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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

You’re Never Alone

“Hold me close / Let Your love surround me / Bring me near / Draw me to Your side.” – Hillsongs, Power of Your Love

Today began just like any other regular day.  I woke up, showered, had my coffee, prepped the lunch bags, woke up my daughter and got her ready for school.  This morning I gave her a kiss.  I always make sure to give her a kiss.  I also make sure to tell her that I love her.  I know that she knows I do because when I say to her “I have something to tell you” she responds with “I know, you love me.”  It’s a little game that we play, and I’m comforted by it.

It’s Daddy weekend this weekend.  Fortunately, I was able to see my daughter after school long enough to give her a big hug.  And this time I held onto her a bit longer than I normally would.  I didn’t want to let her go and tonight I miss her heaps more than usual.

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And that’s because today wasn’t any regular day after all.  I’m located about 600 kilometers away from the devastating massacre of the innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut, and I’m having a hard time coping with what happened.  I don’t know these people, never met them in my life, and I’m never going to understand what they are going through.  But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried today just thinking about those poor families who have lost their children, wifes, husbands and parents.  And I’ll never understand what drives a person to do such thing.  I don’t know.  I’ll never know.

But I do know that their lives will never be the same.  They will feel an emptiness inside for the rest of their lives.  They will question God about what happened, and why their loved one had to die, be taken away from them.  They will likely fall into a deep depression, not wanting anyone around, feeling all alone.  They will hit rock bottom.

And today when I heard the news, I immediately thought of my daughter, and imagined her in that school and ice-cold fear travelled through my entire body like a lightening bolt.  I thought about all the times I kissed her goodbye on a Friday morning on Daddy weekends, and how my heart rips out of my chest every single time because I don’t get to see her again until the following Monday.  I thought about how many times I wanted to hold her during those weekends and couldn’t and how I’ve had to settle for phone calls.  And then I thought about these poor parents who won’t ever be able to hold their children again, and how they don’t get to have a phone call. They will never hear their voice ever again.

I wish there was something that I could do.  I feel helpless.  My heart goes out to them, and they are in my prayers.  And while they are in their darkest hour, I pray that they never forget that they are not alone. There is someone holding them, loving them and caring for them.

And while I was in my darkest hour, this reminded me that I was never alone.  This is what helped me through those long, dark nights:

Call Me Jack

“There are essentially two questions in life – a spiritual question and a material question. The spiritual question is ‘Who am I?’ The material question is ‘What am I to do with my life?’ One leads to the other.”  ―Rasheed Ogunlaru

This past Sunday my daughter and I went to see a movie together.  I was reluctant to take her because she had a busy week – celebrating her birthday with her father’s family on Thursday night, with my family Friday night and her friends on Saturday afternoon.  By Sunday I was downright pooped, and I could see it took a toll on her as well.  But I had promised her that we would go, and so we went.  And I’m glad that we did.

I’m not one to go to the movies often.  Half of the time I don’t know what’s playing, but I saw the previews to this movie from the last time we went, and I was excited to watch it.  We saw Rise of the Guardians, and it was an awesome movie.  I really enjoy kids movies, and this one I feel by far is one of the best I have ever seen.  I was moved to tears, as I felt it really touched something deep inside of me.

****Warning – Spoiler alert!!****

Let me tell you a bit about the movie, and why I was so moved by it.  This movie is about all the mystical characters of our cultural mythology (aka Guardians): Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Jack Frost.  In the story, they are spirits that were put on Earth by the Omnipotent Man in the Moon and their job is to protect the children of the Earth from evil – the Boogeyman.  The Boogeyman’s role is to make the kids stop believing in the Guardians and let fear rule the world.

This is where things get interesting.  The movie obviously has the theme of good vs. evil, alongside with other big themes that we, as adults, deal with every day.  For example, early on in the movie we are introduced to Jack’s struggle as to why he was put on this earth, what his role in life is.  Then Santa blatantly asks Jack what his “center” is, and finally the theme of being alone and invisible and spreading fear.  These all pulled at my heart-strings.

And of course, it got me thinking…..

When Jack asked the Man in the Moon “why am I here, why did you put me here?” I felt my breath get caught in my throat.  I felt like as if someone had punched me in the stomach, grabbed a hold of my insides and started twisting.  I often ask why I’m here, and what my purpose is.  I still don’t know, yet I keep on searching, trying to figure it out.  Like Jack, I feel that I should be doing much, much more, and that there is something bigger out there for me to work towards, but in the meantime I feel completely lost.  I so wish that I could have a bunch of Yeti’s put me in a potato sack and carry me away to a place where I will discover what my destiny is.

A very interesting point that Santa brings to the picture is the question he asks Jack.  “What is your center?” That didn’t make sense at first until he picks up a Russian nesting doll that represents him and opens it. He explains that just like the doll there are different layers that make up his personality – jolly, fearlessness etc, but when he reaches the core, we find out that Santa’s “center” is wonder.  He brings wonder to all the children.  That’s why he’s here. By the end of the movie, Jack finds out that his center is Fun.

I was stunned by all of this information.  This was a completely new way of look at things, of looking at life.  I don’t know about you, but I always associated my “purpose” to be tied to doing something, some sort of task.  For example, help disabled people, feed the hungry etc.  Never did I think that my center could be something like bring wonder or fun into this world.  What a concept!!! Imagine what this world would be like if we could be like the Tooth Fairy and be a Guardian of Joy, or like the Easter Bunny and be a Guardian of Hope?  Or like the Sandman and be a Guardian of Dreams?  Don’t you feel lighter just thinking about it?  For me, when I came to this realisation, I felt a huge weight lifted off my chest, and I felt so much lighter.  To not have to figure out ‘the task’ of what I have to do in this world is liberating.  It really doesn’t matter anymore what I do, but knowing that I can be a Guardian of Fun or Hope or Dreams by just spreading goodness in this world is enough. Wow.

Both Jack and the Boogeyman shared the theme of aloneness and invisibility. They both felt that no one could relate to them, no one could see them.  Obviously, the Boogeyman chose to react in an evil way and take revenge out onto the world for this, and Jack, although struggling chose to be loving and good.  I know this state very well as most of my life I had felt very much alone and invisible.  Sometimes I even enjoyed not being seen, but most times there was nothing I wanted more.  I would have given up a limb just to be acknowledged.

While like that, in that aloneness phase,  it is so easy to turn away from the world and become bitter, as you sometimes wonder what the point of it all is. That was a huge struggle for me.  But the good thing is, that is what it is – just a phase.  It takes time, but eventually you can come out of it, if you allow yourself to be seen.  It takes just one person to believe in you, and your entire world can turn upside down, but for the good.  That is what happened to Jack.  The last child on earth, Jamie, believed in him when no one else would, and was able to see him.  How many times do you see the people in front of you.  I mean really see them, past the layers they build up around them, and see their core?  And sometimes it takes that one person to believe in you, in order for you to believe in yourself.  That is what happened to me.

The Boogeyman wanted to be seen as well. But his method was to instill fear in everyone in order to gain their respect and have them believe in him.  Jamie shouted to him and said “I believe in you, but I’m not afraid of you.” I was floored by this comment.  I thought back to all the times where I’ve felt paralysed by fear, and also back to the times where I had to force myself through a situation where I knew that the risks were high, and that I would likely get hurt, but I didn’t allow the fear to paralyse me.  I chose to replace that feeling with something else, such as courage, and I was able to get through it.  This was a skill I have been learning to master, and to see it in the movie, and hopefully getting through to the children watching it was heart-warming.

Maybe I’m reading into this movie too much, who knows.  But for me, I could see the benefits of this movie, and how it has enhanced my life, I felt like I was Jack.  So, let me be Santa ask as you this – have you found out what your center is? I think mine is to have an awesome time while here on this planet, and to take anyone who crosses my path down with me.  What do you say?

You Ok Down There?

“Most important thing in life is learning how to fall.” – Jeannette Walls

I was pushed to the floor and beaten down to a pulp the other day. I was knocked down to my knees, and I felt like I was kicked in the stomach a million times.  I was left breathless. I was beaten down so badly that I was making involuntary noises as I was trying to breathe.  Tears escaped my eyes as I tried desperately to hold them back.  They trickled slowly to the sides of face, as I tried to hide them with my hair. No way was I going to show the other person how what they were doing was affecting me.  I wasn’t about to give in.  I fell into a hole and just lay there hoping that I couldn’t be seen.

I wasn’t physically beaten, even though it felt that way.  But my ego took a beating, and it deserved it.  I was laying on the ground, gasping for air and surprisingly it felt good.

Let me back up a bit and explain WHY I deserved this beating. I have been going through a lot of crap, and I think I have every right to b*tch and complain about it.  These last two years of my life have been absolute hell and quite frankly, I think I’m entitled to let off a bit of steam every once in a while.  To wallow in self-pity and be angry with the world.

But it hadn’t become once in a while.  It became always.  Yes, I had suffered a lot, I went through a lot, but I was hanging onto those memories for my dear life.  Those memories were producing fears in me, and every time I clutched one of them a little more, they fed that fear inside of me a bit more and it was starting to grow into an awful monster, starting to take over my life.

So that day when I was taken aside and “spoken to.” I was forced to hear things about myself that were very hard to hear.  This was one of those “life lessons” that we all have to learn every once in a while and I wasn’t ready to hear was being said and I definitely was not ready to learn this life lesson. I wanted to run the other way.  Fast and hard.  But that’s the funny thing about life. It sends to you people to teach you lessons during times when you’re not ready to learn them.

You see, I was thinking that my life was crummy, and I felt very much alone.  I felt as if my life sucked and that anything that could go possibly wrong would do so with me.  I was walking around with a black cloud over my head.  I couldn’t see the good in anything, and I was spiraling downward fast and hard.  As a result I became reclusive.  I wanted to feel loved, yet I was pushing everyone away from me – except for my daughter who I was clutching to for my dear life.  All this was not good.  To me, everything was doom and gloom.  And I wanted everyone to know about it.  I would complain to anyone who would just turn in my direction.  And someone listened.  That’s when I got the crap beaten out of me.

During the talk, the words which stung the most for me was to hear that I was being selfish and thought that everything was about me.  I felt my back go stiff and immediately thought “How dare you say that?!!  Look at what my life has been like and what I have gone through?!!”  How could someone say such things?  Sure, I do have to deal with this crap, and I have to look after myself and my daughter at the same time.  But, that isn’t what was meant by that comment, it was what I WANTED to hear.  I had to take a step and really pay attention to what I was being told.  And when I did, when I really listened, really let the words sink in, that’s when I knew that  wasn’t being attacked, but rather I was being loved.  Someone was looking out for me.  I was being pushed out of the dark cloud I was in, and onto solid ground.  However, I didn’t land on my feet. I landed flat on my face.

When I got up, I walked away from our talk with what I consider a great lesson learned.  Next time I feel like my world is turning dark and grey, I don’t have to worry about it being a permanent state.  What I am having is a bad time – whether it be a day, a month or even a year.  This will eventually pass, it’s not a feeling that I will feel forever.  And with any sadness, or sorrow, comes the opportunity to feel great joy.  There is always an opposite side to everything.  I was choosing to look at the negatives sides, the losses, the sadness, the things I’m lacking, the things missing.

For example, I was experiencing a huge heartache knowing that I had to go back to work, and not be able to build my business/career the way I had wanted to.  I was complaining that my daughter was going with her father that evening, that I wouldn’t get to see her until the next day after school. And that the tedious, expensive and stressful divorce I’m going through is killing me, and I just want to end the fighting, and get on with my life and how I’ve been feeling stressed because of the people on my back complaining about me. How could there possibly be a good side to this?  Well there is.  There are plenty of positives, and lessons.  Such as the gift of a new job to ease my financial worries, the gift of a loving daughter, and to know how much we care for each other, and the gift of patience and tolerance with the divorce, and all the people reaching out to me because they care.  Are these the only lessons to be learned?

Who knows?  I don’t, that’s for sure.  Maybe this is the way life, or God, or the Universe or whoever it is that’s sending this message, is telling me that something needs to change, that I need to change.  The bad things and situations won’t end, they’ll keep coming.  The only thing that can change is me, and I need to change the way I look at them.  There are the many thing to be grateful for me to be grateful for: the experience of living in this beautiful house, being able to spend two summers home with my daughter, meeting magnificent people, opportunities to grow and find myself.

I have found that there is always a point in life where you reach that there is no possible way to return to where you have come from.  But I have also learned that there is also point to where you reach where you can’t go any further based on the way you’ve been doing things either.  And I think that’s where I’m at.  I haven’t been grateful for many things lately, and the risk of continuing on this way is just too great for me.  The pain I have been feeling is normal.  Pain is part of being human, but it’s also a reminder that I’m alive and there is always good things to being alive, and for which I’m grateful for.

I Am So Sorry!

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.” Oprah Winfrey

I’ve recently noticed that the comments received on my posts have died down.  I asked a friend who is an avid reader, and at one time, a frequent ‘commenter’ why he hasn’t been commenting and his response was “you tend to repeat yourself.”  That comment hurt, a lot. Like a knife through the heart.  A few minutes later, I got over it.

But it got me thinking….and then….

***The light bulb switched on***

Crap!

I do repeat myself!!!!!

In some form or fashion, and lately my posts have been dark….

To my dear readers, I apologize for putting you through this torture.  I truly am.  But at the same time, isn’t life like that sometimes though?  We tend to go through the same thing over and over, but in different ways.  These events mask themselves as different days, different people, and different situations.  It’s hard to keep everything fresh, especially when I’m writing about my life, and how I see things.  Or maybe that is the issue; I haven’t allowed myself to see things differently.  I don’t know.  Do you know? Please tell me if you do…

I’m trying to learn, navigate my way through as best as I can in this thing we call life.  I’m no expert, never claimed to be.  Remember the days of high school? I’m just like a student in school; I need to do my homework, practice in order to get better.  Some subjects require a heck of a lot of work, and others I can breeze through with little effort.  Although there were some subjects I enjoyed in school, and if I applied myself I could have gotten really good grades, for the most part I hated the damn institution.  Looking back, I wish I did apply myself more, because I feel like I was short-changed and could have done more.  But that’s my stuff to deal with, which I am…sorry for the ramble….

So, to give you some info about me to keep things fresh – I’m writing this blog because I enjoy it, but also because I’m in the midst of making a career transition.  I’m a writer.  I write because I love it, it’s a part of me which I’ve neglected for the longest time, and although I’ve worked in so many different industries, I want to do what I love. I want to write.   I want to share my experiences with everyone, with hopes to inspire them to live the life they want to, to it’s fullest, to learn from my life and to assist wherever possible.

I also like to receive feedback, whether it’s good or bad.  In fact, I think any type of feedback is good – even if you tell me I’m full of crap.  If you do decide to do that, I would appreciate an explanation as to why you think so, as I see it as an opportunity to look at things in a different way, sometimes in ways that I wouldn’t have even thought of before.  I also love a good debate – nothing like a good’ol discussion to try to get your point across, and exercise your mind.  How fun!

And if you want to know my views on something, or want me to write about something in particular or even want to test your writing skills and be a guest blogger, let me know – either on my blog or via email.  I’m open to anything.

Till next time!!!

Smartie

Let’s Play with Play-Doh!

“One of the greatest feelings in life is the conviction that you have lived the life you wanted to live-with the rough and the smooth, the good and the bad-but yours, shaped by your own choices, and not someone else’s.”  ―    Michael Ignatieff

 

I would like to say that the last few weeks have been such an awakening time for me, but I’m not so sure of this. Has it been a few weeks? Or could it have been months? Or perhaps it’s a year? Does it really matter? Part of me would like to find out, but at the same time, maybe it’s irrelevant. More importantly it is the events which took place that really is of impact.

I have a sense that I am going through a transformation. I am no longer the person I was, and at this point in time, I don’t k now who I am. This is what I am trying to figure out. However, I must admit that I feel like I’m a piece of Play-Doh. Yup, that’s right, good’ol Play-Doh. I’m playing around trying to sculpt myself into a masterpiece. This is so exciting and yet really scary at the same time.

Here’s the thing, with Play-Doh the possibilities are endless. I can be as beautiful and big as I want. I get to choose what colours I want to use, how I want to look. I can be a rose, a swan, a bear, or even just a big blob. It’s up to me. I can take my time, and carve out the find details of my work, or I can be rough and throw things together. I decide what I want to be. It’s my choice; my sculpture.

But I find that when you’re playing with Play-Doh, building your creation, there are always bits and pieces that fall off to the side. You don’t use these pieces. They’re left behind, and you save them just in case you may need them later on. Most times you don’t because they just dry out. And when you use different colour dough for your art, trying to separate them later on becomes difficult, and as a result the two colours will be joined together forever. And if the colours don’t work well together, this means when you mix the dough up again, the colours will merge and become an ugly brown.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, or admit to myself is that I really need to think about what masterpiece I want to be. I must take the time to think things through. I need to ensure that the pieces that I leave behind are not the crucial ones I will need to survive. That the colours I choose to use, when blended together, actually complement one another, and don’t turn an ugly brown. I don’t lose sight of the end piece.

And the neatest thing about Play-Doh is that if my masterpiece really isn’t what I imagined myself to be, I can reshape myself until I’m satisfied. I am flexible to adapt to any situation. What an awesome feeling!