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gratitude

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Volunteering on vacation in St Maarten

I love volunteering. It is a simple and amazing way to give back to your community and to help others, especially those in need.

Volunteering is giving your time and effort towards good causes. It doesn’t have to take all of your day, it could be a few hours in the weekend, and that goes such a long way.

My favourite events that I volunteer to help with, are those held for children. I have always enjoyed working with children and this even led me to become a teacher. I especially love working with children with special needs.  While you’re helping others, you’re also learning something new,  utilizing your skill-set, talking to people and working as part of a team towards a common goal.

While vacationing in St. Maarten, in March this year, I noticed an organization called SXM DOET advertising a weekend of island wide events to give back to the community and a call for volunteers. Naturally I contacted them and just like that- I had an opportunity to volunteer with senior citizens. The weekend event was packed with fun activities.

On the first day, I accompanied the seniors on an island tour, which allowed me to also learn and experience the island in a way I hadn’t before!

I had a great time in wonderful company, as I listened to their stories about how the island was in their youthful days.

The next day, there was a Fun Day Barbecue at a local picnic spot. I brought my teenage sister with me to help and it was her first time volunteering. My volunteer team set up seating and food service areas, decorated, served food and started games for the seniors and their families to play. It was an amazing day!

After all the dancing and games, I somehow ended up giving foot massages to two of the old ladies and we relaxed together and chatted. I met some amazing people that weekend, and I will make sure to look them up the next time I am on the island.

They really do appreciate this because as people age, their joints can become more stiff and painful, and a simple massage would help ease that discomfort. The simple truth is that many older folks are really in need of some good company and the visits give them something to look forward to.

Volunteering can be great quality time away from work and a busy life, because the focus shifts from you and onto making someone’s life better and more fulfilling, which is even more necessary if they are less fortunate.

It has been my experience that volunteer work also allows you to enhance your own self-development in ways you may never have thought of.  You can gain confidence and self esteem by working with your team of volunteers to help others. It gives you a chance to meet new friends, be more outspoken and learn more about your community

Helping others always feels good. You don’t have to give money. Giving your time and energy is usually even more appreciated!

 

When ghosting leads to gratitude

I met Jake at his restaurant. He owned my favorite brunch place that I’d go to all the time (they made a duck confit hash that was to die for). Whenever I came in for breakfast, he’d step out from behind the counter to take my order personally. I liked him right away — and not just because he supplied me with two of my favorite things: bacon and coffee.

Tall with a neatly trimmed beard and intense dark eyes, Jake was cute in a sexy lumberjack kind of way. He seemed to like me too. When he opened another restaurant right next to my house and I found myself looking for any excuse to go in to see him, I knew I had to ask him out. He said yes.

Along with sizzling chemistry, Jake and I shared a passion for good food and collecting vinyl. The conversation was great and the sex was even better. We dated for four months, until one day when he stopped returning my texts and disappeared off the face of the earth.

(Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Jake still owned a restaurant next to my house. If there’s a prize given out for the most awkward ghosting, he would surely win.)

Jake re-emerged 79 days later to apologize (his excuse: he was in a “weird place”). He asked me out for dinner. When I agreed to meet up with him to talk, he ghosted again. Go figure.

While I’d like to say I never saw this coming, the signs were there from the beginning. Jake was unable to make plans more than twelve hours in advance (“the restaurant business is so unpredictable,” he’d tell me) and often I’d wait up to 24 hours for a reply to a text. It made me feel off-balance, like I never knew where I stood with him. Last but not least, he was petrified of commitment. Even a passing mention of marriage gave him a look of utter terror.

When Jake ghosted, I was confused and hurt. It was months before I felt ready to date again. Eventually though, those feelings gave way to something else: gratitude. Although I lost my favorite brunch place, Jake did me a favor. Thanks to him, I know the warning signs to look out for in the future. By breaking up with me in an immature manner, Jake cleared the path for better, more suitable people to walk into my life.

 

 

Five ways to brighten your morning routine

Grey skies, dull commutes, and early daybreak blues — simply put, mornings can be tough. Why not allow yourself a moment of happiness in your morning routine with a few quick and easy exercises that are bound to brighten the day and start you off fresh.

1. Drink Lukewarm Lemon Water

Upon waking, your body can become dehydrated. Drink some lukewarm water with fresh lemon in the morning to increase your metabolism. This early morning habit will help burn fat while keeping muscle, and also helps alleviate the need for caffeine. It is a refreshing start to the day and helps cleanse the throat.

2. Be Mindful for a Moment

Mindfulness and meditation can help you start your day in a peaceful and happy way. That being said, some meditations can take awhile and time is often tight in the morning, so here are a few quick mindfulness exercises to get your day started. First off, do a mindful check-in. Take a moment to assess how you feel at that very moment and meditate on it. After taking time to do a mindful check-in, open your mind to good intentions for your day. Recall what you are grateful for and what your hopeful intentions are.  These short exercises will help you feel ready to conquer the day.

3. Have a good breakfast

After digesting your lemon water for about 30 minutes (if possible), eat a healthy breakfast. Quick and easy ideas are smoothies that were prepped the night prior for a quick meal full of fruits and veggies. Homemade granola with dried fruits and hemp seeds is also an easy grab and can be eaten as a cereal as well. Rushing out in the morning, try making overnight oats with almond milk, bananas, and walnuts. It’s important to fit fresh fruit in your morning routine and a protein so that you can start your day full and energized.

4. Stretch

The body has been in a restful state for hours and stretching helps to reintroduce movement in a slow and relaxing way. First stretch your arms and legs prior to stepping out of bed, then do a few standing stretches to wake yourself up. Sitting cross-legged and turning your body from side to side will help stretch your spine. Yoga moves such as the cat and cow position on all fours and downward dog are quick and energizing movements to do after sleeping.

5. Be Prepared

Being prepared before the morning will not only help you sleep, but it will also create less stress when you wake up.  By setting out your clothes the night prior, it saves a lot of time and energy you’d usually spend picking out an outfit for the day. Preparing smoothies or meals ahead of time will make it easier to eat healthy foods instead of rushing to Tim Horton’s for a bagel. Having completed tasks will provide enough time for a moment of mindfulness or stretching.

Hope you have a great morning!

 

Do you have any morning rituals that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy? Share them in the comments below!

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Support systems make a world of difference

 The last month and a half of my life has been insane: I’ve been writing more and more, organizing my fourth annual #LoveAHeart fundraiser for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, working, going to the gym, and trying to be a good puppy mama. For the majority of January, I slept about four or five hours a night, I was working until midnight most nights and subsisting on tangy BBQ rice chips, Black Cellar shiraz cab and a LOT of sugar-free Red Bull. While I love organizing my event, my dog, my writing, the gym and my job, it got to be a bit much and adding Boyfriend into the mix wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. As it turns out, when you try to do it all something inevitably falls by the wayside.

When I tried to apologize to Boyfriend for not being around as much as I would have liked, he scoffed at me, literally. “Your event won’t be here after February 13 but I will,” he said. His support was unwavering when things got to be too much for me, and when I had to cancel a date he didn’t complain, not once.

On the night of my event, Boyfriend had to leave a little early not because he wanted to but because he was watching my adorable Corgi mix and he needed to head home to walk him. The day after #LoveAHeart when the exhaustion had hit its peak and I cancelled our Valentine’s Day plans in favour of watching Dawson’s Creek in bed and falling asleep at 9 p.m., he told me not to worry and offered to keep pups for another night. This prompted me to scream from the metaphorical rooftops that I have literally the best Boyfriend in the world because he put my sanity and health before our relationship without a second thought, and that is something I had never experienced before he came into my life.

At my first #LoveAHeart I was seeing this guy who wanted to date me but wasn’t at all interested in sex, so that went all kinds of nowhere; he was convinced that if we got naked that things would be too serious so he just wanted to hold hands and make out and stuff. Ha! No. At the second #LoveAHeart, I was with Country Boy who just didn’t show up; granted this is the same guy who ended it over BBM a month later with, “When ya know, ya know?” I probably should have seen that coming now that I think about it. But last year and this year there was Boyfriend, smiling proudly and reassuring me that people would in fact show up.

I’m a lucky girl and I probably don’t tell Boyfriend enough, but I love him more than I love country music and whisky, which is saying a lot — believe me. I hope that he knows how much I appreciate his never-ending support but from his perspective he’s not doing anything special so I shouldn’t be so grateful. If only he knew all those that came before, he’d probably be less surprised by my overwhelming gratitude.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

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