Just to ‘egg’ you on…

I’ve probably had way too much time to think lately since it occurred to me that eggs and people have a lot more in common than one might think.

To start with the basics, there are small, medium, large, and extra large eggs.  Some eggs are white and some are brown, and there are good eggs and bad eggs.  The occasional egg is cracked, while others are rejected for no other reason than the way they look, even though you’d find they’re a perfectly good egg if you’d take the time to look past their shell.

Then there’s the cooked egg.  Most people prefer their eggs to be served over easy (or sunnyside down).  A few prefer them to be cooked all the way through (or well done).  A lot of people don’t see the sunny side of life on a regular basis but they still have the ability to if you cut through their exterior, while others are so hardened that cutting through their exterior won’t make any noticeable difference.

If people don’t eat their eggs over easy, they more often than not choose to eat them scrambled.  That makes sense, seeing that’s how a lot of people’s lives can be described.

There are also eggs that are served sunnyside up, and I find it interesting that there are as few people who see the sunny side of life regularly as there are those who order their eggs sunnyside up.  I guess all that sunshine can be a little hard to take.

Of course, you can’t forget that some people don’t like eggs at all.  They would be just as happy if they never had to encounter another egg.  They tend to be anti-social.

All things considered, it seems to me that sunnyside up eggs have gotten a bad rap.  I have to admit that I’ve avoided them as much as the next person.  But, this little exercise, as trivial as it seems, has turned into a great reminder that I need to yolk it up a little more often.  If that makes me ‘egg’centric, so be it. 

My mid-year resolution…

I struggle with worry.  I used to think it was natural but worry is like a rash.  It starts out small but, before you know it, it becomes an epidemic.  And you still have the rash.

I’ve been thinking about what my worry has ever accomplished, and I have yet to come up with a single thing.  I’ve worried about things that never happened.  I’ve worried about things that happened in spite of worrying that they might happen, and I’ve failed to worry about things that happened that I never even considered.  The one thing they have in common is that they all accomplished a big fat nothing.

So I’ve decided it’s time for a change.  I’ve never been one to make a New Year’s resolution because they’ve always seemed pointless and short-lived but I’ve decided it’s time I made a mid-year resolution.  No one expects it, it seems more inspired, and hopefully it’ll be the beginning of a lasting and positive change.

I’ve realized that I’ve always thought worry would lead to solving problems when in actual fact it’s concern that leads to solving problems.  Concern mobilizes; worry paralyses.  Believe me, I know the difference.

So, whenever I catch myself worrying, I’m going to write down what I’m worried about and see if there’s anything I can do about it.  If the answer is yes, then I’m going to write down what I’m going to do, and a deadline to do it, and then stop thinking about it.  And, if the answer is no, I’m going to stop thinking about it.

The Bible says that, as a person thinks, so is he (Proverbs 23:7) and I don’t want to be a worry-wart .  So, to change my thinking, I’m going to focus on things that are positive instead.  Happy things.  Things that I’m thankful for.  Things that I like.  Things that encourage me.  Listen to music that uplifts me.  Surround myself with people that ground me, challenge me, and encourage me.  All relatively small things that have the power to make a big difference.

I just have to be intentional about it.  Replace a bad habit with a better habit.  I’ll not only be happier but I”ll be a real Joy to be around.  I’m up to the challenge.  Game on.

Learning from Herman…

I’m a huge fan of pigs.  I think they might be the most underrated animal out there.  Throughout history, pigs have been portrayed as dirty, dumb, and lazy but, in actual fact, pigs are clean, bright, and energetic.  Pigs can be house-trained and leash-trained more easily than dogs, and they can be just as loyal.  One Vietnamese pot-bellied pig actually risked her own life to save her owner.  At 150-pounds, Lulu managed to squeeze out through a doggie door and played dead in the street until she was able to lead a passing motorist into the house where her owner was having a heart attack.  Pigs are awesome.

If you’re at all skeptical about the allure of pigs, consider a few famous examples:  Porky Pig, Arnold Ziffel (from Green Acres), Miss Piggy, and Babe.  Four very different pigs but all incredibly popular for their own individuality and quirks.  My own pig is a very alluring, chunky, stuffed, pink specimen named Herman.  From the day I met Herman, he was making a difference.  I bought him at a silent auction during a fundraiser to send a team to Haiti for a week to help rebuild after the earthquake of 2010.  Like most of us, he no doubt wished he could make a bigger difference but every little bit counts.

The main thing I’ve learned about pigs is that they’re lovable, and they want to be loved.  They can be cute but they’re rarely handsome.  They’re almost never skinny but instead comfortably portly.  They’re judged by how they look, and they’re judged by stereotypes and gossip that’s often accepted as truth instead of mere conjecture.  People rarely want to look below the surface to see if pigs are worth getting to know.  They’re more interested in what a pig can do for them than in what they can do for a pig.

I think I identify with pigs because I’m often as misunderstood as they are.  People make assumptions about me based on what they see, what other people have said about me, their own comfort level, and stereotypes.  But, when people really take the time to get to know me, I’m often not at all what they expected.  And I think a lot of people would say the same is true of them.

It’s really a shame because Herman is an extraordinary pig.  It’s just a matter of taking the time to get to know him.  Just like it’s just a matter of taking the time to get to know me.  Or to know you.  You never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.  After all, you can’t (accurately) judge a pig by his ‘cover’.

Expect the unexpected… and then expect something else…

How would you feel if, at the start of a long journey, you encountered a large sign that said, “Next 2900 Miles, Anything Might Happen”?  My guess is that you’d get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.  If you hadn’t yet considered that anything might happen on your journey, you most certainly would once you saw that huge reminder.  All sorts of scenarios would start to go through your head and, if you’re anything like me, your imagination would far exceed the possibilities or even the probabilities.

The truth is that we’re all on a long journey called life, and the only guarantee we have is that anything might happen – and it probably will.  We don’t like to think about it but avoiding the reality won’t make it any less true.  On the renovation show, ‘Flip This House’, on one particular episode, the person flipping the house was advised to expect the unexpected… and then expect something else.  Great advice… for flipping houses and for navigating life.

Life is going to happen – both the expected and the unexpected – and we can fight it, resist it, get panicky over it, stress over it, or decide to run with it.  We can’t always choose what happens to us but 100% of the time we have the choice of how we’ll respond to it.

How do we handle things the best way possible?  Take one day at a time, make plans loosely, and recognize that everything that happens will not always be positive, but it also will not always be negative.  Life has its ups and downs.  This too shall pass… both the good and the bad.  Our perspective at any given moment will have a huge impact on the outcome.

So expect the unexpected… and then expect something else.  And then fasten your seatbelt and hang on tight because life starts here, and it’s going to be a great adventure!!

Let’s focus on the ‘ability’ of others and not on their ‘dis’…

I work for a not-for-profit organization that helps developmentally disabled people get where they want to go from where they are.   My job is to walk beside the people I support to help them accomplish their dreams.  The sky is the limit.

The most important aspect of what we do is to focus on total inclusion of the people we support, whether it be in a social environment or in a work environment.  We give them the support, tools, and opportunities to help them succeed in an ‘able’ focused world. Part of that support is by modelling the way disabled people should be treated, and that’s exactly the way everyone else is treated.  Everyone deserves to be included, to be valued, to be respected, and to have the chance to reach their hopes and dreams.  The problem is that, for far too long, the focus has been on the ‘dis’ and not on the ‘ability’.  But, no matter how severe the disability, there is always ability.

As a society, we’ve decided which disabilities are acceptable and which are not.  But, when you stop to think about it, most of us have a disability of one sort or another.  It could be vision problems, hearing loss, migraines, asthma, back problems, arthritis, high blood pressure, depression, or a stutter, to name a few.  For that matter, at any given moment, any one of us could become disabled in a car crash or diving accident or through a stroke, chronic illness or terminal illness.  So, it seems to me that we should put aside our prejudices and preconceived ideas, and just treat everyone the way we would want to be treated ourselves.  The world would be a much better place if we would all commit to focusing on the ‘ability’ of others and not on their ‘dis’.

Choosing to roll with the punches…

I love to laugh.  In my opinion, the funniest comedy is situational humour.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing funnier than everyday life.  And there’s nothing better than having a good laugh, even and especially when I haven’t had the best of days.

Today was a typical Monday.  I couldn’t get to sleep last night and, when I did, I was woken at the crack of dawn when the guy who lives in the apartment overhead dropped something heavy onto the floor.  Then, when I arrived at work, the code to the secondary entrance showed it was working but the door wouldn’t budge.  Ever.  And, when I got to the office I was working in today, I couldn’t log onto my computer.  Everyone else’s computer was working but mine.

After work, I had to find a government office in an area of the city that I’m not familiar with.  I found the building way faster than I expected, only to discover that the office I was looking for had changed locations 3 1/2 years ago!  I was given a list of four current office locations but things went from bad to worse when I became disoriented and headed due south instead of due north.  I eventually realized my mistake, and switched direction, only to somehow overshoot my exit by a country mile.  The result was that I ended up on a wild goose chase for well over 2 hours – all through rush hour traffic – and I never did find even one of the four offices.

The best part?  When one thing after another was going wrong, I chose to just roll with the punches, and stayed calm, cool, and collected.  I don’t always handle days like this the way that I should but I am proud of how I handled things today.  All I had to do was stay standing and, when the dust finally settled, I was still standing.  It was a good feeling.

I’m learning that I can’t change what happens to me but I can decide how I’m going to react to it.  I can’t choose the first but I can totally choose the second.  And it’s easier to potentially laugh at some of the things that go wrong if I don’t needlessly stress myself out about them in the first place.  Nobody ever changed anything by worrying, and I’d be deluding myself if I thought I would be the first.

So, what’s the perfect end to an imperfect day?  I love Peanuts, and so who better to give me a great laugh about a situation we can all identify with.  Happy Monday everyone.  I hope you have a terrific Tuesday!

I get by with a little help from my friends…

Over the past three weeks, my life has changed dramatically.  On June 15th, I left an 11 year abusive marriage by packing my small car with clothes and and a few personal possessions,  and driving 2720 km across three provinces to move to a city where I didn’t have a place to live… or a job… or even family.

Some truly remarkable things have happened since then.  On my first day here, I was phoned for an interview for a job I’d been hoping to get, and was hired for the position just one week later.  I also found a furnished place to live in a bachelor apartment central to the city (and in my price range!), that was available for July 1st, when the vacancy rate was less than 1% .  And I found a good family doctor in a city well known for it’s lack of regular medical providers.

But, challenges have also happened along the way.  I got into a car accident on my second day here.  My first accident in 14 years.  I don’t move to full-time hours at work until September so the bills keep piling up.  Not to mention that the cost of changing everything from one province to another is surprisingly expensive.  There’s also the complicated fallout of dealing with the end of an 11 year marriage, plus all the glitches that keep popping up, necessitating that I troubleshoot a seemingly never ending list of problems.

So, what makes all the difference?  I can attest to the fact that it’s friends.  My son (who’s grown) is one of my closest friends.  He challenges me, prays for me, supports and encourages me, and is there for me no matter what.  He’s a wonderful son and friend.  I have other friends who have been quick to ask what they can do to help or to ask how they can pray for me.  Some friends have stepped up to the plate that I never expected while others that I did expect have been conspicuously absent.

But, I have one friend who goes way above and beyond to support, encourage, challenge, inspire, and just be there for me.  Her level of commitment to our friendship never fails to blow me away.  Not a day goes by where she doesn’t send me several texts, or inspiring quotes by e-mail and Facebook, to boost my spirits and build me up.  She’s like my own personal cheerleader, and I don’t what I would do without her.  She’s shown me amazing friendship in action, and I’m so blessed and thankful to have her in my life.

Life is always going to happen… whether we like it or not.  That’s what makes true friendship all the more important.  You may think you know who your friends are.  But have the bottom drop out of your world, and I guarantee you’ll find out who your true friends are.

Listening to the small voice in me

Ok, I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I watch “Say Yes To The Dress”.  What I’ve found most fascinating is how often the bride’s desires are drowned out by the differing opinions of the people who accompany her to the appointment.  As an armchair observer, I sometimes find it a bit unbelievable that the bride doesn’t just stand up for herself and for what she wants, instead of second guessing herself or trying to make everyone else happy at her own expense.   But, the reality is that we all tend to do this way more frequently than we realize.

I went clothes shopping this afternoon and, at one store, found a pair of pants that I liked but wasn’t available in my size.  So I selected the nearest available size, in the hopes they ran small.  Not surprisingly, they were a bit too large so I asked the salesgirl if she happened to have a smaller size in the back.

I was wearing a size 28 but, to my amazement, she told me I “obviously” needed a size 24.  I said I usually wear a size 26 but she insisted 24 was the right number.  By some miracle, I got them on and zipped up.  The salesgirl was delighted and pronounced them perfect but they sure didn’t feel perfect.  Far from it.

What I found surprising was how quickly I second guessed my own instincts.  I actually briefly considered that the salesgirl must have seen something that I hadn’t seen, and that I would just get used to the “painted on” feeling over time.  But, then I realized that, if I didn’t pay attention to my own instincts quickly, I was going to end up with a pair of pants I would never wear because I would never be comfortable with how they looked or felt.

I learned a quick lesson today about just how easy it is to stop listening to the still small voice inside of me because it’s being drowned out by outside influences.  Fortunately for me, I managed to tune back in before it put a real cramp in my style.

Letter to an Extraordinary Dog

My dearest puppy dog, Max,

I remember so well the first day I set eyes on you.  It was at the rescue shelter in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on Dec. 28, 2009. There were only five dogs in the shelter that day, and you were in the very last cage, sitting with your ears pinned back and your little green stuffed animal in your mouth.  There was something about you that I immediately fell in love with.  I know it sounds strange but I could tell by your eyes that you were a very special dog.  But, the sign one of the staff pinned to your cage while I was standing there suggested otherwise.  It said, “Returned… too much”.  In fact, you’d had three failed adoptions since you’d been picked up as a stray by the dog catcher.  It should have scared me off but it didn’t.

I never expected to get a dog that Christmas, however, two days earlier, Antonio had announced to his staff that he would be coming home with a dog.  He didn’t know how… just that it would happen.

When we’d talked about a dog, we’d always agreed that we’d get a young pug, female, and spaded.  You were an older husky, shepherd, lab mix, who eventually grew to be 80 lbs, male, and not neutered.  You were an ‘anti’-pug… but I couldn’t get you out of my mind.

When we returned to the shelter the next day, you were alone in the yard, standing by the fence, silently watching us approach.  I crouched down by the fence to look you in the eye and you responded by lowering your head to the bottom of the fence, pushing your nose underneath as far as you could, and licking my hand.  I wept.  It was official. You were ours. The shelter had named you ‘Bullet’, for the vertical, bullet shaped marking on your forehead, but I impulsively knighted you Max.  I had no idea how fitting that name would turn out to be.

3 1/2 months after we adopted you, my Dad died, and we put you into a boarding kennel in the Sault for a few days while we flew east for the funeral.  We were surprised when the girl at the front desk recognized you.  You looked healthier, happier, and heavier than she remembered but she was certain you were the dog she had nicknamed ‘Bolt’. Since you had been a stray, this was the first information we had received about you other than the veterinarian’s estimate of your age. We learned that you’d been owned by an alcoholic who had mistreated you, and that you would routinely pull a ‘Houdini’, getting out of your collar, and making a run for it.  Somehow you always returned.  On one such occasion, the girl from the shelter had taken you in for a few days but you eventually bolted from there too.

We were shocked to learn that French was your native ‘tongue’, which explained a lot of the communication hurdles we encountered in the beginning.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for you… escaping from your abusive owner for the final time, being adopted by your fourth family in two months, taken to a new community four hours away, and then spoken to in an entirely foreign language.

But I was right that you were a very special dog.  You never barked, never went near the garbage, never got into anything, and never destroyed anything.  You were unbelievably careful and gentle whenever we you would take a treat from us and, despite your abusive past, you were unfailingly kind and gentle to everyone and everything.

Our biggest challenge was training you to walk beside us properly on a leash.  The progress was slow but sure, and the whole community watched, noticed, and cheered you on.  We walked you three times a day, and you became famous in town.  Everyone thought you were a puppy because you had such a puppy-like quality about you.  They thought you were beautiful, with a beautiful personality, and you were.  You were a truly beautiful dog.

It was a rare day that you didn’t make us laugh, whether it was the Elvis curl of your lip when we were playing hide and seek, the way you would bounce down the hallway when we were playing with you, your happy dance and showgirl wiggle when you knew we were going for a walk, or your unbridled elation when we would give you a special treat, like a Dentabone or an egg.  I loved how we would stand side by side when Antonio left for work and, as soon as the door closed behind him, we would look at each other for a moment and then you would literally skedaddle down the hall ahead of me to the livingroom, where you would retrieve your beloved cow puppet (complete with a clicker for mooing noises) and we would play tug of war or chase the cow.

I loved how you would jump up on your couch all excited for a cuddle.  I loved how you would routinely bump my hand, leg, or back of my knee with your nose while we were walking, for no other reason than to connect.  I loved watching your crooked run when we would walk through the trails in the woods during the winter and you were off leash.  I loved how I would round a corner in the trail to find you stopped ahead, silently watching to make sure I was keeping up.  I loved your crazy, mental run you would sometimes do to let off steam.  And I loved how, if I stopped to pet a dog, you would silently but unmistakeably position yourself between us, in a passively possessive move reserved for only me.

I loved how, if I put something special in with your food, you would start to eat and then stop, come over and bump my hand with your nose to say thanks and then go back to finish, I loved how you sometimes would walk into the middle of the yard and then fall to the ground as if you’d been shot, writhe around like a crazy dog, and then stop and tilt your head backwards to see if I was watching.  I loved how much you loved the car, always stopping at the beginning and end of a walk to flip your nose at the back door, in the hopes of an inpromptu drive.  I loved all the times you’d move up from the backseat to perch on the console between the two front seats, looking out the windshield, pretending you were a human.

But, what I loved most of all was how much you loved to be with us.  Your favorite thing was to be with us, no matter what we were doing.  In the beginning, you were so wary of hugs and cuddles but I persisted with them nonetheless.  Before long, you would seek them out.  I soon added kisses to your cheeks.  I especially loved how you would completely collapse against me with all your body weight and just enjoy the companionship and joy of being pet.

I loved how you could read our moods, and the many ways you found to cheer us up.  It was impossible to be mad at you for any length of time because you would totally charm your way out of it.  My favorite memory was one day near the end of March, when we picked Antonio up from work in the car immediately after your walk.  I was recounting your transgressions, and you leaned forward and started licking the snow from my hat.  It was the first time you’d ever done such a thing, and it completely disarmed me.  Antonio and I dissolved into laughter, you bumped my arm with your nose and, just like that, we’d made up.

There’s so much more I could say but, like all good things, this letter must come to an end.  Like all good things, our time together had to come to an end.  But, like many good things, we never saw the end coming.  You became so ill on Good Friday and we were certain it was temporary.  After all, you were only 7.  But, when Antonio took you for a short walk that morning and you laid down on the street – on your side no less – and Antono had to carry you the 2 blocks home, we worried even more.  We were so relieved when we finally found a vet who would take you in on Easter Sunday.

I’ll never forget Easter Monday afternoon, when the veterinarian called our cellphone and asked how soon we could get to her office.  I’ll never forget looking at the x-rays where the barium showed the huge intestinal mass that was crowding your intestines to the back half of your body.  Food couldn’t stay in and waste couldn’t come out.  And I’ll never forget the realization that you weren’t going to be ok, that you weren’t going to be coming home, and there wasn’t anything more we could do.  My heart broke in two at that moment.  I felt indescribable pain and sorrow.  Devastation is an inadequate word to explain the heartbreak.

2 years, 3 months, and 6 days.  That’s all the time we had with you.  But, I thank God that we had even that much time together.  I thank God for what you taught me about loving life, unconditional love, joy, kindness, and humor.  I thank God that the first 5 years of your life might have been hell but that we were entrusted with the gift of giving you as much Heaven on earth as we could for the time remaining.

In your beauty, you were Sir Max and, in your zest and love for life, you were ‘Max’imum velocity.  You truly lived life to the max.  I will never forget you, and what an extraordinary dog you were.  You’ve left a Max sized hole in our lives, but Heaven is richer for our loss.  I love you, my puppy dog.  xoxoxo

Choosing to be me

By far the coolest thing I saw recently was a grown pig literally galloping in a field with several horses. While some would be more comfortable with him just acting like a pig, wallowing around in the mire, he wanted to be free like a horse and so he ran with it (no pun intended). Epic.

I identified with that pig because I know all too well what’s it’s like to lose myself in the quicksand of other’s expectations for most of the past decade.  But, I also know the freedom of finally making the choice to be free to run with the horses (so to speak).  It took a huge leap of faith but no there’s no looking back.  I only have one life to live, and I choose to be me.  I know now that I can never truly be happy being anyone else.