Unexpected Beauty

Last week, H & I went to Niagara Falls for a mommy/daddy trip. With his new job it was an opportunity to both celebrate the occasion and also reconnect after months of stress and busy-ness.

Our plans were somewhat predictable – book one of those hotel deals on wagjag, stop by the outlet mall on the way in, go for dinner, use that free $25 casino voucher, check out the falls, have a blissful child-free sleep-in, then meander our way back home the next day.

All went according to plan, except the next morning my body awoke at 6:30am (it’s usual “with child” time). After lying in bed, by 7:15am I came to terms with the fact that the blissful child-free sleep-in was not happening.

I had a goal to incorporate more nature into this trip and, after checking the sunrise time, thought this would be a perfect opportunity to catch the sunrise over the falls, while H finished his sleep-in.

My way down to the falls was a mini adventure in itself – taking a ridiculously roundabout way to get there, chatting with a lovely elderly tourist from Korea, and discovering 2 Tim Horton’s that I hadn’t knew existed in the area.

Once I arrived at the main falls viewing area I was glad to see the sun hadn’t quite appeared yet, and I soaked in the quietness and bliss of being one of 15-20 people viewing the beauty of the falls, sharing this special moment kinda together, but not really together. As I searched out my perfect location a few of us smiled in acknowledgement as we passed each other.

Eventually I found the perfect spot, right in front of the American falls, where the sun crept up over the trees, glowing across the sky.

Niagara Falls Sunrise

The view. A picture doesn’t really do it justice. 🙂

I thought about how many times we’ve visited the falls and how this was that one perfect time where my body naturally woke itself, there was no breakfast buffet to hurry to, and the weather was relatively mild. Then took a moment to pray and give thanks for the beauty I was witnessing.

I opened my eyes and after a few seconds, a gentleman I had passed and smiled at earlier came and leaned on the railing next to me and started chatting. He was in his early-mid 40’s, had kind eyes, a charming smile, facial scruff, slightly taller than me, and was wearing a red and white hat (which reminded me of Where’s Waldo) and a grey hoodie. We talked briefly about the erosion of the falls and he turned to me smiling and said “You sound like you’re a teacher.” As he talked I became acutely aware that he smelled faintly of alcohol, casually took notice of the # of people around me, regretted leaving my wedding rings in the hotel room (one less thing to mug me for!) and thought “oh snap…this could get really awkward, really fast.”

We introduced ourselves (his name was T), shook hands, and shared our line of work – he was a lumberjack – super Canadian. I asked what brought him to Niagara Falls and he shared that he was from London, Ontario and that he was having a rough time in his life so took a little roadtrip. I said I was sorry to hear about his rough time, then (still aware of a potentially awkward situation) I casually shared that I was here, with my husband, on a mommy/daddy getaway while the kids were at their grandparents.

What happened next was fairly unexpected.

He mentioned that he could hear God calling him to walk with Him, but that the devil kept tempting him to do things he shouldn’t do.

And with that opening we spent the next 45 minutes conversing back and forth. He shared about his setbacks in life, his lack of support, his career difficulties, his 2 sons & how he felt he led a double-life and was ashamed of the things he did & hid from his children; his pastor, his passions, his father, his kids, his faith…how his mother had told him he was a waste of life. At times he openly wept, and at times we hugged. He showed me pictures of his beautiful sons and explained their idiosyncrasies. I shared details of my own life and struggles, shared pieces of my faith journey, offered suggestions that I hoped were helpful, but most importantly, listened.

Later, when our conversation turned to the casual topic of “I wonder if we could swim down there?”, and I was super aware of the large tea I had consumed earlier, I said that I should get going and asked if I could pray with him.

So side-by-side, we leaned on the railing, bowed our heads and prayed together, as the sun rose in front of us, over one of the wonders of the world.

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Our exact view for those 45 minutes.

As we started to part ways I asked if I could give him my e-mail, and said that he could reach out any time he needed someone to listen (at the same time, I hoped this wouldn’t be a move I’d regret and mentally weighed my urge to love with my risk-averse analyses). With one final hug I told him it was a blessing to connect with him this morning and walked away, with a mixture of emotions. Sad for T’s situation, in awe of the special moment that had transpired, thankful that all the right things were in place for that conversation to happen (I had nowhere else I had to be but there), guilty for the “dilemmas” I faced the previous day at the outlets (e.g. do I really need this pair of shoes or not?)…as well as anxious to find a washroom and slightly concerned that H would wonder what was taking so long (he was still sleeping when I returned).

As I headed back up I realized I hadn’t gotten T’s information, and would’t be able to reach out to him, so headed back down to see if I could find him, but unfortunately he was gone.

It’s been just over a week – and everyday I think and wonder about him and how he’s doing. Everyday I check the e-mail account I gave him, hoping that he’s written so that we can keep the conversation going. I did that nutty kinda thing where you search for them on Google and Facebook with super limited information, typing in things like “T lumberjack London, ON” to no avail. I hope he’s doing okay and, with time, will turn things around.

It was so special to share that morning with T, and I am continually amazed by the life I get to live. “On paper”, there’s nothing remarkable about my career/awards/resume-type accomplishments at this point in my life, but I am continually blessed with unexpected beauty & experiences everyday that leave me feeling lucky to live a quietly extraordinary life.

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Found & Lost

(I snaffooed in trying to make this post private – so rather than have it mysteriously show as “password protected” – I decided to just make this one public too. :))

Earlier this week I had an amazing experience. After a meet & greet with J’s new music teacher, I exited the door to someone asking “is this the door to go in?”

When I looked up I saw M – a man I had helped write a resume for 2 years earlier. It was an honor working on his resume as he had significant physiotherapy education and background in child physiotherapy, but was having difficulties conveying it through his resume. This resulted in him taking temp jobs, sometimes out of the city, which was placing all sorts of stresses on his family (including financial ones). I recalled how he regrettably could no longer enroll his daughter in piano lessons, as it was not within their budget.

As I worked with him, and learned more about him I could see what an asset he would be to Kidsability and suggested he apply there.

Imagine my surprise 3 months later when he emailed to let me know he would be starting at Kidsability the next day.

Imagine my further surprise bumping into him, while he was enrolling both of his children in violin and piano lessons, and to learn he had moved to an established neighborhood around the corner. How far he had come from when we first met 2 years ago.

For me, it felt like a message from God to encourage and say “you don’t know how I use you on my plans, but I do use you, and while you don’t understand how or why, your work makes an impact.” Often, more than you will ever know.

 

That evening, I came across the news that one of my favorite artists (and astronauts), Alan Bean had suddenly passed away a few months ago.

I was struck with a true sadness in my heart for our loss, but also felt grateful for another nudge/encouragement from God. The thing is, about 1 year ago I decided to email Alan to let him know what his work and career path (engineer –> astronaut –> painter) meant to me. In someways it was comforting to know that there were others out there who recognized they had amazing gifts to offer, beyond their impressive educated background/experience – and to pursue their callings and God-given talents. Even when others may wonder/mock/comment.

Alan wrote a short but lovely note back to me to share his sincere thanks and best wishes. I was so grateful for the opportunity to let him know what he meant to me, and maybe even make him smile that day, and to know that while I was sad to have lost him that I had no regrets in seizing the day  and letting him know his impact on me.

To me, that day felt like a real affirmation to continue to listen to God’s nudges and take the small steps I can take to improve or positively impact another’s life.

 

Now if I was more on top of it, I would have written this 5 days ago and stopped right there. But today, after a long day, feeling tired from multiple Church commitments, a lunch date with a friend, cleaning, then company over for a casual dinner I ended the night feeling a bit empty and, quite frankly, a bit lost.

I was confused. Just yesterday I shared with H how happy I was and how our home life and relationship had improved with my shift in focus from career to family. We had an *amazing* day – kicking things off with a 6:30am “PJ Hike” in a forested trail in our neighborhood, Tim Horton’s breakfast, completing errands, visiting an old friend with a new baby, visiting my parents and capping it off with some more errands and to do’s crossed off our list (including getting C a necklace matching J’s). With the finale of retreating to bed early for reading. Truly – I could not have asked for more.

 

Yet here I am today not feeling like I am “enough”. I think its because our company shared some job changes both they experienced and mutual friends experienced. While I was very happy for my friend (who had been contemplating a job, after being off for a year) it almost seemed like I envied these new adventures with higher pay cheques coming their way. It almost seemed like the affirmations I received earlier this week were just “meh”.

 

But as I reflect – I remember our sermon this morning. And how one of the messages was about how those people who are focused on their God-given purpose do not have time to be “kings over others” (which I interpreted as having fame, fortune, and brag-worthy things/titles). But are too busy focusing on their purpose and using their talents as God intended. Its easy to get sidetracked and want shiny new experiences/titles/things. But when I remember my purpose – to let those who don’t feel seen feel both seen and loved…to know that they matter…and when I remember the small actions/steps I take to continue that work, it seems pretty foolish to have allowed/convinced myself that I was less than others. That I wasn’t enough.

 

In God’s eyes, I am always enough, and I am always worthy of His love…yet I am always encouraged and reminded that I am capable of doing more to be His hands and feet…right here, right now.

 

 

 

 

I Overthought It…

It’s been about 3 months since I last wrote, and when I reflect on why there’s a gap, I realized there were a few reasons why I hadn’t written:

  1. I endeavored to have a slow summer. So much so, that I wrote an e-mail to my “e-mail update”/coffee date/lunch date friends to say I wasn’t going to make any plans for the summer and wouldn’t really be replying to e-mails. After a year of doing too much, I realized I needed to temporarily say no to some things, to give me a chance to refocus on my sleep and priorities. Getting run down wasn’t doing anyone any favours.
  2. Family time. Over the summer I shifted my hours to spend mornings with my daughters, then work while they were at daycare for lunch and naptime. It was great to have time for crafts, museum trips, baking, park visits, porch picnics, and creative programs at the library. No regrets, for sure. But this also meant I rushed to work after dropping them off, rushed from work to pick them up, and was not very planful or prepared for dinners (there were a few questionable meals that I threw together using random ingredients in the fridge! I raised my own eyebrows at myself when I made Asian stirfry using Italian spaghetti :P). By the time bedtime rolled around I was pooched, frustrated from meltdowns and mishaps, and not up for anything more than some mindless tv or reading.
  3. We did a 2 week road trip. While it wasn’t part of the plan for a slow summer, we have a relative in Nova Scotia whose health has been declining over the past few years and while it was unplanned (both time-wise and budget-wise) we knew we would not regret taking the opportunity to visit and make memories…but that we would regret it, if we didn’t visit before it was too late. This meant lots of research and prep. Some prep was for what we would see, but it was mainly planning for toys/distractions, meal plans (to keep them reasonably healthy and reasonably within budget!), and how to schedule our 19 hour car ride (over 3 days to get there and over 2 days to get back). With all that planning, it left little mindspace for other things.
  4. I overthought it. I’ve had a lot of personal growth over the past year and done more things than I ever imagined – as small as making bread and granola bars from scratch for the first time (I found yeast scary!) to other more significant and spiritualchallenges. There would be times I thought of a topic to write/reflect on/celebrate, but then I thought “mm, this is really just something I want to journal for myself…” and wouldn’t write, because sometimes when you’re celebrating things, depending on the reader’s perception, it can come off not as you intended. I overthought it (which, in my “About” section, was something I said I wouldn’t do!).

I’m all about change, trying something different, seeing how it works, and changing it again to see if a tweak or different direction works better.

I initially started the blog to give myself a creative outlet, a place to reflect, and an opportunity to connect with others. As readership grew I focused more on “what am I experiencing and how would sharing this experience help others?”. And now, I’m back to the original intention of tracking my memories and writing for me to look back on and share with my daughters. So for now, I’ve decided to stick to writing just for me.

And, of course, this could change again in time! 🙂 (p.s. I still need to figure out the technical part of how to make future posts private, so if I flub some of the first few, subscribers might see something again!) But for now, this feels right.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for sharing your support, experiences, and encouragement.

Until next time! 🙂

Tiffany

A Good Day

As I settled into bed tonight, I pulled the covers up happily. Feeling fulfilled and content with life. It made me think “it’s just a normal Monday, what really happened today?”

And then I remembered how in the last 18 hours I (in reverse order)…gave a friend advice with their start up business, got late night groceries and chatted with my favourite cashier who always greets me with an excited “heeeey!! How are you doing!?!?” Like we’re long lost friends (though she likely doesn’t know my name), saw/purchased for the first time “Peace by chocolate” chocolates prominently sold at Sobeys which was a highlight of my evening (a company started by Syrian newcomers who came to Canada 2 years ago and started their business with the help of their Antigonish, Nova Scotia community), successfully requested/received a refund when the company accidentally overcharged me (by 5x), engaged in meaningful discussion at the school’s parent council meeting, finally submitted our tire purchase rebate, rescheduled J’s swimming which switched her to today (so taking 3/4 of our fam to the Y for activities today) , and signed myself and C up at the Y again (we stopped over winter); actually got off work on time and decided to pick J up from school 1 hour early to go on a spontaneous mommy/daughter noodles date and spend some quality time together, comforted a student at work who found out her young friend had passed away from heart failure, supported a friend going through emotional distress, supported a friend going through physical distress, worked, survived the usual morning bamboozle craziness, and cleaned up a 2 year old who started her morning by stripping her sheets, taking off her clothes and poopy diaper…while trying to also encourage her to use the toilet (like, for real, not just sitting on it and stuffing toilet paper into the toilet bowl).

Overall – a very full, but also fulfilling day of normal, everyday life. Something I know I take for granted and don’t stop to appreciate often enough.

There are moments where you feel like you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing and being the person you’re meant to be – and those, my friend,are moments to be celebrated and enjoyed.

Daily Snapshot – #29

“I fall. I rise. I make mistakes. I live. I learn. I’ve been hurt, but I’m alive. I’m human. I’m not perfect, but I’m thankful.” – Unknown

(During our vacation I had all the best intentions of doing a daily travel journal to note the big and small things of each day, so I could revisit and relive…you may have seen “Travel Journal – Day 1″…and then nothing else! With late night strolls, almost daily laundry, and plan setting for the next day the nights ran late and it just didn’t happen. And that’s okay. 🙂 I still plan to jot down notes about our trip so I can review them in the future, and even though they won’t be as fulsome…it’s okay. I’m learning that imperfect is perfectly okay.)
I am grateful for … warm spring weather, new courage to reduce the number of committees I’m on (in an effort to create more space in my schedule, more balance, and, in turn, feel less drained), Faithwalking Retreats that give me an opportunity to get to know 3 individuals better in an authentic and intimate way, and that most of my frequent destinations (work, church, grocery, gas station, etc.) are in such close proximity to my home.
I am hopeful that… I continue to consciously notice when I’m multi-tasking and take a step back to critically look at whether multi-tasking is the most efficient. And challenge myself to … determine why I’m multi-tasking different things, determining the root cause (do I need prepare better, do I have the right tools to do things where I need to do them, etc.) and figuring out ways to be more present with whatever task is at hand.
I enjoyed … taking C to the grocery store for some one-on-one time. Usually I either take J or both of them, but I’ve noticed that with J’s school times, the need to prepare dinner, etc. I just don’t have the one-on-one time with C that I want (and that I had with J). Because I only had to focus on her I let her walk through the store (instead of plunking her into the cart – a.k.a. holding pen) and she was ecstatic to see the grocery store from a different view and so proud to hold some of our purchases and plunk them on the conveyor belt when we paid. C is such a bundle of fun who is constantly pushing boundaries and keeping us on our toes…while we do point out when she does funny/sweet things, sometimes I feel like we work so hard to remind her of the boundaries that we don’t get to savour her individual loveliness.
Previous Challenge: I am hopeful that… I place rest at the top of my priority list as much as possible And challenge myself to … meditate when I want to relax or feel like I need some time to “escape”, instead of watching tv or surfing the web. I recently unfollowed all of my friends on facebook (yup, even you!) and that has been great for taking away the feeling that I’m “missing out” if I don’t check. Unfollowing everyone means my newsfeed shows nothing – so rather than being pushed updates, I need to intentionally think “I wonder what so and so’s up to…” and pull the update. So far, I think I’ve only pulled 2 updates in the last 2 weeks. While limiting time-wasters is a good step, I’m hoping that meditating will (1) replace old habits, making it easier to break the twitch and (2) allow me to intentionally tune in to what my body needs (which I expect most of the time will be sleep), so that I can address the core issue, instead of distracting myself from it.
 
Update on Previous Challenge: This is a constant challenge and a constant work in progress. My decision to reduce my committee involvement is an effort to make more room for rest – though I need to fight my own urges to then fill that space with other enjoyable things and become disciplined at telling myself no. It’s true that there is a time and season for everything, and some seasons are busier, but I think by changing my mindframe was “Do I have something already booked? If not, err on the side of doing it” – going the other way and committing to myself “I will make no more than x commitments per week – whether they are learning, social, mandatory, because I need time for rest. Real rest that fills my bucket – not ‘rest time’ that I can use to catch up on my home to do list.”

Travel Journal – Day 1

 

And so it begins!

Pic 1 – After planes, trains and automobiles we arrived at an english cafe for afternoon tea with my friend Cait. We live on different corners of Canada…so the most convenient time to meet was when we were in London. Naturally.

Pic 2 – The clever thing to do would have been to take a picture of the food before delving in. It didn’t happen. These were the leftovers.

Pic 3 – Buckingham Palace with Herb (and Cait). We pondered deep thoughts like “do they randomly start marching with their partner to keep the blood circulation flowing?”, “why are some curtains pink and some cream?”, and “I wonder how much it costs to heat this place…”

Pic 4 – Gorgeous row of mews.

Pic 5 – The dorky tourist photo of a phone booth and double decker bus. Made more awkward as locals walked by chuckling.

Pic 6 – This street is behind our apartment and just sits in its natural, unassuming beauty. I could probably take hundreds of pictures just of their streets and still not be done. I’m a little obsessed.

Not pictured – grocery shopping, our homemade stir fry dinner (our bodies craved wholesome food after recent unhealthy eating), picking out a London book for the girls (we bought J a Chicago book years ago and it’s a memorized favourite, and started a tradition of buying children’s books about our travels), and almost getting run over a few times (these pedestrian crossways are  not for the faint of heart and call for bold strides while maintaining eye contact that says “neither of us know who truly has the right of way, but right now I’m claiming it, thanks.”

And now…we sleep. 🙂

 

My Facebook “Unfollowing” Party

Four months ago, I sat on the couch with H, venting that I was feeling overwhelmed. Not by any one thing in particular, but by all the little things added up. I did a brain dump of all that was on my mind/plate – skating lessons for J, swimming lessons for both J&C, parent council, book club, 3 friends going through a rough time that I wanted to support, a handful more friends who I had been meaning to touchbase with, the mess at the “decluttering station” (i.e. the dining room, where I had been putting things to sort), prayers I hadn’t made time for, Deacon-related responsibilities I hadn’t yet fulfilled, nudges from God to take on different things, yet I was already feeling overwhelmed and behind on life.

Later that evening, I was doing a “pre-bed facebook scroll”. As I scrolled through, I remembered a reminder I read earlier in the day to remove the negativity from your life – whether it was people, things on your newsfeed, etc. I decided to start “unfollowing” people that weren’t adding value to my life.

Initially, I unfollowed any post that didn’t make me feel good. It included those that were haughty, those that were ungrateful, and those that were boastful.

Then, I realized I could do this more efficiently from the settings page, and was an unfollowing machine. I clicked on the faces that didn’t make me feel good, the faces that were acquaintances from high school or university – only keeping the people that gave me warm fuzzy feelings, that I wanted to support, or that posted really interesting articles.

I refreshed (following ~140 friends) – eagerly looking forward to seeing a newsfeed letting me know what was going on in the lives of the people I cared about.

What I found in the first 5 posts was a bunch of shared Delish/Tasty video recipes and quiz results.

I realized that many of the people I cared about didn’t write too much about themselves on facebook, but rather shared things that were of interest. It was almost like my newsfeed had become a curated homepage of bait click-y links.

Fine, I thought – I’ll just keep it to family, best friends, and my neighborhood mom friends. That way I stay on top of family pictures and know what mom friends are talking about when they reference a recent post. But even when I refreshed that, there were still posts that popped up that I didn’t want to see.

How can I set this so that I only see updates on people’s lives, like the real updates that let me know how they’re doing? And then I figured out…if I want to know how someone was doing – I should either go directly to their page, or e-mail/message them and ask!

Like…connect. For real.

We’ve become such a society of convenience where convenience is often interpreted as things being “pushed” to consumers instead of “pulled” by consumers. For instance, I once watched a Dragon’s Den episode where the Dragon’s were commending a restaurant app that tracked your GPS location and automatically sent you notifications & reviews about great restaurants where you were. Sounds “convenient”, but also sounds like a great way to burn through your bank account. If you weren’t planning to go to a restaurant, why would you want little messages/pings making you feel like you should go or giving you FOMO for not going?

I determined my newsfeed wasn’t giving me daily personal updates on my friends like I thought it was. So then I decided to unfollow the whole lot. Even my husband. Even you.

It was so freeing to feel like there wasn’t a newsfeed I “needed to catch up on”. Sure, I could have just disabled my account…but knowing me, that would feel too permanent.

I like the way I can message friends quickly through facebook. I like that people can still look at my page if they want to. And now I like that if I think of a person and want to see how they’re doing I can look them up specifically or, better yet, reach out to them.


Aside from the beginning “four months ago”, I wrote all of the above in January and never got around to posting it.

So four months later how are things going?

  • I don’t miss having a newsfeed. I can count the # of people I’ve looked up on one hand, but I’ve messaged more to actually ask and see how they’re doing.
  • In the beginning I did find I had more time for the things I hadn’t been making time for. But eventually as life busy-ness, winter sickness, etc. happened I went back to old vices that are time-wasters (I’m looking at you, people.com)
  • After realizing that I had replaced a bad habit with a new bad habit, I tried breaking the twitch by not bringing my phone into the bedroom, and charging it in the kitchen.
  • I’ve come to terms that January to April is a busy time in our house. It always has been due to work schedules and looks like it always will be in the foreseeable future…and on top of that I took on a number of new responsibilities in the last year that made it even more busy. Rather than trying to numb the feelings of being overwhelmed and stretched with mindless browsing – I would have been better off sleeping more (though any parent could tell you that the last thing you want to do after a bedtime struggle that lasts until 9pm after a long day, is to get in your pj’s while you’re still fired up… but maybe I need to change my mindframe about sleep and how sleeping early is a treat for my mind and body, vs. “the responsible thing to do”.
  • Self-care during and after busy times is important. I.e. Taking the time to see friends, planning those getaways (big or small), making plans to look forward to (whether they’re at home, at a restaurant, or at a nearby trail).
  • I plan to continue not following anyone, but also need to replace bad browsing habits with reading, sleeping, meditation and stretching.

While I may be a bit “behind” on the latest happenings of what’s going on in everyone else’s daily life, overall I feel I’m a lot more ahead on being present and intentional in my own life.