Nothing Better

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Candy cooking.

Is there anything better than butter and sugar melting together in a heavy pot? I don’t think so. Of course, this is subjective. Some of you are thinking that there is something better! But for me, these days, nothing is better than butter and sugar together. I love that caramel smell as cooking candy bubbles on the stovetop.

Candy and cookies and cards

This year I’m making cookies and candy for friends and family. I’m also sending out old-fashioned Christmas cards. Over the last few years we’ve received blank Christmas cards from different charities as either an incentive to give or as a thank-you for giving. The cards are gorgeous, and I have a whole heap of them. It’s great to finally send them out.

I even wrote a funny Christmas letter to include in the cards. Remember, funny, like sugar and butter, is also subjective. The letter tells about all the excitement that’s been happening around here so it’s short.

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Colour gel pens, stickers, and cards.

I’m using all the colourful gel pens that have sat lonely in a drawer for so long, and I’m sticking hoarded stickers on all the letters and all the envelopes. I don’t know why I love this so much but I do!

What is this unfamiliar feeling?

This holiday season I am happy. Sometimes when I’m working I’ll stop and notice that I’m smiling and my heart is light. There are no pressing thoughts about what to do next trying to push me out of this moment and into the next.

I’m relaxed and I’m happy. It’s hard to know if I’m content because I’m sending cards and baking, or if I’m sending cards and baking because I’m happy. Perhaps it’s the eggnog. Who knows? It doesn’t matter why.

The point is that it’s fun to have time to spend creating homemade gifts. It’s good for my soul.

Sure, I’m finishing up my editing program and have a big project to tackle, but that’s okay. I’ve got time to do it, and that’s a really nice feeling.

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A tree on a December evening.

Memories of busyness

I do miss (a bit) the merriment of elementary school at Christmastime. Kids are so much fun at this time of year because their wonder and excitement are infectious. Their shining eyes remind me of my own childhood Christmases.

But as an elementary schoolteacher there is always a frantic dash up to the finish line of Christmas holidays. (I can’t see you, but I can almost feel all you former and current teachers of young students nodding in agreement. Some of you are still mildly traumatized.)

The classroom is merry in December, but it is hectic. Hectic merriment.

While teaching, I entered Christmas vacation like a zombie, numb and disengaged, but with no appetite for anything, let alone brains. When you give it all, there’s nothing left to give. You need a chance to refuel.

That’s the working world and that’s just how life was while I was teaching. I was busy! Like any job or profession, teaching has its perks and its drawbacks. Mostly, I remember the good things, and there were lots of good things.

That being said, it’s a joy this year to be joyful as I prepare for Christmas. It’s wonderful to have the time to take my time.

Seasons

Life has its seasons, I know. There will be busy times again and maybe even soon. But for now and for this season, I’ll bask in the calm contentment, and wish for you, dear reader, this same pleasure. There’s nothing better.

 

 

 

 

Never Again

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The Canadian Pacific Railway line that runs by my village.

When it comes right down to it, no matter what anyone does to us, we’re in control of our own feelings and mostly in control of our actions. Recently I was reminded of a time several years ago when I allowed someone to treat me horribly and I, in return, did the same. For a long time, I felt angry with myself about this, but now, I discover, I’m done being angry with anyone over that whole disaster.

At the time, I was newly out of a comfortable relationship and living alone. I was planning to leave my teaching position and move to a different city a lot further south. While I looked forward to that adventure, the prospect of it was also terrifying as big life changes often are. I guess I was looking for a distraction from my fear. I found a distraction, all right. It just goes to show that we should always be cautious about what we seek because we might find it.

It was the kind of relationship I’d never had before and not had since because, usually, I’m not bat-crap crazy. Back then and for a bit, I must’ve been because that’s the only explanation for my behaviour. It was an on-again, off-again kind of fiasco, rife with mind games and hurtful words and searing actions. I felt very small, and my own actions were mean and small. It’s embarrassing to think about now, but I think it’s a state most of us have experienced, so I don’t mind sharing. All of this mess happened years ago in another time and in another place.

Time like a river.

A river in summertime.

Being an optimist and a people-lover, it’s hard for me to face the fact that there are always people in certain circumstances who will use others to benefit themselves. It’s even harder to face the fact that I have sometimes been one of those people.

Saints excluded, I think that to a greater or lesser degree, this element of self-preservation exists within most of us human beings. It’s just the way we’re wired and for evolutionary purposes, it’s probably come in really handy, this selfishness. It allowed us to survive and for our lineage to thrive. Fair enough in the jungle and in the caves, and I’d like to believe we can rise above that base instinct now and aim for something kinder, more beneficial to the entire species.

I admit that I was no innocent bystander in this craziness, no halo-draped angel. Nope, I was fully-engaged and I take responsibility for allowing the destructiveness to continue for as long as it did. I could have walked away any time. Finally, I did.

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A Canadian Pacific caboose on a hot August day.

I had the opportunity to re-engage that person from so long ago. While I wish him health and happiness, I’m smarter now. When I saw it approaching, the wisdom I’ve acquired in the years between now and then told me to leap off the tracks and just let that train speed on by.

Wisdom also told me not to place dynamite on the tracks or to throw eggs at the passing cars. There’s no point. What good are they, those little actions that serve only to shrink and harden my heart? After all, it was a small, hard heart that got me into that situation and it’s a bigger, more open heart that’s keeping me out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Come To My Funeral

This is a post I wrote back in 2017 when I threw a birthday party and was somewhat dismayed at the lack of response my invitations received. Still, we had a really good time. It was almost as fun as any funeral.

Listen to me read this post or read it below. And, please, come to my barbeque.

Don_t Come To My Funeral(My Bad Poem That Makes a Good Point)Don_t come to my funeral,I won_t care.Don_t come to my funeral,I won_t be there.But when I invite you to A barbequeYears ago, I attended a friend’s 90th birthday party.  Her family intended it to be a celebration of this woman’s life. That’s what funerals are now sometimes called: celebrations of life. Only this celebration was held before the one we were celebrating had died. It was wonderful.

I loved seeing her glow as each eulogy was given. Some of the stories were touching and some were funny, and all illustrated a piece of her life. What a waste these tales would’ve been if she’d have been too dead to hear all the sweet memories folks shared about her.

Funerals are for the living.

I do understand that funerals are for the living. They provide a chance to connect and a chance to accept the passing of a loved one. Mourning together is better.

Funerals affirm that, even in the face of death, life goes on. We’ll all die but for now, we are alive. Funerals are good to remind us of this fact.

I also understand why folks come out for funerals. At funerals you see everyone; all those old friends and relatives crawl out of the woodwork and come back home. They step out of their comfortable, full lives, and they come to mourn and visit and reconnect.

At funerals someone often asks, “Why don’t we ever get together like this when there’s not a funeral?” Good question.

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Cemetery statue, Savannah, Georgia.

A gathering where no one’s dead can be fun too. 

Now and then, I’ll invite people to events at which everyone is alive. Often my invitation is turned down cold. I can’t compete with funerals.

Next time I host a party, I’m going to call it a funeral just to see if more people come. Death more than simple pleasure seems to be worth making an effort for.

Don’t put off living.

We’re all guilty of putting off a life that begs to be lived. We especially put off the pleasant things. There’s something in our culture that still esteems suffering while it diminishes enjoyment.

I had a great aunt who worked hard all her life at a mundane job that she disliked. She kept working and promised herself that when she retired, she’d finally travel and enjoy life. I loved and admired this woman. When she became ill and died before she got to travel, I paid attention.

Suffering is not more important than enjoyment.

In our western culture, a high premium is placed on stoic suffering. I get it. When pioneers came to this land, stoic suffering was their only choice. Put your head down and work until you carved a life into this rugged nowhere. The strong survived and there wasn’t time to cultivate roses let alone smell them.

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A rose in my auntie’s garden.

It’s different now. We can relax a bit and enjoy being alive. I won’t suffer in the hopes that someone will shed an earned tear at my funeral. I’d gladly exchange a tearful funeral for a joy-filled life. I wouldn’t even mind a bitter eulogy: “All she did was go around being happy and savouring life.”

I’m no martyr. The fact is, my suffering doesn’t improve anyone else’s life. It only makes me miserable and, in turn, I make the world more miserable.

It won’t kill you to go to the party.

When someone calls you to go spend time with the living, try to go. I know. Life is busy and there are competing priorities. Keep in mind that it is far easier to visit with the folks we love, to hold them and be near them, before they are dead.

Life is short and enjoying it fully is more important than suffering through it. It’s respectful to attend the funerals, but it’s crucial to go to the barbeques.

Thanks for reading and listening! I hope you have a great new week wherever you are.

~ Lori

 

Decisions, Decisions

Listening to Lori

You can hear me read this post or read it below. You decide.

Decisions ImageDecisions, Decisions

Right now, I’ve got a lot of decisions to make. When I think about it, though, I’d way rather have decisions to make than limited choices in life. Making decisions is hard, but it’s better to have choices than not.

For the past year I attended Simon Fraser University, taking their online Editing Certificate program. My courses were very challenging and very interesting. The year flew by, and soon I’ll be a certified editor.

Finishing up one thing and starting another means more decisions to make. But isn’t that the point of getting an education? An education should ideally provide more choices and open more doors. I hope mine will. We’ll see.

Choice is a privilege.

Because I’m privileged I have so many choices. I’m fortunate to have an education that I could afford to get. Nowadays, young students are typically guaranteed to be in debt for a very long time to get a post-secondary education.

I remember meeting a young lawyer back in Grande Prairie. She was about three years younger than me. But in that short span between our ages, the cost of a university education in Canada had sky rocketed. This professional woman, well employed within a local law office, was living with her parents so that she could pay down her student debt.

It’s possible she enjoyed living with her folks. It wasn’t my dream to live with my parents at 28 years old, and so I viewed her experience through my own bias, of course. To me, she seemed trapped by debt. Still, that debt gave her a fulfilling career and a good way to make a living.

She chose to shoulder debt to obtain the education she wanted, and that choice is a privilege.

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An old Remington typewriter. Makes me glad for my keyboard!

Hard times mean limited choices.

From here my choices all look pretty good. I’m not between a rock and a hard place. “Lori, leap off this cliff or leap off that cliff. And, no, you can’t have a parachute, so stop asking.”

I’ve been in that uncomfortable place where I just had to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. At times, I’ve had no choice. I’ve done jobs I didn’t want to do and lived in less-than-ideal conditions so that I could escape situations I couldn’t stay in. Those were hard times. Everyone has them. Hard times show up differently in everyone’s lives, but if you’re born, you have them. That’s how it goes.

My choices are all good.

Going forward, I’ve got a lot of choices. My problem isn’t that I have no direction; my problem is that I have too many directions!

Now that I’m nearly finished my editing program, I’d like to work as an editor and writer. I want to help people make their projects the best they can be. I’d love this, but it means that I’ll need to start a business. That enterprise is chockfull of decisions.

I also miss being in the classroom and plan to substitute teach after Christmas. It will be fun to be with students again, but every job opportunity comes with decisions: whether or not to accept the offer, what to wear, what to pack for lunch.

Lunch and clothes might seem like small considerations, but I haven’t had to decide what to pack for lunch or what to wear to work for nearly a year! I can’t bring a gallon of jasmine tea and a handful of cashews for lunch, and I can’t wear yoga pants to work. Things will have to change.

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Textbooks for school.

Focus and quiet are wonderful.

As my life changes again, I’ll have to be careful not to get distracted by too many projects and too many activities. Over the last year I’ve come to appreciate focus and quiet. I’d like to maintain focus and quiet at least in some corners of my life.

That’s another choice. I can choose to work frantically, bouncing from one project to another, or I can choose to focus on one or two things and do them very well. But I have to decide to do it and be disciplined.

Given the choice, I’d choose choice.

There’s so much we can’t choose, so many decisions we’re not allowed to make. The chance to make decisions is a golden opportunity in a universe that decides much for us, from our place of birth to our genetic code. These are huge factors in determining how life will go, and we have no control over either of them.

I’ve been forced to make decisions because I’ve had the opportunity to make decisions. With freedom comes choice.

I was born into positive circumstances and in a war-free, wealthy country. I was born to parents who cared about education and born late enough in the world’s timeline to be allowed to get an education. The more I sit here and write, the more grateful I am for all the decisions I’ve made and all the ones I’ll need to make.

All this decision-making has led me to this conclusion: It’s hard to make choices, but it’s sure nice to have them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Escape Room

 

You can read The Great Escape Room below or listen to it here or both. Nice to have a choice, isn’t it?

The Great Escape Room

The Great Escape Room ImageA little while ago I went with a group of friends to The Escape Squad in Camrose, Alberta. This series of escape rooms is an exercise in teambuilding. It’s a great reminder that we don’t get far in life or in escape rooms without the support of others.

In this case, our group completed (not quite!) the escape room for the fun of it, but I definitely see how this activity promotes teamwork in the workplace and how it can foster team building in any organization. Did I mention it was fun, as well?

Under Pressure

I’ll be careful here to not give away any escape room secrets. I think it’s safe to tell you that teams have a time limit of 45 minutes to make their way through the escape room. There’s a large countdown clock on the wall with a huge red digital display ticking away the precious seconds.

The interactive game was cleverly constructed, with hints and clues planted in the most interesting places. Some were obvious; most were not. The scenario of the theme room we chose was based on finding our missing grandpa who’d conveniently left us a trail of clues.

If our mission had been real, poor old Grandpa would still be out there somewhere alone because we fell an estimated twelve minutes short of locating the dear man. I thought that was pretty good for our first time through. Grandpa may feel differently. If his clues had been easier, Grandpa would be safe at home now. I’d say he’s got himself to blame for that outcome.

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Heavy frost, bright blue sky.

Life’s problems, life’s puzzles

Life is easier when we surround ourselves with people whose skills complement our own. More by luck than design, the five members of our team had very complementary skills. I’m useless at locks of any kind but, luckily, we had the Lock Queen with us. Who knew?

Other members were great at detecting well-hidden hints, while others were excellent at reading and relaying important information. Other team members were able to locate helpful tools, and able to figure out how they work and why we need them. Every one of us was scrambling the whole time. There was always something to do, something to solve.

What was my job in this whole adventure? I was a bit of a Keyboard Queen. Surprising, right? Such an egghead.

Working together builds relationships

Going into the game, I had only briefly met some of my team members. I didn’t know most of them very well at all. Upon coming out of the game, though, they were my buddies, the ones I could count on. This group of detectives had my back and I knew it.

There’s nothing like working together to bring us together.

Life inevitably throws problems and puzzles at us that require the help of others to solve. No one’s an island, and it’s most effective to get assistance to get through life. That just how life goes. That day, that interactive game at The Escape Squad proved it.

 

Live Dangerously

 

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Beachfront bar in Sayulita, Mexico.

I have to admit that I re-read this the other day and laughed out loud. I was so irritated by the travel advice given in the photocopies I received when I went to get my Twinrix vaccination. I really resent being made to feel afraid of the big world around me.

Yes, I realize that I could get sick or attacked or injured while traveling. But any number of terrible things could happen to me at any time and anywhere. I refuse to let this fact keep me from experiencing life.

Am I sometimes afraid? Of course! I’m nervous about entering a lot of new situations. I try to explore those unfamiliar sights and tastes and sounds anyway. No, it doesn’t always work out and occasionally I feel disappointed or a little ill or generally let down. And then I get over it.

I hope you have a very nice weekend and, if you’re in my neck of the woods, keep warm and take care!

~ Lori

Not so long ago when I went to get my Twinrix vaccination, I received from the pharmacy what I call The Red Folder of Fear. In it was information about all the devastating things that could happen to me if I leave my house.

For your benefit, dear reader, I’ll share some of these tips with you here. You can find more information to keep you at home at or, at the very least, keep you afraid at Health Canada’s website.

After all, travelling isn’t about enjoying the world. It’s about enjoying safety precautions.

“Too much sun can be harmful, so be careful!”

Yes. Here’s a newsflash: Sun can cause sunburn and sun can cause us to age, just like life does.

Listen to me read this post:

“If you are in the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., [You daredevil!] wear long pants, long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim.”

Safe and attractive. Don’t go out after dark, either, because that’s unsafe for a whole heap of other reasons. That gives you two or three hours in the morning, and another two hours before supper to experience the paradise you flew five hours to see and the vacation you spent a month’s wages on.

What’s my recommendation for avoiding the afternoon sun? Find a shady bar or a lawn chair under an umbrella and keep hydrating with whatever they’re serving. Prefer not to sample the local beverages? Go for a massage. That’s pretty safe, and it will get you out of that ridiculous hat and those long pants.

For the sake of all that’s good in the world, even if that dangerous sun is shining, leave your hotel room.

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Iguana at the Marina in Puerto Vallarta.

Here’s a good one:

“Wash your own salad greens in a solution of six drops of chlorine bleach in one litre of safe water. Soak for thirty minutes, and then rinse with safe water.”

Is the water safe? How can you know for sure? This whole water scenario sounds risky to me.

“Lori, are you coming downstairs for a margarita?”

“No, you go ahead. I’ve got lettuce soaking in the bathroom sink and I still need to peel some vegetables. Also, I’m frightened of the sunshine.”

Yes, peeling your own vegetables (and nuts?) is also advised in The Red Folder of Fear:

“Peel your own fruits, vegetables, and nuts.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve peeled a nut. It might be fun to try that again.

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A dangerous heap of coconuts.

“Beware of local buses. They are often overcrowded, poorly maintained, and in a hurry.”

Suggested interpretation: If it’s good enough for the locals, it’s not good enough for me.

Local buses can be your ticket to affordable adventure. Seriously. Local public transportation can take you places you’d never think to visit on your own. Riding the bus is a great way to tour and a good chance to rub elbows with the locals.

Sure, don’t lick your fingers after clutching the bar on the back of the seat in front of you. But why would you do that? You’re a world-travelling bus rider. You’ll wash your hands and then lick your fingers.

Why were you clutching the seat bar or the one above your head? Because, often, these buses are in a hurry, so hold on tight and enjoy the scenery!

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Some of the 24 suggested first aid items.

Don’t leave home without it.

The Red Folder of Fear lists twenty-four handy items you could pack in your travel medical kit depending on a list of ten factors I’m not going to mention. I suggest antihistamines, a pain reliever, bandages, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, something for nausea, and sunscreen.

Within its comprehensive list of twenty-four items, The Red Folder of Fear suggests bringing:

  • A thermometer.
  • A first aid book.
  • Shampoo for treating lice and scabies.
  • Disposable gloves.
  • Disinfectant.
  • A Swiss Army Knife. (I love this one and so do the folks at airport security!)

By the end of this list, I’m wondering if I’m becoming less of a tourist and more of a serial killer.

I get the impression from The Red Folder of Fear that the only safe place to vacation is on my big red couch at home. If I stay there, I decrease my chances of illness and injury, of trauma during and following a wild bus ride, and of having any fun.

While that folder increases my chances of staying alive, it greatly reduces the chance that I’ll get to experience life at all.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Changes

Listening to Lori

You can listen to me read Everything Changes or you can read the blog post below. Finally, something within your control!

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An autumn road close to home.

Generally speaking, I like change. I think this is because I’ve had the opportunity to decide to make changes. Change is so much easier when it’s within our control. Very often it isn’t.

I was out and about the other day, and I encountered three different people who were in the midst of changes of their own. Changes come in all shapes and sizes, and these folks I met up with gave me three individual examples of change.

Illness

Last week, a close friend had a mild stroke. (Related observation: A mild stroke is one suffered by someone else.) A stroke presents a lot of changes. When I popped in at the hospital, he told me about some of these changes, the things he would need to relearn. Change that results from illness is not easy.

Illness can be sudden, as in my friend’s case, or it can sneak up on us slowly. Either way, illness brings change. Most of us who are fortunate to live long enough will experience the changes brought on by illness.

Relocation

After seeing my friend in the hospital, I ran into a woman that I’d had a professional association with while I was still working as a teacher. I asked her what was new and she told me that her husband was finally happy in his work. To find work that made him happy, though, her husband moved to another province.

Her plan is to join him sooner than later, but right now, she has her own commitments to fulfill. Relocation is a big change that involves a whole truckload of little changes, details stacked upon details.

In this case, a change was made for the benefit of one half of a pair. When you love people and live with them, you sometimes find yourself changing with them.

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Sunset on an autumn evening.

Switching careers

It really was a great day for running into people I hadn’t seen in a long time. Before my excursion was done, I met another casual acquaintance. I asked about his work and he told me this story:

Awhile back, on a trip larger centre my acquaintance noticed a homeless man sitting in a park. My friend quickly assured me that he didn’t mean to think this thought. His own exhaustion made it automatically pop into his mind, and my friend confessed, “I envied the homeless guy’s free time.”

In that moment my friend knew he had to quit his current job. He’d need to find one that wouldn’t leave him feeling jealous of the freedom of folks who have to sleep outside. Now he has a job that moves at a saner pace and he’s happier.

Change is coming. You can’t escape it so you might as well embrace it.

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A wild rose.

But how do we greet change? It’s a pretty tall order to look change in the eye and open the door, inviting it right into our lives. When change knocks, our most natural instinct is to bar the door and draw the blinds. Nobody’s home, change. Come back later.

It helps to let go of the idea that we can control every situation. We can’t. (This is an especially challenging fact for me to understand, but I’m working on it.)

Here are three steps that we can take together in learning to accept change and to just deal with it:

  1. Be flexible. Sure, go ahead and make plans. That way some of the things you want to happen will happen. But don’t cling too tightly to your plans. Be prepared for your plans to change.
  2. Ease up on your expectations. High expectations lead to disappointment more often than not. To best face change, lower your expectations of how events should unfold. Just let them unfold. (That’s a hard one.)
  3. Take change less personally. Life happens to everyone. It can feel like we’re going through it alone, but we’re all traveling along that same forward trajectory. Time makes sure of that. The road is sometimes bumpy and sometimes smooth. Change is not targeting any one of us. We’re simply living lives in which change is unavoidable.

I have the three people I met that one day to thank for my renewed perspective on change. We all have a different experience of change, but as long as we walk the earth, change is inescapable.

Sometimes change is good and other times it is very difficult, but it’s guaranteed to happen. The best we can do is to accept change and move forward with it.

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My Opinion of Opinions

 

Hello everyone! Today I’m preparing to host a garage sale this Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. How can one household accumulate so much stuff…?

As I was scrolling through some of my older posts, I ran across this one. I like it, and it still rings true. It’s opinions that have turned me off social media use. Don’t misunderstand me. There are tons of things I enjoy about social media. I like sharing jokes and sharing music. I like “meeting” people from all over the world, folks I would never connect with otherwise.

Social media can be fun and informative. It’s also great for advertising. In fact, I had a friend (Thanks Sandra!) post my garage sale ads all over Facebook. If I ever return to Facebook and give up that wee part of my soul again, it will be because of that platform’s advertising reach.

I hope that you all have a great Tuesday. It’s sunny here and a good day to do organizing-type chores. Stay well and be happy!

Cheers,

Lori

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Here’s my favourite photo from our recent trip: me with showgirls on Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can listen to me read this here or read it yourself below. The choice is yours!

Over the years, I’ve found that expressing my opinion loudly is the best way to convince others of my point of view. It feels great to scream out what I believe into the faces of those who previously held a contrary belief. It’s delightful to see their faces light up with understanding as I bellow my truth.

When the exchange is over, I often think, “If only I’d loudly expressed my opinion sooner we would’ve seen eye-to-eye earlier.”

What? You’ve had a different experience upon expressing your opinion? It didn’t change minds? It irritated friends and family? Hmm. That’s strange. People love it when I express my opinion.

They say, “Tell us what you think, Lori, especially about religion and politics. You are so wise and we can’t get enough! And when you’re done that, would you please give us some unsolicited advice?”

Preaching to the converted is rewarding.

Even better than changing minds is sharing my truth with those who already accept it. They cheer without hesitating, nodding in agreement and spurring me on. I appreciate the reinforcement of my truth by the folks who are already as smart as me.

It’s great to meet people who think exactly what I think. I sure like them better than the folks who think differently than me. They’re much easier to relate with and I don’t have to go through the work of listening to what they say or trying to see their point of view.

Heck, we’re so similar that we don’t even have to really listen to each other. This makes me feel comfortable and it makes me feel right.

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Opinions don’t convince. Opinions annoy.

In reality, I’ve only ever annoyed others with my opinions unless they happen to share my exact opinions. This doesn’t happen very often. Like never.

We’re complex beings with complex minds. We have our own ideas and our own life experiences. We are not going to agree on everything. Start with that premise.

Opinions are divisive.

Strongly-held opinions divide us as solidly as brick walls. This may feel good sometimes. Opinions can help us establish an identity, a belonging to a certain group. It’s nice to belong. It feels good to feel welcomed. We all want to be accepted.

But too close an association with one group can be limiting and stifling. And what if you develop a new opinion, a point of view that differs from the group’s view? Then shut up or get out. You’ve found a safe place within those walls. Don’t mess it up by thinking too much.

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Talking is easy. Listening is hard.

I enjoy talking. It’s fun to sit around and chat about myself, what I think, what I’ve done and what I want to do. Just as I get going, though, someone else wants to talk about what they think, what they’ve done and what they want to do.

That’s fine. Their talking gives me a chance to decide what I’ll say next about myself. I’ll keep nodding and they’ll keep talking. When they stop, I’ll resume the important work of telling them about me.

Listening is difficult and it’s not natural. It takes intention and practice. We have to choose to listen and then work to do it. Where’s the fun in that?

I know there are drawbacks to social media and emails, but here’s a plus. Typing to others makes us slow down and read what they have to say – just like letters used to do. It’s the same idea.

In conversation, though, we’re not often focused on that moving stream of words. With our own ideas flowing through our minds it’s hard to concentrate on someone else’s thoughts. Listening is hard, but it’s one of the only things that can bring us closer.

Listening is powerful.

Listening can change the world. Hearing what others have to say isn’t necessarily agreeing with what others believe. It can be, but more importantly, listening opens the door to understanding.

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“Oh, so that’s where she’s coming from! Her experience formed her opinion. I sure don’t agree with her perception, but I can see why she thinks that way. If I’d had that same experience, maybe I’d hold that opinion, too.”

Reaching an understanding about why people believe what they believe is a very good start to mending our differences. The only way to get there is through listening.

Spout tales, not opinions.

If we want people to listen, let’s say something worth listening to. Storytelling is engaging. That’s why all the best teachers throughout time have used storytelling to convey their messages.

Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Einstein did their best teaching through telling stories and by walking the walk. They gave us information based on their experience, and they gave us stories to help us understand those experiences.

I’m sure they all had opinions. We all have opinions and that’s okay. But opinions aren’t what these teachers used to change the world. Opinions would’ve slammed the door on our learning and they knew that. Opinions don’t change the world. They divide it.

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The listening challenge:

I don’t think I’m up to changing my opinions this week, but I think I’m ready to sharpen my listening skills. I’ll take these baby steps:

  • When someone’s talking, I’ll try not to think of what to say next.
  • I’ll try to focus on the speaker’s words.
  • I’ll make an effort to understand the intention behind the words I’m hearing.
  • I’ll try to honour different life experiences and different backgrounds.

If you want to join me on this listening challenge, let me know how it goes for you. We can share our stories about how darn difficult it is to really listen. And on that, we can definitely agree!

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Tom Petty and the Heartbroken

 

IMG_6140Tom Petty helped me run down my dream. He still will.

A couple of online blogposts ago, I asked readers to give suggestions regarding what they’d like me to write about some time. One response I got was to write about someone who influenced me and helped to shape my life.

Listen to me read this post:

Today that’s easy because one of my big influences died recently.

What did I admire about Tom Petty? How did he influence my life and my work? After all, he was a rock star and I’m just me. And yet…

In the 2007 Peter Bogdanovich documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream, Tom Petty says:

I always liked the idea of the guitar because cowboys played guitars. It was very clear: Here’s a way out of this situation I’m in.

Fender StratocasterHome movie footage features a young Tom in a big cowboy hat running across a lawn in suburban Florida. Upon hearing the story of his childhood in that Bogdanovich film, I ached for that kid. I also really related to him. As a kid, I looked for a way out, too.

Most all my life I’ve wanted to escape from one circumstance or another. Tom Petty and I had that in common. We both wanted to leave this world for a while.

Oh, he was by far braver and so much more talented than I’ll ever be, but we shared a driving desperation. That’s why his songs spoke to me.

Not a romantic

Tom Petty didn’t write about romance. Good for him. There’s enough romance in music already. The quota’s been filled. Instead, Petty wrote about life as raw and as sweet as it really is, like he did in his song Here Comes My Girl:

Every now and then I get down to the end of the day
And I have to stop and ask myself why I’ve done it.
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard
And nothin’ ever really seems to come from it.

from Here Comes My Girl, Universal Music, 1979

I get this way of seeing the world. I’m not a romantic, either. Please just serve me up real life on a bendy paper plate and let’s deal with it.

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Qualities I’d be proud to have

When trying to explain to a friend my deep grief over Petty’s passing, I listed the qualities that the musician embodied:

  • Tenacity
  • Talent
  • People skills
  • Business savvy
  • Courage

These are all attributes I strive to have. While Tom Petty lived out these exemplary personal qualities, I can only try to. But he gave me this example to aspire to. His life was an inspiration to me.

I don’t want to die

Here’s another reason for my sadness. To me, anymore, 66 seems a really young age to die. I understand that a lot of people die a lot younger. I realize this, but I didn’t want Tom Petty to die, and I sure as heck don’t want to die at 66 years old! I don’t want to die at all.

I often tell the story of being 10 years old in August of 1977. I was in the sprawling backseat of my parents’ Chrysler when the news came on the radio, “The King is dead! Long live the King!” Elvis Presley had died at 42. In the front seat, Mom cried like I cry for Tom Petty.

At the time, I remember thinking, “42? That’s pretty old. Elvis was four times my age!”

The memory of it makes me laugh now. I’m glad I got to live to be old enough for this to be funny.

In Tom Petty’s end, I see my own inevitable demise as more, well, inevitable. He seemed invincible. He seemed immortal. In short, it simply sucks when your heroes die.

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His legacy

Everyone dies. That’s the way it goes. Rock stardom or the safest, most serene life possible excludes no one from that shared fate.

The best I can do is to take the best of Tom Petty forward with me into the rest of my life. He made me understand the importance of running down my dream.

Now that I’m older, that dream is less about ambition and attaining a goal than it is about living authentically and in a way that matters to me.

Deep down, I know I’m no different than anyone else. Everybody’s had to fight to be free, and yet I feel that these words were written for me.

Life is a struggle, a beautiful woven tapestry of heartache and happiness. Throughout my life, because of the duration of Petty’s career, I’ve benefited from the experiences he set to music. Tom Petty put my pain and joy into words, and he dipped them in a melody.

For him, I am grateful.

Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog either right here on WordPress or through email. See the right sidebar to follow me. It’s easy and it’s free. This way, you won’t miss any of my posts. Thanks for reading! ~ Lori

 

 

 

 

Another One Like the Other Ones

Listening to Lori

You can read all about my travel adventures below or you can hear me tell you about them. Either way, I’d love it!

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A carriage at Fort Walsh, SK.

As I walked through the cold countryside this morning, I tried to think of something new to write about. I came up with nothing. It seems I’ve already said everything you’d be interested in reading.

Sad.

Travel adventure’s all been done before.

I considered writing about my latest travel adventure again, more blah, blah, blah about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. Anyway, the most recent trip was regional, and so it wouldn’t appeal to you listeners who don’t live around here.

Obviously not everyone wants to read about Medicine Hat, Alberta; Havre, Montana; or the Cypress Hills of southern Saskatchewan. Who can blame you? They’re just places with great names full of compelling, murderous history and tasty food.

Food: Does it really matter?

I’d tell you about the food if I thought you liked food. Most people don’t care for it.

Why would you want to read about the best burger of my life in Havre, the one I’d marry if I could? And Indian food in Medicine Hat: not one morsel of meat in it and the most delicious food of its kind I’ve ever had. I thought I was going to die a pleasant death of physically bursting after eating an astonishing amount of Naan bread and chickpeas.

The tale of the world’s best cheese omelet and hash browns that I had for breakfast at The Resort At Cypress Hills sounds like all my other breakfast stories. It just tasted better.

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Wine from Cypress Hills Winery.

Food is food, and booze is not worth writing about.

I suppose I could tell you once more about all the beverages we sampled, but what would be the point? They’re cold. They’re bottled. They’re delicious. I’ve said it all before.

There’s no need to go on about the cherry cider and grapefruit beer that we bought from the grocery store in Havre.

Here’s something most Americans probably don’t know about us Canadians, not that there’re any Americans listening this: We Canadians love buying alcohol from your drugstores and grocery stores. It’s both thrilling and convenient. It feels a bit forbidden because in Canada, it is.

Why tell you about the exceptional fruit wine and tasty beer made right in Saskatchewan? It would just make you thirsty and make you want to head over to Saskatchewan. (The booze alone would be worth the trip to Maple Creek.)

Breweries in Medicine Hat? Who knew? I’d pass on the story of the Hell’s Basement taproom, but I don’t want to turn you off ever going to Medicine Hat. Let me just say this: The other people in there tried to talk to us.

One even approached my husband, saying, “Here, smell this beer.” Then another asked him what he was drinking. A bunch of them were lined up along a tasting bar with their elegant sampling glasses, visiting and trying different beers.

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Milk Stout beer made in Saskatchewan.

I don’t condone this kind of activity, so I certainly wouldn’t write about it. I say, buy your booze and get out. There’s no reason to discuss it with the friendly locals who also enjoy it.

If you’ve had one Saskatchewan-made beer at The Resort At Cypress Hills, I suppose you’ve had them all. Another story about beer would just bore you, so I won’t delve into the Milk Stout produced in Swift Current, sweeter than mother’s milk and just as nourishing.

More history? Seriously?

History is so dusty by now because much of it is awfully old.

In the past, I’ve written a lot about history. I apologize. You’ve probably heard enough about rum-running, Al Capone, illegal gambling, opium dens, and prostitution in the tunnels beneath the streets of Havre, Montana. Who hasn’t?

The North West Mounted Police only hung around Fort Walsh for four years. Even they were bored by it. After the massacre of Nakoda elders, women and children by wolf hunters, and after sheltering the Lakota people who fled the south country following the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Mounties left Fort Walsh in 1882.

Another thing I can’t write about here is my pleasant visit with a charming one-armed man outside the walls of Fort Walsh. I don’t know where I’d fit it in among all the killing stories.

I told you. There’s nothing new to write about.

You see my problem? It’s the end of the piece, and I still haven’t thought of anything new or interesting to tell you.

It would really help me, dear listener, if you would share with me some of the things you like to hear about. Then, the next time I don’t know what to talk about, I can refer to your suggestions. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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