Evolution of my self

OM Times Magazine states that personal evolution is a change of perspective. How one’s beliefs, self-image and self-knowledge affect us emotionally, mentally and spiritually is determined by testing new knowledge through experience and turning it into wisdom.

This said, this past year I’ve been going through a lot of re-evaluation of so many things in my life. Never as often as this summer, where I had some beliefs take a complete turn on so many subjects. I spent many hours with acquaintances and friends this summer, and many of them offered some interesting view points.

I also had the opportunity to have very deep philosophical conversations with priests and one brother who came to Moratinos to be part of a chaplain program. I posed some very tough questions, and the conversations that ensued put my beliefs in need of re-evaluation.

I also found myself trying to understand certain reactions I had to people’s ways, looks and habits. I deliberately took notice of my attitude and found myself aware of preconceived notions that turned out to not be as sound as they may have seemed 10 or even 5 years ago.

A big one for me is the concept of aging.  I met a man who was 79 walking the Camino with is 19 year old (wait for it) … SON. Yes, his 19 year old son. This man didn’t look 79, and he was fit and had so much energy and was a joy to get to know. I met a woman who was 85 who still gardened every day, who walked 5 km a day and swam in the ocean every week of the year! So what is aging? One of my misconception was regarding grey hair. In my own mind, I was ok with having loads of wrinkles, but somehow, couldn’t accept having grey hair. I’m fine with anyone else having silver strands, but I refused to let mine show… Until now.

I had a very vivid dream where a toddler (that I knew somehow was my grandchild) was playing with my long curly beautiful silver hair. IT looked fabulous! Soon afterwards, I had another dream where a voice told me “Your body or your hair do not define you. Be your authentic self – and don’t worry about what others think.”

Today, I took the first step to adding authenticity for my self. I made the first pass at letting my hair be its real colour. It will be a multiple step effort, but from this point on, I will embrace who I truly am… and let my ACTIONS, attitude, my “joie de vivre” define me.

with my new lighter hair

with my new lighter hair

Deconstructing a wedding dress

decon 1I imagine many women will gasp at the thought of cutting up a perfectly good wedding dress that likely cost quite a bit. Many of you know that I am part of an organization called Tiny Hearts Angel Gowns, where volunteer seamstresses turn donated wedding dresses into small wee gowns for babies who don’t come home. My sister Suzanne introduced me to this group, and I decided to join as I enjoy sewing and believe this is a good match for sewing experience and what speaks to my heart. I must admit I am so humbled and grateful for the women who have wholeheartedly donated their beautiful dresses for this cause. I also am grateful for Rachel’s initiative in starting the chapter in our area.

Now, many of you have asked how I can actually cut apart such amazing dresses. The fact remains that reselling a wedding dress is difficult to do, since they are fitted so well to the owner, finding an alike body type, who likes the actual dress style and colour is a difficult challenge. Many women said they have often thought of giving it away, but didn’t have any options to do this, or were keeping it for a christening gown (which they may or may not have done), or for their own girls or granddaughters. For whatever reason, many dresses live long decades in closets… one woman’s dress spent over 45 years in her closet until she called me.

So, how much nerve does one have to have in order to feel comfortable taking such a special ornate dress apart? I confess my first wedding dress I deconstructed was my mother’s dress she wore in 1945, and this in order to make ornaments for my family members. I waited a month before cutting it to see if I would have any dreams of my Mom talking about the dress! I was nervous, but it went well.

I take pictures of every donated dress that I receive. Yesterday, after receiving an email asking me about the process of cutting the dress, I decided to document a complete deconstruction mostly through pictures. First off, please know that we treat the dresses with the utmost care and respect. I don’t take this lightly, by any means. Let me show you this light beige dress (thank you Terri): 
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The first step I take is to really examine the dress to see how it was made. In this case, the dress had many layers of crinoline that we cannot use for our little gowns. I removed those layers cutting close to the seam. Once this removed, I was able to determine the dress had a lining, and multiple layers of fabric. I then proceeded to unsew the seams using scissors or my exacto knife.

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Each layer was removed, seperated or unsewn. There was very little wastage and lots of individual parts and large sections of fabric.


The second picture in this section shows what is left over.The tools I used are sharp scissors an exacto knife, and for cleaning up, a good vacuum and a lint brush for my clothes!

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In the next few months, I will get to work on these pieces of fabric and will share some of the gowns so you can see the transformation from start to end. I extend a huge thank you to all who have donated and help us spread the word about our organization.

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.

Managing my beautiful mind

Ah! Our amazing mind… it can lead us to impressive results, create incredible imaginary stories, regulate our bodies and a zillion more things. Our mind however can also play some interesting tricks on us, as I was about to discover.

Many of you know that I have a big project on the go, that of becoming much healthier. One of my favorite activity, other than walking, is swimming. I am far from being an efficient swimmer. Until 5 years ago, I could never swim with my face in the water. With guidance and perseverance, I did manage to learn how to swim the proper crawl method, but my endurance always was poor.

Typically I swam in a 25 meter pool. My routine is to swim breast stroke or side stroke until I get warmed up, then I attempt to swim the crawl, which is difficult for me, but I can usually do the length and with a very short rest, continue for a few more lengths. The intent was to build up my endurance.
Flash forward to two years later, ie, one week following my early return from my Camino. My regular pool is closed for maintenance, and I leveraged another pool which is 50 meters long. In my mind however, that was WAY too long. After all, I was just used to doing 25 meters at a time.
deep end pool
And, wouldn’t you know, the slope for the deep end starts just a bit past the 25 meter mark. Somehow, my mind was set that I couldn’t go past that mark. I tried for two entire weeks yet each time I would see the beginning of the slope to the deep end, I would have problems with my breathing and my endurance. Even I, who tends to talk myself in or out of just about anything could not get past that marker UNTIL… I found myself resting at the deep end after finishing the last length breast stroke style when I remembered I was to start the crawl at the beginning of that length.

“Well, I thought, I guess I can do it now” and I headed off thinking I would likely stop again 20 meters or so short. Much to my complete surprise, I got to that point and since I was in the shallow end, it seemed my mind didn’t see the anchored marker that previously kept me from finishing the length, and I just kept going the entire 50 meters. I pondered a moment and thought “I must have broken through the barrier” so I headed back again but to my dismay, the moment I saw the change in depth I tanked.

I side stroked to the end again, and after a moment or two of frustration, I headed back to the shallow end. Again, I did the entire distance without any issues. At that point, I was determined to overcome that visual block. I admit I haven’t quite managed that, BUT I do know I can at least do the 50 meters by starting off at the deep end.

I know eventually I will overcome this challenge but it totally amazes me that even though I KNOW I can do the 50 meters, I still am bound by that hard stop. Amazing that my mind is struggling with this however I am determined to conquer that invisible yet powerful obstacle.

Incredible what our mind can do, and surprising the power it can have over things that we struggle to control. In the grand scheme of things this is a small and inconsequential thing, but to me, it’s the game of mind over matter.

I wonder how many other “artificial” obstacles I have let impede my plans, how many times I’ve bowed out thinking this was not something I could do, or given up too early.

My determination is strong and soon the lane in both directions will be mine.
Now, please excuse me while I go and visualize this conquest!

Gambatte Kudasai – Do Your Best

I am reading a great book by a local author Robert C. Sibley, a journalist for the Ottawa Citizen, about his pilgrimage in Japan. He walked over 1,400 km and visited 88 Temples along the way.

In this book, he speaks of a phrase that is often said between pilgrims doing this trek – “Gambatte Kudasai – Do your best.” When I read this, I immediately thought of our bootcamp sessions.

I will not lie, I am out of shape. Decades of office work, long plane rides, hotel food and client dinners peppered by limited movements left me carrying additional weight that increased over time. Although the past few years post retirement have seen me walk over 1,100 km in Spain (over two trips), eating better and getting much better sleep, I still have a way to go to get fitter.

Mama Hanes7 weeks ago, a friend of mine spoke about her experience at a local bootcamp and I decided that I need to up my game. Inspired by my brother who lost more than 75 lbs and now a runner, I signed up, along with my two daughters for a 5:30 AM, three times a week bootcamp.

I admit that I was scared and had my doubt as to whether I could even finish a workout, let alone try to keep up with the others. Some of the members had been attending the bootcamp 5 days a week, and this for a few years!

Our local group, led by the fun and encouraging instructor Ristow, is comprised of amazing athletes who are the picture of encouragement. When newbies like us start, the experienced athletes pick up the reps we aren’t able to complete, run back to get the straggler (most of times, ME), support and encourage each other.

All that is asked of us, is to Gambatte Kudasai – Do your best! Today marked our 7th week, and somehow my body finally decided to cooperate with me. For the first time in 7 weeks, I was able to keep up with the running, able to carry with another team member, not once, but twice, MISERY (a huge bar weighing more than 50 lbs or so), run hills and carry a sandbag.

I don’t think I have EVER felt such a rush at being able to almost keep up with the group. I still have a long long way to go, but I am so excited at seeing the changes in my body, the increase strength and stamina, and my ability to recover after a hard workout.

They say that change needs to happen from the inside, and we need to be ready for it. I can honestly say that I am THERE! The change is happening little by little and I am so amazed that even at my tender age of 53, I can say “It’s never too late”.

I am absolutely sure that the credit doesn’t only rest with me, but with the support of everyone surrounding me. I now understand that even though I am still last in line, the important element is that I am DOING MY BEST – Gambatte Kudasai!

Thanks everyone for your amazing support! We are now opting for bootcamp 5 days a week – and I look forward to giving it my all each and every time!
Happy weekend –
Mama Hanes (My bootcamp nickname!)