A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On the seventh day of Christmas... winter wonderland clip

On the seventh day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... the winter wonderland clip... Santa's elves and toys... the tree of lights... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

In March 2012, after about three months of recovery from my eating disorder, I started doing a daily meditative walk. After the first week I rewarded myself with the "Wildflower Walk" charm, and called those outings my "Wildflower Walks." You can read more about this in my very first blog post entitled  Walk this way... in the moment.

And while I was on these walks, I started taking photos of flowers in the gardens in my neighbourhood. I've always done a lot of photography but usually scenery or travel, and then of course I took LOTS of pictures of my twins. But that was the first time I really took pictures of flowers. Walking went from being something I forced myself to do, to something I began to look forward to - I wanted to see what was in bloom each day as the weeks and months passed. And I posted a photo on Facebook every day. I started to see that taking these photos was good for my soul - trying to "find beauty every day."

You can see my photos in these Facebook albums Wildflower Walks 2012 Wildflower Walks 2013
Of course, as will happen, summer turned to fall. And I kept up with my walk every day that fall. Even when I was teaching four days a week I got up early and went for a walk - quite a feat considering how much I am NOT a morning person! And then fall turned to winter. And I realized that I couldn't really take pictures and put them in an album called "Wildflower Walk" so, on December 21, 2012, the first day of winter, I started a new album titled "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."

My goal for that winter of 2013 was to start walking mid-day, when we have some sun, and take photos over the winter - photos of things that I enjoy about winter, things that make me happy, things that help me "Beat the Winter Blues." One year later Pandora came out with a snowflake clip (in their winter collection of 2013) and they called it, "Winter Wonderland." Coincidence? Or serendipity?

And then there was last winter, the winter of 2014. Quite literally the longest winter in the past twenty years! When the end of February rolled around and I started to despair that winter would never end, I decided I needed a new project. There are two things that are important for my mental health; two things that I was NOT doing consistently last winter; and they are: 1. pursuing my passion for photography and 2. going for my daily meditative walk. So I resurrected "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."

At that time when I was bemoaning the length of our winter, my fellow Ottawa citizen (and Pandora fan) Florina reminded me of my affirmation to "find beauty every day." Because that is part of what makes my morning walk a "mindfulness meditation" - paying attention to, being mindful of, my surroundings - the light, the shadows, the shapes, the textures and the colours.

I decided I needed to accept the fact that winter was not over yet, and the fact in this part of the country we were likely to have fresh snow into April! So my goal was to go "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and "find beauty every day" - and post a photo each day for 30 days.

I thought a Pandora reward might be something to look forward to and motivate me to get back into this routine - and survive another month with old man winter. And what could be more appropriate than the "Winter Wonderland" clip? I found some pretty scenes over the next month, but I was oh so happy to see these crocuses poke through the snow.
Finding beauty every day March 2014

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

On the sixth day of Christmas... Santa's elves

On the sixth day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... Santa's elves and toys... the tree of lights... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

The Santa's elves charm beside the clasp.
I love children's books, especially those with great illustrations! So it's probably not surprising that we have a huge collection of children's Christmas books. I've given my children a new one every year for the last 13 years.

The Jan Brett books are some of the favourites in our collection, but there are also a number of books that share the biblical story, and we even have a few different versions of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. These are always read on Christmas Eve, after the stockings are hung and a treat left out for Santa and his reindeers.

One of the most requested books at bedtime reading was "How Santa Really Works." It's a very silly book showing what goes on behind the scenes in the North Pole. Elves have jobs in departments including communication, research and development (of new toys), reindeer care, distribution, etc. One very important job is surveillance and elves are everywhere, including on your Christmas tree.

Every year I look forward to reading these books to my kids! However, I must admit, I did put my foot down and refuse to read them until the beginning of December. I regret that, and wished I'd read them at any time of year, especially now that my twins are teenagers and their interest has waned. But seeing this "Santa's elves" openwork on my bracelet is sure to make me smile, remembering the joy of cuddling with my children on a cold winter's night and reading the traditional - and not so traditional - Christmas stories. This was a gift from my husband this Christmas and I'm sure it will help me beat the winter blues.

Monday, 29 December 2014

On the fifth day of Christmas... tree of lights

(You have to sing this one like the "five golden rings" in the 12 Days of Christmas song)

On the fifth day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... the tree of lights... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

I love Christmas lights! As a child my parents would drive us to see the most "lit up" houses in the city. And ever since I've lived in Canada's capital city I've enjoyed going for that same kind of drive, because there are lots of places "lit up" - on the government's hydro bill. In fact there are over 300,000 Christmas lights throughout the city! There's Parliament Hill of course but there are also lights in many of the parks and roadways maintained by the National Capital Commission. The program has now expanded to all the provincial capitals and called "Christmas Lights Across Canada."

One year we braved the cold and went to Parliament Hill on the evening when the lights get switched on. It was a disaster! It was chock-a-block full of people and when they switched the lights on we couldn't even see them! The kids were miserable, we were all freezing, and we swore we'd never do it again!

But last year we discovered "Alight at Night" at Upper Canada Village. The village is a historical site and living history museum, depicting life in a community in the 1860's. This time of year they have almost a million Christmas tree lights on buildings, trees and structures. You can take a stroll through the village as well as take a sleigh ride. This year we were surprised to see a Ferris wheel! And it was pretty nippy at the top on an evening when the temperature was at -18 C (around zero for those readers in the US). Next year we will have to go for a train ride.

The tree of lights charm helps me beat the winter blues by reminding me of this magical place and what is now a family tradition. As you can see from my photos, I clearly have a preference for Christ Church lit up at night.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

On the fourth day of Christmas... Santa's stocking

On the fourth day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... Santa's stocking charm... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

Taylor, Christmas morning, age 3
I find November depressing. In the early fall both the weather and the scenery is lovely. And in the fall it's busy with back-to-school, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and then birthdays at the beginning of November - mine as well as my twins. But then in November the days are so short, the skies are often grey, and if we haven't had much snow everything on the ground seems grey too. But if I start wearing my "Beat the Winter Blues" bracelet it reminds me of one of my favourite things to do - go shopping for Christmas gifts, especially for my kids - and their stockings! Because these are the expressions (in the photo of Taylor hugging her stocking) that fill our hearts with joy on Christmas morning.

In the photo with my bracelet (below) is one of the famous illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith, for the original 'Twas the Night Before Christmas book by Clement Moore. Of course reading that book is a tradition on Christmas Eve, after the kids have hung their stockings and left snacks for Santa and his reindeer.

Reading "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve
(age 2)

Taylor hanging her stocking on the fake mantle, age 5
Our fireplace is actually in our basement so Santa has to enter there and make his way up to the main floor where the stockings are hung on a fake fireplace mantle in the living room. One year Santa left footprints on the carpet and stairs; he must have gotten soot on his boots from the fireplace. The reindeers have always enjoyed their carrots but one year they must have dropped one because we found one partially eaten in the back yard.
The kids write letters to Santa (his postal code is HO HO HO), and if we do it early enough they even get a personalized letter back from the jolly old elf himself. Traditionally a note is left for Santa with his milk and cookies and he usually sits down long enough to write a reply. We track Santa's journey through NORAD and in the morning look for signs that he has been here. I'm afraid this is probably the last year for some of these traditions since my kids are now 13, but this little stocking charm filled with toys will remind me of those special magical years, as well as help me get in the Christmas spirit - for shopping!
Mitchell and Taylor hanging their stockings on Christmas Eve, ages 2, 3 and 4
in our old apartment with a real fireplace for Santa to come down

Saturday, 27 December 2014

On the third day of Christmas... silver bells

On the third day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... a pair of silver bells... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

I love Christmas movies and Christmas music. For as long as I can remember, my Christmas gifts from my husband have included a Christmas movie and a CD of a Christmas album. "It's a Wonderful Life" is a classic of course, and a movie I watch every year, even if I don't watch any others. My favourite quote is, "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?" That's an important message for me, to remember that I too might, just maybe, have had a positive impact on somebody, even if I don't realize it.

Don't you think the charm looks a lot like the movie version?

So the pair of silver bells hanging on my "Beat the Winter Blues" bracelet reminds me to make time for Christmas movies and music in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas. It reminds me of Zuzu, hearing the jingle of a bell on the Christmas tree, and saying, "Look Daddy! Teacher says, 'Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.'"

As soon as December rolls around I start watching those movies and listening to those songs. It's hard to be blue when you're singing Christmas carols!
This is my newest album with Zooey Deschanel, who sang along with Elf
"The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear."
Just a few of my favourite Christmas movies

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On the second day of Christmas... polar bear

On the fourth day of Christmas...Santa's stocking

Friday, 26 December 2014

On the second day of Christmas... polar bear

On the second day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... a polar bear charm... and a clear cz pavé lights charm.

The polar bear, on my Christmas cards this year, is the quintessential symbol of Canada. The polar bear dangle reminds me that if I want to beat the winter blues I need to embrace living in The Great White North.

Bob and Doug McKenzie of The Great White North on SCTV
Although the term "The Great White North" is used in reference to Canada, for most Canadians, at least those in my generation, the term brings to mind the characters Bob and Doug McKenzie. When I was in high school there was a TV show called SCTV (Second City Television) - sort of Canada's equivalent to Saturday Night Live. The premise of SCTV was the broadcast day of a fictitious TV station with sketches featuring the likes of John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Catherine O'Hara. One of the sketches was called "The Great White North," and was a parody on Canadian stereotypes, with these characters played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, dim-witted beer-swilling brothers, who wear parkas and tuques, and frequently ended their sentences with "Eh?"

YouTube video of The Great White North with Bob and Doug McKenzie.

But seriously, I have always loved polar bears. One of the things I have always wanted to do was go to Churchill, Manitoba and take photos of polar bears in their natural habitat.

The polar bear charm reminds me that I need to accept the reality of life in Canada - including long, cold and snowy winters - embrace it, and enjoy it as best I can. As for photographing polar bears, I have put that on my "Bucket List." In the meantime I'll enjoy some polar bears that I keep around the house - on a shelf, on the Christmas tree, and on my bracelet.
My brother worked in Northern Canada for a time and brought me back this polar bear sculpture made by a young Inuit boy

I bought this polar bear tree ornament when we were in New York City when my husband ran in the marathon in 1996

Winter 2015
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Thursday, 25 December 2014

The countdown begins... on the first day of Christmas

Christmas Day is almost over. Now the countdown begins! The Twelve Days of Christmas. The countdown to Epiphany, Twelfth Night, or Three Kings Day, depending on your affiliation. My goal is to post every day about a different charm on my winter bracelet, as we countdown to January 6, 2015. So here goes...

On the FIRST day of Christmas Pandora gave to me... a clear cz pavé lights charm.

live in Canada. In fact I live in the capital of Canada, and it is the second coldest capital city in the world, second only to Moscow. We have alot of winter, for a long time, with a lot of snow. And with that comes shorter days, less light, and a tendency for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and depression, at least for me.

I started my Pandora journey in December of 2011. During the winter of 2012, my focus was "earning" Pandora charms in my recovery from an eating disorder. Pandora rewards kept me "symptom-free" (no bingeing, purging, or restricting) and helped me set goals for what they call "behaviour activation" - getting active and making changes in behaviour. I was VERY motivated to get Pandora charms! The sense of self-mastery upon achieving those goals created a momentum of success that made me stronger after each little challenge, whether the goal was simply to walk around the block every day for a week or to make lunch for myself. Pandora became a symbol of that success - a symbol to remind me of the things I had accomplished, a symbol I could carry with me all the time, and often a symbol of an affirmation that would help me. And Pandora gave me something to look forward to.

The Winter 2013 version of my "Beat the Winter Blues" bracelet

Throughout that first winter, I enjoyed taking photos of my charms and sharing on the main Pandora page the meanings for the charms - what became known as my "stories." That winter I was one of the 50 most "engaged" fans on the page and was sent a lovely gift package from Pandora headquarters. There was a number of Pandora promotional items, including an umbrella and a round "play tray," but the most meaningful to me was the new pavé lights charm (next to the clasp). That charm symbolizes that first winter, and how my Pandora charms and my new Pandora friends helped me get through the winter.

The following year, I was determined that the winter of 2013 was going to be different, that I would not just "survive" it. So I started building a bracelet reminding me of all the things I needed to consciously DO to "Beat the Winter Blues" (the photo above is from the winter of 2013). For example, I was going to make my fitness a priority, so I set fitness goals. I tend to isolate when I am depressed, despite the fact that I am an extrovert who is energized by being around people. So I thought it was a good idea to go to a gym where I could socialize while I'm exercising. I decided that I would volunteer at the Y to get a free membership. The added benefit was that I travelled downtown on the bus two mornings a week and got to chat with my husband. So I wore my clear pavé lights to remind me that, just like the previous year, staying "engaged" with my Pandora friends would help me stay "engaged" in my life, and beat the winter blues.

"Blue Skies"

I was blue, just as blue as I could be.
Ev'ry day was a cloudy day for me
Then good luck came a-knocking at my door
Skies were grey but they're not any more

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Blue days all of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

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On the second day of Christmas... polar bear

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Two birthdays and three babies that narrowly escaped being born on Halloween

My parents married in 1963, and a little over a year later had a baby - me - on the way. Along with expecting a baby - now weeks overdue - my parents had just purchased a new home and the closing date was November 1st.

As luck would have it, Mom started labour in the wee hours of the morning of October 31st, and Dad rushed her to the hospital. But in the morning he had to go meet the movers because they would be taking possession of the new house.

As I've shared previously, my father was a photographer and he was booked to photograph a wedding that afternoon. (Who, by the way, gets married on Halloween?) By the time he needed to go to the wedding the movers had yet to arrive, so he had his nephew come and wait for the movers. In all the confusion he forgot to tell his nephew where the money was to pay the movers! His nephew called the hospital in a panic and finally convinced the nurse that he needed to speak to Mrs. Holmes, even if she was in labour! Mom was able to tell him which dresser drawer she'd left the money in. When I told my kids this story, I had to explain that we did not have cell phones 50 years ago. They asked, "If you didn't have cell phones, how could you send text messages?"
My father and mother - and me - December 1964
After the wedding shoot Dad came back to the hospital. Mom's labour still wasn't moving along very quickly so he decided to go check on things at the house. When he got to our street it was under construction; water mains were being put in. Of course, being Halloween night by this time, there had been pranksters afoot. Some kids had apparently rolled huge pipes into the road, essentially blocking the way for my father to reach the house. He tells the story that he had to roll them all out of the way just to get down the street.

Meanwhile my mother was at the hospital wondering why my father was so late returning. She'd been told she was going in for a C-section and was worried because she couldn't find my dad. Never in a million years would she have guessed he'd been busy rolling pipes!

At the same time, my mother's sister Edna was at a Halloween party; she was fourteen years younger than my mom and still in university at the time. She tells the story that she kept calling the hospital from the party, asking if Mrs Holmes had her baby yet, having to yell over the noise of the revellers. When she eventually got the answer that, "Yes Mrs Holmes FINALLY had her baby," she yelled to all her friends, "I'm an aunt!" And, I assume, continued to party, with even more reason to celebrate! I asked her this week to remind me of her version of this story, and the only thing she added was, "I was ecstatic!"

Aunt Edna, Mom, me, my Nana
When Dad finally arrived back at the hospital, he saw a nurse coming down the hall with a trolley full of stuff, which he presumed was laundry. She stopped him and said, "This is your baby! It's a girl!" He was pretty shocked because the last time he'd been there things were not progressing, and all of a sudden, here I was! When my mother tells this story she adds, "There was great jubilation!"

I am very relieved to say that by that time it was past midnight, and I was NOT born on All Hallow's Eve, but All Saints' Day instead - which had an added bonus. The investment company Scotia McLeod was celebrating an anniversary and had pledged to make a donation to the first baby born in November. And since I was delivered at just one minute past midnight, I was the first in the whole province - even had my picture in the paper! It was a bond that would come due when I was 18 for $1000. It was 1982; I bought a stereo system.

I'm sure I heard my birth story many times, and now that I have kids I realize that I had probably asked many times to hear the story of my birthday! And my kids enjoy hearing the story of their birthday, although their's starts a little before the delivery.

I've previously shared the story of getting pregnant and finding out we were having twins, and why I had to have a planned C-section after trying various ways to turn our stubborn daughter who was breech. The other part of their birth story was choosing their birth day!

close-up of the citrine Birthday Bloom charm
As my due date was approaching, the ob-gyn said he was going on holidays. We could decide if we wanted to wait until I went into labour and use whatever doctor was on call, or we could plan to have the C-section before he went on holidays. Mike thought it would be really cool for the kids to be born in different years; you know, one on December 31, 2001, and the other January 1, 2002. But given that it was October and I would be 38 weeks (considered full-term for twins) by Halloween, I really didn't think I could fulfill his wish! And why go through labour if we knew it would be a C-section anyway?

So the doctor looked at his calendar and said, "How about October 31st?" I said, "No, that's Halloween!" I had spent my childhood feeling that my birthday was always tied in with Halloween and didn't want that for my kids.

His second proposed date was November 1st. I said, "No, that's MY birthday!" "That would be cool," the doctor says, "to have your birthday on the same day as your kids!" I'm sure I looked gobsmacked! I said, "You are such a man! I would never have my OWN birthday again!" We finally settled on November 6, separated enough from my birthday, and yet still before the babies were due - and before the doctor left for vacation. It was very strange to be able to choose your child's - er, children's - birthday.

Mike, a little teary-eyed, holding Taylor with the pink ribbon
When we arrived at the hospital on the delivery day, and was prepped for surgery, the anesthesiologist introduced himself. He explained that he was going to have to put me under a general anesthetic so that he could get the babies out quickly before the drugs reached them. We were completely unprepared for this, as we (parents, midwife AND ob-gyn) were expecting the typical C-section where the mother was awake to receive her newborns. The ob-gyn explained that the anesthesiologist is the God of the operating room so we had no choice.

Unfortunately neither the midwife nor Mike could be in the operating room, but Mike peeked in the door and could see when baby 1 (Taylor) and baby 2 (Mitchell) were yanked out, one minute apart, and held up for him to see. I was in recovery of course afterwards but Mike and my mom were able to hold the babies in the nursery. Once I was awake, and lucid, the nurse wanted to put baby-to-breast. Not surprisingly, Taylor was not interested in any colostrum, and stubbornly waited for my milk to come in. Once they were both nursing - two babies at once in football hold - I was so proud of myself, I said, "Mike, I'm doing it! Take my picture!" That is one photo that will NOT be circulating on the internet!
My mother holding Mitchell with the blue ribbon

Mitchell in hospital

Taylor in hospital

The birthstone for November is citrine. So the birthday bloom charm with the citrine stone, on my Love Blooms Here bracelet represents the story of the day I was born, and the day I gave birth to my precious twins. Whenever I look at it, I know it will make me smile thinking of those special occasions, those "unforgettable moments" as Pandora calls them. 

Photo taken in September 2014; they are now 13 as of November 6

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Getting "High" - Just Say Yes... and Thank You

Last week a mental health nurse told me that I need to learn to accept help from others. She said, "Think of it this way. When somebody gives you something they get a 'high'. If you are not letting people GIVE to you, then you are depriving them of that 'high'!"

It was one of those "ah-ha! moments" for me because I was in the process of writing a blog post about this very subject - about someone else having difficultly accepting help from others. It reminded me that "we teach what we need to learn!"

I found out this summer that someone I have known my entire life was diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing chemo. While she is dealing with the side effects of her treatment, her sister is helping by driving her kids to and from their sports and activities. And her circle of friends have created a schedule and signed up to provide meals to the family. But all of this makes this lovely lady very uncomfortable.

In a text I told her that people like to feel that there is something they can DO when a friend or family member is going through something like this. I told her, "You deserve their care and compassion!"

Her response was, "Thanks. I like being on the other side of this type of relationship. I am good at giving support, not so comfortable receiving it!"

Hmm sound familiar? It brought to mind one of my first charms... it was almost three years ago... so here's the story... for Throwback Thursday.

The "open circle" charm between the heart beats spacer and the birthstone dangle

When I began the journey of recovery from my eating disorder, simply trying to remain symptom-free, one day at a time, I gave myself a $2.00 knock-off charm every day in the first week, and then once a week for the first month. I have since replaced those with authentic Pandora charms.

At the time, I was volunteering as a parent-leader for a program in my children's school called F.A.ST. (Families And Schools Together). In this program families came together once a week for eight weeks, joined by the principal and volunteer teachers. The evening started with a communal meal, with families taking turns providing the main course for the group, and children serving their parents. After dinner the children went to the gym or a classroom for various kinds of activities with the teachers, while the parents participated in a parent support group. The children then rejoined their parents for "special play," a concentrated time of one-on-one child-directed play. And the evening ended with a gift basket for the family who would make the meal the following week. 

It was a wonderful program, and it was so special to see an increase in the children's comfort level in the school, and an improvement in the bond between parent and child. Not only did the program build connections between families but also led to more parent involvement in both the school and the community.

During the last week of the program, which happened to be my first week of recovery, I was preparing a gift basket to thank the volunteer who was the master chef in the kitchen every week. In the process of thinking about things she might like in a gift basket, my mood improved. It felt wonderful to be doing something for someone else, to recognize their contribution. And I was so pleased that she was touched by the gift. Realizing that giving to others helped me feel better, I rewarded myself with a "circle" charm, to represent the circle of giving and receiving, which, for that day, kept me from bingeing, purging or restricting. I have since learned that in the treatment for depression one of the recommendations is to do something for someone else, because the act of giving can actually change your brain chemistry.

My teal Lucerne Recovery bracelet with the teal triple smooth leather bracelet

I first wrote about this after I was involved in a fund-raising event. Three lovely ladies, Mary Madigan, Brenda Parks, and RoseAnne Munson, who are Pandora fans - well, fanatics really - found out that another woman who had a serious illness was about to be evicted from her home, and they decided to try to raise some money for her and her family. And since all these ladies had met each other on the Pandora buy-sell pages on Facebook, their fund-raising was done by selling Pandora charms in a group on Facebook. They called the group "Pandora's Angels," and asked women to look in their jewellery boxes for any charms that they would be willing to donate. Those were put up for sale and all the income would go directly to this lady in need.

Here is what Mary Madigan, wrote on the Angels page on May 31, 2012:

It is hard to believe that it has only been a week. A week since we found out that [our friend] was in dire need of immediate financial assistance for her and her family. A week since Pandora’s Angels has gone from an idea to a fully implemented campaign. It is a true testament to the power of women. Of what we can achieve when we pull together.

The support of each and every one of the Pandora’s Angels has been and still is phenomenal. You have embraced the idea of woman helping woman so much that together we have raised $3,561.73... exceeding our goal of $3,500.00.

Here is what I wrote:

We all feel so amazing after participating in this fundraising effort, even just observing this, and part of the reason for this is chemical!  Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical in our brains, the reason some of us take antidepressants, or suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), or crave sugar or carbs - it's all about trying to raise our serotonin. Recent research has shown that a person who GIVES to another experiences a rise in serotonin, as does the person RECEIVING - even the person that just WITNESSES the giving and receiving! I wear the "open circle" charm on my recovery bracelet to remind me of the power of giving AND receiving. Thanks to all the Angels, we have all had a chemical high for the last three days!
We are social animals and for our race to survive we needed to interact with one another, to rely on each other. To make sure that happens, our brains are designed such that we are rewarded for our social behaviour by getting that "high." Numerous studies have shown that giving, receiving, and even witnessing acts of kindness increases the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood in the brain.

The usual saying is "'Tis better to give than to receive." But counter to what people might think, it is easy to be generous and GIVE to others. But, as with my friend in treatment for cancer, it is often difficult to open our hearts to RECEIVE the love and generosity of others. The open circle charm reminds me to "open your heart to the circle of giving AND receiving." Because nobody can get the "high" of GIVING without there being someone on the RECEIVING end. So I will also try to remember this lesson and when someone asks if there is anything they can do, I will say, "Yes... and Thank you!" God forbid I deny people a "high"!

The beach at the Holmes cottage in New Brunswick with lots of "skipping stones"

This charm was originally called "Indian pattern" or "open circle pattern," but Pandora recently changed the name to "skipping stones" (presumably to be more politically correct). I "just happened" to take a photo this summer on the beach at the cottage where my family would visit my grandmother every summer. It had the best smooth flat rocks, very effective for skipping stones, but I'm not sure my daughter had quite the right technique. Still good memories though.

For our Canadian Thanksgiving I had a post about developing an attitude of gratitude. If you would like to read more about the science behind the power of giving and receiving, including its affect on mood and health, please check out the publications below.