STILL HERE

January 25. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

So we are in the last week of January. I have lost alot of wind in my sails. Now I have to work on finishing. I hope I got enough gas in my tank. I think of my blogger friend, Minna Packer over at Suddenly Mad, now and again. She hasn’t written anything since May 22, 2021. I miss her but I do not know what it is that I wish for her. She has early-onset alzheimer. She was at a stage where her gait and speech were affected. She was teaching art at a New York university. She had to give that up. Life was getting harder and harder. But she could still write and draw. Her posts were getting less and less frequent. Then her husband got lung cancer. She was still writing and drawing through it – long awesome posts and beautiful drawings. Then nothing after May 2021.

What I wish is that she is in a good place, that she is at peace, not struggling and not suffering. She is not forgotten to me. I visit her words now and again. She is still a teacher, teaching me about life, strength, resilience and art. I am encouraged and inspired by her to work a little harder in finding my words and finish what I had started. I had not met her but have exchanged a few words a few times. I know her only through her stories. They are powerful. That is what I wish for myself, that ability to stir another with my stories and art. I hope my words are meaningful. I hope my stories can entertain and help someone. My words and art give me comfort and sometimes I can tap and paint a little hope when I am feeling dark. What tools do you have?

STAYING WELL, STAYING HAPPY

January 23. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’ve taken 3 days off from the challenge. It was time for a break/rest. Now let me see if I can hop back on again. We’ve had a long, long stretch of grey and foggy weather. Though it had created some beautiful photographic opportunties, it was wearing on me. Then on Friday the sun returned in all its glory. It was welcomed but it was rather abrupt and bright. My physical body did not like it at all but we limped through it. I felt better the next day and got to enjoy sunny morning ski.

The sun disappeared again after the two days. I think that’s how things will be in our new normal – change, fluctuation and uncertainty. I’m being more mindful so that I can live my best possibel life. It helps if I can identify what makes me feel bad and what makes me feel good. I used to take many things for granted. I never planned much. I never thought much about what I want and didn’t want. I allow things to just happen. Life seemed more stable and secure back then. It was always an illusion. It was comforting.

Now, I can no longer believe in the illusion. Nor do I want to. It would make me more vulnerable and unable to handle life’s little and big problems. I want to develop strength and resilience. I want a life that is meaningful even if it is difficult. Perhaps dealing with all the difficulties gives life meaning. Even though the clouds have returned, I’m finding the silver lining. My mantra borrowed from Regina Brett – No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up – still works for me.

And so that is what I do. No matter how I feel, I get up, dress up and show up and do the best I can. Today I got up, dress up and went to my exercise class even though I did not feel like it. I left the class feeling more energetic and alive than when I arrived. I felt content this afternoon cooking up my pumpkins to make puree. Their orange-ness made me feel good. I was totally engaged reading John Grisham’s The Client. My whole being was in the book. I took no notice of the greyness outside. I think I can make my own endorphins.

I think it is what I need to do to stay well and happy. There’s always something that I can do to make things a little better. When I was feeling tough on Friday, I was still able to go to my drawing class. I was able to forget how I was feeling for two hours. I even had fun. It was like playing and I felt well. Play is a valuable tool and it comes in many forms. It’s up to me to discover what they are and have fun at it.

DISTURBED IN SILENCE

January 19. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I’m still here, wrapped in another day of grey. I’m taking my own advice, not fighting it and just going along with the ride. I haven’t been actively seeking ‘fun’. Didn’t do any stretches. Didn’t ski so I guess stretching wasn’t necessary. I thought I would just relax and wallow in what is just me. I think it is good to stay put. There’s always chores, you know, those shitty boring stuff that everyone hates, puts off and runaway from. But they are necessary for our well being and happiness. Good examples are brushing our teeth, cleaning our body, preparing food, doing dishes, doing the laundry. Pretty tedious stuff, eh?

You could say that I was disturbed into ease and silence by the band Disturbed and their rendition of Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence. It was a bit different from Simon and Garfunkel’s version. I thought the guy was a bit off at first. I fell in love with it when he started growling. Here he is, live on Conan. The video is 6 years old. I wonder where I have been. I’ve just discovered him accidently as the soundtrack on a skate competition.

Grey days are not all bad. There’s always a silver lining. The weather app said there was a bit of sun today. I must have blinked and missed it. Let’s see what tomorrow and the weekend brings. There’s snow forecast for Sunday. I will have a break in my routine tomorrow. I start an in person drawing class in the afternoon. I am ready. My bad is packed with my supplies. I have a couple of samples to show the teacher.

AM I HAVING FUN YET

January 18. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Another day enclosed in the grey. I tried dipping my toes into my fun list this afternoon. I didn’t have any nail polish on hand. Otherwise, I might have had some fun. I used to have a couple of bottles laying around forever and a day. I could have used them today. So I had throwaway regrets. Next, I tried origami. I have a kit I bought when I was in Japan a million years ago. The instructions were diagrams without words. It was a bit complicated. Maybe I should have started on page 4 instead of 22. As a result, my tulip is a little too top heavy.

Next, I played a little piano. I was not engaging so I gave up after 20 minutes. It’s really no fun when I’m feeling so blasè. I had been reading Babel and it was interesting but in my mood, a dark fantasy about colonalism would make my mood darker. I thought about resorting to John Grisham’s The Client, but I got onto YouTube and found this. I was engaged, caught up in the music and movement of this couple ice skating.

It wasn’t really what you would call fun but I was at least distracted from my grey feelings for a few minutes. Perhaps I should not try so hard running away from these feelings/days. Just accept and ride/ease them through without a fight/struggle. Perhaps there’s a purpose for them.

DRIVE IN THE EASY LANE

January 17. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Another morning. Another grey day. Another blank page. How shall I fill it? I’m off to a good start. Made that appointment with SaskEnergy for Thursday. It wasn’t hard. I wonder why I procrastinate, why it feels hard. I’ve been thinking about that word again all day yesterday. I thought about it driving to my exercise class. The traffic was a steady stream and all those piles of snow and the grey sky pressing down on us. I wonder how I managed all that stress driving the same route to work for over 30 years.

I feel grateful that I no longer had to get up at the crack of dawn. I am grateful that I’m not driving down College Drive in the cold and dark to spend 12 hours saving lives and emptying bedpans. I think I’ve earned my dues. I have to retire that hard word again. Put it out of mind and drive in the slow and easy lane. I don’t need any more challenges. I need more ease and more fun. I need to get my kicks on route nice and easy.

How to do it? I think I have to change my mindset. I have to dip my toes into the fun pool slowly, one at a time. It might take me awhile to get comfortable with fun. I’m a serious person. What other people consider ‘fun’ sometimes evoke pain in me. I have to give it some thought on what brings me just simple joy. I went online and google fun things to do. Here’s some possibilities:

  • Play an instrument
  • Write a short story
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Try origami
  • Try a board game
  • Put together a puzzle
  • Build a snow fort
  • Write a letter
  • Start scrapbooking
  • Bake cookies
  • Become a YouTube star
  • Unplug my devices
  • Paint my nails

I think this is a fair list to start on. I think I will shop for a puzzle and some nail polish. I have to remember this is to have fun and not to make it into some kind of challenge. To be sure, I know I will fall off my fun wheel and have to get back on it again time after time.

I CAN JUST SCREAM

Photo by mohamed abdelghaffar on Pexels.com

January 16. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I think I’m apt to scream soon. Another heavily foggy day with no end in sight. No, that’s not correct. There’s a bit of sun forecasted for Friday. Though I am out and about, the grey is making me restless and antsy. I wonder how it is affecting others. Perhaps I should have made 2 rounds on the ski trail this afternoon. It would have tired me to calmness. Tomorrow is another day – of more clouds. I will have plenty of practice dealing with greyness and restlessness. I can save the screaming, too, for another day. At least I am not depressed.

So what can I do instead? I was going to do some tidying and putting away but I felt more restless and irritable just looking at my mess of things. I cancelled that idea. I’m really not in the mood to write a post but here I am, tapping away on the keyboard. I’m not soothed yet. Maybe I need to slow down so it’s more rhythmic. I think I need to dim the lights a bit. The brightness is stimulating me too much. I can feel my heart rate in my fingertips. I wonder if the weather can change our chemistry. It sure affects me.

I can make a list of things to do for tomorrow.

  • Phone SaskEnergy for an appointment for them to come and change the meter.
  • Deposit the cheque from the government.
  • Renew my driver’s license.
  • Meet the girls for breakfast.
  • Ski.

I feel a little calmer having made the list. Supper is soon. I will have a small glass of wine. Yes, I do feel better. No screaming necessary. I will let all that extra energy flow out through my fingertips.

WAITING FOR THE SUN

January 15. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

We’re halfway through January. It has been a very strange time, so much snow and then so mild. And now so grey and foggy. We’ve already had at least a week of it and a promise of more to come. I’m not complaining, merely stating the facts. It is hard to be an energy bunny under these conditions. I try to be a ski bunny most mornings at the Wildwood Golf Course. By habit I am now always eager to hit the tracks. It was a slippery slope this morning. My skis were ready to slide away without me.

Suprisingly, I haven’t been blue or brooding. Perhaps it’s these morning outings that are saving me. It is really beautiful and wonderful skiing in what feels like a fairy tale wonderland – the grey lit up by the hoar frost on the trees. I never get tired of the scenery. I never get tired of snapping a photo. There’s always something different of the same. The light changes and the sky is never the same. I want to capture everything, even knowing I can’t.

My morning activity sustains me. Having stepped out the door each day is a testiment that I am still alive and vibrant. I can’t sustain it all day. Mornings are wonderful. Afternoons I droop and sag. I try to fight it but I lose. I give in to the natural rhythm of the day and my body. I can wait for the sun. Meanwhile, I can peck away on the keyboard, one letter at a time, a word, a sentence, a paragraph and finally a post. I will not worry about word count but will proof read for errors of all kinds.

I’ve made some progress on the book Babel. Though it is fantasy and not my usual genre, I find it quite engaging. Firstly, it is written by R. F. Kuang, a fellow Chinese. She is young, beautiful and very accomplished. She is very fascinating to me. The book starts in Canton which is near where I am from. So can you see why it holds a lot of interest for me? Anyways, it is a good book to get a little lost in while I’m waiting for the sun.

THE LIGHTHOUSE

January 14. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I wonder if you can write a book review when you haven’t read the book yet. I’ve started 3 books at present. I’m a John Grisham fanatic. His books, especially the early ones, have always engaged me. I’ve just started reading The Client when the library notified my request for Babel was ready. We had a discussion about Virginia Woolf at a bookclub meeting. I’ve read about her and had seen the movie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I haven’t read any of her books. I’ve added To the Lighthouse. Having only read a few pages of each, it’s difficult to write a review of any of them.

Of the three, To the Lighthouse is the slowest read. It does remind me of another lighthouse – the one in Cape Three Points, Ghana. Here’s my photo memory of it from 2011.

A PROCESS – Getting Through a Day

January 13. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Getting through the day is not always an easy thing, especially when it is this Friday the 13th. There’s no black cats crossing my path. I didn’t walk under any ladder. I didn’t break a mirror. I didn’t stick my chopsticks straight up in my bowl of rice. No there was no bad luck involved. However, I might have been too over zealous with my skiing and exercise classes the last couple of days. Our warmer than usual January weather is also affecting me. I’m suffering the price of it all today. Regardless of how I feel, the beat goes on. It does not stop for me.

How do I manage? How do I go on or had I stop and let the music play on without me? I was tempted to be a couch potato for the day. Experience has taught me that had not been the best thing for me. Somehow a day could lead to another and another. Things will pile up. I will get behind and it will be struggle to work out of that inertia. What I do is slow down and work at a slower pace. I try not to look at the whole picture/job. I break everything into blocks/squares.

I’ve learned to do that working on my logcabin quilt. I couldn’t think of the whole thing at once. I built one block a day for a year. That way I wasn’t overwhelmed or overtired by the whole picture. I have all the squares, enough for a queen size quilt. They’re not all together yet, but they are on their way.

I’ve tackled this day in the same way – in small blocks, one at a time. I got through washing the dishes, one dish at a time. I made turkey stew with the leftover. It wasn’t easy thinking about it. I didn’t want to leave it any longer for the turkey to spoil. So I gathered my stuff – potatoes, carrots, beets, celery, turkey. Then I started to peel, wash, chop and threw it all in the Instant Pot and turned on the slow cook mode. 4 hour later – turkey stew. They’re portioned and in the freezer now for future lunches.

I’m really surprised that I got some of the floors vacuumed and is now adding the finishing touches to this post. And this post is built block by block. What a coincidence, eh, that WordPress thinks like me. I have amazed myself that thinking and working in blocks is so effective. It’s not terribly late but all the same, I shall not post on the daily thread. This is enough. I shall go to bed. Good night!

WONDER

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January 12. The Ultimate Blog Challenge

I overdid the skiing today, going twice around the golf course. I was aiming to increase my endurance. I know I cannot get any faster. I know I am a tortoise. I felt pretty good after my second round. No sweat! I thought even though I was quite sweaty. I was counting on relaxing and stretching in our mobility class at the gym shortly after. I didn’t count on our instructor changing things around. The mobility class was yesterday. Today’s was on upper body which was not stretching or relaxing.

I am physically tired but I am relaxed after a long soak with epsom salt. My brain is too relaxed and a bit mushy. I am not sharp or focused. I caught an interesting podcast whilst soaking on Tapestry. In this episode Karen Armstrong talks about the value of wonder in a despairing world. Give it a listen if you have time. It is very interesting. It made me think about this morning on the ski trail. I love snapping photos. I want to capture the magic to hold and look at again. It is impossible, of course, but I still try.

It was very foggy today. The grey of the sky was so soft and velvety and the trees with the hoar frost…I was gazing at it all. Then a woman glided by. Her jacket was a peacock blue, so bright and luminous. So beautiful. I tried to capture the wonder of it. She glided away faster than I can dig my camera out of my ski pants. I resigned myself to watch the wonder and beauty of the moment. It did occur to me that I might be just a wonder, too, in my tangerine red ski jacket. I felt awe by the wonder of it.

There are many wonders around us and in our lives that can give our spirits a boost. Sometimes all we need to do is to stop, sit, listen, watch and remember. I’m thinking back again to March of 2011 and my memories of time in Ghana. I’m remembering some of the wonders of that time.

Last Week March 31, 2011

I’m on a countdown of my days in Ghana.  In exactly one week I will be winging my way back home.  Before I came, someone asked me if I have been in a Third World country before.  I guess they were worried about how I will fare.  Or maybe it was because they were surprised on their first trip here and wanted me to be prepared.  And since I’ve been here, people have asked how do I like Ghana.  Does anything about it resonate with me?  Hard questions to answer.  Well, not hard to answer on a superficial level.  As a tourist it is easy to say that I love my stay here.  I can hear the ocean from my bed and the breezes are warm and soothing.  Everything is new to me….my physical surroundings, the people, the politics, the colours…..everything.

On a much more personal level, I am unable to tell what it is that I feel about Ghana.  I have not been homesick the time I’ve been away.  I have not missed my suspended life….the cold or snow.  I have not missed my work.  You can say that I am really away. I do miss my family and my Sheba.  At times, I would really like to have free running clean water from the faucet….water that I can drink and to brush and rinse my teeth with in abundance!  And I wouldn’t mind having hot water to shower or shampoo my hair with.  So, I’m learning to really appreciate what a valuable resource water is.  And I would be able to have that most of the time, had I been staying in an upscale hotel instead of an eco-lodge.  I’m not feeling that this has been a hardship or a deprivation.  It has been an experience.  I have a very privileged life back home.  And I can have a very privileged life here if I choose.  The question, of course, is do I wish such?  I have always enjoy hard work and being an independent woman.

One week left!  Impossible to know if I will miss Africa till I leave it and see..….