From Sourdough bread to six feet apart

I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.

Jane Stanfield
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The end of a year is typically a time for some reflection on what is behind us and planning for celebrations as we usher in the new one. Since we can’t engage in typical New Year celebrations, many of us are spending more time than usual in reflection.

2020 seems to have been a year full of contradictions. A global pandemic that initially brought us together and then seemed to polarize and pull us apart. Countries demanding restrictions to keep everyone safe and then struggling as conflicts emerged when resistance and resentment set in. Neighbours rallying to cheer on health care workers at the end of shifts to large gatherings where protestors demonstrated against masks and science.

From sharing the best sourdough bread recipes to open defiance of public health guidelines. Where friends and family in isolation found comfort and connection in Zoom meeting rooms to phone hotlines set up so you could report anyone who violated the rules. While staying six feet apart, we learned to respect others around us in order to keep them safe to annoyance at anyone who seemed to think and behave differently than we did.

As vaccines are rolled out around the world, and lack of patience and exhaustion with our isolated world threatens to take hold, my wish for the new year is for more kindness. Kindness to everyone regardless of their point of view. Kindness to those in our lives who have managed their personal risk differently than we might have. Kindness which will be healing and help us transition into the world when this pandemic ends.

Farewell to the year 2020 – may the new year bring safety, good health, and above all, more kindness in each of our hearts.

Embrace connectivity this holiday season

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Remember, happiness isn’t defined by how much you spend on gifts and celebrations. It is what you do, how much you love, how caring and supportive you are, and above all your true compassion for others.

Christine Ibbotson

As this festive Christmas season envelops us, reaching out to those we care about even if we are unable to visit in person, is more important than ever this year. Embrace connectivity in whatever format, reaching out in spirit across miles, cities, streets, and even to those who live to next door to us.

This year we will celebrate the holidays in new and different ways. Traditions have had to change, and with Covid restrictions, we have the opportunity to focus less on consumerism and more on those we love by taking the time to communicate with them in many different ways.

Best wishes for a wonderful, safe, and healthy holiday season!!

Celebrations and lessons learned upon reaching a goal

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You can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate. You can’t catch a fish unless you put your line in the water. You can’t reach your goals if you don’t try.

Kathy Seligman

Have you ever attempted to do something that you were certain you would not succeed at, and you did, in spite of yourself? This was where I found myself six weeks ago, musing about the fact that I had entered my name to participate in the flash fiction event, Flash Nano 2020. Even more amazing was the fact that I actually completed it. 30 prompts = 30 flash fiction stories. Whoa!!

I realize that for many writers, November is the month of National Novel writing contests and events but the flash fiction genre has captured my heart and mind for the past year so when I learned about Flash Nano, it made sense to at least try it. I must admit self-doubt almost prevented me from even signing up so upon reflection that is likely the first lesson that I need to pay the most attention to. It is all too easy to talk yourself out of things rather than into them.

Once that negative self talk is corralled, then we need to battle with procrastination and inertia. There are likely many great reasons why we don’t accomplish certain things but there are equally as many that speak to us about why we should. Pushing through procrastination is really about pushing past our fears. For this event, I had no one but myself to account to. I did mention I was doing this writing practice to my writer’s group but they would have all understood and likely been supportive if I had come up with some credible excuse as to why I decided not to follow through.

But the lesson of moving forward despite that fear, has value that carries over to other areas of our lives as well. This was an activity that I chose partially in an effort to try to incorporate discipline into my writing life, to learn to push barriers aside, and to learn the craft of the genre that I am writing in. Writer’s are solitary creatures but when we gather there is often a shared sense of connection. That’s why we gather, right.

Satisfaction. Personal accomplishment. Goal achievement. All these outcomes from this particular activity also served as teachings, lessons learned, and opportunity to develop confidence to push forward. An opportunity to create, to write, to reflect, to engage with other writers. It was truly win win. When we decide to set out to achieve something, there is tremendous value in seeing a project through to the end. And if you can do it once, then I am convinced that the next time will be just a little bit easier.

Now I just need to figure out what is going to be next…Take a moment to celebrate all of the goals you meet regardless of how big or small. We all deserve that quiet moment to reflect on our accomplishments and to experience the joy of completion.

Stay healthy and safe!

We’re not quite there yet…

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If we lose love and respect for each other, this is how we finally die

Maya Angelou

Watching the news last evening my heart skipped a couple of beats as I watched the first woman in the United Kingdom become the first recipient of the vaccine for Covid-19. That is until, the next stories aired, which were about anti-mask demonstrations in my province, seniors dying in nursing homes, and the usual nonsense from the outgoing President of the United States who continues to wreak havoc.

So how do we get through the next number of months until most of the globe receives the vaccine? Surveys indicate that a sizeable portion of our population will not participate in this process and that larger numbers of people in our community will fall ill before those who want the opportunity to become immune to this virus actually have a chance to do so. How does this level of dissonance play out?

What are the chances I wonder, that people will begin to respect each other long enough to reach the finish line in this global race that we are in together? My fervent hopes are that reason and rationale will be restored, misinformation will disappear from social media and other sources, and that for what is likely only several months of next year, we will once again pull together by staying apart to keep each other safe.

Stay healthy and well!!

Creativity: Getting tiny sparks to burst into flame

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The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Doubt. Negative self-talk. Despair. We have all likely experienced those moments when we are certain that our creative wells have run dry and that we have no more words to offer up to the world. When we are beset by those times sometimes referred to as writer’s block, how do we regain those sparks of creativity and find the kindling needed to encourage them to burst into full flame?

Last month, I attempted and (actually!) finished a writing event during National Novel Writing month. Flash Nano, an event created by Nancy Stohlman who asked participants to sign up to receive a writing prompt every day and to then write a story of up to a thousand words. Each morning last month, I found myself trying to bend my mind around some unusual ideas, very quirky prompts, and then proceed to create a piece of flash fiction.

I must admit that as the month progressed, I actually eagerly looked forward to what that morning email would bring. And although it’s wonderful to now have a file folder with thirty flash fiction stories, some of which I will definitely invent the time to edit and polish while others will linger in that folder forever, my biggest takeaway was learning more about creativity. Specifically, how I became attuned to the role creativity plays in my writing life.

This was a private experience for me, I did not post my stories to social media sites, or share them with others. It was instead a journey down a path that led to internal examination and discovery. Each morning I found myself considering many divergent ways in which to approach a story based on prompts that sometimes didn’t even make sense to me. This creative discovery process was something I have never fully appreciated or spent much time in reflection about it.

Through this discovery journey, I have come to understand that many aspects of daily living are in fact creatively inspired. It seemed that from one day to the next, my sense of creativity was heightened and I began to notice how this permeates all aspects of my life. From what clothing I would choose to wear that day to what foods I decided to prepare and even extending to what type of exercises I would choose to engage in. Creativity is afoot even if we think it is not.

And the best part of this entire writing exercise, was that the more time I spent working on these ideas, the quicker they came to me. By the last week of the flash fiction event, my writing came more quickly and with much less struggle. It almost seemed as if the more creative sparks I experienced, the more these ideas became like pieces of kindling. And for all of the ideas that I didn’t actually use, I have set the remainder aside in a notebook for some day in the future.

Hope you are experiencing the warmth of the creative path in your life! Stay healthy and safe!