How Do You Kill a Mockingbird?

I’m a sun worshiper.  Not the type that lies on the beach all day long, but the type that simply loves the sun shining.  It can be the most bitterly cold day, or everything possible could be going wrong, but as long as the sun is shining, I’m OK and all is well.

As I sit here writing this post it’s snowing outside.  It’s cloudy, dreary and cold.  But not that cold that cuts right through out, but that damp cold that gets into your bones.  It makes sense though because it needs to be that cold for the snow to fall.

Look at how miserable it is out there

Look at how miserable it is out there

I can’t help but remember that just over a week and a half ago; my hubby and I were in the beautiful Caribbean on a splendid ship celebrating our honeymoon.  The sun shined every day; it was hot, and just glorious – my kind of weather.  I must admit that when we decided to book our honeymoon for mid-January I was worried that I would have a difficult time and be depressed once I got back as the last time I went away at this time of year, it felt like the winter just dragged on forever.  This time it’s different.  Maybe it’s because of the company I traveled with, maybe it’s because I’m not locked up in an office building anymore, or maybe it’s because I can freely enjoy the sunshine as I please.  I think it’s one and three.  I’m grateful to be home with my hubby, to be able to open all the window coverings during the day, and to be able to go outside and soak in the sun when I please.

But my mind does keep going back to our trip.  The islands we visited, the activities we participated in, the events which took place, and specifically the people we met.

We had a blast even though our honeymoon didn’t exactly start off on the right note.  Thankfully hubby asked me to check to see that I had my passport shortly after we departed our home. Needless to say, I didn’t have mine.  And while we were at the airport we had issues checking in.  The flight from Toronto to Houston wasn’t ideal – it was freezing and our seats didn’t recline.  It had to have been one of the worst I had ever been on (and I’ve been on many, many flights).  And once we arrived at Houston Airport, I swear it felt like we were taking part in the Amazing Race.  We had exactly 10 minutes to get from Terminal A to Terminal E to avoid missing our connection. We ran down the terminals with our gear on our back, barely made the inter-airport train.  We arrived at the gate huffing and puffing. Luckily we didn’t miss the flight.

We took the red-eye from Toronto to Houston, and our connection took us from Houston to San Juan.  Our intention was to sleep on the planes – if only that would have happened.  I should have known better because I don’t sleep very well if I’m not in my bed.  What was I thinking?  And so we landed in San Juan at 6 am.  He slept, I didn’t. How lovely.

As we made our way to the baggage claim area, hubby turns to me and says “I wonder if our luggage made it?”  Sh*t!  We barely made it to the flight, so how the heck could our luggage?  As soon as we get to the baggage area I scan to see where I can file a report for lost luggage, and he’s trying to convince me to wait and see as it may have arrived after all.  I love my hubby, I really do.  And I love that he’s such an optimist.  And because we both insisted on our points of view, we both waited – he near the carousel belt, and me in line at the lost luggage reporting area.  Once the belt stopped and our luggage was nowhere in sight, he decided to join me.

So here we were, in beautiful San Juan sans luggage and hubby is chirpy and happy and I’m crusty and sleep deprived.  We have only the clothes on our backs, our backpack and purse and I want nothing more than to put on flip flops.

Crusty me.

Crusty me.

The only saving grace was that we were told that there was another flight due to arrive in San Juan from Houston that afternoon, and that our luggage will likely be on it, but we were told to call “just in case.”  We made our own way downtown, which is also the pier, and I was starting to relax.  The sun, the beauty everywhere, was taking effect.  We spotted a public pay phone and we decided to call the airline before hitting the sights.  As I’m trying to work my way through the teleprompters, I hear:

“Excuse me, do you need some help?” in a male voice with an accent.

I give hubby a gesture that tells him to deal with it.  As I’m trying to talk to the airline employee I’m also trying to hear the discussion between hubby and the stranger.  I’m failing miserably at both because the payphone keeps crackling and the person on the other end can’t hear me, and I can’t figure out what hubby and stranger are talking about.  So I hang up the phone.

I turn to the stranger and say “No thank you, we don’t need any help.”

He says “But it looks like you do.  I can help you.  See, I work for Air Canada (he points to a badge).  What airline did you fly in on?”

I’m thinking to myself ‘oh boy, I bet he says this to everyone, so I respond “United” which was true.

His face beams “Great, because they’re Star Alliance, which means I can help you. Listen, my office is right there. You can use my phone, my internet, relax and even use the washroom if you need to.” And then he goes on and on about the different places to visit, what time to check in for the cruise, etc.

I’m from the big city.  I was brought up in a time where you locked your front door even when you were home.  You don’t talk to strangers.  You question people’s motives.  I do need to tell you that I try not to live by that, I do believe there is good in everyone, but at that moment I was tired, crusty, in a foreign city with no luggage and I just wanted my flip flops.  I turn to hubby for some direction and the look in his eyes told me everything: ‘Smartie, nothing is going to happen to you.  I’m here to protect you.  It’s OK to go along with this guy. He won’t harm you.’ Oh how I love this man.

And so we did.  And I’m glad we did.

Leo (his name) ended up being an angel sent to help us.  As we walked to his office everyone on the road said hi to him: ladies walking with their children, shop keepers, police – everyone.  And as we walked my anxiety melted away.  He was good to every word he spoke to us and more.  It took us over an hour to deal with United and all the while we were in his office.  We never did get our luggage that day and thanks to Leo, not only did we get to see the sights in San Juan, rest in his office, we also were directed where to buy clothes and toiletries at a reasonable price, we were able to check onto the cruise earlier.  If it weren’t for Leo we’d be wearing the same clothes for four days (yes, that’s how long it took for us to get our luggage).

Our cruise ship!

Our cruise ship!

We were so moved by this man who was motivated in helping people just because that’s what he does.  He didn’t want anything from us, but for us to have a good time in San Juan.  Throughout the trip we kept thinking about him, telling people about this angel in an Air Canada hat. We ended up having a fantastic time and he was a big part of it.

And so when our cruise ported back in beautiful San Juan, I was sad that our trip was over, and I was reminded of Leo.  Suddenly we heard “Hey! Did you get your luggage that day?” Hubby and I looked at each other with smiles from ear to ear.  We turned around and there he was!  LEO!!!!

He was at it again, trying to help us.  He was trying to organize our transfers to the airport, and when he found out that we had half a day in San Juan, he grabbed my luggage and started walking.  We followed him to the tourist office.  He insisted that we enjoy the local festival and not to worry as our belongings would be safe.  He gave us a curfew and when it was time to go to the airport he came with us, ensured we checked in safely and walked us to our gate.  He even tried to see if he could get us on a direct flight home!

I began writing this post before leaving for our honeymoon.  The one I was writing before had obviously had different content, but essential the meaning of the two are very much the same.  They both have to do with the book “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

I read this book in high school and it stayed with me since.  I love that book and meeting Leo just emphasized one of the key learning of the book.  And no, he didn’t kill a mockingbird, which is never actually done in the book, but rather that you aren’t to kill one.

In the book Scout is told by her father Atticus that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird and the reason is that mockingbirds simply exist to provide pleasure with their song.  They do nothing but sing their hearts out for everyone to hear.  And to kill a mockingbird is to kill that which is innocent and harmless.

And I was prepared to kill one (figuratively, not literally).  You see, in San Juan I was so wrapped up in my own misery that I couldn’t see beyond my nose.  I was so set on trying to find out what Leo was up to, what he wanted from us, what his next move was and because of my hubby’s optimism, his outlook on life and mankind and his love for me and my love and trust in him, I was capable of handing over my skepticism and surrendering to the situation.  And because of this, I was able to receive what was being gifted to me at that very moment.

Leo ended up being that mockingbird for me.  In the short period that he entered my life I noticed that all he wanted was to ensure that hubby and I were blessed with his song.  I was also reminded of the final words in the book, when Scout tells Atticus about misunderstandings off Boo Radley, and how he hadn’t done anything of the things she thought he did, that he was “real nice.”

Atticus’ response to that was “most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”  And when I finally was able to see Leo I could see just how ‘real nice’ he just is.

I’m also amazed in the synchronicity of it all.  I didn’t feel comfortable in publishing the first post.  It just didn’t feel right and I knew I just had to wait, that something else was to come along to write about.  Never in a million years did I think this was going to happen and that we would have a beautiful angel/mockingbird in San Juan named Leo.

Oh, by the way, yesterday we received a beautiful email from Leo.  He wanted to know if we arrived home safely.  Our hearts were touched once again by our angel in San Juan.

Our Leo and Hubby (they exchanged hats).

Our Leo and Hubby (they exchanged hats).

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Why Didn’t The Chicken Cross The Road?

To answer the question – it’s because it marched to a different drumstick!!

And on that same day when it decided not to cross it sat down on the side of the road and decided to stare off into the unknown distance.  She just stared and stared and stared and then something happened.  A sudden realization came over her.  She wondered if the chickens before her who crossed the road really knew what they were doing, or if they did it because that’s what was always done.  And she came to know that despite what everyone told her, the grass was not greener on the other side.  But she wasn’t happy with the grass where she lay either.

And so she walked along the side of the road, not knowing where it would lead her but trusting that it would be to a better place.

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And that chicken, my friend, is me.

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I’m In Suspenders

“Your comfort zone is what keeps you back from making, creating and innovating.” 

~ Greta Tomlin

Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, I decided to share with you all my new ritual – reflecting on my accomplishments, my letting go and what I want to bring into the New Year.

One of the things on my list for this brand New Year is to write more, and that’s what I’m doing.  Over the last few (many) months I’ve received emails from you, my readers, asking if everything is ok, why I haven’t been writing and so on.  I’m very touched by your care and I have let you know in some way or another that yes, I am ok, but…

I just didn’t have anything to write about.  I lost my mojo.

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You see, something happened in the last year and half, but I don’t know what.  Whatever happened squashed my connection to my creativity.  I could not even form a paragraph, could not write a poem.  I had absolutely no desire to string a sentence together. And when I did want to say something, I couldn’t string a sentence together.  When my domain name renewal came up I even contemplated putting this blog to rest and letting it expire.  However something inside of me told me that it wasn’t time and I paid the renewal fee and hung onto it, keeping it dormant but alive.  Yet, I still couldn’t or wouldn’t write.

This was quite troubling for me, especially since the few years before that were quite the ride.  I always managed to find my way, remain optimistic and look for the silver lining in things.  I have always been and still am a firm believer that there is some good that comes out of even the most difficult of times.  I had my creativity to fall back on, to help me sort through things, gather my thoughts, help me to remain focused – but not this time.

A couple of weeks ago when I sat down to write about my reflections on 2014 (and discovered how much I achieved) and what I want to manifest in 2015 something shifted in me.  I was even inspired to write a poem, something I haven’t done in years!  What this also did was light the fire inside of me to write, to be curious about things, to yearn for those lightbulb moments again.

So what happened?

And so, in my typical Smartie fashion, I went into my ethereal closet and grabbed my shovel and flashlight and begun to dig inside of me and shine the flashlight in the dark places.

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And boy was I surprised by what I found out!

What I found out quite sucked to find out.  It wasn’t true that I had nothing to say.  I HAD and HAVE a lot to say.  But I felt like I was muzzled!  And the worst of it, it was ME that was doing the muzzling.

What the heck?

I was AFRAID to say what I wanted to say.  I was fearful of the repercussions to what I wanted to say. And so I didn’t say what I wanted to say.

What a friggin awakening this was for me!

My friends, a couple of weeks back when I did my lists, one of the items I resolved to do is to revive Smartie Knows in 2015.  As today is the first day of 2015, I’m doing just that.

This space is once again a sacred space for me that I share with you.  Through this coming year, I will share with you not only what I discovered, but also my accomplishments, my trials (not legal I hope), my thoughts (air-head sometimes), my deepest desires, my tear jerking times, my over-the-moon moments, my dark nights of the soul,  my curiosity and most of all, my lightbulb moments.

P.S. If you’re wondering why I’m in suspenders (which I make no reference to in this post besides the title), I just want to keep you in anticipation for what’s to come 🙂  So stay in suspenders for my next post.

Oh, here’s a question!  Why didn’t the chicken cross the road?

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With love,

Smartie

2014 & 2015

Dear Friends & Family,

A couple of weeks ago I sat with a pen and paper and listed all my accomplishments in 2014. I was pleasantly surprised at the list because going into this exercise, I really didn’t think much happened.

And then I listed all the things that needed to be acknowledged in order to be released – the not so great times, the anger, the grief. That too was quite the list, but it felt good to get it out of my system. I felt as if it wasn’t weighing me down any longer.

Finally, I created a list of what I want to bring into 2015, what I want to do, feel, give and receive. The list is pages long, I must say, and it will be an exciting challenge to get them all done. I’ve also come to know that all I want to accomplish may not happen, because this is the way life goes, and I am ok with it. It won’t keep me from trying.

But one thing I have come to realize is that although this was done two weeks ago, and today is the last day in 2014, that my intention, the energy I gave to the exercise, had already set things in motion and so my resolve to let go, to bring in, to receive and to gift won’t begin tomorrow, the first day of 2015, because it had already begun two weeks ago.

So my friends, after this big shpeal, my point is this: Yes, January 1, 2015 is a good day to start to make changes, but the real change begins when you get real about making a change. And so when you fall off the wagon, which we all do, just pick yourself up and start again. Your intention is where you put your attention – is it the failing or the trying?

My darling friends and family, my wish to you is that the ending to your 2014 be peaceful and your 2015 be filled with abundance.

Love you,
Smartie

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Ever Think About The Dying?

A while ago I was presented with the opportunity to read a book called The Soul Midwives’ Handbook, by Felicity Warner.  Admittedly, I was drawn to it, and very curious about what it had to say, especially as my father had died four years ago.  The book was about dying, and how to care for those who are dying, be a companion, a comfort.  I have to say, I would recommend this book to anyone who knows someone dying, or wants to help anyone who is dying.  I guess I have strange interests in reading material, but the information in this book is invaluable.

While reading this book I could see how individuals who work in the healthcare and hospice industries could greatly gain from it.  This books takes the reader through what a Soul Midwife is, how to care for the dying and even provides a “toolkit” for the Soul Midwife.

This book also talks to different traditions around the world which are used to comfort a person as they approach end of life, and then cross over into the afterlife.  What I liked about the book the most is that she doesn’t focus just on one belief system, but rather provides wisdom and insight from multiple faiths.

I must admit, it wasn’t a light read, and requires attention as the subject matter isn’t really one that may appeal to just anyone.  However, Felicity provides a candid tone, and her extensive experience shines through.  I found this book thought-provoking, and it brings a new understanding to a subject that many, including me previously, shied away from.

I received The Soul Midwives’ Handbook: The Holistic & Spiritual Care of the Dying by Felicity Warner as part of my participation in Hay House’s Book Nook program.

Racing Towards What Exactly?

“Can you tell me, who called the race? / Can anyone stay in one place? / And when you get to the finish line /

Will you wish for more time?” ~ Katy Perry, This Moment

I remember listening to this song the very first time.  I was stressing out because my daughter, partner and I were behind schedule which meant that we weren’t going to get to Great Wolf Lodge as early as I had planned.   As part of my daughter’s birthday gift, I got her an overnight at the hotel, along with Katy Perry’s new CD Prism.  We were listening to it on the drive to Niagara Falls and needless to say that when this song played over the speaks in the car, it put things in perspective. I realized that I was in a race with myself and from that time onward, for the rest of the weekend, I was present and did not let my mind race ahead.  I made sure to be at my daughter’s birthday weekend.  We ended up having an awesome weekend.

GWL Niagara

Then a few days passed and I kind of somewhat lost the message.  I let life take over again and sometimes would get lost in the day-to-day routine and life would seem mundane but stressful at the same time.

Then I went away for the weekend down south.  I totally decompressed and really unwound. My biggest decision of the day would be where to have lunch and dinner, and if an afternoon nap was called for.  My eyes were really opened to the simplicity of the place, and I was able to get connected again, truly appreciate what was surrounding me.  I realized how blessed I truly am, and this brought forth a great deal of gratitude.  I was really present the entire time!

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Then a few days passed and I kind of somewhat lost the message.  I let life take over again and sometimes would get lost in the day to day routine and life would seem mundane.

Since then I’ve been running around trying to be a superhero and get as many things checked off my to-do list as possible.  I find that I’m being short with everyone, and have a sense of anxiousness in my chest.  I get really frustrated that people can’t read my mind and do things the way I don’t like.  I don’t like disorder of any kind and can’t rest if things aren’t put back in their place.  For example, if the dishes are on the counter, and not in the dishwasher, I feel that I can’t enjoy the movie I’m watching in the daughter, I feel them pull me towards them.  Or the emails seem to call me, tell me to write them to the people who are awaiting them.  Or as I’m laying in bed, I can’t seem to get my mind to slow down.  Am I being present?  Hell no.  But I can feel the conflict between my heart and my mind.  My heart is yearning to be present, begging me to slow down and be with things and people who bring me joy, that these things can wait, but my mind keeps telling me “get this out-of-the-way and then you can enjoy whatever it is you want to enjoy.”

So what is going on?  At times, I can master this being in the moment thing, and at others, I may as well be in a different galaxy than everyone else.  What the heck?

Then a few books came across my path and lo and behold I could see that there was a lesson that I needed to learn at this moment.  I had lost what it meant to live in the moment.  For the most part, I had stopped seeing the beauty in everything.  I didn’t take note of what was in front of me.  I forgot to look for the miracle in everything.  I forgot to    s l o w   d o w n.  My body was here, right now, but my mind was elsewhere.  I was constantly always trying to find ways to make more time by making myself busier.  What an oxymoron!

Slow Down!

Mark Nepo said it best in “Exquisite Risk – Daring To Live An Authentic Life.”We often feel compelled to sacrifice or postpone the seeds of joy in favor for a practicality that we hope will insure a secure future.”  Totally true!

He then went on to say “…reduced to Now, some deeper part of me began to live, holding nothing back.  It is a moment that changed my life.  And through that deeper part, I began to see that we are delivered through all these gifts and tensions until we are honed by experience into something more and more vulnerable and beautiful.”  Yep, totally true!  I had forgotten this lesson which was handed to me years ago.  This enabled me to get through the darkest times of my life.  And I forgot it.

Am I going to beat myself up over it? Nah, that wouldn’t be much helpful.  It would only make me feel crappy about myself, and I don’t want that.  I know better.  What I am going to do is I’m going to be compassionate and forgive myself.   There is an ebb and flow in life.  We make progress, then we regress a bit, and then make more progress.  I’d like to believe that I have just come out of the regression phase and I’m now entering into the progress phase.

So tell me, while reading this, how many times have you left me, or where you with me the entire time?

What Have You Savored Lately?

“Did you ever stop to taste a carrot?  Not just eat it, but taste it?  You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie.” ~ Astrid Alauda

I hate carrots.  Really, I do.  And I feel guilty and like a huge hypocrite when I lecture my daughter in the importance of eating healthy when she returns from school with that little snack bag of baby carrots not eaten.  So I eat them, and hate every bite.

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Lately I haven’t been feeling my best.  I’ve been tired, drained, bloated and my complexion hasn’t been so great.  Although my skin hasn’t broken out in zits, it isn’t smooth and it has lost its glow.  I knew that I had to do something but deep down inside I didn’t have the will nor the want to start a new “diet.”  I’m so over diets.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I’m very much a believer in synchronicity and love all things awesome.  Last week I was speaking with a couple of friends and they both shared with me how they are now changing their eating habits in order to gain a more healthy life style and feel good again – for once and for all.  I thought to myself “good for them” and wished I could do the same (yes, I was off my rocker).  Then I had a dream last week, and in that dream I was eating.  And I was enjoying what I was eating.  I mean REALLY enjoying what I was eating.  I was making my own breads from scratch, and I was savoring every bite of my meal.  It looked like it was orgasmic!  I woke up that morning knowing what I had to do. I was on a mission.

The next day I decided to make my own french bread – gluten-free french bread.  I found a recipe online which looked good and simple to make.

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Then at lunch time, I turned to my partner and told him that I haven’t been feeling ‘right’ and that I was returning to a gluten-free lifestyle and I wanted him to join me. You would have thought that I must have said something really horrible by the look he gave me.  He thought I had gone mad.  You see, he’s a HUGE bread lover and it is a big part of his diet.  He was dead set against what I was saying and didn’t even want to hear another word about this.

Then the unbelievable happened, while having dinner with him and my daughter, I received the news that I gifted with two tickets to attend a seminar.  This seminar was on Wheat Belly (the author of this book was in Toronto to talk about the effects of eating wheat on the body along with Julie Daniluk who spoke about meals that heal inflammation).  We were having dinner when I received the news and it was a sealed deal for me, I knew this was pointing me in the right direction.  Thankfully he agreed to come with me and have an open mind.

The seminar was mind-blowing and I learned A LOT.  I’m not going to go into it, if you’re interested you can read up on the books by clicking on the links above.  What I did learn was to really appreciate what I put into my body.  This is now a lifestyle change for me, and the few days which I have changed my eating habits I’ve felt like a new person.  It’s amazing when you are really aware of what you’re putting into your body.

So this afternoon I decided to do a little experiment with my salad and soup.  I moved away from the table and especially made lots of room between me and the computer and phone.  I sat in my rocking chair and took my time with my lunch.  I really paid attention to every forkful.  I tasted each bite.  I found it amazing to feel the thick richness of how the olive oil coated each leaf of kale and lettuce, how the balsamic vinegar was sweet and tart, the nutty flavor of the sesame seeds and the coolness of the peppers and found it odd that although the bocconcini are bland, they really do have a subtle taste to them.  And surprisingly of all, I found out that I can really learn to enjoy carrots – I just have to make sure that I really chew them enough.  That bitterness will turn to sweetness if you really chew them.  Who knew?

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While sitting there, I realized that this is what “they” mean by being present and savoring the moment.  And you can chew your way through the bad stuff in order to reach the good stuff.  All this I learned from a carrot.