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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Life Doesn't Have to Be Perfect. In Fact, it Never Will Be!

Hey, how is everyone? I know it's been a while since I posted, and I have lots to catch up on! By the way, spring is officially on its way, but you could never tell by looking at our front yard: 
About four feet of snow tell us spring is not quite here! 
But first, I wanted to share something that I have been learning lately. And it is this: 
Sometimes you have to just simply accept that perfect is never going to happen. And that's okay. 
Let me share an example from my own life. As a university student, my major was for teaching high school English. I loved to write, and high school English was where I felt very comfortable

And after graduating, I have taught high school English. For four out of the approximately ten years that I have taught.

The other years, I have taught E.S.L. to adults, grade two, alternative high school, junior high Social Studies, and substitute teaching, where you teach almost every class in the school (even gym -- groan.)

Do I wish I could teach high school English? Well, that is my ideal, yes. I absolutely love the deep discussions, love helping students communicate. I love literature. 

My ideal year of teaching was right before I met my gorgeous husband-to-be. It was the perfect set-up: teaching 100% English, with a shot of Drama the side. Perfecto.

But ... it wasn't meant to be. That blissful year came to an end, and as the newcomer to the division, the job went to someone else, who wanted to move up from teaching junior high English. 

Perfection came to an end, and I was moved down to teach grades five/six. I felt so out of my comfort zone, that I ended up leaving the division. And moving me and all my boxes across the country. 
This was my future husband helping me move across Canada
I kept searching for that ideal job, again, but alas, high school teaching jobs are at the top of the pyramid of teaching jobs. Those that have these jobs rarely leave them. 

Plus, the place where I had moved (for love -- read that story here), had worse employment rates than my home province. 

I did other things. Worked for Statistics Canada. Then taught alternative school. Started writing again. 

And then I taught grade six. Yes, if you remember, grade six was the level I had turned down before, because it was out of my comfort zone. 

And it still was. Out of my comfort zone, that is. But I worked really hard to learn the curriculum, to learn how to reach 11 and 12 year old kids. 

For two years. Then, I decided to go back to writing. I was just exhausted from stretching myself, feeling like it would never be good enough: my teaching, my classroom, me. 

I re-started this blog, printed up business cards, and started writing for the local paper. 

View of Lake Winnipeg, in the early morning. 
While covering the school's Christmas concert for the newspaper, my old principal asked me if I could come back and teach grade six, the job I had left. The other teacher had left. He was in a pinch. 

I did. Now, a two-month contract has stretched into six months. And I am looking at coming back next year. 

What changed? What changed was me. I finally saw that things don't have to be perfect. I stopped longing for that perfect job, and just started accepted the life that I have been given right now.

My house is not perfect. I am not perfect, and my classroom is not perfect. 

And that's okay. I will only do what I can. And it feels pretty good. I started to finally learn to live this verse:
 "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
--- Phillipians 4:11b

My kitty, Jo, demonstrating complete relaxation yesterday. 
And so I encourage you, today, to accept what life has given you. Life doesn't have to be perfect. It never will be. But do what you can, with what you have.

And remember: those things that are the hardest, will eventually become the things that make you the strong person for others who are walking the journey behind you. 

Love Sharilee. Hey thanks so much for reading. I would love to hear your comments and input in the space below. Also, if you like what you are reading, sign up through my Facebook page. or receive posts by e-mail by joining here

** All photos are property of the blog's author, and cannot be reproduced, without written permission from the author. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Get Caught Up in the Hype of New Year's!

I wanted to cancel New Year's this year -- too much hoopla!
Pedro Subercaseaux [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I Like 2015 So Far!

Hey there! Happy New Year to you! So far, I am liking 2015 quite a bit better than 2014. It might sound kind of silly but I am serious! 

It's funny how the holidays seem to allow us to open up more and share more. This New Year's Eve, I talked to people I haven't talked to in years, danced with my gorgeous husband, for the first time in, I think, EVER. I feel a peace I haven't felt in a long time. 

Why I Wanted to Cancel New Year's

And the funny thing is about my warm feelings is that this year, I really wished we could have cancelled New Year's. I just wasn't feeling it. 

Slightly depressed, I just kind of felt like it was way too much pressure and hoopla. After all, technically, it's just one day on the calendar. 

And resolutions? Why bother?

If I want to lose weight, I reasoned, there is no special reason I need to make that decision on this particular date.

I didn't feel like reflecting on the mistakes of the past year, because I had made way too many of them. And I didn't really care for making goals for next year, preferring to take things one at a time.

And I think this might be a common feeling among those of who have been struggling this year. The whole holidays, including New Year's, can seem like an awful lot of extra pressure. 

So, I stalled. Tried to ignore the onslaught of Best of 2014 articles and posts on making all those smart goals. 

Even my brother-in-law showing me his detailed goals, broken down into beautifully organized categories into the program, One Note, did not move me.  But then ...

Why I Couldn't Cancel New Year's Eve

"Hope" is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune without the words --
And never stops --- at all -- 

-- Emily Dickenson 

As we got closer to December 31, I was drawn in by the utter and undeniable hope of this beautiful holiday. 

At what other time of year are we allowed, even strongly encouraged to admit our mistakes?

When else do we loudly proclaim our intentions to people we barely know?

Yes, New Year's is a ready-made, hand-delivered socially acceptable excuse to be cheesy, sentimental and reflective.

And most of all, who does not want a new start, a chance to start from scratch? We all want grace. To have our mistakes left in the past. And to start again.

A New Year is a marker in the endless blur of our days. A time to stop and look, at what has been done, and what has been neglected. 

So, on December 30th, on New Year's Eve Eve, I made a request of my gorgeous husband. Could we sit down and do some reflections about our last year, and what we want next year to look like? 

What made me change my mind about this holiday? It was the draw of hope. This has been a hard year for us, with adjusting to a move, and me quitting my job, and a myriad of other smaller problems. 

The Smell of Hope Drew Me In

But the smell of hope drew me in. A fresh start. It was too alluring to resist. And once again, as I do ever year, I took part in a ritual which goes on all over the world, in different forms. 
My husband and I prayed the New Year in this year.
Jean-Fran├žois Millet [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My husband and I prayed. We made our peace with our mistakes, sins and fears from 2014. And we renewed our commitment to the things that are most important to us. 

Our shared resolutions were simple: to spend time daily getting to know God through prayer and Bible reading. And to exercise regularly. Taking care of our spirits. And our temples. 

As you enter the New Year, I encourage you to revel in the excitement. Let yourself be caught up in the hope, and the hype!  With all of the bad news we see coming every day from our screens, don't feel bad about feeling and needing hope. Hope is what keeps us alive. 

If you haven't taken part in our annual ceremony of renewed hope and desire, I encourage to try it. Even if you feel cynical like I did, you may be surprised at how good it feels. 

And for those of you who have made resolutions, or goals, or expressed desires, please feel to share some here. I would love to hear how you would like to improve in 2015! 

Take care, and God Bless! My hope for you is renewed strength, courage and faith. And love, happiness and peace. 

Love Sharilee. If you like what you are reading, sign up through my Facebook page. or receive posts by e-mail by joining here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The OTHER Reasons We Feel Stressed Out At Christmas

Giveaway Winner

Hi everyone! Well, the first Life in the Woods giveaway has come to a end, and the winners have been selected. The winners were chosen from a hat. Here is my husband's Russian-style hat, with all your entries in it. 

And here is our kitty, Shiloh, wishing she could pick the entries instead. 
My husband chose two random names out of the hat, and here are the winners! 

1. Dina -- she wins a calendar a journal
2. Jenny -- she wins a journal

I am just waiting to hear back from both of you, as to where to send the prizes. Congratulations to both of you! 

Christmas: Why the Panic?

Well, it is two weeks before Christmas, and I confess, I am not even close to being ready for the holidays. How about you? Are you feeling prepared, or just a wee bit  completely panicked, like me? 

Tonight, with my panic brain, I started praying and asking God for understanding. I was trying to pinpoint why so many of us get overwhelmed over the holidays. And what came to me, is that it goes deeper than just having a lot to-do (although that is certainly large part of it.) Here are the four OTHER reasons why we feel stressed out around the holiday season:

1. The holidays are a deadline. 

Because of the importance we place on this holiday time, and it's place on the calendar, Christmas time can act as kind of due date for us.   And I don't mean just a deadline to buy all our gifts, and stock up our cupboards for the upcoming feast. But this time of the year is cut-off, for all the things we hoped to accomplish this year. 
December Calendar, used under CC0 1.0, via Pixaby

The holidays are the end. The end of this year, the end of our hopes for getting what we wanted to, this year. We feel we should have certain things done by Christmas, and if they aren't happening, we judge ourselves, and feel bad. 

For me, this was the year I was supposed to get organized, once and for all. And I am not quite there yet. It's much better, but it wears on me, that I am not where I wanted to be. 

For some of us, it might be personal goals, like weight loss, or or or marriage improving. Or a career goal, like getting a decent job. Whatever it is, we think all year, "by Christmas ..." and then we get to Christmas, and it doesn't happen. 

Yikes! What a letdown. And so we are dealing with, not just the failure to shop ahead, but the failure of a whole year. 

2. Christmas is a time of inventory. 

Now, the second one is very closely related to the first one. First, we feel like we are on a deadline, and then, we may feel that we have to take inventory of what we have done for the year. 
By Mattes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

And this does make sense. Because this is what businesses do at the end of the year. They count how doo-dads they have in stock. They tally up their expenses and income, and send the records to the government.

Employees are issued tax returns at the end of the year. Kids get a break, and start over -- next year. 

And the media is all over it.  The ten best marriages for 2014. The worst moments of 2014 ... and so on and so on. 

And I think we feel it, too, even if not consciously. It's in the air, part of our society. And again, this can create real pressure in us, to be good enough, according to whatever standard we feel is expected of us. 

3. Christmas is a time for making memories. 

Please humour me here for a minute, and try to think of three past Christmases of your life. Was it difficult, or super-easy? 

I think for most of us, it is easy to remember past holidays seasons. Even if we don't remember much more about that particular year. 

Why is Christmas so much easier to remember than other times of the year? Well, my theory is that it is imprinted on us to remember the events that happen around the holidays, like no other time. In other words, it's like an instinct, that is not even conscious. 

As a culture, we put such a high importance on the event, it is elevated in our memories and minds, whether we want to remember it, or not. 
By Albert Chevallier Tayler, via Wikimedia Commons

And so why does this sometimes make us panic, or feel anxious? It can make anxious because we feel pressure to make it perfect, to make these special times, that we are sure to remember, good memories. 

And for those of us with children, it is even more important to us, to make good memories for them. And it is this desire, a good desire, to make good memories, to have a good time, that can create incredible anxiety for some of us.

4. Christmas is when relationships are on display. 

Have you noticed how different Christmas is from the rest of the year? I remember one year, seeing a sign on a Tim Horton's that said they were closed, and they usually never close! 

It is the one day above any other when even the most Scrooge-like of employers seem to have more sympathy on their employees and give them the day off to celebrate with family.  

And as we are all told to go and "be with our families," it means that the reality of those relationships shines forth, for better or for worse. 

For many of us, it is quite a bit of "worse" concerning our families, and those relationships given to us, rather than chosen. And that can be scary to face, and make us feel anxious, or panicky, even when we don't know why. 

What Can We Do? 

So, as you move closer and closer to December 25th, and feel overwhelmed by all the things you have to do, try to remember that the feeling of panic you feel may be more than merely having a long to-do list. (Although that is hard, too!)

Take a few minutes to examine whether the issues mentioned in the post apply to you. Do you feel like you should have gotten more accomplished this year? Do you feel you need to be accountable for what you have don this year? 

Do you feel pressure to make everything perfect this season? And you feel afraid of facing some difficult relationships this year, that you usually avoid? 

If you are feeling these things, take some time and reflect on what is bothering you, and admit it to yourself. You may deal with it by writing in a journal, praying about it, or talking to a good friend. Maybe your friend is feeling something similar. 

This year, I encourage you to face some of the emotions that may be stressing you out this year. Face them, and remember that it is not abnormal to feel them. I believe as we face our scary emotions, we are more able to welcome some of the wonderful feelings that can also come with the seasons. 

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas! I would love to hear how you deal with stress at Christmas, and how you are feeling this year. God Bless you and your families!

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

And This is the Reason That I Write --- To Know That I Exist

Hi everyone! First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you, for filling out the surveys, signing up for the e-mails, and commenting. It is really nice to see some new faces here on the blog. I appreciate each and every one of you. I know that is Thanksgiving for our neighbours to the South, so Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends. 

Also, in case you missed it, we are in the midst of a giveaway right now. Check it out here, if you haven't done so yet! 

Today, I would like to talk about why I write. If you are a writer, this is for you. If you draw, craft, or sing, this is for you, too. Writing is about expression. We all express ourselves in different ways. 

This post is about why I write and I get pretty honest. Cause sometimes I gotta get real. So here goes! 

Photo from Ncgrahpics, via MorgueFile
My first writing was in a diary. I wrote in that diary because it was the only place where I had  privacy, from a home where a wrong move could mean a night of shouting, and incrimination. A home where a Mother I loved endured yelling and sometimes blows, and I cowered in fear, waiting for the time when I would be able to help her escape her abuser. She did escape for a while. But she always went back. 

I wrote because I was determined to have a voice, even though I felt that it was not allowed. I was determined that I would not be crushed. Writing was survival. It kept me from going crazy, allowed me a place where no one could make fun of me, and acted in the place of a therapist for this suicidal teenager. 

And why do I write now ... I am no longer suicidal. I no longer hear shouts coming from the bedroom down the hall. I have forgiven. Why do I write? I write because I must. I must have a place on the paper that is separate from the world around me. Writing is the only way I know to see reality, to touch reality. To connect me to the world. 

I write because I need to be real. 

I am not just a woman who lives in a house, who has a job, who drives a truck. I am still that little girl who wrote in that diary. I am still that young woman trying to find her way in the world. I am still a soul, not just a worker. I still need to write, to survive. To keep that part of me quiet that feels like it will die and become invisible. 

So, I continue to write. I have to. Even if no one else reads it. Even it is only in a journal. Because I have to keep that part of me alive. When I don't write, I feel like I don't really exist, not the real me. 

If you are a writer, I encourage you to write. . If you are an artist, paint. If you are a cowgirl, ride your horses. Do what you love, so you will know that you exist. Doing what we love, even when we feel old or washed up, or done, requires hope and faith. But do it anyways, so you will know that you exist. That you are alive. Not just a mother, or student, or a employee. 

I write because I need to have a voice. A way of expressing who I am. What is the thing in your life, that gives you your voice? Are you doing it?

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

Enter the Blog Giveaway!

Our woodstove, nice and cozy! 
Hey everyone! I hope you are having a good week. It has been cold here in this corner of the world. Our ground is covered with about 2 inches of snow and we are settling into winter life. 

We are getting used to our woodstove, our very own version of the "Yule Log" here in our house! This year, we have decided to use wood heat exclusively, except if we need to be away for any extended period of time. The picture above is from our woodstove. I had to open the door to get a good shot, because the door really needs to be cleaned off. 

I am so excited about today's news. Welcome to the first ever Life in the Woods giveaway! This contest is open to any residents of the United States or Canada. 
This is me being excited about the giveaway! 

So, here is how the contest is going to work. For the next two weeks (until December 8th, 2014) you can earn entries to the contest by any of the following actions:

1. Commenting on any post on the blog. To prevent spamming, each comment must be a minimum of 10 words, and make sense. Each eligible comment will win you one entry to the contest. I look forward to reading your interesting. funny, insightful comments! 

2. Signing up for regular e-mail updates, for the blog. Every sign up will receive two entries to the contest. The sign-up link is here: Sign up to Life in the Woods

3. Completing a survey about this blog. The link is here, or you can simply complete the survey below. Every survey completed will receive two entries to the contest. 

Anyone who has already signed up for e-mail or FeedBurner updates, prior to the contest, will automatically receive two entries. All entries will be entered in a draw (in my husband's hat) and I will ask my gorgeous husband to choose two entries from all entries received. 

First prize is a package that contains: 
A 2015 calendar and a Red LuxeLeather journal:

The second prize is a Red LuxeLeather journal:

Giveaway items will be mailed to winners, within ten days of the end of the contest, as long as I have been able to get an address from the winner. If I am not able to contact a winner after one month, the prize will be withdrawn, and another name will be chosen. 

Okay, a little more about the giveaway items. 

First, the 2015 wall calendar. It features twelve different glorious photographs from the Wisconsin Northwoods area. If you are a nature lover, you will definitely love this calendar. It is nice and roomy, great for writing down all of your appointments. 

Secondly, the journal. This journal is so sweet. It looks like a leather journal, and is very soft and flexible. It features details like a ribbon marker to remember your page and an inspiring Scripture verse at the bottom of every page. On the cover is an excerpt of my favourite verses: Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you."
 If you haven't answered the survey yet, you can fill it out, right in the form below. And just for fun, how is the weather in your part of the world? Tell us your story! 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

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, 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