I am this…

On the Sunday of May long weekend, seven of us girls piled into my SUV and headed over to Black Bond Book Warehouse. I’m not sure what other families do, but we are readers. In no time we all had piles of books. My sister decided that another person could add a book to your pile, giving you a reading challenge. That puts an interesting twist into things!

I had to admit that I was a reading baby. Even a book a month was a challenge. My Aunt was astonished. I think she reads one a week. Which is why she makes good use of the library. I often have to renew a novel from the library, once or twice!

But this day we were on a mission. Grab an armful of books and get back to the sunny patio. Not only could we more carefully look at our own purchases, but we had the added bonus of looking through the balance of the loot.

I am a sucker for books which are part self-help, part productivity, part management, maybe slanted toward business. That is why I came to own the latest addition to my collection titled, “Do More Great Work“, by Michael Bungay Stanier. What I didn’t realize when I bought this book is, it’s a workbook. Which is a huge added bonus for me. There are so few of these kind of books on the market, it was almost like finding treasure. In fact, the activities are called “maps”. Who doesn’t love to pour over a good map?

The first map was easy. I breezed through it so quickly, I thought I might just make it through the whole book in a weekend. (Given my track record, who knows why I thought that!) Anyway, turn the page to map two and that is where I came to a dead halt. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to complete the assignment. 6 days later, I dug down and pulled out the wisdom I needed.

That was today. Things were going so well, I went on to map three. This was equally tough to complete. These exercises require some serious soul searching. But the results are so worth it. OK, now I am gong to be very vulnerable and share this map. So be kind.

The first word describes what I am when I am doing great work. The kind of work that I love. The place where I loose track of time and when I’m in the zone. The second word is not necessarily bad, or the opposite, but it represents, at best good work, at worst bad work.

  • Visionary not task master
  • Analytical not routine
  • Earnest not complacent
  • Comprehensive not lists of half formed ideas
  • Organized not winging it
  • Knowledge seeking not taking it at face value
  • Engrossed not simply covering the bases
  • At ease not cautious
  • Mindful not quiet
  • Dedication not just 9 to 5

I think this is a pretty powerful list of words. The book advises you to keep a copy near your desk and have a laminated version to travel with. I’ll admit, before I completed this map, I immediately dismissed the notion of laminating. But, now that it is done, and I see it here in print, maybe I’ll pop over to Staples and create that hard copy.

The idea behind this list is to steer to the left. Staying on the left is where great work can occur. Tendency is to veer right. Although good work is still good, it is with great work that I feel most alive and vital.

 

Grad school

It occurred to me this past weekend, I’m kind of going to a type of grad school. I was looking through my personal email folders and realized I have taken a lot of courses over the past few years. Most of what I’ve read also has something to do with my education. I know a few things about these subjects I’ve been lucky enough to study. Maybe, I can even say I’m a bit of an expert. OK, maybe that stretches it too far. But I feel more knowledgable, for sure.

My husband and son went camping and my daughter and I had the house to ourselves. The weekend stretched in front of me like a blank slate. Uninterrupted time to go wherever my mind wanted to take me. When my husband came home, he commented how cluttered the bed was with all my learning materials. Books, computer, art supplies, iPad, journal, pens, coloured pencils, day-timer, etc. I was in heaven. He shook his head.

Saturday kind of evaporated. We had stuff to do, chores to finish, groceries to buy, my daughter wanted to bake. But Sunday, oh lovely, blessed day, we had all to ourselves. Since I was in bed so early Saturday night, I was up early. Weather looked poor, so I was going to read….

Rainy Day Books_web

Then I was inspired to complete an exercise from last week for my “Thrive” course being taught by Arianna Huffington. I have been wanting to do something like this for a long time, was even on my list of goals for this year. Now a third chart needs to be completed, what do I wish the chart could look like?

Time Pie Chart_web

My daughter finally woke up and we had to be at the White Rock Farmer’s Market. Even though a chorizo hot dog is NOT on anyone’s diet, it had to be done.

Market Chorizo_web

Later in the afternoon, I just had to take this photo of our cat – snoozing in the boat. How cute is that?

Cat in boat_web

My next phase in education arrived today. “Zen Habits” by Leo Babauta, a project I helped fund through kickstarter. What a wonderful world!

Zen Habits_web

Learning from The 100 Year Old Man

I’ve carried this book with me on so many trips over the past year, yet never started it. Both my husband and son read it, enjoyed it and assured me I would as well. Of course I did not fail to recognize it is a best selling title, so many other people around the world have also enjoyed this book. Finally, on the flight down to the Baja, I started.

Needless to say, many hours of sitting in the sun, a good book as your steady companion, is a must. My choice did not disappoint, I only wish to have stretched it out a little longer, (not going home for a couple more days!)

Even though this is pure fiction, I really think I learned a few things from Allan the Swede. The ideas or lessons which the book kept circling back on are central themes of human existence. Nothing new. But I very much enjoyed the way they were told. The entitlement, impatience and expectation, which seems to pervade society today were completely removed. The characters suffered far greater hardships than most of us have or ever will. Allan in particular kept a positive attitude the whole time.

For me, the whole story was believable because these things do happen to people. Of course, not all these events have happened to the same person over a single lifetime. But in our own way, we could all reach inside ourselves and behave a little better in the tough spots.

Enjoy this selection of quotes. I am adding some of these, maybe all of them, to my list of “mantras”. And when I remember the context of these words from the book, I’ll smile.

“But as long as we think positively, I’m sure a solution will appear.”

“…you’ll see that things will turn out like they do, because that is what usually happens – almost always, in fact”

“People could behave how they liked, but Allan considered that in general it was quite unnecessary to be grumpy if you had the chance not to.”

“Things are what they are, and whatever will be, will be.”

“How can I help?”

― Jonas Jonasson, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

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The Good Beach Life

Just like the seaside, a lifestyle is not always calm. There are moments of quiet reflection, even meditation. But as the wind picks up and the atmospheric pressure changes, so will the internal storm rise. This kind of ebb and flow is how I enjoy my beach life most. For it is with fortitude we trudge through the low points making the highs so sweet.

I have to admit, we had mostly high points this past week. But, maybe my graph for this kind of chart is changing. The lows lifting up to more of a medium point and my highs becoming incredibly tall. Could be. That is my story and I’m sticking to it.

There were so many moments to be thankful for this week. I’m picking a few:

  • Weather – pleasantly warm, enough to work on our tan, (even a little sunburnt children who swore they had sunscreen on), but cool in the evenings
  • Food – excellent wherever we turned. Taco’s on the beach for lunch, cookout for dinner. Fresh seafood in Stanley Park, dockside in Steveston and on the rooftop patio of the Boathouse
  • Exercise – the kids sprinted after their skim boards we walked dozens of miles, up and down the 300′ hill to the beach
  • Space – we had enough for everyone. That is a luxury we often don’t have on a family vacation, but something not to be overlooked, particularly as the kids are teens and tweens
  • Activities – new and old. The kids kicked their skimming skills up a notch. My sister and I learned to add beads into a knitting project
  • Shopping – books, everyone got something, beach reading and beyond

We had a little bit of clouds and rain yesterday. Some might view that as a low point. My mood can sink low when the sun doesn’t shine, but we made the most of it. We combed the beach at Lighthouse Park and my nephew packed out quite a haul of beach glass.

I think we managed fun for the whole family this week. But, most important, I had a great time.

Beaded Cowl_web Books_web

Related posts:

 

Yarn along

Just now I stumbled across 85 other people who think reading and knitting are 2 of their favourite things….me too! Or maybe 86, in this case. Who knew! A yarn along….love it!

I have to say, I don’t associate with many people who are the same as me. My chosen profession, or maybe the companies I have chosen to work for, are not exactly full of creative types. At least not in fibre arts. This form of community becomes super important, I dare say essential for my creative expression.

read&knit_web

I’m working on so many knitting projects right now, but the one that I worked on as recently as last night and will add more rows tonight is Linate Classic Mohair scarf. I picked up the yarn at a second-hand store. It has been worked before, at least the first 2 balls. But it is so decadently soft. I love it. Won’t see the light of cold days for a while yet. But I’ll think of these days when I wear it.

I’m reading an amazing book called “Creating A Life Worth Living”, by Carol Lloyd. I have quite a few other books on the go, but this one is my main go to right now. It is a combination of reading, creative workshop and designing new habits, I just love it. It is meant to take 12 weeks to finish, which I think I can do.

Of course, it bears mentioning, I can’t knit and read at the same time. I can’t even knit and watch TV all that well together. Somehow I am managing to watch Glee with my daughter and knit this scarf at the same time. But that is probably because the plot line is fairly predictable. I have to stop knitting when Kate Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker or Jane Lynch are on – I love them.

Experiences

“Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.”   ~Marshall McLuhan

I think this would be a good summary of the book titled, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” by Jenny Lawson. Some of her experiences make you laugh to the point of crying and some bring tears on their own. I suppose we all have tales to tell, but hers are a bit more extreme than mine, (not that this is a competition I am sad to lose).

If swearing is offensive to you, don’t read this book. But you might use a few profanities if you walked a mile in her shoes. If you are a smart ass, like to have the last word and think arguing with your husband is an OK thing, read this book. (Their arguments are epic and hilarious.)

If you love your family, even when they are acting crazy, this book is for you. Because, let’s face it, we can all act a little strange at times. And one can only hope to experience, but a few of the moments Jenny has, in a lifetime.

While I agree that these experiences are what define us as individuals, there are some things I would rather read about. My trials and tribulations of growing up, are not worthy of a novel. They are just not that severe or strange. But they molded my character, just the same.

I was describing one of the stories from Jenny’s life, involving a dead dog, at my hair salon the other day. One of the stylists jumped in with a story that had us all rolling with laughter. As far as I know, this is completely true.

A friend was looking after a dog for a couple that were away on holiday. I’m not sure if all parties knew the dog was not well and could die. We create a “DNR”, (do not resuscitate) order for our cat every time we go away. She has lived through 3 of those so far. But I digress. Anyway, this dog dies. Not a problem if you have a car. But this woman did not. So she decided to put the dog in a suitcase to take it on the bus. You meet some strange people on the bus, or so I am told. A random guy says to her “what do you have in that suitcase?” She replies, “some computer equipment”. (Quick thinking) Then the guy pulls the stop cord and STEALS the suitcase! She doesn’t run after him. Problem solved really.

Check out: The Bloggess by Jenny Lawson

Third instalment

My husband does not like books that are part of a series. He has very little time to read one book, let alone get trapped up in an ongoing plot line. Particularly if the next books have not been written yet. But I don’t mind.

Some books are so good that the next instalment is like welcoming an old friend home for a visit. The known parts mixing together with the spicy new bits, creating an intoxicating brew. I have a few friends like that. No matter how hard you try to guess, they surprise you with exciting new adventures they have taken. But their essence is unchanged, those qualities that attracted you in the first place.

Kind of like Vianne Rocher. For Joanne Harris fans, I don’t need to say anymore, you know what I mean. The promise of more adventures with the lady that blows with the North wind and makes wonderful chocolates.

This third instalment, seems to be the last in the series. A little less distressing than the second. Drawing you back to the little French town of Lansquenet. Just when you think, nothing ever changes in a place like that, you will be surprised.

But, I have become a little like my husband these days. My stack of started and unfinished books at my bedside is a foot tall. And that does not include the digital copies on my iPad. So, when I saw, “Peaches for Father Francis”, by Joanne Harris on MP3, I knew it was meant to be. I have no time to read, but I have plenty of time to kill, trapped in my car.

Kind of interesting that for this trilogy, I saw the movie for #1 “Chocolate”, read the book for #2 “The Lollipop Shoes”, and now the audio version for #3 “Peaches for Father Francis”. A different form of entertainment for each. Luckily, Johnny Depp is fully fixed as Roux and Juliette Binoche as Vianne.

As always with Joanne Harris, I come away a little bit changed. She has the power to make you think deeply about relationships and your outlook on life. Very few authors can do that.

Libraries

Years ago, when I moved from a small town in Alberta to the big city of Calgary, I first experienced a big library. My Aunt would take me, and she would use this big box to cart her books back and forth. You could take out something like a hundred different books, which seemed like having the keys to the kingdom. (How could you even deal with 10 books?)

But my Aunt was teaching her kids to be readers. They would take a world of fun, fantasy, fiction and photo’s, home for a 3 week stay. I would marvel at the seeming decadence of it all.

Now, as I have grown up and have children of my own, we do the same thing. Although we use rain proof bags, instead of a box. And my kids have their own cards, they can even manage the automated check out machines by themselves. No more filling out the cards in the little envelopes. No peeking to see, “who else took this book out?”

Today was a very dark and rainy day, perfect for the library. I found a great instruction book for crochet. (If I am ever to finish the shawl, I must learn to crochet). Then for the upcoming trip to Mexico, “Gringo’s in Paradise”. A new book on CD for the drive back and forth to work. And a picture tour of Fiji. Not that far beyond Hawaii…maybe the next sun vacation?

And that’s how it goes. You never know what you will find at the library. As you cruise the aisles and smell the paper and imagine the world you will find behind the front cover.

Bedside reading

My husband thinks it is strange that I have so many books on my bedside table, and that I am reading them all. I can’t explain it, I need to be in the mood for a certain book. And lately when I crawl into bed at night, all I am in the mood for is a little solitaire on my iPad. About 3 games and I am done for, can’t keep my eyes open.

Back to the books. I have to confess, I like the look of the stack. It makes me feel good to see many books there. It is like having a buffet with many choices. Or a store with so many things I want to buy. (That could be food or clothes, either way, doesn’t matter.)

So for my current selection:

  1. The Social Animal – David Brooks
  2. The 3rd Alternative – Stephen R. Covey
  3. Island of the Sequined Love Nun – Christopher Moore
  4. French Kids Eat Everything – Karen Le Billon
  5. 52 ways to wreck your retirement…and how to rescue it – Tina Di Vito
  6. Money-Smart Kids – Gail Vaz-Oxlade
  7. CABO – Moon handbooks
  8. Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James

It is really hard to say which one I like best.

#4 and #6 are for the kids, and even though #6 is slim it has been in the pile since January. Something about reading a pile of common sense that I should be smart enough to apply, but have not, kind of bums me out.

Christopher Moore writes such unexpected stories, that are sexy in a strange way, they just have to be read.

50 shades of grey has been talked about by so many women and my husband gave it to me for Mother’s Day, (wink, wink). Evidently I am right at the point where it gets good. Chapter 8. Seems like a long way in to get the good stuff going. But evidently I am going to love it.

What the picture doesn’t show are the library books that float in and out. Added to the table right now are 2 cookbooks. One for Mexico and for Spanish tapas. As well, 2 magazines and 2 new titles from the “just arrived” rack as you walk into our library. And I grabbed 3 magazines from the Air Canada lounge last week that I didn’t get time to read on the short-haul in and out of Calgary.

Instead of starting another knitting project, I should get to some reading.

Personal legend

I first read the book called “The Alchemist”, by Paulo Coelho while on holiday in Mexico a couple of years ago. Over the past few months, I have been waiting for the CD version to come available from the library. Finally it was my turn. The reading was done by Jeremy Irons, who did an amazing job.

When I read the book, I remember feeling a stir of emotion around the idea of finding and living a personal legend. And then, the holiday was over, we left the blissfully sunny days beside the Sea of Cortez and arrived home to snow. The usual rush of life, during the run up to Christmas took over.

This time round, I tried to really listen to the ideas presented in the text, for I now knew the general storyline. I should say that I listen to books on CD while in my car on the drive to work. However, even while inching along in traffic, the mind can wander. I think one more listen will be in order.

There is an interesting distinction made between people. Some are fully aware of what they want in life, but would rather dream about it because nothing in life could live up to the dream they have created in their minds. There are a few people, however, that go after their dreams. They eventually conquer every obstacle and get what they wanted.

The reason, it seems, that so few people really go for it, is fear. As I listened to the words and pondered my own thoughts, I would have to agree, fear is a pesky little feeling. It starts small, maybe like a reasonable voice of caution, but it spreads like a cancer. But overcoming fear, when we have become so used to submitting to it, is no easy task.

Interestingly enough, Paulo Coelho has a great blog where he gives ideas about realizing your personal legend. This is a great resource to help get you going on the right path. I will be completing these exercises this weekend. And I’ll let you know if I make in progress in beating down fear.

The Good Stuff – Books

Listening to buds and bugs

I was standing in line at a grocery store the other day and in the midst of the clutter of tabloids and diet magazines stood a lone publication called, “Hobby Farm Home – True Country Living“. On the cover was a fantastic shot of pesto crostini. It was so lonely looking, the magazine. Slightly askew and completely out of its element. I grabbed it, just to be polite.

Later that night, when I was reading before bed, I got a chance to be alone with my new magazine. I knew it was going to be good when I was not even through 5 pages and already there were too many articles and tidbits to count that I would have to come back and re-examine. I love it when that happens.

But the most interesting part of this issue was learning about a field of study called phenology. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter annual variations in climate. In other words plants and animals react to the seasonal weather by instinct, not by watching a calendar. We humans have lost this skill over time.

We have not all lost interest in this subject. Over the pond at the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in London, their phenological work spans 200 years. It is now a well documented fact from the work at KRBG, that the growing season over the last 50 to 60 years is a full 2 weeks longer.

That may not seem like a big deal, but to our farming ancestors it would have been critical to know when to plant and how long to leave the crop on the field, to yield the best harvest.

Today, it is possible, all over the world for ordinary people to become “citizen scientists” and help record what is happening to our natural environment.

My thoughts went immediately to my Daughter and Father-In-Law who are very interested in things like this already. A great way to teach a child stewardship and the joy of volunteering.

In Canada – Plant Watch for more information and to check in with the activities in your province.

In the USA – National Phenology Network

In the UK – Nature’s Calendar

What would you do?

If you have not read the book called, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins you will not understand this post very well. This 3 book series has been targeted to a youth audience. The exact target age of reader depends on opinion. Because of the lack of extra details required to fully capture an adult reader, I enjoyed how quickly the book could be read. Even 2/3 through, it is the best series I have ever read. Even the last book in the Harry Potter series does not compare.

What I like best about the first 2 books in the series are the questions you start asking yourself. How easily you can put yourself into the shoes of the character’s and root for them. And, of course, wonder how you would react if you thrown into the same circumstances.

I have to admit that the description of the first book kept it out of my house for a long time. Not for my sake, but for my son’s. However, as things go, my nephews raved about the book and convinced my husband to buy it for my son this past summer. Luckily, I intercepted before the first page was turned.

I promised my son, after reading it myself, I would re-consider letting him read it. My original view was confirmed. I think he is too sensitive at this age to not suffer from nightmares. The fact that the characters live in a future version of North America where the structure of society has gone completely awry will seem very real to him. (It does to me!)

My son and I agreed that he could read the book in the year he turns 12. That is the year of age that the youngest children in Panem will have their names put into the drawing for the games. I also want him to read it aloud to me. The possible discussion points are endless. I almost can’t wait for him to be old enough, it is going to really enjoyable, as a parent to have these more complex conversations with my child.

Good start to the day

While on holidays this summer at my parents cabin, a good start to my day would be with a coffee and a book in the hot tub. When the sun got higher in the sky and it became too warm, I would get out and start my day.

I had such a morning on Saturday. It was 19 degrees C in the shade when I slipped in for a soak. A few chapters later and it became so warm from the sun, I had to get out.

But I was completely energized. I dug out some shorts and a tank top from the bin of summer clothes getting ready for storage, and headed out into the front garden. I attacked the weeds for the better part of the day. What I was able to complete looks great. (There is, unfortunately, more days of work to do than there will be good weather for).

The clouds moved in, late in the day. We had our first big wind and rain storm of the fall. But the morning felt like summer and it happened on a day when I was able to enjoy it!

Some favourite things

In no particular order:

  • Strongbow – if you have not tried this, it should be on your list this summer. A dry cider that is evidently the world’s best-selling since 1962. Another reason I like this is the link between Canada and the UK. If you ask for a Strongbow in many parts of the USA, you get the same reaction as if you asked for a plane ticket to Mars. But all over Europe, even in Norway, the bars stock it.
  • Summer – can’t beat it, the heat that finally arrives after a long winter and the variable weather from Spring time. The promise of long, lazy days, and endless activities enjoyed outside.
  • Movies – comedies to lift your spirit, drama to wake your soul and even a little horror to make you remember how good you have it.
  • Reading – closely related to movies, but even more important to me. I can lose myself in a book, travel to places and times with my imagination that makes my life really fantastic.
  • Truffles – they have a smell that is subtle and strong at the same time. Exotic and captivating, the taste can transform all your senses. A little well placed truffle olive oil can make a good dish – extraordinary.
  • Babies – other people’s babies and the smell right out of the bath of their lovely little heads. I can still remember my kids, but they are into sports now and smell nothing like a baby anymore.
  • Sunsets – particularly over the water and near a beach. Somehow the most relaxing and awe-inspiring experience to behold.
  • Photographs – of all types. I should have studied this art form. It has precise, almost scientific elements mixed with whimsy and qualities that are pleasing when you see them and hard to describe what is missing, when you don’t.