Thursday, January 26, 2017

Gratitude Gathering

My pal Jo-Ann Carson - author of smart, sexy suspense with a touch of magic - came up with the perfectly fabulous idea to have a Gratitude Gathering – a group of bloggers coming together and share what gratitude means to them and hopefully spread a little positive perspective during these dark and dreary days of winter and while the world feels like a topsy-turvy place. Jo-Ann's concept: 'Bloggers write a post on Gratitude on their own blog, 1-3 things you feel grateful for this month.'

Recognising what you are grateful for can be done at any time - no matter what the season and no matter what is going on in the world. Acknowledging gratitude for what we have and putting a perspective on what we think we don’t have can only lead to happier peace-filled days – sharing what we are grateful for can only spread like a dandelion’s seeds and foster thankful goodwill in others.

On the day I got Jo-Ann’s invite to participate in her Gratitude Gathering, I wasn’t exactly having the best day - never mind the best week. True, we all have bad days – they are inevitable and we are allowed to have them. But on that day where I felt gross, my hair was awful, I hated my wardrobe, I was three days away from payday and there was nothing ‘good’ to eat in the fridge (translation – junk food), the people on the bus were driving me crazy and I was clumsier and klutzier than ever, I scoffed at first at her invite.

How the heck was I supposed to find GRATITUDE given the day, never mind week, I was having? I thought with a snarl.


But her invitation was enough to stop me in my tracks and have me giving myself a whoop upside the head. I always try to practice – note the word PRACTICE – being positive and keep an upbeat outlook on things, but at the end of the day we are human and emotions and truly catastrophically life-altering events are bound to throw our gratitude out the window. It’s important to take stock of what we do have and be thankful – even for the little things.

Here are a few of the things that were bringing me down that I was able to turn around and therefore appreciate:

1. The bus: I’m lucky to be even able to RIDE a bus. It means I have somewhere to go, somewhere to leave, and the money to even do so in the first place. And given I mostly use the bus for going to and from work – WHOAH! That means I have a job! And a paycheque! Being squished on a stinky hot bus can mean so many things if you look at it from a different angle (plus I’m saving money from parking and gas – the list keeps on going!). I’m pretty lucky that I am able to, and have the means to, never mind reason, to ride the bus. Gratitude #1 – check.

2. Feel gross/bad hair/hating wardrobe: I lumped all these together as I realized it was a matter of personal opinion and my own grey mood overshadowing all I should be grateful fo. You ever have days where you are having the WORST HAIR DAY EVER and someone compliments your hair? You’re not having the worse hair day ever – it’s all in your head (not just on top!) I’m fortunate to even have my good health so that I can actually FEEL those gross days – and it only be so because I’m having an ‘off’ day and not because I’m sick or anything. I have clothes on my bad – I’m not without. Truly. I have shampoo AND hair products AND the means to get it cut (never mind even HAVING hair on my head). All those things – feeling gross, bad hair, hating wardrobe – are just insignificant stuff on the surface that can all be remedied with a bath and a good long look in the mirror and in my closets. I have a lot to be thankful for. Gratitude #2 – check.

3. No ‘good’ food in the fridge: well aside from the obvious that I am lucky to even have anything in the fridge at all, maybe remembering to eat the healthy ABUNDANCE of food I do ACTUALLY have would help fend off those days where I feel gross and the clothes I DO have don’t fit right. I am grateful for the food I DO have in my seemingly empty fridge - translation: the fridge isn't really empty. Gratitude #3 - check.

Gratitude check = Reality check = perspective check: Jo-Ann’s invite came at the right time. It was a much-needed exercise to sit down and remember that I truly DO have so much to be grateful for. I am healthy, safe and sound, and loved. I have friends who invite me to share such an exercise with, along with having the ability and freedom to write what I want, when I want. I’ve got it pretty good – those ‘bad’ days are nothing.

Gratitude # 4 – check.

Be sure to check out what other author's are grateful for at Jo-Ann's site -

Sunday, January 22, 2017

In My Own Backyard

25 years ago my husband and I bravely ventured out from Richmond BC to his uncle’s newly-acquired cabin. 50 miles in the bush of Golden, BC, the ‘hunter’s cabin’ was aptly nicknamed ‘The Ozone' as it was so far out and away from life as we knew it. The only running water we had was from a hand well pump in the kitchen sink as well as a big one outside. We are not hunters but were keen for an adventure and with only a dog-eared, crease-worn aerial map typically used for logging as a guide, getting there as an adventure in itself. My husband’s uncle and aunt had regaled us with stories of the wildlife in the area so I was (naively) excited at the prospect of seeing animals so different from home.

We found the beyond-rustic cabin and once we side-stepped the fresh grizzly scat and removed the bear-mat from the front door we settled in for a nail-biting stay. A bear mat is a piece of plywood riddled with up-turned nails to deter the most toughest of bears from entering the cabin for a snack. Uh oh. We were in remote back country, the furthest out I had ever been, I was immediately aware of ‘whose’ territory we were in. We kept ourselves busy by mowing over-grown grass (as a favour), and chopping wood. I suspect we were given these tasks to keep us from worrying about the resident grizzly and the wolves that would later circle the cabin as we slept up in the ‘watch’ (yes, I actually saw wolves).

Serene nature walks in the woods nor sunbathing with headphones were NOT on the agenda - mosquitoes weren’t the only thing that could sneak up on you – we had to keep our wits about us. But despite my grizzly-bear-frazzled-nerves I found great joy in watching the numerous wild birds not typically found along Coastal BC where we were from.

I grew up in the City of Richmond, BC surrounded by farms, bogs, marshes and ocean. Richmond is actually on Lulu Island and ‘back in the day’ the dyke-surrounded island was a huge farming community. If you go to the outer-est outskirts of the city and look between the shopping malls, you will see hints of farm-life the island was once known for.

Local birds such as Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese, herons, cranes and Stellar’s Jays, along with the wild pheasants that roamed the fields near my house, were what piqued my amateur bird-watching ways when I was a kid. Those feathered friends comprised the extent of my wildlife experience.

So years later when I found myself 50 miles in the bush worrying about grizzlies and wolves, the last thing I expected to find – yet much, MUCH to my delight – were hummingbirds.

Up at 'The Ozone' the rich and pure air and soil makes everything bigger - the chipmunks, the wild-growing rhubarb we found in the old horse corral and especially the bugs! But I soon realized that what I thought were huge flies overheard were, in fact, hummingbirds. I couldn’t believe my luck! To this city girl hummingbirds were a mystical, rarely-seen magical creature! I was hypnotized by how they buzzed, twittered, dove and spun all day long. We didn’t have a hummingbird feeder to attract them - all the summer wildflowers were what kept them busy.

I knew our stay at the old cabin would be forever memorable, but it would be the hummingbirds who would always be at the forefront of my memories.

Fast forward a few years and we have moved from Richmond to Victoria, BC and have expanded our world with two little boys to keep us busy. The hummingbirds I once saw were not forgotten but I had more important things to worry about – my own two hungry little birdies. I still considered the tiny birds rare and knew I would only ever seen them again at some magical place like 'The Ozone.'

One day right around Christmas I was cuddling my then-7-month old in the rocking chair next to our patio door. We had a little garden with shrubs and trees in patio-size pots and we had decorated some of the smaller trees with outdoor lights. It had snowed so even in the day when the lights were off our little yard was bright with the reflection of the snow. Just as I felt the weight of slumber overtake my little baby boy, and I started to nod off myself, a movement just outside caught my attention and I was instantly awake.

Because there, investigating a bright red Christmas light bulb on the tree just outside the patio door, was a hummingbird. His red throat shimmered and rippled with every movement as he tried to ‘drink’ from the bulb.

I couldn’t breathe – I dared not move (despite the sleeping baby in my arms). WE ACTUALLY HAVE HUMMINGBIRDS IN VICTORIA? I wanted to scream – but again, the baby.

WOW! The elusive little birdie – or so I had thought was elusive – was right there, in my own backyard. I wasn’t anywhere remote – we had no grizzlies or moose. The wildlife we had were deer and cougar commonly seen near my older son’s elementary school, despite us being 5 – 10 minutes away from huge shopping malls and highways. We had Mallard Ducks, Bald Eagles, and cranes - and of course Canadian Geese.

But what was the little bird doing here? Was I seeing things? Was motherhood exhaustion getting the better of me?

Or had they literally been in my backyard all this time but I just didn’t know it?

Although I was extremely intrigued by the sighting, I didn’t have time to worry about the little dears. But as I saw them more and more over the years, and when time would permit, I’d occasionally do a bit of research about them. Although typically a migrating bird, their numbers have increased along the West Coast, especially on Vancouver Island, over the the last fifteen years – which was right about the time I was rocking my youngest son to sleep when I first saw one on the Coast. As for all those years ago in the interior? Well I suspect we happened to be in the right place at the right time – in their migratory path with all the summer wildflowers in bloom and with no grizzlies chasing them (although I think they are too fast for a grizzly).

Fast FAST forward to now. My kids are older and the amount of time at my disposal to notice things like hummingbirds has changed. Although I’m still busy working full-time while trying to referee/clean/maintain my house, I DO have time to sit at my kitchen table and write – and watch the hummingbirds. Years ago we hung a hummingbird feeder (a gift from my youngest ‘rocking chair son’) just outside the kitchen window beside where I write. The little birdies' numbers have grown and although they can be a distraction from my writing, they are a perfect one, at that. They are much tamer than the ones I saw in the interior years ago – they swoop and hover as I re-hang their freshly filled feeder. I have come to know their chatter and chirps of defense and warning as they wait then dive in before I barely step away. I can hear them as I sit at the kitchen table and when I'm washing dishes - they are never too far away.

The once-thought elusive little bird who is for now, as it seems, a permanent fixture in my life have been here for good reason - they make me slow down and stop even if only for the few seconds they hover at the feeder. And now, thanks (but not THANKS) to global warming and who-knows-what-else, it seems as though they are here to stay - and I didn't have to go somewhere remote to see them.

I know our mild weather makes their year-round existence easier - winters are hard up in the backwoods of Golden BC - and the abundance of flowers Victorians are proud to grow makes where I live more attractive to them. It's a perfect place for a hummingbird, I'd say, and even more perfect that they are right in my own backyard.

Research is always being done on the busy little birds - to find out more about them visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation here and as well at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory - visit here.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Protect Your Passion

Ah yes, here we are, 2017 – a bright, and shiny new year. For many folks this means reflecting on the past year and making resolutions for the year ahead. Dreams, goals and vows are made by many to better themselves. We promise ourselves to either loose one thing or gain another. We do away with the old and embrace the new. We’re determined to make this ‘the best year ever’ and for some it means improving our inner AND outer selves often with the plan of trying something new – a hobby, sport or job. OR, if it’s not starting something new, it may be to improve on what we started last year.

Some of us already understand the concept of setting and keeping a routine. The three-weeks-to-make-or-break-a-habit rule gets put in place and by the end of January we want to shout LOOK AT US GO! We are sticking with what we started and are enjoying ourselves. We’re on our way! We’re excited, positive, passionate and eager to move forward and keep progressing.

But how do we protect what we started from going off the rails throughout the year? What can knock us down and threaten that passion that got us started in the first place?

The doubters, the belittlers, the naysayers - those who threaten to bring us down.

They might not be spewing negativity directly AT you but they generally generate negativity into the air like a bad fart (however any medical professional will say that farting IS healthy – I’m just stating a fact, not trying to be gross). Those naysayers are the ones who make you feel ‘less-than,’ insignificant, unimportant, not good enough, weak...the list goes on.

And while those naysayers threatening to crush your passion stand by and so readily fart at will, there you are breathing it all in. And by hanging around them, you are letting their negativity crush your passion – and your sense of smell.

Do you continue to hang around them, letting their negativity permeate through your skin and ruin your good time? You and only you can keep them at bay – at a distance. You and only you are responsible for your happiness and fostering and maintaining your passion. No one else.
And that goes the same for self-doubt.

Oh that icky self-doubt (it’s almost worse than those naysayer’s bad farts). We all have a certain amount of self-doubt in us. But the key, as in everything, is learning how to stay strong and not let that self-doubt crush us – and to not let those negative farters feed our internal negativity. If you’re passionate enough about something your inner-strength you didn’t realize you had will see you through that self-doubt. A little bit of doubt is natural, but beating it sometimes doesn’t come so naturally. Determination and remembering your passion will help you kick that self-doubt where it counts. It takes practice to ignore the negativity – inside and out – that can threaten what you love, but if you want it bad enough, you’ll do it.

So when you feel yourself cracking under the weight of that negativity – that bad smell – and your passion is at risk ask yourself, “How badly do I want it?” Reminding yourself of the answer – “I want it bad” – will make you impervious to those negative, smelly ways. Surround yourself with positivity. Distance yourself from those who don’t share your bright outlook. Protect your passion. Negativity is like a bad fart – it can hang in the air for a bit, and sure the smell goes away eventually, but it sure isn’t forgotten, boy oh boy.

I had a floundering year where I ALMOST let – and in some cases, completely let – external forces weaken my reserve and crush my passions. Those external forces seeped into my internal resolve. I struggled to maintain the momentum on some things I started, and in other things I stopped completely. I started to blame every situation and/or person taking away my drive, will and determination from things I loved and wanted to do. But when things didn’t change and went from bad to worse, I soon realized I only had myself to blame for allowing outside factors threaten my plans, resolve, or well-being. I knew I had to make a change and learn from the past years’ set-backs.

True, sometimes things are unavoidable. But perspective is key and we have to not be so hard on ourselves. Taking FULL responsibility for everything happening to oneself can be a heavy, spirit-crushing burden in itself. It’s okay to say “Okay, this and that happened beyond my control, so what can I learn from it all to make me better and stronger?” Learning from those moments will only build up a stronger defense against those naysayers (inside and out) and will only make protecting our passions in the future, easier (plus a good gas-mask always helps).

So this year, as a result of icky things learned (and smelled) from last year, I came up with my own little motto – Protect Your Passion. Even as I write this, little flecks of self-doubt threaten to creep in. What if I fail? What if I’m weak and I let THEM, and ME, win? What if writing this is silly? What if my motto is dumb? What if, what if, what if....? There will always be self-doubt - the trick is to knowing how to work past it.

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword - true that. But the heart trumps all. Writing this was only the first step in committing myself to what I want to achieve and protecting my passion. An icky year taught me that if I’m truly passionate about something – if it’s what I want deep down in my heart - I will do what it takes to protect what I love against the naysayers and against my own self-doubt. I know I will only have myself to blame for not following through. I’m determined to listen to my heart and protect what it loves. Sure there will be setbacks, but I will have only myself to blame for letting anything, or anyone, get in the way of what I want to achieve. I have lessons-learned and determination to help see me through.

Protect your passion and you will go farther than you ever imagined.

I can’t wait to see what the new year brings.