Gratitude Day

Today was a Gratitude Day. I didn’t set out to have one, it just kind of developed over the day.

It started when I was making my morning coffee. About six months ago, friends asked me to be in charge of the coffee machine at a birthday party. One of them gave me lessons on the commercial machine I’d be using. I’ve been able to apply those lessons to my own coffee machine at home. Let me tell you how good my milk texturing is now….

Insert coffee

Obviously I didn’t take a photo of this morning’s coffee because I didn’t know I was going to post about it. I’ve just tried to make another coffee to get a photo. Predictably it wasn’t a good one. Just trust me, I know how to texture milk properly. Usually.

Every time I make a coffee, I think about how lucky I am to have had those lessons. This morning I decided that rather than just think my thanks, I would actually send them. So I shot off a message to my friend and thanked him for the accidental gift of better coffee he gave me.

Then I took my coffee up to my little she-shed and sat on my little handmade bench (I made it myself from an old bookcase) in the glorious winter sunshine and thought about just how lucky I am. I have a good home, a job I love, a happy and healthy family, amazing friends and so many opportunities to explore and grow.

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Tipped on its side, with a new back (top) and a coat of paint and voila, a dodgy bookcase turns into the perfect perch. I didn’t make the cushion. I could have but why bother if you can buy one that’s exactly the right size?

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Morning view

I can even find gratitude for my blood clot today. I’m about to embark on an activity that a blood clot would have made very challenging (more about that in a future post). Even though the blood clot meant I couldn’t run the marathon I planned to run, I still had the opportunity to participate in an event and walk an amazing road in beautiful weather and receive a shiny bit of bling at the end. The coming activity would have had no such alternative. So, I’m grateful for the timing.

Over the weekend, I fixed up some bills that had been generated from this particular health issue. I’m so very grateful for our universal healthcare and the fact that multiple tests and scans came to only a few hundred dollars out-of-pocket and not several thousand. I’m also grateful that I am on the mend because I have access to high quality medical care and life-saving drugs.

All of this good feeling inspired me to get some jobs done around my space that have been waiting to be completed for months. I attached some sheer material over the open roof ridge section of my ceiling to catch dust and leaves that blow in when the weather gets wild. I had to climb up and down a ladder. I’m grateful I didn’t fall off. (I have form.)

While I was up there, I attached some prayer flags I brought back from Nepal. I’m grateful to have the means to travel and for the eye-opening and perspective-enhancing opportunities that has given me.

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As with everything this Jack of All Trades does, the job is a bit dodgy but don’t the flags look nice?

I sealed up some gaps around the windows with silicon sealant. I’m grateful I’ll be snug and cosy over winter. I’m also grateful I didn’t get sealant all over myself or the floor. Because, you know, Jack of All Trades and all that.

I cleaned up, swept and washed the floor and cleaned the deck of the verandah. And gave thanks, as I have so many, many times, for this special space of my own.

Finally, on one of my trips to the hardware store (because when I have jobs to do, I never seem to manage to get what I need in one trip), I found some lovely purple and white pansies that would go perfectly in my planter boxes that have been sadly empty for months waiting for some replacement colour. I’m grateful I’ll have some pretty flowers to brighten the winter days ahead.

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Pay no attention to that mass of clover and other weeds around the shed. Let’s just say the landscaping is still a work-in-no-progress-yet.

I’m no saint and I can be a championship whinger and whiner so I don’t want you to think this is me all the time. Sometimes the events align and I can have a day when I see all the gifts. I’m grateful for that.

I hope you manage to find your own Gratitude Day.

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The afternoon view. I’ll never tire of it.

 

Which Socialite Are You?

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Are you an Intentional Socialite or an Incidental Socialite?*

A what or a what? I’ve never heard of those terms.

Of course not. I just made them up.

Well then how can I answer the question if I don’t know what they are? Maybe if you explained them first?

Oh. I guess you’re right. Okay.

An Intentional Socialite is one who actively pursues social interactions with others. They’re the ones who hold dinners, organise nights out or coffee catch ups or who are only interested in going to see a movie if it’s with a group of friends.

Makes sense. And an Incidental Socialite?

An Incidental Socialite experiences social contact in the context of another activity. A chat over coffee after church or community singing, catching up during a break in a theatre rehearsal or art class, the brief “How’s it going?” exchanges after a meeting or waiting to pick up kids in the school playground, even purely social events as long as they’re predictable like Friday night drinks after work or a weekly coffee date at the same cafe.

I think I understand.

Good. So which one are you?

I need to think about it. I’ll let you know in the Comments.

Okay.

So which one are you, then?

Me? Oh, definitely an Incidental Socialite. Well, except for a brief period at the end of my 30s when I actively pursued social contact with the support of a psychologist in a challenging time of my life.

What made you stop?

Psychologists are expensive.

Ha ha. Couldn’t you do it without the psychologist?

As a shy introvert? No. Not for long, anyway.

Did it concern you?

Not really. That’s the beauty of Incidental Social Contact, you don’t notice that you don’t really have a social life.

So what made you come up with this concept?

Too much long distance running by myself. Nowhere to go but inside my own head.

Very funny. But there must have been some reason the thoughts were there.

Hm. Yeah, there was.

Well?

Well, you know how I said I wasn’t concerned about not having intentional social contact?

Yes.

Lately I have been.

Been what? Concerned?

Yes.

Why?

Well, that was the question, wasn’t it? Why? Why now after all these years?

And?

And I realised I was noticing a lack of social contact with people because almost all of my incidental social opportunities have disappeared.

I see. How did that happen?

Hard to say. Life changes, you know? Some things ended by choice. Some not. Even with work, I’ve gone back to casual teaching and work offers have been thin on the ground so even brief staffroom chats over lunch aren’t happening.

So what are you going to do? As an Incidental Socialite?

Get used to my own company?

Not funny. Seriously, what are you going to do?

Well, I’ve got you, haven’t I? I do enjoy these little chats of ours in the Comments Bar & Grill. What are you drinking? My shout.

Thanks, I’m flattered and I’ll post my order in the Comments. But don’t you think flesh and blood socialising might also be a good idea?

Well, I have started going to group classes at the gym.

I guess that’s a start. Although, how do you hold a conversation while you’re bouncing around and sweating profusely?

It can be done. After all, I came up with this whole Intentional/Incidental social concept while I was running thirty kilometres, didn’t I?

Thirty kilometres?? You ran thirty kilometres? Okay, I think you may have more problems than I thought.

Very funny. I’ve finished my drink. It’s your shout.

Uh, right. What are you having?

Gin. And as you’re buying, make it a double.

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*My fingers kept wanting to type “Socialist” but that’s a whole other discussion.

How May I Serve You?

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I was born with a servant gene as were my mother and father before me and my siblings beside me. We have met and married other genetic servants and produced children with the same gene.

What does it mean to have the servant gene?

It means that helping others is as instinctive and integral to our being as being right- or left-handed. It means always putting our hand up when volunteers are sought. It means always looking for ways to relieve another’s burden. It means always seeking ways to be of assistance to others whether near or far, loved ones or strangers.

Why do you do it?

Not for gain, that is certain. A quid pro quo or obligation to repay never enters a genetic servant’s head when offering a service. Indeed, the very act of serving, the satisfaction that brings, is our payment. Any offer of reward or payment for service is viewed with embarrassment.

Do you ever tire of it?

No. Never. We may feel tired, as we are often trying to meet many demands, unable to say no to any request, but we never tire of it. In fact, it is often the opposite. A request for help from a friend and the ability to then fulfil that request is likely to be the highlight of the day and leave us in a positive state of mind for the rest of the week.

What are the downsides?

It’s true that we can become over-stretched as we try to meet as many demands as possible. This does not lead to resentment at the imposition but only sadness that we are not fulfilling our full service by being an effective servant to all who need us. Some people do not understand the mindset of a person with the servant gene and will reject assistance or refuse to ask for help for fear of imposing. This also makes us sad because being of service is what fills our hearts and souls with happiness.

How do children exhibit the servant gene?

They are always the ones to attend events to support their school, club, a charity or friends. They take on the bulk of the grunt work in group projects. They make friends with the otherwise friendless kids and invite them to their birthday parties. They stay behind to help clean up. They always help when asked and offer help unprompted.

How do I know if I have the servant gene?

Are you always looking for ways to help, especially when attending events? Do you usually find yourself in the kitchen doing the dishes or staying behind to help clean up? Do you notice when your friends may need help and offer a practical way to be of assistance? Are you always on the lookout for ways to participate in events to raise money for charities or awareness of important social issues? Most of all, does doing these things bring you great joy and satisfaction?

I used to sometimes think that I was cursed with the servant gene but I have come to know that it is indeed a blessing and that we are an important part of any tribe.

Do you have the servant gene? Is it a blessing or a curse for you?

 

 

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The Best of Friends

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What makes the best of friends?

The best of friends stick with you through the good times and the bad.

The best of friends do not abandon you when life changes.

The best of friends forgive your mistakes, thoughtless words and careless actions. Time and time again.

The best of friends are there for you when you need them even if you haven’t spoken in a year.

The best of friends receive an offer of help with joy and not a sense of obligation because they know that helping them makes you happy.

The best of friends can pick up where you left off no matter how much time has passed.

The best of friends let you know where you stand and tell you to your face when you’re being a pain.

The best of friends celebrate your successes and mourn your losses.

The best of friends never leave you hanging.

The best of friends take a genuine interest in your passions even when they are not their own.

The best of friends can live close or far, see you every day or only once a year but are always your friend.

The best of friends can read between the lines and respond to what has not been said.

The best of friends know the worst sides of you but love you anyway.

The best of friends are a rare and precious gift.

 

What makes the best of friends for you?

 

 

 

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Is It A Bird? Is It A Plane?

It’s [insert favourite superhero here]!

Superheroes are all the rage at the moment, have you noticed?

Marvel is raking in the millions with movie franchises based on individuals (Captain America, Iron-man, Spiderman, Thor) and ensembles (The Avengers) while their television shows (Agent Carter, Agents of Shield, Daredevil) draw millions of viewers.

DC Comics isn’t doing so well on the movie front these days (Batman vs Superman) but the television DC world is thriving (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl).

For a geeky household like ours, this growing popularity of geek culture is very welcome. Superheroes everywhere! (Why else would I have a caped crusader for an avatar? Even if it is an un-Masterly one.)

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But superheroes don’t just live in comic books and on the silver screen. They are all around us. Sure, they may not fly or have superhuman strength or even possess the coolest toys but I’ll bet you know one.

It’s the friend who has endured overwhelmingly difficult life challenges but still smiles and offers her gifts and talents for the enjoyment of others.

It’s the one who has suffered unimaginable loss but has learned to love and laugh again.

It’s the friend who despite financial struggles continues to give generously to others.

It’s the one who chooses to follow her heart and with courage step out to start a business, move to another country, launch a new career or begin a new life on her own.

It’s the friend who fights and defeats a serious illness.

It’s the one who makes you believe you can do anything.

Superheroes are all around us, quietly going about their lives often oblivious to the inspiration they are to the rest of us. They don’t have magical powers or a fancy suit or a cape but they are our real heroes.

I recently chose to acknowledge one of the superheroes in my life by making her a cape for her birthday. I think all the heroes who work magic in our lives should have a cape. Sorry Edna.

Who are the superheroes in your life?

 

 

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The Great International Chocolate Exchange

Many bloggers may not be aware that there is a not-all-that-secret-really exchange of commodities going on here in the Community Blogosphere.

Pssst…. Hey buddy!… Want some chocolate?

Between the Sometimes-Wintry-But-We-Don’t-Want-To-Talk-About-It wastes of Wisconsin, the Oh-Look-It’s-That-Building-From-That-Movie city of Toronto and the We-All-Walk-On-Our-Heads land of Oz, there has been a steady movement of sweet commodities.

It all started when M-J from Mary J Melange posted about her mother’s change of confectionery habit which lead to the following comment exchange:

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This was soon followed by:

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The goods were duly dispatched from New York City to Wisconsin and you can read about how they were received here.

Simultaneous to this experiment in international chocolate diplomacy, Joanne over at My Life Lived Full was taking her blog premise to new extremes by testing the hypothesis that millions of Australians couldn’t be wrong and that Vegemite was actually edible. You can read about her results here.

As it turned out, she agreed with the hypothesis and subsequently I had the following exciting news to share:

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Well, that’s no fun, is it? None of my Australian readers want to know what I think of Vegemite chocolate. A Canadian blogger trying Vegemite chocolate on the other hand….

This was delicate territory, however. Vegemite chocolate was a limited release commodity and sending it out of the country had to be handled with discretion. So a top secret communiqué was sent to Maggie at The Zombies Ate My Brains to enquire if she knew of Joanne’s address as they had previously met up for a Blogger Meet-up. The sensitive information was duly dispatched and the wheels turned. (That would be the wheels of the postie’s bike/scooter/van depending on your cultural mode of postal transport.)

After too many weeks (the wheels of postal diplomacy spin slowly), the package finally arrived. Read about how it was received and what Vegemite chocolate really tastes like here.

About the same time, I posted a piece lamenting my inability to purchase Milk Duds in New York City. This is my favourite American candy and not to be able to buy it when I’m actually in the country was ridiculous. However, in the comments, the following mysterious exchange took place:

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Something was up………..

Many weeks later (more slow wheels), just as I’d almost forgotten about it, a box arrived on my doorstep. Perfectly timed to arrive on a day I came home from work on crutches (I fell over), it brought chocolatey joy to my heart and my aching skin-shredded hand (it had an argument with the bitumen onto which I fell over).

Canadian goodies

TWO boxes of Milk Duds! I’ll be picking caramel out of my teeth for weeks!

The two chocolate bars, I was assured, are unique to Canada and the biscuits (cookies) are Joanne’s favourite.

I shared the chocolate bars with the four male members of the MOSY household (although my usually very accurate mathematical division may have been a bit off that day as one piece was mysteriously cut larger than the other four). I found them both quite strong in taste and the chocolate tasted different but I can’t quite say how. The Eldest Son thought the Crispy Crunch tasted like a Snickers (in flavour not in texture) while the Youngest Son was impressed with the coffee flavour of the Coffee Crisp as it wasn’t too strong.

The Mr Maple biscuits were taken to our monthly family dinner bringing a gasp of surprise and a smile of happiness to my Canadian soon-to-be-niece-in-law. As coffee was served at the end of the meal, I opened the packet and a strong, beautiful waft of maple syrup drifted over the table. I could happily sit around with my nose in the box all day but that would probably worry people. The biscuits were delicious with two crisp biscuits sandwiching a creamy maple-flavoured centre. They kind of look like little people when you stand them up. I guess that’s why they’re called Mr Maple.

Mr Maples

Thank you, Joanne (and Maggie as co-conspirator) for bringing much joy, laughter and sugar into my life.

I wonder where the Great International Chocolate Exchange will take us next?

What I love best about blogging is the conversation each post starts in the Comments section. This is just one fun outcome of those wacky and witty exchanges. 🙂

 

 

 

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The Friends We Deserve

I had a birthday recently. Let me just say I am not the world’s most enthusiastic birthday celebrant and the older I get, the less enthusiastic I become. Friends asking “So, what are you doing for your birthday?” are inevitably met with “Nothing.”

It’s not that I’m unhappy to have a birthday. As Larry Lorenzoni pointed out, “Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.”

I’ve just always felt mildly embarrassed to invite people to celebrate my birthday with me. It seems somehow selfish and self-aggrandising. Birthdays were never lavish affairs growing up and I’ve toned them down since then. (Although, I do remember my 11th birthday when I and my friends were taken to the circus. We had whistlepops.)

This year, some of my friends decided a non-celebratory birthday was unacceptable so they kidnapped me and gave me a birthday celebration anyway. It made me wonder what I’ve done in my life to deserve them.

Do we get the friends we deserve? Is there a Friendship Karma? A Buddy Balance Sheet? Do the friends you get measure up to the friend you are? If there is a balance sheet, I think I’m in the red. I’ve been blessed with friends far in excess of what I deserve.

Some friends have come into my life when I’ve needed them and exited when I no longer did. Some have come into my life and stayed. Even the Poor Choice friends of my youth have served a purpose, showing me the lifestyle I didn’t want and pushing me towards new friends who made me feel safe instead of scared.

I’ve certainly tried to be a good friend but at times I’ve failed, as I suspect we all do at some point in our lives. Lack of contact, being unavailable and, worst of all, hurtful words spoken out of thoughtlessness have all been committed by me. Perhaps it’s the errors we make that show us which of our friends are the stayers. I feel an eternal debt to those friends who have forgiven and forgotten the mistakes I’ve made and stuck by me.

I can’t imagine a world without friendship. While your family is meant to love you, friends choose to love you. They choose to spend time with you. And they are often the ones who know the Real You, especially the Lifelong Friend. Lifelong friends have seen you at your best and at your worst, they’ve shared your growing up, your life-changes, your highlights and your lowlights. That doesn’t mean that lifelong friends only arrive in childhood. Sometimes they appear later in life but come to know you so well it’s as if they have been a part of your life forever.

I wrote this song for my friend Carolyn for her birthday a couple of years ago. The words are equally applicable to so many of my friends. Friends I continue to do my best to deserve.

 

 

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