Friday, June 29, 2012

It Looks Like I Made It ...

I have graduated from my first school-year at my new job.

I walked out the door yesterday afternoon with a school-year of 'firsts' under my belt. I have learned a lot. I have a lot yet to learn. I have made mistakes and I have learned from them. There are several things that I would do differently if I was to do it all over again ... but then again, there were lessons to be learned by doing things the way I did. It's all good ...

Ten months of uncertainty has led to two months of summer holidays. Two more months of not quite knowing what the day will bring. It isn't the summer holiday of my youth, but it is a change.

My school-year ended with a phone call from the principal of the school that I have been working at. I was offered a position at their school for the upcoming school year. It is 1.5 days a week ... but it is 1.5 days of knowing where I am going, the people that I am working with and a good idea of the job that I am doing.

It is a start. It is hope. It is symbolic of what lies ahead. It is another new beginning. It is good. I am pleased ... and I am grateful.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Watch Your Thoughts

Watch your thoughts ...
they become words.

Watch your words ...
they become actions.

Watch your actions ...
they become habits.

Watch your habits ...
they become character.

Watch your character ...
it becomes your destiny.

~ Author Unknown

(I tried google to find out the author of these words and I found: Unknown; Lao Tse; and Mahatma Gandhi ... so I stopped looking for more options. It is important that you know that the words are not mine and I tried to give credit where credit was due. But couldn't).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Weekend is Not a Weekend ...

... when you have to work both days.

The hours before the morning/early afternoon shift are spent in count-down mode. How much longer until I must go to work? What can I get done with the time I have on hand? Is it worth starting doing anything that I can't finish? Tick ... tick ... tick ...

... the morning slips away.

The hours after the late afternoon shift is over (which is extended when asked if you can work a little longer; then you stick around to try and finish something before you leave your co-worker fighting against the clock to do what is expected), are spent finding nourishment of some sort and showering off 'the day'. Anything accomplished after that point is pure gravy.

... then you sleep.

It is an anxiety-ridden siesta as you can't stop the day from whirling past your eyes when you close them. It would be easier if you didn't have to go back to work the next morning. But you do. So you dream of the day over and over and over again.

... you wake up and try to give yourself the time you deserve in the morning.

Time for 'me' things. Reading, writing, doing word puzzles, puttering ...

But the phone rings at 8 a.m and they ask if you can come in an hour and a half early. Grateful as you are, that you have been given two hours notice of this change of schedule ... you wonder. This has only just begun. What is in store from here on???

The schedule change also includes an extra half-hour tacked on to the end of the day. Dare you hope that this means they will not ask you to stay longer than that?

Rinse and repeat the previous night.

Only your sleep is haunted by what you must get done at your other job. One more week where the two jobs collide. I am grateful that this cycle did not begin any sooner than this.

But I can't wonder ... how and when will all of this end???

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Day That I Needed

I couldn't pry myself out of bed yesterday morning. I was so exhausted that I felt on the cusp of being ill (this is a sensation that passes the moment my feet hit the floor so I know it is all in my head ... or lack of sleep??). I looked at Andre, our cat, who was 'at one' with My Youngest and his bed. I told him, "I think I'm going to have a Cat Day if I don't have to work today " A day where you find a sunbeam, a couch and doze in and out of consciousness. All day. Then all night.

I think that I may have cried if I had gotten called in to work at that point of the day.

In reality ... I would have agreed to work (at my first job), put in my day and at the end of it I would have been grateful for the way it turned out. There is a little treasure hidden among every day at my job despite the fact that it is still rather unpredictable.

But! The phone didn't ring and as the clock inched closer to 8:00 a.m., I had the feeling that I got the day that I was hoping for.

My Youngest Son has lost interest in all available lunch foods. Since we were only four days away from the last day of school, I offered to pick up some lunch and bring it home for him. I didn't have to ask him twice. We had a date!

So ... my 'challenge' was to do what I had to do and be back home by 11:45 a.m.

My to-do list consisted of: getting groceries. My want-to-do list consisted of: trekking over to a used book store to see what good reads I could find for the summer (and for an aunt who is back in the hospital). My pure-indulgence desire was: to do something to treat myself.

Am I just a little bit pouty because I worked last Saturday & Sunday at my second job and I'm booked to work today & tomorrow as well? In a word? Yes.

Seven day work-availability is for the birds. I want to shout "I QUIT!" at the top of my lungs. But I settled for making myself unavailable to work at my second job for the July 1st long weekend. Mom is coming out Sunday night (tomorrow) and I just want to keep that weekend free so that we can play things by ear. And so that I can just ... breathe.

But since they do actually pay me to work there, I decided to indulge myself in a little bit of pampering with my second income. Lucky for me, a new salon opened up in our neighborhood. They do hair and all of the esthetics menu of goodies. I ran my fingers through my hair ... then looked at my toes that needed to be tended ... and at the shabby cuticles on my hands ... and opted for HAIR.

I called to see if they had an opening. And I was asked, "When would you like to come in?" It sounded like the day was wide open. So I took a risk and asked about the price of getting a color and highlights. The price was reasonable. She had the time. And so did I. I booked an appointment for 1:00 and thought to myself "My second job will pay for this extravagance!"

Once that appointment was booked, the day took off. I ran my errands and was home with our lunch with minutes to spare. I had time to eat lunch, return a phone call ... and I was soon strolling over to my date with a hair stylist!

It was a most pleasant way to spend an afternoon! My stylist didn't have other people booked in while we waited for the color to set (or whatever it does), so we had coffee and visited like old friends. Between the cup of caffeine, the psychological lift one gets from getting their hair cut and colored; and the company ... I walked out of that appointment with more life in me than I have had in a while. Yes. Two hours of pampering was definitely what the doctor ordered!

Yes ... a Cat Day was originally all that was on my agenda. But I feel ever so much better for having spent the day in a mildly productive manner. And the best reward of all? A little bit of pampering.

When you feel a little out of sorts and like you are being pulled in too many directions ... a small bit of pampering goes a long way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

To Award or Not to Award ...

In this world of political correctness and success at all costs, have celebration ceremonies lost their lustre?

The Grade 8 Graduation Ceremony has been genetically altered to a Grade 8 Farewell. Students are acknowledged for 'putting in their time' at elementary school in lieu of graduating.

School is geared for success these days. I agree with the concept. But when students that are struggling with the academics of learning are moved through their education according to their age instead of their abilities ... is this a good thing?

I agree that the social aspect of moving along with your peers is something that bears consideration. But should it be a blanket decision for all students? Shouldn't each student and situation be based on individual needs and what is in the best interest for that student?

I attended my Youngest Son's Grade 8 Farewell ceremony last night. I have done this twice before when my Oldest Sons graduated (yes, they used the word 'graduate' in those days) from the elementary school system and onto high school. Each of these ceremonies struck an emotional chord within me.

Perhaps it was because each of my sons had challenges in their elementary years and due to circumstances beyond their control, they struggled.

My Oldest repeated the second grade and he went through his entire school life saying "I'm in Grade __ ... but I should be in Grade __ (the grade above)". I am certain that he could tell you all of the reasons that it is important (socially) to move along with your peers. But because he repeated a grade that was vital to learning the basics on which the rest of his education was based, he succeeded academically. As a parent, I was quietly relieved ... because he had a one year advantage to better equip him with the peer pressures.

My Middle Son struggled with school but did not fall in the spectrum of any learning ability that was making this a challenge. So my mom subsidized the cost for him to attend an out-of-school, after-school-hours tutorial type of school to assist those who struggled academically. Yes ... my son moved along with his peers. But he struggled to keep up and succeed. Personally, I think that his state of feeling overwhelmed was at the core of some of the phone calls I received from his teacher in elementary. School does not hold a lot of fond memories for him.

Yet ... the Grade 8 Graduation ceremonies for each of them was a memorable occasion. Why? Because each of them were acknowledged for a challenge they overcame (I believe that, in part, is the reason behind the French Award that My Oldest received) and what they were successful at.

The presentation of these awards were preceded with an explanation of what the award was, what qualities they were looking for in the recipient and then before the actual presentation of the award, they described the student's qualities who was receiving the award. I felt the drum roll in my heart. When the award was presented, my heart swelled with joy as their lives passed before my eyes and I saw all that they overcame to achieve this.

My Youngest Son has had an easy go of it so far. Our home life is calm, stable and supportive. He catches on to the academics of school easily. He enjoys sports and has a flair for the arts (especially drama). He is a good citizen at his school. He does small things that make a big difference in his community. That ... is just who he is.

This year, he made a conscious effort to make it a memorable year. He ensured that he was involved in what was important to him. Right from the onset of the school year, he made it his goal to have perfect attendance for the year. He succeeded in his goals.

Last night, I had few expectations but I was hopeful that the ceremony would feel up close and personal. This is the last Grade 8 ceremony that I will attend as a mother. That sentiment alone should have made this a momentous occasion.

But it wasn't.

My number one complaint is that I could barely hear what was being said. The vast majority of the ceremony was in the voice of the students. Unfortunately we couldn't hear a lot of the voices. Half way into the ceremony someone had the bright idea to turn up the volume on the speakers. The other half of the frustration was with the unending voices of the children in the audience. If I have one suggestion for these ceremonies, it would be to strongly encourage a quiet audience. Provide childcare or make a concerted effort to ensure the adults in the audience are able to hear over the small children (this really irks me and I can still feel a residual grudge this morning).

The farewell program (from what I could tell) was thoughtful and highlighted each student equally. As each student went up to accept their certificate, the student preceding them described who they were; their likes & dislikes; their hopes and dreams. It would have been nice to hear all of them ...

Then as (what appeared to be an afterthought) the ceremony was winding up, they had a few awards to hand out. The only word that I heard to describe the first one, was 'proficiency'. Oh. With little fanfare and an unmemorable description of the award, two female students were called up to accept this award. Then there was one more. I thought I heard the word 'Kinsmen' ... that's all I made out before My Son and another boy's name were announced and they went up and touched the award and went back to their seats.

What just happened here???

As the vice principal came up and congratulated My Son after the ceremony, I asked him what the award was for. I was dumbfounded when I heard his (lack of) answer.

He stumbled and fumbled over the words and said words like: overall; community; academically; and a few more words that I have forgotten. He said that the school had made the decision not to have any awards and an organization "Kids Up" (????) approached the school and insisted that they had this award that they wanted to be given. They didn't have the plaques made up in time (they hope they will deliver them before school ends next week), nor did they have a presenter for the award. But they insisted ... so the school obliged. Even though their heart was not in it.

Am I proud of my son for receiving this acknowledgement? I think so. I feel like I should make up words to describe why he received it. But it was an honor to hear that he stood out in a positive way.

What the school decided to do in lieu of awards, was to put stickers on the individual student's certificate to acknowledge the areas in which they were award-worthy. Do I agree that these acknowledgements be made on an individual basis? Definitely. How can you give one award when there are a dozen worthy students? How can you discern the vast differences as to why one student should receive this acknowledgement over another? If one percentage point makes a difference as to who receives an award over another ... it doesn't encompass the individual efforts required. Yes! Acknowledge all students for what they excel at.

But to me, there is one acknowledgement that could and should have been made. Attendance. Yes ... there are a wide and vast array of reasons why some students must miss school. But after a year of being responsible for taking attendance calls and following up on unexcused absences ... I am quite biased in regards to this matter.

Reasons that I have heard for students being absent:
  • (s)he's tired
  • I can't make her/him go
  • they don't have mitts/boots/appropriate clothing
  • grandma/cousins/family are in town
  • we are going out of town
  • family vacation to an exotic (out of country) location
  • extra-curricular activities (in the old days, didn't that mean AFTER school?)
  • a sibling's tournaments
  • they don't have a way to get to school
  • I need them at home to help out
  • ... and that is just to name a few ...
There are as many or more legitimate reasons. And yes, anything can come up at any time that no one could ever plan for. Life is like that. But when parents don't make attendance a priority in their own life ... what kind of example are they setting?

That is why I think that there is one award that is politically correct to acknowledge. Attendance. Even my mom received the Perfect Attendance award for every (?) year she bowled. Why not at school?

My Son told me that they were told at the beginning of the year, that they would come up with a special acknowledgement for those that had perfect attendance for the year. My son was inspired by another student who had perfect attendance for four years. He made up his mind and achieved his goal. What was the special acknowledgement?? Pizza lunch. Oh.

Well, my son ... this is real life. You must set your own sights and standards high. Reach for the stars and believe anything is possible. You will find your rewards as you go along ... but most of them will come from doing your personal best and giving yourself credit where credit is due. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge every small victory.

The reality is that awards aren't given out for life successes. That is why it is so important to acknowledge the little things that people do when ever you have an opportunity. We all need a little encouragement from time to time.

Eighty percent of success of success is just showing up.
~Woody Allen

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Because I Didn't Make My Lunch ....

If I would have made my lunch yesterday ... I would have missed a chance encounter with some friends that I worked with a lifetime ago.

As I was standing in the line at Tim Hortons waiting for my sandwich, I recognized the person who walked in. We worked together for a few years before My Youngest was born and came to know each other well. Each of us shook our head as we turned back the clock about 16 years and neither of us could disguise our pleasure as we greeted each other.

We barely said hello and she said, "You remember Bonnie? ... she is right over there!" I had no place that I needed to be (I usually eat my sandwich in the car as I drive back to work, so no one suspects my take-out-food addiction), so the three of us sat down and had lunch together.

It was light. It was easy. It was fun. We caught up and heard little snippets of where life has taken us and where we were 'at' in our lives.

Two of the three of us have changed career directions since we last knew each other. One had divorced. One had a child (albeit 14 years ago!). Our children had grown up, gotten educated, pursued careers, married and had their own children. A lot changes over the course of a year ... let alone 15 or more.

But when we sat down and talked, it was as if no time had passed. I felt like the 'me' that I was when I knew them.

I met 'Bonnie' 24 1/2 years ago. She worked at the very first branch that I had ever worked at after our move to our New City.

At the time, my score was pretty high on the 'stress survey'. Within four months I: had a baby; separated from my husband; suffered the death of a parent; moved to a new province; and started a new job. Not to mention, a few financial challenges due to 'all of the above'. I didn't talk much in those days and the people who I worked with knew very little about my story.

About four years ago, I wrote a blog post that mentions a story that Bonnie told one day when three of us went out for coffee:

"Three people who were each dealing with very stressful problems (at the time I was told this story the 3 of us sitting at the table were dealing with cancer, a child with serious health issues and the after effects of an abusive marriage), once went to a very wise man and asked for him to take their problems away. The wise man agreed and each of them were immediately rid of their problems. But what they got in exchange was one of the other problems the other people were living with. After a short time, these same three people returned to the wise man and asked for their original problems back."

It was one of those knee shaking and thought altering conversations that you never forget. I often think of that conversation and the three of us that sat around the table that day.

Yesterday before I left, I mentioned that this truly felt like a déjà  vu moment. Three of us sitting around a table at a coffee shop. Talking of things that mattered and simply enjoying each other's company. The moment was much lighter yesterday than it was when we had that original conversation. But I had the opportunity to tell Bonnie that I often thought of that conversation and the story she told us that day.

Sometimes life just opens itself up to golden opportunities. A chance to thank someone for making a profound difference ... 24 years later.

If I would have made my lunch yesterday, this chance encounter would not have happened. My laziness and Tim Hortons addiction set the stage for a most memorable lunch date!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Look in the Rear View Mirror

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to (literally) see how far I've come these past two years ...

Two years ago, I wrote this post: Return to the 9 to 5 . I was so close to the end of my schooling that I could almost reach out and touch it. My future ... and what I thought it would be.

Did I have a clue of the reality that I would soon be living? Not an iota. But I had my education, my diploma, a brain full of freshly learned knowledge and I was on my way!

A diploma does not guarantee success. My goals took a detour but I was still fueled by the knowledge that I had taken and succeeded in learning all about the Microsoft Office applications. I had the education. I was armed and ready for my future. Whatever that may be.

Yesterday, I met a lady who was just completing her work practicum for an Admin Assistant course. She was working within Microsoft Word and was stuck when some formatting issues prevented her from completing a simple task. She was so disappointed in herself because "... I should know this! I just completed a course all about this ..."

For the first time in two years, I was the one with some answers. I reassured her that all that she has recently learned has given her the tools to really begin to put this textbook knowledge to practical use. I assured her that she will learn far more as she goes along. We talked about trial and error ... and the beauty of the 'Undo' button and the ability to save a document and try whatever we think may work ... and not losing all of the work we had already done.

We are both 'mature' students of life. Both of us are stepping into a brand new world that we are not entirely familiar with. She talked of the steep learning curve that she felt when she returned to school. I warned her that there is another steep learning curve ahead of her when she starts her next job.

An education doesn't give you all of the answers. It opens doors and gives you new opportunities to learn. The learning does not end once you have that diploma in hand. If you are lucky, the learning never ceases. Your ability to learn as you go, think on your feet and trust that you have the tools to take you where ever you dream is just the beginning.

I hope that this lady has the same zest and enthusiasm that I felt when I wrote that blog post two years ago. I hope that she can weather the winding road ahead. I hope that she doesn't encounter as many twists and turns as I did. But if she does ... I hope that she remembers the small victories that I talked about as I gave her the Reader's Digest version of my life-after-my-education.

I looked at this lady and saw myself. I saw how far I have come over the past two years. I still don't have all of the answers, a secure future or even a full time job. But these past few years have taught me things that you can only learn by living the dream and giving it your best shot.

It was like looking in a rear view mirror. Now that I've had a time to appreciate and reflect on my most recent round of 'education', I am ready to look ahead and keep following this road ...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Little Things Go a Long Way

A little goes a long way when it comes to praise.

I take my responsibilities at work seriously. When I was told what the expectations were I set my sights on achieving or surpassing their expectations. These days, I settle on achieving expectations.

One of my jobs is putting together the school newsletter. It goes out to every parent, staff member, board member, etc ... at the school.

As a parent who has received newsletters for the better part of the past 28 years or so, I can honestly admit that I have taken those communications for granted. The only time I took note is when they were lacking.

The school that I work at takes their newsletter very seriously. It is the image of the school ... and we want to portray our school spirit and pride. And so I do my best to do my part.

Yesterday ... one of the parents sent some words of acknowledgement about our newsletter. My part in the process is in the layout, attention to detail, making it 'pretty' and such. The content is a school-wide effort, though our principal puts her heart and soul into whatever she submits. The final product is a combined effort.

After two months of fine-tuning the art of putting out a newsletter and wondering if I was 'meeting expectations', these words were perfectly timed. I don't need much to keep going. I just need a little.

I was grateful that someone took a few minutes out of their day to tell us that they appreciate our efforts.

Let positive words flow like a waterfall in your life. Little things go a long way. Spread the word ...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dear Mom,

I don't have enough time & energy for both a blog post and a letter to you this morning so I am combining the two. Your letter will be my blog post for today. 'The world' is reading this, so I must be private and write in code. After all, I have never forgotten your words of wisdom (slightly paraphrased and passed along from your mom if I remember correctly) - "Be careful what you put in writing ... you never know who could read it one day".

First off, I must explain and apologize for the lack of blog posts that I will be enclosing with this letter. I didn't censor &/or hold anything back ... I simply ran out of words. And energy. I wrote your letter last Monday and that was all I had until Wednesday. Then I wrote an email on Wednesday and I was out of time and words until Thursday. Trust me, there is nothing to read between the lines that weren't written. I just didn't have the imagination to turn 'nothing' into 'something' this week.

Well, Mom! I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. A cat. I look at Andre and I want his life. I know it must not be easy for him to find new and improved ways for us to admire and adore him ... but he does it all of the time.

Andre is quite enamored with my Middle Son's girlfriend and I think he is a little bit in love. We aren't sure if he is trying to get her to love him more than she loves her dog (or my Middle Son!) ... but he is sure turning on the charm. I know this is a G-rated letter (and blog), but last week? He literally made his way 'under the covers' and was sleeping with her when my Middle Son came home. Of all the nerve!!

But Andre doesn't want My Youngest to feel left out, so makes his demands to be loved and admired as he literally gets 'in his face'. Yes, he will head butt My Youngest in the face and then start to groom him. He has even perfected the art of licking My Youngest's hand and then he will rub his (Andre's) own face against his freshly washed hand and 'washes' his face with a human hand. It is quite an art.

Oh ... and this sleeping 'sickness' that I have? I am thinking that perhaps it is on the spectrum of 'narcolepsy' ... I would call it 'catolepsy'. I can sleep exactly the way Andre does. I can nod off to sleep at any given moment but my senses are (almost always) on high alert. Even if I am startled awake, I can fall back to sleep within minutes. I can sleep all day (like Andre), and sleep through the night (though I may get up and wander half way through) ... but easily drift off again once I snuggle back into bed. And I am fully functional and alert when I am awake. It's just that when I find a soft couch and a sunbeam ... I can barely resist the allure. So if I start drifting off to sleep when you are talking (as I have been known to do), just remember it is the 'cat' in me. I'm on my way to becoming who I really want to be!

Well??? I put in two, 5 hour shifts at my second job this weekend. I work at my regularly scheduled job today. I have no idea what tomorrow brings ... but if I don't work, I have an opportunity to meet up with a friend. But, ten hours at my second job equals almost the same pay as seven hours at my Monday - Friday job ... so if I was to get called into work at Job #1 tomorrow, I would earn almost as much as I made by working all weekend ... so I would have to say yes. The sad part? My Brother made about the same rate when he was in training at one of his jobs. When will I finally get a real job with real pay and benefits??? Do you see why I want to be a cat ...

I did do one wise thing with the weekend. I prepared part of our supper before I left for work yesterday. Baby potatoes all ready to be thrown on the BBQ; a Japanese salad (the dressing was made and just had to be added before the meal); and marinated chicken in the fridge. I was scheduled to work until 5:00 but that got changed to 6:00 at some point throughout my shift. But I didn't have a chance to get to a phone and let anyone at home know that I would be late. And I was even later than that because I didn't notice the time and it was almost 6:10 by the time I noticed ... then I chatted with the girl that I had been working with and it was getting close to 6:30 when I got home. But ... (and this is a good 'but') the best part of all of this, is when I got home supper was cooked and just being served. I didn't have to do a thing but dish up a plate. I tell you ... it sure beat McDonald's. And that is saying a lot. It was a very good way to wind up the weekend.

Well, our Mother-Daughter outing is a week from today. I'm sure I'll be hearing from you before then to confirm your arrival date. Unfortunately, I cannot get out of working Job #1 on Monday. I don't think. I will do some checking ... (maybe I could switch days???) ...

I don't have much more to add to this letter/blog post unless I start making things up. So I shall wind this up and get ready for my day. I must go to work and get the newsletter out today. One more newsletter until the end of school. I can't wait!

See you soon!!

Daughter #3 (if only I were a cat ...)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Whisper of Discontentment

New jobs. New people. New expectations.

I put in a second shift at my second job yesterday. I kept busy every minute that I was there. I was told what to do. I did it. I was given more to do. All day. I was offered little tips and tricks to make what I was doing go more efficiently. It was a good day.

New people. Little whispers became louder as the day progressed. The morning shift against the afternoon shift. Different personalities. I was grateful for the fact that I knew none of the reasons for their biases. At one point I replied, "That is what I like about being new. I don't know anything about anyone."

In the fourteen years since My Youngest was born, I have not had a 9 to 5; Monday to Friday job.

I had my daycare where I had many, many personalities to contend with ... but they were young and impressionable. We went through many growing pains, but for the most part I never felt that there was an 'us' against 'them' mentality.

I had my Saturday job. When you work one day a week you aren't drawn into the office politics. Oh, I heard a few things that went in one ear and out the other. I enjoyed the adult interaction without becoming emotionally involved.

My year of schooling was a solitary time. We all worked independently and chit chat in the study area was quietly discouraged. I took a half hour break and never seemed to sit with the same people. There were undertones of discontentment within the school but I steered clear of all of that. Once again, I was an island.

Then came my at-home-turned-out-of-my-home bookkeeping career. Other than the input and direction from my boss, I was on my own again.

A person becomes accustomed to becoming a lone wolf on the work front. I drew what I needed from the people and environment around me but I appreciated not being drawn into the workplace dramatics.

I have been back in the work force for ten months. Eight of those months have been as an on-call substitute. I work all over the city, from office to office, with a new set of people and dynamics on a regular basis. Two of those months I worked within the same office and they were the toughest two months that I have yet to endure.

Office politics. Cliques. Talk behind one's back. Snippy and snide comments made among the 'team'. I don't get it. I do not want to become a part of that.

Five hours into my second shift of my second job and people were openly revealing their discontentment to me. My force field is up and I'm deflecting the negativity. But it is exhausting.

Ten months into this 'new direction' of mine ... and the more I see of it, the more I want to go back. Back to the world of working within my home and doing whatever it takes to pay the bills.

This morning I had a vivid dream. I was running my daycare again. It wasn't easy. It wasn't fun. But I didn't have anyone dragging me down. No whispers of discontent. It wasn't a walk in the park ... but compared to the past year? Given a choice ... it was where I would choose to be.

Friday, June 15, 2012

An Empty Slate

An empty canvas. That is what my day was until a few minutes ago. What is empty one moment begins to fill up, the next.

When the phone didn't ring at 6:30 a.m. with a call to go to work, my mind started filling the day. How could I make the most of the day in front of me? I have wasted far too many days. How can I overcome that bad habit with summer holidays looming another set of unknown months ahead? Where do I begin? When does this end?

The phone rang at 6:45 a.m. and gave my day direction. I now think that I know where this day will begin. As long as the phone doesn't ring again and change that direction.

I have to work at my second job this weekend. I thought that they had given up on me when I was unavailable to work for three hours on Saturdays (while I was taking a course). But they called and scheduled me to work on both Saturday and Sunday. I wish that I felt overjoyed at this prospect. I am simply relieved that I haven't had to be available to work seven days a week any sooner than this.

I glimpse into the summer months and the slate is not empty. It is not full, but I must be available to work. My only hope? That this job will come with a schedule. I hope that this is not another case of jumping every time the phone rings with an unexpected twist to the day.

I need to relearn the skill of mapping out my days ... for days on end. I want to jump out of the bed in the morning with an eagerness to start the day and accomplish what I set out to do in the day.  I need purpose.

It is nice to wake up with a free day every now and again. A day where you can go with the wind and let it unfold the way it is meant to be. But it is better (for me) to wake up with an agenda. One that I know in advance.

I know there is a lesson to be learned here. It is good to have the ability to adapt and be flexible. I just need to have a Plan B in place for those days that begin with an empty slate.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Breaking the Silence

Sometimes it is more important to simply live life, than to sit back and write about it.

I took an unplanned leave of absence from writing here for the last handful of days. My excuses range from having nothing to say ... to having too much to say.

I had target 'audiences' this week and since I seemed to be running short on words, I spent them accordingly. I wrote a letter. I sent an email.

One could quickly become accustomed to the quiet. Once you stop doing something, even if it is something that you enjoy and is good for you, it becomes harder to restart again after a period of abstinence.

I live life best when I have a good momentum going. Routines, expectations and goals keep me on track. Too much time on my hands encourages time-wasting-endeavors. Not enough time? And I manage to get things done.

I used to have some good habits that I need to reinstate into my life. Exercising first thing in the morning. Goal setting. Writing.

Summer holidays are right around the corner. I must make the most of the time that I have been given. I need to take hold of the reins of my life and get out of the ditch I've been wading through. I may not jump right onto the highway of life, but a well worn and familiar back road will take me where I need to go. Eventually.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Wonderful Week

Something wonderful has happened within me. It has been a gradual evolution but it feels solid. It feels real. It feels like I can almost hold onto it. I feel good inside. I think people call this ... happy.

They say you can't buy happiness. Well you can't chase and pin it down either. Sometimes ... you just have to sit quietly (or in my case - walk) and it wafts down and seeps back into your soul.

Yesterday was a perfect day. A day when one small idea led to another. A day when everyone was where I hoped they would be so that we could arrange a Mom & Daughter girls-night-out. Almost effortlessly. It was if it was meant to be.

This was no small feat, considering we live in four separate cities and the only date we could arrange this was taken out of our hands ... which ended up being (quite likely) one of the few days in the month that this could have possibly worked out.

It has been a week where good things happened. And then they kept on happening. And when I thought things couldn't be better ... they were. Little things. Things I didn't dare hope for, but needed seemed to find their way to me.

I feel like I've had an angel on my shoulder ... watching over me and guiding me exactly where I need to be.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Other Side of the Street

The allure of a hot dog stand and the lack of lunch in my stomach tempted me to cross the street as I was walking home from my dance lesson yesterday afternoon.

The hot dogs were $4.00. I had $2.00. So I kept walking and my detour didn't cost me a penny. But I reaped the benefits of an entirely different perspective as I continued to walk home on the 'wrong side of the street'.

The world looks so different when you take an ordinary occurrence and turn it around. I know that a lot of people are much more adventuresome than I and would have made this discovery some time ago. Not me. I like routine, ruts, same, same, same. It may add extra minutes onto the walk that I am 'timing' if I add a detour. Since I am intent on beating the clock and cutting down on the time it takes to walk the walk, I keep walking the same path.

What do I see as I am walking? I notice the street signs as I try to race to the half way point to my destination. I notice the traffic lights as I race to beat a red light. I notice the cars that are waiting for me to cross the street and other cars that have crept too far into the intersection as I try to walk in the designated 'crosswalk zone'.

I have noticed the smells of spring. They are not all good. But now that the trees are flowering there is sometimes a lingering scent wafting in the air that beats the smell of rotting garbage that permeated the air a few weeks ago.

I notice the people that I must pass on the street. Most notable are those that are smoking outside the bar/restaurant on my way home. I take note of those people more when it is getting later in the day. I notice the people that I walk past. But most of all, I noticed the lady that gained an entire city block on me as I walked in her dust on the last leg of my trek home one day.

But do I really see the sights? Do I stop and smell the roses (I sure smelled something, but it wasn't roses!)? I notice the way yards are set up ... houses that catch my eye ... but do I really focus on anything that I wouldn't see if I was driving?

I did notice one lone gopher. The first gopher I had seen all year. He looked lonely as he chirped a regular signal to his friends. I think he was saying "Where has everybody gone??" I wondered the same thing until one block later I noticed a sign warning that an area of public grass had been sprayed. Sprayed with something to deter the gopher population. Suddenly I felt very badly for this lonely gopher.

I guess I do notice a few things. Most of this is on a subconscious level as I walk the same path time and again. Even though I'm not the most astute when it comes to absorbing the details as I walk these city streets, I still appreciated the vantage point from the other side of the street.

Next time? I do believe that I will go out on a limb and walk the other direction on the other side of the street.

Evel Knievel ... watch out. This Canadian daredevil is on her way!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Power of Suggestion

My horoscope for this week has resonated with me ever since I read it. It's not that I'm really all that hung up on astrology. My take on horoscopes are that they are so general that they could really apply to anyone. But every now and again, I read one that fits like a glove.

I have been well aware of the indirect route that I have been following towards my goals. I have recognized that I have learned many lessons that I needed to know. The key word in the horoscope that put a different spin on what I have been thinking all along is the word wanted. "... the winding path is a function of destiny's intent for you to learn more than you wanted to know ..."

I have learned a few things that I didn't enjoy learning. I recognized that they were still very good lessons for me and my Middle Son told me that he was glad that I learned that the ways of the world are not always kind, fair and full of happy endings. I became more empathetic to what others were going through after I experienced a few inequities first hand.

I have learned many other important lessons. Flexibility, the ability to think on my feet, adaptability, how to take constructive criticism ... I could go on and on.

I honestly thought that the lessons were over. I had accepted my fate, learned and was grateful for all that unfolded in the end. There is usually a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is where my story typically ends. Not this time.

This time around, there isn't a happy ending in sight. This is not the lesson that I wanted. I am still striving towards my goal and I have no idea how long it will take to attain it. It may be around the corner. It may not. I must prepare myself for more rocky road if I want to keep travelling this path. Just when I think that maybe I am going against the natural flow of the way things are meant to be, a get a good dose of hope and it pushes me through another rough patch.

I have recycled and rehashed these same thoughts for the better part of the last ten months. But the phrase in my horoscope that really made me think was the last one. Destiny's intent has been for me to "... connect with people with whom you wouldn't have otherwise connected."

It made me think twice about an invitation issued by a co-worker and gave me the courage to invite another co-worker out for lunch.

Last night I went for coffee with someone I wouldn't have otherwise connected with, had it not been for this long and winding path towards my destiny. We talked like old friends and our time was up much sooner than either one of us was ready to see it end. Her parting words to me were "I think that we are going to be great friends!"

I have met many people that I would have never met this year, had life gone according to plan. I cannot help but think of the infinite ways that this could change my destiny. There is not one person that we encounter that does not affect us in some way. Big or small. The flip side of that phrase (that I rarely, if ever consider), is the difference I may (or may not) make in the lives that I touch.

One of the thought provoking questions in the movie "The Bucket List" is: "Has your life brought joy to others?" I was in a bit of a depressed state when I watched the movie (it lost its impact for me when I kept falling asleep and had to go back three more times to finally piece all of the movie together) and when I pondered that question, my answer was, "I think that my life used to bring joy to others ..." It is time to turn that phrase into the present tense.

I have had a 'needy' year. I have pulled my energy from outside sources. Though there are times when we need to lean a little and let ourselves accept a little help from our friends... there is danger in becoming dependent on that energy source. We need to be self sustaining as well.

I can feel my energy coming back to me. It has been gradually seeping its way back into my being in a way that feels like it is here to stay. It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride at times. It went from that, to being a little 'hilly'. Ups and downs ... but not too steep of an incline or a crash.

I grew up on the prairies. Long stretches of road as far as the eye can see is what I have become accustomed to. I'm ready steer my life back onto that familiar path.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Little Dab'll Do Ya

I write this in the spirit of 'ask and you shall receive' .... I have been receiving a very nice little dose of what I have been needing this past little while.

I have been fretting a lot about work lately. Should I be looking for another job? What will happen in the fall? Do I need a second job? If I don't know any of these answers, how should I make the most of the upcoming summer holidays??

Then there is the work itself. I have been beyond blessed to get a half time position until the end of the school year. I could not be working and learning in a better school. The person I am working with is meticulous and I am learning the correct way to do things. They like their newsletter to be a showcase of the school so that people who read it think 'I want my child to go to school here!' So I have had some excellent training in regards to the newsletter as well.

The unfortunate part is that I haven't been called out to very many schools lately. I have high expectations of myself, so when I am learning the correct way to do things, I strive to be perfect. This places undue stress on all of my systems (especially when it seems the harder you try not to make a mistake, the more likely you are to do so). I have been craving some kind of feedback so that I can monitor the ongoing 'where do I go from here?' dilemma.

Ask ... and you shall receive!

I worked at a different school on Friday. As always, when I run into a situation where I cannot complete 100% of what needs to be done, I left a detailed note for the secretary (admin assistant) I had replaced. I do this consistently, where ever I work. I strive to do the job that I would like someone to do for me, if I was away. Sometimes I get some acknowledgement for what I do, but more often than not there is nothing said one way or another.

Monday afternoon, I received an email from the admin assistant that I replaced on Friday. She was overly kind with her praise and gratitude. This was on top of the words of thanks from the principal and vice principal when I left Friday afternoon (it is a very rare occurrence to leave a school without an acknowledgement of gratitude). Little things. They mean so much!

Yesterday I got a last minute call to work at a school that I have worked at before. But when I arrived, I found that I was replacing the part-time secretary and I would finally have the opportunity to work with the admin assistant that I had replaced in the past. My role for the day would be vastly different as support staff (verses just trying to keep the office running in whatever capacity you can make it happen when replacing the full time admin assistant).

One of the first questions I was asked was, "Have you ever done a newsletter?" I was overjoyed to be able to answer with one simple, unqualified word. "Yes." ("!!!" I thought) And having learned from a school that strives for perfection with their newsletter, I asked almost no questions. I was on my way (and I knew where I was going!!).

The newsletter was completed, printed and on its way early that afternoon. I still had time left over to work on another job that I had been given. I worked all day and felt that I was of value. I rarely get this feeling of accomplishment in my role as a substitute. It felt a little bit wonderful.

As if that was not enough in and of itself, the admin assistant that I was working with all day told me that she would be asking for me in the future. She was grateful for all that I was trained and equipped to do, to lighten the load. Her words meant the world to me.

It was so nice to have the opportunity to get to know just a small piece of the person that I had been working with all day. She has been working at this school for 21 years ... but it has not always been easy. When she talked of the first weeks in her position, it made my appreciate the 'easy road' that I have been travelling.

Sometimes we are tested, to see what we are made of. Once challenges are overcome, the road to success becomes an option. Turning around and running the other way does not pave the way to achieving what you have set out to do.

I'm not running away. I am receiving what I need to keep me hopeful about the future. I have asked for answers to my questions. I am not receiving the specific answers that I have been seeking ... but I have been getting exactly what I have been lacking. Hope.

We all need to feel of value within our world. Be generous with your praise and positive thoughts. You never know just how much the person on the other end of that conversation may need to hear those words.

Feedback and acknowledgement. A little dab'll do ya ...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shopping - A Necessary Evil

Shopping. I dislike shopping. A lot.

Shopping has filled many needs for me in the past. I can remember one point in time when I filled the shopping cart to fill a void (much the way I now eat L ...). Other times, shopping was pure recreation. It was our family's preferred form of entertainment. There were the Dog Days of Summer when we shopped to find a cool spot to be (before the days of living in an air conditioned home). Shopping was fun.

Then there was shopping on a budget. A time when the only time I allowed myself to spend, was in the grocery store. Buying groceries was the only place where I filled my need to fork over my hard earned cash and receive goods in return for the favor. Grocery shopping became my fun.

Then there were the Daycare Days when it felt like there were simply not enough hours in the day. I investigated on-line grocery shopping at one point in time until I realized that it was not necessarily the act of shopping that I had come to despise, it was the time involved in putting everything away. I bought a lot of groceries in those days. Unpacking the groceries was a job that took as much time as going out and buying them. Grocery shopping became a chore.

Shopping has lost its lustre along the way.

Fast forward to today ... shopping in almost every form has become something that I squeeze into the cracks of life.

When I must buy groceries, I like to pick them up on my way home from work. I don't have much expendable cash these days, so I find that I am less tempted to overspend if I am in a hurry to get home. This trick seems to be working well for me.

Thank goodness for WalMart. It is the one-stop-shopping-spot that allows me to cross off many items that seem to accumulate over the month. Thankfully they have moved half-way-to-the-next-small-town, so it is a store that I never drive past on my way home from work for those quick pit stops. But when we do make the trek, it usually means that I don't have to stop anywhere else that day. And I like that. I like that alot.

Clothes shopping. Blech!! I do have one store that I gravitate towards but I cannot afford to look at clothes until they are out of season and on sale. Trust me, I have tried. But I simply cannot pay full price for these items that may or may not work for me once I take them home. Oh, what I would give for a personal clothes shopper. I do not love the way age and gravity has affected my body. But I have learned that some styles and cuts accentuate the change, while others camouflage it a little bit. I hate the time it takes to find camouflage wear ...

Shoes. Thank goodness I came upon a shoe store that specializes in hard-to-fit-feet. My feet finally have a place to call their own. But oh-my-gosh ... the prices!! I could buy half a month's worth of groceries for the price I pay for shoes that make my feet happy. But the investment will last much, much longer than the groceries do. So once I perfect the art of buying something once and not returning it a few times, this is an investment in time and money worth making.

So you can imagine the small squeal of pleasure that coursed through my veins this morning when I realized that I had a spare eyeliner pencil on hand when my current one ran out. Immediately thereafter I made a mental note that my deodorant was also running on empty and I had a vague memory of stocking up on that when it was on sale as well. Then I proceeded to fill up the empty soap container with the back-up supply of liquid soap ...

Oh, how I appreciate the warehouse system of supplies that I have on hand!! To know that (in many cases)I have a back up on hand is a luxury that not everyone can afford.

Yes, I have come to dislike shopping as a form of recreation. It is a necessary evil and it gobbles up much more of the budget than I want it to. But in the end, we have food in our fridge and cupboards; a back up supply in a closet ... we have clothes on our back; shoes on our feet and many luxury items to keep us fresh, clean and satisfy the vanity in me (the back up supply of eyeliner and eyebrow pencils is living a life of excess. I know).

We are blessed.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ask ... and You Shall Receive

I love my weekends!!

I am enjoying this life where I am not racing against the clock. I accomplished a lot more in the days when I felt the need to schedule the day so that I could fit everything into it. But this Life of Leisurely Living is quite enjoyable once you get the hang of it.

I walked everywhere I had to go on Saturday. I walked for (almost) two hours. I enjoy walking. It is quiet. I let my mind wander. I am finding the peace that I have been seeking when I walk. I need to walk more. I believe this is the the quiet place that I have needed lately. And ... my feet don't hurt!! The combination of good fitting shoes and my orthotics is a good one. I have my feet again! And this is good.

I have committed myself to a few things lately. Small things. A sign language class and Zumba classes. I don't love going to either class. But I am coming to realize that I need to push myself into doing uncomfortable things in my leisure time and succeed, so that I can take that courage and apply it to my Monday to Friday world. I have learned that uncomfortable is a good thing to overcome. Saturday, I attended both classes. And I felt like a school girl at the end of the second class. The rest of the weekend was mine, to do with as I pleased!

In this life of walking, exercising and sweating ... a shower has taken on a new meaning. It feels so good to feel clean and fresh after actually getting dirty. A shower is refreshing no matter what way you look at it, but it is somehow more rewarding to scrub off a little bit of sweat, dust and grime of a day well spent. And now that my hairstyle is finally one that requires little to no primping, washing my hair is not the chore that it used to be. So I don't avoid getting dirty the way that I did when I had High Maintenance Hair. This is very good indeed!

Saturday nights are not what they used to be. Saturday nights as a newly single person used to be tough because they reminded me of what my new life lacked. It has been so long since I felt that 'loss', that Saturday nights have become a night like any other. But this past Saturday night was kind of special. My Oldest dropped by for a visit. A friend that I hadn't talk with for a while called. My Saturday night was complete and I didn't have to do a thing but show up. I like when life comes to me ... sometimes I just don't have the energy to go out and meet it half way. I've been feeling a lot of that lately. So Saturday night was perfect. I don't mind spending the evening with my own company, but the pleasure is doubled when shared with a friend.

Sunday was to be a day of brainstorming and coming up with a plan. Instead, it was day that took on a life of its own once it got started. It was another day that I just had to show up for. It was a day when breakfast was ready and waiting for me, the moment I got up and felt ready to face the world. It was a day of easy conversation. It was a day when a few people in my world reached out to me at a time when I just didn't have the energy to find them. It was a day when my written correspondence seemed to have the words that weren't coming to me before. Perhaps it was because people that know me well gave me the springboard I needed to think the thoughts and say the words that I had been stifling.

Sunday was a day of small miracles. I received everything I needed and asked for. As if to accentuate the point, I wrote of my financial shortfall for the upcoming month and named a specific dollar amount that I was lacking. Tell me this is not a sign of Powers Greater Than Myself, when within the hour, the doorbell rang and my shortfall was covered. I quietly smiled to myself and thought '... everything is going to be okay. Ask ... and you shall receive.'

I ended the weekend with a letter to my mom. I had just talked with her on the phone, so I quite honestly didn't have a lot to write about. But she has come to expect my weekly letters to arrive on time (otherwise this is a sign that all is not well in my world and she worries), so I wrote to her anyway.

It was as I wrote her letter, that the weekend ended exactly the way I needed it to. And (as it so often happens) once I let my fingers do the talking, I found the answer I was seeking. I now know where I need to start. And I know how much I need to do this. I have a plan. I must follow through ... and once I do this, I have a strong feeling that the rest of my answers will reveal themselves to me.

The brainstorming idea that I had planned for the day blew out the window in lieu of a day where prayers were answered and opportunies arose where I could just write and talk my way through.

It was another weekend that unfolded perfectly. A weekend that was full of everything that I needed. I feel energized, inspired and ready to take on the week.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Horoscope for This Week:

"The route to your destination won't be a direct flight. You could blame timing or economic and logistical factors, but more than likely the winding path is a function of destiny's intent for you to learn more than you wanted to know and connect with people with whom you wouldn't have otherwise connected."

It kind of says it all!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Airing My Dirty Laundry

How often do you wash your sheets? I know that I learned that it should be a once-a-week chore. I used to adhere to that. But in this Life of Living Lazily, I have bent that rule.

The rule is so bent that I don't even think it exists any more. I play it by ear. If I don't crawl into bed feeling like the bedding should be laundered, I think to myself good enough. Why waste energy when it is not necessary. I call it 'living green'.

Since I gave up the habit of eating chips in bed, I rarely find that my sheets feel dirty. Since I gave up working hard and sweating, I rarely feel that my bedding even gets dirty. Since I kicked my cat out of my bedroom at night, even the cat hair isn't an issue. Since I am the sole owner and utilizer of the aforementioned bed, it seems that my adaptation of the rules-my-mother-taught-me can be adapted with the new and changing times.

The last time I washed my sheets and made the bed, one corner of the fitted sheet ripped as I was stretching it further than it wanted to be stretched. The elastic remained intact and held the sheet in place and I thought good enough ... until the next time I wash the sheets.

This morning as I laid in bed, I knew the time had come. I have washed the windows and blinds more recently than I have washed my bedding. Today was the day. Except ... I had to mend the corner of the fitted sheet first.

This should have been a quick and easy task. If I had a sewing machine, it could have been. But ever since I gave up the one and only sewing machine that sewed properly, for a used and improved garage sale model with the ultra-fancy-accessory of zig-zag ... I have not had a sewing machine that worked.

I sent my garage sale model out to be fixed, brought it home and didn't try it out again for another year or so. When I did, the tension of the thread still made a bungled mess. I believe my mom found me my next sewing machine. If I remember correctly, it was also a garage sale model. The first time that I had to change the thread, it never sewed properly again (in retrospect, I wonder if I just never did figure out how to thread the new machines??). I think I sent that out for repair. All I remember is ... I haven't had a sewing machine that sewed properly for at least 20 years.

Any mending that is done around here, is done by hand. It may not be quick and it isn't pretty. But it can be done. Thus, you can imagine the procrastination that is involved when it comes to any kind of sewing repairs.

Add my Lazy Woman's Guide to sheet washing frequency to that equation and ... Houston! We have a problem.

It took an extra dose of ambition to crawl out of bed this morning, knowing that not only did I have to wash the sheets today ... but I had to mend them as well.

Short story, even longer ... it has been three hours since I got up. And I'm finally writing this post. Need I say more?

The deed is done. Until next time.

The mended corner held while I stretched the other three corners to ease the strain on the weakest link. My bed looks exactly the same as it has every single day that preceded this dastardly deed. But when I crawl into it tonight? I shall feel like I am sleeping in a light spring breeze (if the fabric softener does everything it claims to do).

Clean windows. Clean blinds. Clean oven. Clean under the fridge and stove. Add clean sheets to that equation and .... I have a house that looks absolutely the same as it did several weeks ago.

Housework. Is it really worth it??

"There was no need to do any housework at all.
After the first four years, the dirt doesn't get any worse."
~Quentin Crisp

Friday, June 1, 2012


I got called to work today. My stomach jumped when the phone rang and hasn't settled down since.

Yesterday our school newsletter was due to go out. I woke up with a funny head 'thing' going on. It's been so long since I've had any type of head ache I didn't know what to call it. It wasn't a head ache but it felt like fists were kind of squishing my brain.

I got up anyway (assuming that a cup of coffee would cure all that ailed me) and then I was on the cusp of nauseousness.

The morning before that, my stomach was a mess. I had volunteered to help out with the Volunteer Appreciation BBQ. Something new. All I had to do was dole out macaroni salad. And I wondered if I could do it correctly ...

Every day I go to work, my stomach does flip flops. (Almost) every day I stay home, I feel a quiet relief wash over me. I am often so overcome with relief, I feel a sense of paralysis.

It's no wonder I am not relishing the idea of finding summer employment. My confidence level is better than it was ... but it is still a far, far cry from where it should be.

I know this is one of the things in my life that must stabilize or else I must change it. And the very idea of more change sends my stomach into another frenzy.

There it goes again ...

P.S. The moment I walk out the door and head out and confront these fears ... the nerves, the stomach, head and stress issues immediately dissipate. The moral to this story is that it is the lack of doing that gets my nerves all on high alert. The moment I take control and just plow through and 'do', I am fine. And I suppose even stronger because I faced up to another scary day and dealt with it ...