Christmas traditions aren’t always easy

This weekend, my mother and I (along with some gal pals) spent 12 hours (yes you read correctly), 12 HOURS baking bread. Ahhh…but not just any bread. This was 12 loaves of my father’s traditional Christmas bread.

Like most families, when I was growing up my mother would prepare a gaggle of baked goods in advance of the Christmas season. Our deep freeze would be jam-packed with butter tarts, scotch cookies, date squares, fruit loaf, red cherry loaf, and pies of all sorts to name but a few. My brother and I would sneak down and peek into the freezer filled to the brim with stacks and stacks of colorful Tupperware; knowing the red, blue, purple, yellow, boxes were filled an array of sugary delights! It was almost painful waiting for the yuletide season where we could indulge to our heart’s content.

But one tradition that stood out from the rest because of its uniqueness was that of my father baking his Christmas bread. The bread itself wasn’t that unusual – a white fruit bread. But my dad was a “man’s man” who rarely worked in the kitchen and to see him baking was such a foreign concept that it made it uniquely special. And every year my brother and I would wait with great anticipation for the bread baking day because that was the day we got to punch the loaf and hence, help Dad bake his bread. It was a team affair with Dad leading the way. And that evening, with the house smelling of freshly baked bread, we’d gather around as a family and enjoy a cup of tea with a slice of Dad’s bread, toasted, with loads of freshly melted butter. YUM!

It was one of the traditions I missed most after my Dad died in 1991.

Three years ago, my mother asked me if I wanted to resurrect the tradition. It took some thought because in a sense, I guard those memories as sacred and special and was scared doing it differently would alter or perhaps lessen the memories? But with the smell and taste of the special toast practically dancing on my tongue, I couldn’t help but be lured.

It was different. It was fun. And it was emotional. When I bit into that first piece of delicious toast, I did so with tears streaming down my cheeks. The tradition, the taste, and the smell brought back a RUSH of memories and feelings. After nearly 20 years gone, I mourned my Dad as if he had just died yesterday and I yearned with a depth and force so powerful to see him, to hear his voice, and to feel his touch once again that it took my breath away.

It was tough to resurrect the tradition but it was also so good. In the end, it didn’t “alter” the memories I had but only complemented them and helped me feel closer and more connected to my Dad than I had in years. And now when we get together and bake his bread, there are no more tears and no more heavy emotions – there is a celebration of a beautiful man and a beautiful life.

What Christmas traditions do you enjoy?

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Great bumper stickers

Today I saw two fantastic bumper stickers. More pointedly one was a small window sticker and one was an entire rear window slick. The first brought a smile to my face and made me thankful for the reminder. It was a small light pink sticker on the lower left-hand corner of the car and it read:

“wag more, bark less”

Ahhh – so true! I loved it – simply stated while quite effectively getting the point across.

The second absolutely cracked me up. I must have laughed for hours. It was large white lettering that took up the entire rear window of a jeep Cherokee. It said:

“To All You Guys Driving Neons and Sunfires…YOU GO GIRL!!

I’ve been chuckling all day.

What are some of the great bumper stickers you’ve seen that have left an impression?

To theme or not to theme…

As I surf around and read other people’s blogs, I have to admit, I have a bit of blog envy. I admire the great post ideas, the creativity, the amazing writing and storytelling that draws you in and leaves you wanting (and waiting) for more. And sometimes…I covet their blog design.

How often can one change-up the theme? Is this something frowned upon in the blog community? With WordPress giving us so many glorious, beautiful themes and such flexibility with the click of a button, I want to try them all on. I want to change it up, explore, have fun and go wild. But will my readers hate me for my inconsistency or lack of commitment to one “look?”

How often do you change it up when you see something else out there that you like better – that screams “you” just a little bit more?

“Joie de vivre” at work: illusion or attitude?

Isn’t it weird how sometimes the universe seems to be listening and just sends you exactly what you need? Lately I’ve been struggling to find my “joie de vivre” at work. I am typically a very happy, optimistic, and bubbly person (at home and work) but lately at work I feel an incredible sense of “blah!”

I’ve been questioning if what I am doing is what I want to be doing. And if not, then what’s next for me? What’s going to fill me with passion and fuel my life fire? Not that I am going to up and quit my job tomorrow but I think it’s healthy to consider where you are in life and ask yourself “am I happy; is this for me; where do I want to be in two years, five years, ten years; what’s on the horizon?” Just because this career choice was right for me five years ago, doesn’t mean it’s right for me forever.

Interestingly enough, last night I was having a conversation with my Mom about it and then this morning I come to work and voila, an email arrives in my inbox entitled “Joie de Vivre” at Work: Illusion or Attitude?” Faith, destiny…obviously a must read.

For me, “joie de vivre” is an overall sense of happiness that resides within a person – it’s the ability to smile with your heart. It’s free and it cannot be bought. It’s contagious and makes everything seem lighter. It’s what adds a pleasant feeling to most situations and enables us to make friends and strengthen interpersonal relationships. It’s a general take on life that’s uplifting and optimistic. But if it’s so wonderful, why do so many people seem to live without it and why does it seem to rarely exist in the workplace?

Is having “joie de vivre” a choice? Is it an attitude, a perception, and something we can control? Is it reasonable to expect to enjoy a certain “joie de vivre” while at work?

According to the article I read this morning, having “joie de vivre” is a choice that begins with acquiring and developing the appropriate skill and applying them to one’s self, relationship, family, and work. And it is something that is done in the same way that one learns to read and write.

Fabulous news – maybe I can find a way to get mine back.

Here were a few tips provided on how to bring “joie de vivre” into the work life:

  1. Find a Role Model who Exudes Joie de Vivre and be Inspired
    It’s possible to be inspired by the example of another person who exudes joie de vivre at work. Observe and try to imitate his/her reactions, interpersonal skills, the way he or she manages problems, etc.
  2. Use Effective Approaches
    It is important to avoid negativity and to remain positive at all costs. For example, try to avoid reacting when things are not working out. Apply different solutions until you achieve success. Set limits when it comes to uncomfortable situations, and take action towards that which is enjoyable. In short, focus on adhering to your choice to live joyfully and act accordingly.
    Furthermore, do not give too much time or attention to people who are toxic. Stay away from those who take up energy, create conflicts, and with whom you feel uneasy.
  3. Think about the Role of Enjoyment at Work
    Reflect upon the following questions:
    What are the things that make me happy at work, either on my own or with others? Once you identify these, make them happen as often as possible.
    Do I feel fulfilled? Am I doing all that I can to move in this direction?
    Am I in this job for the right reasons?
    Do I enjoy working with my colleagues? What am I doing to ensure positive relationships with others?
    Am I in harmony with my colleagues, my boss, and the organization?
    Identify how you really feel about your work life. Focus on the elements that are good for you and try to modify the things you do not like. Appreciate the positive parts and try to play down those that are not working.
  4. Make Sure to Take Care of Yourself at Work
    Joie de vivre builds on harmony between the heart, the body, the mind and the soul. Are these four dimensions of you in harmony when it comes to work? The more you tend to this, the more you will be able to experience joie de vivre with your colleagues.
  5. Take Responsibility for your Role in the Level of “Joie de Vivre” at Work
    Each person must facilitate the best possible conditions to experience joyfulness at work. Your colleagues should not have to bear the brunt of your feelings of frustration, disillusionment, disappointment, or exhaustion. When one is unhappy, others should not be subjected to this.

    It is a good idea to think about the image that you project to your colleagues. Are you awkward? Negative? Lazy? Constantly dissatisfied? Always frustrated? Remember that bad moods, negativity, defeatism, and discouragement are contagious. It is even said that three positive people are needed in order to counter one negative person!

  6. Influence your Colleagues
    In certain workplaces, teams deliberately choose to implement a code of conduct that encourages joie de vivre at work. It is defined according to the needs of the team. It encourages saying “no” to anything that is destructive to the work climate, and aims to support courtesy, levity, cheerfulness, playing things down, enjoyment, as well as self and team fulfillment.

So what do you think? Are these tips reasonable? Think they’ll work?

I found most of the points helpful and felt that would likely increase my joyfulness at work. Surrounding myself with happy people, avoiding negative ones, looking at myself and how I am contributing to the overall “mood” at work are all good suggestions. I also loved the questions to consider, which are much in line with where I am at. I also think pinpointing those things that do bring me joy at work and trying to ensure they happen as often as possible is key.

What do you do to create and maintain “joie de vivre” in your life – at work and/or at home?

My inspiration…laughing with friends and a day spent reading

First snowfall - winter 2010

First Snowfall - Winter 2010

This weekend was spent relaxing at the camp. Friday evening we arrived and settled in quickly with a fire. Friends stopped by for a visit and we talked, told stories, and laughed for hours. It made me realize how much I absolutely love laughing with friends. There is no better feeling in the world than spending an evening cracking up, giggling, and enjoying a few spurts of rolling-on-the-floor laughter. At the end of the evening, Scott and I went to bed exhausted and on a little “high”. It reminded me of the value and importance of friendship and how blessed I am to have such wonderous people in my life.

Saturday, Scott left in the early morning hours to go hunting; leaving me to my own devices. After sleeping in, I got up and made a huge pot of steaming hot coffee. Around that time, it started gently snowing – the first winter snowfall with huge fat snowflakes that appeared light and feathery. Everything sparkled and looked clean and pristine. Stunning.

Instead of getting down to the business of “doing something,” I curled up under my warm blanket, sat on the couch by a roaring fire, enjoyed my hot coffee and watched. The silence of the camp lending itself to a near meditative state, deep relaxation, the snow memorizing, the beauty of the nature around me filling my heart with pure joy and a sense of simple love – now that’s the way to spend a Saturday!

After enjoying the peacefulness of it all, I settled in with a good book and just watched the day melt away as I read and napped.

Saturday’s like that leave me feeling rested, nurtured, calm, at peace, and inspired. For me, it’s a day of indulgence and perfection where I give myself what I love to do most for a long bout of time. Not sneaking in a chapter here or there, not reading after an exhausting day managing to get one page in before dozing off for the night. A day spent with no time tables, no tasks, nothing more to do than lose myself in the glorious written word.

Impaired driving PSAs/Videos pack an emotional punch

New public service announcements (PSAs) and videos that were unveiled by MADD Canada and NB Liquor take viewers beyond the numbers and statistics to see the real life impact of impaired driving on two New Brunswick residents.

In the English PSA and video, 16-year-old Kali O’Dell describes the heartbreaking loss of her parents in an impaired driving crash. Kali and her brother were also severely injured in the 2006 crash.

“The engine had lodged itself into their legs,” Kali remembers. “I remember leaning forward and I knew I couldn’t save Mom. Dad was gone. I could tell already. So I kissed their cheeks and told them I loved them. That was the last time I kissed my mother.”

Hear Kali’s Story

Video (3 minutes)

PSA (30 seconds)

The accident took place on October 29, 2006 and on March 25, 2008 – almost two years later – Valmont Antoine LeBlanc was sentenced to five years in prison  after pleading guilty to impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. The judge in the case said he wanted to send a “message” to people who drink and drive. Sad to think that a judge in NB thinks that sentencing this man to five years in prison is a “message” of deterrence. The guy will likely be eligible for parole and be back out in our communities in a year or two while Kali and her brother’s lives are forever changed.

As stated by Kali’s grandfather in the news story: “Life wouldn’t be long enough, as far as I’m concerned. I find it strange that our judicial system says the maximum is 14 years to life. So why are they giving him five years? I just don’t understand.”

Yes – why indeed?

What do you think of the videos? Do you think that they will be effective in helping create enough awareness to lower the rates of impaired driving or will people still think “it won’t happy to me”?

Impaired driving causing death case: an update

Yesterday the court case against the impaired driver who hit and killed my mother-in-law continued. In October, it was emotional mayhem when we found out that the evidence obtained through a blood sample that the police took was ruled inadmissible. But there was hope – because as it turned out, the Crown had issued a search warrant for the perpetrator’s medical records and a blood analysis expert was prepared to testify to the impairment level of that blood. Fabulous!

Yesterday, we were scheduled to hear said expert testify.

However, the Crown failed to give the defence lawyer seven days notice of its intention to use the expert witness as required by the Canada Evidence Act. An honest “mistake,” he simply forgot to file the completed paperwork. He asked the judge for an adjournment.

If granted, the case would continue with anticipated success. But, if denied, considering that the defence was most certainly opposed to the adjournment, the case would essentially be over and the perpetrator would likely walk.

After much deliberation and argument, the adjournment was granted. The case will continue on Dec. 15.

Thank the lord!

As we were leaving the court, Scott told the Crown that he’d be more than happy to take the next two weeks off work to be his volunteer assistant to give him a hand with stuff like delivering and issuing critical paperwork. The Crown simply bowed his head and said “I deserve that – I do!”

Drunk driver gets 2.5 years for killing 4-year-old girl in BC, Canada

I was reading about this latest case of impaired driving causing death over the weekend with a heavy heart. Timely since our own impaired driving causing death case continues this week. This afternoon we are back in court where a blood analysis expert is scheduled to testify as to the alcohol level of the medical blood. In reading about the Carol Berner case and the Defence’s perspective etc, I am once again left astounded by the inadequacies of our criminal justice system.

On Friday November 12, Carol Berner was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and was banned from driving for five years for driving impaired causing the death of a four-year old girl from British Columbia, Canada. The little girl was struck down while she fed a horse alongside the road. The judge in the case said that impaired driving causing death is “one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code” as he handed down her sentence.

Berner’s lawyer said they would appeal the decision as being too “harsh” for someone with no prior history. Give me a break?! She got drunk, got behind the wheel of her car, and ran down a family killing a four-year old – she should absolutely get jail time.

And, did you know that according to MADD Canada, data indicates a person would have to drive impaired, on average, once a week, every week, for more than THREE years before being charged with impaired driving offence, and for more than SIX years before being convicted?

Given that information, it’s far more likely that the woman may have had no prior “criminal” history only because she hadn’t been caught yet. And regardless of prior offences, they don’t give you second chances when you commit first or second degree murder for the “first” time.

Outside of court, the little girl’s family said they were hoping for a much harsher sentence, around 10 years. And I agree. Impaired driving death is MURDER yet it continues to be treated as something far less.

According to MADD Canada, impairment-related crashes continue to be the leading criminal cause of death in Canada. In 2006, it claimed an estimated 1,278 lives as opposed to 606 homicides in the same year. Yet, ONLY 137 of those drivers were charged with impaired driving causing death and only 36 were convicted. Can you imagine if those were our charge/conviction rates for the 606 homicides?

Similarly, there were 75,374 impairment-related crash injuries in 2006, yet only 842 drivers were charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm and only 233 convictions were recorded. Can you imagine if those were our assault and assault causing bodily harm conviction rates?

Impaired driving causing death is 100% preventable and rates will only begin to lower when we as a country stand up and demand it of our government! Right now, the system is driven by case-law, which is actually impeding police from doing their job; tying the hands of our Prosecutors to gain convictions; creating any number of loop holes for perpetrators to escape prosecution; and leaving the families of its victims with no sense of justice with inadequate sentencing given the seriousness of the crime.

Our government needs to step in and take action NOW! The Criminal Code of Canada needs to amended to give police a greater ability to work towards preventing these types of accidents from happening in the first place; to close off some of the jaw-dropping loop holes that allow perpetrators, of the most serious offences I might add, to escape not only conviction, but being charged in the first place; and to prevent through deterrence with much harsher penalties.

Change is needed to save lives!

Sex drive: a curse or a gift?

Recently, a friend of mine and I were talking about sex drives. A few years younger than me, she was saying that her drive, which has always been healthy, kicked into insane overdrive, to the point where it’s all she thinks about and wants. With no steady partner in her life, she’s struggling because self pleasuring is no longer sufficient. She’s craving the real deal and is sincerely worried that she could make unhealthy decisions or choices just to “get a piece.”

I asked her if there was any way she could bottle it up and share the wealth.

At nearly 36 years old, I’ve been waiting for my drive to “kick into insane overdrive” for about three years. My mother said she noticed a real different at 35 so I figured given genetics, I could expect a similar experience. So far, I haven’t noticed any real change – for the better or worse.

What I have found is that my drive goes through such varied peaks and valleys. Some weeks, its perfection and my husband and I enjoy fairly regular activity and my ability for pleasure comes easily and naturally. While other weeks, I feel like it’s in the toilet, bogged down by work and life stress. Whenever we are on vacation, it skyrockets and I become a sex goddess divine. With no worries or stresses weighing me down, I thrive. So I understand that for me, life’s ups and downs play a huge role in my drive.

What I’d like now is some consistency regardless of what’s going on in my life. How do I hold onto that “carefree” vacation attitude while living in the real world? How do I let pressures of work and everyday life not bog me down at home with exhaustion and stress?

Scott sometimes asks me “can vacation-Natalie come out to play today?” and I wish I could answer “absolutely” a lot more often!

Weight loss boot camp: an update

Twelve days ago, I posted about embarking on a weight loss boot camp. My vision: to lose 10 pounds in a little over five weeks. I thought the short-term, intense focus of a “boot camp” would help me stay on track.

So how’s it going? Well, I am writing to report that in 12 days, I’ve actually put on two pounds! I think I walked the dog once, never even so much as sat my ass on the Pilates reformer (although I stared at it quite a bit while watching TV), and I ate my face off at restaurants and at home with fabulous baked goods and no will power.

What’s the problem? I’ve pinned it down to one key element that I am missing that Barbara mentioned in her comment on my Making dreams come true: an update post. I need the “just do it” attitude!

I think Barbara hit the nail on the head – you can have the greatest plan in the world but if you don’t “just do it,” you’ll get nowhere.

It’s a new day and a new week. Here’s to not looking back, no self-criticism or negative self-talk! I am going to stop “thinking” about losing weight, stop writing about losing weight, and I am going to “just do it!” already!

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