Rainy, Fall Day in the Country

My daughter has taken up horseback riding which requires us to be at the stable by 10:15 Saturday morning every weekend. Normally, running kids to lessons – especially ones a drive away – is an onerous task almost every parent endures. This lesson, however, has turned into delightful activity for both of us. She rides. I photograph.

I’ve become quickly recognized around the farm for photographing just about everything. It is fascinating for me to find beauty in every day things and that’s normally what I search for. This past weekend, however, nature just handed me a cornucopia of colour and beauty that I could not resist. The rain brought out already brilliant colours and the grey skies served as a soft and mottled background.

I stopped multiple times along the highway to capture various shots of fields and forest. I also, to my great joy, found a path – a section of the Russell-Prescott Recreation Trail – only minutes from the horse farm. And what a stunning canopy and carpet of coloured leaves it displayed! Please enjoy the photos below!

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Looking Back

Sometimes I like to open my photo file and see what I was doing 5 or 6 years ago on a particular day just for fun. I’m not always lucky enough to find a photo on the exact date or one that is even meaningful. Occasionally, though, I will stumble across one that makes me smile and brings me back to the day and location.

March 6th, 2010 – a friend treated me to a day in Montreal as a birthday gift. She picked me up on the Saturday morning and we drove like the wind to the bustling city. We wandered in and out of the many shops on Saint Catherine St. and had lunch at her favourite pizza spot in the area. The weather was warm for early March and there wasn’t a stitch of snow on the ground – very unlike this year.

I remember the day vividly as a little taste of freedom. At the time my kids were 5 and 7 – and I was just entering the stage when it was okay to be away for a bit. Especially when you are a full-time, stay-at-home parent these moments of freedom are few and far between. I had this recurring feeling like I was forgetting something but then I realized that, nope…I was good. I breathed in the cool, spring air and felt the sunshine on my face and reveled in how light I felt.

My friend may or may not remember this day but it was a gift I will always appreciate. I’m so glad I came across this photo today.

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Happiness is a Cloud Word

realHave you noticed over the past few years, particularly through social media, that the idea of attaining a state of happiness is being pushed really hard? And you think, oh yes, it would be great to be happy. What do I have to do to be happy? And there’s all sorts of solutions; my favourite being Choose Happy. And then you think, but I’m not happy all the time – there must be something wrong with me. And you Google “happiness” and find 1001 ways to attain it. And you delve in and start trying these tried and true methods: gratitude, living life your own way, decluttering, finding God, etc. There’s even happiness challenges. After 21 days of doing this, this, and this, and you’ll be a happier person. You might even convince yourself at the end of it: I’m happier.
But are you? Have you ever considered what it means to be happy? Sure, it will mean different things for different people. But what is it REALLY? I think “happiness” is a cloud word. It doesn’t really mean anything. Sure, it’s positive but I don’t think it’s something that’s a constant. I don’t think you can BE happy. I think you can feel happiness at moments as a culmination of events but it’s fleeting. I find this constant push to “be happy” almost insulting, actually. There are some days when I don’t fucking feel like being happy. Does that mean there’s something wrong with me? No. But if you are inundated with messages telling you the opposite, what are you going to think?

I’m no psychologist (clearly) but I know, in my gut, when a trend is flawed. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out WHY I don’t like it, why when I see the messages my toes curl. Sometimes I don’t bother saying anything about it. I just ignore it. But normally I’m not good at ignoring things that bug me. I think the case of “Happiness” really bugs me because I know too many people who aren’t in a perpetual state of happy, and if they say they are – warning bells go off.

Here’s what I think we should be saying if we want to talk about positive things in our lives. If you feel happy – why do you feel that way? Have you been productive that day? You’re satisfied. Are you taking a mini vacation to some place you love? You’re excited. Are you feeling the kiss of the sun on your face and a warm breeze? You’re peaceful. Are you playing around and laughing with family and friends? You’re having fun.

Sure, there may be sprinklings of happiness throughout a day but it’s okay to acknowledge the shit that brought you down too. I’m frustrated. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m depressed. I don’t want to talk to anyone today.

I’d say lets start a campaign about being REAL. Let’s use terminology that is grounded. That means something. That is attainable. I mean, there are 100’s of 1000’s of people out there to whom happiness isn’t even a thought. Their goal is surviving the day – and I’m sure this is where someone would bring up the word gratitude (which I also abhor), but I won’t get into that term today. For those of us, who have time to consider our feelings – even dwell – lets acknowledge that life isn’t about happiness. Life is about ups and downs, successes and challenges. And sure, going about this in a positive way makes it easier but if you can’t that day, do the best you can with what you’ve got. That’s reality.

That’s REAL.

10+ Years

Today would have marked my mother’s 75th birthday had she lived. It seems strange to me that it’s already been just over 10 years since she passed away. Recently I read a quote which really resonated with me. It simply read “Grief changes shape but never ends.” (Keanu Reeves) When someone dies you wonder how you’ll live without them. Then, as time passes, you learn that you can go on but you cling to the memories. I doubt a day goes by that I don’t think of my mom. It may be a fleeting thought or it may be more deeper and longer…a memory of something we did together. Although I miss her very much, I don’t really feel the stinging pain of loss anymore. It’s kind of morphed into something gentler, softened still more by the warmth of the memories.

This photo is one of my favourites. It was taken about 2 years before she passed away. She had come to visit and to see her first grandchild. She was unable to hold him without the aid of the pillow, but, as you can see from her smile, she was absolutely thrilled. I remember that moment like it was yesterday and I’m so happy to be able to hold on to it.

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Love you, Mom. Happy birthday.

I See Spring

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Ottawa today. After work I sat on the back deck, sipped a beer, and soaked up the sun. It was so wonderful after such a horrible winter. Sadly, the weekend will be a bit nippy but I got some photos today that will remind me that, despite the set back over the next day or so, spring and warmer weather are definitely on their way.

Signs of life in the garden.

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Until next time…enjoy the little things. They’re often a sign of bigger and better things. 🙂

Procrastination and Pushing Yourself Beyond Your Comfort Zone

procrastination-whyHell ya.

I do both. A lot…and not in any particular order. And they are, theoretically, diametrically opposed. I’m better at procrastinating but I’m working on the other.

Actually, right now I’m eating a bag of chips.

Actually, right now I’m procrastinating. I’m supposed to be doing work for…work…

This whole going back to work thing is, believe it or not, going beyond my comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, I love being challenged, but I also love being under a blanket on my couch. BUT…You can’t make money doing that. Not really…not like the ads that tell you you can. Nope. You really can’t. Unless you have a really high interest on your savings account (does that even exist ANYWHERE?).

Anyway, my new job involves calling people on the phone. Lots of calling people on the phone. No matter how social I may seem, talking on the phone has never been my forte. I mean, I would just rather text or email. But I don’t like that about myself and so, I’m pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. At work, I try really hard to find more important things to do than call people…you know…procrastinate…but phoning people IS my job so I’ve brought myself to the edge, I’ve forced myself out of that comfort zone and said…you have to do this so do it NOW!

At work there’s not time for procrastination and I always function better under structure. Give me all the time in the world and I’m screwed. NOTHING…and I mean nothing…will ever get done. Light a fire under my ass and I’m the most productive person you’ve ever seen. I suppose a lot of people are like that but some are better at self-motivation than others. Anyway, the gist of all this is that I’m right where I should be and procrastination is becoming a thing of the past.

Well…almost. (I’d better get to work)

Until next time…tell me about your work habits (corporate or otherwise) in the comment section! You can procrastinate a little…but come on! Tell me NOW!! 🙂

Sliding into the Wild World of Business Travel

toronto_downtownI know I haven’t been “around” lately and I do apologize for that. My new life as a career person has created the need for re-prioritization of my activities…especially this week. The company I work for is, simply put, a train the trainer company. We train people how to be efficient and effective trainers. My role in the company is sales and customer support and, in order to do that effectively, it was decided that I should take a few of the workshops our company offers. Makes sense. The only workshop that was convenient both time and location-wise was in Toronto soooo this week I slid, head first, into the wild world of business travel for the first time of my life.

A week ago Sunday, I hopped the VIA Ottawa-to-Toronto-milk-run train for the 5 hour ride over hill and dale. For the most part, I don’t mind trains except that the older trains provide no lumbar support in the seats and wow! UNCOMFORTABLE. Also, I ate a ham and cheese sandwich which VIA should have paid me $7 to eat. It was truly the worst sandwich I’ve had since the last time I ate one on a VIA train (probably more than 10 years ago). Aside from those two complaints, the ride went smoothly and I was at Union Station before dark. Not that it really mattered whether it was dark out or not…

torontoI recently discovered that Toronto has a huge population of mutant mole people. They commute between work and transit in a large maze of underground tunnels. I had no idea, as a tourist, that this “underworld” existed but I found out all about it this time around. I was staying at the Sheraton on Queen Street which is accessible from Union Station through these tunnels. Now, lest you are envisioning me clamoring through dark, damp, stone tunnels, I’d better set your mind at ease. It is like walking through a very long mall (30 km to be precise): shiny tile floors, bright lighting, and lined with more stores and cafes than you’ve seen in a month of Sundays. The phenomenon is aptly named “The Path“.

Now, I know that many large cities have something similar so it’s likely not a “new” thing to everyone. Being a hick from Ottawa, though, where we have to bear the brunt of mother nature at every turn, The Path is quite an intriguing experience. I wouldn’t say that I love it, but it was convenient. It was much easier than trying to wheel my suitcase up Bay St. around construction and hoards of people and over all the bumps and cracks in the sidewalk. It was also a great place to grab a meal during our workshop one-hour lunch breaks and, with several Irish pubs sprinkled along The Path, we were able to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style.

suite_cotThe worst part of the trip was arriving at the Sheraton and discovering that I didn’t have a room booked. This was likely due to a miscommunication at work, which I’m sure will be ironed out, and really, in the end, was not a big deal. BUT for a first time business traveler, facing a hotel receptionist with the deer-in-the-headlights look, it’s a bit unnerving. Luckily for me, the hotel was very accommodating and, although they were fully booked, they put me in a suite room and I slept on a cot. No…not a cot…a COT with a 12″ mattress.  On Monday morning they got me into a nice cozy room and I enjoyed it for the rest of the week.

Overall, I’d say that business travel would be fun once or twice a year but that’s about it. I suppose if one had to do it all the time, you would get used to all the inconveniences of not being home, but it’s not anything like travelling for fun with your family and friends. In fact, the biggest thing I had trouble with was trying to find the inspiration to eat. I really had no desire to eat alone or to grab yet another tuna wrap from the cafe downstairs. I was happiest, after a day of training, to go back to my room, get into my pj’s and crawl into bed to watch TV.

The nice thing about trying something once is you get to see all the aspects for yourself. You get to make decisions on what you liked and what you didn’t, and, if the opportunity presents itself again, you know how you might handle it differently or what you might keep the same. If I got asked to travel for work again, I’d do it for sure. I love adventure. 🙂

Until next time…tell me about your business travel experiences in the comments! I love a good story! 🙂