Perfecting Human Touch

Perhaps I’m a bit odd, (OK, I’m sure I’m odd!) but when I sit and am actually still for a few minutes, if I breathe and let it, I can either totally still my mind or just let it run amok.  If I let it go, my mind can move at such a rapid pace that it can randomly take me anywhere – the past, the present, the future, and allow me to experience memories, or a variety of imaginary situations with a plethora of plot twists; all in a matter of minutes or even mere seconds.

Today, while sitting and sipping my morning coffee, my mind randomly took me back to Newfoundland, about 25 years ago – to the memory of an Iyengar yoga class I used to attend when I lived in downtown St. John’s.  My mind relived the deep peacefulness of this particular yoga class, taught by ‘BW’.  The class was popular and always full; with men and women of all ages and abilities – from those who looked like seasoned yogis to those who were mobility challenged.  As every body is built differently, BW had a very specific talent to be able to take any pose and modify it to perfectly suit each person in her class.  And while I floated in a light, zen-like state, I could never fully grasp how she somehow managed to get to every person in the room and gently help shape their body or modify the pose so that it worked for them and they were able to feel it’s maximum benefits.  It was almost surreal and, dare I say, magical.

I feel that part of how she accomplished this was from having mastered the art of the perfect human touch.  I can recall pushing myself into what I found to be a difficult pose and suddenly, she would be right there next to me, quietly asking permission to help/touch me.  And once her hands touched me – gently directing my back downwards or my hips upwards, my body would instantly relax.  It was like every straining muscle just ‘sank’ into the pose and every care in the world simply melted away.

yoga

The perfection of her touch was such calm simplicity.  It was slightly firm, yet light.  Warm and gentle.  It radiated with positive intent, kindness and a genuine care for the well-being of others.  Her touch was to guide you into a healthy and comfortable place.  It was right and perfect and was never misconstrued as uncomfortable or inappropriate.  I appreciated feeling the positive energy of another person.

Fast forward back to 25 years later, now, in the present.  And after all that, as I continue to sip my coffee, I think about how in my late 20’s I became a hugger.  Everyone who knows me, knows I give hugs. I give hugs hello, I give hugs goodbye.  I give hugs of thanks, hugs of support, and hugs of comfort.  I’m not sure I have accomplished the perfect human touch, but I give all my hugs with an open heart and positive energy.  I hope that anyone I’ve every hugged has felt that.

hug

 

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Bucket List Part 3: Taste Absinthe

OK, again, not a very lofty bucket list item – but (again) not many of my bucket list items, are.  So – why absinthe?  Well, I just couldn’t help it… over the years, the literary & arts lover in me had conjured up romanticized images in my mind of sitting around an old Sherlock Holmes-esque English parlor having marvelous, deeply intellectual conversations with fascinating people about the arts, philosophy & religion –  all while partaking in the ritualistic sipping of a glass of absinthe, involving an intricate-looking beverage contraption… fancy, huh?

absinthe-decanter-goblets_1ac99f46

 

So, as I’m always on the lookout, opportunity finally knocked and I got my chance!  A restaurant had opened up in Halifax, advertising an ‘old-timey’ feel and serving absinthe, so last year while my son was at a nearby event, my partner & I dropped in so that I could give it a try. 

What I was served wasn’t entirely what I had expected – I had expected the elaborate font from which water would drip onto a sugar cube above my absinthe (as pictured above).  However, what I received was still quite lovely – a small, fancy glass of vibrant green absinthe, a small decanter of iced water, a sugar cube and a small silver, perforated spoon.  I was directed to place the spoon over the glass of absinthe, place the sugar cube onto the perforated spoon, and slowly pour the iced water over the sugar cube to drain down into the absinthe.  You could add less or more water, to taste.  The icy sugar-water turned the vibrant green of the absinthe to more of a milky green – and it turned out that this was actually the traditional way to drink absinthe!  (So, I didn’t feel gipped on my experience!)

absinthe

Absinthe was quite close to what I expected it to be – it had a primary taste of licorice (due to, I would guess, the anise & fennel), with a hint of ‘herbal’ taste, behind the licorice.  I was told that absinthe also contains wormwood – which has a bitter taste.  Well, somehow, together, it all just – worked, as I enjoyed the slight contrast of the bitter wormwood to the licorice/herbal taste.  And, it was quite potent!  One glass left me feeling pleasantly warm & relaxed.  However, as it was so potent and rich (& me being a bit of a lightweight!) I had but the one glass! 

Over my glass of absinthe, my partner and I did not discuss philosophy, the arts or religion (more likely the logistics of our weekly schedule or the grocery list!) and, sadly, I did not devise any earth-shattering ideas for world betterment, nor did it magically make me a literary genius.  However, in the end, the experience was highly enjoyable, (I did not cut off an ear, much to the relief of my partner!) and found that I’d certainly be willing to drink absinthe again, should I ever have the chance!

 

Bucket List Part 2: Carpe Ocasionem…The Time I Rode a Mechanical Bull

Right off the bat, I’ll just lay it all out there. I’m not much of a Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) type gal.

I wish I was, because who doesn’t love a Ms. Positivity-Go-Getter with boundless energy?!  But sadly, I’m not sure it’s in my nature.  While I love life and am grateful for every minute of it that I have, I don’t spring out of bed each morning, smiling, feeling energized and ready to greet the day like the woman in the Gain Laundry Detergent commercial.  I swear, (and you’d think I’d remember!) every morning the alarm clock wakes me up at an ungodly hour with the same visceral jolt – leaving me feeling like my soul hasn’t quite yet re-entered my body.  I struggle to fully awaken, drag myself from the warm bed and work to find my land legs.  I’m stiff, wobbly and groggy – and in immediate need of a hot shower and a coffee.  Probably because 5 days a week, like many others, I need to go to work – early and on time.  And my work does not involve bringing about world peace, saving lives, solving world hunger or curing cancer.  Basically, at my age, it came down to a choice: if I choose to have certain things in life, I need to be able to pay for them.  Work provides me with benefits that any parent hopes to have, such as paid vacation, a pension plan, medical and dental.  It provides me with enough money to support my family so that we can live in a decent house, have heat, water, food, a pet, and my son can play sports.  However, it also takes up the bulk of my waking day.  Taking me away from the many things in my life that give me joy down to my soul: my child, my partner, my cat, leisurely shopping, coffees or chats with friends, yoga, hours of reading, taking random fun courses, furthering my education, wandering aimlessly around the city, taking photos, writing…and so on.

Of course I can still do all these things – just not leisurely, on a whim, or whenever I want.   Things I want to do for me must be scheduled; squashed in, and timed to fit in amongst all the “need to’s & have to’s”.  Because like most working moms (if you aren’t lucky enough to have a housekeeper!), once the paid work day ends, the unpaid work day begins: homework, practices, lessons, groceries, supper, dishes, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, and anything else that may need doing.  And not that I mind, because I love being a mom (best job in the world!) and having a home, it’s just that sometimes, at the end of the day, I’m just so worn out that all I can do is fall into bed, hopefully watch a show and then fall asleep.  Too tired to do yoga, too tired to read, too tired to call a friend and catch up.  Just ready for sleep and ready to repeat it all again the next day.

I am, my friends, now a member of what I’ve heard called, The Sandwich Generation– a new phase of life where you have so many things competing for and requiring your immediate attention: children, aging parents, deadlines, paid work, work in the home, etc… and unless you are one of those Type A personalities who have so much energy that they can easily do it all (of whom I’m totally in awe of, by the way!), somewhere along the line, you end up neglecting yourself – putting yourself and your needs, last.  So, (while regularly fantasizing about retirement) and through my personal reflections of measuring a life well-lived via a bucket list, I feel I’ve had to morph into more of a Capere Ocasionem (Seize the Opportunity) kind of gal.

I do this by keeping a running list of all the things I want to do, see, have, experience and accomplish.  I keep it with me all the time.  I read it once a day.  Sometimes, I add to it.  And each day, if ever the opportunity presents itself of my getting to cross an item off the list, I go for it.  It’s the main way I manage to fit things in and help me feel like I’m accomplishing some little things just for myself.  Whatever works, right?

This brings me to the “Ride a Mechanical Bull” ilorins-phone-018tem on my bucket list.  Something I’d always wanted to do, but for some reason the opportunity never presented itself.  Like, really?  How many working moms have the time to seek out and plan to ride a mechanical bull?  None I know.  So it stayed on my list.  Waiting for the opportunity…

And finally it came.  A couple of years ago, my son was invited to a birthday party at a place called Hatfield Farms.  We had never been there before, and he was a bit shy at the time, so my partner and I planned to stay with him.  The farm party had many fun activities: a wagon ride, BBQ, bouncy castle, mini golf, gladiator fights, a petting zoo, a mechanical bull…wait.  Mechanical Bull!?!  No way!  The heavens opened, the angels sang and capere ocasionem!  Because, yes.  Lo and behold in one area of the compound – there it was – a mechanical bull.  I didn’t know where or when I’d ever have this opportunity again, so children’s birthday party or not, I decided then and there, oh yeah… this was happening!  So, while the children were busy with games, other rides, etc… I grabbed the bull by the horns (or so to speak!), and rode the bull.

It wasn’t exactly like I thought it would be.  For some reason, after all these years, in my mind, I assumed I’d be some sort of mechanical-bull-riding-prodigy.  However, it was harder than I thought – kind of like a full body workout in a few short minutes.  My right hand was white-knuckled to the saddle.  My head (and my whole body) were whipped violently this way and that.  But to my credit (while I didn’t risk the maximum setting) I held on and managed to stay on!  I was a bit nauseous when I finally got off, my butt felt bruised and my thighs hurt from gripping the sides of the bull to keep my balance, but hell yeah, I DID IT!

It’s always a moment of joy, a small victory and extremely cathartic for me when I get to cross an item off my bucket list!  And while I no longer have a burning desire to ride a mechanical bull, I’d probably do it again if the opportunity ever presented itself!  Capere Ocasionem!  Yee haw, y’all!

The Bucket List

Life is short.  Sure everyone knows this, but how many people really know this? How short life can be really didn’t fully hit home for me until a few years after I lost someone in my life whe…

Source: The Bucket List

The Bucket List

The Bucket List

bucket-list

Life is short.  Sure everyone knows this, but how many people really know this?

How short life can be really didn’t fully hit home for me until a few years after I lost someone in my life when we were both at a relatively young age.  My husband died of malignant melanoma when he was just 38 years old – and it took only 2 short, rapidly debilitating months – from diagnosis to death.  At the time, I was 37 and our son was 3 1/2.  There were still things in life that he hadn’t yet been able to see or do, but he (we) felt that we were young – we had time.  However, we blinked.  And for one of us, time ran out.

For several years after my husband passed, I was so preoccupied with unexpectedly becoming a single mom, working full time and going to university part time that I didn’t really have time contemplate the shortness of life.  At that point, life was more about survival and getting things done.  And while it was extremely rewarding to care for my child and to continue with my university classes, balancing those joys with working full time to pay the bills, left little time for much else.

Fast forward a couple more years and yes, life was still busy.  However my son was now older, I’d graduated from university (bucket list item!), and being in my mid-40s – it was then really starting to hit me:  Life here on earth is short.  We are here one moment, and then gone in the blink of an eye.  And for a moment, I felt small and insignificant.  What have I done with my life?  I obviously hadn’t cured cancer or single-handedly brought about world peace.  But aside from a global perspective, I wondered, have I done all the main things (big or small) that I’d hoped to do, personally in my own life?

So, like so many others before me, I decided to make a list – my own Bucket List – of things I’d always wanted to do, see, experience, accomplish, etc…over the course of my life.  I wanted to see how many of my heart’s desires I had already accomplished vs. how much still remained.

My list wasn’t overly grandiose; and I still don’t view it as a ‘race to the finish line’.  I even occasionally add something else to it, as I think of it, and I work to accomplish what I can, when I can.

But I can happily report that a good many of the items I had hoped to accomplish over the course of my life, I already have.  However, there are obviously still many items to work towards and cross off!  (And if you’re a bit OCD like me, you know the tremendous satisfaction that comes from crossing something off a list!)  Some of my remaining list items are the more expensive/difficult things to accomplish for a variety of reasons such as money vs. responsibilities; (ex. visiting the pyramids of Egypt or the catacombs of Palermo, Italy) and some are small, even silly, by another’s standards, (ex. singing Karaoke or performing in public) – a personal sheer terror.  But, in the end, whether crazy, silly, difficult or near impossible, the list is mine and mine alone: my experiences to have, my goals to achieve, and my fears to overcome.

For when it’s all said and done, only we, ourselves, can truly measure our life well-lived.

Stay tuned for more pseudo-mediocre adventures on The Bucket List…

Poverty Breeds Creativity…

Poverty Breeds Creativity.  This has been one of my mottos ever since I was a child growing up in rural outport Newfoundland.  We didn’t have a whole lot back then, but some of my happiest memories are those of my grandfather whittling toy boats for me to play with or spending time in the outdoors with friends – roaming the meadows and woods with twigs, leaves, tree boughs and a lot of imagination!

These days, while I make a decent living – it’s not enough for me to be able to say (ala Lara Croft in Tomb Raider), “I just woke up one morning and hated everything!” and give in to my temptations to constantly redecorate.  I did, however, wake up one morning and decide that the living room needed end tables.  Trying to get more bang for my buck, I thought to myself, “What would be EVEN BETTER than a plain end table?… Aha!  Those adorable rustic end tables that double as file cabinets, that’s WHAT!”  So, I started sourcing out those lovely, rustic Pottery-Barn-esque style wooden file cabinets.

After spending some time sourcing (sigh), I quickly discovered that the prices for these pieces (both on-line and local) were rather costly.  That said, if you have the extra money, they are beautiful and I’m sure they’re worth it.  However, as a joint household purchase my partner was NOT in agreement to pay that kind of money.  So, drawing on my childhood memories of making something awesome out of whatever happened to be laying around, I started scouring Pinterest for ideas and the basement for supplies.

Pinterest had a variety of relatively easy looking projects to turn file cabinets into something ‘pretty’, so I pinned a few ideas and headed to the basement!

After finding cat puke, a pile of dirty laundry and some missing winter boots, my basement re-con mission also yielded two old grey metal file cabinets, some pieces of pine, leftover pieces of cedar wainscoting from our kitchen reno, a variety of stains, spray paints, glue, and a box full of spare drawer pulls.  I found: I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N!!! (and yes, supplies!)

Here is a photo of the process and the outcome:

Rustic End Table/File Cabinet

Rustic End Table/File Cabinet

I began by spray painting (black) the parts of the file cabinets that would be exposed.  Then, I measured the parts of the cabinets I wanted to cover with wood – which were the drawers and the tops.

I used the wrong side of the wainscoting to be my new ‘front’ because there weren’t any wainscot ridges on the back.  Luckily, three pieces fit nicely together to make the perfect height to cover the front of one drawer.  As they were all in odd lengths and too long, I measured the size width I needed for the drawer front and just cut them to fit.  Then I sanded all the pieces.  Next, I glued 3 pieces of the wainscoting together to make one drawer front (it worked nicely because wainscoting has grooves that fit each piece to the next).  I had 4 drawers to cover, so I needed 4 sections (each section comprised of 3 pieces).  Then, I placed a line of glue in the grooves and fit the three pieces together to dry, lying flat, and doing this 4 times for each drawer.

Once dry, I stained them.  (I just kept mixing various stains together, using a sample piece of wood until I found a shade that I liked).

For the tops, I used a large piece of pine that we (and I say we – meaning my partner, because I don’t like to use the electric saw!) cut to fit just on the top of each cabinet with just a little bit hanging over the edges.  Then, I sanded it and stained it to match the wainscoting.

Once the wood was stained, top coated and dry, I removed the existing handles from the cabinets and used wood glue to glue all the wood pieces to the cabinet.  I held the drawer pieces on with clamps. (Note: glue drips – so put something underneath on the floor to catch the drips!)

Once the glue dried, I marked where I wanted the handles to be and drilled the holes – very carefully so the wood wouldn’t crack, and attached the handles.

All in all – not a bad project!  And it was pretty quick – other than waiting for the stain and the glue to dry!  The result?  2 rustic Pottery Barn-esque file cabinets/end tables that cost absolutely nothing but my time and imagination!  There’s nothing like the lack of a budget that forces you to be creative!  So, reduce, reuse & recycle!

Our Top 15 Red Picks From The Port of Wines Festival 2015

On September 26th my partner and I attended the NSLC Port of Wines Festival in Halifax, NS.  This year marked the festival’s 20th anniversary – and instead of focusing on a feature country, they chose to celebrate 20 years of sharing great wine.  Nothing wrong with that!

My partner and I are not fancy connoisseurs of wine by any stretch of the imagination!  However, we very much love, enjoy and appreciate wine.  We know what we like – and always look forward to an opportunity to sample as many different wines as we can.

Some friends were asking for our top picks from the show, so I thought I’d share them here.  So here we go!  Our top 15 selections!

**For drinkers of white (ie. my gal-pal L.B.!), sorry, but our list is 99% red.  I don’t drink whites, because they oddly give me headaches.  However, one ‘pink’ was so delicious it made our list!

  1. 2012 KWV The Mentors Pinotage $29.99 (KWV SA (PTY) LTD; South Africa)
  2. 2010 Buried Hope Tempranillo Crianza $19.99 (Pernod Ricard Winemakers; Spain)
  3. Mia ‘Delicate & Sweet’ Pink Moscato $16.99 (Freixenet SA; Spain)
  4. 2010 Marquis de Longares Reserva &19.29 (Cooperativa Vitivinicola de Longares, Spain)
  5. 2013 Small Gully Mr. Black’s Little Book Shiraz $22.79 (Small Gully Wines; Australia)
  6. 2012 Small Gully The Formula Robert’s Shiraz $24.99 (Small Gully Wines; Australia)
  7. 2013 Tahbilk The Tower Shiraz $23.29 (Tahbilk Wines, Australia)
  8. 2010 Casella Limited Release Cabernet $49.89 (Casella Family Brands; Australia)
  9. Pen folds Great Grandfather Rare Tawny $83.79 (Treasury Wine Estates; Australia)
  10. 2011 Bottega Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG $48.79 (Bottega Spa; Italy)
  11. 2013 Kim Crawford Hawkes Bay Merlot &22.99 (Constellation Brands New Zealand; New Zealand)
  12. 2013 Dona Paula 1100 Red $31.49 (Vina Dona Paula; Argentina)
  13. 2012 Dona Paula Estate Black Edition Red $17.99 (Vina Dona Paula; Argentina)
  14. 2012 Gauchezco Reserva Malbec $19.49 (Gauchezco Vineyard & Winery; Argentina)
  15. 2011 Manos Negras Stone Soil Select Malbec $19.99 (Manos Negras, Argentina)

What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile”.
~William Sokolin