It’s easy to get caught up in everything that is happening around the world right now. The news all seems bad. The economy is stumbling because of the effects of COVID-19, and people are concerned about the future.
This is all understandable. However, it’s important to remember that the nature of an epidemic is to run its course. So after the danger has passed and life begins to get back to whatever we consider to be normal, life will go on. Perhaps not exactly as before, but it will be normal in a new way.
In the meantime, we have to carry on, and believe it or not, this can be a time of opportunity.
Since personal isolation and quarantine require us to stay at home, it’s a great time to work on things we usually don’t have time for, like making the following changes that will up-level your life from now on.
This might seem simplistic but you’ll be surprised by how much better you feel after you’ve tidied up your surroundings. Whether it’s in your home or your work place, putting things where they belong, tossing out what you no longer need, or giving a room an entire deep clean, you will feel better and your life will look better when you’ve finished.
If your mind immediately leaped to everything that needs to be done and you feel so overwhelmed that you want to sit down and pour yourself a glass of wine, here is a strategy to make things easier.
When my daughter was a child, cleaning up her bedroom was so daunting that all she could do was sit on her bed and wail. So, since I’m good at coming up with strategies, I instructed her to go through the room and first pick up all the books and put them away. Then pick up the toys, followed by the clothes, etc. Before she knew it the room was clean again.
I suggest the same method for you to try. Begin by tidying up one category first. For you it might be books (like it is for me), or random piles of papers, clothes, or dishes, depending on the room. Simply clean up one type of mess before moving on to the next one.
Before you know it, the space will be neat and tidy and you can congratulate yourself on a job well done. To make this strategy stick, do it every day for a week or two until you have a new habit. Not only will you enjoy the results of your efforts, but it will also make you aware of how you are messing your space up in the first place.
Eliminate the unnecessary
While this idea works for tidying up your spaces too, in this case, I suggest you eliminate unnecessary activities and commitments that no longer serve you or your family.
Is over-commitment stressing you out? Are you on committees that your heart is no longer in? Are your children’s activities causing the entire family more anxiety?
Take a little time to review where your time is going and whether what you’re doing is adding to your personal peace or subtracting from it.
A lot of what we do is really unnecessary and can be counter productive. If you give each activity in your life a score from 1-10 you can clearly see how much of a priority it is for you. Once you’ve made that list, why not eliminate anything that scores in the 1-5 range? Clearly they don’t matter to you very much anyway.
When I read the book, Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown, I promptly cancelled a couple of events I was scheduled to attend. I realized that I was attending business events almost on auto-pilot, because, well, it’s what you’re supposed to do.
When I examined whether or not these commitments were helping me achieve my goals, I had to admit that they weren’t, so I declined to attend. This allowed me more time for the things that really mattered to me.
This leads me to my next recommendation.
Concentrate on what you love
I’ve taught workshops where I have asked the participants to share three things they really love. It’s amazing to me how many people had trouble coming up with even one.
To make your life richer, more fulfilling, more luscious, spend some time deciding what you really love. What kinds of activities make you feel excited and alive? What kinds of people do you enjoy being with most?
Are there aspects of your home, your town, or your locale that you love, or is it time to consider moving?
When you have chosen or decided on at least one thing that you love, think about how you can add more of it to your life.
For example, I love to travel, so I’m always planning my next trip, checking out locations online, or saving money to put toward airfare. I subscribe to travel websites and publications because I’m interested in seeing more of the world.
My love of travel shows up in my everyday life, too. If I’m tempted to buy something because it appeals to me, or because it’s a good deal, I first ask myself if I’d rather spend that amount of money on this object, or would I prefer to put it toward an overseas flight. Usually, the flight wins, because I know what I love.
Perhaps what you love is a hobby, such as gardening, making pottery, or painting. Has it taken a back seat as other pressures in life have crept in? If decorating your home is something you love, but you’re not earmarking time or funds to put toward it and instead spending money on eating out or buying clothes, it’s time to make the switch.
By concentrating on what you love, you will attract more of it into your life, which in turn will make your life happier and lovelier. Up-levelling your life is an art as well as a practice. It really is the luscious life.
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There have been a few times in my life when a world event seemed to bring everything to a standstill, and people were filled with fear.
Things happen that scare us, and the fear they provoked lasts long after the event itself.
And there are times when we can be fearful for no reason at all, at least not a rational one.
Given the current coronavirus pandemic and all its ramifications, fear is causing many people to do irrational things. I’m sure we won’t soon forget how everyone went crazy over buying toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
However, let’s talk about the emotion of fear and how to control it so it doesn’t control you.
First a story…
When I was about five years old, my mother signed me up for swimming lessons. Given that I grew up on a prairie farm with no water for miles around, I’m not sure what her motivation was, but I learned pretty quickly that water up my nose was an excruciating experience.
After a few attempts at putting my face in the water, I was relegated to the kiddie pool and finally allowed to stop the lessons. Thus began my fear of deep water.
This fear lasted well into my thirties. At some point, not thinking about water at all, I decided that would not allow fear to be a motivator in making decisions for my life. Every time a fearful thought came up, I refused to entertain it.
The interesting thing is, just like an unwanted guest showing up at your door, if you refuse to entertain fear, it will soon stop coming around. Some time after I made that important decision, I had the opportunity to go sailing with a friend. I now live near a large, deep lake and going out on a boat in the sunshine to sail around sounded lovely.
Not once did I have a quiver of fear. In fact, it didn’t occur to me to be afraid about being out on that boat. With the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, it finally occurred to me that I was not afraid anymore. The fear of deep water simply no longer existed.
Let me be clear, I never once decided no longer to be afraid of deep water. I decided not to let fear be a motivator in my life. When I closed the door to all fears, the fear of water went out with it.
Here are some suggestions to stop defaulting to fear, no matter what the situation.
1. Ask yourself if your fear is rational. Is there really something imminent to fear?
In the coronavirus pandemic, the media whipped up fear at a tremendous rate. People began making illogical decisions based on fear alone, not on any imminent danger. Before you give in to fear, ask yourself if you really are in any danger.
Are you okay right now? Will you be okay this time next week, or next month?
How remote is the chance of what you fear actually happening? Stop and think about that for a moment.
Have you prepared yourself in the event of something happening? Are you doing everything you can to keep calm and carry on?
2. Are you being influenced to be afraid?
In my experience, the news media feeds us fear more than just about anything else. The industry thrives on sensationalism and catastrophe sells.
One simple way to turn off the flow of fear is to curtail your exposure to the news. I stopped listening to or watching the news regularly over ten years ago, and still manage to be informed, without the constant repetition of bad news. Limit yourself to one news report per day and you’ll notice how your stress and anxiety levels decline.
Other influences to fear can come from friends and family, or from work colleagues. Fearful people talk about fearful things. No one wants to be alone in his or her fear, because misery loves company.
Recognizing what people are sources of fear promotion will help you to avoid conversations or topics that elevate your fears.
3. Is your fear a habit?
It surprises me how many adults are afraid of so many things, and their first response to anything new is fear. The default position of fear can be a habit. The good news is, if you got into a habit you can get out of a habit.
Watch this video of mine for more on developing good habits.
4. What you focus on becomes larger.
If you want your fears to diminish, simply stop focussing on them. An easy and effective way to do this is to find something else to do that absorbs your attention. This might seem simplistic in the face of a big fear, but it’s important to remember that fear is an emotion, and you get to choose your emotions.
When you focus on what you fear, fear will take over your thoughts and your life. Don’t allow it to. Instead find other things to focus your thoughts on. You have more power over your thoughts than you might believe.
5. Realize that whatever you fear will probably never happen.
Most fear and anxiety is caused by thoughts of what might happen. You might get sick; but you probably won’t. You might have a car accident; but you probably won’t. Your house might be broken into. But it probably won’t. The odds are stacked heavily against any and all personal tragedy.
Yes, bad things do happen in the world but you’ll be surprised how statistically seldom they do.
As of today, all of Canada is bracing for coronavirus to take hold. But so far very little has happened. Yet, across the country people are so afraid of getting sick and having to be quarantined that they are making irrational decisions daily.
Will you get sick? Probably not. Will you be quarantined? Maybe.
Will you die? Most definitely, someday, but probably not from this virus.
Is it worth spending an ounce of energy worrying about it, or fearing what might happen? No.
6. The opposite of fear is peace.
How do you have peace when the world is in turmoil?
The Bible has a simple and elegant prescription for this:
Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have and for God’s answers.
When you belong to Jesus, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds.
Spend your thoughts on what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honourable and right and pure and beautiful and respectable. In other words, control your thoughts and think about good things. And the God who gives peace will be with you and give you peace.
When you do these things, fear will lose its grip on you and your life will be better. I promise.
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1. Stop putting yourself down.
Have you ever said any of these dumb things?
“I’m such an idiot.”
“Why do I do such stupid things?”
“Okay, dumb dumb. Get it right for once.”
Or looked at yourself in the mirror and thought or said, “I’m so ugly.”?
Or, I’m so fat and ugly? I’m disgusting!
We say things to ourselves and about ourselves that we wouldn’t dream of saying to someone else, yet we wonder why we don’t feel good about ourselves.
Please stop doing that! Next time you think of calling yourself a derogatory name, stop. Think about what you are about to say. Instead of calling yourself an idiot again, why not say, “I made a mistake. I can fix this.” Or, “I guess I was wrong. No big deal.”
You have to be kind to yourself, and one place to start is to stop saying nasty things about yourself and to yourself.
2. Stop rehearsing the worst.
Are you a catastrophe thinker? Do you leap to the worst-case scenario, whether it could happen, or could have happened?
Let me give you an example. Another driver startles you by cutting too closely in front of your car. Nothing actually went wrong and you both drove on down the highway. But all you can think about is what could have gone wrong. There could have been a bad accident; you might have been killed; as a result your children would have been orphaned.
What about this: There is rain in the forecast - a lot of it. Does your mind immediately leap to the possible disasters that could occur? What if there is a flood? What if the road washes out and you’re cut off?
Just stop it! Stop rehearsing the worst. Not only do people worry about what could go wrong, but often also worry about what could have gone wrong long after the incident happened - when nothing went wrong.
Expecting and rehearsing tragedy is almost as stressful has experiencing tragedy.
So how do you stop? Control your thoughts. When a worrisome thought pops into your head, change it to something positive.
If you think about what could go wrong, stop and make a list of what is going right. If it’s after the fact, just say, “but it didn’t happen that way.”
And stop listening to the news all the time, and believing the media. Their job is to get your eyes and ears on them and catastrophe is a big seller. Don’t fall for it.
3. Stop not forgiving yourself and others
Every one of us has been hurt by someone else, at some time, whether accidentally or intentionally. We’ve also all done things we regret and wish we had never done.
But carrying around the hurt, disappointment, pain, regret, resentment, or bitterness long after the event occurred isn’t smart. It especially isn’t kind to ourselves.
Look at it this way: When something hurtful happens to you it’s like a sin against you. If you don’t forgive that sin, you will continue to carry it around in your body and soul where it acts like a corrosive agent, damaging you a little every day.
Forgiving someone else does not excuse the wrong. It simply frees you from carrying their wrongdoing around with you. When you acknowledge that you believe they deserve to be punished, but leave that job in God’s hands, you free yourself.
The same applies to forgiving yourself. When you refuse to let yourself off the hook for a wrong you acknowledge, you continue to punish yourself long after the event is over.
When you become a person who is quick to forgive, you’ll be amazed at how much peace you have in your life. So it’s time to stop not being a forgiving person. You will instantly make your life better.
4. Stop rehashing the past.
Meditating on your failures and misfortunes is like eating your least favourite food every day. For me that would be a steady diet of turnips and watermelon. Blech! Why would anyone do that to himself or herself?
Life can be tough and we will all suffer. Jesus said in the life we would have trouble. It’s just a fact. But rehashing it year after year steals your present and keeps you in that place of suffering all over again.
The apostle Paul had all kinds of troubles in his travels but even after shipwrecks, imprisonment, and beatings, he advised forgetting the past and pressing forward in his calling. It’s good advice.
I made what I didn’t know would turn out to be a big mistake several years ago. Even as I realized my mistake, it continued to get worse and I couldn’t extricate myself from the situation without loss. Even after it was over, the fallout left me in a very difficult situation for several more years.
You can believe I’ve rehashed that calamitous mistake to death! Not only did I suffer as I went through everything, but I made myself suffer long after by going over and over where I had gone wrong. It affected nearly every area of my life, including my health. That’s how I learned how fruitless it is to rehash the past. So stop doing that and look forward instead.
5. Stop ignoring your health
You only get one body on this trip through life. How you treat it will have a definite impact on how much you can do, and how much you enjoy the trip.
Here’s my suggestion: Stop doing things that harm or deplete your body.
Stop over drinking
Stop eating too much
Stop eating junk
Stop staying up too late
Stop taking drugs
Stop getting too little sleep
Stop getting too little exercise
Stop ignoring pain
Stop working too hard
Stop pushing your body beyond its limits
Stop thinking you’re invincible
Be kind to yourself.
Get enough sleep
Eat good, healthy food
Eat in moderation
Do things you enjoy
Take a walk
Love yourself, and your body and it will carry you for a long time.
6. Stop blaming
Do you take responsibility for your own life, or do you point the finger of blame at someone or something else?
It’s so much easier to blame circumstances or other people for our situations or failures, but frankly, that just keeps you stuck there.
Taking responsibility for your own life is a grown up thing to do. So you have to get over the habit of blaming as an excuse for your own actions. It prevents you from moving forward with your life.
We can blame:
And a host of other things. It’s time to stop shifting the blame for what isn’t working and take initiative yourself. Stop making excuses.
7. Stop being afraid
I have talked to so many people who want to do something yet are afraid to try. We’re afraid to fail, afraid to succeed, afraid of what people will think about us, and afraid of looking stupid.
Let’s look at these major fears.
Are you afraid to fail? I have been too. Then I did fail, quite spectacularly. And guess what, it didn’t kill me. What it did, besides teaching me a lot of things that I now use to do better, is it taught me that it’s the feelings of being a failure that are the scariest.
So, let me ask you this: If you’re afraid of failing, how do you think you’ll feel about yourself if you do fail?
Is the prospect of experiencing those feelings about yourself where the real fear lies? If so, remember, you get to decide how you feel. Before you attempt that new thing, decide that if it doesn’t work out, you will still feel fine.
Besides, what if you succeed?
Which leads us to the next one: Are you afraid of success? What is really behind that fear? Will your life change too dramatically? Are you afraid of how your loved ones will react to your success? Keep digging until you find the real kernel of the fear then work on a solution.
Afraid of what others will think? Just remember that most people are spending so much time thinking about themselves that they rarely think about you or me. What people think is their own business, and has nothing to do with you.
Other people in your life might be more comfortable if you don’t change, but it’s not your job to make everyone comfortable. Stop being afraid of what others think.
Lots of us are frozen in our tracks for fear of looking stupid. This is another manifestation of fear of what others will think but it shows up a lot in public situations.
Years ago, when I started my first business, I knew I had a lot to learn. One day I made the decision that I would rather look stupid once than be stupid forever. That simple decision gave me the courage to ask questions from people I didn’t know so I could learn what I needed to succeed.
If you stop doing any or all of these dumb things, you’ll make life better and probably be a lot happier too.
We all have times in our lives when we intentionally want to change our behaviour for the better and create new habits for ourselves.
This could be getting in the habit of eating more fresh vegetables, and drinking more water. Or it could be exercising more and taking the dog for a daily walk. It could be work related, or spiritual, like praying every morning, or fitting more writing or painting time into your day. There are so many areas in our lives that can be improved and made easier if we create new habits.We all have times in our lives when we intentionally want to change our behaviour for the better and create new habits for ourselves.
This could be getting in the habit of eating more fresh vegetables, and drinking more water. Or it could be exercising more and taking the dog for a daily walk. It could be work related, or spiritual, like praying every morning, or fitting more writing or painting time into your day. There are so many areas in our lives that can be improved and made easier if we create new habits.
For some reason, we seem to be able to acquire bad habits without much effort, but getting into a good habit seems a little more challenging. I’m not sure why this is, because good habits make life better in all kinds of ways.
The goal is to make changes easy to follow until we’ve internalized the new behaviour and made it a true habit – something you do automatically without having to think about, like brushing your teeth.
So, how long does it really take to develop a new habit? It depends. It depends on your level of commitment, and on how big a change you want to make from what you are doing now.
When we are trying to make a change, what we really want to know is: how long do we have to tough it out until it gets easier. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel where we don’t have to try so hard to do things differently? In other words, when will this new behaviour of painting daily, or writing a thousand words before work, or eating breakfast become automatic?
While it will be different from one person to the next and even from one habit to the next, here are some ways that will help you get started. Yes, it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones. But it will be well worth it in the end. Be prepared and determined to stick it out.
1. Decide What You Want To Do
The first step is to decide what you want that new habit to be. Be as specific as possible. Don’t just tell yourself you want to exercise more, or write more, or eat better. Instead say something like “I will write for 30 minutes every single day”. Or, I will eat a salad for lunch three times a week. Deciding what your new habit will be and committing to when and how you’re going to do it is half the battle.
2. Replace an old habit with a new one
It’s easier to make a new habit than get rid of an old one so, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example if you’re wanting to write every day, try replacing that half hour you spend reading the news over your morning coffee with 30 minutes of writing instead.
3. Make it incremental
If your current habit is to eat a massive bowl of ice cream every evening and you want to start intermittent fasting to lose weight or improve your health, you could start by switching from eating it at 9:00 o’clock, to eating it at 8:00 o’clock instead, then move that time to 7:00 o’clock.
Once that’s a habit, you could switch to eating an apple instead of the bowl of ice cream.
4. Stick to the same time and place each day
Habits will form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. Instead of trying to fit in sketching whenever, keep your sketchbook next to the front door or in your handbag, and plan to sketch for an hour after breakfast, or before bed.
Schedule your journalling time right after dinner at the dining room table.
Try to sit in the same chair each time you write a blog post.
5. Remind yourself why you’re doing this
A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Remind yourself every day that you’re sticking to your writing schedule so you can finish your novel by the end of the year.
Or put up a picture to remind you that you’re saving a hundred dollars each payday so you can go to Paris at Christmas. Keep the reason why you’re making habit changed in front of your eyes.
Use a vision board, or simply post sticky notes around the house where you’ll see them all the time.
6. Decide to commit
The first few days after you decide to change a habit will probably be smooth sailing. You’re motivated and excited to get this done. At this point, sticking to your new habit isn’t an issue. But a few days in you might notice that you have slipped back into your old habit. You may start to second-guess why you even want to do this new thing.
For example, maybe it’s raining and you don’t feel like going for your walk. Or maybe your day just gets away from you and you decide to skip your journalling time. At times like this, it’s important to remember that you’ve make a commitment to yourself.
7. Schedule It And Put It On a To-Do List
Sometimes I simply forget to do that new thing I’ve been trying to make habitual. Maybe I slip back into reading the news in the morning, and forget that I had decided to write instead. Or I get busy with something and forget all about my plan to go for a walk everyday at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon.
If I schedule my new positive habits in my planner like any appointment, set an alert on my phone, or make them part of my daily to-do list, they will become something I do automatically much sooner.
8. Make It Public and Be Accountable
Let family and friends know what new habits you’re trying to establish. They will call you out if you don’t stick to your plan and can help get you back on track.
You may even go as far as sharing your plans publicly on social media, or write a blog about your new journey. Knowing that others read it and know about it might be just enough motivation to keep you going when you feel like throwing in the towel or slipping back into old routines.
9. Piggyback On A Habit You Already Have
Whenever possible, add the new habit to one you already have. For example, if you fix a cup of tea or coffee at 4:00 pm, and you want to get in the habit writing in your journal every day, make it your new ritual to journal while enjoying your tea.
It’s much easier to amend an existing habit or ritual than create an entirely new one. A routine will help you achieve this. Even before the new behaviour becomes automatic, a routine you already have will help you get it done without having to spend a lot of willpower or relying on daily reminders.
10. Make Slip-ups Costly
Here’s a fun idea. Put a jar on the kitchen counter and each time you slip back into your old habit or forget to stick to the new one you have to put five dollars in the jar. It will quickly help you remember to skip wasting time surfing the Internet instead of working on your project. For extra motivation donate the money to charity at the end of the month or hand it over to your spouse or children to spend.
11. Find A Partner and Help Each Other Along
Find someone with the same or similar goal. This could be a writing partner or fellow artist, a whole foods cook, or someone who shares a fitness goal. Keep tabs on each other and encourage one other to keep going. It’s much harder to skip if you know someone else is depending on you.
12. Make It A Group Challenge
If one accountability partner is good, a whole group is even better. And they don’t even need to be local. Find a supportive group online and challenge each other to stick to your new habit for the next 30 days. Not wanting to be the first one to give up will keep all of you going until you establish that new habit.
Give these simple little tricks a try. Keep using the ones that you find helpful until you have made new creative habits you can stick with without the help of any tools or support.
In the past week, a good friend of mine lost her father after a difficult illness, and a young mother I know lost her husband in a tragic car accident. Just today, another friend lost a sibling unexpectedly. Things like this happen every day. Sometimes it happens to people who are close to us, and sometimes to folks we don’t know, so it doesn’t seem to touch us.
But then one day, tragedy, disappointment, or loss shows up on your own doorstep. Someone you care about becomes ill. A friend dies suddenly. The business idea that was supposed to be the answer — finally — crumbles before your eyes. You lose your job.
A relationship is damaged beyond repair. A marriage falls apart, in spite of your best efforts to keep it alive. Children get sick. A teenager makes bad choices that you know will not turn out well, yet you’re powerless to do anything about it.
Things like these shock us. We’re not made to cope with tragedy and emotional pain but hello, there it is anyway.
I’m going to tell you a story from my own life:
As you may know if you've been following me for a while, in January 2017 my mother died. She had always been a strong, capable woman and we all expected her to live a good long time. But a simple accident set off a chain of health challenges that within a few months ended her life. We had always been close and for my entire family, it was a huge loss. Our beloved Dad had passed away only a couple of years before, so it all seemed like too much, too fast, too soon.
Within the span of the year, eleven more of my friends and family passed away. Yes, twelve people in one year. In the midst of all this, I was tasked with being executor on my mom’s will, a job that required a lot of me. During that year, my sister moved from living five minutes away to the other side of the country, an eight-hour trip by plane away.
My much-loved little church disbanded and closed its doors. My business suffered as the emotional and physical demands mounted up. By the time the year ended, I was buried in sadness, and physically and emotionally exhausted. I can honestly say that it took me all of the next year to stumble back onto my feet.
Sadness can feel like you’re carrying a heavy load on your shoulders throughout every day, and sometimes a bag of tears around your heart. You might be able to put the burden down when you sleep, but the moment you wake, at whatever hour, there it is waiting to be picked up again.
I’d like to stop here for a moment, and make a distinction between sadness and depression. Sadness is generally a reaction to a loss, disappointment, ongoing problems, or difficult situations in which we find ourselves. Feelings of sadness usually lessen over time as we adjust to the changes in our lives.
Depression is a more serious mental health condition. Sometimes, sadness is confused with depression though, so be sure to seek help if you believe you are suffering from depression.
As with most emotional pain, both sadness and sorrow, which is deep sadness, can be exhausting. It can be difficult to keep putting one foot in front of the other throughout each day.
When you suffer a profound loss, people will tell you that life goes on, and it can feel like a slap in the face, but the truth is, that life continues even when you feel like your own world has stopped turning.
Even amidst times of sorrow and grief, we will have to get up every morning, make the bed, prepare meals, show up for work, gas up the car, care for the children, do the laundry. In many ways, this is a good thing. Distraction helps. Attending to the needs of others helps. But it doesn’t lift the weight of sadness from the weary soul.
Over the months that followed my mom’s death, through those difficult and trying weeks and months, I found a few ways that helped to ease the heaviness. Here is what worked for me.
1. Find reasons to be happy.
One of the things that had to be done was cleaning out my parents’ home. My sister, and my sister-in-law and I decided the best way to tackle it would be for the three of us to go together and begin the wade through sixty years of accumulated stuff. We laughed so hard at finding things like a forty-year old pink plastic back scratcher with only four fingers left on it. And the single stuffed arm of an unfinished fabric doll cracked us up. The laughter pushed back the sadness that came in between as we sifted through old family photos, and sorted out mom’s bedroom and sewing room.
Halfway through that dreadful year, my daughter gave birth to a baby boy, my first grandson. Spending time with that new baby, and his three-year-old sister made my heart happy.
In September, my husband and I took a vacation and went to Quebec to visit my sister and her family. Beautiful weather and new scenery helped lightened my hearts.
Closer to home, I deliberately chose to do things that I knew would make me feel happy in spite of the sadness.
Be careful not to wallow for any length of time. It only leads you deeper.
2. Cut back on demands as much as you can.
If you think of losses as actual wounds, while emotional rather than physical, they still need time to heal. It is imperative to allow yourself as much space as you can to be kind to yourself.
Cut out anything that increases your stress levels or puts more pressure on you. While I didn’t want to do it, I cut back on taking clients in my business. I simply didn’t have the energy required to do the work well while feeling so bruised myself.
Realize your limitations and know that you won’t feel this way forever. In the meantime, be gentle yourself. You’ve been hurt and need time and peace in order to get back on your feet.
3. Give your sadness away.
Remember how I said that sadness can feel like a heavy burden that you have to carry around? In fact, you don’t have to carry it.
Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
Sometimes I’ve read or heard that verse and wondered how that even works. But over the years I’ve gradually figured it out.
We were never meant to carry our own grief and sorrows. God doesn’t put them on us, in case you’ve been told that. Instead, he wants to carry them for us.
Here is what I do, and it works. I sit quietly, close my eyes, and imagine that Jesus has appeared and is standing next to me, just waiting. I picture that bag of sadness that I’ve been carrying. Then I pick it up and hand it to Jesus.
I’ll even say something like, “Here, please carry this for me. It’s too heavy for me to handle.” In my vision, he takes the bag from me and slings it over his shoulder, onto his own back.
If the sadness tried to come back I remind myself that I’m no longer carrying it and Jesus has that burden now.
He did promise rest for the weary and heavily laden. He promised rest for my soul, which is where the pain of sadness resides. It’s not denial. It’s faith.
Remember, whatever may have befallen you, or whatever you’re going through, keep looking forward to better days ahead. One day you’ll wake up and realize that sadness is no longer overshadowing your heart. The memories will still be there but the pain will be gone.
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Where I live, I have been hunkering down under layers of clouds, punctuated by snow falls, blizzards and winds for most of the time for over the past month. Though it does get dreary I admit, the unceasing rain and chill tend to keep you indoors, which makes for the perfect setting for concentrating on doing indoor projects. Sitting by my window, with just enough light to feel like there is vitamin D to be had out there somewhere, I can watch the winter birds at the feeder. I can also watch the snow line go up and down the mountain side that I can see past my computer monitor depending on the temperature and level of precipitation. When the clouds are high enough to actually see the mountain tops, the scene is spectacular. Yesterday between bouts of slashing, rain, sleet and wind, the sun broke through for only a few minutes and gave us the most vibrantly colored rainbow I think I have ever seen. With the backdrop of dark clouds, this site was a gift of beauty.
You never know when something is going to cause a change in your life, however small, that may make everything simpler. I believe that these occurrences come into our lives when we're ready or perhaps they come along all the time and we only notice them when we're ready. I once read that if you want more time, do less. This makes sense to me, though it's not always easy. I remember flying home from Europe many years ago after spending a month with my sister. Sitting on that plane alone, well with a few hundred other travelers, but still alone, gave me time to review my life. I asked myself what was not giving me pleasure about my life at that time. I had volunteered for several committees, some associated with my children's schools and realized that one of those committee positions had been draining my energy and joy.
As soon as I got home, I resigned. When you're not in the right place or you're doing a job that you're not supposed to do, you're not only taking your energy away from what you're supposed to do, you're preventing the right person from taking the position. Sometimes we feel like we will let everyone down by setting something aside, but the activity could be falsely propped up by our participation. While you don't have to be passionate about everything you do, there should be some value in it to you and to others. After I dropped out of that committee, I discovered another area where my skills and energy could be used to benefit others in even better ways. This opportunity didn't deplete me and my contribution was much more effective. Simplifying your life is often a case of choosing the activities that are most suited to your gifts and abilities. It is in those areas that your contribution will be most effective, where your life will feel most on track. It's a good place to be.
We all have dreams, that list of things we hope one day to have or experience. And mostly we see those desires as being in some far off place in our lives, always just out of reach on the next horizon. But sometimes our dreams do come true, either through planning or unexpectedly. Sometimes they come true in ways we hadn't anticipated, in bite sized pieces of the big dream. Often, we don't even recognize these little snippets that keep our desires alive. It's like we can't see the first little green leaves of spring because we've decided to be satisfied with nothing less than the whole tree or the entire forest. When we see the leaves or the little dreams come true, they are like gifts from God that lead us like a trail of crumbs toward the bigger dream. If we're attentive, we can experience the joys of dreams coming true with each small step. They give us hope for the future. The one we long for in our hearts. Yes, it is out there. Each step of the way leads us closer.
When we appreciate what God puts in our paths each day and live in gratitude and joy, the big dreams come true piece by piece, step by step, day by day. How then do you know when you're doing what you're called to do when you're in the center of God's will? For that matter, do we even want that? Do you want God's will or do you just want your own? Many of us say, we want God's will for our lives, but live like that's the last thing we'd want. I believe the reason for this is because we don't really know God well enough to trust his judgment.
When you know the character of God, you find out that his plan is always the best one. That's because he's the maker. When I paint a picture or write a book, I know that work better than anyone else because I'm the creator. Wouldn't the God who made me know me better than I know myself? I would say so. God made me to live in my element. He knows exactly what that is. A life of peace and trust without striving or anxiety. It has taken me a long time to learn this. I have learned to trust God who loves me. He also loves you.
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Our thinking shapes our experiences. Even obstacles have a value when you can recognize it. Develop convictions that will help you to feel happier and achieve more, regardless of the situation.
Consider these empowering beliefs that you can start using today to transform your life through the power of changing your thinking.
I understand my potential.
You can achieve amazing results when you put your mind to it. Feel excited about reaching your true potential.
I count my blessings.
List each thing that you have to be grateful for. Remember to include the smaller items, like warm socks or tart cranberries. Expressing your appreciation reminds you of how rich you are.
I learn from mistakes.
Make setbacks work for you by focusing on the lessons they contain. Messing up one project can teach us how to do better with the next one.
I find meaning in adversity.
Tough times can be the most rewarding phases in life. It is possible to emerge from any challenge with greater wisdom and courage. When you look back at the obstacles you've already overcome, it's reassuring to know you can handle what's ahead.
I embrace change.
Even when we want nothing to change, it's better to accept that life is a series of changes. Focus on the present moment, and prepare yourself to adapt to whatever circumstances come along.
I dream big.
Expand your wish list. Setting inspiring but attainable goals gives you adventures to look forward to each day. Believe that your dreams are possible, then take steps to get there. There is no other way.
I practice forgiveness.
Few things are more effective for lightening your load than clearing away resentment you're holding onto from the past. Set reasonable boundaries and respond with compassion when others disappoint you. Pardon yourself, too.
I give generously.
Sharing our blessings makes us all more powerful and joyful. Volunteer in your community or determine to speak kindly to each person you meet today. Buy coffee for your co-workers or give your sister a flower. Give cheerfully to someone in need.
What we believe has a powerful impact on what happens in our lives. If you believe that you can, or you can't, you're right. Adopting beliefs like the following will help make your life better.
I take responsibility.
You are in charge of your life. Hold yourself accountable for the outcomes you create. Celebrate the fact that you have the power to determine your own future.
I apply effort.
Figure out your definition of success so you know what is worth working for. Give yourself credit when you're making progress rather than comparing yourself to others.
I leverage my strengths.
You have your own individual strengths that you can draw on. Figure out what you're good at and what you want to do. Let that knowledge guide your choices.
I listen to feedback.
Ask for feedback so you can enhance your performance and show others that you respect their point of view. You grow faster when you gather solid input that you can translate into action.
I ask for help.
Build a sturdy support network. Work with a mentor. Divide up household chores with your spouse and children. Ask for help when you're stuck, or when you can't see the next steps.
I connect with others.
Moral support counts too. Surround yourself with loving and encouraging family and friends. Participate actively in your faith community. Join a club with members who share your interests, whether it is in solar power, photography, or badminton.
I recognize opportunities.
Stay alert for promising openings. You may meet a new friend while you're standing in line to buy your morning coffee.
I try new things.
Be open to experimentation. Go kayaking one weekend instead of playing tennis. Bake your own bread or knit a scarf. You may discover hidden talents.
An upbeat attitude increases your happiness and productivity. Question old assumptions so they can be replaced with a new sense of certainty about you and your future. Adopt empowering beliefs that build up your confidence and prepare you for greater success. Start today.
And my favourite:
I trust God.
Know that God loves you like you are his only child. He is good and only good and can be trusted all the time.
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Recently, I was musing about making some changes in my life and when I thought about certain things, I could actually feel a sensation in my body. It was like that feeling you get when you are startled by a knock at your door, or when it's your turn to speak a meeting.
What is this? I didn't want it to pass unnoticed, because I've learned over the years to pay attention to those visceral responses. They are useful indicators of what's going on emotionally under the surface.
I realized that the sensation I was experiencing was a little quiver of fear. Now, I consider myself to be a pretty confident—even fearless—person. Most things don't slow me down. However, as with everyone, there can be things under the surface of daily life that still have an emotional hook to something fearful.
This brought me to another question: What would my life look like if I weren't afraid?
This question is different than, what would I do if I weren't afraid? I want to know the end result, what my life looks like without that particular fear holding sway.
So let me ask you...
What would your life look like if you weren't afraid? "But I'm not afraid," you might protest. And in most situations, you're probably right. But see if any of these give you a little twinge.
What would you life look like if you weren't afraid...
Obviously, there are more possible fears than I can list here. The point is, if your particular fear were not part of your life, how would your life be different?
If you can imagine or picture your life without that fear controlling your actions, you're well on your way to eliminating it and living a better life.
Fear is a Thief
If you think about how fear affects your life, you can easily see that fear is a thief, by any other name.
It steals your peace, your joy, your future, your choices, your happiness, your health, and your relationships. It robs you of confidence and ambition.
Fear is a Liar
Fear lies to you about your abilities and your future. It lies about how smart or capable you are. It lies about what people think of you and how much God loves you. It even lies about danger.
Fear is Destructive
Fear destroys your dreams, your compassion, your thought life, your sleep, and your health. It damages your ability to think clearly and make decisions that will enhance your life.
My life is like this...
If you've identified anything from the list above, or that you already know is causing you to hesitate and not to do what you would like to, take some time to imagine your life without that particular fear.
Where would you go?
What steps would you take?
To whom would you talk?
Where would you live?
What would your days look like?
What would you try?
This is a fun exercise because all it requires is a bit of imagining.
Close your eyes and picture the result you want. It's pretty easy but if you're getting resistance, just keep trying until you can see your life without the stumbling block of fear.
Daily joy is up for grabs so don't let fear steal it away. Go for the happy.
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One day I sat down to make a list of some of the things that make my life feel rich and full. There were very few things on the list that I didn’t already have and appreciate. But one item on my list was to buy fresh flowers regularly. For me, buying flowers had fallen into the category of money frittered away since flowers soon die leaving nothing to show for the money spent.
So buying flowers and having them around my home is a sign to me of my prosperity and luscious living, a sign that I have enough money that I don’t have to concern myself with such a small expense. With that exercise, I realized how very little is often required to feel rich and prosperous. Very often the problem lies in not identifying what gives us that delightful sense of joy, because we can be too busy to look.
If you were to create your own list of delights, it may not include buying flowers. Beautiful music, pleasing colours, pretty things give most of us a lot of pleasure, and surrounding ourselves with these delights makes life so much more lovely.
Our surrounding have a powerful impact on how we relate to other things in life. So it is important to fill our surroundings with objects that lift the spirit and soothe the soul.
Surrounding yourself with beautiful things is an act of self-care. When you treat yourself well, you are acknowledging that how important you are. You are one of a kind and very special. Take the time and care to add more beauty to your life to give your own soul delight.
Ask yourself if your home gives you pleasure to be in? Is your bedroom an expression of your beautiful self? If not, then take the time to identify those things that need to be removed, replaced, or revitalized. Adding beauty to your surroundings it can be as simple as placing a violet on your kitchen windowsill, to as elaborate as redecorating your whole house.
Whatever you choose, remember that our souls are nourished by beauty, so if you want a well-nourished and satisfied soul, be sure to surround yourself with more of it.
I had this thought: What if I did nothing at all today?
What if I didn’t strive for anything? What if I let myself off the hook?
I’m not saying I want to simply be lazy.
But…what would it be like not to feel driven? To get quiet and be led instead?
If I look around me, all I see has been provided one way or another, yet, I spend so much time and create so much disquiet trying to provide for myself. Don’t you? And trying to prove something that doesn’t need to be proven.
The world tells you that you have to hustle all the time.
Life can sometimes feel like walking down the street and having everyone shouting at you, demanding something from you, trying to get you to look this way, buy this, trying to convince you that only this thing will change your life - That there is only one way to succeed, and right now, you have to sign up, enter your credit card number, hurry, before it’s too late.
Please know, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with commerce. We all need to make a living and work is important.
But what if you and I were to turn the sound down for a day?
What if we sat in the sun and read a book for an hour, not talking?
Would the something terrible happen? Not likely. But I would have more peace today.
I have a passion for silence.
Sound is something we don’t really notice most of the time.
A neighbour starts his car and drives past, muffler growling.
A siren sounds in the distance. I pray for safety and healing for whomever is involved.
A small plane goes overhead, the sound of its engines reaching a crescendo before fading into the far distance.
Without silence or quiet, our souls become agitated in ways we can’t even recognize. How can you listen to the still, small voice in your heart, when noise is all around? It is possible, if you are tuned into it, but it takes practice to learn how to hear God.
I live in a quiet small town, in a quiet neighbourhood. When I go to the city, while it is fun and exciting, by the end of the day, I can’t wait to get home to the relative stillness.
Being still allows me to notice things that otherwise are missed in the hurry and striving and noise that fills most days.
Being still gives me the time to be thankful for the good things in my life. Do you know that every good and perfect thing in your life ultimately has come from God?
Listen to this verse from the Bible: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
No variableness means no here today, gone tomorrow. No wishy-washy. No turning away from giving good and perfect gifts, not even a shadow of it.
When I take the time to sit in stillness, the beauty around me becomes more evident. I see better, the good and perfect things in my life.
Some of those gifts are physical, like health and ability. Some are material—a car to drive, a home, nice clothes. Some are mental—peace of mind, clear thinking.
And many are spiritual - knowing that God loves me, and that he always provides for me.
I am also thankful for the talent God has given me, and thankful that I have been able to develop my skills in art and watercolour, and with words, so I have the opportunity to bless others with beautiful things from my hands.
Of course, I sell things featuring my art in my store because I too have bills to pay. But ultimately, I believe that making life pretty is an admirable goal as it makes life better. Beauty lifts the spirit and soothes the mind.
I hope you take the time to visit my store at Summer Bay Studio.com. It’s full of pretty things featuring my watercolour art.
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Once you have logged in to the Lesson Library, download and print the Maple Leaf drawing.
You will notice that some of the lines represent the outline of the leaf and its veins, while others outline the shadows around the leaf.
TIP: The light source for the image is from straight on, which is why you see shadows on both sides of the leaf. As you know, when leaves dry in the fall, they tend to curl so our leaf is not lying flat, and the shadows indicate this to the viewer.
As an artist and a writer, love art and words, and I especially love them together. When I designed my series called Sea Dreams, I wanted not only to evoke the feelings we have about the sea with soft, fresh colours, but also to incorporate words.
I chose to keep the words simple, using only the names for each shell pictured in the watercolour. While the words were simple, choosing a font was not.
Generally, I have an idea in my mind's eye of how I want the whole image to look but often once I create it, I find that I'm not happy with how it turns out. That's when the experimenting begins.
Over the years, I have added a lot of decorative fonts to my font "basket" because I create decorative work. The process of choosing a font and the appropriate colour is one of trial and error. First I type the word, then scroll through my fonts for likely candidates.
Some fonts get rejected as soon as I see them on the artwork. Others are definite maybes. I will make a copy of my word or words, and change the font on the copy so I can compare the two. I continue with this process until I have several possibilities.
Several considerations go into the choice:
I place each font style on the artwork, size it, work with the colour, and gradually eliminate fonts that don't convey the look and feel that I want for the art. It can take many hours to get just right! But that's all part of the fun fun.
SEE ALL SUMMER BAY STUDIO'S COLLECTIONS HERE.
Recently I was talking with a friend who expressed how unhappy she was in her work situation. I can appreciate that sometimes conditions can be intolerable for a variety of reasons, however, my friend has a habit of rehashing her day as soon as she gets home. She goes over everything that went wrong, all the ways things didn't work out, and recounted whatever anyone said or did that rubbed her the wrong way.
Whoa! If you want to stay miserable, doing this is guaranteed to help you with it. Looking for the negative is an easy, and bad, habit. To change how you habitually think, you have to…change your thoughts.
A good way to begin to do this is to choose to appreciate the good things you already have.
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Simply click the links for the products that interest you and it will take you right there. If you're not already a Prime Member you can sign up for a free 30 day trial for Amazon.ca (Canada) HERE.
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You know how it goes. You have plans and everything in noted in your planner. Then you get sideswiped by the unexpected. The car breaks down. Someone near and dear passes away suddenly. The transaction that was supposed to have been cleared up months ago, finally needs your utmost attention, just when everything else does too.
Life just goes like that. At least, mine sure has lately. However, in the midst of a bunch of stuff that I won't go into, I've managed to create eight new watercolours I'm calling Summer Bay Farm. These cuties are appearing first on a set of coffee mugs, then I will be rolling out several other great products.
Here is a peek at my new coffee mugs. There are eight animals in the series, and I think they're all adorable. This is Mrs. McQuacken.
The remainder are loading on my new store and will be available to purchase later this week.
There are days—we all have them. It seems like the weather has been grey and cold for weeks, and the sun went south for a holiday.
Motivation to do, well, anything, is worse than at low ebb. It's hardly more than a drop to dampen a fingertip on.
It's easy to lose sight of your goals, why you do what you do, or why you ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. The refrigerator and the sofa are calling your name.
It is time for a pep talk.
If you have someone to go to, that's great. But you can give yourself a pep talk any time you want.
Here are a few tips:
1. Remind yourself out loud what your goal is. "This is what I'm doing..."
2. Say why you want this. "I want to do this because..."
3. Imagine yourself doing it, or achieving it. See how that feels. "It feels fantastic now
that I have..."
4. Congratulate yourself on your progress so far. "Wow! Well done, (your name)!"
5. Celebrate with something special, or do a happy dance in your kitchen.
Little steps like these can completely change your mood and your motivation and will keep you on track to getting you where you want to go.
You can do it!
The months of spring are sliding by so quickly, it's important to keep an eye on the calendar. The way I work, I sometimes lose track of what date it is because I become so focused on my work.
This spring is a little different because I've created a few designs for upcoming holidays and gift-giving occasions. The next up is Mother's Day.
Early last year, I decided to do something that had been on my mind for some time. The idea of the somewhat lost art of writing personal letters intrigued me. As a child and young teen, I had pen pals and I remember eagerly awaiting letters in the mail.
As soon as one arrived, I raced to my bedroom and wrote a reply. I wanted the letters to keep coming.
Later, when family members moved far away, we communicated with each other by writing letters. Long distance phone calls were infrequent and expensive then, but getting a letter in the mail was a delight.
With these and other memories in mind, I began creating The Letter Box, providing subscribers with a beautiful, illustrated letter every few weeks. It was exciting and fun, and my subscribers loved it.
Little did I know when I began that 2017 would turn out to be such a difficult year. Lots of big and tragic events came along. By late fall, I was finding it hard to keep all the balls in the air and it was with regret that I had to stop writing and illustrating the regular installments of The Letter Box.
Now, my life seems to have righted itself again. (What a relief!)
But guess what! After all that letter writing, you wouldn't believe all the beautiful pages I have. I am so excited to tell you that I have gathered them all together and put them in a book! I have also added more letters that even the previous subscribers have never seen!
The Letter Box - An Entire Year of Illustrated Letters is now available to purchase.
Isn't it pretty?
And here is a special surprise: A peek inside!
I made some changes to some of the original letters, adding more of my watercolours and keeping everything current.
My goal with this book of letters is to shine a light on the beautiful things that are around us every day, and to help us all find enjoyment in the sweet ordinary.
The letters are personal with details about my life, including travels and discoveries.
The Letter Box also has lots of great tips and ideas, from recipes and decorating ideas to advice on cleaning closets and enjoying summer days (not at the same time, though).
I have a loyalty card for the grocery store where I usually shop for healthy stuff like broccoli, and other things such as shampoo, exercise pants (which rarely see the light of day), and new small appliances that I don't buy because my counter space is already full—of other small appliances. I can redeem my accumulated points for any of these delights and more: make-up, snow shovels, baby clothes, bacon, taco chips, and live lobsters.
I also have a loyalty card for a drugstore chain that gives me points, like the other card does, that I can redeem for cool stuff like more lipsticks than a mega-church ladies group needs, magazines, or canned soups. This store has some of the same stuff as the grocery store, minus the lobsters (thank goodness).
Recently, these two stores amalgamated their loyalty programs, which required visits to both stores, a new card to replace the previous two, and registering online so I can be informed of all the deals. My previous sign-in information didn't work, so new password, new login, a lot of frowning and resetting...you know the drill.
In the meantime, I visited the drugstore and forgot new my card at home on my desk, while it was waiting to be registered. Now I have to go back and see if what I spent yesterday can now be counted as points. I'm so close to getting something fabulous with my amalgamated points.
Life is full of little details like this and as a creative person running a business, the details seem endless. Not only are there lists of must-do tasks every day, but the lists of would-love-to do projects looms large. New ideas are all so enticing that no matter what I'm currently working on, when a new concept pops into view, I want to add it to my stack of projects. Believe me, it takes serious discipline to make those ideas wait until I finish something.
Which brings me to this:
The book will be in full colour and in a large format so it is easy to read and the images are nice a clear. I have everything almost ready but then...
My forward progress was interrupted when my husband booked a week off work with the intention that we go away for a few days break. Lovely, I thought. But only days before our departure, our daughter and her two wee ones took sick, too sick for her to recover while nursing a baby and caring for a sick three-year-old.
So being the good parents we are, we scooped them all up and brought them to our little house for the week. As an aside, I also caught the cough bug, but not nearly to the degree that my kids got it. To top off the week, my computer coughed up its graphics card and went into a coma.
Life can get so muddled.
It was great fun having my two little g-babies here for the week. After all, who could resist a face like this?
Getting back to my original thought, don't you find that life is often a muddled mess? Things don't always go as planned, no matter how tight the plan. Our vacation getaway got postponed for another time; our house became a jumble of scattered toys, spit-up cloths, and bouncing children.
By the weekend, my daughter and her children went home, much improved. My computer issues are in the process of being resolved, mainly because I'm muddling through figuring out more new things. It is important to remember that the muddle is normal. Sometimes, things go swimmingly. Sometimes they don't, and no matter how much we fret and fuss, it won't help.
The only way to handle it is to, as my late father-in-law used to say, "Bash on, regardless."
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HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Where I live, in Canada, the start of a new year is always synonymous with cold winter weather, even though I live in the most temperate part of the country. This year is no exception.
The day after Boxing Day (December 26th) the storm blew in, first with snow then ice rain, followed by a blizzard. Beneath the hip-high snow deposited by the most recent snowfall lies a skating rink of ice. In fact, the ice coated everything—cars, trees, roadside grasses, blackberry bushes, and houses—in more than a half inch of glass.
It's beautiful but treacherous!
The snow buried the neighbourhood and many are still digging out. Not far from here, power lines were downed by the weight of ice and the blast of wind, leaving hundreds without electricity for many hours.
Whatever plans we had for the holidays had to be cancelled until we could get out of our street. So what do you do when this happens? Have some fun, of course. Sure, you can lounge in front of the television and binge watch whole series on Netflix, each junk food, and live in your pyjamas. I did briefly consider that...
Instead, I published a pair of books that I've been thinking about for a long time. In fact since I last blogged (I know, it has been too long!) I've created and published several books that have been on my to-do list for some time.
Rather than list them here, I have updated MY BOOKS page where you can see everything in one place. The links are included so you can look inside and go ahead and purchase if you like what you see.
Click anywhere below for a closer look.
I wish you a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous 2018!
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No one can deny that great things happen in our lives all the time. A new baby arrives, you get the dream job, the house renovation goes perfectly. But awful things happen too, and though we wish they wouldn't come along, or that we could somehow minimize the collateral damage, usually we just have to get through those times and keeping putting one foot in front of the other.
This year, 2017, has been fraught with blows, one after the other. Unbelievable as it seems, a total of ten of our friends and family have passed away this year. Still reeling from one shock (losing my mom in January), the next ones hit without even time to regain my footing.
It was definitely time for a rest.
So in September my husband and I went to Quebec. The weather was perfect, full-on summer the entire time we were there, with just a dusting of fall colours in the red maple leaves.
We stayed with my sister and brother-in-law, and toured here and there in little day trips to see the sights.
The photo above is in the the town on Knowlton where author Louise Penny lives and where she fashions her mysteries in Three Pines.
So many things are old, like this little covered bridge built in 1861. I've lived in western Canada my entire life, except for a short stint in Europe, so I'm not accustomed to my neighbourhood being more than 150 years old.
All the villages are charming and pretty, and stone churches and graveyards show up around nearly every corner.
This lovely Presbyterian church is literally out my sister's back door. It's a nice little commute across the lawn on Sunday mornings.
This antiques and craft market, held in a farmer's field, attracted lots of visitors. What a temptation these beautiful cushions presented, but alas, my luggage was full.
Notice the crabapple tree, above, loaded with fruit shading the displays.
This area of Quebec, near the New York border, is apple growing country and what a perfect time to visit! These beauties were ready for picking and guess what—the next day they were gone, loaded into crates and on their way to markets.
Things have been quiet on my blog for a while and I'll explain why in a minute. But first I want to let you know the the smoke from the forest fires around the province did finally clear giving us brilliant hot summer days that looked like they'd go on forever. Instead, August whizzed by in a blink and suddenly it's September. And the smoke is back!
There is a cost to having a rainless summer and the cost has been high in terms of the damage done by wild fires both here and in the western US states (their smoke also blows in our direction some days). This is what the sun looked like this morning.
I realized that as the sweet days of summer slid past, I wasn't enjoying them nearly enough. Instead, I felt overwhelmed with work. Something had to change. So I briefly examined what I was having the most difficulty completing and my gaze landed on blogging regularly. Now, don't get me wrong, I love blogging, writing, creating posts, and sending emails. It's just that sometimes the plate gets too full.
So I took a break. I wanted to work on an art project (A big one!) that I've had in mind for some time but hadn't been able to get to. You know how frustrating that can be!
Well, I've finally finished the first tiny phase of it only yesterday. I'm super excited about it, and about all the plans I have in mind for lots more.
Here is a peek: (Click on the images for more.)
I've created a series of six designs that wrap around the mugs. The series is called RV Happy - Colour Me, because these particular ones can be coloured with markers or ceramic paints. If you thought a colouring BOOK was fun, you're going to love colouring these cuties. The six themes are Dockside, Beach, Glamping, Western, Desert, and Cottage. Get the entire set, or choose the ones that reflect your favourite vacation destination.
My next move is to create the watercolour versions for those who don't want to do the colouring themselves. After that I plan to roll designs out on a multitude of products in several design themes. So watch for goodies such as fabric (for quilting and decorating), clothing, jewellery, accessories, and more.
Be sure to join my email list to hear about the new products and designs coming soon.
This has been a hot, dry summer where I live, which is just the kind of weather I love. The down side of it is, in a province that's mostly forest, fires are inevitable. And there have been lots of really bad ones this year, so bad that the smoke from those distant fires has covered much of the landscape, including here in our valley.
This photo was taken at about 7:15 in the morning, a few days ago. Most evenings, the setting sun looks like a neon pink ball suspended in the sky. It's pretty, but the smoke is thick.
That means it's a good time to stay inside and get some work done. As I've mentioned before, I working on getting my art designs on a host of new products that I'm launching a few at a time. (Basically, as I get them formatted and loaded to my shop sites.)
I'm excited to introduce the latest piece in the Cheeky Collection, the "I'm the Queen, I make the Rules" necklace. When it comes to being "The Queen", either you are one or you know one. Click on the image to see the details.
I have years of designs hidden away in my "vault" that will soon be on all kinds of cool things for your house, or to wear, and more.
When the smoke clears, I'll still be here creating.
Where I share creative ideas, uplifting thoughts, and spread sweetness to help us all make life better.