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.



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..….


January 9. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

Monday afternoon. I’m sitting here in the middle of my chaos trying to tap out some words for today’s post. The dishes are not done. The pot of turkey soup is still sitting on the stove. But I have had my ski in the park. What I know for sure is no matter how tired or rotten I feel, a ski in the park can do wonders for my well being. It can build me up so I can tolerate the slings and arrows coming my way.

I got my cup of tea. I’m ready to write, but wait. Oh, darn! I have to hang up the load of laundry I did this morning. It’ll be just a few minutes and I’ll be back. And so it goes. Life can get better than this. I am sure but right now, I’m still struggling

I am doing the best I can. I am doing damn good actually though I do have my quirky moments. I haven’t been fortunate enough to have a ready ear when I need it but I am that ear that listens. It’s not a bad thing. I must be a good listener. I hope so. I’m lucky I have this space to tap, breathe and revitalize. The keyboard has been one of my best friends. It’s been talking and breathing for me for a long time. It tells my stories and stores them in a memory bank. Thank goodness for that. It’s keeping me afloat for this writing challenge. Here’s another memory from Ghana.

LAST DAYSApril 16, 2011


And so…I’m having one of my quirky, restless moments.  Often, it doesn’t help to talk with anyone.  Most times, nobody is at home. And when I was messing with FB and my mouse, I ended up with friends I didn’t think I asked for. I had to use the remove button.  I wonder if anybody noticed.  Ooops!  I didn’t think I was that discerning, afterall, don’t numbers matter…the more friends, the better?   And so here I sit, with my glass of wine alone on a Saturday night.  Does it matter at this stage in one’s life?  I’m remembering all my self-help stuff and thought:  Now is the time for it ….. The Four Agreements.  The fourth one being, always do your best, no matter what the best is at the moment.  My best for this moment is to wine and write away my quirk.

I did not fully appreciate or use the beach at Escape Three Points in Ghana till the end of my vacation. There was this day when there were no guests and everyone else had gone somewhere else surfing or some other place.  I was alone for a few hours with only the workmen working on the foundation for a new chalet and girls in the kitchen.  The beach was empty….my moment had come.  I waded into the shallow pool between the rocks and sat down.  It was not an easy process for the rocks were uneven and rough on the bottom and the water was quite buoyant.  I bobbed up and down a few times before I could get myself set down.  The water came up to my neck.  It felt wondrous.  After awhile I thought maybe I should give swimming ago or at least float on my back.  But I was ALONE. I thought I better not fool around with an ocean and no life jacket.  The surf can be very strong, even though I was protected by the surrounding rocks.

Instead I started jogging up and down the hard sandy part of the beach.  It felt a bit eery as I was totally alone, under the African sun.  I ran up and down the beach.  When I got hot, I ran into the water and let incoming tide cool me.  When I got tired, I waded into the pool and sat down, sometimes hanging onto a rock when the tide got strong.  Then I got up and did my jogging again, and so on….Towards noon, I headed back to the chalet, got my buckets and headed to the well to draw some water for a shower.  I just nicely got myself showered and laundry on the line when the sky got dark and I experienced my first real African rainstorm.  And did it rain!  I got the laundry inside, lowered the grass blinds to keep the rain from coming in through the screen only windows.  I climbed up to the loft to move the mattress away from the rain splattering in since there was no blind for the upstairs screen.  I collected rain water.

The storm did end and so has my quirkiness.  But I better clean the house like a storm.  Back to work too soon!


January 8. The Ultimate Blog Challenge.

I am having a slothful Sunday. We attended a bookclub meeting last evening. I was late in getting to bed. I was a little over stimulated with socializing and intellectualizing, a rarity in these times. I had to wind down with a little reading. It didn’t help as it was a crime novel. I had a little trouble getting to and staying asleep. I was still revved up in the morning. I gave in to my obsession of binge reading. I had to find out what happened. Now that I have finished reading The Firm, I have to tend to a bit of housekeeping and writing. Needless to say, my mind and brain are shot with no exciting or poetic thoughts to share. I’m a bit ‘wrecked’ I’m again relying on my memories from Ghana.

HalfwayMarch 19, 2011

I’m halfway through my holidays here in Africa.  And it is a real holiday.  I cannot remember the cold or the snow of Saskatchewan, the dark mornings or evenings of our winters, nor the trials and tribulations of work.  I am surprise to realize this morning that I feel no aches or pains at all.  From time to time I feel some minor irritations to my sinuses but that was mainly when we were in town when someone was burning garbage.  I am relieved to find that I can wear my contact lenses here.  It was a bit of a challenge at first.  But I learned to clean them with bottled water and to take them out in flash light without losing them, though I did drop one once.  And now, we have solar electricity.  I am enjoying the cheer of sunshine and learning to see by moonlight.  The ocean has its pluses and minuses.  Sometimes the surf is music to the ears, lulling one to sleep.  On hard to sleep nights, it sometimes a storm raging endlessly.  The humidity is wonderful for the skin and I don’t have to wonder about my hair having no body.  But…when you lick your lips, you taste the salt of the ocean.  Your mirrors and glasses are always fogging, needing wiping constantly.   The salt gets onto everything.

And as for food, it all depends….on what is available.  Living by the ocean, you would think that there would be an abundance of fish and other seafood.  But not so, because of overfishing from foreign sources.  When I first arrived and driving to Cape3Points, we bought some fresh coconuts from people on the roadside.  They do not look like the ones that I know in their brown husks.  These were green.  The boys selling them chopped the top off and we drank the milk.  Then we handed them back to them and they cut them open for us to scoop and eat the meat with the spoon made from the top of the coconut.  It was rather disconcerting for me to drink with faces hanging about me all the while.  I felt like I was taking too long and making them wait.  I am used to waiting on people and not the other way around!  I have not yet tried any of the local dishes.  Since my stomach is not great when I’m travelling, I am not very adventuresome.  For breakfast, it’ s usually eggs and toast.  We do quite a bit of pasta here at the lodge.  The beef is quite tough here but in kabobs, it’s good and a bit easier to chew.  I told Rod the next time we go to Takoradi, I will chop fufu with him.  It is a soup dish made of kasava and some other stuff…and goat meat.  They eat it with their fingers.  But I will ask for a spoon!:-)

Yesterday, we went to Takoradi to pick up Rod’s glasses.  I sort of had doubts about how well they would work.  The technician’s behavior and body language did not instil too much confidence in me.  And as I had advised about the frame…And to everyone’s relief, including the people at the optical shop, they worked wonderful.  They tested the glasses by whipping out a newspaper for him to read.  They included a nice case and 2 cloths and a bottle of cleaning solution.  So it teaches me not to judge a book by its country.



The snow on the ground this morning made me think of my first time to Ghana, land of palm trees and warm beaches, being close to the equator.

Here I am, with my own chief, sitting on the balcony of our chalet, facing the ocean, creating my own photo memory.  I knew it was my last day there.

Pictures flashed through my mind – the woman in her black Benz on the red clay road, the son who thanked me and the balloon-filled sky as Nana drove towards the airport.

I remembered I was a woman of grace.  I am still.


IMG_2051So the other morning he calls and the connection was good and it was like he was there.  And we could talk but after awhile he fades and comes back and fades and then he was talking like he was under water.  Glub, glub.  After I did a few What? What?, I give up and sever the connection.  I should say disconnection.  This is familiar to me now, the way of Ghana.  So I stress no more.  Nothing much works in Ghana, the least of it be the phone company.

I used to get stretched out of shape by all of its idiosyncrasies.  I suppose every country has their own stuff as well as every organization and each person on the planet.  And I have been pondering all the complexities and why for’s till my poor Asian brain hurts.  I still do not understand any of it.  But now wisdom has finally descended upon me…after a couple of trips to Ghana and 30 plus years of shift work in the healthcare system.  There’s much drama and things that don’t work in both.  But it is not up to me to fix anything.

I’m saying it is not for me to understand or make sense of anything or anyone.  Things just are.  It is just for me to live in the moment and be…be the best I can, do the best I can, treat myself the best I can in that moment.  I’m working on not saying, I don’t care because I do care.  But sometimes the phrase still creeps into my thought and almost spills from my lips.  Those times are when I feel powerless and helpless.  They are becoming less and less.

It is funny to say that I have not given much thought of myself as a person.  But I have not.  I wonder if many women feel that way.  We’re always somebody’s somebody…daughter, sister, aunt, nurse, wife.  We’re, or I should say I am always in the shadows.  I would like to step out in the sunlight now.  I like being me.  It is a precipitous moment to recognize this, for in 5 months I will be redefining myself.  I will be stepping out of my nurse’s shoes.  It is good to know that I’m not just a nurse/whatever.  It is good to be just me, stressing no more.



So it was -32 C this morning – pretty cold by any standard!  But I did not feel it.  In my mind I was sitting out on the deck of ‘our’ chalet at Escape3Points by the ocean in Ghana.  I can hear the ocean and feel the balmy warmth of the morning.  I watched the birds looking for crumbs from our breakfast.  And not long after, the puppies came to visit.



I’m marveling at the power of my mind.  It is not that these images in my mind help me ‘make it through’ the winter, for I truly love the season.  I love the whiteness/brightness of the snow.  I love the crispness of the cold winter air.  I feel my best on those cold, cold still January days when the sun is shining so bright and I’m purring in the warmth of my sun room.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I get my share of cabin fever.  A long stretch of gloomy winter days does me in.  It makes me feel like I’m struggling, struggling and not getting anywhere.  But maybe that is just another cycle of life.  Wouldn’t it be boring if we’re happy and bubbly all the time?  Wouldn’t we look like a commercial for Pepsodent toothpaste or Spearmint gum with our shiny toothy smiles?  Oh, how bland!

There are difficult days in the heat of summer or on a tropical island, I am sure.  But I don’t think anyone dare whisper any hint of it.  Funny.  So, of course, it has made me feel worse when I get those terrible blues in the summer, when all was so perfect and everyone so happy….school was out and everyone was on vacation.  Hmmmm.  I know better now.  I see clearer now.

Now, I embrace whatever season that it is.  Each has its beauty.  Each has its faults.  I embrace wherever I am in the moment.  Like the seasons, each place has its own beauty and detractors.  Beauty and value are in the eyes of the beholder.  And drama exist everywhere, for we are the players.  I embrace all the times I’ve been in, for it is from these times that I learn and grow and love and live.



30503_392157895886_3064606_nSometimes things happen in a blink of an unthinking eye.  You wonder what led to this?  And you ponder and ponder until your head and heart hurt.  You still don’t under- stand.  You obsess about it, making yourself feel worse and worse and still you beat yourself about it.  At least it is what I do. I am humble enough now that I know I am not that much different than anybody else.  I am not better or worse.  I am just human, with emotions.

And so I cried a little at work yesterday.  I cried, not the big boo hoo hoo type with the sobs and crocodile tears, but just the tiny ones at the corners of your eyes, the break in my voice and runny nose.  It was very weird.  My nose never runs except when I’m eating soup and when I cry.

There really is not one thing that led to the moment of tears and frustration, but many little and not so little things over time.  I recognize it for the frustration and helplessness that I feel.  In that instant I see how I am harming myself with how I speak and do in the face of helplessness and powerlessness.  I feel anger inside and I say I do not care.  I take those habits home with me.  I behave and say the same thing to my partner in difficult situations.  Is that good for me?

Of course not!  I say good for me because I can only control what I do.  I ask not what work or anyone else can do for me.  I only ask of myself what can I do to make it better for me and for my work.  And so I remind myself of  Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements again.

agreement 1

Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

agreement 2

Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

agreement 3

Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

agreement 4

Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I remind myself of the teachings of Caroline Myss, HeatherAsh Amara, Tara Brach…..I remember The Power of Habit.  It is a tough road we human beings are on.  I want to feel empowered, enlightened.  I am empowered and awake.  I am not a victim.

I spent a restless, sleepless night though I prepared myself with a warm relaxing bath, took some medications to help me sleep.  I got up and made a cup of ginger tea but the only one that slept the night in our house was Sheba.  By about 3 am, I made the decision that I was not fit for work.  My shoulders ached from hugging myself, my throat sore.  Please don’t let it be Strep throat!  In my condition, I would not be an asset at work.  If I can’t be a solution, then I will not be a problem.  Since I am professionally licensed to assess others’ physical condition, I should use my skill to care for myself.

There’s five months before my big day, the big RETIREMENT.  I am hoping that I will leave nursing in a grand style, for it is a grand profession.  It is helping ourselves to become better human beings by service to others.  And we are richly rewarded spiritually and financially.  I would be very grateful for any help towards a graceful exit.  I am not a crazy Asian woman.  I do not need to act nor talk like one, for it is not who I am.

I will stop obsessing and crying now.  I am released from my negativity.  There is much out there in the world.  I will become an explorer of it.  Everything is interesting.  I just need to look closer.  It is good to alter my course.  I am retiring from nursing, not life.  My partner is leaving for Ghana next week for six weeks.  I will not go with him this time.  Sheba and I will tend the hearth at home.  We will miss him and ESCAPE3POINTS but space and time apart is not a bad thing and maybe I will learn to appreciate them both better.  Here’s his video of ESCAPE3POINTS: