Kind Words

良言一句三冬暖
“One kind word can warm three winter months.” Chinese Proverb

I’ve been feeling yucky. Nothing specific. As colds, flu and many other ailments have been going around this time of year, my mind became overactive with possible causes for my affliction. I woke up this morning completely sapped of energy, despite a full night’s sleep. “Perhaps I should skip yoga and simply stay in bed,” I moaned aloud.

! quickly checked my iPhone. (Heaven forbid I miss any late breaking news, despite my misery). What I read changed the course of my day completely.

I received a message from a colleague whom I had worked with before I retired. She was a teacher when I worked with her, and she was now a school administrator. In her letter, she clearly articulated the type of leader that she had worked so hard to become. She remorsed about words and actions that she wished she would have done differently along the way. She spoke about the difficulty of staying positive in climates of toxicity. For her, the first school that she worked at as an administrator, bore such a climate. There she met a young teacher who struggled personally and professionally. She worked hard to build trust with him, inspire him and help him to feel safe.

To make a long story short, that struggling teacher got it together and had just been offered his dream job at his top choice school. The first thing he did (after accepting the position…and perhaps phoning his Mom), was to write to my former colleague to thank her for all that she had done for him. She then immediately wrote to me and passed on her own appreciation for me inspiring her, especially in terms of investing in relationships. Her kind words touched my soul and instantly soothed and invigorated every fiber of my being.

It is a commonly known psychological principle that kind words have the power to heal, while a single derogatory statement can remain negatively trapped in our brains forever. It is no surprise that research has continued to produce increasing evidence regarding the incredible power that our words have on each other. In Words Can Change Your Brain, the authors argue that positive words strengthen areas in our frontal lobes and promote healthy cognitive functioning. Such words propel the motivational centers of our brains into action and build resiliency. (Newberg, Waldman, 1994). Taking this concept even further, Massaru Emoto’s The Hidden Messages in Water discusses research that gives strong implications on how our words, and even our thoughts, can profoundly impact the earth and our personal health. (Emoto, 2004).

After reading (and I confess, rereading) my colleagues’ letter, I quickly got up and got dressed for yoga. I was invigorated and was now ready to take on the day.

Words. They have the power to hurt or to heal. How will you use them?

__________________________

Full Proverb: 良言一句三冬暖,恶语伤人六月寒
“One kind word can warm three winter months, while vile talk wounds like bitter cold in June.” ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs (Yanyu)
Editor: Rohsenow, John S.

“Hi, Honey, I’m Home…Forever!”

There are endless quips regarding marriage and retirement.

“When you retire you switch bosses – from the one who hired you, to the one that married you.” (Gene Perret)

“When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband and half the salary.” (William Mitchell)

“A married husband is often a wife’s full-time job.” (Ella Harris)

“Warning: Retired person on premises. Knows everything and has plenty of time to tell it.” (Annonymous)

And the title quote (also from Gene Perret).

I’m sure that you can add others….

A year before I retired, I diligently began to read all that I could on the emotional side of retiring. The work that I read on marriage and retirement stopped me in my tracks. Much of this research hammered out the frequently mismatched perceptions of couples once retiring (ranging from different opinions on money, time together/apart, chores, daily activities, travel, family commitments, etc., etc.). According to this research, this misalignment can lead to marital breakdown where, as several studies found, a quarter of American divorces take place with couples who are fifty-years or older. (Yogev, 2012) It can also apparently lead to such strange phenomena as
“Shujin Zaitaku Sutoresu Shoukougun,” literally “One’s Husband Being at Home Stress Syndrome.” (BBC News, 2006-11-29) The more I read, the bleaker the news. I quickly quit reading.

After nineteen months of being officially retired, what is my personal experience with marriage and retirement? Without being too much of a schmoopie, I couldn’t be happier. So much so that I went back to the research with fresh (but slightly more experienced) eyes. What did I find?

• Sixty percent of couples report that there is (ultimately) an improvement in their marriage after retirement. (Forbes, 2007)
• Compared with a matched sample of working men, male retirees
reported higher levels of marital satisfaction. (Kulik, 1999)
•Both wives and husbands tend to indicate greater marital satisfaction if they retired at the same time. (Forbes, 2007) Although, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, fewer than twenty percent of American couples retire in the same year.
• Married couples are twice as likely to save for retirement, often giving them more financial security in their retirement years. (Social Security Administration)
•Retirement reinforces the pre-existing quality of individual marriages, e.g. retirement tends to have a positive effect on marriages that were previously strong and happy, and a negative effect on marriages that were previously shaky. (Missouri Families)

I also went back to Yogev’s research. If I hadn’t quit reading her work so early, I would have realized that it was filled with practical tips and just plain good advice for starting retirement as a couple on a positive note. e.g. :

•Take time and think about what each of you would like to do during retirement
•Communicate openly
•Be specific by what you mean
•Be willing to compromise
•Set boundaries
•Find shared interests
•Ensure individual personal space
•Designate household tasks
•Allow yourself to take baby steps on new endeavors – you seldom need to rush
(Yogev, 2012).

As I perused these strategies, I shuddered with gratitude. I am realistic about my shortcomings and am thankful to have someone who balances out areas where I am not naturally inclined. As in dancing, the moves are more effortless, and enjoyable, with a strong, steady partner. Someone who can both seamlessly lead, and follow, allowing you to find your own unique steps as an individual while maintaining harmony as a team. For this, I am eternally grateful.

Happy 17th Anniversary, Richard. There are no words to express my deepest love and appreciation.

January 21, 2000
Back to the scene of the crime!

__________
Yogev, Sara. A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement: For Better or Worse …But Not for Lunch, Familius, Second Edition, 2012.

For those who have not seen Seinfeld’s take on schmoopies recently, you really should watch it now!
And if you missed my (slightly ‘schmoopied’) anniversary post last year, you can catch it here.

Enter If You Dare!!







When hiking the trails at Cameron Lake, on Vancouver Island, I came across several old cabins which made me pose the questions:

Would you enter?
Or dare peek inside?
Uninvited?
Today?
Even if you knew that hauntings, the ghost of Grandpa Bonney, the Cameron Lake Monster and Sasquatch sightings have all been reported in this area?
Even if you suffered from Friggatriskaidekaphobia?

Cameron Lake is surrounded by McMillian Park, lush with towering ancient Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars. Overlooking the lake you will find train trestles with wooden platforms. The trestles, now inactive, boast an incredible history and stand as an iconic landmark. Sitting on the lake, below the trestles, are several cottages originally used by the workers who maintained the railway and safeguarded it from fire. The cottages since have been passed down to the families of these workers.

Cameron Lake has repeatedly been at the center of much intrigue and fascination. In addition to what has been mentioned above, there have been several mysterious events, often retold by locals. These occurrences include the crash of a small plane (1968) where the wreckage (still containing the remains of the four passengers) was not discovered in the lake’s waters until fifteen years later. (Additional Sources: 1, 2). There have also been unsolved reports of a three-foot monkey appearing in people’s driveways just a few kilometers away (despite no one in the area known, or licensed, to own such an animal). And then there are the stories for which I could find no shred of substantiation (other than to confirm that these stories do in fact exist). These include tales of a train wreck that supposedly lies at the bottom of the lake and has never been recovered.

Earlier this week, my husband and I donned our hiking boots and rain gear (it is Vancouver Island after all) and set out to capture a few extra photos for this post. The dark skies and drizzle were perfect for the photos that I had in mind.

When we first arrived along the shore, lined with small cabins, our eyes were immediately drawn to a string-bikini-clad bather. She seemed to be having her own photo shoot on the floating dock of one of the cabins. Before you begin imaging a warm climate, it was four degrees Celsius with a stinging rain. To my husband’s chagrin, I resisted the temptation to sneak in a shot of the event.

As we continued along, Cameron Lake did not disappoint and held fast to its reputation for giving cause to wonder. Does that not oddly look like some kind of monkey king deep in that tree? (Ninth photo, no special effects.) And look! There’s a strangely elongated face high on the other trunk! (Tenth photo, again no special effects.) Well, I might as well roll with the fun and get a shot of Grandpa Bonney himself…or the closest stand-in that I could find. (Eleventh photo…special effects may have been used!)

Happy Friday the 13th everyone!!

________
This post has been written for #ThursdayDoors, a weekly blog link-up hosted by Montreal blogger/photographer Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. Why not check out the other ‘door’ postings…safe from the inside of your home?!

Retirement: Am I Still Transitioning?

A year and a half ago, my husband and I took the ‘leap of faith’ into retirement without a clear map of what we wanted our post-career life to look like. We did follow our plan to relocate to Vancouver Island. We have also been spending much time with family/friends, enjoying our grandchildren, meeting new people and traveling…all of which we had hoped to do.

In fact, our retirement so far has been a whirlwind of family time, social time and travel. It has been the gaps in-between those fast-paced times which gives me pause to wonder, “Am I still transitioning?” “Should I have a more established routine?” “Am I achieving what I wanted from this amazing gift of freedom?”

We had decided to give ourselves ample time to transition. But how long does transitioning take and should I be doing something more with my retirement? Volunteering? A deeper commitment to my community? Contributing to world peace? Or even just achieving a more established routine or engaging in some form of ‘employment’ (shriek here)!

Originally led by the work of Professor Robert Atchley, (The Sociology of Retirement, R. C. Atchley – 1976), researchers suggest that the psychological process of retirement follows a similar pattern to other major areas of transition, and can be divided into distinct stages. Researchers also suggest that it is not always necessary to complete each of these stages sequentially before moving onto the next. Also, like many other transition models, there are several variations on the labeling and description of the phases. The sources are endless. I have listed just a few of them here. (Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4).

The core phases are often described as follows:
1. Pre-retirement – Planning Phase
2. The Final Days of Work – Farewell Phase
3. The Initial Days of Retirement – Honeymoon Phase
4. So this is it? – Disenchantment Phase
5. Building a New Identity – Reorientation Phase
6. Moving On – Establishing Routine and Stability Phase

And there it was, staring me in the face–the disenchantment phase. It hits us all, even if just fleetingly — especially after travel or holidays. As Abba so appropriately asked in their song, ‘Happy New Year’*, What do we do at the end of the champagne and fireworks? How do we know if we are going astray, or do we keep on going (astray) anyway? (Source 5).

And that really is the question that I have been asking myself this post-holiday season, after my eighteen months of retirement. Luckily, again, according to researchers, it is these exact questions (Who am I now? What is my purpose?) that we need to ask ourselves in order to achieve closure from our working days and fully embrace our retirement years.

Currently, I would say that I am juggling between Phases 3 and 5, with a healthy dose of Phase 4 mixed into the intervals. I’m definitely not at Phase 6 quite yet. Since that stage is about ‘finding stability and routine,’ I think I’ll keep experimenting with what’s out there for a little while longer!

If you are retired, do these phases seem familiar to you? Are there any additional phases that you would add?

___________________________________

*When I was part way through writing this post, I came across Abba’s song ‘Happy New Year’ featured on Hugh’s Views and News blog. It fit in perfectly with my theme. It is truly amazing how often this ‘synchronized blogging’ happens. You can check out Hugh’s post here.

“It Always Seems Impossible Until it is Done” (Nelson Mandela)

Last January 1st I made a single New Year’s resolution. I resolved to begin a blog containing my reflections as I transitioned into retirement. When I first moved to Beijing in 2001, I started a small journal that I emailed to friends and family. I, unfortunately, didn’t maintain that log for long, and always wished that I had. So many stories and newnesses from that period have been lost or modified over time.

I love to write, to wonder, to discover and to share. I now had a second chance with another new chapter in my life. Would I have any readers? I tried not to think about that part. I once again took a leap of faith.

If a crystal ball would have told me that within one year I would have written 71 posts, had 5,526 blog visitors (from 95 countries), 13,479 post views and 922 comments (plus an equal amount of blog comments on other social media links) I would have determined that the ball was broken! I realize that for the big and even medium-sized blogs out there these numbers may seem minuscule, but to me, they are a miracle.

As I continued to write and to read other people’s blogs, I began to discover what, for me, lies at the true heart of blogging. Keeping in touch with friends, building new relationships along the way, sharing ideas, connecting, reaching out, and inspiring each other have by far been the most rewarding part of the on-line writing experience. It is you that has allowed this to happen–and for that, I am both humbled and grateful. Blogging has also allowed me to process sorrowful events that have taken place for me this past year. Your kind words and sharing of your own experiences have deeply touched both me and my family.

In honour of this blogiversary, I have decided to shake things up a bit. I have updated my About Page (which you can check out here). I have also switched to a new theme (bye bye WordPress TwentyFourteen, hello TwentySeventeen). After my last comment update fail, I was hesitant to mess with my comment section, but I have added a feature that automatically allows other bloggers to link their most recent post. Fingers crossed that it works this time! I am also toying with the thought of switching to https (Secure Sockets Layer) but so far have remained firmly undecided on this move. If you have any feedback on any of these current or potential changes, I would love to hear from you. Also, if you are a blogger who uses WordPress Twenty Seventeen, and you have any cool tips, please share!

If you check out this blog even semi-regularly (or mean to) and have not yet subscribed, I would be grateful if you would do so. It is quick, easy and free (and you can do it by email or WordPress reader). Signing up helps you to ensure that you never unintentionally miss a post. And for me, it helps me to know that you are out there.

I am now off to choose my resolution for 2017. I am aware that resolutions do not work for everyone, but for me, a single, well-chosen New Year’s goal can be very powerful. I am finding my final selection to be much more difficult this year. In choosing, I hope to keep Nelson Mandela’s wise words in mind. Please stay posted!

Feature Photo created with: canva.com.

Reflections on Christmas 2016

I was hesitant to fully engage in this holiday season. There were noticeable absences in our recent family photos. I forced myself to decorate. I forgot to download my Christmas music. I let Costco do my baking. The festivities that I had always embraced so naturally didn’t feel the same as they had before.

I continued putting one foot in front of the other. Faking it until I could make it. I knew that Richard noticed. Of course he did. He was doing the same.

And then it snuck up on us. In small increments at first. It began with friends and neighbours. Some came to call. Others invited us out. Understanding, empathy, and connection are deeply seeded needs of the human experience.

It then continued with our children. Spending time with our sons and their wives/partners brings pure contentment to my soul. Adding in grandchildren is a joy that I can never adequately describe. Reunited, we told familiar stories. We laughed at tales that had been retold a hundred times. We slipped into the comfort of not having to pretend. We luxuriated in the warmth of family. Our shared experiences continued to bind us more tightly than ever.

We hung our stockings near the fire. This year we hung not only our current ones…but also the stockings of loved ones who are no longer here.

During one family gathering, Richard and I looked at each other, simultaneously overcome by emotion. We both deeply felt the presence of those who could not be seen. The feeling was unmistakable. We now recognize that day as a turning point toward healing the pieces that have been taken from our hearts.

It is said that at the end of our lives it is not our careers, our money, or our possessions that we reach for. Instead, it is the gift of family that we yearn for and hold most dear. That gift, Richard and I have received in abundance. For this, we are most deeply grateful.


This post has been written in memory of our loved ones who have so immeasurably enhanced our lives. It is especially dedicated to our first granddaughter, Baylee Jade Kailuweit-Wageman who was born October 28, 2016, and sorrowfully passed away two days later. Rest in peace beautiful Baylee. You have enriched our hearts profoundly, as only an angel could.

Thursday Doors: Christmas on Vancouver Island






I’ve been looking more closely at doors lately. Inspired by Montreal blogger, Norm Frampton, who hosts a weekly link up called Thursday Doors, I’ve begun to see the entrances to buildings in a brand new light. These shared posts, by bloggers from around the world, have taken me to new and intriguing places. They’ve also returned me to familiar places with fresh eyes. My favourite door posts so far (here, here and here) have done just that and have provided rich and intricate details of my own country’s architecture.

I became absorbed in these posts and wanted to join the collaboration. Several weeks ago, filled with enthusiasm, I went bounding outside with my camera ready. On that first outing, I came away empty-handed. It wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Many of our town’s most interesting buildings tend to have Home Hardware-like doors. I sucked back my initial disappointment. Silently I have continued my lookout. That door post remains a work-in-progress.

This holiday season has offered a playful spin on my endeavor and has provided me with much latitude for experimentation. It has also allowed me to give you a small teaser of some of our mid-Vancouver Island buildings (plus a couple of shots from Vancouver snuck in for good measure)!

Doors offer or deny access and connection. Welcoming or excluding they make a definite statement about their interiors…and about the people who dwell inside. In the spirit of the season, I kept my eyes focused on entrance ways that were festive, colourful and joyful. I looked for doors that simply or elaborately sent positive vibes and made me want to explore their buildings further.

In order of appearance (on the side column), here are my top picks. Vancouver Islanders – how many of the buildings do you recognize (without reading below)?

Crown Mansion Boutique Hotel, Qualicum Beach, BC. Originally built in 1914, and graced by such visitors as Bing Crosby, John Wayne, and the King of Siam (source) much effort has gone into preserving this home’s original grace and beauty. If you are in the vicinity, its restaurant, Butler’s, offers a first-class dining experience.

Tigh Na Mara, Seaside Resort, Parksville, BC. Founded in 1946, its name is Gaelic for “house by the sea.” This luxury resort with 192 handcrafted log guestrooms and cabins has evolved from humble beginnings of a single tent. Its spa was named number one in Canada (source).

Hospice Society at Oceanside, Qualicum Beach, BC. This 1913 home has been used by our local hospice society for over twenty years. Whenever driving by, this building makes me want to stop in and volunteer…especially at Christmas time.

Bear Lodge, Mount Washington, BC. In the 1970’s, Mount Washington became the first comprehensively planned ski resort in British Columbia. The resort village has continued to expand since then while remaining relaxed and affordable (as ski resorts go!). This pic was taken early morning when most other skiers were still fast asleep. Don’t the warm lights make you want to step inside from the cold?

A Bute Street Residence, Vancouver, BC. The next two photos stray slightly from my Vancouver Island theme. When walking down Bute, a residential street in Vancouver, I was immediately captivated by the elaborately decorated doorways of several houses in a row. This supports my deep belief that the spirit of the season is contagious…and that our neighbours do influence us more than we sometimes realize. This first Bute Street home shown is one-hundred and fifteen years old.

Ashby House Bed and Breakfast, Vancouver, BC. Also on Bute Street, this heritage-designated house was built in 1899. Converting this home into a bed and breakfast (1986) has allowed the owners to restore and preserve many of the home’s original features (source). The colour contrast between the building and its lighting quickly caught my attention and has put this B&B on my wish list of places to stay when in Vancouver.

Milner’s Garden, Qualicum Beach, BC. The piece-de-resistance of our area, and the feature photo of this post is this heritage house surrounded by 60 acres of woodlands and ten acres of garden. Visited by Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Lady Diana, Milner’s Garden (since gifted to Vancouver Island University) has quite the history. Every December, the gardens and its buildings are transformed into a winter wonderland (with festively-lit trails, a Teddy Bear’s cottage, and Santa’s Den) bringing out the inner child in all of us.

Be it with a simple wreath, or more elaborate lighting/ornamentation, have you decorated your front door to welcome in this holiday season?

Wishing you warmth and peace this Christmastime and the whole year through.

Thursday Doors is a blogging/photography challenge hosted each Thursday to Saturday by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0. If you are a blogger/photographer why don’t you join in?

A Christmas Card For You

I’ve been rethinking my Christmas traditions this year. A bit like closet cleaning, I want to ensure that I thoughtfully keep what is meaningful, retire what no longer fits, and make room for new traditions that will add value and substance.

When thinking about Christmas cards, I researched the history of Christmas card sending. (Why? Because I’m me!) The first printed Christmas card, 1843 (shown above) depicted the importance of generations of family celebrating together, service to others, as well as symbols of eternity (sprigs of holly ) and of faithfulness/God’s path (ivy). Source I love the timelessness of this message. After all, isn’t this what the core of this holiday season is all about? Okay, okay…you looked closely! So, the card also depicts a child being served wine (while the other children dig into their plum pudding). Maybe this just means that we should never take ourselves too seriously. Or maybe the controversy caused helped to sell more cards! Either way, the timelessness of the message remains.

For many, many years I sent out handwritten cards with personalized greetings. Despite my best efforts, there were always people that I missed…and despite me sending early, there were often mail delays. For a few years, I tried e-cards. They did allow me to reach more people (and on-time), but every year several cards were left unopened. (With all of the confidence that I can muster, I am hoping that this is a statement of e-cards themselves and not of my friendship with those individuals!) Short of smoke signals, carrier pigeons or an insanely large banner in the sky, I tried to find a creative and heartfelt way to get my message out to you. You, who are so generously keeping in touch.

I wanted the perfect message. A message that would fully express how much I appreciate you. A heartfelt thank you for your extra efforts to keep in touch (and for following this blog!). And finally, a message that sends positive thoughts across the miles. I also wanted to send along some goofy Christmas photos…Yup, I dragged Richard out for another Christmas photo shoot….this time with a twist!

It was a tall order. My search through the internet at first trapped me in the ‘terrible toos’. The sample verses that I found were too general, too corny, too mushy or too artificial. Unlike many Christmas messages or letters, I don’t need to fill you in on key events in my life for this past year. By virtue of scrolling down, you have this information at your fingertips!

I then came across the following writing by Oren Arnold, novelist and journalist (b. 1900 – d.1980).

Christmas gift ideas / suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

Arnold’s words completely resonated with me. They so eloquently stated the core of what I wish to express in this post.

And so, I have wrapped up Oren Arnold’s powerful message in my own heartfelt words. I send them with sincere wishes of peace, love, and gratitude across the miles. May we all be more like the Whos down in Whoville — loving life, rejoicing in what we have, overlooking insult and joyfully celebrating community. Our vision becomes filled with what we put in our focus. If we all keep our visions fixed on these values, we CAN tilt our world towards peace. Undeniably.

Thank you for following along with me during 2016. I greatly look forward to remaining in touch in 2017! And now for those photos…

Sources:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1336459/Worlds-Christmas-cards-London-1843-arrive-auction-NY.html
https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/first-christmas-card
http://mentalfloss.com/article/26650/first-christmas-card-was-sent-1843
http://www.signology.org/religious-symbols/xmas-symbols.htm
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/history-christmas-card-180957487
http://www.thefactsite.com/2009/12/why-do-we-send-christmas-card.html
http://www.victoriana.com/christmas/card1st-99.htm
http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/cards.shtml

Featured Photo – Image of the Firstchristmascard. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Remaining photos are from Donna & Richard’s 2016 Christmas Card Photo Shoot!

Meeting Gideon Sock Puppet

I follow a delightful blog called “Dr. Sock Writes Here” by Gideon Sock Puppet. Immediately, I was intrigued by the name (which I never could figure out)! Once inside, I found intelligent and whimsical posts ranging on diverse topics of writing, painting, researching, teaching, skiing, gardening, cooking, hiking, literature and turning points…to name only a few! I was hooked and began regularly following along. I especially loved the author’s wonderings on retirement. Not yet retired, Dr. Sock was definitely flirting with the idea. I actually think back fondly to that stage. My foot firmly planted in two different worlds. Could I? Could I really? And if I really could…should I or shouldn’t I?

Dr. Sock is Canadian (another instant connection) and currently lives in a province that neighbours mine. In a recent post, she mentioned that she was spending the month of December in my small island town. Now that’s pretty cool…not many people vacation here in the winter! So, after my successful get-together with Janis from RetirementallyChallenged I sent Dr. Sock an invitation for coffee. She graciously accepted. We had our meet-up last week.

Once again, meeting a virtual friend in person for the first time felt uncannily like I was meeting an old friend that I had known forever. (Other than my initial embarrassment when the restaurant host asked me what my friend, who I said I would be meeting, looked like. Honestly, I had no idea! She never posts photos of herself!)

Dr. Sock also goes by the name of Jude. Almost instantly, Jude and I talked non-stop about family, passions, joys and fears. We, of course, spoke about blogging, work, and retirement (viz. should she or shouldn’t she?). We shared personal stories that I could never have imagined telling someone whose face I had not seen previously. But I had already seen her artwork (featured above), knew details about her family and could easily recognize her writing style. It’s a strange feeling knowing someone so well, who you truly have never met.

Jude and I have already planned to get together again. If you are looking for an engaging read filled with insight, joy, wonder and inspiration, you can check out her blog here.

Oh, and if you are wondering about her blog’s title (as I had been for months), Jude revealed that it actually means nothing at all. “I never actually intended to be a blogger,” she began. “I needed a quick blog for a course that I was doing. I give it no pre-thought. At the last minute, I realized that it needed a title. Earlier in my life, I had a sock puppet named Gideon. I have no idea how that idea came to me at the time. It just did.”

I am delighted that Jude has maintained her “quick blog” for over eight years. I am equally pleased that she has kept its original title. Fun, quirky and playful, this name hints perfectly at the unexpected adventures that you will surely find inside. Give it a try. I bet you won’t be disappointed!

The Power of Comments

I initially began this post not to write a full entry, but simply to thank readers for so generously commenting on my last write-up. The personal stories and advice that you shared got right to the heart of the matter. Your words were deeply motivating. So much so, Richard and I went straight out to our local tree farm, selected our treasure, and our holiday spirit began to pick up from there. Some of you suggested Christmas music/wine/appetizers by the fire. I must admit, that did work wonders! Many of you wisely advised not to get caught up in the stress of the season but to remain focused on what matters most and to let go of the rest. These words helped me to refocus. They also significantly brightened my perspective.

As I began to write this thank you, I realized something about blogging that I hadn’t really understood before. The main point isn’t actually the writing, or the posts, or the photos or the research. It’s the exchange–the dynamic interaction. It’s the debate and new ideas. Most significantly, it’s the connection and the deepening of relationships–both old and new.

It’s a bit of a conundrum to be a relatively private person with a public blog. (Duh to me, I know…but I believe that there are many others like this). Writing is cathartic for me. Pressing ‘publish’ is a leap of faith. As I sit and review the comments received in this past year, I am humbled. For each risk that I have taken in sending out my words, I have gained a hundredfold. Each post has been written for a different reason. On the lighthearted ones, we’ve shared a laugh. On the new discovery ones, you’ve shared your own adventures. On the difficult, most heartfelt ones, your outpouring of support not only comforted me but equally provided strength to Richard and my family.

I know that it is a leap of faith also to write comments. When I first began to read blogs, I never commented. EVER. I was new to the blogosphere, and I wanted to read anonymously. I preferred just to lurk. And lurking is okay. But as I ventured into both commenting, and receiving comments, a whole new world opened up to me. There is definite contentment in being a ‘regular,’ whether it be at your local coffee shop (where the barista begins to prepare your drink the moment that you walk in) or be it at a blog. As Julie Neidlinger of CoSchedule Blog so astutely wrote, “regulars can turn a blog from being a sequential posting of articles into something organic that references itself.” Regulars, and all commenters, help to create an extra layer that make a blog what it is. I am aware that there are numerous blogs that do not allow comments. There has been a heap of controversy regarding whether bloggers should disable their comment sections or not. For me, to remove comments from my blog would be like removing N-O-R-M from Cheers, or at least Uncle Leo from Seinfeld (not that any of you are Norm or Uncle Leo…but you get the idea)!

Energized by my new realizations on blogging and commenting, I tried to jazz up my comment section a bit by installing WPdiscuz. This plug-in allows commenters to edit what they have written, even after they have pressed ‘publish.’ It also offers an option for readers to give a ‘thumbs up’ to comments that they particularly like–sending the love to where it truly belongs! That and the promise of reduced spam sounded like a great step forward. Right? Wrong! I did have reduced spam. I actually had no spam…and no comments at all. According to people who have contacted me by alternative means, the ‘captcha’ feature completely blocked their comments out. If you use WPdiscuz (or are simply a whiz at this kind of stuff) and have a solution for my over-active captcha, please let me know. In the meantime, I have gone back to my regular comment layout (boring, I know)!

Thank you for reading, connecting, commenting and staying in touch. Your words and warm vibes have been greatly appreciated. And for readers who have never commented before, go ahead and give it a try. I would love to hear from you!

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