Summertime

I haven’t posted since February – sorry about that. There were days when I could have but I didn’t. We’re already in summer!

Work is super busy, and though I’m still in an 80% schedule, I’ve been wondering if I should switch back to full time for this project. But then again, I needed today as a downtime day. I’ve already napped with kittens this morning (I’m taking care of a friend’s cats while he is travelling). Right now, I’m sitting in our comfortable chair with my knitting beside me, taking a moment to post before trying to finish off the daily pattern I’m on – I’m still working on the Advent scarf from November /December, and I’m on December 15th (out of Nov 24-Dec 24). That’s how busy and how tired I’ve been. I’ve only been knitting rarely.

I’ll be working tomorrow, for the project. Just for the morning, but that morning is going to start at 7:15am. I’m getting Tuesday off next week as a trade, which means I’ll have a two day week that will likely be intense, since the field team will be heading out to our first site next Saturday.

I’m finding it’s actually really stressful to have shorter weeks when there’s so much to do. I compromise my boundaries in order to meet deadlines. I haven’t mentioned to my boss how I ended up working 16 hours last weekend to submit my ill-timed journal article revisions because I didn’t have those hours available during my work week. I’m sure I will tell her, eventually.

Unfortunately, the increased stress has increased the frequency of my headaches again and my facial tingling is back. Huge reminders to get my health hygiene back on track – get up to stretch, and do yoga, and meditate, and do my physio, and… And knit.

So, I’m going to do just that. Knit and enjoy the silence of the apartment.

Happy summer! I’ll hopefully make some time to post, as I’m sure to have stories. :)

New year, different challenges

And I started the new year with a break from blogging and so closely managing my life. Which was good, because work is super busy right now and I think I would be way overwhelmed if I was also trying to *do* something every day. I’m feeling overwhelmed as it is.

I have been incorporating different things into my downtime and my daily habits from last year’s experiment, though, when I can. I think that the experiment broke some of the road blocks in my head about the amount of time needed to do The Things, or maybe just loosened up my approach to them. It funny because I remember spending more time working on something on-and-off in my student days. Maybe someone convinced me somewhere along the line that I didn’t have enough time to work on things in the evening.

This weekend, I’ve been painting again, which is nice. I’m working on a sunrise over the Mediterranean from December. And I’ve been having tickles of writing urges – poetry or thoughts about a couple of my existing stories. I’m thinking I’ll take my laptop into the living room in a moment and work on something (I’m currently waiting for a layer of colour to dry on my canvas so I can build on it).

I’m looking at my journaling exercise writing and trying not to lose that plan. I have to keep doing my self-care so I can continue to move forward and build toward my goal of taking a new chance and reshaping my career.

I took some exciting training last week at work that made me remember one of my potential options for career reshaping – knowledge translation. I might look into getting more involved with it, and practicing it, so that I have a solid basis. I feel like it’s one of the things I’ve been working towards without really realizing it – communicating appropriately for appropriate audiences to help people access more knowledge.

But first, I have a big project to see through, which is stretching me in uncomfortable ways, and I have another big task to do by the end of the month. I will be asking for at least day off at the beginning of March to maintain my self-care.

Just a quick update with some hope, some struggle, and a reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves. Especially this winter with the cold and the snow, which can wear on the psyche, especially in the dark months. Keep looking for the light, and incorporate some hygge to see you through. I’ll be putting on a stew this afternoon, and maybe some fresh beer bread. :) Happy Sunday!

December 25th-31st

December 25th

Dog in a Christmas Day sunbeam.

Christmas dinner table and tree.

December 26th

On the road again, continuing the Christmas road trip with a southern leg.

Crossing over the St Lawrence River.

Winter wonderland in New York state.

December 27th

Arrived safely in West Virginia, and all the lights are lit.

Sparkle lantern, rather than a snow globe. :)

A winter village, lovingly assembled by my DH’s family.

December 28th

My morning yoga spot, where I’m trying to recover my back from the hotel we stayed in halfway through our trip down.

Some Canadian content in our lunchtime excursion into town.

Some local wildlife wandering through the back yard.

December 29th

Last stop in the Christmas road trip – a grandpuppy in Virginia.

December greenery.

Wine, knitting, a fire, and chatting after dinner.

December 30th

Our trip back north was fairly quick and easy. Some rural Virginia as we trekked cross country to rejoin the 81.

Leaving Maryland for Pennsylvania.

Bucolic New York State and finding the snow again.

December 31st

Nee Year’s Eve party at our friends’ place. Full of fluffy pets, hilarious kids, and lovely adults.

Mmm, fondue…

Fireside knitting and chatting again.

Mmm, midnight pie.

I finished my Hitchhiker scarf! Binding off did happen this morning (January 1st), but only because sleep had to occur last night. ;)

And I borrowed time on my friend’s swift and winder to prep several projects worth of wool – skeins I bought in PEI this summer.

December 17th-24th

December 17th

Broccoli cheese soup from “125 Best Soup Recipes” for dinner tonight (with vegetable broth rather than chicken broth).

December 18th

Moondog on my way home from work.

December 19th

Cleaned out inbox before the beginning of my Christmas break. #winningthebattle

December 20th

Beginning my holidays right with spiked eggnog and “Christmas oranges” (aka clementines).

December 21st

A small light in the big darkness – happy Winter Solstice!

December 22nd

Netflix, knitting, beer, chips, the couch and DH. Time to relax.

December 23rd

Making Christmas dinner – Tofurkey roast with shallots, and the recommended sage, tamari, and olive oil baste.

Making my mushroom gravy to go with the Tofurkey (with the requisite spiked eggnog to help with the cooking).

December 24th

Making salmon and potato pie for Christmas Eve dinner for me Рeveryone else is having tourti̬re.

Fish pie!

Golden brown!

Delish. :) (I shared, of course).

December 10th-16th

December 10th

Vegetarian Tuscan sausage, zucchini and thyme pasta – to keep the European feel going, once I was home.

December 11th

Back at it on the 11th, at the ArcticNet conference.

Also, witnessed someone’s lost clementine. So sad. ;)

December 12th

Fuel to keep conferencing, even with jet lag. The day before was rough.

December 13th

A really awesome session today at ArcticNet, my last day at the conference.

December 14th

Friday off means working on my Advent Scarf and enjoying the quiet.

As an added bonus, had Manxmas with my friends on Friday night at our usual pub.

December 15th

Day 2 of the Advent scarf – challenging yarn but lovely colours.

December 16th

Rumballs made for my Crafting Club winter social. They were delicious!

When darkness falls

A few annoying flickers during the Netflix show – not enough to stop it, but enough to miss a few seconds as the TV is more sensitive, apparently, to a lack of electricity than the gaming console. Outside, the wind shreds the rain and it just looks like white water pounding against the glass. A wicked storm.

The next time, the TV doesn’t come back on. We sit, making pensive humming sounds as we wait for the electrons to come back. We sit, and the storm calms somewhat outside.

Eventually, we shrug and collect up our dinner plates… okay, let’s be real, our dinner personal pizza boxes. It was Friday night, after all. We wander into the kitchen-dining room-sitting room-studio-office, with all the big windows, with the last of the light, and we sit. We sit, thinking nothing of the jarring alarum both of our cell phones had blared just a while ago. You are waiting to go to your regular Friday night get together. I am waiting to see if my night alone will be occupied with video games or something more unplugged.

We look out the window and see our street flooded. All the way up to the doorway of the garage across from us. A maelstrom swirls at one of the storm drains, and cars and trucks slow suddenly as they realize how deep the water gets. We wonder aloud at the state of the pit next door, but we can’t see from our vantage point.

Due to the weather, you start out early. I walk down the stairs to the second sub-basement – the parking garage – with you, both of us carrying our headlamps because we aren’t sure quite the extent of the emergency systems. We’re happily surprised to find that it’s rather well lit, and you drive me to the front door. I’m fortunate because someone is waiting in the lobby and has already identified the fault in the system – the key fobs “let you in” but the emergency system isn’t attached to the door unlocking mechanism.

I sit where you had been and keep reading my short story collection by Charles de Lint. I text my family to let them know we’re without power and that my mother’s emergency preparations are a good call, as the system is supposed to rake across them as well. Eventually, as an afterthought, perhaps after a brief check of Twitter to see what people were saying, I text you to ask that you let me know when you get to our friends’ house. I’m not sure I really understood at that time what had happened.

It starts to get darker now, so I assemble the three candles on display into the one softly rectangular platter, and try to read by the orange glow. After the shortest one drowns in its own beeswax, I figure I should find all my stores candles – hand rolled beeswax ones, made by me a few years ago. Then I take my headlamp and assemble our flashlights, digging out the triple A and double A batteries from their various places and refreshing them. I decide the double A battery powered flashlight will have to be my workhorse, because we have more of those.

You tell me that it was hell trying to drive anywhere. All the traffic lights were out and it took so long to get there. But you were playing a board game, everyone present and accounted for, the house lights powered by our friend’s generator.

I read, occasionally checking Twitter, and beginning to see the destruction wrought across my city. I’m aghast at the screenshot I take from a video of a white delivery truck toppled onto a red hatchback, surrounded by toothpick-snapped telephone poles. I can’t even recognize where on the street it’s taken, and I have a mind for images. I send it to my family, and to you. I read about Dunrobin and wonder if the house I visited a week earlier is still standing. I wonder if I should text my friend but then reason she probably wouldn’t know yet either. I look for the emergency check in on Facebook but only find three other catastrophes on the other side of the world, so I wonder if ours isn’t big enough. I’ll end up finding it later and marking myself safe after I post a short statement to that effect just in my own words.

Eventually, I decide to crawl into bed so that I can just lay down when I feel like stopping reading. Surely the power will come back on.

It doesn’t. You get home sometime around 2am, and I wake up when I hear you come in. The city is unrecognizable in the dark, you tell me. None of the traffic lights were lit on your drive back in. You’re sure you blew through intersections you didn’t even see. South Keys was a gaping abyss of shocking darkness. Only one small enclave of power on the south edge of town was the aberration in your inky drive home. Surreal.

We wake the next morning to no power. Cold showers later, we are more or less presentable when we eat a cold breakfast of what’s on hand and I convince you to brave the streets again since our phones don’t have reception. We must check on our people. Intersection after intersection is a four way stop, until we weirdly find one with power. Our people are in the same boat as we – no damage but no power. All is well-ish. We return to our cave and wait.

Cold dinner of vegetables and meat and cheese from the fridge before another evening of reading. I’m now on my short stories collection of Frank Herbert. It seems appropriate to have such an intimate experience with the night as it rises to prominence again in the seasonal cycle. The equinox passes with hundreds of thousands of my fellow city-zens incapable of missing the equal share of night with day. We call it a night, possibly early, but who can tell when you live in a black hole.

The next day, I insist we go in search of warm food and coffee. I’ll pay for that later with two massive blisters on my Achilles tendons from my first foray out in shoes rather than my comfortable sandals. But we cram into the first open diner we find walking east. An air of desperation and a strange mix of friendliness and hostility colours everyone’s body language and words. I mention that my edict on sugar is not being observed while this emergency is happening, but I avoid using the catsup on my eggs anyway. It’s because I have already planned on the vegetarian food I was going to pull from the still-frozen freezer that we can have cold, and I know it has sugar added. I’ll later allow myself a blooming rose tea latte from a Starbucks in Kanata we stop at to charge our phones simultaneously instead of taking turns charging them off of the car.

A second candle sputters out that evening, as we cuddle on the couch to read by flashlight together. We’ve already read on Twitter that police are asking folks to stay home, off the roads, since so many traffic lights are still out. My boss tells me the same via an improvised phone tree.

Then beeps and air being forced through vents after another return to bed is considered. I flick a switch and the light is intrusive, almost brash in comparison with the gentle honeyed glow, but it is joyous as well. We’re not sure if this is the full return, and indeed I am awoken that night as the beeps sound again, another flicker of the grid, but we now have our regular past times back. And I wonder if we won’t remember how life was without the power.

Gratitude July

Well, I had planned on introducing July previously but, life, y’know? :)

So, since this month contains the birthday that inspired this year’s approach, I decided that doing a gratitude practice every day would be a good way to cultivate the attitude I want to have about this milestone. I know that aging isn’t for the faint of heart, as pain and bodily breakdown seem to overtake any feelings of accomplishment and capability that should be front and centre for someone with a goodly number of adulting years under their belt.

But I do find that the in-your-face activity of day to day living often overshadows the opportunities to stand back and marvel at how you’re *actually* doing it. We joke about giving up on adulting and sitting around in pajamas all day eating a tub of ice cream, but believe it or not, that is a completely adult decision brought on by executing your adult duties otherwise. You are paying bills, managing money, managing your time, standing up to meet your responsibilities and you’re ending up with a moment where you can do what you thought being an adult was all about when you were 12 (or at least I did) – being able to stay up as late as you want and eat as much junk food as you can handle. The 12 year old just thought you’d always have the constitution of a 12 year old, and that Oreos and Doritos were always going to be no problem to digest. But that was because at 12, you didn’t know that much about nutrition, and healthy lifestyle, *and* you didn’t hang on to the negativity as much so you don’t remember that you always got a tummy ache after stuffing yourself with junk food.

I think that adults focus far too much on problems and negativity. And that’s why we get bogged down in bad knees and delicate stomachs and left versus right and the automatic terrified “No!” to any suggestion of doing something other than what’s safe and secure and predictable. Which leads you to stay in unhappy secure and predictable spots because change is uncomfortable.

Studies are suggesting that a gratitude practice helps in a similar way to meditation – it reorients your perspective to look for the positive rather than focusing on the negative. It helps to reduce blood pressure and other stress related health issues. And it might go as far as changing your brain connections. Meditation has been shown to help rewire your brain, building up the ability to the serenely observe what’s occurring around you from a non-attached state rather than “running out into the traffic of your ideas”. That’s an image from the Headspace app that really resonated with me in May. And gratitude might rewire you to connect with positivity.

When I was in the midst of my struggles with the unknown facial prickling, I was very much stuck in a negative and unhappy state. How could I not focus on what was happening in my face? I couldn’t find the energy to sit down and meditate, because I felt I was always in a gravity well, needing a certain amount of energy to get over the barrier to do any activity.

Contrast that with this year and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do yoga and weightlifting and other activities that I wouldn’t have expected. I’m still experiencing some prickles, but they are more warnings now than what my everyday life consists of. They let me know that my posture is terrible or that I’m tensing my jaw. And usually a change of position or activity or a little walk, stretch and shrug are enough to work me out of them.

So as I hurtle towards a milestone that many people mourn, I’m going to be grateful every day of small and big things, of strangers and friends and family, because I have made it this far and it is worth celebrating. Look for the light, as Chookooloonks says.

And yes, I’m still working on the journaling from last month. I’m at the vision page exercise, where you put together a collage of what you want the next twelve months to be or to bring you. That activity is day 16 of 21 so I’m almost done, but I’m taking my time to put together my pictures and to consider what it is I want in this next year.

So far, I have at least one (and sometimes more) gratitude points per day in July. My journal from last month is almost full, but that’s okay because I have a ton of empty books on my shelf, waiting for all sorts of interesting things to be written in them.

I’m also starting to pull together the books I’ll be reading next month. I was happy to tear through Neuromancer the way I did. I have a bunch of sci-fi books that I bought alongside it, one of which I’ve already assigned a bookmark.

I’m on a staycation this week so I’ll probably spend some time reading. I have a lot of magazines to flip through before they become vision page images too.

Sunset pansies on a rooftop patio to start my vacation. :)

And into March!

Wow, so that went by quickly. Of course, I had a ton of stuff going on, and it *is* the shortest month of the year.

But, a really interesting and eye opening result of 28(+) days without social media? I logged back onto it this weekend and I didn’t want to stay long. Even though I was scanning things to see what had happened in my absence, I wasn’t super compelled by what was on there. And I kind of wanted to actively avoid the stuff that bothered me. I consider that a win in this experiment. Two months down, two wins – more yoga in my life and less social media. I’m not going to reinstall FB on my phone for the time being, and see how it goes.

And Muscley March is starting slowly. It required a bit more planning than the previous two because I have to build my program myself. I haven’t gotten into the gym yet but I’m making decisions that will contribute to my fitness. So March 1st was all about taking the stairs, since I was still at my meeting away from home. (I’ll blog about that later.) I also was trying to eat better – I would like March to involve healthy eating as well.

In order to track some progress, I will take some measurements before I start in at the gym this week. I don’t have access to a scale but I did go and see my family doctor the second last week of February so I have that weight to go from. :P

I’m really hesitant to get back into my fitness app to track my food this month. I might just do meal planning to make sure what I make aligns with my plans for this month and then just see how it goes, without tracking every last morsel. I think that would be the less stressful/triggering way to go about it.

Let’s see what kind of gains I can make this month. :)

Happy realization

Last week, when I was talking to my therapist, she asked me how my face was feeling. And I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a bad prickling day.

I’m sure all I would have to do is look in my agenda and I would have written it down, and it would probably be a lot more recently than I think. But it’s really nice, after two years, to be experiencing more normal days than not.

What gets the credit? Probably my ergonomic set up at work, and my constant mindfulness to sit up into the correct position. I find my home set up not very comfortable now, and it kind of has slowed down my enthusiasm for writing. We’re working on putting together a more ergonomic desk set up for me at home.

Maybe it’s also due to my now working part time. I’m treating my day per week of not-working as sacrosanct as I can. It is meant for me, my things, my rest and quiet alone time. I get disappointed if, in a moment of enthusiasm/optimism/trying to get things done, I use my day for appointments or running errands or doing active housework (running the Roomba doesn’t really count, but washing the bathroom does… laundry is somewhere in between…). I limit my screen time and don’t play video games during the day. I try to do some physical activity – often yoga, a walk, or a run. I feed myself fresh fruits and good tea. I get up in the morning and don’t sleep all day, although I will lie down and have a nap, if I feel like it. It’s about feeding myself and supporting myself. I really look forward to those days.

But now I’m thinking of bumping back up to full time… After that last paragraph, maybe I’m convincing myself that wouldn’t be a good idea. I know my colleague who has worked her entire career at part time would say wisely, “It’s just not worth it. Don’t go back if this is working for you.”

But it is definitely fantastic to suddenly turn around and realize that the pins and needles have almost entirely subsided. Perhaps I should give it a bit longer and not run headlong back into a wall…

**********

I’m also trying out an approach to this year, to have a theme for each month. This month, January, I am following Yoga with Adriene on Youtube for her 30 days of yoga offering, which she’s calling True. So far, I’ve successfully done the daily yoga and I’m certainly feeling it. I’m also proud of my commitment to it and making it a priority. It has been good – I like her style and her approach, and I do feel better once my practice is done. I think that something is shifting a bit for me, which is also my motivation/intention for this practice.

I’m considering what my theme for next month will be. My husband suggested Hulk Up February. ;) I’ll keep you posted.

The sound of no app tracking

Does untracked exercise actually exist?

In recent months, in my attempt to improve my health and well-being, I’ve been using various tracking apps on my phone. There is my calorie app, and my two running apps, and my walking app (which is a variation on a theme). I’ve been keeping up with my walks, aiming for every day but not clinging stubbornly to that idea, especially if the weather is inclement. But I do get a little satisfaction when I get my weekly tally of kilometres travelled, minutes active and calories burned.

So when my phone started to lose battery charge more quickly than it should when doing these mundane things, there was a moment of panic.

Well, perhaps not panic… but maybe an unhealthy attachment?

In this era of health optimization through data gathering and crunching, the loss of that data stream feels like an enforced blindness. But that’s not a healthy way to get healthy. That dances far too close to disordered thinking – the hunger to push those numbers higher dovetails nicely with the hunger to push calorie numbers lower; to challenge the body to do more exertion with less intake – to cut out all that is unnecessary and only ingest what is perfectly nutritious and adequately caloric.

And how will you do that math if you can’t see the 5 minutes of stair climbing calorie burn compared to that tall holiday spice flat white? (an acceptable caloric splurge, given the protein and calcium content)

Maybe it’s just me, in my dual quest – part trying to get myself back into a shape that I used to have, part trying to be healthy so that I can’t blame that for my continuing facial tingling. But the pattern emerging through continued observation of when the tingling occurs places the majority of the blame on posture, with a not insignificant percentage being associated with stress response.

You know what’s not helping my stress? Trying to maintain absolute control over my exercise and food.

The problem is that I just don’t “feel like” doing a gym workout. I use my running app so I can listen and “participate” in a story as I run. And afterwards, I’m happy and proud of my accomplishment. But the lethargy is strong in this one. At any given moment, I’d prefer to curl up with a book, my knitting, a tea, or some computing device. I really don’t want to do exercise for exercise’s sake. How boring. Which is why I have to schedule it – if it’s an “appointment” or a “meeting” then I have to do it. It’s best if I don’t actually think about it at all, and just suddenly find myself in exercise clothes and poised to do a boring, repetitious task which will make me feel pain and will make me sweat, but in the long run is “what is good for me”.

I’d compare it to having to eat your broccoli, but I actually like and occasionally crave a good pile of 2-minute-steamed broccoli, with a grind of salt over top and a tiny splash of lemon or lime juice. Mmmm, maybe I’ll add that to my dinner plans tonight…

I’m tired of blaming a lack of discipline when I feel like most other things in my life are achieved through discipline. I’ve metaphorically dragged myself by the scruff of the neck to and from work some days. I have discipline.

Maybe I am addicted to watching those numbers change. Or maybe that’s what I’ve been using for motivation. Either way, I’m looking at replacing my phone so that it can be fully functional again. But in the meantime, I’m observing what not tracking my calories and exercise is doing.

I don’t bury myself face-first in my calorie tracking app as soon as I’m done a meal, guessing volumes and masses. I’m not gaming how long a walk needs to be for me to feel good about eating the food my body is telling me it needs. I’m not multitasking setting up my activity tracking app as I’m heading out somewhere with friends or loved ones.

But I still think about it. I still look at my meal and think that I could have made a lighter calorie choice. I feel guilt for not scheduling a run on a perfectly sunny day off. I feel guilt for not doing yoga five times a week.

Or maybe I could be less hard on myself? I read somewhere that an analysis of the various tracking apps showed that they can be completely inaccurate – the “calorie in versus calorie out” being, at best, incorrect, and at worst, having no correlation to reality. Much like the “calorie burn” on a treadmill or elliptical machine – they are a rough guide and should not be relied on as truth. Maybe when I get my new phone, I’ll be more selective about the tracking I do with it.

Otherwise, I’m enjoying getting back into running, although I am trying to be careful not to drive myself back into my injured state. I do feel so much better after a yoga practice. It’s lovely to go for a walk and explore what’s happening in my environment day to day, as the seasons change. And there’s nothing wrong with reading a book in a sunbeam sometimes, while drinking a nice cup of tea. I just need to remember that.