Wednesday, March 12, 2014

You are an unsung hero

Over the last year I have been at Lakeridge Hospital many times, but last week I was trying to find some vegan food (not so easy) so I wandered down this hallway to canteen where the women’s auxiliary sells food.  In this little area was a framed poster, and that poster listed all the money that was raised by the women’s auxiliary since it was formed in 1907. It stated that the women’s auxiliary had raised over 10 Million dollars. Now 10 million dollars is a lot of money, it’s a lot of service; it’s a lot of sales from their gift shop and canteen. It’s a ton of volunteer hours and hard work; it’s an immeasurable amount of compassion and love being shown through their acts of selfless giving.

The week after reading that poster, a member of the women’s auxiliary stopped to chat with Frank and me, we were in a hallway in emergency. Frank was on a stretcher and I was seated by him. This amazing woman stopped to see if we were okay. I mentioned the poster to her and thanked her for her hours of service, as it all comes together like pieces of a puzzle to make Lakeridge Hospital a loving place of healing. I know it to be a loving place because I have been there countless times and have seen firsthand the caring spirit of their doctors, nurses and other staff.

The women’s auxiliary member we were chatting with, told us that the land the hospital was built on was purchased by funds raised by the women’s auxiliary and that they had gone door to door in Oshawa with cups asking for donations and raised enough to purchase the land, she said the cost was $1.000.00 . She also said that building the hospital was the idea of this original group of women.

 “It was only a matter of months before the group had raised $1,000 from collecting door-to-door, organizing teas and bazaars and hosting talent shows”.
Tara Lember, Writer, The Oshawa Express

I would imagine that there are countess stories like this from all the corners of the world, stories of women creating change, stories of women standing up for what they believe in, pressing forward and following their open hearts. In so many ways women are unsung heroes behind the scenes, doing endless acts of love.

Just think of yourself; how many meals have you cooked, boogers have you cleaned, school trips have you gone on? How often have you held back on something you really wanted so your family could have something?  How tired have you been at times, nursing fussy babies, or doing endless repetitive chores? How many cupcakes have you baked for school events or days have you taken off work to nurse sick children ? How often have you just sat and been a good friend while your best female friend vented her frustrations, how many times have you nodded and said “I understand”.  How many times have you stood in the side lines at hockey games and dance recitals beaming love energy to your children ? So that when they turned to you, they knew that no matter what happened on the ice, the soccer field or that recital stage, there on the sidelines was their mothers love. Like the universe a mother’s love is vaster then we can image.  

So I ask you this? Why then do women still focus on our bodies, why then do we feel less than if we are not the “idea weight”. Do the people that matter care if we have a six pack? Shouldn’t our stretch marks be the symbols of our unconditional love, a roadmap to our kids, our journey and our sacrifice for others? Maybe it should be the opposite, maybe we should tattoo flowers and hearts and the names of our children around our stretch marks and share them with others as a roadmap that takes us back in time to those moments where through love we decided to have our first, second, third and maybe more children. So that rather than hide in shame we show off our bodies as vessels created through our thousands of acts of silent service. What matters is our hearts and how many times have we followed our heart, exhausted and sometimes afraid ? Who thought we would be good mothers, or strong partners in life. We took on these challenges with some trepidation, often full of doubt. But we did it anyways.

So the next time you see yourself naked in the mirror, smile at your body.  and be proud, know that you too are a hero to those whose lives you have touched. Ask my husband what matters, as he lies in a hospital bed suffering from cancer what matters, and he will tell you this. In the end all that matters is how well we loved and how much love we gave unconditionally. That is our legacy for generations  to come. His older brother believes that we are reincarnated through our children, so I guess if this is true our love will be like  is like a beacon guiding our future generations.

(My mother and her great granddaughter)

Monday, January 27, 2014

If not now when ?

Last year  I was searching the internet for some ideas to use in a workshop I was going teach, and I came across a list titled "The 25 Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself".  They are awesome questions, the kind of questions that challenge you to think outside of your comfort zone, the type of questions that throw your fears right back in your face so that you feel that nervous I'm caught feeling.  

Change is a problem for most of us; we resist it, hide from it, think about it, dream about it, and we push change out of our minds until one day we feel like it's too late. Then, we take a sigh of relief and think to ourselves whew, it's too late, I'm safe now, I can continue to live in my shell having never stretched my neck out very far. But a life lived in the safe zone seems to breed resentment and/or bitterness, I am not sure why this happens, but I see it in people all the time.
So the question I loved is this one; If not now when? Isn't it a great question? What I love about this question is the fact that in me it brings up all my excuses, and I can really have some excuses. My current standard excuses are; I am often too busy, too tired, work too hard, have too much on my plate, and have too many responsibilities.  In the past some of my favorite ones were; I was too fat, too old, not educated enough and too slow. So at least, I have overcome some of my past excuses, the only problem is that new ones keep flooding in to fill the space. It's like I poured out the jug of old excuses and found new ones, a never ending flow of fears masquerading as excuses.
Time is the big one for me and a lot of people, I don't have the time. Years ago, it was family responsibilities and career; today it's career and my husband's health. In fact my husband being sick is a great excuse; everyone would understand if I gave up running, after all I have a lot to juggle right now. But really like everyone else, I need to make time for my own personal health, running not only keeps my body working but it helps alleviate my stress. In fact, if I don't exercise I seem to be tenser, and less likely to be able to rest or keep my mind focused in the present.

As part of the same course I asked my students to list all the reason they weren't doing some of the things that they dreamed of doing, here are the top ones; Time, money, energy, kids, career, too old and too fat.  Yet when we discussed their excuses as a group we realized that in the end they were just fears, not reasons. Take for example time, it's a big one, however, I know people who get up at 4:30am to train for races, they do this so they can run, and not interfere too much with family life. They do this because they are committed and disciplined. I totally admire these people.
Kids are another big reason we don't follow our dreams and this is probably good if your dream is to run away to a tropical island, however if furthering your education is your dream, go for it, you can do it part time, at night or on weekends. One of our students just got her Masters, she went to school one weekend a month, she worked full time and has 2 children. She's a centered person and now is not only a great Mom but has a Masters degree in her field.  

I could go on and on with examples of people who manage to be a mom or a dad and still follow their dreams. I guess in the end it boils down to how badly you want it and what are you willing to sacrifice, maybe it means less TV, or getting up early, cutting back on spending or staying up a bit later. Maybe it means giving up control and letting your husband be a parent. But in the end it all boils down to you and the choices you make that get you closer to your dream. I had a dream once, I dreamed of leaving the corporate world and doing something that inspired me. I was taking yoga classes at the time and loved it so I very nervously signed up for yoga teacher training. I was nervous that I was too old and too fat and not flexible enough, but I did it anyways. It took 3 years ( one weekend a month) to complete. As you know today I teach full time and love it. The journey to this place was full of tough decisions.

I have other dreams, and I have these dreams on paper and I work towards them, researching them, talking about them and taking little action steps. I share these dreams with my friends to make them real, and to make sure I am not letting the boogeyman scare me. People have told me I should write a book, I want to write a book and at the same time it scares me. Just before Christmas I started writing a book, the working title is "Last Night my Husband Cried" , it's the story of my husband's battle with cancer, from my perspective, it's the story of my love for him, it's the story of his courage. I work on it, rewrite it, add to it and one day when it's finished maybe I will be lucky enough to have it published, in the end that won't matter. What matters most is I am writing it, I am standing up against my fears and going for my next dream.

So I ask you this; what are your fears masquerading as? Maybe you are holding on to excess weight because you are afraid of being thin. Maybe you didn't do so well in high school so are secretly afraid you are not smart enough to get that dreamed about degree. Maybe you think to be a runner you have to run fast. Maybe you don't really know what holds you back and it's time to find out. Because this I can promise you, you will be happier and a better person if you are doing what you love even if it's just for a couple of hours every week. So pick up that paint brush, write that book, climb that mountain, love the life you know you deserve.

If not now when ?  

exsuses funny 

Here's the number one regret people express on their death bed.   

I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If I had a Magic Wand

Once upon a time a beautiful woman walked into my studio and told me how fat she was, I couldn't see her fat, in fact, when she walked in, my first thought was how gorgeous she was. We talked at length and at the end of the conversation I realized that this mother, wife, friend,that this divine soul had no love for herself. Here she was pouring all this love out to her family and community but she wasn't giving it back to herself. I told her I thought she was gorgeous, and she gave me the look. The look that said "you're crazy" . I get that look all the time, the look that says "you are full of crap, I am not gorgeous, look at me I am ugly, I am fat". I  always feel momentarily sad when someone gives me  the look ,because like most women I wasted way too many years believing myself to be fat and unattractive so I understand the subtle and not so subtle language of self loathing.

So, if you've made a list of resolutions I beg you to add one more resolution to your list and that would be to make 2014 the year you work on loving yourself more, the year you stop judging yourself so harshly and give up on the notion that you are just your body. I am so much more than my body, my body really in the end is just the vessel for my soul. Yes, I take care of it and feed it well and exercise it, but having a fit body does not make me a loving person or a more compassionate wife. What I mean is this; so what if I can run a great trail race and then  I come home and criticize my husband, or gossip about a friend.  What makes me a better person is how loving, tolerant and accepting of the people I come in contact with.  

One of the truths about most women is that we never seem to be happy with our looks, if we have thin hair then we want thick hair, if we have curly hair then we want straight hair,  if we have large breasts then we want smaller breasts, if we have small breasts then we want larger breasts. It's this endless cycle of never really being happy with ourselves.

We also tend to place so much of our self worth on our looks, that it becomes almost like a self imposed hell in our minds. We look in the mirror and see perceived faults, comparing ourselves to the air brushed beauties in magazines and we think, if only I looked like that, then I would be happy. But happiness is and always will be within your grasp. Much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who went on a journey to get back to Kansas, and in end  learned that all along she had the power to go home . We too have the power to be happy within ourselves.  So come home to the love within you. 
Several years ago Frank took a course and as part of that course he wrote his eulogy, it's beautifully written and really is a great exercise to find out what you truly value. If you were to write yours what would you want to be remembered for? I would want my daughter to say that I loved her unconditionally and that I set an example of what a strong, confidant woman can achieve. Not, that I was always dieting and complaining about my body.  I would want my parents to say I made time for them and expressed gratitude for their sacrifice. I would want Frank to say I was compassionate to him. I would want my friends to say I made time for them and that I listened and was a safe friend. I would want my community to say I gave back. I would want my step children to say that I loved and accepted them.

So as you make your list of resolutions make them loving and realistic. Make them based on the things you really value. Take the time to think about who you really want to be where you really want to go this year. But also tell yourself this is the year you will stop that negative self talk and love yourself, the year you embrace how amazing you are. 

If I had a magic wand I would wave it over you  and grant you more self love, more patience with yourself on your journey and I would wish that you would see the world around you through love not fear. If you haven't guessed it yet, you are that beautiful woman that walked into my studio.

This year, get those family portraits done, don't wait, you will look back on them one day with so much love.
This year have coffee with a friend and don't talk about how fat you are.
This year stand naked in front of your mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful.
This year stop buying the magazines that air brush women.
This year buy the clothes you love not the ones that hide your perceived faults.
This year make the time for yourself to exercise, being fit  will change how you feel about yourself.
This year promise yourself you will not go on the latest fad diet, if diets worked it wouldn't be a billion dollar industry.
This year when someone compliments you, just say "thanks".
This year just be you, uniquely you - be real. 

With Love,
Sheree xo

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Single Hair

One day I was washing my husband’s hair in the sink and as he stood up a single hair fell and landed on his glasses. We looked into each other’s eyes until the tears in mine made me turn away. My husband was too sick to shower as he had started chemo and was recovering from colon surgery.

That single hair was the beginning of him losing maybe a third of his hair, he was grateful he didn’t lose it all. It also represented in that moment the beginning of a journey into cancer treatment. So in that single hair was the message that all we had was that day, and that each day is a gift so worrying or fretting about an unknown future would take away from the day.

A single snowflake signals the coming of winter and a single Robin can signify the coming of spring.

In that single hair was also the message of change; our life together was going to be different.

A single word such as sorry can change a relationship.

A single a hug can show someone you care deeply.

A single person can change our world; just think of Rosa Parks or Gandhi.

Sometimes in a single moment we realize that our path must change that we are not happy.

A single decision makes no change, but a single action on that decision can change your life.

Sometimes a single harsh word can damage a relationship for awhile or even a lifetime, be cautious of your words.

That single hair reminded me of how much I loved my husband.

It is said that a single drink is all it takes for some people to be unable to stop. I know a single cigarette would release in me that addiction.

A single sperm meeting an egg creates the body for a soul to be reborn.

Last night my husband reached out and caressed my thigh and in that single moment I felt his love expressed physically.

A single yoga class can open the door to freedom, it did for me.

It is said that a single step starts a journey. Just ask Ray Zahad, a Canadian runner who ran across the Sahara Desert the importance of a single step. He is changing the world.

A single choice to forgive sets you free .

We often think more is better, yet everything starts with a single action or thought.

A single action of surrender opens you up to the grace of the universe.

Last night I sat on the couch talking to husband, tomorrow he starts chemo again, and in that single moment I prayed for the strength to be there for him.

Most trees begin with a single taproot, just as we as souls are connected to a divine source.

A single man with cancer, Terry Fox, can influence the lives of Canadian children for decades.

A single day is all we really have so never take it for granted, say I love you, say I’m sorry, be the best possible person you can be. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Today I am grateful for........

"Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses."
  Alphonse Karr

Thanksgiving is one of my all time favorite holidays, for years I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, I'm not really sure why, it was just another day off for me. Then, when I started dating Frank we began blending our families and the traditional Thanksgiving dinner was born in my home.

When Frank and I first started celebrating Thanksgiving it would be Frank and I, my daughter Margaux and his two younger boys, Ben and Jacob. We would put a turkey in the oven then head to the Seaton trail for a hike. Upon our return I would cook the vegetables. I make amazing mashed potatoes and over the years I taught my daughter how to whip them just so, and it is now her job to mash the potatoes.  Over the years our thanksgiving celebration grew to include Franks 3 older children, Brian, Lianne and Lori, their partners and over time their children.

For several years we lived beside an apple orchard so we with the permission of our neighbor Steve we could gather fallen apples for fresh apple crisp, this too is Margaux's specialty, she makes one for us almost every Thanksgiving. Lianne now brings the turkey and all the fixings so our meal comes together through the efforts of all of our family.

My Grandma Rena, who is still alive at the age of 93, is a quilter. Over the years she would save worn shirts, clothing, and pieces of fabric. She would sew them together to create patch work quilts. I loved these quilts which sometimes would have pieces of my Grandpa Sam's old checkered shirts in them.  I like to compare our family to one of her quilts; we have  been patched together with love and time. I am Frank's 3rd wife and he had children with his 2 previous wives. Margaux is my daughter from my first marriage. Some of the older children have remarried or separated. Yet within our family there is so much love that it's hard to believe we came together through the hardships of divorce. Over the years, lines of separation have fallen to the wayside and we have become stitched together with love and respect. I couldn't imagine my life without Frank's kids; they have brought so much to my life. This past year in our family we have experienced illness and other events that would seem from the outside looking in to be catastrophic; it has been challenging (to say the least) on so many levels. We have watched some of our kids struggle with their own personal battles.
 As well, we have had to deal with Frank's ongoing battle with cancer.  And yet out of this stress has risen a stronger closer family, I grew to see my stepson Brian on a whole new level. He is an amazing father. My stepdaughter Lianne has been a rock for her father. Lori in her own quiet way has been dealing with her own health issues not wanting to bother her father. Franks son Jacob and his partner Jenny have been a godsend to the family moving from Scarborough to Brooklin to help out. Then of course there is my daughter Margaux, she has been there for me during the scary days at the hospital waiting for Frank to come out of surgery, she has been there for Brian helping him with his children. She tells me all the time how grateful she is that I married Frank and how much she loves him, her step brothers, step sisters and her nieces and nephews.

 "If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough."
  Meister Eckhart

You see change does work out, I write about change all the time and having the courage to follow your heart. While I did just that, I fell in love with Frank and followed my heart. I thought about the risk, past failed marriages, kids, a 14 year age difference. But I believe in real love and that love conquers all and that in all my actions if I personally put love first there is always a way. I don't need flowers or false words; I value family, respect and integrity. There were times that our relationship was hard, but the quiet whispers in my heart would tell me to keep trying to find a way to make it work, that love was the answer and that love was not always fireworks and flowers.

So Thanksgiving is the first holiday that Frank and I celebrated as a couple and it was the beginning of our amazing family, where we created new traditions and where our children could come home and see happy parents, who love each other.

One of the things we do at Thanksgiving dinner (which our kids used to hate), is we go around the table and say one thing we are grateful for, in the early days it was often things like South Park, the mashed potatoes' or Nintendo. But our kids have grown now and with it their gratitude has changed. While we still get some pretty funny comments, there are always some that are so deep my eyes well up with tears. I feel so blessed to be Mom/Stepmom/Grandma to these amazing souls.

So this year as always I am grateful for my family, during tough times they have all shown true love and strength. I am grateful for Frank, he taught me so much about myself, through his love and patience I have become a better person. I am grateful for his wonderful oncology team, the doctors and nurses who have shown him compassion beyond what I could have ever imagined. I am grateful we took the chance and moved to Brooklin, this business, this town, these have been some of the best years of our lives. My staff is amazing without them I don't know how I could have coped. I could never forget to mention our close friends Bill, Charlie, Doug and Paul, these men have personally gone out of their way to support Frank and I during his illness, .But most of all I am grateful for the last 18 years with Frank the ups, downs, twists and turns are something I would never change, looking back over the years he has been my friend, lover, teacher, mentor, partner and husband. Our relationship reminds me of the trails I love to run on, there have been breathtaking highs, some lows, some challenging rocky areas and times where the beauty made it all worth while.  

At night I lie in bed and before I go to sleep I say thank you for the day, no matter what. This is not always easy these days and sometimes tears flow down my checks as the fear of Franks illness creeps into my mind, but I try to stay grateful that our souls came together and the MacKinnon-Nicholson families blended. Each day we are reborn with a chance to make new changes. So in each day we can start over, have hope and know that in the end all we only have this day.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

If I had Super Powers

 This blog is for you our family and friends. It’s for those of you who want to ask but are afraid to say the wrong thing, or perhaps feel you may be crossing a boundary. We’ve not kept it a secret, our lives have been stressful lately. Frank has cancer. He had cancer, we thought it was cured, but in spite of surgery followed by 8 months of chemo, the cancer spread. It spread from his colon to his liver and lungs. He will have more surgery and more chemo and we hope that this time the cancer will be stopped.

The sun rises and with it my heart expands with gratitude that I have another day with Frank, I thank the universe for this day with him. A day we can laugh together, makes plans, see our family and interact with the many customers of our studio who have becomes our friends. I never take a day lightly, if it can be said today, I say it; I say thank you, I say I love you, I say I am sorry, I say I miss you, I say I need you. I speak from my heart to all I meet.  The sun sets and with it I give my gratitude to the universe for the day I just had, no matter what, it was another day with Frank.

 If I had a super power I would use it to kill his cancer.  I would save my husband and banish cancer from the world forever.

If I had super power, I would fly my husband to another  planet and on that planet would be something that would heal him, perhaps a white light or special stone, or new technology that would emit an energy that would lift the cancer from him making him healthy.

If I had a super power, I would then return to earth and tell everyone about this amazing planet where cancer can be cured.

Maybe if I were a super power I would just be able to wrap my arms around Frank and make him better, a kind of super girl that kills cancer.

Perhaps my super power would be  my ability to reach in and tear the evil cancer from my husband’s body, throw it to the ground and set it on fire with my x-ray vision.

What if,  as a super power, I had the ability to make myself tiny ? I would shrink to a microscopic  size and enter my husband body, fighting off the evil cancer cells. Killing them all one by one like a spartan warrior.

But I have no super powers, so each day I draw in long slow breaths, I breathe in Prana (life force energy)  and with it comes hope; hope that all is going to be well and that no matter what the day brings, I will have the strength and most of all courage to be there for my husband, with my human powers of love, compassion and patience.

So thank you for your concern, your offers to help your prayers and your good thoughts.  I am lifted and encouraged by them,  so much of my strength comes from you. I know that if I am tired, or weary or just need a chat I am supported by a net of family, friends and community that  will catch me if I fall and that I will bounce back up, super powers or not. 

So in the end maybe superman represented that super human power we all have to do what is right no matter what, face down evil and to lift other humans up with our spirit.