Saturday, December 31, 2011

with the exception of the past few days, 2011 was so good to me.

i rang in the new year with a friend of mine who i couldn't be prouder of. a few weeks later, i dropped her off at the airport to watch her soar [literally, yes, but also figuratively].

right off the get go, i saw firsthand how the smallest gesture can make such a huge difference thanks to 'just a CUPel of words'.

in may, i packed all i had into a hockey bag, moved into the attic of some random church downtown toronto and spent my summer bringing awareness to issues such as homelessness, prostitution, and human trafficking. it was here where i had the opportunity to meet some of the greatest youth and leaders in north america, and here where i was connected to one of my favourite places in the whole world: st. francis' table, where i have the honour of serving at on a regular basis to this day.

from there i put my professionalism aside and counselled two consecutive youth camps, saw God miraculously restore a much needed friendship, did youth ministry at a single mom's camp, landed my dream job, and saw a word that was spoken over me years a go come to pass as i flew to kansas speak at a youth retreat.

so here i sit, a few hours away from millions of party favours being blown, lips being kissed [not mine of course], and everyone and their mother yelling "happy new year", and despite the fact that my dad passed away a few days a go [blog to come], i can't help but chalk 2011 up as by far the best year of my life.

2011, i love you. 2012, bring it!I

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

i've tried everything to get into the christmas spirit this year, but to no avail.

i've attended several festive parties. written countless christmas cards. downloaded a buttload of christmas tunes and ordered one too many egg nog chais. i even went as far as to play a few rounds of the christmas edition of angry birds, but even that didn't seem to work. like many others, i'm having a hard time believing christmas is a few days away due to the lack of fluffy white stuff outside.

that, and my heart is much bigger than the amount of money in my wallet.

i hate the fact that i haven't been able to shower my family and friends with gifts this year. i know that christmas isn't about gifts and that you can show the people in your life that you love them in other ways, but man does it ever suck when you have all of these thoughtful present ideas floating around in your head and no way of getting your hands on them.

but here i was belting out a few of my favourite carols in church the other day with a few hundred strangers and - BOOM - the christmas spirit was upon me. i don't know what it was, really. perhaps it was the catchy drum beat, or the fact that i was surrounded by a plethora of red and green paraphernalia - or maybe, just maybe, it was the powerful truth found in the songs that we were singing. songs like 'oh come let us adore him' and 'go tell it on the mountain'...

songs that remind me that the true meaning of christmas isn't about snow, or even presents, but christ.

merry christmas, friends!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

you can learn from those you lead.

here i was serving in a local food bank this summer, dreading the hours i was about to spend walking around a shelving unit while placing cans of food in countless plastic bags. i felt bored within minutes and found myself glancing at the clock every second as if my eyes had the ability to make time go by faster. it didn't take long, though, before one of the students 'i was leading' caught my attention.

"OH!" he said with excitement, "this family's going to love THIS" as he placed a jar of peanut butter in the bag. for the next few hours, i watched in amazement as he put his heart and soul into each bag, keeping the family [who would now have food to eat] in mind with every bag he filled. it didn't take long for me to catch wind of his perspective and heart, either, because, well, you can learn from those you lead.

my sister and i were approached by some rather attractive men in uniform yesterday as we were entering the grocery store. turns out they were handing out paper bags and encouraging everyone to participate in a local food drive by filling their bag with canned goods and the like. i must say, i was happy to oblige in this 'activity' for a few reasons: 1) i thought this was a great idea 2) my family used to utilize the food bank and this was a way in which i could give back and 3) filling a bag would guarantee that i could reconnect with these good looking men on the way out of the grocery store [the latter being of least importance] ;)

at first, we stuck to the list that they gave us, but then i found myself thinking about the potential of a kid going back to school without something as cool as kool aid jammers ... so i threw those in, too. then my sister threw in a package of oreos for the same reason ... and a box of tea for the mom [hello, stereotype] ... and the list goes on.

so here i was applying the lesson a young man from michigan taught me nearly six months a go. instead of just 'throwing food into a bag', i thought about the families who wouldn't have to worry about where their next meal was coming from. instead of just 'going through the motions', i was able to see purpose in what i was doing ... all because, you guessed it -- you can learn from those you lead.

who are YOU leading and what can you learn from them?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

opportunities surround me. i have a great job, people who love me and an incredible God who loves me more, yet, at times, i still feel empty and feel as though i don't belong anywhere. i've been sitting here trying to figure out what it is i'm missing, but i'm starting to think that maybe - just maybe - there's a desire and longing inside of each of us that can't be met/quenched until we meet our maker face to face. it's as if we were made for another world...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

there are days where i need an extra boost, if you will. you know - the kind of day where i need the assurance that my life counts; that the time and energy i spend on loving people [whatever the means] isn't in vain. today is one of those days.

i got a letter from a friend i went to school with in edmonton this morning, which read:

okay, this is random, but every time i think about our trip overseas, my mind drifts back to hong kong 2007. I remember when you washed all of our towels for us and left them folded in our rooms with a little note written on top. i don't know if you remember that or not because you've done things like that a lot before! but honestly it was so meaningful to me that it has never left my mind and i continue to be brought back to it. you were always so thoughtful about things like that and can i just say that during those times when you've done something or even just said something thoughtful to someone, they will never forget it! your words and actions are powerful!

it's as if 'someone' knew exactly what i needed to be reminded of today! the love i show others isn't in vain. and neither is YOURS.

Monday, October 31, 2011

this blog is random and will lack flow. consider this your warning.

1) geese fascinate me.

here i was cruising down the highway yesterday engrossed in a conversation with my sister and bam - three flocks of geese fly over the jeep. [those of you who have ever driven with me know that flying objects - animals, planes, whatever - have the ability to grab my attention no matter how great the conversation is, and yesterday was no different]. immediately the david suzuki in me came out. i started talking about geese and how they honk at each other as a form of encouragement. i started talking about how if one goose becomes sick or injured, two other geese will leave the flock with them and won't return until the sick one is restored back to health. scientists have proven that this particular bird can achieve a greater distance of 70% when flying in groups rather than flying solo, using the same amount of energy. call me crazy, but i think we can learn a lot from geese. don't do life alone. encourage one another. surround people who are hurting.

2) i am not built for north american culture.

i live out of a hockey bag. i don't own any furniture. i own minimal clothes. i live a simple, basic life. i find that when i'm walking through a mall, though, my mindset changes. i find myself wanting the very stuff i don't need or find value in. i find myself getting mad at/jealous of people who can easily drop hundreds of dollars on new clothes and the like. so yesterday, "i gave in"; i found myself at the till with a $90 jacket. a really nice jacket. i felt good in it and i certainly looked good in it. but i couldn't afford it. so i returned it less than 15 minutes later.

now, is it wrong to buy yourself a jacket? not at all. is it wrong to buy new clothes? a new iPhone? anything? absolutely not. for me it was a matter of knowing how stressed i'd feel this week every time i put my new jacket on, or as i stay awake at night wondering when work's going to pick up so i don't have to live paycheck to paycheck. for me it was a matter of telling myself that i don't need a jacket to feel good [malls also make me feel fat] ... because i don't. true beauty needs to come from within, and the truth is, i have a ridiculously beautiful heart.

3) i'm becoming quite the introvert.

yes, me. there was a day where i would pack my schedule to the rim with social activity. now i find myself wanting to pack my schedule with alone time. my energy used to come from being around people, but now it comes from being 'alone'. but i'm okay with that. please be okay with that, too.

disclaimer: there are those few friendships in my life that i will continue to pursue and people i would hang out with at the drop of a hat. please also note that i'm not a jerk; if someone needs a friend, or some form of help, chances are i'm not going to turn them down in the name of alone time as balance and sacrifice are required with any relationship.

4) i appreciate 'safe' people.

i'm not referring to the 'don't say something you think i should hear/only say the things i want to hear' kind of safe here. i'm talking about those people who i can let my guard down with. those few people in my life who make me feel ... safe.

5) and lastly, i'm on a journey to living a more disciplined life.

week one: prayer. i'm happy to report that although there's always room for improvement, this week was a success. i prayed more and listened better.

week two: reading. fail. i started a really good book by the name of 'not a fan' by kyle idleman [check it out] and couldn't put it down. within days though, i found myself managing my time poorly and choosing sleep over any kind of reading that i should've been doing. i'm hoping to pick up the slack this week as i try and tackle a new discipline.

which brings me to this week. journaling. writing is something that comes naturally to me, in fact, there's nothing else i'd rather do. let's just hope my actions prove it :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

i am well invested in.

my family continuously sacrifices their time, money and energy on me. i wouldn't be where i am today without them.

my friends make my life rich. God makes my life richer. i definitely wouldn't be where i am today without them, either.

my job is a dream come true and the amazing people i work with make that statement even more valid. i get to spend my days hanging out with youth in various high schools in the GTA; i honestly can't think of a better way to spend my life than by investing in such valuable lives.

so, to all of the above: thank you. thank you for investing in me. for sticking by me. for continuously reminding me that i am indeed one of the richest women in the world. i am who i am because of you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

i had my first real crush in grade nine [that says a lot about the guys in my public school], which quickly ended the day i found him 'making out' under a tree with one of my good friends. [clearly i had shade-y friends]. so i moved on. and on. and on.

aside from the one guy i recently proposed to via facebook [disclaimer: he lives in Fiji - what's a girl to do?], my dating life hasn't moved past the crushing stage. and this month has been no different.

this hot guy [and i mean 'why didn't God make you a twin?!' kind of hot] walked into my work recently, so i did what any girl would do. i fainted. just kidding. i looked deeply into his beautiful blue eyes and wooed him with my best smile. within seconds, though, my heart shattered into a million pieces [drama much?] as i glanced at his left hand. yep, you guessed it. someone liked it and put a ring on it. oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh. [sorry, couldn't resist]. needless to say, it ended there [my crush, not his marriage], and i haven't seen him since.

that is, until he showed up in my dream one night.

so here we were sitting at the beach [and by we i mean he, his wife, their two kids and i] when all of a sudden the mrs. needs to take the kids to the bathroom. perfect, i thought. time to make my move. yes me, the one who 'would never do that'. i get out of my chair, walk towards him, and, and ... i wake up. true story.

'NO FREAKIN WAY', i thought. there's no way i would do THAT!

suddenly a thought came into my mind.

how dare i judge someone for something that i myself am capable of doing.

and how dare YOU.

now don't go tying your panties up in a knot. there's no need for you to hide yo husbands [and you certainly don't have to hide yo wives and yo kids] - they'll be no climbing in your windows here. i have no intent in kissing your man when you take your kids to the bathroom. but - get this - the very thing we are quick to judge [especially in the church] is the very thing that we are capable of doing, simply because we're human and were born into sin.

do you think david EVER thought that he was capable of sleeping with bathseba, let alone murdering her husband uriah so he wouldn't get caught? my guess is no. or how about the adulterous woman? do you think she planned on sleeping with multiple men especially knowing that the consequence was [should have been by law] being stoned to death?

or how about serial killers/sex offenders/abductors nowadays? i bet if you asked randall hopley what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wouldn't have said, "i want to kidnap children" [if in fact he even did; the whole kienan hebert story seems fishy to me], but you get the point. life does some crazy things to people. so does mental illness. tragedy. compromise.

now, let it be said that in no ways do i condone such behavior. my guess is that you don't either. BUT the pendulum shouldn't be swinging on the complete opposite side either; as much as we're not to condone murder, adultery, kidnapping, or even things 'as small as' lying and gossiping [yeah, i went there], we're not to judge either.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" [Matthew 7:1-5]

still learning,


Sunday, September 4, 2011

it's funny how my last post was about how it's 'not about me' and i sit here two months later wrestling with the very same statement. 

with several heart attacks and surgeries under his belt, severe diabetes and an inability to walk, my dad has needed 24 hour care for as long as i can remember. in addition to this, as most of you know, he suffered a stroke this week.  my mom, who is his primary caregiver, is recovering from the triple bypass she had a month a go; the leg they took the vein out of seems to get worse by the day, so she's in no shape to take care of my dad.

so that leaves me, their unemployed [though i prefer to say 'in between jobs'] daughter, to take care of them for a short while [hopefully a very short while] ;)

i've been here a day so far and i'm already dying of boredom. don't get me wrong, i don't mind cooking, doing dishes, laundry, grocery shopping or even cleaning up the occasional 'accident', but it's the 'in between' times that make me go borderline insane ;) 

times where we're sitting in their 400 square foot apartment watching the country music channel;  times where my parents sleep, or bicker, or times where i need to get out of the apartment but have a lack of things to do in this small town, and limited friends to do them with. 

but love takes sacrifice, doesn't it?  and surely, my parents have sacrificed more than enough for the one writing this blog. 

so here we are. day one almost complete.  thankfully, my dad seems fine and 'with it' today, and my mom, despite her horrible leg infection, is doing well also.

here's to a speedy recovery,


Sunday, July 3, 2011

it's not about me.

here i was walking to the nearest tims as my group was out experiencing a different culture during our 'ethnic plunge' activity. i had been looking forward to this block of time to myself all day - better yet, all week - in fact, i needed it desperately.

so here i was, a few steps away from tims. i could smell the coffee. i could feel the caffeine rushing through my veins. i grab the door handle and ... "excuse me, ma'am, can you spare some change so i can get a drink?" i look down and notice a man in his mid 30's sitting on the ground.

"hi, sir", i said. "i don't have any change for you, but i can gladly get you a drink". he smiled., and i went in and bought him a hot chocolate.

alas, a moment to myself. ice cap in one hand, a book in the other.

"hi ma'am. you look like a nice lady. do you mind if i sit down with you?" i didn't even have to look up. i knew exactly who it was.

"of course i mind. i need time to myself do you have any idea how busy i am?", i thought. [thankfully, i have a filter].

"of course not", i said. and with that, he sat down.

for the next hour and a half, john and i got to hang out and talk about life and laugh. i felt like we knew each other forever, and i certainly walked away feeling blessed and more rejuvenated than i would have been had 'he left me alone' with my book.

i saw john again the following week as i was waiting for the subway. our eyes locked. he smiled and waved, and i walked away reminded of something i need to be reminded of each day as i serve God here at CSM Toronto:

it's not about me. [and it's not about you, either].

"each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others" [philippians 2:5]

Sunday, June 26, 2011

a huge part of my job is to bring awareness to issues such as homelessness, prostitution, human trafficking, drugs, and the like here in toronto [and yes, stuff like this does happen in our own backyard], but another huge part of what i do is hang out with, and invest in, the youth that come through our 'program' each week.

it's hard to believe that 5:00 p.m. marks the time of arrival for my fourth team this summer. i've had the honor of watching God work through, and in, youth from tennessee and michigan as they've stepped out of their comfort zones and served those on the margins of society; there's nothing i love more than being able to bridge the gap between the upcoming generation and the poor [both of whom are often overlooked due to different stereotypes].

every day i have the privilege of serving alongside of my group in a restaurant for the poor by the name of 'st francis' table'. here, we help prepare top of the notch meals [steak, chicken, shiskabobs, pasta, meatloaf etc] and then serve them their choice of food in true waiter/waitress style. the patrons, as we call them, pay $1/meal for dignity purposes and because of this, they come in knowing that they will be treated with respect and receive good service. after dinner service is done, we have the chance to sit down and hang out. it's in this time the youth get to see firsthand that not all patrons come in for a meal necessarily; some simply come in knowing that they'll have someone to eat with and talk to.

my mornings consist of various activities. sometimes my group and i serve at soup kitchens or at a factory for mentally disabled and ill people. sometimes i get the chance to give the youth a 'tour' around toronto's poorest neighbourhood and allow them to get more of an inside perspective of what it looks like to live in poverty and how God is at work there. and sometimes we spend our mornings handing out bagged lunches or bottled water to those who need it most [more homeless people die due to dehydration per year than by freezing to death in the winter].

as you can imagine, i have to spend a lot of time each day helping the youth and leaders [and myself] process all that they're/we're seeing/thinking/feeling, because the truth is, once saturday rolls around, reality hits; they'll no longer have a program to follow or a host to connect them to the various ministries and non profits in their city. the 'job' is now theirs; it's time for them to head home and ...

LIGHT THEIR CITY UP. [i know they will].

Thursday, June 9, 2011

my heart is so full.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

it's hard to believe that two weeks of training has come and gone and that i'm hours away from putting all that i've learned into practice. 3:00 marks our first official staff meeting and 5:00 marks our first team's arrival.

i've tried to sit down and pound out a blog on several occasions since i've been here, but my words have come up short. that being said, please accept my feeble attempt at putting my thoughts into words even now.

in the past two weeks, i've had the honor of partnering with several ministries/non profits here in toronto. i not only had the chance to listen to passionate people share their 'why i do what i do' stories, but i had the chance to get my hands dirty, too. my heart filled with joy as i:

- served food in several soup kitchens
- folded laundry for nearly 70 beds that provide a safe place to sleep each night for those who wouldn't have one otherwise
- helped those with a mental disability or mental illness meet their quota in a factory so that they can receive a paycheck
- wrote words of encouragement using chalk on a basketball court in the middle of one of toronto's poorest communities.

...and the list goes on.

i find myself asking people to pinch me each day [weird, i know] to see if this really is my life. and it is.

i feel so honored, so blessed.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

where to start.

for those of you who have been asking, my room is pretty sweet. i managed to snag a comfy mattress for my bed, fit all of my clothes on the shelves provided, and make it feel like home by decorating it in true paula style. i won't be spending too much time in there seeing as how my days are packed to the rim, but it's nice to have something to call my own in the midst of the chaos.

training has been intense, but really good. thankfully, my leaders have been sensitive to the fact that i am in no ways an audible learner, and have been extremely supportive and gracious towards me during this long and challenging process. i am loving this journey i am on and all of the great things i get to learn, and be a part of.

take yesterday for example.

my alarm clock went off at 5:10 a.m. at which i went downstairs to help the team [a small team of 11 from a chinese church in the GTA] make egg mcmuffins for the what we call 'breakfast patrol' [handing out hot breakfast to those sleeping on the streets]. when finished, the team and their leaders went downtown toronto to hand out breakfast as the rest of us got ready for our third day of training. later that day, we had the honor of handing out bagged lunches, too.

it's fascinating to me to watch a group of youth come in on friday night all shy and scared about interacting with people they wouldn't normally interact with, and listen to them talk about how nice 'these people' are and how great their experience has been by the time they leave on sunday.

today we got introduced to the 'street walk'. basically, we heard the heart wrenching story of a 13 year old street kid and had to assume their role and act as if this was our own story. we were given a twonie and one bus token and had to walk around the streets of toronto [in a group for safety purposes but we weren't allowed to talk to anyone or pool our money together etc] trying to find the answer to these five questions: what would we eat? where would we sleep? what would we do for money? hygiene? entertainment? the sad reality is, as i have learned this week, a huge percentage [low 80's] of both male and female street youth subject themselves to some form of prostitution just to 'get by' and have their above needs met.

i don't know about you, but i can't wrap my mind around this. i don't know about you, but i can't stand around and pretend like it's not happening right here in my backyard.

“while women weep, as they do now, i'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now, i'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, i'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, i'll fight, i'll fight to the very end!” [william booth]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

yesterday proved to be exactly what i needed; i was able to grieve the loss i felt from leaving ottawa and then focus all of that energy on being excited for the journey that lays ahead for me in toronto.

so here i am, five hours away from boarding my train, and six hours away from making my way to my new room, and 'home'.

it fascinates me to think that just two months a go i left second cup to pursue my dreams of working with youth and here i am a day away from starting a job that not only allows me to work with youth, but with those on the margins of society as well. one job, but two of my greatest passions. [speaking of passions, let it be said that even though i won't have much time to catch any games, i am in fact, within walking distance of the rogers center]. =)

so here i go again, pumped and ready to educate youth about issues such as homelessness and sex trafficking ... ready to walk them through some eye opening experiences as they serve at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, refugee camps and the like ... ready to help them process all they're seeing/feeling/doing ... and ready to see their lives impacted so deeply that they return home to the cities they came from and put what they learned into practice.

so here i go, friends. my next adventure awaits, and i plan on giving it my all ... in true paula style of course ;)

for those of who want to write to me, i've included my address below [for the rest of you, i will be checking and updating facebook, twitter [@apaulagetic] and this blog as much as i can]. thanks for journeying with me!

paula castrucci
c/o josh and holly mcClement
715-72 gamble ave
toronto, on
M4K 2H1

Monday, May 16, 2011

the rain reflects how i feel today.

i love ottawa as a city; i love the parliament buildings and the canal, and my favourite view on the bridge near the mall that overlooks both, but these aren't the things i'm going to think of when i look back on this leg of the journey. i'm going to think of the people i got to spend it with. people like my siblings and my adorable nephews. people like those i met at oasis youth ministry, and second cup; people i reconnected with while i was here.

i look at my stuff sitting across from me, and though i am incredibly grateful that all of my belongings fit into it one - yes one - hockey bag [i live like this purposely], i secretly wish i had a bag big enough to bring all my loved ones with me.

so to my friends and family here, i love you and am grateful for all the memories you helped me build in the last eight months. i won't forget you. thank you for being part of my adventure; my journey; my life!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

it's funny how we can walk the same route each day and miss the beauty of the path we're on.

my nine year old nephew ethan asked me to accompany his grade three class to the nature museum last week. between playing "paula-saurus" hide and seek in the dinosaur section and creating a highly entertaining bird radio show in, well, the bird section, i had a considerable amount of time to walk around and take it all in.

nature fascinates me. i'm blown away by the intricate detail that went into every living creature, every rock, each and every person, and creation, period. in fact, i find it exceptionally hard to walk away from a place like this without feeling like i'm dragging my chin off of the floor, and i certainly can't leave such a place without feeling a deep sense of connection to the One responsible for creating it all.

i don't know about you, but i never want my life to lose what i call the 'wow' factor; i never want to come to the place where things become so familiar and ordinary that i, like the grade three class i accompanied to the museum that day, never lose my childlike sense of wonder.

too many of us treat life like 'the amazing race'; we rush through it so fast just to 'get there' that we end us missing the beauty of the journey itself.

so what are you waiting for? stop where you are, take a deep breath, open your eyes, look around, and soak it all in.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

i've been sitting here for days [not literally of course] trying to pound out a blog about the day long interview i just had, and the journey i'm about to embark on as a result, but my words have come up empty. while i'm still attempting to put my heart down on paper, i have something else to share with you today.

this may come as a surprise to some of you, but i am the biggest toronto blue jays' fan. i went to five games in one week last summer among other games, paid a scalper $75 for regular $11 tickets to ensure that i got the full home opener experience, and i took the five hour greyhound trek from ottawa to toronto last week to catch their second game. on top of all of this, as long as i can help it, i catch every single game on TV, followed by each game's highlights afterwards, just in case i missed something the first time.

and last night was no different.

let me set the stage for you. toronto was coming off of a two day losing streak; seattle, seven. toronto is known for their ability to hit; seattle, not so much. it looked like a no brainer, really. the odds were in their favour; the jays should have crushed them.

i fell asleep in the top of the seventh inning, and, as predicted, the jays were up 7-0. seven to nothing, people. that's quite the gap. it was fair to say that i could fall asleep with another victory under their, er, our, belt.

to my surprise, however, i woke up to the whole seattle mariners' team jumping for joy around home plate. surely they weren't that excited to lose eight games in a row, were they?

i wish that were the case, but to my dismay, they were celebrating a ... win.

what the heck happened, i wondered? we were up seven runs with two innings left. and then two innings later, we were up 7-6 with only out left to go. we should have had it!

despite their record of 2 and 7 [the 7 losses being the result of their last seven games played], and the fact that the jays' dominated over half of the game, the mariners ... hear this ...


they took advantage of every walk issued. they batted and scored. caught and threw out. played hard, and came back.

could you imagine if they had chalked it up as an other loss by giving up in the seventh inning when all odds were against them? not only would they have headed to the locker room even more discouraged than when they came out, but they would have missed out on possibly one of their greatest and sweetest victories yet.

this got me thinking. can't the same be said about life sometimes? aren't we too apt to quit when the odds are stacked against us? when we're down 7-0 in the seventh? when things don't look good? or feel right?

no matter what you're facing today, i'm here to encourage you not to give up - your victory could be just around the corner!

so take heart. persevere, and get back on the field. the game is far from over.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

it's been said that the amount of blows it takes you to blow out your birthday candles equals the amount of boyfriends you have. i should know; i was reminded of this a few weeks ago when i celebrated one. 31 candles are a lot to blow out, i'll have you know, but juggling four boyfriends is much harder.

okay, okay. i don't really have four boyfriends. in fact, i don't even have ... one.

that's right. do the math. 31, and single. alone. by myself. table for one. riding solo. i'm riding solo, i'm riding solo. [this musical interlude has been brought to you by jason derulo].

each year it seems as though more and more people jump on the "we need to find paula a husband" bandwagon. it's not uncommon for me to get an email stating that the sender is 'praying that God sends me a man soon', nor is it uncommon for someone to come up to me and boldly say such things to my face. now, let it be known that i LOOOOOOOVE men [a lot actually - especially when they look like derek morgan from criminal minds or the mcdreamy/steamy combo from greys], but i can't help but wonder something - is that what people see when they look at me? someone who is ... missing something?

because that's not what i see. i see a young woman who has traveled the world. i see a 31 year old who lives a life of purpose. i see someone who is about to see yet another dream come true. i see beauty. confidence. humour. compassion. life. and the list goes on.

who do you see when you look in the mirror? do you simply see a role you play? a wife to ____? mom to _____? nurse? teacher etc? is your identity attached to who you know or what you are? or does it go much deeper than that?

you see, as a woman, the world would tell us that by the time we reach a certain age that we should have a husband, a kid or two [or more if we're crazy - just kidding nic], an ability to cook, bake, sew, whatever; and a green thumb to boot. i, on the other hand, am husband-less and kid-less. i can't hem a pair of pants for the life of me, and you will never - i repeat never - see me spending time in a garden. and you know something? i'm okay with that.

now don't get me wrong, it's perfectly fine to be a wife, or a mom, or to fill any [or every] single one of the roles mentioned in this blog for that matter, but take it from me, ladies - IT'S EQUALLY OKAY if you don't!

here's the thing - and i want you to catch this: our identity shouldn't be found in who we know or what we do.

because truth be told, when everything is stripped away, it's not going to matter whose wife you are, how many kids you have, what you do for a living, or how well you can sing, cook a meal, or whatever else you take pride in. all that's going to matter is who you belong to and who are you are a result: a loved and cherished daughter of the king!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

i'm about to go catch some UFC with my siblings. if i can be honest with you, the thought of watching people fight for hours isn't my favourite way to spend a saturday night. admittedly, it's growing on me, though. i love the energy around me and the cheering that happens after a good hit; i have my favourite fighters, and moves, and i'm deeply intrigued by the support and encouragement that comes from each fighter's corner.

each fight i watch makes me more grateful that i have people in MY corner. usually, i'm the one standing on the sidelines cheering my friends on during the fight; the one that wipes the sweat off their face in between rounds and makes sure they get adequate water; the one who encourages them, and glues their wounds together to prevent bleeding and further damage. but today? today i'm the one who needs the encouragement, and the cheering on. today i am the one who needs someone in MY corner. and i'm okay with that. after all, encouragers need encouragement, too.

i'm really tired of people 'messing with' my life. i'm tired of people spreading rumours about me to cover their own mistakes, not having my back when they know the truth, or lying so that they can get ahead.

i caught someone stealing at second cup. an employee actually. even though there were two other witnesses, this employee [who happens to be a friend of my boss's son] convinced our boss that i was lying, along with the other two employees, causing problems for me at work and forcing me to quit faster than i had planned.

the worst part is, even though they fired her and covered all of her shifts, they hired her back, and even though my other coworker told my boss to "go eff himself" and quit, they guilted him into coming back, too.

but here i am unemployed, and insulted, and left looking like the ... idiot. when in actuality, i wasn't the one who stole, lazed around or told my boss where to go. i was honest and forthright. hard working. dedicated, and, and, and ... the list goes on. funny how that works hey?

a small part of me regrets quitting, but a bigger part of me knows it was time, and for the best. i have been feeling a tug on my heart for the past month or so to pursue something else, but i think that the fact that i was 'needed' there, comfortable with the job, and the fact that i felt a great deal of purpose with the whole 'just a CUPel of words' thing kept me from moving forward.

so here i go ... again. back in the ring and ready for my opponent. i'm focused, my fists are up, and thankfully, the voices coming from MY corner are far louder than the ones coming from the opposing side.

let's do this.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

this is an email i just got from my boss, samir, from head office:

Hi folks:
I received this message from our head office regarding a customer appreciation to our staff initiation, the idea created by our trouble maker Paula.

Congratulations! Samir, your team seems to be doing a great job.

To: Second Cup, Customer Care
Subject: Thank you

Good Morning
I am a frequent customer at the Second Cup at the corner of Lisgar St and Elgin St in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
While all employees there have great customer service skills, there is one who is quite unique. I can get her name if you need it. What this employee does in the quiet times (which is almost never) is write beautiful simple saying on the coffee cups…today's says Believe in yourself…Someone does. Each cup has a different saying

My colleagues and I really enjoy these little messages and always look forward to reading them.
I think this idea should be further explored by Second Cup…this employee is on to something good.
Nathalie Rochefort

Call Solution: Thanked her for here wonderful feedback and told her that I will be sharing it with the franchise partner and the regional manager.


small things count!

[check out previous posts for background]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

can i just be honest with you? [rhetorical question]. writing on every cup that i hand out every day is ... well, exhausting. sometimes i only do it because it's expected or because people ask. and sometimes, just sometimes, i just don't feel like it. [gasp!]

would my customers actually be okay with getting an encouragement-less cup? would i actually be okay without wearing the 'encouraging barista' hat for a day?

truth is, i had no idea that something so small would become so huge and demanding.

truth is, though i would be the first one to tell that you words have power, i didn't know that writing inspirational words on coffee cups had this much power.

and i certainly didn't think that 'just a CUPel of words' had the ability to make someone's day to the point where they would call the store, ask us if we write on the cups personally, and tell us how much the words on their cup impacted them today.

i didn't know that a 'few seconds of my time' could "solve five months of conflict" at a customer's work as a lady pointed out to me today before she walked out of my store feeling like a million bucks.

and i certainly didn't know that this whole cup thing would be the topic of discussion in downtown offices and around board room tables, as i'm reminded of on an almost daily basis by the people on the other side of the counter.

or that a picture of my cup would end up on twitter - or on some random girl's facebook. or that a cup would be found sitting on someone's desk for weeks.

i just. i just didn't know that this whole thing would become part of my identity.

that's the truth, isn't it? that the things we do for others have the ability to turn into a 'hat' we where? a role we play? an expectation others have. and ... get this ... part of our identity?

don't get me wrong, knowing i'm making a difference in the world around me makes a difference in mine, but on days like today, i 'just' want to be ...


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

i hate sweeping. like hate it. so much in fact, that i'd rather go into my closet, lug out my awkwardly huge vacuum, plug it in and vacuum the floor than pick up a broom. weird, i know. but i can't handle the frustration that comes with trying to get that last line of dirt up on the dustpan successfully. you know what i'm talking about; it happens to the best of us.

ashamedly, i've been known to sweep that line of dirt under the rug [or the fridge and stove for that matter] when no one's looking. [for those of you who have had their house clean by yours truly, consider this your aPAULAgy].

but what i've come to realize on moving day, if not sooner, is that, even though some may never know 'what lays underneath my rug', the dirt's still ... there.

as i'm about to embark on a new chapter in my life, i've been challenged to really take a look at myself lately; to face, and work on, the unhealthy things that consume me, control me, and some days even haunt me. i'm ready to sweep up the dirt if you will; the dirt that has been piled up under the rug for far too long and the dirt that i sadly even collected today.

goodbye, awkward vacuum. hello, broom!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

one cup at a time

it started as an idea birthed from a passion to speak life.

and now, weeks later, 'just a CUP-el of words' [formally knows as operation 'cup o' encouragement'] is in full swing.

if you asked me a week ago if i thought it would have the effect that it does, i would have laughed. don't get me wrong, i believe that words have power and that people are starving for encouragement these days, but in no way did i ever expect .... this:

day one: a man looks at his cup which read, "this too shall pass" and tells me i just made his day.

day two: two ladies come in and say loud enough for me to hear, "are these the two ladies who write on the cups?" [referring to my coworker and i] and looks at me and says, "keep it up".

day three: a regular comes in, grabs her cup and looks at it. thinking nothing of it, i say, "what are you looking for?". her response? "encouragement".

day four: a local high school student goes out of her way to thank me for 'the message on her cup'. with the biggest smile on her face, she holds her cup high enough for me to see. believe in yourself, it said. and with that, she went back to school with a little more confidence than what she came in with.

the next day a teacher comes in and tells me this whole cup thing is the talk of her classroom and assures me that it is making a difference.

a day later, a grown man leaves my coffee shop in tears because he got a cup that read "hang in there" on a day where he felt like doing anything but.

shortly after that, two high school students came in and asked me if i have a book of inspirations that i get these quotes from before mentioning in passing how much the girls in their class appreciate the encouragement.

a lady then walks in and tells me how she saw a random guy walking down the street and noticed that he had encouragement on his cup. "i knew he had to have been to this second cup", she said.

later that day, i overhear a group of regulars talking about the words on their cup. as they were getting ready to go back to work, one of them says, "i could not get the words 'you are not alone' out of my head ALL day yesterday"

...and the list goes on.

please hear me. i don't write all of this to show off. trust me when i say this - i'm no big deal! [i promise that there will be future blogs written to prove this; blogs written about my inability to love people at times, my struggles, fears, doubts, frustrations etc]. my purpose in writing this blog is to encourage you, the reader, to find your passion, to act on it, and to sit back and watch how even the smallest gesture, like writing on cups, can impact the lives - and the world - around you.

"the majority of us lead quiet, unheard of lives, as we pass through this world. there will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. but that does not lesson our possible impact, for there are scorns of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion,our talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. it's overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt” [leo b]

now go spread the love!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

doctors' offices always test my patience. [i figure there's enough 'patients' to go around there any ways bahahaha]. line-ups. screaming babies. sneezing. coughing. people who think that their sickness should be given priority over yours. and the list goes on. it's for these reasons that i avoid walk in clinics like the plague. unless i really need to see a doctor, like i did last week.

so here i am waiting outside in typical 'ottawa winter weather' for the doctor to finish what appears to be a five course lunch. my lips are cracking from the cold. my fingers are numb and i can hardly feel my toes. my "i need to see the doctor" list is getting longer and longer by the minute.

finally. the door unlocks. i walk in to find out that the very full doctor isn't taking anyone for 'another 45 minutes'. so i sit and wait. and thaw. and wait some more. i found myself starting to count patients just to pass time [much more entertaining than counting sheep]. it wouldn't take too long, i thought. after all, i was third in line.

billy. room one. twila. room two. [names have been changed to protect their identity].

this is it. the moment i have been waiting for.

i get ready to stand.



WHO THE HECK IS MICHELLE?! mi-chelle [said in the snobbiest way possible] was not here before me, in fact, she walked in about ten minutes after me. mi-chelle [i am getting mad just typing her name] was not - i repeat - not waiting out in the cold!!!!!!!

call it juvenile, but i felt so ... frustrated. mad. cheated.

i had two options here. i could have 1) stood up, screamed at the secretaries like i saw another lady do moments earlier, or, 2) remained seated, took a deep breath and told myself it's not the end of the world. because, well, it wasn't.

thankfully, i chose the latter.

moments before my name was finally called, a lady turned to me and said, 'excuse me, do you work at second cup?'. not recognizing her, i said, "why do you ask? do you come in often or do i wreak like coffee?". [turns out she had come in twice before and i smelled just fine - phew].

we chatted and we laughed. and i walked away grateful that i didn't make a fool out of myself moments earlier.

you see, i try and make a difference at work. i try to be kind. patient. and positive. bottom line is, though i fail at times, i want my life to model the life of Christ.

truth be told, as i was reminded of as i left the doctors' office that day, who you are behind the counter, pulpit, desk, whatever, needs to line up with who you are 'when no one is watching' ...

or at least when you think no one is.

Monday, January 17, 2011

speak life

it's been a while. forgive me. i have struggled with putting my thoughts on paper as of late. but today? today my words come naturally.

i have been finding work a tad bit on the boring side lately. i would even go as far to say that i dread getting up each morning. i find work unchallenging. mundane. and even purposeless at times.

last week, however, i came up with a plan. i decided to write words of encouragement on some of the coffee cups i hand out at work each day. within moments, my coworker joined in on what became our little writing experiment:

you are valued.
your life has purpose.
look for the silver lining.
what is the best thing about today?

...and the list goes on.

one guy got a cup that said "this too shall pass" and went out of his way to ask me whether or not the cups came like this. when i told him what my coworker and i were doing, he said, "you just made my day". [words have the power to make or break someone's day!]. and with that, he walked away, and i continued to write on the cups, thinking nothing of it.

then today, these ladies come in and as i am stocking the condiment stand, one says to the other loud enough for me to hear, "is this the lady who wrote on the cups?", and thus, started a conversation about the power of encouragement.

a few minutes later, i passed a coffee to one of our regulars, who picked up the cup and looked at it as if she were looking for something. when asked what she was doing, she replied, "looking for encouragement".

people are looking - even searching - for someone to speak words of life into them. so what are we waiting for? let's speak life!