My Garden. My little plot of containers and wood boxes is ever present once again in my mind as the weather warms. As I went about the business of trimming the tomatoes back this morning, I thought about how much life is like a garden.
A garden requires daily attention. Water and sunshine in the correct amounts make the difference between a healthy crop and a meager one. Fertilizer, the super power of the garden, gives us strong, vibrant plants. But it is the time it takes to let a garden grow that is a crucial element to its success.
Consider your life. When we are aware enough, we nourish our bodies daily with good food and clean water. We know we are supposed to exercise to keep our bones and muscles strong. Some of us meditate with a focus on obtaining balance. We breathe in deeply and exhale any stress. Life requires us to be nimble and responsive to its ebbs and flows.
Though we understand the processes it takes to have a healthy life, there is often one element that we give little credence to. Time. Just like our bodies won’t build desirable, shapely muscles with two days of strength training, our lives require us the time it takes to reach the goals we are aiming for.
Graduation for my son’s class of 2018 is right around the corner. We are a mere two weeks away from celebrating their high school achievement with an all day, all night great big bash of a succession of events.
For the past several months, I have been heavily involved in organizing the dry grad event (the after prom party). Dry grad was initially created several years ago as alternative for a safe drug and alcohol free graduation experience. It is an event that hosts games, amusement park themed activities, performers, prizes and generally ends in the wee hours of the morning with a pancake breakfast.
Last Friday, as our Vice Principal and I mapped out the series of graduation events on the white board, he casually mentioned the toast. “I’m sorry, what toast?” I asked. “The toast that you and another parent will give at the first event of the evening.” He smiled sheepishly and asked, “didn’t I tell you about the toast to the grads?”
Now, I am a writer. I like to work in my little bubble of a work space with my writing sweater over my shoulders and my cup of tea ready at my right hand. My imagination is one of my greatest companions and though I am not afraid of mingling with people of the real world, I am not a huge fan of speaking to hundreds of them all at once.
“You don’t like public speaking?” The Vice Principal asked. “I’m more of a behind the scenes kind of girl.” I responded. “I enjoy speaking with groups…about the size of a book club”. So, off I went to the weekend to contemplate my fate of having to speak in front of 350 grads, their parents, grandparents, siblings, and such.
To say I was a little concerned about this upcoming graduation toast is an understatement. I quickly connected with the other parent and was relieved to learn that she actually loves giving speeches. Really? I thought. People actually enjoy doing that kind of thing. Between us, we decided that I would write the toast and she would deliver it. I merely have to stand by her side while she speaks with grace and eloquence and addresses the hundreds of eyeballs who will have nothing to do but stare at us. Continue reading
Overwhelmed? Stressed? Struggling to keep your head above water? All these states have us ready to pull out our own hair as we stifle an urge to scream. We’ve all been there and likely we will find ourselves overwhelmed again in our future. So what can we do to move past this predominantly flight or fight response to situations beyond our control?
Increase the number of times you sigh in an hour. A sigh is an extended, deep breath that upon it’s release offers the individual a bit of stress reduction. Did you know that humans aren’t the only ones who sigh in response to stress? Perhaps you’ve even seen your faithful four legged companion sigh.
Sighing isn’t restricted to times of stress, it is also the body’s modality for getting more air into the lungs. Sighing can also indicate a state of sadness or even exhaustion. Not unlike deep breathing, sighing is the body’s way of instilling a piece of calm to an otherwise overwhelmed state of mind.
When stress enters our lives, our body naturally lends itself to restoring the balance and one of the ways it does this is by inducing frequent sighs. Using a little reverse awareness may also help us manage the stress in our lives. For example, now that you are aware that you will naturally sign when under stress, perhaps taking note of an increase in sighing is another way to acknowledge the stress and take action to reduce it. Continue reading
Learning. That never ending sometimes joyful, sometimes grueling sidekick to our daily life. In the province of British Columbia (farthest province to the west in Canada for those of you unfamiliar with the region), we have a staggered licensing system for new drivers. New drivers begin the learning process by taking a written test. Once passed, they receive a red magnetic “L” to be placed on the rear of the vehicle they are driving. The “L” licensed driver must be accompanied by a fully licensed driver at all times. This process allows them to gain both confidence and knowledge with regards to driving.
There are of course many rules and regulations that go with this coveted “L”. Drivers begin to navigate their way through learning how to control a vehicle in a safe and somewhat restrictive manner. Once a driver has held an “L” license for some time, they are permitted to take a driving test to obtain their green “N” car magnet. The green “N” allows the driver to operate a vehicle without a fully licensed driver in the passenger seat. Different restrictions exist for “N” drivers. A limit of one person who is not a relative is permitted to ride with an “N” driver. Again, this is another step in gaining confidence.
In preparation for testing for the “N”, some new drivers choose to take drivers ed which is a classroom and real road driving learning environment. Others negotiate with their parents to take them to the local parking lot on Sunday mornings. Either way, the goal is clear. Spend time getting to know the environment of a vehicle from the new perspective of being behind the wheel.
Finally, after another significant amount of time has passed, “N” drivers are permitted to take yet another test. This test is a driving road test that will allow them to receive their class 5 license. The class 5 license is the permit most adults have that allows them to drive a regular vehicle. Once passed, the driver is permitted to drive without the “N” and without restrictions placed upon them.
So, here is the thing. When we see a red “L” or a green “N”, as drivers, we take extra caution. We give them a little more leeway. We have more patience with their learning process. In general, we have an understanding that new drivers may require more time to process their thoughts and actions as they learn how to operate a vehicle.
Victoria Day. May Day. Canada’s unofficial kick off to the summer season. Whatever name you call it, today is a Canadian holiday and with that a little break from my traditional Mindful Monday blog post as well.
Facts about Victoria Day:
- Each year, Canadians celebrate May day on the last Monday prior to May 25th.
- The celebration is a tip of the hat to Queen Victoria’s birthday.
- Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819.
- Canada was previously a British Colony. Though there are no longer any political ties to Britain, Canada continues to honor the Queen as a figurehead.
How do Canadians celebrate Victoria Day?
- May day Parades
- Mayflower poles complete with dancing girls in flowing dresses
- Family gatherings
The holiday as a passage of time:
- Canadians use the dateline of the May long weekend as an indicator that it is safe to plant gardens for the summer season.
- Typically frost after May day is unlikely in our northern region.
- Those with summer homes like to take advantage of the May long weekend to open them up in preparation for the warmer weather.
- Amusement parks and summer festivals use this weekend to begin operations.
No matter how you plan to spend your May long weekend, I wish you the joy of good times with those you love.
Happy Victoria Day!
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Volunteering has been a part of my life for a very long time now. The level at which I volunteer has changed vastly throughout the years. However, no matter the volunteer role I take on, the benefits I gain from volunteering far out weight the cost of my time.
Volunteering doesn’t mean you have to pick up the neighborhood garbage or drive a small child enrolled in the local elementary school to the pumpkin patch. Volunteering is about giving back to your community in a way that best suits your schedule and your unique compilation of talents.
Roles for volunteering:
- Do you excel at filing, secretarial tasks, talking to people on the phone? Almost every organization requires volunteers to assist with the daily operations of an office.
- Do you have access to a pick up truck and can help with the heavy lifting when needed? You are needed everywhere from school events, community markets, church fundraisers and more.
- Are you a former manager and have the skills to motivate and organize large groups of people? Every community organization needs an inspirational leader who can learn the lay of the land and guide others to get the job done.
- If you are reading this, then it is safe to assume that you quite likely have a plentiful supply of blood running through your veins. Giving blood is a tremendous way to support others in your community. Having once been the recipient of donated blood, I can tell you from experience that I have never forgotten the gift others gave to me when I was in dire need of it.
- If you can smile, you can volunteer. A friendly face is all that is needed to get started in a volunteer position.
Where to volunteer:
Deadlines! Oh the dreaded deadline. On the one hand, I adore deadlines. They force me to get things done. They inspire motivation and also a little fear, but mostly motivation.
As a writer, I have become friends with the deadline. Whether it is the first draft or the fifth, I’ve learned the hard way that if I veer off target, the wheels come off with exceptional force and velocity. So I plan with my editor and I set a deadline for every project.
Then, the strangest thing happens. The deadlines morph into something real. As soon as a deadline is set, life is breathed into them. They transform into a bossy two year old, demanding to have their own way. So I hunker down and I write and I edit and do everything in my power to meet those demanding deadlines.
Like a crazed woman in search of a mystical answer, I strive toward the deadline. The house turns into something much less than tidy. The grocery list grows and eventually someone more capable of actually buying the groceries gets it done. And sleep, well sleep is a mystery all its own.
Then just as the light at the end of the tunnel sends up a glimmer, the technical glitch comes along. Perfectly timed and waiting to pounce. My love hate relationship with technology is one I try desperately to down play. I am unwilling to give it the power it craves. Just as I think I have the two year old deadline under control, the four year old technical glitch shows up asking me to have all the answers for everything under the sun. Continue reading
Mindfulness for children and teens is a topic that is dear to my heart. I was reminded of the importance of mindfulness this morning during a chat with a school administrator. We talked about the effects of technology on the maturing brain and along with it, the stress, anxiety, and fatigue that plagues our kids today.
Throughout my son’s life, we have meditated together, focused on breath, and tried to instill a pattern of daily mindfulness. It sounds great doesn’t it? Almost magical and calming? A true enlightened parenting experience? Or not!
Ocean waves crash against the shore. I inhale deeply and smell the fresh, salty air as it washes over me. The wind whips at my face in a battle with the sun whose rays are trying to warm it. Ah, the ocean. My place of serenity, rejuvenation, and where I feel most at peace with the world around me.
Have you ever wondered why we are drawn to not just the ocean, but all bodies of water? It seems, water is such an ingrained peace of the human experience that its presence in our lives, is not only pleasing, but mandatory.
Ocean Benefit #1
The ocean has the ability to calm our minds into a meditative state. This peaceful, relaxed state is equivalent to shutting out the rest of the world in a mere few minutes. If you consider how much we are inundated daily by the ringing and beeping of technology and the tasks associated with those sounds, it is no wonder being near the ocean allows our brains to take a break.
With a steady, repetitive sound of the tide before us, our brains can simply let go and become immersed in the here and now. Similar to a slowed pattern of breathing you may find yourself using while meditating, the ocean’s waves replicate the cycle, immersing you in the rhythm. Continue reading
Creativity, unlike variety, just may be the true spice of life. I was in a meeting recently and I was asking for feedback on a fundraising idea I had. As I spoke, I heard one of the meeting attendees say to another, “someone is a creative thinker”. As a writer, this of course made me smile. In all honesty, it made me warm and fuzzy all over.
One of my life goals is to infuse my creativity into all things I bring into my awareness. I just hadn’t realized it had actually taken effect. Not until it was pointed out to me anyway. The more I write, the more creative I become. So, I suppose it is just natural that my creativity will bleed into all aspects of my life.
Creativity is like having the right key for every door you try to open. It is the magic that allows us to see solutions to obstacles that may be slowing our progress or blocking the way. So, even if you aren’t interested in writing a book or being the next Picasso, boosting your creativity will benefit your everyday life.
Creativity Boosting Tip #1
Get quiet and imagine. Dream time is never wasted, nor is it frivolous. I like to think that dreaming is to cast your hopes into the future while expecting a positive outcome. Spend time dreaming about your goals, your wishes, your desires, and then take some ‘real life’ action to achieve them. But, nothing in life is achieved without first having dreamed of it. Continue reading