Finding Good Space (Sukha) in January

January is a month that feels anticlimactic.  Coming on the heels of December’s festivities, it can leave us feeling cold and bleak – much like the weather.  This is in stark contrast to the energy and extroverted nature of December, complete with frenzied social mingling,  and numerous opportunities for overindulgence.  Often during the holidays, we allow ourselves to go to excesses we would not consider at other times of the year.

Like the morning after hangover, January is the somber antithesis to December's pomp and gaiety. Click To Tweet
January = Time to Take Stock

For me, January is a great time to hibernate, as the cold weather and dark days usually force me to stay indoors anyway.  Perhaps this is why I naturally feel drawn to look inwards, and why many of us feel the need to make changes in our lives at the start of the new year.  Personally, I like to take stock of things like my health and my career goals as well as my messy closets and my (ahem) cluttered desk.

Finding ways to cultivate space – in our hearts, our bodies, and our homes can be important on many levels.   Clearing the space around us gives us a chance for a new perspective.  We are able to see things from a new angle or consider a different solution.  This can be useful when we want to change our approach to our diet, a (bad) habit, or a relationship.  Resolutions give us a chance to formally commit to making that change in our life.  By stating our new goals, we can more easily release old habits and emotions and embrace new patterns.  Sadly, the term “resolution” has become tainted for most these days and it often implies something we fail to finish.  That is why I  prefer to use a different concept entirely.

Finding Sukha

I first heard the term described in a yoga class.  Sukha is a Sanskrit term that can be explained as pleasure, ease, or virtue.  Another way to define sukha is by breaking it down into its root words of “Su” (good) and “kha” (space).  Therefore sukha can be defined as “good space.” When we meditate or turn our attention inwards, we are striving to quiet out minds and cultivate sukha from within.  Now for those who do not meditate regularly, this need not be a foreign concept.  For many, January is the only time of year in which they engage in something similar to this, via new year’s resolutions.

So how does sukha apply to a month like January?

As I’ve already stated, we naturally tend to focus our attention inwards at this time.  After a month dedicated to thinking of others, it’s time to give some attention to ourselves.  For some, this may be a focus on physical health goals, while for others it is on areas of spiritual or emotional health.  Whatever your personal goals may be, cultivating sukha can be an important factor in achieving them.

There is a belief that the idea of sukha or “good space” refers to the hole in the center of a chariot wheel.  If it is not perfectly centered, the ride would be rough and bumpy as a result.  Therefore, having a perfectly centered space was ideal.  I try to remember this as I focus on my goals for the new year.  The more open and centered I am to my new goals, the smoother the transition will be as I let go of the old ones.

Have you already lost momentum on your resolutions?  Don’t feel bad – just know that you are hitting a few bumps, but that they can easily be smoothed out.  Take a moment to reconnect with yourself and focus on why you wanted to make those changes in the first place.  Find your center, and know that you can never truly be sure that you are making a change unless you somehow test your resolve.  When you hit a bump, it’s just a test to see if you are still committed to the new path.  The faster you acknowledge this, the fewer bumps you will hit along the way.

Why wait for Spring to start Cleaning?

January is a perfect time for decluttering in general. It offers an opportunity to analyze the use of space in our homes.  As a workaholic myself, I know how easy it can be to lose sight of the space around me.  Clutter starts to build up in the corners around the house, and before you know it you don’t know where to sit or step anymore.  Spring cleaning is poorly named because for me, springtime is too late!  As the warm weather returns my focus inevitably turns outwards; to the external.  I know I will want to be outside again, not cooped up inside any longer.  The time for internal retrospection will be over.

So let January be a welcome time to focus on ourselves and our immediate surroundings.  I choose not to make resolutions but rather to use this month as a time to reconnect with my goals, my home and my family, and most importantly, myself.

Want to learn more about Sukha, or how to cultivate Sukha in your own life?  Follow the links below:
If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy:

Finding Perspective on 2016

Reasons Why I Love/Hate My Yoga Mat

How To Enjoy Wine Festival Like A Boss

With the latest wine festival kicking off this weekend, there will again be an influx of visitors to our local wine region. Many will be returning to visit favourite spots while others will be attending for the first time. As a former winery retail manager, I have been fortunate to partake in many wine festivals over the years. Here’s a few quick tips to help you have the best experience while exploring wine country.

1. Travel in Style: Hire a driver or designate someone to do the driving for your group.  A further incentive for DD’S is that they can purchase a discounted passport, and most locations are offering a non-alcoholic option for the food match. There are many companies in the area that offer wine tour packages as well.  (Be sure to thank your driver too!)

2a. Plan your Route: Pick a few destinations you want to go to each day. Look at the guide/menus in advance and narrow down your top picks based on overall wine portfolio and ambiance.  Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather.

2b. Slow down! Wine touring is not a pub crawl. It does not involve a race to the finish nor a prize for hitting the most wineries in a single day. If you are only interested in getting drunk then stay home. Seriously. You are missing the point and will ruin the experience for everyone else. Wine touring is a chance to slow down and savour life. Plan to spend at least 45 minutes at each location. Allow time for washroom breaks, possible lines at cash, taking multiple selfies, and of course tasting wine.

3. Ask the Right Questions. Winery staff are there to help you learn about your own palate. As a former winery retail manager, I can tell you the most frequently asked questions by guests is “what’s your best wine?”

Don’t simply ask “what’s your best wine?”  The answer to this depends more on your own tastes than anything else.  Ask staff to help you find the wines that will suit your palate. Then you will have “the best.”

If you don’t know enough “winespeak” to describe your own tastes, never fear.  This is the fun of touring wine country.  Let the staff help you put into words what your tongue already understands.  You’ll be surprised how much you already know.

4. Bring Water. And snacks. Plan to stop for lunch. And bring extra water. Trust me on this. If you skip out on refreshing your palate between stops you won’t be able to taste anything properly by noon. Then you’re just wasting your money.

5. RSVP if you Please!  Make a reservation for groups of 12 or more. Just because you are on a passport program doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show some courtesy. Large groups risk being turned away by smaller wineries. If you plan to bring a bus of 50 people out for the day, keep in mind that most wineries will require time to prepare that many wine and food pairings all at once. If you fail to give them a heads up before your arrival, you risk delaying your own groups experience. Avoid creating a backlog for yourself and other guests by traveling in smaller groups or calling ahead.

6. Take Notes: Grab a copy of the winelist and make notes for later reference. Mark down what you liked about the wines you taste, and any aging suggestions if not indicated. These lists can be most helpful if you later regret not purchasing that other bottle.

7. Ask about shipping. Remember; many of the wines you discover may not be available in the LCBO. Be sure to ask before you leave. If so, also inquire about shipping. Most wineries will ship to home or office within Ontario. Shipping rates will vary so be sure to ask what methods are available.

Planning a visit to Wine Country?  Here’s a few links that you might find helpful:

Wine Council of Ontario

Twenty Valley Tourism

Niagara Ice Wine Festival

 

Finding Perspective on 2016

 

Last night’s #New Year’s Eve was the perfect summation of #2016; from the live countdown’s broadcast snafus in #New York to the overall subdued festivities and high rate of jammies (mine included) being reported on my social media feed, it was a pathetic fizzle at best. Add to that the last minute announcements of several beloved star’s passing (#William Christopher, #George Michael, #Carrie Fisher and #Debbie Reynolds) and it is safe to say that #2016 will be remembered as a year of much disappointment and loss. I think the general consensus I’ve run across has been pleasure that it is finally ending.

It is safe to say that this was a strange year overall. So much happened that left us feeling lost and uncertain, like a society adrift in harsh hashtags and depressing social media. Perhaps I am getting old. Or  perhaps I have simply reached an age where my sense of cynicism has outpaced my naivete.

I no longer want to party like it's 1999. Click To Tweet

I want my cup of herbal tea and my jammies and a good book. I want to tuck my daughter into bed and read her stories. I want to prolong her innocence just a bit longer if possible, partly because it means I can hold onto the shreds of my own in the process.

You see, I already know what’s waiting out here in her future. I pay bills. I have a mortgage. I care about the environment and retiring in my senior years. And as a Canadian I know way more about the recent #US election than I’d like to. As such, I would still rather be stuck most days watching the Disney Channel with her than CNN.

I don’t think I am alone in this.

Fear of our planet’s future is everywhere these days. Plastics in the ocean, oil spills, rising costs of living, and wars in foreign countries that are starting to feel closer to our own shores are all very real concerns we felt in 2016. This doesn’t simply end with the start of a new year. As much as I wish ringing in a new year could wipe the slate clean, we are still stuck with the same problems we faced at the end of 2016. No magic ball drop and no amount of champagne can change this.

So as many of you out there are nursing hangovers and coming to terms with your lists of new years resolutions, take a moment to consider these problems. What are you most afraid of in 2017?  I know this may not be easy with a hangover, but humor me.

While I can offer no easy solution to your problems, I will share my own resolution idea. We may not be able to save the world by ourselves, but what we can do is change our outlook and our perspective to our problems. This is my goal for 2017: to change my outlook and perspective to a more positive one.  I want to help create a better world for my daughter and I want to show her how to do it along the way.

So if you feel the same, let’s use the start of 2017 to take a moment to reflect on our fears. Let’s look them right in the eye, take a deep breath, and vow to make them less powerful.  Start in our homes, our communities and then take it globally.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, we must find ways to be the change we want to see in our world. Only then, will change occur. We need to have faith in humanity, and help rekindle that faith for those around us. We can do this in small ways each and every day: holding open a door, helping a stranger, donating old items or volunteering our time.

Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’” – Eleanor Roosevelt 

So even though 2016 has left many of us feeling like putting on our jammies and hiding under the covers, we know that 2017 brings us hope for change. The greatest gift we can give each  other in 2017 is the gift of hope. Hope in each other and in our collective future. And like the late George Michael reminded us so well, we just “gotta have faith.”

Be The Change Series: Santa For Seniors

Often during this season, we tend to focus our donation efforts on children and families in need. It’s hard to think of children going without at Christmas, yet sadly, there is just as strong a need for assistance for our seniors.

Many seniors are living at or below the poverty line – with few options for improvement due to their limited pensions and fixed incomes. This problem will only become greater in the coming years as the population ages and the economy fluctuates.  With many seniors struggling to maintain their hydro this winter or pay their bills, they will be in need of basic items many of us take for granted. If they do not have family to support them, who else can they turn to?

Luckily there’s still Santa.

Be a Santa to a Senior is a program being run through Home Instead Senior Care in Niagara Falls that helps send gifts to lonely and financially challenged seniors that receive assistance through the Niagara Region Community Services Dept.  They have been provided with names and wish lists from seniors in our communities.

By visiting one of the 4 donation sites in Niagara, one can select the name of a senior in need from a specially designated tree. The tags are gender specific, and will provide a short list of items requested. These can range from $25-$40 and include basic items like toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet supplies, and non-perishable food items. Completed donations can be returned unwrapped to the donation site, where they will be wrapped and delivered by volunteers.

Pleasantview Funeral Home  in Fonthill is one the locations participating and the only one in the Pelham area. “It is really heart-breaking to read through (the wish lists.)” says Funeral Director Andrea Stubbings.  She is pleased to announce that to date, their location alone has provided donations to 100 seniors this season.  (In total, the program will be providing gifts to over 350 seniors in Niagara.) The last of the ornaments are on their tree in the Main Office lobby off of Merrittville Rd, and the response from the community so far has been wonderful.

This is the third year for this program and it has already grown exponentially due to the high demand.   While they are pleased with the support from the community to date, there is still more that can be done.  Even though the program is winding up for this year, they would still welcome donations of warm items like blankets, sweaters, slippers, hats, scarves and mittens. In addition to gifts, donations of wrapping paper and gift bags would also be greatly appreciated.

All donations must be received by December 12th, as that is the final gift collection day.  Wrapping will commence Dec 16th and 17th.

Other Ways to Show Kindness

In addition to those being helped by this program, there are still many seniors in retirement homes that would appreciate an act of kindness this Christmas.  Many do not receive visitors and this can be a sad and lonely time for them.  I encourage you to keep this in mind this season if you are visiting a relative in a home, or simply want to do something kind for a stranger.  Consider contacting your local senior’s home to see how you can be of service.  Get the family together to make some Christmas cards that could be distributed to lonely residents, or plan a day to visit.  Either way, the gift of your time and effort will be appreciated, and giving someone a reason to smile this holiday season is the greatest gift of all.

Like what you read? Please share, or drop me a line.  I’d love to hear from you!

Be The Change This Season

 

If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of all the negative news and doomsday preaching happening these days. With so much focus on the pending #Trumpocalypse in the USA, I for one am glad that the holiday season is around the corner; but not for the reasons you might think.

Sure, it would be easy to crank up the 24-hour Christmas music stations and bury my head in a pile of ugly Christmas sweaters for as long as possible, but what good will that do anyone? It certainly won’t change anything. The fear and anger that is building in our world won’t just dissipate on Christmas morning, no matter how many letters we write to Santa.

No, the real reason I am looking forward to this holiday season is the message of peace and love that it brings and the faith that it rekindles – in ourselves and in the world we want to help create. There is no denying – a certain magic does exist surrounding this season and it is there for all to find if we seek it. It’s in the little things we say and do; the simple ways we show care and kindness to each other.  Holding open a door for a stranger, helping an elderly neighbour, or donating to a local charity.

Yes, there is a darker side too. I know the holidays can be a stressful and depressing time for many.  This is true of most situations in life – we cannot have darkness without light. But we seem more open to possibilities at Christmas, as if the added warmth we feel in our hearts towards each other can give us extra strength to push back a little harder against the cold, dark shadows that threaten us.

I want to help bring back hope to our world. I want to renew my own faith in humanity. I want to be a channel for change. That is why I will be focusing on promoting a few local charities in my next series of blogs. My goal is to help spread the word on local efforts that are in need of volunteers or donations.  I will be providing details on the fundraiser/charity and whenever possible, contact information and links.  ( I wish to further state that I am not affiliated with any of the charities, nor am I being compensated for doing this. )

This world needs healing and I want to start by helping my own community. We need to feel empowered – for ourselves and our communities. We also need to instill these virtues in our children so that they will keep spreading the good long after we are gone. If you feel the same as I do, let’s spread a little light together.

Bonnie

Healthy Holiday Recipes 

Today I finally had a chance to get back in my kitchen after a month of constant running and juggling. I know I’ve been a bit slack with my posts lately, so to make up for it, I tried and tested 2 recipes this morning which I am pleased to share the results of here now.

I’ve been on a pumpkin/gingerbread kick lately but trying to avoid anything too rich or fattening. I recently committed to participating in a 30 day exercise challenge due to the muffin top I’ve been harbouring, and so anything resembling a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is officially off the menu until further notice. Time to find healthy alternatives that still have all the flavour I crave.

Both of these recipes are relatively clean and can be found on Pinterest. They include very easy to follow instructions.  My first recipe pick comes from The Big Man’s World and is a simple, quick and clean snack called (take a big breath for this one)…

Healthy 4 Ingredient Flourless Pumpkin Gingerbread Blondies

While the name may be a workout, the recipe itself is not. It took less than 10 minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to bake. Since my kid is a picky eater I chose to add a tablespoon of chia seeds and 1 egg to the batter to up the fibre and protein but the recipe does not call for them.  According to the recipe, they will be soft and doughy when done but cooling allows them to firm up. While allowing them to cool for a few hours is recommended, mine were ok with a few extra minutes in the oven thanks to the egg. Since my husband ate half the pan within the first hour, I assume they are still good slightly warm.  

Banana Gingerbread Muffins 

The second recipe – and my new favourite- is a healthy alternative to gingerbread. It can be found at Amy’s Healthy Baking and is entitled Banana Gingerbread Muffins. 

Simple ingredients, lots of holiday spices, and molasses instead of sugar results in a moist and fluffy muffin with all the flavour of the season you could ask for. I highly recommend these and as you can see from the picture provided, my kid does too. (All that was left was the muffin wrapper!)

So there you go – 2 family approved recipes to add to your holiday baking repertoire. I hope you will enjoy them as much as our family does.  Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, holiday season!

Bonnie

Recipe: Apple Ring Pancakes 

Sunday mornings are usually my time to relax around here.  I get to move a little slower, savour my morning coffee and spend some time puttering around the house. I also try to spend some quality time with my daughter as my husband works weekends. One of our favourite things to do is to look up and test new recipes. 
I like to take recipes and find ways to clean them up without sacrificing flavour. This morning as I scrolled through Facebook I came across one that was perfect for us. I showed it to my daughter and she agreed. As luck would have it, we had all the ingredients too! We got started right away.

I had a small amount of pancake mix left on hand and it was perfect for 3 apples. Aim for about 2/3 cup dry pancake mix and follow the instructions on your package. I have included mine below as a guideline. We also used ambrosia apples but royal gala or any apple that works for making pie will work here.  Try not to cut the apples slices too thick or they won’t cook through before the batter burns. 

The original recipe called for dredging the finished pancakes in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before serving, but I felt this was overkill. We chose to omit this step and our pancakes had a lovely apple pie characteristic instead.  We used a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of Nordica’s salted caramel cottage cheese for toppings, but the options are endless.

So quick and easy to make -and delicious!

 I’m looking forward to making this again and trying some hemp hearts and nut butter or lemon curd as well. Be sure to let me know if you try this out and what toppings you try – don’t be afraid to get creative!

Apple Ring Pancakes 

  • 3 medium sized apples, cored (peeling is optional)
  • 2/3 cup dry pancake mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tblspn agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Slice apples into rings approximately 1/4inch thick or less. 
  2. Mix dry pancake mix and cinnamon and keep in reserve.
  3. In a medium bowl, add vanilla extract to remaining ingredients as outlined on pancake mix package (or as shown above)
  4. Add dry mix to bowl. Stir until combined  (OK if lumpy)
  5. Heat skillet on medium-high heat. Coat with tablespoon of butter or coconut oil.
  6. Dip apple slices in batter, coating both sides well. Place in skillet 
  7. Cook on first side until batter begins to bubble and crisp at edges; then flip.  Continue to cook until both sides are done.
  8. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving. Top with maple syrup or your favourite toppings.

Post Election Parenting

4156535452_9f2ee39b7e_nThis week has been a tumultuous one at best.  While the collective American fate was being decided at the polls, we Canadians stood by watching and biting our nails.  The mudslinging and accusations propagated by both parties, the constant updates and sensationalism put out by every media channel in the US (and to some degree, Canada) not to mention the countless #hashtags and memes put forth by anyone with a social media account lately has meant that it has been virtually impossible to escape the 2016 US Election.  This is also true for us Canadians.  While the election has been on my radar and causing me more concern than I’d like to admit, I was not expecting my own daughter to be concerned as well.

Many parents have been commenting on the discussions they are having with their children following the announcement of the US election results.  I think this is a new precedent in our shared culture: young children – many not able to perform long division or tie their own shoes yet- are concerned about the future of their society.  They are asking questions that are tough to answer, and fearing the apocalypse this presidency may cause instead of believing in Santa Claus.  This says more about the state of our world to me than anything else being reported on CNN.

4082932968_a37828a0fc_nYoung children are paying closer attention to what is happening around them than we think.  Their fears and concerns are real and many parents are questioning how to respond to them. How do you answer the child who fears her schoolmates may be “sent home?”  Other children are asking if this means World War 3 is about to happen, and I suspect a few adults are wondering the same.  My own daughter informed me this week that she needed to skip school today so she could go to the Canadian/US border and help start building the wall to keep Trump out of Canada.  She is eight.  I was hoping to keep her from becoming jaded about politics until she was at least old enough to vote.

Media personalities, politicians, and voters alike beware.  Out generation’s beliefs and actions NOW are shaping not only the next few years of our combined futures, but the development of the mindset of the next generation of voters that is watching in the wings.  As adults, we need to think about what our decisions are portraying to them, and how we plan to explain it.  Trump has shown very little sportsmanship in or out of the political ring.  I do admit that I have my own fears about how he will represent the American people internationally.  Is this the future of politics then?  Can we expect this sort of circus to become the norm from future candidates?  For the sake of both our countries I sincerely hope not.

Being neighbours means that our countries share a close connection – sometimes whether we like it or not.  With one of the longest unprotected borders in the world, we have been able to maintain a cordial relationship for much of our shared history.  Canada has often been viewed as a little sibling to loud big America; with similar features and attributes but calmer tendencies.  While in America the phrase “Go big or go home” may run true, here in Canada we take a more stoic approach to things.  Our penchant for multiculturalism, “odd” pronunciations and spellings of common English words, and a love of poutine for instance.   Where Americans like to dive into situations with their guns drawn and blazing, we Canadians prefer a different approach.  As is our nature, we will remain vigilant and watchful as events unfold for our American neighbours, and like good neighbours we will support them as best we can.

This is what I hope to convey to my daughter.  By opening up a dialogue and sharing information in a safe and calm manner I hope to alleviate her fears for the future.  I want her to know that she can come to me with her questions and concerns, and trust that I will try to help her find the answers she seeks.  I won’t sugar coat the details, but I will try and keep things from being as dire as the media tends to make it sound.  Children need to understand that sensationalism sells, and tends to be to overused my news media.  Many people avoid the news for this very reason.  We need to work harder to find the more positive stories to keep them in balance.

I hope that this election brings America the positive changes they are seeking while maintaining the respectful relationship between our two great countries.  Here’s to a brighter future for all our kids regardless of gender, race or economic standing.  Because isn’t that what we’re all fighting for after all?

A Workaholic Weekend

The Stay At Home Workaholic
The Stay At Home Workaholic

What a glorious October day – and a Saturday to boot! Weekends are wonderful, but seeing that sunshine and blue sky streaming through the autumn leaves outside my front window was a better start for my soul than sipping that first cup of coffee. That, and knowing that the day was mine. (Well, mostly.) Upon stepping out my door this morning, I felt as though I’d been turned loose from within a dark cave and couldn’t decide what to do first with my freedom. Should I take down the gazebo? Dig up bulbs? Clean the garage? There were literally dozens of projects and errands I wanted/needed to do. Not to mention my daughter had a soccer game followed by TWO parties this afternoon… I knew what I needed to do to stay organized. I grabbed a pen and jotted down everything on my mind so I could visualize and prioritize my tasks. This is my go-to trick for keeping on top of things when my husband works every weekend. Usually its just me and the kid holding down the fort. So in the midst of playing soccer mom/ chauffeur, I managed to achieve the following in true workaholic style:

  1. Clean the kitchen. This is a never-ending battle isn’t it? Some days I want to take a picture to preserve the moment. It seldom lasts half the day before I have to do it again. I’ve taken to getting up early just to sit in the kitchen with my coffee so I can enjoy it before all hell breaks loose.
  2. Survey yard and plantings. Start planning to dig up bulbs for proper storage over winter. Note I didn’t actually get to the digging up part yet, but I found my spade and tools and I eyed up my plants so I’m halfway there. My husband also wants to plant garlic this year so I have to find a spot in the yard for that to happen…
  3. Put gazebo cover away. OK, my dad came over and took the cover off for me while I was at the soccer game but I had totally planned to help him with it. I did have to find a storage solution that would be rodent-proof and neighbourhood stray cat-proof, so I’m claiming some points for this.
  4. Do laundry. By “do” I mean not just sorting it and pre-treating it but actually finding it first. This often involves scouring the entire house to collect all the dirty socks my family likes to leave for me to find. They each have their own secret hiding places, and I’d like to hope I know where most of them are by now. Sometimes I feel like I’m on some messed up scavenger hunt and the only prize I can win is keeping this place from stinking.
  5. Hang up exterior Halloween lights. Ha! Take that neighbours. Let’s give the kids something to look at when they go out this year besides a carved pumpkin.  Plus, my driveway is pretty uneven, so I don’t want any lawsuits from injured trick-0r-treaters.
  6. Hang up exterior Christmas lights UNDER the Halloween lights. Yes, I hang the lights around here and yes, I do it early. I prefer to stand in my warm and cozy, well-lit front window drinking hot chocolate and waving at my neighbours as they struggle with their lights after the first frost. Or even better, during that first snow storm.
  7. Make dinner using frozen meal I prepped for the slow cooker two weeks ago. This was one of those little tidbits I found on Pinterest that has become a new favourite thing for me. I have always loved using my slow cookers (yes, that’s plural) and having everything prepared for a meal in a bag in my freezer has been wonderful. I highly recommend doing it. Just pick up a few packages of bulk chicken breast next time they go on sale and portion them out with some veg and sauce. You won’t regret it on days like this.
  8. Get groceries. I should start this by apologizing to anyone I may have run over with my shopping cart today at Sobey’s. All I can say is I had 35 minutes to get it done and I was on a mission. But of course, half of the things I went there for were not stocked, so now I’ll be making another trip to Zehrs today instead. You’ve been forewarned.
  9. Get gas in car. Well this only makes it to the list because of dumb luck. I could very well have run my tank dry before noticing my fuel gauge today. In my defense I had a lot of random stuff on my mind today and as long as I didn’t forget to pick up my kid somewhere or end up stuck in a field with no gas I count it as a good day.
  10. Write a new blog post. Honestly this started out as a quick Facebook update, but once I got started I realized it had potential. I had planned to start writing on Sunday based on the rainy weather forecast, but when the creative juices start flowing you have to go where they take you.

My scribbled up “To Do” list is a part of my weekend routine. To some, it may seem like I’m overdoing it but my list helps to keep me sane. Writing down my tasks helps me to stay focused on my goals. If I don’t finish my list that is fine. The world will not end and I’m not a bad mom. I know I’m not alone in this, so please share your stories and solutions. After all, how many parents out there can relate? How many of you have days like this, feeling like you need to tackle the world in one weekend? Drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter, or comment on my webpage. Here’s wishing you a sedate Sunday full of no obligations and a chance to actually unwind. Cheers!

Learning to Jump With Help From Madonna

As I began to make this new blogging venture of mine a reality, I experienced a tumultuous riot of emotions. Waves of ecstasy and happiness at being in pursuit of a dream I had sheltered for many years. These feelings would be followed by moments of sheer panic and doubt over what it meant I was walking away from. It truly felt as though I was standing on the edge of a cliff and testing a pair of wings I have never used, trusting that they knew what to do once I stepped off into the unknown.

Turning your back on the familiar is extremely difficult and can lead you to question your own sanity at times, but the older you get the more you begin to realize that you it’s true what they say – you only live once. “There’s no time like the present” and “the longer you wait the harder it gets” and all that. Yeah. No kidding. Like many today, I knew I was spinning my wheels and time was wasting. It was time to make my own way.

“There’s only so much you can learn in one place
The more that I wait, the more time that I waste
I haven’t got much time to
waste
It’s time to make my way
I’m not afraid of what I’ll face
But I’m afraid to stay
I’m going down my road and I can make it alone
I’ll work and I’ll fight till I
find a place of my own.”
-Jump, Madonna
Confessions on a Dance Floor 2005

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So here we go. This blog will be a reflection of my own journey into freelance writing and blogging, and I hope it will serve as a source of inspiration for others seeking to make a change. I will be sharing tips and tidbits here on a variety of subjects that I am passionate about including ways to live a healthier lifestyle, and the buzz here in my local stomping grounds of the Niagara Region in Ontario Canada. I have a strong background in retail and tourism, and networking is my middle name. As such, I want to help spread the word on local business and restaurants. I will also be testing out and giving feedback on popular Pinterest recipes. I hope my blog will also be a source of positivity for those seeking a little push in the right direction just like I was, or at the very least an escape from the tedium of daily life. I also look forward to sharing my learning process as I grow and evolve my freelance writing business, Niagara Writing Services. If you like what you find here, or have an idea for a post please feel free to drop me a line – I look forward to interacting with my readers and sharing ideas. Jumping into a new venture is always easier when you have someone to do it with.

Thankfully I have a great husband who gave me the push I needed to make my dream of writing a reality. His love and support has always been strengths I have drawn upon and cherished. I don’t think I can say I jumped of my own free will so much as got lovingly shoved into this, but however it happened I am glad it did. Our work schedules had become very conflicted and the demands were placing stress on our family. We both knew it was time for a change and it is in part thanks to him that I have followed through on this new path. Having the support of your loved ones is always beneficial, but sometimes you do start to wonder if your loved ones are in fact slightly biased in your favour and not the best focus group to be bouncing your ideas off of. Fortunately for me I had other guiding influences and a great group of friends which helped with me making my decision to jump.

When the time finally came I was surprised at how easy it was to do it; to make the decision to walk away from a stable paycheck and familiar routine. For a time, I felt like I was in free-fall – floating around, weightless, and ungrounded. I admit I did feel a bit lost at times, as I struggled to bring my dream to reality. During my transition to becoming a freelance writer/blogger, I also rediscovered an old favourite Madonna song which always helped me to focus on my goals, and in this case helped to reaffirm my decision. It is a song which has always lifted my spirits and continually reminds me to seize the day.

The funny thing is I was never a huge fan of Madonna. I don’t recall how I came across it, but from the first moment I listened to it, her 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor has resonated with me and several songs have found their way into my permanent iTunes collection. The song “Jump” in particular has always struck a chord with me. The lines quoted above have always struck me as less of a love song and more about finding the strength to move forward. Like the song says, I knew I didn’t want to stay where I was and I felt time slipping away from me (I turned 40 this year – ugh!) I too was more afraid to risk staying where I was for the rest of my life than I was to face the unknown.

I think many of us today are in this same spot – questioning the path we are on and wondering if we are making the right decision. Do we risk it all for a chance at our dreams, or do we stick with the way things are – for our own sake and the sake of those that depend on us? Can we afford to take that risk and what happens if we fail? While I can’t offer a solution that will offer a simple answer that works for everyone, I can share here what I have found to work for me so far. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your views on success and fulfillment. By this I mean that what makes me feel successful and fulfilled may differ significantly from you. Find out what being successful means to you and what you find fulfillment from in life and try to create a balance between them. Making subtle changes in your life now may result in significant improvements in these areas over time. For me, finding a balance between my career and my family was key.

By asking myself what I was more afraid of – the unknown of pursuing my dreams or staying in my present reality – I was able to make the decision that was right for me. This of course implies that you have done your homework on the subject and considered your financial situation – don’t take a leap without a parachute! And just like Madonna says, I know that “I’ll work and I’ll fight till I find a place of my own.” Every day I am working to bring my own dream to reality and I feel blessed to be doing so. I no longer feel like I am in free-fall, but am heading down the path I was meant to be on. I wish the same for you my readers and look forward to sharing this path with you through my blog.

“Are you ready to jump
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back oh baby
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hand
Get ready to jump”

Jump with me. Let’s see where we land.

Bonnie

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