A Welcomed Interruption…

Today is the day – I’m pulling out the Christmas decorations!

Well I wrote that opening line yesterday – yesterday was to be the day that I was to get the decorations out and start the process.  I was all set to begin and stopped to check emails and Facebook.  And….I didn’t get to my task.  Probably the greatest gift the internet brings us is the ability to connect and reconnect with friends – friends from our past who we have lost touch with.  There are some people who you can pick right up where you left off – as if no time has passed at all.  These are kindred spirits – people who have the same core values – and who view life in a similar manner.  I think it is rare to reconnect after many years and still feel the same connectivity – when it happens it is a blessing – a surprise and something I am very grateful for.

I met up with such a friend yesterday and spent three hours chatting on line – catching up on our lives and remembering our past lives when we were in school together.  So many memories – with age to give you a new perspective and of course experience to put it all into perspective.  Not really sure why we just didn’t pick up the phone and talk – we probably could have covered the same ground in half the time!  None the less – I am so thankful to take a walk down memory lane – and to learn of a friend who has lived life well – who has 8 children, 4 grandchildren with a 5th on the way.  She never imagined her life would turn out as such, and I never imagined mine would turn out as it has.  We have both been blessed in many ways – God has been good to us!

And so the cleaning and decorating did not get done – instead – we shared our life story with each other – or at least as much as we could jam into a few hours .  We shared our dreams, our disappointments – and laughed together about crazy memories of the past.

And so my plans were interrupted – and we decorate another day.  It seemed no atmosphere was needed for this welcomed visit – no tree lights, or candles, or festive ribbons – all the joy was in the relationship – and in the reunion of two hearts.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And so today – I will pull out the Christmas decorations and get busy with making my home warm, welcoming and festive.  I am reminded that our lives are for sharing – and our homes a place to make that happen.  And so I will dress my home expecting that others will join me here to celebrate life, and the joy of the Christmas season – and the joy that we have in each other.

As you know, I love to be inspired – and in past posts have given the traditional red and green Christmas inspiration, and the green Christmas – how about a blue Christmas!  I love the outside front entrance of this home!  I love the wood  – so country and casual.  In my mind Christmas is just that – country and casual.  I don’t mean casual in the sense that it is not special  – no  – all celebrations are special and need to be given that special touch – using all the special traditions.  Casual in the sense that it says  – please come on in and lets have a cup of coffee and catch up on life.   A welcomed interruption to the business of our day.

Christmas is about memories – I am so thankful for the memories of my relationships all through the years – and thankful for the blessing of reuniting with one such friend yesterday!

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Christmas Dreamin…

It is hard to believe it is time to start thinking about Christmas!  How can it possible be that another year is here – bring it on – let’s deck the halls, string the lights and hang the ornament – bring on the Christmas spirit!  Do I sound a bit enthusiastic?  Well – I know it is a lot of work – but there is just something magical about this time of year – the twinkling lights, the bows and ribbons, and the excitement that goes along with it all!

For the past couple of years I have been so busy with work and other life responsibility that I have not been able to give the Christmas decorating the whole hearted focus that I love to give it.  This year  – it’s going to get my attention – because here is the deal – decorating is a creative process – and as I have been saying – creativity needs to be feed – needs to be nourished!  Creatiivity is the air I breathe – it brings life to my spirit – it brings joy  – great joy!

So here is to a feast of creativity – bring on the inspiration!

Where to start?  I like to start outside first – and work my way inside.  I need some inspiration – and here is just a little bit to get the creative juices flowing.

Nothing like the red and green theme to keep tradition alive!

I’m dreaming of Christmas!

Home

The saying goes “Home is where the heart is”.

 And that is why home can be anywhere – anywhere your heart chooses.  

Growing up, my family moved several times – to different homes.  We lived in a small home, and an old home, even a falling apart home while a new home was being built!  Every house we lived in became a home – my mother with her keen eye for decorating and design, and my dad with his handyman abilities worked on each house to make it a home and always on a budget.

I remember the greenish blue gingham curtains that my mother made for the kitchen, and the curtains that she dyed a golden colour to match the black wallpaper in the music room, and the red shag carpet she chose for the new home – when shag carpet was just becoming a trend.  Oh – and yes that was for the living room – the family room had orange shag carpet!  So very trendy at that time!  And you had to rake it before you vaccumed it – I thought that was so very cool back then!  She always carried wallpaper and paint swatches in her purse in a small plastic bag – and fabric swatches that she was using in the different rooms.  She loved to make our house a home – and she did that so very well.

It was the small touches that made the difference such as the red place mats made especially to go with her Old Country Rose china – always used on special occasions.  A large urn filled with pussy willows and special grasses that she had dad stop by the side of the road to cut down.  Little things that made a difference – she brought out a clean dish cloth any time there were guests coming – that was important to her.  And homemade desserts – always.  Apple pie, pumpkin pie, lazy daisy cake, german chocolate cake – every night we had a homemade dessert!

I remember as a young teenager spending my Saturday mornings baking cookies and filling the freezer.  My mom just let us go at it – she loved filling the freezer with baked goods!  Of course – we used to sneak in there and eat the Christmas shortbread eating from the bottom of the tin so you could never tell they were disturbed – oh we were so bad!  It was just all of these things plus more that make a house a home .

We were also taught to respect the furniture – and especially in the living room – on a budget furniture was not easily replaceable.  Saying that, my creative mother and my resourceful father always found a way to buy a new piece or recover an old piece of furniture.  The decor always seemed to change – be updated and refreshed.  And again – always on a budget.  Garage sales, and newspaper ads- those were the days before Ebay.  I am amazed at how well my parents were at creating and recreating a beautiful space to live in!

And since my growing up days, I have lived in a few different places – not sure I would call them houses as they were either dorm rooms or apartments.  And I tried to follow in the traditions I was raised in – make every space beautiful.

And for the last 13 years I have had my own home.  This past Saturday I was sitting in my living room and the sun was pouring through the large south facing windows – the reflection off of the buttery colour of the walls filled the room with light –  I lifted my heart in gratitude to God for blessing me with such a beautiful home.  It is not grand by any means – very small in fact.  But 13 years later I still feel the joy that came when I first moved in – it is home to me.

And this is what I try to remember – a house becomes a  beautiful place if much love is poured into it.  And that love can come in many different ways.  If it feels old and tired – repaint, repair and re-adjust.  If there is not enough music – bring on the music.  If there is not enough atmosphere, dim the lights and light the candles – if there is not enough laughter – invite people into you home!

I have a friend who is always doing something to upgrade their home.  They are always working on a room, whether it is a total makeover, or just a fresh coat of paint.  And although their home is modest by many standards they take such great pride in it – and they continually make it a home – a place where people gather – a place with warmth and life!

I am working away at my home.  I am taking it room by room – and it takes a while .  I get a lot of satisfaction out of letting my creative spirit soar – taking on a project and seeing where it might take me. Last year I put time and resources into the garden – and it has become a new room to the house – at least in the summer – and I could not be more pleased.  This winter – I plan to finish my second floor den/TV room, my bedroom and the main bathroom!  Stay tuned!

“Some look for a beautiful place – others make a place beautiful.”

A Thoughtful Gesture…

Surprises can be wonderful.  Especially if they are lovely and thoughtful and generous in spirit. I was surprised a couple of weeks ago with a lovely bouquet of flowers delivered with a very kind thank you note attached.  I was so wonderfully surprised by the gift for really I should have been thanking the wonderful couple that sent it!

The flowers were sent by a board member of Dignitas International following an event that they hosted (and paid for) to support work in Africa.  Why thank me?  I should be thanking them!  What I can tell you is that this is just the way this couple lives – they give….and give….and give.  And they would say it is because they have been so blessed!  And they have been blessed – there is no doubt about it.  And they choose to bless others with that which they have been given.  What a wonderful example!

The thought was so generous – and unexpected – a wonderful surprise in the middle of a very busy and stressful day.  And if anyone knows me well – they will know – I love flowers!  The gesture could not have been more perfect.  I was simply delighted!  What a wonderful thoughtful gesture that meant the world to me!

There is a saying – “it’s the thought that counts”  – and yes of course there is so much truth in this.  But if we never act on our thoughts – then what do they count for?  Thinking generous thoughts and thinking about generous actions is a good start – but thoughts with no action have far less outcomes!  How often do we appreciate people but never really let them know?  It seems that all of these good thoughts and words and gestures are saved for a funeral.  You can never go wrong by telling people how much you appreciate them, how thankful you are to have them in your life, how much you love them and what great strengths and talents they have.  Say it now – in word and gesture because a small gesture has a huge impact!

I know this to be true – the gift of flowers was such a beautiful gift – but it is what the gesture said that is even more beautiful!  I felt loved, honoured and appreciated!  And that just makes me stand taller and want to do more and do it better!  The thought was wonderful – but the action behind the thought was even more powerful!

 Say it now – say it often  – and say it from the heart!

A Life Well Lived

Stories, we all have stories.  

Nature does not tell stories, we do.  

We find ourselves in them, make ourselves in them, choose ourselves in them.

 If we are the stories we tell ourselves, we better choose them well.”

James Orbinski, M.D.

Today the colours in my backyard were magnificent and when the sun fell on the trees,  the leaves whose colour, already a beautiful yellow turned to a golden hue much like that of real gold!  So beautiful and unexpected and even though this is an annual change – it never ceases to amaze me the wonder of the changing colours – the turning of the leaves!

And today the time changed as well – “fall back” – and we gained an hour of sleep this morning – so much needed at least for me!

This has been an emotional weekend – beautiful in many ways but difficult as well.  On Friday we attended the funeral of a very dear friend Mary Gibbons, mother-in-law to my sister Sandra.  She was a very special woman who lived a full life up until the end – close to her 89th year.  Although her life had many dynamics perhaps you could say that she was most famous for her baking and her cooking – and wow, could she do this well.  Hungarian in  heritage, her mastery of Hungarian pastries and cakes was second to none. If you were fortunate enough to have a taste of one of these masterpieces you were sure to receive more than a bite for the size of the slice she would serve you would be enormous. Her motto:

 “Go Big or Go Home”

And that is the way she lived her life.  She was a full participant – no sitting back for her!  Till the day she suffered the stroke that took her life she drove her own car, lived in her own home and was preparing for a family get together – a dinner in her home prepared of course by her alone – the pies were ready to go – some groceries bought – she was prepared!

You find out so much about a person upon their death when the stories are told about the impact she had on others.  And impact she did have – she reached out – connected – and cared for so many – and usually it was those who needed that extra care – a special welcome for someone new to her church – special support if a senior was not able to get out – and encouragement for young people.  She touched lives – many lives – in her own special way that even her family didn’t fully know!

I love the motto – “Go Big or Go Home”   What a wonderful way to live – all in – full participation – no roadblock could stop her- no small steps – just do it!  And what an inspiration to still live this way at the age of 89!

These kinds of events always help you to reflect on life.  When you listen to how a person’s life is eulogized you ask the question – what is my summary going to be – what is my motto for life?  It is so important to live the life we want to be remembered for living.

My good friend James Orbinski in his book “An Imperfect Offering” wrote the following:

Stories, we all have stories.  Nature does not tell stories, we do.  We find ourselves in them, make ourselves in them, choose ourselves in them.  If we are the stories we tell ourselves, we better choose them well.”

Life is about choices – to a great extent we choose our own story – and for those things that we have no choice in, we can choose how we react.  Our life is a story – and the question is what will that story be?

I want to live a life well lived. And it is not that I want to be well known for the life I have lived, no, I want to be known by those close to me to be a person who is genuine – a person who walks their talk – a person who lives out the values they speak of.  My father talks about “living a life of minimum regrets”.  What a wonderful way to look at life.  To make every decision and every word and every deed be a word, action and deed that leave minimum regrets.

This takes intentional thinking, feeling and intentional behaviour.  We are all writing our stories- in fact mine is more than half written – and it is the unique story of my life.  And it will not be the amount of money I earned, or how many people know my name that will make the difference in how the story is told.  It will be the choices I make about how I live each day – how I chose to treat people – care for people – and make an impact on those I have been given the privilege to associate with. That will be the significant storyline of my story. What I  do know is that I want those who know me best to testify that my character was solid – and that when I did fall down – I found my way back up in humility with the help of those around me.

I want to be remembered for bringing more joy than sorrow, more good than bad, more love than selfishness, more laughter than tears, and more hope than despair – and I want to live my choices with minimal regrets – a life well lived.

Mary Gibbons did just that !