I regret little, but in looking back I am disappointed at my not participating in a reflection project for 2011. That year was so excruciating and painful and joyful and liberating and full that it is very much a blur of change. I should have recorded some part of it - though a peek into my December Daily 2011 will certainly give an indication to why the project did not get completed!

I enjoyed participating in reverb10 which resulted in a beautiful blog, a wonderful keepsake album and a collection of incredible memories - fully recorded. For 2010, I will always remember where I was and where I was planning on going. I want to go through that same exercise again for 2012. This past year was equally worth remembering.

Not that I have an abundance of time this year, but I do have a great desire, so that will have to do! I have curated a number of prompts from many resources. Those I've selected can be found below as well as a few of my own, they have each been attributed as best I can.

31 December 2012

day thirty one | moving forward

prompt: moving forward

Close your eyes and imagine yourself on January 1, 2014. Where do you want to be - in your heart, in your soul, in the world? (Author: Me)

+ + + + + 

It's late afternoon, no doubt I'll be relaxing in my living room:

lounging on the couch with a book in hand
wearing a new black duster sweater, preferably cashmere
in a smaller size - it starts with a 1!
with a blazing fire warming the room
a football game is on the tv in the background, the volume turned low
texts will come in from the kids, just checking in because they want to
I'll be cautioning them to be careful as the roads are slick with snow
a homemade tortiére is baking in the oven
a fresh multigrain baguette will be ready to slice 
and a salad awaiting dressing is in a bowl on the counter
the final draft of my book will be sitting on the coffee table
a friend will ask me if I want to join him for a glass of wine
and I will

THAT is exactly where I want to be on January 1, 2014.

day thirty | year in review

prompt: year in review

As you reflect back on the happenings of 2012, what are your high points and what are your low points? What do you notice as you look back on the year as a whole? (Author: Carolyn Rubenstein)

+ + + + + 
As a whole, I was the recipient of many lessons this year. I am grateful for so much ...

being settled in my own thoughts, 
and loved by those whom I love, 
and comfortable in my surroundings if not yet my own skin, 
and curious about things and people around me, 
and accepting of things I can't change, 
and aware of the agendas of others,
and open to new ideas and opportunities, 
and trusting my intuition and instincts, far too long repressed,
and determination to do the right - if hard - things, 
and discerning of those people and things I invite into my life, 
and honest to those who deserve it, 
and judgmental of things that threaten, 
and brave enough to face my fears, 
and surrounding myself with kindness and respect,
and dreams that bring clarity and insight.

Onward to embracing more patience, attempting more spontaneity, holding my tongue when the argument is not worth the effort, no longer apologizing for listening to the music I like or watching the movies I enjoy - indeed, no longer avoiding the things in life that brings me joy for fear of ridicule.

This year was the year I returned to me. This version is older and slower but a smarter and kinder, too. I think I like this version, though I do have to work on a few things to encourage contentment and improve my fitness.

day twenty nine | view

prompt: view

Imagine that you can view yourself from above. Watch carefully. What are you doing? What are you trying to accomplish? As objectively as possible, are you going in the right direction? (Author: Me)

+ + + + + 

For this prompt, I think I'll engage my inner critic and unleash it, a little bit.

Dear Lee,

As I watch you, from high on my perch up above your beloved bookshelves in the living room, I see you wearing that awful black sweater, sitting at your desk working on your computer. Always at your desk. Always working on your computer. What keeps you so busy? It's not like you're being paid to write, it's not a job, you're not doing anything important. The chair isn't even comfortable!

From here I can see many piles of paper and magazines; magazines and paper. Why are they in piles? Are you keeping them, throwing them out, filing? You keep wanting to live in an uncluttered environment and yet you keep bringing in clutter. Paper, paper, everywhere there is paper.

From here I can see your sneakers. Unworn in what, three or four days? How are you going to take off that disgusting weight if you don't move more? The kids are on holiday and that's no excuse, you have to get up from the desk and lace up those sneakers and move. Go out the front door.

From here I can see rows of books, piles of them in no particular order, just waiting to be read. What are you waiting for? They won't read themselves. You keep buying them but never read them. What a waste.
From here I can see your camera. When was the last time you used the DSLR? Captured more than a simple snapshot?

From here I can see dirty dishes in the sink. It's nice to see that you've finally started eating breakfast but you have to clean up after yourself.

Get it together, woman! 
Frustrated beyond belief,
Your inner critic

Dear Inner Critic,

I am doing the best I can with what I have where I am right now. I am saddened but undeterred by all the criticisms. I am going in the right direction. It will all come in time. I live in hope.

Peace and patience,

day twenty eight | space

prompt: space

We all surround ourselves with the things we love. A few favourite things - a blanket, a lamp, a piece of art, a chair, a lovey - something inanimate that brings us happiness. What do you have in your personal space that brings about happiness? What is the story attached to it that has it in your sacred space? (Author: Me)

+ + + + + 

As corny as it sounds, as long as I have my kids around I'm surrounded with all of the things I love. But, there are a few inanimate pieces in my space that bring me contentment and joy. 

One of the great benefits of divorce, particularly separation from a collector (er, hoarder) is the freedom from the encumbrance of stuff. Not that I don't collect things: books, scrapbook supplies and white bathroom towels immediately come to mind, but the scale is very different. Now that our space is reduced to one-third of what it was, I can only have things I like, and those things I don't like - or that are proving impractical - are quickly being removed or replaced.  

My home is slowly evolving into a space I love. The paint colour is a soothing gray with a hint of blue accented with caramel gold and chocolate brown. The furniture is stylish and comfortable, not an easy combination, with additions of throws and pillows. Books line shelves and my new project is to purge them and keep only those books that are well-loved and will be shared. I hope that all of the big expenses are over and now I can focus on simply stripping things back to be only things I love and use.

To choose one thing that brings me most joy in my home, I would have to choose my  bookshelves. Really. They were custom made years ago. The detailing is classic, very simple and symmetrical and covered in a dark, espresso stain. They are huge and deep and hold my beloved books, journals, scrapbooks, framed photos, souvenirs, television (mostly used for music) and artwork. I think I'd be content to live somewhere with my cast iron skillet, a white bath towel, a new bed and my filled bookshelves, though I really wouldn't want to strip things down quite that far!

When it came time to divide the house contents, there were very few things I felt I needed to have for me and the kids. In hindsight the bulk of the "good" stuff was left behind, but the reality is that I got all of the things that make me happy.

30 December 2012

day twenty seven | compliment

prompt: compliment

What is the greatest compliment you could give? Are you worthy of the same praise? (Author: Me)

+ + + + + 

When I wrote this prompt, I knew it would be a difficult one for me to answer. I have great admiration for a number of people, but more often do not give voice to that admiration. I don't want to come across as overly interested (aka, nosey!). I have consciously made an effort through this past year to tell people what I feel about them or their behaviour in the most positive way possible. Next year it's my hope that I'll be giving compliments all over the place!

I think the greatest thing I can say to some one is:

"Wow, you left it all out there, didn't you? Well done!" 

Be it on a page, on a canvas, on a stage, on a court, I most admire when people are courageous enough to lay themselves bare. The closest this year was Claire's Chapel Speech. She dug deep and came out with one of the greatest orations I've ever had the privilege to witness. To have such insight and sense of self at sixteen is something to be admired. I hope she is able to hold onto it forever. I'm so ridiculously proud that she has learned such wonderful lessons, and that she chose the perfect venue to express them to her greatest friends and critics. 

(the speech starts at 3:50)

To Claire, I say "wow, you left it all out there, didn't you? Well done!"

I have not had the same courage. I do in fits and starts and some of the elements are there but nothing consistent. I have a massive laundry list of things that have to be started and finished before I can focus on anything other than raising my children. I'm not looking for the stars to align or for circumstances to be perfect in any way, I'm just looking to jump off the wheel for enough time to regroup and figure out what it is I really want to do.

I mean, I love what I do now, but I have a sense, becoming more intense with each passing day, that there is so much more for me to accomplish. There will be an opportunity for me to gather my courage and embrace my vulnerability and lay myself bare in some manner I haven't even considered. In preparation, I am going to do something I've never done before: wait.

I am impatient by nature but I think it's time for me to be quiet, to not push, to have a sense of destination but not to create it frame by frame but enjoy the revelation as opposed to the creation. Maybe then I'll be able to say to myself "wow, you left it all out there, didn't you? Well done!"

day twenty six | return

prompt: return

Is there at time to which you would like to return? Describe it: the sights, sounds, smells, who was there, what was going on. Why would you like to return?

+ + + + + 

Some time ago, I don't even remember when, I lost my ability to dream. As a long-time avid dreamer - day and night - it was a loss I mourned and then, over time, forgot. At the beginning of December I woke, from a dream. A lovely dream. I have had a dream every night - and day - since. It has been a lovely change. I hope it never goes away again. 

I would like to go back to a time when I was filled with dreams that fueled my creativity and desire to read great stories, watch great stories and tell great stories. 

The last time I remember an active imagination and creative energy being a fully present part of my life I was in my teens, during my years at boarding school and then and living away at university. It felt like half of my brain was always somewhere else thinking about things that weren't there. It was lovely. The violent and cruel end to my university career and my unwelcome return home was like a metaphorical bucket of cold water thrown upon me and I became fully grounded in reality. The mean of it all. I could no longer live in my world of romance and adventure. I had to focus and get with the program, buckling down and making a life for myself - without a safety net.

The dreams took longer to fade away. 

I suppose I was resigned to their inevitable absence and didn't even notice when they stopped. Their return is a delightful surprise and one I consider with reverence and respect. They are not the same as they were before, these dreams are more sophisticated in their characters, their subjects and settings are themes that can be enlightening and disturbing. I wake each morning trying to grasp the last wisps of faces and stories, the way they make me feel stays with me all day.

I know I'm finally returning to a time and place where I am comfortable in my life so that I can now be comfortable in my dreams. 

A place lost is now found. And I never even remembered it being left behind. I am so happy for it's return.

day twenty five | gift

prompt: gift

At this point in the year gift giving is everywhere. What is the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root) 

+ + + + + 

One gift, for which I am delighted, I received from my children. They are all growing up so quickly and finding and redefining themselves as circumstances change and opportunities arise. They are discovering interests outside of those I've provided or influenced. Indeed, I've actually done my best to keep quiet about those things I did as a child and have watched them embrace exactly those things: swimming, volleyball, singing, acting. Their interests are now completely in line with sports and arts that I completely understand and enjoy. The cohesion of their interests with mine is such a change, and a gift.

Beyond that, I've been so grateful to have lovely friends. Some have been around a long time, others for fewer but no less important moments. Single parenting is not something foreign to me, but single parenting with zero sense of safety net - even a false sense - is a new trial. My friends have provided comfort and distraction, laughter and tears, validation and challenge. Their gifts of words and time are small but constant which makes them huge and I am ever so grateful for their support and love.

Trips to Europe, Arizona, Maritimes and Barbados were the greatest adventures and by far the most extravagant gifts of the year. Growing up, from my father I learned that the best gifts were those of adventure and experience. I am embracing that belief and in the short time I have left with my kids, I hope to imbed in them the same principle.

In a more tangible sense, the gifts through this year were practical with focus on our new home: major water repairs including a replacement bathroom, new light fixtures, living room couch, washer & dryer and air conditioners. Pretty boring. And a few things for the kids: braces, math tutors and our naturopath kept teeth, minds and bodies functioning well. 

The greatest gift I received this year is the freedom of time to focus on my family and my home without any outside obligation. For that I am thankful and mindful, every day.

29 December 2012

day twenty four | photograph

prompt: photograph

Take some time and wander through all of the photos taken over the past year. Which is your favourite? What emotions do you associate with it? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I am rarely the one being photographed, and in this case I'm glad I changed my mind and agreed to have the bartender on the Lobster Roll in Cape Cod take a family photo. When I think of our year, this is the photo that comes to mind: happy, imperfect, windswept, looking straight ahead, together. They are my heart.

I have a few favourites of my kids in their element:

There were so many special and happy moments this year - I chose to enjoy them rather than simply photograph them. I captured many like those above, but most of the really great shots are in my head - and my heart.

day twenty three | alone

prompt: alone

Have you had any alone time this year? Do you seek it? Does it make you comfortable or uncomfortable to be left alone with your thoughts? Where is the best place for you to be comfortably by yourself? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

Alone is a wonderful place to be.

I have been very fortunate to have had plenty of alone time this year, though selfishly I am always on the lookout for more. I live a full and active life with all four kids often going in four different directions at one time. It has been this way since my eldest arrived and I wouldn't change it for anything.

I make the most of my time alone. It is my time to recharge between activities.

During the day, once the children are delivered to school and household chores are completed, my time is my own. Sometimes it includes having a friend over for tea or heading out to lunch with girlfriends or the occasional phone call with family; but, more often it is spent writing, organizing photos, reading or following other creative pursuits. I savour this time and enjoy it. I am innately curious and all of this unstructured time with access to Google (and many other sites) is wonderful!

I'm usually in one parking lot or another from after-school pick-up at 4PM to the last activity of the day - that can end as late as 9PM. Every day. I have a collection of books, magazines, journals and pens in the truck to keep me company. And if that's not enough, I do most of my blog reading on my iPhone. A recent addition to the collection of activities in the truck is a neck roll, in case I get too tired to read or write, I can simply doze and have my thoughts percolate.

It's not that I'm not social, it's just that I am happy for my own company. I don't like crowds, I don't like noise, I don't like drama. Alone is the perfect antidote.

A favourite place? My living room. I put on the alternative rock station and settle in on a comfortable couch or chair surrounded by piles of magazines and books on the shelves. My plan for 2013 is to have more active alone time. I'm going to walk and swim at the YMCA and I'm hoping to make a few trips into Toronto to go to the markets, galleries and museums.

Who knows, this time next year, my favourite alone place might be the GO train, the swimming pool or someplace yet to be discovered?

day twenty two | discovery

prompt: discovery

Did you discover something that surprised or delighted you? What was it? (Author: Me)

+ + + + + 

It recently occurred to me that I have slowly returned to the woman I was in my late-20s - with a few needed improvements and far more confidence. Well, in my head, I still have much work to do to heal my heart and strengthen my body.

I am delighted to discover that the repair process takes far less time than what it took to create so much damage. My spirit has, many times, taken a beating by those who should have had more care and concern, but for whatever reason failed to treat me with the kindness and respect deserved. 

I've become an expert at turning shit into sunshine. Perhaps it's the years of playing devil's advocate in conversations and classrooms. I like to take situations and look at every possible angle to see if there is another, more positive and kind, way to interpret the situation while keeping in mind the reality of it all. No rose coloured glasses here, but it is far preferable to look at the bright side. Indeed, manifest the bright side if none can easily be found.

I've discovered I can still do that. 

I've returned to the woman who is my own best advocate - when I remember. Like everyone I get caught up in self-doubt and sometimes it's just exhausting to beat your head against an immovable force, but it is worth it. I am delighted I stayed open to the healing lessons of this past year, and reluctantly appreciative of having gone through the journey of the last 20 years, it has helped me to return to myself. A bit tattered and worn, but filled with experience and determination to make the best life I can for me and my children. I'm so appreciative of those who - new and veteran - who have stuck around in support, and even those who have fallen by the wayside. Lessons were learned from all.

I delight in the lessons. I delight in the journey. I delight in the possibility. 

21 December 2012

day twenty one | song

prompt: song

What were your favourite songs? (Author: Kaileen Elise) 

+ + + + + 

I really enjoy listening to music with my kids so the radio stations - usually SiriusXM Alt Nation in the truck and Galaxy 134 in the house - are dialed in to alternative rock. 

Occasionally we hear some Top 40 or some Country, but it is mostly songs by: AWOLNATION, The Killers, Jack White, M83, Queens of the Stone Age, The Lumineers, Metric, Florence + the Machine, The Black Keys, Gomez, Grouplove, Jimmy Eat World, Oberhofer, Two Door Cinema Club, Manchester Orchestra, Band of Sculls, Arkells, We Are Augustines, Muse, Linkin Park, 311, Stars, Walk the Moon, Weezer, Arcade Fire, Billy Talent, Of Monsers and Men, Death Cab for Cutie, Atlas Genius, Incubus, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Mother Mother, The Maccabees, Teagan and Sara, Passion Pit, Finger Eleven, The Temper Trap, Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Silversun Pickups, City and Colour, Coldplay, Gotye, The Joy Formidable, Low Level Flight, The Trews, Imagine Dragons, Foo Fighters, The Naked and Famous, MGMT, The Shins, A Silent Film and fun.

Recently, the one song - by fun. - that has me stop what I'm doing and turn up the volume:

"Carry On"

Well I woke up to the sound of silence
the cars were cutting like knives in a fist fight
and I found you with a bottle of wine
your head in the curtains
and heart like the Fourth of July

You swore and said
"We are not
We are not shining stars"
This I know
I never said we are

Though I've never been through hell like that
I've closed enough windows
to know you can never look back

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Carry on, carry on

So I met up with some friends
at the edge of the night
At a bar off 75
And we talked and talked
about how our parents will die
All our neighbours and wives

But I like to think
I can cheat it all
To make up for the times I've been cheated on
And it's nice to know
When I was left for dead
I was found and now I don't roam these streets
I am not the ghost you are to me

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

My head is on fire
But my legs are fine
After all they are mine
Lay your clothes down on the floor
Close the door
Hold the phone
Show me how
No one’s ever gonna stop us now

Cause we are
We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we’re miles away
Sun will come
We will find our way home

If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on
May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Carry on, carry on 

This is brilliant! The words, the melody, all of it.

20 December 2012

day twenty | health

prompt: health

Do you consider yourself to be in good health? What choices have you made to improve the way you live to be more healthy? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

All things considered, I think I’m in pretty good health - especially considering I’ve never focused on it until recently, well in my late 40s.

As far as I know, everything is in working order – with and without pharmaceutical help – the only thing I have to do is work some parts harder than others.

Chronic Asthma - this has been a constant companion since I was 14. It’s far better now, but I really should start taking my medication on a more regular basis. It’s just so darned expensive at $250 per disk! The best thing I did over a decade ago was quit a 2+ pack a day habit of smoking cigarettes. I smoked for close to 30 years! Crazy. There are times, particularly times of high stress, that I am overwhelmed with a need to have a cigarette. I take a deep breath and then brush my teeth. That’s how I quit in the first place – changed my habit from smoking to brushing. It still works!

Psoriasis – this seemed to arrive at the same time as the asthma. It all seemed stress induced. Over the years it comes and goes, it really depends on my level of stress or pregnancy :S Right now, with much effort and assistance from my wonderful naturopath, it is under control. My scalp and elbows are all cleared up and I have two small(ish) spots on the front of my knees. I don’t know that I’m not surrounded with stress, I’m just learning how to deal with it and not internalizing it as much as I have in the past.

Thyroid Disease – according to the doctor in Canyon Ranch, I’ve had this disease since my late 20s but it was only just diagnosed. Now that I’m on medication the change in me is remarkable. I had forgotten what it was like to be me and comfortable in my own skin. I am glad to be making my way back to normal. I don’t know that I have it under control 100%, but I’m confident with a great doctor and regular blood tests, I’ll manage things for now.

Frozen Shoulder – a condition that comes and goes  and it gets really bad with stress. You don’t realize how important your shoulders are until you can’t use them and your arms are locked at your sides. Seriously scary stuff. I continue to do regular physio-therapy exercises to make sure I never go through the pain and frustration of this condition ever again.

While I experience these comparatively minor inconveniences, friends are dealing with so many more dire and awful diseases: breast cancer, depression, fibro myalgia, lupus, and more, I know that my health is, as I said at the start, good. I count my blessings every day. I am learning to be more respectful of this one body I’ve been given and am making a concentrated effort to eat better in order to feel better. Into 2013 my mantra is MOVE MORE. 

I just need to continue doing what I’m doing and add in one simple thing: get off my ample ass and MOVE.

19 December 2012

day nineteen | cry

prompt: cry

When did you cry? (Author: Kaileen Elise) 

+ + + + + 

A couple of weeks ago, I went up to my friend Elaine’s house. She is forever having groups of people in her home for gatherings of one kind or another. This was a casual pre-Christmas event where some friends, who are also vendors, were around selling jewelry and candles; and, then there was a lady in the front room – reading Tarot cards! How fun. I hung around and chatted, then it was my turn.

Everyone who had been in the front room had been asked a similar question, “what is your greatest fear?” but for me, Helen told me to take a seat and the cards would tell me. I don’t know if I buy into the whole idea, but I do know there is something to all of the hocus-pocus so the card-turning began! Revealed was an interesting collection of cards, which lead to a lot of good conversation.

Through that conversation it hit me all at once, the enormity of what I had done over the last 18 months. Which lead me to realize how much I had been through over the last 18 years.

I cried.

Big gobs of ugly cry.

It was short and not in the least bit pretty. 

I had not cried in 15 years – since the autumn of 1997 when it was forbidden. Yes, forbidden. I remember the exact moment, the room I was in, the fear I felt and the lack of options available to me – or so I thought. What a stupid woman I was to surrender my only form of release! To give in to the insecurity and weakness of another! Bah.

I haven’t cried since, but I have recognized a most welcome shift. I don’t avoid the sad programs or the commercials contrived to pull at our heart-strings. Along with the enormous changes tears are now allowed. It never even occurred to me that this was the case or that I had continued to behave in a manor that accommodated the absurd demands of another. My release has been returned. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops!

Who knew tears would be the irrefutable proof that my healing had begun?

18 December 2012

day eighteen | bouquet

prompt: bouquet

If you were to be brought a bouquet, what flowers would you want it to hold? Colourful? Monochromatic? Traditional? Modern? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I like flowers with a lot of layers. Voluminous. Think peonies, cabbage roses, hydrangeas and the like. Usually in white. Oh how I would love to have a vast white garden full of each. Swoon.

Recently I am drawn to the almost unpronounceable ranunculus. In colour!

Every time I see a bunch in the florist area of the grocery store – set, no surprise, at the exit – I am tempted to buy a big colourful bunch.

My home is decorated using a lot of different woods and leather as well as glass and metal. By most standards it would be considered masculine. Except for the carefully chosen “feminine” touches that lighten things up. One of my favourite enhancements is the occasional vase of abundant flowers – all in the same colour, or tone. This is an expensive indulgence and I do not treat myself to it often. When I do it brings me much joy!

The most perfect bouquet for me to receive would be one that arrives:

1.    From someone I adore
2.    Already arranged in a vase
3.    Consisting of one primary flower, all in one colour or tone

Over the years, I’ve received many bouquets, but my most favourite were received years ago. The dandelions my kids picked in our backyard, or along the road, and handed to me with grubby hands and bright smiles. 

All I had to do was find the vase :)

17 December 2012

day seventeen | spark

prompt: spark

In your current life or context, what provides the spark for the future you want to create? Where do you see your future beginning? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I really think my dedication to my guiding word of 2012 - OPEN - has served me well over the last twelve months. Each time I’ve chosen to embrace it, no matter how intimidated or overwhelmed I was, the situation turned into something positive and challenging.

Essentially I have been open, with no expectation but a positive attitude, to any “yes” and any “no” I’ve received. I really believe that the spark going forward is the confidence I’ve gained over the last year. The knowledge that I am making the right choices for me, and my children. I have to say that it has been a rewarding experience – though a very cerebral event.

I’ve recently come to realize that in order to protect myself, I’ve evolved into someone pragmatic and heartless. Not mean at all, but not engaged outside of my head. I have built an impenetrable wall around my heart. My thoughts and decisions are made completely with head and instinct, no feeling or connection to anything outside of those people I trust, fully. I have removed the risk of being hurt. I err on logical – realistic rather than romantic; kind rather than dramatic; grounded rather than dream-filled.

It took 20+ years to get to this point in the evolution of me. I imagine it will take a similar number of years to melt those walls and change ingrained habits of survival.

Someday there will come a time to turn "open" inward instead of just outward.

There will be a day when I rediscover my heart, but right now, the spark I need to go forward into the next phase will be to stay open - continue to learn and explore, maintain a positive and fun-loving attitude and keep my children focused on their goals and keep them safe in the pursuit.

16 December 2012

day sixteen | disappointment

prompt: disappointment

What was the greatest disappointment of the year and how did you let go? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I often think disappointment is opportunity in disguise. In my constant effort to turn shit into sunshine I consider my disappointments and then adjust my attitude. Once I get over the initial reaction to something not going the way I expected, I take a moment - or ten - to take another look – or ten – to determine if there is another way to consider the situation. Disappointments can be spirit crushing, if you let them. I will not be crushed so I find a way to deal with them.

I am completely disappointed in my inability to lose this awful weight. It’s like an anchor. I made all kinds of plans and did my usual “set myself up for success” and nothing. Zippo. Zilch. Nil. Thwarted at every turn. In the meantime, while researching what is going – or not going – on, I’ve discovered my body does not hold on to B12 which is an integral ingredient to weight loss. Now I’m getting B12 shots and taking supplements. It’s not the whole problem, but it is a problem. It’s a slow go, but I will figure it out. I just wish it were quicker!

I am disappointed in my inability to manage the projects I sign up to take! I always sign up with wonderful intentions and then things fall apart. Life often gets away of our plans and as far as priorities go, my children and my home are more important than my hobbies, so most projects for 2012 are on the backburner. The good news is I have plenty to do in 2013!

I am disappointed in my inability to decide what to do with the remaining 23 boxes. They are filled with scrapbook supplies. As much as I love the digital format I’ve come to embrace, I so enjoy the tactile sensation of paper, glue and scissors. As things go, it’s not the worst problem to have. I will just find a place to store them – away from my main floor – so I can make a decision!

Of course, I am often disappointed in the actions of others. Some actions are more frustrating than others, and I do continue to advocate for my children in some situations and friends in others, but I do understand I have no power to fix and will eventually move on to other things once I’m exhausted.

15 December 2012

day fifteen | make

prompt: make

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin) 

+ + + + + 

What do I not want to make? My brain is constantly spinning with so many ideas I can’t seem to settle on just one – so  in the end nothing gets made!

Right now I am struggling with my final 23 boxes – filled with scrapbook supplies. Do I want to continue with traditional paper albums or go all digi? Maybe hybrid – combining them both? I can’t decide, so the boxes stay, unopened and unorganized.

In the meantime, I have a fascination with pottery + words. Can you imagine a simple handmade bowl with “yum” written on the bottom? Or a coffee mug with a quote on the handle or your regular “order” – double double, maybe? I’d like to figure out how to do that and make some fun pieces for me and for friends.

I really want to set aside some time and go through all of my images, figure out what I have and develop a format to make a big coffee table book of those things that visually bring me joy.

I want to make a monster list of all the fun things I’ve found on Pinterest and other sources, and just tick off the list and make everything on it and learn a ton of stuff along the way. Who knows, I may even get *gasp* messy? Maybe even record it and blog about it – you know, all the good, the bad and the creative adventures of online ideas. Oh the possibilities!

First things first, I want to make a warm, uncluttered and exquisite home for me and my children filled only with things we need and love. There is always a lot to do - big and small. Right now I just want to make do with what we have and not have any more workmen or messes!

14 December 2012

day fourteen | relax

prompt: relax

Where did you feel most relaxed? Do you have a special space? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I’m comfortable in my own skin and happy to be left in my own company but I am never relaxed. I might just be the most intense person I know. As a fierce mama to four kids, I have to be “on guard” and fully aware at all times. I have to be aware of a change in mood and a change in tone in the matter of moments. I also have to be in complete control of that reaction. That is hard and the complete opposite of relaxed.

I suppose the most relaxed I’ve ever been, ever, was last April. It was my last full day at Canyon Ranch. In the days earlier in the week, I’d had acupuncture, reflexology, a shoulder/head massage, time in a sauna, a manicure and swam every day. I enjoyed breakfasts, lunches and dinners with my sister – a brutal 2-mile walk too. The last day I was scheduled for a fancy new-age treatment and then at the last minute changed it to a simple full-body massage.

I was reading a mindless magazine in the waiting area, in my robe. My name was called and I walked down a dimly lit hallway and met a short, stocky man named Dave. I have to tell you my first impression was that I’d be happy to listen to his voice forever. Then we got all settled in for a massage and  not only did I have the pleasure of hearing him for an hour, with careful placement of rolled towels and plenty of unscented oil, he gave me the best massage of my life. I could have stayed there forever. FOREVER. So good, in fact, I’ve not had one since. I do hope he’s still there the next time I have an opportunity to visit.

In the meantime, I am trying to introduce more calm and relaxing rituals to my daily life. Walks along the lake, quiet and reflective time at home while the kids are at school, swimming mindless laps of the YMCA pool. It probably won’t have any effect on my level of intensity when required, but it will be good for me!

Though I have to admit, all of my “relaxing” is often done with a goal in mind which I don’t think is the point. I cannot shut my brain down enough to relax properly.

13 December 2012

day thirteen | try

prompt: try

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2012? What happened when you did/didn't go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise) 

+ + + + + 

Sometimes, in certain situations, try is simply not enough. Every once in a while you must execute, not just make an attempt. I have been so focused on the execution, I had forgotten that it’s okay simply to try. Try and fail. Try and prevail. The simple act of trying something new, something old or something different: I really should reintroduce the concept to my life.

Right now, I want to try to take every day as it comes.

Right now, I want to try and not have any fire to extinguish. Certainly I do not want to add any fuel to any flames. Anywhere. At all.

And, once I’ve tried that, I’d like to try a few other things. Most of the activities are predicated upon my being more active and losing some weight.
  • I want to try joining  the tennis ladder at the courts at the school.
  • I want to try indoor skydiving. Too chicken to jump out of a plane!
  • I want to try white water rafting.
  • I want to try meditation.
  • I want to try to keep a swim schedule - at least four mornings a week.
  • I want to try make the clay items I’ve been dreaming about.
  • I want to try (again) and apply for a job, with benefits.
  • I want to try and revamp my wardrobe to reflect me and my style.
  • I want to try sewing again by dusting off my machine and if I can’t find what I want to wear, I can make it.
  • I want to try golfing again. Only 9 holes at a time though. I still don’t understand the need for 18 :)
  • I want to try installing, and using, actions in PSE.

Essentially, I want to open myself up enough to try things I’m comfortable with and some that make me squirm a bit.  

12 December 2012

day twelve | joy

prompt: joy

What activity or event brings you the most joy? How will you bring more joy into your life next year? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

It’s so hard to pick one thing that brings me joy. Over the last year I’ve made a conscious effort to change my attitude. There is joy to be found in even the most mundane of chores. I now find a level of joy in everything from emptying the dishwasher to lunch with friends. I’ve made a conscious effort to engage in things I enjoy and make things I don’t naturally like enjoyable.

I find little joy in cooking, but with my new focus on healthy and clean eating, I’ve been able to find joy in exploring new recipes, new-to-me foods and new palate experiences. Proof positive that joy can be found in the things you most loathe, it just depends on your outlook :)

What brings me joy, naturally, is spending time with my family and with my friends. I’d like to make more of an effort to see my friends. Go to lunch. Meet for wine. Play cards or games. Maybe even head out to the movies. I want to become more social and more open.

What brings me joy, naturally, is spending time with my camera in fun places. I like taking photo walks and I should do that more. If it’s still there, I’d like to go to the art room at BSS filled with light and lead glass windows. I’d like to go to the St. Lawrence Market. I’d like to go to Union Station. I’d like to go to Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy and a few festivals. All venues are in Toronto, I’m sensing a theme.

What brings me joy, naturally, is a clean and organized home filled with the people and things I love. I want to take my time this year, now that the heavy lifting has been complete, and finish things off. Who knows, I may even replace my 15+ year old dishes!

What brings me joy, naturally, is writing. I think it’s time to figure out what I want to do with that particular skill which is one of my great passions. Time to figure out a plan – and then execute it!

What brings me joy, naturally, is time alone. I’d like to spend some time alone away from home. Just me. Someplace away from the noise and pressure to regroup and recharge.

Joy is found in just about everything - with a bit of reframing, anything can hold at least a little joy. Right now I want to find joy in places where I don’t have to work too hard to discover it!

11 December 2012

day eleven | money

prompt: money

Where did you spend money through this year? (Author: Kaileen Elise) 

+ + + + + 

This year can be defined by the spending of distinctly unsexy money. You know, the boring stuff. A lot of functional purchases not too much fluff or fun.
  •  Structural Repair to my home
  •  Security System
  •  Truck, Gas & Car Washes
  •  Lease Penalties
  •  Truck Maintenance & Repairs
  •  GO Train & TTC
  •  Air Canada & WestJet
  •  Fridge & Dishwasher
  •  Washer & Dryer
  •  Leak Repair
  •  Toilets (4 of them!)
  •  Air Conditioner
  •  Mini Cooling systems for boys rooms
  •  Hot Water Heater upgrade
  •  Sump Pump
  •  Dentist & Orthodontist
  •  Optometrist & Glasses
  •  Naturopath
  •  Prescriptions & Supplements
  •  iPhones & Cellular service
  •  Photo Finishing
  •  Chandelier for Dining Room
  •  Fixture for Kitchen
  •  Couch, Coffee Table & Living Room Rug
  •  Bar Stools
  •  Dressers & Armoirev Cleaning service
  •  Resident Fees
  •  Groceries, Treats & LCBO
  •  Movies & Concerts & Plays
  •  Clothing & Shoes
  •  Head Shots
  •  Football Leagues & Equipment
  •  Lessons: Acting, Vocal, Piano
  •  Baseball League, Gloves, Cleat & Bats
  •  Volleyball League & Lessons & Gear
  •  Tennis Lessons & Racquet
  •  YMCA Memberships & Bathing Suits
  •  Uniforms (Blazers, Pants, Kilts, Shirts, Ties and dress shoes)
  •  School Books
Fluffy and fun were our trips, most by truck though some by airplane, that had such a wonderful and positive impact on me and the kids. I am hoping our future spending is less ordinary next year but you have to solidify the every day in order to enjoy - and appreciate - the special, right?

10 December 2012

day ten | accomplish

prompt: accomplish

What are the 10 things you are most proud of accomplishing this year? What are the 10 things on top of the to do list for next year? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I am all about the list – and the calendar. Better than making the list is doing the chores on the list: a bunch of crossed off chores and big “x” marking the passage of days is so gratifying, it lets me know that I’ve been productive and many big and small things have been accomplished. Sometimes the undertakings are not as tangible, but equally or more impactful than planning a trip, doing the laundry or making dinner.

1.  Standing up for my children and being their best advocate – always.

2.  Purchasing a truck that will get us through the next 10+ years of kids through high school and moving to university.

3.  Recognizing that necessary repairs don’t fix themselves – and fixing them, immediately.

4.  Yielding when necessary, but not compromising my beliefs and convictions to make someone else happy. If I don’t have to forsake a part of my soul, I’ll yield.

5.  Supporting Caden when he invited his grandpapa for a visit knowing it would be (politely) rejected. Supporting all of my kids in their increasingly complicated relationships.

6.  Letting go of preconceived expectations of my kids and letting them find their way. Realizing my position is now that of unwavering supporter, not creator or critic.

7.  Solidifying the bond between my four children. They really are as different from each other as four points on a compass, but in the middle they are one solid unit. That was a huge priority.

8.  Creating a space that reflects me. My home is becoming my castle: a modest, comfortable and welcoming space in the world. I’d rather have less and have it be exquisite than have more and have it resemble a junk sale.  

9.  We found an optometrist, dentist and orthodontist and have had our eyes and teeth fixed up and everything is now tip top! No more procrastinating!

10. Though there are still a few boxes left to unpack and paintings to hang, much of the house is functioning really well. Not only does it look great, it functions well. No projects left undone. No junk lying around. Order = peace.

For next year?

1.  Get healthy and strong.

2.  Get all of those boxes unpacked, pictures hung and everything in the house organized 100%

3.  Get out of the house more and engage in the world around me. With and without the camera.

4.  Find another “perfect situation” job opportunity and go for it, again. The difference? Get it this time!

5.  Plan some mama time away. Single parenting 24/7 is rewarding but exhausting. A break is needed!

6.  Date.

7.  Catch up on all of my creative pursuits.

8.  Create a container garden oasis on the back deck.

9.  Get more light into the house by installing a ton of pot lights!

10. Embrace fully “clean” eating and cut out all refined sugar - completely.


09 December 2012

day nine | spontaneity

prompt: spontaneity

What was your last act of spontaneity? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I would not call myself a spontaneous person. I try it more in fits and starts. Spontaneity requires a bit of abandon and recklessness that is not inherent to my personality, but I’m trying. In fact, I have been trying A LOT!

Lately I’ve done THREE rather impulsive things. Of the “what was I thinking” variety :)

ONE | I signed myself up for tennis lessons. Every time I log onto Pinterest or Facebook I’m overwhelmed with statistics posted by friends about running. Nothing interests me less than running, but I felt incredible pressure to conform – and fail. I don’t know what took me so long but one day I looked up tennis lessons and booked myself in with a pro to get me back into playing shape. If I’m going to exercise it’s going to be on my terms doing something I love – not something everyone else is doing.

TWO | Following the lead of Jo Maz – one of the mums at school – I’ve organized an all-inclusive lunch for the mums (and dads, too) of kids in our middle school. The invitation went out to 88 addresses. At last count there will be about half that number attending! Yikes! With such an enthusiastic response, clearly this is something long overdue. Now my job is to find a suitable venue to accommodate all of us in January.

THREE | Do you ever meet someone and know that you know them, though you’ve never met them before? When I met Helen at a gathering at Elaine’s home I had an immediate sense that we’ve known each other forever. She calls it a “kindred spirit” meeting another and she may be right. Helen was in the front room reading cards. Now, my fascination with reading of cards, tea leaves, palms goes back to my childhood. When Helen read my cards I was fascinated. It was remarkable and cathartic. I’ve signed up for seven appointments with her. I cannot wait to enjoy this new experience! 

Though impulsive, and perhaps silly, I’m happy to explore some things - old and new. It certainly is invigorating and I do enjoy the risk factor, though, in my case the risk is controlled. It’s not like I’m jumping out of a plane or anything! (Um, no.)

For a while now, for my kids, I’ve let go of the word “should” and use the word “yes” more. I think it’s high time I do the same for myself and just follow my heart and do what I want to do and not worry about conforming to the expectations of others.

A very hard thing for an A-type eldest, but it’s been fun so far!

08 December 2012

day eight | reading

prompt: reading

What has been your favourite book [or blog or magazine] you've read this year? (Author: Carolyn Rubenstein) 

+ + + + + 

I am forever reading something: a blog, a book, a magazine. A mix of electronic and hard copy – as much as I’ve tried, I do not enjoy using my iPad to read a book and I’m pretty sure I’ve single-handedly revived the magazine industry.

Yes, magazines. I know they’re going the way of the Dodo, but for me they are a mainstay. As a parent of four busy kids, I seem to live in my truck taking the kids here-there-everywhere and there is a ridiculous amount of wait time. Sometimes I fill my time talking – on the phone or in person – but usually I have a collection of magazines to distract and fulfill me:

Canadian House & Home | I’ve had this subscription forever and love it
Oprah | I miss her on television everyday. The magazine is brilliant and with every issue I learn a lot of good, empowering stuff
Vanity Fair | I’ve been a fan since the days of the Regan presidency and Dominic Dunn’s salacious stories and speculations
Martha Stewart Living | I long ago realized I’m not Martha Stewart and don’t want to be, but wow, what she has done is amazing – and the photography is stellar
Whole Living | LOVE this magazine. It gets me, where I am, today
The Simple Things | Holy smokes! I read the first issue and immediately subscribed
Click | This is going to be a favourite, of that I’m sure
More | Wow, and age appropriate woman’s magazine. I’ve enjoyed everything about it so far
Best Health | One of the lovely things about Canadian Magazines is that it tells me about things I can get here at home
Anna | One issue in and looking forward to the next
Seeing the Everyday | Arrives in a brown envelope each month, so simple and inspiring
Fine Cooking | I’m a fan of the “fresh” issues. As a non-cook they are very helpful
Artful Blogging | Ah yes. One day!

The articles are just long enough to fill the time spent waiting in front of the Nicholas Arts Centre after school. You know, when you have to arrive a half hour early in order to safely park without threat of crazy parents frantically arriving late to collect their little precious while putting everyone in harms way? Yep. That’s how I prefer things.

Be a little early; get a little productive and educated.

As for books, not many were read, but there was one standout: “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. It was chilling and stays with me still in it's casual horror. Seriously scary stuff. The whole book was good: beginning, middle and end. That's exactly what I need. A book that doesn't disappoint at the end. 

07 December 2012

day seven | 7 minutes

prompt: 7 minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2012 in 7 minutes. Set an alarm for 7 minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2012. (Author: Patty Digh, with an extra 2 minutes from me!) 

+ + + + + 

Most of my memories involve my children. They really are everything to me and even the challenging moments I hope to remember forever. The kids when we got the new television set, arguing over who was going to set it up. Chloé singing the national anthem - unaccompanied - at the Dads vs Habs game at Sixteen Mile Arena and Claire's joy when she met Guy Lafleur. The fear I felt when I received the mean-spirited call from SP regarding the bullying situation Cole was victimized by in at school and the joy when the bus pulled away for the choir trip - with Cole on board. Caden's face and beaming smile when he saw the new truck. Chloé at her first recital all nervous and happy. The day Harvey's finally opened on the corner. Cole's face, and huge hug, when he realized I was going to allow him to leave hockey - for good. "SHOTGUN" Claire and her neverending pursuit of the perfect everything: dress, shoes, bag - exhausting! GREASE! The endless rehearsals and then the final performance with Cole as Teen Angel. Wonderful. Caden getting so tall - and keeps growing! GLASSES all around - except Ms. 20/20. The air in Tucson, the lillies in the pond and the flowering cacti all over Canyon Ranch. Laughing with my sister, Beth and the regular calls. Claire when she locked the keys in the truck while we were in Darien Lake and the resulting teenage belligerence that accompanied her lack of apology. Oh the drama. "I love you, Mama" responded with "I love you more". Chloé's devastation when her girl"friends" from school turned out to be quite the opposite. Caden's love and talent playing football - both offence and defence. The bass clarinet discovery. Claire's stories from Europe. The kids feeling abandoned: and they're right. Sometimes the most positive lessons come from the most negative experiences. Enjoying those Monday shifts at the College Shop and the lovely ladies I got to spend some time with on those days. Claire driving. Gasp! Easter with Wanda and her family. Chloé won the Middle School arts award! Talks, so many good talks with my kids, with my Dad, with Wanda. Taking Claire to the ball diamond - whether she was playing or not. The drama of prom. Ugh. The concussion that wouldn't go away, poor Cole. Caden started at Appleby! All four at the same school. Relief that the bullies were not coming back.  "Deployment Syndrome". Broken teeth - at acting? Seriously? The kids ALL started to enjoy Chinese and Japanese food. Hallelujah! ROAD TRIPS: Cape Cod & Maritimes. SUCH great opportunities for us to be together. Things in a Box. Brené Brown, Maya Angelou and "We Are All Enough" chapel speech. Didn't get the job :( All of my kids can sing! XM Radio and alternative rock - love that we can all listen to the same radio ...

That's it. 7 minutes.

06 December 2012

day six | change

prompt: change

If you could change one thing that happened this year, what would it be? Why? (Author: Me) 

+ + + + + 

I’m learning to take things as they come. It has been hard, but I think I’m finally there. It is a wonderful relief, a chance to exhale. With one exception: if I had the opportunity and power I would have had Louis, the father of my children, realize that his children are not divorcing him, I am.

I had a horrible relationship with my mother. She was a brutally unkind woman and I cut all ties to her by the time I was eighteen.  I would have rather cut off my right arm than to do that. I know how excruciating it is to be mistreated by a parent. I chose survival over subjugation. I promised myself that my children would never have to deal with the cruel effects of a harsh childhood. So much for my great plans!

When I started my marriage-with-children journey back in 1994, had I ever thought the children part of that equation would have to go through the neglect and abandonment they have suffered this year, if I did, I don’t think I would have had them.

If I could change anything over the past year, I’d have had my children’s father grow up and be the father I know he was capable of when I married him. Certainly not the man he is now. I hear “it’s his loss” or “he’ll regret it in the end” and that may be true. The fact is, in the meantime, my children suffer and that is painful to watch from the sidelines.

In the months between calls, I remind each of my kids that they are loved. Louis loves his children. I know that. He just doesn’t know how to show it. He is so self-involved he has no idea the effect his actions – or lack thereof – has on his kids.

I’m running out of excuses and explanations. He chooses to live in our town to be “close to his kids” and yet refuses to see or call them. I know it is so he appears to others to be a conscientious parent – because that is what people do, right? Stay and fight for their kids. The problem is he only goes half way. He’s here in town but won’t call or see his kids until someone reminds him.

If I could change anything, Louis would call or see his kids because he wants to, not because he has to - but even that would be better for them than his silence.