Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person

Leave a comment

Setting a goal? Ask yourself: What does that look like?

Have you ever chosen a goal and started out going gangbusters with it? Then it peters out and maybe even ends up totally abandoned?

Yeah? Me, too.

If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us.

Jim Rohn

In my own experience and from observations of friends and family for whom the same thing has happened, one thing that keeps standing out is that we never sat down and realistically thought about what the path to achieving that goal would look like. We envision the end—the time where we have attained the goal—but not the route.

Maybe it’s a financial goal—you want to save for a holiday. Or how about a fitness or health goal? You decide on what you want to achieve and you pick the time period in which you want to achieve it.

The problem is we don’t always pick (in my unprofessional opinion) the right parameters. We seem to want to get things done in the quickest amount of time. Maybe we do it because we envision it to be an unpleasant process, so we want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Or maybe we aren’t even picking the right thing to start with.

The problem with that is we then make the process so unpleasant that we end up abandoning it. Or maybe we stick to it until that specific goal is attained and then we burst out of the restrictions we had placed on ourselves and go completely berserk in the other direction.

Here are some examples.

Example 1: I got it into my head about four or five years ago that I needed to pay off my mortgage before I retire. To get my full pension at work, I would need to work until I’m 66 (to have 35 years in), but I don’t want to work that long and my goal is to retire at 61, when I hit 30 years at this job. Because I won’t have the fully pension, having my mortgage paid off would help with the drop in pay.

Example 2: I decided about three years ago that I need to be more physically active. The things I really enjoy doing are very sedentary and as I age, I want to be able to maintain the same amount of physical activity as I do now, so I needed to start being more active now, to keep my joints and muscles engaged, as well as my heart and the rest of the inner bits and bobs. My goal was to do the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

I think you will probably agree that both of those goals, in and of themselves, are good goals to have. But what would it take to get there, for each of them?

For the mortgage example, I sat down and crunched the numbers. I could for sure do it. I’d have to stop buying new hobby supplies, give up any trips, and completely stop eating out, but I could do it right in the nick of time. At the time, I had about 12 years left till my planned retirement. I could do it.

But, as I sat back and considered what that would look like—12 years with almost everything I enjoy removed from my life—I realized that while the goal was a lovely one, the path to get there was not. It was not reasonable to put that expectation on myself.

I had to rethink things, including all the reasons why I wanted to hit this goal. The main thing, of course, was the fact that I will have a drop in pay when I retire, so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t house poor after that happens. And I also realized another surprising reason why I was trying to do it: All of my brothers have their mortgages paid off, so I was trying to keep up with the Jones’. It was hard being in those conversations of financial freedom and spending retirement winters in the Mediterranean and so on. I wanted a piece of that. But I had to realize that my retirement is going to be very different from all of theirs. Whether I liked it or not, I was and am in a very different financial position than they are. It was completely unfair of me to put myself under such unrealistic financial expectations.

I needed to start thinking more realistically—not just for when I retire, but for the time between now and then, too. I shifted my thoughts over to working out what would be more reasonable so that the time between now and retirement will be enjoyable AND I would still be able to provide myself with some more financial security when I retire. I won’t go into the details, but where I landed allows me to continue to put extra on my mortgage and, while it won’t be fully paid off by retirement, but it will be low enough that I can renegotiate much smaller payments at retirement to fit my drop in pay. And in the meantime, I get to enjoy the things I enjoy doing now, too.

If I had tried the original plan, I would have found out very quickly that I hated it. I would have been miserable and would have abandoned it soon after. The experience would likely have left a very bitter taste in my mouth and I might have fully given up on the whole idea because of how discouraged I would have felt.

But in giving myself the space to really think about it, I realized not only that the path to achieving the goal wasn’t one I wanted to follow, but that what I wanted wasn’t actually the arbitrary “have the mortgage paid off before I retire.” What I really wanted was to put myself in a position to be better prepared financially for when my income drops. That was an entirely different kettle of fish. Thinking about it that way allowed more options to come to my mind as to how I could be successful in achieving that goal.

For the being more active thing, I was much more realistic right from the start. One of the benefits of getting older is that you get to know yourself (if you allow yourself to). I know that I really, really, really, really, really dislike exercise. I was tempted to use the word hate because it’s such a strong word, but it might actually be appropriate. The only exercise that I can tolerate to any extent is my exercise bike. I’ve had one for years and years. Sometimes I use it and sometimes I don’t.

Now, for many of you—perhaps most or all of you—150 minutes of activity is nothing. Five times a week for 30 minutes a day—easy peasy. And, if it’s something you enjoy, it sure is easy! I spend hours and hours crafting a week. No problema. I can go for hours without stopping to eat, drink, or even run to the loo. I love it. LOVE IT. It is definitely not the same for exercise. Even though, I might add, the bike is in the living room, with full TV-viewing access. There’s really no reason not to do it, other than the fact that I really don’t like it.

So, because this was a goal that I really wanted to achieve, I sat back and really thought about it. What would be the best way for me to be successful and turn this into not just achieving a goal—tick the box; I’m done—but into a new way of life for myself. I wanted it to be an ongoing, continuous thing? What does it have to look like in order for me to do it—not just right now, but for the rest of my life?

Here’s what I came up with: I would start slow—3 times a week for 10 minutes at a time. “But, Lucy, that’s just 30 minutes a week! That’s nowhere near your goal of 150 minutes!”

You are right. It’s 2 hours short of 150 minutes, to be exact.

Now, I knew I could for sure commit to doing the full 150 minutes right out the gate. I could go gangbusters at that for two, maybe even three or four weeks. And then I’d drop it like a hot potato and not look at the bike for months and months and months. Or for years. I know myself. That is exactly how it would go down. That’s what it would look like. Because that’s what has happened in the past. So, if I wanted a different result, I needed to take a different approach.

Instead, I did it gradually. The immediate goal was to incorporate the biking into a regular part of my week. That’s it. Then after a few weeks at that level, add a bit more. Then maintain that for a while and add some more. I wanted it to become so natural that I didn’t even really need to think about it.

It took about a year and a half or so, but I achieved it. Have I fully maintained it 100% since then. Nope. Not gonna lie. There are weeks when I don’t get on it. And I had to do another mind shift on it recently because of that. I had that 150-minute target in my head so strongly, that if I missed doing the biking earlier in the week and I knew I’d never hit the 150 minutes, I would think, “What’s the point?” and not do it at all. So now it’s, “Yes, ideally I’ll do 150, but if I forget or if other things get really busy, then any amount is good.” The point is for it to be a regular part of my weekly life and not to give up on it. To be more active than I was. If I hit 150 in a week, that’s awesome. If I don’t, something is still better than nothing.

For me, it has all come down to knowing myself and really looking at what the paths for both of those examples would look like.

Having taken the time to do that and be really—sometimes brutally—honest with myself have helped me achieve success in both of those things. Yay me!!!

So, if you are about to embark on some sort of plan to achieve something, take some time to really consider what will be required in order to achieve your goal. Think about those things incorporated into your life. What does that look like? If it’s a shift in lifestyle, does it involve behaviours you can see yourself maintaining not just for the time it takes to achieve that level, but for 2 years, 10 years, 20 years…the rest of your life? If no, then go back and re-evaluate until you land somewhere that you can say, “Yes…this can be my new life.”

The more important that goal is for you to achieve, the more important it is to consider the ways you can achieve it and pick the path that is most likely to bring you success.

It is not enough to take steps which may someday lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, don’t forget to follow!


I went to a funeral today

Last Friday, on my way out to grab lunch, I checked my texts. I don’t do that very often – I am not even usually in the same room as my cell phone. But I think I was waiting to hear something from someone so I checked at lunch.

There was a message from my friend Marie, telling me that a friend of ours had passed away. For privacy of the family, I will call her Isabelle.

I had to read it several times. I honestly didn’t really understand it. I thought at first that it said that one of Isabelle’s sons had passed away, but after several readings, I got the right of it – Isabelle had passed away and Marie would call me later to give me more details.

It was really hard to grasp. Have you ever had that happen? You know something, but you don’t really KNOW it. It’s like your brain refuses to acknowledge it. Anyway, I had lunch and in a weird state of numbness I worked through the rest of the afternoon.

When Marie and I spoke later, she further explained that Isabelle had died from suicide the weekend before.

Needless to say, that added another dimension to the loss.

I knew she had struggled with mental health issues – it was something that we shared. She had been a great support to me in my struggles – it is always nice to be able to talk to someone who knows what it’s like. I hope I provided the same support to her.

We saw each other 2 or 3 times a year before the pandemic, in addition to keeping in touch on the phone and text. But the pandemic naturally put a stop to the visits. Instead, we talked on the phone a couple of times and texted. The last time we spoke on the phone, several months ago, she was in an upswing. She had loads of good, positive things going on and I was so happy for her.

This week has been a challenge because I’ve been fighting against going down the rabbit hole of “I should have done more. If only I had….” I know that is not a healthy place to go, but it’s hard to completely erase the thought from my head.

A couple of people I’ve talked to have asked the inevitable “I don’t understand…why would somebody do that?”

I know they are in their grief, so I don’t answer, but honestly, I get it. Now…don’t panic. I’m not suicidal. But I understand how someone could be if they have a really bad bout of depression or other mental illness.

From my own experience, I can see becoming tired of fighting it. Even when you are doing all the “right” things (therapy, medication, physical activity, etc etc etc), it doesn’t totally take it away. And it’s e.x.h.a.u.s.t.i.n.g. I can understand how, if it’s really, really bad for someone, they are just too tired to fight it anymore.

Then there’s the “false reality” aspect. Your brain can trick you into believing a reality that is different from actual reality. I’ve experienced it those times when it’s been really bad for me. I think: “I’m a horrible person. I don’t bring anything good to anyone. Nobody really cares one way or another if I’m here or not.” An entire litany of ways I’m a useless bag of flesh.

Thankfully, as I’ve come to know and understand more about my own mental health struggles, the other side of my brain is better able to combat those thoughts and say, “No, Lucy, that’s not true.” I force myself to run through lists of things in my brain that provide proof that the alternate “I’m awful” reality just isn’t true.

To be honest, I think I’m just lucky that I haven’t gotten to a point where both of those things (exhaustion from fighting and alternate negative reality) haven’t both been super bad at the same time, to the point that I accept it as truth. I try to stay vigilant with it so that doesn’t happen.

Naturally, I don’t know that this is what happened for Isabelle. But I can understand how it could.

So, sadly, the illness won this time and I was at her funeral today.

Leave a comment

15 minutes – or even less – to get things going

A friend of mine sent me an article a few days ago. It’s called “The 15-Minute Rule”, by Hanna Brencher, guest posting for Becoming Minimalist (which I think I’ll be checking out quite regularly!).

During the work week I don’t spend much time reading things that come my way online. If anything, I barely scan them. But Shamima doesn’t send me a ton of things, so I figured if she sent it to me, chances are I would find it interesting. So today, as the day was falling quietly away and evening was sinking in, I though I’d take a few minutes to check it out.

Not surprisingly, Shamima was correct. That post is right up my alley.

I love the idea of shifting gears and walking into a new year. I love the possibility of a fresh calendar. But I am overwhelmed by all the things I want to do, and all the things I think I can magically begin, just because January 1 arrives at the front of the calendar.

Hanna Brencher

It’s been years – perhaps even decades since I’ve been a “resolutionist” at the end or beginning of each year. I do consider and think about things I want to accomplish and do, but doing that isn’t affiliated with a particular date on the calendar. (The only recent exception being when I ridiculously decided to do 50 new things under 50 different categories during my 50th year – in case you haven’t done math in a while, that would have been 2,500 different things in a year…but that’s a post for a different day…)

Me, if have an a-ha moment about something and feel that I want to commit to it, then I do it as the moment occurs.

But I get it that for a lot of people the whole new year / new me thing could be appealing. And, to me, as long as such resolutions are well thought out and considered, then it doesn’t matter when they are taken on.

Anyhoooooooooo… I’m digressing slightly.

We (for some reason) seem to think that in order to accomplish something we either have to a) accomplish it fully in one sitting or b) have huge chunks of time to dedicate to it at a time.

The reality is that we don’t.

This isn’t new news, but it’s definitely something I/we need to be reminded of from time to time. After all, accomplishing a small thing is better than accomplishing no thing (space intended). (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Not that I’m advocating the eating of elephants! 🙂 )

Hanna has committed herself to 15-minute chunks of time.

15-minutes is very likely quite do-able for the vast majority of us.

But for many of us it could induce a near-paralytic panic attack.

For some people (I’m thinking super busy parents, for example) even 15 minutes might seem impossible. I remember my friends, when they had little kids, being excited to even get to go to the bathroom by themselves. That minute or two constituted a huge accomplishment. I don’t think they’d have seen 15 minutes as an achievable amount of time. Not at the start of this sort of habit, at any rate.

So, if that’s the case for you, perhaps even a smaller chunk of time would be more appropriate. Maybe pick the thing you want to do and set the time for 5 minutes – or even 1 minute! Hey…it’s your time – make of it what you want it to be!

We’ll never find the time. We have to make it and we have to decide that even the smallest actions are going to matter, they’re going to stack up and contribute to much bigger victories ahead.

Hanna Brencher

I also really liked how Hanna talked about using things we already have.

I’m NOT a minimalist by any stretch, and when it comes to my craft supplies… well, let’s just say I might have a problem. I definitely need to have a bit of an intervention with myself when it comes to that. I mean, even as I type this, part of my brain is trying to convince me that I “need” the box of new supplies that arrived earlier this week and the list I already have compiled of things I still want to get because I’ve seen them used in umpteen YouTube card-making videos.

Even as I work through that, though, I have been making myself pull out some things that I haven’t used in years. I’ve been making cards with all those scraps of paper that all card makers have “because I might need them someday”. Well, I made “someday” come to town and used them!

You don’t need to add more to your already full life. You don’t need to make big investments or buy fancy gadgets to make progress. You just need to clear the space, maybe just for 15 minutes. You just need to start right where you are with what you already have.

Hanna Brencher

I also have a lot of books on my shelves that I haven’t read or haven’t finished. I could tell you of 4 right off the top of my head that I’m at various stages of reading. I keep saying, “Oh yeah…. I gotta finish that book.” And then I think, “Oh hey! I should buy so-and-so’s new book!”

My rule now is no new books until I finish all the ones I currently have. I will then need to give away those that I am not likely to read again. (I have one tall bookshelf for my books and have given myself a rule that I can’t have more books than fit on those shelves.)

Anyway…For me it’s books and crafts. For you it could be something else. Hanna provides examples like cleaning out a cupboard, writing a book, call and make a doctor’s (or other) appointment, etc.

She also suggests that it might not happen every day.

That’s what’s great about this. It’s not a required prescription. Maybe your first 15 minutes (or 5 minutes or 1 minute) can be spent thinking about the thing(s) you would like to do in that time. And the next set can be looking at your calendar (realistically!) to decide when you will do it. (Set yourself up for success, not for failure!)

It’s about you doing things that you need or want to do; not about what someone else tells you you need to do and how long you should spend at it.

As Hanna says (emphasis added):

It doesn’t need to happen every single day. It’s not about getting the 15-minutes down perfectly. It’s about deciding to show up and put something that matters at the forefront for just a moment in your day.

Hanna Brencher

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to subscribe/follow!


A wintery walk to clear the cobwebs

I was out early this morning to get to Costco before all the stuff I needed was gone. On the radio they were talking about cross country ski trails within the city and it got me thinking about crisp wintery walks. One of my favourite places in the city is Jack Pine Trail. Conveniently, it’s only about 5 minutes from the Costco I go to so I thought to my self, “Self! Let’s go for a walk after we do our shopping!”

It was a beautiful, sunny morning with a clear blue sky and only about -6*C. I was wearing drive-in-the-car-to-go-shopping clothes so I wasn’t super prepared for it, but I figured even just a few minutes out in the fresh air would be better than none so once the bags were in the car, off I toodled.

And I was right! In fact, other than my legs (jeans are definitely not great wintery walk wear), everything else was toasty and I lasted 35 minutes! Turns out that’s actually how long it takes to do that particular loop (including little stops for photos, that is) and it was timed perfectly because my upper thighs were starting to get a bit numb at that point.

I should tell you, in case you don’t actually know me, that I am about 98% a homebody. The things I most enjoy doing – crafting, baking, reading, writing, watching TV – are indoors things. If there is a gene for that, it would be so prevalent in me that I don’t think they’d even need a fancy microscope to find it.

But there are a few outdoorsy things that I do enjoy and walking on a wintery day like today is one of them.

Beautiful, bright blue sky. Crisp white snow squeaking under foot. Half-fallen trees gently creaking against each other. Echoes of woodpeckers. Stubborn leaves clinging to twigs rustling in the barely-there breeze. Unseen critters scampering about. Cardinals, bluejays and squirrels competing for seeds that other walkers leave behind.

The only thing that could possibly make it better would be the sound of a gurgling brook or the water of a pond or lake lapping at a pebbly shore.

There were also plenty of other folks about, too – plenty enough that I (as a woman alone in the woods) felt safe, but not so many that it felt crowded. And, really, each time I encountered someone (duos and families for the most part), it was quite lovely – outdoorsy people are quite friendly, so there were a lot of hellos and it was very nice to have that interaction, even for just a few milliseconds at a time.

It’s an antidote, I tell you, for so much of what is going on and is a great way to clear out the cobwebs and rejuvenate your mind and spirit.

If you aren’t able to get out for your own mind refresher today, here are a few pictures that might help you place yourself there virtually. 🙂

(PS: I used to know how to put photos into these posts better, but there have been changes in how this is done and I can’t figure it out, so before my total zen from my walk is lost to technological frustration, I’m giving up and they are what they are. 🙂 )

A woodpecker looking for a snack.

Don’t forget to subscribe/follow to keep updated on new posts!


Becoming more aware – Our sphere of influence

I had intended to write more about this throughout last year. This post is long, I know, but it was either long or not at all, and it’s been “not at all” for months because I couldn’t do short.

Part of why I haven’t written more frequently is because I had the idea that as I did my reading, listening, learning and sitting with everything that I would naturally come to these plateaus of a-ha moments where I would have something specific that I could write about and share with you: “Hey – check out this thing that I just learned!”

But, it hasn’t worked out like that. There were just so many things that astounded me or punched me in the gut that I didn’t know where to go with it.

For example, I was floored…totally floored…to learn that the last federally funded residential school in Canada didn’t close until 1996. 1996!!!!! How is that even possible? Surely people knew. And obviously we didn’t care. So many heartbreaking things.

Anyway, there were so many things that I just got kind of paralyzed with it, I guess. A weird kind of writer’s block where, instead of not having any idea of what to write about, I had too many ideas and didn’t know where to start.

However, that is not to say that I hid my head under the sand with an “Oh well – there’s too much and what difference can one person make, anyway?” attitude.

If we were to all adopt that attitude nothing good would ever get done in this world.

So I kept reading and watching shows and videos, going out of my normal way to expose myself to things that would not have naturally shown up in my daily life, or that Instagram’s, YouTube’s or Google’s algorithms figured that a middle-aged white woman wanted to see. (As an aside – I think we all need to do that – we can’t wait for learning moments to just drop in our laps…we have to seek them out.)

Also I’m a firm believer in the power of making changes in our own individual little corners of the world. Specifically in this case, starting with myself. After all, I’m the only person that I have any real control over so the most sensible place to start is with me.

For myself, the thing I’ve been really working on is becoming more aware of my own unconscious biases. I know some people are struggling with that concept, but while it hasn’t always been easy to uncover what they are, the concept itself was easy for me to grasp and accept.

I mean, we have biases – conscious and unconscious – in probably all areas of our lives. At the most basic, they are like preferences. I grew up on the coast of Newfoundland, for example, with the sound of the ocean lulling me to sleep. To this day, my ideal peaceful moments involve being near the ocean (hence my Irish holiday for my 50th birthday in 2019) or at least near some sort of body of water. Conversely, people I know who grew up in or near the Rockies find the same thing with being near the mountains. Had we each been switched at birth somehow and I grew up in the Rockies and they grew up by the ocean, our preferences would very likely have changed with us.

Ditto with the types of food, music, language, traditions and so on that we all grow up with. Even if you celebrate Christmas, my idea of what an ideal Christmas involves is probably at least slightly different than yours.

If my preferences can be influenced by things I’ve been exposed to, then for me it was easy to extrapolate that idea to the opinions – biases – that I developed throughout my life in relation to people of other cultures and races growing up.

While I think I’m pretty awesome 🙂 I’m not, in fact, anybody special. I’m not the only one who has those preferences or biases. We, all of us, have thoughts and ideas about people based on what we learn as we progress through our lives. Some we learn in school and from our families, some at work, some through people we encounter along the way, and so on. Some we might not even be aware of.

The first important step, I think, is for us to acknowledge that we have those biases.

Part of that is realizing that having them doesn’t make us horrible people.

We ALL have them. It’s how our brains work. We are exposed to something; our brain makes sense of it based on previous knowledge/exposure – ideas are either changed or reinforced; and on we go. I’m not a psychologist so I’m sure I’m oversimplifying that, but you know what I mean. 🙂

It’s easier to combat the biases we are aware of. Not so much, though, with the ones we aren’t aware of.

As a next step, then, we can start to look at those things that we are aware of. There are a LOT of stereotypes about different groups. We can start with them. Think of the stereotypes about different groups of people. Think about a race, culture, group that is different from you, and come up with the things that “everybody knows” about that group.

A “nice” one is that “Everybody knows that Canadians are so polite.” Obviously we aren’t all polite and certainly not al the time. 🙂

Once we’ve done that, we can start to dig a bit deeper to see what unconscious biases we have.

Here are some questions that I’ve been asking myself and that might help you on your journey:

  • What things automatically come to my mind when I think about [X group – any group that is “other” than me]?
  • Where did those ideas come from?
  • Are they true? (Hint: No one thing is true about any complete group of people other than the fact that they are people. Hence the expression: We can’t paint everybody with the same brush.)
  • Do those ideas influence what I do or say or how I feel? (Do I cross the street when I seem someone from that group, for example?)
  • Am I willing to learn different things about that group?
  • Am I willing to try to change any of those ideas, beliefs or actions?

I’ve been doing a lot of this type of reflection the past several months.

And, yeah, it’s a lot of work. And nope, I don’t “have” to do it. Meaning that my life, as a white woman, won’t on the surface be negatively impacted if I don’t.

For example, I’ll still have my job. I had no issues recently renewing my mortgage. On paper, my name would put me as clearly white for many, if not most, people. I’ll go to dinner (once that’s allowed again!) and movies; park my car without someone writing a racial slur on it (which happened to a friend in the past three years here in Ottawa); and shop without someone following me around the store (which happens regularly to a friend of mine). Other than occasional sleights and issues because of misogynism and religious intolerance, my life is pretty comfortable and will stay that way.

So I could close the book now and call it a day.

But even though the surface of my life wouldn’t change if I did that, it would definitely impact me negatively as a person if I didn’t do this exploration.

This time last year, I wouldn’t have even thought to mention about how “white” my name is – and conversely how having a “Black” or “Indigenous” name can put someone’s application for a job or financing into a “Not gonna happen” pile. I was aware of those types of things – far back in my brain somewhere. But now it’s in the forefront and I truly believe that makes me a better person – a better member of my community, hopefully a better friend and also a better ally.

There’s still a lot for me to learn. But what I have learned so far has already helped me have conversations with people who don’t understand what this is all about and why people can’t just “get over it already”. I feel much more confident in my ability to explain things and have discussions that, hopefully, encourage people to think about things even just a little bit differently.

And, again, as I said earlier, I can’t change anybody but me. So this is where I have to start – and where I need to continue working.

I can change myself and at least influence things in my little corner of the world.

There’s a lot of power in that.

Don’t forget to subscribe/follow if you would like to be updated on future posts!


Memories: The furniture of your mind

I got an email from a friend recently that really touched me.

This person, whom I know from my days living in Calgary, AB, and I were an unlikely pair to become friends.

I was at the time, I think, in my early 30s and she was probably in her mid 50s. I was towards the beginning of my career and she was nearing the end of hers. I still had dreams of starting a family and she had finished raising hers. On the surface, it didn’t look like we had very much in common and the chances of our paths crossing organically were slim to nil.

But a chance Church assignment brought us together and resulted in one of the richest friendships I have had in my life.

It has been 13 years since we lived in the same city. In fact, we’ve both moved at least twice in that time. She has stayed in Alberta, but I have lived in Newfoundland and Ontario since then.

Distance friendships, like any relationship, can be difficult to maintain when there are thousands of kilometres in between, even in this day of technology. But we haven’t let that stop us!

Every couple of years we physically get together. She has either come to visit me, or I’ve gone there, but most frequently we meet up in another city and have a holiday together. Over the years we’ve visited Ottawa (before I lived here), Montreal, Toronto, Quebec City, Halifax and Boston. This year we were supposed to go to PEI for our next grand adventure, but the pandemic put the kibosh on that. It will wait for another year.

When we are together we do fun things, we have great conversations, (touching on the smallest topics to the greatest philosophical ideas and everywhere in between), we learn about the new places we are in, and we accept each other where we are. It’s wonderful. I always come away from a holiday (or any interaction with her) feeling like I am a better person than I was before.

So, as you can tell, we have had plenty of opportunities build a plethora of memories.

In the recent email I mentioned, my friend recounted many of those memories. It was lovely to relive them as I read her email. But it was the way she recounted them that really struck me. It was quite beautiful. Even if the email wasn’t about me and our shared memories, I would have still thought it a beautiful piece of writing in its own right.

The piece that really struck me and stayed with me was the following:

You have put beautiful furniture in my mind.

Isn’t that a fabulous way to think of our memories? What a gift we give each other when we share wonderful times together!

I’ve been thinking about it so much since I got the email a week or so ago. How we can choose to treat the beautiful memories as pieces of cherished, well-curated furniture that take pride of place in the forefront of our thoughts. (And, conversely, we can take the less than pleasant ones and put them in the basement or back room somewhere, out of sight.)

That way we can easily spend our time in the pieces that give us comfort and solace or joy and happiness whenever we want to revisit those moments, curled up on a literal sofa, with a cozy blanket, imagining ourselves in the beautiful pieces of the furniture in our minds.

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to select Follow for updates on new posts!

Leave a comment

I see colour

I used to think that was a bad thing to say. I’m not sure why – where the idea of not seeing the colour of someone’s skin became a bad thing. Somehow or other it became tied up with the idea of being racist or bigoted and if we wanted to be known as not being either of those two things we had to say “I don’t see colour.”

I’ve never liked that phrase, either, even though I’m sure I’ve said it.

But I didn’t believe it. I knew I saw colour. My eyes see what my eyes see. The same as I see the colour and style of someone’s hair, what type of clothes they are wearing, their jewellery – any number of physical characteristics about a person when I see them.

So it always seemed disingenuous to say it, or to hear it, even though it was what you were supposed to say.

I didn’t like it, then, because it just wasn’t true. Of course I saw the colour of someone’s skin. How ridiculous to say I didn’t.

Really, it’s insulting to all of us. I know I see it. You know I see it. You know I know I see it. But I’m afraid to admit that I see it because that will make me a bad person somehow. Because that’s what I’ve learned:

“If we could all just learn to not see colour, everything would be great.”

As you’ve probably noticed in your own journey, “I don’t see colour” has been a popular topic the past couple of months. I have learned that while it’s almost universally acknowledged that its origins may well have been well-intentioned, there is damage and hurt that occurs when we use it.

My first reaction was relief – I wasn’t a horrible person for not feeling right about saying it.

I then read more about it – to really understand why and how it was hurtful.

I’m so glad I did. As you can imagine, it’s not just about outright lying or denying diversity.

There are loads of negative things that simple, well-meant phrase can bring with it. Here are a just a few of things that I’ve learned that it can do:

  • disrupt conversations about racism
  • inadvertently support systemic racism
  • deny the experiences of those who have experienced the (overt and not-so-overt) impacts of racism, hatred and bigotry
  • make someone feel like you don’t see them

Perhaps the two biggest take-aways for me are first, the idea that if we deny that we even see colour – race – then we (even if unintentionally) deny that racism exists, and then second, that me saying that phrase could make someone seem like I don’t see them. How hurtful! Have you ever felt unseen? It’s an awful feeling. I would never want to make someone feel that way. Even if my intent in saying it is good, if it causes hurt, I need to re-evaluate.

I was going to list a bunch of resources for you to check out, but there really are too many. Just Google “I don’t see colour” (or “color” for our geographic neighbours to the south… 🙂 ) and you will have a plethora of experiences to read from. I promise you will find them valuable and eye-opening.

Also in my readings, I came across the research of Dr. Osagie K. Obasogie on the concept of race and colour blindness that is worth checking out. He talks about it in his book, Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the Blind.

Or, for a shorter read, the Oxford University Press has a great interview with Dr. Obasogie and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that is super interesting.

Don’t let the “Eyes of the Blind” bit of the title fool you. There is value in it for all of us to reflect on. I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s a quote to whet your appetite:

This research certainly gave me a new appreciation of the extent to which understanding and “seeing” race has very little to do with vision. That is the gist of the book, i.e. the social and institutional practices that we’re constantly engaged in shape the way we look at people and the way that we live our lives—even for people who are blind.

Dr. Osagie K. Obasogie

So, even if we all did somehow stop “seeing” race, there is obviously so much more going on in racism than rods, cones and optic nerves.

Another reason, to me, to take the time to pay a little more attention.

Know better, do better.

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to subscribe/follow!


The Unfinished Puzzle

For the first two weeks of quarantine, our work computer system was limited in how many people could log in remotely at any given time and I struggled with the weird schedule that came with that.

On the Sunday heading into the third week, I decided to pull out a puzzle I’ve had for a while and dumped it onto the dining table.

I’m not fast at puzzles (unless they are super easy). So if I am going to do one, I need to know I will have a chunk of time to work on it and actually get it done because the dining table will be out of commission until the puzzle is finished.

Enter quarantine.

Plus, since puzzles are easy things to work on for a bit and walk away from, it would be a perfect thing for this new work schedule.

So, I dumped the puzzle out and got started, excited to have something different to work on.

March 29, 2020 – And so it begins!

Then, not even a couple of hours later, I got an email explaining how the system had been boosted or bolstered (or whatever the right word is for this situation) and we were no longer restricted in when we could log on.

Most of me was happy to hear that. I was glad that I could get back to my regular schedule and, with all the general pandemic weirdness, it was nice to have some kind of normalcy re-established.

But a tiny part of me was not so happy. Ironically, that weekend I had finally gotten myself into a head space that was ready to accept the new schedule. That was what had led to the whole puzzle thing. So that part of me thought, “But the puzzle! I just started the puzzle!!”

Had I gotten the email earlier on Sunday, I wouldn’t have even pulled the puzzle out. There was no way I’d get it done quickly and pack it away any time soon. My dining table was now off limits for an undetermined amount of time. Dang.

Not that I actually use it to eat. But still. I didn’t want the puzzle there until the next millennium and now it very well might be.

I went at it like gangbusters initially and got about half of it done the first week. I picked at it on and off for a while after that and then, when it got too hard (yes, I’m a puzzle wuss) I stopped working on it at all.

And it sat there staring at me, almost taunting me. “You can’t just leave me here. You need to finish me. C’mon! What are you waiting for??”

But I couldn’t. I had no interest in sorting through the bits that were left. The only part of me that wanted to finish it was the part that seemed to believe in some unwritten rule that if you start a puzzle you absolutely have to finish it. Or else.

Now, I had no idea what that “or else” was, but it felt like it would be bad.

So even though the occasional “Just pack it up and put it away” thought would flit into my mind, I would mentally gasp at the audacious horror of the thought and dismiss it immediately: “I can’t!!! I just can’t!!!”

And so, there it sat. Week after week after week.

Then, on May 29, 2 months to the day later from when I pulled it out of the box, I had had enough. I was sick of looking at it. I knew that I wasn’t going to finish it. And I realized it was really silly to leave it there for literally no good reason.

May 29, 2020 – Enough is enough!

It made me think about how a few years ago I was reading a book that I was absolutely not enjoying at all. Like not even a little bit. I had a similar “rule” in my head then: If you start a book, you have to finish it.

Um…no you don’t.

I remembered that I went through the same process at the time – wanting to give up on it, but also feeling like I couldn’t. As though somehow it wasn’t allowed.

I don’t remember what the book was, but I ultimately realized the foolishness of that thought process and finally put it down and walked away.


And now the puzzle? I had to finish it? Really? Why? Why do I absolutely, unequivocally have to finish this puzzle? What’s the worst that will really happen?

I’ll tell you what will happen: Nothing.




So I packed it up and put it away. Done and dusted!

And boy howdy, I tell you that felt good!

How weird, right? I mean…big deal. Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal. I put a puzzle away.

And yet, there it was. It felt amazing! Liberating!

When I was younger I had the opposite problem – I couldn’t ever finish anything. To an embarrassing extent, actually.

I have worked really hard at overcoming that, or at least becoming much better about it. And it seems that perhaps I have let the pendulum swing a bit too far the other way, so that I couldn’t let myself not finish something even when it really was the smart thing to do.

Maybe, then, I felt so good about it (as small a decision as it was) because it’s another step towards finding balance.

So…if you are in that boat, and in case you are wondering: You don’t have to finish the puzzle. Nope. You don’t. Box it up and put it away.

It’s OK. You are still a good person. 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to follow!

Leave a comment

Emmanuel Acho’s “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, is a safe place to have the uncomfortable conversations about race that many white people have never been able to have.

As you know, I have started a journey to learn more in an effort to be more active in promoting and creating racial equality and justice.

One thing I came across this week was Emmanuel Acho’s new video series, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”.

If you want to get right to it and skip my comments, you can find the videos in several spots: under @themanacho on Instagram, at Acho’s YouTube channel, and on the website .

At this point there are two videos. The intent is for them to be conversations between Acho and others, but the first video features Acho by himself, explaining the purpose of the series. The second one is a conversation between Acho and Matthew McConaughey.

Both are great. Several different topics are discussed and viewpoints are explained. They are easily accessible and understandable. It all feels very…approachable. I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but that’s how it felt.

This might sound corny, but they also make me feel hope. They make me feel like it’s OK that I’m not perfect and that I don’t have to understand everything right now, I just need to keep at it.

They are pretty short, too, which I think is great because we have time to think about and digest the topics discussed – time to internalize the concepts before moving to the next one. The first one is 9.5 minutes long and the second one is 13 minutes. So, there you go!

Hmmm…I think the way I’m describing them makes them sound more like university lectures or something. That’s not how they are. They are very casual, and comfortable. Matthew McConaughey had notes in his video and that felt a bit weird, but seemed to fit better as the video progressed. And, honestly, I appreciated the info so much that I didn’t really care that he had notes.

One of the things that they talked about, and that I think will be a great tool in conversations I will have about this, is a way to explain how the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter.

The analogy was that right now, as we all know, there is a huge emphasis on COVID-19. We all know about it and we all need to take precautions to get the spread under control and keep each other safe. The current focus on COVID-19 doesn’t mean that there aren’t other diseases and illnesses that are also important. It just means that, right now, this one is a crisis and particular focus on it is required.

It’s the same with Black Lives Matter. It doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter. It just means there is a crisis that we all need to step up for and be part of the resolution.

I have struggled to find a way to explain that concept and this really helped me. It’s not that I didn’t believe the idea of it before. I just struggled to find a way to explain it that is probably easy for most people to understand.

Anyhoooooo…even if that point isn’t an aha moment for you, there will surely be other things that strike you in these or subsequent videos, so I definitely recommend that you check them out!

When we learn better, we do better.

Don’t forget to hit follow!


Small kindnesses – How my neighbour makes my day every day

Like many of you, I am currently working from home because of the pandemic (and not-so-secretly hoping it gets to continue afterwards). My office is in my den, which looks out towards the parking lot of our condo complex. I know…it doesn’t sound like much of a view. But actually it’s kind of nice.

Where it all happens!

From spring through the fall, birds and chipmunks and squirrels perform their respective theatrics. Once there was even a curious bunny who decided to try out his burgeoning thespian skills. (He has not done a repeat performance, so I suspect his stage colleagues were not that impressed with him.) In any event, they are busy, busy, busy little critters and I am happy to have them break up the day.

In winter, when the feathery or furry performers are off to warmer climes or snoozing the months away, it’s still quite pretty. Whether it’s a blanket of fluffy, freshly-fallen snow or a storm still in progress, it’s lovely – especially because I don’t have to do my hour-long commute in it!

But, one of my absolute favourite things of the day happens at about 8:20 every morning.

That’s when Paul comes home.

No, he’s not my spouse/partner/significant other, child or other member of my household.

In fact, I’ve only spoken to him once, when I met him and his wife as we all happened to be coming home at the same time one day a year or so ago. They live in one of the condos upstairs with their daughter. Our respective schedules and habits obviously don’t intersect much because that hasn’t happened since.

When Paul gets home, he backs their SUV into their parking spot. This is important because it means that the driver’s door is on the side of the entrance where my den window is. When he gets out and walks towards the entrance, he ends up heading first towards my window, before going up the steps to the front door.

The first few times I noticed him coming home it was completely by fluke. I happened to look up at that particular moment, or something caught my eye, or whatever. Then, a couple of times, he happened to look in the same direction as me at the same time I looked in his direction. We each smiled politely and waved. It has since become a daily habit and even when he’s wearing a face mask, it’s still easy to see his cheerful smile (at the end of a night shift no less which is no mean feat in and of itself).

Integral to this little story is the fact that live by myself and, while I have enjoyed many aspects of physical distancing and restricted social interactions (I love me my alone time!), it has been challenging not having an actual human being to interact with. Phones and emails and texts and so on are fine and definitely help, but there’s nothing like looking at a real, live, 3D human being and having an interaction.

And so, I soon found myself looking forward to 8:20 a.m. The smile and wave take less than 2 seconds out of the 86,400 seconds in a day, but it is one of the most enjoyable things that happens every work day.

Paul likely doesn’t think twice about it. And why would he? He has family responsibilities as soon as he gets in the door and likely myriad other things to occupy his time.

But it sure has meant a lot to me. It helped me feel connected to the world outside my home, especially for those first couple of months of the pandemic. So many things were (and still are) strange and unpredictable. It has been nice to have something cheerful and predictable to look forward to each day!

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to subscribe/follow!