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Tailor Made? Not For Me, Thanks!

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Never Tailor yourself to meet someone else’s expectations or you risk letting both yourself and the other person down.  You’ll never measure up because you are not supposed to:-).

Voulez-vous un café?

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For us coffee lovers, the java bean can be a highly debatable topic.  So, what’s all the bumble about?  Well, some are dedicated to a certain type of roast and dare not stray from their ultimate brand/love, whereas others are experimental in their tastes and always willing to try the latest and greatest on the market, including brewing machines themselves.  Then, there is the general umbrella of caffeinated or decaffeinated–the latter category of drinkers leaving the first to question, ‘Why even waste your money?’.  Add in the topic of whole bean vs. already ground, the type of grind, etc. and a once simple subject suddenly gets very complicated and opinionated.

I’ve always loved coffee and as a child, I can remember taste-testing my mom’s cup many a time—the smell of the brew intoxicating even back then.  I’ve also been a longtime fan of anything coffee-flavoured, which not all people are even if they consume the real deal; most often because the imitation stuff tastes nothing like the original.  It just so happens that I am an impartial subject on the matter and enjoy both.  Like myself, avid coffee drinkers tend to have fond memories of it from an early age, it seems.

Once I began University and hit the working world, coffee and its stimulating effects were quite simply a necessity, as is the case for many folks.  I never went overboard though, as some are known to do (i.e. the energy drinks of today) and at the time, I drank the run-of-the-mill caffeinated brand, adding in cream and sugar to my liking–nothing extravagant by any means, nor could I have afforded anything different.  When I started suffering from panic attacks, however, my whole java routine had to change drastically since indulging in caffeine was a big no-no, as is the case with others who suffer various afflictions.  If not borne out of need, some people’s take on the great debate between caffeine vs. not comes about as a result of the ever-changing research, which seems to support one over the other, depending on the day.  Then, there is the majority of the population who will simply decide for themselves what their morning cup of joe will be based on taste.  With me, for the longest time after being diagnosed with anxiety, I had to leave my favourite bean drink behind and switch to herbal teas–not exactly the same, but a decent fill-in.  If you’ve ever had to shift gears like me, it can be quite difficult (especially at first), but the ensuing result is usually reason enough to keep up with the change.  In my case specifically, restricting caffeine also meant having to limit my other favourite drink of choice –sweetened iced tea–and lo and behold, chocolate was a problem too:-(.  Now, for us women, that is a pure travesty and probably the most difficult addiction to break, even above coffee.  Luckily, over time, when I learned how to control my anxious tendencies, I was slowly able to add some of my favourites back into my daily life and so came the switch to decaf.  Since it still contains some traces of caffeine, I definitely had to limit myself, but at least it was doable and more importantly, I recognized the signs of when to back off, such as periods of high stress, etc.  As a side note, I also incorporated exercise which was a huge help in every way, separate from monitoring my intake of things, including sugar—another major culprit.

Today, I still try to stick to more decaf products than not, leaving some hard-core leaded drinkers to wonder why myself and people like me even bother in the first place.  I guess in my mind, decaf or not, I am still part of ‘the club’ that I so enjoy being a member of, and that counts for something since psychology definitely plays into it all.  After all, I think java connoisseurs, regardless of the sort, would agree that they simply look forward to having something tasty in their morning mug–a ritual that seems to helps them get their day started off on the right foot, if you will.  Without it, one can feel lost and even out of sorts.

As an addition to this subject, I will also say that thanks to our trips to Hawaii in recent years, I’ve been introduced to 100% pure Kona beans, which tend to be some of the least acidic, less potent ones out there.  Pure delight, really.  I mean, once you’ve tried them, there really is no going back when you are reaching for the fully-leaded drink in particular, though the cost of up to $90+ US a pound can be a bit of a deterant.  As a treat, however, I can assure you that the beans are worth every penny and something that I very much look forward to sneaking it into my repertoire on weekends, especially.  Maybe you have found a similar gem?  The good news is that between my Kona coffee and my homemade mocha indulgences (thanks to my husband’s gift of a Breville espresso maker a few years back), the two seem to balance out in that I don’t have to pay $5.00 a cup at Starbucks/Second Cup, which would likely add up way more quickly than my favourite Hawaiian export.  The very best part about my espresso machine is that I can purchase decaf beans to brew, and yes, there is such a thing!  If you haven’t tried a decaf espresso drink, namely a mocha, you really ought to—it’s simply delectable and you might just surprise yourself in not being able to tell the difference.

On that note, I will leave you with a little joke that my husband made this morning related to the whole java discussion.  It’s one of those grit-your-teeth kinda jokes that only we may find funny, but I feel compelled to share it anyway.  As we were brewing our morning pot of decaf, our pint-sized coffee maker let out some very loud snorts of air toward the end of its cycle.  He kidded that the machine must have been snoring at the thought of having to serve up something decaffeinated.  Hopefully, I have not left you snoring at the end of this blogpost:-).  If so, just reach for a double espresso–that should wake you up!

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Unplugged or Conditioned to Pavlov’s Bell?

The term ‘unplugged’ has taken on a whole new meaning in this day and age, but what does it really mean?  Most people, nowadays, interpret it as a ‘proverbial break’ from the wiles of technology that seem to beckon more and more of our time, personal and otherwise.  But, can it really be done?  We all know that we should spend less time ‘plugged in’, especially children, and there is loads of new research reinforcing that notion, citing the not-so-great physical, social and emotional effects.  The question is, can one in the western world really be tuned OUT from their phones, internet, cable, etc.?  And, if so, for how long exactly?  Mere minutes, hours, days?  Or maybe for some, quelling the need to answer Pavlov’s bell (in a matter of speaking) every few seconds might actually be considered triumphant.

I will say that prior to owning my first and only iPhone purchased about five years ago (thanks to my husband who was in disbelief that I knew not one iota about texting), I didn’t have much to do with the internet other than that which was necessary for work, the odd emails sent back and forth, and a bit of surfing deemed necessary to research travel information, etc.  I was quite content with my little world, which included the traditional cordless phone (don’t worry, I wasn’t in the rotary stages still, though those phones did make a come back a short while ago;-) and of course, good old cable TV, even though there wasn’t much worth watching then either, hence the creation of Netflix, Crave TV, and Amazon Prime, I guess.  Anyway, my point is that until I got hooked up with my Phone, I’d say very little of my personal time was taken up by techno gadgets.  It just wasn’t important to me.  I was one of “those” people who saw ‘no use‘ for texting when you could simply pick up the phone and talk, if you needed or wanted something (NB, here I am speaking of ‘for real’ talking–not the pseudo kind.).  Fast forward to today.  The window into my existence is vastly different and I am not sure I feel super good about it, but I will reluctantly admit that it has brought about some interesting prospects in life, such as WordPress and creating my own blog:-).

And so, here I sit during one of my typical blogging sessions with my I-Pad in my lap, a Bluetooth keyboard at my fingertips, my I-Phone beside me on our end table along with our cordless home phone, our Smart TV on (mostly as white noise), and a stand-alone PC just a few steps away in our den with a Wi-fi hub beside it.  Indeed, I have become EXACTLY what I said I would not become and it didn’t take long to get here either.  Eeks!  A few sessions of instantaneous messaging with others, at times even simultaneously, and I was hooked!  Just.  Like.  That.  Not proud to say so, but it is true.  I mean, why make a call when you can send a few measly words in a text, while not even having to be grammatically correct (though, I must say that that is one formality I cannot forsake and I’m still getting used to the apparent ‘trail off’, wherein one just decides to ‘disappear’ from the ‘conversation’.).  Suddenly, with the art of texting mastered, all the fuss that people were talking about made sense to me.  Then there were all of the other conveniences that my Phone provided–Outlook, Safari, Facebook, Apps, an instant camera, Photo albums, You-Tube, Maps, Notes, a Calendar, a Calculator, Skype and, and, and!!!, which is precisely where I am going with this…

The other week, my husband and I tuned into a 60-Minutes episode and one of the clips featured tech insiders, (some present, some former) who admitted that the sole purpose of coders is to keep us as engaged as possible because the more time we spend on our devices, the more money that is made off of our screen time.  Just think of all of the advertisements that we are constantly bombarded with and how convenient it is that our likes/hits/searches provide the big wigs with even more ammunition to program with.  It is/was no surprise to hear what the insiders had to say, and yes, media lends its own slant on things, but I will admit that it was more than disturbing to think of how much we are being manipulated and molded, without even realizing so and/or maybe we do, but we are too far gone?!  I’m inclined to think that it is a little bit of both.  So, where do we go from here?  Where is the fine line between convenience and entertainment vs. addiction and far-reaching complications, most of which are yet to be determined?  I don’t know, but it does provide food for thought.  I surely don’t want to be taken for an experimental dog, whose mere existence relies on pings and dings.  Hmm

Until I figure out just how I am going to respond to this issue, you’ll have to excuse me as I Pluck myself out of my rocker recliner to grab a second charger for my Phone since the I-Pad one is already occupied:-).   Oh dear…

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When Fate Steps In…

When fate steps in, you step back and let be what is going to be.  The difficulty for most comes in not knowing the exact reason why it is that certain things happen, especially when things don’t go as hoped or planned.  Often, it isn’t until much later when we realize the ‘why’ it was or wasn’t meant to be.  I am learning to be patient in discovering the ‘why’ because there always IS a reason.  Sometimes, the reason may even be a life-changing one.  Whether or not we come to fully know it, however, may be a different story.

Today, we should be in Hawaii enjoying the beach, the swaying palm trees, Longboard beer and our covered lanai overlooking the Pacific, but we are not.  My husband and I took a series of misfortunes, including the day before we were due to leave, as a sign that we needed to re-think our vacation and so we did.  Luckily, we were able to re-book for later in the summer.  Confirmation, we think, that we were right in leaving well enough alone to stay in town for now.

What had me wondering after the initial disappointment dissipated somewhat was, ‘What is it that we avoided?  A possible tragedy?  (though hopefully not!)  What is going to happen or maybe not happen, such that the Universe needs us to be here now?  Could we be destined for something else, either now or later on when we are in Hawaii?  Something more grand?’.  And so, after some careful contemplation, I resolved that I may NEVER come to know exactly ‘why’ what happened did–I mean, the final straw was that our house was invaded by flying ants, which really is a little absurd to think about, but VERY real I assure you–but that I needed to accept it all just the same.  And, I have.  Well, mostly.  (But seriously… flying ants?  Anyway…)

When I think of these fateful kind of situations, like the one we are in now, I am reminded of a story that a friend told me–one which could have easily ended in tragedy had fate/the Universe/God not stepped in….

She was sitting at a red light in her car.  The light turned green and she pressed the gas pedal to go, but nothing happened.  In disbelief, she pressed on the pedal again and again and still nothing.  ‘Weird‘.  Just then, another vehicle blew through the intersection and crossed right in front of where she would have been in her car, driver side and all.   Shaken and speechless, she realized that her frustration over her car ‘not working’ was taken over by a greater power in that moment in time and that had it not have, she might not have been here today to tell this hair-raising tale.

And so, just when I lost a Dash of hope in all things good, I reminded myself that everything truly does happen for a reason, ants and all.  It’s part of the journey, our journey, and I am grateful for all that is in the here and now, including the fact that we are here to enjoy it for yet another glorious day, and a warm, sunny one at that!

T. H. I. N. K.

How many times have we found ourselves in situations wherein we wish we could take something back?  A few choice words, a scornful look, an awkward handshake, a wrong name, a bad lane change, a premature text, a distasteful joke and the list goes on.  What’s interesting, of course, is how we all choose to deal with it once it ‘comes out’, so to speak?  Do we Scamper, make excuses, own it, hide, turn red-faced, apologize or simply ignore/disregard that it even happened?  We did a lot of ignoring in my family and not a lot of apologies were ever given that I remember, anyway.  Not surprisingly then, the same pattern of ‘ignorance is bliss’ would follow me into young adulthood.  Also, not surprisingly, it turns out that ‘sweeping things under the carpet’ does NOT work well.  Especially in relationships.  And so, I have worked hard over the past couple of decades to recognize and avoid this self-defeating behaviour.  Here’s the lesson that I have learned when my words/actions don’t always reflect well:  Own it, apologize if necessary and/or if the situation warrants it, and move on.  Not always easy, though. right?

Just recently, I had a discussion with a group of children who found themselves cast into the role of this everyday life debacle, wherein hurtful things were said to another and the situation needed to be resolved.  The truth is that some kids were not even aware that there was an issue, that it had affected another person in a negative way and that it had to be addressed appropriately.  Let’s face it, even as adults, we don’t always discern how our words/actions may have impacted others.  This is how our talk went….

We all have the ability to think for ourselves, to make decisions, to process, to problem-solve, to question, to consider, etc.  This complicated, discreet gift, the gift of thought, is definitely a characteristic that separates us from others in the animal kingdom and it has served and will continue to serve a great purpose for us as humans.  Because it is a gift and because it is private, no one EVER knows exactly what another is thinking.  Pretty cool since it allows us to inwardly explore a wide spectrum of thoughts and emotions, as we navigate our way through life.  But with that realization comes a sense of responsibility, as only WE can be accountable to ourselves for what goes on in our minds.  On the other hand, what we say aloud and what we do also makes us accountable to others, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, it is extremely important to remember a few simple steps to ensure that what we put out in the world reflects the best possible ‘us’, as that will be the same form of energy that comes back to ‘us’.

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Interestingly enough, my sense post-discussion was that some children became more aware of what had happened and the far-reaching effects, which is all that I can ask for as awareness means, in turn, that there is the possibility of acknowledgement and we all know that simple acknowledgement is often half the battle that we fight with others and more importantly, ourselves.  A powerful life lesson for us all, without a doubt.

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“One Decision Away…”

Some people that we meet in this lifetime simply Radiate all things good.

They are recognizable from afar, delightful in person and missed by those who haven’t had the privilege of meeting them yet.

Their chi/chakras are aligned and the rest of the world knows it.  Their positive energy is unmistakable and everyone and everything brightens in their presence.

They focus on the good, are grateful for each and every day and surround themselves with others who do the same.

There is a lightness about them, both physically and spiritually, that shines through for all to see.

They exude confidence without conceit.

Others admire their self-awareness and wonder how they got there?  Notice I said admire, not envy.  There’s a difference.

They are aware that their life path is a result of their choices, and ONLY theirs.  They do not require approval for their actions.

There is no blame.  Little judgement placed on themselves or others.  No significant guilt or regrets.  They just do the best that they can at any given moment in time.

Kindness, compassion and empathy drive and motivate them.

They are passionate.

Little moments count the most.

Adults, children, pets…heck, even plants alike are attracted to them–they cannot help themselves.  It’s magnetic.  Like the Earth.

 

 IS THIS YOU?  IF NOTDID YOU KNOW THAT IT COULD BE YOU?

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Infusing Colour and Happiness

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Yesterday, I finally had the opportunity to head out to the stores and pick up some bedding plants.  Very exhilarating for us Canadians who have endured one of the seemingly longest winters ever!  Not exhilarating for one’s pocketbook exactly, BUT the results pay off in spades all summer long (well, hopefully, if my thumbs stay green) and are well worth it in my opinion.

I don’t know about you, but there is something soulful about waking up to and enjoying the sights of various plants/flowers in one’s yard?  Simply looking at the vibrant blooms Infuses a sense of happiness similar to a person’s first bit of delectable cheesecake, spilling over with fresh strawberries and sauce–NOTHING beats that first bite, right?!

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up WHY it is that flowers seem to have such an intoxicating effect on us and I came across this link on a fellow bloggers’ site.  In her easy-to-read article, Niwa alludes to accelarated healing, increased purpose and motivation, as well as increased energy and performance.  In another finding, Dr. Jonathan S. Kaplan who writes about urban mindfulness for Psychology Today, cites that there are “several research studies related to the positive impact of nature on the human condition. Having plants, going for a walk in the park, or even looking at a landscape poster could produce psychological benefits, reduce stress, and improve concentration.”  Dr.  Kaplan mentions that owning simple houseplants has been known to lower blood pressure, increase attentiveness and improve well-being.  Good reasons to become a plant-lover, if not already one.

In fact, a simple web search reveals that there are a lot of studies citing the many positive effects that our co-dependent living species provides to us, separate from the obvious O2/CO2 exchange that we first learned about in school.  And, for those of us who enjoy gardening, it doesn’t take much convincing on our end to see and feel the joys of it all:-).

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