Some trips down Memory Lane

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I don’t profess to know much about history.  I spent more time trying to avert my eyes from my high school History teacher’s unpleasant gestures and I unfortunately did not absorb any of the assumed knowledge he had bestowed upon us.  Instead, I doodled, wrote poems and passed notes to my friends.  I narrowly escaped with a passing percentage from my tenth grade scholastic year because of the embarrassing grade I received from that History class but my outlook on the past has recently changed.

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I have been asked to help with a project for our local library.  They would like to create a book that details the photos and the memories of our senior residents, learn what brought them to Muskoka and what the area was like when they first arrived.  I knew I would enjoy the journey but I didn’t know how much I would love it until I did my first interview on Wednesday.

This area has been home to my family for many generations.  I have been fortunate to live here for most of my life and have many photos and stories of family members who walked these paths long before my grandparents were born.  It has been a part of  my soul for longer than I have been on this Earth and I now get to hear stories of how Muskoka has been the love of many other people’s lives.

My first interview was with a delightful 82-year-old woman who was born in Cork, Ireland.  She moved to England with her family after the war and bravely left the safety of her home to move to Canada with a friend when she was 23 years old.  As I listened to her detail the moments of her life, I became absorbed in her words as she described her passion for her early days as a cottager and subsequently as a summer resident.  Her words moved me.  I felt the same strong emotion she did as she described how she felt more than fifty years ago when she first came to the area.

Perhaps history is subjective.   The stories of our past may be told in different ways but they will always hold a special place in our heart.  I am looking forward to joining a few more of our long-time residents on their journey down memory lane.

Pick your battles

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I was first introduced to this phrase years ago when I lived with my ex boyfriend and his three children.  At the time when I became a major part of their lives, they were a mere 6, 8 and 11 years old and were dealing with the divorce of their parents.   I had the fortune of knowing them for years before their father and I were involved so I did not take on the role of “step-monster”.  I instead had a solid foundation for a relationship with all of them.  But that did not mean the transition was easy for any of us.

There were certainly days that I found more frustrating than others, as I’m sure they did as well, and inevitably arguments ensued.  It wasn’t until their father and I were having a chat one night over a much-needed glass of wine that he bestowed a little gem on me.  He pointed out the glaringly obvious problem – I was trying too hard to win the battles and not every war in that house was going to be won – by anyone.  That stunning revelation was a game changer.  Pick your battles – such a simple phrase with epic results.

It’s hard to take a step backwards and give yourself a “time out” to realize what the audible scrimmage is really about.  You have to decide if the fight is worth the effort you are putting forth to win.   It could be an argument that, at the end of the day, really has no great effect on the bigger picture but the negative energy from the conflict just may.  You must go in with a strategy but be willing to change tactics and maneuver away from the barrage of verbal banter.

If it’s not a life changing situation, give a little.  You’ll spend countless minutes and hours trying to be right when it isn’t going to change the rotation of your world.  Sometimes all of the smaller problems can become compounded and the war you face can seem extremely overwhelming.  You must learn to choose your crusades wisely.  Learn to cloak your emotions until you can see ahead of the problem that burdens your path.

The age-old saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff” is the same gift in different wrapping.  I have carried this ideal with me throughout the years and it has served me well.  Pick your battles – be proud of the scars of war but make sure the ones you earned were worth the fight.

Time in a bottle

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Is my hourglass broken?

Are the grains of sand in my time capsule

so infinitesimally small

that time goes faster than it should?

Most days, time is irrelevant.

But when those hours are important,

when those minutes have meaning

and those seconds truly count,

time races by,

turning the moments that we relish

into time we are made to reflect,

turning the present

quickly into the past.

But as those moments pass by,

as those seconds hastily morph into hours,

I can only smile,

knowing that those hours that passed so swiftly

were well worth the short time

that I got to enjoy them.

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My greatest love affair

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I can’t recall our first meeting but I can tell you it was love at first sight.  My curious gaze met his warm, brown eyes and the rest is history.  I was a year old, and he was a stuffed bear, but ours is a love story for the ages.

Me and Winnie

When I couldn’t fall asleep, Winnie was there.  When I was excited to read my new poem or short story, Winnie was there.  And, sadly, when my roommate’s dog escaped her confines and ran up to my room, Winnie was there.  After some moderate facial reconstruction and many tears on my part, Winnie, or a new version of his former self, was still there, he is still slightly angry that he had bad plastic surgery.

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He may have slightly faded with time, as have I, but he still remains the same stoic character that I have come to rely on over the last 47 years.  We celebrate our birthdays together and, although I have the benefit of one extra year of wisdom since he was carefully crafted by my mother on my first birthday, each year is just as special because he is there to celebrate with me.

This is the fifth year I have been able to write a blog post on our birthday and I have written a tribute to him every year, so why should this year be any different?  He has been my confidant, my best supporter and the shoulder (albeit padded) that I know I can cry on whenever I feel the need to shed a tear or two.   He, like me, has experienced an encyclopedia of reference material when it comes to life events but we have come out remarkably unscathed.

Happy Birthday Winnie!  May the scars of our past help carve the road that leads us into our future.

The most authentic version of me

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Aging is a funny thing.  When we are young, we think we have the world by the balls.  We are confident to the point of being cocky.  To some extent, we feel (or felt) like the world owed us something.  But as we watched the calendar pages keep turning, we realized that life is merely leading us to the place where we were meant to be.

If I were to be honest, I would tell you that, deep down, I always knew I was meant to be the person I am today but somewhere along the path I took to get here, my direction was circumvented by my distorted illusion of reality.  I let others opinions weigh far too heavily on the perception of who I thought I was and it altered my trajectory for a number of years.  Those outside voices did more to define me than the voices I should have listened to that were coming from deep within myself.  I always knew who I was, I just wasn’t confident enough to give her a chance.

Today is a different story.  Perhaps is it different because I am two years away from being fifty.  Maybe it is different because I have finally created a sense of self that is directly related to the person I see in the mirror.  And conceivably, it is different because I have quelled those outside voices and listen only to the voice in my head.  Regardless of how I got here, I have arrived at the place where I feel most comfortable being the person I know I was meant to be.  I make no excuses, I apologize to nobody…..I am simply me.

 

 

 

Do the thing that makes you happy

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We were busy chopping vegetables and chatting as women do while we prepared more freezer crockpot meals for our local food bank.  The conversation hovered over several topics, after peeling and cutting carrots there were some offside comments made about tiny orange hands and the laughter was abundant.

And then a comment was made that we all talked about but I thought about more and more on my drive home.   When she was younger,  the daughter of one of the women had asked her dad, “If you died tomorrow, would there be something you regretted not doing.”  That really stuck with me.

I have been pondering my past and my present and was extremely contented to feel that, if I died tomorrow, I would be extremely happy knowing that I have lived a good life.  I have made mistakes and learned from them.  I married for the wrong reason and got divorced for the right one.  I have always given 110% to everything I do and I have come to understand that doing things for others is the thing that makes me truly happy.  That should have come as no surprise to me since my career in Hospitality has been about taking care of other people.

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Some people spend most of their lives searching for happiness but that euphoric feeling is not as elusive as some believe it to be.  Do the thing that makes you happy.  If you love to read, read.  If you love to play golf, play golf.  If you love to do macrame, do macrame! By doing the thing that makes you happy, you have a much better chance of being happy.  Sure, life likes to throw in a curve ball every now and then to keep us on our toes but life doesn’t run us, we run our lives.

I am who I am and I where I am because I chose to do the things that makes me happy.  And if I cross over and am asked if I lived a good life, I will smile proudly and say “absolutely”.

 

 

 

 

The thing about friends

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There is an infinite number of memories that friends can share.   Some of those things may be remembered differently, based on individual perspectives, but most times the memories can transport people back through time to partake in a journey of laughter and recollection.

Yesterday I got to spend a few hours with an old friend who I have had the good fortune of reconnecting with and we have become great friends over the last two years.  We may not see each other often but, when we do, we have no trouble picking up the conversation where it left off the last time we talked.

I have several very close friends with whom I share the same special relationship.  Time and distance may separate us but the closeness we share is evident when we finally occupy the same physical space or talk on the phone.  Conversation flows like no time has passed and the laughter shared is just as genuine every time.

Friends like that don’t come along often.  To be able to be apart for long periods of time and just pick up where you left off is a gift.  Some of these friends are in different provinces and various time zones but we don’t let that distance or time negate the closeness of our relationship.

I have lost several people in my life who were a big part of my heart and when you suffer that kind of loss you learn to truly value everyone who can help to fill that space.  You learn to be grateful for every single moment you have with the people you call friends.  And you learn that being apart only makes you appreciate those friends that much more when you are together.