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Winter Transplant 1 comment

Cue, huge intake of breath … and … WHOOSH!

*cough*

That was me, blowing the dust off this blog. It has been a while.

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Confession: I love winter.

supermoon

Supermoon over Coby

I love the crispness of the air, the freshness that new snow lends every vista. I love having a vista, of sorts.

I love the challenge: staying warm, balancing system heat with wood heat, the work of shovelling, snow-blowing, stacking, sweeping. God help me, I even like winter driving. That is to say, I’m not put off by it. Bring it on.  A “supermoon” hung over the east sky a few nights ago, as I was piecing my way through a few squalls to get home. Like a huge bauble, dangling just above the horizon.  Gorgeous.

I love the coziness of a fire when the temperature is plunging outside, the sound of a hockey game on the tv as I go about other tasks. The happy riot at the birdfeeders when I’ve just re-filled them.

The eagerness on Big Dee’s face when he can see me going through the steps of getting ready to go outside: boots, scarf, coat, hat, go back inside for something (my phone), come back to the door, go back inside again for something else (treats), open the door, close it again, grab my mitts, open the door, close it again, go back inside for something (coffee) … eventually, we get outside. He has learned patience.

Up here, the silence is extraordinary. I’m not really one to judge, given that my world seems to get more silent, or muffled, every day. Maybe silence isn’t really the word – stillness.

This is my second winter up here on my own, and it certainly came on quickly.  I thought I would have a bit longer to wrap up my outdoor projects … but, no … the shed isn’t finished and the raised beds still stand. Oi.

The plan, for those who are still following along, was not for me to be here on my own. Yet, here I am. It has, in fact, worked out. I want to say something about the journey up here as part of a couple in 2011, the rapid deterioration, the frantic yet dismal attempts at repair, the denouement late summer of 2015. But … what to say? It did NOT work out.  Anger, hurt, blaming – all the old standards.  I did not blow the dust off the blog to re-visit the minutia of the hash we both made of it.

The fact of my life at the moment is that each season up here is a gift. I wouldn’t have moved up here, independently. It doesn’t make a ton of logistical or financial sense. I had to be given the context to step back into a non-urban life. The fact that the context evaporated pretty quickly left me with a choice:  stay by the river or return to the city. Every cell of my being said, unhesitatingly, “stay”.  So I am grateful for the context, if you will, dragging me up the road and depositing me by the river.

The first four seasons on my own were, quite possibly, the happiest I’ve been for so many years. The absence of tension was palpable. I’d come home from the city and just stand on the landing between the kitchen and the living room, looking out over the deck, and marvel at the opportunity I have to re-invent myself. Re-plant, perhaps. A transplant, happy to find herself in a place that restores and nourishes.

Today, It Is All About The Light Click Here To Comment!

Today seems to be all about the light.

I have just pulled away from having my headlight bulbs replaced in my car as they were inadequate for deep, dark, rural nighttime driving. While that was being done, I managed to find a powerful rechargeable spotlight/flashlight on sale which will allow all of us to go owling in our deep, dark, rural winter evenings. As I’m driving into the city this morning, it feels like a beautiful spring day although, in fact, it is a beautiful January day. The  quality of the light hitting the vistas before me makes the world seem to glow. This type of day reminds me of the kind of spring day I remember growing up on the farm, with the sun thawing out the soil. You can smell everything loosening up and getting ready to grow.  I loved this kind day as a child and I’m looking forward to experiencing this yet again when real spring hits in a few months.

Today is also about the light because I am on my way to a funeral. We have lost a bright and beautiful colleague to cancer and it has taken us all a bit by surprise.  Although I didn’t know her well,  Sue struck me as being one of the most positive people I know at work. She was upbeat, always, and the picture of health and wellness. Most of our conversations revolved around diet, exercise, living well and loving life. It is a bit of a shocker that cancer claimed her so quickly and completely. It feels important to respect and acknowledge this very bright light having left our particular corner of the world although, knowing Sue even the little bit that I did, I don’t think she would be interested in having us wander around in despair. I think she would want us to have a glass of wine, a good meal and a good dance party.

This light we have lost makes me reflect on the kind of legacy that I might be leaving behind one day, hopefully far in the future. I pause to wonder whether everything I’m putting the world is as positive and as straightforward as it could be. I wonder if I allow my inner demons to shout down my better angels.  I fear that the answer, all too often, is “yes”. I over-think things, I over-analyze, and I make situations far more complicated than they need to be. I get lost in it sometimes, as one might in a deep, dark, rural night without good headlights or a decent flashlight. I don’t think it is possible for me to be a relentlessly positive and cheerful person, and I think my analytical skills are valuable at times, yet I think I can do better at not getting so lost. At curbing my tendency to wallow with my demons rather than celebrating with my angels.

Although I didn’t make specific New Year’s resolutions, I am going to take this opportunity to commit to dancing more and wallowing less. To celebrating that which is right in my world rather than highlighting that which is not right.  To remembering that light exists, somewhere, even when I’m lost in the dark.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation 4 comments

My family didn’t go on vacation. Ever. So the concept is quite foreign to me. Oh, I “get” it, intellectually. We all need a break, blah blah blah. But it isn’t in my programming, really.

I think my Mom would have been a traveller, given half a chance. She famously (well, famously to me anyway) hitchhiked across the continent with her best buddy, Charlotte, after they both graduated from nursing school. Whenever they ran out of money, they stopped and got nursing jobs for a few months, then carried on. What an adventure that must have been, exploring North America in the late-40’s, post-war era. They traveled together for over a year, I think.  Across the prairies to Vancouver, down the coast to LA, through New Orleans and back up through New York City. That’s my Mom.

But … was it a vacation? Not really. It was an adventure. Soon, she married my father and started having babies. When I was four, and Mom had been married almost 20 years, she took me to Florida. We stayed for a week with my aunt and uncle in their trailer. That was the only vacation we ever took, and I only vaguely remember it.

Actually, now that I think of it, I remember being told something about a camping trip to the Pinery Provincial Park when I was still in a wicker bassinet.  Hardly an experience that would have left an indelible mark.

My father used words like “tomfoolery” and “lazy bastards” whenever anyone took a day off work, so the concept of taking an extended break was certainly not in his programming, either. Those words also applied to Christmas and birthday celebrations but I think I’ve managed not to let his severe case of the grumps spoil my fun on those days. I’m not sure if it is a family farming culture thing – no time to rest! – or just my father’s peculiar inability to let go of his Protestant work ethic. But we didn’t go anywhere as a family, or plan anything like a trip or a “vacation”.

That makes it sound like we didn’t have any fun – we certainly did. There was card-playing, board games, lots of horsing around and activity with my brothers, including building our own ice rinks, fishing the local creeks, swinging from ropes into piles of straw in the barn, and breaking windows with errant baseballs. I spent a significant amount of time begging my mother to buy me, or let me buy, a mini-bike. Later, for me, there were organized sports (hockey, softball, swimming), music lessons and theatre projects. But … no vacations, per se.

My life looks a bit like this now, in fact. Busy – a lovely balance between work and play in my day-to-day life. However, now that I am better at recognizing the signs and appreciating the rhythm of modern life, I am faced with the indisputable fact that I Must Go Away From Time To Time And Shift Gears. The signs are clearer to me now than they once were: emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, mild depression, disinterest, disorganization, lack of creativity. The rhythm, particularly of my primary job as a professor, couldn’t be clearer. This great gaping maw of time stretches from mid-June to late August, begging to be filled with interesting distractions.

What do I typically do? This year, my official obligations ended with my institution on June 18, a Friday. My first client meeting was scheduled for – wait  for it – June 21, Monday. Now that I really think on it, there is something almost obscene about this. As with other years, I have sort of puttered through the summer, not really planning much, doing some work for clients, sleeping in, trying to relax and be less structured, spending some lovely time with friends, letting things unfold. But it doesn’t feel very “vacation”-like. I’m terrible at planning vacations in advance – I have no training, role-modeling or examples from my past to guide me – and I shudder at forking out the dough. Check with anyone I’ve been involved with for any length of time … they’ll confirm this in spades.

How does someone like me really go on vacation? I have learned that I can trick myself into it. In 2008, I took off by myself to Barbados and justified it as a “strategic planning retreat” for my business. I found a bed and breakfast with high speed wireless and spent a portion of every day drumming up new ideas and documenting a business plan for the next few years. Of course, I also got a tan and swam in the ocean a lot. This compromise – a working vacation – is about as close as I’m going to get to the real deal.

So, what have I done on my summer vacation at this last-minute cottage rental? I have:

  • Developed a workshop (powerpoint and materials) on recruitment best practices for a client. First time I’ve prepared a session to be delivered by someone else. Very liberating.
  • Developed a bio for a client to be included in a bid for a significant chunk of work. I love spin.
  • Completed the first edit on the script for Fundy Boy: Back to Broadway. The original gang is re-assembling, I’ll be directing/lighting/running around. Rehearsals start late August for an October 1-2 staging. Be there!

Still to be completed:

  • Working out operational workflows for two specific processes for a client, mapping out and justifying the recommended changes in processes.
  • Creating a workplan for my two weeks of prep prior to classes starting at Centennial. Lots to do … very little time to do it!

Oh … I have also …

  • Slept like a rock
  • Gotten up early, with the mist on the water, and spent hours fishing on a silent, still lake, absorbing the sound of the loons
  • Dozed on the floating dock, listened to audiobooks and gotten rather a lot of sun
  • Re-connected with dear, long-time friends who also have a cottage on this lake and eaten steak and – mmmm – mashed potatoes and s’mores
  • Gone swimming
  • Spent some glorious time with Knotty Girl when she dropped by
  • Bailed out the boat, in the pouring rain, so I can get back to shore for supplies (this was actually kind of fun although I’m very glad it had stopped raining by the time I’d returned)
  • Pondered blogging and a re-entry therein

Still to come:

  • More hanging out with Knotty Girl, and two more joyful and lovely fishing buddies who are arriving for the weekend
  • More dozing on dock
  • More fishing and swimming
  • Some yummy cottage meals when the gang is here
  • Perhaps some live action Scrabble playing and Balderdashing
  • More blogging?

So, this business of tricking myself into vacationing actually works. As long as I feel I’m accomplishing something, I’m good to go. I think of it as the Protestant-work-ethic-work-around.

OK – I need to think about workflows now. Well, shortly. First, a dip in the lake … I may have gotten a sunburn writing this.

Extended Absence Greeting 4 comments

Hey there – remember me? 🙂

So, the last few months of 2009 became a muddy blur during which time writing, and exercising, took a backseat to the following:

  • caring for the lovely Freddie as she recovered from surgery to repair ruptured discs in her spine (neck). My home became a baby-gated, cushioned, modified pet crate for seven weeks. My dog was in pain and I felt helpless. And then, shortly afterwards, broke. So grateful that Freddie’s Other Mom, and the lovely WWBA, were able to be such a supportive part of this adventure. But it did take its toll. Freddie needs to be carried up and down stairs and, at first, needed more, shorter walks. I live up two flights of stairs and my routine was tied more than ever, to Freddie’s requirements. I was exhausted.
  • … and thus got I ill myself with a persistent bronchial infection – several weeks of coughing and hacking and sleeping badly.
  • having my car vandalized, right here in the underground parking lot. Stuff stolen, car damaged. Much time and energy lost over a 10 day period, dealing with this. Not to mention feeling just a wee bit violated.
  • grading 174 really sub-par essay-like business reports in 3.5 weeks. That is a real number, 174. 87 in the first round that had to be done quickly and returned so they could have feedback to complete and hand in the second round. Second round to be graded to the grade submission deadline at the end of term. This activity will suck your brain out through the eye of a needle and will rip your heart out of your chest, tossing it away like last year’s PlayStation. Don’t let anyone tell you that teaching isn’t an emotional pursuit. After teaching plagiarism (how to avoid it, not how to do it) as a topic in class, finding students who persist in the behaviour is like getting smacked up the side of the head with a 2 x 4. I’m not sure I can explain why, it just feels … horrible.  It does get balanced out, of course, by students who really do make incredible progress and there were some really fine moments of this as well. Somehow, though, this term, the amount of grading and the roller coaster ride it took me on just about did me in.
  • ongoing negotiations with management on workload issues (see above) and the looming possibility of a strike that no one wants yet that seems difficult to avoid. Multiple meetings with management over next term’s workload. A workload review by a larger committee. Not much progress. Stress. Self-doubt. Worry.

As you can see, not a lot of writing took place. Furthermore, I actually have found myself daydreaming of the smell of my gym. What I’ve learned is that my mental and emotional health is linked to these two activities. Thus, I resolve to re-prioritize and get both disciplines back into my life. Although I’m going to wait until mid-February to actually step on the scales, I think. Yikes.

Anyway, thanks for your patience – all three or four of you. 🙂 Stay tuned for more … as for now, I’m off to the gym!

Mother’s Day 3 comments

It has been roughly seven weeks since I’ve been able to even consider blogging. I can’t really apologize for this as it has been a fantastic seven weeks. I’m clearly in a “work hard, play hard” phase of my life and it takes me away from some of the processing place I get into when I write. I do miss it and I hope to find a way to integrate it back in. As part of my weekly “to do” list ritual, I keep a list of notes on future blog posts, little text sketches of things I need to say, or mull over, or share. I re-write the list each week, and usually add one or two ideas … their time will come.

“Work hard, play hard.” My Mom would SO approve of this. Of “getting out there”, as she would say. Trying things, finding barriers, working around them. Making mistakes. Responding carefully to that reality. Giving. Taking. Playing fair. Laughing. Feeling blessed. Feeling hurt. Keeping it in perspective. Feeling loved. Not being afraid of the intensity. A little cowed, sometimes, but not letting that stop me. Keeping it real.

Yes, Mom would be pleased that my hands-on working/playing life has taken over from processing and analysis for a while. So, for Mother’s Day, I dedicate this entire active busy intense jam-packed spring season to the memory of my Mom. It was her favourite time of year anyway – she loved being out in the garden, fussing, planning. She died in her garden, in the spring of 1998. Death in a place of growth and possibility. In my experience, these last two – growth and possibility – trump death every time.

I hope everyone has enjoyed a connection with the maternal, however it appears, this weekend. Happy Mother’s Day!

It Keeps Me Off The Streets 1 comment

So for ages now I’ve been puttering away at upgrading my business site. Given the fragmented life I’m living at the moment, this project has suffered from “shoemaker’s children” syndrome. I’m able to offer others all kinds of advice on their site strategies. I can’t seem to focus on my own.

Nonetheless, with the able creative design work of the magnificent Pam Sloan, it all got done and launched late Sunday night. Phew!

The main business site is here. This should remain fairly stable, although I have more testimonials on the way (so I’m told) and will be adding links and clients as appropriate. The nav bar is expandable so if I have “new services” to add, that is fairly easily done.

After years of experimenting with keeping my volunteer/fundraising work under the same umbrella as my revenue-generating business site, I’ve decided this doesn’t really work. It muddies the message. So I have split this off and will house all the creative fun stuff here. This site needs the most polishing up, design and content-wise, but I wasn’t going to hold up the works, so to speak, by continuing to fiddle with it. I’m collecting photos from past productions to put into an album here, so that should be fun.

My new business blog is here. The first two entries are on a) e-mail spoofing, and b) the tension between core competency and market differentiation. I think the next one is on managing up and managing down … but I can’t be sure until I really sit down to write. 🙂 I think I’ll eventually manage about one entry per week. I have an endless number of ideas for this blog – all I need to do is become self-aware of the anecdotes that come out of my mouth like frogs and toads, in the classroom.

After one entry, the stats here were interesting to watch. 33% of the traffic generated to the site came from google searches, which is terrific. Next step here is to throw some ads up and see what happens.

It is all a grand experiment. And it keeps me off the streets.

My next blogging projects include:

  • a blog for one of my hockey leagues to keep everyone connected
  • a place for women to talk about anger
  • something about grocery stores in Toronto

Do stay tuned … I’ll be off the streets a while it seems …

Is Chinese Food Like Re-Purposed Blog Content? Click Here To Comment!

Possibly. I’ll let you decide.

The CheapEats Toronto Blog (go there NOW if you are even remotely interested in food in Toronto) recently re-purposed some content from another blog. Specifically, a TED presentation, about 16 minutes long, about the history and evolution of Chinese food in the United States. I’d love to see a Canadian analysis along the same lines someday. Funny and fascinating.

New BlogRoll Stuff 1 comment

So I added two new bits to my blogroll. Cate and Ali are writing about knitting here. Except “writing about knitting” doesn’t really quite capture what is going on. Especially here.

I just discovered my neighbour’s blog, Seizure Salad, and really enjoyed it. It is from this blog that I steal the following link to a site called We Feel Fine. I need to spend much more time here and I just can’t this morning. It is the kind of site that can suck you in, bouncing, in my case, between the output of the methodology and the methodology itself. Bouncing between looking at the results, and wondering how the heck they did that.

In short, this site trolls the Internet, specifically blogs, every 10 minutes, looking for instances of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. It then presents the data in a sort of kaliedescope that a site visitor clicks on, randomly, and is presented with the snippet of blog that corresponds to the randomly selected point. A marriage of mathematics and art.

I must send this link to my friend, Bill Ralph, who produces art with algorithms. Fascinating.

Although, I suppose knitting is also art + mathematics, si?

Check … 1-2-3 1 comment

Check … check … 1-2-3 … *tap tap* … is this thing on?

Hello!

So, here I am, launching The HandBasket 3.0, a.k.a. Blogging 3.0 … feels like I’m unpacking boxes and checking out the view from here. Looks pretty amazing so far. Must admit I’m smitten with WordPress, the self-hosted option, and all that it has to offer. This is going to be fun!

I’ve imported (manually, post-by-post) some of my favourite posts from my old blog on Vox.com. I’ve managed to get up to November 2007 and plan to fill in the rest of 07-08 within the next few days. I love Vox and its community and all that it has to offer in terms of simplicity and ease. But, alas, it is time for me to leave my comfy nest and fly on my own now.

The last time I switched platforms, from LJ to Vox, I mused about why I blog at all. I no longer ask that question, at least not with the same interest or frequency. It is like asking why one enjoys good food or good music, or why one feels compelled to learn new things … it is just a part of my life. I think about things. I observe. I like to share what I think. I like to start, or continue, conversations.

I’m planning on starting a few more topic-focused blogs in the very near future. Watch this space for details.

But, now … I really must get to the gym … please do feel free to comment, subscribe or otherwise interact with this blog. Remember … we are all in this handbasket together, peeking over the side, and wondering where the hell we are going anyway … 🙂 … we might as well have a few good chats along the way.

Bloggin’ (v 2.0) 35 comments

About Blogging: For the past year, I’ve been experimenting with “blogging” as a journaling activity and I have, for the most part, really enjoyed it. I have learned a few things along the way …

a) Not everyone understands, or gives a rat’s a$$ about, blogging.

b) Balancing “honest reflection” with “prudence and judiciousness” is a tough call.

c) Lurkers far outnumber participants.

d) I want more.

Please indulge me a few minutes to look at these a bit more closely.

a) Not everyone understands, or gives a rat’s a$$ about, blogging. Or, as phrased as the title of a recent book on the topic, No One Cares What You Had For Lunch. Lex is doing a great job of exploring this theme. The thing is, though, that people really DO care what Lex has for lunch!

Is the role of the blog to “entertain an audience”, or to record a snapshot, a mental/emotional/physical moment in time, within the life of one individual? I’m a Libra, so I’m a bit torn on this, but I do lean towards the latter.

I’m not really sure what my deep-seated psychologial motivation for blogging is – happily, such self-knowledge is not a prerequisite for the activity. It simply appeals to me to have a virtual record of what is going on with me – of who I am – at particular points in time. It appeals to me to think that a handful of people from my “real” world might take a moment to check in with me via the blog from time to time. It appeals to me that complete strangers will stop by and that they might find what they see interesting.

However, I take issue with the author of the aforementioned book. I have discovered that people *do* care what I have for lunch, or as is the case with me more often, for breakfast. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve run into people in the “real” world who chide me for not updating my blog quickly enough for their tastes. On a number of occasions, the gentle chiding has come from people whom I hadn’t seen for months and whose interest in my blog comes as a complete shock to me. More on this under “Lurkers/Participants” …

b) Balancing “honest reflection” with “prudence and judiciousness” is a tough call. A blog is not to be confused with a diary. A diary is meant to be read only by the author or, in some rare cases, to be read by the general public after the author’s demise.

A blog is a semi-public set of reflections that can be read by lots of people, friends/family/strangers, as soon as the author hits “save”.  It is an odd combination of power, vulnerability, and responsibility.

As I see it, a writer has three choices … write about oneself, write about others, write about actions witnessed or shared. To write too clearly and closely about one’s perception of others in one’s life could quickly alienate those individuals. I have heard of fiction writers losing close friends for fear that those friends find themselves as characters in the next published novel. I think something similar goes on with regard to blogging.  Writing about actions witnessed or shared loses steam without the author taking a clear perspective, an interpretation, on what one saw or did. Once you head into interpretive territory, you are really writing about yourself – which is why bloggers are accused so often of being self-indulgent.

Writing about oneself is at once the safest and also most dangerous of pursuits. How much is too much information? Those of us with any kind of artistic bent know that clear access to our emotional life is key to any sense of creativity.  Years ago, someone asked a theatre prof of mine why theatre people were so emotional, so “flighty”, so intense. He replied that our emotions are our raw material, creatively speaking. We need them – need to pursue them, to follow the trail, see where it leads – to explore, to take risks.  We need to have not only experienced the entire spectrum, the good and the bad, but also to have examined and processed it. I think this is true across the board for creative expression, not just for theatre peeps. Musicians, writers, painters, sculpters … passion underlies all these pursuits.

It has come to my attention in the intervening years since my theatre training that not all people in my life have this same risk-taking, exploratory perspective. 🙂  I trip over the TMI line all the time, both in person and in my blog. To do less feels dishonest to me … to do this too often feel terribly uncomfortable for others. I shall continue to feel around in the dark for this fine line.

c) Lurkers far outnumber participants. For the most part, this is ok with me. My fondest wish would be to have more commentary, more interaction. But perhaps, like Chance the Gardener in Being There, some people just “like to watch”.

The most negative experience associated with my old blog address has to do with individuals using the anonymous commenting feature to leave purposefully hurtful remarks. At my old blog address, I enabled the “anonymous” commenting feature to make it easy for anyone to participate without having to sign in, or create an account, or to identify themselves in any way. What was not well known amongst the “anonymous” posters is that I also enabled a feature to track IP addresses. I was able to determine, conclusively, the identity of the computers from which the comments were sent in all but one of these “anonymous” cases. (If you want to know more about how I did this, please e-mail me and I’ll explain it. 🙂 )

Years ago, the Internet was envisioned as a sort of freewheeling, boundary-free, open society – a very ’60’s concept. I’m a 60’s kinda gal, so this appeals to me. My flower-power perspective has changed radically in the past year. One of my key learnings from my first year of blogging is that, given a chance to be anonymous, some surprising people in my life will actually use the cloak of anonymity to be cruel.  I now believe that people need to have the guts to take responsibility and ownership for what they say to me. For walking into my virtual house and speaking with me.

I need to leave that negativity behind now, hence the new blog address. Unfortunately, I also need to exercise more control over how comments are made within my blog. So here is my double-edged message to you all:

1. I’d love it if you were to find something interesting enough to comment on.

2. You’ll need to “sign in” to Vox.com in order to do that. I’m not sure what that process entails or how onerous it is.

To the small but active community at my old address – I will still be dropping by and reading your material. And commenting where appropriate. My account will be there in perpetuity. But, as of this morning, I consider my old blog “closed” and my new blog “open”.

d) I want more. The old blog location felt very limited with regard to design and content. The user interface is not easy or intuitive – editing a single post involved numerous click throughs and drill-downs. To add links or integrate content, I had to use raw HTML, which I am neither skilled at or very fond of. So far, the vox.com interface is a breeze and is actually fun and intuitive to use. I can make the content richer and more dynamic here … the “fun” quotient means that I’ll likely feel compelled to post more frequently.

I can summarize the above point simply by saying that I had blog envy. There – I said it. I wanted a cooler blog that is easier to manage and more fun to use.

So – there you have it … my blogging raison d’être ... I do hope you will stay tuned for more.

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