old dog // new tricks

Our family pet is a 15-year-old Bichon Shih Tzu named Rocky. He was my first baby, really. I brought him home from the pet store cradled in my arms. He thought he was the alpha dog, and I flipped him on his back and told him in the most stern voice I could muster, “no,” to assert my dominance.

Not long after we got Rocky my husband went out of town on a business trip. Rocky whimpered and cried all night long from the confines of his small kennel, which we had been told was the safest and most comfortable place for a small dog. I wasn’t getting any sleep with the way he was carrying on, so I made the decision to bring him into bed with me and he immediately stopped. And Rocky’s been our bed mate ever since, officially a member of our pack. And he and I have been the best of friends ever since.

It has been tough to watch Rocky’s health deteriorate as he advances in years. He is no longer the playful puppy he once was. He is moving much slower these days. His eyesight is failing. We’re pretty sure he has arthritis in his hind legs and hips. He chatters his teeth involuntarily, and at times uncontrollably. And there’s no refuting that he has the absolute worst doggie breath on the planet. 

Despite his handsome, youthful appearance, Rocky is 105 years old, and while I really don’t like to admit it, he has officially become an old dog.

He sleeps most of the time, probably close to 22 hours a day. He no longer jumps on or off our bed, and insists on being carried down the stairs in our two-storey home. He’s recently become a little more skittish, tentative, and even ornery on occasion. He doesn’t hesitate to let us know when he needs help with his relentless barking (normally he’s a very quiet dog), or when he doesn’t like something, such as the way he’s being touched or carried, by letting out a high-pitched yelp.

But here’s what hasn’t changed with Rocky: he’s still the same loving and incredibly loyal little pooch he’s always been. He still spends countless hours curled up in my lap or sitting next to me. He still follows me all around the house. He forgives without question or hesitation, and gives love unconditionally, without any expectation of anything in return, save for maybe the chewy chicken Milkbones he loves so much that he gets as a reward for going outside. (I believe Rocky has the system figured out perfectly, as he sometimes goes outside not because he has “business” to do, but because he knows he’ll get a bone when he comes back in.)

Ultimately, this little dog lives and loves with all his heart.

Unfortunately, neither pets nor people are promised forever in the physical bodies we’re given. Sometimes as we age our bodies fail us. And sometimes, through the miracles of modern medicine, our failing bodies can be repaired.

But we’re never given any guarantees.

Rocky was my first real pet and the first living creature I had sole responsibility for taking care of. And I can’t even begin to explain the depth of what this old dog has taught me about the meaning of life and love. Nothing in life is permanent, including life itself. And as I reflect on some recent family events highlighted against the changes I’ve seen in my old dog, I feel called to share some of my realizations: 

  • Be grateful for the time you have; regardless of what it looks like and however long it may be.
  • We all have the choice to live everyday as if it were our last. Make every moment count, because how we show up for ourselves and each other truly matters, and you simply mustn’t take your time on this earth for granted.
  • Always be yourself and speak your truth. Don’t change or temper your personality to suit others. Express your needs honestly and directly.
  • Kindness and compassion are potent antidotes to the prevalence of hatred and fear. The added bonus is that they’re both renewable resources, so you can go ahead and apply them generously in everything you do.
  • Learn to keep your heart open to the energy of love, rising above petty jealousy and anger. 
  • Love is powerful. Take every opportunity to show (and tell) the people you care about how important they are to you.
  • Live with a soft, open heart, everyday, no matter what circumstances come your way. Herein lies both the greatest test and the true meaning of life.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I’d say the lessons I’m learning from my old dog are more important. Clearly, Rocky is so much more to me than merely a family pet or an old dog. He’s an important member of our family, my constant companion, and a very wise soul who most certainly came hère to teach me a few tricks about life, and not the other way around.

xo

Full Circle

At the risk of sounding cliché, I have no idea what happened to the summer of 2017. It seems like it was just yesterday my kids had just finished school. It literally feels like yesterday was July 1, and my kids were both excited to participate in our local Canada Day parade. Then I blinked, and there must have been a disruption in the space-time continuum, because this morning we were dropping the kids off at school again for Grade 6 and Grade 4.

Time flies when you’re having fun? Maybe so. But my perception around the passage of time certainly seems to have accelerated along with my increasing age. At first glance, making sense out of where the heck the time went was tough for me to swallow.

But as I took some time to reflect on the summer of 2017, I can see how our precious time together wasn’t wasted.

As a family, we went to the lake, rode our bikes and ate ice cream, and walked in the river valley as we watched the goats munch on grass. We took a weekend trip down to Calgary and the Rocky Mountains. We basked in the glow of a crystalline mountain lake on a sunny summer day as we marveled at the beauty that surrounded us.

We went to the movies, and I ran outdoor yoga classes one night per week.

While my husband and son traveled to Philadelphia for a hockey tournament, my daughter and I spent some quality one-on-one time together, shopping for back to school clothes, baking, and making homemade popsicles from Kool-Aid and Jell-o, just like the ones my grandma used to make when I was a kid. My son and I went to see the Emoji movie the night my husband took my daughter to the Bruno Mars concert.

In the space between kids’ activities, play dates, swimming lessons, camps, and their certain chronic boredom, I continued the work of ‘working on myself’. And when I dig a little deeper into the events of this past summer, I can detect some definite themes around challenges, lessons, and growth—both for myself and the members of my family.

One evening per week in July, I spent time in a circle of women, digging deeper into the relationship I have with my body. Through journaling, meditation, and sisterhood, I unearthed a whole bunch of unexpected sticky spots I was previously unaware of. Through these realizations, I am working to heal with the intention of being able to stand, comfortably and confidently in my own skin.

I completed 40 consecutive days of meditation practice, with the intention of softening the walls I’ve built around my heart, and encouraging myself to be more open and receptive to the love that already exists in my world.

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I focused on deepening the awareness around the reasons for my own discomfort, and I’d like to think I have made strides in learning how to be present with these less than pleasant feelings.

discomfort

And to top everything off, we started a fairly major bathroom renovation in August that will likely leave our master ensuite unusable until sometime in October. If you want to talk about feeling discomfort, there’s probably no better way of making myself uncomfortable than to throw my family into a state of upheaval by eliminating a bathroom.

This work has been challenging and difficult in every possible way, but I know with every part of me it is also absolutely essential to my continued evolution and the metamorphosis I forecasted and committed to for myself in 2017.

Another notable highlight of the summer was celebrating my 18th wedding anniversary with my husband. We had a beautiful dinner at the Hardware Grill, and on a whim decided to go to a movie at the VIP theatre in southwest Edmonton afterward. For those who aren’t familiar, the VIP theatre is 18 plus (because they serve alcohol to you in your seat), and offers a deluxe movie-going experience with reclining leather seats that feature personal drink holders and adjustable side tray tables.

There are separate washrooms for the VIP theatre goers, and each bathroom stall features quotes etched into the glass door. The quote that caught my eye was from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, and the message emblazoned into the smoky glass read:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ironic? Just a little.

In as much time as it took my brain to register the meaning of the words, my world shifted a little. In that instant, I replayed the events of the night I had just shared with my husband: the amazing meal—the taste and lightness of my sea bass contrasted with the decadence of the truffle oil potato crepe, the smoothness of the wine, the conversation (the laughter and the tears), and the cute older couple dining across the restaurant whom we said we be us in another 35 or 40 years time.

In another moment, I relived our summer and the past 18 years of marriage and our life together—all the adventures and the highs and lows of raising our two children. The time before we were married. My teenage years, youth, and childhood flashed before me, flooding me with a lifetime of memories.

Maybe it’s not exactly what Ferris Beuller had in mind, but I agree that sometimes life can seem to move very fast. That’s why it’s so important to me to pause—to notice and appreciate—and to stand in the fullness of my life.

Summer 2017 may have, indeed, gone by quickly, but I have no doubt it served a very important  purpose. I look back over the past two months with a heart full of gratitude and appreciation for the challenges, the growth, and the memories, and for bringing me back around to what’s important in this life.

I can see so very clearly how, with every breath we take, it always comes back to love.

Full circle.

beuller

 

Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

Remembering: A Love Letter to Ko Olina

I’ve been blessed to visit Ko Olina on the island of Oahu with my family a number of times, although there is some debate among us as to whether this year was our fifth or sixth trip. Regardless, our series of tropical vacations to this idyllic Polynesian paradise have not only offered me considerable time for relaxation and introspection, but also given me so much for which to be grateful. And you may be surprised to learn my gratitude extends well beyond the predictability of the precious memories I’ve created with my family.

Still, saying goodbye this time is a touch bittersweet when I think of all the fun we’ve had together on Oahu. Visiting the Dole Plantation, North Shore, Pearl Harbour, a few too many trips Leonard’s Bakery, Waimea Valley, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, and countless hours of fun in the sun are definitely among the highlights.

Although it is difficult to capture in words the depth of what Ko Olina means to me, it’s nonetheless important that I try to do so because this place of joy has effectively changed me. It is the birthplace of my spiritual awakening, and I can honestly say I don’t think I would be where I am today without having experienced the elixir of its inexplicable charm and intoxicating beauty.

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I’m not too sure exactly why it is or how it happened, but Ko Olina has woven some strange and powerful magic over me. Whether it’s the extreme relaxation it induces, the salty ocean air, being close to nature, the immersion in the Spirit of Aloha, or some combination of all of these, it’s nothing short of amazing how this place has opened my eyes to a world of possibility and led me to a deeper connection with my true self.

For anyone who may not be familiar (and even I had to look it up to be sure my understanding was correct), aloha is commonly used as both a greeting and a farewell throughout the Hawaiian islands. The word itself is difficult to translate, though, as it encompasses many different meanings ranging from love to a friendly attitude of acceptance toward all things. The definition of The Spirit of Aloha that really resonates for me is: To consciously manifest life joyously (or the joyful sharing of life energy) in the present.

It seems more synchronicity than coincidence to me that I’ve been working on being more conscious and aware, more joyful, and more focused on the present moment for each of the years we’ve been coming. As a result, I’ve softened in my natural state of being, yet I am more bold in my dreams and actions. My compassion for others has grown and my heart is more open.

Our trip in 2013 is particularly memorable, as it served as the punctuation mark (a semicolon) between leaving a job I had been in for 12 years and starting a new one. Then, by some further divine guidance during our trip in 2014, I began to hear my heart whispering that I needed to leave my corporate job if I wasn’t happy there. Not long after returning home I gave notice, and the time since has continued to be about listening and heeding my inner wisdom.

I’ve written before about the ensuing process, which has entailed digging deep to learn about myself, excavating limiting beliefs, and remembering the many enduring universal truths my soul always knew. Again, I owe Ko Olina a huge debt of gratitude for showing me the way forward and setting me on this path of self-discovery. At the very least, you could say she lulled me into a position of surrender, allowing my truth to bubble up to the surface and helping me find the courage to break free from my fears. It’s really incredible how, progressively along with each visit, this place of joy has amplified my intuitive voice and encouraged me to peel back the layers to reveal the more authentic version of myself.

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In her infinite wisdom, this year Ko Olina gently suggested that the big wide world is calling. With her blessing of loving reassurance, she signaled to me that the time has come for us to expand our horizons by changing up our Spring Break travel plans.

And with that I give thanks to this place of joy for the grace she has shown and all the many gifts she has bestowed upon me over the years. For it is here, right beside the vast blue Pacific, trade winds blowing and sun smiling down on me, that I found a magical place where my remembering and my light intersected.

heart

From this trip I am most grateful for:

  • Reading Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsh, as it helped me to remember the energetic nature of our world, the remarkable power of thought, the importance of gratitude, and while I do not consider myself religious, that I am free to engage in meaningful dialogue with my Creator whenever I choose.
  • Two weeks of morning meditation and moving toward the light. In these moments of silence and stillness, I remembered I am not my mind.
  • Among a slew of scantily clad strangers lounging poolside and playing in the ocean, I remembered I am not my body.
  • Amid the lush vegetation of the Waimea Valley, I remembered my spirit is most at home in nature.
  • New friends, the kindness of strangers, and all the other signs that helped me remember love will always find me if my heart is open.
  • The realization that, when I set aside labels and judgments, I am free to remember the truth of who I am.

I remember I am (So’ham = I am that):

Expanding awareness.
Infinite potential.
Pure love and light.

I am not the same person I was when I first visited Ko Olina, and for this I extend my heartfelt gratitude to her for helping me remember.

Aloha & Mahalo,
Andrea

“Each soul is a Master—though some do not remember their origins or their heritages. Yet each creates the situation and the circumstances for its own highest purpose and its own quickest remembering—in each moment called now.”
Neale Donald Walsh
Conversations with God

P.S. If you’re searching for your true self, I encourage you to get quiet so you can hear what your heart might tell you. You may even want to try the So’ham meditation technique. Instructions can be found in this article on the Yoga International website.

The Sweetest Things in Life

Much to my surprise and delight, the sweetest thing about this Halloween weekend for me wasn’t mindlessly consuming a grotesque amount of treat size chocolate bars and candy. This is only partially because I specifically bought chips so I didn’t end up devouring more than my share of chocolate while handing out treats to the ghouls and goblins that came to our door. Now, I have to admit a few of my kid’s treats may have somehow found their way into my belly, but that’s really not the point of this post.

Allow me to explain…

This past weekend was one of only two weekends in October that I didn’t have Yoga Teacher Training, so I was able to spend some much needed quality time with my family. It made me realize how much I’ve missed them during our time apart (absence really does make the heart grow fonder), as well as how enjoyable it can be when we’re together.

Here are a couple of the sweetest and most memorable moments from my Halloween weekend:

I got to go out on an actual adult date night with my husband for the first time in a VERY long while. We enjoyed a nice dinner (which was such a treat sans kids), and took in a movie. I cannot begin to explain how nice it is to do something so simple with the guy I love. Just him and I, hanging out and enjoying each others’ company.

We saw The Intern, with Anne Hathaway and Robert Di Niro, and I was completely taken aback at how Di Niro’s character reminded me of my late (paternal) grandfather. I had never noticed this resemblance before, but once I made the connection that’s all I could think of when I looked at Di Niro. Although the resemblance was striking the similarity went way beyond just physical appearance. Di Niro’s character’s sentimentality was akin to my grandpa’s trademark soft side. As I watched the show I reminisced about this special man, who was known for being quiet, and yet you always knew there was a lot more going on beneath his stoic exterior than what you could see with the eye.
I love you and miss you, Grandpa Albert.

Side-by-side comparison of Di Niro (left) and my Grandpa Albert (right).

Another sweet weekend highlight I’d like to share was seeing the pure joy in both of my kids’ faces after trick or treating with their friends. They were both so very happy, and it wasn’t entirely because they scored a hefty haul of candy (much of which has now been donated to Hearts for the Homeless). It was more so because they were having an absolute blast just being kids, doing fun kid stuff with other kids. And I must say, there’s nothing as wonderfully sweet as seeing your children happy.

As you can see, the sweetest things about my Halloween weekend had very little to do with candy and treats, and everything to do with witnessing the importance of relationships and spending time with the people I love.

My heart is full, and how very sweet that is.

How do you measure a year in a life?

Three hundred and sixty-five days ago on a day much like today, I took a huge leap of faith by leaving my job in favour of devoting more time to my family, as well as to explore my passion for writing. There was something so magical and almost intoxicating to me about what I imagined I would be able to accomplish, and the one-year mark was the first and most important major checkpoint on the journey of this new life.

With one year having come and gone, I’ve struggled to use my time effectively and to create a solid routine for myself. I’ve been tripped up, time and time again, in my attempts to balance the obligations of running a household and raising two young children against the pursuit of my own goals and dreams.

And somewhere between the crushing expectations I place on myself and (learning) to relax my tendency to control every microsecond of my life, I became frozen in place. Frustrated and overwhelmed, I threw my hands up in the air and did nothing. And so I find myself one year down the road with virtually nothing to show for the lapse in time.

On second thought, perhaps it’s not entirely accurate to say I haven’t accomplished anything… I’ve read books and completed courses. I’ve done a great deal of self-reflection and personal work. And I feel, from the deepest parts of my being, that I’m inching ever closer to being reacquainted with my most authentic self.

When I set aside the disappointment I feel about the lack of writing I’ve done, what I can do is measure the past year in the valuable lessons I’ve learned. And so I’d like to share the top 10 big ones that I’ve had both the pain and pleasure of experiencing:

  1. I create my own suffering. It’s human nature, really. But once I really began to understand how my thoughts create my reality, I also realized that I can choose to see things differently, and there is tremendous freedom in that. This is a practice that isn’t easy, but it is definitely worth the effort.
  2. Everything is temporary. Impermanence is the way of the universe. This means I can change my mind, and I can change my self. And so I am. Change is the precursor of growth, so I am growing.
  3. Related to point number 2 above, it’s best not to become attached to anything, even the stories about my past. No, especially the stories about my past.
  4. Fear can be debilitating, if I allow it to have that power over me. That’s why when something really matters, I need to summon every ounce of courage I have and do (whatever that thing is) anyway. When given the choice between comfort and growth (and I always have a choice), I choose growth.
  5. It’s simply not possible for material stuff and things to fill the emptiness inside. Even if it does provide some satisfaction initially, the effects wear off quickly and leave an even greater emptiness in their wake. For this very reason, I find myself growing less concerned about the acquisition of stuff and more focused on experiencing life. At the same time, I have learned how letting go of stuff and things creates space for new possibilities. This realization is extremely liberating.
  6. Living a numb existence and being on autopilot day in and day out is really no way to live. Emotions are energy in motion, and must be acknowledged and felt so they can be processed and released. If not, this energy gets trapped in the body and will inevitably cause problems, such as spontaneously erupting like a volcano at an inappropriate time later on, or causing illness and even disease. What’s the moral if the story here? Feel my feelings. Feel my feelings! FEEL MY FEELINGS!
  7. Having a healthy dose of self-worth, nurtured by regular portions of self-love, is the absolute best way to nurture my personal power and live an authentic life. I am learning to love myself because doing so is essential to my happiness and success.
  8. I am far more important and powerful than I have given myself credit for. We all are. We’re all here for a reason; we have all been given this life to accomplish a particular purpose that is unique to each of us. And we are all connected—our thoughts, behaviours, and actions send ripples out into the world that have an effect on others.
  9. From a growing awareness around my own resistance, I’m learning how important it is to get to its source, such as understanding why a particular person or situation pushes my buttons. There’s two big reasons why this is so: 1) Resistance is fueled by ignorance and fears, therefore harboring resistance to change and simply to what is makes life more difficult overall, and 2) When you recognize resistance as a tool for growth, you can embrace and learn from the lessons that you are presented with, instead of being stuck on repeat. This one is definitely a work in progress and one that requires me to be fully awake to the present moment.
  10. I cannot underestimate the absolute value of faith, particularly in the face of adversity and in the absence of the fruits of productivity. And this is where I am reminded of the divine timing of my life. I trust that I am exactly where I’m meant to be, learning what I need to know, and that everything I’m doing now is necessary for me to move forward in the future.
  11. Ok, I know I said there were 10 lessons, but here’s a bonus just for you: Love will light the way (if you let it)!

faith_fearEven though I bought in to the idea of what I should have been able to accomplish over the past year, and subsequently admonished myself for falling short on my goals, I also know that undoing years of conditioning and patterns simply doesn’t happen over night. I am erasing the old, worn out recordings of my limiting beliefs and replacing them with a new inspirational soundtrack for my life. I can hear the music playing faintly in the distance, so know I am on the right track to creating a life I love.

Do any of these lessons resonate for you? Which ones in particular can you relate to and why? I’d also love to hear how you measure a year in your life.

I leave you with the lyrics to a beautifully fitting song, Seasons of Love from RENT
By Daniel Noonan
SONGWRITERS
Jonathan D. Larson

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments, oh dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love

Seasons of love (love)
Seasons of love (love)

A {Digital} Postcard from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

love&possibility

It occurred to me early on in our fall break getaway that no one really sends postcards any more. In today’s world, which is so thoroughly dominated by convenience and immediate gratification, it seems they’ve gone the way of the dodo bird. So, in the absence of a post-marked card featuring the stereotypical photo collage or palm tree and sunset vignette from our vacation, I thought the next best thing would be to create a {digital} postcard. But, just as this is not your traditional run-of-the-mill variety, send-it-in-the-snail-mail-and-wait-three-weeks-for-it-to-arrive kinda card, I suppose it only makes sense that my rendition of our family vacation be equally untraditional.

They say life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans and I suppose I’d have to agree. You see, even though I should have been sitting in an airport waiting to board our fight home at the time of writing this, instead I was taking refuge from the heat of the midday Punta Cana sun in a cabana with an iceberg (beerguarita) in hand. We had other plans, but this was what life gave us. Tough break, right?

Because of the unanticipated delay of our flight home, there was some question from other vacationers around the pool as to whether we poisoned our pilot to evade our planned departure. While I can assure you we had absolutely nothing to do with the pilot’s untimely illness, I was nonetheless grateful for the found time it afforded me to reflect on our week at the picture-perfect Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana resort. (In case you haven’t already noticed, this {digital} postcard is brought to you by the letter “P”… and the number seven.)

We took an approximate seven-hour flight to arrive in our tropical paradise. Once there, my family and I spent seven days participating in a variety of activities, including bungee jumping, ping-pong, rock wall climbing, riding bicycles, making crafts, playing games, and aqua gym and spin classes in the pool. My daughter produced a gorgeous finger-painted masterpiece on her own with only a few simple instructions. (Move over Picasso, there’s a new painter in town!) My son loved dressing up as a pirate and searching for treasure around the resort with his friends from the kids’ club. My husband and “babies” went parasailing for the first time and I marvelled at their bravery, as my little daredevils absolutely loved sailing 400 feet in the air.

While the rest of my family was swimming or busy with the aforementioned activities, I could generally be found lounging poolside and catching up on some reading, often with a drink in hand. I particularly enjoyed the book A Man Called Ove, and the story of the curmudgeonly old Swede who lived a life of precise routines, always strictly following the rules, and letting logic and order dictate his every move as a way to protect his fragile, broken heart. I could certainly relate to Ove’s character, because I also thrive on order and predictability. I operate on the premise that most things in life should be done in a certain way or not done at all. And I, too, can be quite guarded—perhaps even cold—with my heart. But just like Ove, I am learning to open myself to love and possibility.

With this in mind as I reflect on our vacation, what strikes me most is how it was less about the location and more about just being present to enjoy the time with my family. The luxuriousness of sleeping in every day and awaking to find both kids in our giant bed for a family cuddle-fest. Seeing my daughter take great pride and pleasure learning to do a back flip on the bungee cords. Witnessing, first hand, what social animals my kids are, as they cheerfully interacted with the resort staff (fist-bumping, learning new phrases in Spanish, and faithfully uttering the “polo” echoed response to the drinky-drinky guy’s “Marco”), as well as effortlessly making new friends from all over the world. These are the precious moments I want to remember long after the tan lines have faded.

As part of my regular daily meditation practice that I continued faithfully during our vacation, I was reminded about how we have the power to create our reality through our own conscious awareness, and that what we choose to focus on expands. For this trip and beyond, I am making a conscious effort to shift my focus to noticing and appreciating the good in people. We had a fantastic vacation experience, and this was thanks in large part to the marvelous resort staff who took such great pleasure in ensuring our comfort and happiness. We were also very fortunate to meet many wonderful people from all over Canada and the US. To Ed and Lori, the lovely couple from outside of Toronto who will make the most amazing grandparents: despite our thanks, you may never know how much your kindness meant as you shared some of your vacation time with us, having fun with our kids at the beach and around the pool, and giving them each a token gift from the Dominican market. These seemingly simple connections with people from as near as Calgary and as far away as Brazil warmed my heart in a way I never thought possible.

It’s a curious thing for me to explain, but I feel as though a bit of magic happened when I dipped my toes into the sparkling blue-green water in Punta Cana. The tide came in, and when it rolled back out like the complementary exhale to my inhaled breath, my feet sank a little deeper into the ground as the sand that was taken back out to sea took a bit of my troubles with it. As I filled my lungs with the salty, tropical air, I had clarity in my otherwise busy mind—even if just for a moment. The only thing that mattered was the certainty of my breath. And somehow I was left knowing it was all part of nature’s miraculous give and take, the process of renewal—creating space in my heart for more love, and within my soul for greater peace.

I am grateful and forever changed for having had the opportunity to meet such wonderful people and to know Punta Cana’s beauty.

En route to the Big Apple & already missing the apples of my eye

Start spreading the news. I’m leaving to day.
I want to be a part of it. New York, New York.

Alright, alright. I’m happy to leave the crooning to Frank Sinatra. As it should be. I just couldn’t help but use the reference. After all, it is very apropos under the circumstances.

You know when you go months at a time without any dedicated one-on-one time with your significant other? Then, by a strange twist of fate, the stars align, you get a reliable sitter, and you’re finally able to go out on a real adult date with your hunny? Only to be able to spend the entire evening talking about your kids? Ya. That.

Sitting in the lounge at Edmonton International Airport at the start of our first kid-free holiday in quite some time, and I’m already missing my kids. Even though getting through airline check-in, security, and customs was a dream without them in tow. Even though I’m sitting here in blissful, yet eerily quite. I feel like something’s missing.

And something is, because we always have them with us when we travel. It’s what we do. It’s what I know. My daughter was just 11 months old when we took her on an eastern Caribbean cruise. My son was just four months when we traveled as a family to Maui. And as I sit here in this peace and quiet, I am flooded with memories of all the trips we’ve taken together.

Like the time we went to Turks & Caicos… The trip was planned in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary. We had planned a vow renewal and were very excited to have our kids with us to mark the occasion. Yet, if I had to give the trip a name or title, Trouble in Paradise would barely begin to describe it. My daughter got a black eye by running into a luggage cart before we left Edmonton, she nearly lost one of our passports by putting it into a suitcase moments before it went onto the conveyor belt at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and we all spent over half the week knocked out by an awful stomach virus. Despite the crappy run of luck (pun intended), what I remember most is having that time together, as a family.

Even though I miss my kids already, I must say I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be going back to New York with my hubby. We visited once before and found the city magical. I think it was in 2003 because I remember going to see the rubble at the World Trade Center site, and it was definitely part of our pre-kid life. We’ve been wanting to go back for quite some time, but never thought it would be a suitable destination for our seven and five-year-old children. With all the sightseeing and walking, it’s a much different type of vacation than what they’re used to.

We’ve intentionally kept our four days in the City that never sleeps fairly unstructured (and we may not sleep for four days, either). If you have recommendations for Broadway shows, restaurant, and must-see sights in NYC, please drop me a line. Not sure how much we’ll be able to squeeze into the next four days before leaving for St. Martin, but we’ll do our best!

After an adventurous cab ride, we’ve made it to our hotel, which is just a couple blocks off of Times Square. More adventure awaits, just outside our doors, and I’m sure we’ll be back in the New York groove in no time. (Ok, that’s my last song reference. For now.)

How I Found Gratitude on a Trip to Small-town Saskatchewan, Part 1

I remember the day my husband said to me, out of nowhere and with much enthusiasm, “I know exactly what I want for my birthday this year!” Slightly puzzled and moderately intrigued, I answered: “Ok, what?” His simple response: “To go to back to Humboldt with you and the kids.” I was even more puzzled.

He had seen a tweet that said the Montreal Canadiens Alumni were coming to the small, dusty Saskatchewan town to put on a show as a fundraiser for his alumni junior hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos. The day it was going to happen—his birthday. “Do you know how awesome this is going to be? I have to be there,” he told me.

He contacted the team’s management, asking if he could play, and about one week later they let him know he had a spot on the roster. So it was settled. Our family would drive for six hours to Saskatchewan so my husband could fulfill his only birthday wish: getting to wear the Broncos jersey once again.

Needless to say I was not nearly as enthusiastic about the idea. Whereas my husband was utterly thrilled, I could only think of how many other things I would rather be doing. Let me tell you, driving for six hours with two kids who can’t go 30 minutes without an “I’m bored” or “Are we there yet?” wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. But how could I say no when my husband was more excited than a child on Christmas morning? Quite simply, I couldn’t.

When we arrived in Humboldt on Saturday night, we had just enough time to go for supper before he had to be at the Elgar Patterson Arena to skate with the other guys who would also be playing for the “home team.” I took the kids to the hotel pool, so they could burn off some pent-up energy from the drive. I expected my husband to be gone about an hour and a half. When he returned to the hotel nearly two and a half hours later, I asked him what took so long. He simply response was that he was the last one to come off the ice.

I could see the emotion in my husband’s eyes that Sunday afternoon as the colour guy announced the lineup of players. His eyes were wide and he had a silly grin plastered across his face. Behind the nervous smile I knew he was as giddy as a child. Yet, as a man he was overcome by fond memories of playing the game he loves in this very place at a very different time.

My husband was asked to do a post-game interview with the local radio station, as it turns out he was the only former Bronco to play that afternoon against the Canadiens. Somehow he was able to put into words exactly what was written all over his face in those few precious moments right before the game.

He spoke about how important it was to him to bring his wife and kids there, to show us where he spent so much time as a teenager­—and where he became a man. How talked about how great it was to be welcomed into the town when he first arrived at 17. He expressed how the skills he developed and the experiences he had while playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League prepared him for both college and life. And he said how much he appreciated the opportunity to come back and wear the Humboldt jersey once again.

He must have thanked the kids and I at least a dozen times on the drive back home, most of these expressions of appreciation took place before we even reached Saskatoon!

And it finally hit me: This is gratitude.

To be continued…