Life’s Happening

9 Sep

Enjoy every minute of it.

It’s sad to write this final post on my Journey to 30 blog, but I am going to keep true to my original intent. Knowing that there was a deadline was a valuable part of this process, and that deadline has come and gone. I am so happy with what I was able to learn and accomplish during this time.

I feel that my last post summed up these learnings just fine, so I am not going to be repetitive. But I have to say that this blog brought a certain level of consciousness into my life that I never want to live without again. It opened my eyes to the wonders around me more than anything else ever has. It also drove me to seek out noteworthy moments worth sharing and writing about. In other words, it got me off the sidelines and right into the thick of what can only be described as life. It forced me to stop waiting for life to start. 

So, while I am closing this chapter, I have decided to maintain and channel this energy into a new blog of a simpler, more informal format. My new blog, Life’s Happening, is a mixed-media blend of quotes, photos and thoughts to provide small snapshots as I continue to experience life’s beauty and adventure.

It’s a commitment to myself that I will not lose this lens through which I am currently seeing life.

To those of you that have followed this blog since the start, I want to say thank you. Although I started this process believing that the writing would be intended mainly for my own growth, having the support of such amazing people has truly made this year something I will always remember.

With love and gratitude,

Lisa

Visit my new blog >

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The Journey: Final Reflection

5 Sep

Turning 30

I am going to start by taking the pressure off and stating that this is likely not my very last post. I have been trying to find the best way to wrap up this experience, and have decided that one post just won’t do it. That said, this final reflection is my opportunity to have a last look at what I set out to do this year in each area of my life, and the lessons and experiences that I will take with me going forward.

First, there have been some realizations that span all of these life areas and, I think, have contributed heavily to the personal growth I have seen this year:

  • You really can’t cleanly divide your life into separate areas. The most rewarding and sustainable experiences involve blurring the lines and approaching life as a whole.
  • Similarly, life balance is not about having everything perfect in each of these areas at any given time. Real balance is more about keeping yourself centered – allowing things to get behind in some areas and ahead in others without feeling like a failure. Everything eventually evens out and comes back to a sort of equilibrium.

Better than Birthday Cake... almost!

Wellness:

Goals: Eat nutritiously. Reduce stress. Move!

I have learned to look at food differently. Instead of focusing on fat and calories, I keep nutrition and energy top-of-mind when planning a meal or grocery shopping. While I haven’t fully developed a tried and true library of recipes to fall back on, I’ve established some general guidelines and approaches:

  • I have a working knowledge of highly nutritious ingredients now, and many resource books to keep exploring them. Now I will often select an in-season, highly nutritious ingredient and base a whole meal around that (something like fennel or avocados for example). I used to always start by selecting the meat, which quite often lead to scurvy-threatening meat and potato meals.
  • Any highly nutritious ingredient is worth liking. I approach these foods now with an expectation that I will like them and have been able to add numerous new foods that I previously disliked or hadn’t even tried to my repertoire with this outlook.

A properly fueled body is able to take on more in the realm of physical activity – something that I now fully appreciate the importance of. While I can definitely use more, I at least have kept up some level of activity all year by trying new things and forcing myself to step outside of my comfort zone.

The personal improvement I have made when it comes to managing stress feels significant, but is probably the most difficult to explain. I think a big turning point for me was establishing a new outlook on success and happiness, as well as realizing what I mentioned above about balance. More than ever, I know that happiness is completely free of personal achievement and goal-setting. And that success is not as much about what you do as how you do it.

Scary!

Recreation:

Goals: Step out of my comfort zone; be adventurous. Find and develop passions. Create, don’t just consume.

I used to think that there was something wrong with not having a few regular hobbies to pour myself into, but I really enjoyed the aspect of trying new things this year. I have added lots of new activities to my roster that I am excited to keep experiencing: hiking, dragon boat, yoga, salsa dancing, paintball, travel, kayaking, caving (see right), and, of course, blogging. But I’m even more excited to get to the things I didn’t manage to fit into this year, such as pottery and snowboarding (and now I’m thinking maybe sewing!) I have a whole lifetime to fit these activities in, so there is really no need to feel like I can only do a few of them.

Willingness to do and try these things has really opened me up – I can hardly believe I am the same person that, a year ago, really only read books and went for coffee with friends. Now, I feel like I have a lot more to offer. I am interesting! There, I said it.

Relationships:

Goals: Grow and maintain them. Surround myself with people that inspire me.

I’ve found that strength in the other areas of life improves this one. And this area is really what life is all about. There is not much else to say.

My Birthday Dress

Style:

Goals: Have some.

Many months back, I came up with the personal mantra to “shop boldly” as I operate in this area of life. These two words have truly changed everything. Clothes are another area of adventure for me now – something to add richness and variety to life.

I had originally hoped to develop a bit of a personal brand definition – almost like an autopilot – that would make navigating this and other areas easier. While I could still very well arrive at some boundaries of my personal style over time, I’ve learned that the breadth of my personality is much wider than I anticipated. I am glad that I stepped outside of what I thought was my comfort zone in this realm of life.

I learned a bigger lesson here too: it is possible to turn something you dread into something you love. Imagine the possibilities of that.

On a practical note, there have been two things I have adopted in this area that have really helped me out. First, the concept of wardrobe essentials has made a significant difference to me and made outfit-building extremely easier. Second, I have actually started photographing outfits as I create them. It might sound ridiculous, but it has helped me to see what works and gives me something to fall back on when I really can’t seem to pull myself together.

Home:

Goals: Keep it clean and healthy. Support success in other areas.

Home is such a special word because it means something different to everyone. I’ve decided that what it means to me is really adjusting my surroundings in a way that inspires, comforts, and supports me and anyone else that shares or enters my space.

I haven’t really made as significant of changes in this area as I have in the others, but turning a house into a home has always been something that comes naturally to me. If nothing else, my new perspective on living life by the seasons will help me to better prepare my home to support me as they change.

Career:

Goals: Satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit. Stop work from feeling like work. Feel like I’m mattering.

A year ago, I was on the path to mediocre success. I thought that self-reflecting for a year would give me answers: what specific field to pursue, how to build my brand strategically, etc. Instead, it seems that this process has given me something even better: guts. I do not need to know what the end of the road looks like to take it willingly.

So, while I do not know what my efforts in this area will bring, I couldn’t feel more optimistic. I am about to undertake a whole new journey in this area as I build a career worthy of my passion for life.

My card from Leigh. Perfect.

My Summary:

When I started this blog last year and entitled it “Journey to 30” I did not realize how fitting the choice of the word “Journey” actually was. Because in the end, this experience has really had nothing  to do with age or turning 30 as a destination – it has been about noticing and appreciating the surroundings and experiences I have encountered as I travel along the road to this inevitable milestone. It has been entirely about the journey.

And, regardless of what I originally set out to do, I have given myself the greatest birthday gift of all: I have learned to love the journey and to walk it with excitement and optimism.

I have learned the importance of looking around instead of always forward and not being afraid to take detours.

And, most of all, I have developed a renewed passion for life because I know that you are living it at every moment.

Off to Sea

27 Aug

Embrace the Breeze

Well, nobody can say that I don’t take my own advice!

I set off this year determined to step outside of my comfort zone. Ever since I wrote my post about courage as a life essential, I feel as though I’ve known that something big was coming. That to truly make the amount of personal progress I’ve been meaning to achieve this year, I would have to cut away the safety net of a job that was not what I wanted for my future.

And last week, I did.

I believe that there is a time and place for everything, and my past 4 years at the college have been exactly what I needed to set me up for this next stage of my life. There is no substitute for the connections I’ve made, the opportunities I’ve had, and the love I’ve found for teaching and education as an industry. But, when I reached a fork in the road and saw another long term commitment ahead of me, I knew this was my stop. I have other roads to explore, and there would be no other time like this one.

So I’ve left behind security, salary, benefits, and a pension for at least a little while for a chance at something different (something great?). I do not have it all laid out, but my first step is going to be consulting.

This year’s goals relating to career have been:

Satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit. Stop work from feeling like work. Feel like I’m mattering.

It was very simple when it came down to it: I wouldn’t ever be able to do this where I was. So it was time to get moving. And right when I thought maybe I was going to lose my nerve, I stumbled across this image on one of my favourite blogs:

I have been very receptive to nudges lately! And the eye-opening opportunities, signs, and reassurances have not stopped since I made this decision: random encounters with people, offers of help and support, teaching and other opportunities coming to me unsolicited. I’ll admit, I am a little in awe.

I’m not saying that all will be sunny and bright, but I can’t help but be sure that things will work out in the end for the better, regardless of what that looks like. Through the experience of this blog I have learned the value of trusting positive change to take place without trying to over-steer it.

Yesterday I sent a notice to many of the people I have worked with over this past while to let them know of my departure. Each response I got was amazingly kind and supportive, but I was quite blown away by the choice of quote that one person, in particular, sent back:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” – James A. Michener

I never thought of it this way before, but what has this year been about for me, if not mastering the art of living?

Season Survival: Summer

21 Aug

I’m realizing more and more how much there is to living life by the seasons – at least in a climate like ours. Many of life’s areas – home, recreation, wellness, and style – are heavily dependent on the season that you are in. This may seem too obvious to be helpful to some people, but it suits my way of thinking really perfectly because it creates a model to work within. Yes, I’m that much of a nerd.

Leigh has been looking at my survival guides so far this year and saying “but you didn’t actually do a lot of these things,” to which I have answered: “Right, because I didn’t have my survival guides yet!” So today, although the weather outside is far more reminiscent of fall, I will continue on and try to capture ways that we can set yourselfs up for summer.

I’ve never been quite able to recapture the joy of summer that I remember so keenly from my years growing up. And I often feel, when I look around at people going about their summer business, that I am not quite getting as much out of it as they are. This summer, and every summer from now on, I’m working to remedy that!

Summer has obvious highlights: long days, beautiful foliage, amazing fruits and vegetables, vacation, etc. The only things I really don’t like are the bugs, and the pressure to get as much out of it as you can.

So the focus of this survival list is all about making the most of the joys of summer:

  • Build your inventory of grill and salad recipes – these are truly the two musts for summer eating. Sometimes you can combine both, like my favourite balsamic-glazed steak salad with watercress and grilled green beans, mushrooms, and onions. Simple combinations create amazing results! This is also the time to indulge in berries, cherries, and numerous other types of fruit, plus freshly harvested cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans (ideally from a home garden, but all in good time).
  • When it comes to drinks, there is nothing like sangria in the summer! We discovered this recipe last summer and it really can’t be beat. Italian sodas are a refreshing non-alcoholic favourite, and iced coffee and teas are easy to make and feel gourmet. Experimenting with various cocktails is one of my favourite summer pastimes – which leads me to the next must-have: somewhere to drink them!
  • Dedicate a sunny summer place for enjoying the elements. A place to sit outdoors and have a morning coffee or afternoon cocktail – whether a backyard patio or small balcony – is an important ingredient. I’ve lived in homes where I did not have this option and missed it greatly. In terms of atmosphere, one of my neighbours seems to have achieved the kind of charm I hope to work towards – she has a rustic-style picnic table and a small but lively garden. It’s nothing extravagant, but when I see her sitting down with an iced tea and a book, or entertaining family, the whole place comes to life.
  • Patio Time

    Indoors, brighten and freshen things up with floral fabrics, fresh flowers, and citrus scents. I like putting a table cloth down to really change up the feeling of my dining room, and switching my soaps to something more energizing.

  • Set up a few summer weekend getaways, and find day-trip options too. If you did your homework in Spring, you will already have some of these set up. I’m still looking to find a good cottage rental close to Ottawa that can become a regular summer thing, and some close beach locations where you can actually swim in the water. This summer added Lac Phillippe to this list, but I’m sure there are even better ones to discover. For me, it’s really just about getting some face-time with a body of water! There’s no substitute.
  • Lighten up your wardrobe. Especially when it comes to work, I’ve often found myself dressing the same regardless of the season. This summer, I made some improvement in this area – investing in some linen and short-sleeve jackets, as well as some nude-coloured shoes (a  modern summer neutral). Other items I’ve been trying to stock up on are summer dresses, light jeans, bright patterns and colours, and dressy sandals.
  • Get road-trip ready. The beginning of summer is the best time to clean out your car – after the dirty spring and before your weekend getaways. This is also a good time to change things up a bit with some new music. I love driving in the summer.
  • Finally, summer is the one season where weeknights can feel like weekends. Take advantage of that by planning things on weeknights – have friends over for dinner, join an extra-curricular sport, or go out after work for drinks. This hits on another important fact: summer is a social time. One of the best ways to get the most of your summer is to share it with others. Make sure that you work this into your schedule and, come fall, you’ll find that you feel much more satisfied with what you did during those warmer days.

My Last Life Essential

8 Aug

I’ve been seeking a way to define my final life essential for a while now. The essentials I have listed to this point – exercise, music, courage and appreciation, all add richness and energy to life, but I wanted to find a word for this last essential that describes what ultimately makes it all worthwhile. When all is said and done, what makes me feel complete?

It was at my grandfather’s wedding this past weekend that the word became clear. It was one that I had considered previously, but thought too limited. Upon further thought though, I realized how broad this word can actually be, and that it is exactly what I could not live without.

The word is Family.

And it’s about so much more than blood. It’s not necessarily about love either. I suppose that the actual essence of this need manifests itself differently for each person. For me, it is about giving of myself – creating a sort of emotional footprint on the world. This can simply mean knowing how to make someone laugh when they need it or just being there to witness important moments in someone’s journey of life. As described in my previous definition of success:

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived –
This is to have succeeded.

Family are the people that you give the most of yourself to. They are the ones that make it matter that you lived. I have often heard that the best way to feel happy is to give: share joy, happiness and kindness with others. My experiences so far make me believe that this is very true.

Naturally, we seek to connect, build and grow our families, so that our lives matter in the end.

The most beautiful thing about family is that there are no rules to how it can be created. Close friends can become “like a sister”, giving of yourself to those in need can make them an extension of your family, and of course, there are our beautiful furry friends that add so much to our lives. And new family never replaces the old – welcoming new people can only add to your life’s wealth. You never lose someone that is family.

The DJ concluded the wedding night by playing “We are family” – a song that, in the past, I have never been a big fan of. But on Saturday, I was just overjoyed as I looked around the room and realized that, yeah, we certainly are.

How Lucky am I?

Yellow Brick Road

16 Jul

The Weepies have a song called ‘Slow Pony Home’ which includes a verse that has always resonated with me:

“We didn’t know the way so it took us till today to get here.”

It’s really simple. But it’s always been a comfort to my heart when I don’t quite know where I’m going or even where I want to go next.

A friend of mine recommended the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I’ve been listening to it each day on my walk to and from work, and it gives me much the same feeling. It is the story of a boy fulfilling his personal destiny. The book is saturated with symbolism and very meaningful life lessons; one of them being:

“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

It’s easy to feel like you should know where you are going all of the time. But, while the direction is important, it is the movement that matters most. And being open to the world’s nudges that will sway you into your ultimate direction. Many of us make the dive but then swim against the current because we don’t know where it will take us and we are afraid.

There have been a few times in my life when I have really felt this in action. It’s a sense of riding the waves or “following the yellow brick road.”

A few weeks ago, I stepped onto that road by saying yes when a friend suggested we go to an event for entrepreneurs called Art of the Start. I didn’t get much out of the event, and I easily could have gone home and left it at that, but instead I decided to look for the one thing out of it that might be worth pursuing, and follow the thread. What had caught my attention the most was a table for Hub Ottawa – an organization that pulls together people wanting to launch business ideas around social change. So off I went to their event as well. Again, I wasn’t quite sure why I was there, but somehow I knew that it wouldn’t be for nothing. I walked out of that event with a personal branding client, a mentor, some exciting volunteering opportunities, and a definite desire to continue to associate with this group. I don’t know where this stream of occurrences will take me, but I like the feeling of going somewhere, and even the sense that I don’t know exactly where it is.

I used to think that there was a right and wrong decision every step of the way. Now I think more that, as long as you don’t fight the current and are open to signs, you will ultimately end up where you are supposed to go.

So relax, and enjoy the ride.

10 Month Reflection

4 Jul

I'll bet we almost looked like this.

Every time I sit down to do a reflection post, I go through a little transformation. I approach it thinking that I won’t have much to write, but by the end I realize that what sounds like a small deal on paper – like finding a new hobby or reconnecting with a friend – certainly adds up. By the end of each post I can see definite progress, and it keeps me going strong.

Wellness:

Goals: Eat nutritiously. Reduce stress. Move!

I have finally found a way to start managing my recipe library! I’ve always found it challenging with some in cookbooks, others online, and still others on scribbled post-its (those are usually the best ones!) I’ve started using Evernote – a free tool that allows me to gather recipes from all mediums and store them – accessing them on my phone in the kitchen or grocery store through the mobile app. It’s brilliant. I will eventually dedicate some folders to recipes that are tried and true, and nutritious, such as this great avocado and corn salsa that Leigh discovered.

A miserable cold kept me away from physical activity for quite a while, but I’m finally back in the swing of things. When one of my friends asked me to join dragonboat with her, I jumped at it because it came with a built-in workout buddy (lots of them actually) which I’ve discovered is more likely to keep me going. So last night was my first practice, and I loved it! I figured that any new hobbies that I was going to take on during the summer should be outdoors, and on the water is certainly a bonus. I also went for my first bike ride of the year and am developing much more of a like for it…not quite a “love” yet, but I’ll keep working on it.

And finally, I found a family doctor for the first time since I moved to Ottawa 11 years ago.

Recreation:

Goals: Step out of my comfort zone; be adventurous. Find and develop passions. Create, don’t just consume.

I’m getting really good at stepping outside of my comfort zone. Joining dragonboat isn’t something I would have thought twice about a year ago. I’ve also been more willing to part with my time – committing to activities and making plans on weeknights. It’s amazing how much more I find myself able to fit in.

A visit to Cirque du Soleil really reinforced for me how much I love the performing arts. I’m not sure where to channel that passion yet, but it is noted!

Relationships:

Goals: Grow and maintain them. Surround myself with people that inspire me.

I’ve been realizing over the past months how much I am already surrounded by people that inspire me. I am lucky enough to know some really amazing people.

I’m not going to go on in this category. I’m realizing it is the one that is the most organic – you don’t learn “tips & tricks” about relationships. Basically, it is all about developing skills for appreciating people, listening to them, and making a constant effort to stay in touch.

Clothes from the Internet.

Style:

Goals: Have some.

Summer has kind of thrown off my groove in this category. All of the staples and outfits I had gotten used to in the winter no longer apply, and I am unprepared. So I’m slowly building up my summer basics and will hopefully be better prepared this time next year.

For the first time, I ordered clothing online – and it went pretty well. I’m not sure if I will always be so lucky, but it would certainly be a way to help me when I can’t find what I like in stores or make it out during shopping hours.

I’ve discovered Dryel (although haven’t tried it out yet) and think that it could significantly help me out with the poor items that sit awaiting dry cleaning for months at a time. I’m going to test it out on less important pieces first, but this could be big.

Home:

Goals: Keep it clean and healthy. Support success in other areas.

Leigh and I took the first step towards house hunting and got pre-approved for a mortgage. I’m sure the house-hunting process will be a long and trying one, but we will take it slowly and try to have some fun with it (I believe he mentioned something about ice cream!)

I’ve stepped up and tackled a few projects that were constantly getting pushed off. I finally hemmed our bedroom curtains, created a system for my earrings, cleaned under the sink in the bathroom, and found a place to get Owen’s nails trimmed (so I no longer have to struggle with him for an hour every second weekend).

Oatmeal Scones

One of my goals for the year has been to learn how to bake delicious scones (somewhat healthy is ideal, but this is really more about setting the weekend atmosphere at home). Specifically, I want to master oatmeal scones, like my favourites at a local bakery. This weekend, I made my first attempt and feel that I actually got closer than I expected. I used this scone recipe and added some extra spices and vanilla. I also dropped the dough on the floor and forgot the sugar the first time around, but all in all, a satisfactory start!

Career:

Goals: Satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit. Stop work from feeling like work. Feel like I’m mattering.

I have finally gained some clarity in this area. On the side of my full-time job, I started Lisa Haggis Consulting so I can take on small projects of interest and build up my portfolio as a consultant. I don’t have all the answers right now – but instead of sitting still and trying to plan everything out, I decided to take some first steps and see how that goes.

I’ve attended a number of networking events over the last while, mainly for inspiration on projects I’d like to do. In particular, Hub and Spoke was a really exciting night – bringing together individual entrepreneurs with ideas to support social causes.

My Summary:

With the new developments in my career area, I finally feel like I’ve grown significantly in all areas of my life. But most importantly, I feel happy and excited for what’s next. I have a lot to do over the next 2 months if I want to complete everything I set out to, but I’m not sure that it even matters to me that much. I’ve definitely let opportunity dictate my path over the past ten months and trust that the next two will be no less rewarding, regardless of the original picture I painted for myself.

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