Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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A Small Smattering of Things

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Did you really think I wouldn’t declutter this weekend?  My project for the week was two shelves with boxes of memories – cards, maps, programs letters, etc.  I went through them and while I didn’t toss everything I did get rid of 82 cards (you heard me), 8 theatre programs, one menu and assorted other things that I had no clue why I was keeping.  Was it hard to ditch these precious memories?  Um..no – especially the thank you card from my grade 6 teacher Mrs. Melanson.  She was a real 5 letter word that rhymes with hitch.  Never liked her, and frankly, I don’t think she liked me either.  Good thing I don’t hold a grudge huh?  I realized as I was going through these items that there wasn’t one thing in that whole pile that I had an attachment to.  I still have a huge amount of cards that people have given to me – they are the things that I’m sentimental about and I’m ok with that but if I can’t remember who the person is why hang on to it?

In other news, I took Dr. Oz’s Breast Cancer Awareness Quiz – try it for yourself http://www.doctoroz.com/quiz/breast-cancer-awareness-quiz  I’m humiliated to say I only got 70% on the quiz.  You know which question stumped me?

How many minutes should you spend on each breast in order to correctly perform a breast self-exam?  I won’t ruin it by telling you the answer, but it’s WAAAYYYY longer than I ever assumed or could imagine myself examining one of the girls.  I know that it’s a serious matter, but I don’t know how you spend that much time on just one boob.  I’m glad I took the test, because it reminded me that I have to schedule my second annual trip to the doctor and to schedule my mammogram.

Last, but not least, on my list, it’s time for my moment of gratitude.  Today, I’m grateful that I had an ok day.  It was nothing special, but it was just fine and sometimes, that’s absolutely enough to make me happy.


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Revisiting Meditation

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Image courtesy of chopracentermeditation.com

By the end of January, the first month of my blog, I realized that I’d have to at least try meditation.  Dr. Oz recommends it as a healthy way to de-stress, and you know I’m all about what Dr. Oz tells me to do.  Well, I won’t be cooking with coconut oil – because it’s not healthy, but I have been doing my best this year to follow him down that yellow brick road.  I finally worked up to trying meditation for the first time in my life in April.  I blogged about it for the full 21 days of Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s (affectionately known as Doprah to me) Meditation experience.  If you recall, I loved listening to Deepak and sometimes even Oprah, but mediation proved very difficult for me.  My mind wanders too much…I worry too much that I’m turning into one of those people that I regularly make fun of, sometimes to their faces…and most of all, the perfectionist in me was worried the whole time about “doing it right and write”.  Right in the sense that I was going to be a great at finding my inner Om, but really it was more like a big Um  to me.  The other part of “doing it write” was that I had to do each mediation twice. Once to do the actual meditation and once to transcribe it for you.

I liked listening to Doprah enough to do it again, but I’m still not very good at the whole thing.  I signed up for their latest meditative exercise – “Expanding Your Happiness”.  This time, I decided not to blog about it except for one or two “revisits”. Every night at bedtime (still too late to be Oz approved), I bust out my iPad and listen to that day’s musings.  Every day like clock work, as soon as Deepak  – we are on a first name basis – signals it’s time to begin the meditation, I’m out like a light until he comes back on to signal that our time’s up.  It’s like the  best nap this almost reformed insomniac has ever had!  The only problem is that I’m missing out on the important part of the practice – meditating.  Maybe the whole point of it this time is just to take what I like from the whole thing and stop stressing over not doing it the right way.  I think I came to the same conclusion when I finished the first experience.

Tonight, I’ll be sleeping through – I mean doing a meditation about feeling hope.  It’s very timely since it’s all feeling a little overwhelming right now.  I don’t lack hope -and I’m pretty sure that things will get better.  Having hope has gotten me through quite a few crises these last few years.  Right now, I just need a little reminder from Deepak that every cloud has a silver lining, it’s always darkest before the dawn and all dogs go to heaven (just checking to see if you were paying attention).  I do have a lot to be grateful for.  Monday, for example was  a good day.  I got a free coffee at McD’s – the best coffee in Toronto as far as this tea drinker is concerned.  I bumped into my former cube neighbour at the office on my way into work yesterday (after she called “Schneidy” about 27 times to get my attention).  She made me laugh and reminded me of how glad I am to have her back even if she doesn’t sit next to me anymore.  I had a new employee start who seems lovely. I got to watch Bachelor in Paradise and make fun of my niece for being pretentious.  Last but not least, I had a fun idea for a post that I think will teach us all some important life lessons…sort of like what we learned from darling Gwyneth Paltrow – just a reminder in case you missed some of my thoughts on the lady : ) https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/plop/ and  https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/plop-part-deux-dos-due-zwei-twee/ 

Even though I’m feeling a little run down, I’m still…

Gratefully yours,

Jill


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Day 16: Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

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Image courtesy of chopracentermeditation.com

I’m happy for the most part.  I have bad days like everyone else and sometimes I have things going on in my life that make me really sad, but even at the worst of times, I know, even if I don’t admit it to people, that things will turn out fine.  Maybe, in the words of Oprah, I embrace being the source of my happiness, even if it was activated through this meditation.  What she knows for sure is “…that each of us is responsible for the energy that we bring to any moment…the more that we give, the more that we receive.  Choose to express happiness and it will multiply within and around you.”  So freaking true.  We all know what it’s like being around a cheery person – you want to throttle them!  No actually, it can be infectious.  When your friend smiles at you or a baby or even a puppy wags his tail at you, you melt.  OK, I melt, especially with the puppy.  Who doesn’t love dogs?  I like being EFFUSIVE when I am in a good mood, and I’m more distant and introspective when I’m not and I know that it has an effect on people around me.

You aren’t hear to hear my ramblings, you are here to read the wisdom of the deep man himself – DEEPAK!  He believes that we cannot achieve well-bring without happiness.  Dr. Oz, would most likely, agree.  You can have all of the fancy purses and shoes that you want (those are my vices), but the trappings of a happy life are no substitute for being our own source of happiness.  DC thinks that when we express happiness that we change the world.  I think that’s a little ambitious – maybe just a work pod, subway car or household – that sounds a little more reasonable, at least to me.  I do agree that when we radiate happiness, that it can become viral.  People respond to smiles and kindness. Deepak says it in such a lovely way (I love the word lovely in case you haven’t noticed) – he believes that it is nourishing to be around someone who radiates contentment.  

It gets better, if you can believe it.  People who radiate happiness give everything while losing nothing.  They have a generosity of spirit.  All you need to do is participate and show people who you are.  If you are a misery, don’t bother showing it though – it will ruin the whole feel-good experience.  To put yourself in the moment, you are supposed to remember a time when you unexpectedly received some good news.  This was like the time that I won the football pool at work and if you knew me, you’d know how truly unexpected that was.  To me, football is about a lot of big men knocking one another over without saying sorry.  When you receive good news though, it puts you in a good mood and you feel more generous just like DC says!  His advice for the day includes accompanying our words with a smile – the more you give, the more your happiness increases.  Very true. I loved this meditation, it felt short and sweet and relatively hooey-less.

Speaking of happiness, today, I am grateful and happy that I got to hang out with my dear friend BF.  We laughed, we cried, we generated happiness, we laid an egg.  Well, maybe the egg part is an exaggeration, and I just cried because when I was walking to meet her, I noticed a bug flying near me, but it was a delightful evening in the company of an old friend.  I’m off to meditate so until tomorrow, I am…

Gratefully yours,

Jill


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Day 2 and Cat Naps

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Image courtesy of https://chopracentermeditation.com

Day 2 of 21 and I am feeling deeper by the second – self-help is my middle name.  Actually, I don’t have a middle name, but I don’t hold a grudge just because my first name is a 4-letter word.  At least it’s not a bad word like funk, darn, shot, or help (I warned you before that my blog was g-rated).  I digress, though – maybe being in touch with the higher version of myself makes me nervous?  I’ll take a deep, cleansing breath and continue…

Day 2 of my 21 Day Meditation Experience focused on finding happiness.  Interestingly enough, yesterday’s mantra was lam, today’s was yam (pronounced yum – maybe they should spell it phoenetically – just a suggestion Doprah).  I wonder if tomorrow’s will be dam (pronounced dum, but not an insult because that would be dumb).  Doprah’s goal is for us to all experience happiness all the time, but not just externally when something fantastic happens like when you buy the perfect purse, the perfect pair of shoes or are in Disney World (it really is the happiest place on earth).  It’s deeper than that (of course), it’s about knowing that while these feelings can come and go, inner happiness is what is important.  Oprah said it’s about relaxing in the certainty that your deepest desires are leading you to the deepest expression of yourself.

Deepak had some really great insights including that happiness is not about self-sacrifice (so take that martyrs) or denial – rather desire is natural and the desire for happiness is something that we all share (I’m paraphrasing).  Isn’t that interesting though?  How many times have you given up something or denied yourself something for the perceived greater good – and did it necessarily lead to any joy for you?  I’ve sacrificed and at times denied myself things (not purses) because I thought it was what was expected of me, and you know what?  I wasn’t any happier because of it.  Good life lesson isn’t it?

Meditation was a bit better for me today, but seriously, I wish it could be over in 5 minutes.  I got fidgety after about 7 minutes.  The mantra does help keep you centred, but I always get an itchy arm and that distracts me.  I also had to peak at the time and then let out a huge “Really?  There is still five minutes left – when will this end”?  It was better today though.  Yam, yam, yam….I’m not sure if I feel happier, but it does relax you.

Speaking of relaxation, I watched an episode of Dr. Oz today to keep up on my homework – it was all about are you tired of being tired?  His solution?  Napping at least 2 times a week for ten minutes.  This apparently can help cure exhaustion.  Ten minutes is optimal because it allows you to get up easily and feel refreshed.  If you sleep for an hour, you are getting into deeper sleep and that will make you feel more groggy.  It’s almost better to sleep 90 minutes than an hour because you are not sleeping as deeply at that point but it will affect your sleep at night.  They even suggest sleeping in a chair with a pen in your hand to keep it at the desired amount of time – the pen will fall out of your hand at about 15 minutes waking you up.  My biggest challenge?  It takes me a long time to fall asleep, but it’s worth a try – maybe not at work though – I may get some strange looks.

Totally off topic, but it struck a chord with me, Dr. Oz also spoke of the dangers of aspartame-sweetened diet sodas.  May is my two year anniversary of kicking the Diet Coke habit for good – and this may help me prevent a heart attack according to the show.  Dr. Oz has a 4 week challenge to cut soda (or pop in Canada) out of your life http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/28-day-national-soda-challenge.  I didn’t quit Diet Coke because I was worried about the health affect, I quit as a challenge to myself, but I thought I would go back to drinking it.  The best way for this addict (I have enjoyed the beverage since I was 12 years old) to quit was by phasing it out over a week.  I cut it down to one can a day from two and the next week I was at the Biggest Loser Resort and there was no access to my own brand of crack (sorry Rob Ford).  I thought I would have a DC in 13 weeks, and it just tasted horrible.  You really have to tough it out, but after 13 weeks and trying the forbidden fruit, I just didn’t want it anymore.  It can be done – you just have to really want to do it.

Now that I’ve probably made you need to nap, I shall depart with a moment of gratitude.  Today, I woke up thinking it was Saturday – lovely but it’s Friday!!! All day!  So I still have 2 more weekend days left.  Yippeee!  Now that’s happiness.

Gratefully and happily yours,

Jill


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Random Acts of Kindness and Other Stories

I couldn’t fit the Six Paths of Happiness in just one little post.  There is a lot of ground to cover, but first, I just want to put something out there.  I love dogs – I think that they are the most wonderful creatures in the world.  As I mentioned before, I grew up with a special little friend – Rascal who was the cutest, sweetest, most loving, compassionate dog in the world.  I’ll post a picture one day – you’ll see it in his big, brown eyes.  According to “You Being Beautiful”, “Cats have very small frontal lobes so they tend not to be compassionate”.  There you have it – proof that DOGS RULE.  I guess I have met one or two nice kitties, but I’ll always favour Lady and the Tramp over the Aristocats.  If you want to learn a thing or two about random acts of kindness, observe a dog.  They do not judge or discriminate.  They love unconditionally and without bounds.  They aren’t concerned about material things – they care about making sure that their basic needs are met – food, shelter and love from their owner.  Human beings can learn a lesson.

Now, back to business – there are still 3 more paths for me to follow before bed time and they are:

4.  Embracing Emotion – When people say that they can’t control their emotions, this is sometimes true.  While some people seem like a hot mess, others seem like a cold fish. Within the book, they don’t suggest suppressing emotion, rather “…pay attention to emotions and use them intelligently…for example…use empathy to help harness anger (…thinking that maybe the jerk at work has some home stresses that are causing him to be a jerk).”  I am a mix of emotion and reason and I always have been.  I can usually vent and feel better, I can take a bit of disappointment and in my workplace, if a client is upset, I don’t take it personally, because it’s usually directed at a situation, not at me.  Where I find I’m more emotional is when a loved one is ill, sad or if I experience what I consider to be a loss of sorts.  One day, almost two years ago, I was at someone’s apartment (we’ll call her JAY-ZEE-ESS) when she gave me some terrible news.  I immediately started crying, even though for some strange reason, I had been expecting it. JAY-ZEE-ESS told me to stop crying “right now”.  I didn’t, but did try to get ahold of myself.  You see, I don’t cry very often, but when there is a good reason to, I often don’t stop.  Usually I do it privately.  I see nothing wrong with it – it’s natural.  I’d rather express an emotion and move on, than hold it in.  I see people who never speak up for themselves and it eats them up.  When you can’t truly express emotion, especially with those closest to you, I think that’s where you become inauthentic blocking your path to happiness in multiple ways (finding authenticity is #3 on the path).

5.  Exploring Spirituality – This is a tough one for me. I’m not spiritual or particularly religious.  I respect religion and people who find comfort in faith and I am comfortable and happy with the culture of my religion.  My issue is and always has been reason and logic over faith.  To me, faith means believing in something that you can’t see and that is where my logical brain has an issue.  During difficult times or times when I want something badly, I usually speak (internally) in generic terms to myself rather than a higher being.   “You Being Beautiful” tries to answer the question of how can you learn to be spiritual with the following, ” …primarily through training your brain with transcendent experiences such as meditation or prayer – that is, altering your state of consciousness to focus on a sacred image or thought.”  Oh boy – meditation, my favourite.  I am going to give it a try in fact one of my monthly topics will include meditation since it’s such a big part of what Dr. Oz recommends.  I can’t force myself to be spiritual in a traditional way, but I can try to improve myself by trying something that comes so highly recommended.  You also can’t argue with something that relaxes so many people and has such a positive effect.  Maybe through this, I’ll become spiritual in my own way – I’ll keep you posted. 

6. Understanding Unhappiness – “Being happy means that you realize that there are times you will be unhappy and recognize that life sometimes stinks.  What’s uplifting in those times is appreciating life and facing the challenges that come with it, realizing that you’re facing challenges fellow humans have always faced” (page 326, You Being Beautiful).  AMEN BROTHER OZ!  To me,  truer words have never been spoken.  This final point is what ties together all other points.  I’ve heard and have been guilty of saying “things happen for a reason”.  In some ways, perhaps they do or maybe it’s just our way of making lemonade out of lemons.  I think a mostly positive person (nobody is perfect) will either try to make something good happen to balance out a negative experience.  For example, one of my idols, Terry Fox, attempted his Marathon of Hope after losing his leg to cancer to raise awareness and funds for a cure.  As many may remember, his run was tragically cut short when this extraordinary young man was diagnosed with lung cancer.  Ironic – yes and cruel definitely.  It also proved, that although things may happen for a reason, it’s also true on the flip side that sometimes bad things happen to very good people. 

Interestingly, this passage also goes on to say that there is some benefit to experiencing a little bit of unhappiness since you are better prepared to deal with problems that may crop up.  You think things through and gain wisdom and perspective.  So true…and none of us would appreciate the highs that come with living if there weren’t some lows to go along with that.  I had a job once where I was treated pretty poorly.  Although I liked many people there, there were a couple of people who made my day to day life excruciating.  This was my low – my high was, that I finally learned to speak up for myself instead of just complaining, I did something about it.  I learned an adult lesson and I moved on. Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given has been when I’ve been unhappy about something.  How about you can’t change people, only yourself, so you have to change how you deal with them?  Classic and timely.  Another great piece of advice is to live for now.  We all put things off, whether it’s telling people how we feel about them (see embracing emotion), going on that dream vacation we’ve always wanted, or just living life to the fullest.  I’ve tried to make time for experiences like travelling – that’s true happiness to me – every day is different and you experience moments that you’d never get to be a part of in your home town.  Nobody can be happy if they feel that they are being instead of living – and maybe that’s a lesson for all of us.  Living in the now is another lesson – none of us can change the past and you can’t control the future so living in the present is where happiness lies. 


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Random Acts of Kindness (Part One)

A couple of months ago, I was at McDonald’s buying my morning coffee – by the way it’s the best coffee in the world. Seriously – it’s amazing!  Love it – I’m not even a coffee drinker, I’ve been a tea drinker since I childhood.  There truly is something special about their coffee though – and I’m a snob.  I admit it, I love my creature comforts.  Roughing it to me now is staying at the Holiday Inn instead of a 4 star hotel, I shudder at “Furr-berry” (fake Burberry) and the cheapest lipstick that touches my pout is $18 – so you know if I’m going to McD’s for coffee, it’s fab.  The people who work at the one near my work are kind and so lovely.  They believe in “smiles are free”, they are unfailingly pleasant and they never get my medium with double milk and double sweetener order wrong.   They even try to remember my name.   Anyway, I was at McDonald’s and the lady serving me says to me “It’s on me today”.  I did a double take and tried to give her the money thinking that I’d misunderstood.  She insisted that I didn’t need to pay for that, that I’m always nice to her.  I walked out of there dumbfounded and overwhelmed by this small act of kindness.  It happened to me again in January with another lady that works there.  Again, I was dumbfounded.  I rarely, if ever buy food, just a coffee, and yet I was still rewarded.  I know people joke about working at McDonald’s, but I can tell you from having helped out there on McHappy Day for several years, that the people who work behind the counter are smart, hard-working and very deserving of respect.  I can also tell you that those small gestures made a big difference in my day. 

The final chapter in “You Being Beautiful” is called “That’s the Spirit – How to Find True Happiness”.   This chapter outlines the six paths to happiness.  The first three are (I’ll continue tomorrow):

1.  Being Postive – and Generous – According to this path, there is “…one secret that makes people healthier and happier: helping others.”  I can only speak to my experiences, but I do feel at my best when I am doing something that helps someone else.  For 3 years, I tutored kids once a week at an after school program at my old workplace.  Actually, about 15-20 of did this.  The children that I tutored ranged in age from 11-13 and had varying needs.  One simply just needed some quality time with an adult – he was really bright, one had some small behavioural problems (although I never saw them) and needed a bit more help with school work, and the last girl that I tutored was also fairly bright – I think history was her challenge.  I cared for all of them and the end of the year was always tough because they would be upset, I was sad, and I had to say good bye.   One of these kids actually inspired me to do the one thing in my life that I am the most proud of – I got each one of the participants in that homework club a home computer loaded with Microsoft Office free of charge.  They weren’t new, and it took a little digging, but I got them.  It was the most amazing feeling knowing that they could now have an easier time keeping up with their classmates.  If you ever have an opportunity to volunteer – take it!  Just figure out what cause is important to you.  It doesn’t have to be weekly – even just a little help can make a big difference.

2. Feeling Empathy – Empathy, according to the book “…allows you to connect with other humans – and transcend your differences…the more connected we feel, the higher our degree of generosity and compassion”.  Empathy is an amazing thing.  You may not know exactly what someone is going through, but you may be able to use something that happened to you to provide support.  How many times have you said – “I feel your pain” to someone?  You don’t exactly feel it, but you can empathize.  When someone shows me empathy at a difficult time, I see it as the highest form of compassion.  I feel like they understand why I may feel the way I do, and that is what make me feel less alone or embarassed. 

3.  Finding Authenticity – This is a little tough to explain unless you are Dr. Phil.  It’s basically “keeping it real”.  It means that you aren’t superficial – ok, even I am not as superficial as I may appear.  How many people say “This is my friend Jane – she’s nice, but a bit of a phony.  She’s great though” when they are introducing their friends to people?  I personally, don’t like being phony.  You have to be to a certain extent in your day to day life since you won’t always love everyone that you work with or people that you meet.  I think the point is to be the most real that you can be.  I’d rather wear my emotions on my sleeve (which I do – I have no poker face) than pretend that I’m something I’m not.  Being authentic is also about “…knowing how we exist in relationship to other people and to the world.”  Basically, just face it, the world doesn’t revolve around you – it revolves around ME!  Just kidding, nobody is that important in the scheme of things – well maybe Martin Luther King Jr, the Dalai Lama or Hillary Clinton.  One person that I am impressed with right now is Pope Francis – I know I’m Jewish but truly, it’s gratifying to see a leader act with sympathy and compassion.  I see pictures of him embracing disfigured people, helping the poor and just delighting in the small moments of life and it makes him human.  He acknowledged (FINALLY) that gay people shouldn’t be judged, is reforming the Vatican Bank and doesn’t even bother with the trappings of wealth.  He walks the walk – or in short is authentic.  He may not be preaching to the choir when it comes to me, but I applaud him. 

There is too much to write about in just one entry so I’m extending my February topic until March 1.  Tune in tomorrow for part two of this entry!