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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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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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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I have regrets – and I’m glad

I used to buy into the whole “regrets are bad” thing. It sounds good and it makes sense: Regret is a bad feeling, so not having regrets would be a good thing, right?

When I sat and really thought about it, though, asking myself if I have regrets, I realized that I do – many, in fact. Most are small – things like wishing I hadn’t said something to someone or said it in a particular way. But there are a few big, life-impacting decisions, too. And I genuinely regret them.

At first I felt badly about that. It seemed like I was doing something wrong, given the pervasiveness of the “no regrets” movement.

For example, when I just Googled “live without regret”, the following three items were the top results:

  • How to Live Your Life Without Regret
  • 40 Ways to Live Life Without Regrets
  • How to Start Living Life Without Regret Right Now

There are also a kajillion memes and quotes about it, in case you are interested.

So, I tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t regret those things. “Regret is bad” seemed to be everywhere and so many people I knew were adherents. Many people, in fact, talked about it as thought it were a badge of honour. “I regret nothing I’ve ever done!”

But I couldn’t quite convince myself to really get on board.

Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. For me, regret is about wishing I hadn’t done something (or in some cases, wishing I had). A couple of definitions I found online says pretty much the same thing:

  • Merriam-Webster: to be very sorry for
  • Cambridge Dictionary : a feeling of sadness about something sad or wrong or about a mistake that you have made, and a wish that it could have been different and better

From what I’ve read and heard, though, regret seems to have been equated with dwelling on things. If that’s where you’re coming from, then I agree: We shouldn’t dwell on things to a negative degree.

For me, though, regret and dwelling on things are totally separate items.

The things I regret, I regret for very specific reasons: they either hurt other people or myself.

As such, I’m glad I regret them because the regret reminds me why I don’t want to repeat those actions (or inactions).

I still wish that in those moments I had made other choices and I’m glad I feel that way. They weren’t OK choices to make. Honestly, to me, I should regret them.

Yes, I learned lessons from them, but me having an opportunity to learn a lesson isn’t a valid reason to excuse those decisions – decisions that caused hurt and pain.

Learning the lesson, rather, is the way to turn a bad thing into a not-so-bad thing. It still doesn’t turn it into a “good” thing (to me), but it kind of makes the best out of a bad situation.

The important thing is that I don’t dwell on those things. I don’t use them to torture* myself or to paralyze myself from moving forward. And I have forgiven myself for them.

I could be wrong, but (going by the “I wish I hadn’t done that” definition) I don’t think it’s truly possible to have absolutely no regrets about anything ever.

Setting an expectation of “no regret” seems, then, to be setting ourselves up for failure. (If you are one to beat yourself up about poor choices, you probably don’t need another “failure” to add to your list. 😉 )

I think it’s just another one of those things where the pendulum seems to swing entirely to one direction or another.

Generally, we land, I think, somewhere in the middle.

We recognize we shouldn’t have done something, we learn from it, we take that learning with us and move on, with the regret in the perspective in which it was perhaps intended:

“Hey – that wasn’t so fun. Let’s not do that again, K?”

Want to learn more?

In finishing up this post, I thought I’d go back to the ol’ Google machine and see just how off-base I am with this whole “embrace your regrets” thing, and found an interesting article in the Huffington Post. It contains some comments from Brené Brown, if you are interested.


*There are times, yes, when my anxiety is on overdrive and my brain decides to replay every poor decision I’ve ever made (from decades ago even) and every unkind thing I’ve ever said. It even throws in several moments that weren’t poor decisions or unkind moments – it twists normal, everyday interactions and interprets them negatively. But that’s not about regret. That’s about brain chemistry. When I’m not in the throes of anxiety, I know the difference. But that can be a whole series of posts in and of itself. 🙂


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Hand lettering and meditation

As you know, I like to dabble in different things. A few months ago, I decided to learn about hand lettering, also commonly referred to as brush lettering, brush calligraphy or modern calligraphy. I make cards and I wanted to learn some different lettering styles so that I’m not always restricted by the stamps I have on hand and so that I can make cards that are 100% made by me, as opposed to just stamped and coloured by me.

As usual, I went off to the Google machine and began my search. I found a lot of resources. I printed off some worksheets, even bought some stuff from Amazon, and started in.

You may remember from a previous post, I’m not the most patient of individuals when it comes to learning new things. I have good handwriting and printing so I thought this would be a snap. Turns out it wasn’t and I was tempted – a lot – to throw in the towel (my standard go-to response when something doesn’t come easily to me).

Thankfully, pretty much all the resources I had read talked about the importance of practice – practice, practice, practice. So I didn’t give up.

One key thing that I learned early on is that hand lettering is completely different than writing. You can’t think of them the same way at all. Hand lettering is actually more like drawing letters than writing or even printing them. Drawing each individual letter and, in fact, each individual stroke of each letter. Where I can write a stream of lovely, flowing cursive, I can’t do the same with hand lettering.

I know I can’t because I tried. It didn’t work. And it didn’t look good. At all. So I forced myself to slow down. I stopped at each stroke. I made each stroke intentional. I learned to breathe in on the upstrokes and out on the downstrokes.

Where I was initially impatient to be able to fluidly write beautiful words, in all the colours of the fancy (and unnecessary) markers I’d bought, I have since come to enjoy the actual process of the drills. Breathe in, light stroke upwards. Breathe out, firm pressure downwards. Lift the pen; turn it so as to not permanently bend the nib in one direction. Light pressure up; firm pressure down. Breathe in; breathe out.

If you’ve ever done any meditation, some of that will sound familiar. I found myself quite surprised about that familiarity, actually.

What I had intended to be a means to an end – learning necessary skills so I could make pretty letters and words – has inadvertently become so much more. I have come to look forward to and really enjoy the calm and focus (which so often elude me) of the drills. I particularly enjoy how they force me to slow down, especially my racing thoughts.

Surprisingly, the meditative aspect has become even more important to me than becoming successful in the artistic side of it. I almost (heavy on “almost” 🙂 ) don’t even care if I become adept at making the words that had initially drawn me to this practice.

Who knew!!

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Want to learn more?

If this is something you think you might be interested in, here are some websites I have learned a lot from. I particularly enjoy the drills from The Happy Every Crafter site.

There are a lot of different tools you can get but you really don’t need anything fancy.

For pens, I recommend getting a smaller brush pen to start. I couldn’t really find any around here (Ottawa), but ordered a couple of packages of Tombow Fudenosuke brush pens and started using them for my drills when I got them a couple of weeks ago. I wish I had gotten them at the start. They’ve made a real difference. You can also start with a soft-leaded pencil and regular paper, if you either can’t get or can’t afford any of the other stuff.

For paper, find something smooth – rough paper is hard on the pens and it’s also hard (for me, anyway) to get the smooth brush strokes.

For both pens and paper, definitely don’t go fancy until you get some of the basics down and decide if it’s something you even want to go any further with.


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Cooking prep times (or What if you DON’T have a sous-chef?)

Have you ever used a recipe to cook or bake something? If you have, you probably know exactly where I’m going with this.

But, for the sake of those who either don’t cook or have never needed to use a recipe, I’ll go there anyway. 🙂

In pretty well every “proper” recipe I’ve seen there are two times given: prep time and cooking (or baking) time. Prep is short for preparation, so prep time is, you guessed it, the time it takes to prepare the ingredients for the recipe: taking them out, cutting, chopping, peeling, measuring, etc. The cooking (or baking) time is – wait for it! – the time it takes to actually cook or bake the thing! Ta daaaaaaaaaaa!! Not rocket science.

For some reason, though, the people who write recipes seem to think that we all have sous-chefs at home who do all of said cutting, chopping, peeling and measuring. Then when we walk into the kitchen to make a recipe, everything is laid out in those cute little bowls (like on the cooking shows), all ready to go.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon often over the years. But it really stood out for me somewhere in the past several months when I was intentionally looking for some quick recipes for weeknight suppers. I have a bunch from years ago where you open cans of things and throw in some meat or veggies to create an easy one-pot meal. (Ahhhhh…the days of the cream of chicken soup casserole!!) But I wanted some healthier options that didn’t use a bunch of prepared foods.

So, as I am wont to do, I hopped on the ol’ Google machine. As you can imagine, there were a lot of results. And they sounded ideal: “Healthy dinner recipes ready in 30 minutes!” YES!!!!! That’s it!

Then I read the recipe: Take out X Y Z vegetables. Peel them. Dice them. Put them in the food processor. Make a sauce. Get out this other stuff and measure it. Slice the meat into thin strips. Hop around the kitchen blindfolded, on one foot. OK…I may be exaggerating on that last bit, but you get the point. 😉

Joking aside, I have actually seen a recipe with most of those steps and a listed prep time of FIVE minutes!!WHAT??

Some recipes kind of cheat, too, and include a pre-cooked ingredient just so they can say it’s a really fast recipe. So always read the recipe! (Especially keep an eye out for when something needs to be marinated. You might actually need to start your prep a couple of hours earlier or possibly the day before.)

Even in baking, which I’m more comfortable with than cooking, I find it impossible to achieve the listed prep time.

It might be possible if I treated it like a race, but if I hurry, I make mistakes and drop things – or even forget things. (Ever made banana bread without the baking powder? Good fun.) Plus, I want to enjoy it, not feel like a clock is ticking. I don’t go intentionally slow, either. And my kitchen isn’t huge. Everything is within easy reach – no more than 4 or 5 steps away. Really, if prep times were going to work for any regular person, it should be me.

Sadly, they don’t, so I don’t trust them at all anymore. I scan the recipe to see what’s involved and, at a minimum, double the prep time to help me decide if it’s something I want to take on in the time I actually have.

If you are fairly new to cooking or baking, or if it’s a completely new type of recipe to you, I would suggest even starting with tripling the prep time. Or maybe even totally disregarding it. Give yourself a comfortable spread of time so you don’t feel that ticking clock or, worse, a sense of failure or incompetence that might deter you from trying again in the future.

Cuz, seriously, it ain’t you. It ain’t me, either. It’s the recipe.

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