Blank pages.

I love my Happy Planner. I love being able to summarize my weeks at a glance, and get a snapshot of my responsibilities for the week ahead. I love adding splashes of colour to it. I divide mine up in three sections as opposed to the traditional morning, afternoon and evening. My sections include Prayers/Bible verses/inspiration quotes, Must-Do commitments, and finally, quick Business notes. I can usually tell what kind of a week it will be, by how loaded one section is over another. It also reminds me if I need to shift my priorities for the following week. A couple of weeks ago, I had one those “A-Ha” moments, when a lightbulb came on. One of the things I was most excited about retirement, was the prospect of having a wide open calendar, with blank pages as far as the eye could see. I wanted to be able to fill things in AFTER the fact, as moments took place, instead of BEFORE the fact, scheduling out my life. I thought I could be very deliberate about this, and reach a greater sense of self-satisfaction. Some have questioned why I even bother with an agenda, given my new-found freedom. But, I soon came to the realization that since I’ve retired, I still want to keep track of things in my weekly journal of activities, and also, I do still need to take note of certain appointments and such.

But where did all the blank pages go?! There were very few days of no commitments. Very few carefree days. A couple of you tried to warn me of that. And I thought I was listening. Honest…I did! Two weeks ago, I decided I needed to get serious about it, and start mapping out at least one, if not two “Me Days” in the week ahead. This week, it was going to be Thursday and Friday that I would guard.

Thanks Sally, the only bit of colour on my desk this week, was your card!

And do you know what happened?!

I actually said “no”. TWICE, no less! And I said “yes” to staying on the couch in my flannel jammies as the sun came up (even when I could see the sunrise was going to be a nice one, and I would likely kick myself later), and “yes” to a friend visiting the island for a couple of days. It’s a start for blank pages. And when I turned the page to look ahead at next week, I discovered something quite liberating! As the last week of October, I realized my Happy Planner is out of daily pages. So, next week, I am away for a couple of days, with “blank page” kinda days, but I guess I will have to make a trip to Michael’s to rectify the situation.

Full pages aren’t bad; as long as I have more “yeses”, than “nos”.

YES! to today!

Gratitude-less

Last weekend, I held my first Creative-Art Therapy workshop, launching my new Life Coach business. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon with some gals who have supported me over time, and I was so happy to give them a chance to share, reflect and create. My new creative series is called JUST ONE WORD. Each month, we will look at one word, which plays a big part in our everyday lives, and take some time to reflect on it, and hopefully help us see how we want to change the direction of our journey, even if it is only a slight detour.

The teacher in me always believes I should never ask a student to do something I am not willing to do. So, I went through all the exercises with the group, and pondered them throughout the week. For October, I chose GRATITUDE; for a couple of reasons…the most obvious being, this is the month of Thanksgiving holiday. Secondly, I am so very grateful for my career path as teacher/guidance counsellor, and see this pursuit of Life Coaching as a natural progression for that. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to continue helping people.

One of the activities I shared with the group was a Gratitude Jar. It is something I did a few years ago, as a way to truly appreciate the moments/people/places that impacted my life that year. All it was, was a recycled candy jar with ribbons and a tag marking the year. 2013 was significant to me because it was the year Dalton finally finished his chemo treatments, and our family had been so overwhelmed with the kindness and support of this island community. I never knew gratitude on such a grand scale until that October. When I grabbed the jar and put it in my supply bag, I didn’t stop to look at them, just knew there were special moments. During class, I opened up the jar and shared the first memory card. My heart melted, as I read the memory of sharing dinner with my inlaws and a very special couple, Caroyl & Neree. Caroyl had been a huge part of Dalton’s life, (and still is), especially during his illness. Sadly, Neree passed away this summer. It was a very quick reminder of the importance of such exercises …to remember and appreciate the people who have made a difference in our lives, but more importantly, to let them know. The day after class was done, I was unpacking my “stuff”. As I unpacked the Gratitude jar, I took a few minutes to sit down and revisit the memories, one by one. I grabbed the kleenex box. There were some terrific moments that year, we will always treasure. I decided I would go one step further and message each of these people and share the memory card with them, and let them know they are indeed a treasure.

Gratitude Jar…using a recycled candy jar simply decorated with ribbons and tag, and 3×4” cards for recording moments of gratitude

Yes, it was a good exercise as I created it, and a good follow-up exercise as I took time to reflect on the contents, but I didn’t realize how it would hit me when I put the jar away again. Yes, there were key people who play an important part in my life. But what struck me most, was the ABSENCE of key people. Why hadn’t I taken time to mention them? Did we just not share any memorable moments that year? or did I just fail to write them down? No, I had been diligent in writing them down, and I even had a few blank cards left in the jar. No excuses. So, I learned something very important this week. Gratitude is all well and good, but if we don’t ACKNOWLEDGE it, is it really worth it? Did I miss out on some blessings that I know would enrich my life? or worse, Did I miss out on letting people know how much I truly appreciate them?

Once I decided to retire, I decided I was going to be much more intentional with my life. I spent my summer intentionally taking care of me for a change. I started the fall off being very intentional with the volunteer activities I chose. Now I need to up my game, and be more intentional with my gratitude. TODAY is the day…actually starting with YOU! Thank you for following my blog posts, and helping support me virtually. I really do appreciate you taking time out of your day to do that. I look forward to spending more time with you.

(this post is being cross-posted for both my blogs; personal and business)

Leap of Faith

When our church was going through some major changes a few years ago, it left people scattered and shellshocked. Even if they were excited about new things on the horizon, there were still hurt feelings, and fear of the unknown. As with any significant change, there are things that get left behind, and some things added to the journey. Can you imagine going on a trip around the world, and only being prepared with your bathing suit and flip flops? That’s great, as you cruise through Jamaica and an all-inclusive resort, but not so good as you explore Iceland, looking for the Northern Lights.

You get what I’m saying. Change can be uncomfortable. Even the best laid plans can go awry. But, if you keep looking for the possibilities, it can be quite a delightful journey.

This afternoon, I’m looking out my window, watching the tall fir trees shake and bend in the wind, the rain pelting against the panes. Hurricane Dorian is making his way across the Eastern shore board. He steered off from the Bay of Fundy, and is set to plunged against the south shore of Nova Scotia. We’ve braced for the worst, gathered supplies, and held our breath with flickering lights, just waiting to see what the cleanup will look like tomorrow. A friend who went through the CLC changes with us, likened it to the changing seasons. We each embrace a different season, for our own personal reasons. I’d never be happy in Jamaica, but the Icelandic adventure sounds quite enticing. We grew to accept some small changes, as well as some big changes. Throughout it all, the congregation looked around for anyone that could offer support, love, or just a hug. We made it, thus far.

I loved my job assisting students with their fears, and their dreams. At one point in my life, I couldn’t imagine NOT working. But now I’m thankful for the next season. I’m preparing to “work” again, with a heavy emphasis on play. I love that I have the option to play full time, and work part time. I knew one thing for sure…I still wanted to follow my passion of helping people, and listen to their stories. I will always be a lifelong learner, so this next season allows me to draw on my past skill set, as well as delve into some new areas.

So, with that being said, I’m getting much closer to offering my services to the community as a Life Coach. Today, I’m trying to make sense of my Happy Planner, and all the possibilities. To those of you that have offered me initial feedback over the past few weeks, thanks for the encouragement. I’m adding the link to my website that I’ve worked hard at this week to get up and running. Bear in mind, I’m still “under construction”, as is my website, but it will come together.

https://inspireexplorecreateempower.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/dear-self/

Despite the gusting wind, I’m looking forward to what’s on this horizon!

It came! It came!

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

– Dr Seuss, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

I cannot even imagine it is the first day of school.

I cannot even imagine it is the first September of my retirement.

Through the years, there have been some years when I didn’t have to return in September…a couple of deferred salary leaves, a maternity leave…but nothing like this! I realized last week, what a wonderful feeling it was to have a full slot of vacation. Usually, my summers as a teacher, like many others, get riddled with days working in school, cleaning up at the end of one school year; or days going in early to prepare for the upcoming new year (because heaven knows, there are never enough days to truly prepare); and some days spent on teacher PD. (Although this year, several of my days have been spent on coursework, of MY choosing). I realize some of my readers will suggest how spoiled we are with eight weeks vacation, albeit unpaid vacation. Yes, teachers are a bit spoiled in that regard. But it really is a needed period of recuperation. This year, I wasn’t feeling the familiar angst that always accompanied the month of August, with sleepless nights and overworking mind of to do lists, or the inevitable churning of thoughts as I tried to wrap my head around yet another new curriculum I had never taught.

Yes, I knew this summer would be different. I didn’t treat July 1 as the first day of retirement, since I always have had summers to recuperate. This summer, it seemed I needed even more time to recuperate, so I tried extra hard to enjoy every single day to its fullest. I was tired. I was mentally drained. I was determined (there’s that word again!) to spend some time being totally selfish. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I didn’t have to look after any other human being. Not to say I stopped caring about others…I just made it a point each day would be about much needed self-care. Looking back, I’d say, Mission Accomplished! Here are the highlights…and I recommend to anyone!

Sunrises at Swallowtail never get old!
Beach bonfires with friends and family!
Friends from away, who make their way “home”, every summer! From the west…
…to further East and across the Atlantic!
Summer challenges… legs that are less like jello, and having more tenacity!!
Glamping Road Trip with the Gal Pals!
Swallowtail and meaningful gift from a former student… perfect way to start my last day of school!
Rotary BBQs …doesn’t get much better!
Auntie Joyce coming to visit, and hanging out at the beach in the fog
Lunch with friends at Newton’s…or The Wellhouse, or Harbour Grille, or Sunrise Seafoods…and REPEAT!
Glamping underneath the stars
End of the School year with seasoned retirees…I am sure they will show us how to do it right!
Chasing Sunrises, and morning walks at the Anchorage
Hanging out with friends who have magnificent views!
and THIS is what it’s all about!!

So, the first day of school has arrived. And unlike so many others, it came without packages or bows, without fanfare.

What if…

What if September, First Day of not school, meant a little bit more?!

Welcome September come this way
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome September, September day,

Wecome, welcome fahoo ramus
Welcome, welcome dahoo damus
September day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fahoo fores dahoo dores Welcome September bring your light

“Sharing Friday “

My day started with a couple of cancellations of volunteer activities that gave some welcome white space in the Happy Planner. September 1st has always meant new beginnings to me; much more significant than New Year’s and usually more well-thought out; likely because I had two months for restful contemplation.

A couple of things I am excited to share…one is this new devotional, based on my personal Life Verse, Psalm 46:10. One of the first activities suggested finding a meaningful small object to hold while thinking of recent life burdens you want to “let go, and let God” look after. I’ve been searching for some quiet background music to drown out any generators that might seep in my windows.

Here’s one I quite enjoy… https://youtu.be/hlWiI4xVXKY

So my days have half a chance of starting in the right direction. We were invited to a lovely potluck brunch with our summer friends, Jane, Fraser and Cree. Truthfully, an invitation to a Grand Manan potluck makes any day instantly better, sharing good food, and good conversation.

Somewhere in between, I had time to make a batch of Molasses Crinkles … I’ll share one of my all time favorite recipes… https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/molasses-crinkles/9cd5e260-bb56-4b41-baac-f42830d14f76

There are a few people I’ll especially miss working with this year, so I thought I’d pop in and share, and wish them a Sweet School year ahead. (Andrew, thanks for two months of subtle hints! Stephanie, yes, I’ve heard your subtle hint as well!)

The last thing i want to share…

Happy Mail!

My new business venture is starting to grow roots. I’ve been working on some online courses this summer, to get credentials as a Life Coach, with an emphasis on Art Therapy. Right now, it’s in the seedling stage, so stay tuned for when I’m ready to share more!

Happy long weekend

Star Light, Star Bright

Summer vacation is ever-so-not-slowly coming to a close. Ann Voskamp had a beautiful blog post today on Really Seizing the End of Summer. She captured how I’ve always felt when I turn that calendar page to August 1st. My heart skips a beat, and a small gasp inevitably escapes my lips. The official countdown is on. Everyone starts thinking about the upcoming routines that will take over our lives again, and the carefree moments will slip away. Yes, It’s kind of sad. But, like always, Ann manages to reign in my thoughts and remind me to Be Still, and be grateful. I am. I am very grateful for these two summer months of exploring and adventuring. And maybe, just maybe, this year, I don’t have to fall victim to those routine ways. She provides this lovely printable of the essential summer To Do list, as the numbers slide through the twenties, reaching for the thirties, then September 1st. I’ll gladly take on the challenge of blueberry pie. I will most likely repeat the drippy ice cream challenge, right, Selena?! Especially if it’s peanut butter dipped gelato in a waffle cone. And I swear I didn’t order a large size, for fear I would make a mess. But I will always try to be grateful. https://annvoskamp.com/2019/08/really-seize-the-last-of-summer-cheap-easy-free-printable/

Say it out loud…THANK YOU!

Yesterday was different. Life events had suddenly put a twist in my heart, like that vanilla swirl, just not as sweet. Even when you expect the twist, and your head has gotten used to the convolutions, sometimes it catches you off guard when it wants to spin in a different direction. I didn’t sleep well, and as a result, my body wasn’t ready to face the day. By noon, I was determined to kick myself into gear, and just plow forward. I distracted myself by spending a couple of hours on the online course I had started this summer. I invited kiddo over for supper, hoping meal preparations would further distract me. I was thrilled when he decided he didn’t want to go home right away, but suggested we catch up on a couple of episodes of “our” Netflix series. I’ve never been one to binge watch, but last night, I was really hoping we could go all night and watch the rest of the Prison Break. And despite my valiant effort to maintain my intermittent fast, I was ready to eat a whole bag of chips by myself. Thankfully, after episode 3, Kiddo was ready to go home. Phew! As much as I wanted another distraction, tomorrow was still weigh-in day.

When I returned home, another August reminder of gratitude came rushing over me. Look up. Just look up. and Be Still. I absolutely love August starry nights. I knew there was only one thing left to do on this day…find my hammock, and just lay back. Even the generators weren’t loud enough tonight to shush my mind. God, if you are out there, I really need to hear you tonight. It’s a near-perfect night for shooting stars. Please let me see one…and not one that you think you see out of the corner of your eye, and count it, even in doubt… but one so bright, it is unmistakably what you are wishing for.

And there it was. Not even a minute. Thank you, for that needed piece of reassurance. I forgot about the Noisy generators. It took awhile, but I found four more shooting stars; although none as bright as that first one. Then the words from one of my all-time favorite children’s movies, An American Tail seeped in through the darkness.

“Somewhere Out There”

(Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, Songwriters: James Horner / Cynthia Weil / Barry Mann)

Somewhere out there
Beneath the pale moonlight
Someone’s thinking of me
And loving me tonight

Somewhere out there
Someone’s saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another
In that big somewhere out there

And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky

Somewhere out there
If love can see us through
Then we’ll be together
Somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true

I hope you are sleeping peacefully. And I hope you are not feeling frightened or alone…we might be wishing on the same bright star.

Your secret’s safe with me…

Part of my “To Do list” this week is sorting through the boxes I brought home from my office in June. Some of those items will find a new home with Dalton, as he continues to work with kids. Some hold sentimental feelings, and I just can’t part with them yet.

Others, I just need to discard. I am supposed to keep any of my notes, etc from the past seven years, for legal reasons. I am thankful that throughout my career, I only had to go to court on a child’s behalf once, and that didn’t happen until last year. Needless to say, that’s a lot of paperwork. Sometimes, I would try to put things through the paper shredder in my annual office purge, early July. Sometimes, I just gave up, as the machine started smoking in protest. That’s when I would just throw things in a box, “to burn!”.

As I cleaned out my filing cabinets, I didn’t realize how much never made it to that box. Today was the day. We’ve had super warm days, and I had no intention of sitting beside my fire pit during the heat wave. It looks like rain today, so I should be good.

I always smiled at the kids who had their annual year-end celebratory burning of school books. As a teacher/hoarder by nature, I could never bring myself to do that…”What if I need that next year?!” Destroying potentially valuable resources could never be an option.

Until now. Yes, I threw out a lot in the school dumpster; some found new homes with other teachers; but the private stuff needed to be dealt differently. As I sat in my lawn chair, tossing a couple of books at a time on to the small flames, I couldn’t help but be curious. I skimmed through a few pages here and there, reflecting on the various visits students had to my office.

Oh! I remember when that grade nine boy was ready to quit school…but in the end, he did graduate! Way to go, kiddo! You even got in to college!

Oh! That grade seven girl who was inconsolable as she got the news last night her parents were splitting. “Can I go get my sister?” Of course.

Oh! I’m so sorry we couldn’t reach that one at the time…he did spend some time in jail, but seems to have come out on the other side ok, now. Thank heavens there was an adult in the community that took you under their wing.

Oh! I’m here for you, but we need a social worker in on this one. Thanks for letting me call your mom, and helping us get a safety plan in place for you. I’m so thankful you’re here today, and you have a beautiful family of your own. That was tough.

Oh! That one still brings a few raw tears. For you and me. I’m so grateful for a community that held our school; staff and students alike, tightly, and got us through that. Not just once. Or even twice, or three times. I’m eternally grateful.

The notes are almost gone, but not the memories. It was an honour to hold onto some of those secrets for you, but I trust you’ll learn to let go of the ones that need to find wings; if you haven’t already. Campfires shouldn’t be for burning the ugly, but for celebrating. And when possible, with friends and s’mores!

PS… the rest will have to wait until after 8pm, when I learned of the yellow mapped fire ban. And note to self; next time, don’t hang out the laundry until AFTER !