Tuesday 28 January 2014

What's in a Name?

Does your name or the sign you were born under really influence your character? I mulled this over for many, many months when I was choosing names for my little angels. I knew I wanted names that stood the test of time and not be indicative of any period of history. It was also a challenge to choose a name that didn't remind me of any of my former students. The process was long, combing through endless books and pulling together different combinations that would roll of the tongue and sound poetic. I was told to "choose wisely" since a name could dictate what your child's future calling would be.

But how much of this is true? Influence character? Really? The same is said about zodiac signs, both Western and Eastern.
Audrey come from Old English, meaning "noble strength" and was wildly popular in the early part of the 20th century between 1901 and 1913, which would explain why, as I grew up, the only other "Audreys" I met were grey haired ladies with a million stories to share. As I explained in my post, Does Hair Colour Really Matter?, I was absolutely distraught in those first few years of school with such an old fashioned name. It wasn't until I started University that I had a real appreciation for it. One of the most glamourous and sophisticated actresses of all time bore the same moniker. When people would ask me my name, I would simply reply, "Audrey...like Hepburn" and it made me feel just as glam and classy as she was. Maybe it did influence my behaviour? Hmmm....
Here are some famous Audreys: 
Audrey Hepburn - Actress
Audrey Tatou - Actress
Audrey Malte - the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII
Audrey Faith Hill (yes the country singer)
Little Audrey - the cartoon
Audrey - from As You Like It - the country wench
Audrey - the man eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors (kinda like this one)
What about my zodiac sign? I am a Scorpio and I have always shared that information with no reluctance. I began reading up on astrology in my teens and found that the descriptives used to illustrate a Scorpio were bang on when applied to me. Scorpio is the 8th sign of the zodiac and is one that is not to be taken lightly.  We see things as black and white and have absolutely no room for the grey area. We love and live passionately, pushing ourselves and taking chances whenever opportunity presents itself.  Fear is something that doesn't deter us but pushes us harder to overcome it. There is a certain air of mystery about Scorpios since they don't open up to many.  Determined, dedicated and loyal, these are people you want by your side but be careful because if you ever betray one, their stinger comes out. 

So let's look at my Chinese sign. Not the sexiest sign...I am the Pig. While the pig is the most generous and honourable of the signs, it is still a bit embarrassing to reply to the question "What is your Chinese zodiac?"  I mean, how do you make Pig sound good? (*oink* perhaps) People born in the year of the Pig are perfectionists. Helping others is a pleasure for them but they can be taken advantage of. They are highly intelligent (yay me!) and always want to see the positive not the negative. Pigs love to play and probe in their quest for greater knowledge. Possessing hearts of gold, they have an insurmountable love of family and make wonderful life partners. Not so bad being a Pig when you take all this into consideration!

Audrey the Scorpion Pig. That is who I am. These nouns are supposed to have influenced my character and made me the person I am today. But I'd like to think that no matter what my name was or if I were born 4 days earlier under the sign of Libra or born in the year of the Dog, it wouldn't change who I am. 

After all, an Audrey by any other name is still....ME!

Tell me...do you think that your name has influenced your character and position in life?

Thursday 23 January 2014

Not A Bucket List

The topic of "bucket lists" has come up quite a bit in the past month.  I see people posting their list on all social media platforms and find them to be quite interesting and entertaining.  What is wonderful about these lists is that we can catch a glimpse into someone's life and see what makes their blood pump, heart soar and minds race.  These lists are anywhere from 2 or 3 items to hundreds of "must do's before I die".  

Although I am the list QUEEN, I have never outlined, item by item, all the things I MUST do before I die. No bucket list for this gal!  The idea of having a list in front of me that is more than 3 or 4 items gives me heart palpitations. You see, I am one of those people who loves to cross items off her list and a list of more than 4 is enough to send me into cardiac arrest.  The longer the list, the more daunting it seems. So, for the past few years, I have operated under the idea of "pick three things every month that take you out of your comfort zone, stretch the imagination and get you out of the mundane".  And I must say, I have been pretty good at finding these and following through with them.  

My list this month was a simple one since it was the beginning of a New Year and making resolutions was the thing to do. Only three items and I did all of them, check, check, check! *huge smile and pat on back*

Let's start with the FUN one.  Right before the holidays a friend of mine suggested we take a class.  What do you have in mind? I inquired.  Pole dancing!  I don't even think she was finished asking the question before I eagerly and excitedly replied, HELL YES, I AM IN!  Two weeks into it and boy, it is a workout like no other I have ever done but SO MUCH FUN!!! 

The class is comprised of mostly beginners and women of all ages (although, I hate to say it, I think Laura and I are the oldest in the class!).  Some can move and some can't.  Some are co-ordinated and some aren't.  I must say, Laura and I are doing pretty good.  I figure this is about confidence and not whether you can dance.  There is something empowering about holding on to that brass pole and walking around it like you own the room. We have two spins down pat - The Firefighter and The Ballerina.  Each class, we combine the spins and choreograph something that is supposed to resemble a "dance".  We try.  We don't always succeed.  However, we do have the bruises to show how hard we work.

Injuries from week 2 - Bruises on both ankles and foot.
Lesson learned is to slow down when starting the swing!

The second item on my list this month was to join a writing workshop.  CHECK!  Every Sunday, a bunch of wannabe children's picture book writers and some published ones, get together at our lovely facilitator's condo downtown and share our stories.  We, as the authors, get to sit back and listen to the feedback and critique.  It was a bit, no, A LOT, intimidating at first, especially after hearing that four of the attendees have previously been published.  It was hard to sit back and listen to someone else read your story aloud and then listen to the critique without being able to defend your work. So far, I have shared two of my stories and the feedback was tremendous. I actually feel like, maybe, just maybe, if the stars are all aligned and the universe co-operates, that I may have a shot at getting my work published.  What a great way to start the new year, no?

Edits and more edits...

Lastly, in line with keeping healthy, I have started working out with a personal trainer, Matt.  He lives in my building and has graciously offered to help me tone up.  The kindness of his offer was so sweet until we hit the gym.  Um, yeah, let's just say, I couldn't sit down without using my hand to help guide me for three days.  He is also on me, everyday, texting and checking to see if I eat breakfast. The scolding I received from this 24 year old for never eating breakfast was one that any mother would have been proud of!  And so, what did I do?  I bought a new toy to help make breakfast easier! He is tough, with a smile, pushes me hard, and I am positive that he will whip my ass back into shape.  

As much as I push to use the 2 lb weight,
Matt insists on 8 or 10!!!
My new toy - the VITAMIX....
breakfast smoothies have never been easier!
And there you have it, three things this month and I can say, "been there, done that and bought the t-shirt".  

What will be on my list for February?  Any suggestions? I'm thinking road trip with the kids - jump in the car and just drive and where we end up is anyone's guess.  Or maybe it's my dream of singing FEVER in a smoky jazz bar, strewn across a baby grand, all decked out in the sexiest red dress ever.  Wine tasting or cooking class? All possibilities....

Talk to me!  What is your number one, top item on your bucket list?

Monday 20 January 2014

Top 10 Places I've Been

Everyone loves a top ten list. Periodically, I will do a "top ten" list of things that intrigue me.  Travel has been and is still a big part of who I am.  Visiting and experiencing different places helps broaden the scope of my reality and I have gained so much from my voyages abroad.  So without further ado, here is my list of only the TOP TEN PLACES I have visited. 

#10.  TIOMAN ISLAND - A small island off the coast of Malaysia, this dense, rain forest was a welcome retreat after a year of backpacking for me.  The warm waters of the South China Sea surround what is one of the most beautiful islands in the world.  The movie South Pacific was filmed on these beaches and was affectionately called Bali Hai.  Legend has it that the island is refuge of a beautiful dragon princess who was on route from China to visit her prince in Singapore.  Captivated by the beauty of this spot, she decided to end her journey.  She took the form of this island in order to provide comfort and safety to travellers.  I remember the bumpy boat ride from Malaysia to the island, arriving late at night.  The smell of bouganvillias filled the air. All I can say is thank goodness for the full moon, which lit the way to a little hut in a nearby village.  This was the perfect spot to do a little soul searching and reflecting.
Tioman Island
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#9. VENICE - This city was one that took me by surprise.  I hadn't been prepared for the beauty and history here. No wonder Venice has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  The canals and bridges can only be appreciated by boat.  A gondola ride here is a must and if you are as lucky as I was, you may have a gondolier who has navigated these canals for many years.  The stories he shared about the city were wonderfully colourful and, true to the stereotype, he sang for me.  Venice was never on my list of places to visit and is now on my list of places to see again.  There was so much I missed seeing here, like Harry's Bar.  This bar, in and of itself, has a story to tell, from the humble beginnings of its founder to the long list of famous patrons, which include Hemingway, Marconi, Toscanini and Capote.  
Exploring the canals of Venice by gondola
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#8. VANCOUVER - A raw gem in the Canadian landscape.  Vancouver is nature's playground and that is what I love about it.  Mountains to one side and the Pacific to the other.  A few years ago, I was fortunate to be able to take a yacht ride up the coast and was absolutely taken with the beauty of this province.  It was breathtaking.  The people here are friendly, warm and are always smiling.  Although the rain can make this city seems gloomy at times, the green of the evergreens keep spirits alive.
Kitsilano Beach
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#7. SAN FRANCISCO - Another west coast city that I love.  The city is famous for its hills and cable cars.  My favourite spots, of course, are Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Pier 39, with all the wonderful seafood available at my fingers!  What I really liked, strangely enough, was the fog that seemed to appear daily during the summer.  Searching  through this fog to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Presidio, made it mysterious and exciting.  I found that this city was happy and filled with people who loved to share their stories.
Golden Gate Bridge
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#6. SYDNEY - Moving to Australia after University was probably one of the most adventurous things I ever did. Sydney, of course, was my first stop and I was ready to take in the Australian way of life.   My first night here, I stayed at a hostel in King's Cross, only later finding out that this was not the best part of the city but that didn't deter me from exploring.  I spent 7 days just walking and observing.  The Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hyde Park, Sydney Tower, the Chinese Garden of Friendship, all beautiful.  On my 8th day, everything shut down and there was a city wide celebration because Sydney had just won the bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics. This celebration provided me with amazing insight to who the people of Australia were. They were happy, live life to the fullest, you get one crack at this, crazy people who laughed and indulged at every possible moment.
Sydney Opera House
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#5. OLD SAN JUAN - This is another city that took me by surprise and I fell in love with the landscape, the colourful buildings and a little old man rolling cigars by the road. The city is surrounded by huge walls and forts, Il Morro and Castle of San Cristobal.  The narrow streets, rainbow coloured edifices and exquisite doors are a photographers dream.  It was here where my love affair with antique doors began and in all my travels, I am constantly looking for that one door that knocks my socks off. 
View of the barrio from the Tower at the Castle of San Cristobal
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#4. VERONA - Verona is an old city that has charm and then some.  This city is also a World Heritage Site.  What I love about this city is that many of the old buildings have been exquisitely preserved and are not in ruin.  The Verona Arena is one of these and it still used today.  Wandering up and down the streets, I marvelled at some of the places I stumbled upon, like the Piazza dei Signori.  The architecture in Verona was incredible, mixing architecture and art from different periods in history to present day. An interesting, yet fictitious, place to see is Juliet's balcony, straight from Shakespeare's story of star-crossed lovers.  A bronze statue of Juliet sits here and it is said that if a person touches the right breast, they will have good fortune.  
Juliet's Balcony "Romeo, Romeo..."
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#3. KYOTO - Japan was beautiful from start to finish.  The old mixed with the new, so seamlessly.  In the middle of the hustling electronic district, you find parks filled with fountains, deer, temples and lanterns. The tranquility of Kyoto's Philosopher's Walk was wonderful. For me, the best part of visiting Kyoto was taking part in a lovely tea ceremony. A friend of mine lives here and planned a tea ceremony, complete with fabulous red bean desserts and me, donned head to toe in a kimono.  
Japanese lanterns
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#2. FLORENCE - Florence touched my heart this past summer.  This medieval city, the birthplace of the Renaissance, was filled with so much to explore.  Every corner I turned, there was something to take in; a beautiful statue, il Porcellino, an opera singer performing La Donna e Mobile in the middle of the strada, Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi. It was complete sensory overload!  The colours of the city at sunset were unlike anything I have ever seen - a beautiful orange that lit up the horizon.  But the one thing that absolutely, without a doubt, blew me away, was walking into the hall of the Galleria Accademia and seeing the statue of Michaelangelo's David.  It brought tears to my eyes and a shiver sped down my spine. Exquisite doesn't do this piece of art justice. Everyone, in their life, needs to have an experience that does this to them. This is another city on my "must visit often" list.  
Tuscan Sunset in Florence over the Arno
Photo by Audrey Bresar
#1.  PARIS - No surprise here, right?  Paris, the city that touched my soul and never left.  I don't think I need to elaborate anymore here since I wrote all about it in Follow Me to the City of Love

So there you have it, my list of the top ten places I have visited (so far) in my life.  

Next on my list to explore are:
NYC (maybe this spring!)
Almalfi Coast

Talk to me!  What are your top THREE places and what should I add to my list?

Thursday 16 January 2014

Look Out For The....!!!

I love the outdoors!  Rain, shine, snow or sun, I like the vastness of open space and the feeling of being in touch with something that is bigger than all of us.

There is something about being outside that invigorates me.  The air that kisses your face, the sun that warms your hands, the trees that watch you, all of natures animals that want to play. Growing up, I remember summers when my brother and I would be outside from time we jumped out of bed until the street lights came on (dinner in between, of course!).  We would ride our bikes, back and forth, to visit our friends or tackle the rugged bike path not far from our home.  My friends and I would play neighbourhood tag, which spanned a 4 block radius. This would keep us busy for hours, running through the backyards of neighbours trying to be discreet. Winter was all about skating and tobogganing.  We had a German Shepherd, Sasha, and she would pull us on our sleigh across the snowy streets, while we caught snowflakes on our tongues!

Living in a condo poses a bit of a problem for me.  While I do use my balcony to sit and read in the summertime, I don't have the luxury of walking out the door to a beautifully manicured backyard and breathing in some good ol' oxygen.

My solution to this dilemma is to use my weekends as my "great escape".  I try to get out and explore the city, visit people WITH outdoor space and avoid being inside my box in the sky. This becomes a bit challenging in the winter months because few people like to venture out. They like to hide indoors, some actually take the winter off and hibernate. I have one friend who hides behind a closed door, in front of a warm fire and under a fuzzy blanket from Halloween to Easter! Winter is not his schtick and he prides himself in his uncanny ability to be able to survive 6 months inside, only leaving his house to go to work and come back home. That's a long time to sit and do nothing in my opinion!

So as every weekend approaches, I try to figure out what to do that will get me out of my box. I don't want to impose on the same people or do the same things every weekend, and I am running out of options!  This weekend it's just me and my boy. My daughter is camping up north with her Girl Scout Troop. It will be a quiet weekend for sure. No disagreements about how long someone is taking in the bathroom, no fighting over who gets control of the t.v. remote and no tears about how "I always side with" so and so. 

In the midst of my pondering today, I remembered an outing from many years ago that was a bit of a disaster. I can laugh about it now but it wasn't so funny when it happened.

My ex (the second one) was an avid motorcyclist and one particular weekend, in the attempt to save our already dissolving marriage, he suggested we take a ride out to the country.  Sure, I said, why not?  The kids were at my parents and I really didn't feel like sitting around staring at him all day. At least on the back of the bike, I was guaranteed there would be no disagreements.

We were on the bike for about 2 hours when he pulled onto a path that took us through a beautifully wooded area. I had no idea where we were or what he was up to.  Honestly, the first thought that came to my head was that he was going to leave me here.

Pulling up to a little shack by water, I saw a sign "CANOE RENTALS".  Apparently, he had seen a sign for this as we rode through one of the little quaint towns that dot the outskirts of our big city.  Now, a little bit of information here...my biggest fear is drowning.  In my teens, my brother and I were goofing around in my uncle's swimming pool when I got stuck under a raft and couldn't get back up. Ever since then, I do NOT like being at the mercy of someone else in the water.

But, okay, in the interest of not starting an argument, I agreed. He was making an effort, right?

So in we go, but remember, water and I are not friends. I make sure that my life jacket is on snugly and that it won't fall off. Taking the oar in hand, our first "discussion" begins. 

"You aren't doing it right"  I hear him say, as we make our way around some fallen trees and very murky water.  In my opinion, he was always trying to tell me HOW to do things the right way because obviously I ALWAYS did them the wrong way.  There were times when I really wanted to tell him to speak slower so I could write it all down and take notes but I knew that this would be the start of a war, and a big one at that! 

"I'm trying" I say nicely, remembering that we are on water and in the middle of nowhere.  The last thing I want is to be left out here because we argued.

After about 15 minutes, I feel like I am getting a hand of this and am feeling pretty good at this point.  We are rowing in sync.  He is quiet and so am I.  I look around and marvel at the beauty of our lovely province.  This little lake was so hidden away that not many people were enjoying the tranquility of its peaceful water. 

As I gaze out into the distance, I can see dark clouds moving in and hear the faint sound of thunder. This can't be good.  Open lake, canoe and possible thunder and lightning don't mix. I suggest we make our way back to the shore. We had rowed out quite a distance and who knew how long before the storm would hit.

So there we were, clipping along at a nice speed.  I was so proud of my ability to help move this wooden boat quickly and deftly across the water!  The shore was within sight and we just had to get back through that mess of fallen trees, driftwood and murky water. 

I could hear his voice say "look out for the...."

In my hurry to get back to shore, I didn't realize how speed and a fallen tree have enough force to hurl you off your seat and into the water. 

He made it under the tree, no problem!  But there I was, in the middle of this lake, soaked, head to toe, coughing and spitting up the incredible amount of water I had just ingested.  My head hurt.  Hit, smack dab in the middle of my forehead, by a dead tree. 

I WAS NOT HAPPY. Yet, he was laughing, uncontrollably and so much so, that he couldn't help me BACK into the canoe. 

I muddled my way through the water to the shoreline which was about 60 feet away. The gentlemen who rented us the canoe ran over to me and asked if I was alright. I said yes, I was fine but he may want to ask my the man in the canoe the same question, in about 10 minutes.

While this little outing got me out of the house, it didn't little to help salvage the remnants of our relationship.  I can laugh now when I think back to being propelled into the water with such force.  It was quite the sight.

Needless to say, I haven't been canoeing since.

I have learned one thing about how I deal with my fears though.  Most people let their fears debilitate them.  I am not one of those people.  Fear is something that I tackle head on and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.  But I will tell you, the thought of my fear is always worse then the actual "doing" of the fear, although I am not so sure that this applies to how deathly afraid of birds I am...

Fear is one emotion we should be able to control.  Funny how the mind deals with it.

Talk to me! I'd love to know what your fears are and how you conquer them?

Monday 13 January 2014

The Answer to the Why

When I embarked on this journey of writing a blog, some close friends asked me why?

Why would someone as busy as I am want to commit to writing down my thoughts, my stories, my words on a regular basis for all to see?

Why not, was my initial response but then I started thinking about the real why...

From the time I was a little girl, before I could even write, I have had an active imagination and walked around with pen and paper in hand. One of the first two characters I created, at age 3, were a dog named Schmugo (to this day, I am not sure how it would have been spelled!) and a big guy, so eloquently named BIG GUY.  Stories would run rampant in my mind and I would get caught up in them, scripting my very own daily soap opera.  I wrote love stories, children's stories, funny stories, poetry, pretended to do interviews with famous people and even decided to write my grandparents will for them.  

Writing has always been a part of who I am and somewhere between ages 25 and now, this part of me got lost in the shuffle.  Two divorces, two children and two changes in career made it difficult to keep that part of me alive and vibrant.  In my last post, Follow Me to the City of Love, I described how my trip to France was a sort of self awakening.  While sitting on that bench on Le Pont des Arts, I pulled out a notebook and started writing again.  I wanted to be part of that group of great writers who were inspired in France.  But when I came back home, that notebook got tucked away in my desk. I would tell myself that I would write "next weekend" or "after the kids went to bed" but it never happened.  I was losing what I had found again and it was heartbreaking.

Then last year, I met someone who unintentionally reminded me of that creative part that was so quintessentially me.  I began to put pen to paper again; I began to believe that I could become the author I always dreamed about; I began to feel energized.  This person gave me faith in myself again and my ability to write.  All of a sudden, I was walking the walk and talking the talk and I haven't stopped!  This blog is a result of that.  I want to write and this provides me with the opportunity to write anything I want, to continue to find my voice and to further understand who I am.

Since I have started this blog, I have pulled out those old children's stories, written so many years ago, dusted them off and am in the process of pitching them.  I went back to that novel I started in France and, now,  that notebook stays on top of my desk.  I even started another novel.  Ideas are flowing like a river to the ocean.

So for all those who ask, the answer to the why...because writing is part of every fibre of my being, it puts a smile on my face and makes me feel like the possibilities are endless.

Simple, no?

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Follow Me to the City of Love

I was born on the wrong continent.

Plain and simple. 

Don't get me wrong.  I do appreciate my life here Canada and understand why, 50 years ago, my grandparents, on both sides, decided life would be better in North America.  They were looking for opportunity, they were searching for a dream, they wanted the hardships they endured in rural European towns to be a distant memory.  Success was eminent for them and I now reap the rewards of their decision to emigrate from Italy and Slovenia. My definition of success is not based on bank accounts that are filled with gold and diamonds or rubbing elbows with the upper echelons of society here.  I watch from afar, earning a living that provides me and my children, with that little bit extra that allows us to enjoy life. But even with all that surrounds me, I don't feel like my heart is at home here. 

I have had a fascination with Europe for many, many years, hence the multitude of languages I speak.  One place has been in my heart forever - France.  Interestingly, although my roots are grounded in Europe, it took me 40 years to cross over that big pond.   A couple of years ago, in anticipation of my 40th birthday, I decided to give myself a gift -- a ticket to Paris! 

And what can I say?  Paris was absolutely fabulous.

There was something about the history and beauty of this old city that warmed my heart.  Had I gone to Paris after university, instead of Australia, I am not certain I would have come back. 

I rented an apartment in the 1ere Arrondissment, about a block from the Louvre.  It was a quaint little flat above an Italian restaurant that donned a brightly coloured blue door that fit perfectly among the bistros and restaurants that filled the street.  Around the corner was a boulangerie and the smell of fresh baked bread permeated the neighbourhood.  I was in heaven.

The Eiffel Tower

The Louvre

Walking along the Seine, I curiously explored the green stalls that dotted the Left Bank.  I found two old books - a 1930 illustrated edition of Jules Vernes, Journey to the Center of the Earth and a 1778 edition of some collected works of Voltaire.  The smell of the books and feel of the leather and onion paper was a sensory delight!  As I continued to rummage through these stalls, I was delighted to stumble upon some old postcards from 1914 to 1948, beautifully hand written, with messages to old friends.  I am a hopeless romantic and these little nostalgic items were what made my trip.  These items were proof that life goes on well after your soul leaves this world. Each corner of this city had a story and secret to tell and I felt it

The Seine

The pedestrian bridge between the Musee D'Orsay and the Louvre, le Pont des Arts, was filled with the locks of lovers who vowed eternal devotion to one another. I spent a lot of time sitting on this bridge, staring out at the beautiful city of Paris, lost in reverie.  Did Dali sit on this same bridge?  Did Hemingway look out at the city and search for inspiration?  I felt like my soul had been brought back home.  I could see why Paris is called the city of love...not for the couples who sit on the bridges but for the sentiment this city leaves within your being.  It would have been nice to be in love while experiencing this feeling.  I can't help but believe that when combining the two, a person is left with an electric tingle that lasts for many moons. 

Le Pont des Arts

France has left an indelible mark in my mind and on my soul.  My hope, my dream, is to one day live somewhere in this beautiful country, enjoying life, indulging in the cuisine, engaging in meaningful conversations and loving every moment. There is so much more that I could share that would help paint an exquisite picture of this city in your mind.  Perhaps, in the near future, I will continue this tour of Paris, through my eyes, sharing my experience and my photos with you. But unless you feel it first hand, it will never affect you the way it did me.
The Medici Fountain in Luxembourg Gardens - My FAVOURITE place in Paris!

So if you ask me where I am from, I have to answer simply.  I live in Canada but my home is France.

Talk to me!  What place has touched your heart? Where do you call home?

Friday 3 January 2014

Let the Love Affair with 2014 Begin

This past holiday season was one for the books!  Christmas week started with the anticipation and wonder that every holiday begins and what was even more exciting was that it promised to be a white one...finally!  Snow would have been nice treat but what we got was ICE.  Two days of just below freezing temperatures created just enough ice to crack trees, take down hydro wires and make it virtually impossible to maneuver through our delightful city. 

The kids and I lost power on Saturday night around 10:30pm.  I really didn't think much about it until I woke up really early the following morning and found that it was eerily silent in my building.  Looking out the window, it felt strange to see neighbouring condos dark, not one single light on.  There was no electricity humming through the outlets or any noise from appliances being used.  As much as it was an inconvenience, the calmness and tranquility of it all smacked me in the face like a breath of fresh air. It was nice to get up and not be faced with the long list of "things" I needed to do and I breathed a sigh of relief. 

We take things for granted so often in life and this quiet helped me reflect.  It was nice to see neighbours, who never ventured out, pop out from their eternal hibernation and talk. Neighbours were checking on neighbours and helping carry food and hot coffee up the stairs.  Despite being faced with the horror of no power on Christmas, people were happy and I figured out why. Communities pulled together!  People were once again engaging in off line communication and it was wonderful!  I saw families huddled together in local coffee shops, warming up, charging their phones and having dialogues with their spouses, their children, with anyone who would listen!  People's noses were pulled up from their electronic devices and eye contact was everywhere!  Maybe this ice storm was just what our society needed.

Venturing outside was just as spectacular.  Luckily, I don't live very high up and was able to move between in and outside without much discomfort or fatigue (although, I did decide that it was time to hit the gym again!)  My little neighbourhood had become a crystallized world captured in time.  The devastation that Mother Nature had imposed on us was evident in the sagging tree branches and fallen limbs that lay on every corner.  But the beauty that Mother Nature left was also very evident.  Under the late afternoon sun, walking along ice covered sidewalks, I felt as thought my world sparkled and dazzled like diamonds.  The beauty and devastation of one event left me in awe.  Take a look at what my world looked like...



Christmas Day was soon upon us but my excitement for the day was met with aching joints, painful bones, fever and an overall lack of energy.  Being the eternal optimist, I thought that two Advil and a blanket would make me feel better soon.  Well, I spent the next 5 days in bed, feeling absolutely awful.  With not much to do, I spent my days sleeping and thinking and pondering.  Funny how certain truths pop into your mind when a fever is running rampant within your body. 

So what did I discover about myself? About life?

Well, I figured out that despite all my life's lessons over the past few years, I was still making the same mistakes, only this time they were disguised with what I thought was my new found logic.  Life is about balance and keeping that balance is an integral part of maintaining your sanity.  Balance is about not accepting anything less than what you know you deserve.  And here I was making excuses for everyone around me and feeling off kilter for some time.  So what to do?  Make changes, no matter how heart breaking, gut wrenching and painful they will be.  Change is what propels us forward and keeps us managing that constant state of equilibrium our souls need.

Being sick and having a horrible cough also provided me with the opportunity to continue to sit back and watch.  I don't think we do that often enough because if we did we would see all the little nuances life offers.  Sitting on the side lines on NYE, I caught glimpses of things that I would normally miss and this was just with my own family...what else was I missing as I ploughed through my days?  I saw the love, the unconditional love between two people as they spoke at the dinner table - it was in his eyes for her and her eyes for him - a silent knowing between the two of them.  I saw how strong one woman was and how her laughter made everyone smile, even when times were bad.  It was her outlook on life, her abilitiy to continue to laugh and encourage throughout her pain that shone at the table that night.  I saw the sadness in another's eyes of a life he wanted to change but felt the hope he carried in his heart.  I watched my grandmother, who is suffering from alzhiemer's, try to make sense of all the confusion around her but saw a glimmer of hope when she looked at my children and called them over to her. 

This past week was not what I expected.  It was supposed to be filled with chaos and excitement and all the craziness of this time of year.  And it wasn't that at all. 

This week was the perfect end to a full year, a year that brought with it much joy and and many tears.  This week gave me time to reflect, truly reflect and I am ready to start my love affair with 2014, with a full heart, clear mind and open eyes! 

TALK TO ME!! What is going to make your year ahead the best year ever?  What did you learn in 2013 that you will apply in 2014?