A Little Wanderlust.

Here are some of my thoughts and pictures from a long walk I took in Winnipeg, last Saturday.  Hope you enjoy…

~ Carina Spring

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In my last post, I announced that my blog’s technical troubles were finally resolved.  Turns out that my celebrations were, um… premature. Yes, after my gleeful announcement, I joyfully pressed “publish”, and soon realized that the email was not getting delivered to subscribers’ mailboxes.  Every time one problem gets resolved, another one pops up!

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Honestly, autumn has brought a few challenges with it, and not just with my blog.  When I stumbled on these words, yesterday, the mindset struck me as helpful:

“Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.  Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills.  Don’t wish for less challenges, wish for more wisdom.”

~ Jim Rohn

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Anyhow, on Saturday, when I went for a long-overdue haircut, I decided to walk home.  I have been going to the same hairdresser for 15 years.  Her salon is downtown, a fair few kilometres from my home, and in a different neighbourhood.  It was a gorgeous day.  Without thinking much about it, after my haircut, I strolled into the fresh air and started my walk.  It took several hours to get home, though I don’t know exactly how long, because I didn’t pay much attention to the time.

The sun was in my eyes and I carried my big purse over my shoulder, and I felt kind of free: no plans, no car.

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By the time I got home, around 5:00 pm, I’d taken a bunch of snapshots with my cell phone (those are the pictures in today’s post), and I’d accepted a friend’s spontaneous dinner invitation for 6:00 pm.

Hiking, even the urban kind, can be so relaxing. There is something therapeutic about walking by yourself, for hours, like a tourist in your own city.  Now, I feel a vague kind of wanderlust.  Like I want to wander. Everywhere.  Even if it’s only around here.

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When I was in my late teens, I figured life out by running  kilometres and kilometres at a time.  In those runs I found my strength, and I figured out that life was short, and that it all comes down to the present moment.  I think walks like this one are another way for me to better understand life.

Here are a few more snapshots that I took with my cell phone, if you’d like to see what Winnipeg looked like, from my perspective, last Saturday.  It’s a pretty diverse place.

If you enjoyed the post, please feel free to subscribe (see the menu box at the top).  Thanks for the visit!

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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:

Thanks so much for the visit!  If you’d like to receive my latest posts, please feel free to subscribe (See the sidebar menu).  Cheers!

Saying Thank You.

The photograph was used with permission (and gratitude!) from Alicia and Neil’s Photography.  

 

"Make it a habit to tell people thank you, to express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.  Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you.  Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it."

~ Ralph Marston
"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."       

~William Arthur Ward
"Saying "thank you" creates love."

~ Daphne Rose Kingma
"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."

~ G.K. Chesterton

Gratitude is a wonderful frame of mind from which to view our life.  Research shows that people who take the time to write down the things for which they are grateful actually increase their happiness.  Gratitude creates an optimistic mindset and helps us make more positive choices.

But what about thanking and giving praise to those around us?  Is that important? It sounds so easy, but sometimes it can be difficult.  Some people find praise and gratitude very hard to express.  Others find it easy to give, but feel uncomfortable accepting it.

Today, I wanted to share a Ted Talk by Laura Trice. It is only three minutes long; a quick, thought-provoking glimpse into this subject.  She believes that learning to give and ask for genuine praise creates happier lives and households, and that it might very well be where the seed for a better world is planted.

I invite you to listen to this 3 minute (and 24 second) video. I would love to hear your take on this topic, so please feel free to leave a comment.  How important is it to express gratitude?  Is gratitude still valid if we have to prompt it?

Wait… before I go, Thanks for visiting, I truly appreciate you stopping by!  🙂

 

The Aqua-marine Computer

Hello! Today’s post is being written from my new computer!  For the last while, I have been blogging from my phone!  It has been surprisingly effective, but I have missed using an actual computer!!

My old computer was 8 years old (at least), and was acting funny. It probably had a virus.   One day, it simply shut down and wouldn’t start up again.  I tried different things, but nothing worked.  Then, I waited, half expecting it to wake up, but it never did.

Goodbye old friend… and the stories that were lost along with you!  A cautionary note: back up all of your work!  In many ways, this experience was a lesson in letting go – not of the computer, but of the work that I had not backed up.  What surprises me is that I don’t feel upset.  Part of the reason might be that I was not particularly attached to most of the work I had saved to my hard-drive, though there were a few pieces I would have liked to develop further. Besides, I have not completely given up hope.  At some point, we might still find a way to fix that old computer.

In the end, though, I feel there was value in the process of writing those ideas, and what I learned will find its way into what I write in the future.  I miss a few of the pieces, but there is a freedom in releasing, instead of trying to hold on.

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In truth, we had been thinking about replacing that old computer for quite a while, so last week we bought a new one.   We are still setting it up and learning how to use all of its features, so it will be a few days before I am up to speed.

Welcome new computer!  Yes, I know, that is a picture of a diary!  But it is sitting on top of the new computer. As you can see from this snap-shot, the computer is a beautiful aquamarine colour!  It makes sense to photograph my diary along with the computer because, in some ways, they work best in tandem!

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I normally don’t care too much about such things, but I am really happy about the colour of my new computer. They call it teal, but it looks more like aquamarine to me, which is my favourite colour – and I am a pretty big fan of most colours,  so that is saying a lot.  I think that aquamarine will get me into the right frame of mind when I sit down to work!

I also came to a realization through this period of working without a lap-top.

For me, the process of writing has always started with pen and paper.  I would start by writing a good part of the rough copy on paper, and then transcribe those words into the computer, where I would develop the thoughts further.  In my time without a computer, though, I realized that, somewhere along the line, that has changed for me.

Don’t get me wrong, my writing process still involves a lot of interaction between the use of a pencil and the development of the idea on the computer.  I still write in my diary, and use it to jot down ideas, and to brainstorm.  However, the thoughts now flow easily when I sit down to write on my keyboard, and I certainly don’t need to start the rough draft in pencil (though I sometimes still do).  I don’t know when this change happened.  Years ago?  The fact is, though, that the practice of sitting down and writing intentionally seemed to happen a lot less without my keyboard around.

How about you?  Are paper and pencil an integral part of your creative process, or are you a techie all the way?

I am happy to have a working computer again, and I look forward to sharing my summer adventures and reflections with you!  Thanks so much for stopping by!

 

Finding Happiness in Our Everyday Lives.

Happy: A Film by Roko Belic

On Saturday night, I watched a documentary called, “Happy”. Have you seen it?

In the documentary, they traveled all over the globe to show us some of the universal elements of happiness.  According to research, our deepest happiness comes from the simpler things in life – like time spent in loving companionship, nature, and contributing to a greater good.

Interestingly, once our basic needs have been reasonably met, more money does not seem to increase happiness.

Experts say being happy is a skill we can improve with practice!  So here is a brief  list of suggestions, based on some ideas from the film, on how to nourish our happiness.

How to Be Happier

1) An attitude of gratitude. Focus on what you have, and make it a regular habit to remember what you are grateful for in your life. Even if you are facing troubles, even if you are feeling down, take a few minutes to think of the things, even the small ones, for which you are thankful.

2) Exercise! There is a direct correlation between exercising and feeling happy. You don’t need to become the next Iron-Man champion (unless you want to, of course!). Just find something you enjoy. For me, walking is always an excellent way to boost my frame of mind.

3) Connect with loved ones. Make time to enjoy the relationships that matter to you!  If you are feeling lonely, be open to fostering new friendships: volunteer, or take classes. Keep in mind that inter-generational connections are valuable to our well-being, too. And never underestimate the joy found in the companionship of a loving pet.

4) Cultivate caring, and compassion. Research shows that helping others or working toward a good cause makes us feel happier. We become part of something bigger than ourselves, and that changes our perspective. We feel useful knowing that we have something significant to contribute. It’s a way of creating connections, and bringing more meaning to life.

5) Rest! Sleep, and relaxation are so important to happiness. In Japan, they now have a word for working yourself to death: Karoshi. In the documentary, a widow talks about this phenomenon. It’s a disturbing trend: corporate culure needs to change, and so do our attitudes.

6) Enter a state of Flow. Are you familiar with this concept? Think about a time when you were so engaged in an activity that you completely lost track of time, and you sort of forgot about yourself in the process. That is called a state of flow. People who enter this state regularly are happier than those who don’t.  Meaningful work and hobbies are just two of the things that can take us into flow.

Being happy doesn’t mean that one is never sad, angry or frustrated. It is healthy to have natural reactions to situations, but the key is not to get stuck in a negative frame of mind.  We integrate and feel our experiences honestly, finding our way back to a fundamental contentedness.

A Few Quotes:

“Let’s be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. ” – Marcel Proust

“There’s nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.” – Stephen Chbosky

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.” – Audrey Hepburn

You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” Jonathan Safran Foer
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” – Tom Bodett

“Happiness is a warm puppy.” – Charles M. Shulz

 

The Shapes in Our Clouds

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

~Pablo Picasso

I was over at thecreativitycauldron.com for Wordless Wednesday.  There was a simple snapshot of a landscape with a caption that read, “May I never get too old to enjoy finding pictures in the clouds.”

Using it as a prompt, I did a quick, child-like drawing with a few colour markers. As the blue that I used for the sky intuitively found it’s way to the land, I thought, “and may those pictures we see in the clouds add colour and wonder to our everyday life.”

 

In 15 Minutes

Post by Carina Spring.

What do you really want to do?  What activity really taps into who you are?  It’s odd how, sometimes, that is the activity we most resist, and can’t seem to find time to do.

I struggle with making time to draw.  It shouldn’t be that big a deal or that hard to do, but, lately, I always seem to have a good reason why I can’t get to it. So today, when I got home from work, I set my timer to 15 minutes, opened a book, and simply started to draw. I tend to draw from my imagination, but I thought I would benefit from some old-school representational drawing practice.

I took a snap-shot of my 15 minute drawing using my cell-phone camera (see above – graphite pencil – no editing). The drawing is unfinished, and I will leave it that way.  My goal today was not to create a perfect drawing, but rather to start drawing again, to develop the core skills.

What about you?  What would you like to set a 15 minute timer for today?

 

A Toast to Saturday Mornings

One of my favourite things about Saturday mornings is that I don’t have to rush off to work. I love to lounge in bed for a while, even when I am up early. Later, I will go for a long walk and enjoy my favourite activities, but not before I drink coffee, and take the time to savour breakfast.

Do you have a favourite breakfast food?  I do – I love toast.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy other breakfast foods occasionally: eggs and bacon, pancakes or French Toast, or muffins (so yummy!). If I have to pick an absolute favourite, though, it’s toast. That’s right: nice, crispy and golden brown. Topped with real butter and raspberry jam, I am in heaven.  I accompany this treat with half a cup of milk, heated for 30 seconds in the microwave, and topped up with hot, medium roast coffee.  Sometimes, happiness is simple.

How about you? Is there a breakfast food that feels like a treat every time you eat it?

The Photograph is by winnond, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

The surprising Beauty and Benefits of Owning a Fish.

Post written by Carina Spring, and her son.  

What kind of animals have been part of your family?

Our animal friends have a way of making a house feel more like a home. Don’t you think?

There have been a few periods in my life when I didn’t have a pet, but over the years so far, I’ve had dogs, cats, budgies (they were my brothers’), and a baby bird that we rescued after a storm, and eventually released. I have so many stories about these animals!

Currently, we have a 20 year old Tortoiseshell cat, as well as a new addition to our family!

Fishy Facts

Have you ever owned a fish?

For the longest time, my son wanted a Betta fish.  I hate to admit this, but I kept thinking, “A fish?  Really?  How boring.”  I didn’t get the point of owning a fish. All that work of cleaning a tank, and no cuddles?

Nonetheless, last spring, we got one.  And you know, I was wrong. I still can’t believe how friendly and interactive this animal is. A lot of people believe fish only come toward you because they think it’s meal time.  It’s not true: Our fish’s behaviour at meal  times is very specific, and very different from other interactions he seems to enjoy with us.

Fish are beautiful and endearing, but that is not all. There are documented, scientifically proven health benefits to owning an aquarium.

The Health Benefits

Fish have been shown to improve our mood,  reduce blood pressure, and calm children. When looking at fish, our pulse slows, muscle tension relaxes, and our skin temperature warms.

Studies with Alzheimers patients have shown that, when an aquarium is placed in the dining room, patients eat more, need less supplements, and even exhibit less aggressive behaviour.

A study even showed that dental patients needed less pain-killers after looking at an aquarium.

A Soothing room-mate

An aquarium in the bedroom can add beauty to the space, and help you sleep better. Our Betta is in my son’s bedroom, and the soft sound of the water and gentle glow of the light help my son relax and sleep well.

Fun Fish Tales

My son wanted to share a few fun anecdotes about Mr. Betta.  Does anyone reading know if this is typical of a Betta?

~When my husband pours (special, treated) water into the tank, Mr. betta swims through the stream, rather than away From it!

~Mr. betta likes to use the soft current of the filter (kept on minimum for a Betta!) as a “water slide”. He will go up to the filter, let the current push him down, and then repeat until he gets tired.

~He will chase my son’s wiggling finger with remarkable speed!

~Turns out cats aren’t the only ones who get the “evening friskies”!  Mr. betta seems to have a lot of energy right before bed-time. 

Mr.Betta’s Home

Originally, we had him in a 3 gallon tank. We’ve since upgraded him to a 10 gallon tank. Having seen the difference in his behaviour and colouring, I recommend anyone with a Beta consider getting a 10 gallon tank with a filter and heater. Lots of plants, too!  Your pet will be much happier, and live longer.  We’ve also found it easier to maintain.

The neatest thing is that my son has taken on the responsibility of caring for the fish, and unfailingly follows through!

Interested in getting a Betta?  Check out the following link to learn more: http://www.firsttankguide.net/betta.php

 Mr Betta is now a part of the family!

Well, we’d love to hear about your pets!  And let us know if you’ve ever owned fish!

 

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION! Be sure that your fish was sourced responsibly. Avoid buying fish that were taken from their natural habitat. More info on that in a future post!

*Editor’s Note: In the first comment, AncientMariner explains how using fish from their natural habitats might actually help protect that habitat. A good point!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do Snowmen Go At Night?

Post written by Carina Spring. 

Have you ever built a snowmen?  We haven’t built too many, but my son and I made one in our backyard this winter.  As you can see, our snowman wound up with an unintentional foreign flair.

Since then, we’ve had a few warm spells and then some light snow falls. Let’s just say that it’s best you only see the “before” picture – he is no longer in his prime.

Our neighbourhood seems to be full of snowmen this season.  Some are quite impressive – really big and colourful! Even after the weather challenges these Frosties have faced, a few of them are still smiling!

When my son was little, I used to read him a book called “Where Do Snowmen Go at Night?”  It was written in rhyme, a child’s humorous speculations about why snowmen look so melted and tired by the next morning. It was cute, and  quite hilarious.  I recommend it if you have kids!  Heck, it’s fun for adults, too! 😉

Do you have any favourite children’s books?  (From your childhood, or  your kids)