Monday, April 24, 2017

Keeping on Top of Ongoing Maintenance

The high cost of maintenance is weighing heavy on my mind, as it has been rather expensive to live my quiet little life recently. I've been adding the expenses up, comparing my income levels to a year ago and marvelling at the fact that I have been keeping afloat despite all extra curricular costs.

The grand totals of "all of the above" boggle my mind a little bit and although that is a little bit daunting, it is truly the time it takes to keep on top of life's maintenance that has been the heavier burden to bear.

Life has been very fair about handing out only what I can manage to deal with at one time. Financial burdens were offset by the ability to bear the brunt of the cost. Time obligations were offset by the ability to put high priority items first and foremost, while life remained calm and steady on other fronts.

Now that the dust seems to be settling after treading through some of life's uncertainties, it seems I'm more available for other relationships within my little world and feels good to have the time and energy to devote to other matters.

Tending to the maintenance of life is tedious, expensive (at times) and time consuming. But it is far better to take care of a little preventative maintenance than it is, to break down on the side of the road and wait to be rescued (a little metaphor taken from a real life moment).

After losing a tooth that could not be saved, I realized the importance of taking care of another tooth in jeopardy. One tooth lost = another tooth saved. Somewhat costly and a little time consuming, but in preventing another loss, I saved myself some pain. Both physically and financially. A tooth saved is a tooth well earned.

After being stranded on the side of a busy thoroughfare on our first cold day of winter, I have been taking preventative measures to ensure my chances of a car letting me down in the future is lessened. Perhaps I've taken this a little bit overboard, as my distrust for anything with four wheels has cost me a pretty penny and I'm sure my mechanic is growing sick and tired of my endless calls. But I've been putting on a lot of miles lately and I am trying to avoid another mechanical distress call in the future. Fine tuning all that ails my car before it breaks down is cheaper (and less traumatic) than the feeling of coasting over to the shoulder just in the nick of time. This is the price of independence. It doesn't come cheap but it is well worth preserving.

A case of frozen pipes during the second cold snap winter had to dole out was yet another lesson in preservation. I am not quite certain I have done all that can be done to prevent a future occurrence but my plumbers did their best to assure me all has been done, that can be done. One doesn't realize the gift of free-flowing drainage until one loses the privilege.

I do believe our third (and final) cold snap the winter season had to dole out did not result in any further maintenance. That came when the weather warmed up and the need to replace summer tires ate up the last bit of assurance I had, that my car troubles were behind me. But, in the grand scheme of things, a brand new set of tires has bought me peace of mind that a worn out set of tires could not provide. I have many more miles to travel and now I feel road worthy and ready to leave on a moment's notice. This is a very good way to feel.

While life's bigger ticket items were wearing out on me, little things were weighing just as heavily on my mind. Like the fact that they no longer carry the "purse/wallet" I have been using for the past decade or so. The replacement purse I had on hand started falling apart mere days after I started using it. Seams were not sewn securely; a rivet came undone; the tab on the zipper wore out prematurely (unfortunately my back-up purse sat unused for well over a year, so any guarantee was null and void).


I started searching for a replacement and the sense of dread that came over me equalled the feeling I had while I was sitting on the side of the road in the dead of winter, waiting for a tow truck. Only it was worse. At least I KNEW a tow truck was on its way. At least I KNEW a rescue and repair &/or replacement mission would set me back on the road again. But the lack of knowing I could find a replacement purse that would do the same job as the ones that had preceded it?! It was a fate worse than car repair.

I spent the better part of one of a day off, scouring the Internet for a replacement purse. I found a one that may or may not have worked, but it cost four times the amount of my "original". I found a second one that would have done in a pinch but it wasn't exactly what I wanted. So I searched some more. And you will NEVER guess what I found at my friendly, neighborhood WalMart!?! An (almost) identical purse to the original. It isn't perfect but it is far superior to the others I found after a day of searching the world wide web. So guess what I did?


Yes, I did. I bought "three". One for immediate use and two spares. I know a person who likes this purse just as much as I do and we were equally stunned by the fact that we could not replace that-which-worked with an identical item. So I spread the good news to her and picked up a spare purse just in case she can't find one.

I am feeling equally torn over not being able to replace my pajamas with a pair that is identical to the ones I am wearing. I thought I had pre-empted this disaster by picking up some pj's before they disappeared off the shelves. I should have bought a bigger size, due to style/fit revisions to something that used to be perfectly fine, but thankfully I did pick up a few new bottoms. So all I needed to find was some kind of comfortable night shirt to wear in place of the ones I've grown to love and wear out (yes, the fabric is literally starting to disintegrate). I searched high and low and found this:


I put it on yesterday and wore it all day. I think this may be my new favorite thing. I should go and buy all that remain, because I doubt I'll be able to come across this item in the future.

Keeping on top of life's little things is an ongoing task. The luxuries of life we have - like cars and running water are a gift unto themselves. So when they break down, I can try to appreciate the fact that they were a gift to begin with. But the little things? Like the need to clean, maintain and replace life's less major items? It all adds up. I like to have a stockpile of items on deck so I don't have to waste my energy replacing like items with more of the same.

Excuse me now, while I go online shopping for some back-up jeans now.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Messages From the World

The week has tuckered me out. I had three "hard things" to check off my calendar this week, with several weeks of equally "hard things" behind me.

Hard things are defined (by me) as anything that forces me out of bed too early, into the world, pushing my limits and making me uncomfortable. That encompasses a lot for a wannabe-hermit, like myself.

The best part of my daycaring career was not having to leave the house to go to work every morning (the second best part was the dress code - casual, comfortable attire and the lack of shoes). Sharing a roof with a houseful of little people made leaving the house a treat.

This past week was the first time, in the five months since my daycare closed, I actually longed for the good old days of daycaring.

Getting outside and breathing in the cool, fresh air of "spring" was one of our most anticipated and life affirming events of the year. The whole world became our playground. We walked, we talked, we noticed the robins, flowers, trees coming into bud and the color "green" returning to the landscape of our lives.

One of my favorite parts of daycaring was looking at the world around me through the eyes of a child. Even bug watching was akin to the way others may feel while watching the Olympics.

Ants are the hardest working insect I know and I loved noticing a tiny little ant carrying something ten times its size and pointing this out to my little humans. "Look at that ant! See what he is carrying?!" The lesson was almost anything is possible if you are willing to do the work and have the determined attitude of an ant.

I doubt my little two and three year olds retained the lesson but it was a good reminder for me as I went about my days of daycaring feeling like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders at times, as I tended to our days, routines and child care.

One of my other favorite things about my daycare days was quiet time. I couldn't have done my job without it. We carved out a solid one and a half hours (longer, if naps prevailed) of stillness and quiet. No TV, no background noise. Just the sound of quiet, restful breathing as my little ones nodded off, one by one.

I remained still myself during that hour or two of quiet. I miss that quiet time in the middle of the day. I wonder how I could incorporate a siesta time into my new line of work. I do believe we would all do better by taking that time to unplug, recharge and reboot our systems BEFORE those very systems decide to shut us down by whatever means are necessary.

One of my present jobs is bookkeeping. My bookkeeping boss is an incredibly wise, hard working and determined lady. She reminds me of an ant, in the way she carries a load that is far too heavy to carry at times.

We have been having trouble with the internet going down a lot this past week, which plays havoc on the wireless printer's ability to print what it has been told when the connection is down. Left to its own devices, the connection did reestablish itself on its own but it took time. As I put together a trouble shooting guide to assist my boss in case this should happen over the weekend, I illustrated my guide with a step by step process of exactly what to do when things went wrong. It's a boring little process but steps "5" and "6" are key to the process:

5. Once you see this "Fixed" message, you are done. But it takes a while for the printer to catch up and print. Go grab a cup of tea and come back in a few minutes and things should take care of itself.

6. Take this as a message from The World. When things don't work, REST! UNPLUG! WALK AWAY! and REBOOT your system. It means you are working too hard!!

The world is always sending us messages and cues to stop and smell the roses. Or count the first robins of spring. Or admire the wonders of nature in all its glory.

I may not have a daycare any more but I must retain all I learned from that educational time.
  • Stop and enjoy the view. EVERY day.
  • Go for walks.
  • Have "quiet time". EVERY day.
  • Rest! Unplug! Walk away! Reboot!
Now I must unplug and take care of today's errands so I can come home and do "all of the above". I hope you do the same.

Friday, April 21, 2017

I Can Do Hard Things!

I can do hard things. Unfortunately my definition of "hard" has become easier to attain but I'm going to give myself a little break here because there for a while, even "easy" was hard. So I'm lowering my standards a little in the hope of gradually reestablishing myself on some firmer ground before I reset the bar.

I slipped into a pretty good case of the doldrums over the winter. I was rewriting my life and had upended one firmly established form of income with a great deal of faith that all would work out in the end.

The middle of this story is bleak. I kept trying to talk myself into believing it was going to work out okay. I said all the right things to myself. But I couldn't quiet the incessant voice of fear that wouldn't stop whispering in my ear.

I was exactly where I was meant to be. I knew it in my heart. Life kept unfolding in unexpected ways and I was available to simply be where I most needed and wanted to be. But the moment I wasn't feeling "needed", I lost my way.

It has been a gentle climb to solid ground ever since.

As I reflected on these words and rewound "the middle of the story" in my mind, I searched for clues as to what I was feeling in the deep, dark dire moments of the most recent winter in my life.

I unearthed last year's calendar and two documents I wrote while I was in the state of nowhere. I read what I wrote at the time and I can see how I WAS actually exactly where I needed to be. Even in my most uncomfortable moments.

Sometimes, life simply hands you a "mirror". You are unhappy with yourself, the moment and the past, present and future. You are stuck and you feel the quicksand of life pulling you down. You don't know how to save yourself until you see someone you love right beside you fighting the same battle. And somehow, unknowingly you pull yourself up, shake yourself off, find your sea legs again and simply take one step in a forward direction.

The state of inertia is the worst place in the world for me to be. The state of unknowing. The state of fear and despair. The mere act of doing nothing is worse than taking a step in the wrong direction. Taking one step in any direction is better than standing still and going under.

I looked in one of the many mirrors I had within the small little world I had created for myself at the time. In the act of trying to find the answers for someone else, I found a twig which was rooted in solid ground. I pulled myself to safety. I look back to that moment in time and I look at the present. I know the single act of "saving myself" wasn't all it took to get from "there" to "here", but I look now and I see two people pulled out of that pit of despair.

I was just starting to see the light when I wrote these words:

"I think the world is laughing in my face as I deem to believe I truly have any control over the way things will unfold from this point onward. I think this is why my feeling of being "lost at sea" is driving me. Because I truly believe I will not find my answers by searching the internet, working on my financial spreadsheets, gazing at calendars looking for direction. 

When you feel lost at sea, where do you look? Upwards. Find the North star to guide you. Looking in any one direction of endless sea, any direction you choose is a gamble. Perhaps a gamble worth taking, but perhaps it would be more prudent to follow a wayward bird in the direction of dry land. You won't find a bird anywhere but in the sky. Look upwards. Stop fearing what you don't know. Keep hydrated and perhaps keep wearing that life jacket. But "look up"..."

I read the words I wrote, looked at the calendar beside me and see how every single step I have taken since that day has been a step in a  positive direction. There have been detours and obstacles. But this time, I didn't let that stop me. This time, the detours did not distract me from my destination.

Once before, a similar set of circumstances completely derailed me and I never did get back on that particular set of tracks. Life keeps presenting you with lessons. What I didn't learn the first time around, I believe I conquered the second time.

How many times this lesson has been repeated prior to the two that are most prevalent in my mind is anyone's guess. The time you succeed is the time to remember and celebrate. And now? I am fully prepared for life to present its next lesson to me. I suspect I won't enjoy it in the moment, but if I can overcome and prevail, it will be an uncomfortable lesson well learned.

Because I can do hard things. So can you!

That said, I think I'm going to tackle one of the hardest things of all. I am going to book an appointment to get my hair cut. To be continued...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Day in the Life of Our Cats

I woke up early this morning and I still don't have words worth putting out into the world. I don't know if it is a matter of too much thinking and too much inaction OR if I simply have too much interaction within my world these days. But I really don't have a lot of spare thoughts left over at the end of a day. So I have resorted to a "cat day" kind of post.


These two black critters bring no end of joy into our little world here. As the pictures to follow suggest, they do spend a lot of time lazing about. So perhaps it is no wonder "Jet", otherwise know as our bored little cat, gets into trouble some days with all of his restless energy.


Same cats, different sleeping poses. I love how Ray flips onto his back when he is in full-out relaxed mode. For a cat that is scared of "everything", his prone position on his back always brings a smile to my face and lights up the moment.


These "hugging moments" are brought to you compliments of Ray. If Jet is snoozing and Ray comes up to him and nestles in, there is usually some mutual cat face, ears, neck washing that follows. It sometimes ends in a cat nap together. Or in this case, Ray is simply hugging a sleeping Jet and awaiting his face wash.


I wake up to Jet by my side more often than not. It is really no wonder why I have a hard time crawling out of bed when these guys make sleeping look like a sport. I just want to join in on the fun and cat nap the morning away.


Ray's early morning look out point is atop the fridge. If you look carefully, you can find his paw prints on my freshly dusted refrigerator. Yes, I dusted the top of the fridge on the weekend but never did get back to wipe off the cat prints Ray left behind.


Meanwhile, Jet hopped on my lap for a morning snuggle. This is not his most attractive angle but this view enhances the differences between our nearly identical black cats. There is definitely a difference in their nose, eyes and the way they hold their ears. 


The cupboard door was left open a little longer than usual and when I looked up, Ray was peeking through and enjoying this new vantage point from atop the fridge (our cupboards are missing a side, so are open for cats to crawl into them via the top of the fridge - no open food is stored there).


Due to the fact that these guys do wake up when I eventually crawl out of bed, cat naps are definitely in order by the afternoon. This was the sight in our living room one afternoon during nap time (could this be a residual effect of the quiet time I enforced during our daycare days?).


Jet is down for the count (his head is often near or on the pillow but he must have woke for a moment and done a semi circle turn in order to sleep on his other side).


Ray sleeps with one ear open but decided to "fake sleep" it for this picture (either that, or I just kept snapping pictures until I eventually got him when he blinked - it could be either, or).

Well, I wrote this post with pictures and captions and I still have nothing important to say. I suppose I should have spent this time studying for the exam I'm taking in two days. 

There is nothing like an exam to help me hone the fine art of procrastination. Maybe that's why there is no room for any other thoughts in my head. It is too full of the facts I'm trying to absorb for my upcoming test. Yes, that must be it. I will go with that. But if I don't return for a few days, you will know why. I will be busy studying. Either that, or I will discover it is the perfect time to clean the paw prints off the fridge top. It could be either, or.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

An Unofficial "Cat Day"

This was the scene I left behind when I woke up this morning:


I sent this picture to a friend and declared today a "cat day". She proceeded to list all she had done and what she is planning to do next.

I wish I could say my friend's ambition inspired me. Instead, I seem to be following the lead of our lazy relaxed black cats. 

Today I relax, study a bit (maybe) and make supper. Tomorrow? No promises that it will be any more ambitious than today. But I'm not going to beat myself up over it. 

Happy "Whatever Kind of Day You Want it To Be" Day!!

Celebrate the difference between what you think the world expects of you and what you expect of yourself. 

Trust that all the hard work will be done in good time. 

If you need to kick back and put up your feet, just do it!! If you feel the need to clean, maintain, cook and entertain, do that too! 

Me? I think I'm just going to hang out with our cats for a while. I kinda like their style...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Extra Special Connections

I have spent the better part of the past few days reaching out to those who I have been thinking about. The list isn't long nor inclusive of all of those who have been creeping into my thoughts. But the outcome of these conversations are nothing short of miraculous.

I sent off a quick message which ended with the words "I'm at home if it's easier to chat", which resulted in a conversation which was a gift.

I have been talking too much, not listening enough nor asking open ended questions to open the door for deeper conversation. All I asked was "And how are YOU?" and I was on the receiving end of a story which I'm grateful to have heard.

I thought of a friend whose birthday I thought I had missed, but due to my confusion over dates lately, I had actually remembered her on the exact day of her birthday. By the time I was home and the thought of her birthday crossed my mind again, I thought I was too late. But I picked up the phone and called anyway. I said little and she volunteered so much. It turned out to be a perfectly timed call and I was so grateful I didn't talk myself out of picking up the phone.

I thought of my mom, looked at the clock and thought it could be a good time to call. She literally had one shoe on and was almost ready to walk out the door when the phone rang. Normally this would lead to a very abbreviated conversation but not this time. We had the most cheerful conversation and she didn't seem to be in any hurry to end the call.

I thought of my uncle while I was writing my cousin. I quickly wrapped up my email and called my uncle before I talked myself out of the idea. He heard my voice and replied, "You won't believe this but just as you called, I was reading your name ..."  How is that for an Extra Special Connection?! (Hmm ... I actually thought those initials were going to be ESP, but you get my drift).

I was thinking of a friend and then noticed an update on her Facebook page that her father-in-law had recently passed away so I think she was also sending out an ESC (Extra Special Connection) message to me which I received and responded to.

Keep your ears to the ground, follow up on those niggling little thoughts to reach out and contact someone. You will never know how often you are being thought of unless you take the chance, reach out and call ... only to be greeted with the words, "I was just thinking of you!" Trust me when I say, I truly believe people are speaking the truth when they greet you that way. Extra Special Connections are just waiting to be made.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Creating a Fortress of Solitude

Why does it feel so easy to let go of good habits and so hard to return to what worked so well for years on end? I was thinking of my writing as I wrote this, but the minute I started this second sentence, I realized it was not the writing habit I gave up so easily. It was waking at 5:30 a.m., in order to ensure I had time to myself before the rest of the world woke up.

I remember savoring my early morning paper route for that very reason. As I walked my route, houses were dark, car traffic was minimal and the foot traffic was next to none. I remember breathing in the peace and quiet. I thought of those who were inside those dark houses, still fast asleep &/or just starting to stir as I finished my route. I saw the Northern Lights dancing in the sky, shooting stars and even the snow glistened and shone as the street lights reflected their shimmer and shine.

Early mornings are truly magical. The magic ends as soon as the rest of the world starts to enter that place of solitude. I truly miss those moments.

Instead, I have become very cat-like in my sleeping habits. 

I nod off to sleep very easily, I wake often and when morning comes I feel just like my little big black cat when he woke up this morning. He stood up, he did an on-the-spot cat stretch, walked in a semi-circle for exactly one step, then changed his mind and curled back up into a tiny little cat ball. Yep! That is exactly how I felt too. So we all enjoyed one last cat nap before we jumped out of bed and into the day.

I have another morning off today and I am without an agenda to push me into action. The cats and I took our time getting out of bed and now that we are all up, every little thing is distracting me from my new found desire to get back into the habit of writing.

I am torn between working on a Suduko puzzle, answering emails, buying tickets and unjamming the printer after buying said tickets. My attention span is very cat like. Every moving thing and little noise distracts me. I'm up and about, then down for the count. 

My brain is starting to fill with all the things I could be and should be doing but instead, I am making myself another cup of coffee. The morning is going to take care of itself and I will have very little to show for it. 

I need to bring back that-which-was-good in my life. I need to bring early morning solitude back into my days. A quiet place to start. Time to reflect. A chance to fill myself up before I go out into the world and spend my energy.

I have a sense of feeling "depleted" within me. I believe it stems from waking up at a time when the world starts beckoning to me. I need to create a "Fortress of Solitude" just like Superman. Those superpowers may have come from his deep seated knowledge that one must fulfil themselves with what they need before they can go out and save the world.

Superman and I have a lot in common that way...