Booking It Forward

In my opinion reading and holidays go together like peas and carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the time–vacation or not–but it brings me a special brand of guilt-free joy while on holidays, because I don’t feel torn that I should be doing something else instead of spending time engrossed in a book. Reading on holidays really is the perfect marriage. Give me a poolside lounge chair, a bottle of sunscreen, bottle of water, and a good book and I’ll be content for hours and hours.

One of the books I brought with me to Maui is The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney. Funny story: I’ve actually had the book for a while, as I purchased it in November prior to our fall break vacation. I carted it with me all the way to Aruba and back without even cracking the spine. And between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the routine obligations of everyday life, and all the other books I’ve had on the go, I hadn’t found the time to read it until our holiday this past week in Maui.

TheNest

Just to be clear, this post is neither to review nor endorse The Nest. Rather, it is to share an idea that I was divinely presented as I reflected on one of the book’s more subtle themes. Although understated and slow to unravel, the theme resonated with me deeply, building to a dramatic crescendo as multiple plot lines converged upon each other in its concluding pages. The theme to which I am referring is the universality and interconnectedness of life that we see both in fiction and reality. In stories and in real life, these connections are what bring us pleasure and pain; they form the basis of our experience here on earth, and are the essence of our shared humanity.

So, as I mentioned, a seed was planted when I thought how nice it would be to finish the book and leave it behind, at first just thinking of lightening my carry-on load, even if just a little… I could simply leave the book on a lounge chair by the pool, or as a welcome gift in our rented condo unit for the next set of vacationers who would be staying there. And then, just as quickly as the first thought danced across my consciousness, my mind took a sharp turn in a different direction.

Circling around the notion of how many miles this book had already traveled (by air, over both land and sea), starting its journey from my home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada to Aruba and back; and then to Maui, Hawaii, I began to entertain how I could share my love of reading and travel, together. The formless idea began to solidify and take shape, details and logistics rattling back and forth like a pinball inside my head.

So I’ve decided to leave the book at the Kahului International Airport (OGG) in Maui with a message inside its cover. I am going to Book It Forward! Just like paying it forward, but with a book.

My hope is that a fellow book lover and traveler will find it in the airport and picks it up, perhaps even to read en route to his or her next destination. And when that person is finished reading, that he or she will pass the book along to another traveling reader? And so on, and so on, each successive traveling reader following suit by booking it forward.

How awesome is it to think about all the places this book may go, and all the people who might read this copy? I am giddy and filled will the hopefulness of a child at the prospect of setting this book free into the world—my very own message in a bottle.

If, by the grace of the universe, my copy of The Nest has made it into your hands, please leave a comment below!

Update: my husband and daughter didn’t think it was sufficient to simply leave the book on an airport bench, so they took the matter into their own hands. Last night before boarding our flight, they handed the book off to a young woman. All I know is she had just landed in Maui via Seattle. The wheels have been set in motion and this Booking It Forward adventure has officially begun…

Booking It Forward

In my opinion reading and holidays go together like peas and carrots. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading all the time–vacation or not–but it brings me a special brand of guilt-free joy while on holidays, because I don’t feel torn that I should be doing something else instead of spending time engrossed in a book. Reading on holidays really is the perfect marriage. Give me a poolside lounge chair, a bottle of sunscreen, bottle of water, and a good book and I’ll be content for hours and hours.

One of the books I brought with me to Maui is The Nest by Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney. Funny story: I’ve actually had the book for a while, as I purchased it in November prior to our fall break vacation. I carted it with me all the way to Aruba and back without even cracking the spine. And between the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the routine obligations of everyday life, and all the other books I’ve had on the go, I hadn’t found the time to read it until our holiday this past week in Maui.

TheNest

Just to be clear, this post is neither to review nor endorse The Nest. Rather, it is to share an idea that I was divinely presented as I reflected on one of the book’s more subtle themes. Although understated and slow to unravel, the theme resonated with me deeply, building to a dramatic crescendo as multiple plot lines converged upon each other in its concluding pages. The theme to which I am referring is the universality and interconnectedness of life that we see both in fiction and reality. In stories and in real life, these connections are what bring us pleasure and pain; they form the basis of our experience here on earth, and are the essence of our shared humanity.

So, as I mentioned, a seed was planted when I thought how nice it would be to finish the book and leave it behind, at first just thinking of lightening my carry-on load, even if just a little… I could simply leave the book on a lounge chair by the pool, or as a welcome gift in our rented condo unit for the next set of vacationers who would be staying there. And then, just as quickly as the first thought danced across my consciousness, my mind took a sharp turn in a different direction.

Circling around the notion of how many miles this book had already traveled (by air, over both land and sea), starting its journey from my home in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada to Aruba and back; and then to Maui, Hawaii, I began to entertain how I could share my love of reading and travel, together. The formless idea began to solidify and take shape, details and logistics rattling back and forth like a pinball inside my head.

So I’ve decided to leave the book at the Kahului International Airport (OGG) in Maui with a message inside its cover. I am going to Book It Forward! The equivalent of paying it forward with a book. It is just that simple.

My hope is that a fellow book lover and traveler will find it in the airport and picks it up, perhaps even to read en route to his or her next destination. And when that person is finished reading, that he or she will pass the book along to another traveling reader? And so on, and so on, each successive traveling reader following suit by booking it forward.

How awesome is it to think about all the places this book may go, and all the people who might read this copy? I am giddy and filled will the hopefulness of a child at the prospect of setting this book free into the world—my very own message in a bottle.

If, by the grace of the universe, my copy of The Nest has  made it into your hands, please leave a comment below!

Update: my husband and daughter didn’t think it was sufficient to simply leave the book on an airport bench. Instead, they took the matter into their own hands. Last night before boarding our flight, they handed the book off to a young woman. All I know is she had just landed in Maui via Seattle. The wheels have been set in motion and the Booking It Forward adventure has officially begun…

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

 

 

56 Intentional Days

Although summer technically started a couple of weeks ago, in many ways I feel as though  summer with my family is just beginning. And with the kids slated to return to school on August 30, we have eight weeks, or 56 days to be exact, to enjoy our summer to the fullest.

Now, I don’t mean I’ll be scheduling and over programming every moment, because that certainly is not the case. That would be tedious and grueling and pretty much no fun whatsoever.

However, I’m also cognizant of going to the other extreme—not making any plans, flying by the seat of our pants, and leaving everything to chance. I speak from experience when I say this approach is dangerous. This amount of boundless freedom has a tendency to lure me into a state of submission, inducing an intoxicating false sense of security, which in the end only leaves me feeling lazy and lethargic.

I’ve finally come to appreciate that I’m a creature of habit. I crave routine and structure. I thrive on predictability and order. I’m at my best when I’ve got something specific to hold my attention and focus.

When I contrast my affinity for structure and routine against the fact that I’ve habitually been making time my arch nemesis, it’s really no wonder I’ve been feeling a little stuck in a continuous loop of “there’s never enough time in a day to do all of the things that I really want to do.” And as I’ve been working with a fantastic coach to help me unravel this and some other limiting beliefs, I feel like the time has come for a 360 degree turnaround and re-framing of my opinion about time.

I know some of you may be nodding your head in agreement with my time-as-enemy mantra, but I honestly believe this is just one of those things we all say to make ourselves feel better.

Because the truth is there’s plenty of time available when we: get intentional about scheduling our time according to our priorities, minimize the negative effect of distractions (insert social media here), and don’t let our limiting beliefs cloud our vision.

I’ve suddenly been able to put the pieces together and see, with amazing crystal clarity, my blockage about time for what it really is. It’s not that I don’t have enough time. Pppffffff! The truth is I have trouble putting myself and my needs ahead of everything and everyone else. And because of this, all the stuff I’ve been talking about—my deepest desires and the whispers of my heart—often end up at the bottom of my list.

With this new understanding I see an opening—an opportunity to form a new habit of making myself a priority, more often. As I see it, I have 56 days ahead of me right now when I can both be present for my children AND make myself and my needs a higher priority on my to-do list.

This summer, I am choosing to make friends with time by seeing it as a gift. No longer will a replay the broken-record soundtrack of “not enough time” over and over again in my head. This summer, I am choosing to be intentional about how I spend my time. And this summer I will value myself and my self-care needs by making time for me a priority.

Over the next 56 days, my intention is to dedicate some time every day to my passions and the activities that make me feel more alive and whole.

Starting today, movement (yoga and exercise), stillness (meditation), and words and language (reading and writing) have moved from the bottom to the top of my to-do list.

No attachment to objectives, no entanglement in specific outcomes. Just a dash of intrigue and a touch of excitement to see what changes and possibilities the next 56 days will bring.

Coincidentally, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my perceived lack of time to do all the things I want to do in life. It’s kinda cool to see how much I’ve grown and how much my perspective has shifted from October 2013 until now.

Wishing you all a happy and intentional summer!

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New York City: An Inspirational Tale

Skating at Rockefeller Center with my honey.

Skating at Rockefeller Center with my honey.

I am completely in awe of how being in a place for just a few days can have such an impact on me. It’s tough to describe the feeling, but I left New York City feeling somehow different than when I arrived. I am at once exhausted yet energized, and even more in love with the city than I was after my last visit over 10 years ago.

For me, part of the the magic of NYC is found in its inherent contrasts: the visible extremes of rich and poor; the ever present underlying theme of struggle and triumph; and the prevalence of despair set against a backdrop of constant hope.

The people are, without a doubt, one of the city’s greatest attributes. I can’t help but marvel at their gritty determination and sheer awesomeness. It’s evident it must take a tough skin to live—and thrive—in NYC, yet most of the people we encountered didn’t seem to be too hardened by living there. Everyone we came across—from retail and hotel staff to people on the street—was friendly and helpful.

For those with a hearty appetite, one of the best things about New York is the food. The city is a mecca of multiculturalism, and nowhere is this more evident than in its culinary offerings. Some of the highlights for me were the poppy seed ‘Pick your Bagel’ with lox and house made cream cheese, thin crust pizza from Lombardi’s, and chicken eggplant rollotini with penne and fresh tomato sauce from 44SW Italian Eatery. The mussels and frites from Brasserie La Hasse were also amazing!

No trip to NYC would be complete without taking in at least one show on Broadway, and we were lucky enough to see two in our short four-day trip. The first was Rock of Ages. My husband and I actually went on a date to see the movie when it was released a few years back, so we were already familiar with the story and new it would be right up our alley. Also, it’s one of the few shows that plays on Sunday evenings and we lucked out getting half-price tickets from TKTS on the Square the day of the show. Wahoo! The plot strayed from the movie version a little, at the same time offering even more electrically charged raunchiness and hilarity. It also included a couple of unexpected songs in the second act that weren’t in the movie. All in all, Rock of Ages is a great show and tons of fun to take in.

Based on the recommendation of nearly everyone we talked to, the second show we saw was Kinky Boots. Let me just say this was the greatest show I’ve ever seen, bar none. Lola is the drag queen and central character of the story about a struggling mens’ shoe factory in England at the turn of the century. Played by Billy Porter, this performance earned him a Tony in 2013 and it’s not hard to see why, it was spot-on. With a score by Cindy Lauper, phenomenal supporting cast, and wonderful message of accepting others and being yourself, Kinky Boots was awesome!

Seeing the amazing Jimmy Fallon during the second week of his new Tonight Show format was another major highlight. I’ve always regarded Fallon as extremely talented, and getting to see his live show only served to reinforce my belief. While we were in the neighbourhood for the live taping of the show, I made my husband’s year by asking if we could go skating at Rockefeller Center. (He’s a good, hockey-loving Canadian boy, and we had never been skating together in the nearly 20 years we’ve been a couple.) Aside from the steep price tag for our two admission tickets and skate rental fees, I’m glad we had this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I had a blast, and dare I say may have even redeemed myself as an adequate skater —both in my husband’s eyes and as a good Canadian girl.

I find the history and architecture of NYC absolutely fascinating. I could literally walk around for days just gawking at buildings—admiring the architectural details, and sheer magnificence of it all. I particularly fell in love with SoHo’s quaint buildings and adorable cobblestone streets. The charm had me caught up in a daydream, losing myself in a fantasy of becoming a writer and spending countless days in coffee shops.

By far, the greatest gift of our trip to NYC is the indescribable feeling of change it sparked in me. We stayed in an adorable boutique hotel, The Muse, and the city itself is beyond amusing. I may even go as far as to say New York has been a muse for me. Irrefutably, it stirred something in me. The tiniest spark seems to have ignited a little fire in my belly, and I have the sensation of a dormant dream being awakened.

Maybe it’s the symbolism as a place where dreams are born and made. Or maybe it’s the people—so many of whom have had to overcome all kinds of adversity, and others who continue fight every single day for the chance to do what they love. I’ve noticed I now have a slightly different view of life and many new ideas are starting to bubble up to the surface. Is this what they call inspiration? Maybe.

Whatever you call it, I feel as though the stories of my heart, which have been locked away deep down inside for so long I’d almost forgotten were there, are now trying to break free. And so I’d like to thank you, New York City, from the bottom of my heart, for loosening the shackles and helping me see a whole new world of possibility. I am forever grateful we had the chance to meet once again, and I sincerely hope to return to you before another 10 years pass.

Until next time.

Taking back control of my life in October

This post could also be called, All work and no play makes My Phare Lady a cranky woman!

You see, my life got sucked up and swallowed whole by the swirling vortex of September. A tad dramatic? Maybe. But it’s the most accurate way to sum up how I’ve been feeling lately.

It seems like it was just yesterday we were doing back-to-school shopping for the kids (well in advance of the actual start of the school year back at the beginning of August, I might add). We were organized and on top of the game. Now, with two kids in school and extracurricular activities on top of my working three days a week and trying to manage a busy household, I’m completely overwhelmed by our new fall family routine.

What frustrates me most is that I never seem to have enough hours in a day to accomplish everything I need, not to mention what I would like to do. I want to do more of the things that feed my soul, like reading books, blogging, and exercising more often, but with barely enough time to accomplish the basic essentials (I have mountains of laundry and dust bunnies in all corners of my house), that’s just not happening.

I am running around in circles and instead of getting closer to finding my passion, I feel discouraged and discontent. In my quest for balance, harmony, and personal fulfillment, I feel like time—or the absence of it—is the enemy. (I may need to re-read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, but who has time for that? Oh, the irony!)

The rational side of me knows life is essentially the events that happen as a result of a series of choices. And the only reasonable conclusion I’ve been able to come to is this: I need to get absolutely clear on my goals and priorities. I need to devise a plan about to how to use my “spare” time as efficiently as possible toward achieving my goals. Without the ability to clone myself, or the unlikely event that some higher power is going to add more hours to each day, a thoughtful and deliberate plan of attack is likely my best bet for taking back my life in October.

So, stay tuned for my goals and action plan in a future blog post. (I hope putting this out there on the Internet will keep me honest!)

Also, I’m curious to know:
What are your strategies for getting everything done and maintaining a healthy balance? How do you accomplish life’s necessary tasks while still leaving some time for fun and the things that feed your soul?