The trees outside our window

I love the stark lines of these giant plants!

Ravens playing in their winter home

These birds are surprisingly comfortable around humans.

Winter sunset off of the lake

This is what -30 degree Celcius looks like.

The black stray cat comes to visit

We have three cats, and they don't much like it when other felines invade their space.

Rough waves of Lake Winnipeg

The lake is always changing and moving, never the same.

Friday, October 31, 2014

You Can Become A More Organized Person

I Was The Queen of Disorganization

Growing up, I was known for my distinct lack of organization. Teachers would tell my parents at parent-teacher interviews: “she has so much potential, but she needs to be more organized.” 

My desk was a mess. I was constantly losing my glasses, my pencils, my papers.
My desk was a huge mess!
Photo is free photo from Sgarton via MorgueFile

My worst memory was of losing something very precious of my Mom’s. She had lent me her Strong’s Concordance book. For those of you who don’t know, that is a massive volume requiring great strength just to haul it down a hall. 
I had asked to borrow it for a skit I was performing in the local music festival. She gave it me, extremely reluctantly, warning me over and over again to lose it. But guess what I did? I lost it. 

When we got the building for the skit, I was so preoccupied with feeling nervous and self-conscious, that any thoughts of the concordance were out the window. Until I got home. And what a feeling of shame I had! I still a sense of shame when I think about it. 

Yes, I was the queen of disorganization growing up. And then I kept my reign into my 20’s and early 30’s, but somewhere along the line, I determined that this HAD TO STOP! 

I am now a Reformed Slob

And now, I consider myself a fairly organized person. Yes, me, the former queen of the mess. I am far from perfect, but way better than I used to be. Even if I don't always achieve it, I like the feeling of having order in my life.  So, what happened to change me? That is what I would like to share with you today. Because I believe that anyone can become a more organized person using these simple principles. 

I am going to offer you some changes in thinking patterns that can help anyone, whether yourself, your child or someone else .you know. 

Principle #1: Do It For Yourself

You have to determine that is important for you, and not to do it for anyone else. Growing up, I felt a great deal of pressure from my father because I wasn’t organized. Although I was never diagnosed with a learning disorder, it was definitely not something I was doing on purpose. 

But my father would get volatile about me losing things, where he would yell and call me down. So, organizing and cleaning were things that I felt were for him ... and not for me. 

And then, at the age of twenty, I found myself in an early marriage to another angry man (not my current husband.m)  He was very displeased about my lack of housewife skills, and wasn't afraid to let me know. 

But in spite of the pressure from others, it was only when I truly realized that being organized and clutter-free was for me, to help me, and not just to please other people and stave off the shame, that it started to click. 

If you struggle with organization (or know someone who does), find reasons that it will help you in your life, to meet your goals. Maybe being organized will help you get ahead in your career, by giving you the confidence to apply for a better position. Perhaps it will make you feel less stress because you will be able to find your things. Maybe it will make you more money, because you will be able handle more clients. 

If you are helping a child who struggles with organizational issues, help the child find his or her own motivation. For a teenager, the motivation might be being able to find her clothes, so that she can look her best each and every day. For the child, it might be the ability to find a favourite toy when a friend comes over, or the feeling of warmth they feel when they are able to invite friends into their room for a time of play. 

Your reasons will be unique to you. And that is good. Don’t do it because of the pressure from society. Start looking at staying organized as a special treat for yourself, instead of a dreaded task that you must do someday! Do it for you. Because your life counts. 

Principle #2: It's Never As Bad As It Looks

The next realization I had about organizing is that my clutter and mess is never as bad as it seems.  I have seen this principle so many times in my own life, and in the lives of others. 

Why do we tend to see messes as worse than they are? Let me explain why. A mess is just that: messy. And it’s ugly and it’s unpleasant. We, as humans, are wired to be turned off by something ugly and unpleasant. So we exaggerate the mess, in our minds, until it becomes a ten feet wall of junk and garbage. And more than we can deal with. I will give you an example from my own life. 

When my husband and I moved to our place in the woods, we were in a rush. I was teaching,with an extremely hectic schedule, and driving back and forth three hours a day. My husband was working full-time and trying to get our old house completely renovated in a very tight schedule. 

Our moving date kept moving forward, and we were afraid of losing the deal. So when we actually got around to moving, it was rushed. Despite my careful organization at the beginning of the move, by the end, stuff was just being stuffed into random boxes. No careful labeling. Just boxes upon boxes of stuff. 
 A mess of boxes from our home.
My own photo

And then after all the stuff arrived here, it didn’t get any better. We were living in our dream home, but life was still too busy. Stuff didn’t get unpacked. There were boxes strewn everywhere: our master bedroom, the two other bedrooms, the living room. Even the kitchen. And we couldn’t catch up. 

It was one thing after another. I was teaching full time with a difficult class. Every month, I was getting sick. My husband was feeling overwhelmed by a longer commute. We were hauling wood from our driveway, something we did not have to do in the city. And it was A MESS!!!!  And as we were so busy, mess kept adding unto mess. Have you ever been there? 

And I felt completely overwhelmed by it. Living in this chaos was depressing for me, and I know it made my husband crabby We couldn’t find anything. It felt like nothing was getting done. We could not invite guests over. Yuck! 

But you know what? As bad as it was, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Because once I started, the place started to come together. Yes, the year of neglect did take a while to get out from under, but it was do-able. I am still working on right now, but as I tackle each room, it is coming. And it’s not as bad I thought! 

And this principle is so true, no matter what the mess is. Once you start, it won’t be nearly as bad as you thought it was. The presence of clutter in our life can make some of us feel debiliated and helpless. But that is just a feeling. It really doesn’t have to crush us! 

And it is only stuff. It does not have some magic power to destroy us. It is not a lion that threatens to devour us. It is just stuff -- sometimes junk -- that we bought or acquired in some way. It’s just a bit unweildy right now. But it is controllable. When we avoid it, thinking it is unconquerable, we are giving into an illusion, a lie. And we are giving our stuff power that it does not possess on our own. 

Principle #3: Starting Gives You Confidence

The final change in thinking I am going to offer is realizing that just starting will give you confidence. Not starting is the most debilitating thing you can do. I should know because I am still bad at procrastinating!  I am also confident, however, that once I start, even just for a few minutes, the pressure  decreases expotentionally. 

When we start, we start to believe and see our own ability to do the task we have been dreading. We start to see ourselves as competent, and this belief in ourselves will carry us through to be able to do more and more. 
A nicely organized shelf from our home.
My own photo

I have seen this principle at work in my own life more times than I can count. This works for any task. Sometimes I am so scared of doing something that I try to avoid it, and put it off. But the moment I start, I realize that it is possible. And I just have to try my best. 

Don’t think that you must do it all, before you start. It's nice when we can finish a job all in the same day, but it may take some time to get a big job done. But having even one little area organized can be a tremendous morale booster. Start with one cupboard, or your purse. Or your one drawer in your desk. But just start. And you will start to feel better. 

So, these are the three changes in thinking that I strongly believe will help someone become more organized. They are: 

  1. Do it for yourself
  2. It's not as bad as it looks
  3. Starting will give you confidence
Please let me know if this was helpful to you or for someone you know. How are your organizing skills? Tell us your story! 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page. or to receive posts by e-mail, join here

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Fine Line Between A Suggestion and A Push

Well, I confess. My husband and I had a little fight today. Not one of those big ones that last all day, and into the next day, where neither one of us wants to break the silence and we sulk around like 2-year-old's on a rampage. No, not one of those. 

But just a little fight. What was it about? Well, we have been really concentrating on saving money lately, being frugal. Trying to get out from underneath the heavy blanket of debt which threatens to smother us with its big numbers. 

The little tiff was concerning ... wait for it ... satellite television. Pretty ridiculous, right? Well, here is the background. Since moving to the bush, we haven't had any t.v.. They don't offer cable services in our area, and we could not get ourselves to pay those crazy expensive satellite rates. So, our t.v. is just sitting upstairs, an ugly decoration in our bedroom. 

Surprisingly enough, I was the one who wanted t.v.. He didn't. But I wanted it for him. Why was it so important to me? 

Well, at our old place, in the city, we had a routine for our evenings. I wrote online; he watched television. And it worked. Both of us were happy. But here, my gorgeous husband does without. No wrestling, motor cross sports, no programs about building immense bridges, or blowing them up. Nothing exciting to watch. Just Facebook games for my husband. 

And I felt bad for my honey, as I watched him play yet another round of Slotsomania.  He seemed bored, I thought. So, I pushed for getting some satellite service. At around $90 a month, he just saw another bill. And he didn't want it. 

I thought he was just being nice, though, and secretly wanted to get service. My mind raced: "the poor guy, nothing exciting to watch. He needs some macho programs to rev him up!" So, I thought of another way to get it. 

"We could up our internet service, and then just watch Netflix all the time," I suggested.

 "NO! I don't want it. Can't you just listen to what I say? Why do you have to push until you get your way?"

And there it was: the love push. I was pushing. To me, it was love. I thought I knew what he wanted. So, I pushed, for his sake. (I can live without t.v. pretty easily myself.) 

But I was just assuming I knew what he wanted. Instead of believing him, I pushed. I will call it a "love push." I am pushing him out of what I perceive is best for him. But he rightly sees it as manipulation. 

And one more confession. That was not the first little spat we had tonight. We had had one more, just a couple hours before. That was about .... duh-duh-duh ... sour cream! Can you get much sillier than that?? 

And yes, it was another "love push." He had gone to the store for our dinner and got some items for the tacos I was making. 

I had given him a list, but neglected sour cream. When he got back, I realized my mistake, and wondered if he might be able to go and get some sour cream, because it would make the meal just perfect. 

He didn't want to, but I thought it would just wreck his meal if he didn't have it with his taco. When, I suggested he try the little store close by and that it was only ten minutes away, he blew up. He didn't feel like going, and I kept pushing. You see, I "knew" that it would mean so much more for him to have sour cream with his taco. 

Well, he finally did go and get the sour cream (after a few more of my helpful "suggestions") and by the time he got back, both of us were repentant. (And feeling a little silly for fighting over a container of sour cream!) 

I apologized for pushing him, when he clearly did not feel like going. Then, I did it again, with the television. I might be a slow learner, but I am finally starting to get the fact that manipulation can be rooted in love, and maybe that is why I don't realize I am doing it. 

And I also realize that I do have a power of persuasion, and I must be mindful of how I use it, so that's not being used to overcome another person's will, for my own purposes. Because a love push is still a push, no matter what the motive. 

And I think we can easily justify "influencing" people around us for the sake of what's best for them: our children, our partners, our siblings and friends, but at what cost? And is it really best for them? How do we know? 

Please let me know if you have any thoughts; if you can relate. I truly appreciate hearing any comments. 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page. or to receive posts by e-mail, join here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ten Reasons to go for a Walk Tonight

How are you doing today? By any chance, are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, maybe a bit depressed? Or maybe like something is missing? 

If so, allow me to make a suggestion to help you for getting out of this mental slump. And it doesn’t require pills -- you don’t have to go to the doctor for any prescription. 

My idea for you is get your fix. Your nature fix, that is.

When was the last time you went for a walk in the park? Or the forest, or the field? When did you last see birds up close or hear the sounds of leaves falling from the trees? 

Has it been a while? Do you tend to dwell mostly, in the tunnel so many of us create for ourselves: home, garage, work, garage and then home again?  

If it’s been quite a long time since you felt in touch with nature, I am going to give you ten reasons to get in touch with nature again.

And don’t wait too long ... the snow is coming and this late autumn won’t last forever. Why not go tonight? 

1. It's excellent exercise. In fact, there is extra value in walking outside compared to the treadmill, because of the extra resistance you gain from walking against the breeze, as well the variety of muscles used by obstacles you may encounter outdoors, as well as natural slope.

2. Walking outdoors can help curb your appetite. Going for a walk outside always makes me want to eat less. As I get more in touch with my body, I tend to have less desire to eat unhealthy things and overeat.

3. Walking outside helps cure stress and anxiety. In fact, a recent article in Forbes magazine quoted Dr. Sobel, a leading expert in preventative medicine as saying that spending time in nature is one of the top cures for stress. 

4. Nature makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.  Whether it's looking at the stars at night, or simply gazing up a forty foot elm tree, we are reminded that we really aren't the centre of the universe! 

5. Time spent outdoors connects you with those you love. When I was a kid, my mom used to take my sister and me on nature excursions. Sometimes it was a mysterious path that we had never been on before. Other times, it involved going for a drive and finding an abandoned coulee. These are the best memories, because we were together, exploring.

6. A walk in nature is romantic. Whether you are planning a first date, or planning your retirement, there's nothing better than a romantic stroll to pump up the intimacy level between two lovebirds. 

7. A nature walk is educational. Helen Keller asked her friend what she had seen after a walk in the woods. She was shocked when her friend replied. "nothing." She then goes on to say, "How was it possible ... to walk for an hour through the woods, and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch."  Let's learn from Helen. When we walk outside, there is always something to see, and to learn. 

8. A walk through nature helps cure depression. This fascinating article talks about the latest research on how walks through nature have documented physical and sensory effects that help people that struggle with depression. The author also goes on to explain how, in Japan, "forest bathing" is considered a therapeutic option for healing. 

9. An outdoor walk is excellent for planning and goal-setting. I have gotten some of my best ideas while on a nice, long walk. There's something about the rhythm of walking that lends itself to dreaming and planning.  In fact, don't think of a walk as just one more thing you have to do,  but as a productivity tool for getting more done in the long run. 

10. You are walking in the shadows of greatness. Jesus himself was a great walker. Albert Einstein is reported to have walked the 1.5 hour distance to work and back, when he worked at Princeton. And C.S. Lewis, was inspired by the regular walks he took on his five acre wooded property.  

So, have I convinced you to go for a walk tonight? I confess
that I have been skipping my walks lately, and during the writing of this post, I actually went out and got a quick walk in. So, what about you? What are you waiting for? 

Or are you already a dedicated walker? What are your reasons for walking? Tell us your story. 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page. or to receive posts by e-mail, join here. All photos are property of the author. All work is copyright under Sharilee Swaity 2014. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Favourite Place

When I was teacher, I started off the Canada unit by having students write a one-page description of their favourite place. 

What did it look like? How did it make them feel? And why was it so important to them?  You get the idea.

This exercise was designed to show important place is to us. And then I would read my description of Canada, and we would launch into the study of Canada.

I still believe in the importance of place. Where we live effects every aspect of our lives. Every place has its beauties, secret charms and annoyances. That is why moving is so hard on us: because where we live weaves itself into our very beings. 

Which leads me to share my favourite place: our land in the woods. This is a place fought for, desired, and loved, and this is what life in the woods means to me:

  • Freedom from traffic and the distractions
  • A quiet and authentic life
  • Self-sufficiency and dependence on God
  • Time to think, feel, and WRITE!
  • Being surrounded by beauty
  • Learning about nature and wildlife
  • Opportunity to stop chasing the dollar

Life in the woods is .... 
....poetry set in motion by the firm spokes of reality
....bliss trickling down the crevices of inconvenience and loneliness ... 
...surrounded by trees that envelope you, almost suffocate you.
 ...Feeling sometimes closed in and sometimes like you could fly for miles. 

It is living with green giants who keep you warm in the winter, block the wind in the storm, cool your house in the summer and every day, fill your lungs with life-giving oxygen. 

It is walking with the knowledge that a bear, or a wolf could jump out at any time, and walking anyway. It is bugs, and dirt and twigs and grass. 

Mushrooms, leaves, pine cones, moths, mosquitoes ... Well water, woodstove, long driveway, big yard. 

It is far from perfect. There are inconveniences, repairs to be done...things are not easy, like:
...No 7-11 if you run out of milk at 10 at night
...Using half a tank of gas just to go to Walmart
 ...Paying a fortune for Internet because the trees get in the way of your reception

But yet, Life in the woods is everything I thought it would be... and more. So, this is my favourite place. Please, tell me about your favourite place. What do love about it? What objects do you find there? How does it make you feel? 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page. or to receive posts by e-mail, join here

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What I am Learning About Wood

Oh, the things I am learning about wood! More than I ever dreamed of knowing! 

Yes,wood has become my world for the last few days as my gorgeous husband and I prepare ourselves for the winter coming soon upon in our little house in the woods.

On Saturday, we went out to the bush to do some woodcutting, and wow, was this fun. Yes, I am not kidding … it was actually fun, even though it was also so dirty, muddy and backbreaking. 

But how amazing it is it to go a quiet place in the middle of this Manitoban forest and imbibe in that air that is so fresh that it makes you feel like you’ve never even heard of the word, “pollution.”

This was my first woodcutting excursion and there was a lot to learn. Here are things I learned this year:

  • In order to cut wood in Manitoba, you must obtain woodcutting permit from the Manitoba Conservation Office.

    The permit cost us about $40 and allowed us to cut down 6 cords of wood, which should be almost enough for the winter, depending on how harsh the winter is. They also give you a map that shows where you can cut. 
  •  Try to find the cutting area beforehand, because sometimes those maps are pretty confusing. Knowing where you are going really helps keep everyone's moral up!
  • If you are looking for wood you can burn right away, try to find some“standing dead” trees, trees that were dead or almost dead but had not yet fallen to the ground.
  • Watching a tree fall truly is an amazing experience. To
    see a forty feet Jack Pine go down is awe-inspiring, like watching a giant topple to the ground!
  • Always carry an chainsaw wrench and an extra chain, if possible, in case one chain goes all funky on  you. Yes, that happened to us, and we did not have the chain on hand. (Truth be told, it is lost somewhere in our house, yet to be determined.)
  • A log splitter is worth every penny you spend! We got ours on sale, for $229, and are rejoicing at this wise purchase! Two of us were able to cut and split half a cord of wood in about six hours. And imagine if I was in shape! But seriously worth it. 
My husband now calls me his “Lumberjack Girl.” Well, I'll take it! 

But lumberjack girl or not, we still have some serious work ahead of us. Note to self: start earlier next season, like in the spring! Like about eleven more trips into the bush to cut wood, to get ready for the winter.

But cutting wood sure reminds me of how dependent on nature, and God, we really are. In the city, you are so shielded from that reality because your food is packaged at a fluorescent-lit grocery store and your heat is brought to you mindlessly through your register vents. 

But when you have to actually go out and work HARD for your heat, instead of just paying a bill, it makes you feel much more connected to the source of that heat. 

And pretty thankful for the creation that God has made. Those beautiful trees that make me pause with their arresting beauty also keep us warm, protect us from the sun and wind, supply us with oxygen, give us houses to stay in, and furniture to keep us comfortable. I am grateful! 

All photos are taken by author, Sharilee Swaity. Copyright 2014. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nature is a Tranquilizer

Have you ever felt really excited about how beautiful something is? I have, just in the last week or so! 

Lately, I have been awestruck by the beauty that surrounds us here at our place in the woods. It might sound strange, but sometimes, I am so excited by the grandeur that surrounds us that I can barely contain it. 

It is difficult to capture such splendor in photographs, although I try, because the pictures don't include the musky, fresh, damp smell of falling leaves and fragrant grass.  Or the soft choir of the birds: geese squawking overhead, ravens complaining loudly in the perch, sparrows fluttering in the bushes.  

The fall leaves now create a careless, reckless canopy across our soil, as trees, almost naked now, can be seen in all of their structural glory. 

Is it okay to be in love with a place so badly that you ache it for it? Is it idolatry to never want to leave, not even for a day, because there is no place in the world you would rather be? To feel like you don't want to die, because you
would be torn from here? 

If my love of this place is somehow wrong, I pray I will be corrected but for now, I am reveling in this beauty. The beauty and tranquility is a caress to my soul. The beauty is a tranquilizer that has no side effects and no worrisome interactions.  

Nature is God's bold exhibition of creativity, an ever-changing portfolio of the wonder of his mind and the genius of his ways. I also believe nature is designed for us, as human beings, to heal us, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Apparently, modern science is realizing the healing power of nature, as well.  A 2010 study done by the University of Sheffield found that individuals who were even just presented with images of peaceful nature scenes were more calm, and their brains were more connected, than those who viewed images of busy traffic. 

Well, if just looking at the images had that great of an effect on an individual, how much greater much be the effect of actually being physically immersed in a tranquil nature scene! 

And the flip side of the coin was that just viewing a picture of traffic caused brain connections to be disrupted. Wow! So, what kind of connections are we losing after a week of having to sit in the middle of busy traffic? No wonder we feel so stressed out! 

So, I encourage you to find yourself some nature this week, and simply bask in this natural tranquilizer for a few moments. It will be well worth the investment in time! 

And tell us your stories. Do you have a favourite place, that makes you want to sing out with joy? Where is it? How often do you go there? 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up for regular updates with Blogger or through my Facebook page.