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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.

Be Stroganoff! 2 comments

Folks who have been following along with Facebook updates will know that the lovely Knotty Girl’s mother is in hospital, ICU in fact, and struggling. Each day, it seems, brings some new piece of unhappy information or new medical complication of some kind. It is a sad, stressful time and we hope she can turn a corner soon.

Moments of brightness and levity can be few and far between, but there have been a couple. Here is one of my favs: KG and I were texting early on in this saga and, if memory serves, she had just been informed that her mother needed extensive, high-risk surgery. Details were exchanged and, having run out of helpful things to say, I texted, “Be strong!”

Or, I thought I did. Just before I hit “send”, I noted that my iPhone had helpfully corrected this to “Be Stroganoff!”

I left it in. It is a measure of my vegetarian girlfriend’s fortitude that she thought it was funny, too, even in this horrible moment.

So, I encourage my darling readers to adopt this as your rallying cry, in those moments where strength is needed, and humour helpful, simply … Be Stroganoff!

Gratitude 2 comments

This morning, my cat Sophie woke me up. She thinks it is fun to bring a toy onto the bed at around 6:30 and to play with it. This morning, it was her new catnip mouse – the toy du jour. Often, it is a crinkly foil ball. She likes crinkly things. Sometimes, I am the toy she plays with, although the noises I make are more yelps than crinkles. Recently, she has taken to lunging at whatever necklace I have on. With no warning. Earrings are also popular.

But, this particular morning, it was the catnip mouse that got things rolling. I lounged in bed later than I meant to, patting happy purring Sophie, rolling my eyes at Andy Barrie, drifting in and out of consciousness, before finally getting up. This is a “non-contact” day for me, meaning that my presence is not required on campus. I have a series of projects that require my attention but that can be worked on from home. I did, however, need to take Sophie to the vet first thing. The vet won’t prescribe standard flea stuff without seeing Sophie first, and weighing her. Which, personally, I think is a cash grab, but … whatever. Sophie was deeply unhappy about this adventure, meowing all the way there, and all the way home in the car. There was parking right outside the vet clinic so, round trip, we were gone less than 25 minutes. I released a relieved Sophie back into her habitat, and unloaded clean laundry out of the dryer. My laundry machines are in the “powder room” on the main floor which is also where Sophie’s litter box is, so I mumbled about the one thing that I wasn’t looking forward to when I considered getting a cat – tramping over cat litter on the floor in my bare feet. I really am not a fan of treading on cat litter.

I made some breakfast, mid-morning. I’m reducing carbs, especially after Cate forced me to eat extra potatoes last night at dinner, so I skipped toast. I fried onions, mushrooms, red peppers together and then threw in beaten eggs with low-fat cottage cheese as well as a tiny lump of bleu cheese crumbled in. I sliced a tomato on the plate and fetched some fresh basil from my window box while the eggs were setting. Chopped the basil, sprinkled it on the tomato and drizzled some balsamic over top, and finished with a tiny flourish of kosher salt. Stirred the eggs and then plopped the eggs on the plate beside the tomato/basil garnish. Needless to say, the coffee was excellent.

I sat with my breakfast and coffee at the computer, fetching also my schedule and lists of things that need to happen today, tomorrow and for the rest of the week. I had a momentary brain fart in terms of remembering what I’m up to this week in the evenings, but between Outlook and my homemade paper schedule, it all came flooding back. I ate my breakfast, and started to review my projects, opening files on the computer and reviewing them.  I answered e-mails. I sipped yummy coffee and checked in with Facebook. Sophie, having forgiven me for hauling her off to the vet for no apparent reason, assumed one of her favourite vantage points, at my right elbow on the computer desk. She sits there, her fur just lightly touching my arm, purring softly as she looks out into the living room, keeping watch in case anything unusual should happen. I spoke with a friend on the phone about some plans we have for later this week. I texted my lover. OK, perhaps I texted her several times. I thought about my projects and did some planning and organizing.

All this time, this morning, I’ve been anticipating the conversation I knew would come, and that I knew would put all this in some kind of perspective. A dear friend, someone I’ve known for a long time, has had a tragic death in her family. A suicide. There are so few words of comfort or solace as my friend and her husband re-enter their lives and attempt to find some sense of normalcy and balance. I am humbled at the courage and strength her family will need to get through the shockwaves of grief and mourning that are bound to reverberate for a long time. I am sad that someone so loved, so intelligent, so skilled, would see no other options before him.

I am guilty, as we all are, of taking so much in my life for granted on a day-to-day basis, starting with my health in all its aspects: mental, physical and spiritual. It is true that I’ve done a better job of looking after myself physically in the past few years, paying more attention to what I eat and to my general level of physical activity. But, I wouldn’t be motivated to do that if I didn’t think my life was worth living. Thus, really, that effort begins with giving a damn, and understanding that my existence has value of some kind. I’m grateful that I have sufficient mental and cognitive fortitude to grasp some sense of my own value, and my extreme good fortune, and enough spiritual awareness to be occasionally reflective about it all.

It is true that I have struggled with a lurking sadness that sometimes dips into depression. I have known a lonely, valueless desperation and, in a sense, I’m grateful for that experience, too. It taught me a lot, including an understanding of what it takes to steer my emotional ship to safer, healthier waters. I’ve been able to keep a steady hand on the rudder for some time now.

I’m grateful for being employed in a job that allows me to do good in the world, and that, miraculously, pays well enough for me to afford to live in a comfortable, safe, kinda funky home, drive an outrageously nice car, and shrug off the occasionally ridiculous vet’s bill. I’m grateful that I have clients who find my skills worthy of remuneration and who understand my need to work around a teaching schedule. I have a comfortable bed, my own laundry facilities, and a refrigerator that is never empty.  Every three weeks, a nice young lesbian brings me organic vegetables that I then have to figure out how to eat before they go off. I can afford flea prevention medication for my cat, hockey fees, gym fees, and prime rib dinner from time to time.  I can afford fistfuls of supplements that fill in my nutritional gaps and keep me healthy. I have a clean stove to cook on, with gas supplied from who knows where. Clean water comes out of my tap and my computer turns on (usually) when I ask it to. The water goes into making my coffee, and my computer helps me source out new fair trade coffee beans – which I can afford to order, have delivered, and can grind in my Italian burr grinder. It is ridiculous, really, how abundant my life is at times.

I have a broom to sweep up the cat litter, and the musculature and coordination to achieve such a task.

I have the ability to appreciate good music and to allow it to lift me up and take me to new places. I can afford the occasional film that also transports me, and am determined to put one new piece of original Canadian art on my wall annually.

I have a multitude of friends to eat with, cook for, laugh with, cry with and play with – hockey and music, usually, but also Scrabble.  Old friends, new friends, close friends, fun friends, oddball friends, long-distance friends, neighbour friends, sometimes friends, always friends. I’m grateful for all they show me of themselves, and for what they reflect back to me, of me.

I have a lover whose heart is even more beautiful than her arms, if that is at all possible. Together, we have plans that make me look ahead with eagerness in a way I haven’t done for so long, if at all.  If now is this wonderful, I can hardly fathom how fabulous later will be.

It is abundantly clear to me, as I deal with my students each week, as I turn on the news and see strife both close to home and far away, and as I hear of tragedies such as the one my friend is confronting in her life right now, that not everyone has it this good.  Even if a person has the trappings of a life of abundance, it isn’t a given that they have the capacity to appreciate it, to savour it. For whatever reason, what looks like a rich, colourful life on the outside may look grey and shadowed to the person living it. It is also true that it is almost impossible to show someone the colour and beauty within their own life if they are not able to see it themselves. Sometimes, I wonder if we nursed this single capacity in our children – the ability to not take even the simplest beautiful life-giving things for granted – if we’d have less aggression and strife in all aspects on this planet. If we knew we had all we need, already, I wonder if we’d be so anxious about acquiring more?

That does seem an over-simplification, doesn’t it? I know. Wishful thinking, I’m sure. But, if you would indulge me, please, give a few minutes to this exercise yourself. Today. Think of what you have to be grateful for. Hug someone you love.

Or, in my case … shrug, sweep up the cat litter … hug the cat. Can’t hurt. And, you never know, it might help.

And She Said … 1 comment

“Every relationship we have with another person is really just a relationship with ourselves,” she said. These words were accompanied by the raspy sound of tissue being yanked from a resistant box. “Each person reflects back something essential about ourselves. We get a chance – however briefly – to experience ourselves through someone else’s eyes.”

And then she blew her nose.

I’ve been thinking about these words since hearing them. I’m still not sure I agree, or understand. But since they’ve been in my head a while, I thought I’d write them down.

Retrospective 2007 Click Here To Comment!

I’ve been stalling a bit on this, hesitating. Hesitant. I just took care of that last night, ritually burning my hesitation and second guessing of self, so here goes with a look back at 2007. I do have to thank Kaivalya for giving me a structure to put to this, to get me started …

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?
Most recently, zip-lining through the canopy of the tropical forest in Mexico. Earlier in the year, I took a leave of absence from my teaching position to work in a smaller organization – something I’d certainly never done before.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Sort of. According to this post, my three resolutions were:

– Go to the gym 3x a week

– Less e, more me.

– Remember to consider the source.

If one reads the first one as “get in better shape / improve health”, then I have certainly achieved that this year, although I’m dragging my heels a bit on weighing in after the holidays! I believe I’m also doing much more phone and in person contact than I did the previous year and it has certainly made my life richer. Present circumstances aside, I’m much better at “considering the source” than I once was, but stuff does still get to me that shouldn’t.

Will I make more? Hm. This year, I plan to:

– continue to work towards my optimal weight target and, as I get there, work on conditioning the healthy body I’ve been blessed with.

– work on self-confidence. Seriously. Present circumstances have dealt me a serious blow in this area and I need to work on getting my mojo back, so to speak.

“Present circumstances” refers to the fact that my job shift, while positive in many respects, is not working out. The last time I felt like this involved eight months of trying to leave a complex and mildly abusive relationship. Walking around most days with a knot in my stomach. So … step one is getting outta there … and step two is healing the damage. Once this all unfolds, I’ll see more clearly the positives that have come out of this. And they are there – I can sort of see them through the murk. Stay tuned …

– more music in my life … more reading … move towards a simpler existance

3. Did someone close to you give birth?
Yes – welcome Arden Collins to the world!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. (Knock on wood.)

5. What countries did you visit?
US – Hawaii in March … US – Chicago in October … Mexico in December … my attitude towards visiting the States has changed so much in the last 18 months.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
A sense of personal stability, confidence.

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

“Etched” seems a strong word … memorable? Will that do?

January 27/28 – Beth’s Recitals

January 30 – Blind date that led to a relatively short-lived but intense relationship that took up a chunk of 2007

March – Hawaii

June 29 – Start of weight loss project (forecasted end date, sometime in May 2008)

November 16/17 – Fundy Boy Christmas

November 19 – the day my boss totally crossed the line and the beginning of the end

December 23-30 – Mexico!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Losing almost 40 lbs.

Having the chutzpah to step out of security into the void.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not correctly reading the situation I was walking into in the new workplace.

Not adequately protecting myself emotionally from said situation.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope and I am profoundly grateful for this. In 2006, I had some lovely close-ups of my reproductive system taken – all clear. In 2007, I had my lower GI series done … and then re-done. So very done with that … all clear … perhaps this is the year of the mammogram. Yikes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I want to say my new car, but truth be told I’m not as happy with it as I wished I were. I foresee another change. I think my new camera that I bought before I went to Hawaii. It is smallish, waterproof to 10 ft, shockproof and takes really terrific shots. Oh – and my new bike brought, and will bring, great joy! What a way to feel like a little kid again! I’m also fond of the new rug and new cupboards in the kitchen hall.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I have a friend who, after the horrid political fallout from a non-profit organization I was once part of, wound up on the other side of the, shall we say, chasm. To her credit, after over a year of no contact, she reached out to me and asked if we could meet up. She apologized, asked me about my side of things, gave me her side, and apologized again. I’m guessing that 2008 may bring her back into the fold. It took some guts for her to do this, and some humility. I want to honour that here. It meant a lot to me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My boss’.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The shinny tournament last January. 🙂

Hawaii

Chicago

Mexico

Briefly, I was excited about the new relationship that quickly tanked.

16. What song will always remind you of 2007?
Sunday Morning by Maroon 5

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Wow – that is complicated. Happier in some ways … more angst ridden in others.
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner!!
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, I suppose, but anticipating taking a hit in the pocketbook soon. HOWEVER, I feel absolutely and undoubtedly blessed in 2007 with fantastic friends. This has been the year of me finally coming to understand and trust that I have a rich and strong support system here. This rocks, and makes me feel very rich indeed.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Reading.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Wasting time on my computer.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Spent with friends on the beach in Mexico!

22. Did you fall in love in 2007?
Hm. No. Hindsight isn’t always 20/20 tho …

23. Any one-night stands?
No.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Don’t watch much TV, but I’m starting on DVDs of Six Feet Under, House, 24 and Grey’s Anatomy. They are being mailed to me in sequence, so I suspect I’ll get through them by the end of 2008.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Hate is an ugly word. Are there two people who have plummeted in terms of my opinion of them? Yes.

26. What was the best book you read?
On Beauty – Zadie Smith. Also enjoyed Dame Helen Mirren’s autobiography, the little tart …

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Maroon 5

28. What did you want and get?
new car / bike / camera

29. What did you want and not get?
a new relationship

30. Favorite film of this year?
Gone Baby Gone

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I am 44. Spent the weekend with my extended chosen family in Ottawa – great fun. Then I went to Chicago.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
a satisfying / rich new relationship

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Starting to lean towards more shapely clothes.

34. What kept you sane?
My friends, gods and goddesses bless’em!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No one comes to mind.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Still trying to process the reality of the loss of Benezir Bhutto. What a tragedy.

37. Who do you miss?
Martina – she moved away!!

My mom.

Warren.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
My ex’s daughter.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007.

Wow … so many … it would have to do with listening to oneself and for paying attention to the red flags earlier. Both at work and in relationships.

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