Putting the Pieces Together (#5 on the List)

puzzle on tableA year ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine, sharing with her that I felt like I needed to find myself, to seek out joy and wholeness and belonging.  I told her that I felt like my life was in chaos and nothing made any sense.  Her response to me was that I don’t need to find any of those things – that Joy and Wholeness and Belonging were already there.  The problem was that I could not see them.

As I have been enjoying some down-time, I have worked on item #5 – completing a 1000 piece puzzle.  Generally, I enjoy turning chaos into order…I love folding laundry as an example.  But I also lack patience.  I want to see the problem, find the solution, do the things I need to do and see the beauty of order.  So the challenge in this challenge was to have the patience to see it through.  It took a full week, working a little each day.  I nearly quit three times and got super excited when I could begin to see all the pieces coming together.

One of the happy consequences of spending time like this is that I can see the metaphor in the activity.  When I began the puzzle, the pieces looked like this…

box of puzzle pieces A scattered mess.  Pieces with different colours and patterns and functions.  Corners, edges, middle pieces.  This is sort of how I felt my life looked.  Just chaos.

Here is the beautiful thing, though.  As my friend pointed out, all the pieces are there.  The entire, perfect picture exists already.  I just can’t see it yet. My job is to take the time and all the pieces, and make order out of them.

So, for the past year, I have been working on trying to see the pieces of the puzzle of my life.  I have invested in myself, in my learning, in my personal development and growth.  I have read books, seen a therapist, created a team of connection.

(*trigger warning*)

Just like my experience with the puzzle, I have wanted to quit sometimes.  This is not something I find easy to talk about.  This is not something I am proud of but I also don’t think we should be silent about mental health.  Too often the shame we feel comes from a belief that there is something about ourselves that we should hide.  Over the past year I have had several deep dives into depression.  These are not just days of feeling sad.  I am talking about debilitating emotional pain, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling overwhelmed with life, caring about nothing, and on a few occasions, desperately not wanting to live.  There are a few people who know just how serious this became, and I am careful about how much detail I share.  But through medications, therapy, yoga and meditation, and understanding how my thoughts, feelings and beliefs are all connected, I have been able to change some of those thoughts that led me down that dark path.  And like the puzzle, I didn’t quit.  I kept going.unfinished puzzle

Even though I couldn’t see the big picture, I did the work and slowly was able to see the picture coming together.

Like putting the pieces of the puzzle together, sometimes I have had to make changes. Sometimes I thought a piece fit somewhere, because it felt right or it looked right, but as the picture became more clear, I could see that was the wrong piece to place in a particular part of the puzzle. and that I would have to wait to find out where it goes.  I think that is like my life.  I may have believed there were pieces that fit into my life in a particular way, but have learned that some of those pieces no longer fit the way I thought they did.

Ultimately, with time, with patience, with placing pieces one at a time, the full picture comes into view.  It is completely worth it.  I feel proud that I have had the patience to complete number 5 on my list – to complete a 1000 piece puzzle.  I am more proud that I had the patience and the strength and the wisdom to seek help when I needed it.

If you are struggling with putting the pieces of your beautiful life together, please talk to someone.  Talk to a friend, a counsellor, a doctor.  If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, get help today.  It will be worth the feeling of embarrassment you may initially feel.  Not sure who to call?  Reach out to REACH Out by phone at 519-433-2023 or 1-866-933-2023.  You can also contact them by text or chat. If you have a plan or you are concerned that you may act on your suicidal thoughts, call 911 or go to your nearest ER. Your life matters.

At the end of this year, I have completed my puzzle, and I am working on revealing the beauty of my life.  The puzzle looks like this…finished puzzle and how my life will look remains to be seen.  But I am sure going to enjoy the time and the slow reveal.

Goodbyes, Grief and New Love!

Spice was just a pup when she came into our lives ten years ago.  She was a ball of energy, always loving (except for that one time with the dog who tried to dominate her) and she lived each day with joy.  I loved getting up every morning at 5:00 to share some time drinking coffee (me, not her) and getting belly rubs (her, not me).

Last Sunday, December 2, Spice died.  She was fine, and then she wasn’t.  The vet is sure it was a brain tumour which caused her to have a massive seizure.  After rushing her to the emergency vet clinic, I was given the terrible news that there was nothing good that could be done and any intervention would only be prolonging her suffering.  So, I chose to say goodbye to my beautiful lab.  She died hearing the words, “Good girl.  We love you” while getting her belly rubbed…her favourite thing.  I have been very sad about losing her, but I have absolute peace knowing I did what I believe was best for her, that I never left her alone and I didn’t let her suffer.

Santa Spice

The rest of the week was tough.  It was too quiet at 5:00.  It was too lonely watching the news in the morning, and drinking coffee alone.  Walter, our young basset-beagle hound, had stopped eating, stopped playing, and was truly depressed.

On Tuesday, we received a call from Allison, the leader of a rescue organization (from which we adopted Walter) to ask if we were interested in meeting a new rescue they had.  He is the same breed as Walter and has a lovely temperament.  While I was reluctant, we agreed that a meeting on Saturday couldn’t hurt.  On Saturday we packed up Walter, and headed to Fergus to meet Winston.

Walter in a hat

Yes, we had already named him and were referring to him as Winston in our emails with Allison. When we met Winston, he was energetic and happy.  He and Walter spent some time getting to know one another.  We decided to bring him home to foster him…but here we are three days into our time with Winston and I sent in the adoption paperwork yesterday.  He has brought a joy back into our home.  He has lifted Walter’s spirits.  He gets up for coffee with me in the morning.  He plays.  He loves the kids.  He is becoming less afraid of the cat.


I will always miss Spice and the special love she gave.  But I know that she would not want us to keep our love away from another dog.  She would want us to share that love with another friend and give him a warm bed, food, couch snuggles, treats and a family to call his own. So…meet Winston…


Recharging our Batteries

Nowhere in my list of 45 things did the phrase “recharge my batteries” appear.  But I think it is important to talk about.  I work in a job where I always have to be “on”.  Throughout the day I welcome students and parents and teachers into my office, where I listen to their struggles and offer them a space to unload their worries.  I spend time in classrooms, in hallways, in the office, in meetings – all with people.  I love working with people.  I love knowing that the work I do makes a difference in others’ lives. I love my family, and having them around.  There is nothing about any of the interactions I have with people that I find particularly unpleasant.

fashion woman girl women

But I have also recently accepted that I am an introvert.  I need down-time.  I need alone time.  I absolutely require having time to sit and think and read and reflect.  Don’t get me wrong, I also enjoy spending time being social.  But, like many introverts, at a certain point, I have to leave and get back to my safe space, my home.

One of the items on my list was to read a book just for fun every month.  This has been a great opportunity for me to intentionally spend time alone, not engaged in conversation.  I have read about families and traditions and courage.  I have enjoyed getting into the minds of writers, teachers, athletes and bakers, the hurt and the healing.  I am also enjoying listening to audio-books on my way to work – biographies and personal development books that I listen to and relate to.  I know I will surpass my goal in this area.

Why is this so important?  For a long time I believed that keeping busy was a sign of productivity.  I thought that not taking the time to rest and recharge was a sign of strength.  I learned very quickly over the past months that not taking that time to care for myself, to acknowledge my need for some solitude and peace leads to my feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and burned out.  To address this need, I now make time to be silent, to read, to play guitar.  I would love to make time to walk in nature more, to listen to the wind in the trees, to look up at the stars and ponder.

How do you recharge your batteries?  Do you read?  Write? Work out? Go out with friends? Sit by the shore of a lake or an ocean?  I would love to hear how you restore your energy.  And if you are feeling overwhelmed, I challenge you to take a little time, find something that brings you joy and peace and a renewed sense of self-empowerment, and do that thing.  We all need a boost sometimes.

Water to Wine…Wine to Kombucha

In my list of 45 things, I posted an intention to learn how to make wine.  And not surprisingly, I had a number of people offer to help me with that task.  I have debated about how open to be about this, and ultimately, while I feel a lot of fear about it, I am going to choose to be brave and share something very personal today.

I have decided not to make wine.  It isn’t that I don’t love wine.  It isn’t that I am no longer interested in how to make it.  The truth is that in recent months, I have found that I am not someone who should drink too much wine.  While I love it, perhaps too much on occasion, I also have discovered that sometimes I use my love of wine to numb the emotions I dHow to make homemade kombuchaon’t really want to feel.  That is not to say that I think I have a drinking problem…at least not one in which I drink too much.  But sometimes, the reason we indulge is just as important to know as how much or how often we do.  And at this time, having all that beautiful, delicious, feeling numbing wine in my home will simply not serve me well.  This year of 45 things is all about finding all the joy and fun and learning and all the things that make life worth living.

So, number 24 on my list has changed.  Now, instead of making wine, I will learn to make kombucha.  I love kombucha.  I am intrigued by it. Anyone know how to make it?

Meditation Tools and Tips

A few days ago I wrote about my meditation practice and how it keeps me grounded and in the present moment.  I should have re-read my post over the last couple of days because I have definitely NOT been in the moment.  I have been struggling with something which has been making me feel a little bit like I am losing all my sanity.  But today, after re-engaging in some mindfulness and gratitude practices, I am beginning to calm that monkey mind of mine.

As promised, I would like to share some of my favourite meditation apps and programs with you, as well as some other practices I use or have used.


Apple watch “breathe” app

I love my apple watch breathe app.  It literally reminds me to breathe.  Four or five times each day, my watch will vibrate and tell me that a minute of mindful breathing is beneficial.  But then it goes a step further and walks me through a full minute of mindful breathing.  I have found that being reminded to do something as simple as breathing can help me turn my thinking around pretty consistently.


The Calm app has been named one of the most useful meditation apps available.  It is free and had a lot of great content including guided meditations.  This is not one of my favourites, but I know many people who love it and swear it has helped them to be more consistent in their meditation practice.


When I began meditating, I used the Headspace app.  It has a free 10-day introductory program which introduces the learner to meditation, mindfulness, observing thoughts, breathing techniques etc.  

Insight Timer

When I am looking for a good guided meditation, I look no further than this app.  It contains a library of hundreds of guided meditations for all occasions and all time preferences.  Also, when I don’t want the structure of a guided meditation, but I also don’t have time to get caught up in an hour long mental vacation, it has a handy timer, background music if I want it, and inspiring talks on all topics from sleep to forgiveness to dealing with addiction to being grateful for small moments. This app is also free.

There are many more meditations programs and applications out there.  Have you tried any that you particularly find helpful?  

Even more helpful to me is just having time in silence to get present, to consider the wonder of my life and to calm my thoughts.

How I Incorporate Meditation into my Day

There are three main ways I have integrated meditation into my day.  I try to have some dedicated meditation time each morning, often with a guided practice, to help me start my day in a positive mindset.  Throughout the day I have a few mindful moments with my breathe app and during lunch (when I find time to take a break) I often will walk and then take five minutes to sit silently and be grateful for the wonderful blessings in my life.  If I have a particularly difficult day, and I am leaning toward the past or future, my practice may centre more on getting grounded in the moment and living in the present.  It is easy to find reasons not to include meditation in my day.  I am pretty busy.  But the excuses are empty when I consider the benefits to my well-being, my productivity and my mindset when I do take the three or five or twenty minutes each day to quiet my mind, calm my breathing and focus on the present and the gratitude I feel.


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