Saturday, March 17, 2012

Appreciate and Dream

Recently I had someone tell me that I don't appreciate some of the things that are in my life. My gut reaction to this was outrage, making me want to fight back with my denials- and some of that did happen. However, after the fire died down,I had time to reflect (something that has been force fed into me with this Masters program that I am enrolled in). And I began to wonder if I really had become too comfortable, thereby making me ungrateful. Of course, this self reflection led to my overthinking which is how this blog started in the first place.

A few years ago, I felt as though I had arrived at a place in my life where I was very unappreciative of the many blessings I had- to the point where I felt almost entitled to my good fortune. Until this past week, I thought that I had worked through that phase and finally arrived at a mid point of balance where I try not to take anyone or anything for granted, where I appreciate what I have, and if I want more I work for it. Apparently I haven't been as successful at maintaining that balance as I thought.

This has led, of course, to a new plan- kind of an old plan that is being revisited and revised for my life right now.

1. Every morning write down three things that I am grateful for. This could be the people in my life, the home that I live in, the new connections that I am making that are helping me to grow and learn, the education that I am so fortunate to have access to, or even the new coffee maker sitting on the kitchen counter. Big or small, if I am grateful, it gets added to the list. I only add 3 per day, but it is a continuous, always growing list.

2. Each day write down one thing that I want to accomplish in my life. Again this can mean grand goals like finishing my Masters degree, writing a book, developing educational resources, running a half marathon or it can mean something simple like learning how to bake an apple pie that you don't have to eat with a spoon, taking a ski lesson to keep up with my son on the slopes, or entering a dance competition. This is also a list that continues to grow.

These two lists will give me balance and perspective. I can dream big and small while still remaining grounded with who and what in my life are helping me to achieve these dreams.

Last weekend I watched the movie Bridesmaids with my daughter. Although it was a laugh out loud comedy as I had expected, it also had an unexpected message. The lead character is kind of pathetic as her life goes from bad to worst as she watches her best friend plan and live her dream wedding. At first I felt sympathetic towards Annie as she had lost her cake business during the Recession, she had a job in a jewelry store and had to help countless couples who were sickeningly in love select wedding rings, her best friend was getting married, she lived with a pitiable brother/sister landlord duo, and she "dated" a man who only met her when it suited him. But as her situations seemed to become more complicated, it was obvious that Annie was her own worst enemy. She was also quite adept at pinning the responsibility for her woes on other people and circumstances beyond her control, which was not the case. Finally, Megan- the tell it like it is bridesmaid- launches a physical attack on Annie to get her to fight back and take control of her life again. Instead of letting life beat you up, get up and fight. Look around at what you can do, at what you have, and fight.

Life wasn't hitting me on the head or flipping me backwards off the sofa. It didn't have to. All I needed to do was take notice of what is right in front of me, and to appreciate what and who I have in my life. Appreciate and dream, that is the new plan.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Presence

I wrote this for a writing contest a few years ago. It suits my mood today. The end of it is what I need to focus on. We all need a presence in our life to keep us going when we feel as though we can't take one more step, or one more breath. I won't lose my faith in what is good and right, it's just that some days are more difficult than others.

The inevitable letdown attacked her early this year. It was just two days after the frenzied celebration of Jesus’ birth: a baby whose human life had apparently been sparked by the miracle of an Immaculate Conception.

Peace, joy, and glory to God in the Highest were vacant from her mind as she felt the strength melt from her limbs. With each passing second, her body oozed her will out of every pore until she was merely a puddle of flesh, muscles, bones, and tears on her kitchen floor.

At first, it felt like a small nudge, then a sharp poke, and finally, a kick in the stomach that made the bile rise in her throat and threaten to spill out of her whimpering mouth. Through the reddened slits of her eyes she tried to see who was causing her suffering and misery to intensify.

She saw ripples of movement, but no person.
She felt a presence of peace, and warmth touched her skin.
She heard the echo of the voice in her head.
“Get up my child. My vision for you is not yet complete. I breathe my strength and my hope into your soul to give you the will to move, to rise, to have faith.”

Upon hearing those words, the burden in her heart shifted enough to allow her to pull herself up. The power of the message slowly filled her. She could live again.

Life throws things at us for a reason. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer to figure out the reason.

The Chocolate is back, and I promise the next post will be more uplifting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It is OK to Cry

I am a quick crier. I believe that I have been genetically wired to respond to emotional situations with tears. This happens when I'm happy, sad, angry, frustrated, scared, and definitely when I'm hormonal. It is not something that I'm proud of. In fact, I am embarrassed by how quickly the tears can well up, usually accompanied with a very red nose that also begins to run- not very attractive. As I have gotten older, I have tried to control my weeping responses. When I feel the burn beginning at the back of my eyes and the tingling at the tip of my nose, I know that I am on the verge of a PDE (Public Display of Emotion). Deep breathing helps. Removing myself mentally from the situation has also been a trick that I have used. But sometimes, I just have to let the waterworks flow. With the release of the tears also comes the release of the tension that I feel in trying to hold it all in. What's wrong with showing people that I care, or that I have feelings that are very visible? If I asked my children this question, I know that they would say that it embarrasses the people who I am with. They would be speaking from experience. Others have told me that it makes me appear weak, that I am seeking attention, that I use it as a strategy to evoke sympathy from others, thereby getting what I want in a difficult situation. However, when I reflect on the reasons why, I know that there really is no ulterior motive. It is what I do. It is a response that is as natural to me as someone who shouts when she is angry, or someone who withdraws into herself when sad.

Last night I once again found myself in a very public social setting when one of my emotional moments surfaced. I am a volunteer with the Sunshine Foundation Dreams for Kids which is Canadian organization that provides dreams for children across Canada who are living with severe physical disabilities or life threatening illnesses. It is a charity that is dear to my heart, and one that I believe truly makes a difference in the lives of the children and families that it helps. Throughout the year, our Sunshine Chapter is involved in a variety of fundraising initiatives in order to continue to raise money to make dreams come true. Each year our biggest fundraiser is our Spring Suitcase Party. With generous donations from many sponsors, we are able to provide an evening of dinner and entertainment with a chance to win one of 3 donated trips. I am always amazed by the money and prizes that are so generously donated as we are also able to fill the evening with many opportunities to win other prizes as well. The people who attend the event are also to be commended by how quickly they open their purses and wallets as they are asked to buy door prize tickets, surprise suitcase tickets, 50/50 tickets, and bid on silent auction items. In the many years that I have attended and helped with this evening, I have never heard a negative comment or complaint about the number of times we approach with yet more tickets in hand. Last night, I was in charge of selling tickets for our Surprise Suitcase draw. No sooner had people arrived and paid for their tickets for the evening, and there I was asking them to buy more tickets. There wasn't one person who said no to me, and not one person who appeared annoyed with the request.

Once the crowd was settled at their tables, we wanted to ensure that our sponsors were recognized as the evening would not be possible without them. The lights were dimmed, the power point presentation began with the listing of our sponsors, background music with the theme of 'making dreams come true' was playing, and that is when I felt that familiar sensation- the prickly eyes, the tingling nose. I knew that the tears were soon to appear. When the presentation went on to include pictures of recent dream presentations in our area, I didn't even try to hold back the tears(although I was glad that the room was dark). How could I not react to the photo of the ecstatic boy who had just undergone a kidney transplant- donated by his father- as he held up every imaginable electronic device that a twelve year old boy could hope to claim as his own. This boy's dream was to have a bedroom makeover as he was confined to his home for three months following his surgery. Next, were photos of another twelve year old boy, who has been blind since birth, as he was presented with a dream trip to Disney World in Florida for him and his family. Jason's dream was particularly meaningful to me as I know the family personally, and I know the struggles that they have faced over the years.
As we finished viewing the photos, and then watched the Sunshine Foundation's public awareness video highlighting many dreams across Canada, the room filled with 200 people was silent. How could it not be when you listened to the stories of these brave children and then saw the smiles on their faces when they received their dreams? It makes each one of us grateful and humble.

If my tears make me appear weak, dramatically emotional, or embarras the people around me, then so be it. It is a part of who I am that I am learning to accept and embrace. It is my way to show that I care, that I have feelings, and that I am real.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Return of the Chocolate

It has been more than 9 months since my last post. I honestly thought that the Chocolate of Women had melted away into a forgotten milk chocolate pool. There are many reasons why The Chocolate lay dormant, but there is only one reason why I have decided to resurrect it- I love to read what the voice inside my head is saying as the words are screaming to get out, to make myself heard.

At this moment in my life, I have a strong need to shout for change.

"Change is challenging. We get accustomed to things as they are, but change can bring new opportunities you would never know if things remained the same. Give it a try and stretch beyond your limits...through change your soul will take will soar!"

The preceding quote was taken from the Facebook status of "I Believe She Is Amazing". I have written about this incredible movement of women in an earlier post. It exemplifies the power of friendship and the lasting effect that the people in our lives can have. This quote appeared a few days ago, and it spoke to me so strongly that I had to copy it and post it on my status as well. Finally, I was given the motivation I needed to write again.

But, why this quote? Why now? I have always believed that change is a necessary part of life. I am not a person who dreads it, but instead I welcome it with open arms. I feel like a caged animal when the circumstances of my life remain stagnant, especially when they seem out of my control. There isn't one area of my life that is left untouched by this need for change- my career, my writing, my family and friends, my home, my desire to learn and do more. I have made a decision recently that is going to change and affect each one of these life circumstances. I am facing the challenge of the change with excitement tinged with fear and a bit of nostalgia. But, I know that I am ready, and I know that I am capable of coping with the good and the bad that comes with any change.

Someone once presented the analogy of a wind chime to me when referring to change in a person's life. She said that I am like the center chime. The movement of the wind is the change in my life. As the wind becomes stronger, each of the chimes begins to sway in reaction. Sometimes the change is welcome and produces a sweet, melodius harmony. However, it can sometimes be considered an intrusion resulting in harsh discord. I can't control the reaction of the chimes around me, but I can control the music that I choose to have in my life.

There are days that I feel as though everyone is telling me what to do, how to think, how to be better, what to choose, and how I should be living my life. The past few weeks have been filled with these 'helpful' suggestions from people that I expect it from, and from others who surprised me with what they were saying and how they were saying it. I'm told that these suggestions are what make me stronger. I guess I will find out. I will face the change, and I will "stretch beyond my limits", on my own or with you. We'll see.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Child Stranger

A few weeks ago, I posted the comment "Sometimes something appears in your life at just the right time, for reasons that are only clear to you." Another such moment occurred in my life just yesterday.

It was another testing day in London for my youngest daughter- more of a check up than any real concern, but still a full day. Although necessary, the thoughts of sitting in that room for hours, the sounds, the smells, the bad decor and the trigger of memories, created a sense of claustrophobia, and a need for escape. As my daughter was led away by a trusted professional, I was left with a mound of psychological questionnaires to be completed "to the best of your ability and memory, Ms. Van Moorsel". I'm sure the look wasn't meant to be pretentiously sympathetic, but honestly, how many other parents had she handed the same clipboard to, with the same duty of questions to be answered. Why was I so grumpy? I had done this before. I knew the drill.

Trying to knock the chip off my shoulder as I settled into the task at hand, I was about one third of the way through my first set of coloured circles, when three rambunctious children- ages approximately 3-9- came roaring through the door, and proceeded to argue over the antiquated table top hockey game sitting on a pint size table in the middle of the already crowded room. Of course, my feet got stepped on, my clipboard was knocked off my knee, my concentration was instantaneously snapped. I tried to conjure up memories of my own experiences in trying to handle three children being dragged to a place where they obviously didn't want to be. This helped to quell the impatience building up inside of me- for a bit. The dad floated in and out of the room as he tried in vain to keep the kids under some semblance of control, while speaking to the receptionist, and then disappearing altogether, leaving the 9 year old in charge, as he had forgotten something in the car. I was starting to thaw a bit more as once again, I remembered being the parent of three young children and trying to be in three places at once, without looking like a negligent parent. When dad reappeared, he resumed his questioning of the receptionist, and then, with the announcement of a patient's name over the hospital intercom system, immediately told daughter number 2 (approximately 5 years old) that it was time for her test. Baby brother was scooped up into dad's arms; daughter number 2 stood frozen in the middle of the room and then began to sob quietly; daughter number 1 rushed to her side, gave her a hug, and promised her that it wouldn't hurt, and she needed to be brave just like the other times. Not only had my chip been completely knocked off my shoulder, and my paperwork forgotten, but my motherly instinct kicked in as I wondered how I could help this distraught family. Before I had time to act, dad, still trying to balance baby brother but now with daughter number 2 openly sobbing and gripping his arm like a vice, disappeared out the door and down the hall.

I must have been openly staring because as soon as daughter number 1 sat down in one of those pint sized chairs, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
"She always gets scared when she has to have her MRI. Even though she's had so many, she doesn't like them. She has a brain tumour you know, and it makes me sad to see her scared."

Not only thawed, but completely melting in a pool by my feet, my heart went out to this child, forced to grow up too quickly. To wonder about the injustice of such a situation would drive any family mad with the question "Why?". For me, the "why" of their situation was answered when I listened to that 9 year old girl openly proclaim her love for her little sister. I needed to hear that on this particular day. I needed to have my faith and belief in the love we have for the people in our lives once again restored. That family, faced with the fight of a lifetime, gave me two gifts yesterday- the gift of perspective, and the gift of appreciation- and for that I thank them.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"I Believe She's Amazing"

Sometimes something appears in your life at just the right time, for reasons that are only clear to you. The link that I started this post with, is exactly one of those perfectly timed "somethings". As soon as I read the message on the "I Believe She's Amazing" website, and watched the YouTube video in honor of Erika Heller, I knew that I had to write about this extraordinary woman and her best friend.

My strong belief in connecting women, sharing our stories, and creating strength for one another is the reason that I started this blog. At that Perils of Perfectionism workshop that I attended almost one year ago, I was inspired to find my own way of sharing and communicating. I wanted everyone to know that I wasn't perfect, but that didn't matter. As long as I knew that I strived for excellence in all that I did, as long as I knew that I tried my best to befriend, to mother, to grow, and to love, then the people in my life would accept my imperfections and know that they didn't matter. I wanted The Chocolate of Women to be a space where women felt safe in sharing, what they consider, their flaws and weaknesses. But, I also wanted a forum for shouting our accomplishments with confidence.

What does this have to do with "I Believe She's Amazing" and Erika Heller's story? The passion I have for bringing women together- for me through my writing- was mirrored and magnified for me when I read about Kim MacGregor's living legacy in honour of her best friend. Kim's words show her love for her best friend, and also her passion for her belief in women.

"I love the song I Believe (from the movie Honey, sung by Yolanda Adams), in part because Erika gave me a necklace with the word believe etched on it. Now I believe in something bigger: that this one video can unite 1,000,000 people globally, creating the largest living legacy of friendship.

I hope this story and the video inspire you, put a smile on your face, and remind you of the amazing women in your own life who make your world a better place. This site gives you the chance to say "I believe she's amazing" to all the moms, sisters, aunts, grandmas, teachers, daughters, wives and girlfriends who matter and who make you believe in yourself!

I have joined Kim's journey to unite, and I believe that I can inspire even more women to recognize the amazing women in their lives. So, come along on the ride to 1,000,000.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thank You

With each new blog post, I am always amazed with some of the responses that I get, and by the people who are actually reading what I write. This past week, however, I was humbled and honoured by the response to the email that I sent out to my contact list to notify my fellow "chocolate" women that I was indeed back from the abyss of not knowing what to write, how much to write, and determining whether to write at all. It wasn't just the encouragement that I received to continue with the sharing of my mind. It was also the courage that women have had to share their own experiences with me. Some of these experiences are life changing and dramatic, others are frustrations of daily living mixed with simple pleasures. Your stories inspire me to continue to write. They also remind me to absorb more of what I am actually writing in order to live the life that I really want. They remind me that we are part of a larger community of women, and this makes the isolation of the problems seem much less overwhelming.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a posting entitled "Digging Out From Under A Bad Week". I made a list that I was going to try to live by that would not only get me through the bad weeks, but would also allow me to build up my tolerance and strength during the good weeks. Somehow, that list, and the confidence of that list, was sucked from consciousness, and was finally excavated from my subconscious mind over the past few days. The reacquaintance with my blog, the writing of my new post, the emails, and the conversations all guided me back to that list.

* Each day, I will do one thing just for me. This may be as simple as going to a yoga class, sipping on a tea with no interruptions, or writing on my blog (also uninterrupted). Or it could be as grandiose as planning a vacation or indulging in a spa day.

This was the number one item on my list, and this is the item that I made sure that I selfishly adhered to once again. So what did I do this week?
* read for fun at least once a day
* started planning my summer
* started writing again
* took off on my bike
* watched International House Hunters every night (current favourite show)
* went dancing
* coffee every morning; tea at night
* sat by a lake
* dreamed of a vacation home

Not bad for one week. With a bit of awareness, I actually amazed myself with my "what I did for me" list. Maybe that's the key. Try to remember what made you feel good at the end of the day, write it down, or say it out loud. This makes for a much better sleep aid than dredging up the bad.

So, thank you for reading, thank you for writing back, and thank you for making me seem normal.