Thursday, January 31, 2013

In the Past Week ...

I completed the last half of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging last night. There were a series of questions that began with the phrase "In the past week ..."

I wish that I would have written some of these questions down, because they were questions that truly made me ponder. And by the time that section was over, I was feeling a lot more positive about my past week.

The one question that I do remember was "In the past week, how often were you happy?"

My immediate response was, "I was happy last Thursday!" Happiness after a dance lesson was a feeling that I had felt before and longed to feel again. So it stood out in my mind when life repeated itself last week and I came home with an inner happiness that didn't burst like a bubble the minute I walked back into my reality.

My second thought was when I was on the receiving end of a hug from the one-year-old yesterday. She likes receiving hugs ... but yesterday, she discovered the wonder of extending her arms and offering herself to give and receive a hug. These little moments make my heart so happy. There is truly nothing like it. But the flip side of that moment of happiness? Lunch time was a lesson in futility and I was truly ready to pull my hair out. The contrasts of life ...

My third conscious thought within that moment when the surveyor asked the question, was the feeling of pure and utter happiness and contentment when our cat chose to spend Saturday afternoon napping on my torso ... and how pleased I was to accommodate him. Especially after looking at him with new eyes lately and knowing that our senior cat will not be with us forever ...

I hung up the phone and other moments of joy throughout the past week came to mind.
  • An impromptu visit with a friend when I found myself on her side of the city and called her up on a whim.
  • A coffee date that pushed me out of the house and simply felt 'good'.
  • Savoring the sensory and visual pleasures that a home cooked meal can bring ... and on the flip side, finding out that the left-overs can taste better than the first go-around.
  • Looking back on the call display and realizing how many times within the past few days the phone has rang and I have found a sister; an uncle; a cousin; a childhood friend have been on the other end of the line.
  • Four out of five "perfect" daycare days for my two-year-old in the final stages of toilet training
Yes, life has thrown in its fair share of reality to offset those joyful moments. So when the answer to the question "How many days were you happy this past week?" was posed, I didn't have a black and white answer. I said there were moments of happiness within every day.

Now ... if only she would have asked, "How many days were you content with your life last week?", I would have had an immediate answer. Seven.

Seven days out of seven is not a bad average when it comes to finding your contentment factor. Life is not perfect. But there is nothing within my life that I do not have the power to change. That which is not ideal is something that I can work to improve.

As Aristotle says, "Happiness depends on ourselves". While I am working on that, I will focus on that which I already have:

"Health is the greatest gift,
contentment the greatest wealth,
faithfulness the best relationship."
~ Buddha

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There is No Place Like Home!

If there is one thing that I like about these jobs of mine ... it is when I can put a -42 degree day behind me first thing in the morning.

Cold ... is cold. You know that the weather has been bad when -20 feels like a balmy, warm day. We have had a fair bit of -30ish degree weather ... but -40? It is cold. I really don't want to get used to this kind of day.

My flyers were dropped off at 5:45 this morning. That gave me ample time to start and finish delivering them before my daycare family arrived at 7:30. Even getting the job two thirds of the way done is a big win for me. Today? I was pretty chilled at the two thirds mark. I could have stopped then and completed the final half hour at the end of my daycare day.

But did I really want to know that I had to go out and face that cold again at the end of a long, kid-filled day? No matter how they describe the weather (in reality, it was 'only' -33 degrees this morning, but it felt like -42 with the wind chill) ... I feel that wind more as the day wears on. A cold day is warmer in the morning, if that can make any sense at all.

All I could think about was counting down the day, knowing that my reward at the end of it all would be going back outside to finish off my flyers. Unless I kept at it.

So I did. The last fifteen minutes were a little excessive, but at least by that point I had my body turned around and there was only one direction to go. Home!

I have been home for one hour. I have thawed out and have savored two cups of coffee. The rest of my day will be spent indoors.

If ever there was a day when I was grateful to be working from home ... today is it. And all of the other -30 to -40 degree days that have preceded it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Formula to Reinvent 'My Best Year'

I am desperately trying to look back on the Formula for Previous Happiness and I cannot help but look back on (what I think is) my best year in recent history.

That year began the in the Summer of 2009 when I put out casual call-out to all relatives when my uncle from Ontario came out for a visit that July.

Two months later ... in September, I went back to school. I was motivated with new ideas, new hope and active & stimulated brain.

I knew where I wanted to go. I was taking an active part in making that happen. I was highly motivated. From where I stood right then, I could see no reason why all would not go according to my plan.

That following February, it was the year that I said "Yes!" to participating in an out-of-province dance competition. I was an active participant in the preparation for the event. It was a dream come true.

The following spring and summer, I put myself out into the world and extended myself and invited people into my life. In April we had an Easter family gathering at our home. In May, I was a part of instigating the beginning of a summer of 'Girls Night Out' gatherings. In July, I opened my home to a pot luck at the dance studio...

One year later ... September, 2010 was to be the beginning of the end. I was fully invested in a new job that didn't live up to its expectations. I immersed myself into the world of Zumba and physical fitness ... to have my feet give out on me first. Lack of motivation gave out next. I never did regain that motivation.

Summer 2009 - Fall 2010. It was the year that anything seemed possible. I believed in myself. I reinforced that belief by educating my mind and flexed my brain muscle. I felt good enough about myself to open myself to friendships, family and gatherings of all kinds. My door was open and I invited the world in ...

I was not afraid of rejection or failure or the limitations of my budget, body or mind. I believed that anything was possible. And it was. For that magical year ...

How do I find that place again? Or can I?

We cannot relive the past. But we can take what worked and bring it forward. It is time for me to figure out the parts of that formula that worked for me.

Lazy Days and Mondays

Take two lazy weekend days and add a Monday onto that. Not a winning combination, if I do say so myself ...

I had been doing a marvelous job of keeping myself busy. No more mid-afternoon siestas. I wasn't falling asleep on the couch after supper. I was busy or my mind was occupied for the better part of most days. It was a good run. Until Saturday morning.

I woke up and it felt like I had lead weights attached to each and every one of my limbs. My body did not want to move out of bed ... nor did my mind have the inclination to convince my body otherwise. So I slept. Oh ... heavenly sleep!

I convinced myself that this was a backlog of missing sleep that had accumulated over the week. I am sure that (in part) this was true. It felt beyond heavenly to succumb to my whims after a week of overriding them.

Then I had no burning desire to leave my room. Why? I had no reason why I could not indulge myself. Sure, I had papers to deliver. But I had an illusive 8:00 p.m. deadline for that job (I despise illusive deadlines ... I really do!).

Eventually, I wandered out of my room and onto the couch. Our cat found me and used me as his human mattress for the afternoon. And I was more than just a little bit fine with that.

I got dressed at 4:00 p.m. and finished delivering papers by 6:00. I threw together some leftovers (ah! the joys of actually cooking meals) and called it supper. I was back in my pj's by 7:00 p.m.

Saturday? Was pretty much a write off. Sunday? Not a lot better.

I had a coffee date in the morning, so I had to get out of bed and dressed. But ... having no agenda for the rest of the day, I let the afternoon slip through my fingers.

It felt absolutely wonderful while it lasted. Another 'lost weekend'. But the downside of that? Monday morning.

I slept in an extra hour and lost my cherished morning time to myself. The computer was more stubborn than usual (the computer is not a 'morning person' and has to be rebooted each and every morning otherwise it runs slower than frozen molasses). Add three small children and stir.

It wasn't a terrible day. It just wasn't good either.

Today's strategy? I slept in only 45 minutes instead of an hour. I shut down the computer last night to speed up the start-up process this morning. My head is spinning with thoughts so that I do not 'rinse and repeat' the events of this past weekend.

Everything seems so easy in my head. Follow-through is not my strong point right now.

In the past, I saturated myself with positive input during times like this. Oprah was my medicine of choice. I am craving positive input and I do not have the oomph to work for it. I want to turn on the TV set and have it spoon fed to me. Like I always did before.

I was thrilled to find that we actually have the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) channel, when we finally got our digital cable TV box. I was more than a little disappointed to see the programming on this network. It (appears to me) is full of the fluff that all of the other channels provide. Along with Oprah reruns where she (primarily) interviews famous people. Where did the inspiration go?

I am in search of positive, encouraging, inspirational and easy to digest positive input. Preferably at the flick of a switch, at the end of my day ... any ideas??

Saturday, January 26, 2013

You Haven't Been Loved ...

... until you've been loved by a cat.

Today ... our cat chose me. He situated himself on my reclined body and incapacitated me for the better part of the afternoon. He was 'at one' with my torso. You could barely tell where he ended and I began (aided by the excess cat hair that became part of my ensemble...).

I've been worried about our little black kitty lately. His food consumption started to decline in December. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was becoming concerned. His age is starting to show. He sleeps a lot. And he sleeps so deeply. Very uncatlike.

A few weeks ago, I picked up some canned cat food. I thought that I could entice him to eat his dry cat food if I mixed it in with soft food. It generated a little more interest ... but for the most part, he just ate a few bites and walked away.

So I forgot about trying to get him to eat the dry cat food at all and offered him canned food only. Ahh ... that was more like it. He still ate only small amounts. But he was eating more than he had been.

Eventually, I had to replenish the canned cat food supply. I picked up a few different sea food varieties (which seems to be his preference) and offered him some 'salmon pate'. I hit pay dirt! He licked the platter clean and asked for more.

He is eating a can of cat food per day. He still sleeps quite a bit and isn't quite his young, vital self. But he is coming out to eat far more than he has in a very long time.

He quite often makes his presence known before I go to bed (as a reminder to fill his bowl before I go to sleep, I'm sure). I have been waking up to find him sleeping on the back of the love seat in the living room. I am greeted with a little morning, "Meow" (which translated, I'm sure means, "Breakfast, please?").

Yes, our cat is lovin' me just a little more than usual because I am the keeper of the cat food. He knows who is filling that bowl.

So today, when he decided that he would like to nap on me (all afternoon), I was more than a little happy to oblige him.

There were a lot of other things that I could and should have been doing. But today? I was chosen by our cat. I was honored to be his mattress with a built in heater and a heartbeat which I'm sure lulled him into a deep, deep slumber.
It was a lost day. But our cat found me. It was a very good way to spend a day. We just never know how much time we have with those we love...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Then I Danced

I went dancing tonight. And it was good.

I laughed like I used to laugh. I walked through the door and left my crappy day outside. I forgot the minor frustrations of the day. Because I danced. And I laughed. And it was good. Oh, so good.

I danced. And it was good.

It has been a very, very long time since I have said those words. It felt good to be back ...

When Past Strategies Fail

When I look back on some of my more recent life lessons, the common theme seems to be "What worked in the past will not work here".

How can that be? How could my past strategies fail when they had served me so well so many times before?

The world is a new and changing place. Different personalities are in charge. They have become who they need to be, to get where they want to go.

I am not as driven as I need to be to survive and thrive in this brave new world. I don't like what I see out there and I have no desire to become like some of those who are in positions of authority.

How do you become all that you hope to be when you fear ... but don't respect those that are wielding the power?

I tried, tried and tried again. I suppose that in some ways I succeeded. I found niches of safety and support in my travels. To be very honest, I had far more success than failure as I made my way. But it is the situations that I did not conquer that continue to haunt me.

Why? Because I have yet another challenge set before me. In the body of a two and a half year old child.

He has an extensive vocabulary and at first glance, he seems far older and wiser than a two-year-old. That is deceiving. Because he is often repeating words in a certain order that he has learned without the understanding that goes along with what he is saying. He is very much a two-year-old under the surface.

He copies every single behaviour of the one-year-olds that come here. I have done absolutely everything that I can think of to dissuade this behaviour. I ignore. I tell him I can't understand him when he doesn't use his words. I walk away. I guide his words and actions back to his own level.

It is when he stares boldly into my eyes and mimics a behaviour that I have just barely told the one-year-old to stop that gets to me. I have done "all of the above". I have gone to my fall-back word - a no fault, stop-in-your-tracks-word, that has worked every time before. "Stop".

The word "stop" has never failed me. It is the one word that I can say and has always met with success. Two kids fighting? Both people are most likely at fault in some capacity. Guilt is a great motivator and the word stop does not assign guilt ... but it is one word that stops the action so we can sit down and figure things out. 

The word "stop" is easily understood by all (most) ages. Sometimes the lesson to be learned is beyond a toddler's comprehension ... but the word "stop" can help stop a negative behaviour from forming. It has always worked for me. Always.

Until now. I have yet to discover the way inside of this 30-month-old mind. I watch and listen to  how his mom interacts with him and I am impressed. She doesn't bend to his tantrums. She stands her ground and he does not get his way until his behaviour improves. She is the youngest mom that I have ever babysat for and she is the most consistent in her expectations.

The lesson that keeps coming back to me is "What has worked in the past is not working here ...". So I must find a new strategy.

This old dog is having a tough time learning all the new tricks of the trade to survive out there. If I can't learn how to work with a two-year-old, what does that say about my potential for future success?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back in the Driver's Seat

I am back in a place where the challenges that I face are mine and mine alone.

I don't have someone watching over my shoulder waiting for me to mess up. I don't have someone second guessing my decisions. I do not live in fear of making a mistake. I do not have to ask questions to get my job done.

I know my job(s) and I have my own expectations to meet. No one else is harder on me than I am on myself. I am a tough boss but I also know when to give myself a break.

I wake up in the morning and know that I have responsibilities to take on. Every week day. I don't get called in on evenings and weekends. I am not sitting here waiting for the phone to ring.

My days are not perfect. I have obstacles to overcome. Life would be boring if it was any other way.

I am back in the driver's seat again. My driving skills are a little rusty ... but it is all coming back to me now.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Let the Sun Shine In

Life isn't all sunshine and roses. I try to focus on that which is light and positive. But really? Is life really like that for anyone? All of the time?

Life is bumpy. Sometimes you take a wrong road. Sometimes the right road has a few obstacles to overcome. Other times the road is under construction and there are unanticipated delays and detours to get to where you need to go. As it is with road construction ... sometimes in life, it gets worse before it gets better.

I'm on another new/old road. I've tried a lot of new paths lately and I've hightailed it back to a road that I thought that I knew. As familiar as it is ... there have been a few twists and turns since I last travelled this path. Perhaps I am what has changed the most.

New directions are exciting. And scary. They may lead you places that you never dreamed of going. This could be good. It could be bad.

Old destinations change. They are what you remember them to be ... but you are different. As I wrote that sentence, I was instantly taken back to the holiday where I unintentionally ended up reliving many old memories. It was fun to go back and remember what I felt at different stages and phases of my life. Sometimes it is nice to measure how far you have come since the last time you were at one of those stops on the road.

The important thing is to focus on 'where you go from here' ...

Yesterday, I sat down with my January, 2012 calendar page and budget before me. I compared what I was doing, where I was going, what I was earning and my bills to January, 2013. It was an eye opener.

As I flipped through the calendar, I was surprised at how similar my social calendar seems to be unfolding. Right down to seeing a movie with the same friend (just different dates). I walked through a loss with a friend last year. This year ... I walked through another loss with family.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

My work-world has taken a complete and total turn. And this is a good thing! I worked half of last January at one job. This year, I will have worked every available day. I write (and get paid to do so!). I deliver flyers (and get paid to exercise!). My income is stable this year. Last year, it was all over the map.

Work and finances seem to be finding solid ground again. Money isn't everything ... but not knowing what you are earning in a month gets a little tiresome after a few bad years (yes, I even compared this to January, 2011 and I am still far ahead of the game in my work-world).

Last year, I stepped out and forged a few new friendships and got to know family a little better. This year, those relationships are one year older, one year stronger and one year more in every way.

Life is repeating itself in many ways. Some of that is good. Some of it is sad. But I am taking what I learned and bringing it forward with me.

Life isn't easy. You can't predict what tomorrow will bring. Where there is happiness, there is also sadness. If there were not the contrasts in life, we wouldn't appreciate the small joys a regular day had to offer quite so much.

Celebrate the contrasts in your life. Where there is darkness ... there will be light. Just don't be afraid to open the door and let the sun find its way.

I truly hesitated about writing about the darkness I have been wading through. But the more that I write, the more I hear that others have walked (or are walking) the same path. By writing it out loud, I opened a door. I didn't walk out of it ... but others cracked it open a little more and the sun started to shine through.

Keep your door ajar. Open a window. Let the sun in. It may still be cloudy out there, but if you keep yourself open to letting the day light find its way through ... it will do its best to try and come find you.

Don't close yourself in. Set the darkness free and let it out into the light. Open up and let the sun shine brightly as soon as those clouds break up. And they will. They always do ...

Don't bottle it up inside ... set it free. It is a risk, but in my experience it is a risk worth taking.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Purge, Release, Then ACT

I was hesitant to post my inner struggles yesterday morning. I started a similar post Friday morning only it was dark. Oh-so-dark. I could not allow myself hover in that space and write it down.

So I walked away from the computer and spent the day in 'that place'. This is not a good place to be when you are taking care of little ones. The little joys became great ... but the little struggles became insurmountable. Friday was a very long day. It was a very, very long week.

Then ... Friday night I went out to see a movie with a friend. It was a movie that was recommended by a blog writer that I enjoy. She too, has been struggling with winter blues and mentioned that the movie "Pitch Perfect" helped to bring her to a happy place. The movie was light, easy and full of music and talent. I enjoyed it immensely.

Going to a movie with my friend pushed me out of the house (the place where I most wanted to be). It was hard. But it was easy. Good conversation after the show lifted me up and out of where I had been.

Saturday felt like a lost day. I had errands to run. Oh-so-many-errands. Then I had to deliver papers. Oh-so-many-papers. Then I decided since the day was lost to me anyway, I may as well run two more errands and write off the day. I sat down with my supper at 6:00. But oddly ... the 'lost day' was not a loss. Much was gained by stroking seven errands off of my to-do-list.

I sat down at the end of that long day and another friend called. I lost track of how many hours we talked. At least two. We talked around the fringes of the inner blues we have both been experienceing and the overwhelmed feelings of not accomplishing what we think that we need to get done. She gave me the inspiration to simply take it one-hour-at-a-time.

Sunday ... I was ready to purge and release. I wrote. And wrote. I woke up at 7:30 and walked away from the computer at 10:00. The words were easier to swallow the second time around. Possibly still pretty potent for anyone that hadn't been inside of my head recently. I simply had to let it out ... because this 'faking it until I make it' thing simply isn't working for me. Purging is only okay (for me), if I immediately release it and let it go.

Then I acted. "Six Impossible Things Before Lunch  Supper" was my mantra of the day. They were small things. Yet so big.

Getting up. That has been harder than I care to admit lately. I could quite honestly hibernate in my room most weekends. Getting up is hard. Getting up relatively early both Saturday and Sunday was a big WIN for me.

Getting dressed. I save getting dressed until I am in a place where I am ready to act and take part in the day. Getting dressed on the weekends has been a struggle. This weekend? Much more successful than last weekend. In fact, I would have been dressed before noon both days if I hadn't spent three hours on the phone yesterday morning, with a friend that I haven't talked to in far too long...

Meal preparation. I abhor cooking. What I detest most of all is meal planning. Knowing what I am going to cook is key. That is the first step. The second step is to take one step. Fry up the hamburger, then freeze it. Cut off all of the veiny, bloody stuff (ewww ... my stomach did a flip as I wrote that) off of the chicken breasts so they are ready to toss into the oven. Yesterday? I took it several steps further. I fried up said chicken and made gravy for a Chicken-In-Gravy meal. I peeled potatoes. I peeled carrots. I found some Stove Top Stuffing to go with our meal. I added a salad (in a bag) to the mix and I felt like I prepared a pseudo-Christmas meal, one month after Christmas. Win! Win! Win!!

Clear off the kitchen table. It was now getting late in the afternoon. Thankfully there was only one task to take care of. It took a grand total of about ... three minutes to accomplish. Done! The only other thing sitting on the table, that was vying for my attention was a book full of "399 games, puzzles & trivia challenges specially designed to keep your brain young". I saved that one for later ...

Send off one email. That one skipped to the front of the line. Sometimes you know exactly who you need to write to. The person that 'gets' you and always comes back with the response that you most need to hear. The response varies from time to time ... and the content is less important than the knowledge that that person simply gets it. I have many, many people in my world that get me. I intuitively reach out to the one I most need to hear. That email was an excellent investment of my last 25 minutes at the computer yesterday morning...

Write for one hour. It was 2:00 and I had just gotten off the phone with my friend. I was not yet dressed (FAIL!). But I took immediate action on that step and was back to my list. I had opened up my 'book files' and was ready to act. But I still had to tend to the kitchen table. Five minutes later I was free and clear to tend to the sixth of six items on my list. One hour. Oh ... but it was getting so late in the afternoon. The couch was beckoning to me. Sigh. One hour. I could do an hour. I could. One hour. Then I would let myself off the hook. I wrote for two hours. Maybe two & a half. I didn't move mountains, but I moved a few spoonfuls of dirt. One. Hour. At. A. Time.

I sat down with my supper (my family filled their plates and dispersed themselves around the house). I was alone with my own company at the end of a rather full and fulfilling weekend. And I actually enjoyed being with myself.

Instead of turning on the TV, I opened my book on decided to focus on keeping my brain young...

An active brain is a happy brain. I didn't succumb to sleep, TV and the couch this weekend. I may not have moved mountains either. But at least I did move off of the couch.

I'm ready to do this all over again.

Here is a little piece of 'happy' from the movie "Pitch Perfect":

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Hour at a Time

I was talking with a friend last night and she mentioned that she has been tackling her outstanding to-do-list one hour at a time.

The job at hand was too massive to take on all at once. So rather than sitting back and feeling defeated, she worked at it for one hour.

I have at least one job like that. What I seem to be focusing on though, is the fact that I have at least two or more projects just as big and tall that I have also been neglecting. Where do you begin when you have so much to do?

You take it one. hour. at. a. time.

I set myself a goal before I went to sleep last night. It was to tackle 'Six Impossible Things Before Lunch'.

I didn't consciously think of six items to tackle, but I know that how I start my morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Today ... I must:
  1. Get up. I have done that. I am up and about. My bed is made. I have had breakfast. I am ready to go.
  2. Get dressed. Sitting here in my pj's is an open invitation to take a nose dive into the couch and stay there for the remainder of the day. Just for this morning, the couch is off limits.
  3. Meal preparation. Tend to the meat that I bought yesterday so that tonight's supper and our meals for the week ahead are one step easier to put together.
  4. Clear off the kitchen table. That which is sits on the kitchen table, signifies the tedious little tasks that take but a few minutes to accomplish ... but deplete a great deal of energy when they are ignored.
  5. Send off one email. I can lose the morning sitting at the computer. One thought leads to another and the next thing I know, I have lost two hours. I will allow myself one half hour to my morning distractions. Then I must move on. I will set the timer.
  6. Write for one hour. I have a book project that I must complete. Soon. It is 75% complete. I am in the end zone. I am so close ... but so far. Sitting there in its incomplete state is draining me. One hour. Anything above and beyond that, is gravy.
It is 9:30 a.m. ... I have two & a half hours to complete my mission. May the force be with me!!

A Work in Progress

Where did this start and when does it end? Do I write it down and set it free or do I keep it bottled up inside and wait for the inevitable turn of the tides? Why do I feel this way when I have every reason not to?

I am feeling blue. A lot.

I also feel pretty fine. A lot more.

It is the ebbs and flows and the lack of desire and drive to push myself up and out of this darkness that is unsettling.

I have no reason to feel this way. I have a good life. I have made decisions that have stabilized my work life and income. I am in excellent health and I have little or few worries about my family. I have strong relationships within my family and friends. I have more than I need and all that I want. I am grateful for all that I have. I am beyond blessed.

Yet, there is a sadness out there. There are so many people that touch my life that are struggling. I feel a small bit guilty that I have it so easy ... yet I can't seem to grasp and hold onto my inner 'happy'.

If I do nothing ... I feel guilty. If I do something ... I feel better. If I hover someplace in between those two spots ... I feel torn.

I should do more and be more. It sustains and energizes me to reach out and try to make a small difference. Yet by doing so ... I seem to be using that as an excuse for neglecting projects that I should be tending.

Uncompleted goals have been taxing my energy for a few years now. I know this. The more I procrastinate, the bigger it becomes. It is so big now, that it feels insurmountable.

I know that one small action can make or break my day.

The simple act of getting dressed pushes me out of my lethargy. So why am I still sitting in my pyjamas?

When I let those tedious to-do-lists become too long, little jobs become larger than they need to be. I stopped making lists because the lists overwhelmed me. When I stopped making those lists, I stopped accomplishing small goals.

That which used to fuel me is ... gone. I liked myself better when I was passionate about something in my life. I am trying to put myself back in a place to bring back that which I have lost. Passion is a driving force in my life. Once I rev up the excitement levels within, I feel like anything is possible. And it is! I have been there and done that. I know that dreams are attainable when you reach for the stars.

But when the obstacles become so big and so tall that you fell like you are dreaming the impossible dream ... what then?

What are my obstacles? My biggest obstacle is me. I have to rewire my self-talk and start dreaming of 'impossible dreams' again.

Why have I stopped dreaming? Money. Time. Opportunities are all around me, but I dare not seize them because I have a rather committed life once again and my finances are hanging in a precarious balance.

I feel like I have stopped learning and growing. My happiest year in recent history is when I went back to school. I was intoxicated by the entire experience. Flexing my brain. Daring to dream that more education would turn my work-world around. And it did ...

I gave up too easily. I didn't fight long or hard enough. I gave it all that I had at the time ... but it wasn't enough to survive (let alone thrive).

I am defining myself by my past. It is time to get over myself, pull up my socks, start from where I am at right now and remember that I am still a work in progress.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Screening and Studies

I seem to have hit some magical age where suddenly I am on the mailing list for a handful of health screening programs and surveys.

Last night I took part in an ongoing "Study on Aging" survey. The telephone survey itself takes approximately an hour to complete and since I didn't have an appointment set up (I just told her "now" would be a good time), we went as far as time allowed and we are past the half way point.

I would be interested to follow up on my own survey answers as the years progress. When she asked how I would rate my overall health, I responded "Excellent". Every little health concern that I had has been investigated and come up negative. I was quietly pleased "Excellent" was the correct answer for me but I did wonder if I overestimated myself. Until the survey continued ...

She went through a detailed list of health, body and mind questions. To which each and every one of my answers was "no" - I did not have this, that or any of the above. The absolutely only outstanding health condition I have, is high blood pressure (which was diagnosed in my early 20's and has been treated with minimal medication and fully controlled).

The next set of questions were interesting. They tested your 'brain' and consisted of a variety of questions to test your memory and recall. I was ready, willing and able to get right on those (my high achiever mentality thought that I should aim to ace these tests). I could and probably should have done better. But with no time to study and flex my brain muscle, I did my best and she assured me that I did very well (insert smug feeling of pride here).

I am fifty two years into my life and I can honestly say I am in (close to) perfect health. I would say that this would be a most excellent time to renew my life insurance.

It was an interesting survey. As I answered each and every one of these questions, I couldn't help but wonder how I will fair as the next ten, twenty, thirty ... years progress. I suppose one should aspire to keep their body maintained and serviced as well as keeping challenging and tweaking their brain muscle.

Their questions and my answers have given me a goal to keep this body of mine functioning at its best for as long as I live.

But I couldn't help but think that they should have added one additional question to their list of memory questions. And that would be, "Do you remember where you filed your "Participant Consent Form" for the above mentioned survey?" I did find it the first place that I looked ... but I had to sleep on that answer.

Today ... I am grateful for my health. I am so grateful for my health.

"To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent -
that is to triumph over old age."
~ Thomas Bailey Aldrich

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fresh Snow and Life's Little Bonuses

I woke up to the sound of vehicle doors slamming this morning. It was just after 5:30 a.m. ... and it was the sound of my flyers being dropped off. I could start and finish delivering flyers before my kids arrived this morning. Yay!!

There was a nice little snowfall last night. Not enough to make walking cumbersome, but enough to cover the ground and I was the one of the first people to walk down many of the city streets. The only person that preceded me was the person that delivered the daily newspapers.

Ahhh ... there is nothing quite like it. Walking down a city street, blazing your own quiet little trail ... with evidence that one person had preceded you. You are not alone in the early morning world.

As I finished up my route, I was quietly amazed at the people that had already shovelled their walks. There weren't many. A few were starting to come out to face the task as the morning progressed and I thought rather highly of the early birds that beat the foot traffic that was soon to come.

I delivered the flyers to my neighbor across the street. She works as a caretaker for the school system and her work day starts before most people's alarm clocks have gone off. And her walks were shovelled. What a hard and conscience worker. I was impressed.

Then I crossed the street and walked up to my own freshly shovelled walks & driveway. My heart swelled with joy as I thought that I have my very own conscientious worker under my roof. He has taken it upon himself to take care of all of the outdoor maintenance. It is a real treat to know that he's got my back (and our walks & lawn too).

Anybody (?) can shovel a walk. But it is a little bonus when the job is done before most people get out of bed in the morning.

I'm grateful for my clean driveway at the best of times. I'm extra pleased when it is done before my work day begins.

Thank you, my snow angel.

P.S. Also a great big 'thank you' to the person that dropped off my flyers bright and early this morning. It feels absolutely wonderful to complete that job before most people have a chance to shovel their sidewalks in the morning!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Odd Man Out

What would I feel like if I spent ten hours of every weekday with two other people who spoke a different language than I do?

What if those two people seemed to have a special connection and words were truly not necessary to speak with each other?

What if they were two people of the opposite sex and I truly had very little in common with them?

Add to that, that they are half my age and there is a substantial generation gap between us.

I am not a leader. I am a follower.

How would I manage in that environment?

Would I try to copy, learn and speak this new language? Would I feel left out because I felt like a stranger in their world? Would I conform to their interests so that we found some common ground? Would I subconsciously act a lot younger than my age in a sincere desire simply to fit in? Would I simply follow their lead because I am a natural follower?

Chances are ... that is exactly what I would do.

If you are a natural born leader, certain behaviours seem to come as easily as breathing. If you are a follower by nature, you follow your natural path and adapt in the best way that you know how.

This ... is the world that my two-year-old boy walks into every day at daycare, with his two, one-year-old-girl playmates.

The girls are more than happy to play with this little guy who is twice their age. Possibly because he is so adaptable to their ways and easy to get along with.

Is it frustrating to watch a two-year-old who has the ability to speak coherent sentences, understand and learn at a completely different level ... speak baby talk and act out in whatever way he sees his younger counterparts do, whenever he plays with these younger girls? Yes. But I think I have a clearer vision of where this is coming from.

It is amazing what you see when you look at the world through the eyes of someone whose behaviour baffles you ...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Just for Today ...

This has to be a turn around week. It simply must. I cannot follow where this downward spiral is leading.

First and foremost, I must make the most of my Daycare Days. When I reopened my doors, it was with my eyes wide open. I focused on the little moments that matter within the day and life was beyond wonderful.

Granted, we got outdoors a lot during the first few months. We went for morning strolls that were dictated by little more than my ability to push my two charges for as long as I wished. It was heavenly to breath in the fresh air, walk and let thoughts drift aimlessly in and out of my mind. Then the last hour of the day was spent in the back yard. The kids could run and play and just be kids. We had the time and opportunity to count the lady bugs. I miss those days. I miss them a lot.

I savored the getting-to-know-you process with my new family. There were a few challenges and I remember thinking at the end of that first month just how far we had all come in becoming comfortable and getting to know each other. I vividly remembered the first days and fully appreciated the comfort levels that we all gained during that month.

Then we added one more to the family. It was like repeating the first month ... only we couldn't walk quite as far (because my two year old was now walking instead of riding along in the stroller). But we still got outside regularly. Another 'first month' of getting to know each other and at the end of that second month, I felt ready to take on a fourth child and yet more challenges.

That didn't happen ... but toilet training did. That took every ounce of patience and spare time that I had. In the end, I was rather grateful a fourth child did not enter the mix at that time.

Then came December and I gave up hope on adding to our family in 2012. The new year would bring new life to our daycare and more mountains to climb.

My wish came true. Sort of. I have a half-time five year old that comes (basically) every other day. He has been here a grand total of three (half) days. We haven't yet developed a new rhythm in those few hours. The walls are closing in on us, as the weather has kept us indoors on the cold days and when the days warm up, our outdoor activities are restricted to going for walks (and the sidewalks are a mess ever since they cleaned the streets and the excess has trickled onto the sidewalks).

I am slowly but surely going a little stir crazy. I am not alone. I have three and a half young children that are also tiring of these walls that confine us. Try as I might, the kids tire of most every new idea or toy or combination of toys that I can come up with. I need some new material. But most of all ... I need a new lease on life.

The tedium of our days is carrying on into my evening and weekends. I am acting like my kids. Simply bored and more than a little happy to let the TV entertain me in every little nook and cranny of the day that isn't ruled by responsibilities.

I don't want the kids to watch more than a minimal amount of TV because I know it isn't good for them. Yet I am not governing myself by the same rules. Television is turning my brain to mush. I have stopped looking at the small moments in life and appreciating them. I need to turn off the TV and tune back into the life that I am living.

The best place to start is within my Daycare Day.

I have been blessed with three adorable little children (plus my half-time five year old that I am still getting to know). It is time to sit on the floor and see the world the way they see it. Listen to what they are saying. Watch, enjoy and guide what they are doing.

I need our day to be more than a regularly scheduled itinerary of breakfast; play-time; quiet-time; lunch-time; nap-time; snack-time; then more play-time. When I reflect on the day I want to remember the moments ... not a running commentary on the regularly scheduled requirements.

This morning, I grabbed the notebook that I had on my night stand so that I can write down the little moments and memorable things the kids do or say throughout the day. This notepad has been on my night stand for almost a year. I thought that perhaps deep and insightful thoughts were coming to me in the middle of the night and I was neglecting to focus on them.

So I started a 'dream journal'. It has one entry. One.

"Sometimes it is not what we see ...
or hear ...
It is what we feel."

Today is about what I feel. I shall keep my notepad at my side and write down the little moments that make a day. Today will be more than what I see and hear ... it will be about what I feel.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Small Action Begets Another ...

It is a little too easy for me to stay in my pyjamas all (or most of the) day on a weekend. It has become my habit to turn on the television set and lose an evening, a morning, an afternoon ... or all of the above. Once I sit down on my favorite comfy couch, I have no burning desire to move myself from that spot. What difference does it really make if I waste a few hours (or days/months/years!)?

I have let exhaustion overrule my life. I succumb to it whenever the days allow. There have been times when it has felt that I physically could not stay awake. The waves hit hard and heavy. My eyes feel incapable of staying open and my body becomes one with the couch.

I think of all of the things that I should be doing and I am overwhelmed. I have let things slide. I have put off things off for so long that I fear I have convinced myself I am incapable of finishing what I have started. Big things. Little things. Important things. Things that really don't matter. Each one of these incomplete tasks weighs equally heavy in my mind. When did I stop finishing what I started??

I am overwhelmed by so much. So much so, that I am weighted down by the load that I am not feeling capable of carrying.

I haven't pushed myself out of this spot for so long that I am losing my desire to do so. This weekend has been too easy. I haven't had to do anything that I didn't want to do. It was fast becoming yet another lost weekend ...

Then I got dressed. Why did I get dressed? Because I needed to wash the pj's that I had worn for the better part of the past two days.

Then I did some laundry. Why did I do laundry? Because My Youngest wouldn't have had clean clothes  to wear to school tomorrow (as well as wanting my favorite pair of pj's to be fresh & clean).

Once I was dressed, I knew that I had to leave the house to buy milk. Since I was out of the house anyway, I bought groceries ....

Once I had groceries in the house, I extended a supper invitation. I was taken up on my offer by not only one, but two guests. The meal wasn't fancy, but it was a meal. I have all but stopped voluntary cooking. It didn't even hurt, to provide sustenance for a few extra mouths tonight.

The invitations involved picking up the phone and dialing it. I had called a few others that returned my call later in the day.

I talked to people. I invited people into my day. I gave a little of myself and invited a few extra family members into our world tonight. I felt the weight of the world lighten, when I made the effort to extend myself and make myself a contributor to the human race today.

It all started with getting dressed. Amazing how one small act can make such a difference in a day ...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

I have been craving sugar in a way that I have no recollection of experiencing ever before.

Chocolate doesn't appease my need for something sweet. Nor does a chocolate drizzled granola bar. Nor cookies, Pringles (?!?!!) or popcorn. I have been eagerly anticipating my daily chewable orange flavored Vitamin D and if I wasn't fearful of what an overdose of Vitamin D would do for me, I would have polished off that bottle in one sitting (five times over) this week.

I gave gift cards to the Bulk Barn to everyone (but myself) in the house. The mere thought of what that colorful gift card looked like made me salivate. Then our cat came upstairs one night wearing a Bulk Barn bag around his neck (my Middle Son & His Girlfriend must have cashed in on their gift and decided to torment the cat with Bulk Barn neck attire) and my need for sugar hit an all time high.

I delivered flyers after my Daycare Day ended yesterday in -30 degree (with windchill) weather. I was beyond chilly when I hit the 2/3 completion mark and had to come back home to pick up the last of the flyers. I was mildly frozen when I finally finished the job. I walked in the door and asked My Youngest if he was still up for a trip to the Bulk Barn.

My body was not yet unthawed when we set out on our task. I warmed up the car and blasted the hear up to record temperatures (I normally don't exceed the 19 degree setting). And we were off.

Oh. My. Gosh. We walked through the doors at the Bulk Barn and it was candy heaven. We were greeted with the Valentine's Day stock the moment we walked in the door. Then I spotted individually wrapped mini chocolate bars. Then we hit the 'sours' section. I was off and running.

I had no self control whatsoever. I took a scoop of this, that, the other and then every other thing that looked remotely pleasing to the eye. I was most definitely in the thick of a sweet/sour craving as I found more delightful sour candies at the end of the aisle. Then I found the SweeTarts and Love Hearts ...

The selection of candy was a childhood dream. Suddenly I was a 10 year old without a 25 cent allowance standing in the candy aisle that I could have never in my wildest imagination ever dreamed of.

I walked out the door with 4.88 pounds of sugar.

No craving is complete without a Tim Hortons fix. Can you believe when I parked the car at the Bulk Barn ... we were right across the street from a Tim Hortons?? My most favorite take-out meal at the moment is a Tim Hortons BLT, a chocolate dip donut and coffee. Besides ... I needed to coat my stomach with something non-sugary (donuts don't count, do they??) before I went on my sugar binge.

I came home and sat myself down in my most favorite spot in the house. On the love seat, with the coffee table at arm's reach right beside me. I had a taped episode of the Gilmore Girls to watch (with Grey's Anatomy for a chaser). I sat down with my Tim Hortons meal, every remote control that I would need to access all of my TV programming ... and a blanket (yes! I was still half frozen).

I swear. I was in heaven. Every bite of my supper tasted divine. The coffee perfectly offset the onset of sugar that I would soon consume. And the heat. Oh ... the heat! It was heavenly to recapture the feeling in my frozen extremities at the same time that my most innermost dreams were coming true.

Finally. The pièce de résistance ... a bag of sweet/sour candy to appease my sugar cravings. I wish that I would have counted how many pieces of candy it took to satisfy my craving. If I were to guess, I would say that perhaps ten pieces of candy was all that I needed. If I would have had only ten pieces of candy at my side, I would have needed a thousand. The excess depleted my need for sugar ...

Because do you know what?? This morning, I woke up craving salt ...

Friday, January 11, 2013

It Must Have Been a Dream

I woke up this morning with the vague recollection of a specific topic and blog post that I was going to write today. The concept was as clear as a bell ... but the reality was as clear as mud. I will write the words as they come to me this morning. There may not be a central theme to this post but maybe I'll find something as I wade through the words in my head.

I have not been able to keep this low grade achiness out of my words lately. I don't want to lose this feeling of loss because there are those that are close to me that are going through their own grieving process and though life goes on, life as they knew it will never be the same. I don't want to forget the perspective that I have gained as I have walked this path ...

My mom called last night and she spoke of this feeling that is hard to pin down and name. When you lose a person that is not a part of your day-to-day life there is a feeling that they are not really gone. Life goes on much as it did before and you feel a small bit guilty that you just carry on. I have been slow to release this sense of loss because it simply feels ... wrong.

Last night, I visited a friend that is battling her own set of health challenges. It has been an uphill battle for her but she seems to have the upper hand at the moment. I hope that she wins a few rounds now that she has regained her fighting spirit. She has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She is determined to push the dates the doctors have given her beyond their expectations. What does she know that the rest of us don't? An approximation of the 'time she has left'. None of us will live forever. Why do we think we are any different than my friend?

I have booked a dance lesson for next week. Perhaps I should have tried to go this week but I simply didn't want to. Not yet. I know that I must get out and resume life as I knew it. But I have put it off until next week.

I am slowly pushing myself out of the house and back into life as I knew it. I feel different. I haven't figured out yet if that is good or a bad.

What was the topic that alluded me? It had something to do with visiting my friend. It was just within my fingertips. I had a title and I knew that the words would flow easily after I wrote it. Once I was fully conscious and awake I couldn't retrieve the information again. It was gone. It must have been a dream.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Day Like Any Other. Before ...

I didn't have much contact with the outside world yesterday. No one called. I sent off one email. I wrote a letter. I made one (business) call.

I delivered flyers after the kids left ... but this is the first time in the past few weeks that I wasn't racing against the clock to get the job done because I had places to go and people to see.

I didn't go anywhere or see anyone at the day's end. It was a day just like any other day ... prior to the Christmas holidays.

There has been a sense of flurry of emotion and activity these past weeks. What I have felt has been nothing compared to that which my aunt's family must be going through since she walked into the hospital two weeks and two days ago ... and never came home.

It feels empty to walk through a day without purpose. It was a day like any other. Before ...

This is where the feeling of loss seeps into one's day-to-day world. Once the rest of the world carries on as it did before. Minus one.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wake Me When it's Summer

I went to sleep with visions of our leaking roof on my mind. I slept in until the morning news came on the radio. Highway fatalities and a house fire started by a dryer in the basement were the lead stories.

Some days you just want to crawl up into a ball and hide under a blanket. Today feels like one of those days.

I want winter to be over so badly. It started too soon. I am cooped up in the house with small children. They scraped the ruts off of our streets and the overflow went onto the sidewalks. Now (alot) of our sidewalks are impossible to walk through with the stroller. My kids are too young to play out in the snow so all we can do is walk. Taking the stroller out in these conditions is a full body workout (I shouldn't complain).

Spring is bringing change into our world. The change will not happen without a lot of hard work and perseverance ... so I am fast forwarding to summer. I want spring to be over too, so that we can get to the good part. The part where we are not dealing with frozen ground, melting snow and mud.

I woke up Monday morning ready for the weekend. Who am I kidding?? It was the middle of last weekend when I openly admitted that I was anticipating the next upcoming weekend!

I am tired. I am so tired. I am just a little bit overwhelmed by life this morning. If I can just make it until nap time ... it will be okay.

Small steps. Forward steps. One step at a time.

Besides, there is a plus side to this winter weather. As long as it stays cold enough to keep the ice dam on our roof frozen, the roof won't leak. Now, if I just don't listen to the news and bury my head under the covers I should be able to keep this facade up until summer....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Resuming Normal

Normal is a nice place to be. Especially after life has taken an unexpected turn.

Life can take on a tedious nature when we do the same things day in and day out. It is easy to forget to go above and beyond and make our days matter in small ways.

It brightens my day when I reach out of my comfort zone and talk with someone that I know. I love being on the receiving end of such a call but I find it hard to muster the courage to instigate that contact.

I know that 'someday' invitations are too vague. I feel empowered when I set a date, a place and a time to get together with someone.

I have learned that those feelings that I should call, drop by or do something are actions that I must trust myself to follow through on. I cannot begin to count the times that I haven't followed through on my intuition and I should have. I remember well, the many times that I have followed through and it has absolutely been the right thing to do.

I know that I have limited resources and there is just not enough time in the day or days in the week to get to know people as well as I wish that I could. But it takes but a moment to find a way to send the message "I'm thinking of you" to a person that is on my mind.

I like my tedious little life. I relish finding my ruts and being comfortable in my world. But I know that I could be doing more and being more to those that touch my life.

As much as I am glad to be resuming my regularly scheduled life, I hope that I can retain this perspective and add just a little bit of something extra to my days. Simply by following through ...

If these past few weeks have taught me anything, it is that sometimes simply 'showing up' in some capacity is enough. It is not the grand gestures that make a difference. It is those simple acts of kindness that can turn around someone's day.

Life may be returning to normal. It is my hope that it is 'normal' with a difference ...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Life Well Lived

How can one put words to the impact one person has made during their lifetime? Where do you begin when someone has a lifetime full of memories and has made a great impact on so many people?

Her son walked us through her life. From her childhood to her first job to marriage, children, grandchildren and many little anecdotes about the way she made a difference to our world. She walked quietly through her life, raised a family and created a home that welcomed one and all.

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

~George Bernard Shaw

For me, the sadness was lifted when my cousin read those words that his mom had written down in her notebook.

She lived a full life. She lived for her family and she loved each of them uniquely and equally ... her body was simply 'all used up' and tired. I would like to think that if she could be looking down upon her family  and how they have all come together to endure these past few weeks, her heart would swell with joy and pride in the legacy she left behind.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

When Will the Walls Come Crashing Down?

The logical side of my brain has been dominant this past while. When I am able to react to life logically I can keep the emotions at bay and keep myself in control.

People that I know well have been dealt some crushing blows. Though I feel deeply for them and do my best to put myself in their shoes, I have kept an emotional distance. I have donned my tough guy suit of armor and shielded myself (and people close to me) from any outward display of the way I feel inside.

I empathize. I listen. I offer my support in whatever way that I know how to do. I do my best to just 'be there' in some quiet, unassuming way so that the other party knows all they have to do is to reach out. I do my best not to let them down.

I know what I need when I am at a breaking point. I need to feel a quiet strength and empathy from those around me. I don't need answers. I don't need to support my supporting person. I don't need the rest of my life to fall apart when I am dealing with a crisis ...

I started thinking about my long term relationships-that-didn't-last and remembered that almost each time the relationship ended (I'm a three strikes, you're out kind-of-girl and each of these relationships involved three break ups before the official end-all break up), it was at a time of crisis.

I haven't over thought this realization but I am starting to wonder if this was part of the cycle. There were many different cycles that were co-existing at the same time within these relationships. This is simply one that I haven't given a lot of thought.

I didn't have the strength to hold someone else up when I was barely keeping it together myself. This must be why I have been wearing my tough-guy suit of armor around those that have been dealt some tough blows. All I know how to do for others in a time of crisis is to be strong.

I will attend my aunt's funeral today. I have been having moments when my walls start to crumble and I can  feel my emotions come to the surface. Subconsciously, I have been reinforcing those walls that are insulating me from what I am feeling. I am so afraid of those walls crumbling around me.

It is okay to feel now. But I feel much safer within my suit of armor and behind these walls of mine ... I think that I need to feel strong. This is how I roll ...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Doing Something Verses Doing Nothing

I went out to get a start at delivering flyers before my kids arrived this morning. My knees went week when I saw the spring/summer catalogues piled neatly outside of the container the flyers were in. I didn't expect that (additional) job today. I felt overwhelmed. I decided to go back inside and have breakfast before I took on the task. Then I went back. It was better to do some of the job before my Daycare Day officially began. I knew that I would never regret doing something over doing nothing.

I have been on the fringes of a family walking through their recent loss. At first I had no idea what I could do that could possibly make a difference. I talked myself into believing that doing something was better than doing nothing at all. I did little more than just 'show up' ... but the family was grateful for that simple act. I'm grateful I did something.

I researched and assembled Mom's family history/memories over the course of four months from start to finish. When I received the end result I was pleased that I had achieved what I set out to do but I wasn't really all that satisfied with the job that I did. When I took on the task of putting Dad's family memories together, I knew that I wanted to do a better job. The very thought of not doing the job until I could do it right took over my thoughts. So I have not completed the job. The research is all but done. But I couldn't put it together because I set the bar too high. So I have done nothing at all. This project has sat in its incomplete state for years. Doing nothing is not getting the job done.

Mom's family's book of memories and recollections is a tangible resource and source of stories and memories of Mom's sister that passed away this week. My aunt's words have been recorded and her voice rings true as exact quotes of what she said or wrote have been written in this family keepsake.

The book may not be perfect ... but it is complete. I may not have made any New Years resolutions or goals. But I must adopt this one phrase into my day-to-day life: "Doing something verses doing nothing wins every time!"

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Tears Inside

I don't cry (often). Sometimes I wish that I did. I need that emotional release from time to time. Which is perhaps why I'm drawn to laughter. I thought that I once heard that laughter and crying are closely connected. It is a natural and easy way to let go and release some of those pent up emotions.

I remember when Dad died.  I was so afraid that I may not be able to stop crying if I ever started. I had attended one funeral before I went to my Dad's. I was completely naive to the process. I remember anger surrounded the very idea of most of it. I thought to myself, "It is like planning a wedding in three days!" I could not begin to understand how a grieving family was expected to accomplish this.

I remember sitting at the front of the church and Dad's casket was right there in front of us. Dad was in there!?!? How in the world could I keep it together when that reality stared me in the face? Why were we on display for a church full of people? Once again, I was consumed by the thought that if I started crying, I may not be able to stop. In public. In front of all of these people! So I did my best to hold it all in and keep my composure.

Mom doesn't cry (often). When she does, it brings me to my knees. There is nothing harder (to me) than to see a strong person lose control of their emotions. I have cried simply because my mom is crying. It breaks my heart to see my strong, stoic mother lose her composure.

I have been reining in my emotions this past week. I have heard and understood the facts. I have stood by a family who has been in the process of letting their mom (my aunt) go ... and I have felt that it is my job to be strong. Because I know when I feel week, I need strong people around me.

I know the reality. My brain has processed the information. My emotions have not caught up. Yet. I am afraid if I start to cry ... I may not stop.

This morning, my eyes feel like they have been crying. I didn't sleep well last night. The emotions are bottle necked somewhere deep inside of me. I feel so much for so many right now. It doesn't show on the outside ... but it is there. I'm afraid to let it go.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I am craving sleep in the worst way lately. I don't have time for it. I want it. I need it. And these are the quotes that came to me via a monthly newsletter that I received today which started with the subtitle: "Sleep is good"

The feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can't get there, is the meanest feeling in the world. ~ Edgar Watson Howe

Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.
~JoJo Jensen

Open Ended Invitations ...

She came into this world on Halloween. She celebrated 87 birthdays. She left us New Years Eve ...

She was my aunt. My mom's sister. My cousins' mom. A wife. A grandma. A great grandma. A cousin. A mother-in-law. A sister-in-law. A friend.

My aunt and my mom married brothers. They raised the first parts of their families in 'the hills'. We could see their farm from the top of the hill at our farm. My sisters and my aunt's older children were close to the same age. Both of my sisters wished Mom had lots of kids like Jean did (she had six at the time). They made lots of memories together in those hills. The closeness that our family shares with theirs started in infancy ...

The years went on. Jean remarried and moved to 'the city'. More years elapsed and our family moved 'out West'. Jean started her second family when she remarried. The second part of Mom & Dad's family (me & my brother) are close in age to Jean's three younger children. Despite the wide age range among both of our families, we were destined to be close.

As a kid, I didn't see my aunts and uncles for the cousins. My childhood memories are vague but what I do remember is that Jean's home 'felt' the same as our home. Mom & Jean ran their houses in a very similar manner. The food wasn't too 'scary' at Jean's (I was a very fussy eater and both Jean & Mom were very basic cooks).

As an adult, I moved to the city that my aunt and uncle had made home. They were my port in the storm. There was much drama surrounding that move and they did everything they could to make it easier for me. The words "Thank You" did not encompass my gratitude. I wondered aloud how in the world I could ever repay them for their kindness. I can't remember Jean's exact words but they were something to the effect that there could come a time when they may be the ones in need of a favor and it would all work out in the end.

Five years ago, I called Jean and approached her with the idea of writing a book about Mom's family story. The memories and realities of what their growing up years were really like. I interviewed Jean first. We sat down at her dining room table and she told me the story of her life. She wrote pages and pages of her memories. We looked at pictures. I listened to stories. This was the beginning of a journey that I was meant to travel. I talked to Mom and the rest of her family and started piecing together all of their collective memories. We wrote a book together.

When I started collecting memories from Dad's family once again, I went to Jean first. She had married Dad's brother and she worked for Dad's mother. She had memories that no one else did. She talked. I listened. She reminisced. She lent me her cherished photo albums so that I could illustrate the stories.

I talked with all of Mom & Dad's siblings. But talking with Jean led the way. Knowing Jean as well as I did gave me the courage to know my other aunts and uncles. Jean was the key that helped me unlock this precious gift of  knowing my family ...

Each and every visit with Jean ended with the words, "Drop by. Any time!" I knew that she meant it because their home was a revolving door of friends and family. Everyone knew where they kept their spare key. "Come on in!" was the unspoken welcome as you stepped onto their doorstep. They created a family and a home that I longed to emulate. A home that welcomed all. They gave so much and expected nothing in return.

I wish that I had taken Jean up on her kind offer more often. Her open invitation did not come with an expiry date. But she did ...

I was in Jean's neighborhood just a few days before she went into the hospital this last time. I had an overwhelming urge to drop in but the logical side of my brain talked me out of it. There is a great likelihood that Jean wouldn't have been up to company ... but there is a better chance that my uncle may have needed some.

If I have learned anything this past few weeks, it is not to ignore that inner voice. I knew that I should have dropped by. But I talked myself out of it. I went to see Jean when she was in the hospital. But I should have dropped by to visit her at home more often. Open ended invitations do not last forever.