Thursday, January 18, 2018

New Habits are So Time Consuming!

New habits are time consuming. I believe I've heard it said that the best way to kick an old habit is to replace it with a new one. Doing one thing instead of another takes away the temptation to do what you want to stop doing, with an added bonus of keeping your daily regimen intact.

This new exercise thing has added a half hour to my morning routine. I gave up sleeping in that extra hour in lieu of making time to exercise, while (trying to) form a new habit of getting up at 6:00 a.m. This is good.

The writing thing? It feels harder.

In my old life, I woke up early to intentionally make time to write. My daycare family walked in the door at 7:30 a.m. and everything I managed to get done in the day from that point onward was a bonus. I placed writing first and everything else was second priority.

I now appreciate the fact that my daycare days forced me into some good habits and routines.

I believe what I miss most about my daycaring days is "quiet time". Once my little people were all sleeping &/or still and quiet, I took my laptop and worked on my word puzzles like my life depended on it. Getting those puzzles completed satiated me in a way I assume a smoker may feel after having a cigarette. It was a need. It had to be done. I felt better while doing it and relaxed when I was done.

I would squeeze in time to write in our daycare blog during that time of great quiet. If there was still time to spare, I would cruise the Internet and (most likely) find myself in the thick of my Facebook feed looking for adult input into my very child oriented days.

In this renovated life of mine, my mornings are still too short. I have been running behind on my puzzles by almost a day for several mornings and this morning I just "had" to catch myself up. I believe this is what may be called an addiction but it is not a negative thing so I'm not going to berate myself for it. I must simply find a new place in my day for it.

This thing called cleaning is another thing I have not delegated time for. Once again, back in the daycare days of yore, I had a basic cleaning routine. At my peak, I washed swiped down the kitchen floor every day after lunch. I kept on top of day to day tasks, did basement chores on Thursday and upstairs cleaning was done Friday. It was not uncommon for me to be vacuuming while the kids ate their afternoon snack, so we could head directly outside and I would come into a clean house at the end of a very long day. Yes, I even vacuumed daily back in those days.

I sat down each and every Friday afternoon and mapped out our lunch, snack and supper menu for the following week and on the weekend, I bought groceries accordingly. I baked, I cooked, I froze leftovers and I seemed to have a readily available bounty of homemade muffins, slices and cookies to offer a guest who may drop by. Yes, I even had guest back in the olden days.

Man! That does not sound like me at all. In my prime, I did okay.

There is no need for much of the routine I had in place back in those days. Vacuuming cat hair, cat chores, laundry, cleaning bathrooms and having a clean kitchen are about all I really expect of myself. And I'm doing all of those jobs in a very slap dash and half hazard way.

One thing at a time. Like this:


Maybe I need to add "vacuum cat hair off of living room blinds" onto my weekly chore list. Yesterday, the bathtub. Today, the blinds. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Doing the Hard Things

Each Sunday night, I glance at the week ahead and make a mental note of all the "hard things" I have to confront in the week that follows. My Monday morning mantra consists of something like "Only five more days...". I don't follow that thought with the actual words "until the weekend" but it is how I live my life.

What a sad state of affairs for a 57 year old adult. To admit that my life has not grown past the school child's view point of counting down days until the weekend. So instead, I have slightly rerouted my thoughts to tell myself "Only three hard things..." to do before I get to coast within a hard work week. Which is NOT hard. It's just me. I know this.

Yesterday was a big one.

Washing my hair, a doctor's appointment, working off-site and mentoring another bookkeeper type person through the books that have been taken off of our plate and put onto hers, which was followed by the need to buy groceries on my way home at the end of my work day.

I left the house around 8:30 a.m. and got home sometime in and around 8:30 p.m.

I felt a little bit like a wet dish rag at times but mostly I felt a little bit invigorated as I mentally stroked each one of these "hard things" off of my to-do list. Taking on the day one hard task at a time, I found myself inching my way out of the doldrums I have been resting in this past long while.

One hard thing at a time.

My definition of "hard things" has changed. Hard things are things like:
  • getting out of bed
  • making my lunch
  • tending to cat chores
  • taking out garbage/recycling
  • brushing my teeth
  • tossing a load of laundry into the washing machine
I am happy to say I have added a few extra hard things onto my list and so far (four days in) I'm taking on one or two more hard things per day. 
  • exercising
  • vacuuming before I exercise so I don't come out of the experience spitting cat hair
  • writing
Yes, writing has become hard. I hope to resume my previous habit of writing each and every day. Even if it is only a little. A small habit, repeated becomes a better life (as long as the habit is a positive one).

I need to incorporate cleaning into this new positive habit forming lifestyle I am trying to rebuild. But hey! Rome wasn't built in a day.

This morning, my additional "hard thing" to do, was to clean the bathtub. I was a tiny bit certain that a bad run of bathtub cleaning products that I didn't like was the beginning of the end of having a clean tub. A bad spray nozzle. A foul smelling product. The inability to empty three almost empty bathroom cleaners. The repetitive nature of the job. Cleaning a tub is a little like making a bed. Why bother? It's just going to get used again.

But after acting on an impulse to purchase the bathroom cleaner my aunt's housekeeper specifically requested, I finally (six months later?!) bought this lovely product:


With this (even lovelier) feature:


It sat unused in the bathroom cupboard for a few weeks before I took it on its maiden voyage this morning. And the job didn't hurt a bit. If I still like it after the can is empty, I may add one more positive new thing to my new, renovated life. 

Does anyone out there have any tips, tricks or products that alleviates some of the pain of housecleaning? If so, please let me know. I need all the help I can get.

One hard thing at a time. I may be able to find who I used to be in here somewhere.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Let There Be Light!

As I saw the last of daylight slip away yesterday, I had to take a picture. This is what it looked like at 5:55 p.m. on January 15th:


I googled this when I got home. Yesterday was 8:16:31 hours long. We have gained 32 minutes since our shortest day. It may still be cold and snow and wintery outside. But the sun is staying out a little bit longer each day. We are gaining ground. 

I've changed my mind about January. I used to feel it was the longest, coldest, dreariest month of the year. I wish to amend that to December. 

We are still losing daylight hours in December. It contains the shortest day and all the shortest days around it. There is all that Christmas season "stuff" to contend with. 

It's always darkest before the dawn. I am starting to feel the effects of sunshine. Let there be light!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Exercise First!

In keeping with yesterday's post and theme, here is a picture of the way my morning has started:


Yes. I did it. I found some Beachbody exercise videos with Debbie Sieber on YouTube. Debbie Sieber's DVD's were my initiation into early morning exercise habit a decade or more ago. So when I found her and tried out one of her core busting routines yesterday [note to self: "Your core is busted!"], I knew she will be part of my way back home.

Yesterday's trial run at exercising in the living room was a good start. I found out where I'm at and know I have a long road ahead. "This" didn't happen overnight. So it won't change quickly or easily. All I can do is start to reinstate some good habits back into my life and be satisfied that I am doing the next right thing. One day at a time.

So the second thing I did, was decide to make some homemade chicken soup with the leftover chicken bones from Christmas.

It was easy to throw the bones into a pot and simmer lightly all afternoon. One quick text to my son who was at work (he works in the produce department of a nearby grocery store) and all I had to do was wait for him to come home and our soup would be a peel, chop and a boil away from completion.


I thought my intention was clear. What do you think? How much celery would you have picked up if you received this message? This is what my son came home with:


Two "bunches" of celery. I moaned with the idea of so much celery in the house. He said, "If you would have said 'two sticks of celery', I would have known what you meant."

He disappeared downstairs momentarily and googled the term "stalk of celery" to find out he was right. I knew I had been calling one "stick" of celery a "stalk" for as long as I have had the need to describe an amount of celery. So I had to double check his facts:


"We were both right!" I gleefully announced. We chuckled at the miscommunication as the soup with all its added vegetables started to simmer and finish cooking on the stove.

I was quite hungry by this time since I had not snacked the afternoon away. So I decided to snack on celery and dip as a first course to our chicken soup supper. It sounded so good that my son decided to go for some peanut butter on his celery.

I ran out of chips three days prior and I have missed the sensation of something crunching between my teeth, so the celery provided some satisfaction as I snacked on my rabbit food before supper.

The excess celery in our home may end up reinforcing a good snacking habit. But honestly? The first thing I thought when I saw so much celery in one eyeful was to send out the message, "Caesar's anyone??"

Since I don't have vodka or clamato juice OR any of the required seasonings to make a Caesar in the house, I think we'll stick with salad dressing and peanut butter to help alleviate our excess celery.

One good habit at a time. It's all a person can do. I'm starting "Day 2" and feeling better already. The universe is helping me along. Two bunches of celery did not walk into this house on their own. It was meant to be.

Exercise first. Write second. And in the writing, I had an opportunity to relay a silly little story to remind me that laughter is a very important ingredient in living a good life. I feel better already...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Welcome to My Morning - Chapter One

Here is a picture of the moment I'm in:

Jan 14, 2018

It is a good moment. 

It is eerily similar to another photo I accidentally inserted into this post and was startled to see our cats were missing:

Oct 22, 2017

What is different besides the addition of a few cats, an unfinished puzzle and some place mats for the table? The difference is in the way I feel.

In October, I was still working in a state of hyper drive. I felt focused. I had a defined purpose, things to do, ongoing obligations and a sense that when I accomplished all I had to do, I would feel completely at peace.

What has happened instead, is after I did all I had to do with dealing with Mom's estate and no reason to return to her home, I am wandering through my life aimlessly. Without purpose. Without intention. Without a driving force to propel me into action and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

I have used up all my excuses to stay withdrawn from life as I know it. I am doing what must be done to get through the day. I am fulfilling my obligations to the world in a half hearted, lack lustre way. 

I have been in contact with a few friends this past week and as I summarized the lethargy I'm feeling, I was surprised to find I am not alone. 

Once our conversations switched from a superficial "I'm fine, thanks. And how are you?" and we started talking "real", I heard my thoughts, feelings and emotions echoed by those I call my friends.

We are of similar age and somewhat similar stages in our lives. We are hovering in our later 50's, retirement is either a reality or something we hope to attain in some way or another within a ten year time frame.

As I relaxed and let the words spew from my mouth with abandon, I heard myself saying, 

"I know I will most likely have to work until the day I die, but I have reached a point where I want what I do, to have meaning. It is less about the pay cheque and more about doing something that has purpose. I want to recreate what was good about my daycare years. I want to turn my home into my work place. I want people to come and go through our door again. I want to create a business where our home is an oasis in the Saskatchewan prairie landscape, where it nurtures and houses others, while it creates a drive within me so I want to cook, clean, maintain and enjoy our home again."

I have been through this phase many times before. This is the part of my life where the life as I knew it was upended and I had to reinvent myself and start anew. It has always been hard and uncomfortable. Each and every time. But when I came out the other side of this evolution, I was always, always grateful for all that had brought about the unwanted, unplanned but necessary metamorphosis.

This time is different. I told my friend, 

"I'm running out of story lines. I don't want to write another chapter within this little life of mine, let alone a book!"

I heard a version of "Amen, Sister" from my friend's reply. We thought we were done with the hard stuff. We are in our later 50's, gosh darn it!! We thought we had already earned our wings. We are ready to fly. We don't want to reinvent ourselves, our world, our livelihood and our sense of purpose. Again. We've been there, we've done that!

C'mon, Life. Really now? What do you have in store for us? It must be very good because this cocoon feels like one of the hardest ones I've had to break free of.

I know some reinvention is necessary. This is debilitating. I must return to that which worked for me in the past, to get me up off the couch, away from the chips and chocolate and moving towards taking a leap of faith off a new cliff.

I need an action plan. 

I will start by writing regularly. I have written my way through every hard transition I've walked through. Writing is my therapy.

I must start moving again. Exercise is nature's very own anti-depressant. It will be soooo hard. But I must. I will try. I will.

I have a doctor's appointment made. I skipped my annual physical this past year but now is as good as an excuse as any to check in with my doctor and tend to my body. 

I will tell my doctor that I feel I am fighting a depression see where that conversation takes me. As I said, this feeling is not new to me. But the hole feels broader and so much more comfortable than it has felt in the past. My children are growing independent of me. I have fewer years ahead of me, than I have behind me and I am losing the battle to fight for myself. 

I may need to find some tools to help me beyond this moment. I have a deep seated feeling that this will not be the last time life presents an "opportunity" to reinvent myself.

The worst part of all of the above is the level of comfort I am feeling within this safe little cocoon of mine. I don't know if I really want to fly any more. I just want to coast.

But I want to enjoy the view. Whether I'm flying or simply coasting effortlessly through these next years. I want to enjoy the view.

There is still much work to be done. My story is far from over. I may as well create a good one while I'm at it.

Welcome to my next new chapter. It is not my last, so I may as well call it what it is: 
"Chapter One" (again)...

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dear Mom (Dec 31/17)

Sun, Dec 31/17

Dear Mom,

Today marks the end of "2017". It has been a year I will never forget...

I have been grateful to be spending this time in your home. It is the last time "you" will play host to me. It's been relaxing and so peaceful here as I have squandered these days away.

It's been beastly cold and as I wavered between staying or going yesterday, I could hear you say, "Stay another day...what do you have to hurry home for?" So I stayed.

I had hoped the extra day would give the weather a chance to break but it doesn't look like that is going to happen until tomorrow. What would you say about that?

I've puttered away a little bit while I've been here. Nothing extraordinary and I most definitely didn't break a sweat. But a wipe here, a swipe there and I stumbled upon a glass picture of an owl in a downstairs window. I think I'll bring it home with me...

As I sat still and gazed out your living room window to enjoy the view you saw evolve over the years (and most especially this past one), tears fell from my eyes. I've been wandering through these days as if I were you, taking everything in, listening to the walls speak .

Laughter and voices of those who have come through these doors are ringing in my ears. Your home holds so much history. Laughter, joy, pain and sorrow ... but most of all, this house lives and breathes "family".

A family united. Throughout it all, you were the constant. So many people came and went. Company was welcomed with open arms - "Everyone brings joy to this house ... some when they come ... others when they leave". This slightly paraphrased plaque Trev gave you said it all.

You welcomed everyone who came to call. Everyone. The coffee was always on, even if it wasn't coffee. "A cuppa...", as May would say.

Derek's family were going to be your last guests. At first, you were simply resigned to the idea even though you weren't up to company. You perked up when you decided you would like to have an assortment of fruit to offer them. You chose the selection - pineapple, strawberries, grapes, banana. "Don't get them yet, though. Wait until the day before they arrive..."

I never did pick up that fruit. You ended up in the hospital the morning Derek's family was due to arrive. Throughout your hospital stay and (almost) until your dying day, you kept asking me if I had picked up that fruit yet.

A host to the bitter end. That was who you were. Your door was open, the coffee was on and your offer of a "B & C" (bed and coffee) was always available.

Your clock would be chiming 8:00 right now. Your walls are talking to me again. I can hear your voice as we called it a night. "What time shall we say? 8 o'clock?", as we decided a reasonable time to get up the next morning.

I remember those last mornings when I sat at your table, watching for your bathroom light to come on, signalling the beginning of another day with you. It didn't happen. I knew it wouldn't, but I wished for it so...

I think of you every time your clock chimes 8 a.m. It isn't quite the same now that your clock is in my home but it is close. The sense of smell can take you back to another time and place. The sense of sound is a close second.

I must pack up and remove all traces of my presence very soon now. I will be thinking of you. I will wear your angel on my shoulder for my drive home and hope you can guide me home safely.

I will miss you, Mom. Thanks for everything. You were everything to me. The idea of flipping the calendar page to a brand new year without you brings tears to my eyes.

Rest easy. All is well here on earth. We miss you (but the letting go is a little harder than it sounds).

All my love,
Colleen

Friday, December 15, 2017

I'm Listening...

I am desperately seeking direction right now. This morning, these are the messages that found their way into my consciousness:

Compliments of my daily email compliments of ProjectHappiness.com, this was the first of four affirmations I was destined to read today:

2016: The Caterpillar
2017: The Cocoon
2018: The Butterfly

"Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it began to fly. Trust the seasons of your life ..."

Because I started following "Goalcast" on Facebook, the next three found their way into my line of vision:

"Always remember your focus determines your reality" ~ George Lucas 
https://www.goalcast.com/2017/12/14/george-lucas-star-wars-making-masterpiece/

"When the whole world is silent, even one voice is powerful" ~ Malala Yousafzai
https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1672631226147394/?hc_ref=ARSgRXLr3ol3zjNRmRxKpxZTGXhkmqtfnyH01H6jF4X3KBb-bcXa771BHXkLRv82Ieo&fref=nf

"It is not over. Matter of fact, it just begun" ~ Lisa Nicols
https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1669663696444147/?hc_ref=ARSgRXLr3ol3zjNRmRxKpxZTGXhkmqtfnyH01H6jF4X3KBb-bcXa771BHXkLRv82Ieo&fref=nf

I must be at the beginning of something brand new. Is this how a butterfly feels before it works its way out of its cocoon? If so, I must commend that fragile butterfly for continuing to forge ahead when it must feel uncomfortable and scary.

Change is on its way. I am not a big fan of change...