Category Archives: reflections, observations & musings

Oh Glorious Morning!!

Oh fresh breath of Spring!4368007125_dc4edd0f8e

You glorious morning.

I have just heard the season’s first Robin song.

My windows are open wide to let in the cold air just so I can hear you more clearly.

Sing away sweet traveller.

You are always a most welcome guest.

It is true.

Spring is upon us. At long last.

When it feels all hope is lost – that winter’s bitter grasp will not let go –
your presence lifts us.

Your song melts our heart.

The end is near.

Hello Spring and all your glory.

Welcome.

Welcome.

photo credit: N06/4368007125″>Robin, 2/2010, PA via photopin (license)

A Canadian’s Ode to February

Despite the layers of clothing worn –DSC02666
Long johns, scarves and mitts,

Despite the rosy flesh and ears
From wintry wind’s harsh kiss,

Despite the mounds of roadside dirt
Where encrusted snow is knotted, 

Despite each pole, the base of which,
Is brightly yellow dotted,

Despite the rising plumes of white
From frosty-face and sewer-bars,

Despite the clear blue skies above
with wind-chills straight from Mars,

February plays its part, 
For each month has its story.

Canadians embrace them all,
And cherish each one’s glory.

Regardless of the cold alerts, 
And broken water mains,

We’ll fish and skate and drive our cars, 
With tires wrapped in chains.

“It’s merely winter in Canada”
We boast with pride and shout.

When really what we’re thinking is,
“Ten more days, then Feb. Get the F’n Hell Out!

Agree?

Photo credit: Carolin Grandin, all rights reserved

An Unimaginable Truth…

It’s almost unimaginable that The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not include the right for its citizens to live in a healthy environment.

What’s really happening in Canada?

Share with all your Canadian friends. With elections looming in Canada, it’s time we held our politicians accountable and make the environment a top topic in the campaigns.

What are your thoughts?

Find out more at David Suzuki Foundation
I do not work for the David Suzuki Foundation nor have I been commissioned to support this cause. I am, however, a very concerned Canadian citizen and I am thankful for the dedicated work of this foundation.

15+ years off skates. Guess what happened when I laced them back on…

So…winter’s here again in my part of the world which normally, for me, meansmedium_10844052273 three+ months of hibernation, cozied up inside, snuggled under a blanket, hot chocolate in hand (with marshmallows, of course!), enjoying the snow and cold through my living room window. Cold outside? Is it? I hadn’t noticed.

Not this year.

This year I plan to embrace winter and enjoy its offerings.

And I’ve convinced a few friends to do so too. Mwa ha ha!

Here is our list of potential activities.

  1. outdoor ice skating
  2. snowshoeing
  3. cross-country skiing
  4. hiking
  5. camping (apparently we’d been sampling the hot toddies)

We’re not the youngest of bucks either.  50+ is our demographic.

What’s the saying? You’re only as old as feel? (Kinda depends on the body part you’re talking about.)

Here’s my tally so far:

  • Walk at least an hour/day
    20141202_110052

    That’s me, hiking by a waterfall.

    (I admit to missing a few days, but on others I’ve walked up to 3 hours) When did I begin? Mid October – and still doing it!

  • Hiking on trails
    I bought some Nordic Walking Sticks especially for this purpose.
    # of outings: 6
    When did I begin? Mid-October – and still doing it.

And then I added skating…

When I was a kid, I used to skate a LOT. (You can read more about that here.)

And then I became a parent…

stooping over holding up your toddler while balancing on extremely thin blades yourself is not easy on the back! (This was pre-‘learn-to-skate-with-handy-dandy-bars-the-kid-pushes-around-the-rink-themselves‘ days.)

Did I mention the toddler did NOT, under any circumstances – even bribery! – want to learn to skate and hence rag-dolled her body the entire time while wailing from the extreme torture she was being asked to endure? (Result: Added parental back strain from lifting and holding up the weight of said floppy potato sack while stooping over and balancing on extremely thin blades.)

Guess what? Staying inside with hot chocolate, warm and cozy under a blanket won out. (Ok, we did go tobogganing from time to time but skating dropped off the repertoire for a number of years, never really making a come-back with the exception of only a few semi-successful attempts when peer-pressure was added to the mix.)

Hence, I lost practice too. (That kid is now 22.) And life and age has made me wary of hurting my back. Plus years of less-than-consistant exercise hasn’t helped.

But hey! That’s life. If you don’t move it, you lose it.

So this year, I’m moving it.

Today I got my skates sharpened. That was the easy part.

It was public skating time at the rink. Should I go? By myself? Nah, I should wait and go with my friends. But there aren’t many people..why not? ..oh, all right. So I went.

Holy cow those blades are thin! How did I ever stand on them?

Just trying to walk across the rubberized floor was hard. My ankles were wobbling. My knees felt weak.

I felt like a giraffe lumbering along, a giant body on thin legs, knobby knees feelingmedium_7928938732 like they were going to collapse under me with me every step, ankles bending from side to side and all culminating down upon those frickin’ extremely thin blades!

Who invented this sport?! What’s wrong with sliding about in your boots?

Ok. I can do this.

I let an eager kid and his dad go ahead of me through the gates.

Let the gazelles go ahead. The giraffe can wait.

I was glad to see there were no hyenas on the ice — you know who I mean, those ‘tween boys who like to prey on the weak and work in packs chasing each other around the rink, circling and taunting and coming ever-so-close, trying to make you fall so they can laugh and point.

Luckily the plains were calm today.

There was one other giraffe on the ice – any hyenas would prey on him first for he, as it turned out, was weaker than I.

I won’t go into every detail but suffice it to say the start was definitely slow and shaky. Tightening my laces helped a bit with the ankle wobble. And where the h*ll are those learn-to-skate-handy-dandy-bars-the-kids-push-around-the-rink-themselves things?! I want one!

I gradually gained confidence with each stride. The more I focussed on the fear of falling, the fear of hurting my back, the more difficultly I had.

I let go of the fear and breathed into the action. Looking ahead, I took it one push at a time – ‘If I can walk, I can skate’, I told myself. ‘Glide, glide, glide.’ I was doing it!

And then I made the mistake of trying to perfect my techniqueWAY too soon for that nonsense.

I stepped, then… wobble, wobble, twist, bend, wobble – first right, then left, then around, then back, then forth – my arms outstretched waving non-synchronized giant circles in the air. I can’t even imagine what sort of face I was making. I only know that my eyes couldn’t have gotten any bigger. I was trying so fiercely not to fall!

And I didn’t!! I stayed erect! Shaken and stirred but with composure regained, I hoped no-one saw the graceful ballet. The rink guard skated by and looked politely over, a slight smirk on her teenage face as she adeptly slid past. I laughed imagining the site she had just taken in from behind.

Crisis averted, I returned to the basics gaining confidence, calm and speed — yes, I did feel a breeze on my face, even if ever so slight.

Shins aching from the strangulation I had inflicted desperate to brace my ankles and make my skate boots one with my feet and from the lack of flex denied by those blades, I decided to call it a day while I was ahead.

Total ice time: 15 minutes, approximately. Not bad – one minute for every year absent.

I’m definitely going to have to build up to this.

So what did I learn by lacing up my skates after 15+ years?

  • We all start as giraffes when we try something new. 
    We lumber and run awkwardly. We wish we ran like gazelles and are fearful of the hyenas who want to trip us up and laugh at us but we’re giraffes, at the moment, so until we learn to be something else, we have to master being a giraffe, and that takes time. 
  • When we focus on the fear, we can barely move.
    The weaker ice-giraffe clutched to the boards and pushed himself half way around the rink by his hands too afraid to take the first step. When he did finally let go, he didn’t fall. He just took his time and did what he was comfortable doing.
  •  Don’t be afraid to perfect your technique.
    Be brave enough to push past your comfort zone. If you’re not ready, then that’s ok. Congratulate yourself for trying and continue where you just were. But you will have to try again so figure out what you need to do to get there. For me, more hours at this level to build my strength and confidence.
  • Don’t be afraid to look foolish.
    We learn the most from our mistakes and failures. Would you rather have tried and failed than not tried at all? And besides, how many people are actually watching you anyway? For me, just one (that I’m aware of – excuse me while I check YouTube) and who cares anyway? Everyone starts as a giraffe on skates. Most of the time, WE’RE the only ones that care if we fall. And so what? Get back up!
  • Give yourself your best chance at success.
    Stay calm, let go of fear, dress for the weather, and sharpen your skates first, then confidently step out on the ice. You can always take a rest on the bench to catch your breath, but don’t give up.
  • Master your challenges.
    Skates blades are really really thin! (I think mine actually shrank.) Gain the balance you need to keep you from falling over. Practice, practice, practice.

Embrace your giraffe-ness, especially when you begin something new.

Personally, if I am destined to stay a giraffe, then that’s ok with me. Did you know:

  • medium_1197126812Each giraffe step is far greater than any other animal.
  • They can run faster than many horses.
  • Lions rarely bother them since one swift kick in the head and it’s ‘Mary Queen of Scot’s’ for the lion.
  • Giraffes are the symbol for intuition and flexibility.

That sounds pretty good to me. I’ll try to be the best darn giraffe that I can and if I’m destined to become something else, then I’ll strive to be the best of that too. 

For now, I am a proud Ice-Giraffe!

Ever felt like a giraffe on skates in your business or personal life? I’d love to hear about it. Share it below. 

Thanks to: The Weekly Bull for the skating photo
My hiking partner that day, my sister Sue, for the pic of me
Michelle Bender for the giraffe running photo
Jude for the baby giraffe photo
Interesting giraffe facts: 

http://listverse.com/2013/10/12/12-fascinating-facts-about-giraffes/
http://www.onekind.org/be_inspired/animals_a_z/giraffe/

Why Is The Sky Blue?

medium_483158331 The age-old question which scholars and school children have answered with equal thought and insight is one in which I have my own theory – simple yet obvious – and one in which I am sure to be nominated and ultimately win some worldly award for Questions Yet To Be Answered To The Satisfaction Of All Mankind.

So, why is the sky blue?

Simple. So we can see rainbows.

Brilliant, right? Think about it.

If the sky were red, the rainbow would be missing a stripe.

Same goes for yellow, pink and orange.

Also, had the sky been white, how would we know if it were cloudy?

Brown or Green? Mountains and trees would vanish, camouflaged.  Millions of people would be walking around smacking into things.

So why does blue seem the perfect choice?

Blue sets off all the other colours so that we can see and appreciate their beauty.

Now stay with me. I have saved the best for last; the indisputable, award-clinching part.

If, as I say, the sky is blue so that we can see rainbows, why does that matter?

What good are rainbows?

Rainbows symbolize hope.

An end to the storm.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

That tomorrow is a new day.

And as long as we all have hope, we’ll keep our chins up, our eyes on the horizon and keep searching for that elusive pot of gold.

And what better reason is there than that?

Would you agree? Comment or nominate me for the world award below.

Photo credit: http://photopin.com
flickr.com/photos/marthax/483158331/

Is A Chance Meeting Really Just Chance?

Years ago, a chance meeting left me yearning for more.medium_7864852790

The first encounter was brief but I have never forgotten it.

Something left an impression on me.  What was it?

The voice on the phone perhaps?

The feeling that I had found that perfect match?
You know…when your values are validated.

When someone else thinks the same as you.

And I don’t just mean you both like vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce.

I mean your core values;
the ones that when challenged make you angry,
unable to believe that someone would have a differing opinion.

I had such an encounter — 5 years ago
and have longed ever since to see if my intuition was correct.

Lately my intuition has been strong.  In fact, I have been surprised how it is serving me.  So you can imagine both my excitement and trepidation when I decided that today I would have my answer.

I’ve imagined it all – the smells, the lighting, the views, the location, the sounds, the ambience, the people milling about.

Could I be expecting too much?

Thankfully, my intuition served me again.  In fact, it offered me a full course of overflowing ‘You Were Right!‘  Love when that happens!

Five years ago, I was working on a project to bring bird nesting boxes to schools across the country, working in conjunction with Bird Studies Canada and I wanted to send appropriate gifts to businesses who were donating their services to aid in the project.

Surfing the net, I stumbled upon a place in Toronto that sold ‘certified bird friendly’ coffee.

One call to the owner and I knew I’d found my match.

He owned a coffee shop by the lake that not only sold organic sustainably farmed bird friendly coffee, but all their snack and meal offerings were organic too.

Touted as a neighbourhood hang-out, on the shores of the lake, playground near by, jazz on the weekends – I was hooked.

Buy gifts of coffee for the donors? No-brainer.  Done.  Check.

…but there had to be more.  This could not be a one time encounter. 

I had to see this place in person.

Since I don’t live in the neighbourhood, I once sought it out when I thought I was nearby, but to no avail.

Today however, I would be nearby – very nearby – so I plotted and planned to go.

The small building, one side completely covered with a mural of an underwater scene with the undercarriage and feet of a duck gracing the surface, the facade painted cream with garishly red-trimmed windows and mouldings, made it hard to miss.

I entered with anticipation, ready to meet a soul mate.

Large windows filled the shop with light, it’s squeaky door announcing one and all.  Two bay windows offered cozy nooks to read or people watch.

An old wooden church pew allowed for plenty of seating with iron and marble tables small enough for intimate chats or a laptop.

The back room with diner-style booths and more cozy chairs in small groupings took advantage of the windows overlooking the playground and lake which although partially frozen now and cold outside, I was tempted to get a ‘to-go’ and stroll the boardwalk.

Instead, I selected a spot on the pew and watched the regulars come and go, some being addressed by name and chatting with the efficient staff.

‘A regular’ sits beside me on the pew – his favourite spot, he shares, telling me why mine is not quite right.

Jazz plays on the stereo.  Aromas of freshly ground coffee and healthy soup fill the air.

The wooden planked floor and burlap coffee bags used to cover inventory on the shelves add to the old charm of the place.

Gorgeous photographs of birds hang gallery style on the wall behind me.

Organic coffee in bags for home brewing and 5 kinds of organic chocolate tantalize me.  I’m already considering what to buy to relive the experience at home, (or on the way home as in the case of the chocolate).

It is places like this that bring together my value of ecology and ethical farming practices.

The connection of like-minded people, where small things we do on a daily basis to support local initiatives, which in turn support a larger cause and bring awareness to environmental issues, make me feel that there is hope for what I hold dear.

It is a place in the world, albeit a tiny place, where I feel the fight has been won and all is right in the world.

A place where my soul is rejuvenated.

And that, my friend, was not chance, but destiny.

Is there a place in your world where you feel your values are supported?
A place you love to go because somehow it resonates with your soul?  Share it below.

Bird-Friendly coffee shop in Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Birds and Beans
Another of my faves for very similar reasons: CoffeeEco, Kingston, Ontario

photo credit: Linh H. Nguyen via photopin cc

5 Ways To Beat The Pity Party

small__5077159890My youngest has just left the nest and my definition of who I am, or who I consider myself to be, has altered – a lot.

While millions of children are excitedly starting school, just as many parents are experiencing a loss like they have never felt before.

Whether your child is starting Kindergarten or heading off to College or University, September is a time that many mothers (and fathers too), especially the ones that have chosen to be full-time parents, feel an intense combination of both freedom and loss.

The focus of the vast majority of your time and energy has suddenly disappeared and you are left wondering who you are without your children.

What is your mission now?

Your equilibrium is thrown for a loop.

Some revel in the seeming abundance of free time to do the things they’ve complained about, resented they couldn’t do, or wished they could while catering to the needs of the other members of their household.

Still others are mourning the loss of their entire identity.

Be it JK or undergrad, when you send your little one (my little one is over 6′ tall) off into the world alone, you are left watching their back, proud of who they are and the job you have done thus far.

But as they walk away and the path before you clears, you are left wondering what direction you are to take.

Where will this path-untrodden lead you?

You spent all your time preparing them, but no-one prepared you.

If you, like me, are facing this brave new world, think of September as the new January and make some resolutions for yourself.

Think of this as a time for your own personal growth.

Take this opportunity to nurture yourself.

Stuck for ideas?

5 Ways To Beat The Pity Party

1.  Chum the Waters
Set up a regular schedule for meeting up with your friends.  Whether it’s once a week for coffee and a chat or every morning for a brisk walk, getting together with your pals will inspire, relax and rejuvenate your likely (highly) neglected self.

2. Pastime Pleasure
Ever wanted to learn how to paint, dance, write poetry, glass-blow, woodwork? Now’s your chance.  There are lots of classes offered at community centres and adult education schools.  Or find a local “Meet-Up” online and make new connections with like-minded folks.  There is no time like the present to pick up a new hobby or resurrect an old one.

3. Grow Your Gray Matter
Want to get back into the workforce but feel underqualified?  Always wanted to learn another language? Want to learn more about a specific topic you’ve always been interested in?  There are plenty of online webinars and free university courses ready for you to absorb.  Or look into adult education courses at your local high school or college.

4. Weigh In On The Positive
Now is a great time to start a new exercise routine.  Getting fit increases your energy and self-esteem.  If you’ve been putting it off, your excuse just walked out the door so get up off the couch and march to a new beat – yours.  Try a 30-Day Challenge to get you motivated and sticking to your goals.

5. Serve & Be Served
Volunteering is a great way to feel useful and appreciated with the added bonus of helping out individuals and organizations who need a hand.  There are many volunteering opportunities such as childcare centers, schools, libraries, food banks, homeless shelters, senior centers, and hospitals to name only a few.  Need more suggestions? Your library, church or community center may be able to point you in the right direction or try an online search through your town or city’s website.  By serving others, you serve yourself.

Focussing your new-found time on things that interest you will not only take your mind off missing your ‘little’ one(s), it will boost your energy and attitude.

Use this time to forge a new path.

Explore its twists and turns and enjoy the scenery along the way.

There’s a new you waiting to be discovered.

For me, I’ve signed up for two Coursera classes and a pottery class!

Have your kids flown the coop? Share how you are feeling and coping.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rushpics/5077159890/