Archive by Author | Florence Strang

A Tribute to Joan

Joan

A lot can happen in a year. And by “a year” I mean a school year, September to June. Around this time last year, for example, I recall sitting in the main office of our school, talking and laughing with our school secretary, Joan. Joan, like me, was an avid gardener. We talked about the vegetables we would grow over the summer. We shared stories and giggled about the silly antics that the kids had gotten up to over the year. I told her that the next school year (2014-2015) would likely be my last at Jamieson Academy as I was moving to town to be closer to Shawn. I had worked with Joan for most of my 23 year career, and I knew I would miss her when I moved.   Little did we know that in just one short year, everything would change.

If I had one word to describe Joan, it would be professional. Although the Principal is the one who gets the credit for running the ship (sorry Leo), it is really the school secretary who keeps a school running smoothly. She doles out the band aids and ice packs to hurt kids like a nurse. She deals with the irate parents and disgruntled teachers like a true diplomat. She is the only one who can fix a jammed photocopier and who knows that the paper goes face down on the fax machine but face up on the copier.

We all knew that Joan was sick last year, when she would have to leave her desk to take a rest on the couch in the staff room. However, we did not know that she was literally dying before our very eyes. Nor did she know that the bitch we call cancer was consuming her body and that June, 2014 would be the last time that she would wave the busses off as the super excited kids (and even more excited teachers) embarked on their summer holidays.

As a staff and as a school, Jamieson Academy was deeply saddened when Joan suddenly passed away in September, 2014. But life must go on, and through a chaotic period of trial and error, we found a lovely new school secretary.   Things were back to normal by Christmas, and Joan, though missed, was becoming a memory.

By mid –school year, my own life took an unexpected turn when my relationship with Shawn started to fall apart. While I had been spending the school year getting my ducks in a row to make the move to town, I realized in February that Shawn was not on the same page.  When the relationship finally ended in March, my body was engulfed with a heavy grief, and I wondered, “Will I ever find happiness again?”

However, it is hard to be sad when you are around nearly 400 energetic kids every day. There were just so many exciting things happening at the school!   For one, we had gotten a huge grant to develop a school vegetable garden. The kids would wait with bated breaths when Miss Strang (me) would make an announcement, “Could the cabbage and the cauliflower group please go to the greenhouse.” One hundered kids growing twenty different types of vegetable plants makes for a fun year!

In June, our plants were ready to take up residence in the new school vegetable garden. I was calculating the space I would need to grow our abundant crops when suddenly I noticed a big, white fluffy feather on the ground at my feet. Well, those of you who know me, or who have read my book, will know that finding such a feather for me, is a sign of the presence of angels. And at that moment, I felt a peaceful, warm energy, as if the angels were actually surrounding me. Suddenly a thought (more like an inspiration) came to me: We would dedicate our vegetable garden to Joan!   As a school, we had struggled to come up with a way to remember her, but when I shared my idea with the staff, they agreed that there could be no more fitting tribute than that. I was feeling quite pleased with myself while walking back to my office, and then I saw it. Another white feather right in front of my office door! What are the odds? In my 23 year career, I had never before found a feather at my workplace. I took that as another sign from the angels.

On June 15, the whole school came out to watch our dedication ceremony, and I was one of the participants to pay tribute to Joan. I told the story of finding the two feathers, which I held up for all to see, and how these signs show us that Joan is with the angels. Just as my speech finished, I watched in disbelief as another large white feather slowly floated from the sky and landed among the students. A little girl picked it up and brought it to me. I cried.

Some would call this coincidence. I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence and that these signs are heavenly messages that everything is unfolding according to God’s plan. It gives me great comfort to know that Joan’s spirit will be with our garden and that her beautiful voice is singing with the heavenly choir.

And as for me?   My worry about never finding happiness was very short lived, as I eagerly anticipate a summer filled with adventure, romance, travel and passion……….but that’s another story for another time!

Enjoy your summer, mes amis!

Joan 2

 

5 Hard Earned Lessons About Love

Break up

 

Hello, my loyal readers.   Some of you have been wondering about my long hiatus from blogging. Well, you know me, I have no secrets. So here it is: For the past few months, I have been nursing a broken heart.

Believe it or not, I have only really dated three guys since my divorce in 2002. However, I dated each one of them for four long years. Now, as yet another chapter closes in the diary of my tragic love life, I reflect back for the lessons learned. After all, if we cannot identify the mistakes we make in relationships and learn lessons from them, then we are destined to make the same mistakes all over again!   So here are some of the hard earned lessons I have learned about love:

You don’t have to fall in love with the first guy who comes along. By which I mean, you don’t have to give your heart completely to the first guy who pays you any attention, or your first match on Eharmoney. (Yes, I am guilty of both.) There is a period of time between breaking up and falling in love again for discovering what it is you are actually looking for in a relationship. It is called dating. My pattern has been to skip the boring parts (i.e dating) and go right to the good stuff, that rainbows and butterflies feeling of falling in love! Lesson: Have fun with dating. Give yourself a chance to see what you want and what you don’t want in a relationship. Get clear on what it is you want, and stick to it.

Learn to identify deal breakers early on. I just met a lovely middle aged lady who owns two very old cats. She told me that if she ever met a guy she wanted to share her life with, he would HAVE to like her cats. Now for me, liking or not liking cats is not a deal breaker. Not accepting my autistic son, on the other hand, would be a deal breaker. Lesson: You need to figure out if there are any deal breakers early in the relationship, before too much time and energy has been invested.

Accept that you will never change him. I am sure you have heard some variation of this, from some seemingly intelligent woman you know: “I know that he is (pick one) abusive/controlling/self centered/alcoholic/jealous/gay…….but I am pretty sure that I can change him.” HELLLLOOOOOOO!   You cannot change a man. It is impossible. Believe me, I have tried. A person can only change themselves, and only then if they really want to change for themselves, not for you. Lesson: Again it comes down to deal breakers. If the behavior is a deal breaker, do not kid yourself that you are able to change him.

Boo-hoo, but I LOVE him! I know I am not the only woman who is guilty of staying in a failing relationship for far too long because of love. After all, in an ideal world, love conquers all! In the real world, however, love is only part of the equation…….and not even the most important part. Respect, kindness, and a good balance of give and take are what makes it work in the end. Lesson: Love, Shmove. It takes more than love to make a relationship last.

First love yourself. I know, that sounds so corny, right? But it is the most important lesson of all. Many of us are guilty of turning ourselves inside out to try to be the person our man wants us to be. You want sexy? I can be sexy! (I call it my thong wearing phase.) You want a maid? I can be your maid! You want someone to listen to your chronic complaining? I can be your counselor! However, when you truly love yourself, you will find yourself capable of using magical, life-transforming language such as, “I’m sorry, that’s just not who I am.” Then you get to be yourself, and if he decides to stick around, then lucky him. Lesson: Just be yourself. It is more than enough!

(By the way, this post is not about any one man in particular, but rather a composite of all the men we women have ever broken up with. So if any of my exes are reading this, please don’t take it personally. It’s really not all about you!)

 

Flo’s Fashion Faux Pas!

The year was 1993. Those flashy colors of the eighties were still making their presence known in the early nineties when I set off to buy my first ever “grown-up” snow suit. Winter sports are a popular part of Newfoundland culture, and if you are going to partake, you must look the part. When I walked through the doors of the mall, it was love at first sight. There, hanging on the wall, was the most beautiful, one-piece, Columbia snow suit that I had ever seen. I was so mesmerized by the bright fuchsia color that I could barely take my eyes off it. I really felt at that moment in time that this suit could change my life forever. I was sold.

Even though I had never skied, I was sure that I would have looked “da bomb” gliding down the slopes in that baby.   I was actually glad to see snow squalls in the forecast so that I could wear my fashionable snow suit to work. It would always garner compliments from fellow staff members, such as, “That’s a sharp looking suit you have on there.” And I would sheepishly reply something like, “You know I normally wouldn’t wear a snow suit to work, but you never know when a blizzard could hit. You can’t be too careful!” Then I would strut down the hallway like a peacock on parade, imagining how envious my co-workers must have felt about my lovely one-piece, fuchsia snow suit.

Fast forward a decade. The year was 2003. My children, Kaitlyn, then age 8 and Donovan, age 6, were in their prime sledding years. Manys a winter afternoon was spent with other moms and groups of red-cheeked kids, sliding down steep snowy hills amid squeals of delight. I can still see thirty-something year old me (looking hot in my fuchsia snow suit), roasting wieners over the open fire, while I sipped cold wine from a flask, along with the other cheery mothers.

Life was sweet……..until……….one fateful day, after a few tips of our flask, my friend, Sherry, looked at me and said, “Sweet Jesus, Flo, when are you going to get rid of that PURPLE ONE-PIECE SUIT?”  I quickly noticed the other mothers trying to stifle their giggles, and suddenly the scales fell from my eyes. As I looked around me, all I could see was a sea of black, TWO-pieced snow suits, with white lettering on the back that said words like “Ski-Doo”, “Bombardier” and “Yamaha”. My suit, while stylish in its day, was now blatantly OUT OF STYLE. In fact, clownishly out of style (all you had to do was attach the red nose.) I will never forget sitting there, red-faced, wishing that an avalanche would come and carry me away from the scornful glares of the fashion police mothers. (As an aside, one of the things I love best about my friend Sherry is her blunt honesty. While a lesser friend may have made fun of me behind my back, I could always count on Sherry to tell it how it is. That’s why I call her, “The Wise One.”)

Flo Circa 1993

Flo Circa 1993

You may be wondering why I find myself reminiscing about my “purple one-piece suit”. (For the record it was fuchsia!) Well, last weekend I once again found myself shopping for a grown-up snow suit. Shawn just bought a new ski doo, and as all good snow-faring Newfoundlanders know, you can’t travel with the pack unless you have the proper gear.   Finding the snow suit was not a problem. I quickly spotted a black two piece, with just a splash of fuchsia to grab my attention. The handsome young sales associate told me that it was their best-selling suit, and it even has flotation ability; not that I plan to swim in it or anything. Besides, he was just wasting his time telling me all of that; I was sold on the fuchsia stripe!

But that was only half the battle. Apparently, to be truly “in style” for snow mobilling, you have to wear a helmet that matches not only your suit, but also the snow machine itself. (I know, right? I’m a bit over-whelmed by it all!) I have worn helmets before, of course, but always open faced ones, which apparently are no longer in vogue.   So Shawn found this lovely model that fit all the criteria, and he jammed it on my head. I mean literally JAMMED it on my head, and closed the visor. Within nano-seconds, I was catapulted into a complete panic attack. I couldn’t breathe! As I frantically clawed at the helmet, I thought, “Surely I will die before I get this thing off”. Luckily Shawn, and the handsome young sales associate, came to my rescue and gave it a good yank, sending my earrings flying across the room and causing my pitifully thin hair to stand straight on its end, exposing all of the bald patches that I had carefully combed over and sealed with a tin of hair spray. (FYI, fine, thin hair was an unfortunate after-effect of my chemo. Not a perk!)

Looking like one of those hairless cats, I drew my neck, turtle-like, into the collar of my jacket, in an attempt to hide my naked, exposed head. However, although I was feeling kind of humiliated about my hair, Shawn insisted that I keep trying on helmets. To his credit, he did find the perfect one, which is closed-faced, yet not too claustrophobic. (As an aside, one of the things I love best about Shawn is his “never-give-up attitude”. I can always count on him to make me step outside of my comfort zone. That is why I call him, “My Man”.)

So, here I am, with a fashionable two-piece snow suit and helmet…but ironically, for the first time in decades in Newfoundland, no snow. But I don’t care. Come hell or high water I am going to put on my new suit and go ice fishing next weekend, even if I have to walk to my destination. In fact, I envision myself creating many happy memories in my black…with a touch of fuchsia….two piece snow suit, for many years to come. And how will I know when it is out of style? Easy! I’ll just keep hanging out with my friend, Sherry!

Flo Circa February, 2015

Flo Circa February, 2015

P.S. My regular followers will notice that I have made changes to the appearance of my blog. One year in real time is like ten in cyber-space, so it was desperately in need of an up-date. By the way, the background color you are looking at is clearly fuchsia, NOT PURPLE! I hope you like it.

CLICK on the link below to check out my new online Cancer Survivorship Program!

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Get A Tissue Or Ten *Dedicated to Sharon At 4 Times and Counting*

Florence Strang:

I don’t often re-blog other bloggers posts, but this one is an exception because the video is simply EXCEPTIONAL!.  Even if you have seen a clip of it on Facebook, it is worth your while to take a few minutes and view the whole thing.

When I read the title, “Dedicated to Sharon at 4 Time and Counting”, it scared me at first!  I have been following Sharon’s blog for about a year, and the title suggested to me that  that she may have passed away…..but, I checked out her site and  she is still kicking and still blogging!  Thanks to “Looking for the Light” for sharing! (Link below)

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Originally posted on Looking for the Light:

There are people you meet in life who leave you in awe. The ability to push forward, awe to fight a disease trying to kill them not once but four times. Awe of their strength in the weakest moments to care for their children. Awe not give up, just throw in the towel, who would blame them. Awe with her dedication to educate, awe of the positive energy she exudes. I am in awe of my blogging sister Sharon from 4 Times and Counting, 4timesandcounting.wordpress.com . Please visit Sharon’s site, you’ll see a strong woman with unstoppable determination. Sharon is all the above a much more. Being a survivor does not define who she is or where she’s going. I’m so happy our paths crossed.

I clicked on the video by accident, God reminded me it was no accident.   XO Warrior

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4 Simple Ways To Make 2015 Your Healthiest Year Ever!

1. Take the 10,000 Step Challenge.

Many of us start the New Year with grandiose goals of joining a gym or taking up a Zumba class.   Before too long we find that the gym workout has rendered our muscles too sore to get out of bed, or we come to the embarrassing realization that we look more like a rabid monkey, than a sexy Zumba dancer! So we do the natural thing. We quit.

There is an easier way to get fit, that takes much less work, and very little motivation or time commitment from you: take more steps each day. The average person takes between 3000 and 4000 steps per day, however research shows that you can significantly improve your health by increasing that number to 10,000 steps per day. One way to ensure that you are getting enough steps is to wear a pedometer, like the one found HERE .  These are inexpensive devices, which can be bought for less than $10, that can keep track of your steps, distance traveled and calories burned.

ped

 

Even if you do not have a dedicated walking practice, there are plenty of ways to increase your steps each day.   For example:

-Our tendency is to find a parking spot as close to our destination as possible. Instead, try parking as far away from the building as you can.

-Take the stairs, rather than an elevator.

-If your work requires long periods of sitting, get up more often to take a bathroom break, get a drink from the water cooler, or just stretch your legs.

-Rather than veg out in front of your t.v. or computer at home, get up and move around. Doing simple household chores like sweeping the floor will get you moving.

-If you are not the outdoorsy type, you can walk away the pounds without ever leaving your home by following a walking workout DVD such as my favorite, Leslie Sansone.

Leslie Sansone

(Click on pic for Amazon link.)

2. Drink More Water.

We all KNOW how important it is to drink plenty of water in order to keep our bodies hydrated, aid in weight loss, and flush out toxins, so why aren’t we all doing it? For many people, they have just not made it a habit. The simple way to form a new habit is to do it consistently for 21 days straight; after that, you don’t even have to think about it. Here are some tips to get you started on your healthy water habit:

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-Go out and buy a new water bottle, one that is visually appealing to you, and has a snap on lid to avoid spills. Just seeing this water bottle will remind you to drink more. If it is plastic, make sure it is BPA free, or opt for a glass or stainless steel bottle.

-If you drink tap water, be sure that it is filtered. Even a simple Brita filter will remove most of the chlorine and other toxins from your water.

-You can drastically improve the health boosting power of your water by adding the juice of a half a freshly squeezed lemon to at least one bottle of water per day.

3. Eat More Fruits and Veggies.

When we think about healthy eating, it is usually our tendency to focus on what we CAN’T eat. “I will have to give up junk food”; “No more burgers for me,”; “I will really miss my sweets!” Rather than think about what you have to give up, consider ADDING more healthy foods to your diet. For example, if you generally serve one veggie as a side with your meals, increase it to two or three. Adding colorful choices like broccoli and diced carrots will also make your meal look more appetizing! As an added bonus, by increasing the amount of veggies on your plate, you will likely not have room for large portions of meat or high carb foods……either on your plate, or in your belly!

 

One simple way to get an instant boost of health-promoting fruits and veggies is by starting your day with a smoothie. Here is my fave smoothie recipe:

smoothie post

-1 cup frozen mixed fruits and berries

-1 banana

-1/2 cup fresh greens, such as spinach or kale

-1 tablespoon chia seeds (these little power houses contain as much healthy Omega 3’s as five fish oil capsules!)

-1 to 1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk (almond milk contains as much calcium as cow’s milk, with less fat and zero cholesterol.)

Blend on high until smooth and BAM! Four servings of fruits and veggies to start your day.

4. Just Breathe.

As a Psychologist, I promote the stress-busting practice of abdominal breathing exercises to all of my clients. I once had a client say to me, “Hey, I don’t believe in that deep breathing stuff. I tried it once, and I still felt stressed out after that!” To which I responded, “That’s like saying to me: I don’t believe in exercise. I went for a walk once and I am still fat.” Deep breathing is an exercise, and like any form of exercise, it will only be effective if practiced on a regular basis.

 

Stress is related to many illnesses in the body, and one of the best things you can do to cope with stress is to practice deep breathing exercises on a daily basis. Here is how it is done: place one hand on your belly button, and the other just above it. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and feel your hands rise, like you are filling a balloon with air. (This might take some practice as many people suck their belly in on the in breath.) Now gently breathe out through your mouth, feeling your hands fall, like air is being let out of a balloon in your belly. Aim for 5 to 10 deep breaths, at least twice per day. This can be done while sitting at your desk, watching t.v. or before going to sleep. As your body becomes accustomed to the relaxation response, you will find that as little as 3 deep breaths can calm you in the most stressful of situations!

 

breathe

Just for today, take one of these healthy living habits and make it your own. When it has become habitual to you, take on another. Before you know it, you will be a mean, lean, healthy machine!

If you are a cancer survivor whose goal it is to live a healthier, cancer-fighting  lifestyle, please sign up for our FREE 4 day program by clicking the image below.

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Wishing You A Boring 2015!

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Hey, I know that is not the typical greeting that you get this time of the year, but let me explain. If you are anything like me, you probably approach each new year thinking, “This is going to be MY year! Enough of this shit. This is the year that I’m finally going to……(pick one):

-meet my soul mate

-lose weight

-kick that addiction

-run a marathon

-get rich

-learn how to play the guitar

-rescue panda cubs in China”

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. We set these unrealistic goals for ourselves and then most likely end up disappointed. Let’s face it, for example, the likelihood of you actually meeting a panda cub in need of rescuing is about the same as the likelihood of meeting an ugly Kardashian. Not going to happen. Yet we lay there in bed on January 31st, dreaming of all the exotic possibilities that lie before us, like a big sheet of blank paper waiting to be colored with the most memorable year of our lives!

As I reflect back over the years of my life, there are some that hold a special place in my memory because of something wonderful that happened, like having my children (1995, 1997, 2005); getting a new job (1998); and moving into my dream home (2003). Then there are many other years that hold painful memories, like my marriage ending (2002); Ben’s diagnosis of autism (2008); and my diagnosis of cancer (2011). However, in my 47 years on this planet, most of them hold no specific, life-altering memory. Like 1988, for example. Nada. I do know that I was 20 years old and in my third year of University, but as for any special memories of that year, whether good or bad, I do not have the one. It was just one of the many, regular old uneventful, boring years of my life. The same can be said for 1977, 1994, 2009 and many other years. And guess what? It is for those years that I am grateful. I am grateful because no terrible misfortune befell me that year to forever scar it in my memory.

Will 2015 be a memorable year for you? Sure, it could be the year that you actually meet your soul mate or win the lottery, but maybe not. Hopefully 2015 will also NOT be the year that you are diagnosed with a terrible disease, lose someone you love, or experience financial ruin. My wish for you is that 2015 is one of those regular old boring years that makes up the majority of our lives; the years for which we all need to be grateful. Boring New Year!

 

 

The Ghostly Christmas Visitor!

In this week’s post, I have a true story to share with you.  It is something that recently happened to my parents, Len and Madeline Strang, who live in Lawn, Newfoundland. It’s not for the faint of heart, so I would advise that only the bravest of the brave proceed to read this.

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Len and Madeline, a.k.a. Mom and Dad

The Ghostly Christmas Visitor

Twas a month before Christmas

When all through the Strang’s house

Not a creature was stirring

Except for one little mouse.

Len’s long johns were hung by the bedside with care

With hopes that Madeline’s knickers, soon would be there.

But Madeline was snoring, as happy as that,

So they both settled down, for a long winter’s nap.

When all of a sudden, there arose such a clatter,

Len sprung to his feet, to see what was the matter?

“Something just touched me!” Madeline said with a fright.

“It was nothing”, Len said, “Go to sleep and Good Night!”

In a very short while, Len’s eyes opened wide,

“Something touched me too”, he said with a sigh.

All through the night, the haunting took place

With ghostly fingers caressing their toes to their face.

In the morning light, they were took by surprise

For looking right at them was a pair of mouse eyes.

“Good Fripse!” Len shouted, as he made a great clout.

But the Christmas mouse clamoured, until he got out.

“A mouse in the house, I will not have it,” he said

So he set the traps all around the house and under the bed.

To the sound of a squeal, Madeline later arose

And saw the Christmas mouse trapped, by one of his toes.

“It’s a sin to kill it, but Len must not know,”

She whispered as she released him on the fresh fallen snow.

So if ever in your travels you meet a limping little mouse

It might be the one evicted from Len Strang’s house.

Madeline has taught a lesson for one and for all,

We are all God’s creatures, whether great or small.

To live out our lives, we all have the right,

So Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

mouse