Thursday, November 18, 2010

Be the Change

"Be the change you want to see in the world" is one of many power sound-bites provided to us by Gandhi. And it's power is really found in it's simplicity.

I have been at the CSTD annual conference for the bulk of this week. It's the major conference in the field of training in Canada. This is my second year in attendance, and I am so overwhelmed and excited by what I have had the opportunity to learn.

One of the underlying themes this year that I feel keeps cropping up (intentionally or otherwise) is about the power of informal learning. Informal learning is defined as learning that was not formally structured. A common example would be when I need to use a new functionality on my computer, and I may ask someone near me, or google my answer, and learn how to use this new functionality.

One of the things that keeps coming up to hit me in the head with what feels like the subtlety of an anvil is the notion of "stop trying to convince others of the value of your belief, just take action."

This is kind of a scary principle: don't worry about getting the buy in up front, use the momentum of your conviction to drive your behaviour. The idea being that you are modeling the behaviours you want to elicit in others, and thusly drawing them out.

The scaredy-cat inside me can't let go of the fear. The fear of non-conformity; the fear that my conviction was in fact not supported by reality, and I will fail; the fear of always being alone on my side of reality.

There's another little part of me that keeps pushing the line in the other direction. How much potential am I ignoring? Where is the value in turning a blind eye to the possibilities?

I've also heard the adage "The greatest rewards come from the the greatest risks".

At this stage in the process, I have no idea which way I am going to go. Actually to be more accurate, I have no ability to predict with any level of certainty which way I am going to sustain.

Until then, I'll be busy weeding through the newly acquired knowledge, old habits, road blocks and possibilities in my head.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

All you need is Love.....

Today is my birthday.

Normally that brings about very mixed emotions from me. I love and hate it at the same time. I am usually very concerned about having some type of celebration, and I usually also make a pretty huge stink about counting down for weeks leading up to it. Mostly this is because I have a real thing about being forgotten. I have had several experiences in my history when I have been forgotten by people - physically forgotten, stranded. And it has created in me a genuine subconscious, ever-present fear of being forgotten.

So I spends weeks, sometimes even more then a month counting down to my birthday, planning a party or parties, etc... to ensure that I am not forgotten, and am celebrated. (sounds kinda narcissistic when I put it down on paper like this)

I also tend to get pretty depressed around my birthday. I have blogged about this before. I start to examine and evaluate my life, and always come up short on my own expectations.

This year has been different. I am not sure what elicited the change. I considered having a birthday party, but everyone's schedules (my own included) are so packed this time of year, it felt like I might be able to get something going in April! And I didn't really do the countdown. I haven't been secretive or hiding the date or anything, just wasn't a walking billboard for weeks.

And while I have stumbled into thought pockets of "what do I have to show for myself" they have been fewer then usual, and I have had some good metaphorical face slapping from good friends to snap me out if it quickly.

And most amazingly of all, without any prompting from me, people have been celebrating with me, and sending me their good wishes. And it feels so much more powerful this year, because it wasn't elicited.

I feel genuinely loved (or positively esteemed), by an entire slew of people. It is awesome!

And it's all in the little things. The colleagues who treated me to lunch today; the serenade of Happy Birthday I got when I came into the office; the cake Danielle made me (in my favourite colour) & having SWAT sing for me; the well wishes on my wall on Facebook; the text messages and phone calls; being called "birthday girl" all day (even when the whole sentence was "the birthday girl needs to get her ass in gear"); Steve's admonition of (and well wishes on) being one year closer to death.

It is all wonderful! and I think my face might actually be sore tomorrow form just how much smiling I am doing today, and how happy I feel.

I feel like the grinch when his heart grew.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Miraverse Time Paradox

First you'll need some context.
The Miraverse has been derived from the phrase 'the Mira Universe".

In the encapsulation of the Miraverse time and space, is the reality and the fantasy me that exist simultaneously.
For example the Fantasy me, gets up @ 6am, goes for a jog in a cute outfit everyday, makes her own bread and jam, makes her own clothes (haute couture of course), knits prolifically, hand makes most gifts for others. Embroiders pillowcases, speaks 6 languages, etc...
You get the picture.

The reality me spends a lot of time feeling tired, watching TV, working, working some more, and sneaking as much time out with friends as possible.
Not horrible, but a far cry from the fantasy me.

Ok so here's where the time paradox kicks in. I have been working pretty hard lately. Not that I don't always work hard, but it has included a lot of extra hours. I feel totally disconnected from much else. I am so busy these days, that I am getting frustrated with my schedule.

I have been mentally looking forward to this long week-end for ages! It's been a literal countdown for maybe 2 weeks.

So Friday night was the David Crowder Concert @ Queensway. Rush to finish work a smidgen early, rush to get to the church - complete frustration on an almost completely stopped highway with 4 students who are hot, restless and hungry in the car for well over an hour and fifteen minutes, rush to get something to eat (so hungry, I actually feel sick at this point), miss the entire opening act which was Hillsong Youth.

Saturday, another very, very full day - gym workout, laps in the pool, fixing the steering wheel controls on the car (oh, as an aside, Kevin & Bruce totally figured it out, and it was a faulty harness - so I promised them some kind of manly magic wands, because they were like fairy godmothers - any suggestions on manly magic wands?), visit with friends in the evening.

Today started out with me having to get to church early for welcoming team, then I picked up a pizza for lunch, took a nap, and then ran to Costco to pick a pie for tomorrow's festivities.

Now I am totally bored. I could be knitting, baking, making bread, something - but I am lump on the sofa bored.

So I spend the bulk of my time wishing, hoping, praying for some free time, some slack from the busyness - and then as soon as I get it, I don't know what to do with myself, and I dislike it.

The Miraverse Time Paradox.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nature's Wonder

It's been quite a week for natural wonders - and somehow I just keep missing it all.

on Monday night, Jupiter was especially close to the earth - and won't be that close again until 2022.
So as is my usual when I hear about celestial phenomena, I wanted to check it out. And as usual again, my execution plan was less than perfect.

I got home around 10pm, and decided first to try and see if I could see anything from my balcony. Well, the answer to that is of course not! So then I walked over to the park by my place - still nothing. I could barely see the dipper, which is often quite visible form the night sky in my neck of the woods.

Sadly, I should have know that there is no way the light would have allowed me to see what I was looking for. The smarter plan would have been to drive a little ways out of the city, away from the lights - into a nice open field, and look up and enjoy.
But seriously, in what universe is that a realistic plan for a single woman in the middle of the night.

Last night I was driving home it was around 9:30pm. I was driving north on Yonge. It was very humid - I know because my curly hair acts as a very reliable barometer, it was about twice its normal volume. It was dry, not raining at all. And the sky in front of me kept lighting up. It wasn't the same as when you see a lightning bolt in the distance, it was as if someone was flicking lights on an off in the sky up ahead.
It was magnificent!
I have never seen anything like it.

Then, either it didn't storm by my house, or I was so completely passed out in sleep, that I had no experience of it. Today at work, most everyone was speaking of being woken by the storm, and watching it in fascination - I was completely oblivious.

These anecdotes make me wonder just how closely I come to so many other wonders in life, and yet they slip me by, either because I am oblivious to them, or as a result of poor planning, and minimal effort.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Git 'Er Done

August 30th.
Yes that's right, it's August 30th.
Two more sleeps and it's September 1st.

I always find it amazing that despite the fact that I graduated University a full 10 years ago, September remains an important milestone within the year.

There are several such milestones, most of which are somewhat individual for most of us. For me, there are the following ones:

#1 - my Birthday. This is a very important date for me (if you know me at all, you know this is almost an understatement). But it's also often a "take stock of your life, and what you have accomplished" time for me, which I often feel I fall short in, and leads to me being a little sad around this time. Ironically never because I am aging, but just because I feel inappropriately accomplished for my age.

#2 - Christmas. This is the holiday in which the fantasy me always imagines a Normal Rockwell-esque visa vie Martha Stewart gathering of a large group of people who are near and dear to my heart enjoying great food and drink. Accompanied by the allure of a gaggle of gifts beautifully wrapped under a lavishly decorated tree. The reality of which doesn't come close to comparing - or bear mention. But nevertheless, I do love the joviality of Christmas, I enjoy buying gifts for others, receiving gifts from others, and the meal my family of 4 shares every year. Not to mention the religious significance of the time of year.

#3 - September. Maybe it's because I'm a bit of a stationary junkie, and I love back to school shopping for this reason. Maybe it's the new crispness in the air, after weeks of sometimes stifling heat (if we're lucky). There is something about this time of year that makes me feel the need to plan, to keep an agenda, to set forth some new year's resolutions.

And so in that spirit, there are two key things (maybe 3) that I would love to accomplish maybe before my birthday, and most definitely before the new year. So I am marking them here, for some witnesses. Hold me to this, I know it's doable!

First - I would like to replace the stereo in my car. I would like one with an aux port, so I can plug my iPod straight in. I would like to not send it to a shop to have it done, but learn to do it myself (with some very needed, and very capable help of a few car guys). I am easily motivated for this one as my stereo just started skipping while playing CDs on my trip to Maine with my Dad a few weeks ago.

Second - I want to get my motorcycle licence. I have been wanting this for a reasonable amount of time now. To tell the truth, I have only been on a motorcycle once, it was in 1997, and it was AWESOME! I am not sure what the kernel of fear is that has kept me from taking action, but I think enough is enough - I have wanted this long enough, the desire is not going away, I need to just do it. I have no idea how to start, so tips and advice are welcome :) but I need to start looking into this.

Third - It would be great if I could buy a small chandelier for my dining area. This shouldn't be to hard, I just need to buy one I like (I already have an idea around that), and then get some help to install it.

Those are my cards out on the table. Hopefully making them public will help to hold me to them.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Getting Caught in the Rain

I was in Montreal for most of last week on business. Montreal is reputed to be an amazing city, with shopping, dining and sights that are from another time and place. Sadly while I know this to be true, this was not my experience last week.

My office, and hence my hotel is in a suburb called ST.Laurent. It's close to the airport, and not much else.
So I was only there for 2 nights...and there were a few restaurants and such within walking distance of my hotel.

The first night, it was raining when I went to walk out, and so I wisely borrowed a hotel umbrella from the concierge. But the second night it was sunny, without a cloud in the sky when I left the hotel and I did not consider the possibility of rain later on.

So I was bored, and had done a lot of perusing of the sparse offerings the night before - I needed something that I could do that would use up a good chunk of my evening. Enter - the movie theater I walked by. I figured I could get something to eat in there, and watching a movie would take me to around 9pm, at which time I could go back to my hotel, get ready for bed, and manage to have passed the evening away.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a SUPER SOCIAL person, and going to the movies alone is pretty low on my list of fun things to do. But I figured I needed to just suck it up, and go for it.
So I buy my ticket, and dinner (can you believe I got chicken fingers and fries from the concession stand?!?) and head into the theater.

I am the only person in the theater. Ok, it is a Thursday night, and the movie doesn't star for another 20 minutes, but seriously - the ONLY ONE! This is getting creepy.

About 5 minutes before the movie starts a couple walks in, I can't tell you the relief I feel. They come in, and sit directly behind me. I make a funny comment about how glad I am they came in, and didn't leave me alone. We strike up a conversation, and chit-chat until the lights dim and the movie begins.

Approximately halfway through the movie, I start hearing some noises from behind me. Now, naive as I am, it took me a minute to realize that my new friends, were being exceptionally friendly with each other. Ok, no problem, just ignore them, and make sure to not even hint at turning around.
Once the movie was over they went darting out before the house lights came on, but the guy did pause for a second to wish me an enjoyable rest of my trip in Montreal.

I step out of the theater, and it's thunder storming. I take a deep breath, pull my incredibly flimsy shrug closer in around my neck, clamp my hand on my purse, and step out into the action. It's cold, and the rain drops are heavy, they actually hurt as they land on me. I get about halfway to the hotel when this car stops, the passenger window rolls down, and the lone male driver offers me a lift. Now I'm from Toronto, and I have an ethnic mother (who's a catastrophizer) I have already identified the 17 ways this man could capture, molest, torture and kill me before he finished rolling the window down. So I kind of frown at him, and he figures I don;t understand his French, so he repeats his offer in English. I frown even more deeply (if that's possible) and say "Non, ├ža va" I didn't even say thank you. He shrugs, rolls up his window and drives on.
Now it occurs to me that not every stranger who stops to help has to have evil intentions. I would never actually get into a car with a single strange man - but I could have been a little nicer in my declining his offer.

I get back to the hotel, soaked through, and my adventures seem to be over for the evening.

The next morning, I am leaving my hotel room, the door shuts behind me, and I hear some unusual noises from the room directly across mine. Now it's 7:45am, and all's quiet on the eastern front - except for the strange noises. Again, I'm a little slow when it comes to these things, and it is pretty early in the morning - it took me a minute to register what I was hearing.

What is up with Montreal?! That's twice in less than twenty-four hours. Although hopefully the folks in the movie theater were not quite as engaged as the folks in the hotel room. At this point it's conjecture - but I'd like to believe that it's true.

That's what happens when I get caught in the rain.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SERVE 2010

I think it was as early as last summer when Brent, the youth pastor @ my church started talking about taking the youth on a missions trip this summer.
In his usual Brent fashion, he slipped the idea of me attending in a sly drive-by statement "you should think about coming". That's all he said.

And I started mulling it over, pretty much right away.
You need to know that I have never in my life been on a Missions trip. I have never been any kind of athletic person, I never even learned how to ride a bike. My parents are academics, and I grew up learning to value my head, not my body so much.

Also, we have 4 male leaders for our kids, and only Angela and I for female leaders. So I kinda felt like it was important to go if I was able.

So, I did it, I requested the vacation, was approved, and bit the bullet and let Brent know that I was on-board. That's pretty much when the anxiety began. I was worried about everything.
I am not the best of long-distance drivers, cars and sunshine in combination make me sleepy, regardless of whether I am the driver or not. but I knew that I needed to do my share of the driving, what if it was too much for me?
We were taking a group of minors to a different country, that's a lot of responsibility. What if one of them got hurt, or homesick, or denied access at the border?
We were going to work. I don't know anything about fixing up a house, using tools (well, I know my different screwdriver heads, and how to use a hammer), anything "handyman"-ish. And I am suppose to lead a group of youths through work projects?!? What was I to do when they asked me a question, and I had no idea of the answer? When they looked to me for direction, and I had no idea what path to take?
What if I didn't have the stamina to work all day? What if i was a poor example?

That last one, was the most heavy on my heart. What if I was a poor example? That was part of my job as a leader right? To present a good example, to lead by working alongside. But what if I couldn't do it?

As if my fears were not active enough, we learned in February that as leaders we would be assigned a group of youths, not necessarily from our own group. So now I was doing this all with strangers! Our host team mentioned that there was a surplus of leaders this year, and so some groups would have 2 leaders instead of one. the letter implied that most leaders would not want this - I was the total opposite. I prayed fervently to be assigned another leader. Another person to share the burden and responsibility and hopefully be a SME (subject matter expert) on the work stuffs.

I didn't really tel anybody about all my worries, at first. As we got closer and closer to the date of departure, I couldn't help but release some of my thoughts. Nobody seemed to think it was a big deal. "don't worry, we'll figure it out", "you'll be fine". It was not as reassuring as I had hoped.

The same week, I was headed to Muskegon for Serve, I had a friend headed to Manitoulin Island in Manitoba for a missions trip as well. I remember sharing with her, and her words of reassurance, were the soothing balm I was seeking. She said, "it's not about all that stuff Miriam. Your job is only to surrender yourself to God. Don't worry about being a good leader or a good example. Just pray, constantly - and surrender yourself. Let God do the rest, he's got it covered." She had given me something I could do.

So bright and early on Saturday July 10th (way before my insides wake-up) I headed to the church in what felt like a beast of a van compared to my Mazda3, and our adventure began.
Brent had worked out a driving schedule (I am sure entirely to appease my concerns about my skills at long distance driving) - we packed the vans, and we were off. 9 youths, 5 leaders - armed with passports and border crossing letters for the minors, we ventured forth into an unexpected week of intense labour (ok this part was expected), banquet style food in US portion sizes, a jam-packed scheduled that ran 7am-11pm daily, being surrounded by others' gratitude, and fun.

We were told that Michigan is the second leading state in terms of poverty, and that Muskegon (the city we were in) was one of the poorest in the state.

It was intense, physically - completely exhausting. Every morning as the week progressed, it became harder and harder to get up. Not that waking-up is an easy thing for me to begin with.
We painted a laundromat for the homeless and low-income people of the community. We helped to prep and paint a little of a house that had been condemned by the government, we replaced old boards with new one on a bike trail, and put up snow fencing around sand dunes to protect against erosion. That was just what my team (5 awesome youths, whom I had never met before, from the US and Canada) worked on. There were a lot of other projects going as well (building wheelchair ramps for a couple of homes, building a shed for Habitat for Humanity, serving food from a Gleaner's truck, etc...)

God had granted me the second leader I had so fervently prayed for - with a twist. She was not set to arrive and join us until our last work-day. This was a gift from God absolutely. I had hurt my back quick seriously 2 weeks before leaving for Muskegon. I was left completely immobile for almost a week. It hurt so badly, I demanded x-rays from my family doctor because I thought I had fractured my pelvis. And remember that I was a labourer to begin with, so this added challenge of worrying about my back, and not being able to lift was a legitimate complication.

Our final day of work, was the snow fencing for the sand dunes. We had to carry heaving fencing and posts, plus a couple of post pounders up a steep series of stairs to begin the work. I think if I had been alone I may have actually cried in frustration at my inability to do the task. I couldn't even co-carry the fencing with someone else - I could only push it: which got it from the truck to the base of the stairs.
My co-leader was very familiar with hard work, she did such a great job of organizing the work, the youth , and even was able to carry an entire bale of fencing herself up the stairs. She literally saved the day.

There are so many things that happened this week in Muskegon. Many stories for many other days. Some will have your rolling with laughter, others will have you slowly breathing out to try and suppress tears. Overall, I hope it was life changing. Well actually it was, the question is will I rise to the occasion, and avoid falling into the life I had before.

And it has again reinforced my experience that in trying to be selfless and do something solely for the benefit and betterment of others, I can not avoid being moved and bettered myself.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Ouf! I have been hit.
It's worse than the smart of a paintball at close range.
Motivation down!
Doesn't look like much can save it.....

Here's my situation:

I ordered some furniture from Costco online assuming it would be delivered fully assembled. It was not. So I got excited when I received them, and spend 5 hours assembling the first one. That's right, you just read 5 hours!
The instructions were so poor, that I ended up doing it wrong several times throughout the process. And my need to screw-in, and unscrew over and over and over again, managed to strip the wood, strip the screws. It's not pretty.
So I managed to get the one done, but have been pretty intimidated to do the other one. Plus stuff like that always goes better with 2 minds and 4 hands.

Then I asked a friend to help me put the other one together, and he said sure, but has been super busy and unavailable since I asked. Thankfully I was telling Matt and Leah about my frustrations, and Matt has offered to help me.

So that's one problem sorta fixed.

If only that were it.

So I also need lamps for my room to put on my new (hopefully soon to be assembled) night tables, because I have been reading by book lamp, and it's just not good for my eyes.

So I FINALLY make it out to IKEA today (I have been planning to go for 3 weeks). I bought the lamps I wanted, nice tall, thin ones so they don't take up too much space or overpower the room. I also bought 2 kinds of light bulbs (different wattage) to complete the package. So I get home, and happily tear into one of the lamps (for the one nightstand I actually have assembled and in place) - and would you believe that the light bulbs don't fit! They are somehow too big at the base.
I am so frustrated I am about a blink away from giving up on building/improving/ever leaving the house again.

ARGH!! I hate getting so close, but not being able to complete something properly.
And I hate asking for help, because I feel like it makes me look incompetent. So now I have had to ask for help twice for the build, and I will have to ask someone at least once about the light bulb issue.

And I remain nightstand-less and light-less.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Is it almost April already?! How did that happen?

Do you ever get the impression that you are sometimes sleepwalking through your life?
Like you blinked and it's been almost 5 months since your last blog post?

Your everyday routines are so routine at this point that you can move through them on auto-pilot and not even mark the passage of time.

I guess that's been my life. I have this nagging feeling that I am glossing over some blips in the routine continuum, but they haven't bubbled up to the surface of my consciousness yet - so they remain unaccounted for.

The scary part is the thought that the rest of this year will continue this way, and before I know it, it'll be 2011, and then 2020, and then....well, you see the picture is somewhat grim.

Not grim in so much as I have a bad life, I have a great life! Grim in the realization that I keep forgetting to pause, smell the roses, celebrate. And because I don't pause, I don't remember. Life becomes one big blur of the everyday.

I have been away on business this week. It rained all day in Ottawa on Tuesday, and of course I had not packed an umbrella. Well my cabbie gave me his umbrella. And it wasn't a cheapie one either, it was a firefly brand, auto-release umbrella. That was such a kind hearted gesture. And if I hadn't just remembered it, it would have been lost in the semi-coma of my everyday living.

I successfully straightened my own hair with a flat-iron, and minus the minor burn I gave myself in the back of my head, I did a pretty good job.

I know they seem the piddliest of details. But if we don't stop to notice them, than what is life composed of? Periods of sleep in between semi-conscious automaton living?

I'll take the red pill - thanks Morpheus.