Thursday, February 28, 2013

Zero to Sixty

Snippet from a conversation with Mom on Sunday:

Mom: You sound good ...
Me: Yes. I am. I'm busy.
Mom: (something like) ... busy is good.
Me: Yes, but it feels like I've gone from 'Zero to Sixty' in the blink of an eye ...

As I told my Middle Son about this conversation later, I added:

Me: ...but I'd rather go 'forty'
Middle Son: No. Sixty is good!

I thought about this five second conversation with my son (he is definitely exceeding the speed limit these days as work on the basement for their new home has been in the works for the past few weekends), and I thought to myself - he is right. 'Sixty' is good.

It is just when I speed up to a hundred to fit in the good stuff, that I feel just a little busier than I would like to be. But the good things in life are worth the speeding ticket.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It Isn't Just About the Toys ... It Is About the Future

I have been investing in my daycare's future lately. A few weekends ago, I bought a few 'trunk-loads' of toys from Value Village to add a new educational and imaginative dimension to our daycare world. Last weekend, I bought a Little Tykes kitchen and a LeapPad2 for my daycare family business.

 I didn't realize it until after the fact, but the first time I ran my daycare business I was pretty much at the same point (six months in), when I took the plunge and purchased the playground equipment for the back yard. That may have been a larger investment (dollar-wise), but the significance in my mind is the same. I am IN. I am ALL in.

The first six months of Daycare - The Sequel didn't go exactly as I had thought it would. I thought that the phone would keep ringing until we had filled the house with kids of all ages. That wasn't the way it happened ... but I am beginning to think that this way is better.

I love the fact that my two, 1-year-olds are the same age. They will reach that magical age of 2 1/2 at the same time, which will allow me to take in two more children that are one year old. And if I am lucky ... very, very lucky ... maybe I will find another one-year-old duo that can grow up together like my two little one-year-old girls. Then? If everyone else continues to come here, we will have a perfect little 'family' of five preschoolers.

My two-year-old, being the kind of personality he is, simply makes a friend of anyone and everyone. I think that we needed his special brand of personality here, to make all of this come together in one cohesive unit.

I have started to recreate the parts of my Daycare - Part One that worked, while moving into Daycare - The Sequel with many lessons learned inside and outside of my previous daycare experience.

I have a renewed appreciation for the little things. We created a 'snow maze' out of the massive amount of virgin snow in the front yard. I found an old computer game for toddlers, that will teach my two-year-old how to use the computer mouse which will open up all kinds of doors for him.

 I sit and marvel at how My Youngest enjoys this young daycare family. Time and time again he tells me of the many memories that resurface as he explores the new/old toys that we bring into play here.

As it was with my Daycare - Part One, just as I was truly questioning the financial viability of running my daycare with half of the children that I had hoped to have, I was approached with the opportunity to take advantage of other income earning options during this dry spell.

The universe is allowing me to continue with my venture. Things are unfolding differently than I had hoped but better than I could have ever expected.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sometimes ... I Think That I Think Too Much

"You are thinking too much" is a comment that I have heard a number of times from my dance instructor, as I seem to forget how to follow his lead. It never fails. When I go back to listening to the music and the basic "slow, slow, quick, quick" (or whatever combination of slows and quicks to make up the steps of the dance), my job is very simple. If I relax, move my feet, listen to the music and don't over think it ... his subtle lead takes me where I need to go.

I am an over thinker by nature. I can talk myself out of most anything ... if I sit still too long with my thoughts and think too hard.

I can feel the difference in me when I fret and stew over something that (in the whole scheme of things) really doesn't matter. The fist-in-chest sensation is my first clue. The longer I think, the more anxious I get. The more anxious I feel, the more I fear making a move. That state of indecisiveness creates feelings of inadequacy. It is a place I know well.

Then came the years of simply following my whims. If I thought it, I said it out loud. I made moves to follow through on my whimsical ideas and they were the best years of my life.

Life is cyclical. The good years were followed by years of change. I followed through on some 'great ideas' that upended life-as-I-knew-it and I found myself in a foreign new land. A land where I didn't know the rules and my instincts were not keen. I lost my confidence and started thinking too hard.

It is hard to separate your worlds when your life is out of balance. Upending my work world played havoc on my contentment within my home and heart. I was fearful to step out of my safety zone and cowered inside, under the security blanket of my home. I was thinking too much. It was exhausting. So I slept.

This fall was the beginning of a great transition for me. I followed my heart (and a suggestion from a friend who has known me all of my adult life) and reopened my daycare. I took back my life and dusted off the enthusiasm that I had when I knew that I did not want to go back to working outside my home after My Youngest was born. I would do whatever it took to make this work.

I started saying "yes" to opportunities that opened doors to earning extra income and fulfilling different parts of me that needed filling up.

It happened when I wasn't even paying attention. I didn't think too hard. I just relaxed and listened to the beat of my own heart. The soundtrack of my life is leading me where I need to go. All I have to do is follow the subtle lead of where life is taking me and I will be back dancing to the beat of my own heart again.

Just for today ... don't over think your life. Relax. Dance to the beat of your heart and let it take you where you most need to be. Life's leads are subtle. You can't feel them if you think too hard. Listen. The answers are within you. Believe in them.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Right Kind of Busy

I lost my train of thought this morning. A blog post was starting to formulate in my mind ... then a stray thought must have distracted me. Because it is gone. It popped like a bubble and has vanished.

I had a most marvelous weekend. I was the 'right kind of busy'.

I had two must-do-items on my list for Saturday. I had to deliver papers and I had plans with friends for the evening. Anything else was optional. But do you know what? When an option is placed before you within a nicely defined amount of time ... it starts to feel like a game.

It was a day that I was where I needed to be when the phone rang. I would pop into the house 'for a minute' and throw clothes into the dryer one time and fold them the next. I would turn on the dishwasher one time and empty it the next. My machines did all of my work for me in my absence. I simply had to be there at the end of the cycles to finish the job. Each delay in the house meant that I was home when a friend called.

In my rush out of the driveway, I didn't look carefully for pedestrians approaching before I backed up the car. Luckily the pedestrian (my neighbor) saw me coming and paused for me to pass, as I had quite obviously not seen him coming. I went to the grocery store and minutes later, I was the pedestrian who noticed the vehicle backing up and dodged out of the way. That is how quickly life can change. Someone not paying attention could change your destiny. Thankfully, in both cases one of the parties was alert and dodged a moving vehicle. Thank you for that ....

I had to work at my bookkeeping job on Sunday. I had a list of things that I hoped to do before I left the house. My goal was to be walking out the door at 11:30. I succeeded. The only thing that I forgot to do was to eat. Or to grab some food to eat on the way to my destination. I would be working in a small office with my boss and my stomach growls very loudly when it's hungry so I decided that I must stop somewhere along the way to tame that savage beast.

I ended up taking a different route than I normally do and the only drive through restaurant that was on the right hand side of the road was a Tim Hortons. Amazingly enough, there were only a few cars ahead of me and I zipped right through. I had already drank four cups of coffee before I left the house so I did not need any more caffeine in me. But the "Roll up the Rim to Win" contest was on, so I couldn't resist. I bought a small cup. Then gave it to my boss upon my arrival. She was thrilled with my little 'gift'. I realized later, that the cup disappeared and she didn't roll up the rim. So I called her when I got home and told her the story of how everything seemed to point me in the direction of that particular Tim Hortons at that particular time. I felt that cup of coffee was destined to bring good fortune. She had thrown the cup in the garbage so that cup that had our name on it was almost on its way to the dump. She didn't call me back, so I'm guessing she didn't win anything too newsworthy. I hope she won a cup of coffee...

I had time to write this weekend. I sat down in the mornings and let my fingers take me wherever they wanted to go. I wasn't racing against the clock. I wasn't pressured with a deadline to come up with something column-worthy. I just wrote. My fingers haven't cruised over the keyboard with such ease for quite some time. I wasn't making any attempt to quiet the unspoken thoughts in my mind and my fingers had a blast. They took me places that I didn't expect to go. My subconscious mind-to-fingers connection had returned.

Something very good is happening here. It is a combination of many things. I have felt like I have been too busy. But maybe that is because I am comparing it to months (bordering on years?) of being in a couch-vegetating-state. I was doing the bare minimum to keep afloat. That state of inertia (depression?) is a dangerous place to linger for too long. Idleness was not my friend.

I am working. A lot. I am working from home and I am feeling a commitment to myself these days that I have backed up by 'investing' in my own business (my daycare). I have made some purchases lately that mirror the time when I knew that I was jumping in with both feet, the first time that I did this. Things haven't gone exactly the way I thought they would but perhaps in the long term, 'this' way is better.

I have a winning combination of responsibilities and flexibility in my days. I have a predictable Monday - Friday, 7:30 - 5:30 day job. I write and get paid for it! I am flexing my brain muscle with a little bookkeeping on the side. I am flexing my other muscles by delivering flyers and getting paid to exercise. I have the opportunity to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement with a friend and possibly do a little cleaning on the side. I am a viable working commodity these days. And it feels good.

It has been a long time since I have felt free to be me in this space. I didn't like the 'me' that I was, so I could not set my thoughts free. It feels good to be back.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Experiences

I honestly had no real concept of what I 'signed myself up for' last night. No, it was nothing too frightening or scary. Simply something new-to-me.

I don't often do 'new'. I go to the same restaurants and order the same food. All of the time. When we go away for a vacation, I am thrilled from the inside out when I discover a McDonald's and a Tim Hortons in the neighborhood. Whenever I enter a whole new world, I am looking for all that is familiar to me.

I take the same route wherever I go. Once and a while I decide to 'shake it up' a little and find a more scenic route home. Then that becomes my new norm. The same tried and true route going to my destination. The same scenic route on my way home.

Entertainment for me is dinner and a movie. Or going out for a meal. Or going out for coffee. Or getting together with friends. When a friend suggests we try to add a new dimension to our tried and true recipe, part of me is wanting to just sit still and enjoy the company and forget about the 'doing' part. But every single time we do something, it adds a wonderful new dimension to the same familiar routines.

Last night, I was invited to go to a 'House Concert' with a few friends. I had no idea what that meant other than being told that it was held in the garage in the host's back yard. I knew that the 'garage' had been used for holding training seminars prior to this so I was not expecting to sit in a rustic garage like mine. But that was about all I knew to expect.

I was told that this couple put on these 'house concerts' for artists that played to a smaller venue. I was told who would be performing but I didn't google (nor did I really even know that this performer would be googleable) him in advance.

So I sat down in this meticulously clean, bright, candlelit and finished garage (that someone could easily live in, other than the fact that there wasn't a washroom in the building). There was a nook for our pot luck refreshments and there was seating for at least 51 people (I tried counting - I could be wrong). We arrived early and got to pick the best (most comfortable) seats in the house.

Then the show began.

Our hosts were so very personable. A husband/wife duo that complimented each other and set the tone for the evening ahead. We were laughing from the onset.

Then our performers made their entrance and once again, we were laughing and enjoying the personalities of our entertainers as they segued their way into our evening's entertainment.

The music was absolutely delightful. Watching the songwriter perform to the beat of his own keyboard (while accompanied with a back-up singer that just happened to be his sister), you could feel the pulse of the music in your heart. To watch someone perform their art in such an up close and personal way, in such a small venue ... far exceeded any huge concert experience I have ever seen (not that I have much experience in that - the large concert scene is not for me).

The audience is so personable. I sat next to someone I had never seen before in my life and I could feel their eyes upon me when I laughed and conversation was easy when the intermission arrived. How can it be anything else when you share an experience that you can feel in your bones long after the music has stopped?

The artist was Jeffery Straker. His website is: . Click on some of his music. I don't know if you had to 'be there' to feel what I feel when I listen to his voice. And the keyboard ... oh, the keyboard! I love that not only do I have a face to put to the music, I have the 'intimate experience' of a house concert to enhance the flavor of his songwriting, singing and performing abilities. Plus? He made me laugh. I love to laugh. I love music. I love when I get so wrapped up in a moment that I am in awe of the talent that it takes to take a passion and put it all together in the form of an art. It was a combination of everything that makes my heart sing. Plus! I was sharing the experience with friends ...

Music brings the world together in harmony. Last night, within the confines of a garage (that could have just as easily been a living room), I experienced my first House Concert. The outside world ceased to exist. I was transported to a place where peace, harmony, goodwill and laughter reigned.

If someone invites you to experience something new, go for it! If you are brave (or lazy, like I was), go into it knowing absolutely nothing at all. Let yourself experience it like a newborn baby experiences the world.

We know and have the ability to find out almost anything we want to know about in this world of ours. It is a rare treat to experience something completely fresh and brand new, with little to taint your idea of what it could be.

"Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed."
~ Unknown

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Where Did the Darkness Go?

It came in like a fog. I can remember a defining moment at the beginning of the darkness. The fog lifted but it never did entirely dissipate. It haunted me.

When life got quiet, the fog enveloped me. I wore it like a cloak and had little desire to peek out from underneath it.

But life doesn't work that way. Not mine. Not most people's. You have to continue on through the drudgery. One day unfolds into the next and even if there is very little distinguishes one day from the next, there are commitments to be met. Bills to be paid. Life goes on. With or without you.

There were days the fog lifted. In fact, I would think that it was gone. But it wasn't. It hovered above me and couldn't wait for those quiet moments to swoop back in and draw me back into the grayness. I liked it there. It was comfortable. I felt safe.

Work. Friends. Family. Responsibilities. Commitments. They wouldn't leave me alone. Life kept pulling at me and kept me from my safe little cocoon. I went through the rigors of life but I could simply not wait for the quietness to return. The desire to crawl back in under my blanket and stay there as long as I could never quite disappeared.

That fog stole so much from me. My confidence. My enthusiasm. My creativity. My joy. It was gone. I tried to fake it 'til I made it. But faking it takes an enormous amount of energy. It wore me out. I kept up appearances but it was exhausting.

I let it out in little bits and spurts. A comment here. A blog post there. Not much. I would not allow myself to be negative unless I balanced it with positive. For as much as I let out, I masked the darkness of my reality.

I felt it in my heart. Right at the core of my being. Fear. Apprehension. Exhaustion. An eternal feeling of being overwhelmed.

This was a crazy time to change career directions. But I did it. I desperately needed to succeed at something to start redefining myself and dig myself out of the hole I had fallen into. I had a very high success rate that was offset by devastating blows to my self esteem during this time.

What do they say about needing to hear ten positive things to offset one negative (maybe 'they' don't say that - I tried googling that information to see if my memory was keen and all I found was wikipedia's definition of 'Negativity bias')? 'They' were wrong. I let three circumstances (all work related) define me. I was surrounded by positive people, I found support from co-workers that was encouraging and appreciative. Family, friends and strangers were everything I needed them to be. But I had fallen into a hole of darkness and I needed to build myself up before I could climb out. No one else could do it for me.

When did the tides change? Sometime around the time I wrote 'A Work in Progress'. I set it free when I unleashed my honest feelings. I opened the door and let in the light. From the moment the words fell out of my fingertips that January morning ... I started to feel lighter. The fog started to lift and did not fall back down on me the moment I sat still.

I cannot define the exact formula for 'what worked for me'. I started focusing on gratitude more. I started reaching out more. I started reformulating my self worth from 'where I was at' verses 'where I had been'. I was honest with myself and put a voice to it. I researched depression and took heart at the words that spoke to me about my personal situation.

'Low grade depression' defined where I had spent the better part of the past several years. I found myself within that definition. I just (now) googled the words to try and find the reference that (I believe) turned the tides for me. I didn't find the original article I read, but this is what my google search found for me to start the search:
  • "Pessimistic, grouchy, bored, blue? Chronic low-grade depression can feel so familiar you don't even know you've got it. But it's rampant among women and ..." by Tracy Thompson
  • "Are You Secretly Sad?" -
What I found, was within an article that was focusing on menopause and depression. The words I read fit me like a glove. I knew that this was 'my answer' because I had felt it once before. When I was taking birth control pills that put my body into early menopause. I was no longer the person that I used to be. When a relationship didn't survive that transition, I vividly remember him telling me, "I just want the 'you' that you used to be ..." Oh! How I wanted that too!! I so wanted the old me back.

So ... the relationship broke up. There was no need for the birth control any more so I stopped taking it. I fell into a deep abyss during that time, but eventually I found my way out. I reinvented myself, fell in love with my life, started making 'courageous' goals ... all at the same time that my hormones were gradually falling back into what they were before this medically induced menopause took over my life.

Finally! It all started to make sense to me. It wasn't all my fault. Something hormonal was at play ... and as much as I have never been one to blame PMS and hormones on the ebbs and flows of my coping abilities, I had to admit that the evidence was hard to ignore. The parallels between how I felt when I was in a medically induced menopausal state and the way that I was coping were pretty much identical. And I have reached 'that age' where menopause is right around one of those corners. Different triggers ... but my internal state of darkness was eerily familiar.

I followed the advice of the article that I read "Depression in Women" and talked openly about what I was feeling. I followed through on social activities (even though I didn't feel like it). I tried to focus on getting outside and get moving. I tried to regulate my sleeping hours so that I wasn't sleeping my life away. I have (for the most part) been succeeding in accomplishing some or part of these goals. And it is making a difference.

I think I am one of the lucky ones. When I went to Dr. Google and self diagnosed myself with the information that was available at my fingertips, I found that my symptoms were manageable. To me. Others have different symptoms, support systems, personal history and a myriad of other factors that make their answers different for them.

Depression hurts. It hurts from the inside. No one knows how bad it feels except for you. If you are hurting ... seek your answers. Life can feel better than it feels when you are cloaked in this invisible darkness that no one else sees or knows you are living with.

Open the door and let in some light. Don't feel like you need to do this alone. You are worth it. You deserve inner happiness and contentment. Whatever you do ... don't give up. Please.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rolling Along With Life

Life got a little too serious around here this past while. My head has been full of reflective thoughts and there are more where that came from. But I need to back off for a day and just write ...

My daycare week has been the best! There is no school for the kids this week, which meant I had a 5 year old boy and his 8 year old sister here during the school break. Add two 1-1/2 year old girls; one, 2-1/2 year old boy and you've got a winning combination. There is fun and laughter and activity. But best of all?? There is dancing! I knew something good was happening when this young girl started singing and dancing to some of the songs we really enjoy around here. She has really heightened our dance craze at daycare. It is fun to add music, singing and dancing to a day. Try it sometime. I think you'll like it!!

I found shoes!! Not only shoes that I can dance in ... but shoes that I can wear around the house and they are more comfortable than my bare feet! Yes! More comfortable!! Because I can't wear my orthotics when I don't have shoes on. They are jazz shoes. They are one size bigger than I normally buy; wide in size and they are made out of a pliable leather that is heavenly. And I will be able to dance in them!! Yee haw! Not only that, but if you have tender toes, you should go to store that specializes in all types dancing shoes. The girl that helped me out was full of ideas and suggestions for my bunion and corn, because they run into this all of the time with people who wear ballet 'pointe' shoes. I came home with some 'spacers' which will ease the tenderness where my corns were shaved off last week. My feet are jumping with joy - they feel so good!

Two evenings in a row, all of my daycare kids were picked up before 5:00!! This was a gift that was worth more than money. My glasses broke first thing yesterday morning. I called the place I purchased them to find out the hours, only to find out they closed at 5:30. So ... I was going to have to wait until Saturday to take my glasses in. But thanks to my early pick-ups, I made it there not only before they closed ... but just two days before my one year warranty on my glasses was up. One would hope that they would have waived the rules, if I had made it one day late ... but I will not have to wonder. Because I made it two days before the guarantee expired. My frames will be replaced at no cost and I am very, very pleased about that.

I cancelled the next few weeks of dance lessons, to give my feet a rest. Plus I thought that I would need to wait two to three weeks for my dance shoes to arrive. As it turns out, they had a different color in stock and (because my work day ended so early) I could have made it to class. But I had already cancelled it, so I simply enjoyed the night off. And it felt heavenly. The long weekend was a busy one. I was utterly exhausted on Monday. All I remember about Tuesday night is waking up at 6 p.m. to phone Mom because I knew the rest of the week was accounted for. Wednesday and Friday are committed to flyers. So I honestly feel like I'm playing hooky tonight. It is a 'forbidden' night off. And it feels fantastic.

I may be crazy-busy this upcoming weekend but I just don't want to know about it. Not yet. I told my friend that I could clean her house Saturday mornings. It is very likely that I will have to work at my bookkeeping job this weekend. Then there are those blasted flyers. Oh ... when I get rich and famous, the first thing that is going to go is those flyers. Then again, delivering those flyers is the only exercise I get so I should not be so hasty in wanting them to vanish from my life. Then again, if I was rich and famous, I could hire a personal trainer and it would all work out in the wash.

The best news of all is that I am 'back'. I am rolling with life. The good, the bad and the ugly (my new shoes are sort of ugly). I'm coping. Life felt 'dark'. Very, very dark ... a while ago. I shed some light on the darkness and it quietly went away. No fuss, no muss, no fanfare. Just the way the darkness rolled in ... it rolled out again.

The sun is shining longer every day. Spring is on the horizon. I am busy. I am challenged. I am working. I am not only surviving ... I am starting to thrive once again. It's coming. I can feel it in the air.

There is so much more, that is much deeper than today's inane drivel of words. The world is full of sadness, illness, despair and darkness. I am grateful that my own world is full of light, dancing, comfy shoes and glasses that are smart enough to break before the warranty expires.

Who knows how close we come to those cut-off dates in life? It is nice to 'win' one, every now and again. We are ever conscious of the losses ... but do we really have any idea how many times we have 'won' and not even been aware??

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Independence Lost

When we have our independence, we have so much. So very, very much…

When my mom had to give up her driver’s license I became very aware of all that she lost when she handed over that little plastic card that gave her permission to drive. When she did have her license, she never drove any more than was absolutely necessary, but she knew that she could. She had the freedom to run errands at her leisure. She created her own boundaries but she knew that she had the ability to pick and choose when and where she felt comfortable driving.

Our physical abilities allow each of us a certain amount of independence. When we can put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk for as long as we choose, we are rich. I know people who would give anything for that simple gift. Back pain, circulatory, heart, debilitating health issues are only a few that come to mind as I run down the list of people that I know that would give anything to have the ability to walk to the store and back.

I have a friend who is presently battling three different types of cancer. They surgically removed one of the cancers. Another has taken residence in her body and threatened to slow her down but with treatment, the success rate was high. She was still optimistic about her future. The third cancer is terminal.

She rolled with the punches and rallied as each diagnosis was handed out. I’m sure there must have been many dark days along the way, but each and every time she was dealt a new diagnosis her stubborn and determined nature was set on putting up a fight and beating the odds.

But the biggest obstacle of all? She stubbed her toe. The toe turned purple. Then black. As the weeks progressed into a month, the rest of her toes followed suit. Then her foot. It was a few months before she was diagnosed with Blue Toe Syndrome. She has had vascular surgery three times in six months. The most recent surgery was last week. She will be lucky if all she loses is the tip of her big toe, because surgery is no longer an option …

This clotting disorder has caused her no end of discomfort and has completely upended her life. She can’t drive, she can’t stand long enough to cook a meal, she can’t leave her house on her own and her husband does not want her alone at home. She can’t run out and buy groceries or shop or do anything independently.

Cancer has thrown my friend’s life into utter turmoil but she keeps getting back up and fighting the good fight. The clotting disorder is aided and abetted by the lymphoma that she has – that is a nasty little cancer that is causing her no end of grief. Because it has stolen her independence.

She feels that she has no control over anything in her life. Every time she picks herself up and starts fighting, she gets knocked back down. Each time, it takes a piece of her independence with it.

There is no amount of money in the world that can give my friend back the life that she had before all of this began. She would be grateful for a fraction of the independence that she used to have. For her, the freedom to walk out of the door of her home alone has become a goal.

When we have our independence … we are rich. Just ask anyone who has lost just a piece of the independence that they used to have.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Judge Not ...

When it comes to friends, I cannot begin to encompass my gratitude in words. It is a tired, worn out phrase but it is true. "I have friends that feel like family. And family that feel like friends." It is a vicious circle of wonder that I will never grow tired of wondering ... how in the world I got so lucky.

A friend and I were marvelling over the amazing 'Circle of Friendship' we share within a small group of us that met in 1990. Out of that group of people that were thrown together by chance, I remain in close contact with five of them and a little more arm's length contact with a few more.

There is a core group of us that could be sisters. We share a completely unconditional and unending bond of support. We are each other's cheer leading squad. Good, bad or anything in between ... we are simply there for each other. Whether we are sitting across the table or across the country from each other ... no matter how long it has been between visits ... we seamlessly pick up from where we last left off and carry on.

These friendships have survived career changes, retirement, moves, babies, teens, divorces, remarriages, health challenges, loss ... you name it. We've (between the group of us) walked through it. Together. We may have had some lean years when the visits were pretty sporadic or non-existent. But the moment we gathered and reconnected again, we were off and running. Stronger than ever before.

Just last week, my friend and I wondered aloud what it was that made this all work. Jealousy, envy, competition and comparing are not a factor in this friendship. Never has. Never will be. Unyielding support is what we share. The ability to let our guard down and talk freely, knowing that confidences will be kept and you are safe to say anything.

When I read this quote this morning, I knew that Theodore knew exactly what we were trying to put into words:

"Comparison is the thief of joy" ~ Theodore Roosevelt

I know people who 'keep score' within their lives ... and I do not see the joy factor as a part of their day-to-day life. It is actually very sad to see, because (from where I sit) it is though they are sabotaging their own happiness.

Relationships among the people in your life work for a various number of reasons. But I truly believe that if you are genuinely happy for whatever 'the other guy' has ... or has achieved in their lives, you will feel more joy in your life.

I have seen outward appearances mask an infinite amount of 'lacking' in many of those that I know. Do not envy that which someone else has ... you will never know the true cost of what appears to be so perfect. We do not know what goes on behind the closed doors of another person's life. What appears to be perfect is often the face that they choose to show the world.

Go and enjoy your imperfect life today. Know that you are not alone in whatever this day has to offer. Be gentle with your (unvoiced) criticisms and generous (sing it out loud for the world to hear) with your praise. You will never know the difference you may make in another person's day ... simply by spreading simple acts of kindness.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged" (a misquoted verse) ~ Matthew 7:1

(Heed Theodore Roosevelt's sage advice as well and 'Compare not, lest you risk the loss of great joy')

Monday, February 18, 2013

Friendly Alliances

Life is fragile. When we wake up to yet another day in our life-as-we-know-it ... we are blessed. That moment, that day ... is a gift.

I have been spending time with a friend who has been dealt one blow after the other this past year. She is a stubborn soul and one blow didn't knock her off of her feet. But the relentless attack that her body is fighting is wearing her down. But you don't see it. At first ...

When your body is waging a war within itself, your best defense is a positive attitude and optimism. It may not be a cure all, but it definitely can't hurt. Where there is the will to fight, there is hope. She is a fighter.

The details are not mine to tell, but there are many sides to this disease called cancer that are ugly. The side effects that it has on a marriage and relationships, for one. Illness and injuries infect the entire family - not simply the one who is hosting the 'party'.

It is not easy when life deals you blows that are completely out of your control. I have yet to figure out which is harder - to be the one who is fighting the fight or the ones on the sidelines trying to do and say all of the right things as the supporting person.

It is hard enough to deal with an illness that is relatively short term and goes by the 'rules'. It is quite another to have things snowball and go in directions that you could never foresee. How do you keep picking yourself up and fighting? When the alternative is losing the battle, is there really any other choice than to give your opponent all that you can?

My friend has a brave exterior. The facade rarely cracks ... but I can see how fragile she is underneath her words. She needs her supporting people to be strong enough to carry her if she falters. She is strong and mighty. This is a person I have come to know as one who can muster the strength it takes to forge on despite the odds. But I also see how vulnerable she is and hear her quiet plea for support.

As I reread these words, I could easily interchange the face of this friend with many, many people that I know that are courageously battling the twists and turns that they have been dealt in their lives. Many choose to keep the details of their personal stories to themselves. Some reveal only vague hints; others will tell you a 'page' of their story; and there are those that reveal previous chapters of their lives very gingerly after years of trust have been built.

Be gentle with those who cross your path as you wade through your days. Someone you know very well could be waging a war that is not reported on the front pages of their life. 

You never fully know the impact of your actions and words. I just hope I have been spending mine wisely ...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Another Busy Saturday Begins

My to-do-list sits before me and what do I do?? I check out all of the links to dance videos on this blog. I thoroughly enjoy this writer's take on the world. I've been reading (and watching) her blog for many, many months now (after finding her "20 Things a Mother Should Tell Her Son" on Facebook).

Anyway, today I must:
  • Deliver papers
  • Visit a friend in the hospital
  • The car needs an oil change
  • Go across town to buy cinnamon bagels for My Youngest
  • Go to Value Village to see if I can find any bargain toys for the kids
  • Groceries. Always groceries!
  • Seek out and find some ballroom dance shoes (I found a pair on Kijiji that may work?)
Plus ... I would like to make it out to my Middle Son & His Girlfriend's farm. They have been breaking ground and building their basement this week. The basement was dug several days ago and the foundation was poured yesterday. The weekend's agenda includes building some walls to go along with that. House to be moved onto that in the not-so-distant-future.

So if I plan to get any of the above done, I must stop watching dance videos and writing list about what I must do today ... and get myself up and out of this chair.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Score One for Zumba

Well? The verdict is in. And ballroom dance shoes are out.

I went to visit my podiatrist last night to find out the answer to my recent foot problems. I knew the answers before I heard them. In fact, I spoon fed them to my foot-specialist.

My feet have been smiling ever since I got my orthotics. From the moment I first wore them, it was love at first sight. It was as if my feet had been waiting their entire life for the shoe inserts of their dreams.

There was no weaning in process necessary. I was conscious of the fact that there could be side effects as my feet got used to them. But there wasn't an inkling of anything but perfection. Right from the moment 'go'.

I used and abused my feet this past summer. I worked in a grocery store where I was moving and on my feet for the entirety of my shift. I chose not to take breaks. There were days when I was on my feet for eight to ten hours. Did my feet complain? Only when I took off my shoes and tried to walk barefoot in the house at the end of my workday. My feet missed their 'support system' - my orthotics.

I started delivering flyers in the fall. I walk approximately 1.5 hours, three days a week. I walk in all conditions. Various terrains. Cement all the way. Do my feet complain? Not until lately ...

I resumed ballroom dancing in January. One lesson in, my feet were not happy campers. Not even when I put them to rest and went to bed. The next day was not a lot better.

Second lesson? Swivels and a Tango class were pure torture. I endured the classes only because there was a severe shortage of women that night. My feet have not yet recovered ...

Did I give up? No way. I went to two more dance classes. I developed corns that made delivering flyers painful. Two hours of dancing in one week became something that (not only the remaining 22 hours of that day ... but) the six days that followed could not repair.
  • My 'perscription' after last night's appointment? Wear my orthotics as much as possible. Not only outdoors, but inside. All day. Every day.
  • Dance shoes with a heal that absolutely does not exceed 1.5"; preferably 1"
He shaved off my newly acquired corns & callouses, bandaged up my tender toe and sent me on my way. 

The good news? Two hours per week in ballroom dance shoes did not undo the benefits that my orthotics have reaped. He was more than a little pleased with the progress of my bunions and the 'angles' he was aiming to fix with my orthotics. But it is not enough to compensate for the excessive demands that my ballroom dance shoes place upon my tender, tender toes.

So now what? I have eight more dance classes bought and paid for. The only way to fully reap the benefits of those lessons is to find shoes that I can dance in. But do I go to the expense of trying to find the perfect dance shoe for me ... only to discover that I cannot afford the high cost of dancing?

Score "one" for Zumba. I have running shoes that work. I have tried and true evidence that my feet can withstand hours of wear and tear and endurance ... as long as they are safe in the confines of a running shoe that can accomodate my orthotics.

Four hours of dance lessons anyone??

The Five Love Languages

Oprah recently aired a show featuring Dr. Gary Chapman and his book/concept of "The Five Love Languages". I was eager to take the love language quiz but there must have been some technical glitch that prevented me from doing so.

Ever since I watched this show, I have been very conscious of the concept behind Dr. Chapman's book. He says that knowing and understanding the primary 'love language' of your partner or the people in your life can transform relationships.

The five languages are:
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch
Without the ability to take the quiz, I was very conscious of what language I 'spoke' and needed as this week progressed. I tried to figure out the language of the children I babysit, friends and basically anyone whose path I crossed this week.

What I knew right off the bat are that words mean the world to me. But 'talk is cheap' and I have experiences where I have heard all of the right words without the corresponding actions ... so it is important to me, that the words are backed up in actions.

I also recognized that gifts are very unimportant to me. A card with a few thoughtful words means the world to me. A gift? I am not a good gift-giver, because physical gifts are inconsequential to me.

Physical touch? Our family is not a touchy/feely family. Or we never used to be. The vast majority of my siblings (and even my mom!) have consciously worked at this 'hugging thing'. I have thought (from time to time) that perhaps I should do this too. But it is not even an afterthought in my mind. Hug me with your words and actions and no touch is required. Though ... I do suppose that it is a language that I should become more fluent in, because of its increasing importance to those that touch my world.

Being conscious of the love language other people need and respond to, has heightened my awareness as to the how's and why's of various friendships/relationships in my life seem to thrive (or not). This is a good tool to keep in my 'book of tricks' as I weave my way through this life of mine.

There is a language that Dr. Chapman does not address that I have recognized that I need in my relationships. Humor. The ability to laugh in the face of adversity. The need to diffuse a hot topic with a light hearted comment. Laughter is a basic requirement in my relationships. I need it to sustain me through the good and the bad.

As I make my way through my days and weave other people into the patchwork quilt that is my life, the relationships that last will most certainly be seasoned with laughter.

Words + actions + humor = A language I speak and understand

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Whatever This Day is to You ... I Wish You 'Happy'!

'Happy Valentine's Day'! Happier 'We-Are-Half-Way-Through-February Day'!! For me? It is 'Happy Feet Day'!

My long awaited podiatrist appointment is tonight.

I get to skip my dance lesson and tend to my tender tootsies instead. I have been counting down the number-of-flyer-deliveries left before my appointment for several weeks now.

Despite what felt like blizzard conditions, as I delivered flyers in snow and wind (32 kph) last night, all I could think of was that I must make it to my out-of-town (a fifteen minute drive) appointment tonight.

Whatever this day is to you ... may it be simply be a happy one. Pamper yourself and give yourself a small gift of whatever-it-is that you need the most.

I am not big on the hype of Valentine's Day. But I am big on making the little things count in life. May you turn this day into whatever kind of day you want it to be ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

M & M's in Lieu of a Man??

I knew that "The Guilt Trip" was going to tickle my funny bone when the opening scene had absolutely no dialogue. Barbra Streisand woke up with with an abandoned book on the undisturbed spot on her bed and an empty M & M package (and a stray M & M) beside (and underneath) her.

Oh ... the parallel scenes that quietly played through my mind as not a word was spoken. The unwritten rules and benefits of sleeping alone. You do whatever makes your little heart happy to fill the quiet void in your life.

I appreciate and revel in the freedoms of being single. I do revel in being the master of my domain when it comes to my sleep habits.

Have I woken up with a stray Skittle under my pillow? Yes. Have I gone through a phase where Fruit Roll-ups & Granola dip  bars were hidden in my night stand? Been there. Done that. How many times have I eaten chips in bed? Far too many to count.

I have developed some terrible sleep habits that infringe upon no one. I set the sleep timer on the TV and I have convinced myself that I cannot fall asleep without that crutch. I sleep with the remote control at arms length so if I wake during the night, I can lull myself back to sleep by replacing the thoughts racing through my mind with some inane TV chatter.

I fall asleep, sleeping parallel across the top of my bed. As a single person, I too have an undisturbed half of the bed. The bottom half. The half where my remote control sleeps at night.

There is an unspoken loneliness in that scene. The scene in one's life where they happily substitute guilty pleasures for that-which-is-missing.

Ninety nine percent of the time I don't miss that-which-I-do-not-have in my life. The motto I adopted over Christmas this year has remained with me. "I already have everything that I want. I just want everything that I have ... to work". When I spoke these words, I was referring to material possessions. As I rethink them this morning, I realize that it applies just as much (if not more) to the people and relationships in my life.

I have the perfect family. For me. My three boys - each entered the world in their own chosen time. At the time did I realize how perfect the timing was? No. In retrospect? I couldn't have planned it any better.

I am the second youngest in a family of four. I have two sisters (nine & eleven years older than me) and one brother (five years younger). We could so easily be a family distanced by the years and miles that separate us. But we aren't. We are close in every way that matters despite that which could have placed a wedge in our relationships.

I have developed relationships among cousins, aunts and uncles that have grounded me and provided me with a sense of belonging in this world. I have discovered my roots and I am so grateful to feel like a part of something bigger than me - my family.

I have friend for every reason and season in my life. I have tested those friendships. They are tried, true and solid. They are mutual. They work.

I have all that I want in my life. And all that I have ... works.

Yet lately, there has been a quiet yearning for something more. Someone to have and to hold. A relationship that works.

In the absence of finding that which works ... I would choose to continue living the life that I have. I am not lonely. But I have been in relationships where I have felt alone.

Barbra Streisand's character explained to her son that she never chose to look for another husband after his father died. His father never let her eat M & M's in bed. In the absence that that whom she loved, she chose to indulge herself in something that she always enjoyed.

M & M's in lieu of a man? A life that you know and enjoy verses the unknown?

I know many people that are content and happy in their life-without-a-partner. Marriage and relationships are a lot of work. I sit back and quietly watch the yin and the yang of various relationships. It isn't easy to make a life of 'forever' work with another person. In my experience ... there is nothing that feels more lonely than feeling alone when you are in a relationship.

I suppose until I meet the man that I 'wouldn't throw out of bed for eating Pringles' ... I will revel in the freedoms I know and enjoy in this single-life-as-I-know-it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Extraordinary Within the Ordinary

"An Especially Special Run-of-the-Mill Day" - that is what I titled my daycare blog post for yesterday.

It was a day like (almost) all of the days that preceded it these past five & a half months. Same kids. Same routines. Same challenges and frustrations. It was another day of the 'same old, same old'. With a difference.

All weekend, our days at daycare replayed in my mind. My little two & a half year old copies everything he sees. Children see all, hear all and copy what they see.

It is frustrating to see my little guy act like the one-year-olds. That was not the issue that was replaying in my mind this past weekend. It was when I heard my words, my tone and my actions on the tongue of a two-year-old that I really sat up and took notice.

I liked some of what I saw and heard. But not everything. It was that which did not look good on my little two-year-old that haunted me this past weekend. And that was good.

One of the phrases that my little guy repeats is, "You know better!"; slightly paraphrased from my common refrain, "When you know better, you do better. You know better!" I must listen to what I am attempting to teach my kids. I know better! And yesterday? I did better.

It was a day where little moments stood out at the end of the day. After all was said and done, I realized that I had a little story to tell each of my mom's when they picked up their child at the day's end. I think we all ended the day with a smile.

It was an ordinary day. With a difference. I shall strive to find the extraordinary within the ordinary. It is there. We just have to sit up and take notice.

"Children listen best with their eyes. What you do is what they hear.” ~ Richard Carlson

Monday, February 11, 2013

An Idle Sunday

Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.
No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination: never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
~ Lord Chesterfield

I know better. When I know better, I should have done better! I wasted yet another Sunday. I gave the day over to sitting idle. Again.

Mistake #1 - I stayed in bed too long. I turned on the TV (always a big mistake) and watched (dozed through) a movie. I didn't get up until almost 8:30. The day was not off to a good start.

Mistake #2 - When my initial Sunday Breakfast plans fell through, I didn't follow through on my instincts to immediately call another friend to see if they would like to out for breakfast.

Mistake #3 - I went out for coffee instead. Conversation was okay ... but not stimulating. I came home feeling uninspired, unmotivated and very lackadaisical.

Mistake #4 - I came home and did nothing. I turned on the TV. I checked to see if I had received any calls or emails in my absence. I didn't. So I did nothing ...

Mistake #5 - I continued to do nothing. All day.

Mistake #6 - I forgot to follow through on my plans to call another friend after supper. I had the best of intentions. I fully intended on following through and calling. But I completely and totally forgot once supper was over. I should have remembered to call ...

Successful Moment #1 - I opened my bookkeeping job file and started to work at 4:45 p.m. I continued to work until I ran into a snag where I needed outside intervention. I picked up the phone to call for assistance. And that is where my day ended. Again.

I wasted a day. A precious day. What did I do right? Where is my gratitude!?
  • The day began with the best of intentions. I was going to get together with a friend, but in the end she wasn't feeling up to our planned outing. I am grateful to wake up every morning and expect to feel healthy. My friend does not wake up every day to that same luxury.
  • I called a friend. Okay ... I returned my friend's call. The friend that I had intended on calling when my breakfast plans fell through. This is a friend that gets all of the credit for keeping our friendship alive. She has initiated (probably) 98% of the contact between us. Yet she keeps calling. I am so grateful that she does.
  • Cookies. Oh! I was grateful for cookies yesterday!! I have been craving my favorite shortbread chocolate chip cookies that our local grocery store stocks. I savored each bite. Perhaps I bit off more than I should have chewed ... but I was so grateful for their presence in the house yesterday. Cookies sweetened the day.
  • Friends. I have friends. I have friends that call me more than I call them. I have friends that I contact more than they contact me. I have friends where it feels like it is an equal balance between who calls whom. I have friends that don't keep score. They simply do what is natural and right to them, to keep our friendship alive. I am so very grateful that I have friends to call.
  • My health. Can I please be grateful for my health. Again. I take my health for granted. I sleep a long and restful sleep every night. I wake up every morning 'knowing' what to expect when my feet hit the floor. Rarely am I surprised by feeling any different than the way I expect to feel. I know far too many people who do not wake up to this same reality. In fact, a good night's sleep is illusive for many ...
I am rich. I am so very rich. How dare I waste (yet another) day! When you know better ... you should endeavor to do better. Today is a new day. If nothing else, I shall try, try again.

Thankfully I woke up to yet another morning. Just as I expected. So I have the opportunity for a do-over. If everyone should be so lucky...

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
 ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Life is a 'Walk in the Park'

I have more things-to-do and places-to-be today. Sigh ...

The good thing is that this means that I am employed. A minimum of ten hours a day, five days a week. A few mornings &/or evenings. Work is trickling into my weekends and this is good. Right?

A bookkeeping job (that I was approached about doing in the fall) seems to be coming to life again. I was skeptical as to how this would work out and I am glad that I wasn't relying on this income. Because it hasn't been there. In fact, I was prepaid for my first month's wages and I still have 26 hours to work off until that pay cheque is 'paid-in-full'.

I have to deliver papers before I do anything else. I have committed myself to five hours of bookkeeping work at my employer's home this afternoon. I will be bringing work home with me at the day's end. There are groceries be bought before I come home tonight.

Today will be a working Saturday.

No matter what way I look at things, this is so much better than where I've been. Yes, I have about four different income sources. Each of them fully independent and diverse from the other. Three of those incomes are derived within very loose boundaries. I am in control of when and how things get done.

Compared to the one, part-time job that I had last summer where I felt the work, the hours, the commitment and most everything about it was completely out of my hands ... this is a walk in the park. And I could quite literally work in a 'walk in the park' today. If I so chose.

As much as I love to look at my calendar and see it free of commitments, I know that days like the one that I am about to embark upon ... are exactly the kind of days that I need.

Today I am grateful for:
  • Being employable and employed
  • The freedom that I have within today's boundaries to do all that I must do, in a time and manner that works for me
  • Working for employers that are easy to work for, where I am treated with respect and kindness
  • Even though I must work today, it feels like a weekend. Having my Monday - Friday responsibilities behind me feels pretty wonderful. Weekend work is ... different
  • The peace within our home. I work out of my home and there is no where else in the world that I would rather be. When I must leave this oasis of comfort, peace and joy ... I anticipate my return. Home is where I most want to be. And I am grateful for that. I am so grateful for that ...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sore Feet, Happy Heart

Oh ... my achin' feet!

I haven't complained much (at all!) about my feet since my miracle foot doctor designed the most awesome orthotics for me last spring. I have felt as though I was walking on air. Well, perhaps that is a bit of an overstatement. But my feet have been more than a little bit happy since this wonderful invention specially designed for my tender tootsies.

Then I started dancing again.

I am not certain that the two are related, but foot pain while I was delivering flyers started very close to the time I resumed my dance lessons. Perhaps my orthotics reached their prime at the same time and need to be adjusted. But the way my feet feel this morning (after two hours in my dance shoes last night)? I am thinking that the dancing is a big part of the issue.

Dancing verses staying at home. Moving verses the hypnotic state I go into in front of the TV. Laughter and spending an evening with people verses the solitude that I so enjoy. Happy heart verses complacent one.

Orthotics for ballroom dance shoes. In my experience, pretty shoes and orthotics do not go together. In fact, I feel about 90 years old when I talk about 'my orthotics'. It just sounds like a word that belongs in an old-person's vocabulary. Spoiler alert! Who the heck do I think I am?? Just look in a mirror, girl! You aren't getting any younger! Plus, age has nothing to do with a person's need for orthotics. I probably should have had them decades ago.

I am one-third of the way through the dance lessons that I have bought and paid for. I have no idea if I will be able to afford to continue at the end of this batch of lessons.

I quit participating in Zumba classes because of my feet. Knowing now, what I didn't know then ... I should have found a way to fix my feet and keep active. Orthotics work in running shoes far better than in ballroom dance shoes. To anyone living outside of my body, the answer seems obvious ...

... but to me? It is the entire dance experience and social aspect in the safety and comfort of a dance studio that I have been going to (off and on) for fifteen years that has my head in the clouds and hoping to find a way to make dancing comfortable (as well as fun).

Practicality verses reality. I have running shoes that work. I have dance shoes that ... don't.

I wonder if they design orthotics to assist a person in walking outside of their comfort zone??

Thursday, February 7, 2013

To a Parent, Love is Spelled U-N-C-O-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-A-L

**Dad - "I wasted the day fishing with Jimmy ..."

**Jimmy - "Went fishing with Dad. It was the best day of my life ..."

My heart ached and I got a lump in my throat when I heard those words ("To a Child, Love is Spelled T-I-M-E"), in a way I know that I have been guilty of being 'that dad' (aka: mom).

How many times have I bided my time, doing something that was of little interest to me ... for the sake of one of my children?
  • Listening to them go on and on about the levels of a video game they are attempting to challenge
  • Reading the same book every night (for what feels like the bazillionth time)
  • Endless hours at the playground
  • Kid's movies and programs that I felt like I have sat through (almost as many times as I have read the above mentioned books)
  • Sitting through a Christmas concert featuring the entire school ... just to see my child on stage for two minutes
Then again ... how many times have our children thought similar thoughts as we wade through both the mundane and spectacular events throughout their childhood?
  • Hours in a car spent driving to a special vacation destination
  • Putting up with our many 'life lessons' as we go on and on about some issue that they would really rather forget
  • Endless hours waiting for a special occasion that they have been looking forward to
  • Parent/Teacher/Student conferences and the sermons that follow
As parents, we must remember to let ourselves off of the hook some of those times when time feels like it is standing still. Our kids have many more of those moments than we do. We tend to remember those times because (a lot of those times) our kids are quite vocal in expressing their discontentment.

Somewhere in between are those moments of absolutely mutual enjoyment. Those moments in time within the frustrations.
  • The elation you see in your child's eyes when they break through new boundaries
  • The comfort and ease each of you share in those familiar routines that wind down our days
  • The mutual admiration and joy you both feel when you see your child shine in that school performance
  • Those family Kodak moments within those once-in-a-lifetime vacations
  • The pride we feel as a parent when we see that a lifetime of life-lessons has made a difference within our child
It is those 'fly on a wall' moments that (as a parent) make my heart sing. Those moments when you get to sit back and watch your child be who you have raised them to be. Moments when they don't know you are watching, when they echo the words and lessons that you have hoped they are listening to.
  • Children at play, when they have no idea that an adult is watching
  • Children echoing your words ... and you are pleased with what they sound like on someone else's tongue
  • Watching your children grow into the adults that they were destined to be
Parenthood is fraught with moments of frustration, joy, sorrow, pride, disenchantment, elation and everything else that spells L-O-V-E.

That is what parental love is. Parental love is spelt U-N-C-O-N-D-I-T-I-O-N-A-L. I think that our children know this. Is that why they test us so??

**"To a Child, Love is Spelled T-I-M-E" video by www.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

To One Person, You May Be the World

Sometimes ... other people's words take my breath away. This video was one of those moments for me:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away. 
~ Hilary Cooper

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I'm Going to Stop Complaining Now

We live in a time where insulation, heat, electricity, running water and a wealth of material possessions are the norm for most of us.

Children are entertained by more toys and gadgets that most people could store in one small room of their homes.

We live in homes that are spacious, privacy and 'a room to call your own' is nothing unusual.

Most of us have cupboards, refrigerators and freezers store an excess of food. We don't have to worry about keeping our vegetables from freezing or keeping our milk cool enough so that it doesn't go sour.

We turn on the radio, the television set, the computer and entertainment is at our fingertips. We don't think twice the numerous electrical appliances that make cooking a meal easy.

We take all that we have for granted. And (if you are like me), you actually complain about being cooped up in a 1000 sq ft home (2000 sq ft, if you count the basement which is fully developed and utilized) with a young family of three.

As I finished writing my last post, I suddenly heard voices from the past calling out to me. Here are a few excerpts from the book of memories that my mom's family compiled:

Imagine … living in a two story 9’ X 12’ uninsulated house in the middle of the prairies. Your nearest neighbors are a half mile away. Your only sources of transportation (other than walking) are some horses, a (horse drawn) cart, wagon and sleigh. A trip to town and back takes an entire day.

There is no electricity, your water sources are an open well, the slough, rain or snow. Heat is a coal and wood stove in the kitchen and a coal and wood heater in the living room. There is no such thing as ‘indoor plumbing’ – you have an outhouse. And in the winter … well, you don’t even want to think about winter!

Your only income is that which you can earn on the farm (remember, you have only your horses and plow to clear and farm your land). You can grow your own vegetables and raise your own milk and meat sources. But there isn’t a fridge or freezer to store the fruits of your labor. Oh, and just for the fun of it, let’s throw in a drought that lasts the better part of ten years.

And … imagine doing all of this while raising your family of five (four of which, were born within a four year time span) in this small, cold house without any of today’s conveniences.

This is not a two week camping trip. This is your life. This is what it was like to live in the time My Mom's Family grew up.

“Winter!!! What can I say about those months of freezing cold, snow and blizzards. Of which, we experienced all.”

They would wake up in the morning and the blankets (heavy homemade quilts and one horse hair hide) on top would be stiff from the frost. “If it wasn’t for us four kids in bed together we would have froze.” It was pretty cold everywhere – in fact the barn was far warmer than the house, from the heat of the animals. There was really very little heat until summer arrived.

In winter, to keep warmer, the girls wore pantaloons (like bloomers - elastic at the waist and knees), with stockings, held up with an elastic garter (or quite often a sealer ring) and the top flopped down. When winter set in, you wore moccasins with overshoes that buckled over top of the moccasins. They were usually used for two winters and it seemed as though they always had holes in them, though they would have had to have been new at one point. You had a winter coat and that was it. You didn’t have a jacket for all seasons as we do these days.

"The winters were very severe, with no roads – only those made by the teams of horses driven in winter to schools, town and anywhere you went.

“Homes and schools were heated by wood and coal, with no such thing as insulation heard of yet. It made for very uncomfortable living at times, not to mention our cold trips to school (by sleigh, with heated stones to keep our feet from freezing).”

“The one incident that I will never forget – our dad was bringing us home from school in a blizzard. Our team of horses got bogged down in deep snow and couldn’t go any further. Fortunately, we were right near a neighbor’s driveway. We walked there, three of us kids (the youngest was in Grade 1 at the time) and our dad. Our horses were put in their barn and us kids were taken straight to the house, where we were made very welcome. Their housekeeper immediately made us hot chocolate, which we could not drink (as our hands were shaking so, with cold). Eventually we thawed out and we drank our hot chocolate. We had to sleep upstairs, all three of us in one bed, in a dark, strange room. How scary! I can’t remember, but there were probably more tears, but it was a very happy ending to a very worried day. My dad and a friend of theirs took a fresh team of horses and a bob sleigh and both went on home and got there safely. You can imagine what an enormous relief that was to our mother.” There were other incidents like this, involving other families in the district. It was a time where there wasn’t the convenience of a phone in the home, to put a person’s mind at rest. The only thing a person could do was wait it out and hope for the best.

“The winters were really hard. Very cold and the housing was poor. When it was 35 to 40° (Fahrenheit) below zero, with any wind it was just about impossible to keep the house warm. We all sat as close to the stove as we could. In the morning, we would jump out of bed, run downstairs into the kitchen and stand on the oven door. All four girls, but alas, one day the oven door broke. ‘Poor Mom.’ I don’t remember how long it was before it was fixed. Yes, we ‘all’ did stand on the oven door at the same time. We were all very small, skinny kids at that time.”

The theme throughout the collection of these memories was acceptance. This was their life. They grew up in the years of the Depression and knew no different. And as my mom's oldest sister wrote:

"One the whole, it was a good life – a real learning experience. Something the generations after us (I am sure) could never understand or believe. That is why we are writing this – to help keep them in touch with the past. We are all very happy we lived in the era we did – me, my sisters and our brother."

I am going to go and enjoy this cool, winter day cooped  up with my young daycare family now. I shall endeavor to appreciate every convenience that this day brings.

Too Much Winter

Note to my sister vacationing in Yuma for the next month - "This blog is for you!"

It is true. Every day we wake up to, is one day closer to spring.

It is February 5th. We are very close to having logged the first week of February. February is a short month. Three days shorter than most. As my mom would say "Time goes quickly. Spring is right around the corner!"

Does this scene have a look of "Spring is right around the corner?!"
We have mountains of snow outside. If I were to toss the kids that I babysit into our front yard, I would quite literally lose them. My Youngest has no memory of snow banks ever being this big. Granted, in the 'old days' (when he was little), the snow in the front yard was packed down from all of the kids that played in that snow.

'Frosty', our smaller snowman has been buried for weeks. Only the head of the 'Dad Snowman' peeks out from above the snow these days.
Winter can be such an adventure. When there is enough snow to play in ... and temperatures are moderate enough that you can brave the weather without running the risk of freezing exposed body parts. And when you are tall (old) enough to dress up for the weather and explore all that the season has to offer.

Could you find a child in this snowbank if they were airlifted and dropped in?
This winter has not felt like that. I've been cooped up in the house with 1 & 2 year-olds for three months. I have had quite enough of this season. But yesterday?? Our temperatures soared to -5 degrees Celsius. It was almost melting!

Yes Mom, you are right. Spring will be here before we know it. And it won't be a moment too soon ...

Winter! Winter! Go away!! Come again another day!                                    

P.S. to my sister, "By the time you get back ... I do hope that things are looking a lot more like spring around here. But of course you know without me saying - it could get worse before it gets better."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Grateful for Mondays ...

Another Monday morning has rolled around oh-so-quickly. I woke up in a stupor in the middle of last night and thought I was going to wake up to a Sunday morning. My heart sunk when I realized that I had already spent my Sunday. So Monday morning it is ...

Gratitude. Focus on gratitude!

I woke up with my alarm this morning. I am grateful for the ability to sleep. I went to bed at 9:30 last night. I was quickly losing consciousness in front of the TV so I thought that I may as well take advantage of the opportunity to sleep eight solid hours in my bed. And I did.

As I near the end of another month's supply of my prescription, I was grateful for the three month supply that my pharmacy offered me the last time that I filled it. One month speeds by so quickly and it feels like I am forever filling that prescription. Three months is awesome. As I took my pill this morning, I thought to myself "Add this to my gratitude journal! Three month refills!!"

The gift of giving. A few little opportunities arose over the weekend where I suddenly felt like I knew the 'right thing to do'. Just little things. Sometimes it is truly not the gift ... but the gesture that matters. The act of giving is a wonderful gift to the giver. I am grateful when I am on the giving end.

I am grateful that I have a reason to wake up. Every morning. Working from home is not without its pitfalls, but the benefits far outweigh them. There is a continuity to my days/weeks/months that has not been here for a few years. I love knowing that I have a job to do. Every week day.

I am grateful for the contrasts in my life. Weekdays verses weekends. Bitterly cold winter days verses mildly cold winter days. Good days verses bad days. We simply don't appreciate the little things in life unless we have something to compare them to.

I am grateful for my family. My friends. Laughter. My life.

I am grateful for Mondays. They mean that I have work to do and the opportunity to work through another week and make every attempt to improve that which I could have done better last week.

A new week. A new beginning. A new day.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

He Who Laughs ... Lasts

Laughter is an instant vacation.
~ Milton Berle

I laughed like I haven't laughed in years. I laughed long. I laughed hard. I did not laugh alone. I spent yesterday with my cousin (who has always felt like a sister to me) and her family.

My aunt is 86 years old. My uncle is 90. When my aunt heard that my cousin and I were going to drop by for a visit after our coffee date yesterday, my aunt turned around and invited us (and her whole family) for a turkey supper. Her impromptu invitation filled a 'table for twelve'.

My cousin & I laugh together, like I laugh with no one else.  Every memory that I have with this family involves laughter. The story telling gets better with age. As far as I know, the tales are not embellished as the years evolve.

The stories have been told so many times and with such great emotion and detail, that there are times (so I heard yesterday) where the 'owner' of the story is up for debate. "That is my story!" says one cousin to another. "She does this all of the time. She has heard me tell the story so many times that she thinks it is her story!" Laughter fills the room as they duke it out (verbally) over the true ownership of the story.

I sat back and watched the dynamics between my cousin and her husband and immediately felt that she must have fallen in love with his sense of humor. They laugh together. He turned the mundane task of buying pop into a humorous anecdote. And that was just the beginning...

This is a family where material possessions and lavish holidays hold no priority. It is all about making a house a home and gathering their family together to make memories and make those memories last.

My aunt and uncle are in good health. There was no talk of illnesses, loss and the despair that so many people are feeling these days. Conversation was uplifting and the company was great. As I looked at my aunt and uncle, I would have never guessed their ages. Laughter is keeping them youthful at heart and as healthy as their bodies allow.

It was a day that I will remember forever. A day where I was enveloped in laughter ... spent with a family that means the world to me.

These are days we will never get back. Spend them wisely. Reach out to a friend or a family member and laugh together. You won't regret it.

Seven days without laughter makes one weak.
~ Mort Walker

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Set a Date, a Place and a Time ...

My cousin and I have been making vague, "We must get together sometime ..." plans for a few years now. As we parted ways after seeing each other at a funeral recently, we were going through the motions of repeating that statement once again when I suggested that we really had to be specific. Because it wasn't working any other way.

Out of the clear blue sky, I chimed off, "How about ... we meet at 4:00, February 2nd, at Your Home Town (about the half way meeting place between the cities we both live in)." When I remembered to check the calendar when I got home, I was more than a little surprised to see that February 2nd landed on a Saturday. I sent off an email to my cousin to see how her calendar looked that day and she said it worked great. But, "How about we make it 2:00, meet for coffee and then go over to visit my parents afterwards ..."

So a plan was made. We have just endured a week of severe winter weather where I wouldn't even consider leaving the city. But the long term forecast for Saturday, February 2nd was mild. The forecast never changed. The skies parted once again and made (what looked to be) impossible things possible.

One minor glitch arose. A friend of her husband's family passed away this week and they had a funeral to attend. "How would 4:00 work ... only we will just go straight to my parent's (for a supper invitation which was extended) instead?"

Hmmm. 4:00 on February 2nd at our Intended Meeting Place. Exactly according to our initial 'plan' when I reached out and spoke the first words that came to mind.

We will miss out on our one-on-one visit, but I suppose when I look at this day in reverse I will find a grander plan was at play.

But for now? I had a reason to get up this morning. I have much to do before my 'date with destiny' ...

Be specific in what you ask for in life. Make note of your wishes. Tuck them away and come back to them after a while. You will be amazed at how many dreams come true when you dare to dream. Dare to believe wishes come true. And go out and meet life half way.

The dreams don't have to be big. They do have to exist. Set a date, a place and a time for what you want to happen in your life. Start small and make things happen. You will not be disappointed.

Friday, February 1, 2013


I have stumbled upon what I believe may be my new 'Oprah' ... I have watched Katie Couric's new talk show twice this week. Each time, I was lifted up and out of my own thoughts and they were replaced with positive information and inspiration.

Today's show was about how to de-stress your life. I absorbed information this afternoon that has the potential to change the direction of my thoughts.

One of the suggestions was focusing on gratitude. This is nothing new to me. I've heard this before. I try to be grateful and focus on the positive in whatever life hands me. But as I headed off to bed tonight, I thought that perhaps I should get myself back into the habit of writing down that which I am grateful for.

One day blends into the next more often than not. Today was not extraordinary. That is, until I started to think about what I was grateful for. Little things became bigger than they felt when I lived the day. Here are just a few samples of what I am grateful for today:
  1. An email from a friend that contained a link to a (dance) video that made my heart happy first thing this morning. I watched this video. Twice. I watched the outtakes. I googled Matt Harding (the person who inspired this video and danced around the world) and I was inspired. Truly inspired. And happy. I didn't write this morning because I was too busy savoring these joyful moments.
  2. A change in our daycare schedule provided me with a little break that I needed. Moments within my daycare day provided me with new insight. Outstretched arms, a smile that was just for me, a child accidentally showing me how much he has learned. Many small moments turned a challenging day into a joyful one, when I play it backwards.
  3. Coffee with a friend. I find it very, very hard to leave the house. I find it harder to turn down an invitation. Every single time I walk out of our door and enter the real world, I am rewarded. I needed to get out. I didn't want to go out. I'm grateful for an invitation from a friend that put me exactly where I most needed to be.
  4. A reprieve in our weather! Our temperatures soared to -25ish degrees today. Not exactly a heat wave, but I'll take it over -45 degrees any day! And tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer.
  5. My flyers. They weren't dropped off early enough for me to deliver them before my daycare family arrived. Their delay meant that I could savor the dance video that made #1 of this list. Instead, I delivered them after everyone left for the day and I truly got to savor every last second of our extended sunlight hours! And ... the timing was close to perfect. I finished delivering them just in time to meet my friend who was available to meet for coffee right at about the very same time.
Even when things don't go exactly how we hope or expect ... more often than not, they work out 'just the way they were meant to be'.

Today was one of those days...