28 February 2012

give and take - a 40 day journey

It's most likely the time of year that people around me dislike the most....when I give something up for Lent in preparation for Easter.  I'm very steadfast to what I choose as it's the time of year when I'm a really good Catholic. The thing is, I don't usually choose things to cut out that are simple.  I do ten to pick items that seem like a sacrifice because it's small to give it up for only 40 days in comparison to the actual sacrifice of Jesus' life that is.  So as with (my own) tradition, Lent starts out with a Fat Tuesday dinner of Carrot Cake Pancakes (add 4c grated carrots, 1/2c chopped roasted walnuts and 2 tsp cinnamon to your fave pancake recipe) which this year I created a sort of "icing" made out of 1 pkg cream cheese, 2 tbsp greek yogurt and 1/4 cup of pure maple syrup (I think - use your judgement on how mapley you like it!) Basically just blend all together until it's a whipped topping type of product... put on top of pancakes and garnish with fruit and perhaps more maple syrup.  

Now in years past I have given up such things as prime time television, shopping (for non-essential items), coffee & tea, the elevator (while working on the 5th floor) and of course junk food (ie: desserts, candy & chips) which I have chosen to give up yet again! With the help of fresh fruit and a few other healthy treats like nuts & dates I figure out a way to maintain this small sacrifice.  I do my best to remain true to my faith and to strengthen it every day but it's true that Lent usually does act as a reminder for me to focus more on not only what I believe but what I can do to be more faithful, more giving and a better example.  This year I've decided to focus on not only what is going in to my mouth but also what comes out of it.  In addition to giving up the sweets & junk food (with the exception of air popped popcorn, cuz come on a girl has to snack on something!) I've decide to take this as an opportunity to put goodness out into the world as well.  As many people know I love to send mail - probably because I like to receive mail - and so as part of Lent for me, I also chose to send 3 letters or small packages per week in the mail to unsuspecting friends and family.  In fact I've also included a few suppliers from work and people from not only North America but European friends as well! I am taking it as another opportunity to be thankful for the good in my life - for the people who are in it and for the chance to brighten someone else's day.  So if you are giving something up for Lent (or if you are not) ask yourself what you can do to be a better person? How can you strengthen your faith? How can you put goodness out into the world?

14 February 2012

my cup runneth over....

Truth be told, last week I struggled with the whole idea of Valentines day.  I'm not sure if it was the grey weather or hormones but I had this overwhelming feeling like I was missing out on something by not having that "special someone" in my life this year.  For a moment there I just got sucked in to thinking about what I was missing from my life, rather than focusing on the amazing and lovely people I carry in my heart.   

For a while I was hesitant of Valentines because I do think that it is a day, like Christmas, where you can get swept up in the commercialism of it.  It's not a day about flowers or gifts or chocolates (though, truth be told I'll happily accept any of the aforementioned!!) but rather it's a day to do something extra nice for someone in your life.  To tell someone that they are in your heart and that you care for them - that could be a parent, a sibling, a cousin.  It could be a niece or nephew, a new friend or someone who's been in your life forever.  Or in my case also the chef and server at the restaurant where I get my morning coffee who I lovingly dropped cupcakes off to this morning!  My family and friends fill my heart with love and with gratitude everyday but it is nice to have Valentines as an extra-special day to remember to share that love back with them.  The way I look at it is like this - I love my mom & my dad every day but that doesn't mean that I don't also take an extra special moment to celebrate them on Mother's Day or Father's Day.  So though we should all try to carry love in our hearts everyday, perhaps we can use Valentines to just go a bit above and beyond and remember to share that love. 

Today also marks the last of the "firsts" which I'm sure was inadvertently part of my blues leading up to this day but also makes me finally feel at peace.  Truly, from the depth of me, I am happy and I am content.  I feel like I am living the life I'm meant to and though I'm not sure still of where I would like to end up or whom I may end up loving, I know that I'm walking the right path. I'll get there eventually.  I am ready to open my heart again - it may have been bruised but it has mended.  I am certainly stronger for every trial this last year has brought me and perhaps even more loving and appreciative of the best yet come. One year ago today, I took myself to the airport in Helsinki and boarded a plane to return to Canada. I ended one adventure in my life and took those first few scary steps in to this new chapter.  It's almost hard to believe that it's been a year already.  It's been a heck of year but it's now finally complete. First anniversaries over, first single birthday, first Christmas & New Years, first steps as a single woman yet again.  Heart a little crumpled but stronger and more confident. It's not always easy - there are weeks like last week when the skies were grey and the world felt lonely.  I may not have a romantic love to celebrate this year, but I will again.  I know I will and that makes me look forward to the future.  

I realize that Valentines Day has been special to me in the past - my parents used to not only celebrate their love for each other but for R & I as well.  In fact, I remember a certain Tom Cruise, Top Gun poster that graced my walls after one Valentines long ago.  (Before I had a height requirements for crushes that is!!) Celebration of Valentines has kind of fallen to the wayside for the past decade or so but I've decided that rather than becoming that "single-girl Valentines day scrooge", that I would embrace it once again.  I have so much love in my life and though I am grateful for it each and every day, I will take today to be extra nice! Through all of this, I've come to realize that I'm a big, old, romantic sap and I'm ok with it.  I embrace it! What is life without the love that we share? In yoga on Sunday, after the final pose, we opened our eyes to a little chocolate heart on our mat and the reminder from our teacher to send love out in to the universe and to do something special for those who we carry in our hearts.  And yes because I am my mother's daughter, I chose to bake that love in to something special for those who I'll be seeing today.  I am, most certainly, a lover.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I'm ok with it.  Better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all.  Once you are in my life I tend to keep hold of you in my heart.  If you are hurt or scared, I will be holding you close in my heart and sending you healing thoughts.  If you are happy or excited I will cheer along side you.  I will be carrying your heart in my heart. And today, I've come to realize that I'm happy. My heart is full. 

My cup runneth over. 

06 February 2012

The race is not only to the swift....

"....but to those who keep on running." This quote has long been a favourite of mine because as much as I adore running I'm not a front of the pack runner.  I'm one along the route trying my best, giving my all and I know that because of that the race is mine.  I am a pretty determined person, especially when it comes to trying something new. I don't give up easily and I will put all my effort out in the attempt.  Life is short - too short most of the time - and busy and we are all guilty of getting caught up in the day-to-day things.  It's not easy to try something new or to take a first step but it's that feeling of uncomfortable deep in our gut that lets us know that what we are about to do is something great.  It's like that feeling of falling in love - it's scary and it could turn out messy but that pit of your stomach anticipation is what makes it worthwhile.  

This weekend I attempted to snowboard - it's been about 10 years since my last attempt which pretty much consisted of T making me stand up on the board and sending me down the hill!! I was a guest with my friend Soph and her boyfriend Hart at his father's chalet a few hours northeast of here and Hart (a certified instructor) was kind enough to spend some time with me teaching me the basics of snowboarding.  I spent the afternoon by myself on the beginner hill practicing and I have to admit how humbling it was to sit there by myself at the top of the hill, out of breath, sweating my butt off and surrounded by 6year old children who were all zooming down the hill with reckless abandon.  There I was finding it beyond difficult to just basically stand up on my board and make it a few feet downhill and wondering why I thought I could do this.  There was a moment where the thought crossed my mind that I could easily head into the lodge, grab a spot in front of the fireplace and wait for the others to finish the day.  But I don't give up that easily.  So I sat there for a few minutes - my tush slightly numb from sitting in the snow and decided to just be grateful for this chance.  To be grateful that I have a strong body to even attempt this and that I have a courageous streak within me to have the guts to try.  I fell - alot.  My butt and my knees were a bit worse for wear and my ego slightly bruised but that went away after a few moments relaxing in the hot tub, appreciating both the people and the beautiful scenery around me.  The next day, we went over a few things from the day before and then I sent them on their way to enjoy the runs while I practiced.  It took a few attempts but I got up and replayed what Hart taught me over and over in my head.  I made it 1/2 way down the hill.  The next time I made it just a bit further.  And then, after a few more goes I made it all the way down.  I stood up, I made turns, I sped up and slowed down when I needed.  I remembered to look up, to shift my weight to stay low and bent in my knees and I made it all the way down.  There I was at the bottom of the hill, unstrapping my board and walking over to magic carpet to make my way back to the top to try again and I cried a little (big surprise lol!).  I was so damn proud of myself for taking the leap - for trying again and again.  For pulling myself up after each fall and getting back on that board and for getting to the bottom of the hill.  

Life isn't without falls and not without challenges - because without them, you would never know that feeling of pride when you do pick yourself up and make it through.  To be honest (and those of you who really know me won't be surprised) I cry every time I cross the finish line of a race because I did it - because I pushed myself to my limit, dug a bit deeper and I pulled it out.  I most likely will not be a champion snowboarder anytime soon but I'm my own champion and I'm pretty darn pleased with myself.  My bruised knees and sore upper body may currently disagree but we'll be back out on the slopes as soon as we can!