Q1 check in

I just had a look at my goals for 2015 and quickly reviewed what I had assigned myself to be completed by now. Hmmm, not quite there. There are reasons, of course. The main one being, I did not anticipate the extra workload from taking a new job. Adding 3 new people to my team. Bringing them into my little family, has taken more time than I could have imagined.

But I love it. I find this work extremely rewarding. My team has enriched my life. I would never have guessed it, either. I’m learning and growing every day. In fact, I am amazed at the new challenges being thrown my way. Instead of feeling tired and bitter, I feel energized and excited, ready to tackle.

It is strange how life works, though. I would never have imagined to be sitting in this position at this point in my life. That may have been because I didn’t really dream big when I was younger. Now I let my imagination run wild, both when I am awake and at night. My dreams are amazing.

There is a paragraph written by Joanne Harris in “Runelight” about dreams. I just love to think like this:

Dream is a river that flows both ways – a fact often overlooked by the Folk, for whom dreaming had always been considered territory best left unexplored. But Dream is far more than a river, os Odin One-Eye could have told her. Dream is the stuff of Worlds – all Worlds – and all things come and go from it, as water comes and goes from the Sea, becoming clouds, rain, snowflakes, tears – all so ephemeral, all so unique, always changing but never lost, a universe of possibility where any thought can take form.

Some of my goals may be unfinished as I start Q2, but I have faith. I’ll finish what I need to. I’ll dream new big audacious ones. It will be good.

9 hours catch up

But who is counting? Actually, it bears the question, who can count after flying through so many time zones? The experience is like that birthday party game for children, where you are spun around with your eyes closed, then stumble around disoriented for a time. Instead we kind of subject ourselves to a low grade version of this in the form of time and distance travel by air. We don’t usually stumble around afterwards, but our mind sure can!

 

Yesterday, I arrived back in Vancouver about 4pm, after about 20 hours of travel. That calculation took several minutes to compute, my brain still being somewhat compromised on a deep cognitive level. Honestly, there should be an app for that! But my point is how disorienting this time travel is. You are gaining back some time or loosing it, depending on the direction of travel. I find that difficult to reconcile.

I also find it difficult to concentrate. My mind, just now, wandered over to thoughts about the coconut milk in my coffee. So I stopped writing and cruised over to the web and ran through a few blogs with recipes for how to make it at home. Last night while grocery shopping, we realized there is some kind of shortage of our favourite coffee creamer. All of that distraction because I looked over at my coffee cup! Jeesh.

After all those hours of wandering through corridors, relaxing in lounges, sitting on planes, it was so welcome to be in the fresh air again. So I tried something new yesterday. Dug out my running shoes and went for a run, then did strength training. It was windy and chilly and sunny all at that same time. The strength training seemed to take away the puffiness that collects in my ankles, (or so it seemed). I figured I was good to go for the rest of the night, yeah! But slowly and surely as the minutes turned into hours, I was fast asleep by 8pm.

I think it is fair to say, there is no trick here. At least none that have worked for me, so far. You can spin your body around the world, but your mind will take more time to right itself!

The fine print

It is officially my last day. The end of 6 weeks to a new body. Having completed the program to the best of my ability, (I may have cheated a bit here and there), it is time to take stock of what I learned.

Bodies bounce back – even after 30+ years, muscles remember how to build up, they take shape, the body rewires itself, springs into a new way of being. A body is not tied to the failures of the past. It has no opinion on your exercise goals. It just responds in kind. I like that.

Difficult becomes easy (ier) – after only 6 weeks, nothing is easy, especially as the intensity ramped up weekly with the goal to keep you challenged. Each new set of exercises was doable. I was never left feeling so frustrated and despondent, like I could not go on. Maybe I was not in as bad a shape to begin with, as I thought going in.

Happy I started – as with any challenge, your future self thanks your past self for making the effort in the first place. Of course, it takes sustained effort, but I treated each day, every decision as a form of starting new.

Goals must be fluid – in the beginning I had the usual S.M.A.R.T. goals. Time bound, specific, realistic, measurable, yada, yada. The only thing I’m glad I did was to take body measurements. Because the changes have occurred a little bit each day, without the hard numbers to refer back to, I would have had a hard time understanding how significant the results were. I can also see how differently my clothes are fitting, but I have long ago adopted a style of dress to hide my waist. So when I get ready each day, the mirror image kind of looks the same. It is going to take more time and confidence to start dressing differently. In the final assessment, if I had used weight loss alone as my indicator of success, I would be VERY disappointed.

Now what? Maintenance. That is where the fine print comes in. The next few pages in the book explain several techniques to maintain this new level of fitness. I did not read this very well in the beginning. Or maybe I forgot. The fine print on this is to do another 6 weeks at the intensity of the ending week. Evidently people generally quit between the 2 to 3 month mark. So this lifestyle shift needs to be maintained for a full three months! So the title – 6 weeks is a little misleading. But I’m hooked now. Can’t turn back. This is my new life. It’s not all that bad, this exercise thing.

 

 

Every Decision Counts

I’ve just started into week 5 of the “6 weeks to a new body” fitness program. Just when the exercises are starting to become easy, the routine kicks up a notch again. And I’ve added another complexity to the situation, I’m on holidays. So making smart choices around eating is a bit of a challenge. 

I have a notion, or a routine around what I usually like to eat and drink on holidays. That means eating = a lot and drinking = beer. But I’m not going to reach my goals by eating a lot and drinking beer. So I’ve had to make adjustments. (At least for these 6 weeks).

I’ve been reading through my book, (also known as my coach, mentor and friend) and I came across the phrase, “every decision counts”. It was meant in reference to all the little things that keep you moving in the direction you want to go. In that one idea, I take comfort. I may not be doing everything perfectly every day, but I can keep moving towards my goals, one decision at a time.

I used to think that once a bad choice had been made, might as well – “throw the canary another seed”. What was the point of continuing to try and make a change when I had just eaten a huge hamburger? Might as well have another beer and eat all those fries as well. And show me the desert menu, please. Forget a workout, I’m too tired. That was how I lived for the better part of my adult life. 

Lucky for me, I am “all-in” on this 6 week experiment and I have given myself the grace to do this, one decision at a time. I will not be perfect. Rather, “every day in every way, things are getting better”. (Lovely saying my mother-in-law used to tell my husband as a child).

Filling my cup

Years ago I was sitting with a dear friend on vacation and she was talking about her work. She mentioned an annual conference with great anticipation. She described it as a time when she “filled her cup”. It was important to learn in such a way that her personal reserves of energy, creativity and enthusiasm could be filled up. Otherwise, what would she have to give to others?

I thought about that for a long time. I wished that my work provided me with that kind of opportunity. Well, wishing was not going to fill my cup, so I found a conference on my own. That was WDS2014 and WOW is all I can say about that. As the conference ended, a discount for the next year was extended and I immediately signed up. I finally found a place where everyone, (and I mean everyone), was nice. They were interesting to talk to and freely expressed their deepest desires, for themselves and a keen interest to serve others. The main stage presentations gave me insights into a whole range of topics, some of which I didn’t know I was interested in. (I could rave on about WDS, but that is not the point here).

Recently my same friend and I were chatting about “filling cups” and she mentioned a further portion of that idea. That was the saucer. Always put a saucer under your cup so that when it overflows, (I was only trying to put something in my cup, I had no idea it might overflow), you have reserves with which to help others!

A quick internet search later, I found the poem below. Enjoy and may your cup overflow!

“My Cup Has Overflowed”

I’ve never made a fortune, and it’s probably too late now.
But I don’t worry about that much, I’m happy anyhow
And as I go along life’s way,
I’m reaping better than I sowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed. 

Haven’t got a lot of riches,
and sometimes the going’s tough
But I’ve got loving ones all around me,
and that makes me rich enough. 
I thank God for his blessings,
and the mercies He’s bestowed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed.

I remember times when things went wrong,
My faith wore somewhat thin.
But all at once the dark clouds broke,
and the sun peeped through again.
So Lord, help me not to gripe,
about the tough rows I have hoed.
I’m drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed.

If God gives me strength and courage,
When the way grows steep and rough.
I’ll not ask for other blessings,
I’m already blessed enough.

And may I never be too busy,
to help others bear their loads.
Then I’ll keep drinking from my saucer,
Cause my cup has overflowed.

Author: unknown

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True Rest & Relaxation

It is the last morning of my first ever week long vacation as an adult. I’ve been on lots of vacations over the years, but this time was different. I had no responsibilities. None. Zero.

It is a curious thing to have the weight of your life lifted completely from your shoulders. With the removal of the never ending list of “things” I hold in my mind constantly, there was a true freedom.

When I woke up in the morning, my first thought was not guilt. There was not a queue of tasks stacking up in my inbox, the long list that sits in the forefront of my mind, the wishes I have for myself sitting way at the bottom of my daily action plan.

It has been with space and time away where I now realize how complicated my life has become, how intricately woven together all the little pieces are. It has taken quite some time to get this way, each layer supporting another. It will take some time to untangle much of the complexity.

I think this experience, this new understanding, is like seeing a child who has grown in your absence. When you are with them all the time, you don’t realize the change, it happens so slowly.

As I head home tonight, the challenge will be, how can I preserve some of the whimsy, the magic and the freedom of the last week? How can I elevate some of my deeply personal needs to the top of my life? For it is with great self care that a person can be better at everything else they do.IMG_0190.JPG

Private School

2 weeks ago, our son started grade 8 in a private school. As they say, “timing is everything”. We had actually made this decision over a year ago. Today it seems like the most amazing thing we could be doing for a number of reasons. But a year ago, we were scared.

I have been a huge believer in public education. Like life itself, I thought your school experience is what you make it. You get out of it what you put into it. This philosophy works great for a certain number of students, but not for everyone. When I was in school, I had no perspective or tolerance for the struggles of the wide array of different learning styles and needs.

As I grew older and then had children of my own, I started listening to stories. Heart breaking tales of people who did not find public education so rewarding. My position started to soften and shift. Maybe, in its current state, public education cannot serve everyone. But I was still concerned about completely turning away from it.

Then the research began. When you start looking for information, or learn the first point of a new topic, it is amazing how the world opens up. I listened to lectures and watched videos. I read and read. What I have discovered is a paradigm shift in education is underway. The old rules simply need not apply.

But, still, as I dropped off our first-born for his first day of school this year, it was with some trepidation. Was this going to be that different from public school? He was already missing his friends. His typical day was going to be extremely different. Would he adapt?

Over the course of these first days, the answers are clear.

  • A weight has been lifted from our son’s shoulders. He comes home each night sounding strong and confident. Everyday we ask, “how did it go”? He answers, “great”.
  • Every week we get a detailed summary of what has been accomplished and goals yet to be achieved. There is a sense that these things will happen. There is hope.
  • The communication from the teacher has been focused only on our son. No comparisons to other students. No shame. Confidence is what we hear. Our son will get there, it is process along a winding path.
  • The faculty and other parents are very excited to meet us and share stories. The level of support is something I have not experienced before. (There is even a parent book club!)

We are realistic, though. There will be tough days ahead. Not all goals will be easily achieved. Mastery comes with intent practice and determination. What is worthwhile does not come easy. We will be tested in the weeks and months ahead. But with this level of support, I am so confident we will overcome the obstacles, eventually. I am more engaged in this school environment than I have ever been before. The future seems so bright for us.

A footnote – private school is extremely expensive. But I look at this as an investment. Over the past 8 years, since level K, our son has struggled with a learning disability in math and been unchallenged with his gifted classification in language. His unbalanced learning profile does not fit the mold in the public education system. We tried every type of learning support and amendment, nothing made a significant difference. So instead of continuing to do the same and hoping for a different outcome, we decided to make a change.

Stockholm helgen

My Grandfather was born in Sweden. A cousin went to University in Stockholm. One of my dear friends lives in the archipelago. I’ve travelled to Norway too many times to count. Somehow this trip never happened before and was so long overdue.

Because Norway is not Sweden. I’ve heard this before and wondered how it could be so. For many North Americans – the region of Scandinavia is the same thing as a country, having consistent values and beliefs holding it together. But in reality, equating a person from either Sweden or Norway is akin to mistaking a Canadian for an American. These slips are common and somewhat unsettling to the party being told they are the same as another.

For what makes neighboring countries unique can often be subtle. Small qualities, which on the surface are not immediately evident.

During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler, slam poet Shane Koyczan echoed Canadian sentiments in, “We are more”. Never before has a voice spoken so eloquently about those differences that a nation can hold dear.

And that is what I felt in Stockholm. Many, many distinct character traits which define a place, yet a comforting commonality to my native Nordic land of Canada. Maybe it is my long family history, or my friends who are living there, or the inevitable connection to Norway. Probably a combination of factors, delicately mixed to create a very pleasing visit.

I am bringing home some goodies. These will tide me over until my next trip. And they will be a touchstone when my daily routine and surroundings are lacking inspiration.

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Personal Space

How much space do we really need anyway? We packed everything we need, (and probably more), for 5 days of vacation. All that gear, stuffed into the Honda Pilot. Then we unloaded it all into a little cottage. Gradually we found all the little nooks and crannies where things could be stored away for our visit. Yet, stuff is strewn around, taking up most available surfaces. The treasures of comfort we brought from home.

It makes me wonder if it would be possible to reduce our possessions and square feet of living space down into a much smaller footprint. There is a movement towards these tiny houses, which accomplish that. But as I sent the kids out to the patio to eat their breakfast this morning, they insisted it was too cold. They did not think to throw on warmer clothes and enjoy the amazing view of the water. They huddled over the sink instead.

I can’t blame them. My children have grown accustomed to a certain level of comfort, which requires space. But I wonder if we would be better off as a family to live with a little less? Be a little closer together. Evidently it fosters a sense of politeness that is not so common in North America today. When you live in close quarters you are brushing past each other, touching and being close, which forces you to respond in kindness and mutual respect.

On the other hand, after this 5 day experiment, my family will be extremely glad to be home. Privacy will be restored. Personal space expanded back up to normal.

The upside is that when my children complain about the small size of our house back home, I can now talk about a cottage – and they will be aware that we could live in an even smaller space. Grateful they will be! (I’m not so sure).

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Finding a mantra

For my last assignment in part one of Brene Brown’s ecourse, it was back to page one of they art journal to write a mantra. Fill that first page with some words that really speak to me. A phrase which I can repeat to myself when I need motivation, inspiration and grounding.

Problem is I can’t seem to pick just one phrase. In one way or another, all of these speak to me. I even have a strange desire to group them together into sub categories. There are a few themes emerging from the chosen phrases. Maybe I’ll do that one day. For now, I’ll let these soak in.

“I think I’ll just be happy today”

“Love is spoken here”

“Well behaved women rarely make history”

“Breathe in the good shit, breathe out the bullshit”

“You’re not designed for everyone to like you”

“When nothing is sure, everything is possible”

“Your thoughts will rise and fall away like a breeze”

“Don’t let the bastards get you down”

“The question isn’t who is going to let me – it’s who is going to stop me?”

“Everything I need to know is inside me”

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

“No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys”

“The struggle is part of the story”

“Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful”

“I love the person I’ve become because I fought to become her”

“Does this serve me?”

“I believe I can be kinder to myself”

“She turned her cant’s in cans and her dreams into plans”

“Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me”

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“Be brave. It’s going to be good”

“The only person you should try to be better than….is the person you were yesterday”

“Take your pleasure seriously”

“How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged”

“This too shall pass”

“Starve the ego, feed the soul”

“Do no harm, but take no shit”

“A negative mind will never give you a positive life”

Talisman

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A recently heard a story about a frog. As one would imagine, if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. If you can heat the water, very slowly, the frog will not jump out and instead will perish. The time which it takes to heat the water slowly enough, I suppose is the question. And happens to be the point of the story. Change, when presented very slowly, is acceptable to most people, even when it is change for the worse.

Some people keep a reminder of the frog story as their talisman of sorts. A little plastic frog in your pocket could remind you of a bunch of things, not the least of which is “get out while you can.” It could also remind you that change happens slowly for the good. So be patient.

A talisman is an object thought to contain magical properties which provide either luck, (sunny side of the street) or protection from evil or harm. Of course we know that the luck or protection is entirely the belief of the person who bears the talisman, but like the frog story, it is a reminder.

Used as a touchstone, these reminders are very powerful. Almost like a mantra, they can whisper from your pocket, some of your secrets which are important to remember. When life gets difficult, it is always a good practice to stop and weigh your next actions. Take a breath, touch a talisman, repeat a mantra and then take action in a positive way.

Life in a travel bottle

I was sitting in the Air Canada lounge in Calgary, (AC lounge at YYC for short), and was using a little bottle of hand cream, tucked inside an airport security approved clear plastic baggie. I think the little bottle was born at the Westin hotel in Malta. Adopted by me during a stay in October last year. Looking at the little bottle and thinking about the travels it has made, let alone me, got me thinking about what we chose to bring on these journies.

In the lounge, people are waiting to go to so many different locations. This lounge services both domestic and International travelers. Some people are getting ready for a long haul to Europe and some are like me, delayed for a quick jump over the Rockies, heading home. And yet, we all have our little travel bottles in common.

For me, it is almost like carrying a piece of “comfort” around. A familiar scent, a welcome tube of toothpaste or a soothing lotion. It is like a little army of personal spa helpers traveling alongside me. Like a whole bunch of job specific, tiny, bottle sized, little Dobbies. (Harry Potter reference).

It is a comfort. I don’t know why, but it tethers me to home and my regular life there. And I need as many of those kind of feelings as I can get, when I’m on the road.

Creativity

“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.  Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”  ~George Kneller

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future.”   ~James Bertrand

After I bought tickets for the LEGO movie yesterday, I started doing a little research about the LEGO company. Other than selling online, (finally) and having a few small stores in Canada, we are still a long way from Denmark.

First I found The LEGO Foundation. After poking around there for a while, I watched a great talk by the foundation’s CEO Dr. Randa Grob-Zakhary. She describes what happens to creativity as we age. As we progress through school, we become very focused on finding “one” answer, (presumably the correct answer), to standardized tests. Our brains begin to mold towards these repeated expectations and our creativity levels decline. By age 25, we are pretty much the opposite of where we were at age 3, in terms of creativity. What a shame.

LEGO Foundation

Our modern world tends to marginalize people who are creative. They are artist types. Occupations in the arts are not considered serious ways to spend your time. Most companies, who employ most of the workforce, do not honour and foster creativity or creative thinking. Chief Creative Officers are typically found in organizations who sell a creative-based product such as advertising agencies, design studios, etc.

There are many programs available, (guest speakers, seminars, conferences, etc.) where companies can help foster creativity. One of them is LEGO Serious Play. Facilitator’s use LEGO brick sets to enhance innovation, which leads to increased productivity. This seems like an extremely interesting way to spend some time, both as the participant and the facilitator. Can you imagine having that job?

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Then I stumbled across LEGO Education. OK, this was not offered when I was a kid. There are classroom packs designed to enhance core learning across a variety of subjects and home school versions. As we embark on a new chapter in education for our son, (Eaton Arrowsmith School), we will be looking for new ways to enhance his learning.

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I guess timing is everything. Just as we took in all this new information yesterday, then watched the movie, our dedication to creativity, (specifically through LEGO play), was ramped up a notch. Our house is getting some renovations this Spring & Summer. Part of that is moving the Master Bedroom and a re-purpose of the small room off the dining room/kitchen. We had planned for a library/sitting room. After yesterday, there needs to be a build table and room for LEGO. This will be a family affair. Creativity will live and thrive here.

P.S. the movie was awesome. It inspired the sound I love to hear…the tinkling of LEGO bricks as a creative mind searches for the next piece. (I’m not telling who it was, it is a snowy Sunday day here)

Wholehearted

“I now see that cultivating a Wholehearted life is not like trying to reach a destination. It’s like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know that we’re heading in the right direction.” ― Brené Brown

Just started week #3 of the e-course designed to follow the 10 guideposts from the book, “The Gifts Of Imperfection”, by Brené Brown. Let me tell you, (I am trying to convey the slight Texas accent in her speech), this is big stuff. “Life changing” are words that have been uttered by participants who have taken this course already. If you scoff at the notion that a book and an e-course can be life changing, well that just shows how much you are missing out! Quite frankly, I was that skeptical at the beginning, so don’t feel bad.

I’ve never given much thought to the word wholehearted. I must have learned the definition in school, because the meaning seems logical enough. But to practice living in a wholehearted way, well that is another matter. There was no class about that. Not a day, or an hour or even a 15 minute segment was devoted to this extremely important word.

Ironically, it seems that as children, we were pre programmed to live wholeheartedly. It is life, school, society, etc., who have beaten back this natural tendency. One of the exercises last week, to reinforce the idea of authenticity, was to get a picture of ourselves that conveys an example of when we were most authentic. Some people had recent photos, some had to go back to being babies! Most photos were somewhere in the primary school era.

Somewhere along the way, most of us have lost our most authentic selves, those little people who knew in their bones how to live in a wholehearted way. Many of us had to focus all our energy on our school work and on the “activities” we seemed to show some aptitude in. The rest just fell away. Over the years, creativity was stamped down, no more drawing, painting, singing, dancing or playing. Writing became technical, a medium with which to answer the never-ending schedule of questions and tests.

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The fantastic news is that the knowledge to live wholeheartedly is still there, buried maybe. The children inside of us know what to do. Like waking Peter Pan after he had grown up, it is possible to easily get in touch with that authentic part of ourselves.

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