It’s April 1 and Fool’s Day. It is the first day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge wherein we are required to write a post/day for the month and share it on the UBC Facebook page. There are a few rules and not hard to abide. I’ve been participating for quite a few years now because I love the challenge of showing up every day for a set month. I love words and writing. Tapping on my keyboard is a meditation for me. I have no set format or theme for this month. My goal is to show up every day and ‘chat’. Perhaps it is not your cup of tea but it is mine.
The rhythm of my fingers on the keyboard soothes and smooths me. It makes me happy to see the letters and words march across the screen like good little soldiers. Perhaps that’s not such a good analogy. Soldiers remind me of war and there’s just too much of that in our world now. So axe that. I’m trying for a feel good month. That reminds me I have 30 days to file my income tax and it is time to pay this month’s bills. Writing brings up my memory list of have-to-do’s. It is good for my brain as well as emotional health.
I want to do and write my best for this challenge but I’m not going to kill myself doing it. April is a busy month. Aren’t all months busy and tough though? I’m going to do my best but I’m not participating in the thread this time around. It will relief the stress of have-tos and must. I generally do read more than 2 other posts in the challenge. I like to do that on my own schedule. It will also be nice to know that someone is reading my post because it caught their interest and not because they ‘had’ to.
August 27 and day 27 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. The end is almost within reach. I do want to finish on a strong note. I’m fighting the clouds and the blahs again. The hibernation response got its hooks out, pulling me in. I’m fighting lethargy and sleepiness. The snacking response is not intense yet. I have that to be thankful for.
Wanting and doing are two different things. I’m learning that over and over. So it is August 29 and day 29 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I am not at all ending on a strong note. I’ve not completed day 27 and was missing in action for day 28. Just to let everyone know though, I was not sitting idly on my ass. I’m finding it difficult to think my thoughts and form my words on these autumn days. It is hard to perform cerebral functions. So I did what I could – the physical chores of living.
Those are not so easy either. It seems both body and mind were in cahoots together. I had to push hard to work my mind to move my body. So at least I could show up here at the keyboard, flexing and bending my fingers, tapping out the letters, words and sentences. Somehow thoughts are coming out. I am such a whiner but every effort is painful. Do you ever feel that way? Sometimes I do think, what if I don’t show up? If I was a bear, I could just curl up in a log and sleep till spring.
I don’t do it. I’m not a bear and one just don’t do such things. We are taught to never give in or up. One must carry on as best able. And so I do. I couldn’t make myself go swimming yesterday morning. I went today. I’ve finished shelling the dried beans for those winterish dishes. Somehow I was able to talk myself into cleaning the shower and bathroom. The greenhouse and the garden are watered.
I am lacking will power. I could not finish this post last night. I was ever so sleepy that I threw myself into bed and dreamt of driving through Manitoba and looking for a toilet in Chan’s Cafe. How strange dreams are. Now it is August 30 and day 30 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. It is getting close to bedtime again. We had a road trip to Elbow, Saskatchewan to put the boat away for winter. I will come back tomorrow and wrap up this up.
So it is August 31 and the last day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. August was hottest and driest of all Augusts known to me. August was hard! Here is its last day. A sigh of relief perhaps but partings are always such sweet sorrow. Even with its ups, downs and wind swept days, it is still the month of bountiful harvest despite some failures. I’m choosing to look at this month’s writing challenge in a positive light, harvesting my successess and learning from my failures. True I haven’t shown up every single day but I didn’t throw in the towel either. I’ve come back again and again whenever I could. I’m here now to wrap it all up.
I will have shown up 16 days out of 31 counting today. It’s not a great record but I have a beginning, a middle and an ending. I will probably participate in the next writing challenge in a few months. I am looking forward to it. It’s like going back to school, getting a new start. I have a few writing ideas brewing in my head. Perhaps I should write them down before they evaporate. Organization makes for possibles.
August 18 and 18th day the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I am aiming to improve a little each day by showing up every day and a little earlier. This summer when it isn’t hot, it is cold. I woke up to 10℃ whereas only a couple of days ago, it was 21℃. I have no control over it. I best adapt as all living species have to. It is a good day to cuddle up to the keyboard. Yesterday I travelled down memory lane and Winnipeg in 1967. I will travel again today down the same highway but maybe to a different year and destination.
As with all trips, it will take time to gather my thoughts, memories and photos. I will have to search through my mental bags, find and sort out my stories. My day has taken me to other directions. Those trips will have to be saved for another day. Instead I will talk about the trip I took today. It is out to Sheba’s old haunt in Furdale, the dog park out by the river. She and I had many happy days there in our younger years. It brought back so many memories and feelings. If it had not been for her, I would not have discovered it or wanted to venture there.
It is August 19 and day 19 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Yesterday got completely away from me. I’m still trying to finish this post. So yesterday the guy and I went out to Furdale. It felt strange to go without a dog. This time we went with ice cream pails. We were hunting for chokecherries to make wine. It did not take long to find them. They were plentiful and we went back today for more. I think we got enough chokecherries to make a batch of wine, some syrup and some to give to our friend who introduced the idea to us.
I hope to show up again tomorrow. I will try my best. There’s a lot of chokecherries to clean and freeze. I’m tackling a bit at a time. I have 2 cookie sheets of chokecherries frozen but there’s alot more to be done.
August 16 and 16th day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. It seems I can only show up every other day. Even that is difficult though I have so much good intentions. Now I’m showing up every 3rd day. The heat of this summer is very tiring. I try to do my best to show up where and when it is most important. I was sorely tempted not to show up for my exercise class today. But keeping fit is important for staying active. The class was in the morning and a good way to start the day. It would limber me up for work in the garden after. I bit the bullet, pack my bag and got in my car and went.
Hard things are not quite so hard when you have developed good habits/routines. I have been going to the YWCA for my aerobic class and swimming regularly for years. I know from experience that even though I start off feeling tired and not excited, I end up feeling great after. I have established set grooves which I can slip back into after falling off the wagon. I was glad I made the effort. It was a good class and an opportunity for a bit of socializing, an important thing in these times. It got me out of the house and onward to my day.
I have to admit I have periods of despondency with Covid and climate change. It doesn’t make me feel better knowing that we are all in this together. However, since this is what’s here and there’s nowhere to run, I am facing and accepting. There’s no alternative except to do the things I love and are passionate about. I am a minimalist by nature. I like to ‘make do’ and live frugally. Perhaps it’s from our life in Canada as an immigrant. We didn’t have alot of money. My father had to borrow money to bring my mother, sister and I over from Hong Kong. The money was like an insurance that we would not be a burden on the government.
We/I have always been self sufficient. My mother always had and still have a garden. I got the bug and other things from her. I love experimenting and trying new plants and ways of growing. They are endless. I get tired but I never get bored. I am often excited and awed by the wonder of growing things. It is so rewarding to see some of our harvest.
I have become sodden with the summer heat. I can’t remember when I have shown up here. I no longer feel familiar with the word. The only thing I can do these days is water the greenhouse and gardens and watch Poirot on YouTube. I believe I am addicted to the peculiar little detective. I had to force myself away to come to the keyboard. Thinking and creating is so hard to do. I gave up on the index-card-a-day challenge after 40 days. It’s over tomorrow. I’m short 21 days. That doesn’t mean I have to give up. I can still finish it on my own time schedule. Do I have it in me?
It’s been a tough summer. It’s been a tough year. It’s a tough time all around. Nothing is like it used to be. Hasn’t it always been that way? We’re more aware now because Covid-19 changed everything. We have to change our ways of living on this planet. Yes, change is exhausting and I am exhausted but grateful at the same time. No, I can’t cry, Woe is me! because we are all in this together. I’m learning to suck it up, bolster myself and move forward as best as I can.
I have signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge of writing a post a day for the month of August. A commitment is a good prod in the right direction. I do take these challenges seriously. Here’s hoping I have enough stick-with-it to show up here every day this month. If I don’t have the words, I can do show and tell on what and how things are showing up in the greenhouse and garden. My goal for this challenge is showing up each day. It is a given that content and presentation are still very important to me. I will strive to do my best but it is not a do or die.
I’ve never given much thought to the meaning of the dog days of summer. Given to the context of how I hear it used and how it sounded, they meant summer time when you can see the heat sizzling from the pavement. The phrase always summon up images and memories of that summer in New York City. I can still see the steaming sidewalks, hear the rat-tat-tat of jackhammers, sirens, the crowded streets of Canal and Mott Streets. I can still feel the loneliness of summer in the city.
I still struggle with the dog days of summer. I still struggle with life. There’s no easy way about it. Everything takes effort. I like to think that effort makes it worthwhile. But I’m simply justifying, explaining and maybe apologizing for my lack of skills and successess. I do feel like such a failure sometimes. What do I really have to show for these years of hard effort? Ok, I have:
A nursing career. Nothing spectular but 30 years of rotating shift work. No nurse of the year award but have caused no harm.
No husband. No children. A companion of 10 years.
No wealth. A good pension. Nice house with garage and yard. No debts.
Not the most popular gal in town. Have a few good friends. I can count them all on one hand. One bad neighbour.
Experienced unconditional love for almost 14 years. I’m talking about my fur baby, Sheba. She’s in heaven now.
Ignited a couple of old passions – my paints and sewing machine.
Perhaps I am not doing as bad as I thought. I have a few good things. When those dog days come, all I can see and feel are my dark side and failures. It helps to make a list of : successes and failures, pros and cons, places I’ve been, things done, etc. Then tally up the score to see the results. I had meant to show up every day for the Ultimate Blog Challenge but the dog days got the better of me. Total counting today, I’ve shown up for 17 days. It’s a little more than 50%. But I did complete the Daisy Yellow Index Card a Day Challenge. I painted 62 index cards for June and July – one extra.
Did I reach the goal I set for this challenge? I think I have. Right in the moment I’m not exactly jumping up and down with glee and excitement. I feel somewhat sedate and at ease. I’m satisfied in the now. I have no wants. I am at peace – even with my badassed neighbour. Perhaps she is getting help with her mental health. Perhaps there is hope. I’m not all about struggles. I’m not all about depression. I have those treasured moments of seeing dust motes in sunbeams. I have the ability to see beauty and feel joy.
So ends another Ultimate Blog Challenge. Hope to show up more next time around.
November is the hardest month, especially without snow to light up the grey. Yesterday it rained. Then snow came and melted. It was not an easy day. It was a day of pushing and prodding myself to show up and make my own sunshine. The less I show up, the less I want to. The less I talk, the less I have to say. Is there a message here? Is this a season of silence? Is it a time for me to rest and hibernate, to restore and refill my body and spirit?
There are so many things I rather not do, so many places where I don’t want to show up. It’s childish talk. I like to lay down, kick my legs up and down and have a tantrum. I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! But who would pay attention and listen? I just have to suck it up and do those I rather nots. Life does go on, with or without me. Remember that rhetoric? It’s a truism. I don’t want to be left behind, not when I’m still breathing. I will go along for the ride. I might as well put in a good effort or else it will be a wasted trip.
I will have to pull up my socks again, stand tall and square my shoulders to face the world. It’s not so bad or hard once I’ve made the decision and begin. The words are coming back. They are marching across my screen, forming sentences and thoughts. Ideas are popping into my head and fingers as they tap on the keyboard. I feel the light and energy coming back into my body. Hope is not out of reach as fatigue and the humdrum of the everyday recedes. The ordinary is coming alive again for me. Perhaps seeing Picasso’s linocut collection on still life at the Remai Modern yesterday stirred some excitement in me. It made me think and look at things in different ways. Perhaps that’s the function of art.
Some habits are good to keep. Though the Ultimate Blog Challenge is over, the commitments of the month are sticking. I do my 4-7-8 breathing exercise in the morning waiting for the kettle to boil. It is relaxing. I have my one fried egg for breakfast. I’m not ready to add the toast back. After breakfast, I had this urge to have another cup of tea and just while away the morning.
I didn’t. I could but I know that whiling away is not all that satisfactory at the end of the day. It is not when you end up with a messy house, untended business nagging at you and a stiff achy body begging to be moved. So I unplug the kettle, got out the vacuum stick and did the places full of Sheba’s hair. The furnace filter and motor will be happier as well as my pocket book.
Funny how dog hair and garbage odour can mar my days. Nothing glorious about dealing such things but it is necessary. They don’t do themselves. There is some pleasure when you see the dog hair get sucked up by the Dyson stick. Not so much washing the garbage bin. It comes later after the muck is washed away. It’s looking so clean drying in the sun. I hope it will kill the odour.
I am so glad that I keep showing up here like a bad shiny penny. It’s a springboard into the day for me if I can show up early. Now it is almost 8 pm. The afternoon and the evening is hot – still 31 degrees Celsius. Sheba and I are just back from our walk. I am soaked with perspiration. So happy I did some weeding in the morning. The weeds looked formidable at first but just pulling them one by one, it was not bad at all. I harvested some rhubarb and put down the leaves as a mulch helps to keep them down. Everything looks pretty good despite our strange summer. I am happy.
Saturday rainy morning coming down. I’m counting our good fortunes. I can’t imagine anyone complaining about more rain. Our corner of this earth is very dry. I am trying to move forward in my day. It is easier said than done. So many things are easier said than done. I have been reading Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. It is beautifully written and full of wisdom. I’m soaking up tiny drops of it every morning.
What I value most of all is that I am softening up inside, slowly letting go of my rigidity, of things that no longer work. It is not an easy process. This morning I am feeling my heart closing up again. I am who I am. And you can’t make me change, it declares. Alrighto! I will not fight it. Nothing good comes out of ill fought struggles. The heart feel what it feels. I will observe and honour it. The time will come when it can willingly soften and open its door. The time will come when I can receive and accept whatever that comes without judgement and resentment. I can and I will!
I am happy that I have shown up here before my keyboard. I am sitting here amid the clutter of my desk. I’m not waiting for the perfect moment. I’m not waiting till everything is in perfect order. I am not waiting till I feel ‘fine’ and in ‘working condition’. I am showing up, sitting down and letting my fingers do the walking and talking. Somehow, they find the words and sentences. I sit and watch them march across the screen. I wonder where they come from. I wonder where they will go and when they will return.
Now that I have some words and thoughts out, I can settle into the day. I will not be distracted and lost in my head and feelings. Lunch is the next thing on my agenda. I bought some hemp hearts and chia seeds yesterday. I am eager to try them out in salads. I have a bag of spinach harvested from our raised beds begging to be eaten.
It is after lunch. The rain is pouring down. I hope that it’s not too much of a good thing all at once. All our rain barrels are full. We can stand to save some rain for later in the season. It is what it is. We can not hold back nature but we can learn to live in harmony with nature to ensure the health of our planet. What we do to nature, we do to ourselves. So how much do we care – about our earth and ourselves?
What can I do? What have I done? I use these 2 questions when I am stuck and I’m stuck often. So I’ve just finished the dishes from lunch. I’m sitting here with my cuppa green tea. Thought I would try something new besides my usual Orange Pekoe, especially when I have a cupboard full of all sorts. Some of them are from Sri Lanka. I see that Orange Pekoe is not a bad choice. It has many health benefits. But I am going to shake up my taste buds and experiment with different teas as well as food. Green tea is even better than black tea because it is not as processed.
I’ve been reading the ebook, Ketotarian by Will Cole from the library. I found it very informative and useful so I ordered my own copy from Amazon. It has many recipes that I want to try out. I was going through my closet the other day and was dismayed to find that my waist line has increased many inches this past year. My belly fat is out of control and is hanging over the waist band. It is not helping my blue mood. It is another thing I can do to help myself. I do not need to let everything hang out. I hope the book will help me to keep some things in.
Life continues to be hard. It is the next morning. I have problems finishing things as well. I am trying my best. What I can do is make a list of what I have done.
I’ve gotten up, dressed up and shown up here today.
I do my qigong routine most mornings. I have done it today.
I’ve folded and put away yesterday’s laundry.
Sorted out my pants in the closet. Experienced items that did not give me joy. Those have been taken to Value Village.
Struggled with sorting, cleaning and putting away seeds,pots and trays for starting the bedding plants.
Struggled to be in the present moment every day.
Taken Sheba to the dog park more often. It’s good for her and myself as well to mingle with other dogs and people.
Do blocks of art. Mostly it’s been embroidery on the machine lately.
Questions and lists can prod me from being stuck. I have to make physical evidence of them. Having them in my head does no good. They would be fuel for rumination. I do that too much already. I have to get off my fat ass and work it! But what would be good to chew on is the 4 mantras that I’ve learned from Thick Nhat Hanh this morning.