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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Journey to Simple

Everyone is just so busy these days!
Photo by Ryan Ritche, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Everyone is so Busy

We all know life in the 21st century is complicated, right? Everyone you talk to, is always busy, so busy ... There's so much to catch up on. We are all multi-tasking ... so many things to do ... no time to stop, to think, to reflect ... 

But does it have to be that way? Could we choose to make our lives more simple and less crazy? Could we just STOP? Yes, I believe we can. I believe we can choose to be less busy, and to have less crazy lives. The only problem is ... 

It's not easy to go simple. The journey to simple means making some hard choices. It is choosing to do with less, even when more feels safer. It means giving things up, when we are used to having what we want. It is not easy, but I believe it is worth it. 
Our back yard, surrounded by beauty. My own photo. 

Our Story

My husband and I are on a journey to simple.  Eleven months ago, we moved out of the city to a place located in an actual forest. We were in search of a quieter, less expensive lifestyle. The house we bought was smaller, with more land. We wanted to get away from the traffic, pollution and noise. We dreamt of a different kind of life.

However, like many dreams, the reality was pretty far from what we had envisioned.In fact, we hadn't seemed to simplify our life all that much. 

Besides working long hours, now we also had to stack wood. And just to get some decent groceries, you had to drive at least an half hour. And our lovely rural hide-away? Well, let's just say that the place, although beautiful, was undeniably flawed (as in needing  quite a few repairs!)
My wood pile. My own photo
We started to wonder about this "simple life" dream. Was it just a silly fantasy? Were we better off back in our inner city lot? 

But then, after wringing our hands for a while, we both saw something special. What we had.  Sure, it was difficult now. But we had made a good choice. We had space. Privacy. A wood stove. A lake nearby. Bracing fresh air. An affordable home.

Getting to a simple life would not happen just by moving to the country. No, this was a start. But we still needed to pare down. Our stuff. Our diet. Our money. Our life. 

Please Join Me in the Journey 

Please join us in our journey to simple.  We're not there yet. Like any journey, we can't expect it to always be smooth, or completely straightforward. 

But we know our destination, and that is a huge advantage. This blog is about getting closer to simple ... in the midst of a crazy world.  

I hope it encourages you, the reader, to get closer to simple in your own life.  And you don't have to live in a forest to do it ... just find the advantages to where you live. What do you have right now? Focus on those advantages, and then take steps towards whatever a simpler life means to you. 

Now, what about you? What does the "simple life" mean to you? What steps are you taking towards having a simpler life now? What advantages do you already have? 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

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Night I Looked Into the Face of a Bear

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar, via Flickr, Used under CC-BY-ND 2.0
Have you ever come face to face with something that absolutely terrified you, but absolutely thrilled you at the same time? That was my experience, just two weeks ago, at our home in the woods

It was Monday, at approximately 1:30 at night.  My husband had gone to work,and I was up late, on Facebook, as usual, when I decided to get something left in the car. As, I was heading out, I quickly checked out the glass door window first. 

When I looked out, found myself looking straight in the eyes of long-haired, gray-coloured, massive looking bear. He was about two feet away from the door, and he was staring straight into the window. I don't know if he saw me or not. I moved away from the door too quickly to find out. I was terrified. 

This was similar to what the bear I saw looked like.
Photo by Tambako the Jaguar, via Flickr, Used under CC-BY-ND 2.0
Well,sort of. For just a couple seconds before I was terrified, I felt a completely different emotion. I wasn't scared at all. I was THRILLED. Excited. Euphoric.   What a beautiful, majestic creature. God's creation. 

He looked so calm and serene, sitting there looking into my door window. He looked loving. And curious. I really don't know if he saw me or not, but at that moment, he seemed to look up at me with great wisdom and caring. 

He had long grayish brown fur. His fur seemed to be sticking up quite a bit, like a tousled haircut. His body was very round and cuddly looking. His legs seemed short, giving him the appearance of a slow, relaxed creature.

 I saw him and my heart moved out to him. He looked a bit lonely, like he needed a friend. He looked like he knew me, and wanted to take care of me. He was cute. Like a teddy bear. This is what my heart saw. 

But this is what my mind saw ...

I was alone, with no way to escape and some glass panes were all that separated me from a 200 pound creature who could knock me down with one swipe of his paw, and finish me off in another five minutes. 

When the terror hit, I felt paralyzed. Everything was in slow motion. Our home has glass panes all around most of the living room and dining room. The door has a glass panel window. There is a balcony window on the other side. I was sure that the bear could easily break these windows and get inside if it really wanted to. 
Photo by gintheemt, via Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

There was no back door. Only a patio door whose deck wrapped  to lead to the door where said bear now sat. What to do? I slowly moved away from the living room and into the bathroom. But wait, I had no phone. I stealthily, cautiously made my way back to the living room and grabbed my cell. Back to the bathroom. 911. 
"911. What is your emergency? 
|"I have a bear on my deck." 
"What is your address, Ma'am?" 


"Oh, it's not uncommon to see a bear in that area. You're right in the middle of the forest." 

(Really, I am? I didn't know!)

"I wouldn't patch you through to the police for that. Is there anything else I can help you with?"



(This is approximately how the call went -- I can't say it's exact because I was too afraid to remember exactly.)

And that was it. My emergency phone call was done. And no one was coming. I was again alone with a bear on my deck. So I called again. This time I got someone different. I explained my situation again, this time with more of an urgency, and an explanation as to why I thought it was dangerous. 

She put me through to the police. She said they might make it out. I waited. I called my husband. He told me to get the bear spray in hand, in case the bear charged the house. I didn't know how bear spray would protect me against a bear being in the house, but I did as he said, terrified, and going upstairs to get the spray. 

No one came. I wasn't sure what to do. So, I called 911 again, and explained that I didn't know what to do. She said to check to see if the bear was still there. But what if it sees me, I asks. I don't want to startle him and provoke him to charge. Remember, he was only two feet away from a glass window door. 

But you have to know if he's there, in order to assess the situation. So, I did it. I looked out cautiously. He was gone. Relief. But not quite. Where was he now? Around the balcony door? I still did not feel safe. I told the operator I would still like someone to come out. She said she didn't think anyone could. 

But she did pass my name unto the Conservation Officer in town. And I waited. He called me back. And he assured me that the bear was probably just curious. They get lots of reportings in the area, especially in the fall. As long as he wasn't trying to break in, I should be fine. 

He also said we could have the bear trapped and sent away, if we wanted. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea, but said I would get back to him. He said it should be fine. 

I also called my husband. He said it should be fine. I messaged a friend that used to live in the Yukon. He said it should be fine. 

But that night, I did not go to sleep until I saw the light roll in over the trees at 5:30 a.m. Everyone said I should be fine, but my world was now different. My safe haven had been changed. A bear had come just three feet away from me. 

The bear was beautiful. Curious. Maybe even loving. But it could kill me. It was also possibly a threat. Dangerous. 

To some who have lived in the bush their whole lives, seeing a bear would be no big deal. But for me, it was. I had looked into the eyes of a bear, and I would never be the same. The greatest thrill. The greatest fright. 

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 31, 2014

3 Simple Organizing Secrets ... from a Reformed Slob

Confession: 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 pretty organized person. Yes, me, the former queen of the mess. I love having a place for everything, and everything being in its place. I fantasize about new containers and drool over creative storage ideas on Pinterest. (Check out some of my Pinterest boards, if you want to see what I've been looking at!) 

Organizing -- Kitchen
Organizing -- Bathroom
Organizing -- Bedroom 

I won't claim to be perfect at it, I like the feeling of having order in my life.  My point is that my level of organization is FAR HIGHER than it was before. 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; in fact, 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 much 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