Creativity chip…

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All my life, I’ve believed I don’t have a creativity chip because I can’t draw, paint, sew, knit, or do crafts of any kind.  If it involves anything with my hands, I lack the natural ability to do it.

But, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve been way too hard on myself.  Just because I lack ability in the most commonly recognized types of creativity, it doesn’t mean I don’t have creativity in other respects.

After all, creativity takes many forms.

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Writing involves creativity.  Baking involves creativity.  I can do both.  I’ve also always been able to think outside the box, which is creativity in a different sense.  Maybe I do have some creativity, after all!

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I think the biggest enemy to creativity is believing that you’re creative only if you can do certain things.

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I was one of three kids in my family.  One brother created elaborate things with Lego, the other brother drew elaborate drawings –  mostly of Snoopy – and I wrote elaborate stories – primarily mystery.  Three different expressions of creativity but I somehow convinced myself that my brothers were creative and I was not.

I was wrong.

blog 10Everyone is creative in their own way… some more than others but all are creative nonetheless.

Creativity is imagination… self-expression… something we all possess.  I lost sight of mine for awhile but it’s back in focus now.

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There are things I wish I had a talent for that I don’t.  But, rather than dwell on what I don’t have, I’d rather embrace what I do have.

I’m free to be uniquely and creatively me.

So are you.

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Getting to know me…

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One of the blogs I follow recently posted questions and answers designed to help the readers get to know her.  I admire her honesty and transparency in doing such an exercise – http://jennadee222.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/getting-to-know-you/, and thought I would follow in her footsteps by answering the same questions here.

What is your real name and where do you live?

My real name is Joy.  When I was born, I was given the name Alda Joy, with Alda being my maternal grandmothers first name.  I was called Joy from birth but, after 9/11, the province I was living in wanted everyone to officially use their first name, for security purposes.  Rather than be forced to start using my first name, I chose to legally drop it.  So, my birth certificate simply reads “Joy”.  As for where I live, I’m a Canadian who currently lives in Calgary, Alberta.

What makes you sad?

Insensitivity. Suffering. Unkindness.

What are your major mistakes?

I’ve made some epic mistakes in my life – enough to fill a book – but my major mistake in recent history was my last marriage. I knew it was a terrible mistake just two days in but I stuck with it for 11 years and 3 weeks, hoping it would change for the better.

But, the thing about mistakes is that we all make them.  I am a different person – much stronger and wiser – for having made my mistakes.  Instead of being defeated by them, I have chosen to use them as stepping stones.

When was the last time you cried?

Yesterday.  I am an emotional person, and things like kindness and happiness can bring tears as much as sadness and disappointment.  But, the saddest I’ve been in a very long time was Easter Monday 2012 when my beloved dog, Max, had to be put down just 3 days after getting terribly sick (the tests showed he had a massive intestinal tumor).  He was only 7 years old.  For a number of reasons, he was my guardian angel and will always have a very special place in my heart.

What makes you angry?

I’m more apt to get upset than angry.  But, something relatively simple like people driving erratically, impatiently, or dangerously in traffic has the ability to get to me like few other things.  I’m working on it though!

What is your most recent happiest memory?

It happened just last Friday when I was offered THE ultimate job.  It was the culmination of several years of job uncertainty interspersed with bouts of unemployment.  To say I am thankful is an understatement!!!

When were you most scared?

Many years ago, my youngest brother, my son, and I climbed Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine (U.S.) at 5,269 feet.  I have a strong fear of heights so it took an act of will to make this climb, which involved not only going up and down the mountain but across ‘Knife’s Edge’ at the top of the mountain.  Mount Katahdin has claimed 19 lives since 1963, with a number of those being from falls from ‘Knife’s  Edge’, which narrows to 3 feet wide for about 3/10 of a mile.

It’s worthwhile mentioning that the climb was done without ropes or any special gear, just using handholds and footholds, with blue paint strategically spattered on the rocks to guide us.  It’s also worthwhile mentioning that overcoming my fear of heights in such a dramatic fashion inspired elation afterward like no other.  It was a life changing accomplishment.

When were you most brave?

I could answer this by saying climbing Mount Katahdin but I think I was most brave the day I fled my marriage with only what I could fit in my small car, and drove 3 provinces to start a new life in a new city with no place to live, no job, and knowing only 2 people.  The journey from then to today has not been easy but I have never regretted taking that leap of faith.

What haven’t you done that you wished you had done?

My goal is to see more of the world.  I am relatively well travelled but the majority of my experiences are more than 20 years ago so I would like to pick up where I left off.

What makes you different from most people?

I have experienced the lowest of the lows in many aspects of my life, and my life has also not followed any kind of predictable course.  But, we all have a different story of our lives, and that’s what makes us unique and interesting.  I hope others will appreciate my differences as much as I try to appreciate theirs.

Who has influenced your life?

My relationship with Jesus Christ is the single greatest influence of my life since 1996.  My grandparents were also tremendous influences in my life… my maternal grandfather, in particular.  I learned invaluable lessons like kindness, giving, doing the right thing, humor, wisdom, staying young at heart, and being an inspiration to others just from watching how he lived his life.  I still miss him.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

I’ve learned that no mistake is an end, in and of itself, as long as you resolve not to let it be.  And, that doing the right thing, staying true to what you believe, and being a person of character and integrity is always, always, always worth it.  Even and especially when it means taking the tougher road (which it usually does…).

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20 questions…

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When I was growing up, I loved playing 20 questions.  After being recently nominated for the Liebster Award by francesgabriel75.wordpress.com (thank you!) – and seeing the questions that go along with it – I decided to expand the list to 20 questions, for old times sake.  I’ve always loved Q&A (as long as it’s not a test), and I’ve often thought it would be cool to be interviewed for that very reason.  So… game on…

  1. What are your reasons for writing a blog?  Self-expression is the short answer.  I’m not artistic or creative so words are what I have.
  2. What is the best thing (for you) about writing a blog?  The people that I’ve met who either stumbled on my blog or I stumbled onto theirs.
  3. What is your best quality?  Compassion.  I have the ability to put myself in other people’s shoes.
  4. What is the quality you want God to work on the most?  Oh goodness… it’s hard to narrow it down to one.  Patience is always on the list.  I think most of us could use more patience.  The main thing I pray for though is that God will make me better – whatever that is and however He sees fit for it to happen.
  5. What is your favourite place in the world and why?  My favorite place in the world is Paris, France – even though I’ve never been there.  It has history, architecture, romance, cuisine, fashion, the Eiffel Tower, and a temperate climate.  What’s not to love?
  6. How would you spend an ideal day?  For me, it’s more about who you spend it with than what you do.  Anything can be an ideal day if it’s with the right person/people.
  7. What’s the most encouraging thing you’ve ever been told?  That I’m the strongest person they know.
  8. What do you do to relax?  Take a walk, read, blog, watch TV/movies, spend time with friends/family, play word games.
  9. If you were able to meet one person (alive or dead, real or fictional) who would it be and what would you ask them?  I would like to meet Billy Graham.  I would ask him what lessons he’s learned and what, if anything, he would do differently if he had it to do over.
  10. What’s the first question you would like to ask God when you meet Him?  I’m pretty sure any questions I have will cease to matter the moment I first meet Him face to face.
  11. What makes you smile?  dogs; humour (particularly situational humour); kindness; the people I love.
  12. What makes you sad?  unkindness; tragedies; hatred; insensitivity.
  13. What motivates you?  a desire to live life to the fullest; a determination to persevere/overcome; my faith in God.
  14. How would you describe your personality?  I’m an introvert with extrovert qualities.  I can be funny and outgoing but I can also be shy and quiet.  Depends on the circumstances.  I’m loyal, caring, kind, giving, logical, smart, quirky, beat to my own drum, hard worker, peacemaker, unique, capable.  
  15. What do you least enjoy doing in life?  Dealing with conflict, doing things alone, and being late are the first 3 that came to mind.
  16. What is your favorite song?  My favorite song routinely changes but, for the past few months, I would have to say, “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave.  It has an amazing message of hope and redemption.  Lifts me up every time I hear it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDAGCow3dsg.  I also pretty much love any song of Toby Mac’s.  “Steal my Show” is a fav right now – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA_HoEC9ixc.
  17. What is your favorite quote and why?  My favorite quote routinely changes too but I think this one is epic… “If you found a man at the top of a mountain, he did not fall there”.  I know firsthand how true that is.  Love it!
  18. What is your favourite Bible verse and why?  The verse that speaks to me the most lately is “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” – Psalm 91:1.  It encourages me.
  19. What are some of your favourite things?  The people I love, books, good food, sushi (I’m hooked!), sunshine/heat/warmth, walking, cars, hockey, roller coasters, facts/trivia, words, humour, Snoopy, travel.
  20. What has life taught you?  I’ve learned that I can’t change the past so I shouldn’t live there.  Learn from the bad, embrace the good, be the change I want to see in the world, be an overcomer, persevere no matter what, love relentlessly, hope always, live life to the fullest, age is only a number, attitude is everything, life is hard but God is good.

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Blast from the past…

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they wish they could have lived in another era, with the 1800’s soundly winning the popularity vote.

I could not agree less.  I was born in 1961 and, if I had the opportunity to live it over – and choose when I was born – I would choose the same day of the same month of the same year.

We live in an ever changing world, and it always merits looking back on the pivotal and life changing events of any given year.  These are a few I found interesting about 1961.

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  • On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin – a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut – became the first human to orbit into outer space.
  • In January 1961, Yogi the Bear – who was the first break-out character created by Hanna Barbera – landed his own show.
  • On January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States.
  • Andy Griffith and Ron Howard were featured on the cover of the first TV Guide of the Year.  The TV Guide sold for .15 cents an issue at the time.
  • On May 5, 1961, the United States launched its first man in space – Alan Shepard – on the Freedom 7.
  • On August 13, 1961, construction began of the Berlin Wall.  The wall started to come down on November 9, 1989.  Ironically, what took only 18 days to construct took a full 2 years to deconstruct.
  • Mister Ed was first broadcast in October 1961.
  • On October 1, 1961, Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit his 61st home run in the last game of the season against the Boston Red Sox, beating the 34-year-old record held by Babe Ruth.
  • On October 30, 1961, The Soviet Union detonated a 58-megaton yield hydrogen bomb, known as Tsar Bomba over Novava Zemlya. It remains the largest ever man-made explosion.
  • On November 9, 1961 – Neil Armstrong – an American astronaut who would go on to become the first man on the moon before the end of the decade – recorded a world record speed in a rocket plane of 6,587 km/h flying an X-15.
  • On November 10, 1961 – Joseph Heller published Catch-22.

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Other notable firsts in 1961 include:

  • Ken was introduced as the boyfriend of Barbie, who had made her own debut two years earlier.
  • The first Six Flags theme park was opened in Arlington, Texas.
  • Pampers – the first disposable diaper – was introduced.
  • Amnesty International started in the United Kingdom.
  • The first inflight movie was shown on TWA.
  • The first electric toothbrush was produced by Squibb Co.
  • Niagara Falls, Canada, started producing hydroelectric power.

In other trivia of 1961:

  • John Diefenbaker was the Prime Minister of Canada.
  • Elvis, Chubby Checker, Lawrence Welk, and the Shirelles topped the music charts.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, Michael J. Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and George Clooney were born.

And, on September 3, 1961, in the tiny town of Perth, New Brunswick, Canada, I made my official entrance into the world at 5:03 p.m.

All in all, I’d say 1961 was a pretty good year.

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Keeping the right consistency…

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It seems that people either like to cook or bake.  It’s rarely both.  I fall into the middle category.  I do like to cook but I really like to bake.  The difficulty a lot of people have with baking is that it demands a lot more precision than cooking.

The key is consistency.

If you don’t use the right ingredients or the right ratio of ingredients, if you substitute the wrong ingredient – or in the wrong amount – if you don’t measure accurately, if you don’t closely follow the recommended baking times, you will get the wrong consistency.  And the wrong consistency practically guarantees a poor result.

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I was thinking about that in relation to consistency in my life.  How every aspect of my life determines what kind of result I will get.

I recently moved, and just spent the past week or so dealing with a lot of the minutiae that goes along with that.  Unpacking, sorting, unstoring, re-storing, changing my address with a seemingly endless list of businesses and people, dealing with government bureaucracy, reading manuals, etc., etc.  So tedious.

I also recently started a new job and, with that, came the biggest manual of all.  It’s seriously huge.  And I’m manual phobic.

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So, with just those things, have I been unfailingly nice, patient, thorough, disciplined, kind, outward focused, positive, caring?  Have I been the same person when I’m by myself that I’ve been in public and vice versa?  Have I handled interruptions, unexpected events, and unexpected outcomes with grace?

I wish.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try, it just means I wasn’t as successful as I would have hoped.

Which brings me back to baking.

When I bake, I don’t just throw everything into a bowl without thinking, and then hope after the fact that I got it right.

That would be a recipe for disaster.

I plan for a good result from the very first moment, and then everything I do from that point on is intentional toward getting the right consistency and the best possible outcome.

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That’s how I want to live and that’s who I want to be.  My life lived consistently can make a big difference in my range of influence.  Which may be larger than I realize.  But, whether big or small, all I know is this…

The last thing I want is to be half-baked.

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Wait a minute…

There’s a saying that good things come to those who wait.  That sounds good, except it involves waiting.

I don’t know of anyone who likes waiting, myself included, but I can honestly say that I’ve come to understand the merits of it.  That doesn’t mean I like it any better.  I just understand the benefits.

The enemy of waiting is rushing.  People are forever rushing.  I’ve been as guilty as the next person.  But, while I have often regretted rushing, I have rarely regretted waiting.

blog 1To coin another phrase, “haste makes waste”.  Words said in haste, actions done in haste… often makes waste.

I’ve experienced the regret of those things.  Some to this very day.  I’d rather have the pain of waiting than the pain of rushing.

A good example of how rushing can lead to regret is found in the Bible.

Esau and Jacob were brothers.  As the eldest, Esau had the birthright which, in ancient times, included the inheritance rights of the firstborn.  Basically, it was a big deal.

One day, Esau went home to find Jacob making some stew.  He was hungry so he said, “Quick!  Let me have some of that stew.  I’m famished”.

Quick!

Rushing… haste…

Jacob’s response was, “First, sell me your birthright”.  That sentence should have made Esau stop in his tracks.  But, no, he kept going.  “Look, I am about to die.  What good is the birthright to me?”

Ok, really?  He was about to die?  From missing one meal?  It’s a big leap from famished to death.

That was one of the first recorded exaggerations in the Bible.  And it perfectly illustrates a fundamental truth that’s been around since the beginning of time.

We want what we want when we want it.  And that can blind us to the consequences of acting in haste.

It blinded Esau.

Jacob gave him one more chance to reconsider.  “Swear to me first”.  (In those days, a verbal oath was all that was required to make the transaction legal and forever binding.)

But, Esau pressed on, swore to Jacob, and got his meal.  He exchanged his birthright for a bowl of stew.  It seems so ludicrous but most of us can probably remember a time where we made a similar trade-off.

And lived to regret it.

Just as Esau did.  That bowl of stew changed his life forever and not for the better.

The moral of the story?

Not so fast…

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That’s great… or is it?

Growing up, my marks in school tended to reflect my interest in any given subject.  I either did really well or I barely scraped by.  History was one subject where I barely scraped by, in large part because it seemed to be just about one war after another.  The only saving grace were the times the teacher focused on individuals.  Even then, I confess I still didn’t pay close attention.  However, one thing I did take notice of was how many people were referred to as “the Great”.  The ones who readily come to mind are Catherine the Great, Alexander the Great, Herod the Great, and Peter the Great.

I didn’t understand then – and I don’t understand now – exactly what those individuals did to deserve such a moniker.  Oh I know they supposedly made significant contributions to society as a whole but did that really justify being bestowed such a significant title?  And, in the case of Herod – the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth – his cruelty and brutality were at distinct odds with anything having to do with goodness, much less greatness.

It makes me think of people I think were/are great.  People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Florence Nightingale, Todd Beamer (think 9/11).  It also makes me think that if people truly are great, you don’t have to give them a special title to point out that fact.  And, that the things that make people great are the things from the inside out, not from the outside in.

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I have no doubt that the truly great people throughout history would be the last to ever think that of themselves.  The last to ever even consider accepting such a title.  Granted, in the cases where such a title was formally bestowed, it was generally posthumously but my suspicion is they were probably people who would have been happy to receive such an honour.  Perhaps even think they deserved it.

In my opinion, many of the greatest people in history have been those who were/are unsung heroes.  People who consistently did the right thing when no one was watching.  People who never blew their own horn (to use a quite possibly antiquated expression).  People who made a difference in other people’s lives through selfless acts of service.  People who sacrificed their lives so others could live.

I believe that list is a lengthy one, which means that greatness isn’t as rare an attribute as some might think (particularly those who think of themselves as great).  The ones who attain it are the ones who didn’t aim for it because it isn’t about the title.

It seems to me that…

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The sun will come out tomorrow…

The last day of 2012… wow!

When I think back to the first day of 2012, and all that’s transpired in the 12 months since, I realize I didn’t have a clue how the year was going to unfold.  I’m glad I didn’t know because, as much as I had to look forward to, there were challenges and hurdles that were best left unforeseen, and tackled in the moment.

In 2012, my beloved dog died suddenly at the age of 7.  I was laid off.  I fled an abusive marriage after 11 years.  I moved three provinces away to start over with basically nothing.  I found a job… then a better job.  Lost that job.  I’ve been unemployed with no income and no fixed address for 60 days and counting.  The past four days, I’ve been stuck on the East Coast due to flight cancellations.  If my flight leaves tonight, I’ll have 3 flights, 13 1/2 hours of travel/layovers, and then 2 hours of driving to look forward to.  I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Even on plane somewhere over the Prairies.  Hopefully they have champagne.

2012.

A year of firsts.  A year of challenges.  But also a year of growth, insight, strength, focus, faith, and hope.

I’ve been stuck in the Maritimes this holiday season because of one storm after another.  My life in 2012 held one storm after the other.  But, storms eventually end.  The sun comes out.  Life moves on.

I don’t know what 2013 will hold but I believe with all my heart that my storms are about to end.  I believe I’m going to get the 6 month contract with the provincial government that I interviewed for two weeks ago.  I believe my unemployment is about to end.  I believe I’m going to be able to stop bouncing around, living with various friends, and have my own little place by February.  I believe I’m going to be able to pay off my debt so I can just live within my means.  I believe I’m going to be able to put down new roots, make new friends, and find a great new church.

I believe.

Will things happen exactly that way?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But, one thing I’m sure of is that it’s going to work out.  A new year.  A new start.  The storm’s going to end.  The sun’s going to come out.  Life is going to move on.

I’m looking forward to a 2013 filled with sunshine.  Farewell 2012.  The sun will come out tomorrow…

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Take the weight off…

I’ve done a whole lot of packing and unpacking in the past week, and it got me to thinking about baggage and luggage and how the first is weighty while the second is simply heavy.  Two very different things.blog 2

I tried to pack as efficiently as possible but my luggage was still pretty heavy.  Thank goodness for pull handles.  But it really didn’t matter one way or another because I was packing for a positive reason… to go visit my son and his fiance for Christmas.

Having luggage generally isn’t a bad thing unless you have too much, in which case it costs you financially if an airport is involved.

My luggage was heavy but it thankfully didn’t cost me a penny.

blog 1On the other hand, baggage is rarely a good thing.  People generally think of it in the context of emotional ‘luggage’.

If you tell someone you have too much luggage, they’ll usually offer to help carry the load.  But, if you tell someone you have too much baggage, they’ll usually run for the hills.  Baggage is weighty.  Weighty for the person who’s carrying it.

Baggage.

  • things that encumber one’s freedom, progress, development, or adaptability.

Encumber.

  • put a heavy load on; burden.

Weighty stuff.

blog 3Here’s the thing.  Live long enough and you’re going to end up with baggage.  It’s inevitable.  It’s what you choose to do with baggage that makes all the difference.  If you don’t deal, feel, and heal, it’s going to cost you emotionally.  And it’s going to cost everyone close to you simply by association.

I’ve been through a lot in my life.  I know what it’s like to have baggage.  I know what it’s like to be stuck with baggage.  And I know what it’s like to get rid of baggage.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

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It’s not easy.  Some baggage is easier to deal with than others but most of it is pretty tough (at least in my own experience…).  It takes honesty, time, commitment, perseverance, determination, and forgiveness.

It’s a journey, not a destination.

But, consider this truth.

No one else can do it for you.

That’s not to say you have to do it alone, you just have to do it yourself.

Lose some baggage and I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot lighter.  If you make no other life resolution for 2013, resolve to take the weight off and dump that baggage.  You’ll never regret it.

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Deking discouragement…

I’m at war with discouragement.BLOG 14

I’ve been unemployed for 38 days and counting.  No income.  Still no word from the government about possible interim income.

Oh, I’ve had a couple of interviews recently.  I was even offered one of the jobs.  But, they offered me a part-time job with unspecified hours when I had applied for a full-time job.  When I turned that down, they came back with a second offer but they were so deceptive throughout the whole process that what initially seemed like a great job proved to be anything but.  As for the second job, I’m still waiting on the ‘verdict’.

Discouragement is the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.  Yeah, that sounds about right.

Feelings.  Bah, humbug.  Who can trust them.  If I’ve learned one thing in my life it’s that feelings are not facts.  They’re just our personal reaction to our immediate circumstances.  Feelings don’t live in the future, don’t consider the future, rarely even acknowledge the future, they just live in the moment.  So, they’re not terribly reliable.

That being said, it’s probably not a healthy thing to deny or suppress our feelings but I do believe there’s great merit in acknowledging the truth of what we’re feeling and, if necessary, going to war against it.

Why war?  Well, negative feelings like discouragement need to be battled against or they will defeat us.

And, make no mistake, I have no plans to concede defeat.

BLOG 8Life is tough at the moment.  It takes an act of will to keep pushing forward, to fight, to believe, to hope, to concentrate, to put one foot in front of the other, to have faith, to get out of bed.

Discouragement is paralyzing,  hope is mobilizing.  I’m somewhere between the two at any given moment but aiming to stay at least 51% in hope’s corner.  I want to keep discouragement on it’s toes, somewhere behind me.  Hopefully far, far behind me.

A deke is a classic hockey term but I think it makes a great war term.  “Quickly changing direction so the opposing player is caught out of position”.  I love dekes in hockey and I love the concept of dekes in war.

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I think it defies human nature to be forward thinkers.  Especially when the present is overwhelming.  But, hope looks forward.  Hope looks up.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.  I never know what tomorrow will bring.

I believe that this too shall end.  I believe there’s no strength without strain.  I believe that good will come of this.  I believe that I have the choice to be bitter or to be better, and I choose better.  I believe my choice to never give up will make a difference in someone’s life.  I believe that the lessons I’ve been learning in the ‘trenches’ will be an encouragement to others.  I believe that who I become through the struggle is far more important than the circumstances themselves.  And, as a person of faith, I believe that God works ALL things together for good.  For my good.  God has a plan for my life and He’s not finished yet.

I believe.

Am I feeling discouraged?  Yes, I am.

Am I defeated?  Not by a longshot.  I might be down but I’m not out.

I might not deke as well as Sid the Kid but I do have skills.  Mad skills too, if I say so myself…

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