Hello, G’day Mate, Hola

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

We arrived back in Toronto less than 48 hours ago after three weeks in sunny Australia.  And in an hour and a half we will be making our way back to the airport to head out to Spain to begin our 400+ kilometer trek across northern Spain.  Some have asked why did we even bother to come home, but I’m glad we did.  The short time put a lot of pressure on us to really focus on what needed to get done and we spent a lot of quality time with my Mom and Sister.  I really enjoyed it.

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Our trip to Australia was good.  Before leaving I had a feeling that things weren’t going to go as planned, and with life, that usually happens.  Overall it was a great trip but it had its challenges – from faulty aircraft entertainment units, adjustments to travel plans for family, little internet connection and even not up to par accommodation.  It was challenging, I won’t deny that.  In the heat of the moment I found it difficult to deal with, but what I can see now is that it played a purpose to teach me things.  My initial reaction was to play the victim and have a poor me attitude, but these events weren’t about me.  Things went wrong, people had to look after themselves, I had to adjust.  And I had to let go and let be.  Isn’t that what we should be doing most of the time anyway?  I promised myself that despite what happens, I will have a good time.

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The purpose of our trip though, was to see my husband’s daughter, who happens to be an extremely beautiful and talented actress, perform her opening show for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the Sydney Opera House.  What an honour to be able to witness and be a part of this.  Wow is all that I can say!!!

Hubby with daughter

Hubby with daughter

We spent most of our time in Queensland, specifically in the Gold Coast, minutes from Surfers Paradise, and up in Hervey Bay, and of course in Sydney.  I already thought that Australia was beautiful, and now I’m even more convinced.  We played tourist for more of the trip, doing a lot of touristy things such as daily walks on the beach, body surfing, visiting amusement parks and meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in years and just took it easy.  It was a busy yet relaxing vacation where we were on the go a lot. Oh and the sunsets were to die for.

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But now a new adventure is going to begin, one that is entirely different.  I hope to write more.

Buen Camino to us!

Love,

Smartie

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And Soon It Will Begin….

I had a dream last night.  I don’t remember much of it.  But one thing that has clearly stuck to my conscious mind is the message (which I can still hear being said with a big, deep voice): Yooooou neeeeeeed to coooonnnnnect with yourrrrrr creeeeaaaativity agaaaaain.

Yeah, yeah….I’m not surprised.  I’ve been missing writing, drawing, dancing and singing (don’t tell my hubby the last part!).

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I’ve just been busy.

This year, 2015, has brought many new things into my life.  I’ve traveled to the Caribbean and Australia, my hubby was picked up by a British publisher for his book, I’ve been in school, opened up a holistic practice (Cheney Holistic) and now a Solution-Focused Coaching practice (Teal Tiger).

Through all of this, I’ve felt myself being stretched in so many ways.  I’ve been happy with the growth, wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained.  My relationships with the special people in my life have improved and I can honestly say that life is good.

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It hasn’t been all rosy, trust me.  I’ve done a lot of ‘inner work’ which forced me to uncover a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to.  I’ve taken a two week home retreat in which I dedicated my 9-5 hours to contemplation and self-discovery.  That was so hard.  I found out about a bunch of belief systems I was carrying around which I realized that they weren’t mine, but were adopted from others.  I learned about what I like and don’t like, and most of all, I was able to make peace with parts of myself that wanted to be heard.

A lot of my growth came especially during my intense studies in Solution-Focused Coaching.  There were many times in class where I felt I was struck by an eighteen wheeler truck as I learned about behaviors, beliefs, values and vision.  My passion for this just kept growing and growing.  I can honestly say that I’ve found my calling in life, and I look forward to helping others live their life to their fullest.

As busy as the first half of 2015 has been, my journey is just beginning.  The next three months will be a different sort of journey; one that requires me to leave the comforts of my home, my city, my friends, and some of the time my family as well, for an extensive period of time.  We will be visiting Australia again and from there we will be going to Spain to do a 400+ kilometer pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago plus other travels.

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Many people have asked that we post pictures of our trips onto Facebook.  I honestly didn’t want to post anything, and wanted to stay screens free during this time period and disconnected.  I’ve really been trying to minimize my interactions with social media and really, media in general.  I am planning to write in my journal during this time, and my husband is planning to take pictures so we’ve decided to combine the two together.  This way, you can join our journey with us.

And so, our journey began today with our last long walk on our favorite path.  We’ve walked this path for months and have logged at least about 300 kilometers on it as we trained for the Camino.  We’ve encountered many friendly (and curious) people along the way, and have seen such beautiful wildlife (deer, rabbits, beautiful birds, beavers, snakes) – all within minutes of our front door.  I will miss this path during the next few months, and look forward to seeing it again in the fall.

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If you’re wanting to hear more of our journey, please subscribe to this blog.

With Love,

Smartie and Philosofree

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).

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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Happy Mother’s Day!

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”   – Jodi Picoult, Perfect Match

Today is Mother’s Day. I woke up to my gorgeous little girl calling me from the kitchen.  She “snuck” downstairs to make me breakfast and wanted to make sure that I slept in.  The proud look on her face was the best Mother’s Day gift ever!

My girl is the best teacher ever, and every day I continue to learn more and more about life from her  So, in honor of my daughter on Mother’s Day, I’m going to repost what I wrote last year called: What I’ve Learned on Mother’s Day.  Enjoy!

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When I’m Most Susceptible To Idiots

“Never argue with an idiot; he will bring you down to his level and win from experience.” ― Brad Slipiec

I think I’ve figured something out.  Sometimes it takes me a while, but I know I’ll eventually get there, and things will change.  In other words, I had a huge light bulb moment today.

Christmas was good, I had a nice time with family.  The day after was ok.  We had a pj day and I tried to make the most of it with my daughter.  My butt was planted firmly on the couch while I tried so hard not to whine and complain about my high fever, aching body and splitting head ache.  I seriously felt like I was hit by a huge truck.  My daughter was a trooper even though we had to cancel our plans for the day.  In fact, she kind of took care of me, making sure that I rested, checked my temperature and drank fluids.  It was nice to be looked after for a change.

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But today was different.  Today I worked from home while my daughter was in tow.  She played in the backyard in the snow, while I sat at the kitchen table.  It was nice to see the kids through the garden doors, hear them playing while I worked away on my Mac.  I was still sick with a high fever, but I felt somewhat better hearing them, and getting cool, fresh air when they would throw the door open to tell me some exciting news.

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Then the chaos started.  I began getting text messages that were demanding, argumentative and unreasonable.  I found myself getting wound up while I tried to deal with this.  I was ready to set my phone on fire.  It was getting late so I called my daughter in for lunch, and found myself snapping at her, not being able to handle normal things such as her normal complaints about eating her fruit.  And I felt myself getting anxious, irritable and frustrated with everything around me.  The afternoon wasn’t turning out well and I was spiralling downward – fast.

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The text messages continued, and the more I tried to reason with this individual, the more outrageous the conversation would become, to the point when I was told that this would be handled in person, rather than text.  Fine by me, I thought.  I’m a firm believer that things should be resolved either in person or by telephone (voice).  Plus, I would then be able to share the evidence to support my point.

Well the ‘calm’ discussion I anticipated didn’t work out that way.  The in-person meeting was high-tension and high-conflict.  Something that I didn’t want to expose my daughter to, and luckily she was in the other room, out of ear-shot, or so I thought.  It was absolutely impossible to reason with this person, and when this person left, I found myself tied up in a tight knot.  What the heck was going on?

I went back to the living room and sat down next to my daughter.  She wanted to do something together so we painted a kit that Santa got us for Christmas.  Strangely enough, I found it extremely cathartic and felt my mood suddenly change.  I was thinking to myself about what had transpired, why I was so uptight, and then, almost as if an answer to my questions, my daughter says to me “Mommy, it’s only clothes.  Who cares.  Just let it go.” I was stunned.  I turned to her and said “Honey, you’re right.  It’s only clothes and not worth all the arguing.” And she said “Exactly.  There are other things that are more important – such as painting!”  What wisdom from a seven-year old.  God I love her.

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And so while I continued to paint I thought about why this incident had gotten to me so much, and I figured out that when I’m tired, run down and sick, I’m more susceptible to the antics of idiots.  I am more likely to engage in the stupidity game that they try to get me to play into.  They get the better of me, but not anymore.  I’ve learned their method of attack – hit them while they’re still down.  Does this happen to anyone else but me?

Then I read a friend’s status on Facebook “woke up feeling stressed, then I decided to count all the ways I am blessed. Then the reality hit me – I need to chill and let my worries be.”

Damn straight.  I do need to let my worries be.  I do need to focus on what I’ve been blessed with, and not get distracted by all the nonsense that gets brought to me by idiots.  Clearly this happens to everyone, especially when you’re not able to function at your fullest.  The way around that is to focus on what good there is in your life, on your blessings.

So I have figured out that at the end of the day I can hold my head up high.  I’m able to walk away from today’s incident knowing that in my heart I’ve been truthful and honest, and I’ve been loving and caring.  I have done no wrong to anyone, and I have not been hurtful.  As my daughter said “it’s only clothes.” There are way more important things that need my attention and it’s better to spend my precious time and energy on something life-giving, not life draining.  And idiots can be life draining if you let them be.

You’re Vain

“You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you” – Carly Simon

Yeah you. I’m talking about you. You know who you are – the one who is reading this.

Every one of you. Every single person reading this.

You-are-vain. Vain, I say.

As I write this post I’m sitting in a pub listening to brave souls who have gathered the courage to play at a jazz meetup. One girl sang “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon and it got me thinking about the way I was feeling earlier today.

Here’s the thing, I was feeling tense and anxious for some reason and my mind started racing ahead to where I was going – my former place of employment RL Solutions. I’m not sure what was going on in this great big abyss of a mind I have but I was thinking of what they would think of me and what I’ve been up to lately.  There has been a lot of changes going on in my life, and many of these people I havent’ seen in about a year and a half.  I was very uptight and nervous.  I made sure to doll myself up.  I thought I looked good, and I wanted to make sure others thought the same thing.

 

But you know what?

They don’t care. They don’t want to know what’s going on in my life to the extent as  I thought they should. Why would they? Sure, they may comment that I look nice, but does it make a difference in their life?  No way. They have their own things to think of. I’m embarrased to say, but I think that I subconsciously wanted this night to end up being about me and not the real reason why I was going there – which was to celebrate the grand opening of their new location, their open house.

Even at this moment I think about what people are thinking of me. I’m sitting at a table typing away on on my phone, listening to the music. How big of me to think that instead of these people enjoying the bluegrass music being played that they’d be more interested in me typing away. Sure Smartie,  you’re THAT important!

So, tell me, how many times does this happen to you? How often do you think everything is all about you? I bet that you have thought that the closed door to your boss’s office, or the many meetings being held lately is because of you even though there is no evidence pointing towards that? And how about that comment someone made while you were in in a group of people that hit your right in the heart, you just know it was  directed towards you, even though there is no reason at all for it?  Or how about that everyone should you because you’re perfect, your good looking and you have never done anything wrong?  It’s always the other person who is at fault, never you.

Does all of the above really mean that we’re really vain? Hell yeah. We tend to think that everything is about us.

What else would we call it?

It’s not pride.  Deffinitely not pride.  Pride and vanity are two different things.  However, I believe that they are often used synonymously.  You can be proud of yourself without being vain.  My belief is that pride is more about your opinion about yourself, and being vain is about what you want others to think about you.  Like not so smart me today wanted everyone to think that I have it together and I’m Queen Thang.

I’m not saying to not think highly of yourself, not to take care of yourself.  Make sure you look nice, pretty.  Do your best with everything.  Doll yourself up.  Be PROUD!  But next time you’re thinking “it’s about me” step back and think is it really?  You just might be vain.