Saturday, February 28, 2009

Am I Recession Proof?

I watched an episode of Oprah, focusing on the devastating effects of the recession in the U.S. yesterday. As I sat in the comfort of my home, with my bills paid and a sense of financial ease ... it made me wonder how secure any of this material world really is.

When a person is earning a living at a job that you've held for 'forever', it is very easy to sit back and feel lackadaisical about it all. You keep doing what you've always done, assume that the pay cheque that you have earned will come when it is expected. You find fault with the nit picky kinds of things that are an intrical part of day to day living. Whether it is a job, a relationship, a neighborhood, a car ... you name it. Any thing or any one that we see every day, becomes something that we begin to take for granted.

The segment of Oprah's show that stayed with me after the show, were the 'tent cities' that are springing up all over the country. The shelters are turning people away so this has become an alternate way of living. This was contrasted against the prior segment, where a mother and her 2 children had all of their belongings bundled up in a garbage bag. They carried this bag around with them all day and relied on finding a shelter at night. The luckier ones in the show lived in their office or found a way to shave some of their housing costs by taking in another family. People are doing what it takes to survive these hard financial times.

It is hard to imagine being placed in this scenario. Where I live has not been severely affected by this financial crisis. There may be a trickle-down effect that will hit us. But as of this moment, I feel very fortunate.

The one thing that the people who were highlighted in Oprah's show said is that they would focus on saving, if they were to do it all over again. We live in a very materialistic world. Not only living pay cheque to pay cheque ... but living beyond our means. Charging what we can't afford. Living in houses that we couldn't afford, if the mortgage interest rates were to sky rocket. A lot of us are only one pay cheque or car/house repair away from a devastating financial situation.

I just received my pension statement this past week. Due to the financial situation we are in, the balance in my pension dropped 18.65%. Not the interest rate - the actual balance. I consider myself fortunate because I am (hopefully) almost 20 years away from retirement. My retirement plan is to work at what I love. So the financial aspect isn't as devastating to me, as it may be to someone who was relying solely on those funds. For some one who did as all the financial advisers told them to do and have been diligently saving for their retirement and investing in mutual funds to maximize the long term growth potential - to see their hard earned money drop in value so drastically would be a bitter pill to swallow.

But when we compare our drop in investment values, to being forced to live out of a garbage bag and look for refuge where we could find it ... we must feel very rich indeed.

When we wake up every morning and have a bathroom that is our own and a few steps away from where we sleep ... we are fortunate. When we can have a shower in the privacy of our own home ... we are blessed. When we can open our refrigerator or cupboard doors and choose from the bounty of groceries that we have on hand ... we are lucky. When we can walk out of our home and know that we have a roof to call our own, that we can come home to at night ... we are rich. When we can turn on a light, turn on a faucet, turn up the heat or simply close and lock a door that belongs to us every night and know that our family is safely tucked inside ... we are prosperous.

I believe that we are surrounded by the riches that are our lives, every day. Even the families showcased on Oprah's show were not without hope and their health. There are silver linings where ever you may be in life.

What can I do to 'recession proof' my life? I believe that it starts by valuing what I have right here and now. I am so grateful for the roof and walls that shelter me and my family. I am grateful for my family - something that money can't buy. I am grateful for my health and the health of my family. I have the blessing of spending the energy I have, on caring and sharing with my family and appreciating the many small blessings that we have ... simply because we have each other.

Practically ... I know that I should spend wisely, save for a rainy day and build up that emergency fund that I have read about for the entirety of my adult life. Money can't buy everything ... but it can certainly ease the uncertainty out of month to month living.

When I think of the families that are toting their belongings around in a garbage bag or living out of a tent ... it makes me realize how little that we truly need, when it comes to material belongings.

What we never want to lose ... is hope.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

If You Cook It ... They Will Come

Our supper menus around here have left a lot to be desired lately. More often than not, the thought process is simply filling the void in our stomachs and trying to hit all the food groups for Kurt. Some nights, I have popcorn while Kurt has left overs from lunch. Anyone dropping by unexpectedly at supper time would not be enticed to stay.

Yesterday's supper menu started with some lettuce that had to be used and some baby potatoes that I had bought a while ago that only have a limited shelf life. I thawed some chicken and thought that was a good basis for a meal. As I organized supper at lunch time I had the thought come to me "If I cook it ... they will come ..."

And they did!

We ended up having a very spur of the moment and unexpected family supper. As I sat at the supper table with 'all of my boys', I realized just how special the moment was. The best things in life are the little things. The things we don't expect or anticipate.

The dynamic in my little family has not always been idyllic. We've had our share of drama and upheaval. Though last night was not a scene from 'The Walton's', it was a moment that I will remember with fondness.

Sitting at the table, providing nourishment for my family and enjoying their company is a recipe for family harmony that I don't savor nearly enough.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'd Like to Give Up 10 Pounds for Lent

We aren't Catholic, but Kurt attends a Catholic school and he has to give up something for Lent. When he first mentioned it to me, he told me that he didn't want to do it this year but his teacher insisted that he must. A day later, he told me that he had decided that he was going to give up spending money for Lent. I thought that was a good sacrifice to make.

Since I don't know the Catholic religion (other than what comes home from school), I am usually reminded about Lent after the fact. I have often thought that I should give up something for those 40 days. But somehow, by missing the start-date I absolved myself from the tradition.

This year, Kurt got me thinking about it a few days early. My first instinct was that I didn't want to give up any of the new facets of my 'new life'. What I have brought in to my life over the course of the past few years has been positive and motivating. Realizing that, I was reminded of all that I do have to be grateful for.

I wondered aloud, what I should give up. Kurt's unedited response was to ''give up being mean". Ouch. Once again - that isn't really giving up something. It is the realization that I must bring patience and tolerance in to my life. A few more ingredients to add to the recipe of the new me.

What I realized after last week, was that this impatience comes from an over-stressed, over-taxed and over-tired me. I have had an aura of calmness within me since unwinding this past weekend. I'm on the road to enhancing the nicer person that Kurt wants me to be. I want that goal to go beyond the 40 days. That is a life time achievement. I must keep working on that one. Every day. All day.

Kurt's words resonated within me and I wondered what I had to remove from my life to add patience in to it. The outside stresses are definitely a factor. None of which I really want to take out of my life. I just want to keep them all in balance. Once again - I'm not giving up anything. I'm adding that equilibrium that keeps me feeling at peace in my world.

It isn't like I don't have any bad habits that I could give up! It is a matter of choosing something that I can strive to achieve and keep up after the 40 days of Lent is over.

My experiment with replacing bad habits with good ones kind of went awry after my chocolate overload. I think the chocolate was just an excuse. My stomach had been feeling very out of sorts during the last few weeks of my experiment and I wasn't sure what was causing it. Something I added or deleted or a combination of the two was playing havoc on my digestive system. So I turned to the chocolate as an excuse to bale out on healthy choices.

Since my little binge, I've gotten myself back on track. I have retained the exercise habit. I am eating smaller quantities. I have eaten only a few bowls of ice cream in the past month. I am simply moderating my intake of food and trying to stop the emotional eating cycle. In fact, I sat down and ate a bowl of ice cream after lunch yesterday and I didn't savor the ice cream experience and I felt rather crappy after I ate it.

I seem to have a problem with extra pounds finding their way onto my body lately. It could be the horrible eating habits that I have gradually added to my life. Over eating, emotional eating, the junk food habit ... added to the fact that I spend more time in front of the computer than I ever have in my life and less physical activity ... it equals the larger numbers on my scale.

So I thought of one food habit that I would truly like to break - the evening snacking. I thought to "give up snacking after 7:00" would be my goal for Lent. Sacrificing something that will be hard to do and beneficial to me sounds like a good goal. Achieving this and adding that exercise into my morning routine should help with the weight that I seem to be accumulating.

So the short of it is: I would like to give up 10 pounds for Lent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Calm After the Storm

Even though I didn't have the 'crash and burn day' that I had hoped for this past weekend, I enjoyed a nice pace of work, friends/family, sleep and R & R. I came into this new week feeling rested and grounded once again.

The pace of life has slowed down this week. Kids are back in school. My daily schedules and regular kid-loads are back in check. No racing around in the evenings. Just that sense of ''ahhh'' feeling at the end of the day.

My tolerance levels are back in check. I feel like I have my life back in balance again. It's nice to have a good sense of 'normal' as a check point in life. An equilibrium to strive towards. A place that feels comfortable and familiar.

This calmness within, is like a port in the storm. A safe and serene haven within the busyness of day to day living.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"I Guess I Was Thinking of You ..."

The first phone call I received this week was a wrong number. A friend accidentally called me, when they meant to call some place of business.

It happened to be a person of the male variety, so when the phrase "I guess I was thinking of you" followed the realization of his error, my heart did a little flip.

It was a little thing, but it feels good to hear those words. No matter who they come from.

What a nice way to start the week.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Treasures of the Week

A Valentines Day bouquet of flowers ...
And some very special prizes that I won at the dance at the studio Thursday night (don't you love my new tropical-bird-sun-visor?)

Looking at my most special treasures makes my heart happy.

I Overdid It

Yesterday, my coping abilities were nil. Small things felt big. I was overwhelmed by the kids. I couldn't get myself caught up on the work that I felt that I had to do. A little problem Kurt has been having with some friends felt like my problem and I was over reacting. I wanted to curl up in a corner and make the world go away.

Even as I was feeling these completely over the top and irrational feelings, I knew I was in foreign territory (although it used to be the norm for me). I was worrying about things that might happen - not what was actually happening at the time. I was wasting my energy on feeling these negative thoughts and fretting about things that may never happen. And does it really matter if my house gets dusted and the bathroom gets cleaned on Friday?!?!? Well, yes it does ... to me.

The more out of control my emotional well being is, the more I need order in my home. I need to be in an organized and clean space to relax. The correlation between an orderly work place and an orderly mind was implanted in my head at the very first job that I ever had. I've carried that forward with me throughout my working life. And now that I work from my home, the 'desk' that I need to keep running, well stocked and organized is the entirety of my home.

Order in my home = order in my mind. It works for me.

But yesterday ... I was over the top. There was something driving me that wasn't feeling healthy. The emotions behind my actions were not my regular coping mechanisms. What was my problem?

I was tired.

At the end of the day, I got my house in order, an errand run, I picked up Kurt (who had been at a friends) and brought him and his friend back home and I relaxed. I could feel the exhaustion seeping into my bones and when I relinquished all control and let myself go ... I slept.

It is amazing what a good nights sleep does for a person. I have granted myself a 'crash and burn day' this weekend. I supposedly have book keeping work en route to me today. More often than not, this doesn't happen. I have this horrible foreboding thought that today it will happen. No matter if my work comes today or not, I'm allowing myself the 'gift of a day'.

I felt like I have been in perpetual motion for 9 days straight. Every evening, every day, every moment, every thought had a purpose. Even scheduling 'down time' to watch my favorite shows wasn't quite refueling me like I needed. I need some time to just 'be'.

I overdid it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Did It!

I went to a dance at the dance studio tonight and had the best time!

It was fantastic in every way! They have been gradually adding decorations for the 'Tropical' theme for several weeks now. By tonight, it was like walking into a holiday paradise. It's the closest that I'll be getting to a tropics for a while, so I enjoyed the retreat.

The atmosphere within the studio was upbeat, the mood was contagious and where ever you looked, you saw smiling happy faces. And lots of dancing to boot.

When I went to the Christmas dance a few months ago, it was to prove to myself that I could do it. Having already succeeded at that, tonight was easy. Tonight's goal was to have fun. And I succeeded at that goal as well.

I can wrap up the evening's event in a word: Fun! Something that I think my life could use a good dose of.

I went ... and I'm so glad that I 'just did it'!

Just Do It!

It feels so good to get things accomplished in amongst the busyness of life. Fitting in my book keeping job feels challenging at times. Working in time for my book project has been hard to find time for, but I inadvertently followed the advice of an author's blog that I have following (I did it before I read her advice). "Just do it!"

Nike coined the phrase right. The job that you don't want to do - "Just do it!" The job that overwhelms you - "Just do it!" The habit you want to break - "Just do it!" The feeling you have that you want to phone or write to some one - "Just do it!" The invitation you want to extend - "Just do it!" The book that you want to read, the movie you want to see, the time you want to take for yourself and for your family - "Just do it!"

A person can talk themselves out of most anything, given the opportunity. But unless it is something you want to be talked out of ... "Just do it!"

It's working for me. I've 'just done it' and climbed a lot of hills this past little while. It's tiring at times, but it's energizing in the end.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Angels All Around Us

I've gradually amassed a very small collection of angels that I've kept with my Christmas decorations. This year, as I packed away 'Christmas' I kept all of my angels out and I have them displayed in a spot that I can enjoy them throughout the year.

The shelf that I have my angels showcased, also has a picture of my earthly angels - a most special group of friends that has seen me through many life transitions. They've been instrumental in supporting some life changing decisions that I have made and they have guided me through others. We have such an incredible friendship and I think there is a lot of mutual give and take. They are angels at my side.

Nestled in between my two sets of angels on this shelf, I have a framed picture of the farm that I grew up on. Home. It is the place where my roots are. It is a place that I feel grounded me at an early age. This picture symbolizes 'home' ... where ever that may be. I have my angels on either side of that photograph and pictures of my family are on a shelf above.

The display of my home, surrounded by angels is exactly how I feel. I feel an aura of safety, shelter and harmony around my home. There is peace within these walls that house me. There is peace within my heart.

The angels that walk among us are many. I have many friends. Amazing friends, that I connect with on many levels. I have one particular friend that is incredibly intuitive and she has been there for me at times when it seemed that she realized I needed a friend before I did. She walks through life very quietly in some ways. When she is recognized for doing a good deed she downplays it, as if anyone else would have done the same. She doesn't consider herself special. But she is.

I read some one's story of an 'angel unaware' that touched his life in a way that he will never forget - just by the words that she spoke to him. This is a memory that goes back decades. And he remembers the impact that this angel made upon his life to this day.

We were sitting at a light one day and noticed the person in the vehicle beside us. I can only assume that this person was completely wrapped up in a song that they were listening to. They were in their vehicle alone, but they were completely animated and it made my heart so happy to see the euphoria and excitement within this person. I thought at the time, that person had no idea how happy they made me at that precise moment. Feeling their happiness transcend through a mundane stop at a light. A small amount of 'happy' as I was going through the paces of my life. Another angel.

A little girl that I take care of makes me smile like no other. She is a marvel to watch, listen to and enjoy. She gets her parents attention by very quietly and sweetly doing something cute, to attract their eyes and hearts. Then she smiles. Her smile, her joy, her innocence and the words that she is trying out as she learns the English language are all a wonder to behold. She rarely says no. She's very much a 'yes' girl (or 'ya'). The first two words that she strung together were "Yes, please". What makes this such a miracle is that this young family is dealing with the dad's recent diagnosis of brain cancer. As they deal with this monumental, life changing situation they have their little angel to keep them smiling, to keep them in the moment and to keep their focus on the wonders that they do have ... right here and now. This joy in their hearts and their little angel, can only help them as they deal with the dad's health.

I have an 'angel' that appeared out of no where, when I was delivering papers in the wee hours of the morning to warn me of a guy who had hidden behind a car after he had asked me directions a few minutes prior. Her presence must have scared him off ... I didn't see him again.

The night that I moved my family to our new city, I was exhausted. I was starting to fall asleep at the wheel. I felt myself jerked awake on several occasions. This was in the middle of winter. I had all that was precious to me in the world, in my car - my children. Through some miracle, we made it to our destination safely. My dad had just passed away shortly before this and at the time, I felt it was his 'presence' guiding my car and my family and keeping us safe.

The words of my dad, that live on in my heart and memory and come to me when I need to hear or remember them. The memories of family members that passed away before my time or before I can remember that linger on in the memories, voices, characteristics and essence of the family left behind. Seeing my dad's eyes look directly into mine, through his brother that is still alive. Seeing him living on in my brother ... as they walk a different, but similar path.

As we walk through our lives, we touch others lives in ways that we will never know. We raise our children the best we know how and whether it is good or bad, a piece of us is carried within them for their life time. In our interactions with everyone we meet, we may be someone's angel of mercy one time and others, we may feel touched by an angel.

As I feel the presence of 'angels' all around, I feel like I'm living in a little piece of heaven right here on earth.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Winding Down the Weekend

It was a very rewarding weekend. I accomplished all (and a little bit more) that I set out to do. I have overcome the overwhelmed state that I was in, at the onset of these 3 days off.

It is amazing how energizing it is, to confront challenges. I feel like I have tamed a lion. Instead of feeling drained because of the work I have done, I have more energy than ever because a daunting task is being dealt with.

The energy one spends on feeling overwhelmed and becoming paralyzed in that state is amazing. The size of the job in front of you grows in your mind and becomes that untamed lion. You don't know where to begin, how to take that first step and you can't even envision dealing with the work that you have set out before you.

It all starts with one simple step. Begin.

Break a huge job into little pieces. Just face one piece at a time. By simply taking one step in a forward direction, you are one step closer ... no matter how far off the destination is. One step closer is better than 2 steps back (usually where you are, if you sit and do nothing and the job does grow bigger).

Looking back on where I was this time last year and the obstacles I overcame was a good launching pad for success. I felt like I had so far to go to get this next family history in order. But compared to where I was in this process last year, I am miles ahead.

I still have miles to go. I am still a tad overwhelmed. But nothing compared to what I was before I took that first step.

A step in the right direction.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Time Out For Me

I hit the ground running yesterday. Not literally, but my mind was in 'go' mode from the moment I woke up.

I started my day by immediately posting in some of my blogs and making my 'Friday video' (for my daycare blog). My first blog entry was stamped with the time 5:59 am and by 10:30 am, the daycare movie was downloaded and the final blog entry was posted.

I stopped to have breakfast at that point, then I forged onto my next project. I then worked at my family 'book project' for the next 3 1/2 hours. I then took a 5 minute break before I tackled my biggest hurdle of the day. The book keeping job that I had to conquer this weekend.

I worked feverishly at the book keeping job for the next 6 hours, stopping only to move and to stretch. I set a few milestones for myself along the way and by the time I had reached my final milestone I was so close to the end, that I could feel it. I stuck with it until the job was done. Not to haunt me for the rest of the weekend. I conquered that mountain and though it was a hard climb, I reached the summit.

I knew that the sanest thing to do at that point would be to do some stretching exercises after spending 15 hours at the computer. But I couldn't. I made myself some popcorn for supper, grabbed some licorice (did I mention that I had part of a bag of chips and the last 2 pieces of chocolate in the house for lunch?) and I sat down to watch 'Private Practice' (I am totally hooked on the ability to watch missed episodes of certain TV programs off of the Internet). Again, I was tied to the computer but my body and mind were in a totally relaxed state.

Amazingly enough, I woke up feeling the need to nurture myself this morning. I was wide awake by 4:30 am but I knew that I was not up to starting my day that early. After checking my emails (yes, I am totally addicted to the computer ... I think that maybe that was the most relaxing part of my 5 day vacation that I took after Christmas), I crawled back into bed and turned on the tail end 'Ross and Rachel' marathon ('Friends' episodes) that one of the channels was running. And thankfully, the TV worked its usual magic for me. I fell asleep. By 8:00, I decided that it was a sane hour to start the day.

I started the day with exercise (from this site on Oprah's site: ). It felt sooooooo good to move and stretch. Next, I had my breakfast smoothie and coffee while I watched 'Flashpoint' (again, off the missed episodes on the site). I had a bath and got ready for the day. And I feel renewed and refreshed and ready to tackle another day.

I have no desire to be hooked to the computer for 16 hours again today ... but I do want to continue the work that I started on my 'book project' yesterday. I have a long, long way to go. But I'm gaining some momentum that I don't want to lose.

Now that I've taken the morning for myself, I am going to have coffee with a friend and then I'm back to my book project.

Ahhh ... it feels good to give yourself a break!! Take one for yourself and see for yourself.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

At long last, Valentine's day doesn't really affect me one way or another.

The one Valentine's Day that stands out to me was when I received a red rose in a swan vase from 'the man I loved' which was completely and totally out of the norm for him. It was unexpected and it was wonderful.

I have memories of the years when girls at work would receive flowers from their special-someones. These little aches are par for the course if you are unhappy in your singleness.

I remember the longings as a child. I was a quiet, unnoticeable, uncertain and unpopular in the ways that I longed to be popular. I remember the quiet wishes for a secret valentine. The longings of a young girl.

Over the years, an average Valentine's Day normally passes without any more hoopla, than making sure that I have Valentine cards in the house for my kids to hand out at school.

This year, I felt a little different. As I saw the flyer's advertising the special Valentine bouquets, I seriously thought of buying some flowers for myself. When there were bonus air miles coupons attached to the advertising, I was sold on the idea. Except for one curious thing. There were no prices advertised.

I was at Safeway last night and I was firm in my decision to buy myself some flowers. I would have settled for a rose with baby's breath.

Then I saw the prices! Even for the most basic arrangement that felt special for the occasion, the cost was not practical in my eyes. I looked for a single rose. And any of the roses that I saw, were long past their 'best before' dates.

There were flowers galore - flowers, balloons and chocolates as soon as you entered the store, flowers by the checkouts, flowers in the special 'seasonal' area of the store, flowers in the flower department. But I couldn't find the one flower that I was looking for. A fresh bud that would bloom after I took it home. And the cost of the special bouquets they advertised were out of reach. So I left the store with my budget intact and the desire for that one rose bud with baby's breath unrealized.

I wandered around the house this morning and as I was thinking of what I could write about, I realized that it was Valentine's Day. I lit some candles and I am sitting in the candlelight this morning with my cup of coffee. And my cup runneth over.

I am at the point in my life where I have realized my own value. I believe that I am worthy of buying myself a flower. I don't need some one's love or opinion of me to validate the fact that I am okay. I have friends and family that I celebrate every day of my life with. Not just the Hallmark holidays. I am loved.

Happy Valentine's Day. May you find your own Valentine within yourself and the world that you have created.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Truly Impossible Things

Glossary for reading the following blog entry:

Book keeping - a part time job that I do from my home; a second income; work that I would like to eventually replace my daycare income with; a responsibility

Book project - a project that I have taken on, compiling family history and memories; something that I would like to pursue in my eventual retirement from my daycare job; a passion

Book - a piece of fiction that someone else has written; reading provides me with such insight and appreciation of the work involved; a mental vacation from my real life; reading is something I do for me

I was giving myself some kudos for tackling the family history book project that I had been avoiding. I had placed my 'book-project' pile (passion) in the place that my book-keeping (responsibility) pile usually goes, to give this job a priority in my life. And yesterday, I was faced with what feels like a truly impossible thing.

It felt as though the person who I do the book keeping for, saw other work sitting in her spot and was jealous. Because she came up with the most time consuming, inane task that will occupy a great part of the upcoming long weekend.

Things had been very busy at their shop this past week, so I wasn't getting any book keeping work. She didn't have time to work on the things that she needs to do, before she can pass along some of the follow-up work to me. I allowed myself a day off to indulge myself in reading a book, before I realized that this was the opportunity that I had been waiting for. Time to focus on the family history book project that I had been putting off for so long.

I spent 2 days doing 'impossible things' and with a long weekend forth coming, I knew that I was gaining some good momentum for the task at hand. And then I got handed this other job.

The task at hand (for the book keeping) is to go into their accounting system and hand write every invoice number, dollar amount and date of every single invoice posted since June 1, 2008. This is a very busy company. I spent 5 hours at this yesterday, feverishly trying to hit a half way mark so that it wouldn't infringe on my weekend too much. And I got to the end of the "F's". That is about a quarter of the way through the alphabet! That means that it is very likely that I have 15 more hours to invest in this job. 5 hours a day, for the 3 days that I have off. I am just a tad bitter.

Now to be realistic, I get paid well to do this job. I can do it at my leisure and I can do it all from home. All I have to do, is be willing to sacrifice a great part of my weekend. And the truth is, that she may have felt badly for not giving me work all week because she knows that the pay cheque that I earn from my book keeping job has made a huge difference in my budget. So in every logical sense, I should be eternally grateful that I have this job and this income. And I am.

But I must prioritize my jobs this weekend. My brain is the freshest in the morning. So the mornings will be devoted to working on the family history book project that I am helping my friend put together. I need to get caught up with that job. It has piled up on me and I don't do well with unfinished work staring me in the face. Working on a task that I am determined to complete, brings me a great deal of satisfaction. Seeing the pile visibly lessen will spur me on to great things. I want to get excited about this, but it is very hard when I don't keep on top of it.

Yesterday I truly realized why my family-history-book-project has been tabled for so long. What I suspected was true. The book keeping job has taken priority. And it must. This is a responsibility that I asked for, that I wanted and I hope to attract more of this type of work to me. So I am not berating myself for putting it first.

The family-history book project is a passion. This is also something that I want to attract into my life. I would love to be able to retire from the work-world and devote myself and my time to collecting family memories and compiling them for people. I am working on a dream and a direction that I want my life to take. So I desperately need to find a way to work this into my life because this is something that is important to me. The friend that I am helping is my first experiment with doing this for someone outside of my own family. And I feel like I am failing at it. I haven't placed the appropriate amount of value on it. I haven't set my priorities.

It was on this long weekend last year, that I was going on 'road trips' with my mom to collect memories from her and her sisters for the 'The Book' that I blogged about for the early part of last year. My work was just beginning - I had a weekend's worth of conversations to transcribe into the written word, I had yet to purchase and decipher Microsoft Word, I was in regular contact with the book publishing company to ensure that I was formatting the book properly, I had to scan photos for the photo album section of the book (I didn't realize that I just had to scan the photos that were lent to me until after I had invested endless hours and dollars copying the pictures at my neighborhood Walmart photo lab) and I still had to put their memories into a 'story' format. I was on the cusp of the work that lied ahead of me. And by March 23rd, I had completed the first draft .

When I look at the road that lied before me at this time last year, I know that I am well on my way to completing my friend's family history. I went on my first memory gathering expedition with her family on August 27th last year, so in that context I am not doing so well. But the goal that I set for myself to have the first draft of her book complete by March 31st doesn't look so unrealistic to me now.

I have 3 full days ahead of me. Work to do, passions to pursue and ... a book that I would like to lose myself in with the time that is left over.

I love long weekends. The extra time off makes the impossible ... possible!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tackling Impossible Things

I knocked a few items off of my list of 'impossible things' the past few days. Not that some of what I accomplished was all that impossible to do, it was just some things that I had put off for so long that they had started to feel impossible.

Today, I finally, I had the right mind set to tackle 'Microsoft Word' again. It is so frustrating when you have done something before but you can't figure it out the second time. Repetition is key, when it comes to fully understanding something. Doing it once just isn't enough.

I spent 2 hours this afternoon trying to add the page numbers/chapter information on a family history book that I am trying to compile. And I simply couldn't figure out why I could figure it out for a few chapters but not the rest. I tried, retried ... I saved and tried again. The thing was, that I kept repeating what didn't work. I knew this but I kept repeating my errors. Over and over again. Like if I held my tongue right and cocked my head to the side and said pretty, pretty please it would work this time.

Amazingly enough, I figured this out after the kids returned from school and chaos reigned in my house and mind. It was like the noise erased the repetitive thought processes going through my brain. I finally figured it out.

So I thought I'd add a table of contents while I was up to the challenge. It took the better part of a day to figure this out the first time around. So I wasn't too optimistic.

It is amazing what happens when you understand the directions and follow them to the letter. It worked. First try. I didn't even have to wish on a star and jump backwards while balancing a glass of water on my head. It worked.

I have crossed 2 items off of my 'Book Project List'. I have been totally overwhelmed with this task for so long, that it has become monumental in my mind.

Not any more. After today, I know that I can keep forging ahead with this. I wonder how many items I can stroke off of that list by the end of the weekend. I can't wait to find out.

I feel like I can do anything now! And ... maybe I will.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Step Forward ...

I feel like I'm taking 2 steps backward for every forward step ... but I'm continuing to make some headway regardless.

The sugar overload from the other night has my appetite in a craving mode. It's crazy. And I haven't had much willpower to stop it. But I stopped eating after 7:00 at night if that counts for anything. Next week's goal shall be to conquer the sugar.

I haven't had much bookkeeping work this week so I started formulating ideas as to what to do with that extra time. Yesterday ... I read a book, ate popcorn and ice cream. Today ... I made some headway on a book project that I have started. One step forward and no steps back on that particular challenge.

I have let myself feel bogged down with 'impossible things' lately. I hate when I feel so overwhelmed that I don't know where to start. But I wrote out a step by step list today. When you have so much to do, that you don't know where to begin ... you start by taking that first step. I took one step and I'm well on my way on the second step today.

I have too many ideas in my mind right now. My thoughts are many and fleeting and I am not acting on enough of them. So I have given myself a deadline and expectation on one particular project. Then after that goal is attained, I can then forge onto my next goal. Multitasking is not the way to go.

One step forward ... and one step away from the computer. Time to put this day to rest so that I may make another step forward tomorrow.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Falling Off the Wagon

My gradual transition of replacing bad habits with good ones went for a nose dive this past 24 hours. I'm determined to make this only one day off the course of action that I had set for myself. But boy ... did I fall off the wagon in a big way.

There was chocolate in the house. I never crave chocolate. I can easily exist without chocolate. There are many types of chocolate that I can easily ignore if they are in my home. Not this time.

I started my binge by sitting down and eating every piece of chocolate in the house in two sittings - just to get rid of it. Once I started, I had no desire to stop because I knew that the chocolate would still be sitting there when I was done.

This is how I react to chocolate. I either have to give it all away or devour it. There seems to be no happy medium.

Since I was on a chocolate party, I decided to polish off the last of a bag of chips that had been in the house for a week. And while I was at it, I ate every last cream puff that I had picked up for dessert. Even the frozen ones!

I have a healthy supper all ready to warm up and there is no junk food left in the house. So I should be able to curb this binge right now.

I had been doing so well too! I'm a little disappointed with myself, but as the 24 hour mark is starting to end I am determined to stop the insanity.

Thank goodness there is nothing tasty left in the house. I'm just in the kind of mood where I could polish off a bag of chips in one sitting.

At least I didn't eat any ice cream!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Building Blocks of Life

I've been doing some reflecting on the events of my life and how my life's challenges have all had a purpose. In looking back on 30+ years, it is plain to see how one obstacle in my life prepared me for the next. Had I known at the time what lied ahead of me, I probably would have curled up in a fetal position and gave up. Thank goodness I didn't.

The births of my 3 children each taught me what I needed to know for the next birth. I was 17 when my first child was born. I was young and naive, as was my husband. He came into the labor room with me and was ready to fight with the doctor. To see your wife in such a vulnerable position and have a male doctor tending her didn't do a lot for my jealous husband's state of mind. It would have been better if I was alone ...

And I was alone when my 2nd child was born. We were married, but our marriage was going downhill fast. He knew that I was in the hospital and labor was being induced, but he chose to steer clear of the hospital (thus me and our new baby) until the night after he was born. As much as I knew that he shouldn't be in the labor room, I would have liked him in the hospital. Here I was, with this brand new baby ... feeling all of those brand new parent emotions ... with not a soul to share them with. I was alone. And it was a very lonely moment.

By the time my 3rd child was born, I was on my own again. His father was not in my life for many months prior to his birth so I was prepared to do this alone. And even at the time, I was grateful to my ex husband for teaching me that I could do this alone. And by the time my 3rd child arrived, I was in the healthiest spot in my mothering career. I was celebrating my blessings and not looking for the father that wasn't there.

Then there was the marriage/relationship learning curve. I have had 2 major relationships in my life and I have given each of them 3 good tries before I gave up on them. And each phase in each relationship prepared me for the next.

My first marriage, I was innocent. I had the feeling that love conquered all, I believed in forever and fairy tale endings. The cycle of abuse that had started when we were dating worsened. By the time we divorced, I had lost that loving feeling and was learning that life isn't fair.

The second time that we reconciled and remarried, (for me) it was based on my guilt. From the time that we divorced to when we reconciled, he had turned to drugs to get him through the challenges of that time. I was strong and I was determined to love him back to the person that he was before. That is not a good foundation for a marriage. I stayed until I was depleted. I gave it all that I had at the time and I gave until I was empty.

The third reconciliation was based on my complacency. I felt that if I had the tendency to be attracted to this type of personality anyway, I may as well go with the person that I already knew. I knew what I was up against. This complacency lead me to Al Anon which was life changing. I finally learned to let go of the guilt and let him own his own problems. When we separated finally and for always, I felt the healthiest emotion I had ever felt in that relationship. Detachment. He didn't matter any more. I was out of love ... nor did I hate. I felt like I had been cured of that relationship.

My second relationship was based on friendship, honesty, respect, equal footing and equal caring. It seemed that this was the person that I had been meant to find. It started to falter when the balance shifted and I felt like he cared more and wanted more (marriage) than I did. I felt suffocated and inadequate. I wasn't a big enough person to be a fair step parent. I loved my kids. I didn't love his. That could only equal disaster in my eyes. I ran.

The second time that we got back together was fleeting. It was lustful, it was not based on anything strong and concrete. He had been devastated when I broke his heart the first time. Our 'future' was based on the dream of pursuing dancing together ... a life without our children as a focus. So when I became pregnant right at the onset of this very delicate and precarious position we were in, we were both thrown for a loop. He was depressed and I was alone in every way - physically and emotionally. I couldn't take care of all 3 of us, so I chose 'me and the baby'.

Our third attempt was based on distrust, fear and loneliness. We took very gradual and tentative steps. It felt like there were a lot of conditions to us being together. We felt together ... but apart on many levels. Very, very gradually he let me in to his world. Where things started to go wrong is still hard to decipher. I just know that by the end of it, I was depleted in every way. He tried to reach me with words but nothing changed (neither of us changed what we had been doing). He rebelled in the most hurtful and devastating fashion that lead to our final separation. I was hurt, angry, grieving, lost, lonely and the emotional aftermath had me 'running' for several months. The pain of it all, led me to my friends and family.

Ever so gradually, I was reborn. I found myself again and I started reaching out to friends and family ... and I was welcomed by them. I filled my life with people, goals and ambitions. And that ... has led me to the best years of my life so far.

The trials and tribulations along the road to this destination were the lessons that I needed to learn to get me to where I am. I'm certain that I have a lot more to learn in life, but with the foundation that I have within me I feel that I'm ready to learn some more.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lessons From My Dad

As I am starting to collect memories from my dad's family in anticipation of compiling all of them in book form, I started writing down a few of the things that Dad taught me or told me over the years. It all seems so small and trivial - the life skills we take for granted and little habits that I have developed because of something he said. When it comes to anything mechanical or household repairs often Dad's words will come to me when I need them. His voice may be gone but his words are still within me.

It was after talking to a friend who is going through a devastating time in her life right now, that I truly understood the value of what my dad taught me over the years ...

I married very young and had my marriage lasted, my dad probably wouldn't have overstepped his bounds with my husband and taught me some of the most basic things. The very last time that my dad came over to my house, he taught me how to take a faucet apart. It was such a small thing, but I remember him commenting that he didn't know how far he should step when it came to these things because of how my husband may have felt about it.

There comes a time when you normally shift your dependency from your father over to your husband. It is very wise to become independent between those 2 phases and nowadays, with people marrying at a later age this probably happens more often. But it was common to marry young when I was a young adult and the independent stage was often missed.

In retrospect, I am so grateful for a husband that I couldn't count on and a marriage that couldn't survive. Because this happened when I was young, I had a fighting spirit and I believed anything was possible. I knew without a doubt that I could find a way to support myself. When the great big world of reality came crashing down on my shoulders, it was a horrible time. But as bad as it was, I knew that I would endure.

This is when my dad stepped in and taught me the most basic lessons. How to check the oil in the car, how to change a tire, when to get an oil change ... we talked about finances and debt ... we talked about household repairs, vehicle repairs and I could always call him if I needed him.

When my dad was alive, nothing seemed to cost more than $30 to repair. Even if the part was more than that, Dad would return the broken part and there was some type of refund ... and in my magical world it seemed that everything averaged out to cost about $30. I don't know if there was some subsidizing going on at that time or not. But it seemed with each repair, there would come some words of wisdom from Dad.

My marriage was a rather intermittent one and I was on my own as much as I was married while Dad was alive. In retrospect, I can see where these separations allowed Dad the opportunities to keep teaching me things. Had I got married and stayed married, I have a feeling that Dad would have stepped back and let me learn from my husband. And if I was lucky, I would have had a husband that taught me what I needed to know to be independent.

This brings me back to my friend who is starting fresh at 48 years of age. She has never needed to have a job that would support her. She does now. She went from 'daughter' to 'wife' without learning how to be independent. Her husband took over the 'manly duties' of the household and she didn't learn some of the most basic things. I would imagine that her father felt that he had to trust that her husband would teach her what she needed to know.

After our conversation had time to digest, I looked at her life and the road she has ahead of her. And I realized just how lucky that I was, to have the obstacles that I had in my life when I had them.

When you are young and resilient you still believe in the fairy tale endings. When you have been valued as a child, your self esteem will only take so much battering before you walk away from an unhealthy relationship. When your parents help you learn to become independent, they have given you the greatest gift of all.

I have learned as much and more from my mom, but being a girl I guess I figure that I would have learned that whether I was married or not. Much of what I learned was a combination of both of them. Their values and thoughts were reflected in each other and they taught many life lessons together, but apart. Not to mention the many things that Mom learned from Dad that she also passes along.

The lessons I learned from my dad were cut short. Maybe that is why I place such value on them. When I heard my friend tell me how excited she was to just learn how to check the oil in her vehicle and know when she had to take it in for an oil change, I went silent. These are things that my dad taught me. Some of the many things that I took for granted.

Life is full of lessons. A lot of those lessons are not valued until long after the fact. And some of our 'teachers' may not be around for as long as we hope.

As a parent, I wonder what 'lessons' my children will take and pass along. I hope that I am an image of my parents ... and I hope that influence is carried on in my children.

What a Way to End a Week

My Friday night dance lesson. Need I say more??

Actually, I really do need to say more tonight. The lesson as usual, was fun and it seems that laughter comes so easily as I stumble through the paces of trying to absorb and do what I'm being taught. I can't even begin to count how many times that we laughed. Could there be a better way to end a week?

Well ... tonight was a first. As we were working on the Bolero part of a routine we are practising, I some how managed to get the heel of my shoe caught up in the cuff of Greg's pants. We were going backwards at the time in some 'mirror image' fashion (I would imagine that it looks quite elegant when done properly).

It was like it happened in slow motion. I felt my heel caught up and then I felt Greg toppling to the floor behind me. But we were in some form of dance position when he fell ... so when he fell ... I fell ... and I landed right on top of him.

I can't remember what happened first - the hysterical laughter or Greg's immediate concern over whether I was okay. Did I ask him if he was okay? Somewhere in between the gales of laughter, I'm certain that I did.

I haven't laughed so hard since I was a kid. My eyes watered and each time we stopped laughing, we took a breath and started laughing again. I came home and hours later, I was picturing this in my mind again and I started stifling a laugh. The next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of a room, laughing hysterically. All by myself.

Then I started feeling guilty. He could be seriously hurt and here I am, still in hysterics 3 hours later! What kind of a person am I??

It's still pretty funny though.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Can I 'Undo' This Afternoon??

One small decision this afternoon caused me a great amount of frustration.

A decision to upgrade a program that was working perfectly fine as it was ... disrupted my computer as I knew it!

My email and Internet explorer disappeared from my 'quick launch' area. And when I went to retrieve them they had to be set up again. All of my emails were gone and I didn't know if they were retrievable. I got the Internet up and running but nothing was the same as it had been before.

I was so grateful that all of the files on my computer were okay (although the file extensions in the video file didn't show up any more and an 'access denied' message came up when I tried to fix this).

I tried to do a 'system restore' to see if I could undo the mess I created. I was denied access. The more I played around, the more access I was denied.

I called my computer guy and told him the symptoms my computer was showing. He said in a very deep and grim voice, "That doesn't sound good." I booked his soonest appointment (4 days from now).

But in the mean time, I couldn't stop trying different things. The more that I tried, the more I thought the common denominator of most of my problems was in my antivirus program. It flashed a yellow warning as I was upgrading this program and I chose the option where it downloaded the program but wouldn't allow anything dangerous to be done. Once I chose that option, the warnings that flashed before me were endless.

I got someone on the antivirus program's 'live chat' line and he tried to help me. I had already tried the 'restore' button in the antivirus program and the 'access denied' message flashed again. He told me to try it again. Although this time it appeared to work, I was still being denied access at every turn.

Finally, he had me exit the antivirus program and when I got restarted it there was a message that my computer needed to be restarted. I got all the information that I needed from the 'live chat guy' because I would lose him as soon as I restarted the computer.

And wouldn't you know it?!?! Restarting the computer put absolutely everything back as it was, prior to this mess. I have all the 'access' I want now. My emails are back. The Internet home page is exactly as it was. The file extensions are as they were. Everything is completely back to normal.

No, life doesn't come with an 'undo' button ... but 'system restore' and restarting the computer is a good second choice.

I can't get back the 4 hours that I lost this afternoon as I fretted about this dilemma and tried to fix it. But the damage is undone.

Yes I can 'undo' the afternoon.


Good habits, bad habits ... once formed, they provide a sense of ease with which you go through the paces of the day.

I have been consciously trying to re-form some habits of mine these past several weeks. One small step at a time, I seem to be succeeding at this challenge I have placed before myself. One habit at a time.

It seems that the secret to my success thus far, is in adding good habits into my life.

Getting up early to exercise seemed like it would be a hard habit to get back into, after replacing exercise with extra sleep and nurturing myself in the mornings. But as I started sleeping longer, I lost the extra time that I used to make for myself before I started my day.

In the 3 weeks that I've kick started myself into some form of exercise in the morning, I have had more time to myself than I did before I started exercising. I have unaccounted time left over at the end of my morning routines. And I love it!!!

This weeks challenge has been curbing the eating at night habit. To make this more attainable, I challenged myself to not eating after 7:00 pm. To tell myself that I'm not eating after supper sounds too hard. Giving myself until 7:00 feels like I have the choice to have a little snack if I want to. The amazing thing is, that I haven't even wanted to! I have succeeded at this goal for 5 nights now.

Keeping busy at night makes the evening snacking challenge at bay. I heard that night time eating is emotional eating. And I believe that. When the day is done and it's time to kick back and relax, I admit that I am most likely eating when I would rather be enjoying the quiet company of another adult human being. I crave my alone time, but I do remember how good it used to feel to sit back in the arms of the man I loved and not say a word. Just exist in quiet harmony.

That is not my reality right now and I am perfectly okay with that. I just have to find a substitute for that nurturing that I crave in the evenings. It is tricky because having a conversation takes energy so I'm not really inclined to pick up the phone and call someone. My tendency is to nurture myself with TV or a book. Both are good options ... but both go very well with a snack!

One of my other emotional eating habits comes to play during the day. Surrounded by kids all day, every day I have found myself getting in the habit of having a very, very large bowl of ice cream after my lunch (after the kids have all been tended and I have 10 minutes that I can sometimes call my own). The soothing sensation of that rich and creamy ice cream (with M & M's or chocolate chips stirred in, to add to the calorie overload) soothed my frayed nerves. I was in no way hungry for anything other than that sensation of taking care of 'me', in the middle of my day.

I ran out of ice cream last week and didn't replace it. That helped to ease me out of the ice cream treat in the middle of the day (topped with an ice cream treat at night, if I was feeling needy). I have since replaced the ice cream (Kurt likes to have the ice cream option) and I haven't been tempted. It is kind of akin to taking that one drink ... or that one cigarette, after you've kicked the habit. Sometimes 'one' is all it takes to get back into the habit.

For every habit I am trying to break, I find the need to add a new habit into my life. These past weeks of breaking habits seems to be succeeding because I am adding something into my life, for everything I am taking away.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Busy Days

I have been busy, busy, busy with my bookwork job this week. It seems that I am in perpetual motion from the moment I get up in the morning. I've had some busy evenings as well, so it just feels like I haven't had as many idle moments as I'm used to enjoying.

I spent the weekend puttering around at writing, making movies, visiting and going out a little bit. Nothing too terribly work intensive but once again, it was a constant 'in motion' kind of weekend. Which I do enjoy.

But let me tell you ... I foresee a lazy evening in my future tonight and I am so excited. I read the first few pages of a new book as I was eating my lunch today and I simply can't wait to sit down tonight and lose myself in a piece of fiction.

It feels good to accomplish things and I've been doing that. It really makes one appreciate the moments when you can just sit back and put your feet up.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"Bloom where you are planted"

I read this quote today that was enveloped in the most courageous and inspiring tale of a person's survival story.

All of us are survivors. Everyone has a story. There are circumstances that have brought every person exactly to the spot they are at in their lives.

The difference is how we react to what happens to us. When a person finds themselves in a situation that isn't of their choosing, they can look around and see what they can make of where they have ended up.

Making lemons out of lemonade ... or "blooming where you are planted." There is always something good to salvage out of almost anything.

"It is not how much you do but how much love you put into the doing that matters"
- Mother Teresa

This is the second quote that was in the same article that I read. More words that resonated with me after I closed the book.

There is always an endless amount of work that can be done. A person can set lofty goals and strive to achieve them.

But truly, it is more important to prioritize what is important in life. Focusing on what brings you the greatest joy ... "how much love you put into the doing" is what will reap the greatest rewards.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Perfect Weekend

I'm sitting here revelling in the afterglow of a most wonderful weekend.

I managed to get my creative juices going a little bit this weekend. I put together some small 'movies'. Between kids, cats and family there is always enough material for me to work with. I love these little video creations. They are short and sweet and not all that original. By the time I add a few little touches and pick a song or two to go along with it, I feel like I've had some part of the end result. And it feels good to 'create'.

I got some words out of my brain and into cyberspace. Between updating blogs and catching up on some emails, my fingers became limber once again. I hope that this helps to open the floodgate of words within me. I don't like when my words get caught up somewhere between my brain and my fingers. It has to happen from time to time, but writing is therapy to me. I feel best when I can let the words pour out of my fingertips.

I had a fair amount of people-contact this weekend too. A phone call from my sister and my mom ... Kurt and I went and saw a movie last night ... we ran into a family I used to babysit for on our way out of the theatre ... Kurt had a friend over today ... and my weekend wound up perfectly, by going out for supper with a friend. Good food + good conversation = a very good time.

The weekend was perfect in every way.