live in the present

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a colleague.  She gave me a valuable gift as I listened to her words.  Initially, she had approached me because she said I wasn’t looking as happy and chipper as I normally am.  She is used to seeing me with a smile on my face that, as she put it, lights up the room.  Now, she had not read me wrong in the least.  In fact, I wasn’t fooling anyone.  I thought I was hiding my emotions quite well, but clearly I wasn’t.  She wasn’t the only one who had asked me what was wrong either, so it wasn’t that she was so much more in tune with me than anyone else.

I have been struggling with some things.  I have been in pain, and still doing my best to carry on with my day to day activities.  I let her in on what was troubling me, in general terms.

Her response?

Live in the now.  How often have we gone about our busy days, and taken an orange and devoured it without even tasting it?  When was the last time you took that orange and examined the peel?  When you looked at each segment and its intricacy, when you actually tasted the sweetness of the fruit and enjoyed it?  Don’t worry about tomorrow and all the troubles it might bring.  Be here, with me, in the present.  Whatever tomorrow brings, you will handle it with grace.  So today, now, enjoy this moment.

These words were spoken to her years ago by a local monk, and they resonated so strongly that she was able to pass on these words of wisdom to me this week.  It was what I needed to hear.  She was right; and he was right before her.

Live in the now.  Take the present and live fully.  Tomorrow could bring a multitude of events that we have no control over, so why lose today to worry and dread when we can enjoy it.  Tomorrow will come in its due time.  And with it, we can handle whatever it brings.

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puppies fix everything

Pet therapy isn’t a new concept.  Post secondary institutions have implemented therapy dogs for years now, and I even know of some elementary schools that have brought in therapy dogs for students who are having difficulties.  What a wonderful idea!

Animals in general are a great resource when dealing with stress.  They are almost always up for cuddles, and somehow just petting them makes you feel better.  Purring from kittens and cats seems like a magical fix for me, and always starts my day off right when my cat lays down and purrs until I rise out of bed.

The unconditional love that comes from a dog is irreplaceable.  They are always happy to see you, and they miss you when you’re away.  They wait at the door or snuggle with your slipper while you are at work, and even if you’ve only been gone ten minutes, they greet you like you’ve been away for a year.

So, have you had a chance to snuggle with a puppy lately?  Why not consider volunteering at a local shelter or rescue agency?  It does you and them a world of good!

earth angel

There is a lady who is very special to me.

She thinks I’m strong, but she’s stronger even on her worst day.  She called me an inspiration, but she inspired me more than she could ever comprehend.

She has the strongest faith of anyone I know, and it has served her well.  She has beauty both inside and it radiates outward.  She has a natural beauty that commands attention and a way about her that makes people adore her even in her most simplest form.

She is able to make people feel calm even during times of stress and tension.  She lets me be my real self in her presence and shows me love even when I had a hard time loving myself.  Never once have I felt insecure about showing my emotions when I am in her presence.

She gives me courage even when we are not together.  She gives me power to move forward in my life because of her words.  She is the type of person this world needs more of.  She is the type of person I have and continue to aspire to be.

friends in nature

September is in full swing with a successful start to the new school year.  My children are happy with their classes, and to be reunited with their friends.  The first week back isn’t typically heavy in workload, so we made sure to take advantage of the free evening time while the weather is warm.

Over the summer, my youngest one finally sparked an interest in photography.  Wondering if it would last, or if he was just “in the moment” as we were out camping with our photography club, I waited for him to bring it up again on his own.  He did, a few times, so it was time for him to have a camera of his own too.

One evening during the week, we took in a photo walk down through one of the local nature preserves.  There are wetlands with boardwalks built throughout the marshes to give people the opportunity to enjoy nature without causing harm to the ecosystem.  We were joined by over a dozen of our fellow photography friends.  My sons came along, cameras in hand, I helped the youngest with his first journey out with his camera.  He was beaming with pride.  Once he had the basics down, off he went, and I watched him as he started to take in the world with a new lens.  He is an artist through and through, but something changed as he walked through, looking to frame his images in his mind.  He made me proud.  He produced some incredible photographs that night, and he forged a deeper connection with the people who over the past few years have become important friends of ours.

Friends.  Not just club members.  They are friends.  We joined together to enjoy the beauty of nature.  We captured pieces of it with only taking images away.  We harnessed emotion and feeling in those images, and we can now share them with the world.  My son can’t wait to go out again to show what he can do.  And I can’t wait to spend more time in nature with him and watch him see things through my eyes.

summer’s end

September long weekend brings with it the cool, crisp air of autumn.  Early, it seems.  I’m sure I say the same thing every year.  The leaves are starting to turn already in my little part of the world, and I find myself thinking about the refresh that comes with the new school season.

Many things begin in September.  It is another ‘new year’; a time to take a fresh start on things that haven’t been completed or were lost to the other pressures that life imposes.

I look forward to this time of year.  I plan a getaway to the mountains just to see the larch trees glowing golden on the mountainside as the sun hits.  The sight in its peak is breathtaking, and equally as beautiful as the mountain summits are in the height of summer.  It brings me peace.

While I will miss the unstructured days of summer, I also welcome the schedule and routine that September brings.  It is like a well organized sock drawer: everything perfectly in its place.

Renewal.  Refresh.  Restart.  Summer may come to an end, but Autumn is soon to make its debut.

beautiful souls, tragic past

It never ceases to amaze me how many people I come into contact with that have had tragedy in their history.  People that you might never know had suffered losses or been through immense strain in their lives.  Sometimes these people have been in my life for quite some time before the topic arises; others are still fairly new additions in my world. No matter how long it is, it never seems to fail that the most beautiful souls have hearts larger than life, and those are the ones who have suffered immeasurable loss in their personal lives.  Somehow, they have managed to keep going and thrive despite the tragedy they have lived through.

We all have something in our past that has aided in making us who we are.  Sometimes the heart-wrenching pain is what creates the most beauty in the end.  The kindness, gentleness, soothing nature that seems to come so easily was birthed out of rugged pain and turmoil that tore its way from the inside out.

Beauty begotten out of the ugliness of pain.

alone or lonely

I had a discussion recently with a friend of mine. Where does the line get drawn between alone and lonely, or lonely and peaceful?  I suspect this is different for everyone. It’s possible to be alone but not lonely, however I do believe that one factor that affects this is how comfortable you are in your own presence.

I used to dread being alone. It scared me. I have come to realize that during that stage in my life it was because I was never left to myself, and I honestly did not know who I was. There are always forces at play when you are with others. The more dominant personalities take over in the group and you may be left feeling out of control or just going with the flow since that is the easiest path to take. That first time where you have a span of time to yourself can feel unnerving. Silence is deafening and you feel unsure about what you’re doing.

I assure you, the more time you spend in solitude, the more comfortable it gets. At least it did for me. I find that I sometimes miss my quiet space when I haven’t had it for a while even.

When you are by yourself, there is no one else to please. No one to apologize to for your behaviour. No fear of repercussions, arguments or disagreements. What is there is time to breathe. Time to be more productive with no distractions. Time to focus inward and on your own mental and physical health and well-being independent of everyone else in the world.

For some, this sounds incredibly lonely; for others, Eden.

Nobody knows you better than yourself. Have you taken the time to get to know the real you lately?

summer holiday

Summer is more than half way finished now.  I am just at the start of my summer vacation; something I have been looking towards for quite a few weeks now.  We all need downtime.  Vacation doesn’t need to be the great family cross country adventure, although sometimes they are wonderful too.  We did the big vacation last year, and my boys still tell me it was the best vacation and greatest memory of their lives to date.

This year, it is more relaxed.  Spending time at home, exploring things to do in the neighbouring cities and here in our own, day trips to other locations, kayaking on the river and lakes, and the oh-so North American camping trip.  I know that many things will likely slip away in favour of simple relaxation, and I am ok with that.  More than ok, truth be told.  Holidays are meant for relaxation and recharging.  To let your mind be free is a truly precious thing.  It has already boosted my creativity and given me encouragement to continue on with projects that have been waiting on the sidelines to carry forward.  I still wake early and have the house to myself for hours before my young adolescents finally make their way from their beds in search of food.  This gives me time to write or develop my upcoming website, purge unnecessary items that seem to find their way into our lives and weigh us down, or sit and be still, enjoying the fruits that meditation brings.

Whatever it is that summer vacation brings for you, be sure to keep a bank of memories from it.  As I have said before, we only have 18 summers.  Make memories before they are grown.  Give your children the gift of fond childhood memories to look back on when they are grown up.

miscommunication

Life isn’t perfect.  You aren’t perfect.  Neither are your partner, children, friends, or other family members.  Communication can be challenging.  What we say isn’t always what we mean.  Silence is misinterpreted.  Reading between the lines is a sure fire way to get the wrong idea.  Avoiding answering questions puts a dead stop on moving the conversation forward and can be rather damaging.

Why can’t we get it right?

We assume people know what we are thinking.  False.

We think we are articulating our thoughts effectively.  False.

We don’t ask for clarification, but instead wonder what the comment meant.  We make things up in our own minds and run with it, never knowing if that is the truth or not.

In this age of digital communication, so much is lost.  Intonation is gone and all that exists is a word on a screen.  Alright.  What does that mean?  Is is passive aggressive?  Is it sincere?  Your own frame of mind can take it however you are feeling at that moment.

A joke instead of an answer leads to more questions.  Why are we not being direct?  Is it because we don’t want to give the real answer?  What truths are we hiding behind that joke or emoji?  Why can’t we come out with what we actually mean?

Avoidance.  The desire for things to stay the same.  Not wanting to see where things will go if there is not a consensus of opinion.  Fear.  Frustration.  None of it is healthy.

In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange. ~Brennan Manning

Draining those we communicate with is unhealthy.  Be aware of how you communicate.  Be compassionate.  Be fair.  Be unassuming.  Be honest.

the aftermath of a sojourn

The wonderful part of having a chance to get away for just a little while is that it gives you the opportunity to dream of things that you might not normally consider.  When you are outside your usual environment, your brain seems to work differently.  You see things in a different light; experience things that are unusual.  They open up opportunities that wouldn’t normally be thought of in your day to day existence.

But what happens when you return home?

That euphoria lasts for a while.  The idealism of those dreams lingers.  Plans made seem plausible somehow still.  But after a day or two, they seem less and less likely to be plans that you will execute.  The hum drum of life carries on.  The workplace hadn’t changed during your escape, and come Monday morning, everything is just as it was when you left.  Bank accounts hadn’t magically multiplied in their figures, housework didn’t complete itself, car troubles didn’t cease to exist.

Reality creeps back in.  A little bit of depression hits.  News you don’t want to hear sits in your inbox.  Life carries on as if you never left.  Sometimes it makes you wonder if you actually left at all.  This is the difficult part of having a chance to get away for just that little bit.  All good things must come to an end.  Try to remember how it felt.  Try not to forget why you wanted to go in the first place.  Try to keep those dreams you dreamt while away alive somehow.