Friday, October 30, 2009

I ♥ My Library

October is Canadian Library Month. Being a self-confessed library nerd I thought I'd honour the event by putting in an eleventh hour plug for this amazing FREE service.

I use the library a LOT and probably visit it once a week to pick up, browse or return items. I use it mostly for books and DVDs, but those are really just the tip of the iceberg. The Ottawa Public Library offers family passes to the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Museum of Nature, Science & Tech, Civilization... all on loan for a week during which I can use the pass every day. I can even borrow a "Kill-a-Watt" meter to measure power consumption in my home or a pedometer to count my steps to health.

The library also hosts or provides meeting space for stuff like writing groups, the local Jane Austen Society chapter, homework clubs, conversation and friendship circles. And let us not forget the wide-ranging reference and information services for which libraries are known in the first place.

A bonus tidbit for the locals: Did you know that Ottawa still has an original Carnegie Library standing? According to Wikipedia, the Rosemount Branch opened its doors in 1919 and was the last Carnegie grant given in Canada. Lucky us!

In case you haven't noticed, I ♥ my library. I really do. If you haven't visited your local library yet I encourage you to do so either in person, or if it's available, online. You might learn to ♥ it too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On Work and Leisure

early morning frost
(Thanksgiving 2009, Lansdowne, Ontario

"We had our work, did it and enjoyed it. We had our leisure, used it and enjoyed that. During the hours of bread labor we worked and worked hard. We have never worked harder and have never enjoyed work more, because, with rare exceptions, the work was significant, self-directed, constructive and therefore interesting."

- Helen and Scott Nearing, Living the Good Life

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A (Long) Freeform Catch-up Post

I've been putting too much pressure on myself to write the perfect post so I decided to cut myself some slack and go freeform - 'cause sometimes freeform is where it's at. For your reading pleasure, here are a bunch of random and not-so-random happenings & thoughts from the past few weeks:

I'm going to be an auntie!
D.'s brother and his wife found out that the little bean they've been nurturing for the past 19 weeks is a GIRL! Congratulations to them - everyone is simply tickled pink. Seeing pictures of my little niece taken in her mother's womb is leaving me in awe and reminding me of joy and miracles. It's so good.

AAA: Acknowledgment, Acceptance, Action
A few weeks ago I finally accepted that I had delved into depression. Sleep was my comfort; I retreated from social situations - online and off and started slipping at work, noticing that I wasn't as sharp (ahem) as usual. My level of patience dipped and my level of snippiness went up considerably, all of this prompting me to scale back to basics. Funny thing is though, as soon as I acknowledged the situation, accepted it and took action - whether it meant scaling back or seeking help - it started getting better. Note to self: acknowledgment, acceptance and action rule.

A break from work
One of the results of my above AAA journey is a four-week break from work. I prayed for the time off, craved it, got it, then promptly questioned whether I even wanted it anymore: "What will people think? Am I just weak? Surely I can suck it up." Thankfully acceptance once again came into play (pretty quickly might I add) and tamed the gremlins. Having time off to rest and not have to worry about going into the office is a gift and I look forward to it. I stumbled upon this post on burnout by Danielle LaPorte at White Hot Truth this morning and fancy her outlook. With words like "I'm curling up to my tenderized being and I'm really very pleased with the state of me", how could I not?

Paintings coming soon to a hair salon near you
Although I've very few plans for my time off, it just so happens one of the first things on deck is an appointment to hang some of my paintings at my hair salon for sale and display. How cool is that? I'll make sure to post some pictures of the space once they're up.

A timely reminder that I am capable
Last weekend I cleaned a few shelves in my office and found a lot of notes from past projects: writing classes, small business seminars, my winter wreath business venture, volunteer work and brainstorming on dreams and possible income streams. I've done a LOT in the past five years. Seeing that gave me confidence and reminded me that I have a lot to offer - perseverance, knowledge and skills that can help me create and support the life I want. I was grateful for the timely boost.

Servas International
During my sabbatical in 2007 I volunteered for Servas International, an organization focused on building peace by connecting travellers throughout the world and helping them learn about each other's culture. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my 11 months off. During last weekend's office cleanup I found some of my Servas notes and for some reason couldn't bring myself to throw them in the recycle bin so I filed them in the back of my cabinet. This week I got an email out of nowhere from the person I worked with two years ago inviting me to a catch-up coffee outing. With that kind of serendipitous timing, I think accepting is no-brainer. :)

Et voilà! The thing about freeform catch-up posts is that they can be very long, but they work. I feel all caught up; I hope you do too. Till the next time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comforting Words

reflection on Bennett Lake (September 2009)

"Do not be impatient with your seemingly slow progress. Do not try to run faster than you presently can. If you are studying, reflecting and trying, you are making progress whether you are aware of it or not. A traveler walking the road in the darkness of night is still going forward. Someday, some way, everything will break open, like the natural unfolding of a rosebud." ~ Vernon Howard
Thank you to my dear friend Lala for the quote and its perfect timing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Giving Thanks for Life In Its Entirety

"A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety."
- Ansel Adams
Yesterday afternoon D. and I spent over two hours exploring Ottawa's Experimental Farm with our cameras in hand - he his digital SLR focusing on homework for this term's photography class, I with my point & shoot focusing on creative inspiration and play.

It was magic for my soul.

For the past month - time at Squam Art Workshops excepted - I've been in a pretty powerful funk that on most days, left me drained of energy with a view of the world through very dark glasses. Yesterday was one of the first times I ventured out for a trek longer than the one to my local coffee shop or grocery store. At one point during my outing, I found myself deeply immersed into photographing cornstalks, oblivious to the world around me, grinning ear to ear (no pun intended). When I deemed I'd captured enough corn photos I skipped down the road to catch up with D.

I skipped. Down the road. With my trusty little point & shoot in hand and pigtails in my hair. And in that moment I felt free of the weight that's been dragging me down for the past several weeks.

Yesterday I felt good about life in its entirety and for that I am grateful. I leave you with a few photos that helped make it so.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.



cow crossing

étude de corn stalk 01 of 29

elongated shadow

noble chartreuse

cow and Canada Post Headquarters

ochre on blue sky

Monday, October 5, 2009

Back to Basics

I've been quiet here as of late. The last two weeks have found me feeling depleted of energy with barely enough to get me through the day at the office, let alone work on anything demanding even an ounce of brain power here at home.

When I feel like that I know it's time to scale back to basics, so for the past few weeks I did just that.

Basics no doubt vary from one person to another and although they'll most likely shift depending on one's life circumstances, I tend to gravitate towards a few standards:

Sleep. Power naps after work on weekdays, morning or afternoon naps on weekends, early bedtime all around. I make a point to stay away from anything that gets my mind into high gear before going to bed and try to give myself at least an hour to transition from high-functioning wake to sleep.

Morning pages. A practice introduced to me by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way 10 years ago, I strive to write them on a daily basis. When I fall off the wagon I notice; I get cranky and easily overwhelmed. On the flip side, when I do them I feel more centered and at peace. Sometimes sleep trumps my morning pages, but I can only sacrifice the pages for so long before the benefits brought by an extra half hour of shut-eye are lost.

Food. Not just any food but decent, as-healthy-as-possible meals. On some days it means two toasts with a piece of cheese for dinner, on others it means ordering a quarter chicken meal with sweet potato fries from a favourite (healthy!) restaurant or temporarily carbing up on Pad Thai. It's all about keeping it simple and as healthy as possible without too much pressure for perfection.

Water. It's easy for me to forget my daily quota of H2O yet it helps with energy and mental clarity. Drinking water is a habit; often it's simply a question of remembering to have a glass by my side for easy sipping.

Quiet/couch time. This is time spent reading a book or a magazine, enjoying a favourite movie or something completely different borrowed from the library, or just hanging out with D. and Cassie. It may involve the odd bowl of chips and for the most part, it involves being curled up in a wool blanket.

A clean house. Home is my foundation. It's where I seek comfort and a space to lay my weary body, mind and soul. When all I see are dirty clothes and fur balls the size of watermelons I feel frazzled, which is not the state of mind I want to create for myself or for others who share my space. So bit by bit as energy levels allow, I tackle the piles and the fur balls - one sock and one dark corner at a time.

Computer-free time. Yesterday I experimented with not turning on my PC. Initially I thought I'd leave it off until late afternoon or after dinner, but about halfway through the morning I silently declared (read: tentatively committed to it without making it known so I could back out at any time) the day to be entirely computer-free. It was an enlightening and productive experiment that allowed me more time to take care of basics listed above. I might touch on this more in a later post.

Although these things may seem simple and easy to accomplish, they can be easy to forget and sometimes difficult to carry through.

When scaling back, one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I might - scratch that, will - miss out on something else. It takes a lot of practice for me to let go of creative projects, toss out expectations and pause for rest and recuperation. Ultimately though it comes down to the price I'm willing to pay for my health and in turn, the health of my relationships. And when I do scale back, I'm rarely disappointed with the results.

Tell me, what are your Basics?