Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holidays

I have been relaxing like I have never relaxed before ...

Usually my holidays were busy doing all of the things that I couldn't do when I had a house full of kids. My daycare world allowed me a lot of leeway in the puttering-around-the-house-and-yard department ... but I was tethered to home like a dog on a short leash. When holiday time came around, I was busy running around and enjoying my freedom.

I'm a planner. So if I had 10 days of holidays, somehow I would manage to book up 9 of those days. Fun stuff. Visiting ... lots and lots of visiting. Time to go to a movie with My Youngest and shop where he may want to shop. Lots of take out meals and few (if any) home cooked meals.

My holidays have always been exactly what I wanted and needed. My definition of a holiday is doing whatever it may be, that you can't do during your regularly scheduled life.

I guess my life has changed. A lot. Because this is the quietest holiday that I can remember having in a very, very long time. It has also been the least expensive.

As my December budget still has a few more days to go and January's doesn't look much brighter, my spending has been sparse. But I haven't felt as though I've sacrificed anything.

I don't feel like spending. I am full from within. I am not actively seeking company (but I can still hold up my end of a conversation ... I still love to talk!). I am enjoying my own company.

Everything I need and want are within my walls (except I do need to replenish the grocery supply soon). It is a very fulfilling sensation.

I have been slowly adding activities back into my holiday-life. One day I washed a load of clothes. Another day I turned on the dishwasher. The third day, I emptied the dishwasher.

Yesterday, I packed 'Christmas' away until next year. Today, I plan to tackle my book keeping for a portion of the day (I am not going into hyper drive mode ... I am not!).

I have a feeling that once these holidays are over, I'll be running. There will be the upcoming dance competition to prepare for ... I will be placing expectations on myself at school ... I will be cramming in as much book keeping as I possibly can, because I will be taking several days off in February. The next few months are going to be hectic.

So for now ... I shall relax and savor every moment.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Wordless

It's amazing. Truly, it is ... but I seem to be at a loss for words.

Words have been spent writing Christmas greetings ... doing some Christmas socializing ... and internally trying to work the magic of Christmas into my thinking.

But now that The Day has come and gone, I am grateful to be silent.

I've said all I've had to say for the moment. My mind is an empty canvas.

So, I shall go and paint a new mural within my mind for the year ahead. I think that it's going to be an eventful year. In more ways than I could ever imagine.

I'm going to spend yet another quiet day at home. On holidays. Relaxing like I have never relaxed before.

It's okay to be without words for a while. But just watch out! They are bound to come back with a vengeance.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Who's Your Mother?

I really, really struggled with gift ideas this year.

It seems that most people buy what they want or need, so there are few perfectly practical gifts any more. What happened to the days where socks and gloves were the perfect thing to toss into a gift? Practical.

There are two ends to the 'money spectrum'. Either a person has more than enough money and can (and does) buy everything they want. Or else a person is so far in debt, that any gift of cash evaporates into the abyss of debt and easy spending.

Gifting a small cash token to either one of these extremes seems futile. But I still try ...

I asked my Second Son for gift ideas for his older brother. He has very particular tastes and to try to find something that wouldn't automatically get tossed into a pile and forgotten, seemed impossible. After some thought, he suggested that I bake some of My Oldest's favorite cookies and treats. Now this is the ultimate sacrifice for me. I am not a baker. I can do it, and if I'm in the right frame of mind things usually turn out. But if I'm in a sour mood, watch out!!

I was in a fine mood last week and baked several items. I sent this baking home with My Oldest, giving credit to His Younger Brother for the idea. I would say that the gift went over well.

I was still at a loss as to what to do for My Second Son. Again, any monetary gift is lost in the abyss of spending. So I came up with an idea and considered that the financial part of my gift. But what else could I do? What did I have to offer that could be of benefit for him?

I finally came up with the perfect idea. It involved the same (or greater) self sacrifice that baking for His Brother entailed. That's when you know it is a good gift - when it hurts a little bit to give.

My Second Son is in the process of moving out of his suite. He has a good portion of the moving done but still has a final (large) load to be packed up and stored. Then there is the cleaning involved ...

Ahhh! Cleaning!! I can do that! I enjoy it about as much as enjoy baking, so I knew that it was the perfect gift to offer.

Last night, I made my offer. I didn't quite understand the hesitation that my Second Son communicated. So I reiterated my offer ... saying that I could clean the fridge, stove, bathroom ... Again, he paused. I guessed that it wasn't such a good idea after all.

Then he told me the reason for his lack of appreciation. He had already done it! As he emptied his fridge, he cleaned it. As he moved all of his bathroom supplies, he cleaned the bathroom as well. He said that it is part of what he does when he is at work. When you finish with an area, clean it up so that you don't have to return to it later.

I was amazed. This is a man speaking. And we are talking about cleaning a house - not a work site. But ... he had it all under control.

I asked, "Who is your mother???" Am I in any way responsible for this work ethic??

I stood a little taller, thinking that no matter who is responsible for my Second Son's organizational skills, he is my son! And I'm proud of him.

But that still leaves the good deed portion of my gift unfulfilled. I guess I'll have to give him a rain cheque ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Best Gift of All

This is the year ...
That I got everything I wanted for Christmas.
My family.
We've travelled a long and winding road
But it's been worth every twist and turn
To end up at this destination.
Life is about contrasts ...
We wouldn't appreciate what we have
If we didn't have the alternate
To compare it to.
My three sons ...
Individual in their personalities
Unique in the way they see the world
Decades apart in years
But united by blood.
My family united ...
This feeling is the best gift in the world.
"Thank you"

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gifts

The best gifts of all, are the ones that are given freely and without forethought.

The gift of a favor to someone in need. The gift of a smile and cheery word to someone who looks a little blue. The gift of a good deed, a thoughtful gesture or an unexpected card.

There are gifts all around us. Our family, our friends, our homes that shelter us from the elements.

I do my best to appreciate all that I have been given and to do my best to give back, in kind. Every single day of the year.

So during this festive season, when it is tradition to exchange gifts and greetings I panic.

How do you find the gift that says all that you want to say? The more special the person, the harder it is.

So, to those who are special to me ... I apologize. I simply couldn't come up with the gift that says all I want to say. So I hope that I communicate it well throughout the year.

It is not the gifts one receives on a specific day that matters. It is the gifts that we give and receive every day of our lives.

"To whom much is given, much is expected."

I have been given so very much. I will spend my life time trying to find a way to return the favor.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Little Things

When there appeared to be daylight peeking in, through the closed blinds early this morning, I knew it could mean only one thing. Snow.

Yes, I had some shovelling to do this morning (nothing compared to what many parts of our continent are facing, so I'm not complaining). It was still snowing as I shovelled, so the job isn't over yet ...

I have had my fair share of walking to do in the winter time ... the year we were without a car; the years that I tromped through the snow with kids in a stroller and at my side as we walked to and from school; and the winter that I had a paper route.

Due to my experience with walking in the snow, I like to shovel all of the walks that surround me. I often shovel in front of my neighbor's houses and the walkway that runs beside my yard. I'm of the thinking that maybe these people will pay it forward and help keep their neighbor's walks clean as well. Anything to make the lives of mail, paper carriers and anyone else that must walk throughout the winter a little less cumbersome.

I've done this for years. Every time, thinking of the years that I waded through snow drifts and hoping that I was making some one's walk just a little easier.

This morning, as someone walked through the walkway adjacent to our yard they asked me if I was the one who kept the sidewalk clear. I admitted that I did my best ... and they thanked me.

Two words. What a difference it made, as I faced the task that was set out before me this morning.

It is the little things in life that really count.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

School Break

Ahh ... the life of a student! My last day of school was Friday and I don't have to return until the New Year.

My last dance class was this past Thursday. Not quite the same feeling of relief, but there is something to be said for a few weeks without evening commitments.

Yesterday, I had a chance to revisit my 'old life'. My life of daycare and book keeping.

The daycare part of that equation has been severely down sized. I have one child to tend this week. One! My Youngest took him under his wing most of yesterday and I tended to other things.

I logged an 8 hour book keeping day. I finished making the infamous 'Wreath Cookies' (my most unfavorite Christmas task of all). I called a friend.

As the day wound down, Second Son returned from work and was content with what I had in mind for supper. Then my Firstborn stopped in to fix the downstairs computer (yes, we are very spoiled ... but my book keeping work monopolizes my need for the upstairs computer, so we are eternally grateful a second one) and stayed for a quick visit.

I was in perpetual motion all day. I went from one task to the next with ease. I accomplished everything I set out to do in the day. It's been a very long time since I've been able to write those words.

Second Son's decision to move in this past weekend put me into high gear. I had thought I would putter around and empty out that room during the Christmas holidays. Instead, I accomplished what had to be done, in an afternoon.

I have been wading through my days with a great deal of effort for the past long while. I am so grateful that I've moved into a higher gear.

Long term goals seem to encourage a lethargy within me. I need the adrenaline rush of a do-it-now task. I thrive on that feeling of accomplishment. And I haven't felt like I have accomplished half of what I have set out to do for a very long time.

I'm looking forward to this holiday. I am not quite certain what it holds in store but I know that I'm eager to wake up each morning and face the day.

It's nice to take a break from the rigors of school life ... so I can concentrate on other things. I was ready for this.

Monday, December 21, 2009

When It's Meant to Be ...

This past fall, I was came up with the idea of trying to rent out a room in my home to help subsidize the 'high cost of dancing' within my student budget. I let my intent be known to family and close friends. I knew that I needed to be very comfortable with who ever may end up having a 'key to my life'. I was hopeful that a relative of a relative may be in need ... a person doesn't know, if you don't ask. So I asked.

It was frightening to think of giving a virtual stranger access to our home but I trusted that 'what was meant to be, would be'. I talked to my youngest son about the possibility of renting out our room downstairs and he was aghast at the idea. I told him that we wouldn't let just anyone move in ... we would both meet the person and we would both have to be very comfortable with them. This is our life and our home and I guard the 'peace within', with my life. I would be very careful.

I had a few people voice their concerns over my plans. I assured them that it would be okay. If no one called, that was fine. If someone showed interest and it wasn't a good fit, I would say "No thank you".

Although there was interest, no one knew anyone in need. So the room stayed vacant. That was okay too. We have a very calm home life and I like it that way. It wasn't meant to be. But I knew that there was always a possibility that eventually someone may be interested. It feels good to have a back up plan when you are on a student budget. This room was my Plan C or D.

Well, the room is vacant no more.

When Second Son made a real estate purchase this past month, I made him an offer. An offer where each of us had something to gain. He would save half of the cost of his rental/bills/insurance; and I would use his room and board to put towards going to an upcoming dance competition.

Sixteen days ago, he formally took me up on my offer. He would move back home between the 1st and the 15th of January.

At no point during this transaction have I had the "Oh no!! What have I done???" feeling. There was no internal countdown thinking we had only "X" amount of days to enjoy what we have come to know as normal around here.

My one and only fear, is that day to day living will take away the specialness of our visits. Meeting for coffee or lunch in the middle of the day ... or a drop in visit where he updated me on things in his life. It's nice when you live a life separate and apart from your children. You appreciate them on a whole new level. I hope that we can somehow hold onto that specialness even though we are now living together under the same roof.

Yes, "now". His move-in date got bumped ahead and he moved back home this weekend. He called Saturday afternoon to tell me the change of plans and he had all of his necessities of life moved in by Saturday evening.

I stopped what I was doing, to empty out the room he would be moving into. The room was empty by the time he arrived with his first load.

At no point did I think "Oh no!" or "I don't have time for this" or "I thought I had 2 more weeks ..." Nothing. Pure and utter acceptance.

This go-with-the-flow feeling is something that is new to me. I have a pretty predictable and regimented life. When things don't go according to plan or by the schedule I have mapped out in my mind, I am easily thrown for a loop.

Not this time. I am completely 'at one' with this decision.

When it's meant to be ... this is how good it feels.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Think I Have Thyroid Problem ...??

These empty ice cream pails represent the ice cream consumed by this household (aka 'me') in approximately the last year (?).

And I wondered why I was gaining so much weight.

Hmmm ...

Blemishes of Life

When I was younger, my complexion mirrored the stresses in my life. If several pimples erupted overnight, I could often name them with a specific dilemma that I was facing at the time.

The past little while I've had a surge of complexion woes. Three blemishes appeared out of no where. As I have done in the past, I could name each one of them - Montreal, Christmas and Microsoft Access (the latest course that I was tackling at school).

I could almost feel Zit #1 wither up and die as I confronted my Microsoft Access exam on Friday. This program was completely foreign to me and understanding the first few chapters was like reading Greek. Once I finally got some of the terminology ingrained, then I had to learn how to work with it. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I plunked myself down in the coffee room one day and declared, "I hate Access!" We had a round table discussion on this particular course and I felt so much better knowing that I wasn't alone.

Friday was the day that I wanted to write my Access exam. If I didn't have two weeks of school holidays to forget everything I had tried to cram into my brain, I would have delayed the inevitable. But I knew that I couldn't do that. I had to bite the bullet and get it over with.

I did it. And I did fairly well. My first pimple disintegrated.

Yesterday, I noticed my reflection and the other two inflammations were still basking in their glory. One, in particular. I call that one "Christmas" ...

No matter what I do, I don't seem to feel the joy of the season this year. Yes, I have found an overwhelming cheer within me ... but it has nothing to do with the upcoming holiday event. I am giddy with happiness over what I call my 'life'. Christmas? Wake me when it's over, please.

I think there is a quiet cautiousness within me because there are many people in my life that have suffered more than their fair share of trials and tribulations this past year. Christmas seems to magnify what is great ... or not so great in your life. Many people I know will be going through the paces of the season. Their 'first' Christmas of a new life that wasn't of their choosing. Families in distress are stressed out even more.

I attacked my Zit-Called-Christmas last night as if opening the wound would help it heal faster. Sometimes there is just no easy way to heal ...

Last of all, I have my Montreal Abscess. This one is subsiding on its own accord.

This week, I voiced the words that I was not going to worry over this extravagance that I have afforded myself. Talk is cheap. But I kept repeating it over and over. And by golly, I think it's working.

I am looking forward and feeling the anticipation starting to surface. There are many details to be tended to and a lot of work to be done. But suddenly, I can envision myself standing in the airport awaiting our plane's boarding time. We will soar into the skies and I can feel my heart pumping with excitement. Five entire days to hang out at a dance event and leave my day-to-day life behind me.

I'm not flying away from anything. I am in awe of what my life holds in store for me. I'm living in the present and savoring every moment that I have with my family.

My family. My three sons. We are one. I've waited a long time for this feeling. And I'm over the moon.

My family is the 'beauty spot' of my complexion. My family is something that accentuates me and my life. It is a mark of honor that I wear with pride.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Connections

Connections with family, friends of the past and just an intuitive 'click' when you meet someone ...

My advise is, if you feel it ... pursue it!

I am blessed beyond words to have the friends that I have ... and to have the connections with my family that I feel. It is only in retrospect, that I can see the wisdom of following through with that instinctive 'knowing' when you have met on the same level with another person.

I have a friend that I met when we were in the same Grade 10 gym class. We chatted, connected, got together outside of school and became fast friends. When that semester (and our gym class) ended, our lives went in two separate directions ... until we met by chance on a bus, three or four years later. The connection we felt when we 15 years old was instantly resuscitated and we've remained close and the best of friends ever since.

I have a cousin that has always felt like a sister. We were born just over 2 weeks apart from each other. We finished each others sentences and we connected on every level. When I was nine years old, our family moved and our cousin-connection was maintained through letters and family visits. We went on a holiday together when we were 18. Our contact has ebbed and flowed over the years, but we have never lost touch. Every single time we get together, it is like we pick up from where we last left off and we are off and running again.

I have some friendships that I have held onto from work. I connect on a different level with each one of these friends but there was a 'knowing' that even though our paths crossed by chance, that we were friends at heart. Most work friendships end when the work connection is severed. But not these ... each of us are at a completely different spot in our lives. But the ties of friendship remain strong no matter where we are, what has happened or how long it is has been between visits.

I placed a 'call out' to all of my cousins that lived in the same city a while ago. We stood together in a group at a family gathering, so that someone could take a picture of 'the cousins'. Long after the photo was taken, we hovered and visited. As I looked at the picture and counted the number of us that lived in the same city, I started making some calls. When I suggested that we try to get the local cousins together, the response was an overwhelming "Yes!" We gathered, felt the family connection and strengthened our blood ties. We have gathered a few times since then and each time has been a gift. The cousin connection runs deep.

The family connections that I have felt are amazing. Getting together with my aunts and uncles as I have tried to piece together our family stories has been one of the more frightening things that I've ever done. But the moment that I was sitting down with them, I instantly felt the bond of our shared heritage and a subtle sense of knowing someone, even though we had never sat down and talked before.

A home town reunion rekindled a few more friendships ... a cousin and a childhood friend.

I was fortunate enough to get together with my cousin last winter. Once again, the moment we sat down we had the feeling that we could have talked all night. What was the beginning of a friendship when we were kids, took no more than a second chance to reignite the close feelings of cousin/friend. We both marvelled over the connection ... the friendship ... and the ease of slipping back into our childhood and cousin connections.

This morning, I met up with the friend that I crossed paths with at that reunion 2 and a half years ago. It was another knee-shaking reconnection - every time I feel that inner sense of knowing that I am talking with someone who knows me ... and I know them (before we even know each other), my knees start to shake.

Prior to the home town reunion when our paths last crossed, the last time that we really talked was on the eve of my wedding day - almost 32 years ago. When we met for coffee this morning, it was as if those three decades vanished.

The first time I looked at the time, almost two hours had passed. Two hours in what felt like the blink of an eye. We still had a lot of catching up to do so we managed to squeeze in another hour before each of our lives caught up to us and we had to part ways.

We parted with a knowing feeling of 'we will meet again'. And we may try to draw another friend into the mix. Yet another mutual childhood friend that has criss-crossed into each of our present-day lives independently.

Sometimes, when our paths cross I think it is much more than coincidence. There are some people that are meant to be in our life. When fate hands you a friend from your past, don't gloss over and ignore it.

I feel a guiding hand in my life at times ... a hand that steers me in a direction that I can choose to pursue or ignore. I choose to pursue things a lot more these days. As I've said before, I'm running at a near 100% success rate.

The gift of realizing that some friends, are friends for a lifetime makes makes my knees shake (or is that just the coffee??).

Friday, December 18, 2009

It Was the Most Wonderful Night of the Year

I woke up with this song in my heart and in my head:

... only I had the words mixed up. I was singing to myself "It Was the Most Wonderful Night of the Year ..."

Dancing. What a night.

It never fails. I walk into the studio and I am transformed. An instant case of happiness washes over me, in my entirety.

My lesson? We turned on the music and settled into the business of preparing for 'Montreal'. Even though there was some actual teaching (and learning?) going on, it was fun and upbeat. Yes, music was nice. But it was more than that. I was wrapped up in absolutely everything and loving every minute.

Then ... the dance.

Oh, the Christmas dance. This has always been my most unfavorite dance of the year. Too much hype, too much food, too many people I don't know, too much ...

This year? It was perfect. I knew a good portion of the group that was there (going to the group classes makes all the difference in the world) and I could have had fun just visiting. But ... I wanted to dance.

It took a while for the dancing to begin. A room full of dancers and very few (if any) were dancing. All I could think was "Oh no! Not again ..."

Then the music picked up, as did the interest in dancing. Even if I'm not dancing myself, I love to be in a room where people are dancing and moving in time to the beat of the music they hear. But last night ... I wanted to dance.

I caught the eye of a man who had just put on his shoes and he nodded towards the floor and we were off. Later on, I heard Cha Cha music and caught the eye of another and mouthed the words "Can we dance?" And we did.

Then I stepped out of my comfort zone and walked across the room and actually pursued a young man. He ran for cover. Others saw my desire to dance with him and tried to lure him out from under the chair he was hiding under (this is all true, I swear!). I stood quietly on the sidelines and when the poor guy eventually poked his head out of the room that he had fled to, I quietly said "I'd love to dance with you ... if you would like to dance. I'll just wait until you are ready."

Yes, I've come a long way. I rarely (if ever) ask someone to dance. It's not so much the idea of being shot down. It's more that I don't want to push someone out of their comfort zone. I think my body language of sitting on the edge of my chair and vibrating with the music lets people know that I want to dance. But last night? I had been told that this gentleman actually wanted to dance but he was shy.

So I took the first step.

We danced a few times after that. He is in the beginning stages of his dancing and he did a marvelous job. I was honored to be chosen by him when he was ready. I was asked to dance more often than I asked someone else. I danced.

The music was in my heart and pumping through my body with each beat. I think my heart even started beating in time with the music last night.

I visited. Real conversations with people that I have come to know. Not the usual - So, how long have you been dancing? and struggling with the next topic. We talked of many things ...

I felt an inner glow of happiness within me that I could barely contain. My dance studio persona. I believe I smile and laugh most of the time that I am within those walls.

I came home and I was still glowing. Even as I slept, I could feel happiness within. My heart is racing with the thoughts of last night.

People laughing, dancing, visiting ... and of course there is the eating from all of the food that people donate to the appetizer table. Dancing and food just don't mix in my mind, but it is a part of what makes this Christmas dance special. The sharing ...

Finally. I've been searching high and low for my Christmas spirit this year. And it has been illusive and just out of reach. The happiness I found last night had little to do with Christmas. It had everything to do with being in a room full of people that I was comfortable with. It was the company, the laughter and the essence of comfort. And it was the dancing!

Yes! It was the most wonderful night of the year!!! My happy quota was filled to overflowing. I think that I can now waft through the Christmas season and be jolly.

P.S. The young man I was pursuing? He was the ripe old age of almost 8 years old. He has an older brother (maybe 10?), but someone else had their eye on him. Hopefully I didn't scar him for life ...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Let the Fun Begin!

Okay ... my Christmas cards are all signed, sealed, mailed and (almost) all delivered. My Christmas shopping is supposedly done and (almost) all wrapped. The bake sales and pot lucks are (almost) all over with. Maybe now I can start feeling merry and bright ...

I am so looking forward to dancing tonight. Not only do I have a one hour lesson, but there is a dance after that. After last week's serious half-hour dance lesson without music, I'm ready to fill my 'fun' quota.

I seem to be taking life far too seriously lately and it's wearing thin. I'm ready to kick back and have some fun.

If ever there was an equation for a light hearted and fun evening ... tonight's agenda is it! Oh, to turn on the music (please?) ... and dance the night away.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf

Change. It isn't easy.

Life has many lessons. We learn through trial and error. The best lessons we learn are the toughest lessons to live. Everything life hands us can be used to make us stronger, better, more compassionate.

Yadda yadda yadda ...

Then the real world comes along and teaches you that even though you are valiantly trying to become a better, more compassionate and giving person ... life isn't fair.

I am still of the thinking that if you take the high road, say little or nothing, let the other party quietly think about things ... some how, it will work out in the end.

If you do the right things, and those actions come from a new found essence of who you are trying to be ... it has to be rewarded. Maybe in a fashion that you can't see at the time. Maybe the reward is in knowing you did good. Maybe this action will be reflected back to you in your future ...

It is frustrating that life doesn't have instant gratification when it comes to matters like these.

"But I know. I can feel the inner struggle within. You did good and I'm proud of you."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dreary Choices

My horoscope for the week: "If the so-called "right choice" is a dreary one, it probably isn't so correct after all. Who said you can't have fun and still be a moral person? Examine your rules for yourself, and consider chucking the dreadfully boring ones this week. Thursday, a free-spirited friend will liberate you."

Sounds like it could be an interesting week if I follow what my horoscope says.

When it comes to day-to-day ... week-to-week ... every day kinds of choices, I tend to make safe decisions. The tried and true, the known verses the unknown and whatever has worked in the past. I don't invite a lot of excitement into my daily living. I'm too busy trying to get everything that (I think) needs to be done ... done.

But every now and again, I throw myself for a loop and choose to do something out of the ordinary.

Yesterday, I had a rather undreary kind of day. I ended up meeting my Second Son for coffee in the middle of my school day. That felt rather exciting and different. I felt like I was playing hooky from school, but I signed out when I left. This is allowed. But it is something that I've never done before, so it felt exciting.

I came back to school and helped my 'team' decorate our door for Christmas (we are supposed to decorate with a theme that is related to the classes we are taking - how do the accounting students decorate?? ... we came up with a money tree). The next thing I knew, it was time to go home. That was the fastest school day in history.

Then ... I came home and got a call from a childhood friend. We have exchanged Christmas cards ever since we ran into each other several years ago at our home town reunion. When we parted ways (2+ years ago??) that summer, we said "We should get together"... we didn't. When we exchanged Christmas greetings, we would write "We should get together in the new year"... we never followed through. Last year, I emphatically wrote "I'm not just saying this - we should get together soon"... I forgot. This year, I wrote "Let's meet for coffee at Tim Horton's at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, the 19th of Dec)". And ... I got a call from this friend this afternoon. She said "That works perfect! I'll see you then!"

How's that for an undreary day???

Add to that, the fact that I've formally decided to relax and enjoy the idea of going away to the upcoming dance competition. I couldn't get the words "Are you crazy???" to stop running through my head until I explained my thought processes to every person I met (yes ... as Second Son would say ... I over-talk ... everyone and their dog has heard me lament about my crazy decision to fly off and partake in this dance event). But, I'm letting the guilt go. I am simply going to plan and anticipate the entire holiday and event.

I also made a formal promise to myself (and to 'the world') that I will complete my dad's family history within the year. I've written it, I've made a commitment. I must follow through.

Whew! And it's not even Thursday yet. I wonder how I will be 'liberated' by a free-spirited friend when I've already liberated myself??

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tough Conversations

I've been hovering on the edge of knowing that there were some 'tough conversations' that I needed to put behind me this past while. This weekend, I scratched a few of them off of my to-do-list and it feels like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders (and yes, there is great temptation to run to my scale and see if the loss is reflected in my weight, but I shall resist).

One of those conversations has been on the back burner of my mind for a while. It was one of those conversations that I knew that I should initiate. But in doing so, I was asking for brutal honesty and answers that I may or may not be ready to hear. Come to think of it, I had another one of these conversations a few weeks ago ...

I am surrounded by family and friends that 'bring me up'. They are generous with compliments, support and encouragement. They tend to believe that I am better than I know that I am.

That is all good and fine ... but I need an honest critic in my life now and again.

When a few areas of my life appeared to be in need of a critical eye, I asked the hard questions and was prepared for any answer that I may receive. I would so much rather be told exactly where I stand than to second guess. This is how I handled situations in my daycare world - I encouraged conversations where both parties had a chance to air any uncomfortable topics. Communication is key. I want people to know that I'm willing to listen, bend, learn and adapt as necessary.

I realize that I have put people on the spot and there is a great likelihood that they may not have an appropriate honest response ready for me when I do this ... but it makes me feel better to know that I've opened the door for future conversations if and when it is necessary.

In both cases, I was fairly sure that my insecurities unfounded. But I wasn't certain. I had enough questions that I thought 'Why waste my energy worrying ... when I could just ask and know?"

I am just realizing (as I write this), that this honest confrontational side of me comes from years of running my daycare. This is a skill that I didn't have before I started working for myself and with the parents of the children I tended. I felt so 'free' when I started confronting my worries instead of letting them fester. And I haven't done that for a while. Worrying is such a waste of time and energy.

Then there was a conversation of a more personal matter. Those ones are tricky to navigate so I've been putting this off for a very long time. Things tend to snowball when you don't discuss things as they arise. I hate a build-up of anything in my life, most of all - personal baggage.

First off, I had to admit the errors of my ways and simply apologize for my wrong doings. Yes, I had my reasons for acting the way I did ... but plain and simple ... I was rude. Apology necessary.

Once the apology was out of the way, I had a more willing partner in the conversation. So ... it was time to confront the tougher part of what was weighing on my mind. As I have done many times before, I made an assumption and created an entire saga in my mind. It was all pretty minor in the scheme of things, but I wanted to end a cycle of thoughts and the only way I knew how to do that was to talk. And listen.

There were many things that I didn't want to hear, so I had put off this discussion for far too long. Avoidance is usually not the right answer.

I am so very glad that I opened a few doors the past little while. I am human and I make a lot of mistakes. I am far from perfect ... though I wish that I was. I tend to put myself down because I would rather demean myself than hear it from someone else. So asking for people to be honest with me puts me at great risk. A risk that I'm glad that I took. Because I feel ever-so-much-better now.

I can put that energy wasted on worrying, onto other things now. Christmas ... I'm ready for you now!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Angels Unaware

My favorite story of the past year was about an 'angel unaware' that impacted the life of another. A brief exchange that has remained within the one on the end of the kindness, decades later.

Angels unaware ... those words have resonated within me ever since I first read them.

I reflect on the angels that have walked along with me through my life ... I wonder about the angels that watched over me when I was so down and out, that I didn't recognize their presence ... I aspire to act in ways that I feel that I am an instrument of kindness in some small way to another person.

My favorite Christmas decorations are my angels. I have a handful of angels that I keep on display all year long. I gaze at my collection of angels and feel protected. I feel a sense of safety as I walk through my days. Not a concrete 'money in the bank' kind of safety. Something more important than that. It is as if there is an invisible force all around me. No matter what happens in my life, I know for a fact that it will be okay. Eventually.

Last night, I spent an evening with two of my earthly angels. My friends.

Each of these friends has walked at my side as I have tread through uncharted territory of my life. Individual and unique in their friendship and their personalities, I consider each a dear friend. Yet the three of us have never sat down for an evening of friendship and company before.

A gathering of my angels here on earth. My friends.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Can I Dance?

I receive an email from "Mountain Wings" which awaits me every morning. Some of the messages speak to me more than others. This one? I wish I had written it myself. This ... is dancing to me:

http://www.mountainwings.com/past/3170.htm

Adventure Aborted

We like to call them adventures. Our little day-trips, where we gather a friend or two and meet up with another friend in a different city (or town). To most people, it would be the equivalent of a 'Sunday drive'. But to us ... they are adventures.

Our first adventure was a 'call out' (by me), at a time when I was going through the lowest of low times. Four of us met up in a neutral city where everyone was a 'tourist' and we simply savored the day. The drive ... the company ... we walked ... we ate ... we talked. The day was idyllic.

So we planned another great adventure. This time, we decided to stay at a bed and breakfast in the fair city of a friend that lives a few hours away. We didn't want our group to descend upon our friend's home and create any work for her. So the four of us met up in a bed and breakfast. We visited ... we bonded ... we cared ... we shared. A most wonderful time was had by all.

Another year passed (none of these adventures took place in the same calendar year) and my friend thought that we should mastermind yet another adventure. It was a time of celebration and rejuvenation - as one of us celebrated a birthday, another (who spends her life taking care of others) really needed to take care of herself and the other just needed to step away from 'life' as she knew it. This time, My Youngest came along and my friend conscripted her nephew to join us (and the boys had just as much fun as we did). Once again, our conversations lifted each of our spirits. We feed off the energy of each other in this most special group of friends.

Our annual adventures are tonic for our bodies, minds and spirits. We wistfully dubbed ourselves 'The Optimist Group' when we first started gathering (about?) 13 or 14 years ago. We seem to live up to our name as each of us has gone through a life changing event or two (or more) during our reign as 'Optimists'. I can vividly remember how awestruck that I was, to be a part of this circle of friends. People that I looked up to, admired and had quietly adopted as role models. People that I aspired to emulate.

I look back on the years and the difference that this most special group of friends made in my life. They have supported and encouraged me every step of the way.

I look back on the life-changing times that I have lived the past 12 years. I remember entrusting these friends (and only these friends, at first) with my dream of finding a way to stay at home and raise my last child. They believed in me. I took that belief and I ran with it. And I've been running ever since.

I remember the time when I was lost and alone and I reached out to this group (the result was our first 'adventure'). They walked with me through the abyss and I just kept on walking ...

These friends fuel and inspire me.

We were supposed to go on another adventure today. But the frigid temperatures have aborted our plans. Plans that must now wait for the next calendar year (as has been our tradition). But have no fear, we are still braving the cold to drive across the city and meet for supper and an evening of visiting. We can make an adventure of whatever it is we choose to do.

I was really anticipating this day. Because this is the day that we were going to stop in and visit with my sister (and my other sister wanted to be a part of this gathering but she is vacationing as I write) as we embarked on our newest adventure.

My sisters. Now there is a whole new story and a whole new blog. But long story short ... they were my inspiration and encourager's before this most special group of friends adopted me as one of their own.

Every ten years, it seemed that I had some life altering event happening in my life. My sisters would ride out on their white steeds and 'rescue' me (from my thoughts anyway).

It has been 12 years since my sister's last 'rescue'. I got through the last crisis in my life (a few years ago - the 10 year cycle of heart-wrenching-transitions hasn't changed for me yet) ... not alone ... but with the support and encouragement of my most special group of friends at my side.

The thought of uniting these two incredible forces - my sisters and my optimistic friends - takes my words away.

Our adventure must take a back seat today. But have no fear ... we will be back!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pressures of the Season

I can't pin my thoughts down on anything concrete this morning ...

I thought that I woke up with ambition and energy this morning, but I just couldn't get up at 4:30 a.m. to start the day. So I turned on the TV. Bad move. TV = sleep. So I went back into a light slumber and didn't want to get moving. Again (I've been dragging myself out of bed all week).

I barely tripped over the 'pile of Christmas' in my room this morning. I'm gaining control in that area but I still need a few small touches and just a little more shopping. Then that can be wrapped up and put away until the Big Day.

My Christmas cards are ready to go. Next week my greetings of 'whatever I happened to be in the mood to write about at the time' will be making their way to family and friends. I've been in a very odd mood this Christmas. So what lies within the confines of those cards may be surprising. To me and to the recipient. My head has been all over the map and I'm afraid my Christmas greetings have been as well.

I'm wading my way through a new course at school. I want to be able to finish it off and write the exam before Christmas. But I seem to be moving at a snail's pace. This is all Greek to me and I've already gone back and reread the first 2 chapters to try and get a firmer grasp of what I'm trying to learn. Trudging on ...

I've gotten some book keeping work this week. Whew!! The lack of work + the lack of ambition I have when I do get some work = a very scary budget + I'm afraid I'm not making a very good impression on the people I'm working for. I need to ask for a good old honest annual 'review' so that we can talk like employer/employee. We have a very different working arrangement. I have babysit for this family for almost 4 years + we are friends/friendly = not your typical boss/underling arrangement. I've been doing book keeping for them for a year, and I think that it would be a good idea if both of us had a firm grasp on expectations, the future and my work performance. I feel like I'm skating on thin ice. I don't know if or when I'm going to go under. But I'm just a little bit afraid right now.

Then there are all the 'food commitments' of the season. I sent off my 'unusual' Ginger Cookies for the school bake sale yesterday. They should have come with a warning label - long story. Then ... I have 2 more pot luck affairs next week. Oh, the angst I feel over having to bring something to these events ... and the possibility of people knowing what I brought. Oldest Son has a favorite Christmas wreath cookie that he anticipates this time of year. But last year, my cookie press died a good death (The Traditions of Christmas Gone Awry story of last December). I have tried to find another cookie press. For the low cost of $40 plus tax ... I can run out and buy one (they asked if I'd like them to put a hold on it ... I should have said "Only if it comes with my cookies already baked"). So I haven't done a thing. I should do some Christmas baking so that I have something to offer. But I'm paralyzed at the idea of all of that time in the kitchen. My Ginger Cookie baking experience was one best left to the imagination. I don't feel like an encore performance ...

Plus ... I've officially signed on to go to this dance competition in two months. The money that I will spend, the time I must invest and another great step into the unknown. And I thought baking was scary.

The Fear Factor is running high right now. I'm moving forward but with fear and trepidation as I take each step. I'd like to sleep through the next 2 weeks. But instead, I think that I'll just get through it with my eyes closed.

I'm doing my best ... but my best isn't great this year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ho! Ho! Ho! (and all that crap)

I just can't make myself merry this year.

I'm going through the paces and there is absolutely no reason in the world that I should have a minor case of the blues. But I do.

I have finished all of my Christmas cards except for the cards that I write for the families that I babysit. I always save those for last because I need all of my Christmas cheer in its fullest force to write those cards.

I like for those cards to be like a cheery report card. Little anecdotes and thoughts about the kids that mark the year's accomplishments and milestones.

This year, I've got nothin' (yes, I passed my grammar exam ... and that sentence would fail me in a flash ... but that - like the title of this blog - is how I feel).

I'm on empty when it comes to the kids this year.

When I had kids around me morning, noon and night (or so it felt), there were lots of challenges. It was taxing and wore me out on many levels. But at the end of the day, I could usually sit down at our daycare blog and write something positive about the day.

When Christmas time came, I would scratch my head, trying to figure out how to make our annual yearbook unique from the years prior. It became harder each year but when I finally put a glow on our daycare world (my world), the Christmas season was officially launched.

This year, I have one child that comes regularly before and after school. I have five other children that come and go, but most of them are here for an average of 45 minutes at a time on a sporadic basis. I simply cannot unearth any heartwarming stories or thoughts about my kids this year.

It's sad.

I am forging into a world of numbers and repetitive tasks, as I educate myself in a manner in which I should be able to do more of this work. Kids are frustrating. Numbers are boring. The flip side of the frustration levels is that there were moments of amusement, pleasure and accomplishment. The flip side of the boredom is only relief when the job is done.

I can't believe I'm saying this ... but I miss my old life.

Christmas time is magical, when you are in it for the kids. "Ho! Ho! Ho!" feels like "Ho! Hum!" this year. I seem to have lost my sense of jolly ... and it may have something to do with the lack of kids in my life.

Who knew??

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dancing Without Music

We had a silent dance lesson last night. It was a unique experience.

Normally, the music plays loudly and we dance to the beat of the song that is playing. My instructor teaches as we dance to the music and there is a lot of laughter. It is an fun and upbeat half hour.

I have officially decided to participate in an upcoming competition. I've never done anything like this before. I have only the barest grasp of an idea of what lies in store. All I know for sure, is that there is a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Our dance showcases are not competitive. It's like a dance recital where each of us is on display but there isn't any scoring or competing going on. The only competition is within yourself. And it is truly just best to relax, do the best you can and have fun.

A competition is different. We will be on the floor with several other couples and there is a scoring system. There are rules and regulations and you are ranked in comparison to the other couples in your category.

My instructor tells me that the ranking is the least of his worries. He assures me that dance competitions are much less stressful than the showcases because we are never out on the dance floor alone. Our goal is to dance according to the rules set out before us ... and smile.

Last night, my instructor's goal was to decide what dances we will be working on for the upcoming competition. It was down to the business of making those choices and not wasting a moment (finding the right music selections takes precious minutes away from a very brief 30 minute lesson).

I'm wide eyed in anticipation (and fright) for what lies ahead. If it was only the dancing to worry about, I'd be okay. It's all the other stuff ...

The arrangements that must be made so that I can go, the organization and ensuring that I remember to take everything I need to take. The costumes, shoes, hair, nails and all that girl-stuff.

Then there is the money that will be spent. I can't even think about that right now. I had it all planned out but one part of my plan isn't working very well (that would be the part where my book keeping job pays for my living expenses ... but that hasn't happened for a few months), so it has me a tad nervous.

I have a lot to learn in the next few months. I'm afraid that preparing for this competition may be a lot like dancing without the music. We can go through the motions ... but it just isn't quite as much fun.

Despite the quiet dance lesson, the financial worries and the fear ... I think this is going to be an experience of a life time.

The music is playing in my mind ...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ay Ay Ay

I heard this song today and it was like someone plucked the words right out of my mind:

video

All I can say is ay ay ay ...

A Mild Case of the Don't-Want-To-Do-Anything-Blues

I'm having a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings. I could just lay there with the covers brought up to my nose (to keep it warm) forever.

I know that I should be getting up to do some stretching exercises. And now that I'm flexible again ... I should get back on the exercise bandwagon. But ... I'd rather sleep.

I shower at night, so that I don't have to waste that time in the morning. It seems that I move as slow as molasses in the morning (and you should see the molasses in my house ... it doesn't even budge! ... kind of like me) and I hate to add any time consuming tasks to my early morning routine.

I am bogged down by too many things - unfinished Christmas cards; unfinished Christmas shopping; book keeping to be done; baking that I could do; a house to declutter; my bedroom is chaotic with 'Christmas' strewn everywhere.

Everywhere I look, I see something that I should be doing.

So ... I sleep. Wake me up when Christmas is over, okay?

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life

I just lived one of the most enjoyable weekends ...

I spent Saturday afternoon with Second Son as he took me out to see his land acquisition. I can see his vision ... clearing out the old and starting over. The new house with the windows ... the view. It will take a while to get from 'here' to 'there'. But if anyone can do it, he can.

Sunday was a day spent immersed in Christmas and family.

I love the connection that I have with my adult children. They are as individual as their finger prints. And though they are polar opposites in many ways ... there is a connection that is starting to take hold.

I hear it when Second Son sides with his brother and reminds me of 'the man's point of view'. I see it when I tell my Oldest what his brother has said to me. He sits a little taller and there is a twinkle in his eye as if "Ya ... he gets it!" and he knows that he has an ally at his side.

Our family is going through an interesting time. It seems that each of us is bringing our strengths to the table to help a family member in need. We are unique in our viewpoints but united in our end goal.

It took a crisis to get our family to this point. A crisis that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I wish that the situation that united us could be erased. But that is not the case. So our little family has become united in our mission to ease another through a painful experience.

My family hasn't always had this united front. If there is one positive that has come out of a bad situation, it is the fact that I have 'regained a son'. We were lost ... but now we are found. We are family.

It is a wonderful life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Backed Into a Corner

I think we all have a strong survival instinct within us. It is human instinct, to fight to the finish.

My mom often recalls the mighty battle that she witnessed between a mouse and a cat when we lived on the farm. This mouse was a goner no matter what he did, but he was not going down without a fight. I remember Mom's admiration of this brave little mouse that wasn't going to make it easy for the cat, who was simply playing with its food before he sat down to savor his meal.

I can remember being at a point that I would have done whatever it took to keep my children safe. There were no limits as to what I would have done to protect my young. That mother bear instinct runs deep. Just put three 'mother bears' together who are each fighting for their children. Been there, done that. It wasn't pretty. But we were all fighting for the same thing. Our children.

There are many battles that we face in our lives.

The sibling rivalry that seems to arise whenever there is more than one child in a family. Maybe those confrontations are necessary to teach us how to stand up for ourselves in future life situations. We learn some lessons about our own limits and those of others as we 'wage war' with our siblings.

There are the bullies we meet as we go through life. Those who push their way through to get at the front of the line and some that relentlessly tease those 'weaker' than they are. We get older and there are those that will do whatever it takes to get to the top of the corporate ladder and neighbors that push the boundaries.

We learn as we go. We find out what our own limits are and we know when we must take a stand. It's good to know your own limits ... and the limits of others.

When you feel backed into a corner, it is natural to fight back. You do what it takes to take control of the situation.

But when the other party is backed into their own corner, war is declared. And "war is hell" (someone else's words).

I am on the sidelines of a battle where I can see no winners. It's a hard thing to watch, but it is not my place to jump into the middle. It is my tendency though.

I wish that I could plop myself in between the enemies and have each of them look at things in a way that was non-confrontational. I have a feeling if both parties didn't feel backed into that corner, they would both be willing to each give a little, to come to a compromise.

A compromise is the only way to win.

There are no winners in a war. No matter what, once arms are drawn there are casualties on both sides. Signing a peace treaty is the safest way out.

I'm hoping for a speedy resolution. But in the back of my mind, I am picturing that mighty little mouse fighting for all he is worth. We are all capable of doing battle when it comes to what we believe in.

I'm not cheering for a winner. I'm rooting for 'world peace'.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Winding Up the Week

I get to spend the day at home today. The kids have one more day off of school before their 16 day Christmas vacation. It has been 2 weeks since their last day off of school ... and 2 weeks prior to that, they had another school holiday. Do I detect a pattern?

The week was a productive one.

I'm working my way through my Christmas cards. It seemed like an onerous task at first, but I started by addressing the envelopes. I am writing the cards in the order they appear before me. Each time I unveil the next name I think to myself 'Oh! I can't wait to visit ___!!' And so I go. I'm about half way through my pile. Slowly but surely, I'll get there.

I had to tackle the statements for my book keeping job this week. I had basically one free evening to accomplish the task. Between going out Tuesday night and last night being consumed with dancing ... I had one night to do my job. First off ... I ran out of statement stuffers about half way through the job. Next ... I needed more envelopes to complete my work. Then ... I got the statement stuffers and envelope supply replenished ... and I need more statement stuffers. Again.

I had a request to 'write a little something' about our dance showcase for our dance blog (http://dancedynamicssaskatoon.blogspot.com/) so I wrote that up while I was waiting for my hair to dry, after I'd run out of supplies to finish doing the statements. I love writing about dancing ... so I was thrilled to be asked.

Dancing last night was fun, fun, fun. My private lesson - great. Group lesson number one - I kept up (I'm still learning the lead, so I truly belong in the beginner class). Group lesson number two - my feet were starting to ache and the dancing was becoming much harder for a beginner leader in an intermediate class. But I persevered. The best part of the evening was the people. I love visiting with my fellow-dancers and I feel such a part of the group atmosphere. I was the last one out the door last night. I could have chatted all night.

Yesterday, I wrote an exam at school that I have been studying for all week. I kept forgetting that I couldn't go to school today so I thought I'd write the exam today. But I wanted to get it done before the week ended (for my sanity's sake). So ... I wrote it.

I struggled with the Lab Exercise at the end of the book. I really struggled with the practical part of the pre-test exam. But I worked my way through both of these monumental challenges and I thought 'If I can do that, I can do anything' ... so I wrote the test.

I felt like I had aced the exam and was so grateful that I had forged ahead. Then, the final score appeared before me. Ten percent higher than I needed to pass the exam ... but also ten percent short of the goal that I had set for myself. I was deflated.

My average plummeted four percent because of this exam. But it is my hope that it was one of the harder courses (the third level of 'Excel' ... I learned things that I have never heard about before). Oh well. It is done. Time to pull up my socks and do better from from this point on.

Now I have today. A full day to keep forging on to the next challenges of the week. Book keeping work will soon be arriving. I can keep puttering with my Christmas cards. I finally have the time and money to go shopping for some things that I have been putting off for the past month. The day should be broken up into many different pieces so that I can accomplish a little of this and a little of that.

It felt good to have a busy week. When I have too much time on my hands, I accomplish very little. But give me deadlines and short periods of time where much is expected and I can usually achieve what I set out to do.

This is the pace that I need in my life. It was a very good week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's Starting to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

A little bit of snow and cooler weather has put a little bit of 'Christmas' into my step.

I've had the house decorated for several days now, but finding a few treasures in amongst a box of decorations that I hadn't looked at until yesterday, added a little bit of wonder to my treasure cove of 'Gifts From Christmas Past'.

I have amassed quite a collection of Christmas decorations over the years. I don't spend money on decorations (just ask any of my kids, they will vouch for my Scrooge-like-ways when it comes to falling into the spell of Christmas marketing). But I have received many Christmas ornaments as gifts.

What I enjoy most, is my collection of angels. I have several angels that I keep on display year-round. I love the feeling of a world where I'm watched over by angels.

Each angel I've received has been a gift. Just like the angels here on earth, that gave them to me. My friends.

Many of my angels have a fibre optic light that makes them glow. I love the lights of Christmas ... my most special glowing angels are my favorite treat.

I have my favorite Rosie Christmas CD's in my car and I'm singing my way into the season. As I sat at a light yesterday morning, with my rockin' Christmas songs resounding within (and outside of) my car, a pedestrian waved at me as he made his way across the street. I smiled to myself and thought 'It must be the music' ...

There is a fluffy white ground cover this morning and it looks kind of pretty. Of course, the Scrooge in me thought 'Another chore to do tonight ... shovelling the walks'.

As I go about the chores that this season brings, I will keep my heart full of the gifts of this season. As I gaze into my china cabinet that displays my many Gifts From Christmases Past, I will think of the friends and family that are sprinkled throughout my life.

I have a specially decorated Christmas tree ornament that I have placed in a wine glass to give it the attention it deserves. A handmade ornament that says ''Special Friend''. I gaze up to the top shelf where I have my family photos displayed. And beside one of my favorite photos of my sisters and me, I have a tiny little angel that says "My Sister, My Friend".

I am graced by many gifts. None of which come wrapped in shiny paper. It is my friends and my family that make this season special. They are the gifts I treasure every day of the year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So I Thought I Could Dance

I went to "So You Think You Can Dance" (an early Christmas gift from Second Son). And all I can say is "WOW!" I know they can dance.

As I putter around with my dance lessons, a few things start to stick after a while. But all in all, it is ballroom dancing. For the most part, I am following the leader. Maybe a lot is familiar to me because I have repetitively done something ... but I am following. I don't think I can dance.

I watched the fast feet, the amazing choreography, the way these young dancers put their heart and souls into their dancing and I marvelled at it all.

The evening started with a perfectly choreographed group formation dance. Having been part of a formation dance group myself and knowing the vision that our instructor has for us when we are learning our parts, I had an appreciation for the dance.

There are so many elements that I heard our instructor tell us he was aiming for ... confusion, then order ... breaking off into parts where half the group do one thing, the other half do another, then BAM! Everyone is in sync again. Individuality among the group. Technique! technique! technique! You think when you are part of a group of 10 people, that no one would notice. I sure noticed last night.

One person didn't stand out from the group because they were all powerful dancers. You noticed what was meant to be noticed. The artistry of the choreography - the dance as a whole. It was poetry in motion, to the beat of the music as this group danced as one. Amazing.

Then they coupled off and kept entertaining us. A nonstop flow of dancing. I was familiar with some of the dances, some were new and kind of funky to me (but still entertaining to watch) ... all of it was amazing. I wished that I had a score card along with me to see how many times each one of them danced. Sure the dances were brief, but you should have seen their feet move! There was an incredible amount of footwork and dance moves to be memorized. Oh, the elasticity of those young minds! Minds that most likely have been geared towards dance since they were young children. Minds that aren't consumed with squeezing in time for dance in between work, kids, budgeting, errands and all of life's other obligations. Minds that are focused on the task at hand. Dancing.

As I watched each one of the solo routines, I couldn't help but think of the hours that I used to spend in my bedroom in my pre-teen years. Dancing. This was almost 40 years ago. I turned on my music - loud. And I danced. I choreographed many solo routines and I put my heart and soul into them. I dreamed of a day when I would be 'famous' and dance in front of an audience (okay, okay ... in my young, childish mind I was also part of a duo like Sonny and Cher). But I was a star in my mind. I was doing what hadn't been done before. I was dancing my solo routine in front of millions.

I couldn't help but think back on those childhood dreams and think that in some small way, I have accomplished a part of that dream. I dance. I would love to have a life style that afforded the opportunity to lose myself in the world of dance. I watched those athletic young dancers on the stage last night and thought of other types of dance lessons that I would love to take. Then ... I thought of the reality of how I stumble through the elementary dance patterns that I am learning right now. And I thought: are you crazy? But then I thought "No" ... I have the desire to stretch my abilities beyond where they are right now. I may not have the time or money to pursue everything that I wish that I could. But I can most definitely make the most out of what I already have.

Yes ... I thought I could dance. But ... I know I could learn to dance better.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Quiet Thoughts

My head was awake long before my alarm went off this morning. Even so, I revelled in just lying still (long after my alarm went off), enjoying the warmth ... the quiet ... the peace of mind.

I am sitting here with my coffee, sitting in the glow of our Christmas lights. No other lights. This ... is what I love.

I have a myriad of thoughts wafting through my mind ...

As I looked at the burn (this time it's not a cooking burn ... though don't ask me how I did it ... I burnt my neck) that is almost healed and at the small gash on my hand (I stabbed myself with an Exacto knife ... amazing how quickly and how much one bleeds when you do that) ... and I thought of the cold that I thought I was going to have to battle last week (as I suffered with a sore throat during the nights) ... I marvelled at my body's ability to heal itself.

Our bodies are amazing when they are in good working order. The healing powers that we carry within ... the antibodies that wage wars for us and make us well. Our brain that is the nerve center of it all and carries the messages to various parts of our body to 'do what has to be done'.

Yes, when our bodies work according to plan, they are a wondrous things.

Then ... when they don't, we have a medical system in place that can (often) spot what needs to be fixed ... and it can (often) offer solutions on how to fix it.

As I wrote that, I couldn't help but think of the people that I know that have varying health challenges that they face every day.

The diseases that are chronic and become a way of life. Hearts that need medical attention. Tumors and cancers that have tried to take up residence within. The deterioration that comes with the wear and tear that we put our bodies through. The after effects of fighting off a virus (shingles comes to mind, as I know a handful of people who have been affected with that this year).

As I sit and reflect on the people who are battling various conditions, I'm reminded how very fortunate I am to have a body that is in good running order.

We are very fortunate when our doctors can pinpoint exactly what is wrong with a body part and fix us up. Though every surgery carries risks, the potential of a positive outcome is high in a lot of cases. Although it is very minor in comparison, I can't help but think of the gratitude that I felt when I walked into the hospital feeling pretty rotten one day ... and walked out (after hernia surgery) the next afternoon feeling a little tender from surgery, but I knew that the underlying cause of my discomfort was eradicated. It was a miracle.

There are those that wake up every morning knowing that they must find a way to best manage their symptoms, for which there is no magical surgery to erase the source of their discomfort. Yet many times what I see within those people is an amazing ability to forge on.

Yes, as I gazed at the gash on my hand and the healing burn on my neck ... I was grateful. And I am thinking about those who are facing their own personal battles. They are the true heroes in my mind.