5 Neat Things a Dog Will Bring Into Your Life

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Are you more of a dog person or a cat person?

Me?  I can’t choose… I like them both!

Earlier in my childhood, we had a variety of pets, including dogs, but after the age of 10, we’ve really only had cats.  I enjoy cats because they are low-maintenance, elegant, and very loving animals with a complex charm.  So… I guess I would say that I have become more used to having cats around.

Until this year, that is.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember my brother’s dog, Carlita.  You can read more about her on my first (and so far, only) Scribble Share.

My brother and his family went to live in France for the year, and they left Carlita with my mom.  Recently, my mom went to visit them in France for a month, so she left the dog with us (me, my son, and my husband).  When my mom returned to Canada, she injured her foot while working in the yard (Fortunately, nothing serious), which meant that she couldn’t walk the dog for most of last week.  So, Carlita stayed with us again until my mom’s foot started to heal.

Having a dog as a pet, albeit temporarily, has been a bit of a novelty for us.  They are a big commitment, almost like another baby!  But it is easy to see why people think of dogs as Man’s Best Friend.

This sweet little Carlita has helped me see some of the neat things that a dog brings into your life, aside from the obvious unconditional love, and loads of fun!

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Some of the neat things that a dog brings into your life:

1) A chance to be exuberantly joyful on a daily basis.

Every time I would get home, I would be greeted by the unrestrained joy that Carlita felt at our reunion. Of course, I would join in her excitement, laughing and talking to her in that silly voice that we naturally reserve for babies and cute animals.  Really, though – When else does one get to be that excited about anything, let alone something so ordinary as walking through the front door?

How wonderful that every arrival became an excuse to express unabashed joy!

2) An example of how to be totally in the moment.

One day when I got home from work, I took Carlita for a walk.  I’m usually pretty mindful of the beauty around me as I walk through the park, but on this day I was preoccupied with work, and my thoughts were far away, worrying about deadlines, decisions, and interactions with colleagues.  I was starting to get a headache. That’s when I looked at Carlita and really noticed how, as we walked, she had her nose buried in the thick, green grass.  At that moment, the grass was her world, the reality in which she was completely immersed.  I bet she wasn’t worried about whether I would give her that new canned dog food which she doesn’t like for supper, or which direction we would walk on our next outing.  No, she was just smelling that grass, giving all of her attention to the lush green blades that beckoned.

Yup. Dogs really know how to be in the moment.  Looking at her that afternoon, I took a deep breath, and remembered to pay more attention to the gorgeous, bright day around me.  We have a lot to think about as humans, and learning to take a break by being “in the moment” can be simpler than we make it. Dogs have it licked.

In fact, today when I got home from work, I went for a walk (no dog this time, she is happily back with my mom). I took a page from the book of Carlita.

I looked up at the trees, and focused my attention on the physical world around me. I noticed the shapes, and textures of the trees; the colour of the sky against the miriad of greens; the sound of birds echoing above. I noticed the sensation of the breeze against me, and the drifting fragrance of the flowers.

And I felt relaxed, joyful, and better prepared to take on the rest of the week.

3)  A dog encourages you to get outside and walk.

This is especially true with Carlita, who simply will not pee in the yard.  (I don’t know why! I certainly wished that she would, late on Friday nights). She is a dog that needs to be walked, several times a day. Sometimes long walks, sometimes short, but walking became an obligatory part of my day, every day.

4)  The vitality of a new perspective.  

This relates to the previous point.  With a dog around, I had to walk at times of the day when I normally wouldn’t. Like first thing in the morning, before heading to work.  These morning walks were not long, just a couple of blocks, but instantaneously de-stressed me.  To step outside and move a bit, smell the fresh morning air, and listen to all of the birds chirping their lovely melodies was remarkably relaxing.  And it only took a few minutes.

I also had moments of bliss walking Carlita early on Saturday mornings, when I would normally be sitting on the couch, drinking a coffee. One morning, it had rained, so the bark of the trees was dark, a deep contrast to the rich, green leaves.  The wood chips on the path looked exceptionally reddish, and the air felt soft and fresh. If it hadn’t been because of Carlita, I would have missed the joy of walking in the park on that drizzly Saturday morning.

Sure, I have taken morning walks in the past, and I used to jog in the mornings.  But now days I tend to reserve my walks for the afternoon.  It was revitalizing to change up my routine, and head out for walks when I normally wouldn’t.

5) And let’s face it, dogs sure know how to relax after a good walk!

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Oh Carlita, that funny, sweet little dog! (Ps. My husband took these yawning pictures.  They made me chuckle!)

A dog can teach us a thing or two about living well, and I’m not too proud to learn!

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Enjoying Spring in Winnipeg

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“The sun has come out and the air is vivid with Spring light” 

Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

 

Mahalo. Have you heard this word before?

In my latest post, I talked about the presentation I saw by Chad Pregrake, the 2013 CNN Hero of The Year.  I found his story encouraging because it showed that each of us has the power to act on the things that matter, and that small actions can add up to make a significant difference.

I closed that post off with a song by a famous Hawaiian musician (It’s a medley of two songs: “It’s A Wonderful World” and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow“).  My oldest brother, who loves to visit Hawaii, left a comment on that post that introduced me to the concept of Mahalo:

“In keeping with the Hawaiian theme of your closing, they have this concept of Mahalo, which translates to ‘thank you’ but also can mean gratefulness or thankfulness, and can be expressed as simply as picking up trash and leaving the place better than you found it.”

Mahalo.  I love it.  The soft sound of one word to remind us of our own power to make a difference.

What a wonderful wor(l)d.

And while we are speaking of gratitude…

Spring has settled in around here, and made itself right at home.  We’ve passed the May long weekend, which is when experts announce the official start of the “frost-free” season in Winnipeg.   Gardeners can start planting!

So, today at Home… hurrah!, I am in the mood for a light-hearted celebration of all things Spring, with a Winnipeg twist! (In case you are not familiar with Winnipeg, it’s an interesting little place.)

1.  Spring officially started more than 2 months ago, and this is how the various regions in Canada looked on that first day of Spring.

2. I love birds, and I am always thrilled by my first sighting of geese flying over us, returning after a long winter! Some thoughts on migration here.

3.  In the spirit of spring, I recently tried painting a bird.

It started like this….

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Then it went through a few phases.  Can you guess how which one of the two was the final painting?

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*See answer at the the end of post.

4. This morning, as I woke up, the fragrance of lilac blossoms reached my senses before I even opened my eyes.  My husband had put some fresh blossoms  in a vase, in our bedroom.  Ahhh… Fresh lilac blossoms, outdoors and indoors!  Love.

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“Every Spring is the only Spring – a perpetual astonishment.”  

Ellis Peters

5.  Barbecues!  Actually, this past Friday, my husband made the best burgers ever.  I am not always the biggest fan of burgers, but these were amazingly delicious.  I will soon tell you how he went about making them… if I can pry the secret out of him!

6. I’ve been using my favourite emojis again! 🌸🌷💐🌱

7.  Oh, the joys of being outside on a warm evening…

sunset at the lake, spectacular cloud
An unusual and lonely cloud, illuminated by the sunset (last summer), looked spectacular.

8.  … in sandals!!!  Aaaahhhh…

People who have to layer up in parkas, scarves, hats, gloves, long underwear, two pairs of socks, and boots, can really appreciate the care free experience of slipping into sandals!  (No matter what our feet might look like!)

feet in sandals
It’s so easy to slip into sandals! And the air on our toes feels so good.

9.  When celebrating Spring in Winnipeg, it is not always easy to decide what to wear.  For example, according to Wikipedia, temperatures for April in Winnipeg range from −6.3 °C (21 °F) to 34.3 °C (94 °F), and can change rather quickly.

10. Green!  Everywhere green! We are embracing this glorious season as the dormant world becomes vibrantly awake in May.

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…The trees outside my window are dressed in their magnificent, leafy green garments.   (Do you notice the trees around you, too?)

Tree lined streets means lots of trees right outside my window.
Trees ask for so little, but give so much. You can see them here in action… beautifying the city and cleaning the air!  They provide a home for birds and other backyard wildlife, and shelter us from the hot sun.

 

This list could go on, as I do love Spring, and the joy only increases as it transforms into summer.  So, today, I will leave you with the bottom line:

“That is one good thing about this world… there are always sure to be more springs.”

L.M. Mondtgomery, Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, #2)

Answer – This was the final painting:
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One Piece At A Time: The Inspirational Story of Chad Pregracke

If you think globally, you become filled with gloom.  But if you take a little piece of this whole picture: ‘my piece, our piece, this is what I can do here, I’m making a difference.  And hey… wow, they’re making a difference over there, and so are they’.  Gradually, the pieces get filled in and the world is a better place… because of you.”  

Jane Goodall (Link to the JGI) 

April has flown by and we are already in the first week of May!  The weather is finally feeling like Spring, and I couldn’t be loving it more.

Let me catch you up a little as to what I’ve been up to.  I’ll skip right to one of the highlights: On the last Friday of the month, April 29, I had the honour of hearing Chad Pregracke present at the Burton Cummings theatre.  You might have heard of him?  He was CNN’s 2013 Hero of The Year.  His story is inspiring.

Lately, with all the terrible news we hear around us, I had been feeling a bit discouraged with regards to the state of our planet. But this month has brought me uplifting lessons that have shifted my perspective and left me feeling revitalized. Listening to his presentation was one of those experiences.

Chad’s story reminded me that we might not be able to solve all of the world’s problems, but each of us can play a part in making a small, positive difference around us.  It adds up.

This is CNN’s report.  It’s quick – just over 2 minutes long:

Chad grew up by the Mississippi River.  As a young man he spent summers diving for mussel shells to pay his way through college.  He described how he could hardly see anything underwater because it was so murky, but he was surrounded by sounds – much like we hear the birds when we are in our backyards, but it was the sound of fishes instead.  He realized the river was full of life, but because most people did not hear or experience this underwater world, they could ignore it… and treat the river like a dumping ground.

“This is a problem that people created, but it’s a problem that people can fix.”

~ Chad Pregracke

As he spent countless hours both around and under the water while growing up, he started to notice more and more garbage.  In the presentation I saw, he showed us pictures that he had taken before all of the clean-ups began.  Those pictures actually made the audience gasp.  They were unbelievable.  Or, as he said, “It’s believable.  The proof is right there.  What it is, is unacceptable.”  At the age of 17, when he saw the filth that was contaminating the Mississippi River, he began to look for support to clean it up.

“Wherever you are, no matter if there’s a stream, a creek, a lake, whatever, that needs to be cleaned up, you can do it.  Just organize it and do it.”

~ Chad Pregracke

The Red River is one of two rivers that runs through Winnipeg, where I live.
The Red River is one of two rivers that runs through my (current) home town of Winnipeg.

For 4 years Chad tried without success to get some financial support.  He persevered, and in 1997 he finally obtained a grant from Alcoa.  It was just enough to get started, so he was doing the work for free (and his work continues as non-profit).  He began cleaning up the river by himself, pulling 45 000 pounds of trash out of it by the end of that first year.  As he said, “People made this mess one piece of garbage at a time, we can clean it up that way, too”.

“People made this mess one piece of garbage at a time, we can clean it up that way, too.”

~ Chad Pregracke

As people saw him out there working, they were inspired to join him.  20 years later, he has worked side by side with 95 000 volunteers to clear the Mississippi River of it’s many mountains (literally) of garbage.  The river landscape looks beautiful once again, and 90% of what is pulled out gets recycled.

Chad and the many volunteers continue their work, and have extended their efforts to include other rivers.  Because of these clean-ups, people have become more aware and more careful about keeping the garbage out of the river in the first place.

The thing that really struck me during the presentation was that Chad is just a down-to-earth, regular human being.  He saw something that was wrong, and decided to make it right.  When he started, he was just one person picking some garbage out of the river, by himself, on a boat.

Chad Pregracke is a powerful reminder that we don’t have to wait.  We can act today.  I loved his take away message:  Look around you, and decide what you care about, and start doing something, no matter how small.  

Every little action counts – every little effort, and every act of kindness.  If each of us takes a small action, it adds up to significant change.

My son had a funny take on it.  He said, “Yeah, you know how people can nickel and dime themselves to death?  Well, I guess the opposite can be true, too, right?  You can nickel and dime yourself to a better world”.  He always makes me laugh with his unexpected, 12 year old wisdom.

As Chad said, “I started when I was 17.  You are never too young to start and to make a difference”.  So true, and I would add that you are never too old either.

“People are always saying that the youth is the future.  Yes, no doubt, but more importantly, they are also the present.  You can do something now, you don’t have to wait for some point in the distant future.”

~ Chad Pregracke

Want to learn more?  Chad Pregracke wrote a book called From The Bottom Up that I would like to read at some point.  Also, you might check out his organization Living Land and Waters.

Today, I am signing off with this sweet medley.  Have you heard it before?  It’s played on the ukulele by the late “Iz” Ka’ano’i Kamakawiwo’Ole, who is among the most beloved and celebrated Hawaiian performers.  I fell in love with this medley from the first time I heard it.  For me, it’s a hopeful song; a gentle celebration and reminder that it’s a wonderful world, indeed.  Treat yourself to a listen.

 Here are some other short videos that you might enjoy watching:

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Show and Tell… 4 Things

Many red flowers, one yellow flower, there are no mistakes, Miles Davis, creativity, life.Do not fear mistakes- there are none.

Miles Davis

It has been a few weeks since my last post, but there have been so many interesting things that I’ve noticed and thought to myself, “I’d love to share that on my next post!”  Today, I want to do a quick show and tell to share some of those things, as well as what I’ve been up to around here.

  1.  I’ve spent a little time in the studio these past few weeks, mostly just doing some creative experimentation. I’ve loved pushing paint around, with no plan at all, just playing with the colours and textures.
Abstract painting, Carina Spring (Valerie), playing with paint creatively.
This was one of the paintings that resulted from my recent play in the studio.

As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.

Vincent van Gogh

2.  I’ve also gone a bit collage crazy of late.

One of my less successful, but most amusing collage advetures was this saggy old satchel that I was going to throw out.  I decided instead to grab some scraps of abandoned, old fabric samples (very limited selection!), a glue gun, and proceeded to experiment a bit.

I rarely work with fabrics, so I just wanted to see what it was like to work with this material and a glue gun.

collage: crafts from old or found objects. Decorating an old handbag with fabric swatches.

Craft: Old handbag, fabric swatches,, collage with glue gun

Eventhough, in the end, I was not very impressed with the final look of my purse, I concluded that working with fabrics might be something I would like to explore further.

I commented to my son that the purse looked rather shabby, and was still just saggy and old. Then, I added that I would nonetheless try wearing the purse out in public to see if anyone would give me a compliment on it. My son chuckled and suggested that, at the very least, someone might give me some change.

Haha!  Clever boy.

Fun crafts: working with old and found materials to make a new handbag.
A fun learning experience.

This is what I wrote in my diary after I had completed the purse:

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time working on that bag.  In a way, that really annoys me because I don’t really like the end product, so it’s tempting to think… What a waste of time, and to feel upset. BUT:

  • I enjoyed working on it, so the time was not wasted.
  • I learned, and practiced using a glue gun (which I never use) and making visual art decisions (which is always useful).
  • What’s the alternative?  Sit around and do nothing?  Because there are no guarantees of how things will turn out (with anything, ever). You have no way of knowing and the only way to learn and improve is by doing and trying. And that’s how you gain confidence and experience.
  • It wasn’t all bad.  While I didn’t love the final look, it does have some interesting designs that I like.

Design details on a handbag made from old and found materials.

So, I’ll have to make some crappy stuff if I ever hope to learn anything because I have to go into territory with which I am unfamiliar and see how it turns out. That’s the only choice, otherwise one sits around paralyzed, dreaming and thinking, but not getting down to the doing.

Craft: Old handbag, fabric swatches,, collage with glue gun.

3. Just over a week ago, I celebrated my birthday.  This year, the gifts I received were all about creativity:

My husband has been spoiling me with his inspired culinary creations for several weeks now. Here are some highlights – I took some snapshots, but sorry to say that they don’t do the meals justice.

chicken parmesan/ parmigiana on my birthday week.
Chicken parmesan… right out of the oven, and there’s enough for the next night!
Steak barbecue, asparagus, and baked potatoes.
A barbecue on Monday night! Seriously!
Russian beet salad with walnuts, prunes, mayo.
This simple beet salad is one of my favourites!
sashimi, sushi, homemade!
Friday night sashimi!
pork roast, delicious treat!
Delicious pork roast.
Healthy and delicious homemade food, pork, salad, polenta.
Healthy and delicious food made at home. A side of polenta is one of my favourites!

He also made me a delicious birthday cake, but I was so excited to eat it that I forgot to take a picture!

…My son made me this adorable pinguin.

felt penguin with google eyes, a birthday gift.

…My mom gave me this beautiful, large painting she made herself.

Acrylic painting by Elsa, mountain goats in nature, by a river.

…And my aunt gave me this gift certificate for a craft store so I can stock up and make more things myself!

Michael's craft store gift certificate (cupcake), Leaf Rapids CD.
My aunt also gave me a CD of a local band, but I’ll post about local music later.

4.  Finally…

Have you heard of Loving Vincent, the first ever movie of its kind?   The story of Vincent van Gogh is told through his own painting style: 12 frames a second, each one hand painted by an artist working in his style.  It’s an 80 minute movie with around 57,000 frames.  Incredible.  Check out this trailer or this short news clip.

An edible terrarium… Wouldn’t this be a great home-made gift?

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Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend!!

Thanks for reading!

Laughter

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This is one of my favourite pictures because it captures such a genuine moment of shared laughter and joy.  It’s my son when he was about 9 months old, and we had stopped to get gas while on a road trip.

 “Laughter is an instant vacation.”

Milton Berle

Hurrah… It’s Friday!  Do you have any plans?  We’ve had a busy week around here, and I think we’re just going to relax after supper, and watch some comedies.

This has got me thinking that it would be fun to head into the weekend with a focus on laughter.  So today, I’ll share some ideas, links, quotes, and yes… even jokes from around the web.

“I try to find a reason to laugh each day.  Somehow, if you can incorporate laughter into your day, every day, it really helps.  It’s the little things in life that make me happy. “

Faith Hill

I love to laugh… and who doesn’t, really?  Scientists have even observed that some other animal species engage in laughter, too.  Did you know that?  I didn’t, until I researched laughter for this post.  I guess it proves that everyone loves to laugh.  And why shouldn’t we?  I can’t speak for the other species, but I do know that laughing is a wonderful way to enrich our human life.  

Laughing relaxes us, and helps us regain perpective. It is like nature’s reset button.

In fact, there have been a few difficult times in my life when the laughter reset button has helped me… in my sleep!  I call them my laughing dreams.  I’ve only had a few, but they are surprisingly therapeutic.  In these dreams, some little thing will trigger my laughter.  It’s usually something that isn’t really that funny, but in the dream, it seems absolutely hilarious.  I laugh until my stomach muscles ache and tears are rolling down my cheeks.  Isn’t that a delightful dream?  Has anyone else ever had these?  I wake up with a fresher perspective, feeling relaxed, as if I’d just had one of the best belly laughs ever.

 “Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy, it also has actual health benefits.  And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind.  It connects us to others, and that in itself has a healing effect.”

Marlo Thomas 

Laughter is a way to connect with people we love, and a way to gel new friendships.

Laughter can also help us to defuse conflict and soften awkward situations.  Like the time someone at work ripped his pants (loudly).  As the leader of the group, my immediate reaction was to laugh kindly, smile at him and the group, and say, “These things happen… Good thing you’re among friends.”  Silence would have made the incident far more awkward, while laughter was able to soften the embarrassment.  The laughter became a source of support, recognizing that these things can happen to any of us.

“I believe in the power of laughter and tears as an antidote to hatred and terror.”

Charles Chaplin 

Here are some links about laughter.  Why not relax over a glass of wine or a hot cup of coffee, and check some of these out:  

Have you heard of this documentary?  I am curious to see it.

The Power of Laughter.  He gets a standing ovation at the end of this Ted Talk.  

Can you detect the different kinds of laughter? The very funny cognitive neuroscientist Sophie Scott shares many surprising facts about laughter.

This man helps people who are in rehab heal by getting them hooked on laughter.

A CNN news clip about  Laughter Yoga.

Want to try laughter yoga? Try this.   Warning: it looks silly. Very.  But I have to tell you this quick story!  The other day, my son was really grumpy about something.  I had just watched this video, so I said, “Hey, maybe we can try laughing yoga to improve your mood!”  I started to do one of the exercises.  He thought I was crazy and refused to participate, but the whole situation was so ridiculous, that soon laughter was bubbling out of him, as hard as he tried to keep a sullen expression on his face.  Within two minutes, his mood had completely changed and we were talking about our day.  So… maybe laughter yoga does work!

Four jokes and some reflection on humour.

Here are “50 terrible, quick jokes that’ll get you a laugh on demand“.  I have to admit, I haven’t read them all!  But I have included a sampler of the jokes, below, because 6 of these jokes are probably quite enough:  😉 

6 JOKES…

1) It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they always take things literally.

2) If you want to catch a squirrel just climb a tree and act like a nut.

3) Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like banana.

4) My friend recently got crushed by a pile of books, but he’s only got his shelf to blame.

5) What’s the best part about living in Switzerland? Not sure, but the flag is a big plus.

6) What did Jay-Z call his girlfriend before they got married? Feyoncé.

Thanks for stopping by home hurrah.com.  Have a great weekend!  

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have.  To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you’re emotions going.

Jim Valvano

A Beautiful Mess

“At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.”

Dame Rose Macaulay ((1881-1958)

An Oil-Pastel Drawing I made last year.
A space that allows us to grow and express ourselves is truly a thing of beauty, and that is one of the ideas behind this oil pastel drawing.

My grandma used to smile sometimes with a shrug of her shoulders and refer to the famous piece of French wisdom, “It’s a beautiful mess”.  Her home was always wonderfully kept; a welcoming place full of flowers and fresh baking.  But this attitude helped her enjoy her grandchildren and embrace life’s imperfections.

Because life comes first, and there is a real wisdom in arranging our priorities and our spaces with that in mind.

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A home doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect.  It doesn’t have to sport the most stylish and expensive decor.  It doesn’t have to be spotless.

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Displaying special items collected through our experiences can be an inexpensive and uplifting way to decorate.

The real joy comes from creating a space where we can live fully.  A place that expresses who we are, and that enables us to do the things that really matter to us.

After all, there is a profound beauty in living life well.

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My Costume Jewelry, A Collage, A Laugh… and Two Organizational Tips

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Organizational Tip # 1:

As a formerly messy person who (long ago) decluttered her home and became quite organized, I have learned a lot over the years about how to stay organized.  One simple thing I’ve noticed that really helps me keep my space (at work and at home) looking good is this: wherever little pockets of clutter build up, that’s exactly where there is a storage need that has to be addressed.

Whenever I start to notice that there is an area in the house, or in my workspace, where “stuff” starts to build up, I pay attention.  What kind of stuff is it?  Do I need it?  If yes, what would be the easiest way to keep it organized?

Usually, the place where that clutter builds up is also the most logical place to create the storage solution.  Maybe this is really obvious to some people, but it took me a while to figure this out.  And boy does it have its benefits.

The (Unexpected) Benefits of Organizing My Costume Jewelry:

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Recently, I noticed that my jewelry was collecting messily on top of my dresser.  My old system was clearly not working anymore, so I decided to reorganize it.  I wasn’t particularly creative about my new system, and maybe at some point I will beautify it more, but I will give myself credit – I sure was practical.

I bought an elegant black jewelry tree for 15.00$ (What a deal!  And I wound up buying a second one, too, when I realized just how much jewelry was stored in my boxes on a shelf).  I spent quite a few hours sorting through all of my old jewelry, but when I was done, I had a real sense of satisfaction.


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First, there were the obvious benefits:

– I’ve cleared out more space on my shelves.

– The top of my dresser now feels oh-so-zen.

– It is easy to find the jewelry that I want to wear.  Bonus:  It isn’t tangled up in a big knot!

Usually, I don’t wear much jewelry.  I just have a couple of earrings that I like, a couple of necklaces, and I wear them on shuffle and repeat. But after organizing all of my old jewelry, I discovered the following…

unexpected benefits:

– I found some fun pieces that I had completely forgotten about.

– I found some cool thrift store finds from my university days that I had never even worn.

– Most surprisingly, it is amazing to me how by adding one accessory, I can tie together an outfit that might not have worked without it.  Having all of these forgotten pieces of jewelry out in the open where I can remember I have them has made dressing in the mornings way more fun!

– I’ve saved money!  I have more outfit combinations, and I don’t need to buy much jewelry!

As you can see, organizing something as simple as my jewelry has helped change the way I feel about my bedroom, and it’s helped me get more creative… and not only with my wardrobe.

Another unexpected benefit:

–  There was also a small portion of jewelry that was not wearable (broken in a small way), but still had fun designs and colours. Those pieces went into a plastic ziplock bag, and into my studio.  On the day after I decluttered, I used some of that old, damaged jewelry to make a collage.  It wasn’t the first time I’ve used old jewelry in my art, but it sure was fun.

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By the way, I called my little collage “The Tragic Transformation”.  Can you guess why?  It’s a bit of a statement on our culture of consumption. The comedy stand-up routine by Seinfeld (below) actually explains my thinking behind the piece.  It’s a pretty funny bit, but the message is quite thought-provoking.

Organizational tip # 2: 

Seinfeld says in the stand-up routine linked below, “All things on earth only exist in different stages of becoming garbage.  [Our] homes are a garbage processing centre where [we] buy new things, bring them into our houses, and slowly ‘crappify’ them over time…”.

That is part of the reason why, whenever I declutter and organize, I am reminded of the most important tip for keeping clutter to a minimum:  It’s a good idea to be aware of what I bring into my house in the first place, and buy less stuff to begin with.  

The less stuff we buy, the less resources from nature that we use and the less garbage we create.  

A Laugh…

 

From The Fence I’d Catch The Wind.

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I remember when I was little, maybe 4 or 5 years old, one particularly windy day.  The gusts were strong enough to catch my breath slightly, and offer resistance when I leaned forward.  It quickly occurred to me that this might finally be my chance to learn how to fly.

I climbed onto the ledge of our fence and leapt off with all my might, trying to catch the wind, convinced that it was strong enough to support my weight and take me on at least a short flight.  In my imagination, I could see and feel what it would be like – the sensation of air all around me, and the delightful dip in my stomach as I swooped upwards and downwards.

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A spontaneous sketch, quickly drawn one morning upon waking (Dec 8, 2013).

I don’t know for how long I tried, but I kept at it again and again before finally sensing, with some disbelief, the futility of my efforts.  Undefeated, I decided that maybe it was necessary to wait for a windier day.  Decades have passed, and I chuckle when I think back on that moment, but the truth is that I still love flight (…although I’ve accepted it is easier done as a passenger on an airplane).

The last time I flew was this past month, January.  This flight was different, though.  I was on my way home after my dad’s funeral, and my childhood felt far away.

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When I booked the ticket, I hadn’t  looked that carefully, and failed to realize that I would be flying on a turboprop (instead of a jet).  The experience of flying on a turboprop turned out to be unique from flying on a jet.

I had paid extra for a window seat, but soon discovered that the propeller was pretty much right outside my window, and the seat was rather crammed.

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I also noticed that the vibrations from the engine were definitely stronger than on a jet.  I didn’t mind, though, because it increased the sensation of take off and landing, which I always find exhilarating.

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The biggest difference between a jet and a turboprop, though, was that this plane flew lower and slower, so the trip took longer.  Interestingly, this turned out to be exactly what made the flight special.

Why?  The sky was clear and it was around sunset, so flying lower and slower, I could see the details of the world below in a way that one can’t from up at 38,000 feet in the air, like on a big 747 jet.  With my cell phone on airplane mode, I took pictures of the view.

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Months ago, in late October of 2015, I flew to Edmonton to see my father when he was placed under palliative care. He was thinner than I can describe, and he could hardly speak, but still managed a couple of wisecracks to make me laugh.  I remember the morning that I was heading back home to Winnipeg, after that visit.  It was something like 5:00 am.  I sat at the airport alone, tears streaming down my face.  I knew it was probably the last time I’d see my dad, and I was right.

He died early in December.  The funeral was held in January.

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On my flight home after the funeral, despite my sadness, I found myself also feeling reverence.  Reverence for this incredible, fleeting gift of life.  Reverence for that very moment, looking out that tiny window at the beautiful world bathed in the pink light of the dying day, as I flew above it all on an 18,000 Kg piece of metal.

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Last year, in 2015, I lost an aunt, my father in law, and my own father.  (Our two family pets also died.)

It was a hard year, but loss – like all difficult experiences, really-  has a lot to teach us.

In a recent interview with The Cancer Society, Blogger Christopher Foster (more than 80 years of age) expressed one of the key lessons he’d learned as a cancer survivor: “I think that, in trying to suppress my fear, I suppressed my joy.  Conversely, now that I’m facing the fear–the joy has been increasing. I’m a pretty happy guy now.”  That simple idea succinctly touches on a profound truth.  Numbing ourselves from sorrow or fear results in numbing ourselves from joy.  Learning to face the full range of emotions that life inspires helps to make us stronger, and lead richer lives.

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Today, I want to leave you with these words by author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross from the book, “To Live Until We Die”.  I found the book in October, on a cart of free give-aways at the library.  I didn’t read the whole book, just a few chapters, but loved her closing words:

“… To love means never to be afraid of the windstorms of life.  Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the true beauty of their carvings… [People benefit from learning to] expose themselves to these windstorms, so that at the end of their own days, they will be proud to look in the mirror and be pleased with the carvings of their own canyon.”

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On The Map

Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.
Picture shared by reader Julia Davi.

If you are a bit of an explorer at heart, you might find this interesting.

A while back, I read something about Winnipeg, Manitoba that really surprised me.  And, at the same time, it didn’t.  Winnipeg, nick-named “The Peg”, is the unique and interesting place I have come to call home for more than two decades.  I have been wanting to write a post on The Peg for a while, and when I read the big news, I knew it was time.

A Little Background…

Now, before I get to the news, there is something you need to understand about Winterpeg (That’s our other popular nick-name. With our record low winter temperature being -47.8C before the wind-chill, you can easily guess why.  In all fairness, we rarely get anywhere near that cold!).  People have a tendency to complain about, or at least poke good-natured fun at this place. It’s too cold, there is too much snow in the winter, the drivers are bad, too many mosquitoes in the summer…

If you don’t believe me, check out this hit song, actually titled, “I Hate Winnipeg” (written and performed by a popular Winnipeg band), this Simpson’s clip that was often played on one of our networks, or this commercial (it’s a chuckle).

The Weekday Off

I’ll admit that I have certainly complained at times, especially when I’ve had to drive to work in a blizzard.  Or when my garage door froze shut and I was almost late for work. But I digress…

Overall, there are many wonderful things about Winnipeg.  One just has to learn to see them.  In fact, I have come to see Winnipeg as “a weekday off”. Let me explain.

When I was in university, my summer employment often found me working on the weekends and having Monday and Tuesday off.  Some people didn’t like that schedule, but I saw it differently.  Sure, it wasn’t “The Weekend”, but there were many unexpected advantages to a weekday off.  It was easy to make appointments and run errands, and there was always a choice spot wherever I went… be it a provincial beach or a city café!  In time, I came to love, in some ways, even prefer the “weekdays off”.

And that is the perspective I try to share when we all start getting down on Winnipeg.  It’s a week-day off. If you look at it from the right perspective, Winnipeg has many unexpected advantages, and is a wonderful place with much to offer.

So what’s the big news I recently read?….

Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself!
Lots of clean, natural beaches in Manitoba. Sometimes, you get a whole beach to yourself! My son took this picture.
Picture by Julia Davi.
Picture by Julia Davi.

The Big News

Well, you can imagine what an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was to read that Winnipeg has been named, by non other than the National Geographic Traveler, as being one of the top 20 cities to visit in the world!  Top 20 – On the same list as some pretty amazing places, like the last remaining Himalayan Buddhist kingdom; an island in the South Atlantic Ocean that is full of penguins; one of France’s finest vineyards; even places like Bermuda, and New York city.  I won’t go through all 20 places named, but feel free to check it out for yourself. (Here’s a link to the web-site edition… though I still want to read the print edition for the full article.)

Now, when the conversation starts to turn towards the obvious difficulties of living in this climate and city, I remind us: Hey, we’ve been named one of the top 20 cities in the world to visit.  And people pause, smile and nod in agreement.  That’s true, they say.

The National Geographic Traveler has given my positive perspective a lot of credibility.

By now you might be asking, Okay… so what are some of these cool things about The Peg?

Here is a quick list.   Just some of the reasons why Winnipeg is kind of an awesome place (to visit, and yes… to live!):

The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
The serene butterfly sanctuary at the Assiniboine Zoo.
  • We have wonderful restaurants with authentic cuisine from all over the world.
  • A world-class zoo, the oldest ballet company in Canada, a vibrant arts community, interesting galleries and museums- including the new National Museum of Human Rights.
My son took this picture on a beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
My son took this picture on a quiet beach that was almost deserted late one morning.
  • Many beaches within easy driving distance of the city. In fact, Grand Beach has been listed among the Top Ten Beaches of North America.
  • Lots of beautiful parks and trees, and the Forks (The place where our two rivers meet, The Forks has a children’s theatre, and is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés, and special events – both indoors and out).
  • We have the longest ice skating river trail in the world (at 8.5 km), and a popular winter festival (Le Festival Du Voyageur), as well as many other festivals, many of which take place in the summer.

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  • We are a diversely multicultural city, and also a distinctly bilingual city, with celebrated vibrant French communities amongst the English majority.
  • We have the typical cold, snowy prairie winters.   It may not be easy, but if we look at it objectively, it’s an interesting experience.  That fluffy white snow is rather magical, if you dress for the weather.  One can also try winter sports, or stay inside feeling super cozy and warm.  Bonus:  Bragging rights for being tough enough for the Manitoba winters!
  • We also have beautiful, sunny, hot summers, and fleetingly colourful autumns.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
Natural beauty year-round, as seen in the summer. Picture by Julia Davi.
  • The city is surrounded by cool towns such as Gimli (one hour away), provincial parks, and a national park only 3 hours away.  There are lovely farm fields all around, and lots of nature to be seen, all within easy driving distance.

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The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
The water-break near winnipeg Beach.
  • If you are really adventurous (and don’t mind spending a bit of money), you can take a trip to visit Churchill, and see real-live polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat.
  • The house prices and cost of living are still relatively low!  This means that one can have quite a high quality of life on an average income.
  • The provincial slogan for our license plate is “Friendly Manitoba”, and most of us really are.
A unique winter experience
A unique winter experience

On top of everything, there are some interesting facts about this city.  Did you know that Winnie the Pooh was named after Winnipeg?  Or that the character of Bond, yes… James bond was probably inspired by a real-live Winnipegger?  Ditto for Snow White.

That’s not all…  Just for fun, click here or here to find out more.

Sure, going to the Caribbean to soak up some sun does seem like a top choice for a vacation, you won’t get any argument from me.  But still…  Winnipeg is an interesting place for the brave hearts!  How exciting that our square “Peg” has made the top 20s in this round world!

Do you have an unusual or little known favourite destination?

Thanks for stopping by!

Photo by Julia Davi.
Photo by Julia Davi.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.
There are many city parks where to exercise and enjoy urban nature.

A Story About You

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As you have probably guessed, I love the outdoors, and I care a lot about preserving natural habitat and biodiversity on our planet, so I try to contribute to organizations like CPAWS, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada in my own small ways. (To be honest, I care a lot about other types of causes, as well.)

A while back, I included in one of my posts a link to a petition by CPAWS to help preserve habitat for Caribou migration.  I love petitions because they are empowering – the simple act of taking a few minutes to sign can make a big difference, and it’s one way in which almost anyone can contribute.

Well, I was deeply touched today when I opened my mail and discovered that someone from CPAWS had sent me a cool hat and a hand-written thank you.  They didn’t ask for anything in return, no envelopes for a donation.  It was just a thank you.

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I was surprised by how this small gesture made my day, and inspired me to want to do more for this important cause.  It was a nice thing to happen on December 30th, the last day before New Year’s Eve.  It left a positive feeling inside me.

It reminded me of this little poem that was on a card given to me more than a decade ago.   I think it’s a wonderful mindset with which to approach the fresh year, and I dedicate it to my lovely readers:

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In these difficult times, it helps to remember that our small acts of kindness can make a difference in someone else’s life and help make the world just a bit of a better place.

As we head into the very last day of 2015, I wish each and everyone of you joy, love, peace, and success in 2016 and always. The New Year is a time for fresh starts, when we can pause, reflect, and begin again with renewed strength.

A special thank you today to my dear blogging friends, to those of you who read this blog, and also to those who take the time to comment.  It is one of those things that makes my day! 🙂

All the best in 2016!