Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Letter to My Graduate

Well, you did it! Today is your graduation day. The hard work, the stresses, the ups and downs, the challenges of joys of your school days thus far are now tucked safely behind you. Today is just another day but it is a milestone worth celebrating. You did it!! And you did it well. I can say everything I have to say in five words but you know me. Brevity is not my strong point so let me prove my way through those very five words.

You came into my world when I least expected you but I knew right from the start. "This child is going to make a difference. I know it. I can feel it." I was right. You have only just begun to live your life but I marvel at the ways you quietly make your way.

I watch and listen to you when you are in the presence of those younger than you. Your quiet presence, acceptance and gentle manner invites trust. You tread softly and those around you quieten so they can hear you. Your calmness soothes our world.

You are a man of few words and when you speak, the words you have to say are important. You dismiss idle chit chat in favor of silence. You break the silence when you have something to say. You have so much inside of you, I want to hear it all. When you are ready. Only when you are ready.

The way you treat our little cat family is so very telling. Your compassion, your ability to observe and appreciate the non-verbal language of your black, furry friends has developed into conversations about cats that amuse and entertain me as well as fill me with perspective about what you see and how you interpret that information.

I think of the heartbreak we shared as we walked with André through his final days. As a mother, I wanted to protect you from heartache. I saw how much you loved and adored that little black cat. I couldn't bear the thought of ever losing him. But we did. We walked through our grief together. We said good-bye to him together. We celebrated the memories we had of him together. It was a hard lesson but it was important. We walked through life, love and loss together. And we are still standing, still celebrating and still remembering that time of great love with an open heart. It was a hard lesson but I hope it will help you when you confront loss in the future.

Loving deeply can hurt. I hope you choose to love with all of your heart knowing that fact. Loving deeply, following your heart, spreading joy, putting words and actions to your feelings is life affirming. You get back what you give in life. If you love deeply, you risk a broken heart. Trust me when I say "Every time my heart was broken, it was worth every moment." The only regrets I have are not loving more, putting a voice to my heart and speaking with loving actions when the words evaded me.

Most importantly, remember today is "just another day". Do not feel like you have to take any giant steps forward from here. Your heart will lead the way if you are quiet enough to hear when it speaks to you. No one knows what they want to do "for the rest of their life" at the age of eighteen. Some may know what they want to do next and that is good. Taking the next forward step when it feels like it is the step that you want to take is always the right choice.

Don't worry about the future. It will take care of itself. Do appreciate your "todays" though. "Today" is important in its simplicity. Keep taking one forward step from here. Try to keep going forward but recognize and appreciate that the definition is not as straight forward as it sounds. Sometimes it is one step forward, four steps back. Sometimes it is moving forward then retreating when it feels like it is not the right direction for you. Sometimes forward is even standing still and holding firm when you feel like you are sinking.

Do not define yourself by anyone else's standards but your own. Saying that, please do not be too hard on yourself. Treat yourself with grace, forgiveness, compassion and understanding. Remember these words when the going gets tough. YOU are worth it. You are ALWAYS worth it. I knew this the moment I knew of your existence. And you have proved every word of this to be true.

Simply put (here are the five words that say everything I have to say), "I am proud of you." No matter what. No matter where you go from here. No matter who you do or don't become. I am proud of you for the person you are today and the person you are growing into. Always and forever.

With all my love,

Project Happiness (
"If there were one word that could act as a standard of conduct for one's entire life, perhaps it would be 'thoughtfulness.' " ~Confucius

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fashion and Decorating 101

I just stumbled upon "Sarah Baeumler's" blog and it has been an enjoyable find since the majority of the blog authors I read now write on a very sporadic basis (something I can completely relate to).

This morning I read her post "Why I Love White Rooms". I thought "this" was a concept that sounded like me. Basic white goes with anything and everything. Sarah's flare is quite different than mine which can be summed up by this one sentence "I believe that if you design your home the way you style your closet, then you are sure to create a home that reflects your sense of self." (Sarah Baeumler)

I laughed when I read that. My idea of a perfect wardrobe would be that of a cartoon character. Wilma Flintstone comes to mind. Wilma wore the exact same dress episode after episode, year after year. Her hair was swept up in a "do" that was exactly the same every day. Simplicity, ease and comfort. She wasted not an extra moment of her day wondering what to wear. She simply pulled out a clean version of yesterday's attire all year long.

When I googled images for "Wilma Flintstone", I found the very odd deviation to Wilma's old stand by. They were dresses of exactly the same style, but in different colors. She had a bathing suit, an apron and I seem to remember her dressed up for some fancy occasion a time or two so Wilma did have what she needed when the occasion called for it but for the most part her wardrobe was simply functional.

A functional wardrobe describes "me" to a tee. I don't like to have to think about what I'm going to wear and whatever I wear must be comfortable, drape in all the right places and gape in none of the wrong places. I have to be able to move and there must be room to breathe.

Hey, Sarah! I do believe you are onto something here because that is exactly the way I strive to make our home work for us. Comfortable, servicable, we are able to move and there is room to breathe. I don't want anything fancy, fussy or ornate.

Both my wardrobe and my decorating are a little ways away from being exactly what I want but now that I recognize my fashion sense, I'll know when I've found the right look.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Looking Up and Beyond the Moment

I have discovered the easiest way to clean my world is to wash my glasses. Yes, I suppose one would say you could see the dirt better that way but I choose to look up and beyond all that. Clean glasses make my head feel clearer and that is a very good place to start.

I like when my vision is clear and unobstructed. A clean windshield, clean windows or a flat Saskatchewan prairie landscape. I feel claustrophobic in the mountains, where "as far as your eye can see" is the treed face of a rock and where "walking through a cloud" is possible.

I like a clear vision of where I want to go within my world. Obstacles are meant to be cleared away and overcome so I can find my way back to my old, familiar path.

My view feels obstructed these days. I can't see beyond where I'm at and while living in the moment is a nice place to be, I'm looking into the horizon and wondering "What's next?"

I feel ready to undergo a minor metamorphosis. I am craving change. I feel like I'm ready to move in a brand new and unexpected direction.

My children are grown and before I know it, my youngest will be ready to try out his wings. Do you know what? I think I'm ready to spread my wings and see if I remember how to fly too.

That's what clean glasses will do for a person. I woke up this morning feeling foggy and rather lack lustre about the day ahead of me. Now I feel like I'm looking up and beyond the day and into the mystical world of the future. I wonder what lies ahead? It could be more of the same. Especially if I keep doing what I'm doing. But what if I change just one thing? What if?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Safe Place to Land

Our devious little black cats have convinced me to sit outside with my coffee this morning, so I'm balancing my laptop on my lap and trying to sip on the last quiet cup of coffee I will have today as I try to keep my eye on our cats' whereabouts.

Ray is our timid cat. He could not even be convinced to come into the back yard the first few years he lived with us. Then gradually my son weaned him into the idea that our back yard was a safe place to play and his other black partners in cat-hood made the idea look incredibly intriguing. So he is now the cagiest little guy. He dashes out the door with a determination unrivalled by his predecessors. Andre was determined and sneaky. Ray is just like a bulldozer. If he wants outside he goes for it full throttle. He blasts past and beyond you before you even know he was there.

Jet is more of a thinker. He plays mind games with me. First, he started clawing at the weather stripping at the bottom of our brand new door so I opened up the inside door thinking there was nothing he could wreck on it. I was wrong. He has chewed up the weather stripping along the door casing. BRAND NEW weather stripping. Chewed up by our cat!

I shooed Jet into the kitchen with me and closed the sliding door so he did not have access to the back door at all. He then proceeded to sit in front of and on my computer. When I ignored that, he knocked the Kleenex box beside me, onto the floor. Then the box of eye glass wipes which was under that. Anything to get my attention.

I could have just moved my computer and walked away from his antics but it is absolutely gorgeous outside this morning so here I am.

Jet is contently sitting in a spot of shade he found beside me and Ray is here, there and everywhere. He has recently discovered there is life outside of the confines of our yard and he is bound and determined to check it out. I have had to shoo him back into our yard three times in the brief time we've been sitting out here.

Ray reminds me so much of myself. I too, am very content and happy within the confines of our home. When I do go out and explore new territory, my eyes feel like they are filled with terror in the same way that Ray's eyes look when he is on high alert.

I watch Ray watching Jet and copying what he does in the same way I eye up other people's bravery and outgoing ways. "I want to be more like them" Ray and I think to ourselves as we watch people more adventuresome than ourselves live the good life.

Both Ray and I need to know the door to our home is open and ready for us to dart back into when our fears overcome us. But do you know what? Even our adventuresome Jet-Cat needs to know the same thing.

Even the bravest soul needs a safe place to land when taking on the world. Maybe Ray and I are not so unique after all.

A Few Cat Adventures in our Very Own Back Yard:

The roof on top of our playground structure has provided the perfect cat hammock for bird watching all the birds who play in our neighbor's tree. The only trouble with that vantage point is that they have a "bird's eye view" of our neighbor's yard and they can't help themselves. They must jump in and explore the "cat nesting areas" under their shaded and overgrown trees. It is a cat haven over there. 

Checking out the playground

Rain? Who cares?! They just had to go out and watch and experience it first hand.

The boys hanging out on the "cat walk"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What's Next?

A week from today, I shall be sitting in an auditorium watching my youngest son graduate from high school. It is the end of an era. This milestone has stirred up my thoughts, emotions and really has me asking myself the question "What's next?"

The short story I wrote in my head upon the birth of my oldest child (when I was young and naive enough to believe that raising a child ended upon them attaining their eighteenth birthday) was "Only eighteen more years ..." I didn't even have an end to that thought thirty eight years ago, so it is no wonder I am having trouble completing that sentence today.

What did I think was going to happen after I raised my child(ren) to a state of adulthood? Was it a sense of responsibility that would be lifted? An opportunity to do what I wanted with my life afterwards? Was I going to pick up where I left off with my education? What life goals were pre-empted that I had that thought that I would continue after eighteen years?

I remember the panic I felt when I was raising dependent children. The fear that I may not live to see them through their dependent years was an overwhelming concern. I often thought that the only reason I would want to know my expected "date of departure" from this world, was if I had children dependent on me so I could ensure proper arrangements were made.

I survived the years of raising children. There has been an overwhelming sense of "My work here is done" wafting through my mind.

Honestly, what could possibly be left for me to do? I have raised my children. I have written a few books. I have made family connections, initiated a few reunions and fulfilled my purpose within our family. I gave while the giving was good, I danced as far as my dancing shoes would take me, I wrote, I learned, I wrote, I shared. What else could I possibly have to do to make my life worthwhile?

I suppose I could pay off my mortgage. That's it!  I guess I'm going to be around for a good, long while after all. I may as well look for some positive diversions while I chip away at that next item on my to-do list.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Roller Coasters

Is there a barometer to measure "where I should be" in my life right now? I somehow feel there is and I am terribly afraid I'm not measuring up.

Had all gone "according to plan", my house would have been paid off seven years ago, my RRSP and pension savings would have been inflated by compound interest and regular contributions and I may just have had that "three month emergency plan" saved by now.

I should be looking at retirement and thinking of all the different options I may have once a full-time job is no longer a full-time requirement. I simply could be looking into the future feeling like I HAVE some options.

I have none of the above. I can't see my way through and beyond the bleak financial pit of despair I have created for myself and by myself. "Working forever" seems to be my only viable option and I am not feeling like I am capable of working past this week most of the time.

When I think of describing "where I am at" in this road map of my life, I am almost embarrassed. "I AM HERE", the same place I was eighteen years ago. I haven't moved forward. I've thrown the dice and moved ahead but like a game of snakes and ladders, I feel like I just keep hitting those darn "snakes" and slip down to the start gate again.

I have enjoyed the game up until the last short while. I think the turning point may have been when I tried to pull myself up and out of the "snake pit" and tried working outside of my home. When that little experiment failed so completely and fully, I hunkered down into survival mode and have been simply paying the bills ever since.

My dancing days are over. My whimsical vacations are in the past. There is no room to dream within this small little life I have created. Then when I do manage to get a two day weekend, I fritter it away sleeping and running a "Gilmore Girls Marathon".

I need to crunch some numbers. I need to find a way of having more money left over at the end of the bills. I need to pay off debt and free up some room to believe that I was not placed on this earth simply to accumulate debt and trust that my life insurance will pay it off when I die.

The trouble with that is, that I really don't want to work any harder than I am currently working. I want to downsize my life, my debt load, my responsibilities and everything I do. I want to work less, move less, pay less, do less but I really don't want to give anything up or do anything extra in order to accomplish this feat.

When I made the move to "become a mom" in lieu of chasing my financial freedom, I did it with the best of intents. I had no regrets because I chose to focus my energy on being present, raising my family, stop counting pennies and start collecting memories instead.

It was good while it lasted.

I now have three adult children and I am back at the beginning line. I have the rest of my life ahead of me. A quiet little life that I have "built" which does not exist outside of my safe little existence within this heavily mortgaged home.

I'm feeling a little bit nervous. I could sell everything and start from "zero" again. But at this age and stage of my life? If I thought changing careers at age fifty was a roller coaster ride I never want to revisit, I highly doubt "starting from scratch" is the answer to my current dilemma.

I can't look too far ahead. I feel like I'm at the tip of that roller coaster without knowing what lies beyond what I can see. There isn't a view. It is wide open and empty space.

I must simply trust that the track is laid and no matter how thrilling and chilling the descent may be, I am still on a track that I laid myself.

I have so much. I have safety and security within my life, my family and my home. This "track" is solid. It is not going anywhere. I just don't think I will be climbing any new hills any time soon.

This roller coaster ride isn't as scary as it was at one time. It is so much of a tamer ride than some of the previous "rides" of my life. It's okay. The track is solid. It's strong enough to hold me. It's just that I know this "track" hasn't been inspected for a while. I'm relying heavily on faith that it all works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out yet, it is not yet the end.

Why was this very same quote not as reassuring as it once was?

Monday, June 20, 2016


My days of "early morning movement" seem to be a thing of the past. The question is: "Can I begin again?" My answer (thus far) has been: "But why?"

I think I was happier when I was moving. Or was I simply delirious from the exhaustion? I thought getting up at 4:52 a.m. was attainable but the early and earlier bedtimes were a hard habit to maintain. Yes, I'll just blame the early bedtimes, that's it.

Last week, I pushed myself out of my quiet little life and found myself smack dab in the middle of a family gathering. I was tried VERY hard to maintain the "confident new self" I have come to know the past decade or so but I FELT so very much like my quiet ten year old self of my childhood. 

I came home from that event feeling bruised, beaten and wishing I could "take back the day" and undo every little thing I said or did. It was a blast from my past. It was a rerun from the days when I was a child and said "the wrong thing", then came home and rewound the tape over and over and over again and "rued" my day, my existence and the very fibre of my being.

My bounce-back ability is usually better than this. I am not certain why the elasticity of that ability to regain my composure was missing. Maybe it was lack of sleep?

I had two complete and total days "off" this past weekend. I had so many little things I wanted to accomplish. What did I do? I slept. I slept and slept and then slept some more.

I talked to a few people. I confessed a little bit of what I was feeling. Was I feeling shame? Brenè Brown says shame cannot exist when it is spoken out loud. So I spoke a little. I felt a little bit better. But I still didn't feel "myself". I am starting to feel fearful. What if that girl who gained some confidence and was mostly happy is gone forever??

I woke up still feeling "tired" this morning but I think I'm bouncing back to life. My daycare crowd did not picking up on my negative vibes today so I think my bad vibrations are settling down.

Maybe I should go for a good, long walk. Maybe I should have a good, long talk. Maybe this is just one of those things I have to endure and push myself through the discomfort and through to the other side. I have read that the best way out of a bad mood is to "move". I haven't been moving much, so maybe I should heed that advise.

In 2010, the APA finally caught up with Hippocrates, who recommended that all people in a bad mood should go for a walk—and if it did not improve, walk again. Sedentary behavior causes brain impairment, and we know how: by depriving your brain of the flood of neurochemistry that evolution developed in order to grow brains and keep them healthy.” ~John Ratey

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wake Up Call

This "habit" to keep moving in the mornings is starting to feel hard.

I took off the weekend. I figured two days off, after being true to myself and my promise for six days straight deserved a reward. So I "rewarded" myself and stayed asleep instead of moving.

Then came "Monday". I didn't feel like doing really hard things but I knew it was important to keep moving forward and through the paralysis of inertia. Being "still" is so much easier than waking up and moving. So I turned on a YouTube exercise video and exercised. It was a half hearted attempt but every time I started to beat myself up because I was not putting my whole body and soul into the work at hand, I kept telling myself "This is better than sleeping. You are moving. This is better than being still. This is enough for now."

Then came "this morning". I woke up before my alarm and thought I couldn't do it. I was ready to turn over and go back to sleep when I heard a faint "beep" "beep" "beep" from right outside my bedroom door.

I parked the non-functional exercise bike right outside my door several weeks ago. And there it "slept". Until this morning. "Beep" "Beep" "Beep" it called out. It didn't make one peep the entire time I cleaned, fiddled with and rode it. Silence. Pure and utter silence. Then, the morning I decided that maybe I wasn't so into this whole idea of "moving", it called out to me.

I found where the batteries were located and removed them. Since I was up and about anyway, I decided to find a short Zumba workout on YouTube. It was twenty five minutes. I was tired and lethargic. But I did it. I got up and moved.

I am at a crucial point in forming this new habit. I could quit right now and never look back. Thank goodness for malfunctioning electronics. This mysterious beeping pulled me out of my lethargy and into some form of motion this morning. I may have to do this on my own tomorrow but for today, I am grateful for the wake up call.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The World Just Keeps on Spinning

So many thoughts, so few words. That seems to have been the theme of this weekend past.

My youngest son turned into an adult on Saturday and the world just keeps on turning in exactly the same way, in the same orbit. Yet he has been expecting less and less (and less) of me lately. His grocery wish list is almost "nil". His expectations at meal time? Not much. This is the pitfall of being a child of mine. My children's mouths never start to water when they think of coming home. New clothes? No thank you. Haircut? Maybe later. Then yesterday he made a comment "Now that I'm an adult, I won't cost you as much because you don't have to pay for me any more". Whoa, Nellie. That will come all in due time, my son. For now, you are still in high school and fully dependent upon me. This will not change over night. One day at a time ...

My aunt (Mom's sister) passed away on Saturday. She has not been well for a while now. She was 92 years old. It wasn't her death I was thinking of, it was the memories we collected for Mom's family's book. It was all the stories Mom told me of her sister over the years. It was the "sister relationship" they had over the years. I smile at the thought of the two of them chatting like teenagers on the phone, when they both got a long distance bundle and made the most of that time while the chatting was good.

I have always related to this aunt the most. Her life was not an easy one, yet you would never have known it. She focused on memories of better times. Her memories may have been bittersweet but I never heard her sound bitter.

She was quiet as a child and had a quiet strength about her. She was my hero. I believe I even told her that. We were penpals for a short while but it became hard for her to write back (and she always replied), then she started having trouble with her vision.

I pulled out her letters to me and reread them. I compiled some of the pictures I have collected and made a little "collage". Thoughts of conversations, memories and little things Mom has said over the years wafted in and out and through my mind. I am grateful to have known my aunt as well as I did. I am grateful I stepped out of my small little world and collected her stories, along with the rest of Mom's family's memories.

My heart aches just a little bit that only one of the "authors" of that little book of memories is still with us. I wonder how Mom feels. She describes herself as "stoic" and it is a very good word for her. She is strong and rarely shows weakness or wears her emotions on her sleeve. Yet it feels like "this" could feel different.

The world just keeps on spinning. No matter what happens within the lives of those we care deeply about, the sun sets on one day and shows up bright and early the next morning. The weather may be unpredictable but night and day, one season turning into the next and the fact that "life goes on" is one thing we can always count on.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Steps in a Forward Direction

Ahhh, "hard things" have been done. I have kept my promise to myself and done some "extra curricular moving" six out of the past six days. I have washed my hair. I have done a load of laundry. I have made my son's "sixth last lunch" of his public school career. Now I get to sit down with my coffee and enjoy this early (but late) Friday morning sensation before my daycare crowd starts filing in.

What have I learned this week?

Getting up at 4:52 a.m. is possible and an easy habit to form. This works best if I get to bed around 8:00 p.m. Is this goal attainable on a long term basis if I allow "real life" (i.e. friends and a social life of any sort) to join this move to regain some of my physical fitness?

Washing my hair is still the hardest job I have on my must-be-done list. This is crazy. I would rather mow the lawn than wash my hair. I would rather sift tree debris out of the sand box than wash my hair. I would rather exercise than wash my hair. I would rather clean a closet than wash my hair. I think I need an "easier to maintain" look if I am going to continue down this "fitness" route. Moving in a fashion to challenge my body may require sweating. I hate sweating. It is uncomfortable and icky. And it requires a shower and washing my hair. Yes, I think I need to try to work out some deal with my hair.

Exercise, like writing is FREE. I have expended no extra cash outlay in this challenge to move myself more. Other than an up and coming appointment to get my hair cut (which was going to happen regardless), the only extra expense I can foresee is some hair product to help me manage the mane on my head without spending a half hour taming it into submission.

I am not certain but I am pretty sure that I am feeling happier than I did without this morning goal of pushing myself out of bed with a mission to move. Laying in bed wishing it was Sunday six days out of seven is not a good way to live a life. I haven't wished it to be Sunday morning all week. I haven't given myself enough time to lay and mope about the fact that it is not yet Sunday. I just get out of bed one foot at a time. And move. And this is good.

Has this early morning unclogged my word source? Has it motivated me in any other facets of my life? Am I thinking clearer and more focused? Am I meeting the challenges in my day in a more positive manner?

Rome wasn't built in a day, nor does lasting transition happen by changing one action for six days. But I can say that I can see a slight change for the better in "all of the above".

These are small steps. But they are steps in a forward direction. I just have to keep moving. One step at a time.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Walking Adventures

I'm feeling a little tapped out after five days of waking early enough to walk for an hour before my work day begins. I really just wanted to stay home this morning but my body was ready to wake up with my alarm so I took it out for a walk to appease it.

It was warm and muggy outside. These are the conditions I hoped to avoid by walking at 5:00 a.m., so I cut myself some slack and only made myself walk a half hour this morning. A half hour is better than nothing. And walking in sauna like conditions must count for something, right?

So here I sit. Just a tiny bit weary and the enthusiasm I felt when I started out on this "moving" habit is waning. I guess it is time to change it up a bit. I need to incorporate some form of exercise into this moving business. I'll check into that later.

After I had walked three hours in three days and dealt with the repercussions of that decision (a blister on the callus on my bunion and numb hands at the end of my walk) on day four (moleskin is AMAZING for minor foot ailments and holding my hands up to waist level as I walk cured my tingling hands), I couldn't help but think of the trek my brother is about to set out on.

My brother has made the fully conscious decision to walk the "West Coast Trail" with a friend of his next week. What is the West Coast Trail you ask? I googled it and I came up with my very own definition: A week long trek in miserable walking conditions where you have to pack and carry everything you need to eat, sleep on and in, wear and maintain yourself for a week.  Oh yes, and your travel mates may be bears or cougars. The absolutely only consolation prize I could find for this trek without a bed or room service, is that there are some bathroom facilities (I can only imagine how rustic) sprinkled along the path. There is really no consolation prize. There are NO outhouses along the way. Only at designated campsites.

I walked for four hours in four days, without carrying a thing and I had to come up with remedies to make walking the next day possible. All I can think of is the condition my feet were in, after walking the Strip in Las Vegas with my sister. I can't remember how many hours we logged that day but my tender, blistered toes could not tolerate being enclosed by a shoe the next morning. What if we had been camped out on the West Coast Trail where we couldn't catch a bus to try and find some open toed sandals for me to wear home? I highly doubt they would send in a helicopter because of blistered toes. But then again, if you were running for your life (I am kidding - you are never supposed to RUN from a bear or cougar. You are supposed to move very slowly), the last thing one would have on their mind was their sore feet.

Carrying a back pack, with a week load full of food, supplies and accommodations makes me think of my flyer route days. The days when I packed up to fifty pounds of newspapers on my back and delivered them. At least I had the reward of lightening my load along the way. These guys? The only lightening of their load will be the food they eat. They must carry all garbage back with them. And water? I read of "water purification kits" that they could pack along. I don't think it would be possible to carry a week's worth of water on their back, so this must be the route they must take. My stomach does a slight turn at the thought of "water purification gone awry" and ending up with a dire stomach ailment that may not make it to the next outhouse along their way.

They will have to walk no matter what the conditions are. They won't have the choice to "come home early" because it is muggy outside. Or too hot. Or too cold. Or too anything. They get to choose their pace and it is recommended to choose a pace where you can enjoy the sights you see along the way. As I dodge caterpillars and webs hanging from overgrown trees as I walk down the city streets, I simply cannot imagine seeing much beyond the immediate peril I was avoiding at any given moment in time.

One would think there must be a huge financial reward and compensation for enduring this ordeal. Right? I got paid for delivering flyers. The pay rate for staying safe, fed and able to walk for a week without any of the creature comforts of home must come with a pay back. Right? WRONG! All costs come out of their own pocket. Not only that, but they are incurring costs to fly out to go on this adventure and using up valuable vacation time from their places of employment. I don't understand this. Who would make this conscious, expensive, well thought out and calculated decision? My brother and his buddy. That's who.

I would like to know the rigors of preparing for a trek like this one. Surely a day walking The Strip in Vegas wouldn't count, would it? But it is the only thing I can imagine that could compare (with the added bonus of carrying the equivalent of a full load of flyers on my back, that I didn't get to deliver to anyone).

I'm sure my brother has all contingencies well thought out in advance. He has been in training for this for quite some time and I'm certain his body, mind and soul are all ready and set to go. He sounds like he is ready to meet this challenge head on. And that, he will.

My only advice? Pack blister bandages and moleskin padding. And don't let your arms dangle while you are walking. That is all I know for sure.

I can't wait to hear the rest of this story upon my brother's return to civilization. I'm sure there will be a "book" in there somewhere. I just hope he takes good notes along the way. One other suggestion? Pack something so you can record your thoughts as you make your way. Yours is a story I would really like to hear!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Putting on the Miles

I am finally starting to give my Fitbit a little bit of a run for its money. "Walk" may be the better way to phrase that but "movement" is key. I am only three days in but I'm doing it. I'm on the move again.

I started on a Sunday which is a minor miracle in and of itself. Thanks to hearing my sister say (once, most likely twenty or thirty years ago) that she always started [whatever she set out to do] on "Monday". I heard it once and I adopted that motto as my own. That is why starting something on a Sunday is so amazing to me.

It was already warm outside by the time I made my mind up to start moving. But I moved anyway. I called my cousin to see if she would like to join me but (I found out later) she was already out walking her dog (and much smarter than me, because she returned before it got too hot outside). I walked anyway. I set a goal of walking for an hour. And that is exactly what I did.

I vowed there and then that walking when it is cool outside is key. Starting the day out by walking sounded like a perfect habit for me to start. So when my alarm went off at eight minutes before five o'clock Monday morning, I hopped out of bed and was out the door by 5:01 a.m. I was home shortly after 6:00 a.m. and sitting outside with the cats shortly thereafter (they seem to think if I get to go out and play in the morning, they should be able to do the same).

I sat outside, wrote Mom a letter and by the time my daycare day began I felt like I had sufficient "me" time and I was ready, willing and able to face the day. Having done "hard things" first thing in the morning, I seemed to be mentally capable of tacking the day head on and game to add a few more "hard things" onto my plate.

I initiated a little bit of communication and was rewarded with a most excellent visit when one person responded to my email by phoning me. It has been a challenge simply responding to emails and picking up a ringing phone lately, so to actually be the one initiating contact is a very big deal. I stepped outside my comfort zone and invited people in. It is small but it is so big for me right now.

I submitted my columns while the kids slept yesterday and got that monumental task off my plate for another month or so. In doing so, I made the decision to "just keep writing" after all the back and forth and conflicted feelings I have been having about that lately. Not only that, I plan to start amassing some of my writing together in one place and seeing if I can organize it into something interesting.

I culled through my closets (the downfall of moving my bedroom is that I ended up with two closets) on Sunday and ended up with MORE clothes than I started with. How could this happen you ask? That would be due to the fact that my sisters have been dropping off  some clothes I may be interested in keeping which has resulted in a rather massive excess. I tried to get rid of as much as I kept but I'm not sure if I succeeded. None the less, I have sorted through my closets and drawers and have two bags of donations left over. Not bad for an hour's work.

I haven't made the time to cull through more than my clothes, though I did fill another big bag with toys that are never played with. Fifteen minutes at a time. Small steps. Steps in a forward direction. Anything at all is better than sitting still and doing nothing.

My "nothing", wind down and recharge time is still vital to my existence. So last night, when I had done all that needed to be done I ceremoniously climbed into my pajamas and fell asleep shortly thereafter. Waking up at 4:52 a.m. requires an early to bed time. My body was happy to comply.

I woke up before my alarm once again this morning and walked another hour before I set my morning routines into action. The cats insisted we sit out in the back yard again and they were happy to entertain me and keep me moving as I tried to convince both of them to come inside at the same time. I would catch one, put him inside then he would dart out and escape the minute I caught his buddy and tried to put him inside. It was a "whack-a-mole" game of Keep Both Cats In the House at the Same Time.

My Fitbit tells me I have logged seventeen miles since Sunday and the day is young. My body felt a little sluggish and tired this morning but the right muscles were complaining. My calf muscles were telling me they were "happy" to be put to use again. I'm gaining a blister on a callus on one of my bunions which could get ugly if I keep pushing it. My hands go numb when I walk so maybe I need to get a little "power walk" thing going, by raising my hands up to my waist level and do the "professional power walker move". My back is feeling weird but goes away when I walk so I guess it is telling me to "walk it off". I am very conscious about the fact I don't want to injure anything. I just want to get moving and get my heart pumping a little faster.

Other than those few minor body ailments, my head is feeling happier and healthier. My thoughts are feeling lighter, more positive and realigned with the stars.

I am only three days in to this minor life renovation but it feels so right, so familiar and so life affirming that I think I can do three more. Motion begets more motion. Action begets further action. Movement in any way, shape or form when you are coming out of a catatonic state of inactivity is a very good step in a forward direction. I'm going to keep following this path. It feels like it is going to head me in the right direction.

Then I came home to find my Tuesday morning email from "Project Happiness" sitting in my Inbox. How incredibly fitting.

What matters most is the spirit of the work. How are you spending your time? Is the way you're living your days in line with what's most important to you in your life?

"Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good." ~Minor Myer

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Less Stuff

I have been hanging out here this morning:

I have been wandering through "whatever speaks to me" over at this site and finding my way through the mire of my deep, dark thoughts a lot this past while. These articles are exactly what I need to read right now.

I woke up to a Sunday with all of the "hard stuff" done. The lawn is mowed, my hair is clean, groceries have been bought, all of my extra-curricular spending has been "paid in full" and I have miraculously ended up in the black. And it is SUNDAY!! Yay!!!

I don't know what to do first. Go for a long, brisk walk? Sit out in the sun with our cats? Start digging through one closet or area of the house to try to lighten the load of the excess that has accumulated while my back was turned? Or all of the above.

The key is to do something. I gave myself an entire Sunday to melt into the couch last week. I have nurtured myself with garbage food and mindless TV. Now it is time to "walk it off", let my thoughts waft through my mind while I walk a good walk, While I am walking, I will make a plan to get rid of some of the excess (again!) around here. I will end my day in the back yard with a good book and our cats.

The time to get started is NOW.

The theme of today is:

Joy is not in things; it is in us.” ~Richard Wagner

We don’t hang on to things; we hang on to emotions attached to those things…as you move through your day today, ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” This is a simple yet incredibly powerful question to ask about all the the ‘stuff’ in your life…

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Letter to Self (from a Sixty Year Old Me)

Dear Fifty Five Year Old You,

I am writing this letter to you four and a half years in advance of you turning sixty years old. I am writing it to you this morning because I'm a little disgusted and disappointed in "55 Year Old You" and I think you need a good talking to. This may not be pretty. You have been warned.

I am very disappointed in you lately. If I didn't know who you were and where you have been, I would call you a "quitter". Heavens, I can't even call you a quitter because lately you have been too afraid, paralyzed &/or lazy to even start anything.

I know, I know. Once you start, you feel committed. Once you feel committed to something, you start beating yourself up. Relentlessly. You think you can't start something because you don't have a whole big chunk of time to devote to the job. So you don't start anything.

This has got to end. You know that. You know the answer is to simply take small bites out of big jobs and whittle away at them. You know this! Why aren't you acting on it? I know, I know!  You are tired. Your daycare days are long. Your weekends are short. How can you do "big things" when you have so little left over at the end of the day?

If you keep this up, by the time you hit the age of sixty you will want to abandon this ship and this home you have created because there is always "too much to do". Isn't this home everything you ever wanted? Hasn't this house enabled you to work from home and adapted to whatever you wanted it to do for you? Hasn't the ability to pay "interest only" on your mortgage allowed you to pay your bills, live a comfortable life and given you more financial freedom than renting an apartment could ever afford you?

This house is so much more than a roof over your head. It sustains you. It shelters you from the harsh elements of life in so many ways more than the weather. Respect it, take care of it, pamper it a little from time to time and it will continue to be there for you. And please, please, please try to pay it off!

Speaking of houses, I have no idea why I started this rant about "where you are" and "where I want you to go" with the house. I should have started with this body that is going to carry us from Point A to Point B. If I think you've let the house that shelters us go to pot, what in the world do you think I think about the way you are treating our body? How in the world is this vessel going to weather stormy weather if you don't smarten up and take better care of it?

As it is with the house, it is with our body. Start small. Rome wasn't built in a day. Fifteen minutes isn't long. Start there. Fifteen minutes of extra curricular movement. Yes, I know you think your daycare life is keeping you from turning to stone. But it isn't challenging you. You need to stretch and move and lift and get your heart pumping faster. You know this. But you aren't doing anything about it.

Start with an early morning walk. Rain or shine or sleet or hail. Walk. Just walk! Remember how awesome you felt when you took on those early morning paper routes? Walking the streets of your neighborhood while "the world" slept? You marvelled at the Northern lights, the glistening snow, the sounds of silence and nature. You thought. The words flowed in and out and through you. You came home revitalized, energized and motivated. You loved that time. Skip the paper route, take on the walks. Start there. Add and change things up as you go along. But you must BEGIN. You must. Your life depends upon it.

While I'm at it, you must nourish yourself with good food. What you feed your body fuels your brain and your brain is acting starved lately. Give it some good, solid fuel to work with and you may be amazed that your ability to think, act decisively and "do hard things". This is half the work you thought it was when you were spending your life binge watching the Gilmore Girls on the couch, with a can of Pringles at your side. Replace the Pringles with almonds. Make good meals and you may be amazed that you may fuel the appetite of others. "If you make it they will come."

I've sat back and watched you wither yourself away into a shadow of who you are capable of being. You do not have to do great things at all times but you do need to follow your passions. When you deny yourself the ability to dream big and chase a few of those dreams you become small and your world becomes smaller. You know your world is shrinking. You think you like this feeling right now. I want you to look outside of your smallness and do uncomfortable things again. Invite people into your life.

You need to look out the window and let the world inside. You are lonely and you don't even know it. You think you don't have enough of yourself to spread out any thinner than you already are. You have been here before and you will be here again. Writing is where it is at for you. If you are too tired, too fearful and too stuck in your ruts, WRITE! Send emails, letters, cards and write little notes to those who have made an impact. Write! Write! Write! This is the way out of your small world. It is a beginning.

Judging by the dreams you have been having lately, you are feeling very aware of Mom's mortality. In some ways, you feel like you are "channelling Mom" in the ways you have slowed yourself down, felt overly attached to this house and subconsciously made your world such a small one. I think you are trying to understand exactly what she is feeling by mirroring her world within your own. STOP IT! Stop it right now!! Instead, focus on "who Mom was" when she was the age you are at right now.

When Mom was this age, she was faced with her new reality after Dad's heart attack. He never came home again. I think of Mom when she was going through that time and she was strong. She simply kept taking the next forward step during a time where she must have felt completely in limbo. We marvelled at how young Mom was at age 65 and all the memories her grandchildren had of their very untypical grandma. Yes, Mom was (and still is) a force to be reckoned with. Her family and her home were (and still are) everything to her. Yes, she has slowed down. Yes, her body is starting to wear out. No, she will not live forever. That scares you, doesn't it? Ya, me too.

We don't know what life is going to hand us in between "now" and "five years from now". You simply cannot spend your time focused on that uncertainty. Take the lessons you learned from "loving André" and pay them forward.
  • SAVOR THE MOMENT. Always. 
  • Make memories, document them. Take pictures, but write. ALWAYS WRITE!
  • Let your love shine. Your actions speak louder than words. ACT LOVINGLY.
  • Let others know how you feel. SPREAD THE POSITIVE. One positive word goes a long way. 
  • You will never regret what you have done. DO ALL YOU ARE CAPABLE OF DOING.
You know where your passions lie. For you, it is writing. Write for yourself. Share what is worth sharing. Just keep writing.

You are at a crossroads right now. Your children are adults and on their way. Some are further down the road than others but never forget how you feel towards your own Mom because that feeling is one you want to nurture with  your own children. We have a good, solid foundation. Just keep building.

You have some amazing friendships and relationships within your world. Don't neglect them. Even when you think you don't have time, you can always make time to send off a note or card or email. Keep those connections alive. They nourish and sustain you.

Take a chance. One chance at a time. You have become a shell of who you used to be. You know it. You are disappointed in yourself right now but this is not the end of your story. Even though (at the moment) you wouldn't care if it was.

Yes, you are tired. You are tired because you are not involved in creating your own story. You are sitting dormant, waiting for life to happen. When "life happens" it is like a slap on the face. You react. You feel indignant. You recoil then rebound. You always rebound. How about not waiting for a "slap in the face" this time? You have the power to live life out loud without being slapped into it.

Feed your body, mind and soul with fresh air, good food and positive input.
Walk. START by walking.
Write. Never stop writing. It is where you find your answers, your inspiration and your dreams.
Love. Open your heart up and take a chance again.

I want to read these words in four and a half years and say "YES! YES!! and YES!!!". I did it. I made changes. I pushed myself out of that rut and into a new and improved one. Most of all I want you to believe "Life does go on regardless of how you live it. Live it well!"

See you in the future my weary friend. You have everything you need inside of you. And if it isn't inside of you, it is here within your home, your heart and those who touch your world. Stay connected, my friend. Stop, look, listen with your heart. You will find your way. You aren't lost. You just haven't found the right highway yet.

You will find your Field of Dreams, my friend. "If you build it, they will come" ...

To be continued.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Grass Isn't Any Greener Anywhere But "Here"

The grass is pretty darn green over here in my neck of the woods. After reading an article on "What Stops Us From Being Happy" I hoped I would stumble upon the answers I've been looking for. I stopped in my tracks when I read the part about the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I got my hackles up and declared to myself "No it isn't! My grass is looking pretty fine this year!"

After a few years of controlling the weeds, our grass seems to have take over and choked out the weeds and it is looking the best it has looked since we moved here. Maybe I'm exaggerating. Maybe I'm just looking at my world with green colored glasses. But I am very content with the way things look around here.

Yes, there is ongoing maintenance that must be taken care of. New eaves troughs and downspouts for the garage; the house and garage should be painted; the deck and fence could be oiled; and the shingles will need to be replaced sooner than later. This thing called "maintenance" is ongoing and is the bane of my existence.

I have always called our home just another one of my dependents. The sad part about this dependent is that it will never grow up and learn to sustain itself. Then again, maybe this place we call home is earning its keep.

Owning this home and being able to dictate how we use it has allowed me the privilege of being able to open my daycare and earn a living from home. My Internet connection has opened a  door and allowed me to write out loud, earn a few dollars and make connections without ever having to take a step out of our home.

I have the luxury of feeling like my bedroom is the equivalent of a hotel suite. I cocoon myself within that little oasis. Every single night I close my eyes and there is something very peaceful that washes over me. That little space I get to call my own within this very "committed" house is all I could ever want.

My youngest son seems to feel the same way about his room. All he ever asked for was to have a window large enough to escape from, in case of fire. It took a while but that wish was finally granted. Not only does he have an escape route, he has two windows to allow more daylight into his downstairs bedroom. He asks for little and is content with what he has.

Our home houses my little daycare family more than sufficiently. I've turned the living room into the main playing zone and my hope to increase the playing area has been thwarted by the kids turning the "quiet room" into the "fighting room". They tend to go by the rule "If she can't see us, we can do what  we want to do!" So the more concentrated our playing are, the better.

I would not want a house any larger than the one we have. I wouldn't want to clean, maintain or watch over children in an area any larger than this. I can't envision a space that would work any better for us, than the space we already own.

The only thing I long for is the time and resources to keep what I have clean, well maintained and keep everything we already own in good running condition. I don't need "fancy". I need practical. I don't want hard granite and tile surfaces. I want a "soft place to land" and like our carpet, arborite and vinyl surfaces. I don't need up-to-date and modern anything. I want comfortable and clean.

I love "window shopping" as we walk through our neighborhood and the neighborhoods that surround us. I can't remember the last time I wished for a house I didn't already own. Do I compare and contrast what I have to what others have? Definitely. Other than the fact that "what I have" needs a little maintaining, I want for nothing more.

The grass on the other side of the fence is kind of weedy and overgrown. The grass a few houses away looks pretty fine but I see the time it takes for it to look that way. I have the greenest grass I am capable of having with the least amount of time and input to maintain this look.

I don't have it all. But I have enough. I actually have more than enough. May I never stop feeling as grateful for that as I do this very moment and all the appreciative moments that have preceded it.
May you find your own sun beam and savor all you have in this very moment sometime today. Maybe "what you have" isn't exactly what you want, but it could be a "means to an end" or a temporary stopping ground. Find what it is to you and appreciate that. The more I placed this "grass is greener" scenario within different facets of what I felt as lacking within my world, the more I appreciated "What I have is what I need. Right now." Something to build on is still a very good place to start.

This post has been brought to you by "my very own back yard". This is the vista I have enjoyed while sitting out here in my very own personal sun beam as I wrote. May you find your own sun beam and savor all you have in this very moment some time today. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Lasting Impressions

As I wrote my final blog post at, there was a quiet exhale and a satisfied feeling of being able to wrap this experience up with a bow and call it "good enough". It was a wonderful and satisfying way to make an exit.

I've written for three other papers who have quietly made the decision to make changes with their publication which meant discontinuing my column. I received a politely worded email advising me of the change and my column just faded out of sight like many other seamless changes in the world. No big deal. That is just the way things are.

This time around, I was given permission to either continue writing for the month of May or I could stop immediately. I chose to write. Mostly because I wanted to say "Thank you" and "Good-bye".

When I was a mere column reader, our local paper ran a column which I fully identified with and I couldn't wait to read her weekly stories. They stopped running her column without any reason "why". I missed "Ruthe Stein" (yes, I found her name in among my writing material of the past). I identified with her. She made an impact on me. "She" was the reason I wished out loud that I would like to become a columnist one day.

I never forgot "Ruthe". She was one of those people who, unbeknownst to anyone but myself, made a lasting impact. I like to think all of us walk around completely unaware of some small impact we've made on others.

Every little action causes a ripple. Some ripples are bigger than others. Some ripples are positive, Others cause negative actions and reactions like a tidal wave. As I walk through today I'm going to keep this in mind. These little people I watch over are so sensitive to the "waves" of life. I'll focus on trying to make them positive and easy going.

In the meantime, here is my final "Thank you" and "Good bye" at