Connecting The Dots

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

Excellent adventures

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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!


Layers of rhythms

Mary Johnson - Sunday, September 02, 2018

Week two of our cross Canada sojourn under our belt. We 'broke through' to New Brunswick today**. Our ultimate destination reached! Other than my husband who has travelled this land, no one had any idea how big Ontario is. Wow! And the rock. Rock as far as the eye can see. Ancient mountains worn down with time. The mighty forrest we saw grows on a very thin layer of dirt made over millions of years. Lake Superior blew us away. It's like an ocean! Our capital city Ottawa was amazing. We had too little time there. I wasn't thinking I wasn't fussed to tour the Centre Block of our Parliament. Wrong! It was quite something to see. The parliamentary library blew me away. The books and documents in there, if stacked, would be more than twice the height of Everest. Seriously! The wood carvings, the light, shape and ornateness were stunning. Turns out after this year the Centre Block will be closed for needed updating and renos. It will reopen in 10 - 15 years. If I hadn't of said yes to lining up for tickets likely would never have seen! How fortunate am I! 

All this said none is more interesting than 6 individuals, 3 couples - all very different traveling together and finding our groove. 2 who are happy to go along with whatever is shaking out! Then 2 who are really uplifting and don't let the wear and tear of the days or anything get then down. 2 who are planners and organizers of the high level schedule and stopping spots. These 2 are a bit more anal by nature. (I'll let you decide where I fit!! :))

We switched up the schedule a little yesterday and landed early in the farming country outside Quebec City. As we kicked back after 14 days travel and the road weariness began to fall away, the conversation came around to how things are going and how we are all doing. Turns out quite well! That's not to say we all haven't had our days of testiness. Of not wanting to get back into the saddle for another few hundred kilometres. But our long standing friendships and deep caring for each other means we can dance around each other's moments knowing this is just that - a moment and not who the person is. 

Pretty special wouldn't you say?!

** This was written a couple of days ago. We are in a National Park and WiFi is 12 kms away. 

Our big old country

Mary Johnson - Sunday, August 26, 2018

I am sitting here in Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior. It’s a thick forested oasis of quiet and nature. 7 days ago Neil and I, along with dear friends, left on an adventure we have talked about for 40 years. It’s a multi week, cross Canada trip to the Maritimes. We are pulling the trailer. Yup I am doing some of driving! The days have been steady movement across this big old land. Parkland, vast prairie, no fences all the way to the horizon, full of grain that feeds us and the world, the Canadian Shield with it’s ancient rocks and dense forests. It’s only been 7 days as I said and it feels so very much longer. 

You can’t drive mile after mile and not have it affect how you engage with time. It stretches before you like the land itself and you begin to move in a less structured rhythm. Yes you want to be places but if it’s today or tomorrow it really doesn’t matter. You are invited into Kairos vs Kronos time. Something with more ebb and flow and a spaciousness. Less linear and relentless. Your breathing eases and your belly relaxes.

On our daily evening walks, as we shake off the effects of long hours in the car, we have  wondered what it must have been like for the early settlers, to have come from so far traveling very much slower than we, to wonder if they would ever arrive at their destination. What courage it must have taken to leave everything and everyone one you knew behind for what you hope is a better chance for you and your children. Women in particular must have endured great loneliness being away from sisters and friends and miles from neighbours.

Something else has made itself known in this space we are enjoying. A habit of thinking we have caught ourselves in. It’s looking at the newness before us and relating it back to something familiar. ‘Oh this is just like ______.’ There is always something we are reminded of. I have been gentle calling my friends and myself out. This is new. To see it with it’s own beauty and characteristics. Not to shape it into our familiar. Isn’t that why, or one of the reasons why we set upon this adventure? To see new. Not more of what we have already experienced. It’s not easy. Unfamiliar is uncomfortable. It’s hard to be uncomfortable. 

The rain is dancing on the roof. There are no other real noises out there. It’s like a lullaby calling me to rest.

I think I will.

10 years

Mary Johnson - Thursday, August 16, 2018

July came and went in a flurry of activity. Summer months seem to go by faster than say, November! It was just yesterday that I realized it was 10 years ago in July I headed out on my own. Left the comfy nest of a corporate position to fly solo. Most years I have remembered but not this year. In the corporate environment there is usually some sort of prize for hanging out that long. It's a bigger deal these days as churn is encouraged in many businesses. 10 years is a milestone. 

So it's easy, being on ones own, to have an anniversary simply pass. No one comes up and congratulates you. There is no cake or coffee with colleagues. You really need to create your own celebration. Well I am passing on cake (well most days!), I'd like to recount what the last ten years as been for me.

~ In 2008 it was a now or never proposition. My work had ended and other opportunities offered at my workplace did not appeal. Had always entertained the idea of being my own boss. Now was the time.  

~ 2008 was the huge downturn. This required me to really have to put myself out there in ways new to me. I relished it often and actually had some fun as well!

~ With my husband working long shifts up north, I was required to find a new rhythm to my life at home as well. And I did!

~ Wonderful colleagues supported me personally and with work. Grateful, grateful to you all!!

~ I developed some darn good material of my own. Was successful in facilitating it in business.

~ As I experienced shifts I saw in workplaces and within myself, a reinvention or two took place. That kept things interesting for me.

~ I have been a regular blogger averaging a blog every couple to three times a month in excess of 10 years. I'm proud of this. 

~ I have let go of work I felt I 'should' do and have gravitated towards work I like to do. This has been a harder process than I would have thought.

~ And I am, to quote my friend Carol, gliding ever so delightfully towards 'retirement'.

~ In these past ten years I have continued to grow professionally and certainly personally. It's been a real adventure! 

So I bow to what this past 10 years has afforded me and to all of you who have been so incredibly generous with time, support and your love. Thank you! 


It's taken time

Mary Johnson - Thursday, August 09, 2018

Got together will a woman I used to work with. Over the (10) years since we both left the place where we worked, we have maintained a regular coffee schedule and developed a wonderful friendship. It's always enlightening to periodically give pause and consider where you have come from. Today's conversation was one of those times, ......

We were talking about my upcoming workshop series (Offerings) which looks at the personal transition side of being 60 - 65+. The last 30 years of your life come with some angst as well as much freedom. Though it takes awhile to come around to that. Loy told me about a meeting she recently had with a woman approximately 9 years younger than her. This woman was all over the map in terms of what will she do, how will she manage, was retirement the right decision. Not because she was a flighty individual but because as work recedes we have no real idea what this time brings. The biggest question at the root of it all is 'Who Am I Now?' We rush to fill the space left by the route of work because sitting for a time empty scares the crap out of us! We feel the deep need to describe ourselves as a something or still doing. I am still coaching, working part time, volunteer _ days/week, look after my grandkids, have taken up pickle ball, etc etc When we make these statements to others the "I" is still attached to a recognizable something. The "I" still exists.

Loy saw this process happening with her friend. She reflected that this was what she too did when she was at this gal's age/ stage. Didn't see herself as 'wandering the desert'. That's something you don't want to even consider, .... that you are really for a time lost. We laughed. I remember our visits from back then. It was not an easy few years. One is truly in the grip of the bottom of the change curve solidly in 'chaos'. It can suck! :) 

My good friend though actively engaged this time. Fast forward 7 years down the road. There is a deep contentedness with her life. She's does the things that genuinely suit her. Is able to say 'no' to the asks that don't suit. She's comfy with who she is now and in her skin. It's taken time, .... but then doesn't it usually?  

Bravo Loy! 

Dancing with the Now

Mary Johnson - Monday, July 23, 2018

It's been a lovely summer so far! I am at the stage of my life where I want to savour what has begun to feel like shorter and shorter summers (and correspondingly longer winters!) . Of course they aren't technically but summertime seems to go much more quickly these days. Now the counterpoint to this is a long anticipated trip down to the Maritimes. Seems that for we Westerners this is a bit of a pilgrimage, a right of passage as a Canadian, to travel and experience the breadth of our country. This can't be a spur of the moment proposition. At least not for me. There are things that need attending.

My challenge has been to deliberately stay present - as often as I can remind myself and to plan our trip a number of weeks hence. My head feels like it's in a ping pong match. Oh the ever present list is on hand as I think of one more thing to add. Then I work on pulling myself back to the present. My default for years has been to live off in some imagined future. The bright shiny possibilities are endless and fun to get lost in! :)) And I have often missed the joy of Now. Now of course is our summer with all it's delights. To add to all of this, a large aspect of me is Ms. Organizer. This Now business has her just twitching and running around in my head projecting great mishap if I don't spend more time with her - in the future. This way of thinking and being has run the show for a long time. It's been harder than I thought to try and tame it. 

So I am learning, albeit slowly, the dance steps of planning and preparing while remembering to pause often to smell the roses. Wish me luckl!           

Jasper's Pines

Mary Johnson - Thursday, July 05, 2018

Spent a wonderful long weekend in Jasper AB. It had only been ten months since our last time there. I was blown away by the exponential jump in devastation of the Pine Beetle on the trees. Almost half the pines round the townsite were dead. Needles rusty red in death. The valley was similarly coloured in large swatches. We were told this year as we were last year a fire ban was in effect. The weather was cool. Missed the warmth of a fire but the place would go up like a tinderbox if a spark escaped and caught. We realized this would be the way it would be for the foreseeable future. Fire bans and rusty red.

The Parks people told us the Pine Beetle will have completed it's devastation in about 3 years. Approximately 15 years after that we'd see pines again in the National Park. I did the math. In 18+ years I would be more or less mid 80's. Have every desire to travel to Jasper at that age from this time and place in my life. And I will never see the giant pines again. My grandkids will but not me. That really sat me on my backside. 

I as with many of us have been intellectually aware of climate change. The warning signs of warming weather dutifully reported. Graphic pictures abound. Heck I have been going to Jasper for 60 years. Have watched these past few the beetle do it's work. This significant increase in dead trees this past week really brought it home. How our planet is changing. What we are losing. Our grandkids had all sorts of questions about what they saw. Where do you begin?

I came home with a renewed energy to look at my lifestyle and choices. Where are the places where I can ask less of Mother Earth? My contributions, and actions are, pardon the expression, mice nuts in the scheme of things. Yet how could I see what I saw and not try.   

On the road to healing

Mary Johnson - Thursday, June 28, 2018

Last evening I had a most interesting conversation with my neighbour's nephew. He is facing a chronic progressive illness. Like most of us should this happen, we search for the 'right' answer to fix this. There is the thinking that I was doing something wrong, now I just need to do something right. 'I brought this on so I should be able to make better.' 

I've been here.  Become more spiritual, eat better or change your diet completely, give up bad habits, exercise more, banish negative thoughts. There are a myriad of teachers, programs, books that are prepared to give you the right answer. Oh if it were only that simple. This man is discovering this. He's taken on several practices, jettisoned much crap or is working to morph it. While his head space is better, his disease isn't. Yet. As we talked he spoke about his difficult relationship with his mother, his life of fears, of wanting to be famous and successful and not measuring up. This is the crackerjack stuff. The deeper work of a lifetime. Acknowledging it cognitively is a start but it doesn't 'cure' what ails you. It's a process. A delightful (if we let it) process of coming to love ourselves and how we ended up in this place. That is so counter to finding the fix!

When I asked if he loved himself, his energy became very quiet. Eyes looking inward, tremor increasing. "I'm working on that." Yes he is. And that is the deep, deep layer of this journey. Truly knowing you are enough. Accepting your past without recriminations. Letting go. Forgiving those who have wronged us. Forgiving ourselves. And to laugh - certainly at ourselves. 

A we spoke, I realized I had been traveling this road a good while longer than D. My journey has entailed been many side roads and wrong off ramps. But always I found my way back to the road home, .... until the next detour! Ha! This too is part and parcel of the journey.  In the end I could only offer 'Stay the course. Look at where it's taking you. If you don't like it change. If you do, carry on!' There is no right answer. Only the best answer for you.              

Do not assume Ask

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's Spring. Projects around the house and cabin at the lake are in the air. And they are best served when my husband and I are on the same page. That's a no-brainer, right?! Well not for a 'knower'. Or a recovering one. A knower is someone who thinks and feels s/he already has the answer, the way is clear, no real need to check in. Ha! 

In our situation there is also a wee bit of tuff war stuff happening. We are both oldests. Two in-charge kinda folks. I like to organize what needs doing; figure out the steps,  and (from where I sit), Neil likes to just jump in. (He's an introvert and has it all worked out in his head). I see things one way and he sees things another. So I don't tend too ask because it begins a negotiating process that comes with lots of insistence, stubbornness and some ruffled feathers. It can be exhausting! 

In service of being more intentional and transparent, I have been deliberately parking my 'knower' and asking Neil his thoughts and opinions - ahead of the game vs questioning what he's doing as it's happening. I wish I could say it's made things all sunshine and roses. It's a work in progress. The tensions are less. Gaps are surfaced in each others thinking about the work that needs to be done. We hammer out our roles better before crossing swords. Our collective thinking is darn good. When something is complete we are pretty happy with the result and each other. 

Many of you have long since figured this out I am sure. I thought we had too. Being around each other wayyy more at this stage of the game has meant this process of who's in-charge of what (yes we both like to be the boss on occasion) is renegotiated one more time. If this sounds like something you are grappling with, my advice is swallow your pride, don't assume. Ask. Ask where the other person is at; what are they thinking. It is a far less bumpy ride!