Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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It’s not what you see…it’s what you SEE.

This is my view when I’m working or crafting in my den.

Your first thought might be, “Well, that’s nothing to get excited about – it’s a parking lot.”

And, technically, you would be correct.

But it’s also a voyeuristic peek into the theatre of life.

“Whoa there! You’re getting seriously corny now. Back off with the hyperbole, would ya??!”

I know…but it’s true.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, on a Friday afternoon, I saw a big SUV pull up. A couple of young women got out and a couple of other young women from my building came out, laden with backpacks and such. To say they were excited would be a serious understatement.

It was a beautiful day – the start of what promised to be a beautiful weekend and I immediately thought, “Girls trip!”

I couldn’t help but be affected the excitement of their moment. I was immediately thrown back in time to girls’ weekends I have participated in and a flood of wonderful memories washed over me.

My main cast of characters, though, are of the “lower” orders of Kingdom Animalia. Squirrels, birds, chipmunks, caterpillars, flies, and – oddly, for apparently a one-day-only showing – two cats.

The caterpillars were a fleeting seasonal thing, but when they were here, boy oh boy, were there a ton of them. I don’t normally mind caterpillars – I enjoy watching their furry little bodies inching along. But there were so many that I would have to say that their show bordered on the Stephen King side of things. But still, it was a free show and they didn’t eat all the leaves off the trees, so who am I to complain?

The birds – robins, mostly – have their annual shows in the spring. Wherever they’ve been before that, they have most definitely been well-fed. No scrawny, starving actors in that troupe! They proudly show off their red rotundity for all to see!

The chipmunks are the primary stars, though. They are around from spring, through summer and into fall. They are quite active and constantly alert! I don’t know how many of them are around – there might just be one or two repeats or there could be a bunch of different ones. They flit around so much that it’s hard to notice individual markings. In my head, though, there’s just one and, with my genius creative mind, I have named him Chippy.

Just yesterday, though, Chippy perched on the window well for quite a while and had a LOT to say in his monosyllabic chirpy voice. His favourite place seems to be at the exit of the downspout, though. Frequently my attention will be grabbed as I see his head pop out and up from there. (I’ve tried to get a picture of him – them? – but he’s just too fast. They’ve all come out blurry.)

The weather can be a character in and of itself, too. Beautiful, sunny days show the traverse of the sun – through shadows, as my window faces mostly north. Wind and rain or snow evoke a sense of coziness and gratitude for the warmth inside. Fog reminds me of growing up. Even if there are no living characters in the scene, weather can inspire feelings as strong as the most populated stage!

All that to say, while the parking lot, in and of itself, ain’t no great shakes to look at, the view from where I sit is really quite grand after all.


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The ocean – the ultimate battery charger!

My ocean view, growing up in St. Lawrence, NL

I grew up in a small town on the southeast coast of Newfoundland, a beautiful, rugged island jutting out into the North Atlantic. The ocean was a very strong presence in my youth and it has stayed with me throughout my life, even though most of my adult life has been spent away from in.

It is no surprise, then, when I say that my favourite place to recharge is by the ocean. I’m not a total snob about it – any body of water will do in a pinch, but the ocean is where it’s really at for me.

I spent almost 14 years living in Calgary, Alberta, on Canada’s prairies, about 40 minutes from the Canadian Rockies. People I knew who had grown up there got the same thing from going to the mountains. Others, who had grown up further east, fully on the prairies, got it from the vast openness of the horizon that they offered.

After having lived there for so long, I can understand both perspectives. There is something truly majestic about being in the mountains. Taking the gondola up Sulphur Mountain in Banff gives you a view and perspective that you can only get in the mountains.

I also really valued the open expanse of the prairies. There are lots of jokes about it – your dog runs away and you can see him for days and so on. Obviously, that’s not how it is, but it sure can seem like it – horizon and sky for days! It, too, offers a perspective on our place in the universe that can’t be achieved the same way in the mountains or by the ocean.

One of the things I miss the most about living on the prairies is being able to watch a storm from miles away as it crawls along the landscape – a curtain of snow or rain, or even just wind and dust, moving along the horizon like a separate living thing in and of itself. It’s truly beautiful.

Yet still, for me, it’s the ocean. I love the smell of it, the sound of it, the look of it. Standing on Signal Hill or at Cape Spear, facing east and seeing nothing but the vast expanse of blue (or steely grey on a cloudy day), knowing there’s nothing between you and Ireland except the rolling deep, gives another perspective of how we fit into this world.

You can even almost feel the pull of the swells. Even when it looks flat and calm, you know that beneath the surface there are currents constantly moving, moving, moving. The iiiiiin-out, iiiiiin-out, iiiiiin-out push and pull of the waves is hypnotic.

It was a similar feeling when I stood at Point Loma in San Diego and faced west out over the Pacific Ocean.

But it wasn’t quite the same because it wasn’t “my” ocean. The Atlantic is where my heart is, so yeah, I do play favourites. 🙂

Here are some other favourite ocean places and pics for your perusal.

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Productivity and mental health – A personal story

A few days ago I read a post by Wil Wheaton called i exist. It reminded me of a session I had last year with an EAP counselor.

About half-way through the session, the counselor said, “When I’m working with someone who is off work for a while, I ask them to commit to a 30-minute walk every day. Is that something you could commit to?”

The expression on her face told me that she fully expected my answer to be yes. Perhaps even with an “Of course I can” thrown in for good measure.

Her expression changed very quickly when, instead, I responded with a very definite “No.”

It was as though nobody had ever told her no before. She didn’t seem to even know how to respond to it. (Had I been in better spirits, I’d have found it funny…) I’m pretty sure at least some people who went to see her, who were in the same mental state I was then in, must have lied to her – probably because they felt they were “supposed” to say yes, so they did. And then they went home, didn’t go for their daily walks, and felt even worse about themselves for not having done it.

Well, I wasn’t going to do that. I definitely didn’t need more things to add to the “All the ways you suck and are a horrible person” list that my brain at that time was having a hey-day reminding me of.

Since she was so obviously not expecting my answer, I went on to explain that I was, at that point, struggling to even do things that I enjoyed doing, that I wanted to do. I don’t enjoy going for walks, and certainly not for 30 minutes, so there was no point in me telling her that I would do something that I knew very well that I would not.

I explained further that me just getting to that appointment that day was something to celebrate.

I was off work at the time because I had hit a limit that, for the previous couple of years, I knew was coming. Depression and anxiety (things I have struggled with for most, if not all, of my life since puberty) had been mounting gradually over time and I knew was going to hit critical mass on it before too long.

The week before I saw her, that moment had come. I still clearly remember sitting at my desk, looking at my monitor, reading an email when it happened – quite innocuously, it turned out. Nothing of any consequence brought it on. I was just…done.

I knew in that moment that I needed to leave, to go home, and that I wouldn’t be back for a while. I thought, “Huh…I knew this was coming and I wondered when it would happen. I guess this is it. This is what did it.” I remember being surprised that it wasn’t anything big or momentous that had tipped me over the edge. It was just a slightly annoying email that in any other context would have resulted in a “Tut tut…seriously?” and that would be have been it. But nope. It did me in.

I emailed my boss that I was sick and needed to leave and headed out.

The next about 10 days were absolutely awful. Horrible. Part of me wished I lived with someone who could take care of me and make sure I was fed, as I huddled under blankets like a pile of goo, while another part of me was very glad to have nobody around to tell me I needed to get up, get dressed, get showered, etc. I could be as much of a pile of goo as I wanted.

The only thing of any practical benefit that I did in the very first few days was find the number to our Employee Assistance Program and get an appointment with a counselor. Then I made another, last-ditch effort to get a new doctor. I’m amazed, actually, that I was even able to accomplish that much.

The day of the appointment – about seven days after “it” happened – I was still pretty much a wreck. I really didn’t want to go, but I knew I needed to.

Part of my apprehension was from a previous experience I had had with EAP. It was in 2008 – the year that both of my parents passed away. The counselor’s advice at that time (which she delivered as though it were some grand new revelation she had come up with on her own) was: “Keep your work stress at work and your home stress at home.” Really? And what if the problem is that you aren’t able to do that right now?? She had nothing.

Never mind the fact that her office was a mess and she looked like she had come to work in what she had slept in…She didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Needless to say I didn’t go back. (I did, however, get some handouts from her with helpful information about insomnia.)

With that experience in the front of my mind and the fact that I really only wanted to crawl into bed and stay there until sometime around the turn of the next century, I really was not keen on getting to that appointment.

So, I resorted to playing mind games with myself. “We aren’t going to an appointment. We’re just going to get in the car. We aren’t going to an appointment. We’re just going to get in the car.” That got me showered, dressed and in the car.

Once in the car, I repeated, “We’re not going to an appointment, we’re just going to drive to Fallowfield Rd.” Once I got that far, it became, “We’re just going as far as the 417”, and so on until I found myself in the parking lot of the counselor’s building.

Even then, I had to do some convincing to get myself out of the car and into the building, and then the office.

I couldn’t have done it otherwise. I know…it sounds dumb, especially if such feelings are completely foreign to you. But that’s where I was at that time. To be honest, I still have to do it occasionally, and I will likely have to for the rest of my life. But that’s OK. The anxiety isn’t going to go away, so that’s why there are tricks to deal with it. Sometimes it still wins, but most times I do. (Yay!)

Anyway…back to the 30-minute walk request.

I explained to the counselor the whole process of how I had even made it to the appointment and she finally clued in: “Ohhhhh….you really are in a bad way!” (No…she didn’t say that… but she may well have thought it and who could blame her! 😉 )

After we talked for a little while longer, she circled back to the walk. She explained:

“The walking isn’t about exercise. It isn’t about breaking a sweat and doing cardio. It’s just about doing something. Getting yourself off the couch and putting your mind on something else. So, really, it doesn’t even have to be a walk. If you have a closet or cupboard you’ve been wanting to clean out, do that. If there’s some spring cleaning you need to do, do that. And it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes in a row. You can break it up throughout the day. The point is to just get up and move.”

That I was able to commit to. In fact, not only did I commit to it, I actually did it! Every day! They weren’t fancy, important things that I did, but I did them. Usually I had to talk myself into it, like I did to get to the appointment, but that wasn’t the point. The point was I did it.

I was also very blessed to have a good circle of friends who kept in touch with me and even got me out a few times for actual walks. 🙂

During that dark and difficult period, making sure I had 30 minutes of some sort of activity every day was critical to my healing.

And so I echo Wil’s statement:

“The single most consistent factor in how I feel about myself and my day, on the 5-point scale, is how productive I am.”

I’m not someone who needs to be constantly busy, busy, busy. I regularly enjoy heaving off on the couch to watch TV. But I have learned that being productive every day, in some fashion or another, is vital to me and my mental health.

AND…extra bonus! As I’ve thought about Wil’s post, I’ve realized that I’m actually way more productive than I give myself credit for. I need to remind myself of that more often. 🙂

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The wonderful convenience of freezer meals – or not?

As you know if you’ve read some of my other posts, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking. I enjoy it even less during the week after work. My go to? Picking up fast food on my way home from work.

However, the past few months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to do more of my own cooking – inspired by a trip to the doctor and a few weeks of high blood pressure readings. I’m sure it will come as no surprise that fast food is not exactly what you would call a low-sodium way to eat.

So, in keeping with that plan, I spent most of last weekend making more meals for the freezer so I could have yummy homemade food during the week without the bother of starting from scratch every day.

I made this 20-minute Tuscan Pasta. I fried some mushrooms (just till they browned a bit) and added them to the recipe. Boy was it delish! (OK…ignore the fact that Parmesan cheese is high in sodium…a serving of this dish is still way lower in sodium than my usual fast food choices – by about 75%, so still a win. )

I also made this Black Bean Mexican Chicken dish. It was low in sodium to start with, but I used low-sodium tomatoes,which really put it in the blood pressure sweet spot. Even when I added some aged cheddar to it and baked it in the oven… it was still sodium-safe and super tasty!

I made some other stuff, too, but don’t have recipe links for them so we’ll move on.

When I walked in the door from work this evening, I was thinking, “What delectable delight do I want to pull from the freezer today??”

I hmmmed and I hahhhhhed and happily ran through my mental freezer-meal Rolodex. There are so many options from so many weekends of cooking! But nothing tickled my fancy. WHAT??? That can’t be possible.

You know what my taste buds did get excited about? Toast with peanut butter and Nutella. Yup. Spent all that time cooking – this past weekend, as well as other weekends – so I’d have all that yummy food to choose from and I go for toast. With a glass of milk.

Livin’ on the edge, folks. Livin’ on the edge.

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Practice does not always make perfect

We are all familiar with the old adage:

Practice makes perfect.

Anonymous

I’m sure most of us have even accepted it as fact. The more you practice something, the better you get at it – obviously! And, even if you never quite reach actual perfection in it, you at least develop a proficiency in it.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I watched a video on Becca Courtice’s blog that totally turned that idea on its head for me.

Becca featured an interview with professional scribe Paul Antonio and they talked about the pre-basics of learning calligraphy. Paul said something that really struck me:

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

Paul Antonio

As Paul explained, if you are practicing something the entirely wrong way, that absolutely won’t make it perfect. It can’t. It will, however, make the imperfections permanent.

BOOM! Serious mic drop moment for me.

How did we never glom onto that before? Or is it just me? Did everybody else realize this, while I was off to the side practicing to make my imperfections permanent? Dang!!

This whole idea has added a completely different dimension to practically everything I do now. See…you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!!

Have you thought about this before? Where and how did you stumble across that idea?

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Now I lay me down to…read all night and not catch a wink?

It’s 3:13 am. I have to get up in 2 hours and 44 minutes. I went to bed 4 hours and 46 minutes ago.

Apparently, tonight is not a sleeping night.

I gave it about 45 minutes and then gave up. I’ve been reading since then a blog about sailing from New York to Ireland. The writer skipped what happened after she left the boat so I stopped reading.

At this point, I probably could fall asleep, but now it’s almost too late. That’s the worst with sleepless nights – if I sleep now, I’ll be in seriously rough shape come 6 am! I have a day full of meetings tomorrow, too, so really not fun.

Weird, too, how this never happens except when I have to work the next day. Some kind of sadistic Murphy’s Law?

There are a couple of upsides, though.

First, I’m writing another post! That’s 3 in about 10 hours! That’s gotta be a record for me.

Secondly, I’m writing it in the WordPress app on my tablet. I haven’t done that before so it’s an interesting exercise. Probably not the best idea to do something new when you’re totally baffed, but of all the things an exhausted, sleepless individual could do online when randomly awake in the wee hours of the morning, this is probably just fine. 🙂

And now that I have identified the silver linings of the nocturnal debacle, I shall bid you adieu and decide on my next steps:

To read or not to read

That is the question

Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous exhaustion

Or take arms against a sea of sleeplessness.

Ok…a little poetic licence there, but that soliloquy does talk about sleep, so I think I can be forgiven. Plus it’s now 3:34 am – a body can’t be expected to be at its literary best at this hour. 😉

I will, however, take my leave of you – you who are, hopefully, nestled in a pleasant world of dreams!!


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How to avoid regrets – Or, “Hey – your last post said they were fine!”

If you looked at my last post, you may think that there is a contradiction between the title of that post and this one. 🙂

It’s just that in writing that one, I had a few other thoughts that take regret in a bit of a different direction. So, I guess this post is kind of a partner post (if that’s a thing) to the last one. 🙂

As you may recall, the previous post talked about regret in the context of things that have happened in the past.

This post talks about avoiding the regret in the first place.

Really, it’s quite simple: Don’t do anything you will wish you didn’t do and do everything you will wish you had.

Ta daaaaaaaaaaa!! That’s solved.

“Then,” you might ask, “why are there still more words on this page, Lucy???”

Well, naturally, nothing is ever really that simple, is it? I mean, in a way it really does come down to that, but there’s a bit more involved.

When I was 18, I was at university and having a lot of fun. There was a party one night (well, lots of nights, actually… 🙂 ) and I had to work. I really wanted to go out with my friends so I called work and quit. Obviously, at that point in my life, I thought I’d regret missing that party more than I’d regret quitting that job.

Now, I can’t even conceive of doing such a thing!

What I would regret now is considerably different than what I would have regretted then.

That said, there are some general suggestions we can follow that can help us avoid some potential down-the-road moments of “I wish I had….”

In fact, if you ask Mr. Google for advice on how to prevent future regret, you’ll get a LOT of advice. There are all kinds of lists, with 5, 10 or even 15 tips in them.

Here are just a few of them, if you’d like to check them out:

There are things common to most of the lists I’ve read, such as spending time with loved ones or not living the life other people expect us to live. But there is some variety in there, too – something for everyone, I would say.

None of it is rocket science (unless, perhaps you might regret one day not having learned rocket science 😉 ), but they are still good reminders.

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we forget to do the things that are important to us and need those reminders every now and then.

In some time management stuff I read years ago, I learned something that has stuck with me to this day: We put our time into what is important to us.

I didn’t (and don’t) intend this to be a time-management post, but I think it is relevant to touch on it a tiny bit. It can be a useful exercise to sit and look at what we spend our time doing and compare that list to a list of the things that are important to us.

I would suggest that the things we say are important to us and that we don’t spend our time on are probably the things we will regret.

By bringing those lists into alignment with each other we can in that way create our own customized list of ways to prevent our personal regrets down the road.

We probably can’t completely avoid “I wish I had…” statements, but doing that one thing can help us avoid some of the biggest regrets that we might otherwise have had.


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