Day 96

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As I get near the end of my 100 day challenge I’m contemplating whether or not I can classify it as a success.

Did I purge something every one of those days? Did I go for a walk every single day? Have I blogged about my experiences 100 times?

The answer to the first question is yes. I have managed, in a conscious and considering way, to rid myself of something every day. I’m amazed at that. Because purging is not easy. That I have learned.  It makes you look long and hard at yourself and where you’ve gotten to in your life.

A big – no, huge – catalyst in this exercise has been my impending 60th birthday. Add to that the death of my father and the conditions were perfect for some kind of reflective action.

There have been times over these past 96 days that I have been achingly sad, uncontrollably angry, incomprehensibly furious, deliriously happy, boisterous with joy, as well as completely ambivalent about myself, my life and what I’m trying to accomplish.

Whatever I was feeling I forced myself to consider why. In doing that I was able to see that I was carrying a lot of old baggage, stuff that should have been relegated to the trash heap long ago.

I just finished reading a Stephen King short story called The Road Virus Heads North. It’s your typical SK offering – darkly funny, horrific,  and yet, somehow, representative of the reality of life. Weirdly, I think that the ‘virus’ in the story is very much like the bad stuff we carry around with us. Eventually, it’s going to get us, unless we get rid of it. Or, better yet, never pick it up.

Sometimes, like the poor sap in SK’s story, it’s not so easy to get rid of the crap that follows us. You can give up and let it get you, or you can face it and send it packing. It might take more than one attempt, and it may mean accepting some uncomfortable truths about yourself, but, if you want free of it bad enough, you can be.

Am I completely purged of all the garbage I’ve toted around for 50-some-odd years? No. But I have rid myself of a lot of it. Purging, I’ve also learned, is a life-long chore. The good thing is it gets easier the more you do it.

Now, for my other two questions.

I did not walk every day. But I gave it a good try. There weren’t many days that I missed. When the wind chills were in the minus 40’s, when we were busy with company, and once or twice when I simply didn’t want to.

Walking is one of my favourite things to do. I love the feeling of my body moving and covering ground confidently and surely. It’s my time to think and work things out. (See above.)

Currently, I have a steps goal set on my phone of 7000 steps/day. It’s pretty conservative and I generally walk quite a bit more than that; checking on that goal at the end of the day always amazes me. Did I really walk that much? Where did I go and what did I accomplish? It’s a great reminder that I was engaged, that I did something. It also keeps me committed to my weight-loss goals. If i don’t get those steps in, the weight won’t come off. And, if I don’t keep moving, the weight I have lost will creep back on. That ain’t happening.

Finally, I’m at number three. I have definitely not written/ blogged 100 times.

Writing was something I had all but given up on. When I started this I was almost embarrassed to start. It had been so long since I’d tried to write anything. But the moment I sat down to start I knew – this is what I’m made for.

I may not be a successful author, I may not write the stuff that the world sees, but I write. And, I love it. It’s my form of expression, it’s my vehicle, it’s my voice.

100 is just a number. It was a great way to get myself motivated. Whether I’ve blogged 100 times or 10 times,  it’s me, writing.

 

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July 25th

Day 207 — Took a leap today and we’ll see where I land.  I may be aging, but I aim to stay young in my mind, my heart and my body.

Finished Full Dark, No Stars the other day  and have begun Vanishing Point by W. O. Mitchell.

Full Dark, No Stars was great — vintage SK.  I liked all the stories — there are four — but my favorites were Big Driver and A Good Marriage.  I think A Good Marriage was my absolute fave.  Fair Extension deserves a shout out too, just for the fact that Mr. King deals extremely well with a trait most of us pretend not to have in our natures.  Jealousy.  It’s dark, it’s horrifying, and you can find disturbing bits of yourself in the anti-hero.  SK does what he does so well.  Truly a master.

Finally completed weeding the main front garden.  The path is clear and things that weren’t getting their fair share of sun are now basking in it.  Next up — rock garden.  Which really should be a cake-walk.  Then, I’ve got to start focussing on indoor chores and touching up windows around the ol’ place.

A very cool and somewhat windy day — a high of 22 degrees.  The forecast for this weekend?  We’re looking at a high of 18 on Saturday.

Really?

Really!

July 20th & 21st

Days 202 and 203 —  Yesterday — rainy and cool so decided to do more housecleaning.  Took on the main living room.  Got up close and personal with the upper windows and am looking at some re-caulking work and painting before winter.  Those window really need to be replaced, but. . .

Am continuing on my clean and purge routine.  It’s such a great feeling!  The wall unit in the living room where I keep just about everything under the sun was a big job.  I threw out a a TON of outdated manuals and junk that had accumulated over the past 23 years.  I can’t believe how much crap we stick in drawers!  I also packed away some things that just didn’t need to be collecting dust anymore.

When I got to the bottom cupboards I discovered the photo albums we used to put all our pictures in.  Looked through them quickly, got a little teary and though my intent had been to pack them up, I just couldn’t.  It’s wonderful to look back on all those pictures and see the young us.  Tim, fresh-faced with a look of eagerness and excitement in his eyes; Landon, so young with all those beautiful red curls he had as a baby and toddler — and always with a big, beautiful smile.  And, then, there’s the young me.  Looking, I thought, often far too serious, and much, much thinner.  I had smiles too, though, and it made my heart ache (just for a moment) for all those years gone.  I love my family.  I love that I have these pictures of us.  I now have a pile of pictures that need going through and placing in those albums.  Another rainy-day project.

Today was quiet.  Tim had to work and I just putzed about.  At noon I went and picked up my youngest grandson and had him come visit for the afternoon.  We worked in the yard and then I made us strawberry milkshakes.  After we played UNO and he beat me.  Four years old and already a card-shark!  I loved having that one-on-one time with him.  Doesn’t happen very often with any of them anymore.  I’m going to have to work on changing that.

I chose a new book.  It’s Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King.  A summer just isn’t a summer if I don’t get at least one SK book in.  He is my writing hero.  This book is a collection of short stories — novellas, really — and I just finished the first one.  1922 is a grim little story about being careful about what you wish for.  Vintage Stephen King.  I loved it,  though some parts were a little squeamish — but then, that’s why he’s the master.

And now, it’s off to bed.  Hope I don’t have nightmares.

Monday Afternoon, Family Day in Alberta

Well, it is a gorgeous sunny afternoon here in Bon Accord.  A bit on the cold side, but, really, for February, not so bad.

I had a very nice visit with my sister Jennifer and her family this weekend.  Tried to work my son and his family into the mix, but, alas, it was not possible.  They are a very busy bunch!

As it is right now, I am enjoying the afternoon to myself.  Jenn, Dave and the kids went home this morning, and Tim went out for a ride with his friend Dave.

I finally finished Black House.  What an abysmal disappointment!  The Talisman was such a fantastic book, but this sequel was nothing but a sad mish-mash of nothing.  It took forever to get to the actual story, and then it was treated so tritely it was almost an insult.  Characters were never fully developed, and those I thought crucial to the story were just dropped off the edge of the story as if in to an abyss.  I have never felt so cheated as I have by this book and these two authors, who I count as favorites.  Surely, they didn’t write this book only for the money?  Neither of them needs it, so I can’t imagine why they bothered to waste their time and the reader’s.

As soon as I kicked Black House to the curb, I picked up The Hunger Games.  I have heard much about this book, and now the movie is coming out shortly.  Therefore, I must read it.  And so far, I’ve read four chapters.  It’s a quick read, well-written and engaging.  It’s a familiar theme found  in many futuristic stories, but there is an interesting little twist to it.  I have all three books in the series and think I should be able to get through them all in the next month.

I had set a goal of reading a book a month at the beginning of 2012.  It’s taken a month and half to get through Black House.  If I can read all three of The Hunger Games books, I’ll be ahead of the game!

Something to complain about:  Bruce Springsteen has not released any Canadian dates for his new WORLD tour.  What’s with that.  Are we not part of the world?  I really want to see him in concert again before he decides to retire.  And, as he is 62 years old, I can’t imagine that retirement is too far off.

I just bought two new Bruce albums (new to me)  The Seeger Sessions (absolutely amazing — what I wouldn’t have given to see him perform the concert version of that album in Ireland!)  and Lucky Town.  Lucky Town is an album of works from earlier in his career (a little before the mid-point, I’d say) and has some wonderful, haunting tunes on it.  If you’re a Bruce fan, I recommend checking out both of these albums.  The Seeger Sessions, though, is my immediate favorite — Old Dan Tucker gets me in a great mood on the ride to work these days.

I hope everyone had a terrific Family Day (those of us lucky enough to enjoy such a holiday) — and if you weren’t, well I hope you have a fantastic and stress-free week ahead.

Cheers!

Sunday evening, January 15th

. . . and I’ve just wasted the last hour playing solitaire on-line.

But, it was fun.  So, I guess I’m okay with it.

I love to play cards.  But I rarely have anyone to play with.  Tim is not a game player, unless it’s the video, let’s-shoot-some-zombies kind.  I bought him a Playstation 3 for Christmas — pretty much shot myself in the foot on that one.  I love when we have company over because I’ll always manage to convince our company that a game of cards would be fun, and then Tim has to go along with us.

But, when there’s no company. . . solitaire it must be.

I had a great weekend.  Busy, but good.  My grandkids came for a sleepover yesterday.  We played Chutes and Ladders, and Skip-Bo, they helped make pizza for supper tonight — even 2-year-old Ethan.  He plastered mushrooms on and gobbled up handfuls of shredded cheese.  It was too much fun.  We stayed up and watched movies and had popcorn last night and then everyone slept in a little this morning.  A lovely Sunday.

Though, I do have to admit I’m pretty worn out right now.  The thought of getting a blanket and curling up on the couch is sounding pretty good.  Might go see if a new episode of Hell on Wheels taped and watch that before I turn in for the night.  If you haven’t heard of Hell on Wheels, it’s a great show — a Western about the building of a railroad and a conflicted Confederate soldier on the hunt for the Yankees who raped and murdered his wife while he was off fighting in the war.  There’s some pretty complex themes involved (this is an AMC show, after all) and the acting and photography are excellent.

Am reading Black House at the moment.  A book by Stephen King and Peter Straub.  Some twenty years ago I read The Talisman, written by the pair of them.  BH is the sequel.  And it’s turning out to be every bit as disturbing and suspenseful and horrifying as the first book.  It’s all brain candy and exactly what I need.  Gruesome brain candy, I admit.

Well, week one of the return to work is behind me and it actually wasn’t all that bad.  It was busy, and we had the usual problems after coming back from a long break, but for the most part, the kids settled back into routine by the end of the week.  I really enjoy our kids.  For the most part, they’re a great bunch to work with and I truly enjoy helping them learn every day.  When I’m not feeling stressed about a million and one other things I can admit to myself that I actually love my job.  It’s rewarding, it’s meaningful, and it has purpose.  There may be much wrong with the education system in Alberta/Canada, but there’s a lot that’s good about it, too.

I am endeavouring to get around to everyone’s blogs, and this week I even managed to find a couple of new ones to follow.  THERE REALLY, TRULY IS SO MUCH GOOD WRITING AND SO MANY GREAT BLOGS OUT THERE!  It’s like going into a bookstore and trying to decide which books to buy even though you know you probably won’t have time to read any of them.  I’ve managed to peek in on just about everyone this past week — even though I haven’t always left a comment.  I might have only had 5 minutes and so just passed in and out, quiet as a mouse.

My decision to only blog once or twice a week, has, for this one week, anyway, been a good one.  I found myself starting to think yesterday about trying to find the time to sit down and pound out a few words.  Then, tonight, once I made my way in to the computer room I knew that is why I was coming in, but I allowed myself to be seduced by Facebook (just had to see what others had been up to) and then that led to checking my Scrabble games, and then Solitaire.  But, all the while, I was thinking about blogging.

It’s not that I have anything particularly relevant to say, no wisdom to impart, nothing to smart or informative to impart.  It’s simply that need to connect, through words.

I can feel myself moving towards beginning the second draft of my novel.  There’s some other stuff churning around in the old noggin, and I’m pretty certain (once I get my other desk completely cleaned off — I got most of it done last week) I’ll find myself scribbling away in a notebook, soon.

8:55 P.M. Sunday — 21240 words!

Twenty one thousand, two hundred forty words!  Holy crap I can’t believe I’ve written that much!

I’m a few hundred words behind where I ought to be, but I’m still feeling awesomely good about this.

Yesterday and today were not very productive  as far as writing goes.  In fact, I deliberately took yesterday off to get out of the house for a while.  Much needed, let me tell you.

I bought a miniature pre-lit tree to put all of Tim’s Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments on.  I’ve been wanting to do that for a few years, so, now I have no reason not to create a special ‘space’ tree.  Think it will be fun.

Today, my son and his children came for supper.  I had to do some housecleaning before they got here because this writing thing, well, it takes up a lot of time, especially when you’re not used to writing a novel.

Speaking of novel writing I got to listen to an interview of Stephen King on CBC on Thursday.  It was fantastic.  I hope, someday, to be able to see, or even better, meet him.  Can’t wait to get his newest book:  11/22/63.  Sounds like a brute of a novel — 850 some odd pages — but that’s what I like about King, he can write these giant books, that when they’re done you’re still left wishing it hadn’t ended.

But back to my son and grandchildren’s visit — I baked cookies and we had a pork picnic roast with sauerkraut and potatoes, and carrots, cauliflower and snap peas.  Hailey didn’t care for the sauerkraut, but Timothy actually liked it.  Ethan, well, he ate the meat with applesauce, but being two he has a mind of his own, and it wasn’t on eating supper tonight.   It was a nice visit.  Tim and Landon watched parts of the football game and then the hockey game.  The kids and I did puzzles, coloured and generally had a wonderful time.

I’ve had four glorious days off work, and tomorrow it’s back into the trenches.  It was lovely while it lasted.

Have a good week everyone.

Just After Sunset — finished

I finished Just After Sunset by Stephen King right before Christmas.  I have to say I loved it.  Mr. King has re-discovered that old familiar voice we devoted fans of his love to hear. 

The stories are smart, funny, poignant and relevant.  Even the final story, as disgusting as it was.  The thing with King, when he is at his best, (and I would have to say Just After Sunset is representative of some of his best work in a long, long time), is that he draws you into the story effortlessly.  Once there, you feel as though you know these characters, these situations.  And that’s because you can relate them to your own experience, your own deep, dark thoughts and hidden fears.  It’s a fun ride.

Of the thirteen stories that comprise this collection I’d have to say my favorites are: 

Harvey’s Dream
Willa
The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates
Ayana
The Things They Left Behind and
The Gingerbread Girl

Each of these stories touched a personal chord within me, that made me sit back and think: “yeah, exactly” or made me shudder with the very real possibility that there but for the grace of God . . . 

I particularly liked Willa, because I could see myself in her.  The practical, logical, let’s just face this situation for what it is attitude she has, and, of course, it’s a nice little love story.  The writing in this one is tight, clear and unsentimental, but at the same time very evocative of the emotions people in such a sad situation would experience.  Highly recommended.

The Gingerbread Girl is just a great survival story.  It’s exactly what we would imagine we would do in a situation like that.  (Whether we could pull it off like the heroine in the story is doubtful, still the imagination likes to think we could.)  I just loved this one.

Ayana has shades of The Green Mile all over it.  It’s a gentle story about kindness and paying it forward and just what that costs.  The writing is superb.

The Things They Left Behind, although a little ‘out there’ for me was wonderfully written and a take on 9/11 that I hadn’t read before.  King captures beautifully that sense of hopelessness some of the survivors of that terrible day experienced.  It’s a tale of atonement and personal guilt when neither is justified. 

And, although I didn’t mention it in my favorite’s list I’d have to say the end story, A Very Tight Place, has stayed with me.  It’s full of the usual themes, guilt, fear, hatred, madness, over-wrought emotion, violence and the imagination’s desire to do nasty, nasty things to people we can’t stand or understand.  Suffice it to say it’s a great, satisfying, albeit yucky, read. 

Anyway, I hope you’ll give this collection of short stories a try.  If you’re a die-hard fan like me you’ll love it.  If you’re a newbie I think you’ll be surprised at just how wonderful a writer Stephen King is. 

Post me and let me know what you think.

Just After Sunset, Stephen King

Just After Sunset is a collection of short stories SK wrote a couple of years ago.  I got the book last year, either for Christmas, birthday or Mother’s Day.  It’s a sad statement on how busy I’ve allowed myself to get that it takes me this long to get around to reading a book.  I think it’s only about the fourth book I’ve read this year.  Maybe fifth.  I used to read voraciously, one or two books a month.  (That’s voraciously for me.)  Now, if I manage to get 1/2 an hour a night before I go to sleep I’m accomplishing something. 

Anyway . . . whining about my poor time management skills isn’t what I started this post about.  It’s supposed to be about Just After Sunset. 

In the preface SK says he wrote these stories after being asked to judge a short story contest.  He says doing that re-awakened in him a desire to write short stories as he once had — with passion and a sense of urgency for getting the story told.  In his younger days, when writing meant feeding the kids or putting gas in the car, short stories were his stock and trade.  They paid the rent while he was working on the big stuff. 

I can remember literally devouring his collections of stories when I got my hands on them.  They were like a special treat and I would read them like I would occasionally binge on chocolate.  These days I don’t have time for binge-reading, and maybe that’ s a good thing.  I’ve also got a few years of University lit classes under my belt, so I’ve got a somewhat more refined skill-set in use when I’m reading now. 

When I used to read, I read strictly for pleasure, now I read with a more critical eye — I’m looking for plot, construction, reference, tone — all the boring stuff they teach you about in school, or try to at least.  I’m just lucky enough, or geeky enough — have it your way — to find that stuff not boring at all, but fascinating.  And when I’ve applied my newly acquired critical eye to a few of Stephen’s latest books I’ve come away a tad disappointed.  They all seemed to be lacking something, seem to be forced in some way that when I finished I felt a little sad, a little disappointed, because the man seemed to have lost his way.  But I’m a devoted fan, so I’ve hung in there, waiting.   Hoping. Praying he’d get the ‘feel’ back. 

Well, I think he has.  Just After Sunset is a fun read.  The stories roar along like a freight train and when I’m reading them I’m gone.  That’s what SK used to do for me, he’d transport me right the hell out of where ever I was, and take me on crazy ride.  I’d be jammed into some small compartment with people I didn’t know, some of whom I really came to care about, others whom I wanted to hide from, others whom I’d weep over as they fell or were pushed from the open doors of the speeding cars.  And to come back from that ride was agony, all I wanted to do was stay there and see it through to the journey’s end.  And when the book was finished?  I felt the way you do when you just don’t want to leave the party even though you know it’s over, that the door is closing, you’re waving goodbye, but you wish, real hard that the host will say: “Aww, what the hell!  Let’s keep’er going!”  And I’d put the book away on my bookshelf with my growing collection of Stephen King’s books and I’d start waiting, right there, right then, for his next one to appear.

Of course, I’m reading this one a story at a time, a few pages at a time.  The cool thing is, I can’t wait to get back to it every evening before I turn in for the night.  The other cool thing, my critical eye hasn’t found anything to bitch about.  So far, it’s all good. 

This was taken in August this year. We were on our motorcycle trip out East and back and we swung into Maine, well, because we were THAT close and I just had to do the dopey fan thing and go see where Stephen King lives. I was too chicken to go and knock on the door, although the gate was open and there were cars in the driveway. I'm guessing it was just groundskeepers and housekeepers -- Mr. King was probably in Florida. Still, it was a great big thrill.