Balance for Better. International Women’s Day. We made it.

We made it. International Women's Day. Balance for Better.

You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life. Heather Schuck

International Women Day is here. We celebrate but do we know why we celebrate it on March 8th? Women gained suffrage in Russia in 1917; March 8th became a national holiday in Russia. The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted by the United Nations in 1975.

The theme this year is Balance for Better. This is a great theme; many people feel we are out of balance. More young women than young men are getting college and university degrees. Listening to the young men and women in my home, it may be the men got disillusioned faster with the push for higher education. They realized all they got in some cases was debt. Women got their MRS degree which is still one of the best life choices if we choose the right man.

It seems to me young men are disillusioned with what they’ve been told. They are realizing “If it is to be, it’s up to me.” They are creating their own businesses, getting in on the “gig” economy.

What I see with the young people that cross my path is ambition, equality, a degree of willingness to forge their own path. The young men aren’t in the drawing room talking business and the young women in the kitchen baking cookies. They are all at a round table discussing what to do next.

Questions are being asked, hard questions about equality. They may not have the answers but we can start by asking questions. What is real equality? Is it equality of outcome, or equality of opportunity? Is it the group that must have equality or the individual?

Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationships is. Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter

Jordan Peterson author of 12 Rules for Life tells us that the more equal society gets, the more diverse the outcomes become. When people have a real choice they choose what makes them happy. This is why many young women opt out of the workforce to enjoy their babies. They have the choice, they can afford it.

Once families or individuals make the amount of money above which life doesn’t get better, is where real choice starts. They say that number is about $75,000.00 per year.

I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuck author of Crushing It. He talks about creating content for the internet as a viable way to make a living, and impact society. He says if you have a job you hate making 80,000.00 but you could have a job you love creating content for the internet and make half or three-quarters of that but be happy, why wouldn’t you choose to be happy?

What women always wanted and still want is choice.  The fact that choice doesn’t look like what we thought it would, doesn’t mean women don’t have and don’t love their choices. A lot of women when they have the choice choose to live a life not that different from their grandmothers, looking after home and family.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We can’t do it all, we can juggle a few balls, marriage and motherhood is still where most of the joy in life lies for women. Marriage and fatherhood are where it lies for most men. This is good news.

Finding out that climbing the corporate ladder is not where fulfillment lies is not a bad thing. Corporate success isn’t what fulfills either the men or the women. It is a means to an end; it is what allows the family to flourish.

Men and women are partners in life. We are not antagonistic entities jostling for position when one wins the other loses. We are partners building lives when one wins, we both win, the family wins, and our children win.

The more balance we have in our lives, the more happiness we can achieve. The more balance we have in our society, the better it will be for everyone. Choice won’t mean an equal outcome for everyone. Those who are willing to work harder, have natural gifts, luck, discipline, foresight, and take more risks will rise to the top. That is how it should be, how it has to be.

As individuals, we build our lives, the choices we make shape us each step of the way. That we have a choice is what women have always wanted. Seeing young men and women building their lives, looking for opportunity and balance makes me realize, we made it.

It is not a failure that the happiest women in the world are rocking their baby with an adoring father at their side. It might not look different, but what makes it different was the choice.

You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo

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Loving and living. Love with your whole heart.

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Love is the expansion of two natures in such fashion that each includes the other, each is enriched by the other. Felix Adler

If you woke up beside your great love, give thanks. If you’ve ever had a great love, give thanks. If we can smile because it happened, even while we cry because it’s over, that’s a step.

Valentine’s day isn’t a happy day for everyone. It punctuates what we may no longer have, may never have had, or recently lost. We are somewhere in the circle of life. A new beginning may be around the corner.

Today is another day where unmet expectations rear their head. It may be better to focus on what we can give, than what someone gives us. Chef Gordon Ramsay says, “If you are going out for a romantic weekend and they offer you the Bridal Suite, don’t take it.” You are just setting yourself up for more unmet expectations and you probably have enough of those to deal with on a “romantic weekend.” Especially if you haven’t decided beforehand what a romantic weekend means to you. Does one of you want to stay in? Does one of you want to go out?

At one time I thought women have more unmet expectations in the romance department than men. I don’t think that anymore. We long for great love affairs, we deserve them, and we are told everyone else gets them. We don’t always see through the laundry, paying the bills, and keeping body and soul together that this is part of “our great love.” We thought it would look different. We grew up in families where real life was lived, yet when it’s our turn we think it will be different.

Love isn’t cards, chocolates, roses, champagne, or nights in fancy hotel suites. Those are tokens of love. Love is looking at each other over your sleeping baby, that kept you up all night. Love is getting to the hospital and having loving arms enfold you. Love is looking up from your bills and realizing they pay for your life, the life you love, the life you’ve provided to give those you love security amid peace and plenty. Love is painting your home and looking at each other’s paint splotched faces and hair, knowing you would do it all again. Love is being in the puddle, trench, or whatever we may call it, facing the same challenges, and seeing their point of view, not just our own. Love is making choices that don’t only put our own interests forward. We make sacrifices for those we love. What hurts them hurts us, what makes them happy, makes us happy. We are part of a team, we become us.

A loving heart is the truest wisdom. Charles Dickens

Love is looking at the stars, and being grateful for someone to share your life with. Love is making plans for the future. Love is in the doing, creating, embracing each other through the fun and funny, the sweet and the bitter, the ups and the downs, the happy and the sad. If we can find romance in the ordinary, enjoy the fleeting moments that add up to a well-lived, well-loved life. Then we too can say we’ve had a great love and may it long continue.

We need to get in the trenches with our beloved. We need to feel what they are feeling, we need to be there for them and know they’ll be there for us. We need to know they won’t be perfect, they won’t get it right every time, and nor will we. We need to love each other through the worst to enjoy our love at its best. Nobody just gets the good times, we are all in, or we aren’t in at all.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The leader of my writer’s group asked us to write a poem about love.

              Living and Loving

Love softly came and called my name.

I gaily laughed, it was a game.

But soon I realized no game I played.

This was a love that came and stayed.

 

We laughed and loved in our twenties

Lots of love and parties plenty

We said our vows and settled down

Looked about and said, “What now?”

 

Thoughts of babies came to mind

And soon reality was kind

A little boy came to be

We were overjoyed at being three.

 

It wasn’t long and we were blessed

 A little girl joined our nest.

Our life filled with laughter was complete

It took the patter of tiny feet.

 

When our daughter was six we got a dog

We felt blessed sleeping like a log.

Work, school, and soccer was our life

Life was full, there was no strife.

 

Our daughter got married this August past

We hope she has a love that lasts

What happened between then and here?

We were young, now retirements near.

 

Life sped by in a blink

Forty years go by faster than you’d think

We’ve had a love affair for thirty-eight years

Celebrated with champagne and beers.

 

We’ve weathered storms

Lived through changing norms.

We pray we’ll have many more years

Filled with laughter and a few tears.

 

We never know what life has in store.

We are always reaching out for more

Enjoy what you have because you never know

When winter comes and cold winds blow.

 

You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back. Barbara De Angelis

Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship by [Barks, Coleman]
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Valentine’s Day and unmet expectations.

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Two of the ways of dealing with Expectations are whether they are spoken or unspoken and whether they are realistic or unrealistic. Dr. Kim

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be cards, hearts, roses, chocolate and celebrating love. For many people, Valentine’s Day magnifies what they don’t have, for some it highlights what they’ve lost. At its worst Valentine’s Day creates expectations that can’t be met.

According to a study of divorce filings by Attorney Fee.com and Avvo.com two legal sites that both claim February is the busiest month for divorce filings. The biggest spike is after Valentine’s Day and February divorce filings are about 40% higher than other months. A number of websites for married people seeking affairs report the day after Valentine’s Day is their biggest sign-up day.

How can this be we might say? Love makes the world go round, and don’t we all want more love? It seems we do want more love and when who we are with doesn’t live up to the hype, the expectation, or the promise of romance adds we are constantly comparing ourselves to, we take drastic measures.

My husband and I saw it when we were out last weekend. A couple, and not a young one, couldn’t keep their hands off each other; they were kissing passionately, endlessly on the dance floor. We all silently said “Get a room”, and wondered what the rest of their life was like when they weren’t necking on the dance floor.

Maybe we can minimize our expectations and maximize what we can do for our partner. We can spend more time with them, compliment them, offer them a back rub, and have a laugh together. Try not to react to anything that rubs us the wrong way. Ouch, is a good word to use and then go on as if everything is good. Be in a happy mood, because life is good, and don’t expect romance to come out of thin air. Do our best to not expect one romantic thing to happen on Valentine’s Day. Lower our expectations.

If things haven’t been going that well, don’t take out all the stops and go to the most expensive romantic restaurant we can think of. It will be awkward, it will be budget breaking, and it will be disappointing. Instead go to a little coffee shop or dessert place, share a piece of cake. Take a walk, hold hands, talk about the mundane, but talk. Show someone we love them, without an expectation that they know how to respond in the way we want.

This is where we get in trouble. We want a certain response. Our partner often has no clue what that response is. We are hurt, they are completely mystified as to what they’ve done, said, didn’t do, or didn’t say.

The first step is always the most difficult but nothing will ever change until you take it. Dr. Kim

We have different love languages, many people do what they would like to have done for them. Many people do acts of service when their partner wants them to whisper sweet nothings in their ear. Other people’s partner’s whisper sweet nothings and it means nothing because where is the service and action that backs it up. Some people buy gifts and all the partner sees is the unnecessary credit card bill.

We have to be detectives to figure out what love looks like to our partner. Maybe we could do all five. Make them dinner, buy them a single rose, box of chocolates or a card, give them a back rub, give them a compliment, ask them to go for a walk, hold their hand and talk, and wrap up the evening with some steamy sex.

Oh, there we go with the specter of expectations. It’s so easy to expect more than something can be, and give. Can we love our partner for whom they are, and not expect them to be something they are not? Can we enjoy what they do, and not wish they were doing something else? Can we keep our expectations low enough that regular loving partners can meet them? Can we make it so our life is not one unmet expectation after another, because it would take more than a reasonable loving husband or wife to meet them?

Maybe we should just ignore Valentine’s Day? I think it’s best to embrace it with low expectations and think of what we can do for someone we love, instead of thinking about what they can do for us. If we can buy a card and not expect one in return, give a compliment and not expect one in return, give a gift and not expect one in return. I love the quote by Jessamyn West, “It is the loving, not the loved woman who feels loveable.

Love is a verb, the more we love, the more loving we feel. The more we expect from someone else the emptier we feel. We are in control of how much love we show, give, and the ways we show and give it. We can feel more loveable by being more loving.

The antidote to Valentine’s Day may be to see how much we can give instead of how much we can receive. If we give all we have and expect nothing in return we may find it is the best Valentine’s Day ever.

Expectations in marriage need to be shared. Dr. Kim

A strong marriage requires two people who choose to love each other even on those days when they struggle to like each other. Unknown

A wife needs to know that her husband is completely committed to her and to their marriage. Dr. Kim

Never stop being your husband’s girlfriend. Dr. Laura

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Bell Let’s Talk Day.

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I lie about being sick sometimes because people understand if you have a cold, but not if you have depression. Unknown

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day and we have a lot to talk about. I just read an article written by Philip Moscovitch that was published in The Globe And Mail January 29, 2019.  He frequently writes about mental health and mental illness and is working on a book about life with psychosis – for those experiencing it and those around them.

Last night I watched a video of a young man experiencing psychosis and how hard it was for his mother and mental health professionals to get him to agree to treatment.

Philip Moscovitch’s article is asking “do we really need more talk?” His son who is open about his recovery from psychosis knows the flip side of fighting the stigma and how appearances are inherently built into how people respond to someone else’s mental illness.  His son says, “Even as a privileged person you are marginalized when you have a mental illness. There were nights when people I thought were my friends wouldn’t let me sleep at their place, I thought I was alienated from my family, it was minus-15, and I was just walking down the streets of Halifax with jeans that were frozen to the bone, unable to go anywhere and sleeping in underground parking lots.”

We want to help, we want to make a difference but when we are faced with helping someone whose behavior scares us, what are we to do? Once we know someone has had an episode or more than one episode how do we pretend we aren’t looking for signs of another one?

It may be true that Bell Talk Day won’t help those with serious mental illness. We may have to live with the fact that someone we know suffered through mental illness and we wish we’d done better. We wish we’d found a way to help.

It’s so common, it could be anyone. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it, and that makes everything worse. Ruby Wax

This disease comes with a package: shame. When any other part of your body gets sick you get sympathy. Ruby Wax

One of the criticisms of Bell Talk Day is although raising awareness and funding worthwhile programs and services is worthwhile. They don’t emphasize the kinds of fundamental change we need.

No matter how good we get as a society we will never meet everyone’s needs to their satisfaction, all of the time. We may not know what the fundamental changes are some people believe we need. What works for one person may not work best for others.

We are trying and that is worth something. Are mental illnesses simply physical diseases that happen to strike the brain? There is so much we don’t know. It would be easy if one has a family member suffering from mental illness to feel not enough is being done. Someone who lives with a person with mental illness may even feel they know things about mental illness that aren’t being recognized.

We have a long way to go; we have a lot to learn. Raising money for research is one way to make a difference. It might not make much difference to someone in the throes of mental illness right now. Research on any other disease also might not help the current sufferers, research being done helps future patients, and it leads to future understanding.

It is easy to get discouraged; it is easy to feel not enough is being done. Bell Let’s Talk Day is trying to be part of the solution. It won’t happen overnight, it might not help the one we love. Isn’t it still worth doing if who it helps is not yet born?

The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world but those who fight and win battles that others do not know about. Johnathon Harnisch

 

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Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others. Unknown

 

2019 a year of possibilities.

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We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Years Day. Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt

2018 is ending whether we got everything done we planned to or not. It was a good year for some of us, a heartbreaking year for others, and a mixture of both for many.

This has been a year of learning many lessons. Some goals have been met; some goals are coming soon. One of the lessons learned was not to rush to become a published writer, take the time to edit, make it as good as it can be before putting it out into the world, and don’t self publish first because we can always self publish if we can’t find an agent, publisher, etc.

As unpublished writers, we are like 2019, unknown, and full of possibility. We need to work hard and make what we have to offer as good as it can be, after all, we never get a second chance to make a first impression.

This coming year will be a year of firsts for some, endings for others and for many of us we will continue working on projects, lives, jobs, businesses, and artistic pursuits.

Don’t we all love beginnings, this could be the year of… What would you like this to be the year of? Is this the year to get engaged, get married, start a family, start a business, or start a new artistic pursuit? Is this the year to take charge of health and fitness? Is this a year of personal growth, a year to face something that holds us back? Is this the year to face our fears, and do whatever calls to us? Is this the year to accept failure as just another learning experience? We can’t succeed if we don’t risk failure? Is this the year to finally have that adventure? Is this the year we will face the hardest thing we’ve ever had to face?

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. Carl Bard

Starting over is an acceptance of a past we cannot change, an unrelenting conviction that the future can be different, and the stubborn wisdom to use the past to make the future what the past was not. Craig D. Lounsbrough

We don’t know what 2019 has in store for us. Even if it brings us to our knees we can find a way to get back up. We don’t learn our greatest lessons in the easy times. It isn’t when everything is going smoothly we fix relationships. Sometimes things get worse before they get better, we think they can’t improve but often all that festering has to come out before we can heal. Is there someone in our life we need to forgive? Do we need to forgive our self? Do we need to quit looking for problems that may or may not rear their ugly head and enjoy what we do have?

Can we quit living in the past or the future and enjoy the now? Now, this moment, because right now is all there is. If we are okay at this moment, even if something bad is coming, can we find the joy in today? Can we walk in the sunshine and enjoy today? Can we have that conversation today? Can we hold someone’s hand today? Can we give words of love and encouragement today? Can we accept ourselves as we are today? Can we make the phone call we’ve been putting off today?

Everything that gets done in our life, gets done in the now. There is no other time. Are we happy now? Just for today can we refrain from something that makes our life less than what we want it to be? Can we not get defensive when someone brings up a difficult conversation? Can we really listen to their concerns; really hear what they have to say? By listening we aren’t saying everything they say is correct, we aren’t agreeing with their point of view, we are acknowledging their right to their point of view, and understanding what it is. When we understand each other’s point of view we at least have an understanding of what we need to deal with.

Many of us don’t feel listened to, we don’t feel heard, and we don’t feel understood. Can we be the listening ear, can we try to understand, can we hear their point of view, and can we empathize with their fear?

2019 is here. What we didn’t get done in 2018 will get done in the future or it won’t get done at all. Sometimes we have to give up on dreams that won’t become reality so we can build a reality that works. What does 2019 have in store? Can we smile more, enjoy more, love more, be kinder to our self and others, can we forgive others and our self, can we reach for what we want, and pick ourselves back up when we fail? Are we ready for all 2019 has to offer?

Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. St. Francis of Assisi

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Unmet expectations. The reality of Christmas.

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Don’t blame people for disappointing you; blame yourself for expecting too much from them. Unknown

Christmas day is over. All the planning, buying, baking, cooking is done. If we are lucky we didn’t wake up to a big mess. My mother in law and my husband did the dishes last night. Coming into the kitchen was a joy this morning. It was like being given a great big hug.

Was it a joyous, fun-filled day filled with laughter? There is the other side of holidays and big events. The side unmet expectations and family drama create. Hopefully, you didn’t have one of those, but if you did you know forgiveness is necessary.

There are always elephants in the room and the big one for many of us at Christmas is money. Christmas is expensive. This year everyone wanted to save money in our house so we instituted Secret Santa within the home. It worked great. Will it work as well if we extend it to everyone who came for dinner?

We’ve had Christmas’s where someone left in a huff. We’ve had uncomfortable conversations rear their head. We try not to engage when it raises its head and sometimes it works. Becoming defensive is what turns a little comment into a big blow up. If we leave the hurtful comment, insult, or whatever it is hanging in mid-air without giving it any fuel it eventually dissipates. Hurt people, hurt people, they say hurtful things. If we can be mindful of the personalities we bring together, the undercurrents in their lives, the sensitivities, the struggles they are having we can steer away from the hurtful conversation that may cause a blow-up.

Simple things become complicated when you expect too much. Expectation truly is the root of all heartache. Don’t let it get the best of you. Unknown

If an uncomfortable or hurtful situation arises we will have to forgive. Too high of expectations is how we feel let down over the holidays. If someone always drinks too much and says stupid stuff, don’t have the fantasy this year will be different. We can try and steer the activities away from what causes problems but don’t expect miracles, enjoy them if they show up.

The pressure to put on a big spread is also expensive. Between my mother in law, and us there was so much food the beautiful roast turkey didn’t get touched. More than any other kind of waste, I hate to see meat wasted. Something gave its life for our sustenance. We can honor that sacrifice by not wasting it.

Christmas is a time of excess, with too many gifts, too much food, too much drinking, too many parties. It is a joyful time of year if we can enjoy it without putting too many expectations on the season and the people we are spending it with we can all be happier, grateful, generous and kind.

Are there unmet expectations from our Christmas? Is there anyone including our self we need to forgive? If there is, we already know some of what we should work on in 2019. Living a good life is growing, giving, loving, and forgiving ourselves and others. We are not perfect, others are not perfect if we can believe everyone is doing the best they know how to do at that moment, even if it doesn’t seem like it. We can look at ourselves and others with compassion and kindness. Can we drop our expectations and just enjoy what is?

When you release expectations you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be. Mandy Hale

Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectation. Unknown

Look inside this book.
Dealing With Difficult People by [Brinkman, Dr. Rick, Richard Kirschner]
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Christmas traditions. Giving and receiving.

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For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means. As I can testify, and beyond their means.                                                      2 Corinthians 8:2-3

Christmas is about many things. For some faith is the biggest component, for some it is music, and for some, it is giving to people who can’t give back. They make Christmas for people who can’t make Christmas for themselves. Others find Christmas in small or big traditions they create.

My son and his girlfriend created a tradition when they first started dating. They built a gingerbread house and they continued every year. The picture on this post is this year’s gingerbread house.

For a couple years my book club did a cookie exchange. It never became a tradition and I’m not sure why. Baking is one of the Christmas traditions I grew up with that I didn’t continue. The kids and I made Christmas cookies when they were young. At home, there was Christmas cake a light one and a dark one. I loved them both. Mom made tarts, cookies, squares, and one of my sisters made homemade chocolates.

There were certain candies that only came out at Christmas. I remember the ribbon hard candy, boxes of chocolates and Christmas oranges each wrapped separately.

When we had kids Christmas stockings were so much fun to see what little surprise we could find for the kids.

One of the traditions my husband and I have is on Christmas Eve afternoon we go to the mall and watch the hustle and bustle as people pick up last-minute gifts, thankful we are finished.

Over the years we’ve gone to Church on Christmas Eve, movies, or spent the evening wrapping presents. Nothing became a tradition. This year I think we’ll go to a movie.

Christmas breakfast is a tradition. At home we started the day with all the Christmas treats for breakfast. We started the day off with dessert and then a  huge dinner at two o’clock pm. Here we have a huge breakfast and then dinner at six o’clock or later.

At the end, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, and who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back. Denzel Washington

My heart goes out to people who are alone at Christmas because we make such a big deal of family, togetherness, and Christmas. I’ve never been alone at Christmas. I was always invited somewhere on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. People go out of their way to include those who are alone. At a Christmas party for a Toastmasters group I am no longer a part of one of the ladies had moved to Mississauga and she was asking everyone if they had somewhere to go for Christmas and if not to come to her place. By the end of the evening, her table was going to be full.

A friend at my present Toastmasters group invites people who otherwise would be alone, she and her husband have no kids so this makes a fun Christmas for them, filling their house with laughter and joy.

We feel generous when we give, but we also have to be willing to receive so someone can feel generous. I’m reading about a study where people were required to ask for something. They came up with ridiculous things like saying to someone, “your fries look so delicious, may I have one?” They found most of the time no matter how ridiculous the request most people said yes. When they tried to give something back in return is when they heard the “no.”

It seems we like feeling generous, but we are not so willing to receive. Some people are even hard to compliment. What would we do if someone; a complete stranger offered us a substantial sum of money, no strings attached?

Would you find it easier to extend the invitation to someone who has nowhere to go at Christmas or accept the invitation when you have nowhere to go for Christmas?

Do we think receiving is only for the less fortunate? Giving is selfless and receiving is selfish? It’s not right to receive without giving back? If we receive help does it mean we can’t do it for our self? If we give does it means we are a good person?

It’s a good question to ask our self, are we as comfortable receiving as we are giving? Can we let others feel good by giving to us? In order to give someone has to be willing to receive. I remember reading how a woman was indignant to find a Christmas box on her doorstep. “We are not that poor was her response?” Being given a Christmas box meant she felt judged? Most of us would probably feel the same way because we know the box is given to “the unfortunate” and we don’t want to be labeled “unfortunate.” Even if times are rough, we aren’t willing to admit they are that rough.

In order for there to be a cheerful giver, there needs to be a cheerful receiver. Can we feel good when we give and receive?

Give and receive; give big and receive big; give freely and receive freely; give poorly and receive poorly. Israelmore Ayivor

Are you comfortable and willing to be of service to others, but find it difficult to receive the same in return? Why are people so quick to resist receiving, even when they need the help? Your ability to receive not only opens the space for great things to enter our life, but it returns a gift of grace to the giver. Susan C. Young

Christmas with Hot Apple Cider: Stories from the Season of Giving and Receiving (Powerful Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love Book 5) by [Lindquist, N. J.]
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Christmas with Hot Apple Cider: Stories from the Season of Giving and Receiving (Powerful Stories of Faith, Hope, and Love Book 5) Kindle Edition


Toronto Christmas Market, friends, food, frivolity and new experiences.

Toronto Christmas Market Lunch at Cluny's photo by Sandra Jensen

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Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything. Muhammad Ali

Yesterday three friends and I braved the rain and headed down to the Toronto Christmas Market. We met at the Go Station but the price for Uber was very little more than four tickets on the Go Bus and Uber to the market. One of us had purchased our Go ticket already but was able to cancel it.

The market was free until five so the fugal four walked into the market a few minutes before 12:00. It is decorated with lights, the time to really enjoy it would be in the evening. A tunnel of lights with a decorated bench and a Grey Goose overhead beckoned us, a marvelous pink haired young lady obliged by taking pictures of us. She was such a good sport she’s in one. There is mistletoe for lovers wanting an excuse to kiss and we took pictures of a lovely young couple after they took pictures of us.

We walked through a store with kitchen gadgets for everything I could think of. I saw a lovely silver citrus juicer. An array of placemats and coasters made of various materials including leather was on display. We walked through an antique store, among its treasures was a large metal “B”. I have a picture holding it.

We have a photo of the two widows among us holding a sign that says, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

We lunched at Cluny’s Bistro a modern French-inspired restaurant. The décor is beautiful, the food was great, we ate Crisp Sesame- Crusted Asparagus, Melted Gruyere served as French onion soup and a basket of assorted breads. We left room for what might take our fancy as we walked through the rest of the market.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Khalil Gibran

We wanted to find mulled wine, but when we found it we had to sit in a small fenced area and our time was running short. We opted for spiced cider and tarts, I choose a raspberry coconut tart which was one of the best tarts I’ve ever eaten. My friend chose the same tart and said, “I’ll just take a bite and take the rest home to share.” The rest didn’t make it home.

Everything about our outing yesterday was an experience. It was a day of firsts, I’d never been to The Toronto Christmas Market, never taken an Uber, never been to Cluny’s restaurant or the Distillery District.

A fun day with friends, new experiences, lots of laughter and photos. We talked about making this an annual tradition. We’ll see, one never knows what the future holds, where the four of us will be next year. It was a wonderful day.

This is the ninth year of the Toronto Christmas Market, it is expected 650,000 people will visit it during this holiday season. It was always the idea to turn the Distillery district into a tourist destination and neighborhood with unique shops, restaurants, and culture. It was easy to get people out in the summer but the winter was another story. The idea was to take the sentiments and spirit of the traditional European Christmas Market and use them to transform the Distillery into a holiday tradition where people would connect with friends and family.

The market is so busy they charge an entrance fee of $6.00 after five pm on Friday until 9:00 pm on Sunday just to stagger the crowd. The money goes to the operational costs of the market and the surplus is donated to charity.

The Distillery Christmas Market is a success born out of a problem, how to get people out to the Distillery district during the winter. The problem solvers in life make things better, not just for themselves but for all of us.

We can be inspired by those who solve problems by becoming problem solvers our self. Is there a problem we can see that needs solving? Are there outings we could plan to bring more joy to our friends and our own lives?

Problems are nothing but wake-up calls for creativity. Gerhard Gschwantner

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Friendship Book 2019 Hardcover – Sep 1 2018


Christmas magic is hard work, organization and sacrifice.

Unmet Expectations - stock photo

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Christmas is forever, not for just one day, for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf. The good you do for other’s is good you do for yourself. Unknown

Our phones have not been able to connect to my blog for a little over a week. I noticed it when I went to show a friend from Toastmaster the book I was recommending a week ago.

I was worried other people were being kept out too. My friend could get on it, my kids could get on it. My husband could get on it about two days before I could. An update on our Samsung phones looks like it created the problem, and a second update fixed it but it took a couple of days after the second update before voila my blog appeared. Another thing to be grateful for.

I am thankful. Yesterday was the Christmas social at my writer’s group. I was able to click on my blog when someone wanted to see it.

Soon we’ll get the Christmas tree. We get a real one. Growing up we had Christmas trees that were destined to be sixty feet tall. The branches were far apart with short needles, Charlie Brown Christmas trees. Now we have an array of trees to choose from Balsam Fir, Scotts Pine, Fraser Fir, White Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce, Serbian Spruce, and  Douglas Fir. They are beautiful trees that have been farmed and groomed to be Christmas trees.

It isn’t your tree that makes Christmas, it is everything else. I remember fondly as a child going to Christmas Concerts, in Churches, our town put on a Christmas party for the kids where we usually saw a movie, and we also had one at our one-room schoolhouse that was converted to a Community Centre/Hall. Singing Christmas carols, eating food the ladies prepared, and the obligatory Santa. Walking outside the snow crunched as we walked, and the houses with their bright lights and chimney smoke looked like Christmas cards. When my older sisters and their families came home we had big fun family gatherings, with Aunts and Uncles.

My dad, uncles, and brother in law would play instruments and sing. All these memories of happy times I’m grateful for. Those years didn’t last long. We grow up, life changes, but the memories remain. We learned the importance of making Christmas. Christmas doesn’t just happen. Christmas is a lot of work to create the ambiance, the activities, and the food. It seems like magic but it is organization, effort, and sacrifice.

We see the joy on people’s faces as they donate toys to charity. Toys they will never see played with. A lady was beaming on TV she started buying pajamas for women and children in shelters. Each year she has more and more shelters she provides pajamas for. She remembers how every year she got a new pair of flannelette pajamas for Christmas. She wants to give that to others. This is her Christmas she says, how lovely, how meaningful, how thoughtful.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. Hamilton Wright Mabie

We need to make new traditions as old traditions end. Friends and I are going down to the Christmas market. I’ve never been, I’m looking forward to it. Maybe it will become a tradition.

This is the first year my daughter won’t be here for Christmas dinner. She has started her own family. We have a Christmas breakfast tradition. She and her husband will be with us for breakfast and then at his parent’s for dinner. Friends who have had Christmas with us for years will come for breakfast, but probably not stay for dinner, a movie, then pie and ice-cream.

When I spoke to our friend she thought they would come later for dinner. I told her to come for breakfast because that is when we would all be together. We may have a very small group for dinner.

Life evolves. We need to adjust and make the best of it. Our little girl isn’t a little girl anymore. We wouldn’t want her to be. We are happy to see her building her own life, her own traditions.

There is so much to be grateful for. My cup runneth over. We have a happy change in our life this year. Friends have different changes, the place at the table is empty for the first time, or it is still empty. New traditions are forced on them.

We need to enjoy the present. We don’t know what the future holds. Talk and laugh and enjoy each other. We never know when it will be the last time. If we make the best of what we have while we have them, we have fewer regrets. This makes it easier a friend tells me.

Enjoy this happy season or just get through it if that’s your situation. We can do for our families or do for people outside our families. It is doing that makes Christmas. What can we do to make this a better Christmas for someone?

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of youth, and transport the travelor back to his own fireside and quiet home! Charles Dickens

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas

Oct 16 2018

by Ace Collins

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Remembrance and aging. Embracing what is.

Painting "Embracing What Is" by Belynda Wilson Thomas

Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Laurence Binyon

We went to the cenotaph yesterday for the Remembrance ceremony. One hundred years ago armistice was declared. My grandmother was eighteen. How did it impact her choice of husband when so many of the men she could have married were cut down in war? She married a man many years her senior.

She died of breast cancer at age fifty-three. I never had the privilege of knowing her. I wish I could have. She’s always sounded like such a fabulous person who had to deal with a lot with few resources. Mom and dad grew up in the depression. The lean years they called them. Dad said if you didn’t want potatoes for dinner, dinner was over.

All my life I’ve lived in peace and plenty. I think of the years growing up on the farm as happy golden years. It’s funny I loved it so much yet I didn’t want to spend my life on the farm. Mom was the same. She told her first husband she wouldn’t live on the farm. He sold the land he’d bought to her brother. Dad was farming when they got together. He’d done a stint in Vancouver but was back on the land. I think she loved her time on the farm. I remember her telling us she wanted to be buried under a specific tree.

I never thought mom and dad would leave the farm. After a farm accident where dad lost most of his right hand, they were ready to leave. They relocated in B.C. Dad didn’t like B.C. as much as mom did. He longed for the flat land of Saskatchewan, where he was strong and vital, B.C. was where he declined. Some people like the mountains. Some people feel hemmed in by them.

A lot of Saskatchewan farmers retired to B.C. they met every Friday at the Farmers Market. I was with Mom the day she told them Dad passed. I’m sure it was news they heard often.

Life goes by fast. My son turned twenty-nine – how did that happen? Where did all that time go? On Saturday I went out with friends I met through my husband. We’ve known each other for over thirty-five years, we had a lot to talk and laugh about. One of them I’m sure I met before her and her then-boyfriend broke up. She married and had children and reconnected with my husband’s friend her high school sweetheart.

I’ve heard of quite a few instances where people grow up build a life and later reconnect with their high school sweetheart and have a new romance. I have a widowed friend I’m going to ask her if she left one behind?

Life goes by, my mom tells me she doesn’t feel like she should be turning ninety-four. I don’t feel like I should be turning sixty. We need to embrace our age, what’s the alternative? It doesn’t make sense to me to pretend to be too much younger than I am. Who’s kidding who? Bette Davis said getting old is not for sissies.

We are all aware, I know I’m preaching to the choir. We all know we need to watch what we eat – wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly what the best way to eat is? Try the ketogenic diet, no the starch solution is better, no I heard about food combining? Enough already, I say as I staunchly recommended no dairy and the starch solution on Saturday. None of us are getting out of this alive.

The past: our cradle, not our prison; there is danger as well as appeal in its glamour. The past is for inspiration, not imitation, for continuation, not repetition. Israel Zangwill

Enjoy the moments, days, weeks, months, years we have. Even though I’ve embraced plant-based, very little sugar and no dairy to some degree. I had a chocolate molten lava cake with ice-cream on Saturday. It was so good, I can’t do 100% deprivation. I would quit doing eighty or seventy percent watching what I eat if I had to do one hundred percent. Some people can’t loosen up a little; they have to be strict all the time. Do whatever works for you.

We think when we’ve found something that works for us everyone should do it. What happened to individualism? Do we only pretend to embrace it? As we embrace the fact many of us have less time ahead of us than behind we should simplify our lives. We couldn’t fit everything in forty years ago, we can’t fit everything in now. What is important to us? Maybe we can do a couple things well; maybe we’ve been fragmenting our focus and energy.

If we haven’t embraced our self, our imperfections, our challenges, our weaknesses, and our strengths, it’s time. If not now, when? If there is some burning desire we haven’t got to yet, it’s time.

If we have some tweaks we want to make in our life, it’s time. If there are some places we want to go, we need to start figuring out how we can get there and when.

Retirement looms ahead for my husband and I. We need to get a plan together. It will happen whether we have a plan in place or not. It will be better if we have a plan. There are people ahead of us that show us the way. They’ve written books, they give talks on Youtube and Ted talks. We have more information about making this last leg of our life better than ever before.

We can embrace the stage we are in, or we can moan, groan and deny. I’m embracing it, at least that’s what I tell myself.

All we have of freedom, all we use or know – This our fathers bought for us long and long age. Rudyard Kipling

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Mindful Aging: Embracing Your Life After 50 to Find Fulfillment, Purpose, and Joy Paperback – Sep 21 2017

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