Road Trip Diary Part 3: There and Back Again

Goodbye Oklahoma
Goodbye Oklahoma. Thanks for the hospitality!

After leaving Bartlesville, OK, we began our journey back to the homestead.  The drive home is always bittersweet – you’re sad to see your trip coming to an end, but happy to be heading back to the comforts of home.  Day one of the return trip saw us do the only backtracking of the entire trip.  We followed the same route from Bartlesville until close to St. Louis, where we bypassed the city and headed towards Louisville, KY  The rest of the entire trip found us following entirely different routes, which was very nice.

The most striking memory that I have of this day was somewhere on the road that morning.  I can’t recall if we were still in Oklahoma or had crossed into Missouri, but we came to an overpass with a person standing on it.  As we approached, I realized it wasn’t someone walking across, but just standing there.  The closer we got, the clearer the image – a large, bushy-bearded middle-aged man dressed in what you’d expect someone like that to be wearing (just use your imagination… you’re probably right).  And in his hand was a large confederate flag.  He was just standing there holding the flag over the highway beneath him.  Very odd.  Very southern.

Despite the fact that we had a long drive ahead of us to get to our next hotel in Louisville, we made a few brief stops.  We popped off again at the World’s Biggest Gift Shop next to Redmon’s Candy Factory (as I talked about in Part 1) where I purchased my souvenir Route 66 t-shirt and Golden Girls Funko Pop figurines.

Hours later, as we were driving through Indiana, we saw a sign for a town called Santa Claus.  Now, I knew that there was a Santa Claus, Indiana, but this fact had left my mind.  Given that I am a bit of a Christmas fanatic, we HAD to make a pit-stop.  Santa Claus was a cute little town with a holiday theme sprinkled here and there.  We stopped at the Santa Claus Christmas Store to do a little perusing.  This was a large Christmas shop, offering decorations and ornaments of all kinds.  While Isabelle was browsing a display of very realistic looking cupcake ornaments, we heard a voice boom from behind us, “Look almost good enough to eat, don’t they?”

Christmas shop

We turned to see Santa Claus…  There was a workshop set up in a corner of the section of the store we were in with Santa sitting in his big comfy chair, waiting to greet his visitors.  This was unquestionably the real Santa Claus.  No doubts in my mind.  I somewhat regret not getting a photo taken with him to be honest.  Guess I’ll have to go back!

As we were leaving the town, we passed an amusement park called Holiday World.  Had we known about Santa Claus, IN and Holiday World, we may have modified our travel plans accordingly.  While I’m sure it was no Disney World, it would still have been a fun way to spend a day on our way home.  Another reason for us to head back to the area.

By the time we arrived in Louisville, it was early evening.  We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel for the night.  We had another long day of driving ahead of us to our next stop – Harrisburg, PA.  After a nearly 10 hour drive through beautiful Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland, we followed the same pattern – grab a bite for supper and retire to the hotel for the night.

Our first two days of the journey home were long driving days, but this was done with intention.  We knew that we had been rested after spending a couple of days in Bartlesville, and we would rather take a few longer days of driving to start the journey in order to have shorter days on the tail end.

Our next point of rest would be Wrentham, MA.  Isabelle and I have had many shopping trips to the New England states, but we had never made it to Wrentham.  We arrived at the Premium Outlets and spent the rest of the day shopping.  For supper, we took a drive down to Providence, RI in order to go eat at the Cheesecake Factory, even though there was one closer to us in the Boston area.  By taking the extra 30-minute drive, we were able to add one additional state on our list of visited states.Cheesecake Factory

The next morning was a big day.  Well, it was a big day for me.  It was my birthday!  One of the outlet shops that we bypassed the day prior was our first stop this morning.  We headed back to the Premium Outlets and made a beeline for the Disney Outlet.  With my love of all things Disney, this was the most logical activity for us to do.  Both Isabelle and I bought some new shirts and the like, and then we headed off to Kittery, ME.

With our proclivity to choose travel destinations based on food, Kittery was a gimme for my birthday.  Anytime we’re in the area, we have to stop by Bob’s Clam Hut for some of the best fried clams in the world.

 

The final destination on our return trip was Portland, ME.  We had decided to spend one last night on the road so that we didn’t spend 6-7 hours driving on my birthday.  We had one last big supper out, this time at UNO.  I can definitely say that I ate well on my birthday.  🙂

Uno
Birthday supper at Uno – 6″ deep dish pizza, baked mac & cheese (with chicken) and a glass of wine

And thus ended our epic 7659 km road trip.  We had a blast and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The only change I would make would be to extend the number of days so that we could make a few more pit-stops and detours.

 

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Road Trip Diary Part 2: The Pioneer Woman Experience

As much fun as we had during the drive to Oklahoma, the next morning was the highlight of our entire trip.  Today was the culmination of 30+ hours of driving; we had reached our ultimate goal – The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.Merc

When Isabelle first floated the idea of going to Oklahoma to visit the Mercantile, it was just a passing thought.  She thought it was a little crazy to travel all the way to Oklahoma just to go visit a store/restaurant.  But I kept circling back to it while we debated what to do for our summer holiday.  In the end, we ended up basing our vacation around visiting The Pioneer Woman Mercantile.  I can speak for both of us to say that by the time the day was done, we did not regret our decision one iota.

After a delicious breakfast at our hotel (with one of the most amazingly friendly servers I have ever had the pleasure of encountering), we drove 30-miles into the town of Pawhuska, OK.  Pawhuska is a small town of 3,500 people in northern Oklahoma, but is also the home of the Mercantile.

One of my wife and mine’s favourite cooking shows is The Pioneer Woman.  Ree Drummond is a cookbook author, food blogger/photographer and TV personality.  She and her family live on a cattle ranch just outside of Pawhuska.  A couple of years ago, they purchased an old building in the centre of the town and began remodeling it.  In 2016, they opened the doors to the Mercantile – a combination bakery, deli and general store.

Not long before we left on our road trip, we discovered that the Drummond family was opening up their Lodge to tours.  The Lodge is where they film the TV series.  They had done it for a week or so in July, and were repeating the same activity for a week in August.  As luck would have it, our trip coincided with the same days. (click to enlarge)

 

We arrived at the Merc not long after they opened at 8AM, getting ahead of the potential crowds. We made our way to one of the employees to inquire about the directions to the Lodge.  She handed us a folded and sealed sheet of paper and advised us that the Lodge visits would only begin at 9AM, so not to head over too early.  We thanked her and headed up to the second floor to partake in some delectable goodies from the bakery.  Isabelle got an iced caramel latte, and I got a sweet tea.  We shared a couple of delicacies from the bakery as we sat and waited.

Around 8:40 or so, we were feeling antsy to go, so off we went towards the Lodge.  Isabelle opened up the sheet of paper we’d received (which were a full page’s worth of directions!) and we were on our way.  After driving a good 15-20 minutes, we finally turned a corner and there it was – the Lodge.  Just as we’d seen so many times on TV.  And now, here we were.  Drummond Lodge

As there were already a fair number of cars when we arrived, we spent a few minutes outside.  While we may not have gotten to meet Ree herself, she did have a family member there greeting the guests as they arrived.  Meet Walter.

Walter the dogWalter was friendly to all ends, letting everyone give him cuddles and attention.  After a few minutes out on the deck soaking in the breathtaking vistas that make up the Drummond ranch, we headed into the Lodge itself.  This is where we had to pinch ourselves to say it was real.  Suddenly, crossing through a patio door, we were standing in Ree Drummond’s kitchen.  This is where all 200+ episodes of her TV series were recorded.  We are now standing exactly where we watch Ree stand.  It was an amazing feeling.

We spent the next hour and a half walking around the building, which consists of the kitchen, dining room, four bedrooms, each with a full en-suite, a full-sized prep kitchen for catering events, and storage rooms for all of her supplies, equipment and props.  We spent the bulk of the time in the kitchen, opening drawers, looking in the fridge, standing at her stove-top…

People came and went, most stayed a good 25-30 minutes.  But we were there over an hour and a half.  Before leaving, we went back out onto the deck and just sat there, grounding ourselves in this beautiful spot.

(click to enlarge)

 

As I mentioned, Ree was not there herself. She was down at their home, about a mile down the road.  We could just spy the roof over some trees in the distance.  But we did get to meet Walter, and saw another celebrity from the show – Cowboy Josh.  For those who watch the show, Cowboy Josh is one of the workers/partners on the farm.  While we were there, he popped up for a moment to the Lodge to take care of something, and then posed for a few pictures with some of the older ladies present who were practically drooling over meeting Cowboy Josh!  We sat on the front porch, in a couple of rocking chairs, just watching the whole thing.  I asked Isabelle if she wanted to go say hi and get a picture as well, but, as I expected, she said no.  So off Cowboy Josh rode into the wild blue yonder.

With one last look at the entire scene, we hopped back in the car and headed back to the Merc for lunch.  When we got there, it was around 11:30, and there was a long line of folks waiting to get in.  But we were not to be deterred!  We queued up and waited.  Knowing that their clients would be standing in very hot Oklahoma summer heats, Ree and Co. thought it through – they had awnings covering the bulk of the queue, along with expensive-looking misting fans all around.  Plus, they had staff members handing out mini water bottles to guests in line.  Such great hospitality!

After an hour or so in line, we were seated at a table.  My meal consisted of a Marlboro Man Sandwich – tender beef cube steak (actually ribeye that they have tenderized as cube steak), sautéed onions on a soft hoagie roll with lots of au jus.  So. Good.  Isabelle had the P.W. Lasagna (delish!)  We both ordered a sweet tea, which came in a giant mason jar. When we got the bill, Isabelle noticed that each of our drinks cost us $0.25.  Finally, we got desert.  Isabelle went for something she normally wouldn’t, and got the Plum Cake.  I opted for the chocolate cake.  Both were baked to order, so they came and took our dessert order while we were eating.  The chocolate cake was simply one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten in my life.  Baked in a cast iron pan, the frosting was added while hot, so it oozed everywhere. The most richly decadent chocolate cake I’ve had the pleasure of eating.  Given the option, I would drive back tonight to get another.  (click to enlarge)

 

And thus ended our Pioneer Woman adventure.  We shopped a bit and picked up some merchandise in the Merc before heading back to our hotel for the night, resting up for the 33+ hour drive back home.  But more on that next time.

Road Trip Diary Part 1: New Brunswick to Oklahoma

For our summer vacation, my wife and I opted to take a road trip.  The end-point of our drive would be Bartlesville, Oklahoma, but more on that later.  It worked out to be a 67 hour drive, round-trip.  We left on August 13th and headed first to Gatineau, QC.  This was the longest day of the entire 11 day trip, with about 11 hours of driving scheduled to get us to Gatineau.  We were okay with that as we would be spending two days at our first destination.

Gatineau is where Isabelle’s 2 year old goddaughter, Elise, lives.  We spent two nights at the Mallet residence, which consists of mom, dad, Elise, and two newborn twins.  Following the birth of the twins earlier this year, we knew that the family wouldn’t be coming back home during the summer, so we opted to go to them instead.  It was a fun, but eye-opening experience.  I cannot fathom having three children that age – pure chaos.  But somehow, Joline and JF make it work.  I have to say that I truly admire their ability to manage through all of this.

While in Gatineau, we visited the MosaïCanada exposition.  It was a series of botanical sculptures representing all of the Canadian provinces and territories in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.  Some stunning pieces, to say the least! (click on the images below to expand)

Our next stop was Niagara Falls.  This was Isabelle’s first time visiting the Falls.  I had been once before when I was around 7-8, but in reality, I didn’t recall much.  The only memory I have is talking my 2-3 year old brother out of taking a ride in the giant Ferris wheel, telling him that he’d be too scared.  So he stayed on the ground with my aunt, and the rest of the family went up.

We opted for a slightly cheaper hotel, which also meant that it was a bit further out from the Falls themselves.  After checking in, it turned out that we were a 45-minute walk away from the downtown core.  Rather than drive and pay for parking, we opted to walk.  The distance was nothing, but the neighbourhoods were a tad on the sketchy side; until you fell into the entertainment district.  It was like night and day.  Suddenly, everything was touristy and beautiful.  Though I’ve never been, I would liken this block or two to the Vegas strip.  Colourful neon lights, crazy signs and buildings, and gift shops/tourist traps galore!  We strolled around for a bit, and then headed to the Rainforest Café for supper.  We had been to the restaurant before while in Disney World last summer, so it was a little touch of Disney for us.

Following dinner, we made our way to the Falls.  What a sight to behold. Both the American Falls and the Horseshoe Falls were breathtaking.  We reveled in the natural beauty that is the falls for a while, and then headed for the Niagara SkyWheel, the Ferris wheel that I previously mentioned.  The timing was nearly perfect.  As we got in our gondola and started to rise, the nightly fireworks display over the Falls began.  Our view was partly obstructed by the condensation all over the windows of our gondola.  The A/C was cranking and it was quite warm out… a perfect combination for foggy windows.  Despite this, we still managed to see some of the fireworks show.  The night ended with a nice 45-minute walk back to our hotel.

The next morning, we hit the road and made our way into the US.  After a full day of driving, we stopped to sleep in Terre Haute, IN and were again on the road the next morning.  Our first way-point was a short stop in St. Louis, MS to visit the Gateway Arch.  As many times as I’ve seen images of the arch, they do not do it justice.  You don’t quite realize the size and magnificence of it until you see it in person.  The ride up is also something to experience.  Tiny little 4′-high elevator cars that get righted by gyros systematically as you ascend the arch.  Once at the top, you can look out onto the downtown core on one side, and the Mississippi River on the other.  A beautiful vantage point.

Getting back on the road, we started noticing billboards at regular intervals on the highway that would catch our eye.  The first one said something about the Uranus Fudge Factory.  A few miles down the road, another billboard stating that “we’re having tons of fun in Uranus.”  And another few miles down the road, the boast of “the best fudge comes from Uranus!”  By this point, I needed to stop.  It didn’t matter how horrible this place was, it was designed by people like me.

And stop we did.  This cute little roadside destination following the old Route 66;  the pure definition of tourist trap.  But oh so fun!  The location consisted of a few interconnected buildings – a bar/grill, a tattoo parlor, a gun shop and the Fudge Factory & General Store.  The inside of the Fudge Factory was something right out of a PT Barnum tent.

We got back on track and eventually came across another roadside stop – Redmon’s Candy Factory and the World’s Biggest Gift Shop.  The Candy Factory was littered with lines of baskets of candy of all sorts.  A diabetic’s dream.  While we didn’t buy anything here, we did take a peek at the World’s Biggest Gift Shop out of sheer curiosity.  Inside we found row upon row upon row of gifts of all shapes, sizes, and configuration.  Clothing, toys, books, decorative items… you name it, they probably have it.  My only purchase in the end was a Route 66 t-shirt and a couple of Golden Girls Funko Pop figurines.

Finally, we arrived in Oklahoma.  The drive to Bartlesville was almost complete.  We checked into our home for the next two days, the Hilton Garden Inn Bartlesville, and then proceeded to walk around the downtown to grab some supper.  Despite the fact that it was around 6:30PM on a Thursday night, there was no one around.  The downtown was empty, with the exception of a few restaurants and bars.  We settled on a place called Frank & Lola’s.  It was jam-packed!  We ended up waiting a good 20 minutes for a table to free up, but it was worth it. The food was delicious and the service friendly.

Bartlesville
Downtown Bartlesville

We then headed back to the hotel and called it an early night, as we were excited for tomorrow… the real reason we had driven all this way.  Tomorrow, we were visiting The Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile!

Cast of National Lampoon's Vacation with their car

Road Trip!

Later this summer, my wife and I will be embarking on a glorious road trip.  We had been debating what to do for my vacation this summer.  We tossed around a few ideas, but nothing seemed to be sticking.  One idea that we had floated around was to drive to Pawhuska, OK.  This one kept coming back up, even though we kept on dismissing it initially.  No matter what else we considered this one kept coming back into our mind, so we decided to look into it.

Now why Pawhuska, OK?” you might ask.  Or maybe more likely you’re saying “where?

My wife is a big fan of Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman.  Her blog, cookbooks and TV series all revolve around her life on the ranch.  Okay, to be fair, I’m a big fan of Ree as well.  We’ve often made use of her recipes in our home, and everything has been delicious.  To date, I think my ultimate favourite recipe of hers is her Burgundy Mushrooms. Sooo tasty!  They may take 9 hours (yes, 9 hours!) to cook, but the house will smell amazing and the taste is exquisite.

Ree and family live near a small town in Oklahoma called Pawhuska.  Over the past year, she and her husband have renovated and opened an old mercantile store.  The Pioneer Woman Mercantile has a bakery, a deli and a general store.  All things Ree can be found here.  So this was our final destination.  (Look out Ree, we’re coming! Given that the town of Pawhuska is relatively tiny, we opted to book a hotel in Bartlesville, about 30-miles away.

Map route
Our big road trip for the summer

To make the trip that much more fun, we’re heading off to Gatineau, QC first to spend a couple of days with Isabelle’s goddaughter, Elise and the family (including newborn twins).  From there, we’ll continue on to Niagara Falls and spend a night there.  This will be Isabelle’s first visit to Niagara Falls, my second.  I was 7 or 8 the last time I went, so not much recollection.  This is where we’ll cross over into the US and make our way to Oklahoma, driving through St. Louis on the way.

We’ll spend a couple of days visiting the area around Pawhuska and Bartlesville, spending lots of time (I’m sure) at the Mercantile, soaking it all up.  I may need to hide my darling wife’s credit card once we get there…

The road home sees us stop in Louisville, KY and then heading on towards Wrentham, MA to do a bit of outlet shopping.  We’ll be leaving Wrentham on my birthday.  Rather than drive all the way home and have a boring kind of birthday, we opted to spend another night on the road.  We’ll be heading through to Kittery, ME so that I can get me some Bob’s Clam Hut and then one last night at a hotel in Portland, ME before heading home.

All said and done, we’re looking at a little under 7,100 km (4,400 mi for my US readers) and about 67 hours of drive time.  The longest road trip that I’ve ever taken was when I visited my friend Heather in Ohio some years back. That was about a 20 hour drive each way on my own.  This time, at least I’ll be sharing the task.

One of the other fun parts of this drive is that we’ll be able to check off a number of US states from our list.  After my grandmother passed away a few years ago, I was looking through her photo albums.  My grandparents had traveled quite a bit in their later years.  One of the finds in the albums was a handwritten list of all the states they had visited.  I made a copy of the list and Isabelle and I will endeavor to check them all off, and then some!

My grandmother's handwritten list of all the US states she and my grandfather visited

I’m sure that there will be further posts detailing this trip later this summer.  Stay tuned!

A Visitor in my Own City

It’s been a good summer thus far, despite the fact that my wife had her gallbladder removed following a second visit to the ER in two weeks.  While she’s doing phenomenally well, and is recovering nicely, it forced us to be a little low key for a few weeks.  When I wasn’t working, we spent our nights and weekends bingeing Netflix series.  Even now, two weeks out of the surgery, she’s getting out of the house a bit more, but we’re still keeping things quiet.  And I must say that I’ve enjoyed the summer because of it.  It’s allowing us to enjoy the little things.  As much as we used to sit and binge TV shows periodically, I truly enjoyed the experience this time.  Even our outings are small scale, but fun.  This past weekend, we opted to do a stay-cation.

We headed off to Place 1604 in Dieppe, a whopping 2 minute drive from our house.  We hadn’t yet been to see the new sculpture unveiled on Canada Day, so we strolled through the property, soaking in the beauty that is our city centre.

Then we crossed the street and headed to Café Archibald for lunch.  As it was such a beautiful day, we lucked out and got the last free table on the patio.  Lunch was delicious as always.  Over the last few visits, I’ve had the same menu item and it has quickly become one of my favourites in town.  Flatbread topped with goat cheese, figs and balsamic reduction.  So. Good.  I opted to have some dessert as well and went for the dessert of the week – a Nanaimo Bar crêpe.  They’ve had the same dessert a few times in the past.  We had the privilege of having it when they first made it a few years ago and it had actual chunks of Nanaimo bar in the crêpe.  It was to die for.  While this version didn’t have pieced of Nanaimo bar in it, it did have the right flavour profile.  Not as good as the original, but tasty nonetheless.

Following lunch, we did a bit of touristy browsing of local boutiques.  We stopped by Carte Blanche, Maddie & Sofia, and Gifts Galore.  We also did the rounds of some of the spiritual/New Age shops in town – Boutique Mystral, Mystic Moons and Le Passage.  While at Le Passage, I made a couple of purchases.  I’ve long had an obsession with ancient Egypt.  I’ve been fascinated by pyramids since I was a child.  So I opted to buy a beautiful dark blue energy pyramid.  Over the past year or two, I’ve also become interested in learning more about Archangels.  The one that I’ve “connected” with (for lack of better terms) is Uriel.  Lo and behold, they had a beautiful 8-inch statue. Two more fine additions to our meditation room.

20170715_184041

Once we arrived in downtown Moncton, we took a little stroll through Festival Inspire.    They had set up a little space along Downing Street with kiosks, vendors and a stage for some musical performances.  One of the big pieces of the festival is the creation of murals around the city.  This was the main reason we headed downtown, so we could see the turtle.
The turtle was created by an artist based out of Portugal named Bordalo II, using pieces of plastic garbage from around the city and from the recycle centre.  It’s a stunning piece to see in person, emerging in three-dimensions from the side of the building.

All in all, a beautiful day!  I enjoyed strolling around the city enjoying things that we don’t usually take the time to appreciate.  You have to enjoy the little moments in life.  They are what make up the bulk of your life.  Soak them all up and live your life to the fullest.

 

Look, a new post!

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’d apologize, but that’s on me.

One day last week, getting out of the shower, I had a great idea for a blog post.  That’s what brought me to the site today, but now that I’m here, I have no sweet clue what it is I wanted to write about.  Instead, you’ll get a couple of short(ish) posts over the next few days.

I’ll start with an update on my reading challenge.  So far this year, I’ve read 17 books, with another 2 in progress, and a couple more in the queue.  It’s been a busy year, book-wise.  Granted, I’m not at 30 books completed like Adam Copeland (WWE Superstar Edge), but I’m quite pleased with having 17 completed.

Finished:

  1. Tales from the Haunted Mansion – Amicus Arcane
  2. Disney At Last (The Return, book 3) – Ridley Pearson
  3. The Obsidian Chamber – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  4. Universal Harvester – John Darnielle
  5. The Lost City of the Monkey God – Douglas Preston
  6. The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
  7. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – JK Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany
  8. The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, book 1) – Stephen King
  9. The Universe Has Your Back – Gabrielle Bernstein
  10. Voilà pourquoi cette fille n’est pas ta mère, T1 – Justin Guitard
  11. Voilà pourquoi cette fille n’est pas ta mère, T2 – Justin Guitard
  12. Voilà pourquoi cette fille n’est pas ta mère, T3 – Justin Guitard
  13. Solving the Innovation Mystery – Steve Gladis
  14. The Search / D’aulnay’s Legacy – Louis Robichaud
  15. Full Wolf Moon – Lincoln Child
  16. Be Feel Think Do – Anne Bérubé
  17. Constellations – Nick Payne

Reading:

  • Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
  • The Book of Joy – His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

That’s all for now folks!

 

 

Sh-Boom

Oh, life could be a dream (sh-boom)
If I could take you up in paradise up above (sh-boom)
If you would tell me I’m the only one that you love
Life could be a dream, sweetheart

Sh-Boom, The Crew Cuts (1954)

Over the past few years, there has been an ever-growing chatter as to whether our existence is real or just a simulation in some super powerful computer.  Reading these metaphysical discussions can end up causing an existential crisis of faith type moments in some people.  But that is only partly what this post is about.

Continue reading “Sh-Boom”

I’m not myself today

How many of you can say that they always honestly answer that basic question – how are you?  The usual response people give is “fine” or “good.”  But are you really being honest when you say that? Or are you just telling the other person what they want to hear so as to avoid awkward conversation?

May 1-7 is Mental Health Awareness Week.  Having known many people who have experienced mental health issues throughout their lives, I feel it is important that we break the stigma around talking about these issues.  I’m happy to say that my employer is on board with this initiative as well. For the second year in a row, we’ve partnered with Not Myself Today as a means of getting the communication going here in the workplace.  Being an insurance and health care organization, particularly one with nearly a thousand employees here at our head office, it’s important that we be open and honest about mental health.  It’s okay to not be okay.

IMG_20170501_122627_066
Many of our employees will be walking around with these mood buttons this week.

Being a Reiki Master, I understand the importance of taking care of oneself, of being mindful of how you feel and when you are feeling unaligned.  Yet despite this, I still have the same challenges.  Over the past few months, I’ve struggled with my job.  The work I do has not changed.  It has not gotten more complex or demanding; yet I’ve struggled with it.  I’ve realized that it’s a mental block that is in place currently.  My moods have been shifting, and I’ve felt down and with no drive.  I’ve lost some of the passion that I had.  I have found little interest in what I’m doing, and I feel it’s beginning to show.  It reached a high point a few weeks ago when I took two mental health days to stay at home and just get away from it all. When I returned to work on the following day, I had a mini panic attack at my desk at 9:30AM… not even 2-hours back to the office.

While mental health days are not always well-viewed in the workplace, I recognized that I needed them.  I needed to take a step back, reassess and find a way forward for my own well-being.  But those two days were not enough.  As part of my realignment process, I decided to take a couple more days this past week, but this time it was scheduled vacation time.  I headed off to do a 2-day silent retreat by myself at a site nearby called La Solitude.  My two days did me a lot of good.  I spent the two days walking through the woods, looking inward and trying to get back on track mentally.  No phone, no internet, no TV, no books.  Just me and my thoughts.  Scary, right?

This is an on-going challenge.  One that I will need to be diligent with and continue working towards finding the right balance for myself.  The couple of days of solitude did me worlds of good, but having now been back at the office for half a day… I can already feel some of the old mental state trying to creep it’s way back in.  And that’s okay.  I just have to be able to recognize it and talk about it.  It’s okay to not not be yourself.  But you need to ensure that you don’t lose yourself down that spiral either.  I’ve identified a few things that will help me on my journey.  I won’t list them here since they are the right tools for me, but not necessarily you.

Any of you reading this now, whether you feel that you truly are good or okay, or whether you’re feeling down, sad, grumpy, lonely, numb, etc… do some soul searching.  Listen to that little voice inside of you and find ways to turn things around.  Sometimes all it takes is to talk to someone.  Or find that one tiny glimmer of light/happiness/joy in your life.  It might be the smile of a child, the nuzzle of a pet, a thank you someone says when you hold the door open.  No matter what is going on in your life, there is some good.  It may not always be easy to see, but it’s there.  When you find it, latch on it it and nurture it.  Help it grow and spread it to others.  Maybe the act of holding the door for that person will be the one tiny glimmer of light in someone else’s life today.  Think about all of the good you can do when we stop focusing on ourselves and spread a little light in the world.

My name is Chris, and I am not myself today.  And that’s okay.

Chris

 

 

The Reluctant Leader

What makes a person a leader?  This is something that I’ve struggled with for many years.  The easiest definition I could find was the following:

Leader – Google Search

Seems simple enough, but what truly makes a person a leader?  Is it their knowledge?  Their charisma?  Their talent?  There doesn’t appear to be a single all-encompassing answer to that question.  Some leaders have a little from column A and a little from column B; others are purely column A or column B.  And still the rare mavericks have something from another page altogether. Continue reading “The Reluctant Leader”