The great 2015

Well, we are back full force everyone, and more than just that it’s a new year! A fresh start – or more like a continuation of the changes I have made over my many years on this earth – a whopping 25, if you didn’t know.

There is so much that 2015 has to hold. Not only are Cody and I getting hitched come June, but our group of friends is GROWING!!! That’s right – we have two amazing couples in our circle of friends that are expecting beautiful bundles of joy! This, if anything, is the most amazing thing to look forward to. Yes, I am excited to marry the man of my dreams, my best friend, but if anything says “You are growing up” it’s when baby showers are in your future.

Normally resolutions are made and then broken. I honestly believe this. Resolutions at the start of the year are pointless when you don’t know what the year holds for you! How can you say that you are going to set a goal if you can’t foresee the future and know that those goals are obtainable? So, this year I have decided not to make any, but rather enjoy everything this year is going to bring. There are so many events that are going to unfold that making a list of what not to do and what needs to be done by the end of the year is just adding to an ever-growing to-do list that I already loathe. I want 2015 to be a year of happiness, love, friendship and family.

It is a widely known fact that the number 1 resolution every year, over and over and over again, is to become healthier and to exercise more. Just drive past any gym on January 2nd and see the numerous cars that were once not present but now are abundant. These cars will slowly diminish. People’s lives are simply too busy,

I sound pretty cynical and negative; however, every year this has been my goal and the only reason that I have stuck to it is because I slowly over the last two years have exercised more and it has become easier for me to the point where it has become a lifestyle choice, rather than a resolution to be healthier at the end of the year. I want to be healthier at the end of every day!

I was pretty interested in what other bloggers thought and what resolutions they were making. I found a lot, and some of their points of view made me think twice. Let’s Talk New Year’s Resolutions is keeping things positive, and instead of seeing resolutions that were not kept as failures, she simply adds onto it and tries for next year. Just like this, most blogs are following the same suit – positive resolutions for the new year. Starting off on the right foot!

Whether you are making resolutions or not, I wish you all the best in 2015 – health, happiness, family and friendship.

~ Jacqui

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Happiness and histories

I’ve been thinking a lot about history. There have been empires that have risen and fallen in all our years on this planet. Wars raged, places discovered, and countless loves found and lost. We all have our own history as well. We have our own way of looking at things. What we see and what we think is 100% unique to ourselves. And in my opinion, I think that no one remembers that fact.

No one recalls that our moods, our experiences, and everything in our own personal lives, including our own lessons and attitudes, are pushing us through the world. I often forget this point myself and end up thinking that the customers I deal with sometimes, when they are being in no way polite, are just horrible people. The one thing I always forget is that they are probably going through a lot of stuff, and if the most simple things, like a card reader error, can ruin their day, that I shouldn’t be upset at them. I shouldn’t hate them for the one minute I am in contact with them. I should remember to be just a little bit more understanding.

I work at a gas station right now, and see people from so many different lives enter through those two sliding doors into my workplace. Sometimes they are so rude and coarse and rough. Sometimes they are as sweet as honey in your chamomile tea. I am standing behind a register, ringing up your gas purchase, your lottery, your candy, and I am doing my best to smile for you. To make sure that when you come into that particular gas station you have as easy a transaction as possible, while still doing my job. I am pleasant and welcoming for each new customer. I too have a lot going on constantly, and I want them to understand and be polite, like I try to be with them no matter what catastrophe I may be dealing with in my life. However, wanting them to act how I see fit doesn’t ever work, because it all comes down to history.

We interact with people on a daily basis who are trying to move the mountains in their lives, trying to forge a better future, out of their various histories. We are all living in one confined planet. We are all trying to get around! We are all trying to live for us, our families and our friends.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

There is a woman who comes in to get gas. She has two grown children and always wears a smile, even though she has a lot on her plate, with her own business and bills, and yet she still is smiling.

There is a man who can barely walk on rainy days and yet he drives his friends around, because they were there for him and saved him in the war, so he does the driving now. He is in pain probably more than half the time I see him, but he still wears a smile for me.

There is a student who doesn’t know what she wants to do in her life, but she is working towards a degree in economics so she will get a good job and be able to take care of her mom one day, because her mom gave her everything she never got in life. She gets really frustrated because the card reader doesn’t like her card on the first few tries, especially at me when I first met her, but now she smiles because I took my time with her and her card.

There is an angry man who won’t talk or look you in the eye, and if you question him he will scream at you, no matter who is in the store, but get him on his good day and his smile is actually quite nice and his eyes can look quite kind.

There is a little girl whose mom gives her a weekly allowance for doing chores. She saved up the allowance so she could pay for her mom’s gas and two movie tickets, because she wanted to have a mommy-daughter date with her mommy who works too hard. She paid me all in change, but I still smiled and couldn’t stop for the rest of my shift even as I counted all those coins.

The people I see every day have vast, amazing histories and wonderfully complex lives and thoughts. They see me for maybe 10 minutes tops in their entire day or week, and all I can do is try and smile, and to make this one thing in their soon-to-be histories at least pleasant, if not happy.

I just want everyone to be happy and spread the happy. It’s not easy, ever, to let the little, stupid, nagging things go. It is harder than diamonds to actually carry out those three little words in our day-to-day lives: let it go.

Exasperated one morning, after a falling out with someone, I was visiting Joe’s aunts. I was obsessing as I sometimes, okay, usually do, and Aunt Brenda just looked at me and said, “Let it go! Get over it!”

I honestly just started laughing. Because it is so simple. Just let it go. Let go of the stupid little things, let go of the tough bad huge things. Yes, work through it, but when you are out in the world, let it go. Be happy! Smile, even when everyone is bugging the piss out of you!

So yes, even though our histories are long and stretched out, varied and eclectic, we are all together. We all have the hard days and stupid exhausting moments of frustration, especially when someone or something gets under your skin. And everyone has days when nothing, no matter what you try or do, makes things better, but I just want you to remember one thing if that stupid day for you is today: I want, no, need, for you to be happy. Because it is a great, big, beautiful world full of great, big, amazing moments, and this one will pass. You will feel and be completely different tomorrow. We are never the same people in each and every passing moment. Change is inevitable. I want to give you this moment for happiness, your happiness. I want you to let it go, and just delight in the fact that in this moment, you can smile and turn it all around.

Be happy! Keep smiling!Happiness

~ Andreah

My inner child

Lately, I have been spending my days playing ‘nanny’ to my incredible nieces and nephew for my wonderful and BRAVE older sister, Julia.

Nanny Toni

Nanny Toni

A series of unfortunate events led me to being unemployed this past December and for the first time in my fairly young career-life, I really started questioning my happiness in my most recent roles. Whether it was the type of organization/role or the field of marketing itself has yet to be determined – whatever the root cause, I am a firm believer that happiness is one of the most important aspects of life, in all areas, and it was a bit of a wake-up call.

For the first few weeks or so of my ‘vacation from life’, I thoroughly enjoyed the leisure of my new found freedom and lack of responsibility – soaking in the early morning light as I woke with no alarm, working out whenever I wanted, spending days with friends that held opposite schedules of my previous 9-5 office life, going days without having to put on pants (seriously, best thing about not having a job), dropping in to see my sisters, nieces and nephew during THE DAY, properly preparing the house for Christmas and all the events of Christmas coming, getting sick with the flu – twice – and having the proper time to take care of myself and sleep as much as I could.

And then reality kicked in. Hard.

Reality of my blaring lack of income, lack of purpose, lack employment, lack of contribution to society, lack of ‘insert negative attribution of not having a job here’ and my natural reaction of pure panic set in. I had never been unemployed for longer than a few weeks and while I was applying and interviewing, I still had not found the role for me and it was FREAKING me out.

And then I got the call.

An innocent request to retrieve my oldest niece Sophie from school triggered my sister’s brave admittance to struggling with PPD and her even braver request for help.

I was needed.

Call it fate, kismet, God’s intervention (my personal belief) or the like, there was a divine reasoning behind my lack of gainful employment and I was needed.

While I would like to say I have been selflessly aiding my sister with her beautiful babies – trekking to and from school while negotiating with Sophie regarding outfit/hair accessory/schedule of the day, handling Lillian’s toilet-training-tantrums and mishaps, changing Isaac’s poop-exploded diapers – with grace and determination, I would be lying.

Being with my sister and her babies every day has been one of the most selfish things I have ever done. I am not sure of many other aunties who are nearly as lucky as I am to get to spend so much quality time with their nieces/nephews. In fact, among our sisterhood, there has been explicit expression of the jealousy they have of me – with one working insane-o hours and the other so very far away.

Don’t get me wrong, the aforementioned struggles do in fact take place daily. There are stressful and overwhelming moments, moments filled with wonder at how Julia does it/what was Julia thinking having SO many kids and moments that make me question my abilities to handle and guide such young and precious minds.

But none of these moments will ever compare to the other moments that fill the days.

The influence these little people have had on me has been nothing short of profound, enlightening and priceless. They have gifted me something that I thought was long lost and unrecoverable: they have found my inner child.

No-pants-wearing inner-child

No-pants-wearing inner-child

I have noticed a shift in my behaviour, even my attitude and I attribute it fully to the impact of these little people on me. Based on the following changes I can say I know the child-like Toni has returned to breathe new life into what was once a blindly living adult:

1. Announcing and celebrating burps: while my sisters can attest to my ability to burp like nobody’s business and reveling in it when I was younger, when boys and dating started to become of interest to me, this habit quickly stopped in order to appear more eligible. I refuse to this day to fart in front of my fiancé, so you can imagine his surprise when I let out a large, rather gratuitous burp last week while watching TV. Instead of my usual “Excuse me” and apology for how gross that was, I turned to him and announced, “I burped!” He looked at me, quite confused and said, “Good for you?”. While I was slightly horrified at my initial reaction, a smile formed on my face as I realized I had picked up this adorable behaviour from my youngest niece, Lillian. Now the lesson here is not in the burp itself, but in the ability to embrace your inner silly-side and give yourself a bit of freedom to relax. Not only had I broken one of my own impossible-to-live-up-to standards for living with another being, but I had reacted with pure joy at the surprise of how freeing it was. Yay me!

2. Waving your freak flag: up until quite literally yesterday, you could not pay Sophie to spend a day without her purple, plastic crown. This crown was a gift from me to her, something I never imagined would ever become so important to her, so quickly. A freebie in a Happy Meal, the crown came along when I gave into an insatiable craving for a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Sophie has believed of her royal status long before the purchase of this Happy Meal, so I felt it only fitting to gift it to her, instead of returning it to the counter. I could have never prepared myself for the reaction and love she would have for this crown. She never took it off. Ever. Becoming her signature accessory, Sophie has not been seen at any moment without her crown – even when she played a sheep in her Sunday School Christmas Program.

Princess Sheep Sophie

Princess Sheep Sophie

Not only does she wear her crown, but she proudly shows it off to anyone who may glance in her direction and introduces herself as Princess Sophie. She does not care what people may think, as her childish joy in this item outweighs her awareness of the judgey world we live in. What a lesson to be taught by someone so little. While I do not revolve my life around the opinions of others, I do let insecurities creep up and wonder how people will receive and perceive me. However, being exposed to the surety in which Sophie carries herself, made my heart ache with a bit of sadness for myself – at what age did I start caring what people thought? How many things have I backed out of, changed my mind about, didn’t wear, wore too much of, based on other people’s opinions? And how many of these ‘people’ really mattered? Not many. From now on I am going to wave my freak flag, whatever it may, proudly, with less concern for other’s opinions and more concern for my own child-like joy in life.

3. Shrills, shrieks and laughter: pure, unadulterated joy – for no freaking reason. As silly as it sounds, Isaac’s ability to both entertain and thrill himself just by blowing a few spit-filled raspberries with his mouth amazes me. It is one of his new-found talents and the smile that comes to his face after he’s created that sound with his mouth is infectious and lesson-filled. He has joy for no reason. Lillian will often look at me and shriek with excitement that bursts through her piercing blue eyes and causes her face to run red with life – for no reason at all, other than to show her happy and get a laugh out of me. Seriously, at what point in our inevitable growing up do we lose focus of our ‘happy for no reason’ joy? It may be the long hours worked at a sometimes-thankless job, or the wear of financial burden when the outcome is more than the income, or the schedule to keep with the children to get in all of the committed activities, or the increased awareness of ‘things’ to do, have and desire, or our inability to unplug from our cell phones, social media and work that sometimes sneaks home with us. But when did any of that mean we should lose our happy? Huge life lesson here for me: be happy like a child for no reason and be worried when your happy is attached to something – nothing in the life is permanent and that reason can easily be taken from you.

While I am excitedly looking forward to the next chapter of my career-life, I am revelling in theses moments filled with lessons being freely taught to me by such young influences. Lessons that I will happily apply to all aspects of my life. I pray daily that I am making a difference for my sister, brother-in-law and their precious babies, but more so, I am sending prayers of thanks for these lessons taught to me by these incredible souls and to God for giving me the time to learn.

~ Toni

I have a ‘thing’

You get one shot. One chance in this life to reach your goals, achieve your dreams, to overcome obstacles, and to better yourself – mind, body and spirit. 

I am nothing special, out of the ordinary or exceptional by any means. I am a normal (well…fairly normal), girl-next-door type of woman. I do not have an expansive bank account, or talents that set me a part from the crowd.  I do not foresee my story being one of fame (outside of my inner circle of course) or fortune (although, according to Julia I am a future millionairess).

I do however have a ‘thing’.

My ‘thing’ makes me happy, helps me sleep better, aids in clearing my head (sometimes it just won’t shut up!), gives me the energy to help Julia with my INSANELY energetic nieces and equally as curious nephew and care for my own family, grants me patience when stressed and the determination to reach my goals, has improved my confidence, helps me keep up with my two large dogs that require a ton of exercise… and it certainly hasn’t hurt in the bedroom. 😉

My ‘thing’ is working out, in any capacity. Whether it is hiking, strength training, running the track, biking a trail, playing ‘horsey’ with Sophie or swimming laps, I want in.

Hiking in Blue Mountain for Shelby's Bachelorette

Hiking in Blue Mountain for Shelby’s Bachelorette

Two years ago, you would have never pegged me for someone who loves (yes, you read that right, LOVES) to work out. While I have always been conscious about my body, I was never one who ‘hated’ on it or complained about it. I had curves, an average waist line and overall I was happy with how I felt.

Then Jacqui suggested that we should try out a local bootcamp she had heard about through work (which is where I met Julie, my amazing trainer and now good friend). Our readers should know that at the time of this suggestion the sisters had been trying to get together at least once a week, which had resulted in A LOT of baking and in turn a little over indulgence.  Jacqui’s suggestion was a welcomed hit.

After an initial fitness test, weigh in and measurements recorded, we started Julie’s class. The first one did me in.

I was sweaty, I was tired, I felt weak, I smelled, I had struggled the whole way through.

I  loved it.

I was hooked. I loved how I felt during and even more so when I was SO sore and couldn’t convince my legs to climb the stairs the next day.

At first, bootcamp was a twice to three times a week activity that I did with my sisters. Then I added in running on my own time and hiking with a few girlfriends.

Running The Grand River Trail

Running the Grand River Trail

I would work out in parks, in basement studios, on ‘Mount Trashmore’ in Kitchener, in my backyard, the track at Benny’s, on the Grand River Trail – anywhere I could find space.

Hiking Tewes Falls, Dundas ON

Hiking Tewes Falls, Dundas, ON

I still do. I am blessed with friends that also share in my passion for fitness and drive me to keep pushing myself. My fiancé is trying to remember not to mess with me when I haven’t made a workout or didn’t push myself hard enough. (Come to think of it, this rule also applies for food and sleep…poor guy.)

I hope I never lose my fire for fitness. It has enriched my life in more ways then one. I feel balanced, happy and at peace… It also gave me the confidence to do this:

The 'Mike approved' blog shot - photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

The ‘Mike approved’ blog shot – photo credit: Close Your Eyes Photography

Something I never thought I’d have the guts to do. It also doesn’t hurt that I worked with one of the most amazing photographers EVER. (Seriously, the bomb – check Heather out here).

As I am lucky enough to have an extended sisterhood that includes many beautiful women (I mean this in the truest sense of the word), I have been cheered on by every humbling reminder that I am making them proud and even inspiring a few.

I hope you’re having a beautiful Tuesday.

~ Toni