A Remembrance Day to Remember

Today is Remembrance Day.  November 11, 2015.  Every year since I was a child I would stop what I was doing at 11am to pay homage to all the brave men and women who served in the wars.  This year was the same.

But this year was also very different.

I read the stories about what took place in the wars.  I was even obsessed with watching the British TV miniseries such as Foyles War, Land Girls that were set during WWII.  I can’t even tell you how many movies I’ve seen.  You could say that I had an idea of what went on, even though these were fiction.

Back in September Hubby and I went to the UK for his book launch and also to attend a conference.  We took some days to sightsee, as this was my first time there.  We went to the typical tourist places such as The British Museum,  London Tower, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye etc.  But we also went to the War Museum, something that I normally wouldn’t put on my list.

IMG_2163

When I first entered into the museum I saw a WWI spitfire plane.  I was finally able to see in real life the plane that my Hubby wrote in one of his fiction books.  I could understand the flimsiness that these brave pilots had to fly.  I was in awe.

As we walked through the museum we saw tanks, submarines, missiles.  I could feel my chest getting tight.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to have these huge death enhancing things approaching me.  I just couldn’t.  All I felt was fear.

We visited the WWI & WWII displays.  There we saw the posters that were sent to Canada and Australia to recruit men to help in the cause.  We saw what the Women’s Land Army did to contribute to the war efforts and how women worked in munitions factories.  We also saw how the men were suited to go to war.  They had practically nothing to protect them from the elements!

IMG_2440

There were displays of letters written home by the men, where they pleaded to be saved or killed, as they saw death to be a better option than where they were.  The death and destruction was overwhelming.

I tried to make my way out, but had to go through a make-believe trench.  It was extremely realistic and I could feel the fear growing inside of me.  I knew I was safe, that it wasn’t real.  I could not help wonder what the poor men had to face every day while at war.

At the end of the trench there were props where you could wear army attire.  I usually jump at the chance to play dress up.  However, as I picked up the jack and hat, I had to place it back down onto the counter.  This wasn’t a time to play around; this wasn’t something to have fun with.  There were many men who had bullets go through those very same helmets and jackets.  This was a time to remember and honour and pay homage to them.

I walked out of the museum with a heavy heart.  I couldn’t wrap my head around how something so evil and destructive could take place. As much as I tried I could not understand why someone would want to go to war.

As we walked  London we walked by the river and saw the damage that bombs made to some of the statues of the Sphynx.

IMG_2298

A few days later Phil and I hiked in the English Countryside.  We came across what was recently discovered to be training trenches.  We met a few men who were clearing them for a memorial service to be held a few days from then.  They had said that the men would come for a few days, dig, and then go out and fight.  Wow.

IMG_2765 IMG_2763

About a month after we returned home we watched another movie set during WWII.  It didn’t have the glamourous affect that it usually did.  I was anxious throughout the entire movie and I couldn’t sleep at night.  In the past, knowing that I was in Canada, and the war took place ‘over there’ in Europe meant that it wasn’t close to me.  But visiting the War Museum, seeing the conditions these people lived in, witnessing the real damage caused by the war made it very real for me.

And then last week I talked to my Mom about growing up during WWII.  She told me about how the Nazis would go through her town killing people, how her father (my grandfather) was captured by the Nazis and became a POW.  She told me how he survived on potato skin scraps because he was given nothing to eat. This hit very close to home for me.  I couldn’t even fathom going through all of that, and here my mother, my aunts and uncles, people so close to me grew up in this.

I am free because of these people.

IMG_2802

So this Remembrance Day, I don’t just thank you, the soldiers for fighting and giving me freedom.  I thank you, brave human beings, for risking your life.  I thank you for sacrificing for me.  I thank you for doing what you did despite your fears.  I thank you for giving up all that you knew and going into the unknown, incomprehensible.  I thank you for being you.  And I love you.

OTTAWA, ON: NOVEMBER 11, 2013 -- Hand made poppies on display as the general public and veterans attend Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, ON, November 11, 2013. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen) Photo Request 115095

OTTAWA, ON: NOVEMBER 11, 2013 — Hand made poppies on display as the general public and veterans attend Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, ON, November 11, 2013. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen) Photo Request 115095

Advertisements

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!).

me and phil

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.

IMG_20141226_154211

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.

elcam

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.

IMG_20150627_094108image (1)

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.

chicken.road

And that chicken, my friend, is me.

Continue reading

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!

mother's day 2

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

“For life is quite absurd / And death’s the final word / You must always face the curtain with a bow / Forget your sin – give the audience a grin /  Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow” – Monty Python

I bet you sang, didn’t you?  And I apologize if you have that song stuck in your head…well no, not really…because it was intentional 🙂

Recently I had the pleasure to converse with a few good friends.  This conversation first took place in person with a couple of gals, then over email with other people and then finally with a wonderful woman.  The common theme was “thinking positively.”

Although I’m trying my best with that, and I admit that it is very difficult at times but I think overall I’m making it a habit to think positively. But a friend brought up a good point, that thinking positively will only bring you so far.  And he’s right, you can work your butt off with thinking positively but you really have to look at what’s behind your negative thoughts in the first place.  Why do these negative thoughts come up to begin with.  In other words, you have to find out what’s going on inside of you and pick things apart.  You have to go on a journey – like I did to Australia (joke).  Seriously though, you do have to take a journey.

journey

And it’s scary to do so.  We are conditioned to repressed certain beliefs, memories, feelings for a reason – because we don’t want to face them and acknowledge what they mean to us. It could be that we will have to admit to a big mistake, that we hurt someone, and the worst thing of all – that we’re human! Imagine that! But I’ve found out in my work that facing these beliefs is a lot easier than continuing to repress them, and a lot less tiring.  It’s actually beautiful really.

I do this a few different ways, and what I find the method that works for me is to get out in nature and meditate.  I admire the scenery while in thought or take a walk in nature.  As a result, I am beginning to see the beauty in everything including nature, people, situations and events.  I’m a lot more calmer, more open to relationships, more easy-going and accepting.

In fact, I make it a habit that whenever I’m outside, whether leaving home or a building, or even driving, I look up to the sky and look at what beautiful picture has been painted across the canvas sky.  It centers me. Like this beautiful sunset I saw last night as me and my daughter came out of the mall.

night sky

Wouldn’t you want to be in this place?  It’s there for your taking, if you’re willing to do the work.

Pay It Forward

“I think you can scare somebody out of doing something, but not out of feeling like they want to.”  – Catherin Ryan Hyde, Chasing Windmills

A few weeks ago while I was on the bus on my way to work, a lady got on a few stops after mine.  After she boarded I had a hard time concentrating on the book I was reading, which I really wanted to read.  My commute time is my reading time, and I am really jealous of that time, so needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper.

bus commute

This wasn’t the first time this happened with this lady.  If the timing is perfect, our paths can cross easily a few times a week, which means I don’t get to read.  That day I had enough of the struggle and just sat there and listened to her message.  Let me explain what happened.

I’d like to think that I’m a non-judgemental person, and I do believe that everyone has freedom of speech, and a right to their own opinions.  But this lady was just driving me bonkers that day.  She was preaching very loudly about the fact that God watches everyone therefore we need to be careful of what we do, and that there really is a place called hell.  She would stress that in order to avoid hell we need to follow what the bible says, or else God will punish us and send us to an eternal life in purgatory. She went on to say that God will be angry if we let Jesus’ death to wipe our sins away be a waste of time.  She would go on and on until we reached the subway station, and continue until she got onto the subway and went her own way.  What a heavy message to hear first thing in the morning!

This time while she preached, I observed the people on the bus and how they reacted.  They wouldn’t look her way, would avoid eye contact with her.  I could see that many people didn’t want to hear her, and some looked uncomfortable.  I know that although I was listening to her, I too felt uncomfortable. I had a hard time relating with the message she was trying to convey – that God was an entity of judgement, anger, and something to be fearful of.  I didn’t like the emotions which were being drawn up in me from this.  I was glad when she was no longer near me.

One afternoon this week while I was on my way home , I was on the subway reading my book when someone caught my attention.  A beautiful, older lady who had an amazing presence about her and radiated joy and love walked by me.  I was totally enraptured with her, to the point that I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  Once she reached the front end of the subway, close to where I was sitting, she would go up to every person, stand in front of them and say “You are beautiful.  God loves you.  God bless you.”  I was totally taken aback by that.  She had such a loving way about her, and was delivering such a beautiful message.  Witnessing what this woman was doing, I felt my heart swell and found myself smiling.  I’m by all means not religious, but when she stood in front of me, and said those words, I found myself saying “thank you, and God bless you.”  I don’t know why I did that, it just felt like the right thing to do.

But the strangest thing happened.  I noticed, that although she was delivering a completely different message than the other lady on the bus, the one who spoke of a mean God, this woman received the same reaction.  No one would look at her, give her the time of day.  I know that I didn’t have the same feelings come up inside of me – this time I felt cozy and warm inside and for the rest of the day I felt better, more happy, and I paid it forward.  I was more loving and kind towards others, I held open doors, gave my seat to someone who needed it, and smiled at strangers.  I just didn’t understand why the others on the subway didn’t see what I saw, and reacted the way they did.  Were they threatened by her?  Were they afraid of what others would think if she responded?  Or is it because she used the word “God” and “love”?  I don’t know.  Like I said before I’m not religious at all, but I understood what she was saying.  She was saying that I am special, I am loved.  Who doesn’t want to hear that?  Who cares that she is a total stranger, the fact of the matter is, she is spreading love and joy to everyone, and people, we need it and should pay it forward.

This video which has been viral on Facebook says it all.  Enjoy. Pay it forward.