finishing well

I just finished my last day of work, after just over six years of service.  It is the longest tenure I have held in my choppy, colourful career.  

I start a new job today.  It is the first time I will be working at a job whose function and industry I was very intentional about pursuing.  Well hey now, there's my word for the year! Hurrah!  I am so excited.

But in these last two weeks, I did whatever I could to end this chapter well.

Transition to equip and empower - In the world of accruals, reconciliations, pivot tables and cross-continental Dropbox folders, everything can be learned from numerous resources. I decided to direct my training towards less tangible skills like how to manage the requests of fast-talking executives, the whys behind the how-tos, and the value of demanding excellence from yourself in every task. These were lessons taught to me by integrity-driven supervisors and peers over the years that needed to be paid forward.

Clean up - Purge physical and soft files that only I understand and will just confuse everyone. There will always be scrambling after one leaves.  Less painful for all when you delete the first four iterations of Schedule A from 2011.  With all humility, too, I did not shred the unfinished past project that would clearly be misaligned with the reliability I wanted to be known for, because I'll be honest, I thought about it.  The file folder remains in my cabinet, and I shared it with my successor. Oh Brene, it was tough but I was brave and did it anyway! Hashtag vulnerabilityisagoodthing

Get personal - I wrote personal thank you cards to each fellow employee.  Our workforce has been reduced to skeletal numbers so the task wasn't monumental.  But, I couldn't afford to underestimate this opportunity to give love (because in the music industry so many haven't been afforded the chance to leave on their own terms) by waiting until the second-last day and resort to a standard template because things got too busy in the end.  I wrote them on the day after I handed in my notice.  I wrote my all-staff farewell email the following day, which included illustrated instructions on the Excel formula I most frequently get asked about, maybe more for my own amusement, actually.

Leave a legacy of excellence, service, and care - I didn't want anyone to feel abandoned in my departure. There was no allowance for I'm-already-gone ball-dropping.  I sped up processes so they could be tied up by my last day, and asked other departments about current needs and going-forward concerns.  This stretched me beyond my wits, I confess, especially when the conditions I assumed would be ideal were far from it. At least three people told me to loosen my grip on what needs to get done, one of whom was Ben, who, with the kids, got the nightly aftermath of this tiring endeavour.  It made me think about Tsh Oxenreider's confession of her time writing about her simple life actually being a slice of short-term chaos.  I am ripping a band-aid off, I think, with this purposeful and temporary pain.  In the end, I had to surrender some of my goals, but while I now feel that they won't melt away if they have to learn some things without me, it was a matter of putting my money where my mouth is when I say I want others to feel loved by tying whatever loose ends I can for/with them.

So here I am, wide-eyed well before my new morning alarm, with a blank 100-page coil notebook downstairs in the foyer, eagerly awaiting the writing of a new story.  And the peaceful readiness I feel right now is a happy byproduct of a crazy but thoughtful two weeks of intentional transition.

Let's do this.

 

scared skinnies 101

I started swimming lessons last week.

If you're thinking it's a because-I'm-turning-forty thing, you are absolutely right.  I want to acquire the skill and eventually use it for exercise.  Plus I'm hoping to teach the kids after, since our previous attempts at lessons didn't pan out.

Forever and always...I'm always here.

Forever and always...I'm always here.

Lesson No. 1 - It's not easy to find the right bathing suit.  It's winter so you are confined to a single rack of mish-mashed variety in the sporting good stores.  Anywhere else is for beach-frolicking.  Uh, no thanks.  Finding a one-piece suit that doesn't hike up beyond my pelvis, provides adequate support for things that need support and doesn't cost a hundred bucks isn't easy.  I tried on over a dozen suits to no avail.  Then I finally found a Sears-branded (I'm too told to care about brands - just hold it all together, please) suit in candy apple red.  Basic, functional, cute.  And makes me look like I wish I was on Baywatch.  Oops.  Oh well.

Lesson No. 2 - The first class was great.  We started with blowing bubbles in the water.  I'm not kidding.  But hey, small victories create momentum, right?  We graduated to front and back starfishes and ended off the session with attempting to glide with kicking, which I guess is floating.  In true over-thinking form, I was convinced that I mastered the mechanics, yet when I opened my eyes under the water, I was barely moving forward.  I asked my "you could be my son" instructor to watch me try again and tell me what I was doing wrong.  In the kindest tone, he said it all.  Relax.  Story of my life, kid.  Wouldn't you know it, letting my knees bend got me moving.

Lesson No. 3 - Deciding to do new things requires you to...do new things.  We started learning the front crawl last night.  I came home exhausted.  The moving of the legs and the arms and the breathing was almost too much.  And I had a flutterboard.  But this is the necessary pain of starting something new, right?  It's unfamiliar and difficult, but just requires repetition - practice - and then your body stops working against you and goes with the flow.  Reminds me of when I was doing the write31days challenge (note to self: start writing again).

I suspect my next lesson will be about faith.  We are heading to the deep end next week.

the word for 2016

On my first morning back to work after Christmas, the freezing rain pecked at my face as I walked through crunchy new snow, reminding me every quarter-second that the dream of the unseasonably balmy weather going right into spring has died.

everyone else was smart enough to sleep in.

everyone else was smart enough to sleep in.

 

 

 

 

 

Only five days ago, on Christmas Eve, I was out for a run/jog, perhaps more of a jolly skip because its impossibility.  I had to stop along the way to take this:

minimum four swing requirement - check!

minimum four swing requirement - check!

Another awesome jungle gym has been added to our neighbourhood.  Even I am biting down hard in excitement to try the mini rock climbing contraption.

I can't, though, because there is a wire fence still surrounding it all.  Something about it is not quite ready.  I'm sure all the kids living in the homes along its perimeter are keeping a close daily watch on that fence, waiting for it to disappear and the fun to begin.

I thought about that fence that morning, wondering how this whole scene represents my life. But the fence isn't wire. It's taller and impenetrable, maybe made of brick. I can't see through to the playground.  But it's there.  I just need to get past the fence.

I can't believe we are at the end of 2015 already. The year really flew by and I am thankful for the whole thing. I read a lot of books, ran a lot, like I aimed to

update on 2015 goals...

update on 2015 goals...

 

There were things, though, dreams, I was so excited about in the early months that wilted away because of my self-doubt and fear. I gave up because I couldn't imagine the likelihood of awesomeness on the other side of the fence.

I assigned Community as my word for 2016 several months ago, without too much woo-woo Holy Spirit consultation. But then a couple of weeks ago, in the same style that Open came to me for this year, He spoke to my heart with Pursue.

Okay, then.

The coming year may get a little crazy, I suspect. I have a dog now, for goodness' sake, anything goes.  Maybe it's because I'm turning 40 or maybe it's because I'm fed up with chickening out.  But in 2016 I will trust God's promises more wholly and discover and enjoy the awesomeness on the other side of that fence.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Phils 4:19-20)

five people to pray for this Christmas

I have an aunt who religiously (pardon the pun) opens her grace-before-meals by thanking God for the gift of life.  It's so notable that we cousins (you know, the grown adults) reduce to poorly hidden giggles every time.

Our immaturity aside, few things are more noble than showing gratitude for our lives, and I enjoy that it is the most consistent staple of our extended family meals.

As I'm sure you are, we are already knee-deep into the Christmas gatherings, with the big ones in clear view.  We are going to bless the food, give thanks for the year, lift up the homeless and lonely, and lots of other amazing things that working with God can do.  This year, I intend to step a little outside of my regular holiday prayer repertoire and pray for a few other people not usually on my radar, and invite you to join in.

The people who made our outfits - I'm in my last month of my no-new-clothes year and since we are two days away from Christmas Eve, I'll be shopping in my own existing wardrobe for what to wear.  But these items were still made by someone, just like all the sweaters, skirts, dresses, slacks (okay nobody says slacks anymore but it's more fun than 'pants'), and jewelry we are giving, getting and wearing in the next ten days.  Someones's daughter, mother, husband, breadwinner, last hope, and inspiration created these things, and these people deserve my attention far more than the discount and free shipping I scored buying them.

The most annoying person at work - Maybe there's a Scrooge in accounting, or a Susie-does-Christmas-better-than-everyone-and-won't-shut-up-about-it, or management is dragging you through h-e-double-hockey-sticks in what should be a quiet time of the fiscal year.  Whoever it is, bite down hard, take a gracious breath and pray good things, like, really good things, over his or her life.  And mean it.

The catalyst in the family - Come on now, people, let's get real.  I have been to sucky family Christmases and so have you.  There are deeply-rooted pains in many families that even the best gravy ever can't hide (mmmm gravy though).  There is someone in the wreckage who serves as the cornerstone of the whole thing - check your ego at the door - who needs our intercession to nudge/shove them into the place of mercy or repentance or humility or rebuilding. Or all of the above.  Without judgement, I am lifting these people to the only One who knows how to fix these messes.

The non-believer on the cusp, within reach of my influence - You might already know who it is because of past conversations, or you may have no idea.  But there is someone that God has placed within earshot who He has been inviting to the party and I want their hearts softened and receptive to the possibilities of that something they're thirsting for but can't put their finger on it.

Me - Sometimes I feel selfish taking up airtime to pray for myself, but in cases like the one above, part of their story hinges on my obedience to how God is asking me live. I am (forever) praying for the courage to live the follower's life outrageously and contagiously, beyond intentionally greeting everyone Merry Christmas at Starbucks and posting classic nativity verses in all caps on social media. I want to be brave enough to do the counter-cultural things and love the haters and be a proper steward and say no when I don't want to and not care who's watching or if anyone is watching. Well gosh, Baby Jesus, I guess that's my Christmas life wish then, Amen.

 

Given my track record since the 31 days series, I doubt I'll be posting anything new before Christmas.  My sweet friends, I wish for you all a God-breathed week that fills your soul with life, fills your tummy with nourishment and fills the rooms with belly laughter on Christmas Eve and Christmas and Boxing Day and every moment before and after!

check list for the fortieth year

I am turning thirty-nine this week.  I want to use the coming year as a launching pad towards a more beautiful, whole, authentic me when I officially reach forty next November.  Here is what I am assigning myself to get there:

Decide what I believe is truth and not be afraid to believe - This is an existing work-in-progress.  As I continue learning more about living as a Jesus follower, I want to come out of this year firm in what it means for each facet of my life.

Familiarize myself with my body - Its strengths, limitations, what makes it thrive and what doesn't.  This should probably start with a physical and a reconnection with a few paramedicals.  Things already don't hang, grow or spring back the way they did when I was in my twenties.  In addition to learning general best practices for healthy living, I want to know exactly what foods and activities work for me specifically.

Discover what my genuine interests are, independent from my family members, friends and peers – I was all over hand lettering earlier this year, but I discovered I don’t love it enough for the ten thousand hour journey it will take to become Lindsay Letters.  Which I kind of put on my list of goals for 2015.  I know that I genuinely love Adele’s new album because I cry that hurts-so-good-put-it-on-repeat cry every time I listen to track 10 and not because all things her are viral right now.  I want to identify things that I will lalalalove after they stop trending and that I will comfortably agree-to-disagree with others about.

Establish best responses at difficult moments – When I walk into a funeral home, if a loved one announces their engagement to the dude you hoped was a phase, when someone tells you their unfavourable diagnosis, when encountering someone with physical disability, when she is in anguish or he is aloof, I want to respond with intentionally crafted words and/or actions that speak love and compassion.  Only.

 

Friends, let me know if you decide to tackle any of these yourself in the months or years ahead, or share how you have grown into a more authentic you!

behind my decision to not buy any new clothes in 2015

Where I live, 75%* of the real estate of cigarette packaging illustrates the medical risk linked to smoking. The images are gross. Diseased organs and such. The idea, of course, is to deter people from smoking.

I wondered last week what would happen if the same idea was implemented on clothing tags.

This was after I watched a new documentary called The True Cost (FYI it's on Netflix). It examines the implications of the fast fashion craze. Among many other incidents and issues, it features the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. The western appetite for up-to-the-minute, dirt cheap fashion has created dangerous conditions for the thousands of factories that these items' production has been outsourced to. It doesn't take long for the viewer to learn how little our #ootd posts and unboxing videos are really worth.  Or, rather, how costly they are.

So, what if the top half of the price tag on a the last shirt you bought had this picture on it: 

Or maybe this one:

Would you have bought it?

Last year I became more aware of the ethical clothing issue and decided to take a baby step to honour it. I committed to not purchasing a new piece of clothing unless I could confirm it was ethically made for all of 2015. As of today I have only bought a second-hand cardigan at Value Village. I did buy a few accessories throughout the year that I am unsure of but I have allowed myself some grace and kept this challenge to actual articles of clothing. It has been difficult, resisting temptation, realizing just how much of what we buy out there is questionably sourced, and getting creative with what limited selection my wardrobe already has (you don't appreciate the versatility of a black maxi dress until you wear it to three parties straight, people).

I don't know what I will do when this year winds down. The pairs of leggings I depend on so dearly in the winter have seen their last days so instead of this strategy of avoidance, I am going to have to start working on researching good quality, ethically-made garments and investing some coin on some reliable, sturdy pieces. (My first stop is The Art of Simple's ethical shopping guide)

Next year, who knows? I don't think I can go back to my old way of dressing myself, and I will be the first to declare that I have been a very good customer to these brands that fuel the fire because, well, I don't have a lot of money to spend on clothes. Will I take my daydream of trying to make my own clothes seriously? Will I gravitate towards mid-riff tops because that's all I can find at American Apparel? Will I wear my plaid pyjama pants under my faithful black maxi next February?

We'll see.  Stay tuned.

All I know is that I can't afford to not try to do better as a consumer and fellow citizen of the world.

--------------------------------------

*Canadian Cancer Society, Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International
Status Report, Fourth Edition, September 2014
.

Image credits: 1) Sajid Hossain for Reuters, Ecoterre 2) Kevin Fraye for Associated Press, Ecoterre

why i loved summer camping trip no. 2 - the baker's dozen

See those loose corners?  rock.

See those loose corners?  rock.

I admit I was skeptical about the location of our second camping trip for the summer.  The park name had the words "kill" and "bear" in it.  And as we drove in, there was a sign that read "Please brake for snakes".  This weekend was toast before it started.  It took us three times to pitch our enormous 10-person tent because our site was half rock.  And it started raining.  But then our friends started arriving in the adjacent sites and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful weekends ever.

I stole a moment under the refuge of an umbrella during our afternoon at the beach to jot down this next baker's dozen:

•    Learning how to build strong, hot embers for a lasting campfire
•    Strolling the beach with our friends’ 2.5 year old daughter and watching her blissfully make sand angels
•    Gorgeous weather
•    Very few mosquitos.  Yay August!
•    Easy-going, fun-loving co-campers
•    The stars were OUT
•    Amazing conversations with old and new friends
•    The joy of seeing how we’ve all grown up in 20 years
•    Discovering new outdoor gear to put on our wishlist for next season
•    The sound of gentle early morning waves lapping on the rocks
•    Watching the boys delight in the simplest pleasures – playing with rocks, finding sticks, Frisbee in the water, playing in the sand, snorkeling in puddles (not kidding)
•    My teen girls pursuing fun on their own without me feeling like I had to “hey, why don’t you…”
•    Ice cream on the way home (but of course)

the sun setting on day one

the sun setting on day one

I'm sad that we aren't camping again until next year, but we have a couple of big family picnics this later this month and I am eager to discover more outdoor joy as it starts cooling off in the coming months.

I hope you are enjoying this tail end of a wonderful summer!  Now it's time to hunt for school uniforms and replenish supplies for September.  



why i loved summer camping trip no. 1 - the baker's dozen

We went camping this weekend, about an hour and twenty minutes away from home.  In a quiet moment inside the tent while the rest were playing cards outside, I took inventory of what my senses and I were loving about this little getaway, à la One Thousand Gifts.

  • The swift sway of the surrounding trees' branches
  • Tent doors opening via zipper
  • The song of birds that we don't have at home
  • The freedom of having no set schedule
  • The multitude of stars visible in the night sky
  • The decisions the kids make out here, choosing games and sports over anything electronic
  • Watching Mom in her sweet spot - cooking and caring for her kids and grandkids
  • The laughter
  • The ice cream. Local dairy - the flavours and portions are unmatched
  • Simplicity. We need very little here.
  • Watching Uncle and the kids play together
  • Unwinding. Relaxing.
  • Gravel. Unneatness. Dirty. Natural.

My love of campfires deserves its own 1-item list (aka I can't believe I didn't write that down).

-----------------------------------------------------

This week, whatever you do, jot down what your senses and heart are savouring.  Enjoy!