Are we listening?

Today is #BellLetsTalk day. It is a day that focuses on bringing attention to mental health issues, and how we need to talk about it. It's a fantastic idea.

When I was a child, and even a teenager, mental health issues were not discussed. I had never heard of bi-polar disorder or OCD. Depression just meant someone felt sad and anxiety was something you kept to yourself. Sometimes an adult would hear about a friend of a friend who had a nervous breakdown, but the news was told in a hushed whisper. Shocking. Shameful.

Now, in the year 2017, have we changed? If our fifteen year old starts showing symptoms of being a diabetic, we take them to the doctor, get the tests done and if diabetes is present we treat it, often with medication. If our fifteen year old tells us they feel hopeless and sad all the time, or that they are worthless, do we act? Do we take them to the doctor to investigate? Unfortunately, we are less likely to do that. So often we effectively pat them on the head and tell them we'll talk about it later, or they'll feel better tomorrow.  But what if they don't?

A couple of weeks ago I was stunned when I saw an obituary for a young man who took his own life. I knew him, though not very well. He was a customer at my place of work. He always smiled and was polite and seemed happy. Obviously there was more going on below the surface. He must have been struggling with some major issues.

There have been many other cases of suicide as well, way too many. Some of them are very well publicized and get people talking about issues like mental health and bullying. On the other hand, I'm sure a lot of families keep it very quiet. Not wanting the negative stigma of suicide associated with their loved one.

When I hear that an individual has taken their own life, I am moved with compassion for them and for their family and friends. My heart breaks for all involved. And I always think, "Why did this person think this was the only way out? Why didn't they reach out and talk to someone?"

Sometimes people who are struggling don't reach out. Sometimes there is no warning. But sometimes they do. It may be subtle so we have to pay attention. 

As a parent, I need to make more of an effort to listen to my children. Really listen. I need to turn off the TV, put down the cell phone, stop what I'm doing and truly hear what they are saying. The same goes for friends. Let's keep in touch; be that person who will listen.

Life is busy. There are many demands on us, pulling us in many directions. But please, I encourage you to stop and truly pay attention when someone is talking to you about feeling sad, or anxious all the time, or having trouble coping with day to day life. Don't write it off. Don't assume it's not important, or that it will pass. That person is taking the step to talk. Let's make sure we are listening.

 

A Change of Plans

We got a call today. A terrible call telling us that a dear friend had died. He was only 53. How can he be gone? 

I'm sure he went to bed last night, looking forward to his day off today. He probably got up, kissed his wife and little girl, hugged his teenage son and thought about what he would be doing today.  

You know how it is, the list that goes through your head as you lie in bed in the morning.  Take the garbage out, have a workout, hit the shower, do some chores, get the groceries, pick the kids up after school. The usual stuff.

Never does the mental to-do list say, die. 

I'm a list person. Maybe even a list expert. I've written thousands of lists in my lifetime. Never once has my death been on my list. Most days, I don't even think about the possibility. Most of us don't.

But why not? We know everybody dies and one day it will be our turn. But we have no idea when. We don't and can't know when our time will come.

There's different things we can do with the concept of death. We can decide not to think about it. Play the ostrich with our heads in the sand and think it can never happen to us. Or, maybe we can be the super fit, super healthy versions of ourselves and work out every day and eat only kale and nothing processed and think that in that way we can avoid it. But we can't. Death comes to us all.

It came to our friend today. I'm sure in most ways, he wasn't ready.  He still had a family to raise, a wife to love, a home to care for and a church to pastor. He wasn't planning on going anywhere yet. But the Lord had other plans, and in that way, that most important way, our friend was ready. 

You see, even though he did not know when the time of his death would be, he was prepared in that he knew his Savior, Jesus Christ. He trusted Him completely and placed all his hope for salvation in Him. That was some good planning.

He is with Him now in Heaven. And while his family and friends here on Earth are reeling, and trying to figure out life here without him, at least we can find comfort in knowing He is with the Lord now. 

I wonder if people write mental to-do lists in Heaven. If so, I wonder what will be on his list for tomorrow?

A New Beginning in a New Year

In the next few weeks I plan on doing some overhauling on my blog site.  I am learning more about which direction I want to go and cutting loose the things that are not working.  This isn't easy for me. I am not good at letting go, but at the same time I am encouraged about where I will be going.

So my blog has had 3 parts to it.  The Top 100 books, my blog, and my photos. My Top 100 book blog is going to go. Bye bye. Goodnight.  It was an ambitious idea and maybe I should have started at the other end of the list or only picked key books in the list of something. Whatever it is, I stopped enjoying that part of my blog and life a long time ago.  My life is busy and I don't want to fill it up with unnecessary things that I'm not even having fun with. Who knows, maybe I'll even pick it up again sometime in the future when I have less things on my to do list.

However, reading is still something I love and I may still write a review of books that I am reading or have read when I have a recommendation.  I am doing the 2017 Reading Challenge through Challies.com.  I highly recommend it. It has tiers to it, from light reading all the way up to obsessed. I like that it encourages some diversity in the types of book that I read. I'm starting light and plan to just see how it goes. Right now I am reading a biography of Jane Austen and it's pretty good. You may hear more about this challenge in the future.

When it comes to the main blog section, I started writing my blogs about issues related to being in my 50s and that will continue but I found whenever I was writing, it was difficult for me not to write about the Lord or my faith.  So I am going to just write and see what comes. Hopefully I will have something worth saying. I am trying to get out and do things again and I'll let you know how that goes. I plan to write about my excursions, yoga, parenting, faith, my Oscar Party and whatever moves me. To be honest I'm waiting to see if I have a voice, if I have something to say. Only time will tell.

As for my photos, I am very excited to say I received a branch new DSLR Canon Rebel T5 for Christmas and I've been gradually learning how to use it.  I couldn't be happier and hopefully my photo page will be full of lovely shots of this beautiful province in which I live.  

I think the key to this blog for me is going to be the ability to adapt as my life changes, going with the flow.  Not exactly my strong suit, but I'm working on it. Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by.

What a Year

Watching reality shows is one of my guilty pleasures. On Dancing with the Stars they always devote one week to the most significant year in the life of the contestants. I was thinking that if I was on that show (and I wish I was), I would choose 1986.

1986 was the year Expo was in Vancouver, the year I turned 21, the year I met my husband and the year I became a Christian. It was the pivotal time in my life.

Not that Expo changed anything. I remember Expo 86, a little vaguely mind you. I remember rain and rain ponchos, the Unicorn pub, where I didn't end up going, Scottish visitors and time with friends. 

And, though it wasn't really significant, my 21st birthday was fun. My family and friends celebrated with me and it was good. My sister and her husband even took me for a whirlwind weekend trip to Disneyland!  How spoiled was I!

But through it all, I was lost. I felt alone. I went about my routine of work and going to the clubs with my friends and I felt empty and wondered if this is all there was to life. I assumed that my loneliness was due to the fact that I hadn't met the man of my dreams. I was sure that when I met him he would fulfill all my needs and we would live happily every after. Just like a fairy tale.

Then, the strangest thing happened.  I met him.  I met the man that I knew I was going to marry. He was handsome and tall, kind and caring, intelligent and funny.  He came from a loving family and I knew right away I had met my Mr. Right.

The weird part was I still felt like I was missing something.  Here I had found my Prince Charming and even our love couldn't fill the void in me. I was still feeling lost and like I didn't belong, and then it happened.

My Prince Charming returned to church and began talking to me about the Lord and the Bible, all the time, for hours at a time. We had some great conversations and spent lots of time looking at the Bible, but we had only been together for a couple of weeks at this point and I was confused. What was I going to do with this man that I love but is now so "religious".  I didn't see how it could last. 

I remember calling a friend of mine on a Friday night in September and telling her that I was sad but I thought I'd have to break up with my boyfriend because of he was too religious. On the Sunday I went to church with him, at least I think I did. I don't really remember. What I do remember is that during all his "religious" conversations with me, God was working. He was showing me my need for Him.

That same Sunday evening, two days after the phone call with my friend, by God's grace, I got down on my knees and prayed and asked Jesus Christ to save me. Save me from my sins, save me from my loneliness, save me from the wrath of God and hell, save me from a life of meaninglessness, save me from myself. And praise be to God, He did!

I still am amazed at how the Lord works. He brought Tom into my life to lead me to Himself. To show me I needed more than just a life partner, I needed a Saviour.  

Since that day my life has never been the same. That doesn't mean my life has been perfect and easy or that I've never had feelings of sadness or loss. I still have to deal with those things regularly. I'm still me and the weaknesses and temptations I struggle with are the same. However, the difference is I now know the One who knows all things, the One who can do all things and the One whose love and forgiveness is limitless. Praise God!

I'm writing this today for a couple of reasons. One, because it's been 30 years now since I became a Christian and I was feeling sentimental and wanted to reminisce a little. Two, I thought it might benefit someone reading it. Maybe you've been feeling alone, or like you don't belong in this world, like no one really knows you or you have no one to talk to.  I've been there and it is awful, but maybe God is showing you, like He showed me that there is more to this life than our day to day.

If you are feeling down like that please don't give up. Talk to someone, maybe a Christian friend, pastor or counselor. Read your Bible. If you don't have one, go to the library, a book store or thrift store and get one. Find a church in your neighbourhood that teaches the Bible. Pray and ask God to help you. He is all you need.

I want to clarify something. I do not expect you to believe in Jesus because of my testimony. It's just my experience and we all have experiences in life. There is no authority in experiences. However, I do want you to believe in Jesus, but I want you to believe in Him because He is real. He is the truth. He is alive today and He is willing and able to save. Now that's authority.

 

 

 

Road trip to Kamloops

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I just came back from a short summer road-trip. I drove from my home to Kamloops to visit my BFF, Michelle. It's a trip I've made quite a few times.

When I was eleven my family moved from West Vancouver, where we had only lived for one year, to Kamloops. My Dad got transferred with his work so even though we were not thrilled about it, we packed everything up, again, and made the drive to Kamloops.

At first, we didn't have anywhere to move in to. I guess our possession date for the house we were buying was still a couple weeks away, so we spent a couple of weeks in our trailer in a campsite just on the outskirts of town. There were six of us and a cat packed into a rather small trailer without bathroom facilities. I can remember my Dad putting a bucket on the floor for us to pee in at night if we couldn't wait. It was definitely not ideal, so we were grateful when our house officially became ours and we could finally move in.

Kamloops is hot and dry and I remember it being very hot the day we moved in. After the truck had been unloaded a girl around my age came over to my front yard to talk to me. She asked me if I was a boy or a girl. Yup, that's right. Evidently my "pixie" style haircut wasn't displaying my femininity quite enough. However, being eleven, and completely uninterested in my appearance, I wasn't too bothered by her question, I just told her I was a girl and we introduced ourselves. In spite of our awkward beginning we have been friends ever since.

That was 40 years ago. That blows my mind. How can it possibly have been 40 years! I probably should say I've been blessed to have a friend for 40 years. It turns out Michelle or Mitch, as she's always liked to be called, lived right next door to me with her younger brother and sister. She was a year younger than me and definitely more mature. She was fun and pretty and she had an in-ground pool, which a friend should have if at all possible.

Anyways, we lived in Kamloops for 3 years, while I was in grade 6, 7 and 8, before moving to Coquitlam. After we left, whenever possible, I took a trip back to Kamloops. At first, since I was too young to drive I took the Greyhound bus. I was even on a Greyhound bus coming back from Kamloops on May 18, 1980 when Mount St. Helen's erupted! But when buses made me too carsick I took the train or a plane (the drive to the airport took longer than the flight), once I even got a ride in a semi truck, but eventually I got my license and I could drive myself.

I was probably 18 the first time I made the drive. At that time the Coquihalla Highway didn't exist and the only route you could take was the Fraser Canyon. It was a beautiful drive through the mountains, but so slow with it's windy roads and lots of sections with only one lane. I used to finish work on a Friday and jump in my car and hit the road, trying to get there asap, and hoping I wouldn't get stuck behind some guy towing a trailer. I would only have the weekend there and then I'd be going back.

This time was different. Even though I was only going for a couple of days I wasn't in a rush. Not that I wasn't excited to see Mitch because I was. I just really wanted to enjoy the drive. I wanted to stop and take pictures and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. So that's what I did. My three and a half hour drive took more like four and a half hours but it was great.

I think that's a really positive thing about being my age. I know what I like. Even though sometimes we have to do things because they are an obligation, I find I do less of that now. More often if I am doing something it's because I want to, not because it's expected or someone else wants me to. It's a great feeling.

Mitch and I had a great visit and we are already looking forward to the next time we can get together. We both have our own families now, and we've been through some very hard times. We are not the same people we were 40 years ago, but our friendship has held true. And for that I am very thankful. 

 

Figuring Out Fifty-One?

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It's been almost a year since I began my blog, Figuring Out Fifty, and now the time has come when I have to decide if I want to renew my subscription to keep the website up, or let it go. I had hoped it would be an easy decision, that I would be blogging 2 or 3 times per week and it would be of no doubt that I would be renewing. However, life gets busy, I am inconsistent and weeks go by without a post. 

Starting a blog was great. I was into it. I did lots of research and spent time learning how to set up the site and what makes a good blog, etc.  I enjoyed doing my book blog as I was reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I enjoyed it less with just about every book after that! My enjoyed wrting mypersonal blog more, even if I didn't write that often.

Sometimes we have to make decisions where the answers aren't obvious. I will often do pros and cons lists and weigh both sides of a question but in this case I'm not doing that.  This time for me, it comes down to one major pro. I'm keeping my Figuring Out Fifty site up because I like blogging. I like writing and sharing my thoughts. I know I don't have a big readership and that's okay. I'm doing this for me. Because I like it. Because I can. Because I want to. I realize that sounds a little childish, but none the less, that is what it comes down to.

Whew, I'm relieved. I've been stressing about that decision for the last couple of weeks. It feels great to have made a choice! However, that is not the only decision that needs to be made.  There are two parts of my blog, the book review section and the personal blog section. Should I keep both going? Should I focus on only one?  Should I add another?

I decided to start the book blog when I was at the library one day and couldn't find a book I wanted to read. I thought, I'll check out the list of the top books and choose one of those, and then I thought it would be fun to write about the books I read. And it was, at least at first. I have to admit I got really bogged down in some of these books. They are not my style. Perhaps I'm not smart enough to follow the author's story line. I'm not sure what the problem is, but I found I disliked more of the books than I liked. 

It was discouraging. I found I stopped reading altogether.  I felt guilty if I read something that wasn't on the list and I didn't want to read the current book on the list because it was not enjoyable. It was a not a good situation. However, I am also the kind of person who has trouble letting go of something once I've started it. So, my plan for now is.... I am going to continue with both parts of the blog just as they are, but, I'm taking the pressure off myself on the book section.  I will continue reading through the list at my leisure. But, if I want to read something else, like a novel by John Grisham or Nora Roberts, I'm going to go ahead and do it. In fact, I already did, and they were great.

As far as the personal blog section goes, I will continue writing about what is on my mind, what inspires me or irks me.  I have discovered that no matter what I write about it ends up having "religious" overtones. That makes sense, since I am a Christian, and I won't apologize for that. Sometimes I was worried about what people would think, would I offend anyone, would they stop reading? Then the obvious answer - who cares? I want to write for me. What I'm thinking, What I've learned. What God is leading me through. If someone doesn't like it, they don't have to read it. If someone is offended, by all means close the blog off. But the other possibility is that my blog might be an encouragement to someone else. Or just a little distraction on a bad day.

Anyways, the point is I'm staying. I'm excited and I feel like I'm starting again. But I'm going to be kind to myself and not pressure myself to read more, or blog more often. Even though I plan on it being more consistent, it will happen when it happens. 

Also, just a quick thanks to those who do read my blog regularly, whether you comment on the blog itself or tell me in person, I appreciate your kind words and encouragement more than you can imagine.

Vacation Adaptation

2001 - Osoyoos

2001 - Osoyoos

I remember going on summer vacation when my boys were small. We would load up the mini-van with backpacks, diaper bags, toys, playpens, highchairs, books, food, clothes and car-seats. It was a bit like Tetris trying to squeeze everything in the back, and under the feet of the smaller ones, and between the 2 in the middle. We would get everything in, make sure everyone had everything they needed, (their soothers, special blankies, stuffed animals), that everyone was fed and that everyone had visited the bathroom and off we would go to visit Nana and Grandad. It was a major undertaking.

My husband always did the driving except that one time he had the flu and I had to take over. He would drive and I would try to keep the kids happy. Most of the time that was fine. We would arrange their seating to make sure the most compatible ones were sitting together, that they all had their favourite toys or books nearby. We would talk about Pokemon, discuss beanie babies or dinosaurs, play music, sing songs, and tell jokes. I would mediate, negotiate and if that didn't work, dictate. It was loud and chaotic and exhausting. I miss it.

I remember those times from my own childhood. Every year we drove from Winnipeg to Vancouver to visit my Grandparents. I remember being loaded into the back seat of a station wagon that chock full, no seat-belts of course, fighting with my sisters over who got the window seat, complaining about the smell of the dog, sitting on the floor of the car and resting my head on the seat when I was feeling carsick. And I remember the singing.  My Mom would start us off in the front seat and we would sing all these folksy Canadian songs, Land of the Silver Birch, Manitoba - Gate to the West, This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land. I loved those songs and I still remember them today.

I hope we built those memories for our kids as well. I hope they will think back fondly at the times we traveled together when they were young. The times they were uncomfortably squished into the back of the family vehicle with their siblings as we headed for the Sunshine Coast to see their grandparents or camping in Osoyoos.

This year, for the first time since 1988, it will be just my husband and I making the drive. We'll toss our bags and golf clubs in the back and we'll be out of here. It is so much easier, so much more convenient, so quiet and easy. I should be elated. But I am not. On the contrary I feel really hollow and sad. Where did the time go? Where are my little boys? I'm not ready!

Who will insist I go up on the top deck of the ferry so the wind can blow us backwards? Who will beg for something from the vending machine or cafeteria or gift shop?  Who will entertain me with stories and jokes? Who will bug the person beside him one too many times?

I guess it'll be up to me to entertain myself now. I'll have to decide if I want to go up to the top deck or stay in the car. I'll have to make decisions based on what I want instead of out of necessity. It's kind of a new concept, but I'm sure we can figure this out. I think It's going to be okay. We can make this next adaptation. 

It does make me think though. All these years I thought I was looking after them. I'm starting to think maybe it was the other way around.

 

 

 

 

What To Do About the Homeless?

Today I did something that I haven't often done.  I went to a protest rally. I joined my voice with the hundreds of other people there to speak out about the plan to convert a local hotel into a 61 unit low-barrier homeless shelter.

I feel it is imperative to state loudly and clearly that I do not have a personal vendetta against the homeless or drug addicted.  I do not hate them.  I am not unfeeling or uncaring about the situation they are in.  However, I firmly believe that this is not the solution.  This is not the answer these people need.  And it is certainly not the answer that our community needs.

I know this is hot topic and there are differing points of view and I welcome your comments in the area below this blog.  I am open to hearing different perspectives but this is my place to voice my opinion.

There have been homeless people in Maple Ridge for as long as I can remember and I've lived in the area for 24 years.  Back then there were a handful of visible homeless and most likely a small number of those who kept themselves more hidden.  However, back in 2010 when the winter Olympics were in Vancouver, many of the homeless from that area were moved out here, to give the city a more attractive look. 

Shelters and soup kitchens were started.  Churches got more involved in helping. All of these attempts were to assist the homeless to better their lives and circumstances.  Many caring people gave and continue to give of their time to extend compassion to the displaced.  But to what end?

I really think we need to ask ourselves, when we are working to help those less fortunate, what is our purpose?  Is it to provide single meal?  A roof over someone's head for the night? A place to shower? There is obviously nothing wrong with any of these motivations. Sometimes a temporary solution is what is needed. But shouldn't we be trying for more than that?

When our government is addressing an issue like dealing with the homeless, and are spending millions of tax-payer dollars on it, I think there are some key issues to be considered.

1)  Why are these people homeless? I think this is an essential starting point because the why affects what needs to be done.  Is it due to poverty and job loss? Have they fallen on hard times and just need a hand to get back on their feet?  Or perhaps they are addicted to drugs or alcohol and require a different kind of help. Perhaps they suffer from mental illness and have altogether different needs.

2) What is the end goal?  Is the end goal to have the Province supporting every person who is unable or unwilling to help themselves?  For how long?  And to what extent?

3) What will our community look like in 5 years?  10 years?  20 years? Will the problem of the homeless among us be solved, or will our neighbourhoods continue to deteriorate?  

4) What affect will this have on the communities in which we place these shelters? What will happen to the crime rate?  What about the safety of our children who are already finding hypodermic needles in the parks? Is it right to use people's own tax dollars to set up an infrastructure that will only hurt their safety, property rights and home values?

Clearly this is a complicated issue and I don't pretend to have all the answers. But I do know this, setting up a low barrier shelter which permits its residents to continue drug use in a neighbourhood near families schools and businesses makes no sense at all.  We need to speak out and our politicians need to listen.

 

 

 

Hope Required

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I went for a walk during my coffee break at work the other day. The weather was surprisingly mild for February. It wasn't raining either, which is even more surprising given that I live in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC, and we are known for our rain.  

I only had 10 minutes or so to get out and get some fresh air, so without delay I set out for the great outdoors. I work in a retail area, so my great outdoors is a 2 square block walk on sidewalks past paint stores, gas stations and restaurants, but it's always a nice change from being inside all the time. Anyway, I got outside and headed across the parking lot, moving as quickly as I could to make sure I would get back before my break was done.

There's something so invigorating about being outside, especially when the air is cool. I feel myself breathing deeper and smiling on the inside (and usually on the outside too), like everything is right in the world. As I did my speedy stroll around my work neighbourhood, I noticed that the plants and trees were starting to show signs of spring. There were little buds forming on the tree branches and green shoots were making their way up out of the soil in the landscaped areas.

Now I know there are months to go before the spring, and I'm sure the plants know it too, but sometimes I wonder if they're just showing some signs of life to give us hope; hope that the spring will come again, that the days will be longer, that the trees will blossom and grow their leaves, that flowers will bloom and the air will be warm again.

I think we need that.  We need to have hope that there will be better days.  During the winter doldrums that means dreaming of the spring. In times of difficulty, it means holding on, because this too shall pass. There are going to be plenty of days in our lives when the sun does not shine, when things don't go our way, when we are sick, or broke, or frustrated, or sad. Hope is what pulls us through.

The only question now is, in what do we hope? Or better yet, in whom do we hope? Really that is the most important question of all. What is the foundation for our hope? Is our hope just a wish? Or do we have assurance of more than that?  

The Bible teaches that God created the world and He sustains it and sovereignly rules over it. I know that He is in control of all things. He is my Lord and my Saviour so, when everything is going well, or when times are hard, I can rely on Him and know that He knows what's going on. He has a plan and He is working it all out.

The Bible also says if are reconciled to Him through Christ Jesus, we are His children and we don't need to worry.  He will take care of us. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or what we will wear because God our Father knows that we have need of these things and He will take care of us, as He does the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. 

Thinking about these things can give us hope.  It doesn't mean we will never go through hard times; we might, in fact we probably will.  It just means that when things in our lives are looking as bleak and barren as a northern winter landscape, we can have faith that God is with us and we don't have to go through it alone.  Just like waiting for the spring, we can be assured that there are better times to come.

My prayer for you is the same as that of the apostle Paul:  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy spirit.  Romans 15:13

 

 

 

 

 

First Things First

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It's the Christmas season and everybody is busy, bustling around, shopping, baking, wrapping, singing, going to concerts or to see displays of pretty lights or visit Santa.  It can be a little crazy at times as a working wife and mother, trying to balance everything.  

I love Christmas.  I love the crisp chill in the air.  I love the music.  I love baking and eating all the yummy treats.  I enjoy picking gifts for my loved ones. I enjoy picking the tree and decorating.  I even enjoy the gift wrapping and card writing.  What I don't enjoy is how all of these things can be so consuming. 

At times it seems like everything else in life has to take a pause while we "do Christmas".  I find that I don't have time to exercise, to read, to blog, to play games with my family, to clean my house, to do just about anything that I normally do, other than the bare necessities.  I know this isn't right.  I know there has to be a better way, but I still haven't figured it out.

I was talking with my son in the car yesterday, on our way home from the mall, and we were discussing this topic. How do we find time to do all the things that we need to do and want to do?  Not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. There are so many things in my life I want to work on, but there really isn't a lot of free time in my day.  

Then my son, who is 16, shared his wisdom with me.  He told me to pick one thing and do that. Make that one thing your priority until it becomes habit, just part of who you are and part of your daily routine. Then if you want, you can try adding the next thing.

His statement impacted me although this was nothing new.  I had heard this before, I had probably said it before, but what hit me me was the simplicity of the suggestion.  It wasn't 7 easy steps to organize your life, or 5 ways to maximize your time.  It was simple and direct. Pick the one, most important one to you, and do that first. Make time for that one thing every day. 

So that's my plan.  As I scurry around preparing for Christmas with everyone else, I will make sure to make time for my one thing, my focus.  I'll take it easy on myself and not beat myself up about the things I don't get done.  Instead, I'll be kind to myself and I'll enjoy the season with my family.

I hope you"ll do the same.

Merry Christmas! 

A Letter to My Mom

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Five years.  How can it be five years since I last heard your voice and saw your smile.  Five years since you last hugged me.  Five years since I knelt by your bedside as you took your last breath.

Since then my life has been different.  I've been different.  Over time the pain has changed from a sharp and urgent stabbing to a chronic nagging ache.  And losing you has left me changed. 

I don't do some of the reflex actions any more.  I no longer pick up the phone to call you. I no longer think "I should go over to Mom's".

But I still think of you all the time, every day. I think of you when there is jive music playing and I have to get up and grab one of my kids to dance with.  I think of you when I 'm baking for my family and I remember how much time you spent baking such delicious treats for us, and how you loved doing it, because you loved us. I think of you when I'm giving advice or setting down rules for my "boys".  You always made parenting look so easy. You never seemed to tire of your responsibilities.  You were so quick with a word of encouragement.  You were the one who always made me feel like I could do anything.  

I guess we always know this time will come; this stage of life where we have to go on without our Mother to guide us.  But I don't think we are ever really prepared for it.  I know I wasn't. And yet, ready or not, here I am, and five years later I'm still figuring out how to be without my Mom. 

I don't really know where I'm going with these thoughts.  All I know is when I woke up today my first thought was of you. There are so many things I wish I could tell you.  You'd be so proud of your daughters, sons-in-law, grand-kids and great grand-kids.  

There have been some beautiful weddings I know you would have loved to have been at. There have been some sweet new wee ones born.  I know how much you would have loved to have seen them. There have been graduations, job changes, Christmas concerts, people moving away, people moving back.  It doesn't feel right that all this is happening without you here to witness it.

I guess what I'm saying is I miss you Mom.  And I love you.  Thank you for being everything a mother should be.  And even though I could never be everything you were, at least I know what to strive for.  

Make Like a Tree

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Today the weather was decent, actually it was pretty good, so I put on a light jacket, grabbed my work gloves and push broom stepped outside. We have a tulip tree on our property and it has been busy letting go of its fall colours by scattering its leaves wherever it can.

Every couple of days, when it isn't pouring rain, I have been going out and spending 10 or 15 minutes sweeping up the leaves that have fallen on the driveway.  I haven't even started on the leaves on the grass yet, I guess I'm procrastinating on that job.

So, while I was out today, loading up our green waste garbage can with a load of slightly soggy leaves, it struck me how heavy these leaves are when they are all together. One leaf doesn't weigh much at all, but if you gather a can full, you are going to notice it if you try and pick it up.

It started me thinking about how strong trees are.  I looked up at our tree, which still has a fair number of leaves yet, and marveled at how it stands so straight and strong.  Even when the branches are heavy laden with spring blossoms.  Even when the gusty winds blow.  Even when the frost or ice or snow come, the tree does not break.  It may bend, but with roots grabbing hold far beneath the surface of the earth, it stands its ground, limbs raised as if in praise to God Himself.

It reminded me of how the Bible compares those who trust in Him to a tree planted by a stream.

Jeremiah 17: 7,8  Blessed is the man who trust in the LORD, whose trust is in the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

When we trust in Him, He provides all our needs and causes us to flourish.  We do not need to fear or lose hope when the winds of adversity blow.  He is always faithful.  He is our strength and he will uphold us through all things.

So, my prayer today, for all my family and friends, and for those of you reading these words is that we, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, may be like these trees; strong, unwavering, fulfilling our purpose, arms upraised to the One who created us.  To Him be all the glory, forever, Amen.

Good morning!

I am definitely a morning person.  I love the quiet of the morning, before anyone else gets up.  I love the way the air is so fresh and smells good.  I love the peacefulness.  Did I mention I love the quiet?

I need to qualify though.  Just because I am a morning person doesn't mean I spring out of bed with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.  Okay, there is usually a song involved, but I'm not usually smiling.  Most of the time I'm hitting my snooze button as many times as I can before I drag myself into an upright position.

What I find though, is once I'm awake, my brain starts going full bore.  I'm making to do lists, deciding what to wear,, organizing my kids schedules, planning birthdays and other special occasions and all while still sitting, eyes closed on the edge of my bed.  I can't turn it off.

I guess it's a good thing.  I've always liked being a morning person. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to still be energized after 7 pm.  To still be thinking and planning and doing. For me, when the post dinner cleanup is done, so am I.  

That is definitely not the case for my husband and most of my sons.  They are the opposite. In the mornings they often stumble around in a zombie-like stupor with slightly glazed eyes, making unintelligible grunts and walking with shuffling steps. But in the evening, when it is my turn to behave like the undead, they are full of life, they are playing guitar, inviting friends over, playing games, singing, telling stories and laughing. Sometimes I wish I could be one of them.  It looks like so much fun.

But as I sit here this morning with the house all still around me, sipping my tea and listening to the sound of the rain outside my window, I know it will never happen. It wasn't meant to be. God made me a morning person.  I am meant to be at my best at this time of day, and I'm thankful because as much as I love hearing the laughter and fun of the evening my soul craves the peace of the morning.

So I encourage you today to embrace who you are and make the most of it. Whether you are a morning person or you come alive later in the day, be thankful that you are who you are. Take the time to appreciate your life and your loved ones. After all each day is a gift.  Let's not waste a single one.

Eat, Drink and Give Thanks

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

I think I'm still full.  My family celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday and there was so much food. This is a good problem, believe me I know, and I realize that I have so much to be thankful for.

My whole life growing up my Mom made the most delicious turkey dinners every Thanksgiving. My parents and my sisters and I would gather around the table and share the meal and enjoy each other's company.  There was always so much food and even more laughter.  It was always something to look forward to.  But over time things started to change.

One by one my sisters met the men they would marry and our table became more and more crowded as these young men would join us.  Our family was growing.  We could pretty much kiss the leftovers goodbye because these guys could really eat!  Then, as my sisters did get married, sometimes they would be at their in-laws homes for Thanksgiving and our family would shrink down again.  

One by one we sisters all got married and started our own families in our own homes and eventually it was our time to prepare our own feasts.  Mom had done more than her fair share of the cooking and now it was our time to step up and try it ourselves.  It was our turn to start traditions with our own children and try to pass on the love and laughter that we were raised with.

And so it has been in my home.  My husband Tom and I have pretty much raised our five boys into men, by the grace of God, and we love the times we can all be together around the table with plates full of food and hearts full of thankfulness.   

This year though, there was a bit of a shift.  A move into the next era.  There were girls at my dinner!  I knew this time would come.  I knew one day, if the Lord was willing, that each of my boys would meet a young lady to spend their time with. So this year, we had three lovely young ladies join us for Thanksgiving. It was such a blessing.

It's always a lot of work preparing the meal and getting the house ready, but when I sat at my place at the table and looked around at my family and our guests, I felt true contentment and happiness.  

This is what life is.  It's being thankful for everything. It's cherishing the little moments. It's making the most of every day God has given us.  It's embracing the changes that happen. I know the changes will continue to happen.  My boys will eventually marry or move out.  Down the road, some grandchildren will come along.  The seating at our table will grow and shrink from year to year, but I think I'm ready for that, or I will be when it happens.

I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving too.  Do you have any thanksgiving memories you want to share?  Feel free to post any thanksgiving thoughts or stories in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Why You Should Vote

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Everywhere I look these days I see signs.  Vote NDP.  Vote Liberal.  Vote Conservative. Vote Green.  It's all over the news and internet.  I'm surrounded by it.   It is obvious that we are approaching an election day in Canada.

It kind of stresses me out.  I'm not naturally a politically minded person.  I find all the debating and differing viewpoints to be a bit exhausting.  But, Lord willing, I will be out on election day, casting my ballot.  

I am a big believer in the idea that everyone who is eligible to vote should get out and vote and here are some reasons why.

1.  Representation - On election day I am going to cast my ballot for the candidate that most closely represents my views, beliefs, values, standards and priorities.  This is my chance to find someone whose views are as close to mine as possible because that person, if they win, will be representing me.  When a vote comes up, they'll be making a vote that should be the vote I would make and that the majority of the people in their riding would make.  Their vote represents all of ours.

2. We have the right and privilege - In Canada, all citizens over the age of 18 have the right to vote.  What an amazing privilege!  We have a voice.  That wasn't always true for all of us. Women did not always have the right, but we do now and we shouldn't take it for granted. There are many people in many countries in the world without the freedoms we have.  They have no choice and no say as to who will lead their country.  They have no voice and would give anything to have a vote.  Let's not take our freedoms for granted.

3.  People fought for us to have the right - Through the years our military has fought to keep our country free, and to protect our rights, including our right to vote.  We need to show our gratitude and respect for their service by making the most of the opportunities received by their sacrifices.  Don't throw away or diminish what others have given so much for.

4.  I want my voice to be heard - We all have opinions, agendas, and priorities we think the government should be addressing.  Whether we are concerned more about the economy, the environment, taxes or health care, we want to have a say in what is going on.  That's what our votes do.  Even if your candidate doesn't win, your vote sends a message.

5. Every vote counts - In our last election in 2011, there was just over 60% voter turnout.  Only three-fifths of the population took the time to do the research and take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to cast their ballots.  To be part of history.  Some of the areas had very close races, with one party narrowly edging the other out.  Who knows, in this election your vote may be the one that tips a decision one way or the other.

The election day is less than two weeks away.  I hope you'll take the time to study up on what the candidates stand for.  Who they are and what they hope to achieve.  And then I hope that on Monday, October 19, 2015 you'll get out and let your voice be heard. 

Super Blood Moon Watch

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I have always loved the night sky.  I love sitting out on a summer night and gazing up at the stars and seeing the patterns of the constellations or looking for planets or satellites.  There is something about it that makes me feel peaceful and contented. That all is right in the world.

A couple of days ago there was an event in the sky that is quite rare.  There was a super blood moon eclipse.  It was a really cool happening because the moon was as close to the earth as it ever gets so it looked bigger than ever, and there was an eclipse, and the shadow of the earth over the moon gave it a red appearance, hence the term, blood moon.  

I decided I wanted to go somewhere and watch the eclipse, so my son Ryan and I packed up a couple of chairs, a thermos of hot chocolate, some snacks and a couple of blankets and drove over to the local high school and set up.  Other people arrived and sat or stood in various places around the field, and waited. The air was quite cool and the sky was clear.  Perfect conditions.

For the first hour we were there we couldn't see anything.  So we talked and laughed and sipped our hot chocolate.  We watched the little kids that were there running around and chasing each other and playing tag with their Dad. We chatted with a couple of people sitting near us who were also waiting. And we wondered if we were in the right place.  Would we be able to see it from this position? 

Then finally, there it was.  We could see it.  Well, we could sort of see it.  By the time the moon rose in the sky high enough for us to see, it was almost fully eclipsed and not that visible.  And though it had a slightly red hue, it wasn't the dramatic blood red that I was expecting.  We watched for quite awhile as the moon continued its path up and across the sky before we decided to head back home.

Overall, I found the whole eclipse cool, but kind of anticlimactic. But, if I had it to do over, I would go again. Do you know why?  Because I was there with my son.  Because we had a chance to share an experience together, even one that didn't turn out to be super exciting. We had a chance to connect and I want to continue looking for those opportunities.

The next super blood moon isn't until 2033 so who knows what will be happening in our lives then.  I think it would be pretty cool though if Ryan and I could get together 18 years from now and watch it again. 

Living Intentionally

It was my day off today.   My son didn't have school, so I slept in a little, eventually rolled out of bed and thought, "What should I do today?".  It's a loaded question, I know.  I can come up with a list as long as my arm in the first 30 seconds that I'm awake.  

I should probably exercise, read my bible and pray, clean my house, make some soup, plan dinner, do laundry, work on my blog, read the book I'm currently reading, call one of my sisters, spend time with my sons, watch Dancing with the Stars, wash the windows, do some decluttering, look into the cost of our cable package, check out my budget, pay some bills, and the list goes on on and is seemingly endless.

It's overwhelming, and I think this is how life passes me by.  I don't plan ahead and then I accomplish very little.  It's now time to start making dinner, and I feel like I've wasted another day.  I think it would have been better to have rolled out of bed this morning with a manageable list already prepared. I could have gotten up and been able to tackle the priorities that were already laid out for me and still had some time to enjoy my day off.

The trouble with winging it is I don't always feel like doing some of the things on my giant mental list and I am really good at talking myself out of them. Other things on my list I like doing and I spend too much time on those things. Some things need to be planned ahead and I find myself wishing, time and time again, that I had set something up with a friend or one my sisters to go for a cup of tea or out for a walk or something more adventurous!  

During the summer, my family spent some time visiting with my in-laws on the Sunshine Coast of BC.  They have a beautiful home there and some of the more scenic photos on my gallery page were taken from their deck.  While we were there I was talking to my mother-in-law, Gloria about this topic of feeling like life is flying by and I'm missing it.  I'm not seeing anything, I'm not doing anything.  She gave me some good advice.  She told me to live intentionally.

Living the life I want doesn't just happen. I have to make it happen.  Do I want to get out and do things?  Then I need to research fun things happening in my neighbourhood or city and then call a friend and make a plan to go together. Do I want to get fit?  Then I am going to need to be working out on a regular basis.  I need to make a plan that works around my already busy schedule.  If I don't plan for it, I probably won't do it.  Do I want to declutter my house?  I need to figure out how much time I want to spend per day or per week on that and add it to my schedule. 

If you try it out you may start doing this and realize that you have too many things on your list. There wouldn't possibly be enough time to accomplish it all. That's okay. You can then go over your list and make some choices.  Cross some things out or make some adjustments.  Maybe you can get your kids to help with the housework on Saturday morning and then you can do something together on Saturday afternoon.  Or maybe it really doesn't matter if your windows don't get washed until next week (or next month).  Maybe you can combine a visit with a friend with a hike and get 2 things done at once.  Be creative. Figure things out.

My point is, I don't want to let life just happen to me. I don't know how many days I have been given so I want to live intentionally! I need to take some control and make some decisions! I've got to plan ahead and start appreciating every day I have and living life to the fullest.

Hug your Dad

I was shopping with my son for his back to school clothes a couple of weeks ago and I did something strange.  I hugged a sweater, or more accurately a rack of sweaters.

As Ryan and I were walking by this one clothing rack I saw a men's dark coloured v-neck lightweight pullover sweater, and without even thinking about it I went up to the rack and wrapped my arms around the sweaters and gave them a good 5 second hug.

This was during peak back to school shopping season and the store was pretty busy so I'm sure I got a few strange looks and eyebrow raises, but I don't care.  It made me feel so much better to do what I did.

Why? Because my Dad used to wear sweaters like that.  In fact it is what I refer to as a Papa sweater, Papa being the name my kids called my Dad.  But sadly my Dad passed away 6 years ago and sometimes I just miss him so much I have to do something like hugging a rack of sweaters.  

It's funny how therapeutic it actually is.  It didn't feel the same as hugging my Dad, because of course the sweaters didn't hug me back, but in my mind I made believe I was hugging him, and letting him know I love him.  

I am reminded of my Dad on a regular basis with simple day to day things;  a v-neck sweater, seeing someone reading, hearing a Scott Joplin song, or political discussions, or goofy jokes, but most of all I am reminded by my sons.  Some of my boys have inherited his blue eyes, his mannerisms or his love of politics. Some have a love of reading or an entrepreneurial spirit, and all of them have some of his slightly warped sense of humour and his kindheartedness.  And for that I am thankful.

 I had an amazing Dad and even though I miss him everyday, I am grateful for the time we had.  So, if you still have your Dad, take a minute today and call him and say hi and tell him you love him.  Better yet, go and see him and give him a hug, now, while you still can.  Let him tell you some of the old stories, if he's able, or just sit and hold his hand.  Take time to enjoy your Dad, today.  You won't regret it.

I'm such a good pupil

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Well,  I can put another check mark on my health chart.  Today I went and had my eyes checked by my ophthalmologist.  Every two years I head into her office and read some letters on the wall, look into some odd machines that examine my retinas and have my pupils dilated for better access into my eyes to check for cataracts.

I don't wear glasses, at least not all the time.  Okay, fine, I wear readers or magnifiers when I need to read something.  I have noticed a trend with my eyesight in recent years though and it is not a positive one.  I need my reading glasses more and more.  In fact, I don't leave home without them, and I think it's time to start having several pairs located around the house in strategic locations.  Thankfully my distance vision is still good,  but I still like to get a professional opinion and make sure that I am doing the right thing by my eyes.

While in the office, I asked my doctor if now that I am 50 if there is anything different I should be doing to protect or improve my vision.  She told me to make sure to wear sunglasses when it's bright but there is no special tests or "maintenance" needed as I age, unless a problem presents itself. Refreshing!

I'm very thankful for sight.  A week or two ago we had a big power outage that lasted for a couple of days.  During the day it wasn't bad.  I was able to read, do a puzzle, get a little housework done and all was well.  But, once the sun went down and the only light available was a flickering candle or a flashlight beam, I didn't know what to do.  I couldn't see well enough in that light to do anything.  It made me think.

What if my vision was restricted all the time?  What if I was unable to drive, or read, or see the faces of my loved ones?  I can't even imagine.  For now though my eyes are fine.  I have the start of cataracts in one eye, but that's it and I'm grateful that it's still insignificant.  I don't need to go back and see the eye doctor for another two years.

I recommend that everyone who hasn't had their eyes checked by a doctor in the last 2 years should call their eye doctor and set up an appointment. Sometimes there are costs involved so make sure you ask about that, but it is worth it. After all, it's your eyes we're talking about. As for me, tonight I think I'll watch the sunset and thank the Lord that I can see.  

 

Overcoming our Negative Thoughts

Taken at Mission Hill Winery in Kelowna. I am unsure who the artist of this piece is.

Exercise.  Working out.  Fitness.  Ugh.   I dread them all.

Working out makes me sweaty.  I don't want anyone to see me all red faced and soaked in perspiration. It takes too much time. It makes me need another shower and that takes even more time. It gives me less time to sit and watch TV or clean my house or read a book.  I'm just not coordinated.  I'm too tired. It makes me sore.  It's not worth it.  I can't do it.  It's too hard. I'll look ridiculous.  I'm too old.  I'm too heavy.  It's too late.

Welcome to my negative self talk.  My exercise thought life. These are the things to go through my head when I think about working out.  And sadly, these are often the thoughts that stop me from working out and getting fit.  

When I look at the list of statements above, it makes me sad because I would never say these things to someone else.  I would never tell someone starting a fitness plan that they just aren't coordinated enough or they're too old or they'll look ridiculous, and yet that is what I tell myself. And I know I'm not alone.

I am willing to bet that a large percentage of people struggle with these types of negative thoughts every day.  And sometimes, as you get older, these thoughts can become more aggressive and lead to anxiety.  So, what do we do about it?  Do we just keep giving in? Do we grab a bag of cookies and sit on the couch?  Do we surrender?  Or do we find fight back?

I am convinced that recognizing our negative self talk and challenging it is the way to go. When these thoughts come to mind, we need to take the time to really think about them and question them.  Here are some suggestions of questions to ask.

First of all, are these thoughts true?  Some of them are.  Working out will make you sweaty and sore and it will take some time but it is still worth it.  Some of them are outright lies. It is not too late, it is not too hard (if you start at an appropriate level) and it is definitely worth it.  Do I really hate working out?  No, I don't. Even when it's hard I enjoy the activity and the feeling of accomplishment.  I have rarely ever finished a workout and regretted doing it.  In fact, I usually feel really proud of myself.

Secondly, am I blowing things out of proportion?  If I get red faced and sweaty and I have to take a shower and that takes another half an hour out of my day, is that really so bad?  If I miss one of my TV shows or the floors don't get swept until tomorrow, will there be any great negative results?  I don't think so.

Thirdly, are these thoughts helping me achieve what I want in life?  If I am constantly telling myself it's too hard or I'm too old or too heavy, I'm going to become discouraged.  Some of the thoughts are just about how I will appear to others.  As if other people are just sitting and waiting to make judgments on me.  Even if they are, should that stop me from being healthy and reaching my full potential?   If my thoughts are hindering me I've got to recognize them and remind myself what my goals are and what's important to me.

I don't think we'll ever completely be rid of these types of negative thoughts and they will continue to crop up in many areas of our lives, but if we continually challenge them and recognize them for what they are, they should begin having less power over us.  If we want to achieve our goals, we have to retain our focus on what we want and be willing to do what it takes to get there.  We shouldn't let anyone stand in our way, not even ourselves.