Never too late to learn

Brain

It’s the summer of 1966, a few days after school had closed for the summer. I sat outside by the back fence at a little makeshift table made from an upside-down cardboard box. I had my pencils lined up perfectly, a small ruler and some pieces of paper on my make-believe desk.

I was ready to imagine I was in school. Yes, only a few days after my summer holidays had started I found myself playing school. I loved school, I loved reading and I loved learning.

Throughout my career as a consultant, I took as many classes as the organization would allow. I always used up my learning budget, and often would ask for more. Sometimes it worked and I expanded my learning wish list, other times it didn’t. I, however, always asked.

When I first learned about distance learning I admit that I saw thousands of doors opening up for me. My work required that I continuously travel and this made it impossible for me to commit to an in-person learning program, but oh, when the location was no longer a challenge, I signed up.

Early versions of this now sophisticated mainstream way of learning offered a lot of opportunities for those who were passionate about learning because the challenges were plenty.

Over time distance ed, remote learning, distance learning, online, internet-based method of learning has evolved in leaps and bounds. To me, distance ed is a door opening to a vast paradise of knowledge!

I’ve enjoyed taking classes in anthropology, philosophy, business management, writing, and Italian. A few months ago, I took an introductory Program Management course, and within 4 weeks the bug bit me and bit me hard. I started dreaming about attending university with the Millenials and taking all sorts of courses.

Then, upon introspect and reviewing my wish list, it occurred to me that I need to walk the talk, in that I always am the first to tell people “Carpe Diem”, ‘Seize the Day!” or “this moment may never come again”. Time goes by so quickly, exponentially in fact. I’m about to turn 60 and I’m excited for the next decades ahead.

I have registered to complete an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) specializing in Big Data and Business Intelligence. My love of data has been reignited at my current assignment; during my days of working for a large consulting firm, I learned to truly appreciate what bits and pieces of information can reveal and how interesting the theories can be.

It’s an aggressive project, this MBA, given I have 18 months, with a possible extension of 6 months, during the time I will continue to work 4 days a week and will have close to us our future grandson! But I thrive on challenges. Let’s see if this first year of my 60s is as exciting as I imagine it will be!

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” — Eartha Kitt

Walking down the Camino memory lane

During the last 4 years, March has been  a month of preparation for my Camino journeys. Three times have I found myself packing, repacking, shopping for new items, retiring older items and dreaming about the upcoming magical journey that is the walking on the Camino de Santiago.

This year is a stay-at-home year. My last Camino journey, in honour of my fallen sister, was cut short due to a medical issue, but I never once thought that would be my last Camino. In fact, my plan is to continue to live the Camino life as often as health and providence allows.

I will however relive my Camino memories through a challenge I opted to take, that of blogging from A-Z during the month of April. This challenge requires us to write a blog entry focused on each letter of the alphabet, on a daily basis. The subject is totally up to our choosing, and I decided to dedicate my challenge to my Camino memories. I have over 5,000 pictures taken during my 3 Camino adventures, and I decided to combine text and picture to share my experience with readers.

2015 header

Most of my blog readers are not pilgrims, but most have let me know they enjoyed experiencing the Camino through my photographs and stories. In honour of the Camino and all it has brought to me, I dedicate my challenge to it. I will post 4-5 pictures each day and in choosing my photos this weekend, I opted to aim to give a less traditional view into my journeys.

I looked for pictures that perhaps were not obvious of the Camino, but pictures that still to this day stir my soul and makes me long to return once again on Spanish soil.

I hope you enjoy this 26 day photographic essay and if you prefer the convenience of receiving updates as part of your emails, you can sign up on any of the pages of my blog and updates will be delivered directly to you.

I have received much more than I could ever give back to the Camino and I hope that for pilgrims, this brings back great memories and for non-pilgrims, I hope you discover a new side of what can be while walking the Camino de Santiago.

COMPASSION… to love together with.

two-hands-holdingAccording to Wikipedia Compassion means “to love together with.” 

What a beautiful way to describe that word – Compassion. When I think about compassion, I think about helping others who need emotional, spiritual or physical support. But how much more beautiful does “Love together with” seems to be than just being of support.

Compassion requires us to be called or drawn to reaching out to others who need us. And it need not be in traditional ways; we can, in fact, extrapolate that any action of supporting, helping, listening, encouraging, listening, empathizing, soothing, or comprehending is part, comprehending.

With this concept in mind, we can recognize that we show compassion in many ways, at various times of the day, and likely without even know we are showing it. And there lies the key – the key to transforming our days into manifestations of comprehension.  With awareness comes insight, and now we can see that our days are filled with compassion and when seeing such compassion we will be entices to let it linger, let it live, let it thrive.

How do we do this? By being aware of our past actions, and by wanting to expand that influence even more than what it is today. By seeking ways to show compassion, even with the simple act of a smile and a nod.

It’s in us to give, we do it every day, but likely not in a way we can notice it. Now that we know just how masterful we are, how influential we are, how benevolent we are, we can build on those actions and continue to grow and give.

I know, many of my readers are … shall I say, “Realists” and a few of them are “Pessimists”. Whatever our collective outlook, my outlook is positive; I believe in the power of positive, love, caring, joy, support and happiness. In the end, we need all types to make this world work.

I have been blessed to live on the positive, beautiful, encouraging and loving side. I love living here, and I believe that with the additional focus on compassion, my world will continue to develop and bloom; this in the most beautiful and amazing way.

Compassion is something we all practice – now let’s make compassion an even greater part of our lives. The world needs it now.

The Ripples of our Actions

butterflyPerhaps you have heard of the butterfly effect The name of the effect is derived from the metaphorical example of the details of a hurricane (exact time of formation, exact path taken) being influenced by minor perturbations such as the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly several weeks earlier.

I truly believe that our actions create reactions, and we often know little of those reactions or consequences. Although many find the word consequence to be of a negative connotation, a consequence is simply a result or effect of an action or condition.

I try to think of the consequences of my actions, but I am well aware that I have no idea of the breath of depth of these outcomes. I take pleasure in reading stories of a pay-it-forward type of action that trickles down and affect dozen, hundreds or many even thousands. A simple one that I read about of late was an unbroken chain of pay-it-forward coffee chain at a local Tim Horton’s coffee shop. The “I’ll pay for a coffee of the next person behind me” action lasted almost the entire day shift! What a fun and encouraging event.

Our words have immense consequences, both positive and negative. A genuine compliment, a kind uplifting comment or an encouraging statement can change someone’s day in a matter of minutes. Conversely, a insulting comment derogatory words can negatively impact someone’s self confidence. All our actions have the possibility of uplifting or bringing down people.

This past week I was privy to an action that created nothing but anger, disappointment and a lot of head shaking. I participated in one of the city’s largest craft fair, offering my handcrafted folded fabric ornaments. I take pride in my work and ensure that only the best quality ornaments are offered to the public. I carefully measure each piece of fabric that is used, and I constantly check for accurate creation of the end product.

As we were setting up for the 6 day fair, a letter was circulated that informed us artists of a certain group of women who would be having lunch outside the craft fair area, and would  then visit the various kiosks. When I chanced outside the craft area I was privy to admire the many women that were dressed with class and affluence. There was an air of sophistication that could be felt as I watched them mingle drinking unique cocktails and chatting away. BCF 2We were asked to consider giving a donation to the group. Knowing a bit about this group and some philanthropic activities, I opted to donate a Breast Cancer ornament whose profits are returned to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. I felt this was an appropriate donation given these were women and the likelyhood that most knew someone who had been affected by this disease.

A few days later, I was told that my ornament was in the back office, and it wasn’t used for the networking event because it’s value was far below the expected $100 value. I stood there in utter shock. None of us knew of this arbitrary expectation of donation value. I’ve run events and when there are donations that are of lesser value, we bundle them up to create a combined prize, therefore, the fact the donation was of lower value did not negate its potential for a nice combined gift.

I felt quite insulted that someone based on their own judgement deemed a donation to lack worthiness for their event. Giving it back seemed to be akin of a virtual slap in the face and a pure dismissal. Somewhat like leaving a penny tip to a waiter – worse than not leaving a tip at all, a penny tip is a loud and clear statement of unworthiness. I discussed this situation with many of my neighbor artists of the craft fair, and each and every one of them (men and women) felt this was appalling, insulting and devoid of compassion and gratitude.

It is unfortunate that the actions of one sole person who had the task of managing the donations tarnished the reputation of the entire group. In reading the profiles of some of the group’s leaders, I don’t doubt that most would not have acted this way, however, the only action we were privy to experience was that of the outright rejection of a valid albeit less expensive gift, and one associated with a cause, no less!

A few hours later, the rejected beautiful ornament (I may add as per all the feedback I received) was rightfully bestowed as a gift to someone who battled breast cancer and was now in remission. This person will appreciate this small token as a true gift of caring for what this recipient has gone through to win her battle. This gift would  not be looked upon as lacking a set value of X dollars, or a well-known label of X name.

ripplesWe can recognize that the power of our actions, immediate or delayed affect others. Perhaps if we consciously take a moment or two before making our decisions, we might recognize that like the beating of the proverbial butterfly wings, our actions will have rippled effects… hopefully positive ones!

A day at the library

Fiction, mystery, romance, biography… any book will catch my attention, and this since the tender age of six. Books were my friends when I was young as there were very few kids of my age in my neighborhood.

I had no favorites, all books were a treat to me. During the summer months we had an extra treat as a book bus traveled every two weeks in our area. In those days, we were allowed to borrow as many books as our age. Given my voracious appetite for reading, I felt this wasn’t enough for me, even at the age of seven.

I spoke to my Dad about it, and he suggested we visit the local library lady (as I called her) to see if we could get that limit increased. I remember feeling quite nervous as we entered the building but I felt confident walking in with my father. She sat in her large wooden chair as we stood in front of her waiting to be acknowledged.

Dad explained that I had a very special request to ask of her. She took off her glasses and motioned us to sit down. I nervously explained to her that I felt the book limit was too low for me as I usually finished my allocated amount within the first week and I was left with nothing to read until the book bus would return the following week. As coached by my Dad, I mentioned the fact that I returned all my books on time and in good condition.

She listened carefully, and after a short pause, she asked how many books I wanted to borrow. I had decided that since I was seven, I would be brave and ask for an additional book to my allocated limit. I hesitated and at that very moment, she asked if ten would be enough.

Imagine my surprise and joy at that beautiful number: TEN! I was so excited as I watched her write the number “10” on a small piece of paper, adding her signature and pasting it to the back of my library card. My father smiled and we both thanked her and shook her hand. I quickly headed to the children’s section to pick out ten new books for me to read.

Decades later I would constantly travel for my work often staying in one city for months. If my project was a lengthy one I would always locate the closest library and get myself a card. Never would I be short of reading material and over the course of fifteen years of travel I accumulated more than twenty out-of-town library cards.

Today I own an e-reader but nothing can replace the look and feel of a physical book. I relish the thought of walking into a used bookstore and wander about, feeling and smelling old books. No matter what the challenges are in my life, I know there is always the pleasure of escaping with a new tale, an old familiar story or a good biography.

Long live books!

all lc