You Might As Well Love It

Well, having survived the “snowmageddon” of last week, here we are in the midst of yet more snow.  Welcome to February in Canada!  Everywhere I turn, I am greeted by complaints and the sounds of people who are feeling a certain way right about now;  lots of winter behind us, and lots of winter still ahead of us!   One of my friends posted on Facebook this morning, “snow, snow go away, come again another. . . year!”  When I stepped outside the other day and greeted a neighbour with “what a beautiful day!” all she had to say back was, “I hate winter!”  Does everybody feel that way?

Well, Gus doesn’t!  This guy has the right attitude.  He can’t wait to get outside in the snow and run around, even if he’s just been roused from the coziest sleep.  You would think he was let loose in a combined fluffy playground and buffet!  He will run like crazy and dig his face deep into the snow, and then stop and take a great big mouthful of the stuff for a snack.  It’s hilarious to watch.

Sometimes he’ll just sit quietly in the snow on the deck, and it seems like he’s just admiring how beautiful it really is.

I think he’s got the right idea.

Let’s face it, even if the groundhog was right, winter is going to be here for a while.  We might as well find something about it to love.

Like how beautiful the trees look. . .

Or how peaceful it is to walk down the snowy path. . .

Or all the fun things you can do with the snow besides shovelling it. . . (okay, you do need thumbs for this!)

How many times in our lives are we going to be stuck with events or situations that might not be our first choice?  Let’s face it, if I was offered a free trip to some sun-soaked beach destination I’d be out of all this beautiful winter in a flash!  But, here I am for the duration, so I’ve decided to make the best of it.  There is always a way to put a positive spin on wherever you are, and whatever you are dealing with.  Research has proven that people who are optimistic and focus on the positive side of events always fare better, and live longer, healthier lives.  So, pull on those snow pants and lace up those waterproof  boots or skates, and get out there and enjoy this stuff.  You might even find someone out there to play with!

It’s Gus’s Big 5.0!!

It’s Gus’s fifth birthday today!  Like any mom, I’m excited, proud and a bit nostalgic all at the same time.

While I can’t believe 5 whole years have passed, I also can’t seem to remember a time when Gus wasn’t part of our lives.  I am also doing my best to not focus on the down side of time marching forward.  I have vowed to keep it positive!

So we will celebrate this birthday as we always do – with some treats, some special members of the family, and with a toast to all the things that make Gus so important to us all.  I thought I would post a few pictures to help tell the story and to bring you some smiles. Happy Birthday Big Guy!

First bath

Best stick ever!

Hangin' out with the gang

Frisbee love

Mom made me wear this hat

With my brother Lucky

Life’s great!

Don’t Be Afraid To Make The First Tracks

So here we are again.  The fields are covered in snow.  The sun is blazing, despite the -15 degree temperature.  It’s a beautiful day to be outside, as long as you’re dressed for the weather.

I love to stand at the top of the hill and look down onto the sparkling expanse of snow below.  I’m always a bit reluctant to take the plunge and begin tramping ahead with Gus.  Somehow it seems a bit sad to puncture the pristine snow with my clompy boots and his prancing paws.  Never mind.  On we go, and before long, the field is a mess of footprints and pawprints; leaving evidence of everywhere we’ve been.   For the past two mornings we have spent ages outside in the fields; running and playing in the snow, and working up a sweat despite the freezing temperatures.  We’ve had the best time.

It’s a bit like life itself, isn’t it?  When we are about to begin something fresh and new, we stand on the brink, contemplating what we are about to dive into.  It’s often a mix of excitement, wonder and trepidation all rolled together that can keep us perched there; immobilized.  As if we’re afraid of ruining that perfect image before us with our footprints and actions, as we forge ahead into new territory.

You’ll think I’m nuts, but I’m reminded of something silly from my childhood.  When we were little, my siblings and I used to argue over who got to “break the rink” on a new jar of peanut butter, by being the first one to dig a knife into it.  (Boy, were we easy to entertain!)  I guess we knew then that it was less important to gaze at the perfectly smooth surface than to get on with taking the plunge, and enjoying what would come next.

Get going!

It’s the journey itself that matters most

This morning at the end of our walk, Gus bounded up the front steps and plopped down as he always does to wait for me to toss him his cookie.  There he is in the picture, sitting and waiting for our little ritual that marks our return home.  It suddenly dawned on me that, in the four years we have spent together, Gus and I have been on more than 1200 walks!  When I think about the mileage we have covered, it is truly mind-boggling.  I have worn through several pairs of walking shoes to prove it.  As I pondered this, I was struck by an even more incredible fact.  Despite the distance we have covered together, we always end up in exactly the same place at the end of our walk:  right on our own front porch where we started!  I suppose you could say that, despite all of our walking, we haven’t really gone anywhere at all.

What a concept.  Walking and walking, yet ultimately ending up right back in the same place.  To some, it might seem crazy.  But not to me.

You see, for Gus and for me it’s the walk itself that is the whole point.

Sure, a daily walk is a great source of exercise and fresh air.  I highly recommend it for all the obvious reasons.  But, if you’ve been reading here for a while, you will know that  there is so much more that happens when we are out walking together.  Every day on our journey we meet people and dogs. We make new friends and share experiences.  We are inspired by magical sights right in our own neighbourhood.  In fact, it is while we have been out walking, ultimately going nowhere, that all the important lessons have occurred.

Today is my 49th birthday.  I’ve had a perfectly lovely day.  I got hugs and good wishes from family and friends near and far.  I had lunch with two incredibly special women. I had dinner with my wonderful family.  And I started it off with a very long walk outside with Gus on a beautiful snowy day.

I was thinking this morning that life itself is like these daily walks.  I don’t want to be morbid, but let’s face it, we are all going to end up in the same place we started out eventually.  Dust to dust, and all that stuff.  Each time we mark the passage of another year, it’s as if we are setting out on another walk – one that will end up at our next birthday.  I truly feel that the years themselves aren’t the point at all.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been hung up about revealing my age.   To me, it’s what we’re doing on that journey between the milestones that really matters in the long run.

As I look back on the past year, I am overwhelmed by all that I have seen, done and learned on my journey.  I have met and developed relationships with so many incredible people.  I have marveled at the wonders of the changing seasons and the magical sights that have been right in front of me all the time.  I have learned valuable lessons about myself and what I believe, and I have a clearer sense of who I am and what I value.  There have been high points and low points, but all in all it has been an incredible ride.

Tomorrow is February 11th once again, and I will lace up my shoes and set out off the front porch as always.  I can’t wait to see what I will discover next, as my journey continues. . .

Up the down staircase

The other day as I was on my way upstairs, I came upon Gus as he was on his way downstairs.  He looked at me, and then he stopped in his tracks.  He paused for a bit, as if to consider his options.  Then he watched me go past him.  After an awkward minute or so, half-sitting on the stairs, he maneuvered himself somehow, turned around, and then proceeded to follow me where I was going.

I captured this shot of him in that moment where he frozen halfway; neither up nor down.  I think you can see the awkward look on his face, as if he isn’t quite sure which way he should be going.

In a funny coincidence, I happened to be speaking to my Mom later that afternoon.  When I asked her how her day was going she said, “to be honest, I feel like I’m going up the down staircase.”  I laughed and told her of my experience with Gus.  I said that she wasn’t alone;  and that he was having the same kind of day.

They happen to all of us.  Those days where we just can’t seem to get it all together.  I’m sure you can relate, and can think of a day, perhaps even recently, when nothing seemed to go according to plan.  On those kind of days you often feel as though you’re spinning your wheels, or, like Gus, sitting halfway up the middle of the stairs trying to figure out if you should be going up or down.  They are often days that leave me feeling as though I haven’t accomplished much of anything, even if I’ve seemed to be busy all day.

The good news is that these days usually pass quite innocently. If we don’t get too stressed about them, we can usually get back into our regular mode pretty quickly.  I’ve learned to accept that sometimes there will just be days like these, for whatever reason.  Maybe we have too much on our minds, or maybe we’re just plain tired out.  Whatever the cause, the best thing to do is to just give in and cut yourself a little slack.

When I find myself feeling this way, I usually try to keep a low profile, and I try not to take on anything too demanding.  These are often great days to just treat yourself to a little indulgence – even if it’s only a cup of tea and a half  hour with a really good book.  With a little TLC, everything ends up going in the right direction!

Going on a vacation is easier than you think

Oakbank pond in the morning sun

Wow!

This morning, like every Sunday morning, I drove my kids to work.  It’s a short drive; only about 15 minutes from our house.  I always bring Gus along for the ride, and then we usually come back home and head out for our walk.  Today as we drove along the street, I was looking at the familiar scenery.  It suddenly occurred to me that Gus and I didn’t have to come home first; we could go walking in this other neighbourhood for a change.  I definitely wasn’t prepared for the experience that we ended up having.

Morning shot of the pond with ducks

As you can see, I was snapping pictures the whole time we were out, because I was awestruck by the beautiful scenery.  I have driven by this pond and the surrounding neighbourhood for years, and yet rarely ventured out of my car to walk around.  How foolish of me.  I can’t believe what I’ve been missing.  I only had my Blackberry for a camera, but I hope you can get a taste of some of the spectacular scenes we encountered during our 90 minute walk.

Berries growing by the pond

Berries growing by the pond

Ducks on the pond

Ducks on the pond

These are some of the images we came across this morning.

Gus was quite mesmerized by the whole experience as well.  At first, he was wary of the new environment, because there were so many different sights, sounds and smells.  Then he relaxed and began to explore along with me.  He was particularly intrigued with all the ducks that swam over to check him out.

Gus checking out the ducks

Gus checking out the ducks

After a while we left the pond and began to explore the rest of the neighbourhood.  It amazed me that I have driven through these streets so many times, and yet I’ve never really taken the time to get out and go walking around.  It is really beautiful.  There is a historic area, and a beautiful path that leads through the woods to a restored house from an early settler.

The path leading to the historic house

The path leading to the historic house

We peeked in the windows of the old house, and then we continued through the woods until we came to a clearing.

The clearing

The clearing

Gus had a great run through the open space, and then we found ourselves in a residential area.  We had a lovely walk through the streets, and said “good morning” to so many new people and dogs we encountered out walking.  After a while, we turned back to the area near where we had started.  There is an old church there, and people were starting to arrive for morning mass.  Just at that point, the church bells started to ring.  I remember hearing that they have a professional bellringer there, and that the music on a Sunday morning is quite remarkable.  I have to agree.  As we walked by, the bells began to play “Danny Boy” – it made me feel like we were in a movie, or in some foreign country.  It was truly magical.

The old church

The old church

We continued on our way, past the area where they always re-enact battles during the Thornhill Village Festival.  We paused by the wall to admire the view.

By the old stone wall

By the old stone wall

Then we turned back towards where we had left the car.  I remembered that there was a big park in the other direction, and it was such a beautiful morning that I was in no hurry to head home.  So off we went.  I’ve been in that park before, but it somehow looked different in the morning sun.  Gus had a great time tearing through the trees, and he found the best stick ever!

Gus running with huge stickRows of tall trees behind Thornhill Pool

Gus with his big stick in the sun

Eventually I decided that it was time to head for home.  We made our way back to the car and, only 15 minutes later, we were back in our own driveway.  I couldn’t believe it.  I really felt as though we had been away on a holiday, in some place far from home.

Is it possible that, right under your nose, there are incredible places that you pass by all the time without noticing?  We always yearn for a break or a vacation away from home, and yet that isn’t always an easy thing to arrange.  After my experience this morning, I have promised myself to really open up my eyes to everything that’s right in my own backyard, and to go exploring like this at least once every week.  I’m pretty sure that Gus will be happy to come along with me for the adventure!

The day can be whatever you choose it to be

Gus happy on a windy fall day

I’m always amazed to see it.  Over the last few weeks, the fall mornings have become darker, colder, windier, and wetter.  At six o’clock, when I stagger downstairs to make my morning coffee, it takes so much effort  just to shake myself awake and think about the day ahead.  As I look outside into the dark and drizzly yard, I have been feeling an overwhelming urge to crawl back upstairs and snuggle under the covers, where it is still warm and cozy.  Then I look over at Gus.

At this point, he has also made his way downstairs after slowly rousing from his own cozy bed.  He always takes his time, and stretches and yawns before gradually getting up.  Here is where the difference between us ends. While I am still fumbling with the coffee, Gus always goes and stands by the back door.  He will wait there patiently until I let him out.  When the door is finally opened, he explodes out into the yard, like a shot from a cannon.  He lets out a yelp of joy, and then he proceeds to tear around the yard at top speed.  If he finds a toy he’s left lying there, he will pick it up and shake it back and forth for a bit.  Then he will drop it and run wildly again, until he has checked out every corner of his space.  The whole time he is doing this, his tail is wagging like crazy, and you can see by his behaviour that he is just so completely happy! This routine is the same every day, no matter what the weather is like. When he eventually comes into the house after his morning ritual, he is always in such a great mood, and it inevitably rubs off on the rest of us.

On the deck with a ball on a rainy morning

Yesterday, as I watched this display, I thought about how Gus perceives the morning.  He doesn’t focus on the darkness, the rain, or the chill in the air.  He is just so happy to be in a place he loves, out in the fresh air and in the freedom of the yard.  He is so full of positive energy, and it often seems to be in defiance of the atmosphere around him.  It made me stop and think.

By 7:30, as I drove through the grey drizzle on my way to work, I had made a decision.  I was on my way to give a three hour lecture on connective tissues on a dreary Friday morning.  It was the end of a long and stressful week for my students.  I knew that things had the potential to be pretty low energy when I walked into the room. It suddenly hit me how I had a the ability to choose the energy that I brought into that classroom. So here’s what I did.

I walked in and said my usual “Good Morning” to the class.  Then I announced that, despite it being a miserable, rainy, grey Friday, we were not going to let it get to us.  I told the students that we were going to shift the energy, and we were going to do so by focusing on what was positive about the day.  We went around the room and, starting with myself, each person took a turn and completed the sentence “I feel good about _____________” by sharing some small thing they were happy about.  The comments ran the gamut, from simply being happy to be there, to looking forward to specific events, or to seeing friends and family on the weekend.  It didn’t really matter.  What happened, though, was quite remarkable.  Within a few short minutes, the room full of students was buzzing and laughing, and almost everyone was smiling, as we all shared our positive comments.  As a group, we had chosen to shift the focus of the day and, along with it, the energy in the room.

That positive energy stayed with us throughout the whole three hour class.  In fact, for one of the most boring lectures I have to teach, it was actually a lot more fun than usual.  I was struck by how differently things had turned out from how they might have been, if I had just walked in and made some comment about the crummy weather, and then started into my lecture.

I guess the lesson for me was that we really do have the power to choose how we want each day to begin, despite what the weather is outside.  Even more striking was the realization of how great the impact of my choice was on so many other people around me.  It was kind of exciting and scary at the same time.    Now all I have to do is remind myself of this each morning, when I’m tired and fumbling about in the dark, trying to get my coffee going.  I’m lucky though, because all I will need to do is look out in the yard and see Gus racing happily about, and it will all come back to me.