Another year older and hopefully wiser…

Last year was the big year, the big five-oh, and I had it all planned. A mother-daughter-sister visit to Ste. Anne’s Spa with my Mom and sister. I poured over their website, checking out every room and cottage available to our number of guests, searching for the perfect accommodations for us. My favourites were saved in a file on my computer, all ready to be shared when it was close enough for us to book. And then covid hit… and stayed. My birthday was lots of fun but I don’t think anyone could say that eating takeout pizza in my kitchen (with family) in any way compares to eating a freshly prepared gourmet meal on a beautiful patio, also with family.

my beach selfieThis year was different. My parents left in early July to visit my other sister, halfway across the country and I gave up on the mega planning. My napkins and candle were from last year and plans were made on a whim. And it was fantastic! I started out with an exercise class (that wasn’t the fantastic part) and then a video call with my parents so they could see me open their present to me. Then I visited friends who lived near my old building, the friends I sing karaoke with. We went to a nearby Dollarama and I found three fall items that I spent all last fall looking for and didn’t succeed. They’re going to look so good in September. They’re so not getting put out now. By that point it was time to head home and I got back just in time to have another friend over for dinner followed by an evening trip to the beach. Plus a video call with Colin. Plus my sister and her boys came over for dinner two evenings later. It’s been busy but a good busy and it was so nice to see everyone.

I thought I would have things more figured out by my 50’s than I do but here I am still chanting “righty-tighty lefty-loosey” when I need to loosen a screw and singing the alphabet song whenever I have to remember where a letter goes. I spent half a cab ride wondering why the driver kept going left when his little robotic directing device was telling him to go right… only to realized I’d mixed up my directions (again). Left and right are very nebulous to me. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, although I have changed my mind about being a garbage man.

One thing I have figured out is I need to take better care of my mental health. Years ago I told the man who called me from Canadian Pension Plan – Disability that it felt like something had broken inside my brain and I didn’t think it was ever going back together. I still feel that way. I’ve made strides in so many ways and I’m sure I’ll make more but I need a nap every day because I’m drained by early afternoon. Lately I’ve been too tired to even eat lunch. And my memory is… wait… what were we talking about? Oh yeah, I saw the cutest brown bunny on my walk last week.

So I’m in several online groups, which would be in-person if it wasn’t for covid, and I talk to Colin several times a day. I hang out with at least one friend a day too. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy starts in just over a week and I’ve got my kitties for lots of snuggles and attention. So many positive things.

Evelyn the cypressOne thing I have been doing is decorating my apartment so that it feels more comfortable and homey to me. It’s a lot easier to relax and feel calm in a place you feel safe and at ease, right? I’ve worked a lot on my bedroom and the living room and now I’ve been working on my kitchen, with the help of a Homesense gift card from my parents. I didn’t like the top of the cabinets, it was way too bare. I had one little tin of yellow and orange flowers at the end closest to the stove, I bought them from Dollarama last year. But they simply emphasized how empty the rest of the space was. I took an hour long bus ride to the nearest Homesense and found the perfect pot for my mini cypress Evelyn. I didn’t, however, find the rectangular planters I’d been hoping for. They did have fake marble pots similar to the ones on my table, so I grabbed two of those. Now I needed something long to place in the middle space. I got to the end of the aisle and noticed white and burlap and then the word “kitchen”. It was a big, rectangular framed wall art and just the right size and shape. Basically it was eminently suitable. I took a quick look at the rest of their art but there was nothing else remotely similar. So I bought it and stood precariously on the counter to hang it up. I’m telling you, 51 years old and climbing onto a counter don’t go together well. But I got down, cleaned up, and took a good look and, wouldn’t you know it, I absolutely love that picture. It just ties together the whole room. I might change up the greenery someday but for right now it’s just perfect.

And now I’m going to pull on my super soft nightie from my Mom, give Oreo some scritches under his neck and behind his ears, grab my phone and my favourite peanut butter cups, give Evelyn the cypress a good sniff (because she smells so good), and play my favourite phone game. Because that’s what life is, it’s all about the little things. The big things might be flashy but the little things are the meat of our lives and they’re what counts.

I hope you have a quiet, comfortable, and peaceful evening wherever you are (and if you have a pet, give them a skritch for me).

kitchen with Pooh mitts

Another spin around the sun…

oldI was brushing my teeth last night then could feel a wave of doom hovering over me. I snuggled Smudge, who purred and drooled all over my hand, read a good book, ate vegan ice cream, chatted with my Mom and Colin on the phone, and listened to quiet music. The wave stayed, crested and silent, and once in bed, I slowly slipped into an exhausted slumber only to wake again at midnight. The wave crashed as I got up, drowning me in terror barely before my feet hit the floor. This time breathing and quiet music were not going to cut it, not on their own. So I took some Ativan, listened to some tunes, and finally crashed. It wasn’t until morning that I realized today’s the first anniversary of me moving into this apartment.

Back in 2012 I picked out an apartment for Colin and I to live in. I fully figured that he’d need to stay living with me so I picked an apartment that seemed perfect for us. Two bedrooms, two balconies, lots of closets, two storage lockers (one en suite), gym, indoor and outdoor pool, nearby library, and lots of shopping. We had three grocery stores plus a Giant Tiger (with a good size grocery area) all within a 10 minute walk plus a Dollarama, Value Village, and three drug stores. It was convenient and, between the two of us, affordable. I just hadn’t factored in one thing. I couldn’t handle living with Colin.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Colin dearly. He’s an amazing person with great insights into a lot of topics but we often disagree (especially over politics). And I’m not interested in Reddit. I’m really not interested in hearing about the Men’s Rights Forums on Reddit. And I completely, absolutely, do not want to hear about their topic of the day at 3:30am. Colin knows he’s only supposed to wake me in case of emergency. Unfortunately he seems to thinks that big feelings are an emergency and will do anything, up to and including flicking on and off my lights and yelling at me, to keep me up to hear why he has big feelings. I have explained the difference between emotions and the apartment burning down more than once, he simply doesn’t see the difference. To him they’re both BIG. We also have completely different standards on clutter, where I prefer none and he prefers decidedly more. Which is why, when I was offered this apartment back in the beginning of 2019, I hesitated for a moment and then took it. The town was farther away from my family and I’d never set foot in it but the unit was subsidized and it would just be the cats and I. Saying “yes” felt awfully like jumping off a cliff but I still did it. And, with that, I changed our lives.

Moving here was such a huge change for me. Not only had I left Colin behind in a half empty apartment, I’d also left behind close friends and supportive groups. Our closest grocery store and Dollarama were a five minute walk away before; I could see Metro from our windows. Now they were between 20 minutes to a half hour away. We were supposed to have groups and activities start in my new building then covid hit a month later and everything got canceled. We had exactly one card night. Thankfully I became friends with my neighbour because the options for making friends were very small. And just as thankfully, groups reopened on Zoom so I could still see my old friends and discuss new topics. I even joined a zoom exercise group with my parents and began singing karaoke with friends via Facebook chat.

Getting used to the size of my apartment was another issue. I joke that it’s my tiny apartment but it really is just that. More than one person has described it as “a one bedroom but it’s kind of like a bachelor”. It’s open concept but has a separate bathroom and bedroom. I’m used to it now, and moving the kitchen table from in front of the hutch to right in the centre of the kitchen helped, but there have been several times the smallness of the apartment has triggered a panic attack. I’ve spent quite a bit of time this year buying relaxing decor. It wasn’t just out of some need to shop. Thankfully time and feeling soothed have made a difference. Every corner I look at holds something I love and the apartment has slowly become home.

Covid curtailed a lot of exploration too. My new town has quite an expansive old downtown with lots of small shops and little cafes. In pre-covid times my Mom and I planned on doing quite a bit of window shopping and ambling until we found a place to eat. Hard to do when everything’s closed. There’s a Thai restaurant I’ve been planning on ordering from for over a year now but they don’t do delivery and have fairly odd hours. Maybe this summer?

newAs for now, I’ve got an online grocery store to shop through, I’ve sorted out the bus system, I’ve found several nearby walking paths, I’ve got a dentist, doctor, and optometrist, and I’ve got three local Dollaramas and a Winners for happy shopping. Life is starting to settle and, thankfully, it’s settling well.

I have no idea what’s going to have happened by the time February 5, 2022 arrives but I hope I have some amazing things to write about and a whole lot less covid outside my door!

Bon Echo…

We camped the whole time I was growing up and much of those summers were spent at Bon Echo. My parents had a tent trailer, which fit us three girls just fine, and we brought along our friends’ three children (which warranted a tent). Plus our neighbour across the street camped at the same time with their three kids and often brought another neighbours’ two girls. It was a lot of kids and we had a tonne of fun. Swimming, biking, exploring, roasting marshmallows, singing campfire songs, getting lost and finding our way again… all of it was an adventure.

I took my own kids camping. We went to campgrounds closer to home and I loved them, especially Sibbald Point, we had so many great trips there. But Bon Echo was special.

My sister Jen takes her boys to Bon Echo at least once a year and often goes with our cousin Greg, his husband, and a whole bunch of friends.  They’re there right now and, on July second, my parents and I went up to join them. It’s not a short trip, it takes three hours each way, but it’s well worth the drive.

We crunched down the familiar road past two cabins then the scent of pine and camp smoke brought me right back to thirty-five years ago, jumping down the benches of the amphitheatre, positive I was going to fall any second yet somehow managing to stay upright. Walking along a rock strewn path to the point while the waves lapping the ground beside us. Hiding in an old, spider filled change room during a freak thunderstorm.

And then we were at the site, meeting everyone as they got back from a long hike. It was time for a swim on the beach where we always swam at while growing up, the beach that wasn’t the day beach. I like it better because it’s far more scenic with its backdrop of a stories high cliff. This beach is less popular because of the nearness of the underwater drop off. No one wants little Junior to go from chest height to 40ft deep in one step. This year it was more popular than usual due to social distancing. We spread ourselves out as far away as possible from the crowds.

Sometimes time creeps up on you, other times it smacks you in the face. My kids are no longer cuddle bugs snuggling up for bedtime stories, my Dad is no longer young and strong, and we will no longer run through the woods of Bon Echo seeking adventure. That mantle has passed to other children.

We left at dinnertime, saying our long winded goodbyes, and I was grateful to leave. I don’t think I could camp for even one night. I’m not sure I’ll ever camp again. But I’m so glad I went up for the day with my parents. I’m so glad I got to experience that sliver of Bon Echo.

cliff1

Saying goodbye to a decade…

Kathleen and Kait 2009It was 2009. I had a 14 year old and a 12 year old. Both seemed so old then and so young in retrospect. That New Year’s we went to my parents’ house for a family celebration that including a bonfire and cousins running everywhere.

 

Maybe it’s just me but I find that how things are now feel like forever, as if nothing’s going to change. And yet it does. Sometimes glacially slow and sometimes in the blink of an eye. Colin and I moved into what was my dream apartment (complete with pool) and he finished high school after many years of turmoil, mostly involving pronouns, his stims, and his love of math. Kait started dating her boyfriend and eventually had a baby with him. Kittens were adopted and adult cats grew older. The kittens did too but they’re still young. The adults are getting elderly.

I went to a friends’ apartment today and we were talking about the next decade and how old we’d be when 2030 rolled around. Sixty seems so far away but it’s coming closer in increments. Most of our time was spent chatting about happier things, stuffing our faces with food, and singing karaoke but sixty tugged at my brain. I’ve never pictured anything past 2020 so sixty is a novel concept and a not entirely welcome one. I can barely wrap myself around turning fifty.

I mentioned a few of my goals in an earlier post. Things like exercise three times a week and try to make friends. I want to get back into writing. I miss writing. I miss having a brain with an attention span too. I will definitely have to write in shorter chunks. And I need to make at least one friend. I don’t know how. I’m good at chatting with strangers but don’t know how to bridge the gap between chatty neighbour and friend. And I want to get back into cooking. Colin keeps putting stuff on the kitchen counter, which makes it difficult to prepare food. He has a lot of stuff, none of which belong there.

It is going to be so odd moving into an apartment just for me. I have never, in almost 50 years, lived totally on my own. Will I still be there on New Year’s Eve 2029? Who will be with me? Oh my goodness, my tiny toddling grandson is going to be in late elementary school! Our lives are going to change so much.

I’ve already had my New Year’s Eve celebration so I’m going to curl up in my swing chair and read a Patricia Briggs novel. Happy New Year to you all and I wish you all the best in 2020!

Kathleen, Allison, and Sean

Myself, Allison, and Sean about to sing karaoke

We should get together… soon…

This is not the post I’d planned on writing. In fact it’s a post I really don’t want to write, but it’s important.

Shelley was one of my ex’s friends. She, Erick, and J would drive around at night, listening to truckers and the police on their radio. I met her soon after, when J and I started dating. She was a fun loving chatterbox with a copious amount of pancake makeup. I learned later the makeup was to cover her heavy psoriasis.

It was a few years later that she told me she’d been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, which she said was the worst type. She soon moved to an accessible subsidized apartment in Whitby. The kids would go off to school and I’d get on the phone and call her. We’d talk for hours about life, her cat, my kids and cats, and how crappy my ex was.

We always meant to get together. She couldn’t go out because her face had got a lot worse and she couldn’t handle the stares. Then the psoriasis in her toes got infected and a temporary nurse put the wrong wrap on, which left her with chemical burns on both feet. And life kept happening. I worked in the evening… the kids needed walking to and from school. I figured we’d have a better time better soon. My last post from her was this…

Shelley

I left it to her and eventually forgot. There was so much going on in our lives, just like everyone else, and I kept meaning to message her but didn’t. And, through it all she posted pictures of her cat and the sunset. And I kept meaning to write… sometime soon.

Her birthday showed on up on my Facebook page today so I added the message “I hope to see you soon”. I’m moving to Bowmanville in January so now would be the best time to see her. Thankfully I read the messages below mine before posting my cheerful birthday wish. There were several messages talking about how they missed her, then a note in May saying she’d passed away. She was my age, late forties to early 50’s. Way too early to die.

I’m not going to do this anymore. No more waiting for the perfect time. There are no perfect times. I’m no longer going to wait around for someone to call someday. Now is someday and just as good a someday as any time else. I’ve got a couple of friends in the same situation of getting together “sometime”. Life’s too damn short to wait.

And I invite you to do the same. Sure it makes cutesy memes to joke that sometime means never but will it still be cutesy when that person is gone? I can assure you, it won’t.

Goodbye Shelley. I wish we got together so many times. You’re definitely missed!

An evening with friends…

The days are slowly ticking down to my summer move and I am anticipating a lot of things. One thing I’m going to miss though, is my biweekly karaoke dates with my friends A & S. We laugh, talk about our lives, and most of all sing. Trying new songs and sometimes failing spectacularly. I don’t recommend singing Hey Jude for example. Great song with 5 minutes of random syllables at the end.

One song I tried yesterday was Pentatonix’s Sing. I had no idea how hard it was to sing that song acapella. Wow! My impression of  them just soared and it was already high to begin with. I’m also determined to master that song. I’ll post it when I finally do.

Yesterday I videotaped myself singing Candle on the Water as sung by Helen Reddy. If you want to hear, please click on the picture 🙂

What makes a house a home…

Kait and Elmo

Kait sharing a laugh with Elmo

I was looking at my hutch and the wooden home sign on the shelf when I thought to myself, “What makes a house a home”? I’d always thought it was the people in the house that made it a home. Love, kindness, and shared connections. The bonds of family and friendship.

I spent 23 years raising my children and had no doubt our place was a home. There was almost visible love around us and kindness. And, of course, friends. Our home had plenty of hugs and kisses, plenty of listening, and lots of “I love you”. It was home sweet home.

Then I moved here with Colin. It felt different moving without Kait but, with Colin, it was still home. And now it’s me moving all by myself.

I can look at all the gorgeous things I’ve bought for this apartment. My bronze twig cutlery set, rainbow cups (one set from me and one from my parents), beautiful wall art. Everything to make my apartment more inviting. But items don’t make a home. Can it be a home when I’m by myself?

I’m going to have four cats with me to love and spoil. I have friends already talking about visiting. And I’m sure I’ll make friends there, especially since there are groups being held in the building.

Those are all good but my final thought was it’s what’s inside your heart that matters. If you enter and your heart feels at peace, you’re home. No matter who or how many people live there.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get there, the building is under construction, but when I arrive, I know I’m going to be at home.

Kait, Colin, and frog

Kait and Colin while camping

Looking forward…

Today feels like it should be covered in glitter and wrapped in ribbon… like there should be a hint of magic along with the optimism a new year brings. Instead we’ve got rain and chilly winds. Not that it matters because I’m cozy in my home, wearing sequined slippers and taking breaks to cuddle with the cats.

This is a day of reflection about 2018 while planning for next year and thankfully my reflections are happy ones. Kait’s pregnancy and subsequent birth have brought the two of us closer together. It’s not uncommon for us to have three hour long phone calls now. And I have the most adorable grandson too. I love watching his eyes light up with happiness when he sees me. Colin’s slowly maturing and has expressed an interest in being more organized. He also wants to go out more and join some groups. And I’ve spent quite a bit of time with family and friends. Woo hoo… karaoke! I can’t forget L either. I’ve only seen her once but I’m seeing her again soon and really looking forward to our second date… considering our first one was great!

One thing I have to work on in January and February is my weight. I’d lost 10 pounds by the beginning of December then regained six. Christmas Crack is so yummy but it’s also really high in calories. And there were other snacks and treats as well. January is a fresh start. I’m going to make sure I exercise every day. There’s no real excuse not to. I have a membership to the city’s walking track, I can go downstairs for a swim or some time on the treadmill, or I can use the mini trampoline I have under my bed. Plus on good days I can go outside for a walk on one of four trails. I am sure that I can get into the 180’s before our Dominican Republic vacation in March.

I’d also like to work on my writing. I haven’t written so much as a page in my current novel over the last year whereas pre-depression I lived for writing and would write a chapter at a time. I read an article, via Facebook, that said writing in Comic Sans helps boost creativity and I’m willing to give it a try. It can’t hurt and it’s not hard to change the novel back to Garamond.

I’ve been enjoying hanging out with friends but I’ve got local friends who I only ever see on Facebook and we need to get together too. That’s something for me to try harder to arrange this year.

2016 was one of the worst years of my life, 2017 was an improvement, 2018 was great, and I’m hoping that 2019 will be amazing! Happy New Year!!!

Start your year off right

 

Happy little thoughts…

20181124_205307I went to my friends’ house on Sunday with Colin and, soon after we arrived, their brand new TV was delivered. Colin was such a huge help. The physical set up wasn’t that much of a problem, it was the programming that was the issue.

Colin patiently read through the instructions then showed my friends, step by step, how to operate their new TV. There were so many instructions and steps that I figure I’ll never own a TV again. I can download videos right to my phone or computer a whole lot easier! But he got it all working for them.

I have my first date on Sunday and we’ve been chatting back and forth. I think she’s even more nervous than I am, which is a feat. I’ve promised I’ll meet her right at the bus stop and she wants to go for a walk with me after lunch, even if it’s raining, which is fine by me. We’re going out for Indian food. Mmm… aloo gobi! I so hope this date goes well. I’m sure it will but am still nervous.

I’m looking at my cats sleeping peacefully around my room. I’m so glad I have them. They bring such joy into my life from how Lara runs screaming to meet me when I open the front door and how Blackie purrs and licks my nose when she’s getting petted. People talk about cats being cold and aloof but they’ve never met my cats.

I’ve been working really hard to lose weight for our trip to the Dominican Republic and so far I’ve lost 10 pounds. I still have three months to go so I’m sure I’ll lose a decent amount by then. I want my summer clothes to fit comfortably, especially my two new tops. I was going to share a picture of them but I already shared one a few posts down.

On Thursday I get to see Kait and her wee one. He’s growing and changing so much. Every time I see him he’s doing something new… from smiling to grasping items like his rattle. I’m looking forward to his happy smile when he sees me and having a face to face chat with Kait instead of just talking on the phone.

And on Saturday we’re having a family dinner at a Thai restaurant. They make the yummiest food. I love their tom yum soup and golden curry with rice. We’ve been going to this restaurant for about a decade now and haven’t got bored of it yet.

I’m really enjoying the new season of Doctor Who. The Doctor’s great and the stories are entertaining. That being said, I haven’t seen last week’s yet because Colin keeps stalling. If he stalls tomorrow I’m watching it on my own. It sounds nice to curl up on my swing chair and watch it on my phone.

Winter’s coming and they are forecasting a long, bitterly cold one so I’m going to start buying groceries that are easy to prepare for the days I’m weary plus a few frozen dishes for the days I just can’t find the strength to even boil rice. I can’t make winter go away but I can prepare for it. I don’t want to end up back in the hospital so I’m going to do what I can now to make sure winter is as easy as I can manage.

And now Colin’s wanting to chat before bed so it’s time for me to go.

Enduring winter…

Some days I think of Robin Williams and am sad he died so young. Other days I’m amazed that he lived so long. It’s all in my perspective at the time.

Depression and anxiety are separate illnesses but they feed off each other in a continual loop of fear and hopelessness, making even the smallest task seem insurmountable. I’ve found having a routine helps but that’s not perfect and some days find me rocking in the kitchen, too anxious to start dinner and too uncomfortable to leave.

I spent two weeks in the mental health ward of our hospital last winter. That’s something both my psychiatrist and myself want to avoid in 2018. So I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. I’ve got two groups each week and they each do a variety of activities from bowling to making bath bombs to playing games (I love Headbands) plus a social worker from the Canadian Mental Health Association comes on Fridays to check in on me and make sure I’m doing okay. That still leaves the bulk of my days empty, which is good in some ways. I often need time to wind down and relax after an activity. But the time alone doesn’t help the intrusive thoughts or being thrown into an anxiety attack over a load of dishes. I don’t even know why I’d have anxiety over something so small, yet it happens.

One friend of mine and I have decided we need to get together more often. She lives in the building behind us so it’s not exactly a hardship to meet. She’s well aware of my anxiety as she got to witness it full blown the day she and her husband took me to Costco. I’d been there before but on a weekday morning, not a Saturday afternoon. From the crowds you’d think there was a massive blow out sale going on but there was nothing, just lots of people buying until their wallets exploded from the pressure. I have to admit, the jumbo sized container of laundry soap packets was a good deal but it was nothing I’d go back for. So now we stick to karaoke at the quietest bar I’ve ever seen. Like so quiet I’m expecting a “for rent” sign on their door any day now. My friend also goes to another bar but has informed me it’s way too loud and crowded for me to handle.

My other friends have social anxiety and get anxious and cancel at the last minute. Which is generally okay because I’m taking deep breaths and trying to avoid an anxiety attack at the same time. But none of us are scary so I’m going to make more of an effort to connect with them. I’m sure we can manage getting together for tea.

Then there’s just the general suckage of winter. It was -22C this morning when I woke up. That would be a good number without the minus but it’s horrid with it. That’s not walking in the woods weather, it’s staying at home weather. But I can’t sit at home for three months either.

Colin and I have disability passes to our local recreation centre so we can walk on the track, which is boring but doable… especially with an MP3 player. And hopefully we’ll get some -2C weather to go walking outside.

And now I sit, watching as the sky turns dark so early, working up the courage to go make dinner. The window beside me is emanating cold air but otherwise my room is warm and summery, comfy enough that all five cats are napping in here. I study them, sprawled bonelessly across my bed and mat then I look back outside and settle in to wait for spring.

my room

My safe space and sanctuary from winter. I think it’s cozy and the cats certainly agree. There’s a strand of white lights on the wall but they don’t really show up here.