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.