NaBloPoMo

Courage

Brene Brown’s website COURAGEworks sends me an email every Monday with an inspirational quote. This was today’s quote:

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It’s November!

It’s November 1. This photo sums up my state of being for today.

Momo-snoozing

It was really nice to do next-to-nothing all day.


Humbled and honoured that you would join me

It has been one month of daily blogging.  NaBloPoMo is officially over!

I ran into an acquaintance yesterday.  We grew up in the same small town and are friends on Facebook.  She told me she’s been reading my blog this month.  Really?  And this morning when I tried to pop onto my blog, an error message came up saying my bandwidth was exceeded.  My IT husband told me that is because a lot of people are reading my blog (and thank goodness for him, he could very easily remedy the problem).  Again I say, “really?”  I know there are the handful of friends I’m fairly close to that read my blog.  But beyond that, I’m always surprised to find out there are others reading as well.

I feel humbled and honoured that you would join me in my journey.  I am but one voice and there are many, many other voices with varied and rich stories to tell.  Who am I, that you would take an interest in my story?  I’ve never been one seeking a blog ‘following’.  It doesn’t really matter to me if there are 2 or 200 reading my blog.  I use this space as a way to process what I’m thinking (sometimes I do a lot of thinking) and as an opportunity to share what I’m learning about life. I haven’t ‘arrived’ yet so I’m sharing as I go, sometimes stumbling through the mud and sometime leaping through the meadows.  I think I’ve gained a bit of wisdom along the way and I’m very happy to share that with you.

My greatest desire is to make the world a better place by helping others, whether that is an encouraging word or volunteering at my daughter’s school or helping a client plan an event.  In the realm of this blog, it brings me joy to think I am able to spread some empathy and hope and encouragement to others along their journeys.  Let us never feel we are alone.  May there always be a listening ear and someone to say “me, too.”  Though I don’t hear from many of you (apparently) may this blog be a space shedding a little more light in your world.  I am honoured that you have chosen to spend some of your time here.


‘Tis the season…for schmoozing

In 2 days it will be December and the time of Christmas celebrations begins: client receptions, dinners, lunches.  As someone who is trying to “get the word out there” about my business I know it is important to ‘network’ and I will have plenty of opportunities to do so in the coming days.  I know it is necessary, but I’m not necessarily looking forward to it.  Sure, I’m looking forward to enjoying lots of good food.  But lots of business people I don’t really know…not so much.  It is getting better…slowly.  At my last client reception I ended up talking to a few different people and realized I am getting to know more and more people in the business community.

Yet these sorts of events push me out of my comfort zone every time.  My discomfort stems from a few places.  Being an introvert means ‘schmoozing’ does not come naturally for me.  But I think one of the things that these networking events brings me back to is this: memories of being in high school at community dances and standing off by myself, not knowing anyone, being too shy or afraid to talk to anyone, feeling alone and insignificant.  It was not a pleasant feeling. 

It’s not that I have the same experience now.  I can make conversation with people I don’t know.  But there is a subconscious fear of being ‘left out’ and my feelings from high school come back to me.

Isn’t it amazing, how our experiences from 20+ years ago can still have an impact on us today?


Sometimes the hardest part…is letting go

Parenting is hard work.  It can tax you, frustrate you, and drive you crazy. Sometimes the hardest part is to “let go”.  And when I say let go I mean let your children have freedom to choose a bit of their fate…even if that means they are going to fall down.  Even if it means they will fail.  Sometimes the only way we learn is the hard way.  It’s not pleasant but it’s necessary if we are ever going to learn and grow and mature.  But as a parent, it’s not easy…this “letting go”.


Oh stress, my old friend

I’ve been thinking about stress lately.

There have been periods in my life when I have had a LOT of stress (like when my husband died and my last years of working at the hotel).  Over time I’ve learned strategies to cope with the stress in my life.  I’m better able to identify my sources of stress than I used to be.  Plus I’ve made choices (and had the freedom to make the choice) to remove certain sources of stress – or shall I say I’ve removed myself from them?

Stress is a funny thing.  It doesn’t necessarily ‘announce’ itself saying, “alert, alert, stress is here”.  Each of our bodies, minds, and souls respond to it differently and the response is not the same in every situation.  There are so many factors which can cause stress.  We live in a world of noise, and distractions, and busyness…and these things don’t help in the stress department either.

What have I learned about stress so far?

1. When living in a high stress situation over an extended period of time, I became somewhat acclimatized to the stress.  However, when the stress in my situation was finally significantly reduced, it took a very long time for my stress levels to come back down to ‘normal’.  Rest is important.

2. I can create my own stress.  If my expectations of others or a situation are not being met and I don’t stop to evaluate and adjust the expectations, I will experience stress.  Often, the expectations I have of myself are my greatest sources of stress.  Being kind to myself is important.

3. Sometimes I’m not aware I’m experiencing stress but it ‘bleeds out’ in my lack of patience and reactions to others.  At those times it is good for me to take a step back and try to identify the source of my stress.  For example, I was feeling sad and overwhelmed this week and realized I was stressed.  I’ve been fighting a cold for a while and been resting to combat it.  But that meant I wasn’t staying on top of the clutter which tends to creep into our house.  While clutter doesn’t really seem to bother the rest of my family, it is a source of stress for me.  When I figured out the clutter accumulating in our kitchen and living room was stressing me out, I was able to communicate this to my husband who very willingly helped me to de-clutter these areas.  I can say I am feeling much better today.  What a simple fix!  But if I didn’t take note of the ‘symptoms’ I might have missed this and still been in a state of stress.  Paying attention is important.

4. We can function in stressful circumstances for such a long time that they become ‘normal’ to us.  We don’t realize we are under as much stress as we are.  It was not until I stopped working at the hotel that I realized how stressed I really was AND the degree of impact that was making on the rest of my life.  As much as I tried very hard to maintain a work-life balance, the stresses of my work situation meant I had very little left of ‘me’ for my family and friends.  I might have only been putting in 40-45 hours a week but I didn’t have much physical, mental, or emotional energy left at the end of my day/week.  I realize sometimes people don’t have a choice regarding their circumstances but for the times when a person does have a choice, evaluating the ‘cost’ of remaining in the stressful situation is important.

5. There are things we can do to cope with stress and this will look different for each person.  Some things are universal, such as regular exercise and getting enough sleep.  Other things are individual.  I like hot baths, getting massages, listening to spa music, and going for walks outdoors.  Temperament and personality also play a part.  As an introvert, I need more time alone by myself to re-energize.  Extroverts might benefit from enjoying time with others.  Finding what de-stresses you and practicing this on a consistent basis is important.

6.  When I am stressed, EVERYTHING seems worse.  This might be more applicable to women because our brains connect everything to everything else in our minds.  But I know I am much more prone to ‘catastrophize’ when I am stressed than when I am not.  Reminding myself that “everything is going to be all right” is important.

Whiles stress can never be completely removed from our lives we can learn to recognize it, cope with it, and become more resilient to it.

What have you learned about stress?


Why are we here?

In Christian circles I’ve heard a couple of reasons for “why we are here”.  One of those reasons is “to glorify God”.  I used to blindly accept this but I’m coming to the place where I’d say I disagree with that.  I believe there’s a much better reason for “why we are here”.

We are here to love each other.

Simple, yet profound.  In this world of so many broken and hurting people I believe our greatest purpose is to extend love and grace and acceptance and gentleness and forgiveness.  It is the outworking of love that truly changes people’s lives.  Love does not use coercion or fear to elicit a desired behaviour from someone.  It does not stem from our own sense of shame.

Love brings freedom.

Freedom from fear, freedom from shame, freedom from obligation.  Having experienced love I believe our natural response is to love in return.  And I think the world would be a better place if we learned to do that.

I’ve been volunteering once a week at my daughter’s class at school.  It’s only been a couple of weeks but I’m coming to know and love the children there.  I get the impression that some of these children do not come from the most loving of families.  And I can’t help but think what some love and gentleness could do for them.  I understand that life is not that simple, however I do believe that if people (whether they are children or adults) feel safe and loved in their environment they will do much better than if they don’t feel those things.  Where often our responses are to address the behaviours (the symptoms), if love and understanding were applied to the roots, I think many behaviours would diminish or disappear.

You may think me idealistic (and I probably am) but I still believe that love is a better way, a better approach, than anything else.  And I would rather “be here” to be an agent of God’s love to the world than anything else.  I believe we all need it.


A hopeless romantic

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I just recently started watching Downton Abbey.  My husband and I bought the first three seasons.  Tonight we finished season 2 with “Christmas at Downton Abbey” and when we got to the very end I cheered.  For those of you who haven’t seen Downton Abbey I won’t tell you what happened but let’s just say I am (and always will be) a hopeless romantic.


EPIC!!!

RiderNation2013  We did it!  The Saskatchewan Roughriders have won the 2013 Grey Cup AT HOME in Saskatchewan.  What are the odds of that happening again in my lifetime?

What a game!  What a party!  I imagine just about all of Saskatchewan is celebrating right now.  So glad to be a part of Rider Nation!

Well done, Riders, well done!

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Lingering

1. to remain or stay on in a place longer than is usual or expected, as if from reluctance to leave

That would describe the head cold and headache I’m suffering through today. So that’s all I’ve got.

This counts! (for NaBloPoMo)


Favourite Quotes

I was reading through something today where people shared their favourite quotes and I got to thinking, “What are my favourite quotes?”

Here’s a few:

In great attempts it is glorious even to fail. – Vince Lombardi

Isn’t nice to think that tomorrow is a day with no mistakes in it yet? – Anne Shirley

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow. – Helen Keller

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain! – Vivian Greene

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. – Kahlil Gibran

May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day. – Native American Proverb


Memories of summer…and warmth

With 10 days left to go for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I’m starting to run out of ideas.  We’re in our first cold snap with morning wind chills around -30 (which really isn’t bad for Saskatchewan – I’m just not used to it…yet).  And I was looking back through my photos from the summer…when there was green grass and no snow and it was warm.

Here’s some of my favourite shots:

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Snippets of songs

There’s been a couple of lines of 2 songs that have been running around my head for the last couple of days.  Interestingly, both songs come from the soundtrack album for “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” which most people haven’t heard before.

One song is called “The Magic of a Friend”.  Here’s the line:

“We all can lose our way,
that doesn’t mean that’s where the story ends”

What I take from this is that we all mess up but that doesn’t have to define us.  There is grace for our mistakes.

The second song is “It’s Love That Holds Your Hand”.

“That in spite of everything
Its love that holds your hand…
That in spite of every fear you know, yeah
In spite of every tear that falls
In spite of everything
Its love that holds your hand”

I just love the imagery of these lines – the idea that Love is holding my hand (not the other way around) and all I have to do is let it keep holding me.  I am safe and secure in Love.


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…
STOP!
It has been snowing off and on for the past 4 days already.  We can’t keep up with shoveling our sidewalk.  And once people have trampled the snow for a while, it is SO much harder to shovel the stuff off.  Will it never end?!


Somedays I am like Denethor

For those of you who know nothing about The Lord of the Rings, let me provide a bit of background.  Denethor is the Steward of a kingdom called Gondor.  The Steward rules in the king’s absence, though it has been many years since a king has sat on the throne.  Bordering the land of Gondor is Mordor.  It’s an evil land ruled by a really, really bad guy named Sauron who wants to take over the whole world and subject all the people to slavery.

It turns out that Denethor has a special item, a Palantir, that allows him to see places beyond his kingdom.  He uses this to gain information about the movements of his enemy Sauron, for war is imminent.  The only problem is that Sauron also has at least one of these “Seeing Stones”, these Palantir.  And Sauron controls what Denethor sees.  So Denethor sees the might of his enemy, how he has multitudes upon multitudes of his servants pressing in on seemingly every side.  Denethor despairs and loses all hope and eventually commits suicide because he believes nothing can withstand their enemy, that they are all doomed.

Denethor only saw part of the picture.  There were other factors at play which could have brought him hope.  All was not lost.  Eventually Sauron was defeated.  But Denethor could not see those things.  He only saw the darkness.  His perspective was skewed.

I think sometimes my perspective is skewed.  There is so much pain and suffering in this world, so many broken and hurting people.  There are wars and bombings and abuse and injustice.  We can do so much harm to each other.  I begin to lose hope and despair.  I can’t see the light and our capacity for good.  That we can heal and mend and bless each other.  That there is love in this world and that it is stronger than hate.

Somedays I am like Denethor and I feel overwhelmed by it all.  But this perspective does not serve me well.  If I dwell on the darkness, it feeds my despair.  But if I dwell on the light and seek that which is good and beautiful in this world – though there is darkness – I will not despair.  I can continue to have hope.


My beautiful daughter

IMG_5708  My beautiful daughter turned seven years old today.  She is such a joy.  She is smart and determined.  She is silly and a tease.  She loves freely with all her heart.  She is our “ray of light” (that’s what her middle name means).  I am so blessed to be her mom!


The Laughter of Little Girls

Picture if you will, seven girls running wildly through the house, with peels of  hysterical laughter ringing from every corner.  This is what I experienced this afternoon.  My daughter had her birthday party and had 6 of her friends over to our house for cake, scavenger hunting, crafts, a piñata…and freeze tag.  This last was what brought about the uproarious giggling.  I couldn’t help but smile.  There is nothing like the laughter of little girls.  If you bottled up “joy” I’m sure it would sound like that.  What an awesome afternoon!


I Love Cats

Big cats, in particular (although I love the common house cat as well).  While I’d say the tiger is my favourite of the big cats, I love all kinds.

They are beautiful, majestic creatures.  I love their power and grace.  One of the wishes I have always had is for my own pet tiger – I don’t want a watch dog, I want a watch kitty!

What creatures do you love?

Calm-Tiger

White Tiger

Cougar / Mountain Lion

Cougar / Mountain Lion

cheetah

Cheetahs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There IS hope

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,…”

– excerpt from the speech “Citizen in the Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt, delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, France on April 23, 1910

This quote says so much.  It is not a cry to strive to achieve perfection.  It bestows reverence on the imperfections, the failures, the falling down again and again.  Because those who “dare” to try, even though it means failure and hardship, are the valiant courageous ones.  And they should lend no credence to those who stand OUTSIDE the arena and criticize them.  For the critics have not endured the trial of the arena; they have no scars to show.  How can they possibly stand as judge?

Ironically, the “critic” who shouts the loudest, with the most biting remarks, is the voice inside my own head.  I am my own worst critic.  And I need to stop listening to that critic.

There IS hope.  For there is another ‘voice’ in my head, a voice that has grown stronger over the years.  This voice is not a critic.  It is the voice of good news.  And it tells me that I am loved and accepted, even as I am covered in dust, sweat, and blood.  And there is absolutely NOTHING I can do or should do that can diminish or increase that love and acceptance.  And once I started believing that…I mean, really believing that, I could truly love and accept myself in the midst of my dust, sweat, and blood.  And that, in turn, decreased my fear.  And when I wasn’t responding out of fear (or should I say, shame?), I had more patience and love for others.  And I started to become the person I really wanted to be.  And all my years of striving to be “perfect” (or at least, “good enough”) could not achieve what love and grace did.  THAT is the GOOD NEWS!

So for all of you who feel like failures from time to time…or often: be encouraged.  There IS hope.  God’s love and grace can transform us like nothing else can.  It can take years, with triumphs and setbacks.  It takes a change in what we think about ourselves.  But it CAN happen.  And I believe God is personally invested in helping each one of us to this end.

P.S. I would highly recommend reading the book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown.  She addresses vulnerability and shame which I believe are foundational in how we view ourselves and others, and in our ability to love and accept ourselves and others.  It is a very good book!


12 Years A Slave

My husband and I watched the movie “12 Years A Slave” tonight.  It is based on the true story of a free black man living in the Northern United States who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Southern States in the 1800s. 

While being a very well done movie, it was not easy to watch.  But I think that was the point.  The viewer should not be ‘comfortable’ when watching a movie portraying the horrific realities of life as a slave.  Even though it was difficult to watch, I never felt that the graphic nature of some scenes was gratuitous or was superfluous to the telling of the story.  The movie showed us what was necessary to see in order to understand it. 

The acting was incredibly well done.  We saw the plight of male and female slaves in addition to the main character, Solomon Northrup.  There were more moral slave owners and much less moral ones.  There were really immoral slave traders.  It is sad to see the depths human beings can lower themselves to in the treatment of others.  But it is a piece of history we cannot forget (just as we cannot forget the Holocaust or Residential Schools). 

And yet I can’t help but think of the slavery thay continues on our planet today and how unimaginably horrendous life must be for those people.  Separated from their families, with no identity, and no means of escape.

God, have mercy.


Little known fact about me…

(or perhaps not so little know)

I.hate.being.cold.

I really really hate it.  When asked if I would rather be too hot or too cold I always say “too hot”.  I tend to get chilled and sometimes it takes a long time to warm up again.  My husband has heard the phrase, “I hate being cold,” more than any other phrase in our marriage (save “I love you”).  I’m probably thinking about this because I’m currently huddled under a sweater and a blanket to warm up after getting chilled.

I hate it.  I really do.  I hate being cold.


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields

Flanders Poppy on the First World War battlefields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

(taken from http://www.greatwar.co.uk/poems/john-mccrae-in-flanders-fields.htm)


A year this weekend…

IMG_4524  A year ago this weekend, I was here: in the Okanogan.  On the spur of the moment, my husband and I decided to visit our friends.  We had to brave a wicked blizzard on the way there but we made it.  I ended up spending the weekend at a swim meet with Jacki and Leighton spent his time with Jeremy.  It was a good trip.  It was a memorable trip.  Living at the pool, I got to meet one of Jacki’s friends, Colleen, and we very quickly made a connection (so much so that she and her daughter stayed at our place in February attending a swim meet in our city).

There are times when I get the impression that our decisions are divinely ‘influenced’.  If we had not decided to go there on the November long weekend I would have missed the swim meet and probably never met Colleen.  I also would not have had the opportunity to get to know Jacki on a deeper level than I had before.

Colleen would have never stayed with us in February and I wouldn’t have been able to get to know her even further.  There are similarities in our stories and it is precious to me to find a connection with those people who understand what I’m going through, who have lived in the midst of it.  And we can sigh and say, “I cannot change your situation, but you are not alone.

It means so much to me to know that I am not alone.  Someone understands and does not pass judgement and feels my successes and discouragements.  When these people ‘coincidentally’ cross my path, I wonder if there wasn’t a bit a divine prompt to bring a new layer of richness, encouragement, and hope to my life.


Home reno projects stress me out

I find them disruptive.  They generally take longer than anticipated.  Things don’t go as planned.  I don’t have the expertise or experience to do them perfectly (I mean ‘well’).  I get frustrated.  I get discouraged.  I feel like a failure.  I think it will ‘never be done!’  My tendancy to ‘catastrophize’ comes out in full force.

Today I tried to finish up the last little touches to a reno project that I’ve been working on for quite some time: my home office.  Of course it didn’t go as planned.   A screw was stripped.  One screw head broke off completely…in the wood (how am I going to get THAT out!?).  I probably shouldn’t have been working on this after spending most of the day out and about birthday party shopping with my daughter (my patience was quite thin by the end).  At one point in my reno work my daughter said to me, “I think you need to take a break, Mom.”  That’s saying something, isn’t it?