Thursday, July 31, 2014

Surrender

"Take care of YOU first ... surrender to the moment and just trust that the tides will take you where you most need to be (sometimes desperate moments take us to hard places ... but just the right place??)"

I seem to be finding myself in a place of listening to those I know well, going through some of their life's greatest struggles.

I cannot begin to imagine what it feels like to walk (or even stand still) in their shoes, but I remember the times when life brought me to my knees. And all that I can think of are the times when all I could do, was surrender to the moment. Alanon wisely implanted the words into my mind "Let go and let God..."

When you have done all that you know how to do and feel powerless as to the outcome, perhaps that is exactly when you need to stop and surrender to whatever the outcome may be as it unfolds. 

One never knows what energy and coping tools you may need until you are standing right in the middle of the worst-case-scenario. In my personal experience, it is at that crisis point that I am at my strongest. Adrenaline kicks in and takes me through the worst of times. It is only when I am standing safely on the other side of that quicksand that had the ability to pull me under, that my knees start to shake as I wonder what to do now that I have made it to the other side.

I tend to be able to keep my emotions in check when walking through fire. Fight or flight. I feel invincible when faced with those moments of crisis. Why is it that as I sit here and let those moments come to mind, it is my children that I have been fighting for? Always my children. Even when fighting for myself, underneath it all, I was truly fighting for my children. And this is exactly who those-I-know-well are fighting for.

We can be so very strong when waging a war for our children. We seem to be able to do and say and be all that we need to be in those moments of crisis. But in the end, we are so very often completely powerless over the final outcome. 

When you make it safely to the other side of that quicksand and feel like every forward step you take from that point on could pull you under, where do you go? What do you do? How do you make it to the next point of stability?

These are the words that fall off of my fingertips as I try to find words of comfort:

"Just glide ... gently glide and let life take you where you most need to be. Do not place any extra demands on yourself besides wafting in and around where your heart guides you. Sometimes? We just have to surrender. This is all out of your control. You cannot do more than you have already done and are doing.  Be gentle with yourself. Grab your oxygen mask..."


Grab your oxygen mask and don't be afraid to lean on a friend or two. As I have stood outside the circle of support of families I know, going through a crisis, I envision each of them leaning in towards a mid-point, as the poles of a tee-pee come together in the middle and forge a structure that becomes stronger together.

I think that Mr. Da Vinci understood this concept well:

 An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength.” 
~ Leonardo Da Vinci

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Be it Ever So Humble ...

... there is NO place like home!!

I feel like I have been on a whirlwind trip and I have finally 'touched down' on home turf again. And I simply could not be happier.

Due to a slight change of plans, the next phase of my holidays have me grounded on familiar territory. I couldn't have planned it, didn't dare hope for it but if you simply surrender to it, 'life happens' and takes you where you most need to be, exactly when you need to be there.

People all around me are being dealt the harshest of blows. I am so incredibly blessed to be living a life where I wake up in the morning to a day where I pretty much know what to expect.

I love waking up in the morning and finding myself where I most want to be. I feel like Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz". Every day.

There is no place like home. There is no place like home. There is no place like home!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another Angel to Watch Over Us

Okay, Life! Enough is enough already. What is with all of this illness, pain and death that you keep tossing our way? Can you please stop? Now? Please ...

My brother saw this day coming many years ago. Our mom and dad's family are aging and his prediction was we could lose a lot of our family in a (seemingly) short time. The time has arrived. 

My mom and I stopped to visit her sister last week. Her sister has been in the hospital for (over) three and a half months. We have been expecting 'the worst' for most of that time. But time and time again, she rallied back and surprised us. But as I wrote to my brother after our visit with my aunt last week, I said "... in my humble opinion, it looks like she may be all out of surprises."

She took her last breath yesterday morning.

It is very hard to watch someone struggle to live when you are used to seeing them vital and happy. I am grateful that I knew my aunt as well as I did, which is in a great part due to 'collecting memories' for my mom's family (almost) seven years ago.

I went to my aunt's home and she arranged to have another aunt meet us there, along with her daughter. Oh, the memories of that day. We laughed and we laughed. Then we laughed some more. 

I (personally) believe that my aunt married into the right family. Her husband has a twinkle in his eye, joy in his heart and laughter in his voice. Each and every time I get together with my cousins in this family the memories are filled with laughter. They have so many memories seasoned with humor. 

My closest-cousin (we feel more like sisters) is from this family. The last few times that I have gotten together with this cousin, she has always said "Let's invite Mom and Dad along with us!" or "Let's stop by and see Mom and Dad while we are there!" She naturally included her parents in our plans. So I have the bonus of those extra memories to add to my arsenal. 

I can only imagine the memories her parents accumulated because of the inclusive and giving nature of their family. In fact, this weekend they were already planning a reunion on their parent's farm. My aunt would not have been able to join them because she was in such a weakened state. It is my hope that she can join them 'in spirit' and everyone can fall back and remember her when she was healthy and full of life instead of the way I last saw her.

When all is said and done, what we leave behind is our memories. My aunt was a part of oh-so-many joyous and fun-filled gatherings. Her life was focused on family and faith. She was surrounded by both throughout her last days. 

When your health fails you, faith, family and community can carry you and your loved ones through the darkest of days. May you be smiling down upon those who are missing you and filled with a lightness of spirit which will fill the hearts of those you loved.

You will be missed.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Country Roads, Take Me Home!

Seventy six hours is all that it was ... but it felt like so much more.

We left our home just a little after 9:00 a.m. four days ago. We returned in and around 1:00 p.m. yesterday. I simply could not wait to get home and sit quietly by myself, process my thoughts and let all of the good stuff sift to the top. Unfortunately, I fell asleep. Each and every time I sat still. I fell asleep. But here are a few things that I learned:
  1. Take your cell phone with you wherever you may go. You just never know when  you may get locked in a bathroom. The amusing part of this story (to me) is that my two sons and my mom were outside the door trying everything in their 'bag of tricks' to rescue me. Nothing was working and we simply didn't have the tools to dismantle the door knob. No matter how many times I asked, no one would simply call the front desk to ask for assistance. After many pleas, my Youngest Son finally heard me and within moments help was on its way. 
  2. Stop and enjoy the view when stopped for a red light on a highway. The most serene moments can be those that are thrust upon you as you are busy rushing down the life's roadways. 
  3. Life does not have to be all sunshine and roses to be fun and memorable. It was rainy at times, windy at others and mostly overcast. I will take rain over snow any day in July. I enjoy wind because the mosquitoes disappear on a windy day. I enjoy nature providing a natural source of shade on a cloud-covered day. Life is not about the weather - it is about carrying your own piece of sunshine within and making memories to take home and savor on those very same cloud-filled days when you get back home.
  4. Parting is such sweet sorrow. Share the moment with others and leave on a positive note. Our group was large (thirty nine, out of a possible fifty four family members attended our little reunion) and one would think 'one' would not make a difference. But 'one' does. One may leave and another may arrive but a fingerprint was left by each individual person who could make it. And even those who couldn't...
  5. If you want people to remember your name, make an impact in some way. Go BIG and you will be remembered. One little dynamo was here, there and everywhere throughout our three-day-reunion. No one will forget him. I choose to remember him by a moment at the onset of our family gathering. He was asked, "Is ____ your cousin?"; his response was "He is my family!" In my mind, he coined a phrase which encapsulated our gathering. "We are family!"

The best thing that happened to me during our little reunion, was being locked in that bathroom. I was being swept up in negativity and was feeling the need for some alone-time. I love how life 'answers your prayers'. I could see the humor in the situation immediately and laughing snapped me back into a better place. I wanted to be alone - and there I was. No way for me to get out and no way (barring knocking down the door) for anyone to get in. That broken door knob gave me the gift of what I needed.

The red light on the highway felt like it took an eternity to turn green on our way to our reunion. I simply could not wait to arrive. We hit the same red light on our way home. I was just as anxious to get home. But I stopped to take a few pictures. I spotted my sister's motorhome two cars behind us. We were not alone. We were headed home. The red light stopped me in my tracks (once again) and shouted "Savor this moment!"

When life stops you in your tracks, listen. What silent plea is being answered? Perhaps you cannot recognize anything but an inconvenience. But you simply never know what that 'inconvenience' could bring. Stopping and enjoying the view, taking a moment to breathe could be just what you didn't know you needed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Breathe

Deep inhale. Hold it. Deep exhale. Relax. Breathe in. Breathe out. And so the 'holiday' begins.

I am not quite sure what the fuss is all about with this 'holidaying' thing that seems to have swept the nation. It doesn't seem to matter who you talk to - rich or poor; young or old; families or singles. Everyone wants to go somewhere.

I don't get it. Why do you have to go away to consider it a holiday?

The definition of holiday to me is: Doing whatever it is that you cannot normally do within your day-to-day life.

To me, this means (in my quiet little sheltered corner of the world):
  • Quiet. Simply ... quiet (hush, you are thinking too loud!)
  • Follow wherever the tide takes you ... no set design or structure to the day. Just go with the flow
  • Turning off whatever you need to turn off (cell phones, computer, the TV, your brain, housework, errands - anything that normally drives your day and your life - just turn it off
  • Shred the to-do-lists; leave the house without running an errand; quit racing against the clock!
  • Feed a passion - sing, dance, write, create, think, walk, run ... whatever it is that makes you come alive. Just do it!
  • Nourish yourself - the more content I am, the less I eat. I don't crave sugar, salt or fatty food when I have fed my passions and turned off the clock. The less junk food I eat, the more I crave real, solid sustenance. The more 'real' food I eat, the better I feel. It is a win-win situation.
  • Keep it light. Find something that tickles your funny bone and laugh out loud. By yourself. There is nothing better than finding something so funny that you are laughing out loud in a room, all by yourself.
  • Season lightly with family, friends and people who bring you up. Once you are full, you have more to give to the world. Try not to overdo it, but if you have a family reunion (for example) to attend try to go into it feeling full and fulfilled.
I can do all of the above, simply by staying home and announcing to 'my world' that I am vacationing quietly in the oasis right here within my own home. 

I have just savored four days of quiet and going-with-the-flow. I filled myself up and I could tell that I was overflowing because I was also feeling the need to 'reach out and touch someone'. I welcomed those who tread lightly and dared to enter (people know me too well, and when they see me enter my 'cocoon' stage they tend to respect that time that I need to find my 'inner butterfly'). 

I think I'm ready to go spread my wings and fly now. It is time to leave my quiet little cocoon and do hard things. I must go and do the whole 'holiday thing' that everyone is talking about. It will be good. I know it will. 

I am simply grateful for two things:
  1. I am going into this next phase on 'full'
  2. I get to come back home when all of this is over
It is not the vacation most people dream about but for me, it is the dream vacation. Turning off life-as-I-know-it and inhaling the days.

It is a vacation that fits most budgets. Try it. You just may like it. I did! For me, this is enough.

There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” 
~ G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ten Reasons I Do Not Want to Live to 100

Dr. Oz's Longevity Checklist got me to thinking. Does a person really want to live to see 100?

My initial reaction was "NO WAY!" Let me count the ways:
  1. I can't afford to work that long. Yes, working is my retirement plan and I honestly don't want to work for the rest of my life, if my life is now just barely half over.
  2. I would not have an excuse to leave a messy or cluttered house. As my life stands at the moment, people would fully understand the clutter. "She has been busy and active - she was doing more important things than cleaning". If I live to one hundred, there would be no excuse.
  3. If I live to one hundred, I will run out of stories. I will bore my friends and family to tears ...
  4. Then again, if I live that long I could outlive far too many people that I assume will be here 'just as long as I will be', or longer. I cannot begin to imagine the feeling of living longer than those I turn to and count on, in my life.
  5. I would probably have to move. I am all for downsizing and keeping life simple. In fact, that very fact may make #2 redundant. I would have an excuse to clean and declutter. Who needs that kind of excuse?
  6. I would have to be able to keep up with technology. I have managed to 'adopt' a new Smart TV, a PVR, a new computer and I am presently trying to upgrade my antivirus protection. My technology skills are almost tapped. If I still had forty seven years left to live, I would have to replace all-that-I-have-just-learned-how-to-use and start all over (I am still figuring out the new cell phone that is now one year old).
  7. I will have to renew my antivirus protection forty seven more times (AAAAACK! I have been fighting with this process for the entire morning on my pathetically slow netbook and the tediousness of this process is exasperating. I cannot do this every year for forty seven more years!!).
  8. Which means, I will probably end up getting a new lap top (another new learning curve) when finances allow.
  9. This blog may go on for eternity! Oh no...
  10. So I will have to change the name of this blog to "Life as I Knew It"
Maybe it's not all bad. What do you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Holidays - Day #4

It is Tuesday. It still feels like a Sunday. The holiday pixie dust is working its magic. I feel ... light.

I like the holiday pace of my world. I am simply succumbing to my body and mind's cues and letting them direct me wherever I need to go.

Yesterday, in and around 1:00, I started to feel waves of exhaustion hit me. It took me a few minutes but I eventually reminded myself "You are on holidays! You can do whatever it is that you want/need to do!"

So, I reclined on the love seat, turned on the TV and the next thing I knew, I was waking up to Dr. Oz telling me the 'Ten Tips to Longevity'. His original question was "Would you like to live to 100, if you were healthy and your brain was still functioning well?" My thought was an instant, "NO!" I cannot afford to live off of my 'retirement savings' (aka: work income) that long. I do not want to work to age 100! Puh-lease!!

But I listened to him anyway because as long as I do exist, I do want to be healthy, hearty and have a brain that runs on all cylinders.

Do you know one of the 'Top Ten'? "Nap! - it lowers your stress levels" Yee-haw!! That one is easy. I do it all of the time!!

Do you know another one? "Go to bed one hour earlier every night"- now, if you keep doing that every single night, I don't know exactly when you would have time to be awake but .... I have that one down pat as well. My bedtime of 8 to 9 p.m. serves me well.

Another? "Laugh (at least 20 times per day)" - I love to laugh. I am drawn to people and situations that are light and easy. Just what I need! Doctor's Orders directing me to find humor within my day. I like this medication!

He also tells you to "Eat purple foods"- it helps keep your brain connections 'connected' and each side of the brain talking to each other. Apparently purple candy does not count, but red wine does. If I add wine to my day I am not certain just how I will manage to stay awake long enough to get what has to be done in a day. But I'm thinking that life could look much more humorous if I had a glass of red wine with breakfast. I could add it to my morning smoothy (do you think my daycare parents would approve?).

He had more but I don't remember them. I need to eat more purple foods so that I can retain this train of thought and wisdom that the good doctor so kindly shared with me as I woke up from my life-affirming snooze.

On that note, I must move forward with this day. I have car keys to drop off and a book to tend. I am not making the progress that I had hoped to make but I am not letting that stop me in my tracks. If one chapter is not working for me, I have been putting it aside and working on another. If that one doesn't work, I have started the editing process. This time, I have started from the end of the book and I am working towards the middle. I am not quite sure how that will work for me but I need to find a strategy that helps me rewire my brain to find that-which-I-have-not-yet-seen before. Maybe I should have a glass of red wine to help me with that...

If you wish to find the remaining six items on Dr. Oz's Longevity check list, you can do so right here: Dr Oz's - longevity checklist. Or you can rip a page out of my book and stick to the 'top four' on that list if you can't afford to live into the turn of your next century. Your choice.

Happy Tuesday! Make it your mission to laugh (at least) twenty times today.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Power of a Phone Call

I love this world we live in!

I picked up the phone approximately four or five minutes ago and crossed three items off of my to-do-list. And I did not have to take one step outside of my home to do so!!

I whined to my brother about my vibrating car in an early morning email. He texted me: "It could be as simple as balancing your tires". His advise on my second car with the dead battery: "Batteries are cheap".

I have a wonderful garage and mechanic at the end of my block. I impatiently waited until 8:00 (8:04 to be more precise - I didn't want to bother them on the stroke of 8:00) to call.

"Can I bring my car [that vibrates] in today or tomorrow? I think it may just need the tires balanced." His answer? "We can do that tomorrow!"

"I have a second car stranded in the garage with a dead battery ..." His response? "That is no problem - you just live down the street, right? I put in a new battery for you. I just don't know if it will be today or tomorrow."

Ta-da!! Two cars 'fixed' - simply by making a phone call!!

Second phone call "Can I pay my bill over the phone?" Her answer, "Sure, I'm ready when you are!"

Suddenly my load feels a lot lighter. And I didn't have to leave the house to make it happen. It is a 'win' every which way you look at it.

It is going to be a stress-less Monday, after all.

Holidays - Day #3 - Monday

I woke up to face a Monday today.

Monday, while you are on holidays are supposed to be the most marvelous day. It is the day to think "Five minutes from now, my work-day would begin. Instead, here I sit in my pj's, with my third cup of coffee and an empty slate before me ..."

That is what I thought yesterday. And the day before. Today? I have two un-roadworthy cars sitting in the driveway (okay, okay ... the one with a dead battery has been stranded in the garage for about a month). Which one would be cheaper to fix? The one I can't move out of the garage ...

Aaaack!

Then there is the wasp's nest under the front step. Why did they have to move there?? What will happen if I simply ignore them?

There are phone calls to be made, groceries to be bought, menus to organize and errands to be run. Insert sigh of exasperation here.

I know all that I have to do is take one forward step and each and every one of these minute things-to-do will be done and over with. But the kicker is, I have to leave the house to do so. I don't want to leave the house! Not until Wednesday!! I wasn't supposed to have to leave the house until Wednesday.

Hmmmmm...

Maybe, just maybe ... I could stay home today, if I used the car that shimmies and vibrates if I exceed 90 kph, by driving 90 kph or less throughout my holiday. Who wants to go faster than that on a holiday anyway? Really?? Besides, the car does go 100 kph after it warms up to the idea. I can't remember what happens by the time I reach the highway speed of 110 kph. I think I was at my destination before I reached that point.

It may be cheaper to buy a new car battery for the other car.

I wonder if I can do that on Wednesday??

Even on holidays, Mondays kind of suck.

Excuse me while I go and pretend none of this reality exists. I am going to disappear into my room-with-a-door and pretend it is Sunday. I am on holidays. I am allowed!

P.S. At least my laundry is done...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Holidays - Day #2

If peaceful dreams and a calm night's sleep are indicative of anything, I would say that Day #1 of my holidays was exactly what I needed.

So far, my holidays have consisted of cleaning, eating home-cooked meals (not snacks), puttering with my Book Project and solitude.

I have not take a step out of the house that was further than the playhouse in the back yard. I have not talked to a soul (does a two minute conversation with my sister count, as I helped her with a clue which would help her answer one of her 'Security Questions' in case you forget your password??).

I have simply been quiet and nourished my body and soul with what is already all around me.

I didn't accomplish what I hoped to do yesterday. I didn't 'write' (or organize anyone else's words) a thing. Yesterday, I was immersed in photos. A few of my uncle's stories are very well supported and illustrated with pictures. So many pictures. If a picture is worth a thousand words, they have an encyclopedia within their chapter.

I was pleased with the final result of my organizing when I shut off my brain last night. My little netbook does not have the capability to do 'hard things' after 9:00. No wonder I like it so much. That little netbook and I have much in common.

I was disheartened by my lack of progress yesterday. I did work that doesn't show. I would have done this (or something like it) at some point. I wouldn't have wanted to rush it. I saw something within each of my uncles that I hadn't noticed before. Simply by immersing myself in the pictures that were at my disposal.

If my life was illustrated by the pictures that already exist, what would I see? It would depend upon the snapshot that was chosen. I am so very serious so much of the time. My 'default face' is somber and somewhat sullen. Yet, I have seen that very same face transformed when I see pictures taken of me at the dance studio, when I am with friends or family or any time I am following my passion.

If someone was to rifle through the pictures-of-your-life, what would they see? If we don't like what we see, we have the ability to transform ourselves from this point, on. If we like what we see, we can look for ways to ignite that spark in new ways.

Pictures tell a story. What do you see when you look at the photo album of your life?
When I went looking for a picture-of-me to illustrate my point, this is the very first one I came upon. I was on a balloon ride, looking down upon the world and very deep in thought. Yup. It's me. You can add this one to my file.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Holiday - Day One

I woke up with my alarm this morning, all ready and set to start my holiday. The only thing is ... I need to unpack my Negativity Suitcase in order to make room for Positive and Fun.

I have walked into this holiday with a little excessive heaviness that I need to unload. So I emailed my brother and released a lot of words there that were not fit for human consumption. Now I am ready to begin! (And how are you feeling now, Brother? Are you feeling the need to start your own blog to release some of that heaviness and place it back on my shoulders??)
  • House - clean and tidy ü
  • Room-with-a-door is office ready ü 
  • Checked my negative attitude at the door (still working on it)
I am not a big fan of over-commitment and at the onset of this holiday, that is exactly where I am at. Did you ever start a vacation wishing it was over? No?? Oh. Me either!

My internal agenda is telling me to tie up all loose ends in Real Life by 9:00 this morning, so that I can segue into the part of my holiday that I am most looking forward to. Sorry. My hermit-wannabe-quality is rearing its ugly head. It will go away once I feed it.

I think that is the key. To feed that which needs to be fed. I am so very glad that I am feeding my need for quiet, isolation, reflection and warm fuzzy family memories first. This will be the best appetizer for the holiday which I have set before me.

I have been too 'out there' lately. I want to come back home and stay 'inside' for a while. And that is exactly what I am going to do.

I am going to be fine. I am going to be more than fine. I just need a little bit of time alone to remember who I am and not who I am trying to be.

I'll be back!

Friday, July 18, 2014

It is Time for a Holiday

All computer-related deadlines and to-do-lists have been tended. This morning is mine, to do with as I please (for the next hour, anyway). It pleases me to sit here with my cup of coffee and write. Do I have anything to say, is the question?

As I sit here and stare at this empty canvas computer screen, it seems that I am wordless. No, I take that back. I have a million thoughts pinging around in my head. And I can't seem to pin them down and make them go away.

The week has felt very occupied. Last week, I felt like I was walking through sludge as I tended to this, that and the other thing at each day's end. I felt very light and easy walking into this week. A new computer on the horizon and no errands to run.

The new computer altered our universe just a bit. My Son has been on our new computer most of his waking hours. I know that he would gladly step away if I asked him to, but I haven't had the need (or desire) to ask because it seems that my evenings have been taken up. With conversation.

I have had long and meaningful conversations, light and easy coffee talk and a small handful of "I need to talk to you about this" chats, four out of four evenings. It was good. It was all good. But I am simply starting to feel a little tapped out.

Today is my last Daycare Day before my holidays. If you would have asked me five days ago if I needed a holiday, I would have said "No". Ask me that very same question today (and most every day this week) and I would say "I can't wait".

The first four days of this holiday are mine. I didn't think that I would need to do it, but now that this day has come, I do believe that I am going to recreate my Holiday Oasis from last year. My room-with-a-door shall become my writing room. Me, my little netbook computer, a radio and an endless supply of coffee are going to move right into that room and we are going to have one heck of a party-for-one.

I feel like I need a drastic 'disconnect' from the world and I simply want to lose myself in my family book project. That is all that I plan to do with those first four days.

The fifth day is a day of many things. Between my son and me, we have five different appointments that day; we must find our way downtown so that my son can apply for a SIN number; my mom will be arriving that night and I must be packed up and ready to leave the next day.

The next four days will be a family reunion with our (Mom & Dad's) family. It will be fun. It will be memorable. It will be full. I can hear the laughter and feel the contentment of being surrounded by family already. It will be good.

Then I must put in two bookkeeping work-days. A working 'weekend' within my holiday may feel like just the break that I need. Who knows? I do know that I have had (almost) a month's reprieve from my bookkeeping responsibilities and that month has relieved so much pressure. It has given me the time, energy and motivation to make some headway on my book project. So two days, in the middle of my holiday is not such a sacrifice.

That leaves six days left over at the end. I have offered to drive my mom back home after my bookkeeping 'weekend'. I will stay for a few days and visit friends while I am there. It will be very relaxing and fulfilling. It will feel just right, at that point of my holiday.

That leaves a few days left over at the end for My Son. I hope that we can do something together that has the essence of 'holiday'. We cannot put our fingers on exactly what that may be right now, but we are thinking about it. Perhaps it is best to be surprised.

My holiday has not yet begun and I am already feeling tired. It will be a good mix of this, that and the other thing, tossed into a jar with another mixture of 'the same', but different. I do believe that it is a very good recipe for success. If nothing else, it will tire me out so much that I will appreciate going back to work at the end of it all...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Computer, No Computer ...

I was afraid that this may happen. The minute our new computer was compatible with the games that my Youngest Son has been patiently waiting to play (our old computer couldn't handle the stress) ... I have lost my turn at the computer.

The first night was fine. I had grown accustomed to updating my daycare blog on my little (slow but mighty) netbook. I could get my emails on my cell phone. I didn't really have the brainpower to write columns, a daycare newsletter and catch my new computer up on all that I needed to 'tell' it in its absence. Besides, the phone rang and I talked to a friend who I hadn't talked with in ages.

The next night was much the same. By that time, I had started my daycare newsletter and just emailed it to myself so that I could work with it on my netbook while I was outside. Then the evening came? And a friend called who just needed to chat. So? That is what I did.

Tonight. Almost another ditto. I finished off my daycare newsletter and printed it off this morning. Columns are done and sent off to all papers but one. Then the evening came. I thought I'd just settle in with my little netbook and 'talk about my day'. Then ... the phone rang. A friend invited me out for coffee. And that is what I am going to do.

This post was going to be about something. I even  had the final wrap up sentence all figured out. Then the phone rang. I'll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm Back in Business!

It had been ten days since my 'irrecoverable error' on our dear, departed computer. The error where I ran a disc when I (mistakenly) thought I was cleaning up my hard drive (or some appropriate techno-jargon) in a last and final attempt to rid our system of a 'bug' it had picked up. I quite thoroughly and completely erased Windows from our antiquated Windows XP computer instead.

My trusty Computer Guy saved the day. We had been talking about the need to update our old computer and I had been dragging my heels. In fact, I was still kicking and screaming "I cannot afford a new computer right now!" when I was trying every trick in my book and broke our old system.

That very day, he ordered the parts for our new computer. He started building it the following Monday. He picked up our old computer and tried to save what was on it three days later. When I heard from him the following day he was quite optimistic that all was not lost. He said that the files were transferring over when he walked out of the house. Yesterday, our new computer was ready to come 'home' ...

It arrived in all of its glory, with all preexisting files, emails, music, photos, scans, documents, garbage and junk fully intact. My brain is back!!

My Youngest Son has been chomping at the bit, very patiently waiting for me to upgrade our computer so that he could play some of the computer games he I just bought for it. The moment our Computer Guy left, he was on the computer. He was still there when I went to bed last night. I had warned him that I had hours of catch-up-work to do once my Daycare Day was over. He was ready, willing and able to hand the computer over to me at any time. But (as usual) my brain and body quickly shifted into shutdown mode at the end of my day. And here I am this morning.

This computer is fast! I am pretty sure it is faster than our old one. But compared to the netbook and my phone, this one is leaving me behind in the dust. In fact, I think my hair is blowing in the wind that this computer leaves in its wake.

I accidentally slept in twenty minutes later than I had hoped to get up but I am pretty sure that I gained those twenty minutes back once I sat down at the computer and it quickly went where I wanted to go. I sped-read through my morning blogs, installed Google Chrome, the weather eye and tweaked a few minor things so that it is just like I am back at our old computer (because I quite detest change, so I do my best to make all-things-new work exactly like a previously existing model). And I am about a half an hour ahead of where I usually am at this point of the morning.

I now have a small pile of paperwork to tend to as I reacquaint myself with my old friend. I have missed you so ...

Now, I am off to tell our new computer just what we have been up to since we last met. This could take a while.

Point of interest: My Middle Son (and his 'family') left for the 'weekend' on the very same day that I crashed our computer. I hadn't heard from him since (just when I was going to call and ask if they had moved out and forgot to tell me, his girlfriend walked in the door, so I knew all was well). Ironically, My Son dropped by for a few minutes yesterday (the same day our computer came back home) and he asked if was like people said it would be (that we would miss little things about living under the same roof after he moved out). I could tell by the way that he asked the question, that his answer was "Not even a little bit!"and I did reply that I felt safer when there was more coming and going (and a few barking dogs) in our world. But upon realizing that the exact same number of days had passed since our computer left us, I could quite honestly say (because I knew that all was well in my son's world) "I missed the computer more!"

Monday, July 14, 2014

Quiet

I hit the 'Publish' button on yesterday's post and went straight to work on my family's Book Project.

I puttered with that all morning and then kept a promise to my Youngest Son. I took him out to see a movie.

We went straight to the movie and straight home. No errands. No stops along the way. We were back home three hours after we left and walked in the door empty handed.

Once home, my son went about his business. He did his laundry, cleaned his room, then plugged the headphones into his phone so he could watch some YouTube videos. The only sound coming from his room, was that of the hum of the dehumidifier.

I picked up a book and read.

The house was silent, except for the sounds of the clocks ticking, the fridge motor and the noise of my son's laundry and room-cleaning. No music, no TV, no phones, no voices, nothing. It was so peaceful.

I should have picked up the phone and called to clarify a 'research question' (or ten) for The Book Project. But I didn't. I didn't want to have to hold up my end of a conversation. I didn't want to think. I simply wanted to savor the silence.

My son wandered in and out of the living room. We chatted about nothing. I put together a supper meal for him. We sat and had our regular daily dose of Cat-Chat (we can sit and talk mindlessly about our cats and it is akin to staring into a fire - they are such a calming presence).

It was at this point, that I realized that I had not been in contact with anyone all day (besides my morning blog post and suddenly even the thought of those words sounded loud). No phone calls, no texts, no emails, nothing.

My contact with the outside world was silenced for one day. And I think I liked it ...

My holidays begin in five days. This time, last year I was counting down the days until my dream vacation in my Room With a Door. I sequestered myself into the quietest room of the house, closed the door and shut out the world. It was the best holiday I have ever given myself.

This year, I am still taking four days at the onset of my holiday to be quiet, to write and work on my Book Project. But I am not craving the silence in the same way that I was a year ago.

There has been a subtle shift in the tides. I am not so overwhelmed at how-far-I-have-yet-to-go on the Book Project. The house is quiet. My thoughts are riding the waves and I feel so calm within.

I don't have to go anywhere, do anything or see anyone to turn my life into a holiday. I am already living my dream. Within this peaceful oasis of my heart and home...

I can still feel the peace of staring back to the wake of the wide open vastness of the world we left behind as our cruise ship sailed off to a world I had never seen.
That ... is exactly where I am once again. Without taking one step out of our home.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Another New House Concert Experience

Have you ever been just a little bit leery to try something new (again) simply because the first time was so grand that you know nothing could hold a candle to your original experience? Me too.

I accepted the invitation anyway and just trusted I couldn't lose, because I was going to get together with a friend. I looked forward to going out for a cup of coffee at the end of the evening which would wrap up our evening and tie it in a bow. No matter how the evening played out.

Well, the coffee at the end was just as good as I expected it would be. But so was my second House Concert.

Last night, we had the pleasure of meeting the husband and wife duo "Me & the Mrs". They were quietly unassuming (and most likely quite nervous) as they stood before us and without too much of a preamble and introduction, simply started out with a song.

It was like they had to belt out that first tune to get their sea legs and then the banter between the songs started to fill the cracks and you simply could not wait for them to start their next melody.

Each song had a story and I loved how 'Paul' spoke of how his inspiration came and one time he quite literally crammed himself (and his guitar) into the room that was left inside of their car and let the music inside of him come out in his next new song. Then there was the Valentine song he wrote on the sly and surprised 'Heather' on their Valentine's Day performance by singing it 'just for her' in front of their audience ...

I was completely mesmerized by the talent and quiet showmanship of this young couple who appear to fall in love with each other, with each new song.

They ended the evening with a song I wish I could find this morning. It was a little love song that put Sonny & Cher's "I've Got You Babe" to shame. The words, the melody and the sweet way they sang to each other could shoot them to fame if the right person heard it and shared it with the world.

The message I took home with me is: the material things in life are immaterial. Take a good look at the life you are living and look for (and appreciate) the unexpected 'bends in the road' ... remember the days when you had 'nothing' and were the happiest ... and when you find someone who makes your heart sing, sing your song out loud! You just never know who may be listening.

And by all means, if someone invites you to a house concert ... don't look back. Just say "Yes!" and  go!!! (Yes, Brother ... I am talking to you!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Revving Up For the Day

I am revving up for the day ahead of me. I did 'hard things' last night, in preparation for today.

The grass is trimmed and mowed. My hair is washed. The house is vacuumed and evidence of our daycare-week has been erased. I have two errands to run and an evening-out on today's agenda ...

Try as I might, I can never succeed in clearing the slate completely. There is always something left over for another day.

Last week, I felt sluggish all week long because each and every day ended with one-more-hard-thing. Anything that involves leaving the house is 'hard'. Washing my hair is hard.

Last weekend ended with the knowledge that I had not accomplished anything outside of the house and it left me feeling depleted all week. I don't want another week like that.

I simply want to sit on our deck outside at the end of my weekdays and breathe in the quietness of the evening. I want to read, to write and to visit from the comfort of my own home and enjoy that-which-I-have.

I am one week away from my holiday. I do not want my holiday to be consumed with out-of-house excursions. I am taking four days at the beginning of my holiday, to give to myself. I will nourish myself with whatever is in the house and immerse myself in that-which-I-want-to-do. I want to write, polish, edit and finish off Draft #2 of my dad's family's Book Project.

My mind is scattered all across the map and back. It is time to sit still and centre myself. I am going to sit down with my dad's chapter of The Book and see if I can remember the edits that I made last week and lost ...

Sigh ... what is happening to my computer-saving-abilities?!? One of these days I am going to make an error that I am going to regret. My old computer is still out of commission and as of my last update, my computer-guy was optimistic that 'all was not lost'.

Save your work, girl! Even back-ups are not fool-proof. I am learning these lessons along the way but thankfully I have been insulated from Great Loss. So far.

This post took a new turn when I was about to end it. I could edit and shorten it or I could post it as-it-is and just carry on with the day ahead of me.

I have a few chapters in me today. I can feel them coming to the surface. I hope. Maybe I should save my work (how do I save that-which-is-in-my-head?) before I lose that too.

I wrote that sentence then grabbed a scrap of paper so that I could make note of the deep thoughts I was thinking while I mowed the lawn last night. I will want them at-the-ready one day soon...

Gotta end this post-about-nothing and accomplish something with this day.

Happy Saturday to You! May you be doing exactly what you want to be doing with this day. Or at least get it done early enough so that you have a parcel of time at some point, just to sit still and inhale the moment.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Happily Ever After

They were the 'Fred and Ginger' of the dance studio. Maybe not. Were Fred and Ginger a couple off the dance floor? Did a romance ignite when they started dancing together? Maybe they were Cinderella and Prince Charming...

She told me of her story - before and after she met her husband. She had a child-like sense of joy about her when she spoke of her life and he was such a very big part of her story.

They were both single and had never been married. He was 60 when they met and fell in love. From someone who feels like the romance ship has sailed in, out and through their life at the age of 53, I look to my favorite dance couple and marvel at the proven fact that you are never to old to fall in love and start a life together.

She spoke of him and them with a sense of naiveté and wonder. She talked of how they met. She told us of the ways that he listened and gently guided her through her life's journey. She called him "Sweety" ...

I have never known one, without the other. In my eyes, they have been a couple 'forever'. But they weren't. In actuality, they were newlyweds when I first met them. Funny that I didn't realize that at the time. They simply seemed meant for each other.

Destiny and dancing brought these two young souls together and two lives merged into one life together. They are two of the kindest, most caring, giving and fun-loving people I know. I aspired to be part of a couple that emulated the love and joy they had found together.

Their wedding vows saw them through 'in sickness and in health'. The last time I spoke to him, his health was declining and when I asked how he was, his only concern was that of his wife. They had moved out of their house and into a senior's condominium and he was so pleased that his wife was surrounded by a caring community and out of their high maintenance home. She was happy and that (to me) sounded like his greatest joy.

He passed away last week. Last night, his brave and courageous wife got up and spoke about him and her and them in front of a room full of family, friends and community.

She looked so strong and her love for him superseded all else as she told us their love story. Her voice was young and her words were full of life as she remembered the impact that he had made on her life.

I thought that kind of love only happened in fairy tales.

I am grateful to know this couple that fell in love on the dance floor and forged a partnership that carried them through their lives together. And they will live happily ever after, within her heart and all of those who were privileged to know this real life couple that walked straight out of a fairy tale and into our lives...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

To Have and To Hold ~ Precious Memories

I have a stockpile of sympathy cards in my dresser drawer these days. I used to have one or two sitting around. Now? I have a small little selection to choose from when the need arises.

The need has arisen far, far too many times in a very short period of time.

People in my close circle of friends and family are facing devastating losses. There is a continual reminder that our days on earth are precious and can be snatched away at any time. Sometimes there is a warning, sometimes there is not.

There is no easy way to lose a loved one. Whether the loss is though death, divorce, separation or irreconcilable differences. Living a life without someone that you are accustomed to have walking at your side is hard to fathom until it becomes your reality.

I feel like such a fraud as I walk with friends and family who are mourning their loss. Life has insulated me from heartache on so very many levels.

We lost dad so very gradually. We lost his essence long before he died due to the severe brain damage after his near fatal heart attack. I know there was a time that my grief was new and raw. But it was so very, very long ago.

Over the course of the past five years or more, I have been drawn to blogs dealing with the aftermath of loss. I couldn't figure out why I needed to read what these people had to say ... until recently. These blogs have given me a perspective that I didn't have. They have helped me understand (as much as one can understand each person's unique way of grieving) so that I feel like I can (if nothing else) at least not say the wrong things.

Assembling and writing my dad's family's story has been nothing short of cathartic for me. I have waded through my dad's memories and immersed myself completely. If I didn't feel 'healed' before, I feel reborn after this experience.

I know that everyone's time frame, in living through their grief, is different. The time when they are ready to immerse themselves fully in the essence of a loved one. I can only know what has worked for me and the magic of putting stories and pictures together has been beyond healing.

Now that I am coming out the other side of this Book of Family Memories project, I know where I want to go next. I want to write love stories. One story at a time. I want to help others articulate their story on paper so they can read it, touch it, share it and feel it whenever the need arises. It could be a private memoir for them to have and hold. It could be given to a child, grandchild or someone that they have adopted into their heart like a family member. Or it could simply be 'put out there' for the world to see.

When we put our heart on the line, we take a great risk. Sometimes it gets broken. Other times that love divides and grows and becomes more than one could have ever imagined. Often, both of those things are happening simultaneously as the ebbs and flows and tides of life are ever changing.

When your heart is aching because you miss someone, it is a comfort to be surrounded in the memories of the long and winding road that it took to know someone so well that you feel like you are missing a limb when they are gone.

I can only speak for myself, but assembling my dad's story has been one of life's greatest gifts. I am fortunate to have collected Mom's stories, memories and history from her personally. I had no idea how or where to begin with Dad's story because he wasn't here to tell it to me himself. Both family memoirs have been a gift unto themselves.

I love collecting memories and putting them together in the format of words, stories and pictures to have and to hold. Forever.

Forever is an elusive word. We don't have forever. But I am doing my best to capture what I can, while I have it in a fashion that will outlast my physical body. My children will never miss me because I will have left too much of myself behind!

Is this heaven ... or am I simply living the life I was intended to live, right here on earth??

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Relearning Independence

The day is nearing. My Second Son, His Girlfriend and their Two Dogs will soon be moving out of my home and into their own. They are weaning themselves into their new life on their farm. And in the process, I am being weaned back into independence.

I am grateful that I am learning that full independence isn't all it is cracked up to be. My Son has stepped in and relieved the pressure of Living Independently for (almost) five years.

It has been a little bit wonderful as he gradually took over almost all of the outside maintenance over the course of most of those years. As life-on-their-farm became to take on more of his time last year, I was gently weaned back into lawn care. Winter was another story because he was 'here' more than he was 'there' (on the farm), so he still took over the lion's share of snow removal last winter.

Little odds and ends around the house seem to get taken care of, in a timely matter. We had a few plumbing issues and a mysterious little 'flood' in the basement that My Son simply took care of for me (almost) before I even knew there was a problem.

Caulking, little fix-it jobs here, there and everywhere were completed while I carried on my merry little way and lived my life.

Car troubles? I would ask my son. If I wanted to go on a little getaway, my Middle Son was here for my Youngest Son.

My Second Son's positive, adult presence in our home these past years have set the bar for My Youngest. There has been a Mutual Adoration Society that has evolved over the course of time since my Second Son moved home. My Youngest Son has been witness to it all.

Add two adults and two dogs into a household and it is bound to be a little bit less than an ideal situation for all. But all things considered, I would say that we did a mighty fine job of things overall.

I think that we all knew that the Time of Independence for All was beckoning. It has been for a while. When little things become bigger than they really are, you know you are living the 'real life' - the life between the lines that they do not show on The Waltons or Leave it to Beaver or even The Simpsons.

There has been a mutual dependence that has helped all parties out during my Second Son's Time of Construction. Perhaps not equal in all ways, but I think that we both could honestly say that we each reaped a few benefits along the way.

Will I miss having a handyman living under the same roof? You bet I will! Will I miss the impromptu chats over coffee? Yes! Will I miss simply knowing that I have someone to lean on, if leaning is necessary? More than I ever thought that I would ...

My Second Son and his family are spending more and more (and more) time living on their farm as progress has allowed. They went 'out for the weekend' on Friday night and still have not come home. I was bemoaning the fact that I hate refilling the propane tank and I hate filling the gas tank and I hate buying milk (etc, etc, etc) last night. A lot of the things on my 'hate' list were things that my Second Son has taken over. My Youngest gingerly asked, "Do you suppose that they are spending more and more time away from home, to help you get used to being on your own again?" I would imagine that there are more reasons than just that particular one, but yes ... this time of adjustment is just a small bit easier knowing that it isn't quite our reality. Yet.

But it is coming. It is truly and honestly coming! I am so very, very pleased for all of us. The time has come. It may have actually arrived a year ago ... but now that it is 'this' close, I am grateful for the extra year. That bonus year has given all of us the gift of leaving on good terms. After all that we have been through together, I think the worst time for our separation would have been when things were at their worst.

We have lived through many changes these past (almost) five years. What started out as a temporary, mutually favorable living arrangement became one of necessity for a while. We went through the good, the bad and the ugly and back again. I am simply grateful that it has cycled back to the good stuff, now that our time of separation is nearing.

I must stretch my independent wings again. I've done it before and I will do it again. In all of my adult years, I have never relied on anyone besides myself to take care of life-at-home. It all fell on my shoulders and I carried whatever load I had to carry to raise my young family.

It has been a gift of epic proportions to learn to trust someone enough to lean on. I knew it was temporary. Perhaps I leaned a little too hard at times. Maybe I was weak? Maybe I was testing My Son's threshold? Maybe it was just a passing phase?

Perhaps I am a little bit like someone who has been on bed rest just a little bit longer than was absolutely necessary. I may need to rebuild my strength a little bit as I work my way to full independence once again. But I have a 16-year-old in the wings. A young lad who has watched his older brother step up to the plate and lend a helping hand. I am not counting on him to take over where his older brother left off. But I do believe that he will follow in his footsteps one day. In many ways ... he has already started.

Relearning independence is something that cycles in and out and back into our life again. It is very life affirming to know that you can do hard things.

Here I go. Again...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Nightmare

I lightly alluded to the nightmare that I had a few nights ago, in last night's post-about-nothing. It was a very disturbing dream and I quite literally had to get out of bed (and turn off a crying doll!) to shake myself out of it. Even that did not work. My thoughts were consumed.

Before I went to bed that night, I had read this article "The Day I Left My Son in the Car". You really should read that article to fully understand the depth of my thoughts before I went to sleep that night.

In a nutshell, this is written by a mom that does everything humanly possible to protect  her children but she made one spur-of-the-moment decision that changed her life. She left her son in the car (on a 50 degree (Fahrenheit) day, with windows cracked open a bit; child locks engaged; doors locked) because after insisting that he wanted to come along with her on this five minute errand (before they had to run and catch a flight within the hour), he resisted going into the store with her when she got there. Tantrum in the store verses the decision to run in and out of the store and be quickly on their way again.

Her son was fine, but what happened is that a stranger videotaped the entire incident, then followed this mom home and then called the police to report the mother for leaving her child in a car.

The author of this article went to great lengths to describe all sides of the entire situation, the events that followed and the legal ramifications and arguments that ensued.

I am not acting as judge and jury here. What resonated with me after reading this, was the fact that what caregiver does not make a mistake? Ever? As a parent, I was a (very) far cry from perfect. As a daycare provider, I am 90% better than I was as a parent, but I am not perfect.

Just yesterday, I took a calculated risk by mowing the lawn while my two daycare charges were sound asleep in the house, the doors were locked and my 16 year old was downstairs in-case-of-emergency. Anything could have happened during the twenty minutes that I stepped out of the house.

Every day, I must go to the bathroom at some point during my daycare day. I always make sure that all-is-well and everyone is safe and occupied before I leave the room. I leave the bathroom door ajar so that I can hear all that is going on (which often attracts little people to come and investigate this door that is open, just a crack - so I really do know where they are). But honestly? Anything could happen when my back is turned.

Anything could happen when my back is not turned as well. And it does. Kids trip, fall, bump into each other and things and are generally an accident-in-progress at different ages and stages of their development. I have gone to catch a child who is falling and accidentally grazed them with my fingernail instead. Bumps, bruises, scratches and accidents are a part of growing up. Ninety nine (point nine, nine) percent of the time it is just minor stuff. All it takes is 'once' and all else is forgotten.

I have babysat for a few 'bubble-wrapped' children. They are the hardest children to keep safe, because their parents have protected them from the natural consequences of life because they always catch the child before they fall. These children are fearless because they trust that someone else will keep them safe.

These very same parents are the ones that worry me the most. If they watched every move that I made during the day, I could not appease their protective nature. Daycare = Children (plural). I do not have eyes and ears on one child at all times. Peripheral vision sees all (a lot); knows all (most); and hears all (almost everything). But I don't have my eyes, ears and arms out for one child at all times.

I take calculated risks all day, every day.

I even feel like I am taking a chance whenever I take my kids out for a walk. I have two in the stroller and anyone walking must hold onto the stroller. That is the rule. It is my unwavering rule. I go on and on and on about safety and moving cars, watching for traffic, walking on the 'grassy side of the sidewalk' (verses the side closest to moving traffic).

I have zero tolerance for any safety rule that is broken.

I let the kids take calculated risks when I know that they are safe. Learning to climb and falling a small distance, onto a soft surface is a good teacher, in my books.

On top of keeping my borrowed children safe, I am also teaching them manners, fair play, sharing, caring and just plain old good citizenship. At least I try. In the minutes, hours and days throughout the week I have moments when I lose my temper. On good days and on bad days. My angry voice comes out and it doesn't sound good.

If someone caught me on videotape during one of those bad moments?? It is honestly my worst nightmare. And that ... was the nightmare that I had the other night.

I was over-the-top-stressed-out (in my dream) and I had school-aged children that were defying my every word. (In my dream), I sent one of those school kids to bed for a nap and the other snuck out the door (in my dream) and decided that she wasn't sick after all and would return to school. And (in my dream), the mother of these children showed up on the doorstep with her daughter in tow, hurling accusations. On top of this (in my dream), the mother of my bubble-wrapped-child dropped off her extremely ill son after his doctor's appointment and went to work. I had a sick child (in my dream) on top of this defiance and suddenly, my bubble-wrapped-child's mother was accusing and yelling at me. I stood there (in my dream), feeling defenseless and defeated.

I woke up and my heart was racing. The grains of truth (my imperfections and current-day-parents' expectations) sifted to the top of my consciousness and I wondered if I was truly up to this job.

I am so very far from perfect, that I worry. If someone was a fly on my wall during the day, each and every day, day after day ... what would they think? Perhaps that 'fly' would understand and see 99.99% of the time, I do the right things under the right circumstances. But what if they videotaped one isolated incident? If someone judged you by your actions .01% of the time, what would the jury think?

Living life is risky business. Every day. All of the time. We have no idea what is lurking around the next corner. Thank goodness.

We can't live in fear of that .01% of the time. We must live out loud. We must take chances and learn that sometimes, we will fall. When we do fall, we must learn to get back up, brush ourselves off and move onwards, taking that lesson with us. It doesn't hurt to think of that 'fly on the wall', to help us guide our actions in a way that we are not ashamed of. But we cannot live in fear of five minutes of 'video' to change the course of our lives.

It only takes a fraction of a second to change the course of a life. We cannot live in fractions. We can only live fully and completely. Wake up from the nightmare, girl! Open your eyes!! Life the day with your eyes wide open, do your best and when you fail? Get up and try, try again.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Seven Impossible Things Before Bedtime

It has been a hard day.

The first hard thing that I had to do was wake up. Normally I don't have a problem with that but this morning, I wasn't really in the mood for it.

I woke up because I had a very disturbing dream around 3 a.m., and never really fell back to sleep. Until the alarm went off.

I went through the paces of the morning but didn't save enough time to blog.

My Daycare Day began and I had two phone calls to make. I did that and felt like I deserved a medal. Instead, I had to continue to take care of my daycare family.

So we went for a walk. I didn't have an imagination today. We walked to the store. Mailed a letter and bought stamps. Made a bank deposit. Bought a few groceries. Then we came home and I made lunch.

I really wasn't in the mood for making food today. But I did. Thank you, Campbells. You make good soup. Adding a can of water and stirring was almost too much for me today. But I managed.

Thankfully nap time followed shortly thereafter. I had to mow the lawn but did not want to start until I was certain that my kids were sleeping soundly. I sat down. I woke up shortly thereafter and got the lawn mowed. It wasn't awful. I'm glad it's done.

Kids woke up and I it was time to find some more food for them. Thank-you to my friend who gave me some homemade muffins yesterday! I felt like a real hero. Bran muffins for snack - what a refreshing (and healthy) change!

The last part of the day was easy. We sat out on the deck and the kids played with water. They were so content. It was the best part of my day.

Then came the really hard part.

The kids left and I still had to provide a supper. I would pick up propane so that I could barbeque some burgers. Yes! That sounded like a plan.

Except I really detest hunting down propane. Our local gas station is closed, so I went to the next closest one. I pulled out the empty propane tank and hauled it over to the propane station. "Out of Service". A sign told me where the (next) nearest propane station was, so I wearily made my way over there.

Honestly, I felt like I had gone out on a hunting expedition and caught my supper. But all I really caught was the fuel to cook it. Same difference.

I am not a fan of hunting and eating my catch. The temptation to pick up some supper on the way home was huge. I cannot believe that I resisted!

I made it home. I cooked our supper. I choked it down and satisfied my hunger.

The day was done.

Except it was only 7:00 and I wanted to do nothing more, than to go straight to sleep.

I have been trying to keep myself awake for the last hour. Writing this blog post about impossible things is simply something to keep me awake until after 8:00.

I see that I made it.

I think it is late enough to go to bed now. Whew! I made it through my Monday.

I didn't accomplish a lot, but I managed to do seven impossible things. Perhaps not before lunch, but at least before bedtime.

Mountain climbing on the weekend must have depleted me.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Mountain

I stood at the bottom of the mountain and gazed at the climb ahead. It didn't look so steep when I set out to conquer this mountain, when I stood in the foothills and stared up at the mountain in the distance.

I started my trek, over estimating my endurance, my physical and mental stamina and set out like a dreamer thinking "I can do anything I set out to do!"

I started walking towards the foot of the mountain which was becoming larger and larger with each forward step. "Oh no. What have I gotten myself into?", was the thought that kept creeping up into my subconsciousness.

"I can't do it!" "It is to steep and too big and too tall!" "I am not good enough to finish what I have started!" "Why in the world did I invite so many people along with me into this unknown land?" "Who in the world do I think I am???"

I stood at the bottom and I looked up. I looked way, way up. I could no longer see the peak. Too many clouds were in the way and they obstructed the view of the clear path to the top.

I don't know how long I stood there, immobilized by not knowing how to navigate beyond what I could not see. It was too long. I became paralyzed by the enormity of the mountain in front of me. I would have turned around and walked the other way if I did not have so many people at my side, ready to join me when I started taking my first upward step.

One step. One forward step took me just a little bit higher than I was before I started moving.

I still couldn't see the top of the mountain. Storm clouds were brewing. I had to hunker down and weather a storm or two. But the moment the skies cleared, the top was still so very far away that I did not have the energy to move.

Then it happened. Oh, so slowly and gradually. I started taking a few steps here. A few steps there. Those who had joined me in my trek helped me through the toughest spots.

Suddenly (or so it seemed), I was midway up the mountain.

I still had so very far to go. But there was a difference. I could look back and see the distance I had put behind me.

I was energized by this revelation and just kept climbing.

I am not at the peak yet, but I can see it! At long last, I am up beyond the clouds and I can see the top of the mountain. It wasn't so big after all.

Yes. My Family Book Project is three chapters away from 'complete'. There is much polishing, editing and revising yet to do. But it is near. It is oh-so-very-near.

I can taste it. I can see it. I can feel it now.

Do you know the most amazing part of all?? From this point of view, I can see the next mountain I want to climb. It doesn't look as tall...

When you are stuck at the bottom of your mountain, just take one forward step. You will be one step closer to where you want to be and one step further from where you began.

It is hard. Man! It is hard. But one forward step at a time takes you exactly where you need to be. Eventually.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Back-Up Plans - What Would You Save in Case of Fire?

Have you backed up your computer files lately? If not, think (just for a moment) about what is important to you and find some way to safe guard that-which-cannot-be-easily replaced.

Our main computer has been 'ill' for quite some time. A few months ago, I called my friendly, neighborhood computer-guy and he gave the computer a little CPR and it has been holding on. That is, until I re-infected it with a 'bug' of some sort.

I took all of the clean-up knowledge I have (and added a little of what I thought I understood) and effectively wiped out our computer yesterday morning. Yes. Erased. Completely and fully.

I had to make an embarrassing phone call. "Yes, Doctor. I tried to do the surgery you performed when you were here. I failed. I think my patient died. Can you help me now?"

There is always something to be grateful for. I was counting my blessings before I was tallying up my losses.

First of all, I backed up my files before I did what I could not un-do. Secondly, my family book project (that I have been working on for almost six years) is safe and sound on a separate computer, with all of the documentation and up-to-the-date book revisions on a USB drive I keep separate and apart from the computer itself. Had I lost The Book, I may have needed a little CPR myself.

Number 1 - count your blessings. Practise gratitude. As bad as things seem to be, they could always be worse. What is one measly little computer in the whole scheme of things? Not much, I tell you. Really!

Number 2 - have a back-up plan (or in my case, a back-up drive). I always wondered how this backing-up-my-system would work in case of emergency. It seems I will now find out. My computer guy asked me a few questions about my back-up program. The process of restoring our files sounds a little labor intensive because he must first recreate our computer-as-it-was. That sounds expensive, doesn't it?

Number 3 - it is only money. If our only problems are ones which money can solve, we are very lucky indeed! Boy, am I ever lucky!!

I had been putting off replacing our computer until my finances were in a better place. It seems an act of self sabotage fast forwarded my plan. I had intended on calling my computer-guy at the beginning of the week but I talked myself out of it. I thought I could 'put a band-aid' on the situation and get us through until I was more ready. The band-aid just may have held, if I had not decided to perform surgery...

Part of the reason I was delaying the inevitable new computer scenario is because I have accumulated a wealth of clutter within this very computer. I was in the process of promising myself to never again let things get to this point. But before I was to get to that point, I needed to clean up my existing files.

Sometimes life takes the choice out of your hands. What you think you cannot live without or replace or recreate becomes a question of "What is most important?"

There is absolutely nothing on that computer I cannot live without. It will be very inconvenient to have lost everything but if that happened to be the case, what can a person really do? Start over.

Starting over seems devastating at the time but sometimes losing the 'clutter' of the past has hidden benefits. It takes the choice out of your hands.

When my little family and I started out on our own 26-1/2 years ago, it was with little more than the clothes on our back. We ended up with a little more than that, but not much. Had we been able to pack up what was rightfully ours when we moved out and moved on, it would have come with a cost. The burden of carrying the excess clutter and the weight of the memories attached was not worth the fight.

We started out anew. We moved into a town house and our basement was empty. It was an amazing feeling of freedom and renewal. We saved ourselves and that was all which truly mattered. My back-up plan was a family who held me up and supported me until I got my sea legs again. Money could buy all that we had lost. Material wealth is immaterial when it comes right down to it.

Look at the clutter within your life. Safe guard that-which-is-not-easily-replaced. Keep it simple. If you could save only one thing in a fire, what would it be? Protect and nurture that-which-you-would-run-out-of-a-burning-building with. The rest? It is only a minor inconvenience to replace that, which money can buy.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Blog Post About Nothing ... and Water

What to write? What to write? What to write ... I wonder silently to myself as I pour my second cup of coffee for the day. I am right on schedule. I should be where-I-need-to-be when my Daycare Family descends upon me in an hour.

I am tired. So very tired. I have no idea why.

I have had after-supper-adult-conversations two nights in a row. We have spent a good portion of our daycare hours outside the past few days. Other than that, nothing is really different. But I am feeling weary this morning.

Does adult conversation wear me out? A conversation where I have to think outside of my own head and talk about something besides birds, planes, manners and 'teaching' little people all day long?

It has been warm enough to fill up the kid's water table the past few afternoons. There is nothing more hypnotizing than watching kids marvel and experiment and play with water.

It is new and a huge novelty. They pour. They dump. They drink. They splash in the puddles that they make around them. It feels like a no-rules zone because I have not had to stop them from doing anything they have wanted to do with this new 'toy'.

It has been wonderful to simply sit back and watch. Not teach. Not preach. Just watch (and I watch intently, with no other distractions because I do not trust children and water together, as far as I can't see them).

It has been rather heavenly to slip into that hypnotic trance at the day's end. Maybe that is why it has felt like such hard work to hold up my end of an adult conversation by night.

My Youngest Son & I chat every night as well. But our conversations are very relaxed and somewhat like staring into the water. We adore and chat about our cats. Trickles of conversation about other things slip into the cracks of cat-adoration, but for the most part it is a most welcome way to wind-down a day.

At the moment, my mind feels like an abyss as I think about watching the moving water as the kids experiment with this new medium. It is very relaxing, but not exactly a mode that propels me into a day with energy and enthusiasm.

I have no spell binding thoughts or revelations within me this morning. I simply have thoughts of relaxation and ease coursing through my mind.

Is your mind too busy? Can you not turn off your thoughts? Try to look for your own 'water source'. Something that turns off the world so that you can give your brain a little reprieve.

Have a restful Friday.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Surrender

"Surrender to the moment and just trust that the tides will take you where you most need to be (sometimes desperate moments take us to hard places ... but just the right place??)"

When life has quite literally knocked me down and to my knees, I have quite simply surrendered and (in that moment) I thought that I had given up. In reality, I simply gave up trying to control a situation that was out of my control.

"I give up"; "Help me. Please..."; "I don't know what to do"; and sometimes wordless tears that simply flow and release the pain and frustration of the moment are the words and feelings that come to mind when life has blown its harshest blows.

In the whole scheme of things, the path that I have walked has been relatively easy. It didn't feel easy when I walked through the mire of those moments, but looking back I realize (now) that it was those very moments that led me closer to where I needed to be.

When you sit in the driver's seat of your life and feel in control, it is a most wonderful feeling. Yet are we ever fully in control?

I often think of the way 'life' is so very random and a person's life-as-they-know-it could be upended in a fraction of a second. Yet we keep living each day as it comes and expect that life will unfold (basically) in the manner to which we have become accustomed. 

We travel down the roads that take us where we want to go and we trust that all of the other travellers will stay on their side of the road and obey all of the laws of the land so that we can get from "A" to "B" without incident. Ninety nine, point nine, nine, nine, nine ... percent of the time we reach our destination. Once in a blue moon, we may end up with a flat tire or car trouble. Then you read in the paper that someone was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and their life will never be the same. 

We surrender to the moment more often than we realize because we simply trust that the same actions that we have repeated every day of our life-so-far, will have the same results.

Yet when life hits a crisis point, we scramble for control in an uncontrollable situation.

I've done it myself a million times. "What do I have control of here?"; " What can I do?"; "How can I make (the other person) understand/change/do-what-I-expect?"

In the end, I (usually) break it down into "What can I do to change this situation?" Once I have done all that I know how to do, I (usually sometimes) surrender to the moment and let the tide take me where I need to be.

I always end up in a better place than I started. The more I try to hold onto the reins and control an uncontrollable situation, the longer it takes me to find that better place. The sooner I let go, the sooner I fall and the sooner I get to where I most-need-to-be.

Matters of parenthood make the lines very fuzzy. I have a friend who is struggling right now. The mom in her is very concerned about her child, which makes her answers feel very elusive. There are so very many variables at play, which muddies the waters. Yet she has almost hit her breaking point. Where does she go and why can't she find someone who has walked in her shoes to guide her through the mire?

I have not walked her walk. I only know what has worked for me and my situation was parallel but oh-so-different at the same time. 

I have surrendered to the moment and it has worked for me. I have a mighty support system behind me and that gives me the security that I need to let go and let the chips fall as they may. What if you don't have that supportive system that 'has your back'? How can you let go and succumb to the pressures if you are afraid of where you may fall?

My friend, I have no answers for you but I have your back. I will walk with you through the muddy waters but the miles that distance us make this feel like a lame promise. 

This was the email that I wrote to my friend - "Surrender to the moment and just trust that the tides will take you where you most need to be (sometimes desperate moments take us to hard places ... but just the right place??)". These are words that I have lived, I stand by and I trust. But my friend, I so understand that it simply isn't as easy as that. I get it. 

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. 
Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. 
Just walk beside me and be my friend.” 
~ Albert Camus

Through the good, the bad and the ugly ... I will walk beside you and be your friend.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Everything is Juuuust Right!

Is frittering a waste of time or can it be counted as a way of getting little things done?

I had such high hopes yesterday morning.

I got started an hour later than originally anticipated but I was working on a column. It was all-part-of-a-day's-work. That isn't frittering is it? No, I didn't think so either. I called it a legal diversion and carried on.

I tackled (what I thought would be) the hardest part of my day first. Two and a half hours later, that segment of The Book Project was polished up and off for final 'approval'. That was time well spent. I applauded myself for completing that task and moved onward.

This is when I got a little sidetracked.

I wasn't sure if I had a lot of creative and high energy left to spend on The Book at this point of the day so I started working with the layout. That piddly stuff where the book publisher makes recommendations on the types of font to use for headings verses body, the margins, gutters and all of those kinds of things. This is where I feel like I started frittering my time.

But is it frittering when it is something that will have to be done at one point or another anyway? No, I didn't think so either. So I continued on with my little side-project for another few hours. One part of (about) a five or six (or ten) part process is complete. For now.

This was the point I decided to tackle one-chapter-at-a-time. I am in the fine tuning stages for several chapters. Unfortunately this task fell upon me at the (not quite) midway point in the afternoon. I read what I had and my weary eyes and brain wondered "Is it good enough, just as it is?"...

Then I walked away.

I got comfortable and snuggled into the love seat with a book in my hands. Someone else's book. It felt good to read words that were not my own. I lost myself for a while ...

... then I woke up.

No! No! No!! "Do NOT waste your day sleeping!!", I admonished myself as I tried ever-so-hard to keep my eyelids apart from each other.

Then I started bargaining with myself. "Well, if you are not going to 'Write a Book', the very least you can do is mow the lawn."; "Ugh! I do NOT want to mow the lawn (sigh)..."; "Well then? Get back and DO something productive with The Book"; "I am all out of energy and motivation". Yes. I actually do have these two sided arguments within my own head. I usually lose.

At this point, I realized that I had forgotten to turn on the radio at the onset of my day. Music in the background keeps me in-the-moment and exactly where I need to be to accomplish long-winded tasks.

I was paralyzed. Book. Lawn. Book. Lawn. Book. Lawn.

The lawn won. I went out and moved my body and it was the smartest choice of the two options that I gave myself. I came inside, had a shower and then started doing 'hard things'. Little things that I had been putting off for forever. Like changing the battery in the answering machine and telephone (so the call display would work). Big things like cleaning cat litter and making some supper. I thought that I accomplished more than that. I am sure that I did.

Then at 6:53, I looked at the clock and congratulated myself. All of my work was done. I allowed myself to sit down, sit still and watch Gilmore Girls. My guilty pleasure.

Did I fritter the day away? My vote goes with 'No'. I did necessary things. I did creative things. I did hard things. I did easy things.

All in all? I would say that yesterday was a 'Win'. I invested a good part of the day to The Book Project. I invested necessary time and energy tending to that-which-needed-to-be-done. I invested some time in myself as I tended to what felt right at the time. Then I slept.

As I made my bed this morning, I could not help but think of the days where I would look longingly at my bed each morning and wish the day away so that I could climb back into bed, throw the covers over my head and sleep through my life. These days? I am eager to wake up in the mornings and just as excited to climb back into that soft, comfy oasis and lose myself to sleep. Just the right amount of sleep.

Yes, I am truly back in my 'Goldilocks Zone'.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sleep Cycles, Metamorphosis and Other Little Thoughts

Sleep is not something I take for granted. I know far too many people who struggle with the ability to sleep at night (something that comes as easily as sitting still does for me).

Then I had my Sleep Injury. Basically, I (think) I hurt myself by sleeping too much. The mathematical precision in which I laid out my pillows each night after my 'injury' was ridiculous. Rolling over was a feat unto itself because it entailed rearranging all of my pillow support before I could settle back into a state of slumber.

The cure arrived each morning, when I simply woke up and started moving. My symptoms only presented themselves when I was sleeping.

Eventually I went in search of my Dream Pillow. And I found it. Quite literally, because vivid dreams started the moment I started sleeping more soundly.

I woke up this morning and realized just how much the quality of my sleep has evolved since the acquisition of my new pillow. I used to wake up (what felt like) a bazillion times, as I tossed and turned and kept moving out of uncomfortable sleeping positions. These days? I may consciously remember waking up to roll over only a few times during the night.

Is it just the pillow or is there more at play here?

At long last, I have become actively involved in my own life. I do not turn on the TV (nor an episode of the Gilmore Girls) the moment my evening becomes my own. Sometimes, I do. But it is becoming a rare event. I have been grabbing a book instead. Or engaging in 'life' in some form.

I am whittling away at long term goals. I am living life (a little more) outside of my own head and home. I have been pushing myself out of the safe and comfortable rut that I worked oh-so-hard to find again and I feel like a butterfly that is finally strong enough to break out of its cocoon.

I can actually visualize the 'end goal'. I see where I plan to be four months from today. I know where I will be, how I will get there and I can already feel the sensation of gratitude and relief to have finally overcome the hurdle that has been challenging and taunting me for far-too-long.

Which came first? The ability to sleep and therefore function better during my waking hours? Or making the most of my waking hours which resulted in a deep and restful night's sleep? The chicken or the egg?

I am not going to ponder that little conundrum any longer than it took for me to write that sentence. The ability to sleep soundly and live loudly are a very good combo. It is harder to attain than one may believe. But it is another example of the yin and the yang of this thing called living.

Teetering back and forth, between the balance of all that life has to offer, is a very delicate and precarious act. You know when it is right. It is like something clicked and locked into place. The harder part is knowing how to get from 'A' to 'Be'. My fingers subconsciously typed the word 'be' instead of the letter 'B'. I do believe that is an answer unto itself. All we can do is 'be' present within the life that we are living. Just show up, do your best, let yourself off the hook and give yourself credit for 'being' there. In whatever form you are presently in.

Does a caterpillar know what life has in store for it when it spins its cocoon before its metamorphosis? Or does it simply feel like it is succumbing to the pressures of the world and hunkering down for a good, long rest? When it wakes up and feels life stirring within, does it find itself  suddenly flying around its brand new world or does it have to work hard to break out of its cocoon? It is the act of breaking out of its cocoon that strengthens the butterfly's wings so it is strong enough to fly once he breaks free of all that is restraining him.

If you are struggling right now, put yourself in the place of that little caterpillar of life. Where are you in this cycle of life?

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,
it became a butterfly. 
~ English Proverb