Life Affirming Words


“The Signature of all Things” is Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough—but there is a passage on page 447 that particularly spoke to me.  The main character, Alma, wrote this in one of her research papers:

“Those who are ill-prepared to endure the battle for survival should perhaps never have attempted living in the first place. The only unforgivable crime is to cut short the experiment of one’s own life before its natural end. To do so is a weakness and a pity—for the experiment of life will cut itself off soon enough, in all our cases, and one may just as well have the courage and curiosity to stay in the battle until one’s eventual demise. Anything less than a fight for endurance is a refusal of the great covenant of life.”

These words may sound a little too “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” but I do think she has chosen the right combination of words to get us through almost anything: courage and curiosity. Speaking for myself, curiosity is the thing that gets me through, around, beyond, and past life’s hardships. My curiosity feeds the courage I need to endure the not so good stuff—so I can enjoy the moments of joy, of which, if a tally were taken, there are many.

Alma’s life is not an easy one, but it is interesting, adventurous, intelligent, and worth reading about. I found the book opened up whole new territories for me—from the scientific to the workings of the mind.

When my bootstraps get a bit worn, I read these words, and they help me (metaphorically) get back up on the horse.

Do you have any words or passages that help you out when the joy of life seems to have taken a vacation without you?

The Sunday Before

Christmas Caroling Students

Christmas Caroling (Photo credit: Lower Columbia College)

The glow of Christmas

Shines bright as the day draws near

Sing Hallelujah!

Published in: on December 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Sights and Sounds and Smells of Christmas

“All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur—this lovely world, these precious days…” ~ from Charlotte’s Web

The sights and sounds and smells of Christmas are what make the holiday come to life.

English: By Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favourite sights are:

1. Lit Christmas trees laden with decorations.

2. The excitement of little kids when they get something they really wanted. I still remember my youngest son dancing and jumping up and down with excitement when he received a Fisher Price castle with all its accoutrements—it was pure joy and happiness.

3. A present with my name on it—(I know it is better to give than receive, but admit it—we all like to receive).

My favourite sounds are:

1. The tinkle of jingle bells in the distance.

2. Choirs singing beloved Christmas carols.

3. Laughter at Christmas get-togethers.

English: A cinnamon roll with glaze

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favourite smells are:

1. Stuffing or dressing—does not matter to me if it is inside or outside the turkey.

2. Ginger.

3. Cinnamon buns.

What are your favourite sights and sounds and smells of Christmas?

Enjoy What Is

The present moment is filled with joy and happ...

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (Photo credit: symphony of love)

  My weekly newspaper column:   

The clock on the wall says it is past mid-October, but we are really only about four weeks into the fall season. October feels like fall to me — and even though the season really extends to December—this is the month that contains the golden days of fall. It seems so fleeting, giving way to the grey days of November and snow days of December. I want to hold it, grasp it and not let it go—but that is not how it works. Time marches on.

Thanksgiving is behind us; Halloween looms—we are caught mid-stage. I find myself wanting to enjoy every minute of October, yet already grieving its passing. Those who
advocate living in the present are probably happiest now. A quote I have taken to heart lately is attributed to that calmest of souls, Buddha: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”

Am I the only one who finds it hard to live in the present? To be aware of only what is happening now—to be so immersed in it that the past no longer matters, and the future is an illusion? I think not, as there have been about a million (and this only a slight exaggeration) books and essays and talks written on the subject. So why is it so hard to live in the present?

Before I answer that, I want to preface it with my belief that the past is important as it is what informs us; and the future is essential because that is where we are going. But I need to enjoy the here and now so I Googled the question: “Why is it so hard to live in the present?” and came across the site by Angela. Angela prescribes the vegan life on her blog, but she also deals with her struggle with anxiety which she attributes to worrying about the future.

She found ten steps on her favourite blog, Zen Habits, which help her live in the present. The first one seems simple and it is, but so many of us (me included) do not take the time to do it deeply. It is breathe. Angela says that breathing fully and deeply does not come naturally to her, but in moments of anxiety when she remembers to take at least three deep breaths it helps calm her. Calm is good—if you are going to enjoy the present, doing it calmly (serenely, peacefully, tranquilly) sounds like a lovely way to exist.

Becoming a minimalist was also one of the ways she approached living in the present, but it is not a preferred method for me. I agree that unneeded possessions clutter our life, but material things can be a comfort, so I will eschew this suggestion for the time being.

Smile. I try to do this a lot. It makes me feel good when I am smiled at—so I try to do the same—and the very act of smiling makes you feel better. It is weird but it works.

Forgive the past. We have all been through crappy stuff—I have come to the realization that we all have challenges. Angela says that sometimes she catches herself thinking about something as if it is happening to her now because memories are so vivid and real, but by forgiving them, you can move past it and live in the present. This has got tobe the hardest of all ten in my opinion, but if achieved one of the best.

The other five that she found in her research to combat living in the past, or having anxiety about the future are: dream big, but work hard TODAY; do one thing at a time; do less by adding space between your tasks; use cleaning as meditation; and spread the love—do something nice for someone else. Cleaning as meditation gives me pause. But she says that “cleaning can be a form of mindfulness…and rituals are often calming.” So the next time I dust or vacuum or do the dishes I will think of them as rituals and not madly rush through them. (Yeah, right!)

My favourite go-to for quotes is the ever eloquent Unknown who has just the perfect piece of wisdom to end this column: “If you worry about what might be, and wonder might have been, you will ignore what IS.” So these last few days of my favourite month, I will enjoy what is.

Published in: on October 23, 2013 at 3:49 pm  Comments (27)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

In Between

Tea Time

Tea Time (Photo credit: Maia C)

This is my newspaper column for the week:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom.” ~ Victor Frankl

It is in that space, the one between something happening to us and taking action that we live and breathe and make choices. And it is those choices that form our lives. Yes, I am getting a bit philosophical here, or pseudo-philosophical as the only letters behind my name declare me as someone who is supposed to have read all of Shakespeare’s plays (hard to take part in a comparative studies class of Shakespeare if you have not read all of his works ~ I learned this the hard way). I am also supposed to be able to take a theory and turn it into something practical–and, oh yeah, back in the day, I could dolly a mean television camera.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. While we are trying to make the hard choices, the right choices, and live our life the best way we know how—a little respite from all the serious stuff is sorely needed. Today, while reading some posts from my blog friends (no they are not my imaginary friends—there are living breathing people I have just not met in person) I came across a list of “Ten Things That Might Improve Your Day” by a Scottish woman {tearoomdelights} who writes primarily about tea, but also about life.  Curious? Well, I am going to satisfy that curiosity right now. She had an explanatory paragraph to elucidate each of her thoughts, but I will take her headings and provide you with a few of my own scattered notions.

Ten Things That Might Improve Your Day:

1. a nice hot beverage—of course her first choice was tea, but I am a fan of hot chocolate when I need my day improved.

2. a fresh pair of socks – now I have to share a few of her thoughts on this one as I thought they were first, unusual; and second, ingenious. She says that putting on a new pair of socks halfway through the day will refresh you, and if you do not have another pair of clean socks, then take off the ones you are wearing, shake them out, and put them back on.

3. a small nap – we have all read that successful people take 20 minute naps in the afternoon. Sounds like a good excuse to me.

 4. a wee read – told you she was Scottish. This one appealed to me in particular. A wee read can take you out of this world into another one for a few moments—a good way to improve you day.

5. a bit of fresh air – we all know this one, but how many of us embark on a little journey outside for some bird song and a little breeze?

6. a hot water bottle – perhaps this can be used in Scotland year round—but this would be the ticket here for three-quarters of the year. Soothing.

7. a bit of comedy – there is a reason I am addicted to some sitcoms. Some are clever, slice of life, and need I say it—funny.

8. a moment of peace—this one is self-explanatory and oh so necessary.

9. a thoughtful gesture – think of someone besides yourself and make them happy; improve their day (okay this was really her thought—but it needed no tweaking).

And finally, one I find a little abstract but her reasoning behind it is solid:

10. A blob of sun cream or to Canadianize it: sunscreen. She says that putting on sun cream makes her feel like she is on vacation even when she is not. Can’t argue with that for improving my state of mind.

My number 11 would be pumpkins—I just love them—they seem friendly, and make me happy. I do not know why. They just do. I bought a magazine yesterday that had pumpkins and squash and all manner of autumn things on the cover—taking me on a trip to my favourite season while we are still enmeshed in summer. I am not wishing the summer away though—there are still lots of things to enjoy in the month of August, like the harvest of ripe tomatoes in our little backyard garden plot; being able to just leave the house without sweaters and hats and coats and boots and mittens; outdoor picnics; and walking barefoot in the sand ~ just to name a few. Happy August—take a few minutes to enjoy it!

What would your number 11 be?

Bliss is Equal Parts Joy and Woe

A page from scan of book containing a series o...

Songs of Innocence and Experience by poet and painter, William Blake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read many blogs and believe that I am the wiser for it. The other day I ran across a blog called Joy and Woe, and found the explanation for the title intriguing. Jeni  of Joy and Woe is a fellow Canadian, and she said she chose the title for her blog from William Blake’s poem “Augeries of Innocence.” Here is an excerpt from the poem that includes her blog’s moniker:

All is right it should be so:
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.

I love the simple yet sage wisdom in those words. Once we accept that we are destined for both joy and woe, and that in equal parts they are what make the world go round, then we can make our peace with the ways of life.

Is life fair? A tiresome question. Sometimes it is too fair, sometimes not fair enough—admit it, you have been on both ends of the spectrum of fairness. Life is not objective, impartial, non-discriminatory or fair. But sometimes it is.

Joy and Woe: they sum up life quite nicely. Coming to an understanding of these two elements gives me some bliss.

Do you find that life is made up of joy and woe—would we know bliss if we did not have a little woe in order to measure joy?

Published in: on February 24, 2013 at 11:11 am  Comments (59)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,


My bliss

My big bliss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Big dreams create the magic that stir (wo)men’s souls to greatness.” – Bill McCartney

It seems to me I have talked ad nauseam about capturing the moments of bliss—those little moments when we realize that life has something to offer, but on a rather limited basis. Are we too complacent in our misery, in our lack of hope for anything more than moments? Of course we should enjoy these moments, but I ask you ~ what is wrong with BIG BLISS? BIG DREAMS? HAVING IT ALL?

Are we so ensnared in the philosophy that we have to snatch those moments of bliss, that we are ignoring the bigger picture? Maybe we do not try hard enough to capture a life filled with bliss. Hours of bliss, not moments. Days, weeks, months, years of bliss. Should that not be our goal?

Rotten Apple

Rotten Apple (Photo credit: Edgars Jekabsons)

I understand that life hands us a lot of rotten apples, and you cannot make apple sauce out of rotten apples, you have to throw them out. Maybe we should just throw out the rotten apples in our life and bite into a nice crispy unblemished one.

In this my proclaimed year of finding my bliss, I want to find my big bliss and not be happy with a few dregs of joy, shots of happiness, or teaspoons of laughter. I want a whole barrel of joy, more than a 26-er of happiness, and a belly full of laughs.

I am missing something here not shooting for the moon. Why can’t my big dreams come true? (And to be honest some have.) Why can’t I have it all, or at least most of it?  Today I am going don my Nikes and “do it”. They are actually pink and silver Champions, but you know what I mean.

From the words to the song “Have It All” by Jeerem Kay, and the soundtrack to the television show, Scrubs, this is my new mantra:

“Maybe it’s too soon to be sure but I really do believe that someday we’re gonna have it all.”

Are you ready for some big bliss? Admit it, some of your big dreams have come true, but you have forgotten them in all the turmoil of everyday problems.

Yesterday I told you my sob story—but today I will tell you some of my big blisses: I went to university and loved every moment of it; I married the boy I had a crush on in high school and it seems to have lasted—this year we celebrate 31 years;  I have worked for radio, newspapers, and magazines and I am going to get a book published by hook or by crook; I owned a bookstore; I had two (very) premature sons who have grown into healthy big guys; I have discovered blogging and a wonder community of bloggers who have become my friends; I belong to a Writers’ Group which has been running for 15 years; I have great friends who I walk with; talk with; write with; lunch with; and just visit. I count my sister as my best friend, and my brothers as my closest allies–something not all people can claim. And .…I am not done yet.

What big dreams of yours have come true that led you to some big bliss?

House of Joy

House of Joy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm  Comments (49)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

P ~ Is for Pants (as in Ms. Bossy-Pants)

Scrooge stars alongside his grandnephews on Du...

Scrooge stars alongside his grandnephews on DuckTales. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, I know I am stretching this alphabet thing a little here using P for Pants when the real title is Ms. Bossy- Pants–but be kind to me–I have brain cells dying as we speak:

Do you ever buy a book thinking that it is the one that will solve all your life problems? That once you read it, you will have all the knowledge you need to get your ducks in a row? Right now my ducks are scattered hither and thither, and no amount of bribing, cajoling, or organizational tips have enticed them into a nice neat row. I am thinking that Huey, Dewey and Louie have minds of their own and getting in line or standing in a row is not something they are ready to be charmed into.

Many times I will justify buying a book because I think I will write about the topic it is so convincingly putting forth. Sometimes I make a mistake and the book does not deserve space in my bookshelf. But we all have to live with bad choices.  Case in point: a book I picked up about a year ago said in its blurb that it would find order in my life. It lured me in hook, line and sinker.  Its cover was orange (my favourite fall colour), the font of the title alluring, and its promise to shed my life of disorder, turmoil, mayhem and madness (okay I am exaggerating slightly here) was more than I could bear. I just had to have this book.

But, I do not like the book—it is just a bit too bossy. And while a lot of what it says is right, I don’t care. I do not want to follow its dictates, as smart and practical as they are. And that is what I think is wrong with the book. It has no sense of humour. If I am going to be convinced to be more organized and to give up my most prized possessions while doing it, I need to do it with a smile on my face, and not by taking my marching orders from someone who knows better. If I am going to listen to someone I want them to convince me that it is my idea to clean out my closet, or throw away those clothes from high school, or give up my collection of Mad magazines. I do not want them to tell me.


Bossy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The magic bullet here is the way that one goes about being bossy. You can be bossy without really being bossy and get your point across. The book (that I am not naming on purpose as I do not want the author and her “people” to find me and make me dust and vacuüm as punishment for not appreciating their book) is just too sensible. Even when it is trying to give you advice on enjoying life—it demands that you enjoy life rather than suggesting it—like it is our duty and obligation to enjoy life, and not a pleasure.

Overall, the book is not a pleasure to read. It reads like a textbook in a subject you had to take at school, rather than something you elected to take. The author did not come across as friendly, but authoritative. Even messages that were not a difficult pill to take, were left wanting as they seemed joyless.

Books that want you to change your behaviour in some way need to be friendly. The author needs to have a rapport with the reader, and tell them that they understand the problem, or that they had the problem too, but found a solution. And the most important thing is to not make your readers feel stupid. This book makes you feel stupid—like you should be ashamed of the fact that you kept artifacts from the lovely times in your life as memories. Purging your life of all things that memories are made of is not a message I take to easily.

I guess I am disappointed that I spent hard-earned cash on something that was not at all what I thought it was going to be. The philosophy on the front cover is one I want to embrace (loosely it touts “less is more”) but not the way the author wants me to embrace it.

Soft sell works best on me, and this book was no soft sell. It was a “my way or the highway” kind of book. So to the highway this book will go.

(And no, there is no prize for the person who finds the most clichés in this blog. Actually there is–you can have my book.)

I'm Bossy

I’m Bossy (Photo credit: F.Lady)

Published in: on September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm  Comments (35)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes I’ve Just Got Nothing

Cover of "The Simple Living Guide: A Sour...

Cover via Amazon

I write a weekly column in the Kingsville Reporter and sometimes something to write about evades me so I turn to chance–here is the result:

Order. That is the title of a topic in a book I have just opened at random hoping to find a subject to write about. Sometimes I just have nothing to say, which makes it difficult when you are entrusted with turning out a weekly column. Correction: I have lots to say, but do you really want to hear about my frustration at trying to get the thick (and I mean THICK) layer of fuzz off a corduroy shirt I mistakenly washed with a fuzzy blanket? No? I didn’t think so. So I am trying a method people seem to use when searching for an answer—I am employing chance.

Many people look to the Bible for answers, and open it randomly hoping for a word or two of wisdom to guide their life, but I have found it does not always work for me. I usually happen on some passage about unhappy people wandering in the wilderness looking for answers and not finding them for forty some years. You will understand why I am looking elsewhere today for a bit quicker solution, as my deadline looms large.

The random solution seems to be the subject of Order. At least according to pages 156 to 157 in Janet Luhrs’ book, “The Simple Living Guide”.  Luhrs is very stuck on simple living, though one would think living simply would not need a 444 page tome in which to deliver the goods. Anyway, let us look at what she says about Order. Apparently it is “the hallmark of the simple life.” Luhrs says that life is much easier “when you can find what you are looking for”. Sure, but how interesting is that?

She also suggests that to simplify our lives we should go through our houses and “keep only those things that (we) love and give (us) a sense of pleasure.” She asks why we need a “tabletop of artifacts and what-nots jammed on there like crowds at a Christmas sale”, and puts forth the theory that less is better. My question to Ms. Luhrs is this—what if those artifacts and what-nots are the things we love and that give us a sense of pleasure? I can see that Luhrs is going to get nowhere with me and her sense of order. Turning the page, I see the title “Joy”—maybe this is something I can get behind.

Luhrs says that “joy is what you make it”, and that by finding joy in mundane tasks, we have found at least one of the secrets to a good life. Now, I must say that I like this drop of philosophy and will keep it in mind when I try to remove the thick blanket of fuzz from the above mentioned corduroy shirt (which if it were mine I might have thrown away, but it seems it is someone’s favourite shirt in this house.)

Okay, now back to Joy.  According to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’ (whom I am quoting only because he has such an interesting name): “Joy gives us wings. In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and find our sphere of influence.” I don’t know about you, but if I can gain a keener intellect, a less cloudy understanding of life, and more vital strength just by being joyful, I will give it a whirl.  As for my “sphere of influence”—well, I will just have to keep looking for it.

Okay, turning to the next page, I find not what I am looking for, but the thing that I think is looking for me. Randomness does have its painful lessons as the next title is Patience– something I am sorely lacking.  Okay, is someone trying to send me a message here? Methinks Luhrs is just a bit preachy—but I guess we are all not in the choir.   I do like the next insight though. Luhrs says that “a little quiet waiting is good for the soul” and that in the end patience pays off by giving people a life that is “more serene and fulfilling”. I could use a scoop of serene with a dollop of fulfilling. Could I have that with a little ice cream and hot fudge sauce?

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,