Tell it to me like a story

Caroline Boye was my best friend. She died on December 14, 2010. Caroline and I spoke every day on the phone for many years. She would say, “tell it to me like a story” and I would then tell her all about my day.  Caroline was my greatest champion. She believed I could do anything. I believe she was pivotal in who I am today. Caroline would be very pleased if she were here today.  

Caroline grew up in Kingston, Ontario.  I never knew her age but I suspect she was 20 years older than me. Her parents were lovely – I met them a few times but I knew them through the eyes of Caroline’s daughter, Wade.  Wade adored her grandparents, Blanche and Lester (Nana & Poppy).  They were solid and “normal”. Caroline must have really surprised them when she left for Mexico after graduation to study and become a flamenco dancer.  She was beautiful. She looked like Elizabeth Taylor.

I met Caroline in the early 90’s.  I had just started selling African clothing and crafts with my Sudanese husband, Hassan. I was selling in outdoor markets and from my home.  Caroline called me one day and she wanted to see what I had. She was opening a consignment store for plus size women and wanted some pieces to accent the store.  She bought a piece of mudcloth from me and had it made into this beautiful piece.

Mud cloth transformed to a duster

Caroline brought adventure and fun and beauty into my life when times were pretty tough.  She took me to restaurants that I could not have afforded. She would have me drive her to Detroit or Buffalo for shopping adventures.  She would pay the gas, lunch and usually a little treat. She would shop all the plus size stores, the wig shops and more. Once she asked me to paint 2 unfinished canes with an African motif.  I had never painted anything in my life but she believed I could and I did and they were great. She used them as a prop in her shop. She encouraged me to be a plus size model.

Her daughter wrote her obituary, “Caroline will be remembered as a vibrant, eccentric person, known for loving all things cultural and beautiful “over the top“ jewellery, make-up, nails, and knock-out wardrobe, especially animal print. With this in mind, please honor her memory by dawning something of this style to her memorial service”.  I wore a wig in her honour. Caroline had many wigs and wore a different one every day.

Caroline dressed me.  She pushed my limits and she made me feel beautiful.  Caroline believed voluptuous, full figure were beautiful – she wanted us to dress with big jewellery and colourful, flowy clothes.  She inspired so many women. Her store was more than a place for clothing. Womyn came in to shop but stayed to talk. Caroline suffered with depression and was not able to work from time to time.  She would hand her store over to another woman who was between jobs. Once it was my sister – another time it was me. We grew in this store and we found the willpower to recreate and go back into the “real” world. Her store was magick.  Caroline was magick.

Caroline also taught me so much about spirituality. She introduced me to her guru -known as the blue man. His name was Christopher. Christopher travelled around North America teaching chanting, tuning fork healing, healthy eating, sexual healing and more. Caroline told me she knew him first in her dreams. His teachings helped me to develop as a healer. At my ordination this summer I felt Caroline’s presence and I remembered Christopher.

I have many good friends today.  I am blessed. I will miss Caroline forever – “tell it to me like a story”.  She inspired this website and my calling to inspire women to live life large. Tell me about your best friend and tell it to me like a story.

Are you where you want to be?

The most common thing that people say to me is Wow! You’ve done so many things that I need a timeline to follow it all! Well, part of it is because I am 63 years of age and I’ve been working since I was 16. The other critical part is that I am easily bored and very curious. I also have had some very awful employers at times and I just couldn’t tolerate it. I look back at the many things I have done and I see it as my education.

I have driven a taxi/airport limousine, managed a large women’s retail store, owned and operated my own import boutique, taught Travel and Tourism, worked as a Travel Consultant, taught Secretarial Sciences, taught Hebrew School, sold Real Estate, worked in a family crisis centre in both Administration and facilitating workshops. I have been an administrator in a Pest Control company, a Maintenance company, an Insurance company and recently for a community art organization. I am an Officiant of Life Cycle Events, Reflexologist and a Doula, a group facilitator and public speaker. Now I am an ordained Kohenet -a Hebrew Priestess. I offer classes in Judaism and prepare youth for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. I am also a human rights activist. I have been blessed with opportunity.

I find it very interesting that I was always afraid of taxis. I rarely took one and if I did, I practically held my breath waiting for them to call in my destination. I was certain they were going to kidnap me. Many years later, I was managing a Cruise Centre in London, Ontario when I learned that we had a new airport limousine company. I was fascinated and saw this as a great sideline for me. I was facing my fears and I believe it was this work that prepared me for my future activism. I got my taxi/limousine licence and was soon driving for Checker Limousine. I loved it and did this part time for 4 years. The fifth year, I drove for a taxi company full time. I started driving 12 hours a day and 7 days a week eventually reducing it to 5 days a week. One day I quit. I was afraid I would do this for the rest of my life and not use my experience and talents in any other way.

Luxury sedans operated by Checker Limo await an incoming flight at London Airport, 1991. (London Free Press files)

I can honestly look back at my life and say that I did not miss an opportunity – if I was unhappy then I eventually moved on. My constant advice to others is to evaluate your life and if where you are at, doesn’t serve you then it may be time to move on. At the very least, discover what it is that you are missing and what it is that you want. I encourage you to create a vision board, make lists of what brings you joy, write out your gratitudes and make the changes that you need.

Vision board

My Mother’s Day Rant – Wishing you Joy and Happiness

It’s Mother’s Day and my birthday.  I am such a lucky woman.  Totally blessed with loving daughters, a lovely little apartment, a small pension, a great little job that I can do from home (teaching English to children in China online) and more than enough.  My cupboards are generally filled and I am able to have a few of those luxuries that make me smile and add to my contentment.

 

Some people don’t think I have a lot but I have everything that I want and need. To others I have a heaping helping of abundance.  I have so many friends that have been devastated from the military occupation of Palestine – homes destroyed, children murdered……that is what the opposite of my life can look like.

But my joy and sense of abundance is not in comparison to others, it’s just what I feel.  Nothing works more successfully for my sense of joy than writing out my Gratitudes.  This is a habit I acquired more than 20 years ago.  I was inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her Simple Abundance book, by Oprah, and by the Secret (book and film).  I write out 5 things that I am grateful for from the previous day.  If I get off this path and I start to feel lousy, I reboot with this practice and quickly am restored to my grateful and abundant self. I always urge others to just give it a 14 day trial and just see how it feels.

simple-abundance

I love a little self indulgence – cosmetics, having my hair coloured and styled (yup, folks, I am not a real blonde!!), acquiring new clothing (at least, new to me), dressing up my living space, flowers, plants…………..I love surrounding myself with “pretty things” and I love delicious, fresh and healthy food!  I also totally adore my daughters and my grandson!

 

 

I know there are so many people that just can’t acknowledge Joy – they feel so deeply the hurting in our world.  I understand it but if I don’t indulge myself, if I don’t create balance for myself, I won’t have the energy to help others and to be a dissident voice on this planet. I am all about balance.

Now on my Priestess path – my ordination as a Kohenet is just a year away – I believe that we are created in the image of the Divine.  I am so blessed to feel that Love and Inspiration. I encourage those of you who can find that Presence to embrace it – to Love yourself.  I encourage you to acknowledge your Gratitudes, to indulge in what you love, to smile even when it hurts.  “Fake it til you make it, Baby.” The People are rising – let’s change this world.  Let’s make a difference!  Let’s spread love and respect.  This is your day!

Getting Real About Retirement

 

Ok, time to fess up.  I am not really old enough to retire.  There is no trust fund, no inheritance, no alimony, no lucrative work pension, no brilliantly planned retirement savings account.  Really there is nothing, nada, zero, empty, kaput!  It simply was time to live that life I have been talking about for years….working at what you love so that you never work another day in your life.  How do I plan to do this.

 

I don’t want to go to an office every day.  I don’t want a boss.  I want to be able to travel.  I want time to work at things that just simply bring me joy.  I love writing and that is where this blog comes in.  I get an idea (actually about a million of them swimming around in my head) and then I write and then I am almost euphoric.  When my writing resonates with a reader I am totally euphoric, over the moon, filled with joy!!!  I absolutely love creating ritual and officiating at ceremonies – Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Baby Namings, even sad occasions like Funerals and UnbindingCeremonies.  This is my happy place…true fulfillment.

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About 20 years ago, I created  a series of workshops to help women explore who they are and who they want to be.  I absolutely loved this work and I dreamed of a time that these workshops and talks would be the centre of life.  Time flies by and dreams sometimes get lost or put on hold.  Now is the time and tomorrow is too late.

Dream pillow workshop 1

So here I am at 61 years old and starting a whole new life plan!  How freaking amazing is that?  I have a busy schedule set up for myself.  Early in the morning I start by teaching English to children in China for a couple of hours.  Then, breakfast and catching up on emails, social media and my website to see what needs to be done.   I work until noon, then lunch and then a healthy activity.  While I am house sitting near the ocean that means walking, swimming and biking everyday for at least an hour.  When I am in Toronto, I am committing to the same schedule.  We have wonderful community centres with swimming pools and gyms that cost very little and there are discounts for seniors, students, unwaged, low income and more.

Does this appeal to you?  You must start with lists – lists of things you cannot live without.  What is the absolute minimum that you could live with satisfactorily?  What is a list with all your wishes and dreams?  Take time to prepare these lists and edit and edit and edit until you know what you want and what you need.  Next, a list of what type of work would make you feel fulfilled and contented.  It might be what you are doing now or something so far away from that it might surprise even you.  What do you know how to do?  What are your skills?  What do you do that fills you with joy? Meditate and dream on your lists.

The first step for me was starting the plan.  I gave my notice to my employer last January (8 months).  I started planning what the next steps would look like.  I read that if you want to be in a new place next year, you must do 365 things toward that goal and so I started.  Step by step, slowly, slowly and you can get there.  The next big move was becoming a client of Women on the Move (WOM) and working closely with Heather Gamble to develop a plan for success. WOM incubates women entrepreneurs.  It is a sisterhood of women who are motivated for change.

 

planning

I invite everyone to evaluate your life – are you doing what makes you happy?  Are you creating a lifestyle that suits you?  Are chasing your dream or are you actually chasing someone else’s?  Are you working to live or living to work?  There are many seasons to our lives….in our 20’s, in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s….different goals and different needs.  What is it you want to change and what will you do every day to get there?

 

Do You Feel Invisible?

What is all this talk about being invisible?  Am I invisible because now I am in my 60’s?  Do you feel invisible?  Who is invisible?  C’mon let’s talk.

The first time I heard about this phenomenon was from a woman who put purple and pink in her white hair.  She had extremely thin hair….wisps of hair actually and she said that after turning 60 she had become invisible.  I thought maybe it was just her.

I was wrong!  Women talk about it alot.

This idea makes me feel so disappointed.  I have never felt invisible and I don’t feel it now in my sixties.    I am a woman who wears make-up, buys clothing, colours my hair and tries to be on trend.  It might be frivolous but for me it is fun and a way of expressing my creativity.  I love looking for new ideas, hunting for a great bargain and playing in my closet.

playing my closet
Playing in my closet

I keep wondering if this is about youthful sexuality.  Do women feel invisible because they don’t have that fresh, youthful sexuality that had turned men’s heads or …….construction workers who whistle and cat call?  That always seemed creepy and scary.

I don’t have the answer about other’s invisibility.  I am not going to suggest red lipstick and hair colour.  I am not going to suggest buying new clothes or having a make-over.  That might help someone but I think it is imperative to explore your authentic self. I am loving the direction my career ………….celebrating Life Cycle events with others.  Wedding officiant, teacher, Reflexologist and more.  I am excited to travel more with my newfound flexibility since I am retiring from my commitment as a National Cooridinator. This year my mantra comes from Louise Hay and is inspiring me to take a chance.

mantra
My mantra from Louise Hay

Now is the time to do the things that you love to do.  Reading, writing, crafting, healing, inventing, traveling, exploring…………..whatever it is……….now is the time to do it.

dance with fairies

I believe that if you are happy and fulfilled, if you are smiling, laughing or loving………………you can’t be invisible.  At the very least you are seen and cared for by the people you love.

I am blessed – my daughters love me.   They take time to stay in contact with me, visit me, open up their homes to me.  I have a grandson that fills me up with his laughter and his love.  I am very blessed.  At the same time, I no longer have a relationship with my 4 siblings.  Our dysfunctional childhood and my strong political actions have driven us apart.  I have created a family of friends.  Surrounded by this love, I am certain, I will never be invisible.

Raya, Tovah and Me spring 2016
An outing with my beautiful daughters

What do you think?

What Would You Do If You Could Do Anything?

It’s time for an exciting new adventure.  3 years ago I started this blog – I was 2 years away from my 60th birthday and I wanted to embrace that milestone with excitement, hope and a sense of adventure.  I have decided to embrace social media even more by reaching out and asking for your help as I plan the next chapter in my personal journey.  No, not online dating but instead online life planning.

 

The whole world is my oyster and there are so many things I might do.  I am enlisting my friends, family and acquaintances far and wide to explore the possibilities.  I want to hear where you’ve been, why you loved it, where you want to go and what is pulling you there.

I am making lists – that’s the way I handle things.  Lists of where I have been, what I love doing and what talents are in my bag of tricks.

aromatherapyreflexology feetDream pillow workshop 1badge

 

I intend to continue earning a living but I think I have a pretty big “bag of tricks” to offer.  I am referring to work I am doing now and career’s I have had in the past.

  • Reflexologist (Healing foot massage)
  • Workshop facilitator (Fun, inspiring sessions incorporating Aromatherapy, flower essence remedies, journalling, vision boards and more)
  • Life Cycle Officiant (weddings, funerals, coming of age, uncoupling)
  • Writer/Editor
  • Organizer (Home and office)
  • ESL teacher (English as a second language_
  • Jewish Educator (specialty is Bar/Bat Mitzvah students)
  • Travel/tourism guide
  • Administration and Management
  • Fundraising
  • Event Planning

Here is a list of things I have thought of doing:

  • House-sitting and pet-sitting. Boat-sitting (yachts?)
  • Couch surfing (think I am not really up that option) – like camping and backpacking.)
  • Tour guide
  • Destination representative (English representative at hotels and resorts)
  • Cruise ship (maybe as a Reflexologist)
  • Teaching English in actual classrooms
  • Teaching English virtually (already doing this as a supply teacher)
  • Volunteer placements with a stipend
  • Retreat centre or spa as a Reflexologist
  • Caregiver for children or seniors
  • Organizing homes/ offices far and wide

 

Now it is your turn.  I am so excited to hear your ideas.  Where would you go?  What might you do?  Let your imagination run wild.  1, 2, 3, and go!

#Busy, Tired, Stressed

busy-tired-stressedHow did this become our badge of honour?  I want to be able to say that I had a great day, a relaxing day, that I am organized and rarely feel overwhelmed. I want to say that there are enough hours in my day.  That I have time to make proper meals, time for exercise, time to meet with friends, time to read a book, time to watch a movie, a documentary or a silly sitcom.  I want to say it with pride because I actually do.  I have been able to create a simple life that most days is balanced and fulfilling.

my-goal-is-to-create

When I call my Mom (keep in mind that she is 96) and tell her what I have been up to, she says, ‘My you are a busy woman”.  I want to explain that yes, I have a full schedule but I am doing things I truly enjoy and I have a life that is very satisfying.  I know that she thinks being busy is very important or what I want her to say because that is what society dictates.  I know that my mother always ridiculed people who napped so I never tell her about my naps.  I love a nap…now that I am older and working much less….a delicious nap might last 2 hours….ok….2.5 hours.  Why not?  If I nap, I can stay up later and fill the time with one of my projects.

mom
Mom at 95

All this doesn’t mean that I don’t get busy, get tired, get stressed but when it does happen, I want to realize that this is not a state of being I admire.  I am looking at ways to continue working and by that I mean continue working past the average retirement age.  I want to work at things that bring me joy.  I want to undercover my passions.  I want to share them with others and earn my living doing just that.

I don’t think we need to wait until we are sixty to start this journey.  It seems important to excavate, explore and dig deep to find your authentic self now – today.  We all have one.  I left Canada at 48 with a plan to travel for a year.  I came home 2 years later….a radical activist and what felt like a very different person.

meme-2-whent-the-whole-world-is-silent-2

I wasn’t a different person– I had just uncovered another part of me that I had missed.  It feels now like so much of all those personal discoveries are coming together – all my passions, all my interests, all my desires and yes, maybe all my dreams.

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SandraLaya Creating

peace, joy and love

 

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off and Start All Over Again

So here’s the thing.  I love writing and I love my blogs.  I was so excited about my Sixty in the City idea.  I couldn’t wait to get started.  Ideas flowed in my head and my heart.  When I was out ideas, words, sentences, paragraphs, and pictures poured in.  This is my passion.  I love sharing ideas and hopefully inspiring others. Ok, so what happened ….why did I stop?  Why do I have lists of blogging ideas in my “To Do List” and why haven’t I written in months? Why?  What stopped me? Hmmmm…… time to explore the usual suspects.

loose-cassette-tape-650x280  The old tapes I suppose.  What do I mean by the old tapes?  Those are those thoughts that flow through our mind.  Crap that other people told us or crap that we repeatedly tell ourselves?  Can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t.  Yowzers!!  How did that stuff get into my head?

 

half-fullI pride myself on a cup that is more than half full and often spilling over.  I think that I am a “take charge, get it done, kind of Womyn”.  I never leave dishes in the sink or laundry unfolded.  I plan my meals, plan my grocery list, take time to cook healthy from scratch food, keep my home neat and tidy, stay in touch family and loved ones, remember birthdays and special occasions, make lists and check things off. Yup, you got it….I can busy myself with a lot of mundane details and tell myself that I was too busy today but tomorrow….no the next day….ok no….next week….  I’ll do it….cause I love it.  What’s going on????

Looking back over the years (and when you are sixty, there are a lot of years to look back on) I know that many times when I was on the brink of following my passion to have my own business as an Alternative Healing practitioner. My passion for facilitating groups to inspire womyn to create the changes they want for themselves and for the world…..I didn’t follow my own advice but instead took a different path.  Consistently a solid, dependable job or contract  would come my way and how could I say no to stability and normality?   I am not criticizing those choices.  I was a sole support parent with 2 amazing daughters who I wanted to provide for.  I am certain that isn’t all there is to this pattern, though. My daughters have been self sufficient and stable on their own for over a decade.

Last spring I found a great inspiration partner.  We both wanted someone to keep us on track to achieve our goals.  We met every other week and we created a whole system to keep us motivated.  It was so exciting and so organized.  sunraysWe called our goals sun rays and each ray was a stream that we wanted to pursue and follow.  In this time I got my licence to marry couples and started officiating weddings.  I was blogging very regularly and many of my ideas were unfolding .  I started my training to become a Kohenet (Hebrew Priestess).  I was doing it!!! And… Then…I …Stopped !!!!!!!!!  Right in the middle of doing what I was sure I loved and what I am still sure I love.  What happened? One thing only….I got in my own way.

The really awesome part of all this is that it’s ok to stop and it’s ok to start again.  The old but timeless song, “take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” Listen hear

fred-and-ginger

What have I done?  I found my old mentors again …..Sarah Ban Breathnach, Louise Hay and Sark.  I dug out my vision journal and I have enjoyed looking at it again.  (some photos from my old vision book)

Today I am going to start working on expanding that vision journal with my new visions and discoveries.  Sarah Ban Breathnach suggests that you get piles of old magazines and cut out pictures that you are drawn to, putting them into separate piles for the various parts of your life.  Here is a description from one of her books.

You can usually find Sarah’s books in second hand book stores.  I suggest starting with “Simple Abundance”. Currently I am using “Something More” as my guide.

I am ready to commit to me again…..that means healthy choices and exercising, it means writing out my gratitudes from the day before, giving thanks to the Goddess, reading something inspirational.  It means making a commitment to my personal success by creating an action plan and following it though.  For me it means stepping out of my usual comfort zones.  It means finding joy in all the little spaces like walking barefoot on the beach in November in Nova Scotia or wandering through the Allan Garden Conservatory in Toronto on Boxing Day when it is cold and rainy outside.

 

 

 

What does it mean for you?

Turning 60: An awesome milestone

This is a milestone birthday for me – I just turned 60.  It isn’t my most difficult birthday.  In fact, I am finding the whole idea very exciting.  As you may know, I started the Sixty in the City blog when I was only 58 – I called it Sixty in the City (well almost).  This week I dropped the (well almost). That year I also decided to grow my hair so that I would have the longest, blondest hair ever for my sixtieth birthday.  I am having fun!  My life ranges from very serious (my work, my activism and my health) to frivolous joy.

hair at 60
My hair at 60

The most difficult birthday for me was my 28th and it really knocked me for a loop.  I cried constantly it seemed.  I called my Mom (who is 35 years older than me) and told her my life was flashing before my eyes and before I knew it I would be 68.  It all sounds ridiculous to me today but I was one very unhappy camper.

The truth is it was a difficult time.  I was very unhappy in my marriage – a relationship I had been in since before my 17th birthday, finances were very tight and my precious daughters were very little (my youngest was 6 months and my oldest was 3 years).  I was teaching both days and evenings and my in-laws had moved to town (a whole other story).  So much responsibility and I just couldn’t find the Light.

How far I have come!  I feel like I am in a place where I am living authentically and when something doesn’t feel good, I can leave it behind.  I am choosing to walk my own path.  I have finally learned the power of saying NO! And that is a very big step.

I am sixty and maybe you are turning 30 or 35 or 45 or 50……………it is significant and we need to honour it.  I believe it is very important to ask ourselves, “Am I happy? Is this the right path for me? Should I make a change?”

Making changes in our life can be a real challenge and choosing those choices even more difficult.  For me, it is imperative to assess my priorities – what gives me satisfaction, what is important to me, what fills me up and what am I doing that does not resonate.

Money is not my first priority but there is a certain level of financial security that I require and I am more than willing to work to achieve that goal.  I love time with my daughters and with my grandson – this time is so precious and makes me really happy – doesn’t matter if we are just at home, in a local park, running errands – being with my family is so satisfying.  I love to travel but I don’t require a 5 star hotel or a cruise ship. I was a travel agent years ago and had ample opportunity to experience both.  I am very lucky to have friends living in many areas of the world and sometimes I stay with them but often choose an inexpensive hostel, airbnb or a simple hotel.

Planning my summer vacation, I knew I wanted to swim in salt water so I first looked for the closest body of salt water to Toronto.  New York seems to be it.  Do you realize you can take a bus to New York for as little as $10 each way?  I found a price of $66 return for the dates that I wanted.  I asked a friend if she would like to travel with me and then we chose an AirBnb in a town along the coast just a couple of hours from New York City. The house is a block from the beach with rave reviews and the host supplies beach chairs, beach towels and umbrellas for only $60 for the room per night ($30 each).  So this holiday will cost me around $200 for 5 nights.  The real bonus here is that I have to be in the area anyway the week after to begin my training as a Jewish Priestess.

chasing the water
Seeking sun and sea

Food is really important to me as well.  I am committed to eating healthy and I do like to cook my own food.  I have blogged often about food and shopping on a budget.  I love seafood but I am happy to buy a lobster for under $20 and eat it on the beach or at home.  I won’t be more satisfied having this meal in a restaurant.  I love having people in my home and cooking for them but I also don’t mind having a potluck party- always delicious.

potluck spring 2016
Potluck in 400 square foot apartment – always room for friends

Health is a big priority and I have been spending money each month on Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It has been very healing for me and I do wish it could be of our medical system in Canada but for now, I am prepared to work to pay this expense.

I do love clothes and cosmetics but I look for deals, coupons, and shop the sales by season.  I donate clothes that no longer suit me.  It took me 2 months to find the best deal on Birkenstocks.  My old ones have developed a  crack that pinches the bottom of my foot so they must be replaced after 3 summers of wear.  I found great deals this week online at Factory Shoes – only $75 for a sandal that sells everywhere for $119- $129.

My challenge to you ………… think of your personal priorities and then find a way to manifest what you need.   If you can’t do it on your own, work with a friend (the happiest and most positive person in your life). There are times in our lives when this is more difficult – perhaps the message to remember – this too shall pass.

Embracing February

February is never an easy month for me.  I am ready for spring………. well quite honestly, ready for summer.  I am a summer woman.  I love the heat, love the sun and really don’t mind humidity.  Winter takes more work to stay balanced and positive.  I intend to do it, though.  Every year I stop wearing socks in February, bring sandals to the office, ignore my sweaters, and wear my spring clothes with my big red coat over them. Big shawls and furry winter boots help because the older I get, the more I feel the cold.

Red Coat
An outing with my awesome daughters

Yesterday was one of those challenging February days – the morning started out well – waking up without an alarm clock, writing in my gratitude journal, yoga stretches for my lower back, and a walk to work that includes a challenging incline that leaves me exhilarated.  My office is now only 500 metres from home eliminating public transit but also my 40 minute walk.  I decided that I need that walk so I am taking advantage of my awesome neighbourhood.

Lee Street
Feels like walking a mountain

A little pampering goes a long way.  If you have a health insurance plan that allows for massage therapy, acupuncture or any other healing therapy, I strongly urge you to take advantage.  For those who don’t, I recommend schools for Registered Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Estheticians, Hair Stylists and more.   The prices are extremely low in comparison and the treatments usually take longer therefore giving you a little extra pampering time. I have been taking advantage of our beauty schools for almost a decade.  Colour, cut and blow dry for around $30.  A simple wash and blow dry is only $10. Pampering on a budget for sure.

This week I visited my favourite manicurist for the best pedicure EVER.  I have been going to Mary for Manicures and Pedicures for about 9 years.  She changed locations in the Beaches3 times and I along with many others have followed her.  A pedicure with Mary compares favourably to any high end treatment.  She puts her all into her work and has a thriving clientele.  She knows I am having trouble with my knee and really spends extra time on the massage.  You can ask for extra massage and pay only $1 per minute at many salons in Toronto.  I really recommend finding someone you like and becoming a regular customer rather than just dropping in.   A mani/pedi at the many salons in Toronto are usually on $35.  It is just one of the luxuries that I give myself every 4-6 weeks when possible – for me, it is definitely living life abundantly.  You can find Mary at Professional Nail and Spa, 2221 Queen Street East, Toronto, Ontario, 416-694-4111.  Tell her Sandra sent you. (this is not a paid commercial just friends sharing great ideas)

Admittedly I am not a person who loves exercise and I really cannot motivate myself to join a class or go to a gym.  I really do enjoy getting out to a pool and I am fortunate to have one only a few kilometres away.  We are so blessed in Toronto to have community pools in every neighbourhood.  Lane swims are very reasonably priced and leisure swims are free across the city. Spending 30 – 60 minutes moving about in the pool really is a great attitude adjustment.

Stiff joints always feel worse in the winter (at least for me) and I have been faithfully doing yoga stretches for the past 2 weeks every morning.  What a difference it makes! I am concentrating on the lower back, sciatic area, hips as well as neck and shoulders.  I really appreciate the videos by Psyche Truth on YouTube.  I am really blown away by the difference I am feeling this week after being consistent.

Here are a few youtube videos that I really like but I find I need to try a variety to keep it interesting.

How To Yoga Stretches for Low Back Pain & Sciatica Relief by Jen Hilman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f1Y4OV3QlA&list=PLdMcHk9t7WxMgmmIFj-0Won6m8uSjrExk&index=3

Neck Stretch Exercises For Pain, Tension & Stress Relief, Jen Hilman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaPRFm3EZWY&index=5&list=PLdMcHk9t7WxMgmmIFj-0Won6m8uSjrExk

Stretches for Back Pain Relief, How to Stretch Routine, Beginners Home Yoga

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaPRFm3EZWY&index=5&list=PLdMcHk9t7WxMgmmIFj-0Won6m8uSjrExk

Yoga Workout | Low Back Pain Stretches Routine, How To for Beginners, Total Wellness Austin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue_vHLkMgzg

For years I went to tanning salons in the winter for the tan and for the warmth and the light.  It really worked for me but I don’t recommend this.  The dangers’ of tanning beds outweighs the benefits, in my opinion.  I have never tried sun lamps to help with the lack of sunshine but it might be a great idea.  I take my Vitamin D every day, get outside for a walk and dream of summer sun.

Tulips on the table

Spring tulips on a table, visits to a garden conservatory, green house, butterfly conservatory, art gallery, museum or even a night in a local hotel ( look for great deals online).  Take a drive on a bright sunny day to a neighbouring town – visit a Farmer’s Market, Antique Shops and more.  Don’t have a car?  Rent one for the day, hop on the Go Train but get a change of scene this month.   I once spent an adventurous day at Ikea during a blizzard.  Travelled there by subway (had to change trains 3 times) and we were among the very, very, very few shoppers.  We ate in their restaurant and the staff were offering us samples of different foods since there were only 2 other customers.  It was a full day outing and I think all I bought were some bright yellow candles to go with my February tulips.

What are your secrets for a great February?