conversation and a few dances. I honestly didn't care about the amount of dancing I got in - I wanted to go for the company. And to prove to myself that I could do it.

I did it. And I can do it again. Maybe by next year, I'll be able to stay out for 2 hours. For tonight, I pulled a 'Cinderella' and left the ball an hour after I arrived. But I got to go. I did it!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Giving Gifts

My Christmas projects are nearing completion. My cards have been mailed and people should be receiving them now. My first gifts were given out today. The final touches on my family DVD slideshow are finally coming together. The work is almost done. Now is the time to give.

The more of myself I put into a gift, the more exciting it is to give. The gifts that I have run out and bought simply don't bring me the same joy. The thought is in the right place, but this is truly a year where giving from my heart is the theme.

The Christmas cards I send are truly where my passion lies. I feel like I've written to every person that has touched my life, but I know I've missed a few. They say talk is cheap ... but how about a letter?

I was greeted into the Christmas card season with 4 cards and letters on Monday. Each one was a gift, but the one that especially surprised and delighted me was from a long, lost childhood friend. We have known each other our whole lives, but as we grew up and apart from each other, we lost touch. Our paths crossed a few summers ago and we had a delightful conversation. And the Christmas season has allowed us the excuse to touch base since then.

These are the miracles of Christmas to me. To write someone and let them know they are in my thoughts. And I am thrilled and excited when I hear from someone who has been thinking of me.

Tonight, my aunt called me to thank me for the Christmas card that I sent. What a pleasant surprise! Yesterday, I got an email thanking me for a birthday greeting I sent.

I guess if I keep pushing myself out there and people keep finding me in their Inbox &/or mailbox, I'll hear from a few. It's the law of averages.

I like that law. I like this season.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Morning Blogging

My body has been waking me up around 5:30 the past little while. I like that time - it's late enough to get up and get the day started, yet early enough to afford me the luxury of a quiet morning by myself.

I cherish these moments of solitude. My life (defined by anyone else's standards) is a very uncommitted one. Sure, 10 1/2 hours of my day are committed to being surrounded by kids and I'm at the mercy of everyone else's schedules, but I have very few after-hours obligations. I like it like that.

These wee hours of the morning are still the most precious though. Kurt is all nestled snugly in bed and even our cat is often still snoozing at the foot of my bed (I've become quite adept at making my bed without disturbing his rest time). These hours are mine and mine alone.

Meditation is something that you hear recommended by many. To zone everything else in your world out and focus on a peaceful state of mind. My mornings may not quite be up to that standard, but compared to the buzz of activity during the day, this feeling is very zen-like.

I'm going to go and zone out for a while now. I think I'll have my breakfast and meditate over an episode of The Gilmore Girls ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Day On

After living a life of leisure on Saturday, I settled in and got some work done yesterday. Brain challenging, brain numbing, tedious work that I simply can't do when I have a house full of kids. But with that behind me, I should be able to putter away at the rest of that project, with kids in my midst.

I have bought some more new technology. A tape recorder that has a speech-to-text function that could make my life soooo much easier when transcribing audio conversations (to do with family histories that I am collecting) into typewritten form. If ... I can figure out how it works! If I can do this, it would save me not only hours, but days. The glitch is, that it only recognizes one voice at a time and that is only after that person does a 'voice recognition' sample at my computer. So I'm not sure if I can make this work. Very disheartening. But I shall try ...

I have overcome many technological challenges this year. I just have to figure this one out as well.

My brain must have been exhausted, because I almost slept through the night last night! I have so many things swirling through my mind on a normal night, that whenever I wake up in the middle of the night, I can't get back to sleep without the TV voices quieting the conversation going on inside of my head. Not last night. I woke up a few times, but fell peacefully, blissfully back to sleep (without the TV erasing the chatter out of my head). And now, here I am ... up before the birds ... and ready to face the week.

I guess it pays to challenge your mind into exhaustion once in a while.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Shopping

We found a special collar for Andre (our cat) for the Christmas season; My Youngest's Christmas shopping is officially done and wrapped up behind him; and I found this little plaque that made me smile ("The More I Know About Men, the More I Like Cats").

We got to Dollarama 10 minutes before it opened and My Youngest noticed all the birds taking shelter in and on top of the Dollarama sign. If you look carefully there is one bird all nestled up inside the circle part of the "R" (click on the picture to enlarge it) ... and another has his head and body taking shelter in the triangle part of the first "A" (that is his tail feathers you can see sticking out). It was -39 degrees this morning ... -45 with the wind chill. Not a good day to be a bird!

A Day Off

I took one whole entire day off. Off of everything.

As yesterday slowly revealed itself to me, I realized that I had the day off of my bookwork. I didn't get that call until the afternoon and by that time, I had become somewhat lazy. So I indulged myself in 'a day'.

As much as I think that my mind needed a day to debrief, rest, relax and revitalize itself ... my body really needed to move.

So I have been awake for hours this morning. Looking at this day before me and knowing how I should spend it. I can't afford to waste another precious day.

Why I can accomplish more, when I have a house full of kids than I can when I have only myself to worry about is a conundrum. It is as if I hoard that alone time to spend on my quiet indulgences. And if my time is spoken for anyway (when I have the kids), I try and make the most of the moments where I can squeeze in some must-do-tasks. I get them done during the busy part of my day so that when that last child leaves for the night and supper is over ... the time left over at the end of the day is mine to spend as I wish.

That said, I should get myself motivated to work at one of my many projects for one hour ... before this day is off and running.

Whose Face?

I'm knee deep in watching 'The Gilmore Girls' these days. I'm quite addicted to the quick wit, the characters, the relationships and story lines that this series weaves.

One episode resonated within me long after I watched it. It's where one of the main characters realizes the ultimate fantasy of the person he longs for is already in his life ... he just didn't realize it. It comes after he hears the following questions:

"Whose phone calls or visits are never unwanted or too long?

Who would you most like to have in your life to ward off moments of loneliness?

When you travel, who would make your travels more enjoyable?

When you are in pain, who would you most like to comfort you?

When something wonderful happens in your life, who do you want to share the news with?

Whose face appears to you, my friend? Whose face?"

When a person asks those questions of themselves ... it does seem to make one face stand out from the crowd. My answers came in many forms. My family, my friends ... and I actually even have a few male friends in my life that come to mind. It is reassuring to feel that the people I have surrounded myself with, appear to me when I ask myself these questions. It gives me hope that my ultimate fantasy of a forever partner is not completely out of reach. Maybe I already know him?

"Whose face appears to you, my friend? Whose face?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Nights and Dancing

I've just come home from my dance lesson. I've said it before and I'll say it again - it is the absolutely the most perfect way to end a week!

Dancing, learning, laughing and enjoying the easy company of my dance instructor. This is what life is all about!

If I could bestow a wish upon every living soul, it would be that they find for them, what dancing is to me! A place where you can let down your hair, have fun, laugh, move to music and create your own masterpiece.

Dancing adds a little piece of wonder to my life.

The Magic of Christmas

The spirit of the season has enveloped me once again.

I haven't been to one Christmas party or gathering of any sort. I haven't done anything what so ever out of the ordinary. I have talked to my own family just as much as I normally do. Nothing has changed. Except writing and creating my gifts.

I love what this season does for my mindset. I can start out sitting in front of a blank page, thinking "What do I have to write about that is good?" And be stumped. But before long, the words and the positive side of whatever situation I have lived through start to work their way to my finger tips. I write and I write and I write. And the next thing you know, even the challenging times come off sounding like they were worth all the trouble.

A year ago, I had endured one of the toughest years of the decade. I started thinking about Christmas at Thanksgiving, wondering how in the world I could recap the year and put a positive spin to it. There was a quiet desperation within me as I thought, "I can't do it this year."

But, in the end I ended up with the most 'light and fluffy' envelope stuffer, ever. I wrote about what was good, focused on that and that is how I saw out that year. Recalling the good that came out of a bad situation, I was now ready to tie the past up with a bow and put it behind me and forge into the new year. And what a year it has been!

I love the reflections that I find within this season. It's magic.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Optimism and Gratitude

" ... living positively and optimistically increases life expectancy by 10 years ..."

" ... people who focus on gratitude - appreciating the positives in the world and around them - are downright happier and have a greater sense of physical and emotional well-being, than those who focus on the negatives ..."

" ... a few of the many benefits of being grateful: you'll have more energy, more optimism, more joy, improved health, more enthusiasm, more resilience in tough times, less envy, more of a willingness to help others and an increased likelihood of living longer ... "

I read two different articles within a handful of days, which cited gratitude and optimism as factors in increasing life expectancy.

And if you are going to live a longer life, doesn't it make for a happier life to live it full of gratitude and optimism anyway?

Any time I find myself surrounded by a person with 'negative energy', it feel as though I'm being pulled me into the abyss with them. As I try to empathize and actively listen to what they are saying, I feel myself fighting for air every time.

Trying to put myself in another person's shoes is something that I try to enhance in my life. But to a point. To join someone on their journey of looking at the dark side of the world feels dangerous, unless I go in with a life line to hold onto.

I've surrounded myself with positive, encouraging, life-breathing souls. I feel energized after I have been in their presence! We bounce words, ideas, life happenings off of each other and it is like volleying a ball. For the most part, we can keep the ball in the air and we both walk away feeling like winners.

To be around a person that drains me of my zest for life, feels exactly the opposite. I feel like they are in that 'volleyball game' to win. To make their point and score.

I don't like keeping score in life. I like to feel like part of a team where fair play and good sportsmanship are the name of the game. I like to feel energized after I 'wage words' with someone. Not drained.

My way of thinking and feeling about this was recently challenged - that it is "not good to surround yourself, only with people who agree with you."

No doubt, there is some rational to that statement. I don't want to be in a friendship where we are identical thinkers, there is no room for growth or expansion on how a person feels. I believe that 2 people can have 2 completely opposite beliefs in something, yet find common ground to meet on. I believe that happens more often than not. I believe that people can agree to disagree. I believe that everyone has their right and justification as to how they feel. I can like a person without agreeing with everything that they say.

The person that challenged me, challenges everything. Certainly, a person doesn't have to believe everything that they hear. But to challenge everything that you read/hear/see seems like an enormous drain on your resources. Especially when you can use that same energy to be optimistic and grateful!! And live a long and happy life!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tired Traditions?

I just spent the day performing CPR on an annual tradition that I have, for my daycare families. It's just one of those things that I've done for a few years and feel like I should keep doing ... but I wondered if it was really worth the effort.

I make up a yearbook for 'my kids' at Christmas time. This is the 4th in the 'series'.

The first year I did this, the families were so pleased and surprised. The second year it wasn't as much of a surprise but it still went over well. Last year, I'm not even sure if it rated a ''thank you'' from the vast majority of my families. That was rather disheartening, after putting as much work into it as I do. I thought to myself, that the tradition would end there.

But there is something that I like about this yearbook idea. It is a way of marking the years, acknowledging who has been here throughout the year - the comings and goings and the friends that remain constant. There is an autograph page at the end of it all and it is interesting to watch the scribbles go to faint first letters, to the full first name in Kindergarten and then it progresses from there. I have a lot of history with almost all of the families that come here, so it is a little bit like a growth chart. You can see the progress, look at the pictures from year to year and reminisce as you read the biographies and stories that I compile in this booklet.

This year, I just couldn't get in the right frame of mind to write the Christmas poem about all of the kids. I started with one idea (a spin on 'The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe') but it didn't feel like a winner. So I started fresh and started again. Still rather blah. So ... I tried and tried again. Nothing. Maybe this was the year I would quit with the yearbook. I had compiled video footage for each of the families and put it all together on a DVD for them. That could take the place of the yearbook.

Then ... inspiration struck. It was like a bolt of lightening. My nursery rhyme theme was the way to go (my revamped version of 'The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe' made it after all)! And today I was off and running. I'm not quite complete (I asked for some parental input, to add to my project a few weeks ago and I'm still waiting for a handful of parents), but I am so close. So very, very close. And this year, after all the stewing and thwarted attempts ... I feel like I have a winner!

What has this cost me? Printer ink, paper, 10 folders to compile all of it together ... and time. My gift of giving this year, all seems to stem from the time I am spending on my various projects.

As I see things come together in a form that I can 'gift', I get so excited. This is the year of true giving. I have received one of the best years in my life this year ... I hope that I can show my gratitude by giving as much as I have received. Even if it comes in the form of reviving an old idea.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Busy Busy Busy!

I may not be moving mountains, but I'm moving a few small hills anyway. The many projects that I've started are starting to come together. Maybe not 100% complete ... but getting closer.

A friend was telling me that she stopped making herself those endless to-do lists. The lists were overwhelming her, they never ended, they added pressure to get things done and she never felt the satisfaction of completing the list because there were always new tasks to add onto it (kind of like this run on sentence!). In fact, she said she feels that she gets much more done without that list. And she felt better about doing what she could, when she felt like doing it.

As she was telling me this, I realized that I had also stopped writing lists. It wasn't a conscious decision - it just happened. As my many Christmas projects started piling up on me, I just kept at things at a slow but steady pace. I didn't write anything down ... I just followed my whims. And bit by bit, one by one ... things are getting done. And I haven't felt the pressure that I usually place on my own shoulders. Amazing.

I made lists of the ideas that I had, a few months ago. They are buried inside of a scribbler some where. I'm not quite ready to open that scribbler up and see how I'm progressing. I much prefer to keep going at the pace that I am. I've had fun so far. If I start adding pressure, it will take away from my joy.

Being overwhelmed is the biggest obstacle to accomplishing anything. I see it continually, when Kurt has a big homework assignment that he is faced with. Instead of just opening that book and devoting himself to his work for 15 solid minutes, he will wander around aimlessly and utter, "How am I supposed to do all of this? It's too much. I can't do this. How can she expect this to be done in 1 day?" He is so overwhelmed, that he fails to see that you start any big job by taking that first step. Then ... you take another.

There are days that I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Trying to do too many things at once. Feeling overwhelmed and overburdened. There will be a state of helplessness that overtakes my being. Then I will tell myself, "Just keep taking a step in a forward direction. Every small thing you do, is lessening the load. Forward steps ..." It can take a while, but as long as a person keeps doing one small task, big jobs become smaller. The overwhelming becomes manageable.

But I think my friend's way is the best. Toss the lists. Just do something - whatever it is that you feel like doing that day. But just don't stop all together.

Being busy without being overwhelmed has me accomplishing more and feeling happy about whatever it is that I have managed to do. It's a good feeling.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing, that's why we recommend it daily.
~Zig Ziglar~

I have just run out of time (not words though), so I thought I'd add someone else's words for today. I hope this day allows me time at the end of it to sit back and reflect.

But first I have to go and do a few things worthy of reflecting upon!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Morning Reflections

I'm sitting here in the dark, with only my Christmas lights on. I woke up early this morning and convinced myself to climb out of bed and take advantage of that extra half hour to do something for myself. And here I am.

It's funny how often that outside forces speak to you. Things completely out of your control ... a certain phrase, a TV show, an email, something you read or hear ... something that speaks directly to your life at that very moment.

I've been chastising myself a bit this week as I shake my head and wonder what I've done. I've placed too many expectations on myself. I've done it. It's all optional. And I continue to wade through the many projects and expectations that I have placed on my own shoulders. I refuse to let myself feel overwhelmed because I know that 90% of what I have going on in my mental to-do list is optional. But it's starting to get to me. Just a little bit.

This morning, I watched an episode of 'The Gilmore Girls' (the DVD set that I'm presently addicted to). In it, both of the 'Gilmore Girls' were overwhelmed. They were living their dreams, pursuing their goals with every bit of themselves that they had. And they were overloaded. It touched an emotion in me because I'm on the edge of that same scenario. The edge.

There is not one thing on my list of things I'm working on, that I am not doing for the pure joy of it. The projects that I am working on are probably bringing me more joy as I work on them, than the people that I hope to give them to. This is the truest gift of giving. I am intoxicated by it.

That is probably the reason I am sitting on the edge of feeling overwhelmed. It is my choice. My heart and soul are in most everything that I'm doing. The bookwork that I've been doing, has stolen precious hours from me. But the challenge to my brain, the feeling of accomplishment, the desire to add more of this type of work to my days and the pay cheque at the end make it all worth while. Even the work part of the overwhelmed equation is optional. All I would have to do is admit that I can't put in these hours right now. But I choose not to.

It is all about feeling in control. When too many things start spinning out of control, when the balance and harmony of your life are out of whack ... that is when the warning bells start to ring.

In the 'Gilmore Girls' episode I watched, each of the girls had a safe set of arms to run to, as they had their little melt down. They had a safety net. As with the Disney story endings, I wished for a little bit of that in my life. But in the interim, I know that I have a strong support system in my life and that I'm not alone. And that makes everything a lot easier to bear.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thought From 'The Secret'

"Your life is a mirror of the dominant thoughts you think."

From My House to Yours

I stopped my world Sunday morning, so that I could light up my home with Christmas lights. There is nothing better than sitting in a house lit only with the lights of the season ...

Be Careful What You Wish For ...

I've been uttering the phrase "time is more precious than money" lately. The first times that I said it, I was half joking. Now it seems to be governing my life.

The Secret has many ways of saying that ''the more you worry about the lack of money, the more you bring that truth into your life''. Many of The Secret's philosophies come from truly believing and living the statements that it is trying to teach you. So I have read my daily wisdom with an open mind.

The moment that I stopped letting my money situation worry me was when I was in the hospital bed, awaiting my surgery. I consciously spoke the words to myself, "It doesn't matter ... it always works out in the end. It doesn't matter ..." And I truly, truly believed what I was telling myself.

I received a cheque to help me through the unexpected time off ... and I didn't need to cash it. Many of the parents that I babysit for added a bonus onto my pay that month. One month within the date of my surgery, I received a completely unexpected windfall. Within 2 months, all of my savings accounts had been replenished and I was in a better spot financially than I was before my surgery.

As I sit here this morning, the month before Christmas, a season that puts most of us in a financial crunch ... I simply feel an abundance. Money isn't ruling my life. Money is the least of my concerns right now. 90% of the gifts I am giving this year involve time. I have more money than time this year, so I guess I am still giving from a place where I feel a sacrifice.

Now, I just need to work the magic of having an abundance of time! I'll work on that ....

Awaiting my surgery, the priorities in my life quickly came to light. Things always work out in the end ... if you believe that they will.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Out

Our power went out for 4 1/2 hours last night. As we adapted to life as a pioneer, it made me wonder about winters back in the day when there weren't lights blazing.

We lit candles, the boys (My Youngest had a friend sleep over) had fun playing with flashlights and I had work to do that didn't need power. I did my work by candle and flash light. The boys eventually settled in and watched a movie on the portable DVD player (operated by a battery pack). All in all, I thought we took the black out in stride.

We ended up going to sleep much earlier than we normally would have - out of the lack of options to keep us awake (plus, after 3 1/2 hours it was getting mighty cool in here).

It made me wonder about life without power in the 1930's. Winters must have been dreadfully long. When my mom's family talked about winter when they grew up, they dwelled on it being cold, really cold. All of the time! They never warmed up until spring. Water froze in the house and the kids stood on the oven door (with a fire going inside of the wood stove) just to keep warm.

What I never thought of when I listened to their stories, were the short winter days. Spending hours on end, in a cold and dimly lit house with a radio (that was used sparingly, to make the battery last longer) as their connection to the outside world, it must have made for some long evenings. As I eagerly crawled under my covers last night (and rounded up spare blankets in case it got too cool), my mind went back in time. All I could think was, "Back in the old days, they must have got a lot of sleep in the winter!"

As our power outage lasted from one hour onto the next, I started thinking of how much we take power for granted. What if there was some catastrophic power outage that lasted for days? How would one get through it? I must admit, that my first thought would be to head to a city with power and find a hotel! But what if it wasn't that simple? What if there was no where to go?

At the very least, I know that I will restock my battery supply. But I admit, it would be nice to install a back up heat source in case of emergency.

I woke up at one point in the night, looked up and my clock smiled out in pride and showed me the correct time. The air outside of my blankets was warm, the hum of the furnace running was in the background. Relief!

There wasn't a crisis of epidemic proportions this time. But what if we weren't so lucky???

Friday, November 28, 2008

What a Marvelous Day!!

I don't know where to start! It was (simply put), a day where one good thing ran into the next.

A perfect day!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Divine Intervention?

It is as if forces beyond my control are beckoning to me. They are telling me that I need a job that provides the flexibility and stability I need, so that I can tend to life matters.

The emergency surgery which stopped me in my tracks a few months ago, appears to have changed the tides for me.

I had barely returned to my full work load when I got notification of an appointment (for a test that I had been waiting for, for over 2 years) on December 1st. This is a test that requires me to take a full day off of work, but this time they scheduled it in a hospital in a town an hour away from here. I am not allowed to drive after this test so it would mean an overnight stay, or else inconveniencing someone to tag along with me and wait so they could drive me home afterwards. Not an option. So I called and asked if it could be rescheduled during my summer holidays - they said they would try.

I received a 'Juror Summons' in the mail today - to be available from February 9th to March 13 for jury duty. I have applied for relief from jury service and I can't even imagine it not being granted. In my line of work, if I don't work ... I don't get paid. How could they make me attend?

It was just over a month ago that I resumed my full kid-load. I have spent the better part of that month trying to readjust to the demands of my days. And in that month, I have had 2 excuses to ask for more time off.

It feels like there is a force bigger than myself, creating some slow-down time in my life. Maybe it would be wise to heed that call?

I Let Myself Off the Hook ...

I wrote my feelings, about the pending Christmas season this morning and basically let myself off the hook. I thought if I live with the spirit of Christmas within me all year, what's the big deal about another festive season on the horizon? Just go with the flow ...

Well, I got caught up in the flow today and I believe I have put together my 'family' portion of the preparations.

I get so excited about what I'm working on and My Youngest is my willing audience. As I showed him the outline of what I was working on this afternoon, it didn't hold his interest and he wandered off. Tonight I put on the polishing touches and he stroked my ego with the comment, "You're so good at those remakes!" (I take a song or poem and intersperse the original verse with my own story - an idea that I blatantly stole from my brother). As My Youngest went off to bed, he was asking about some details for a 'remake' of his own. He's got his own ideas now.

Next, is my daycare family. I have lots of thoughts and I have an idea where I want to go with them. But if it's anything like today, the original plan could escalate in new and improved ways.

I have been so overwhelmed this year, I just didn't know where to start. Today, I made some headway. I'm eager to get caught up in this season once again. Even though I've lived with a piece of the spirit within me all year, I'm ready for a booster shot.

I'm back on the hook again. And looking forward to it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So Much to Do ...

Christmas preparations seem to be falling by the wayside for me this year. This is a season that I usually use to my benefit, to catapult me out of feeling lackadaisical about my life. For some reason, I just can't get myself into Christmas mode. Is it because I've been in that mode for most of the year?

I started this blog in an effort to stay connected to family and friends all year. And I have. I got a Flip Video with the intent of making little movies of life to share with family and friends. I've done that. I started a blog for my daycare families to share the small stories of our day to day life, pictures and movies. I add to that almost daily. I have been searching for family history and memories, to write them down and share them. And I'm continuing to do that. I've started a family blog to try to enhance the family connection in between momentous occasions that we use as an excuse to gather.

I have been using all of my 'Christmas' tools for the entirety of the year. I've made connections with family without the excuse of Christmas. I've gifted my 'movies' to family and friends, without an occasion attached to that. I've brought my daycare families into our day to day world in a way that I used to do with my annual yearbook that I gave to them each Christmas. It honestly feels that anything I do for Christmas will simply be an echo of what I've been doing all year long.

I do believe that I have succeeded with my goal that I set for myself at the end of last year's Christmas season. To keep the season alive all year.

That said, I still see the tasks of Christmas cards, Christmas gifts, Christmas baking and Christmas chores that lie before me. I just want to coast through this season now. I've celebrated all year long. And it is a much better way to live the rest of the 11 months that precede this much celebrated season that lies ahead.

So much to do ... but maybe I won't do it all this year?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creating Busy

I have a knack of making everything a chore! I used to tape 2 weekly TV shows that I would watch at some time before the next week's episode came on. That was a fun and simple life ...

Lately, I have added 4 more weekly favorites to my weekly TV diet, I'm addicted to Dancing With the Stars and I tape Oprah every day. Whew. That is a lot of TV watching to squeeze into my evenings.

I am overwhelmed with relief this week. Tonight is the last episode of Dancing With the Stars (so that saves me almost 2 hours of TV time per week) and all but one of my favorite evening shows isn't showing a new episode this week (due to Thanksgiving in the U.S. perhaps?). That will save me oodles of time!! Hooray!

Any guess how I'll probably fill those hours? Probably watching the DVD set of Gilmore Girls that I just picked up on the weekend.

I honestly believe that I am deranged.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Family Day

There are many ironies in some of the choices that I have made to 'focus on family'.

Running a daycare from home has meant that I have been an at-home mom, but unavailable for any school activities where kids would love to have a parent come along. Not working Saturdays should have allowed more time for family activities. But instead of working 6 hours a week outside of my house, I seem to be working an average of 15 hours or more per week at home. It seems that I spend less and less time being a 'present-parent figure', the more I focus on working from home.

Today wasn't like that. In fact, we've spent several 'family moments' together these past several days. A stay-at-home movie night a few evenings. And today, we left the house at 11:30 were gone for 5 hours. We saw a movie, did some Christmas shopping, splurged on a few items for ourselves, had lunch ... then came home and wrapped presents together to wind up the day.

It was a perfect day. With Kurt's growing independence, he doesn't have to come with me, every single place that I go anymore. He's developing his own circle of friends so he doesn't need me as much either. Our interests in movies and TV shows are growing wider apart, so there just isn't as much to bond us lately. Then again, I am often busy working at one project or another so I think he has given up on me a lot too.

Our intent to see an early movie was thwarted (they wouldn't accept our coupon for that particular movie), but it resulted in a much longer lasting occasion. We went to another theatre (that accepted my coupon), saw a later show and enjoyed filling the time in between.

The day turned out to be quite a gift. I like when a day unfolds as this one did. It was a perfect Sunday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Paradox of Our Time

At the end of my dance lesson last night, my instructor handed me this essay to read. Our world has become such a crazy place at times. The only thing that I feel that is within my control, is the peace and tranquility within the confines of my own life and home.

There is so much to absorb, in this peace of writing. I would like to take it in, one sentence at a time and try to change just one small piece of my life so that I am not living the paradox.

The Paradox of Our Time

"The paradox of our time in history is that...
We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers.
Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less.
We buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families.
More conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees, but less sense.
More knowledge, but less judgment.
More experts, but more problems.
More medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly,
laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly,
stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little,
watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life;
We've added years to life, not life to years.
We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We've conquered outer space, but not inner space;
We've done larger things, but not better things.
We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've split the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less;
We plan more, but accomplish less;
We've learned to rush, but not to wait;
We have higher incomes, but lower morals;
We have more food, but less appeasement.
We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication.
We've become long on quantity, but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure,but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to make a difference, or to just hit delete..."

Dr. Bob Moorehead

The essay appeared under the title "The Paradox of Our Age" in Words Aptly Spoken, Dr. Moorehead's 1995 collection of prayers, homilies, and monologues used in his sermons and radio broadcasts.

Normal Life Returns

The dramas, the highs, the lows, the influx of people, ideas and enthusiasm seems to levelled out in my world. I'm coasting in 'normal mode' at the moment. I guess I've become addicted to that racing heart, the excitement of a challenge to overcome and something to feel passionate about. This state feels odd to me.

That statement explains a lot when it comes to the relationships I've had. I've never chosen the easy road. I've chosen the challenging one. When the challenges are overcome or life feels too normal, my passion fades.

I've often commented that I don't do normal very well. I can handle life's tough moments in stride. It is the normal day to day moments that are harder for me.

I believe that is why I've forged out of my comfort zone a lot this past year or so. I'm creating my own challenges and thus, I get that adrenaline rush. It is better that I involve only myself in this whirlwind of emotion. If someone around me can benefit from my excitement, that is a bonus. I've climbed some mountains and felt the exhilaration of conquering a few.

The mountains that I fail to conquer are the ones in my daily life. I have chosen to stay home to be a more hands-on kind of mom. Because of that choice, I have sacrificed the flexibility to be able to attend school functions, go on school field trips or be available to hear about Kurt's school day ... because I have a house full of kids. And just because I can manage and organize the children that file through my doors ... does it make me an effective caregiver?

I wandered through the last moments of my week with the thought "I can be better than this." I am mediocre at most everything I am. In trying to be too much, to too many ... I am letting down the people that I affect most directly. The children in my care, my own immediate family. Because I am scrambling to keep myself feeling alive and passionate about life, I seem to be letting down too many others.

I need to narrow my focus in one specific area. To be the best person that I could be. Would I choose 'me' to be my mother? Would I choose 'me' to watch over my child? Would I choose 'me' to be the person to spend the rest of my life with? Would I choose 'me' as a confidante, friend or relative?

In some areas of that line of questioning, I am doing okay. Mediocre perhaps? In other areas, I need a lot of work. It is time to settle in and do some work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Need Older Friends

I dropped my car keys off, at my friendly neighborhood garage tonight (to have them check into a few things on my car for me). As I was explaining this klunking sound that my car has in the front, right hand side I told the mechanic that it often happened after I had made a sharp turn and was unturning my wheels. He just laughed and said, "I haven't heard it explained quite that way before ... 'unturned' ... I'm just going to write it down as you said it." He had a small chuckle at my expense as I rewound the tape and realized I should have said "straightened out the wheels''. I laughed and told him that I'm hanging around too many 4 year olds.

This is why I write. I need to practise my adult vocabulary!

Simple Pleasures

I love finding joy in small things ...

I had put off buying dish clothes and pot holders for months. I kept crossing them off my list and adding them to the bottom of the next months list because they just seemed to cost so much for such a small thing. And, what I had still worked.

I finally made it to the 'Dollarama' last week - where absolutely nothing in the store costs more than a dollar. Nothing! It is a fantastic store where a person can afford a few frivolous purchases.

And ... I found oven mitts (a dollar per mitt) and dish clothes (3 for a dollar). As I brought out another new dish cloth this morning, I got a small thrill. My other dish clothes were so ratty and not so white anymore. And I got to bring out my new dishcloth! And all it cost me was 33.33 cents!

I have been fairly diligent with the budgeting since August but I've still allowed myself some extravagances. It's funny how much more pleasure I have gotten from my 'dollar' purchases than I have from those that cost much more than a dollar.

The best things in life are cheap!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Power of Thought

"An insult doesn't have to be shouted at you to make you bleed; a vow doesn't have to be whispered to you to make you believe. Hold a thought in your head, and that is enough to change the actions of anyone and anything that crosses your path."
(An excerpt from 'The Tenth Circle' by Jodi Picoult)

I read this today and was reminded of something I already know. The power that we hold within ourselves ...

'The Secret' envelopes this concept. And although it sounds a little hokey, from my own experience it seems to be true.

10 years ago I had a dream. To support myself from home and be a more hands on parent. I visualized it, I believed it, I dreamed it could happen. And though I've had some challenging times, in the end it always works out. Always.

The last relationship I was in had its hills and valleys. I had to talk myself through some of the tough spots but I knew one thing was true. When I focused on everything he was ... I was happy and content within our relationship. When I believed anything was possible, I felt like it was true. It was when I stopped believing that I ran into trouble.

When a person focuses on the negative in any situation and spends a lot of 'internal energy' on that negativity the thoughts become reality.

When I read that passage in my book this afternoon, I realized that my thoughts were shifting my reality (and not necessarily in a good way). If I keep walking around thinking as I have been, I could change my world.

I'm ready for a shifting of the tides, but I want it to happen in a positive way. I want to enjoy the process and not make enemies or mistakes along the way. I need look for the silver lining in my days but also look into the horizon for what I want in my future.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Treat Yourself ...

"Treat yourself with love and respect, and you will attract people who show you love and respect."

This is 'The Secret' quote for today. I believe those words with all of my heart.

I am in the best place in my life right now. I feel surrounded in good, positive, warm and caring people. I have never felt so serene, so ... good.

I look back on the people that surrounded me throughout my life. My friendships, relationships and how I felt about myself and how it felt others treated me.

As I lived those years, I can see how relationships mirrored what I felt about myself at the time. I have had a rather low self esteem at times, but when push came to shove I fought my way out of believing it was true.

I can remember being a young, quiet child and the thoughts inside my head were, "If only they really knew me ... they would like me." Looking back at the person I was then, I can't believe that even underneath the shy veneer, I believed in myself.

I have had 2 major 'relationships' in my life. In each of them, I believe that I let that person treat me the way I was feeling about myself. If you believe you are unworthy of being treated with respect, it is almost a certainty that you will find someone who will treat you disrespectfully. Your thoughts then become your reality.

I gave each of those relationships my 3 best attempts. I let guilt override common sense and I kept trying to change the outcome. But the reality is that I 'taught' that other person how to treat me. And somewhere deep inside of me, I knew that I deserved better.

I have spent this past year and a half rebuilding myself from the inside. In many ways I feel that I have accomplished more personal goals in this past year than I have done in my lifetime that preceded this. I have fallen in love with my life. I am surrounded with amazing people that I admire and respect ... and the feeling seems to be mutual. It is a very heady feeling to be living a life that feels so natural and like such a perfect 'fit'.

It is a frightening prospect ... but lately my thoughts and dreams have been daring to believe that there could be another man for me somewhere in my future. I truly believe that if I do attract someones attention, they would see the person that I have become. Not the person that I used to be. I believe that I would attract someone who would treat me the way I treat myself.

I am grateful for the quiet belief that I have had in myself all along. If it wasn't for that quiet 'knowing' inside of me, I could have been swept away and lost in a relationship that wasn't healthy for me. My heart goes out to anyone who is caught up in that cycle. You have to have something strong to hold onto, to get out of that situation. You have to believe in yourself. Because when it comes right down to it, only you can save yourself. But first of all, you have to believe you are worth saving ...

Treat yourself with love and respect ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

A New Day!

Peace reigns in my heart, home and being this morning. It is an awesome sensation (heightened by the fact that not every day is like this ... there is a reason that every day is not a great one).

I had a very tough time ridding myself of the residue of yesterday's melt down. In true 'me' fashion, I thought I deserved a break yesterday and picked up McDonald's for supper. It may be a commercial catch phrase, but I tell you ... it worked!

I sat and savored my messy Big Mac (I haven't had one of those in so long), I took some time to recover from my crazy-busy/loud/chaotic/frustrating day. Then I took a deep breath and headed towards the computer to work on some bookwork that had been staring at me all day. Wouldn't you know it? Technical difficulties prevented me from going back to work. I silently said a few words of thanks, breathed a heavy sigh of relief and enjoyed the rest of my evening.

This morning, you wouldn't know that it is the same house. Instead of 6 kids for lunch ... I will have 2. Instead of 5 kids running around here all morning ... I have 1. Instead of the phone ringing on a regular basis with incessant changes to the day ... it has rang only once (before the day started). We walked to the mailbox this morning. I haven't been able to leave the house for so long, I've forgotten the last time we had a chance we had to escape the premises. That walk, alone was tonic for my weary body and mind. Instead of 6 coming here after school ... I have 4.

And (this is the part that made me happy even before I knew today was going to be such a peaceful day) ... I get to go to my dance lesson tonight!! Simply knowing that I have this precious half hour to look forward to, at the end of what feels like a very long week ... is wonderful!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saved by the Bell

Man ... did I ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! Well, I actually didn't realize that, until my first 2 children of the day arrived. The minute they demanded anything of me, I realized that I was running on empty.

I'm not coping with the kids. Not at all.

Then the phone rang. It was my sister and she asked how my morning was. I had a chance to let some of my frustrations out in words. To an adult. The moment passed.

Since the return of my full kid-load, I've had schedule changes by 3 of my families that have younger children. One comes for 9 hours a day and I have no idea whether they are coming ... or not (the dad got a new job). They used to come for 3 hours and I knew the shift rotation and knew when to expect them. The second family used to come 2 weeks of full days and 2 weeks from 2:30 until 5:00. For now, they come every single morning, full days every other day and apparently I'm guessing as to when pick-up is again (the parents are separated and things are very up in the air in their world, but they had been keeping me informed as to who was coming and when). The 3rd family is now coming to pick up their child at 5:30 (or later) ... they used to come at 4:30, 3 days a week and between 5:00 & 5:30, 2 days a week (that extra half hour to an hour at the end of the day feels endless). All together, it makes such a difference to my coping skills. Especially because all of these families have 3 yr olds and under.

I am so frustrated, I could scream. I'm afraid that is possibly at the root of my frustration level this morning. I think what is hardest of all, is the fact that I feel like I can't say a word to these families. One mom is pregnant and hasn't kept food down for 2 weeks. Her troubles are far more serious than my frustrations. The other family is doing their best. By a comment that was made when the mom was here yesterday morning, it sounds like it was a rough weekend as they are dealing with their own family crisis.

How can I let this feel like such a big thing when these families are doing their best, in a bad situation?

All I can say is ... thank goodness my sister called. Adult intervention is sometimes the best medicine.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Year Ago Today ...

I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. I feel rather blah. So I thought I'd reread my words from a year ago:

Sunday, Nov 11/07 6:53 pm

I just realized that I hadn't even thought about sitting down and journalling my thoughts these past many days. Wow. I think that is quite possibly the best sign of my state of mind yet. No need to rehash, recall, mull over any of my thoughts. No loneliness to drive me to sit at the computer and write to myself. My thoughts are completely and totally ... normal. Time on my hands, a long weekend is here with oodles of down time ... it is my birthday today ... nothing. I am good. I feel good. I feel blessed and surrounded by wonderful, uplifting, caring, vital and good, good people in my life!!! Idle time is my friend once again. No nervous energy to wear off. No need to bide the hours with something to distract me. No need to run off anywhere. It had crossed my mind to possibly head out to Edmonton this weekend, but as the time neared, it simply wasn't necessary. We are planning on going out at Christmas and that will be good. It will be good to go for all of the right reasons (not that any of my running escapades have turned out to be anything other than fantastic, but it is nice to just go because I want to go).

And so I begin the 48th year of my life ... 47 years old today .... I appreciate the wisdom I have gained .... the strong bonds I have formed in my life .... the 'life' I have made for myself and my family .... I feel my home is my refuge, my place of happiness, contentment .... I feel that all of the people in my life are good for me ... they bring me up and are simply good people. I am happy. I am happy!! And I am so content. My self confidence is back and possibly stronger than before. All that was shattered is coming back together and I feel better than I have in such a very long time. I am so blessed. So very, very blessed. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!

One year and one day later ...

I could have written those exact same words again yesterday. There is something that I gained in my life that has remained with me. And so begins the next year of my life!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Early Morning Epiphany

I woke up to a most marvelous dream this morning ...

In my dream, I had found someone special and had fallen in love again. I looked up into his eyes and knew the feeling was mutual.

Then, in typical dream/movie fashion, I was able to turn back the clock to the moment we met. In reliving that precious moment, I wanted to make a better first impression. So I did something different. The dream continued ... and because I changed that one moment in time, he never did notice me, we never met and the course of my life was changed forever.

I woke up at that moment and laid there with those thoughts drifting through my mind. Each action, word we speak, decision we make (or don't) can alter the course of our life forever.

It would be so interesting if we could turn back the hands of time and see where we would be today if we had altered just one thing in our lives. I've seen too many movies with this as the theme, but I believe that Hollywood is right. (In most non-life threatening cases) no matter where we think we would be, if we could change just one moment in time ... it wouldn't be better than the spot we are in right now.

A Bonus Day

I am savoring a 'mid-week' day off today. I wrote about wishing for a bonus hour in the day yesterday morning and I woke up this morning with an entire bonus day!

I love days without a scheduled agenda, though I have a hidden one in mind. Today is like that. I have an idea what I hope to do with my spare hours today but I expect a few interruptions. It's unlike the days off that I had when I was in the thick of putting together Mom's family history book. Days that I didn't want to share or invite interruptions. This feeling is enjoyable.

Ideas are free falling through my mind and I love it. Creativity doesn't work when it's forced upon you.

That said, I must keep this short. The minutes are ticking away. After I wrote that sentence, I jotted down a short list of my free falling thoughts. Time to act on a few ....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter is in the Air

We have had a beautiful fall. It has stretched on so long that I forgot that winter was around the corner.

This morning there is just a light dusting of snow on the ground. The streets look icy and it's minus 4 outside ...

I'm not really looking forward to the cold, winter season ahead. Short days and little sun don't always add up to the best of coping skills.

Last winter went by so fast. That is my aim once again this year. I have enough projects on the go to keep me busy all winter and into spring. Too many projects? Maybe. But just enough to keep my mind busy. A busy mind is a happy mind (as long as it is busy with good things).

I don't know what lies in store for me today. I guess I'm glad that I've got kids coming today (I just wish I knew how many). It forces me to get up and ready for the day at an earlier hour.

I just read a comment that a friend (from Alberta) wrote on facebook on the morning of daylight savings time. She was annoyed that she was awake at 6 am due to the time change. I sighed when I read that. What a bonus it would be to wake up at the same time and have the illusion of one extra hour added onto your morning! I love mornings ... to have the gift of an 'extra hour' would be fantastic. I guess I could set the clock in my room an hour ahead and be 'surprised' every morning by that bonus hour ...

What could a person could do with an extra hour each day?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I Love Weekends!!

I have now had 2 solid months of 2-day weekends. And it is fantastic!!

The unfortunate part is - the more time off I have, the less I accomplish. Odd ... but true.

My time seems to be filled with people and activity, not hustle and bustle. And this is good. Focusing on friends and family is a wonderful investment of time. I seem to be renewing old friendships, finding stronger friendships among those I already had, getting to know people better and simply having the time to savor each visit.

It is still such a novelty to have this luxury of time. Having only one day off made me so greedy with the time that I had left at the end of a day or week. And I'm sure I exuded that feeling that I was always watching the clock. As time has become more plentiful, I have had the most relaxing visits.

I have had a weekend immersed in friends and family. Between long distance phone bundles, emails and friends near by ... a person can so easily keep in touch.

I love these 2 day weekends!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Turning a Corner

I had a very good day.

I had an 'all small kid' load today. And it was enjoyable. I didn't enjoy the part where the 2 yr old threw up his lunch ... but the rest was okay.

I even found some 'movie moments' in the day. I have started video taping the kids once again and when I made up our Friday Video to post on the daycare blog, I watched it over and over again. When I see the recap of my week in a 3 1/2 minute video clip, set to soothing music, it makes me wonder what I was so worked up about ... (a little bit, anyway).

In the quiet of the day, I was able to putter away at 3 of my Christmas projects. None completely finished ... but all, well under way. That feels great! The bad thing about having so many different ideas in my head, is that I just don't know where to start. Start at the beginning ... that's a very good place to begin (I believe that's from the Sound of Music).

I sat down and recapped the year in all the various parts of my life, just to see what I have to work with for my Christmas writing.

My personal and family life was full! I haven't had a chance to really sit and ponder it, but there was always something going on. From personal goals achieved ... to family events and celebrations. My heart and home are happy. It's been an eventful year.

Time spent with friends has been plentiful. I wrote down some of the bigger events, but the year was filled with small and meaningful visits as well. I haven't made room for 'friends' in my life for a very long time. This past year has been absolutely miraculous. It was a very 'friendly' year!

I sat and wrote down my daycare happenings. I had one child outgrow his need to come to daycare and I had 2 new families begin coming here. I had one child come (his mother was frantic to find someone) for the 2 months before my new 1 year old began. But other than that ... it has been a very stable and uneventful daycare year. That is a good thing. I like it when my families stay for the long term. It is so much easier when everyone knows everyone. From the kids knowing their friends come and stay ... to me knowing my parents ... and knowing the kids. Stable and uneventful is good, in the daycare world. I'm finding positives at every turn now.

This is what the magic of Christmas does for me. It takes me out of body and lets me look at my life from the outside, looking in. When I sit and write my Christmas letters, poems, cards and everything else that I create, I find myself focusing on the positive. When I think about the gifts I can give, I am thinking of the recipient. The gift of giving is the best gift that I could ever receive.

I've been waiting to start to feel these Christmas time feelings. I usually start focusing on Christmas soon after Thanksgiving. I'm running behind this year. Maybe that is part of the reason that I have been feeling so overwhelmed. Maybe I need to put some of the other projects that I have on the go, on a back burner for now. Focusing on what I love about Christmas will fuel my fires and I'll be ready to tackle my other projects full throttle, when I have Christmas behind me.

I was asked the question 'What are your 2 favorite holidays?' recently. I should have answered that Christmas was one of them. I shunned the idea, because it felt like it would read as if I liked getting gifts. That couldn't be further from the truth. I love the card exchange, connecting with friends and family, finding ways to give without spending money and creating some kind of 'magic' in my gifts ...

When I started this blog, it was to try to find a way to keep that spirit of Christmas alive all year long. In many, many ways that has happened. I have never been in closer contact with so many people ... all year long. I have gifted small tokens of 'gifts' throughout the year. I have had 'Christmas' all year!

Christmas does this for me every year. Focusing on others takes the focus off of me. I need to get out of my own head sometimes. I was ready for this season.

Yes, I do believe that I have finally turned that corner and I am headed down Happy Street once more!!


As I was going through old receipts yesterday morning, I found the ticket stub to the movie 'Enchanted'. At the same time, that was the movie that was playing for my first arrival of the day. I love that movie ...

For anyone who doesn't know the movie, the premise is that a fairy tale character is thrown into the real, non-fairy-tale world. She doesn't change her expectations of the world ... her world, in which dreams make wishes come true. And before you know it, the people of the real world were drawn into her dreamy world, where they sang and danced in the streets.

Yes, it is a fairy tale. But not entirely. If you are around a person who believes in magic, you are drawn into that world.

Attitudes are infectious. As this fairy tale character swirled her magic among the real world, people started to smile and their loads were lightened as they felt swept up in her essence.

I love to be around people with an attitude that I would like to rub off on me. I have neglected some relationships in my life lately ... and I believe that it is the negativity that I am shunning. Not necessarily the person.

Life may not be a fairy tale, but I do believe that dreams can make wishes come true.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Addicted to Happiness

I have quickly grown accustomed to feeling happy. Waking up and loving your life is a most wonderful habit to be in. I hadn't been feeling so elated with my life the last little while and I mourned the loss of that bounce in my step.

The past few days have turned things around for me once again. I know a person can't always be feeling on top of their world. The low spots, the struggles, the challenges and stress and even the tedium of the same old, same old are just a part of life. The secret is not to lose yourself in those down turns.

I have been falling prey to letting myself dwell on the negativity. I looked at the days and I didn't feel in control. For me, that is key. In a situation where you feel like you have no control, there is still some small portion that you can do something about. How you react to it.

It was the overwhelmed feeling that I had in my daycare world that was bringing me down the most. When I actually sat down, wrote what I was feeling and saw it looking back at me, I realized that what was bothering me specifically wasn't the entirety of the situation. But a few small pieces. And when I dissected those 'pieces' more carefully, I saw that I wasn't fighting a losing battle - I was already ahead of the game because my parents were communicating with me. It's just that I have so many of them, that I was feeling that my days were spinning out of control. And they are not.

I did what I always do when I feel my daycare situation is running amok. I wrote a newsletter. Putting words to paper and sharing them requires me to take a positive spin ... I still voiced my frustrations in a way to make my point but not have anyone take offense. That step alone, forces me to focus on what is positive in a negative situation. So I am already half way there when I find the right words.

Nothing has changed. Our day is still changing like the wind, a parent didn't pack spare clothes for their 2 yr old ... my 3 yr old in training had yet another accident, my 4 yr old with 'attitude' was sharing that again this morning, a mom with a day off on Monday is probably bringing her 2 yr old anyway - just because she can. This is my life.

My parents know how I feel and I am counting down the months to many of these upcoming maternity leaves (these families are my worst offenders) and I am grateful that nature has provided me a way out of some of this!

Not so long ago, I panicked when I realized all of these maternity leaves would upend my budget again. Last week, I realized I may be able to replace that lost income with a non-kid option. Today, I am grateful that some of these endless problems have an end in sight.

God never closes a door, without opening a window. Happiness may not be a daily occurence, but while you are waiting ... go find a new window to look through.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Difference a Day Makes

Lately, there has been a weariness that has set in. I was beyond exhausted last night. I slept until my alarm woke me this morning (I am always awake before my alarm). I wrote this mornings blog on exhaustion and I faced the day.


I finished a few tasks that were on my mental to-do list. I had all of my kids picked up and gone by 5:40 tonight. I didn't have any work to do tonight. And it felt fantastic.

A sense of glee was deep inside of me as I cherished the moments of the evening. As Kurt and I ran an errand, we had an enjoyable conversation (and he thinks I'm doing a pretty good job as a mom). We weren't racing against the clock, but I was glad that we weren't gone long.

I sat and watched Dancing With the Stars with our cat. I went to him, picked him up and lavished attention on him before he demanded it. He rewarded me with his deepest, most heartfelt purr.

I puttered through the evening with nothing on my agenda. I just savored the moments, knowing that I had a good day behind me.

A good day. The kids weren't over the top today. Their behaviours were all enjoyable, they were all happy, very little arguing (well there is one voice that grated on my nerves a lot throughout the day but it lessened as the day wore on). I handed out my reworded newsletters to my parents. I believe that I made the points that I wanted to make and was sensitive in the way I worded things. It always feels good to open the lines of communication and my newsletters have always worked that magic for me.

The weights have been lifted off my shoulders. I feel light enough to carry the weight that I still have to carry and work on lessening the load a little bit more tomorrow.

It was a very good day.