Connecting The Dots

Discussing the threads of my own passions which have culminated in my work as coach, mentor, presenter in my own business.

Seeking and finding delicious

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Happy New Year All! Hope it's a great one for you!

Last year I felt somewhat rudderless. Usually my year has a theme. Some word or phrase or sentence that captures the essence of how I see and feel about the year ahead. The theme emerges rather organically rather than through some sort of deliberate process. I am always surprised and delighted at what shows up. Nothing came to me early or at any point during 2018. In many ways it was signalling a transition for me though I really didn't want to see that. Over a coffee, a dear friend of mine prodded me. "You've been writing a lot about letting go. Have you?" Good question! There wasn't tangible evidence that I have let go so much as aspects of my life were letting go of me. My work softened, relationships changed, people became ill, moved or died. The house got an unexpected emptying when the kids moved in this Fall. "I could never be a gypsy" was scratched off my 'never' declarations after our 7 week sojourn down east. Gypsying is rather fun!

Coming up to this year I did a check in. My energy is running low. My house is full of the new young family and, for the time being, no longer my refuge. Enthusiasms for things I've done before not really there. Clearly not a time I can push or conquer up something even if I wanted to. It was into this 'Oh dear!' space that my theme popped into my head.

"If it's not delicious, it's NO!"       

As soon as it came to me I felt this incredible sense of relief. I had given myself permission to say NO! The letting go thing I have so often alluded to was my wanting to do just this. Say NO to the things that for now feel heavy with obligation. Looking for delicious is starting to feed me. It's a being pulled toward rather than pushing way energy. And it's working! A mere 8 days into the new year and delicious has put in an appearance everyday. Sometimes several times a day. Unexpected letters, invitations to events I wouldn't have seen, good folks I haven't heard from in a while calling to get together. 

There has been a shift around saying NO. Some asks are an absolutely clear. With others it's looking for where the delicious resides. Or delaying until delicious can be felt. It's become kind of a game for me. What I know so far is that my life is taking on a slightly adventurous feel. With practice maybe even daring!! 

On my January calendar is a saying from Thich Nhat Hanh.

'Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.' 

 May 2019 be full of your version of delicious!

From Parker J Palmer

Mary Johnson - Monday, December 31, 2018
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Parker J Palmer has shared a poem by Anne Hillman and beautiful thoughts on the New Year. Much more eloquent than anything I could say. Please enjoy and wishing you a delicious 2019.

"This “New Year” thing is a curious fiction, isn’t it? The hoopla we make at midnight on Dec. 31st is a tad over the top for what is actually just one more tick of the clock.
But this annual ritual allows us to imagine that maybe, just maybe, we’re on the threshold of something new and better. And some of our imaginings might come true, depending on what we do.
As Anne Hillman says, “we look with uncertainty” to the future. But rightly held, uncertainty can generate creativity instead of anxiety. To that end, here are five questions that Hillman’s words evoke in me—five questions for crossing the threshold that, if we took them seriously, might be life-giving for us and our world:
• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
• What is my next challenge in "daring to be human" in personal, relational, and political terms?
• How can I open myself more fully to the beauty of nature and human nature?
• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
• What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?
Nobody knows what 2019 will hold. But if we wrap our lives around good questions—and try to live our way into good answers every day—the better world we want and need is more likely to come into being.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone! May 2019 be a year of Light and Life for you and yours. And may we help make it a good year for others with whom we share this brief but beautiful ride around the sun."

[If you’d like to learn more about Anne Hillman’s wonderful work, please visit http://annehillman.net.]

Christmas Carols

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, December 18, 2018

One of my favourite things this time of year are the playing of Christmas carols. When we put up the advent calendar December 1st, on goes Burl Ives, The Robert Shaw singers, The McDades, Bing Crosby, church organs and choirs. I love to do my Christmas baking to the music, tidying the house to Holly Jolly, journaling and now this year singing carols to baby Hailey. Have to tell you she's a most attentive audience! There is this amazing internal unfolding of love, memories and warmth for me as I croon along. I can tell Hailey feels it!

There is lots of fabulous music that has been a part of my life. Growing up listening to mom and dad's big band sound. Singing in the church choir. Being a child of the 60's and 70's. Smoking hot tunes from that time. Neil's love of opera and the classics. Listening to the tunes of my kids as they grew up. So much variety and delight. Different songs underscore different events and people in my life. 

So never really thought why playing Christmas carols every year is so satisfying. Then a chance comment shared by Serena Ryder with Terry David Mulligan Saturday night on CKUA struck a chord. (Ooo bad pun!) It was about the fact this music is played this time of year. Year over year. Bingo! The one constant, the one genre of music that has been a part of my life - my whole life, is the music played at Christmas. I revel in it for a whole month. See myself as a young child enchanted by all things Christmas. The women in my life - Grannie, Mom, Auntie's Audrey and Betty making the season merry and bright. Our joy as parents of our own children as they experienced the wonder of the season. And of course playing carols for our grandchildren. With luck this will become a forever part of their Christmases. Then like all good things the music, decorations, tree all get put away to again be brought out and savoured once more next Christmas. 

May your Christmas and holiday season be blessed with the love and companionship of good people, good health, happiness and of course good music. xox        

A baby changes everything

Mary Johnson - Monday, December 10, 2018

Our new wee Miss is almost 2 weeks old. She entered this world reluctantly her momma and dad told us. Inside seemed a better proposition than the outside world! :) None the less she's made that leap. Our son and daughter-in-law are living with us for a time. Not an easy transition for Neil and I. Can only imagine how it is for my son and daughter-in-law. Surprisingly or maybe not, all those edges or little rubs of adjustments have disappeared. We all are focused on this new little person. Our house is overflowing with the new gear required for a baby. The coffee tables covered with little barf rags and soft blankets. A bottle tree decorates the kitchen. Hungry crying along with the stretches and squeaks when she sleeps. It's an old world made new again. 

32+ years ago we had a baby on this sort of basis. My baby now has his own. Old patterns of rocking, talking, changing diapers and feeing have come rushing back. Caring for a baby is wired in the bones. It's not that I wouldn't want a baby of my own again. It truly is the work of much younger folks. Still to have a little person to discover and watch unfold is a unexpected privilege and delight. Neil and I smile and laugh a lot more watching it all unfold. Our house is overflowing with love. A baby changes everything!       

Tomorrow a new baby arrives

Mary Johnson - Monday, November 26, 2018

There's a huge anticipation in the air around our place. Tomorrow our youngest son and his wife officially become parents. For them much focus is on the upcoming birth. The questions about how will it be? how will I be? am I up to the delivery? The angst is overlaid with nervous laughing, occasional tears and a flurry of activity to be ready. I remember that worry.

What is almost impossible to explain is that this part is a matter of a few hours in a lifetime. That as of tomorrow your life is irreversibly changed. It's a shift in a couples paradigm that you only 'get' once baby arrives. I know we didn't get it. Our friends still kid us about our insistence that nothing would change. Neil and I would continue quite as before, .... just with a wee one in tow. Ha! I look back and realize how naive we were. Blessedly so! Once we were into the swing of parenting, we had 2 more. The wonder and joy of being a parent had us commit readily. The whole birthing process didn't stop us. 

Time puts a sweet perspective on things. I love being here, at the Grandma stage. The new one will be a delight. All the ups and downs of parenting a child are not ours to do. We just get to love this baby. And hold a space for the new parents to find their way. 

Tomorrow a new baby arrives. Wish the new parents well!       

Be all I'm not

Mary Johnson - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday is an extra special reflection time for me. I have some questions I pose to myself at the end of each week to capture the essence of what the week has been. Every once in a while there's a loud Bingo! While doing a stream of consciousness writing about 'My Joyful Life', I wrote to be all I am followed by to be all I am not. I stopped (not what you are supposed to do with this type of writing). It hit me. Hard! I don't go near the things I am not! They are weaknesses, not 'positive', can pull you down. Focusing on them dooms you to be buried there in the mud fixing something that can't be fixed. Or so say the current wisdom. 

The Bingo was what if I embraced the things I am not as heartily as the things I am? Rather than skirt, hide or diminish them,  I loudly declare who I am not! It felt like a missing piece for me. That whole other side of me that is not acknowledged for fear of not showing up as positive, chipper, go-getter. Yet all I am not defines me too! So here goes.

I'm an Extrovert and tend to love being with people. Yes! And now a days many people are not to my liking, crowds energy sucking and it turns out I often rather like my own company.

Generally I see or work hard to see the good or other possibilities in situations. And sometimes what shows up is just wrong, stupid or just not my worth time or energy so I turn away and don't engage. Turn off inane TV, unless expecting an emergency turn off your phone when we are having coffee. Please don't ask me to 'Share if you agree'.  

I  care about my family. A lot! But sometimes it's just all too much and I don't care - for a time.

Been married 40 years and have been a pretty good partner for the most part. The other part - I can be a bitch!

This isn't the whole enchilada but you get my drift. Saying any of this isn't something I want to debate. This is, well, 'is' stuff. The world doesn't always show up nice and either do I. Declaring there's a cranky, don't care, disengaged gal in there sometimes means I have a chance to make peace with her. Something I have been loath to do. I'm thinking this might just be a good thing.   

   

   

Baby toes

Mary Johnson - Friday, November 02, 2018

What brings you joy? .....

This is a question Kathleen and I have on our Life Review for our women over 60 program (Offerings). When we invited the participants to complete the review questions before session 2, the difficulty of answering this particular question came up. It had struck a nerve. Almost everyone at first blush was having trouble naming what brings them joy. I too remember struggling with the whole concept of 'joy'. The picture in my mind's eye was of a one thing that propelled me into a constant state of happy. That somehow I was to be in a place of perpetual joy. Silly me! of course there is no such thing. Of course if someone has an idea of what would this, do share! 

So a good while back I sat myself down and redefined for myself what 'joy' was to me. It range from breath taking moments like driving through red maple country this fall to quiet times of deep contentment like at the end of a productive and meaningful day. Plus a whole lot of stuff in between! Watching the squirrels cavort in the green space behind my home, a juicy conversation with a friend, meeting someone with an unusual take on life, drinking a cup of coffee in the quiet of the morning. With this I understood it was an internal marker vs an external check mark. This too opened up possibilities! With this new context my noting of joyful activities and moments came easily. With some of this discussion the women were sent home with the 'homework' of coming up with their list of what gives them joy.  

Session 2 began with them putting up their ideas, one per stickie note, one a wall. The seed had been planted. Up went the beginning of a listing of wonderfully joyful experiences. One of the items took my breath away. Baby toes the stickie said. I was immediately transported to a time of wee, wee ones and the wonderful smell, feel and look of baby toes. In that moment it became a whole body experience. So incredibly simple and oh how joyful!      

Walls vs Doorways

Mary Johnson - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Last evening marked the first workshop in a 4 part workshop series on 'Life's Third Act' or life after 60 and our fourth offering of this program. Gathered was a group of 11 women transitioning, for the most part, away from traditional work and looking for 'what's next?'. Many expressed the frustration of feeling stuck. Most of our lives we look at life as a series of obstacles to be tackled, dominated, worked around, climbed over. Goals are set. We march out to accomplish them.

As we find ourselves contemplating our Third Act, the whole goal thing becomes blurry. We don't know what we want to achieve, do, contribute. We can't see beyond the walls, barriers we erect around our not knowing. Not knowing is darn uncomfortable! So we rail and fight against the wall in front of us. 'I want to know!' 'I hate being stuck.' 'Tell me what I am supposed to so.' The more we argue with the walls the more we feel stymied.

What if those walls in front of you aren't walls but doorways? That going over, under, around them is not what you are to do. You need to go through them. This means making friends or at least a truce with 'not knowing', 'feeling stuck', 'no goals', 'no clue'. A most uncomfortable place to be!! Perhaps THIS is what this time is about. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Not having all the answers. Allowing what's next to arrive without man handling the whole situation personally. Trusting 'Life' a little more. Oh this is not easy. Especially for high achieving, capable, competent women (and men). 

So consider befriending 'the wall' so that the doorway through appears. This quote showed up for me today. Bingo I say! It from one of my favourite human beings and coach extraordinaire Doug Silsbee.  

"Presence requires us to stay with even what is uncomfortable, so that it becomes tolerable and so that we can organize ourselves towards what matters, rather than away from discomfort." 

     

Excellent adventures

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, October 10, 2018
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As I sit looking out at the grey skies and trees blowing in a cold breeze, it's hard to adjust to being back home. This wonderful collection of friends finished up our 7 week sojourn across Canada last Friday. The photo is taken on our last evening spent in Kenaston SK. I have written a few blogs along the way (Our big old countryLayers of rhythms , Challenging timesTime flies ). Mostly there was too much to see and do to spent time in front of the computer. 

We finished our Canadian leg of the journey in Niagara Falls. The Falls were spectacular**. The city not so much. After Quebec City it seemed rather cheesy. Still all part of the adventure! It was also the last of our amazing weather. We took a day off before we hunkered down into some long driving days. Wine, reading in tank tops and shorts. Oh how I miss that sun!

Our trip along hi way 2 through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota was like a travelogue. Virtually no traffic, amazing fall colours. The reds, oranges, yellows an oh did I mention the reds! We were blown away by the scenery. Drove along the north shores of Lake Michigan and the south shores of Lake Superior. Our lakes around here are quaint by comparison! People were great. Lots of mention of Trump. :) 

As we got closer to home the talk turned to just how quickly this time went, the amazing take aways each of us had, how much we enjoyed  the sights and each other while exploring them. One of the fellows said, 'There are very few we could do this with. Lots of folks who are fun for a night or two. But we just travel so well together.' It's true! 

One night I realized we have been having 'Excellent adventures' that go back to nurse's training. That was where it began - excellent adventure #1. Then our first jobs after graduation were in Prince George B.C together. #2. We backpacked around Europe together. That's #3. Then came marriage and babies. We made a commitment to meet regularly - husbands, babies included, to share this rich and busy time with each other. #4 Then ten years ago the 6 of us went to England, Ireland and Wales together. It was an incredible time we still talk about. That's #5. The next ten years saw kids grow up, leave home and begin families of their own. Being Grandparents and sharing these times was a whole new, wonderful ball game and a big #6. Now this. #7. Our trip across Canada. 

Somehow we have become our own version of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Thank you Joy and Charlie, Don and Elaine and Neil the navigator! Here's to our next excellent adventure!

** A water fact. The amount of water in 1 tide cycle in the Bay of Fundy is equal to the amount of water that travels over Niagara Falls in 1 year and 9 months. Yes you read that right!     

Time flies

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ah some reliable Wifi I don't have to hike somewhere to use! One of those things you take for granted at home .......

Now what started out as a long time is now feeling very short! We have closed the Maritime loop and are now winding our way back to Alberta. Let me just say, if you haven't taken the time to check out any of the Maritime provinces - Do! They offer so much in terms of new landscapes, hospitality, delightful food and an easy going way of looking at life. There is a history here that we didn't really know much about before we went. It was so interesting to connect new dots all the way through the three provinces and how what happened there has influenced the shape of our country. 

 After my last blog we made our way down to Fundy National Park. Now is that something! The amount of water in 1 days tides at the Bay of Fundy are equal to 1 year and 9 months worth of water over Niagara Falls. Seriously! That's some amount of water. We got to see the Hopewell Rocks and walk the sea floor. The guide from the park was amazing! The almost 2 hours walk about flew by! All included in the $8.00 price of admission. As I like to say, our tax dollars at work for a most worthy experience! Saint John, N.B., is a city stepped in history and cool street scapes. It had a wonderful vibe and is on the list of 'come back to's'. 

I can't even say enough about Quebec City!! Honestly what a beautiful place and just how much fun were the many patios and funky shops. The city is of course chock a block full of history too. The stuff we took at school and promptly forgot about. How wonderful to have it recalled in the place where things happened. Quebec City too is where virtually all my grandparents landed. What a sight it must have been with the old ramparts up on the rocks and the old town down front. It too would be grand to come back and spend more time soaking up the ambience!

We continue to enjoy each others company, make allowances for each other's foibles and appreciate what each of us brings to this journey. This continues to be one of the greatest delights. We have been shaking our individual and collective heads that towards the end of next week we will be home. The journey talked about and planned for years all over. The mental breaks are being applied and there's a glass of wine calling to savour all of this!