Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Small, Dancing Steps

Last week I set some modest goals for myself housework-wise. Today I'm proud to report that those tasks were completed every day last week. Woo hoo! Insert modest victory dance here...

My goals were to make my bed and wash my breakfast dishes, so they weren't all that difficult to accomplish. I had Hubby's help too. He leaves so early for work that trying to accomplish anything but the basics would require him to get up before he went to bed. He chipped in on his days off though, which made things easier for me. It makes me all warm and fuzzy to know that he's still got my back after all these years.

Overall I feel a little less overwhelmed by all the house-related stuff I've let slide over the years. Having accomplished something small each day, I feel a little less anxious about enjoying my leisure time. Could it be I'm a little more content?

I'm also finding it easier to take on other small tasks. Last week I started cleaning out the file cabinet, and I went through both our freezers and updated my inventory lists. (I keep a dry-erase board on each freezer. Each time I add or remove something I update the list. Or at least I try to. Obviously I hadn't been as diligent as I thought, as both lists needed updating. There were some forgotten, well-aged, almost unidentifiable things in the deepest, darkest recesses of both freezers.) 

I'm starting to see things I had stopped noticing. A few random, overused clothing items went into the trash. Other long-unworn items went into the donation box. I rediscovered a jacket my aunt gave me. It had been hiding in the coat closet downstairs. I had forgotten all about it. I've worn it twice now and have had compliments each time. Compliments increase my contentment, more confirmation that my wee project is working. 

On Saturday Hubby was waiting for me to get ready so we could head out to run errands. As I brushed my teeth I remembered an old, elastic headband in the drawer beside me. I don't know why I kept it. It had lost its sproing long ago and was of no use whatsoever. I figured I'd take a second and trash it before I forgot about it. A half an hour later, I had not only disposed of the offending headband, I had emptied the entire drawer, sorted all the stuff, tossed much of it (Because really, unless I'm going to take up lock-picking, do I need 37 bent hairpins?) and selected several items to donate. (In spite of my vow to wear more colour, I can't imagine ever wearing neon-orange scrunchies again.)

When Hubby came to see what I was doing I was vacuuming a wig's-worth of stray hair from the drawer before I put the remaining stuff back. Hubby calls this phenomenon "falling down the rabbit hole". I need to be aware of this tendency. Hubby may be patient when I wander into wonderland and lose track of time, but somehow I doubt my employer will be. 

With that in mind, I'm keeping this week's goals simple. I'm going to continue to make my bed and wash the breakfast dishes. In addition, I'm going to wipe down the tub and tiles after I shower. I already do this most mornings. I'm hoping stating it here will help me to do it more often.  I'm also going to clear the drain board before going to bed each night. Doing the breakfast dishes will be easier if I don't have to put away the dishes from the night before first. Please note that this doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to dry the dishes. I'm just going to put them away when they've air-dried. Don't want to overtax myself with all these goals. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wear Colour!

If you visit my blog you won't find one self-portrait. I've grown fond of my Elusive Laurie persona. In fact, the one time I was recognized as Elusive Onions' author I was completely unnerved. There is safety in being an enigma. As much as I find comfort in my anonymity, Meghan's engagement announcement has inspired me to share a picture of myself on my wedding day ten years ago.

Aren't I a lovely bride in my flowing white gown?


Right from the start I knew I wanted to be married in a red dress. This proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. There isn't a local bridal shop, and I didn't know a good seamstress at the time. Ready-made red dresses were in short supply that spring. 

In a panic I tried on a couple of traditional-ish, whitish dresses. They only strengthened my resolve to find my red dress. No one wants to see (or be!) a puffy, pasty bride. That's how I felt in each conventional bride's dress I tried.

I'd heard other brides talk about the moment when they found "the dress". They made it sound as though they had discovered the Holy Grail. I thought they were nuts. That was before I found my dress. From the moment it was fastened I knew it was "the one". I had joined the ranks of nutty brides-to-be, but I didn't care. 

Hubby and I traveled back to Ontario to celebrate our marriage with family and friends. The ceremony took place on the campus where we met. (An added bonus of choosing this dress: I found it in a shop that specializes in travel/cruise wear. I was able to toss the dress into my backpack for the trip. It didn't leave my sight for the entire flight, and on arrival all I had to do was shake it out, hang it up, and I was ready to go.)

On our return to Vancouver Island I landed my first job in my new, post-teaching career. It may be a coincidence, but from that point on my wardrobe became duller and duller. I gradually went from the bride in the flame-red dress to a woman whose work wardrobe consisted of black, navy and grey. I didn't even realize that there had been a change until I saw Meghan's post and the accompanying video about wearing colour.  I admit I got a bit weepy. Meghan and Jessi touched on an ache I didn't even know I had. 

I was determined to take action. A few days later I hit the Value Village for the first time and came home with a bag full of COLOUR

Four pieces for less than $30! Woo hoo!

My new acquisitions prompted some serious wardrobe experimentation. While experimenting I discovered:
  • I had much more colour in my wardrobe than I realized. I had just stopped wearing it. 
  • My curves can still rock a bright sweater, given the right bra, of course.
  • Already-owned pieces could be combined to create new, colourful outfits. 
  • It's fun to have a fashion show for yourself.
  • I was excited to be adding colour back into my outfits!
Eventually the excitement led to nervousness. A private fashion show for myself was one thing. Taking the show on the road was more nerve-wracking than I had expected. What if I looked silly?  I wasn't sure I had the self-confidence to wear my new togs out of the house. 

In an attempt to overcome my self-conscious reluctance, I started my adventure into the world of colour with pieces I already owned but had never worn together.  They were pieces I liked and was comfortable in, yet I was still nervous. I also chose to start on a short work day. If things went horribly wrong I only had a few hours to struggle through. 

That day, I left dressing to the last minute. It was a good thing I did. If I had had more time I would have changed my mind and changed my clothes! I spent a few seconds examining myself in the mirror and gnawing on my thumbnail. I'm not usually a nail biter. That should give you an idea how nervous I was, but as time was limited I had to head out the door. 

This is the outfit that caused such nail-biting nervousness.

I'd like to say that day changed my life forever. Life doesn't work that way though. I did get good responses from my co-workers. It was hard for them not to notice I wasn't cloaked in my usual funereal garb. When I explained the change, one woman was inspired enough to ask for Meghan's website. You know I'll be watching her for changes!

There have been a few challenging moments. One old fart of a customer felt the need to appreciate the colour of my new shirt with his fingertips. I did NOT slap him, though I was tempted. Another regular customer jokingly told me I looked like a slut. That one shook me. She also told my co-worker she looked like a farmer, so it wasn't just my outfit she was critiquing. 

Overall the experience of adding colour has been positive. Most days I'm in a better mood. (Not always a good mood, just better.) It's even getting easier to get out of bed in the morning. (Easier, not easy.) When a friend invited me to paint with her at her studio, I accepted. As I'm not particularly talented art-wise, there was a part of me that was tempted to decline. Somehow the craving for colour prompted me to go for it. I had so much fun I went the next time she asked too, and I displayed my primitive (but colourful) works in my home on book club night. 

This photo was taken at the studio while the paint was drying. My home isn't papered with newsprint. Honest. 

I still get nervous when I wear a new outfit in public, but that unease is usually mixed with excitement. Now on the days when the laundry is undone, I'm falling back on the dark clothes in my closet to see me through. It used to be the other way around. I'm surprised at how quickly I've become adverse to those dull outfits. On the days when they are necessary I try to add colour, even if it's with something as subtle as bright socks. 

Six socks for $60! Woo hoo?

My adventure into the world of colour is leading me to some fun, new places. I may even rediscover myself on the journey, provided I knew who I was before.  I'm excited to see what's ahead. Elusive Laurie might finally be coming out of her shell. I'm beginning to feel like that's a good thing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Today is the Day

The title of this post is inspired by the marvellous Meghan Telpner. She has recently shared her creed with her readers, and is challenging us to share how we are "Living the Creed". I don't know if I'll share this with her readers, but I'm comfortable sharing it with mine. Sort of. 

This post is very rough. I realize there are things won't be clear to anyone but me, and I'm sure there are mistakes. I'm a bit pressed for time, so I'm going to post anyway. I feel the need to get this out now.  Today is the day...

Once upon a time, back in the olden days when Brambles still existed, I wrote about duck eggs. I fretted about my inability to decide what to do with the eggs. Rose-Anne, from Life, Love and Food commented with excellent advice. In her comment she also mentioned a book. I immediately hopped over to my library's website and put my name on the wait-list for the book. (I'm a nerdy book-girl that way.) If it prompted such solid, useful advice, I wanted to read it too.   

It took months, but eventually I received a copy of Gretchen Ruben's "The Happiness Project". I read the book with great excitement. There was so much I could apply to my life. The first chapter alone confirmed things I already knew, but wasn't necessarily practising.  I was drawn to the connections between exercise, organization, procrastination and happiness. If I could work on those things, I too could amplify my happiness. I was stoked.

Coincidentally, or possibly conveniently, the book arrived just prior to Hubby going out of town for a week. I was sure this was the perfect opportunity to get my stuff organized. I had visions of surprising him with all I accomplished in his absence. (Note that I had no intention of organizing his stuff. That route leads to madness, and divorce court. I'm always shocked when friends tell me that they cleaned out their Hubby's closet. That just seems wrong.) 

I made a list of all the things I was going to do.  High on my list of priorities was dealing with all the recipes I had clipped, printed and copied. I had a binder where I had been storing them, but it was full to bursting. There were several months worth of collected recipes in a messy stack on my kitchen counter. 

I chose to start with this project as it was something I could do while I watched chick-flicks, and it allowed me to make a trip to the stationery store. I *heart* shopping for stationery. (All part of the nerdy book-girl thing.)  I came home with binders and binder dividers and plastic page protectors. I was so going to organize the heck out of my recipes. 

The recipes did get organized, in spite of the fact that I had completely underestimated how many I had. It required a second trip to the stationery store for further supplies in spite of my culling old recipes as I went. My one-evening project spread out though the week. With my on-call job, and my attempts to keep up with the few household chores I do regularly, this was the only project that was crossed off the list. I was completely discouraged. 

In spite of this, I still found the book intriguing. I ordered it from the library again and again, but I just couldn't motivate myself to act. Small attempts would be made, some with lasting results, but overall not much got accomplished. I found ways to excuse myself. Ms. Rubin lives in a New York City apartment. I'm assuming it's much smaller than my small-town house. She isn't likely to have yard work, and on and on and on. There was always some "good reason" why I couldn't make this work. 

But I know I can. In fact, I was able to keep up with the basics for several weeks late last year when there was a steady stream of painters and heat-pump installers and energy advisers through the house. It felt so good to get up and get things accomplished before workers started arriving. Somehow, I keep meaning to get back to that routine, and that feeling...

Today is the day that I do it. I'm starting small. This is a pathetic admission, but I rarely make my bed or wash the breakfast dishes. Silly, small things I know, but I feel better when they are done, yet most mornings I choose not to do them.  Today they are done. My goal is to do them every morning this week, then add something new next week. I think this is the only way I can manage without feeling overwhelmed and giving up.  My plan is to organize my household chores and routines then move on to larger projects. It's all a part of a bigger picture to create conditions that are inviting to contentment

I'll report back occasionally and let you know how it's going. I hope you put up with me as I muddle through this. It can't always be balls and pineapple p*nis pops, though one can dream...

* Yes, sadly, Brambles is gone. It closed well over a year ago, and I have yet to write about it here.  I'm still in denial.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pink Pineapple P*nis Pops

The Story Before the Story...

Hubby and I went for a walk shortly after I snapped the photos for this post.  As we walked, we chatted about my plans for the pictures. Hubby wasn't too excited about my intended title. He thought it would attract unwanted readers, and he figured I could get grief from the makers of the product pictured below. He also thought that the people of Moosewood, and the makers of the original P*nis Pops, might take offense.  (Is there such a thing as a P*nis Pop? I’m afraid to look.)

Hubby has such faith in the popularity of my humble blog. There are times when I'm not sure there are any readers other than Hubby and Dad. I'd be surprised if the legal departments of any of the fine companies mentioned here found me. I wasn’t too keen on changing my planned title. I thought it was funny, and I had seen far more provocative things on other blogs.

When we returned from our walk, I logged into my email. Instead of the expected list of ads, offers and forwarded crap I got a message that my Google Account had been cancelled.  Whaaaaat?!?!?  I hadn’t knowingly done anything to offend the great Google Gods. There was a moment of puzzled panic before I did the reasonable thing and tried logging in again. Presto! I was in!

I don’t know what glitch caused the original login failure, but that brief moment of confusion was enough to make me alter the title. Thus the “*” you see there and throughout this post. I think of that cancellation message as a warning shot; I’d better behave myself if I want to continue here.

Hubby is right. This is a public blog, and I never really know who is looking. I need to be mindful of what I post here. I just didn’t realize that the keepers of cyberspace could act on my planned, as well as my published, posts. The interwebs is a spooky place for imaginative, and slightly paranoid people. Like me.

Now on to our regularly scheduled story.

Pink Pineapple P*nis Pops

On Christmas morning I opened a package from Hubby that contained this innocent-looking cardboard box:

Inside the box I found what appeared to be six silver schl*ngs.

Only five pictured here. One is in the freezer!

I was baffled. One silver schl*ng would be an unlikely gift from Hubby. Six seemed excessive and completely out of character. Then I realized what the gift actually was. It was a set of stainless steel popsicle molds. I had, in fact, not only suggested these to Hubby, I had helpfully sent him a link.  Somehow, the picture of the fully assembled set didn't quite capture the p*nile quality of the individual molds. 

Snap to a few weeks later. Every so often I meet with a group of friends to share a meal. Sometimes we write. More often we just talk about what we've been up to since we last met. We each contribute something to a pot-luck supper. For this first meeting of 2012 I struggled to think of something that would satisfy everyone's New Year's resolutions and their dietary requirements.  I was lucky to find a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health that would meet everyone's needs: Pineapple-Cinnamon Popsicles. The recipe had only three all-natural ingredients, and it allowed me to break out my new popsicle molds. 

By this point I had pretty much gotten over my initial surprise at the shape of the popsicle molds.  I merrily went about preparing frozen treats for the group, happy that I had found something everyone could eat.  Of course, I couldn't just stick to the recipe.  Even though there were only three ingredients (pineapple, orange juice, cinnamon) I had to mix it up a little. Instead of the wee bit of orange juice the recipe called for, I used the juice of an entire blood orange. The resulting purée was a delightful shade of grapefruit-pink. 

The popsicle molds inspired giggles and slightly off-colour comments from the moment I unpacked them at the pot-luck. Things got really silly after dinner when we popped the pops from the molds. Somehow, in spite of the pink purée, I didn't anticipate the end result:

I had accidentally created a rude, but very tasty, dessert. I'll post the recipe below. Consider it my Valentine's Day gift to you!

Pink Pineapple P*nis Pops 

Adapted somewhat from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

(I struggled with calling this one an "adaptation". I've only changed one ingredient slightly, but as that ingredient represents 1/3 of the recipe I'm going for it!)

3 cups pineapple
juice of one blood orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, then whiz on high until frothy. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze immediately.  Serve and enjoy the giggles!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Contentment Challenge

When I wrote about Sankalpa a couple of weeks ago, I knew that my new-found ability to invite content would eventually be tried.  Somehow I thought I'd have more time to practice before things went awry.  It was a rude awakening when challenges came just days after that post. 

I don't often write about work. I get the feeling my employer would be less than happy with work-related sharing, and if possible I'd prefer to choose when I leave my job. I don't want to be forced out the door as the result of a stray comment here.  Because of this I'm going to be vague with the details, but there was an incident at work. 

It was the kind of incident that involved the police. It involved paperwork. It involved reporting not only to my immediate manager, but to management outside the workplace as well. I'm never confident that I'm acting correctly in these situations. I worried. I second-guessed my actions. I was angry with the people involved in the incident, then I was angry with myself for my lack of compassion.  I worried some more.

The situation left me so rattled that I woke several times that night to worry, rage and beat myself up. I knew it wasn't helpful, but I couldn't work with that knowledge when all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

The next day should have allowed me to put the incident behind me. My manager had no complaints about my handling of the situation, and there seemed to be no fall-out from the higher-ups. The people involved didn't return.  It should have been a good day, but lack of sleep made even the small things horribly difficult. That night my sleep was interrupted again. This time  petty irritations of the day kept me awake. 

This went on for about a week. Each night my sleep was disturbed, and each day smaller and smaller things bothered me. Thoughts of contentment were lost in the sleep-deprived turmoil of my mind. I need my sleep.

(I'm not alone in recognizing the connection between sleep and contentment. Sleep is the first topic Gretchen Rubin tackles in her book "The Happiness Project".  More about the book another day.) 

My attempts at writing suffered as a result of my lack of sleep. I wrote pieces that were meant to be light and humourous. I knew I fell short of my mark when I got comments back from my most-excellent writing buddy. (Hi E!) She had awesome suggestions on how to further my social commentary.  I was trying to be funny. 

Nothing got posted here as I worked through my sleepless slump. I struggled to get anything down on paper. If it weren't for my regularly scheduled appointments with E, I probably would have given up.  (As I write this I realize that "E" can also mean "Ecstasy". Gives the previous sentence a completely different meaning. I must be recovering my sense of humour.) 

I'm grateful that, because of the commitment to my writing buddy, once a week I had to sit down and write. If nothing else, it made me realize I could write about the incident at work and its impact on my contentment. Hopefully I can now put the whole mess behind me and move on to more fun topics. Like pink pineapple p*nis pops!