Gifts from the Sea Part 2: Beach Karma

I wrote in a previous post about the gifts I have been given by the ocean. I also believe that while the ocean giveth, it also taketh away – I call it beach karma.

There have been times when I have picked up a bagful of garbage while walking on the beach, and been rewarded with finding pieces on a stretch of beach where there usually isn’t much to find.

Last night I ran into a foursome on “my” beach and just as I reached them one woman exclaimed to her friend that she had “found one too!” and now they both had green pieces. I told her that I usually had pretty good luck on that particular stretch of beach. We stopped to chat for a few minutes as she told me the other couple was from Ontario and the man had never been to Nova Scotia before, and that she and her husband were moving back to Halifax from the Valley. As we were chatting, I spotted a white piece and picked it up and handed it to her, and then spotted a tiny brown piece and gave that to her as well. She was really pleased that I had given her the pieces (and impressed with my spotting ability – I told her it took practice). Later on my walk, I found my ‘karmic reward’ in the form of another sea glass marble for my collection, as well as a pocketful of other pieces.

20140703-210907.jpg

I think it works the other way as well. If you don’t respect the ocean and be thankful for its gifts, it’ll let you know. One day I spotted a piece and wasn’t paying attention to the ocean or the waves. Not only did I get a soaked foot for my inattention, the piece was also swept away with the wave and I never did find it.

The next time, I thought I had outsmarted the waves. I spotted a piece, but realized a wave was coming in, so I waited, stared at the spot where the piece was, and expected it to be there when the wave receded. Wrong. The peice was gone despite my attention. But then, as I looked around, I realized that while the green piece I had my eye on was gone, there was a white piece in its place a few inches to the left!

The power of the ocean, and beach karma at work.

#100HappyDays challenge: complete

The #100HappyDays challenge has been sweeping the internet over the last few months. It seems simple enough: every day, take a picture of something that makes you happy that day, and post it to your preferred social medium. I decided to sign up, and starting on March 1, I posted something every day.

I was well into the challenge when I started seeing the pushback: articles, new items, psychologist warnings that the challenge could actually make you less happy. One thing I saw stated that it’s impossible to be completely happy for 100 days so you shouldn’t try because it’d just make you unhappy. Well no kidding! I never went into the challenge looking to be 100% happy for 100 days in a row. Who am I kidding? A), I know myself, and that’s just not me, and B) I know that life happens! My attitude going in was that I would find one thing, no matter how small, every day, that made me feel happiness in that moment.

And you know what? It was a very valuable exercise. No one should expect to be happy 100% of the time, but if you can train yourself to recognize the happy moments when they occur, to be fully conscious of them and let yourself be aware that you’re happy, then chances are you’ll feel happier overall.

According to the #100HappyDays website, people completing the challenge claimed to  start noticing what makes them happy every day;  be in a better [overall] mood every day; realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;  become more optimistic; and even start receiving more compliments from other people.

Having completed the challenge, all of this makes sense to me.

My 100 happy moments (click to view full size).

I tried to make my moments diverse, too. It would have been fairly easy to find a moment that my (very cute if I do say so myself) kid made me happy each day, but I wanted to notice the other things that made me happy too. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being a parent to the extent that you forget yourself, and this was, as a side benefit, a good way to remind me that there are other things in my life that make me happy too. So, I think only about half the pictures involve him!!

Some days my job lets me do very cool things, so I made note of those (like meeting Stanley Cup champ Joe DiPenta and Canadian broadcasting legend Peter Mansbridge). Sometimes it was a small thing, like getting to park in valet parking during a work event or a nice new piece of artwork on the office wall or my coworkers’ sense of humour.

Sometimes it was a new bookor 6… or the last book in a favourite series, signed by the author.

I also tried to find the silver lining on days that weren’t so great. Home sick from work with strep throat? Well, at least I got to have ice cream for lunch and watch a hockey game in the middle of the day.

Signs of spring, a good meal, a rainbow, a bouquet of flowers, cloth diapers hanging in the sun, new clothes, a nice sunset, my goofy dogs, finding beach glass, beating my husband at a nerdy game… there are lots of little things that make me happy. It was a really good exercise to take note of them for 100 days and I find myself still thinking about what I would post a picture of on a given day if I was still doing the challenge.

Maybe I should extend it to #365happydays….

Gifts from the Sea

I find the beach to be one of the most relaxing places on earth – even in the rain, although I prefer a nice sunny day or gorgeous sunset, with some birds singing, the sand between my toes, and the rhythmic swoosh of the surf.1901838_10152506630188980_2207499547462815093_n

I try and take my dogs for a walk on the beach as often as I can. It’s win-win – they get to run off leash, chew sticks, and swim; I get the mental health benefits of the beach – and I get to do some beachcombing.

I am kind of obsessed with beach glass (or sea glass – they are sort of interchangeable terms). I will pick up any piece I find, unless it’s “unfinished” in which case I throw it back for some more wave pounding until it’s smooth.

I have come to believe that the sea glass I find is a gift from the sea. Isn’t that a nicer way of thinking about it that as someone’s long-forgotten trash? Sea glass is a treasure, and the more you look, the more you ask the sea for a gift, the more you will find.

What do I mean when I say a gift from the sea? Well, to be honest it feels like the sea glass has been put there specifically for me to find. It’s hard not to think that, especially when a nice piece is laying right in your path, on top of all the other sand and rocks, just waiting for you to look down.

10177449_10152489271673980_5816741740713506369_nI think you find more treasures on the beach when you ask for it. This can be as simple as opening your eyes and being observant of your surroundings, because you won’t find what you’re not looking for even if the sea lays it at your feet. However, I feel like because I visit the beach so often, and have such a connection to it, that I am somehow given special treatment, left special gifts.

I talked to an “Angel Lady” one day, who claims to communicate with the Angels. (I asked if she was like Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, and she kind of rolled her eyes and said Theresa talks to dead people but SHE talks to a higher plane of beings – she talks right to the angels.) She told me that it is the faeries who are leaving me gifts on the beach. I’m not sure about that (the woman ahead of me in line was told that she needs to unclutter her bedroom in order to find “the one” and the woman said her bedroom is spotless, so….).

10275954_10152458287583980_2488494056441925359_nBut I do sometimes feel as though there is some sort of guiding force, be it faeries, or spirits, or sea goddesses, or maybe just what you’d call intuition, that lead me to some of the treasures I find. There’s knowing where to look – but then there’s also the feeling I get sometimes, when I think “I should look a few feet this way” and then find a big lilac piece, or when I think “I should check this tiny patch of gravel over here” and I find a marble, or when my eye is caught by something I think is glass, but upon closer inspection is just a shiny shell or a tricky rock, but because I’ve bent down I find the tiny blue piece a few inches away. Then there are the times I go to the beach unhappy, or frustrated, or having had a bad day, and that’s when I find some of the most special pieces. After a crappy day at work, I found both a green marble and my first ever piece of yellow glass, both sitting on top of the sand, not buried at all, just waiting for me to spot them and be happy again.      10395836_10152527985533980_8642703604830011277_n

Regardless of your beliefs, or even your interest in sea glass, there is something special about the beach. If you can, visit a beach regularly. Make friends with the beach. You never know what you might find.10294251_10152409314278980_4646930051314074537_n

#30x30challenge

For the month of May, the David Suzuki Foundation challenged Canadians to spend at least 30 minutes a day outside in nature with the #30x30challenge. Even though I was already doing the #100happydays challenge, I decided they were pretty complimentary and decided I could do both. After all, I already spent at least 30 minutes outside on a majority of days! I figured it would be a good reminder to try to do so every single day.

Here are the results:

30x30challengeThe first two days, of course, it rained!! But you know what? It actually felt good to go out for a walk in the rain, especially on day 2 when it was a little warmer (I do enjoy a good rainstorm if it’s warm enough out).

Some days were walks with my dogs on the beach, enjoying the ocean and all it has to offer. Some of them were spent in the yard with my son. A couple were spent on the deck with a book or a cup of coffee. One was a garbage cleanup around the pond beside my office! One day I spotted a tiny piece of rainbow, and the next day I was fortunate enough to catch one last view of the snowy owl I’ve seen a few times this spring.

A couple of times, my outdoor time for the day consisted of doing yard chores. But you know what? If you take some time while you’re doing that to appreciate your surroundings, it still counts!

There was one day when I only had time to go down on the beach for 15 minutes – but even that amount of time was enough to refresh me and lift my spirits. And the one missing day, I didn’t have a chance to sit outside or go for a walk, but even that day, I did stop and take a moment to admire the beautiful flowers growing outside of the seniors’ residence I was visiting that day.

After the month, I did feel better for having taken the time to go outside every day. So the moral of the challenge is this: Even if you REALLY can’t get outside for a full half hour in a day, take at least a few minutes to go outside. Look at the stars, stop to appreciate some beautiful flowers, spot an unusual bird, or just take a few breaths of fresh air and let the sun hit your face! Humans are meant to be connected to nature.

Imajennarium does Pinterest: Art Projects for Kids

Pinterest is one of my favourite places to find inspiration as a Sparks leader – there are so many projects for kids on there, I have a whole board of Sparks Ideas and also follow Girl Guides of Canada on Pinterest to see what they are pinning.

Project #1: MOM craft

I was looking for something for the Sparks to make for Mother’s Day and came across this fun project to make a “MOM” resist painting. A great craft fits more than one objective and this one helps kids learn about mixing colours. There is a great book called Mouse Paint (which I happen to have at my house and love!) which explains colour mixing using cute mice. We read the book in our circle and then made the paintings. Each table had a bowl of blue & yellow, one of yellow & red, and one of red & blue. Once the “MOM” letters were taped onto the cardstock, the girls used the primary colours to dab paint onto their papers. Then once everyone had used the primary colours they were allowed to mix the colours (exclamations of “green!” “orange!” and especially “PURPLE!!” rang out when this happened). Then they finished their paintings by dabbing on secondary colours.

As usual, there was a pretty big range of results. Some girls didn’t quite get the dabbing concept, while some made very precise rainbows. However, everyone, with varying levels of help from the leaders, ended up with a pretty cool painting of the word MOM in bright white surrounded by colourful paint dabs. Here are the results:

IMG_0758I’m sure all the mothers of our Sparks were very impressed on Mother’s Day to receive these!

Project #2: Rainbow Letters

Sparks go over a rainbow to become a Spark so there is a rainbow theme running throughout the Sparks program. I was excited to find this pin with a whole bunch of rainbow craft ideas. I decided to try making rainbow letters with the Sparks – but instead of making an R for Rainbow like the instructions suggested, each girl made their own initial to make it a little more personal.

This is an easy craft. Basically you cut strips of rainbow-coloured construction paper and glue them onto a backing piece, then cut out a letter, then glue the letter onto black construction paper, and voila! Rainbow letter! The hardest part for the girls was remembering which direction to cut the strips from the construction paper to make them all the same length. Some girls had a bit of trouble lining up all the strips but with a little help all the girls were able to make a pretty rainbow. As usual I was impressed by the diversity of the girls’ work – some used thick strips and only had one rainbow, some had a whole bunch of smaller strips, and some had really crooked strips but it still looked cool! The leaders drew the letters on the rainbow stripes for the girls to cut out.  Here is the awesome result:IMG_1836cropped

Project #3: Mess-Free Toddler Painting!

While I do a lot of my kid-friendly crafting with my Sparks group, I am also the mother of a toddler and so I like to try and do crafts with him too. He, oddly enough, isn’t a fan of getting his hands dirty (“yuck!” is one of his favourite expressions) so finger painting isn’t one of his favourite things. However, a while back I saw a suggestion  to put the paint inside a Ziploc bag. Presto! He loves it. And then I saw a genius idea (somewhere deep inside the bowels of Pinterest, so far that I can’t find it again) – use dinky cars to drive over the paint and mix the colours together! Adding cars into the art project is a surefire way to make my little interested in what we’re doing. We used cardstock, Crayola finger paint, and a Ziploc bag. I had to trim the cardstock to fit so we each made little ones afterward. Here’s the result – our first attempt at left, mine at top right and Jefferson’s at bottom right:

IMG_2020I must say – I’ve had a run of really good luck with Pinterest projects lately!

Review: Ford Focus Electric

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Ford Canada event featuring a Ford researcher from Detroit. She presented on the sustainability projects Ford is working on – things like using scrap denim in the ceiling of cars, using soybean-based foam in seats, and using dandelions as an alternative to natural rubber. Then we were treated to a four-course meal featuring the same products the researchers are working with! It was delicious and the chef at EDNA did a great job with the challenge.

The door prize for this event was a gift certificate to EDNA to come back and try more of their amazing food…. and a chance to drive a 2014 Ford Focus Electric car for the weekend. And I was the lucky winner! Although I am far from a car expert, I had a great experience driving this car and thought I would share.

image4The car – a beautiful electric blue, appropriately enough – was dropped off to me on Friday afternoon. I drove it through rush hour traffic to my softball game, and loved the initial experience. I already drive and love a 2013 Focus, and in many ways it felt like driving my own car. Well, a much smarter, cooler, quieter, genius younger cousin of my car, let’s say! Things I like about my own car, like the extra blind spot mirrors on the side mirror, are still there in this version. It’s a small thing but being used to using it, I was glad it carried over to the newer model.

On the way home from the game, I started to really pay attention to the battery consumption and how to recover some of that energy by braking. There’s a braking coach that tells you what percentage of the possible energy you are recapturing with your braking. Basically, it encourages you to brake slower instead of slamming on the brakes at red lights – which is better for your car anyway! By braking properly and recovering an average of 95%, I was able to make the 15 km drive while only using up a net 3-4 km worth of battery charge. This is a really neat function, and the coach feature adds an element of gamification to the driving experience too.

When I got home, I pulled into my driveway, got out the power cord from the trunk, and discovered it was about 2 feet too short to reach my outside plug perfectly. Ah well – that’s what extension cords are for! The outlet cover flips open with a push, and then when it’s plugged in it glows electric blue! I have to admit, I felt very cool having a car plugged in in my driveway.

image3The Sync feature on this car is much more advanced than the one in my own Focus. There is a touch screen in the centre of the dashboard that knows traffic, nearby charging stations, driving statistics, how much charge your iPhone has, and even what street you are on! On the summary screen you can see what song is playing, see the dual temperature settings, find the outside temperature, see the street name and see what direction you are facing. The direction information is also shown next to the speedometer which is easier to look at when you’re driving. At one point it even displayed the speed limit for the stretch of road I was driving on.

imageOne of the other neat features of the centre display is that as soon as you shift into reverse, the screen becomes a backup camera. I’ve never driven a car with a backup camera before, but it certainly adds another element of safety when driving in reverse! I’d love to have this on my next vehicle.

The picture at right is what it looked like as I was backing out of my driveway on Monday morning.

One thing that’s disappointing about the car is that it currently only has about a 100 km range, after which it requires 12 hours to fully charge. I would have loved to take it on a road trip down the South Shore of Nova Scotia – but it would have taken me three days! Hopefully as the technology advances they will be able to have a longer range. For now, though, this is an ideal commuter car. I could easily get to work and back on a charge (although driving on the highway for a few minutes with the heat on on a chilly May morning did use quite a bit of battery charge compared to stop-and-go driving where you can recharge by braking). With a workplace that could accommodate a car being plugged in, you’d easily be able to commute from half an hour outside the city and do some errands on the way home.

I ran some errands on Sunday, stopping at the grocery store. The trunk space on this model is pretty limited – in my current Focus hatchback I can put my two dogs comfortably in the back, but about half the trunk space in the electric model is taken up by the technology. However, there is definitely room for groceries.

I also had a chance to see ‘what the car could do’ – and it certainly likes to go! I had already been impressed by the acceleration from a stop from the first drive, but was also impressed by how easily it responded to my foot on the accelerator, comfortably climbing over 100 km/h.

I had a great weekend with this car and would love to drive one full time as my commuter vehicle. Thanks to Ford for giving me the chance to check it out! I drove the car to my office this morning and parked it beside my own car. Here are the “cousins” this morning before they came to take the electric vehicle back home:

image2