NOT SO HARD AFTER ALL

Life is hard

Day 18 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I am suffering a little winter and what-have-you fatigue. The only music in my head today is “the day the music died“. It’s a line from Don McLean’s song Miss American Pie. The song is about the day Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J. P. Richardson died in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959. It’s an interesting story and a fascinating song. I still have the LP American Pie. On this November day, it reminded me of the day JFK was assassinated. We will never know the truths of the assassination or the song.

I’m not exactly a cheerful bunny today, am I? It’s probably a hangover from yesterdays’s grumpiness not helped with the bad world news creeping in. Today I recognized it as a seasonal-affective-disorder sign and that I should take it easy. Every little thing could be that straw that broke the camel’s back and blast me into outer space. It’s taken me this long to wisen up. When the guy said he was going skiing this morning, I said I’m not. Even though I got all new ski equipment and snow pants, my mind and body wasn’t all that excited. It’s good to have some slow and alone time.

Days like this are so taxing. I’m very very slow today. I must need it and so I listened to my body and mind. I read a romance novel this morning and heated a frozen pizza for lunch. Makes doing dishes easy – 2 plates, 2 forks and knives into the dishwasher. Just a pizza pan to wash by hand. Easy is good once in awhile. I don’t have to be Wonder Woman every day. Not to lose the whole day to idleness, I coaxed myself downstairs to finish shortening my snow pants. It was agonizing at first but once started, I had to finish, right? It is finished and now I can say, it wasn’t so hard after all. And my butt will be warm once I do get out skiing.

BEYOND STUCK, HOPING AND WISHING

Can I tell you something? It is difficult to write and work on being stuck when you are! Sometimes I feel so disgusted with myself. I try not to stay there. Yesterday I talked about how much time we spend on scrolling. I know that I haven’t always done so. I was a very late comer to the computer and smart phone. I was the smart one then. I’m not so now. It’s really not my fault. I fell into the same trap as many other people. Now I am determined to get out.

Instead of wasting time fighting my urges, I gave in and let my fingers wandered over the buttons, the mouse and keyboard. My brain still has some control over where they go. It can still say, enough now! I found this video this morning on clutter. It was a bit long, an hour. But since that’s what I am working on, it was well worth my time. I made my breakfast while I listened to it. I got some value from it.

I agree that the 3 things to work on are my emotions, time and stuff. And to work slow and prioritize, of course. I am not what you would call a hoarder. My house is not jam packed with stuff. I am a clutterer from way back, getting worse with each day. I tend to drop things wherever they happen to land. They never seem to be able to find a home. My worse traps are the dining room table and my desk.

The best time to work on anything is the present moment. That cuts the procrastination. I took her hint, got a box and cleared off my dining room table into it. That is, whatever could fit. Other times, I used a shoebox. I have a few of them around, waiting to be sorted and emptied. Next, I whipped off the tablecloths and threw them, along with a few other items into the washer. What a relief! I’ve been wanting to do that for quite a few days, but unable to, being paralyzed by emotions of I don’t know how. I know it sounds silly and lame. It is what it is.

I know my laundry is done by now. Time to hang it/put in dryer. I’ve done some dreaded dusting in the bedroom. The drapes are taken down and in the washer. It’s the blackout ones I made and hung last year. I’m sure they would appreciate a wash. Now that I’ve done that, I am not sure why it was so hard. I guess the hard part is if you don’t move, it’s hard to get it done. By taking ClutterClarity’s advice on going slow, I did kinda enjoy the process. It is nice to have a cleared table again. The next stop is my desk.

THE HARDEST JOURNEY

My most difficult journey is the present one. The how of starting is always the first stumbling block. It is the cue to think back to my ancestor, Lao Tzu. He said that a journey of a thousand miles start with a single step. I step forward tentatively – one word, then two…I’m on my way. My most difficult journey is also my inner one. The one with lofty goals, the one which I hold myself to impossibly high principles, the one which I do not allow for mistakes, the one with no detours. It is the one that I, inevitably, have come to a dead end.

I’ve been at the crossroad for some time now. I’m sitting here contemplating my options. Which way are you going to go, Lily? is singing in my head. I know that I can only go forward. There’s no backtracking in life. I’m taking my time, dwelling in the quiet, listening to the beat of my heart. What is it telling me? I no longer trust other voices telling me this and that. They do not have my best interests at heart even though they sincerely believe so. I cannot hold them at fault. I am probably guilty of the same.

I’m watching the shadows on the wall, sipping my peppermint tea.  It is peaceful here. I have time. It is a good place to linger and rest awhile. I’ve had a full and wonderful day. I swam 13 laps or 26 lengths this morning. Somehow 26 lengths sound more impressive. I’m pleased and proud of myself. I’m still holding myself accountable of doing my best of the day, living up to my commitments of showing up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge and staying the course of a healthy physical and mental diet.

LESSONS LEARNED

My two pairs of pants are shortened and hemmed. Hallelujah! Miracles do happen. It was not so difficult after all. I need not have waited 20 years to do it. Lesson learned. Nothing happens when I am frozen with overwhelmed and indecision. They hung in the closet, gathering dust. So any action, even if it is not the best or perfect, is better than none. Now that I’ve tried them on, I think they’re a tad too short. They’re tighter than when I tried them on last week. Ah, the waxing and waning of the waist line! They might have to go into the donation bag after all. But I will see. I can still let the hem down a bit on each. Maybe I can suck in my tummy.  More work but that’s what I get for not trying them on after pinning. Another lesson learned. So many damn lessons!


That was a few days ago. I ran out of steam and words after that short conversation. That’s how it is. Now I’m back to continue. That is the secret – to keep coming back. Life is not smooth sailing. It’s full of starts, delays, holdups, detours, rerouting, restarting, etc. My garden is the same this year. We had hardly any rain till these last weeks in June. Even the weeds were not growing. There was the cool temperatures. Everything was slow. Then there were the birds and bugs that ate what did come up. I lost half a bed of broccoli and 2 rows of beans never showed. Peas and carrots are seeded in the empty spaces. But my bed of greens is excellent. We had plenty of spinach and lettuce. The spinach is done and new seeds put in for a second crop. The onions are standing straight and tall. The kale is coming up.

So that’s how things are. Some things thrive. Some don’t. There’s evil in the world but there’s also alot of good. Just when I’m really down and despondent about our humanity, I learn of people with huge loving hearts and great courage. Trevor Green’s story moved me to tears. Then there’s Melissa Fung’s speaking On What We Owe. That made me put away my small troubles, for a little while at least, and think about the larger world. And I think again about what can I do to help.

 

IN THE CUL-DE-SAC

I should listen to my own advice about starting. It’s not that I don’t want to. Sometimes I have to go through the period of being stalled, being hung in limbo, midair, not wanting to commit. Call it what you will. Maybe it’s my ritual of some sort. It’s good to have rest periods. I do feel an obligation not to waste time, to fill every moment of useful doings.

I’ve been caught in the limbo of not doing for days now. Every evening I catch myself saying, I will start in the morning. In the morning I find it is so much easier to sink into tomorrow is another day. It’s not that I’ve been a couch potato. On the contrary I’ve been on the ‘busy routine’ of living every day, doing the famous ‘busy stuff’ that everyone does.

It’s not that I have so many important things to do or to contribute. It’s that I’ve been  stuck in the cul-de-sac of lassitude, of not caring, of not having meaning, of not being important, of not being present. Perhaps it is called feeling sorry for myself or being in a depressive mood. My favourite excuse is that summer is not my favourite season. It brings out not so good memories of growing up in small town Saskatchewan. Everyone in town goes away to the lake or wherever on holidays, except the Chinese people who has the cafe. Oh, I remember those hot summer days of watching flies drone against the window screen and looking out at the empty dusty streets.

It’s strange how memories live in the very marrow of me. They are hidden deep inside and seep out on hot summer days. No need to worry about me. It’s just the way I talk/write. It’s healthy to be curious and investigate my feelings. It’s good to lay them down on the page in black and white. These ebb and flow of feelings are part of being alive. Feelings come and go like the tide. It’s like breathing in and out. Some are good and some not so. I’m still learning to accept them all, to sit with them as I must.

I’ve been reading Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You. I’m learning about Bodhichitta, being a warrior and staying in those scary places. It’s helping me to finally relax into life and not take things so seriously. Life is serious but things are not. I’m seeing the light now. Times when I don’t will come again. I have the words now. They could go away tomorrow. It’s all a cyle, the yin and the yan. That’s what I know for sure.

 

THE END OF THE DAY – Day 37 in a year of…

Day 37, August 28, 2016 @9:20

At the end of 37 days, I am weary of setting intentions daily and following through. At the same time it is getting easier.  I’m stretching and reaching my goals.  I must be developing new muscles and building stamina.  I’m still in the early days of my year.  I must keep to the straight and narrow.  It is my own doing.

At the end of this day, I have to show – 6 loaves of whole wheat bread and two zucchini loaves.  Even if I must say it myself, the zucchini loaf is delicious.  It is my first try.  They are all packed and put away.  The bowls, pans, measuring cups and spoons are washed, dried and in their proper places.

It is wonderful to come to the end of the day with my intended tasks completed from start to finish. It hasn’t always been so. Hooray for me!  Are you a finisher?

It is late.  Good night.  Till tomorrow.

JAMMING IT

IMG_3426There’s something so soothing and meditative about squishing grapes that I never thought possible! That’s the surprise I discovered when I sat down with my two pounds of Concord grapes. Two pounds is not alot but too much to eat.  Since we made the effort to grow them, it’s hard to waste them. I am not fond of making jelly.  It seems like SO much work.  My head gets boggled and quirky just thinking about it. Jamming is no breeze either, but seems like the less evil of the two.

I resigned myself to a bunch of work.  But I tried to make it as easy and pleasant as possible.  I took the lot into my sun room and sat down with them.  There’s no easy way of skinning them except squishing them one by one.  I did not rush.  I tried to watch/listen to video on YouTube but found it not enjoyable.  I gave that up for just sitting in the sunlight, squishing one purple grape after another, watching them plop into the pot on my lap.  In a little while I was overcome with peace and contentment.  My body said, Boy, I feel good! WOWZIE!

It took a couple of hours to jam two pounds of grapes from squishing to jarring.  The result was two little jars of purple jam.  No boiling bath was necessary.  They will be eaten soon enough or into the freezer they go.  The PROCESS was slow and enjoyable but not difficult.  The only difficult part was STARTING.

The recipe I followed, more or less:

4 lbs Concord, wild or other seeded purple grapes

1/2 cup water

1 cup raw sugar (organic turbinado)

pinch sea salt

Rinse grapes, stem them, then rinse again (especially if yours are wild or homegrown and covered in sandy Downeast soil, spider webs and slugs like mine).  Peel grapes by pinching each one (at the end opposite to the stem end is easiest) and allowing the grape innards to plop out into a medium (4-quart) stockpot or Dutch oven (this is far easier than it sounds; 3 lbs of grapes took me a leisurely 15 minutes to peel). Keep the grape skins in a separate bowl.

Bring the grape innards and any juice to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until grapes begin to disintegrate, releasing seeds, about 10 minutes. Pour into the bowl of a food mill. Rinse the stockpot, add grape skins and 1/2 cup water, and bring water to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer grape skins, partially covered, until soft and breaking down, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pass grape innards through the food mill; discard grape seeds.  Add grape pulp, sugar and salt to the grape skins. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then continue to cook at a brisk boil (lowering heat if jam begins to stick) until the gel stage (mine never reached 220 degrees F; I stopped it at 216 degrees when it formed a wrinkly set on a frozen plate).

Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Pass a wooden utensil along the sides of the jars to remove any bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.