Category Archives: family

spirit of the season

This weekend, my youngest son and I went out for a while, just the two of us.  There is a local centre that has a few boutiques that was having a family fun day.  We decided to go and check it out.  We wandered around and looked at the fun garden pieces they had for sale, and looked at the delicious organic candies and cookies.  I offered to buy him a cookie so we could sit and enjoy the moment, but he opted not to.  He asked instead if we could go and find a present that he could gift to his brother for Christmas.  We decided to go to Indigo, but before shopping for his brother, we opted to sit and have a drink at Starbucks.  He loves the vanilla bean Frappuccino, so I ordered him one of those, and I bought one of their specialty holiday hot drinks for myself.  We sat and talked about the holidays and the excitement.  We watched people as they came and went.  He sipped from his straw as his feet dangled and swung while he sat in his chair.  I watched my youngest son as he showed pure happiness by just having some one on one time with me, his mother.

Families often do things together, but it is so important to give children one on one time with their parent too.  My older son gets his one on one time as we share our common passion of photography, but there was something magical about this time with the younger one.  He is still so full of holiday excitement, seeing the magic of the season.  I love the shimmer in his eyes as he talks about our traditions.  And the most wonderful part is that none of it involves receiving gifts.  It is all the other stuff: the holiday treats, the music, the friends that we gather with, and the special dinner that we decide collectively on having.

This was one of those moments where my heart swells with pride and love.  My son is growing up with love and compassion in his heart.  As he grows, he is thinking of others more and more.  He is becoming more like his older brother every day.  They both make me very proud.

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the best gift

Yesterday, I was out for breakfast with one of my newest, yet closest friends.  We have regular ‘dates’, but sometimes they get shifted around due to other schedules.  We are ok with it, and sometimes it allows us the opportunity to do something different and fun.  We missed our regular Friday night get-together because of a work Christmas party.  Instead, we opted for Saturday morning breakfast at a popular little restaurant in town.

We did our usual chatting, catching up on the last couple of weeks.  Then she stopped and noticed something about me.  She said how she can see me with short hair when we are older and showing more grey.  She commented on us still getting together when we are old friends.

Old friends.

The thought of having old friends has always been elusive to me.  I have been the type to move every twelve years or less, but knowing I will be here, in this location, for far longer it finally dawned on me: I can have old friends here.  I have never given myself permission to look that far ahead in relationships because none of them, except for my absolute best friend 2000km away, has ever lasted the distances.  Old friends.  Greying, aging, and still there for each other kind of old friends.

This innocent comment that I am sure she had no idea of its impact, was in fact, the best gift I could have been given.

your best gift is your time

We live in a world where everyone is busy; the faster the pace, the better.  But what would happen if we chose to slow down, even for a day?  What would happen if we said no to all those things that are supposedly so important that we can’t make time for ourselves or our loved ones?

With the spending season upon us, and Black Friday happening a mere two days ago, we are being bombarded with advertisements and flyers to buy this and spend our money on that.  But the things the stores are selling are far from the greatest gift you could give your child, spouse, or even your best friend.

My Black Friday evening, because I worked all day, was not spent shopping the so-called deals.  My Black Friday was spent enjoying the company of one of my very best friends in the world.  We gave each other the best give we could: our time and our attention.  It was a lovely three or four hour visit, sitting in the corner of a quaint tapas bar.  We enjoyed a couple glasses of red wine and a cheese board together as we took the time to catch up; to fill each other in on our lives.  There we were, sitting inside in the dim ambiance, with a tea light candle at one side of the table, and beautiful pieces of art on the walls next to us.  Outside, there was the bustle of the winter festival where we could see families passing by and enjoying the mild winter evening together.  We watched as children explored the fire truck parked just across the street, and the horse drawn wagons pass by with children happily waving at patrons as they glided by, courtesy of the team of horses and their driver.  We saw couples hand in hand as they walked past the window, smiling and clearly enjoying each other’s presence.

Time is more precious and more valuable than money.  In my world, if I want to show someone how much I care, I give them the gift of my time.  It is the most precious commodity I have.  Consider this, as we enter into the holiday season.  Consider re-thinking that expensive give in exchange for something that is far more precious and valuable.  Give the gift of your time.

minimalism and the holiday season

With November comes the prelude to the holiday season.  The buying season.  It makes me cringe thinking about it sometimes.  There is nothing that I need, except for a few renovations around my house.  My children have everything they need too.

The holiday season is that time of year where you feel that push…that obligation to buy things that really have no business coming into my home.  I do not need more kitschy knick knacks.  My kids don’t need more useless toys that they won’t play with.  And I certainly do not need to get deeper in debt for a holiday that seems more and more to be focused on spending money instead of time.

I am digging in my heels this year.  Yes, we have preplanned gifts from my parents, and that will still happen.  But, I have already forewarned my children that there is a strict budget in place for Christmas spending, and I will not go beyond it this year.

The great thing is, they are old enough to understand that the less we buy, the more money we can save for vacations and adventures.  This appeals to them; well more so to one of them, but the other can be fairly easily convinced…

As a minimalist (in the making), I feel that I need to cultivate the principal of spending more time together over spending more money on each other.  I hope this will become a trend with my loved ones.  Life is expensive enough without having to keep up with the Jones’, or even the exes for that matter.  I hope that one gift I can give to my children is the understanding that the holidays are meant for spending together, and not for overspending on the budget.

mental health

Taking time for mental health is something often forgotten. While many separate mental and physical health, they are closely linked in my opinion. When something is weighing heavily upon us and we have difficulty dealing with it yet still continue to go about our daily lives, we end up with mental trauma and anguish. 

Taking time to ensure we have good mental health is equally as important as making sure our bodies are healthy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, or anything that is making your quality of life less than ideal, please visit a medical professional. Please do not wait until it goes too far. 

If you see a loved one suffering, do not avoid them. Engage them and offer your support. People need to know they are cared for.  You might be the one thing that shows them that life is still worth living. 

gilmore girls and me

When Gilmore Girls ran from 2000 to 2007, I didn’t pay much attention to the show.  At that particular point in my life, I couldn’t relate.  I was still married at that point and working overtime consistently.  Then had my sons, and I still could not relate because I had sons, not a daughter; I had a husband, although it often felt like I was parenting and running the household all alone.

I have watched the series a couple of times since my divorce.  I find that I can now relate to the characters much more now than I could when it first came out.  There are a few aspects of the show that I find appealing.

I have five reasons outlined here:

I like that Lorelai is a strong, independent single mother.  She stands up for herself and her daughter.  She does not back down when she feels that she is justified.  I like this tenacity, and it gives me strength when I don’t feel like I have the fight left in me any longer.

I appreciate that Lorelai can be alone comfortably, but that she is not bitter towards men, and still has the hope that somewhere out there, she will find the right one.  That goes without saying that the right one was before her the whole time, but she needed to figure that out for herself, and she did.  Sometimes we all need that opportunity to find things out in our own way instead of being told by someone else.

I admire that she has been successful in her own right.  She worked her way up to managing the Independence Inn, worked herself through college, then embarked upon an entrepreneurial venture with her best friend, Sookie.  This shows tenacity in character, one that I hope I can also demonstrate.  I know this is a make believe story, and that many do not work this way in real life, but sometimes we need to believe the story to give us the courage to carry forward.

I acknowledge that the story shows conflict between Lorelai and her parents.  This is realistic as we all have some sort of conflict to contend with.  It may not be to the extreme that this make-believe family endures, but it is symbolic nonetheless.

I adore the bonding between Lorelai and her daughter, Rory.  This is incredibly important to me as I hope that as my sons continue to grow and develop, that we will also have a bond as strong as the one portrayed between Lorelai and Rory.

When I need motivation to carry forward with the things that are weighing me down in my real life, I find that this show gives me courage to continue on.  I gain strength from the idea that I am not alone in the world of single parenting.  I recognize that I should not close the doors to potential romantic relationships, but at the same time, continue on as I would without the thought of needing a partner.  Every time I watch an episode, it provides me with a little something that I am in need of, and for that I am grateful.

A meaningful life

What does it mean to live a meaningful life?  Does it mean success in respect to financial gain?  Success in a career?  A happy family?

Perhaps the definition is different for everyone.  We are all driven by different desires and needs.  Some feel the need to have a prominent career and work long hours.  This may give a sense of fulfillment to that individual, and if it does, that is great.  None of us are made the same.

Growing up, we are conditioned from an early age to think about what we want to be when we grow up.  How you will make your living is supposed to be the biggest part of being an adult, and we tend to get lost in this concept.  We are defined by our jobs.  By our titles.  When we meet new people, that is inevitably one question that comes up early in the conversation…so, what do you do…and of course we rattle off what we do to make ends meet.

But we are so much more than that.  We are not just our jobs.  What is it that you will reflect back on and see that your life had meaning?  Will you look back and say wow, I made a lot of money and be happy with that?  Or will you say wow, I made a lot of money, but I never had time with my loved ones or to do the things I had always wanted to do?

Millenials coming into the workforce have the idea that their time off is equally as important as the time they spend at work.  They appear to value their personal time more than GenXers do.  At least here in North America…Europeans have had a different philosophy for many years, one to be admired I believe.

A meaningful life to me means that I have left this world better than I found it.  That I have touched the lives and hearts of others in even a small way.  I find that I can do that in my career, but I also spend my personal time to do more of that.  I enjoy my family time and give myself to my children with all my heart.  I enjoy my time with my friends, and do what I can to make their happiness a priority too; because when they are happy, so am I.  I volunteer.  I have my own groups that I belong to that bring me joy as well.

I don’t want to feel that I have spent all my time at work without putting in at least equal the effort to make the rest of my life matter as well.  How do you make your life meaningful?  Is there something special that you do? Please comment if you would like to share.

 

taking time

Vacations are wonderful.  You plan and prepare for the trip, decide which sights you want to see and when.  You plan every day to be a full as possible so you can fit everything in to your limited time, because if you don’t, you won’t have a chance to do all the things you wanted to do.

But during that vacation away, did you think to take a day to just relax?  Maybe sleep in a little, or spend a lazy day exploring the forests or the beaches?

These vacation days create a lot of memories too. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe they create more memories than running from the art gallery to the science centre then to the zoo…you get the idea.

We did all of the planning.  I had every day scheduled with where to go and what to see.  In the end, what my children wanted to do won out.  We peeled away one activity for another.  We didn’t do all the things we had planned.  We spent way more time sitting on the beach watching sunsets and looking for crabs instead of going to the sights that we had on the schedule.  We took a morning and strolled through a forest and created a fairy home at the base of a giant redwood tree.

We created memories.

Yes, we did a lot of the scheduled stuff and hit the highlights.  But in retrospect, the highlights really were about exploring nature that was new to them.  About seeing the glimmer in their eyes as they discovered something they had never seen before.  It was about their pure excitement and joy the first time they dipped their toes in the salty ocean water.

These are the things that will create the memories that they will remember for a lifetime.

lazy summer days

Summer days are meant for doing a certain amount of nothing.  It rarely seems the case these days, as I watch my friends and their children rushing to summer hockey camps, day camps, intensive swimming lessons, and a plethora of other activities to fill their summer days.

What happened to just having nothing to do?  To the days of going to the park and playing, or reading?  What happened to just being a kid?

This isn’t a popular perspective where I live, and I would wager it isn’t where you live either.  These days, everyone needs to be scheduled to the hilt, because if you aren’t busy, you are wasting your time, right?

Wrong.

There is so much benefit in just allowing yourself time to be.  Time to sit and just watch the day go by is so mentally therapeutic!  Being busy does not equal being productive.  This is something I have learned after years of having too much going on in my life.  There is still too much going on, but I am still a work in progress too.  I am officially on holidays for two weeks, and while my time clock may be stalled, work wise, my actions have not.  I still have lists of things I wish to accomplish during my time off, but I know full well that there are too many lists and too little time.  Where do I fit in time for me?

It’s ok to let the dust settle in the corners once in a while, or for the dishes to wait until morning.  We all need to recharge our batteries once in a while so that we can function optimally.  Don’t forget to take time out to relax and do nothing.  There is so much value in just being.

reasons, seasons, lifetimes

It is important to me to remember that we all have our own journey that we must travel, but along the way, we have companions that enter and exit our lives.  Their stay may be long or it may be brief.  It helps me to think about the philosophy of a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  We all have people who, when they left our lives, hurt us in some way.  Others may have passed by quietly, perhaps relatively unknown, yet there is something to be learned from each and every one of them.

There are those who are there for a lifetime.  These may be your siblings, parents, best friends, or even a romantic partner.  These people are meant to be in your life long term.  They can teach you many lessons, just as you can also teach them.  These people grow with you, and they can be some of the most fulfilling relationships you will have.

There are the seasons as well.  People who are there for as long as you need them, or as long as they need you.  Once that passes, ways are parted and each goes along their journey separately.  These types of relationships may end on happy notes, or perhaps not.  Perhaps it was the first relationship after a divorce, where it taught you that you can move on and learn to love again.  Perhaps it was a teacher that you had in school who taught lessons beyond the curriculum about life in general.

Those who are there for a reason may be simple or complex.  Perhaps you are a service provider, and once the service is rendered, the individual goes on their way, perhaps never to cross paths again.  But there are also other relationships that the reason keeps you connected with them for longer.  These reasons are usually lessons to be learned, and the longer it takes to learn the lesson, the longer that person is connected to you.  One of the lessons I had learned was to treat everyone with compassion for we do not know what happens in their personal lives.  This comes from my experience of hiding things for over two decades.  The realization that if I can hide many things from those around me on a daily basis, then it is also easy for others to hide similar, or even worse things too.  We do not know all the intricacies that make a person behave how they do.  Compassion is key.  It took me longer to learn that lesson than expected, but along with that one, there were many other very valuable lessons that came from that twenty year reason.  I use that example often as I consider how to manage my interactions with others.  I believe that my compassion and empathy for others are directly relatable to the lesson I learned over those many years.

When you have someone who has exited your life perhaps unexpectedly, consider what purpose they had for you.  What lesson was being taught to you for them to be there?  What lesson did you learn after they were gone?  Can you take that lesson and apply it to your life to make your life a more positive influence on those around you?  Can you make someone else’s life a little bit better?  Because to me, that is what this life is about…being a positive influence on the world around us.