My Anti-Summer Bucket List

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A couple years ago we started a “summer bucket list” with our kids. It was pretty fun, a way to get some ideas going for the summer, letting the kids pick a slip of paper out of the bucket when we needed something to do. Of course there were always a few that I would have to throw back (I mean, you can’t go to Canada’s Wonderland every day). Others I would take out of the bucket when the kids went to bed, and hide away for a few days (Running around outside having a watergun fight every night gets old fast). All in all it’s been a fun little tradition for our family. I realized today that this year I didn’t even pull out the bucket because the adult child now thinks it’s lame, and the 16-year old made her own personal list.

But I miss that old bucket, full of it’s ideas scratched out on ragged-ripped pieces of construction paper. Written in coloured markers by sticky little hands.

So, I came up with a different idea.

The anti-bucket summer list of 2017. 

Just for me.

All the things I DON’T want to do this summer.

How’s that for goal setting?

Here it is, in all it’s cheerful glory:

  • I don’t want to wait until the last week of summer to have fun. There’s only so many beaches, patios and ice cream stores you can visit on August 31st. Stop procrastinating and live summer life.
  • I actually don’t want to go to Canada’s Wonderland. Every ride there makes my head hurt. It’s like paying for a migraine.
  • I’m not going put off spending time with people. Usually, “We have to get together sometime” means “See you in ten years.” I don’t want to have any regrets with the people I love.
  • I’m not obsessing about a clean house. I have all frozen winter to worry about that. For now, grass is welcome on the floors.
  • I don’t want my flowers to die. I won’t be a lazy gardener.
  • I won’t be so hard on myself. I can wear a tank top. I can wear shorts. The earth will still rotate, my camera will not shatter.
  • I’m not going to listen to the people who don’t want to eat dinner outside every night. Outside is our new kitchen.
  • I don’t want to be so testy about all the chip crumbs on the kitchen floor. (That will take some work but it’s doable, the culprit is only home for 4 months.)
  • I won’t be jealous of other people’s summer fun, great vacations, pools, yummy summer food truck treats and life overall. I’m not living a summer of “I wish I had…”
  • I’m not going to rush so much. Seriously. There’s more to be accomplished in thought out intentionality than frantic hysteria. I don’t want to miss life because I’m running through it like a madwoman.
  • I’m not going to feel bad for feeding my creative soul. If I need to pull over and take a picture of a sunset, or pick wildflowers from the ditch, or talk daily about all the fruit stands on the side of the road, and the pick-your-own-fruit farms and lush green vineyards – then I will. No more stifling things that make my heart stir. No more feeling bad for finding inspiration in old barns and strawberry fields.

It’s actually pretty exciting.

All the things that I’m not going to do this summer.

Maybe knowing what you don’t want, helps you accomplish what you do.

Or maybe you’re just sad because your kids don’t want a fun bucket anymore.

Either way, the pressure is off.

I’m ready to live the rest of this summer in all it’s anti-bucket list glory.

Anything you don’t want to do this summer?

 

 

 

 

These are the best days…

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The boy who didn’t give a care in the world for trucks when he was little came home from his really grown-up job this week and told me that he was driving a cement truck that day on the highway. My heart skipped a little beat because when was a little boy allowed to go and do such big things? Who decides that a man-child who still can’t remember to bring up his dishes from the basement, can drive a scary truck full of liquid rock?

This mama just can’t wrap her brain around it all.

The little shy girl gets ready and goes to her new job, outside of the safety of our cozy walls. Learning how to interact with people and to use her shaky, quiet voice in a strange new world where you have to have courage when everything inside you wants to run away and stay in familiar places. But off she goes, with much cheering and pushing and she gets through. She comes home with smiles, and wants to go shop for make-up and get rides to see her friends as she slowly emerges from her cocoon and spreads her wings.

This mama’s heart just wants to hold on.

This mama’s heart has to work hard to let go. 

They have something the world needs from them.

I know this.

I have to share.

I can’t hold them back.

Lately though, all I can think of are popsicle drips and long summer days that I thought might never end, where I likely raised my voice too much and complained loudly about the mud and the mess and didn’t want to go to the pool because I didn’t like how I looked. I know I muttered under my breath and wished for time by myself with no cares in the world.

But now?

I long for those days.

I’d smile at the popsicle stains on the white shirts.

I’d cuddle into the sweaty little heads.

I’d jump in that pool.

I wouldn’t rush them into bed.

I’d read one more story.

I’d hold on as long as I could.

Those were the days of heart growing. Those were the days when little lives looked up with wide-eyes, waiting for voices to speak into their soul and tell them who they could be, and that they were so loved, and that there was nothing they couldn’t do.

Those were the days. 

Now, we have these days.

These days are the sum total of all the days past. Instead of growing, the days feel like they are getting shorter and I never liked subtraction. 

These are the days of releasing. The pride of seeing who they are, alongside the small ache deep down in the heart knowing that they won’t always just be yours.

Understanding that the best thing for them, is not always to belong only to you. And my mama heart is a little lost as I try to figure where I belong in life now, since I’m not a main character on their centre stage anymore. I see if I can make friends, and I think I can maybe date my husband more and it’s like this whole new world that’s a little nice and a little sad all at once.  I don’t leap into it, I just take it slowly so I can still hold on.

I know that what will always keep us together is this love that we’ve grown with.

I know we will always hold on, even as we let go. 

Then I saw a picture my friend posted of a little kiddie pool, with everyone crammed in, freezies dripping and water splashing.

My heart jumped.

THESE ARE YOUR BEST DAYS!

And they are.

And the days will keep getting better as you watch little boys grow up and drive trucks, and little girls play in their band and laugh with friends.

All the days are the best days.

All the days are the hard days.

All the days are about letting go.

The days with popsicles dripping down little chins.

The days with a quick good-bye where you’re left behind.

These are the best days.

 

Slapping Rejection

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It feels like the little sting you get pulling a big prickly weed out of the garden with dollar store gloves.

Other times it comes as a deep down pang. Your heart dropping 3 stories in a free fall that lands somewhere in your gut.

It’s buried deep.

It rises fast.

Trying to take you down.

Sorry, your project isn’t what we are looking for.

We’ve decided you’re not qualified.

I don’t care about you any more.

There’s no place for you here.

I guess you didn’t get invited.

Rejection.

Smack-dap slapping us in the face, with all our insecurities and self-doubt.

Rejection has been following me around all my life. Waiting and watching for that chance to take me out. It knows my weak places, it knows where I am insecure and what makes my heart hurt. I’m conscious of its attempts on my life and if I’m not careful, it goes after who I am.

Stealth Attacker.

Trying to paralyze me with lies.

You’re not good enough.

Your dreams are ridiculous.

You are unlovable.

You have no value.

Rejection can become the seed in your heart that starts small but soon has you so tangled in a mess of prickly weeds that you can’t move forward. Those weeds trying to take root? You gotta yank those babies out. Weeds cut out the good things that try to grow, strangling the beauty until you can’t see it anymore.

Almost every week, I come face to face with some type of rejection. Don’t we all? It comes in varying sizes and shapes, different circumstances and situations.

But, I am done with it. I’ve come to the conclusion, I’ve made a decision. I’m being proactive.

When rejection slaps me in the face, I’m going to slap it back. 

When the seeds try to grow, I won’t let them take root. 

When I’m told that my writing isn’t good enough, I’m going to submit even more.

When I feel on the outside looking in, I’m going to love instead of resent.

When I feel uninvited, I’m going to reach out.

I won’t let my heart get tangled in the weeds.

A tangled heart can’t beat.

It gets suffocated with self-doubt that tries to take out all it’s light.

No more.

I’m over it.

I belong to my Beloved.

He is mine.

He has a banner over me that is love.

Not a little flag, or a small sign that whispers quietly.

A BANNER.

Of LOVE. 

It shouts and sways and declares over my life.

Greater than any seed of rejection trying to take root. 

When you feel rejected, look to the places where you are most accepted. Those are your havens. When you doubt who you have been created to be, know there is a plan and purpose for your life that is greater than any hurt down deep. When you heart is broken and crushed into a million little pieces, have hope. Don’t let any weed seeds grow, no matter how hard as they try to take root.

Make a choice

Yank them out.

You’ll get through the prickles.

Work through the pangs.

Look up to your banner.

Waving over you.

Shouting.

It’s love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your sentence?

Shelly Calcagno-3

“So, what’s your personal vision statement?”

This was a question that one of my past mentors would ask me. He would actually ask everyone on our team, and it sometimes drove me a little crazy.

I couldn’t nail it down. What was I all about? It was too hard to figure out, I loved a little bit of everything and a new passion could emerge in a heartbeat.

So coming up with a sentence defining my goals and focus?

That would just put me in a box.

I don’t like boxes.

I like wide open spaces of pretty flowers, cotton candy and unicorns. 

Yet, there was my mentor. His personal vision statement written out in places where he could see it every day.  I watched as that sentence helped him make decisions, it guarded his family time, it created disciplines and ultimately led him to be the great leader that he was. He knew what he was all about and he lived his life with that intentional vision and had great impact on the lives around him.

What seemed like a box, was actually permission to live within strategic self-placed fences. 

What sounded like restraint was actually freedom. 

Fast forward a few years and some growth, seeking, maturity and experience (I’m currently still on a unicorn kick…) and I’ve finally nailed down what I want my life to be about. Faith always comes first, everything flows from that foundation and after that, I’ve found my three words that I write at the top of my pages. Three words that guide what I say yes to, and where I want my impact to be –

Family. 

Creativity.

Legacy.

As much as I love these words, and have seen them grow this past year as I have developed them, dreamt up some ideas, and started to place intentional focus in these areas, I still wanted a sentence. Then one day it came to me. I created my personal vision statement (which grammatically isn’t really a complete sentence, but oh well. I’m living in fences not boxes…) and I doodle it wherever I can as I dream about the future.

This Creative Life.

My new little brand.

My fresh new logo I made myself in Canva (because that’s what you do when you have to keep moving ahead and you are your own marketing team.)

Creativity is at the core of all that I want to do, and who I want to be. I use it to solve problems, embrace it to cast vision. I want it to flow through all my passions and purpose. Use it to shape my leadership, my relationships and the way my life shouts love. It inspires me and moves me, and pushes me to love the world around me in ways that I haven’t even considered before.

I don’t just want a pretty creative Pinterest board with all perfectly matching colour schemes and spot-on branding (that usually leaves me feeling inadequate). I want to live a life inspired by creativity that spills out into the other areas where my heart is.

I am a creation of my Maker. His fingerprints of creativity are all over my life.

This Creative Life.

The people we love, the legacy we want to leave.

It’s all part of our creative life, reflecting the image of our Maker.

Not just for pretty posts, but for lasting legacy.

So yah. I don’t really know how to build a brand, or grow a platform.

I’m just going to keep going, keep living.

Writing down on the top of my pages a sentence that will guide my life.

This Creative Life. 

I hope you find your sentence too.

To write

At the top of all your pages. 

#thiscreativelife

We can do hard things.

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We can do hard things.

This was a little message that I sent to a co-worker a few weeks ago. We were visiting someone at the hospital, and had taken separate cars. As we left, we realized we both had the same fear of trying to get OUT of the parking lot. You know, when you have to pay at that little machine with the huge arm. The machine you can hardly reach through your car window, and looks super-complicated and scary? Then, you realize if you don’t do it right, there will be a line of people behind you all impatiently waiting for you to pull it together and figure out what way your credit card fits in.

It’s enough stress to make a person start spontaneously bucket sweating.

So, being the brave women that we are, my friend and I studied the machine on foot, came up with a plan and departed to our own cars. We wished each other the best. I tried to get behind her for solidarity, but she was a few cars ahead. I held my breath and watched. Would she do it?

She got out.

If she could, I could too! I fumbled my way through and soon the giant arm went up and I breathed a big sigh of relief.

We were free.

We were victorious.

We can do hard things.

I’ve noticed I say this a lot lately. To my kids when they are embarking on a new adventure, to myself when I need some extra confidence, to those I see needing a little boost and encouragement. I realize though, that the scale of hard things in life vary from day to day. One day it could be a parking lot, another day you come face to face with something that could change the trajectory of your life. We are faced with issues more involved than a simple robotic arm moving up so that we can keep going, moments deeper than wondering how to get your ticket into a machine the right way.

But we keep going. Amid the darkness and the fear that we often face, we can have hope.

Why?

We CAN do hard things.

I know this because I see people all around me, doing the hard things.

The one facing a cancer diagnose. 

The parent believing in a healthy report for their child.

The couple trying to make their marriage work.

The individual seeking direction and purpose.

The one feeling the darkness of depression.

The family watching a loved one slip away.

The person feeling a grief so strong it hurts. 

You are the doing the hard things. If you find yourself trapped by fear, wondering how you are ever going to make it out of the this season and be free from what hinders, you can have hope.

You don’t have to be weary. He gives strength, this anchor to the soul.

You can stand secure. He is steadfast and true.

You can trust. He is unchanging, full of grace and life.

Keep moving forward, keep being brave. Look the situations that scare you right in the face and remind yourself that you can do all things. You have been given all strength. What is in the world is not stronger that what is inside you.

You are stronger than you know. 

He is stronger than you could ever comprehend

You can do hard things because you don’t have to do them alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Doing the best that I can.

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I’m doing the best that I can.

Those seven words strung together created a little phrase that I started using in the past year. I like to put lots of pressure on myself to be Superwomen, have a perfect house, healthy meals, an immaculate lawn, make everyone around me happy and generally always be on top of every single detail in my life. To add to that pressure, I daily get a little lost in an Instagram-perfect world pushing me even more to up my game in every area of my life.

Well guess what? It never happens. This past week was exceptionally full, with the ideal collision of work and family commitments.  These are some events that transpired –

I ate timbits for dinner one day. Maybe two.

I found some liquid zucchini, and mouldy lemons in the very un-crispy vegetable crisper.

The bathrooms are disgusting. Shudder.

I literally got lost on my way to work because I was daydreaming.

I’ve misplaced my favourite tank top. (The one that sucks everything in)

I neglected a situation that made me feel really guilty.

I didn’t react the way I should have to my family.

My 16 year-old bought hand soap for the bathrooms with her own money because she couldn’t take it anymore. (Direct quote)

I have flowers that need to be planted.

A cat that needs it’s back shaved.

And today?

Well, today I hit my exhausted wall so I caught up on Netflix and didn’t utter a word for 7 hours.

A girl needs her rest. 

With all those “failures” though, I AM doing the best that I can. That’s a freeing phrase to me. It’s not a cop out, it’s not an excuse to be lazy or not work hard at everything I do. It’s me realizing that I can only do so much, and often what I think is important, really isn’t. And sometimes things just don’t go according to plan.

You can still be doing your best, even if it seems like a mess. 

Choose the things that matter, and decide what you want your life to shout out to those around you. Then, go after those things with all of your heart. That is your best.

Even if our efforts don’t look perfect we do the best we can, with what we have been given. We trust that when we are faithful, we will be given more.

I’m doing the best that I can, and I’ve been given good things to work with.

It’s going to be ok.

I might not have a perfect garden this year, but I’m counting on some amazing time with my family and friends sitting on the deck amidst the weeds.

My meals will never be gourmet, but my plan is that we will still gather around the table every night and eat something.

I’ll never be a supermodel, but I’m going to try to eat healthy and cook my vegetables before they rot. (Especially if that tank top never shows up…)

I might have a donut for dinner again, but it will be because I am in the middle of some wonderful excitement or conversation with a friend. 

I won’t handle every situation perfectly, but I will strive to show love, kindness and compassion in all that I do –  to all that I meet. That seems like my best.

My best comes from living out of my best places.

In the best way that I know how, even when it doesn’t look how I thought it would.

I’m doing the best that I can.

My best is enough.

The Last Time.

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Recently on vacation, while our family was beautifully unplugged from the world, my son asked me a question that I had never considered.

“Did you know the last time that you held me when I was little, would be the last time?”

His words blew my mind. Made me want to cry. Inspired me to try to pick him up on the stoney path where we stood so that I would without a doubt remember the last time that I held him. But he’s over 6 feet tall, and I need my back for a few more years. (It’s also awkward trying to carry an 18 year old.)

I just stood there, a lump forming in my throat.

I couldn’t remember the last time I held him because I probably didn’t realize it would be the final time I’d pull him up off the floor into my arms. He was growing and being and moving along in life. Holding just naturally transitioned to other expressions of care and affection. Time goes by so fast, kids physically grow, mom’s arms get smaller and life never stops.

We’re always moving from stage to stage.

Living from moment to moment. 

His question. It’s made me reflect. Not to be over-dramatic, but we never know when lasts are going to happen.

I thought of other moments I never knew were ending.

The last time my mom would be able to pick up the phone and call me.

The final hugs and goodbye at our front door to a precious girl we loved.

The tearful kiss left on my Gramma’s cheek in the hospital.

The abrupt end of joy found in a job I adored.

The last visit to a place that deeply mattered to me.

I didn’t know those were the lasts.

What would have I done different if I had known? What would I have said? Would I have ever been able to let go? 

Everyday I live moments that are important to me. I don’t think about moments ending, because I’m too busy living the moment. Moments make up hours, days, months and years. It’s impossible to analyze and capture each one. I can’t live every second and event of life as if it’s the last. That seems like a pretty bleak existence, but at the same time I can’t ignore the significance that each moment has.

Moments make life. 

I want to love with all I have, so that however the moments go I have peace and hope.  I want to be able to gather precious minutes into special heart-places where what I felt in those moments will last forever. The good moments, the hard moments, the joy moments, the pain moments. Woven with never-ending Grace brought together to create my Maker-written story. I don’t want to forget or lose any of those seconds, or regret what I didn’t do. I want to look back on every tick of the clock as part of beautiful stories written through faithful life-living.

We can live with purpose and intentionally to make moments count.

We can love our hearts out in both the best moments and the hardest moments. 

We can do our best to make moments significant.

We can use what happens in a moment to shape the future. 

One day I had my little boy up in my arms, and then I put him down on the floor and I never picked him up again. It’s ok that I never knew that, or realized that because I likely would have tried to hold on forever. Instead, I just kept living through his moments with him, and that has continued through his whole life.

There’s nothing we can hold onto forever.

Everyday our moments change.

Don’t wish them away.

Don’t hold onto them too tight.

Set them down when you must, and pick up the new.

First and lasts.

Beginnings and ends.

Gather them into precious places, write them down in memory ink and impress them onto your heart. Wrap your arms around them and pull them close.

All your moments matter.

Naturally Imperfect

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I have an unusual infinity right now with some produce at my local grocery store. Have you ever noticed the beautiful fruit and veggies out on display in the fresh aisle? All shiny and perfectly positioned in the right place?

You’re looking at the upper class.

The most popular. The best looking. The most talented. They are the produce celebrities. If they had instagram, they’d have the most followers.

But that’s not where my produce obsession lies. 

One day, a brilliant brilliant person realized that there was a lot of waste in the fruit and vegetable world. Obviously, not all the produce makes the cut to the top of the pile. There’s only so much room on the display. What about the sub par fruit? The potatoes with extra dimples? The apples not quite in the right shape? The pears with the knobs and bruises?

There must be a purpose for things not good enough for the spotlight. 

So this brilliant person, (Let’s call him Mr. President’s Choice) came up with a great marketing idea. Lets take all that fruit, not good enough for the top but good enough and throw it together in a bag. We can sell that! We can find a purpose for things that don’t make the cut!

Naturally Imperfect. 

That’s where my obsession lies. 

Is it weird that I understand and identity with this brand? (I actually KNOW that it’s really weird.) I seek out those naturally imperfect produce bags. I buy them up. I laugh in the face of supermarket hierarchy and I go for the underdog. I’ve told bags of naturally imperfect potatoes that I love them just the way they are. They complete me.

Imperfection is actually where it’s at.

Naturally Imperfect is my new goal.

I’ve lived a pretty steady life of striving for perfection. I’m not a classic perfectionist by any means, just come over and check out the cupboards in our house. Yet, there’s a level that I had been striving for. Goals I had been trying to meet. The top of the pile that I was trying to climb. Then, some pretty big rejections came. In different forms, in various life circumstances. Rejection that cut deeper than anyone could understand.

All of a sudden my perfectly arranged pile starts to collapse. Something’s been pulled out and things start falling all around.

Rolling. Rolling. Rolling.

Alone from the pile, you slowly spin off into the corner.

Who wants things that are bruised and broken?

Is what you think in the dark corner. Then, you remember.

He does.

Strong when I am weak. Picks me up when I fall down. Doesn’t call me to perfection, but loves me as I am. Heaping grace upon grace, breathing life into broken down places.

When the sting comes, rejection slaps and the tears fall there are arms that are wide open. A voice that whispers, I love you as you are.” A purpose that is greater than perfection and position.

The top of the pile doesn’t matter.

Broken, battered and bruised.

There’s still a place for you.

Keep going. 

Don’t give up. 

So I choose to be.

Awkwardly misshaped. Extra lumps. Weirdly formed. Rolling away from the pile.

Happy where I am.

Naturally Imperfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you want to be great?

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There was an informal question being posed at work a couple weeks ago.

“Why do you think we desire to be great?”

I had to pause a moment. I thought maybe it was a trick question. Perhaps I’ll sound arrogant if I admit that I want to be great. Maybe I should say that I don’t care about being great, but that I just want to be a good person. I mean, I’ve just been getting to know these people, I don’t want them to think I’m a conceited jerk.

But then I thought, I do want to be great!

Don’t we all?

Greatness is something that can get mixed up with fame, tangled with recognition and associated with pride. But really, at the core of all of us, isn’t there a desire to be great at what we do? Who we are? What we share with those around us?

I want to be great because I care about the things that have been placed in my hands and my heart.

I want to be a great mom because I love my children.

I want to be a great wife because I care about my marriage.

I want to be a great daughter, sister, aunt because I value family.

I want to be a great friend because I’ve been given relationships that are important to me.

I want to be a great employee because I’m passionate about my work.

I want to be a great leader because I care about the things that have been entrusted to me.

I want to be a great writer because I want to grow in my purpose.

All of these things flowing from what has been given to me from my Maker.

Why wouldn’t I desire to be great, when I’m following the greatest?

Why would I want to waste away and settle for less than that potential?

The opposite of great, is terrible.

That’s definitely not part of my future plans. 

Great can sometimes seem like a hollow word. We use it for shoes, movies, a good cup of coffee, paint on a wall, an exciting new restaurant or a book we read on vacation. 

We use it as a descriptor, not as a goal. 

At the core of greatness, is the effort it takes to get there.

Great is defined as having ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average. There’s nothing wrong with normal or average. But we don’t have to stop there. We can work hard to make the things we care about mean more.

I’m always aiming for great, and whatever comes after that. 

True greatness, that flows from the right places can be measured by the effects and the impact that it has on those around us. It has the potential to move from a word to an action. 

Greatness can be cultivated from within but how it flows is what matters. 

If we care about greatness for ourselves, we’ve missed the point.

Care about being great because what you do and what you care about matters.

It’s ok to want to be great.