Ordinary Magic

I try to spend time being grateful and “looking up” – not always easy when life serves up the normal amount of challenge and busy-ness and nearing impossible when disaster strikes. All my companions would say that I am not that good at talking about sports and weather, but love talking about the best part of the day, a moment of magic or something fantastical. Every night at supper for years and years we go around the supper table asking what the best part of the day was, and most nights it’s all pretty routine – this delicious supper is my son’s go to response with some nights getting an add-on about an additional item.

So, all the people in my circles eventually have to come to know that I am far more likely to ask about what sparkled up your day than about the hockey score. Imagine my surprise when one of my grumpier friends responded to one my plying questions about today’s magic with, “Just the ordinary magic.” The ordinary magic, the moments that come and go sometimes without us noticing, the otherwise mundane tasks can become joyous, the little sparkles all there each day just waiting to be noticed. The ordinary magic of people entering, of a fabulous cup of coffee, a great meeting, a moment of joy, a laugh or two, and perhaps even a great hockey score. The ordinary magic, the great taste of a well formulated sandwich, a compliment, a feeling of a job well done, a good text from a friend, a joke shared.

I have been told often enough that there are many in my acquaintance who would really rather talk about the weather, luckily for us all the weather can often offer up its own magic. Ordinary magic, everyday wonders and when we are on the lookout, and once in a while, more often when we look, extraordinary magic happens along.

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A Moment’s Treasures

I have the privilege and challenge at times, of sharing my life with someone who suffered great loss when his first wife died after a battle with cancer. There is a great deal of wisdom, perspective and insight that my partner offers me about the day-to-day challenges and heartaches and hardships that knit together make up this thing we call life. My partner has this grand metre stick by which he measures what is truly a calamity, and he grounds me in that experience when I begin to horribilize or dwell in the realm of catastrophe.  

I had a setback this week when I learned that a close friend was just diagnosed with stage four cancer. He has just retired at the wonderful age of 58, I am sure planning for a long well-deserved, adventure-filled time. His hobby is running marathons, for fun I guess (I have never understood), and now he faces this diagnosis. 

I railed against the reality with full on temper tantrum moves and then my husband calmly reminded me that looking for life to be fair is just not a good use of my precious present. Things are not fair; life is not a series of checks and balances. All we have is right now.

To be honest, I was not really ready to hear my husband’s wisdom. I needed to talk to my friend and his wife, to have an episode of despair under a warm blanket and to partake in some sugary carbs. After all that, I could start to come around, this is how it is.  Good things happen and rotten things happen to all of us.  We change what we can, live with what we cannot and fight for what we want. 

What’s next? How do we collectively face this great unknown? Together, one day at a time, knowing nothing is guaranteed, taking nothing for granted and wringing every last bit of fantabulousnous out of each moment.

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New Year’s Revolution

I listened to the King’s Christmas speech, and I appreciated it very much, how he was more inclusive and how he talked about the light that overcomes the darkness. 

When I worked in Community Homes, we used blister packs for medication. I used to hate how at the end of the month the packs were all mangled and messy; how delightful it was to start a new month, crisp, even and smoothed out. Here we are at that same point in the calendar, about to turn the page on a wondrous year, with all of its messy bits, and start a bright new fresh one. 

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne remarks that each new day is a fresh start with no mistakes in it. Here is our new year, we have all the luggage of past years in the form of learnings and yearnings, joys and regrets. Choose carefully what you feel you need on the voyage, and jettison the rest. 

Hold fast to the times spent with people you love, shenanigans with friends, great meals, spontaneous bouts of laughter, magical moments. 

Endeavour to leave behind the regrets, fearful moments and sadness, shaving that stuff down to the lessons and memories made. 

You can walk into this fresh, smooth, unmangled year with no mistakes in it, and know that all those blisters of joy, sadness, triumph, and mischief await your dispensing – the sort of thing that the light is made of, that will in time overcome any dark. 

I wish you joy. 

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Treasure Hunt

I love auction sales and I have been partaking for my entire life in the thrill of the competition, the hunt for treasures and the banter of the crowd and auctioneer. A few years ago, I bought a wonderful pair of earrings for $45. They are so pretty, they drop down and have garnet-coloured stones and I have worn them a hundred times.

Recently one of the lever-back bits broke. So, I took the earring to the repair shop, and I was surprised when they said they would call with a quote before fixing the issue. A few days later the shop called and said that the charge for fixing my earring would be $134. Intuitively picking up on my complete shock at the cost, the repair person explained that what I had dropped off was an earring that was 18 carats rose gold; I explained that I really had no idea of that fact. The person went on to say that the set of earrings should be insured for $800. I needed a minute and said I would call back.

Quick conference with my husband and he urged me that if I truly loved the earrings, I should pay the amount to fix them. So, my favourite earrings are fixed. But now I know what they are worth, and I have not had the courage to wear them for fear of losing one. I have worn them all over the place, without a care, loving them as a $45 treat from a fun auction and nothing has actually changed about the earrings themselves except my opinion and knowledge.

I think its like that with a lot of things, we can go along with one idea of something or someone’s gifts and then we learn something that changes our view. And in fact, maybe we should challenge ourselves to learn something new about people all the time. I can say for certain, there are treasures all around us – first disguised as earrings that I am not sure I even took off before to go in the pool, that now I have trouble even contemplating wearing.

The jeweller wears the funkiest little magnifying glass on their glasses so they can see the fine details of the quality of gold. I think we should try the same in our everyday interactions, a little second look at the maker’s mark whenever possible.

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The Season’s Greetings

I had the pleasure of being part of the Santa Claus parade in Haliburton with our stupendous Community Living Trent Highlands float. The tiny Haliburton parade boasted a record number of floats at 47 and we were near the end. We had all practiced our very best “Merry Christmas” greetings and waves. 

Once on the route we knew that the large crowd had already been waving and watching for 50 minutes… would they even look up at us? Yes, they did, more than 50 people told me to have a good Christmas and I gave them my brightest smile and best wishes right back. Sure, one could argue that we were all just doing what was expected, but you could also think of it as the best we humans have to offer one another, perfect strangers on a cold dark November evening, excited by a community event and truly wishing one another the best of the holidays.

This not unlike the way at the end of the day we often tell one another to have a good night or have a great weekend. And yes, this is somewhat social conforming, but if examined I think each of us could agree that we do want each other to have a good night or a merry Christmas or a spectacular weekend.

When I blow a kiss to my two year old nephew he mashes the imaginary kiss into his cheek with his hand and rubs it in. We could do the same when we are wished well – take a moment, take it in and take another second to mash it in good. 

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What You Look For, You will See

Drew Dudley would say that impact is a commitment to making moments for which people feel they are better off having been with you. And he would challenge each one of us to think about, each day, what we have done to recognize someone else’s spark and to create impact. Every day. 

I love this, I love typing the words. But let’s break it down; the challenge here is the everyday. My energy seems to be at an all-time low right now, I am having trouble staying healthy, and the challenges that I usually love are feeling heavy. What I know for sure though is that what I look for I will find. So, if I set up a tent in the “I am overwhelmed, too busy and exhausted” campground, I will surely have my thoughts reinforced with every question, deadline and initiative. I know that when you are tired you have choices: Ask for help, break it down into chunks, rest when you can and check on what you are looking for. 

If I say to myself that I am surrounded by great people who will see me through this rough patch, I will see them everywhere because they are everywhere. I will see what I am looking for, so the trick here is to look for the good, the creative, the impact and the help. I will be lent strength, just as I can lend strength, and will get through. 

Everyday seems like a tall order, but everyday is how we live our lives; there are none who are so inconsequential that it would be OK to just grumble it away. Moments, there are a lot, and any one can change the entire campground.

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Wrung Out?

I noticed on my way to Port Perry that a sign outside a local business simply said, “ladder broken.” It took me far too long to realize that this was in reference to the sign itself and that it did not have any witty messages or blue light specials listed. However, let us break it down – they would have needed a ladder to put the ladder sign up, so really, they’re just taking a break from updating their sign.

Made me think of a lot of conversations that I have been having lately as we all face this battalion of viruses and the world opening up after the slowed down pandemic years. A lot of people are needing a rest, unplug, recharge, just take some time away. There are plenty of broken ladder reasons being offered to justify the idea of going slowly or stopping for a while.

I recently went to a training event at which another participant challenged me that no leadership value could be realized if life balance was not part of the equation. Wellness, rest, pause, reflection, recharging and just taking a break then are equally important as planning, learning, evaluating, jumping into important tasks and making good things happen.

Use the ladder to put up the message – taking a break, be back in moment, can’t come up with a witty sign or special on animal feed – and know that you will be back after the pause, ready to take on the next challenge. And when the ladder is truly broken, lean on the tools that others have around you to help you get the work done, find inspiration and make good things happen again.

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Make Magic

I had a chat this week with someone during which I admitted that I choose to live my life believing in magic. Now, I was not riding a unicorn, conjuring gold bars or flying at the time that I said this, but I was talking about the little coincidences, the magical moments of beauty when you take the time to notice, the cool things you can see when you are really looking. 

I had the privilege recently to help with a project honouring veterans in my community. I loved seeing the photos, hearing the stories and honouring these brave men and women with banners. For a long time, I would have said that my own family does not have a deep military history, as I was unaware of any veterans. However, careful research based on some old photos of men in uniform has led met to discover far-flung relations who served. 

One of these relations was a cousin of my grandfather who served in WW2. He served in the RCAF on a bomber that was shot down. I have a photo of Norman and my grandfather together in 1945 – Norman in his RCAF uniform – two years before he was killed in action. What I am proud of is that Norman was an only child and now there is a banner that ensures his life, sacrifice and service is remembered.  In further research, I found that Norman’s birthday is the same as my dad’s, June 23 – cool coincidence and magic.

Setting up for the banner ceremony, I made about 12 trips to get all the items that were needed from my car and trailer, it was only me and my son to-ing and fro-ing in this way.  As I was thinking about the veterans that we were remembering, and Norman on the last trip, I happened upon a dime on the step going into the hall that I had not seen before. And I know that it could be explained away in a dozen logical ways, but for that moment, I just chose to think that there was magic in the message. You so often find what you are looking for, so look for magic, look for good, look for opportunity, gratitude and ways to express yourself. Make magic. 

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I had a piece of pie at a café last Sunday, and while enjoying it I recognized someone with whom I have had dozens of email and phone conversations. I caught his eye and smiled, and he looked away not acknowledging me. And strangely, for a few moments, I was actually trying to think of in what way I have caused ill will between us. Had I not returned an email promptly? Had I been short? Did I say something wrong?

Funny how we all do this sort of thing from time to time. We make grand documentaries in our heads of how we have not measured up, with a play-by-play of all the possible mistakes we have made rolling along in Morgan Freeman commentary-like style. I often read that most of such self-talk and musing in our minds is bunk. We worry, we rationalize, we internalize and the solution or the real present situation is sort of left dangling while we fuss some more.

As we were leaving the cafe, I spoke up and said who I was. Here is the thing – in all my docu-drama speculations I had forgotten that we have only met in person once before and that was over 6 years ago. He simply did not recognize me and was so glad that I approached him.

I guess we all need to remember to stop the train when it starts to run away and actually say to ourselves, what is really true here? And then once what’s true is established, we need to act accordingly in a way that makes a difference, tell Morgan to clam up, we have work to do to make things better right now.

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Puppy Matters

I recently had my niece and nephew over for the weekend as my brother and his wife were going away. Because no one would be at their home I also had their two beagle puppies in tow.

I loved having the children, an excuse to play games, do crafts and watch kids’ movies. However, the dogs were a handful for my normally adult home. Although their training was going well where they lived the excitement of my home, the grumpiness of my older dog and the new smells seemed to have an affect on their ability to “hold it.” Soon every mat in our home had a wet spot, and we were getting frustrated. 

Later in the weekend my daughter complained to me about the situation and said, “All the mats in this house have pee puddles.”  And my niece, who overheard responded with, “Why do you have so many mats?” 

I love it. The problem as my little niece heard it wasn’t overactive puppy bladders but the fact that we have too many mats. Fewer mats would be wet if we had fewer mats. This is sound logic, really. 

I think we all do this sometimes; we know we have a problem or that something isn’t working, and we leap to what we can see, or what we interpret through our view or the first thing that presents itself. It takes a degree of patience, of asking more questions, of looking at all the angles and we might still get the first solution wrong. Am I open to the idea that, unrelated to the puppy situation, maybe I do have too many mats? A lot of tools are available to make sure we are asking great questions, and looking more deeply, and at the end of all that the messes of our entire problem will hopefully be lessened.

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