A Different Kind of Snow Angel


A good snow meant one thing as a kid – FUN. We didn’t care about roads, power outages, or having to rush to the grocery store for OMG MILK, EGGS, BREAD…no, all we cared about was playing in the white stuff. Staying home didn’t make us roll our eyes, no siree.. staying home made us yelp with joy and dance with insanity. It made us….

DOWNRIGHT GIDDY.

We would willingly spend nearly 30 minutes putting on enough gear to go outside and dive into the winter wonderland. I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things to do as soon as I stepped outside was to fall down and make a snow angel. I particularly loved doing this if we got to go outside while it was still snowing. There was always something so intensely magical about laying there, supported by inches of snow, slowly waving my hands and feet as flakes drifted down from above and melted on the few inches of my face exposed to the elements. Sometimes I stuck my tongue out to catch the flakes.

It’s funny how snow doesn’t mean the same thing now that I’m all grown up.

I don’t remember the last time I made a snow angel. Or went sledding, for that matter. I could have this past winter but I didn’t have the appropriate gear so I passed. I will have the proper gear this next year, however, and I can’t wait. (Disclaimer – I lived for nearly 20 years in the deep south where they don’t get snow often but they do get ice occasionally. Nasty, yucky ice.)

The snow this year was intense. I have tried to be humourous about it, but honestly, the past few storms have nearly made me weep. This year, I discovered my limit. Apparently when enough snow falls where the “removal” piles get so high it makes me claustrophobic is my limit. A lot of other people also hit their limits, I suspect. (Including a few folks I know who are expecting blizzard conditions tomorrow… my heart goes out to you, it does. Spring isn’t far away, you guys!)

Over the past week, the temps have soared, snow has melted, and more grass is visible than is covered by snow in most places local to me. The greenish brown landscape is almost alien at this point, given how accustomed we were to everything covered in white.

We hit another milestone today as well – for the first time in a couple of months, we can see our deck. Not just a few inches around the outer edges – the entire thing. At the peak of our snowy season, we had nearly 20 inches of snow covering our deck. Not anymore. It’s all gone.

Something of note here – turns out that snow angels aren’t just made by humans throwing themselves down on top of the snow.

They’re also made by melting snow – as a happy reminder that there is always someone watching over us:

snow angel

And that, people, is sometimes all the sign you need that spring is on the way. Well, that and a fleeting rainbow in the sky as the sun sets and clouds drift lazily on by.

Choosing Happy


Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. 

~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

~Sydney J. Harris~

Think about those quotes for a few minutes, letting their truth sink deep into your psyche. Sip your coffee, tea, juice, or water, and let it wash over you.

What do they say to you? How do they feel in your heart?

It is difficult to remember, in the depth of depression, that happiness is not a goal nor is it a place. It is instead, a by-product of life and more in the journey than in the destination. All too often, we focus on reaching a final ‘state’ and forget that our ‘states’ are instead fluid and are pulled with the ebb and flow of life.

I’ve written before about whether happiness is a choice. I did not believe happiness was a choice until I finally chose it. You see, happiness does not equal a constant cheerful demeanor. Happiness doesn’t mean everything is giggles and confetti.

Happiness, to me, is flowing with what life throws at you. It is knowing what to do when things turn negative, it is taking care of yourself in the midst of the whirlwind. Happiness is realizing that life happens and the majority of it is how you choose to react to it.

Let’s take, for example, a young woman in a grocery store. She’s in a rush to grab a few last minute items to cook dinner for her boyfriend. She runs around the store, grabbing the items, and goes to the front. All the self-checkout lanes are taken and she is left with choosing between two open registers with cashiers. One has a young mother with three children and a very full cart while the other one has an elderly woman with not much in her cart. The young woman chooses the aisle with the elderly woman. But the elderly woman is very chatty with the cashier and very slow with her wallet. She also decides she doesn’t want to purchase a few of the limited items in her cart so the young woman has to wait for a manager to come over and do a return. By this time, there’s someone in line behind her so she’s stuck and can’t go anywhere.

This young woman would have every right to be frustrated and angry. Instead, she takes a deep breath and enjoys the few moments of peace this has granted her in between her very busy job and the busy rush of cooking ahead of her. She looks around the store and notices the colours of balloons floating above displays for an upcoming holiday, she listens to the children in the aisle next to her giggle and play with each other as their mother manages getting all the groceries on the conveyer belt.

We have a choice in the way we respond to external stimuli. One of the most popular things I hear people with disabilities or mental health challenges say is that they may have x,y, or z, but x,y, or z doesn’t have them. It truly is the best way to view things because when x,y, or z doesn’t have you, it doesn’t have power over your mind which means you know how to handle it.

And as we children of the 80’s remember, knowing is half the battle.

The Gift of the Sun


When was the last time you looked up into the sky as if you were a young child, in awe of nature, believing everything up there was pure magic?

I do it at least twice a day. Sunrise and sunset.

Throughout the rest of the day, sometimes a cloud pattern or group of birds will catch my attention but it is the sunrise and sunset which capture my soul.

This morning, I awoke to a blushing sky, pale pink expanding across a barely lit atmosphere as the sun caressed the wisps of clouds drifting through the atmosphere just beyond the trees at the edge of the field across the road. Pale pink gave way to a golden glow, setting the naked trees afire, eventually dancing across the icy snow at their feet.

A lone black bird soared to one of the larger trees, settling in the highest branch, clinging hold as the wind waved him to and fro. Traffic echoed just below, an invasion of the solitude of the dawn cascading across the sky.

Most of the morning was filled with blue, then this afternoon, the clouds expanded, obfuscating the joy promised us by the bright blue sky in the midst of a dreary winter. But the evening sky apologized for this infraction, providing a spectacular range of colours as the sun nestled into the other side of the world.

Corals, reds, purples, blues, greys, they all mingled together just below the houses at the edge of the field, the sort of sunset which one can only witness with eyes and not capture on film.

Although I have bemoaned the existence of a sub-zero winter and being buried in far too many inches of snow, it has brought some of the most phenomenal sunrises and sunsets I have ever witnessed, including those I saw as a young child growing up near the beach.

Witnessing a sunrise and a sunset is a gift. It is sheer magic. Both a re-affirmation of life, of finding the beauty in the littlest things. It’s as if our entire day has a bookend of amazing art on either end. To ignore it, to not take the few minutes it exists and stare at it as if you are four years old again and the world is made of magic is foolish.

If I don’t take the time to do witness the beauty that is the sunrise and sunset, my day feels empty. The colours fade so quickly, the magic even faster. Sometimes I may sleep through the sunrise (who doesn’t on occasion), but on those days, I am sure to take in the state of the sky before I do anything else – even reach for my phone. The sky is the first thing I focus on when my eyes wake in the morning. It’s also the last thing I look at before I go to bed – I look for stars, for the moon, for clouds… and now that I am sleeping with the blinds opened, if I wake in the middle of the night, I get to see the moon as it drifts through the onyx sky.

Do yourself a favour this next week. Take the time to look up at the sky with the wonder of a child who hasn’t been jaded by the responsibilities of a fast-paced world. Breathe in the artistry and beauty right in front of you. Drink it in, commit it to memory, to your heart. For if you carry beauty in your heart, there won’t be room for much else.

Struggling to Find Discipline


This next week, I have a lot of writing to do. Writing which is not for this blog. I am managing content at another blog and then at the end of the week, auditioning for Listen to Your Mother.

It is a bit frustrating then, to be sitting here with a ideas hiding in the shadows, refusing to come out and play nicely. Right now, it doesn’t matter. But it will matter once the week gets rolling. This past week has been a busy one which has not allowed for much beyond the normal hubbub of daily life. I skipped writing one day this past week, in fact. I have let it go, missing writing that one day, because well, I couldn’t go back and fix it. The sleep was lovely at least.

It’s funny when you start writing on a daily basis how much a part of your life it becomes. Writing is like breathing for those of us who hold it dear to our hearts. It changes your soul, your pattern of thinking. It allows you to see things differently as life swirls around you.

Right now, the thing which frustrates me most is the lack of direction in my writing, the scattered subject matter. I took the time to pull together an editorial calendar but have yet to stick to it which is disappointing to say the least. I believe the primary issue with this is that I rarely look at the calendar. Instead, I just write when the mood strikes rather than planning ahead. Scheduling my writing would perhaps help with this issue. That way, at least, I wouldn’t be sitting here, at 10pm at night struggling to reach 500 words.

Another issue is that I am terribly old fashioned when it comes to writing notes and keeping a schedule. I adore pen & paper for this sort of thing. My editorial calendar is currently only in Google Drive. Perhaps if I took it and transferred it to my planner it would help. But then again, I haven’t been using my planner either so who knows.

One of my biggest weaknesses, folks. Discipline. I get things done right when they need to be done (and sometimes after). I have always been this way. I am struggling to improve this but in the meantime, I get angry with myself when I miss deadlines or don’t stick to a plan I have set for myself.

I am determined to change it this year, this issue with discipline. I intend to push myself harder than I have in the past and hold myself more accountable to my deadlines and tasks I have agreed to accomplish within a certain time frame.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you also struggle with the discipline needed to stay on course? What do you use to motivate you? To push through the procrastination stage into the “get ‘er done” phase? Leave your best tips in the comments below. I need them to make this the best year I have ever had – no more excuses!

 

Sunday Reflections


The dryer hums upstairs as it spins clothes in a vortex of heat, drying them after they have spun through water and soap. Such a simple thing and yet, part of the rhythm of daily living these days. I shudder to think of the arduous task of schlepping the laundry to a river or lake and scrubbing it down with a rock or other accoutrements. Yet at the same time, I cannot help but think of how much more social the act of taking the laundry outside one’s home was back then. I assume it is much like going to the laundromat today although with the advent of technology, it is infinitely easier to lose oneself in a game of Candy Crush or on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re scrubbing clothes with a rock, however, it is a bit more difficult to ignore someone attempting to strike up a conversation.

Pondering this, the movement of society away from an integrated close-knit community to an online integrated close-knit community has me wondering why this has happened and what a profound effect it may have on some of us. For those of us who prefer not to be out and about (or are not able to be out and about), it is a wonderful thing. But it can also be a double-edged sword as it enables us to stay home and not interact with society at large, providing an excuse to continue our hermitesque lifestyles without seeming odd.

We are bombarded with negative headlines, danger lurking in every corner, things cropping up here and there. Our anxiety rises, we grow fearful of attending large events so we stay home and watch it from the comfort of our living rooms, interacting instead with others doing the same via the Internet through hashtags, status updates, and check-ins to whatever program we may be watching at the moment.

When I was younger, my father once told me to avoid growing cynical. I try very hard to keep an open mind and a child-like wonder at the world but at the same time, balance it with a strong street smart common sense awareness of what might be lurking around the bend. It is a constant battle inside, wanting to desperately to believe in the fairytale yet seeing the shadow of Gepetto just behind the satin curtain. Isolation from the world at hand will do that to a person.

I am realizing, with a resounding crash this morning, while I don’t think I am terribly cynical, I have succumbed to my fear of the world out there. I am happier browsing Amazon than in a store. I am happier in my car than in the parking lot of the chosen destination where I usually have to talk myself into getting out and walking inside. I am happier lost inside the melody and words of my favourite songs through headphones than I would ever be at a loud, raucous concert.

Perhaps this is simply how one ages, growing to appreciate the silence and solitude of a simple life as if it were a fine wine or an aged brandy. Maybe this is the old age “get offa my lawn” version of growing weary of the ridiculousness of the life out there. Or perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction to the horrible situation at our previous residence and I simply have not pushed myself hard enough to overcome it. Whatever it is, I am caught in between wanting to fix it or wanting to embrace it.

My entire life, I have always been shy. I do not long to be the center of the party or live a public life. (Yet, here I am, blogging – go figure!) I have always preferred the quiet to the loud. Preferred activities? Curling up with a good book, writing, listening to music, watching movies, chatting and laughing with a few close friends. Part of me often yearns for a larger group of friends but the rest of me quietly whispers “we can’t handle that.”

Blogging is one of the few places I feel comforted. For awhile, this did not feel like my safe space because I did not know what to say. I felt as if I were the prodigal daughter, unable to return home because I had changed. But I realized those changes fit this blog and to not share them, to not offer a glimpse into how drastically my life changed and how I now fought to deal with these changes would be hypocritical. And thus, I returned. There was no celebration, no sacrifice of the fatted calf, just words filling the little white box every day.

A new voice has been found and this morning, this morning that voice called to me as I sat in our living room, alone, watching children run back and forth outside in the snow, laughing and playing. Starting to type, I exhaled, and the negativity ensnared in my soul fled. For the first time in a long time, I realized, there was nothing wrong with me this morning other than needing to turn a valve to let the words flow freely from my brain.

I may not be the most social person in this concrete world, but I am valuable, I matter, and I am a fighter. Some days will be harder than others. Some days will leave me knocked out flat on the ground while others have me floating in the heavens. It’s the days in between that matter. The days when I put my nose to the grind and do the dirty work to earn the awesome days – and the days when I pick myself up off the ground to try again.

And so, life moves forward, filled with rhythmic sounds of every day necessities, like the humming of the dryer upstairs spinning clothes in a super heated vortex.