Hello, Inspiration {3}: Fat Snowflakes

Last weekend, one night after the boys were in bed, my dog came up from the basement and asked to be let outside. When I opened the door to let him back in a few minutes later, I looked outside and realized it was snowing – big, soft flakes, the kind that accumulate quickly and muffle the world.

It doesn’t often snow that way here, but it’s one of my favourite things. We mostly get the kind of snow that shoots rather than floats past the streetlights; it looks nice once it settles but it’s not nearly as romantic when it’s coming down.

At that point in the evening I had mostly settled in and was enjoying the quiet, but that snowfall was not to be missed. I snapped a leash on the dog and out we went.

It was perfect. Pure joy. We walked through the snow, which was already almost to his tummy and over my boots, and listened to it squeak beneath our feet. At the field near our house, with no one else in sight and nothing in view but pure white, I let him off his leash. He bounded away, running large circles around me, as I cut a path through the deep snow. He was happy and I felt at peace.

snow scene framed by trees

I highly recommend this. The next time you notice your equivalent of fat snowflakes, get out there and breathe it in. It’s worth it to stop and notice joy, whether it falls from the sky or presents itself a different way.

Just breathe it in.

hello inspiration

Hello, Inspiration {2}: One Word

I had a revelation on December 29 about the one word I had chosen for 2014. It took me 363 days to get there, but once I did a whole bunch of things made sense.

Early last year, I intended to choose another word to focus on for the year. Having done it in 2011, 2012, and 2013 with what I considered satisfying results, I figured it would be a no-brainer. The problem was I put too much of my brain into it.

The first time I did this in 2011, someone suggested I let the word come to me. Sort of hokey, I thought, but was open to it. And came it did. Same with the next two years. And then last year my funk got in the way and I didn’t just sit with it as I had previously and instead I chose a word. It was a word that was connected to things I wanted to do – mostly self-centred things that had less to do with what I needed and more to do with what I thought would make me happy.

I never revealed the word here because it didn’t stick. And I was disappointed that it didn’t stick but I was also unmotivated and never actually considered why it didn’t feel right. And then, two days before the end of the year, I was talking to a colleague and friend at work who also, I discovered, happens to do this one-word thing and it all made sense. Suddenly I was back in the same headspace from the beginning of the year and I realized that my deliberately choosing the word rather than being open to whatever might come to me had thoroughly defeated the purpose.

Funny how something you didn’t realize you weren’t aware of can suddenly make a lot of the unarticulated frustrations from the past year dissipate.

So this year, I went back to letting my word identify itself to me.

Soar - one word 2105

I tried to force one with a particular meaning (act? choose?) but I realized that was me layering expectations onto a sentiment that I needed to just accept. I don’t need the pressure of being on the hook for certain things I think I should do. I need to do what I feel is right and let come what may.

Soar.

We’ll see where it takes me.

hello inspiration

Hello, Inspiration {1}: Beauty Shots

I looked at my WordPress year in review and it told me I had 30 new posts in 2014. Thirty. 30.  That seemed a ridiculously low number to me until I realized it was less than one a week and then, frankly, it seemed high. I really didn’t write a lot last year.

I’ve sort of lost my writing mojo. I started feeling vulnerable for reasons I haven’t fully determined (or perhaps have chosen not to fully explore). I would start to write a post in my head and not get past the first sentence. First paragraph, sometimes, but mostly the words just never came together. I wrote a lot of posts in my head that way—far more than 30—but it’s not a terribly productive approach.

I closed out 2014 with a little bit more inspiration than last year, though not my usual, perhaps over-exuberant, dose. As of this fourth day of the new year I have all kinds of goals and plans and no shortage of sources of motivation, because, dammit, I’m ready to get back to feeling inspired. And one thing I’m going to do is create some of that inspiration for myself.

In my very early blogging days, I used to do regular posts under the Hello, Inspiration heading. They featured things that inspired me, like the ones that seemed to appear when I needed them or those that came up in several different places as if to say pay attention. After a while I just randomly tagged things with that category when it seemed to fit, but I’d like to go back to deliberately sharing things that inspire me. So here’s the first in the official series of my sources of inspiration, which I’m hoping to update weekly.

Neil Zeller Photography: Aurora Borealis &emdash;
One thing I love is amazing photography. Not long ago I found the Facebook page for a photographer named Neil Zeller who is local to me, and his shots are amazing. Breathtaking in the most literal sense of the word. He photographs things I love, like mountains…

Neil Zeller Photography: Explore Alberta &emdash; Waterton, Alberta…and cityscapes…

Neil Zeller Photography: Downtown Calgary &emdash; Downtown Calgary

…and our tower, which I have such sentimental, childhood feelings about. I have to get a copy of this print:

Neil Zeller Photography: Downtown Calgary &emdash; Downtown Calgary
He also shoots trains (oh my heart):

Neil Zeller Photography: Train Travel &emdash;

…and scenes that are so stunning it’s hard to believe they are from this same planet where we do mundane things like buy groceries:

Neil Zeller Photography: Country and Mountain Scenes &emdash;

Neil’s images fill up my Facebook feed, and I like them all so he knows they’re appreciated (and so Facebook’s fancy algorithm will keep showing them to me). Seeing them creates the sort of pause in my day—the deep-breath, contented-sigh kind—that I so desperately need. The first shot above is one from his Aurora series, which might be my favourite. Seeing that is on my life list, and I’m inspired at how often he manages to catch this sight. Maybe one day soon I will as well.

hello inspiration

All images © Neil Zeller Photography

On the Road to Reykjavik

After dipping down below the acceptable depression threshold a few too many times recently I did a little thinking. It started out primarily as a WTF attitude (as in why me? Why again?!) but perspective comes from the strangest places.

What are you doing to take care of yourself? people often ask. Do you get enough sleep/exercise/time to yourself? And the answer to all of those is, mostly, yes. I mean, yes and no (because does any parent of young children really get enough?) but I think I do okay in those areas.

The trouble is I haven’t been doing the right things. I’ve become really good at sitting on my bed after the boys are (finally) asleep and browsing through Facebook. I can read status updates and comment and click that like button with the best of them. It’s definitely a retreat, but it’s not exactly fulfilling.

That realization (as obvious as it might be) didn’t really become clear until I was talking to a friend recently. This guy — a firefighter, sort of a guy’s guy — asked a simple question: “What’s your outlet?”

What’s my outlet? Um, gee. That’s a good question. I like to write and I like to run, but have been doing neither on a consistent basis.

“You know that giant LEGO Death Star in my basement?” he continued. “Yeah, that was an outlet.”

I pictured him escaping his three kids or a long day at work by going to the basement and slowly, literally piece by piece, putting that together.

That’s what I need – not a LEGO Death Star, but a project.Team Diabetes

In my last race package was a brochure for Team Diabetes and, unlike most of the brochures I get in race packages, I had kept it. I’ve supported the Canadian Diabetes Foundation in various ways for a long time because I’ve had several family members affected by diabetes. Most personally for me was my Grandma, who was legally blind after losing much of her sight to the disease.

True to my largely impulsive nature, I had a look at the Diabetes Association’s website and found myself signing up for a Team Diabetes race in Reykjavik, Iceland next year. I registered without worrying too much about the slightly intimidating fundraising requirement, because I needed a project and this would be it. (Or one of them, anyway. I’m nothing if not ambitious when it comes to finding projects to distract myself with.)

Islandsbanki Marathon

Photo credit: Islandsbanki Marathon

I’ve already got some fundraising plans and some donations from supportive friends. And I’ve got a bit of a posse too. After I signed up, 6 friends (so far) did as well, and more are thinking about it.

Fundraising for this event will be a challenge and a bit outside my comfort zone (especially because I hate asking for money), but that’s sort of what I like about it. It’s something to focus on other than who has posted a new photo to Facebook. I’m excited about it, so that qualifies it as an outlet, don’t you think? I do, so here I go on something that is just for me – not me as a mom or anything else. Just me on the road to Reykjavik.

If you want to support me in my fundraising goal, you can donate here

Look to the Sky

I left work late tonight, as is often the case these days. But I guess the days are indeed getting longer, because instead of being dark the sky was full of brilliant tiger stripes of colour – pink and red and orange and wisps of blue. The city skyline was a barely lit silhouette, and at the end of the wash of colour was the outline of the mountains and a brilliant, golden glare as the sun started to sink behind the horizon. It was incredible. Stop-to-take-a-picture incredible. (But of course no picture I could take would ever do it justice.)

I breathe deeply when I see sunsets like that (even if I’m in my car). And in doing so I pause, sometimes just figuratively and often just for a moment, and think about something other than what I have to do next.

brick wall

Your comments on my post about missing inspiration were interesting. Good interesting, even though I don’t agree with many of you, including my mother. (Sorry, mom.)

Here’s the thing: I like that wide open space of a new year. I love the anything-is-possible feeling. I thrive on change and possibility and new. Day-to-day life gets boring pretty fast, and if I don’t have something to jolt me into a new perspective I will blink and 20 years will have gone by and my small boys will be big and all I will remember is how much laundry I did.

That is not how I wish to live my life.

I realized, upon reading (and railing against) some of those comments on that last post, that I don’t necessarily want some huge, gigantic goal and I’m not really looking for change. But I also don’t want to let life just happen. I prefer living with intention.

That’s why I’ve chosen one word as a guide post for the last few years. It’s why I have a life list and why I breathe in sunsets.

Northern lights in night sky

So where does that leave me? I’m not sure yet. I will probably start by committing to my one word for 2014 (and sharing it here). I’m going to make some changes to my day-to-day focus and schedule. I’m going to move away from feeling stuck in the everydayness of wake/feed children/commute/work/commute/feed children/put children to bed/walk dog/do dishes/fold laundry/repeat.

I’m going to look to the sky. And see where it takes me.