365 Days

Victory fingers Dec 2 14Today is a high-five, way to go, milestone day in my life. I"™m not looking for accolades, congratulations or any such thing from you, my readers.

This blog post is my thank you to me.

It"™s been 365 days, or 8,760 hours, or 525,600 minutes since I last smoked a cigarette.

Frankly, I don"™t know how I achieved this milestone as I resisted even contemplating quitting for 40+ years. I expended a lot of energy in fighting for my right to smoke and honed my argumentative skills by furiously debating with those who urged me to quit. (more…)

9 Words

I"™ve read a lot of self-help/motivational books over the years and have taken bits and pieces from each of them to build the life I lead today. Some of the "˜experts"™ claim that the most important statements one can make to another human being are "œI love you" or "œI am sorry." While both of these phrases certainly belong in everyone"™s vocabulary, (and should be used frequently in my opinion), I recently heard 9 words that should be shared with the people in your life, especially with those you are fortunate to be around in their early childhood. 

Last Sunday afternoon, my hubby and I went to an afternoon matinee at our local theatre. I got to choose the movie we"™d see, and since I"™d heard rave reviews of the film, The Help, based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, that was my pick. 

It turned out to be best $10.00 I"™ve spent in years. 

This amazing movie chronicles the behind the scenes feelings of colored domestic maids in the early 1960"™s in Jackson, MS. While I suspect that some of the incidents and situations in the movie were indeed true, I"™m choosing not to comment on the politics of the film, but rather the words that from the moment I heard them, I knew them to be some of the most profound I"™ve heard in my lifetime. 

The main character, Aibileen Clark, portrayed brilliantly by actress Viola Davis, tells her story of raising white children during this era. In one of the early scenes in the movie, Aibileen reaches into a crib, picks up the little white girl she is looking after, sits down with her in a rocking chair near the bed, and says"¦Â 

"œYou is kind; you is smart; you is important."Â 

9 words. 

Aibileen makes the little girl repeat these words after she says them to her as if repeating them will somehow make the child realize her own worth.

I"™ve been wondering all week long what would happen if all of us said these 9 words to the children in our life. Better yet, what if we, as adults, switched them around a bit and daily told ourselves, "˜I am kind; I am smart; I am important."

They say it takes 28 days to either break or form a new habit. I"™m issuing a challenge to everyone who reads this post. For the next 28 days, before you get out of your bed each morning, silently say these words: "œI am kind; I am smart; I am important." Better yet, if you happen to have children or grandchildren, or even young nieces and nephews, at least once a day tell THEM these same words. 

9 simple words. 

I wish I"™d heard them sooner.

2011: The Year of Being Me

Here I sit, perched excitedly on the cusp of the beginning of brand spanking New Year with mere hours to go. I ask you "“ how invigorating is it to know that come January 1st we all get a fresh clean slate to start writing on? I feel like I"™m eight and it"™s the commencement of a new school year. I"™ve got a shiny backpack, unmarked notebooks and sharpened pencils, plus a fresh package of new crayons with which to color my world any hue of the rainbow I desire.

That"™s what January 1st means to me: it"™s a "˜do over"™ start if you will, and I know exactly where I"™m going to begin"¦ with me.

2010 was a year of learning for me, and with some of those lessons came smidgens of sadness and dabs of disappointment. I won"™t lie and say that all those lessons were great because they weren"™t. At times I felt a bit lost, as if I were oar less in a leaky rowboat, somewhere out on a seemingly endless sea.

Thankfully by November, I had found a life-line, pulled my battered boat to shore, and on shaky legs finally stood up on solid ground once more. And here"™s what I"™m taking with me from the journey of 2010 into this nice, sparkly New Year:

1. It"™s okay to not always know where you"™re going. Why? Because if you travel the same path over and over and over again, without taking side trips and an occasional detour here and there, you"™ll never get to see any of the wonders that await you off the beaten tried and true path.

2. Learn to trust your intuition because your "˜gut"™ never lies. There"™s a reason why they call it "˜gut"™ instinct "“ that little voice inside us that sends out clear messages like, "œDon"™t touch that burner "“ it"™s hot and you"™ll get burned!" That wise person inside each of us also tells us what is the right (and wrong!) thing to do when faced with making decisions. We just have to learn to be patient "“ to wait for directions, and be still enough to hear them when they arrive.

3. We are our own worst critics but can also be our best supporters. Believe that you matter. You are a "˜somebody"™ in your own life "“ a hero to yourself. When you are living a life that makes you smile, brings peacefulness and joy into your heart and others, then YOU have become the champion of YOU.

4. Keep the fire of adventure and imagination burning brightly in your heart and mind. Never lose your sense of wonderment. I grant you that some days the only wonder you may experience is trying to figure out how they get the caramel into the Caramilk bar, but never stop dreaming. At least once a day ask yourself, "œI wonder if"¦" and fill in the blank. Even if it"™s something totally silly it will keep those creative juices flowing in your mind and may cause you to smile.

5. And last, but certainly not the least by far, laugh. Out loud. At anything, at least once every day. A true, straight from the belly, snorting, guffaw until tears leak out from your eyes type of laugh. This was the life-line I regained back in November and I am going to do my utmost to hang on to it for the duration of 2011.

I’d like to leave you with this wonderful prayer I found many years ago which has been my unofficial mantra for the past year.

“To Be Prayer”

O Lord, I ain’t what I ought to be,

And I ain’t what I want to be,

And I ain’t what I’m going to be,

But O Lord, I thank You,

That I ain’t what I used to be.”

I know I love this new me and have a great feeling I’m going to like this New Year. Happy 2011 to all!

Sometimes a Flower Isn’t Just a Flower

firstsignofspring2010 adj1I woke up this morning to bright, beautiful sunshine flooding my bedroom through the slats of my window blind. This is the second day in a row where I experienced this wonderful phenomenon after a week that brought more snow, (blech!) and cold temperatures to my little corner of the east coast of Canada. At this point, any warmth or semblance thereof brings me comfort as I am not a winter person by any stretch of the imagination. 

After breakfast, my hubby and I decided to go run a few errands. Even though the temperature still was in the minus Celsius range, we could feel the warmth of that wonderful sunshine beaming through the windshield. Both of us commented on how great it was to be alive on such a glorious morning. And the day just got better and better. 

Upon arriving back at the house, we took our little Westie, Angel, outside to do her "˜business"™ and I ventured around to the front of the house to marvel at how the snow was gently melting around the basement footing. 

And that"™s when I saw it – a tiny sprig of greenery popping through the thawing ground, yet still surrounded by snow banks. Whether it was a tulip or hyacinth daring to show its face to the world, I couldn"™t be sure, but it was the first sign that spring is on its way to my region. Then this amazing thought popped into my head: sometimes a flower isn"™t just a flower!

Somewhere this past winter, especially after seeing only grey-filled skies and snow-laden clouds for so many months, I had lost the wonderment of life, and of how precious even a smidgen of warmth can warm the soul and lift the spirit. 

I found my "˜joy"™ again this morning. The struggles of repurposing my business after suffering disappointment after disillusionment this past January melted away, just as the snow surrounding the little budding flower was slowly receding. 

So, if that amazing budding greenery can dare to show its tenacity and bravery to show up well before spring is even official in these parts, then I too, can persevere and emerge victorious through my really minor trials and tribulations. 

Sometimes a flower isn"™t just a flower "“ it"™s a sign that beauty and joy can be a part of your life"¦ if you"™ll just stick around long enough to see them.

Look out world. I’m back!

Something to Think About on A Chilly Friday

Sunset in Cap Pele, 2009I was doing my morning reading from a wonderful book of inspirational poems, and today"™s excerpt was called “High Flight.” I"™d read these words before but had never known who was the writer, so like any self-respecting internet junkie, I did a search to find out who the author was and discovered it was John Gillespie Magee, Jr. But there"™s a story behind this sonnet, and a rather interesting one as well.

According to Wikipedia, Magee was born in Shanghai, China, to an American father and a British mother who worked as Anglican missionaries. In 1939 he moved to the USA to live with his aunt in Pittsburgh and attended Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut. He earned a scholarship to Yale University – where his father was then a chaplain – in July 1940 but did not enroll, choosing instead to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force in October of that year.

He received flight training in Ontario at Toronto, Trenton, St. Catharines, and Uplands and passed his Wings Test in June 1941. Shortly after being awarded his Wings and being promoted to Pilot Officer, Magee was sent to Britain and was posted to No. 53 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in RAF Llandow, Wales to train on the Supermarine Spitfire. It was while at #53 OTU that Magee wrote High Flight.

Magee was killed at the age of 19, whilst flying Spitfire VZ-H, serial number AD-291. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford trainer from RAF Cranwell, flown by Leading Aircraftman Ernest Aubrey. The two aircraft collided in cloud cover at about 400 feet AGL, at 11:30, over the village of Roxholm which lies between RAF Cranwell and RAF Digby, in Lincolnshire. Magee was descending at the time. At the inquiry afterwards a farmer testified that he saw the Spitfire pilot struggling to push back the canopy. The pilot stood up to jump from the plane but was too close to the ground for his parachute to open, and died on impact. Magee is buried at Holy Cross, Scopwick Cemetery in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight, which is what I read this morning.

Here"™s this amazing piece of prose that started off my morning:

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,

Sunward I"™ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds "“ and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of "“ wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov"™ring there

I"™ve chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I"™ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark nor even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I"™ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."  

Magee is buried at Holy Cross, Scopwick Cemetery in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight:

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth –

Put out my hand and touched the Face of God.”

What a wonderful epitaph for a man who gave us all such a glorious sonnet.

Something lovely indeed to ponder on a very chilly December Friday morning on the windswept East Coast.

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