It’s Time

by Kathy Larson

March 30, 2020

The struggle continues. COVID-19 rages on, and the world is – except for Brazil – on lockdown.

Trump and Bolsonaro, best buds. Bolsonaro is an unchecked dictator, whereas, thank God and any other deities you can think of, Trump is a wannabe dictator who is in check.

But I did not come here today to write about the pandemic. No, today I came here to write about anything else but.

So, here it is: Candles.

I am reading an article from a December issue of Canadian Living magazine about candles. How they’re made, what makes a good candle, wax formulations, the scents and essences used, and the different types of wicks employed. Who knew a candle could be so complex?

In addition to the CL article I have also recently read a short piece in a Martha Stewart Living mag that touched briefly on the art of candles. Now, of course, this is Martha Stewart, so I was expecting a little bit of extravagance in relation to the candles represented.

But it was the CL article that blew my mind.

The cheapest candle mentioned in their article was $35. The most expensive was $150. In the MSL article they mentioned candles from Bath and Body Works (reasonably priced at around $22) and went up to a high of $110 (US $, I’m presuming).

I love candles. Always have. From the time I was a teenager and bought my first sand candle. Remember those? Wax was poured into sand moulds — some very intricate — and dyed in incredible colour combinations. They were funky and cool and nobody burned them.

Eventually, I had a big collection of them. Years later they would, sadly, wind up in the garbage. Why did I throw them out? Wax does not go bad, but, what did I know. All I recall is that they had become tacky and dusty with age and I did not want them around anymore.

Candles make a perfect gift, both to give and to receive. They are nice to tuck into a small hostess gift, or to give to someone you don’t know well, or, even better, to someone you do know extremely well. You can’t go wrong with a candle — it’s not like giving a bottle of red and then finding out that your recipient only drinks white, or doesn’t — gasp! — drink wine at all.

All the candles I’ve been given over the years (since the sad sand candles, that is) have met the match. I burn them and I delight in them. The soft flickering of a flame in a dim room, the delicate scent of lavender, and sandalwood, of bergamot and lime, can instill in me a sense of peace and calm like nothing else is able to.

That said, I would NEVER pay $150 for a candle! I don’t care if it is hand-poured, that the wax is derived from apricot kernels, or that the scent is made from sustainably harvested ingredients and lovingly distilled according to ages-old traditions. It’s a candle! It’s going to burn! Those scents are fleeting! And you’re still left with a cheap glass or porcelain container that you won’t know what the hell to do with but you can’t throw out because that would just be wrong.

A candle is one of the simplest things there is on this earth. It’s wax and a wick with maybe a little scent thrown in. Regardless of the price, they’re all going to burn when lit. I can’t imagine I’d feel very peaceful watching a $150 candle burn — that would be like watching money go up in smoke.

So, I’ll continue to buy Yankee brand candles, Bath and Body Works candles, and candles from The Body Shop when they are on sale. I’ll buy candles from small craft fairs, farmer’s markets, and local artisans quaint little shops. I’ll buy them as souvenirs, as gifts, and as odor-eliminators for my bathrooms. I will burn them on a cold winter night while bundled in a cozy blanket, or on a beautiful summer evening with soft breezes caressing my cooling skin as we enjoy a glass of wine on the deck.

As interesting and informative as the Canadian Living and Martha Stewart Living articles were, all I really learned is that there are people out there who are willing to pay ridiculous prices for something just so they can say they did.

Not me, though.

If you care to, please answer this question: Would you pay over $50 for a candle, and why?

March 6, 2020

Here I go again. . .

Something happened. I haven’t felt like writing for over 3 years. It feels like I’ve lost a piece of myself. But. . .I don’t have the determination to find it and get it back.

Lately, I’ve been trying to force myself into writing. I’ve entered a couple of free contests, I’ve done tons of ‘research’ and read a gazillion winning entries of said contests, but still, I haven’t felt that spark.

I miss the spark. I miss how excited I used to get at the prospect of finding time to write. To pigeon-holing that time just for me. Now, I’ve got all the time I could possibly want. I’m retired. And the last thing I ever do is make time for writing. Maybe it wasn’t the writing that excited me, after all, maybe it was the selfish pursuit of time I could claim as just my own.

Throughout my day I find myself thinking of things I could write about, things I’m passionate about. Rarely, though, do I have the tools with me necessary for writing when these thoughts occur. So, I think I’ll hold on to them until I’m at the computer or have a pen and paper, but by the time I get around to it those thoughts have gone. So, I do a crossword puzzle. Or crochet. Or make something to eat.

No spark.

I want to write. I love to write. Why can’t I want to love to write?

Maybe, writing here will help. I’ll see.

Fingers on keyboard, words on screen, match to flame. Spark.

Progress

 

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Mom — thank you for asking the hard questions!

 

Okay, so I had a talk with my mother yesterday. We were just chatting — I had sent her some flowers the other day on a whim and she had called to say thank you. We were talking about everything and anything — the dream I’d had about my father a few days earlier, the nightmare I’d had the night before, moving, being bored, a new baby born into the Black clan, etc., etc., etc.

At one point in the conversation she asked me: “So, why aren’t you writing?” I was a little taken aback. Not that she would ask such a question, but because she asked. I really didn’t think anyone paid attention to whether I wrote or not. It’s such a personal thing, and I do so little of it, really, that I figured it was mostly un-noticeable.

Anyway, after I got off the phone I really started thinking about why I don’t write anymore. I know focus is a problem, but that’s simply an excuse. And it occurred to me that I really don’t do much of anything anymore. Since I stopped working. Since I retired.

The other day I wrote a little bit about man’s search for meaning, and for finding purpose in life. Well, I guess my purpose had been working, at any job, for so long that work had become my purpose. Not the satisfaction of any particular skill or achievement, but simply the act of working.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all the jobs I had — except selling encyclopedias — that I was dreadful at, but I know I was good at just about everything else I did, and especially as an education assistant. Then, some things happened in the last year/year and a half at my job that really made me doubt myself and my abilities. Coupled with some big personal family issues I began to spin into depression and became unable to cope.

With the help of a great doctor, some fantastic meds, counseling and support from friends and family I was able to get out from under the feelings of despair, anxiety and depression that had taken hold of my life. I made the decision, for my personal well-being, to not return to work. And, I think that I’ve been unconsciously doubting the ‘rightness’ of that decision for the last little while.

Because I’ve not come to terms with not having a job anymore, I’ve been unable to move forward with anything else — especially writing.

Writing was that thing I always lamented I didn’t have enough time for, because I was always working. And yet — I accomplished more writing when I was working than I have since having all the time in the world to do as much of it as I care to. Crazy, huh?

Last night, while out for a walk, I decided that something needed to change. I thought about how I used to think when I was working, how I used to make plans all the time for what I would do with my free time — my days off, my holidays, my evenings, my weekends.

This morning I got up and I made a plan. For my health and for my personal life. It’s a pretty simple one, but it’s a plan. I’ve given myself small goals to accomplish daily, weekly and monthly. Essentially, I’ve decided to treat retirement as a job. A job that I  control, and that can provide me with as much meaning and purpose as I choose to create.

Thanks Mom!

 

. . . and after a prolonged delay. . . Zero to Sixty continues. . .

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

30.  Working as an Educational Assistant. I ‘fell’ into this job. And I loved it. I had to have — because it sure didn’t pay a lot. I worked primarily with special needs kids and it gave me a lot of pride and satisfaction to help them learn and thrive and grow.

31.  Going to a writer’s retreat for the first time. It was scary and exhilarating.  I am a writer!

32.  Years and years and years ago starting an environmentally friendly products business with a friend. We made re-usable coffee filters, produce bags and cleaning supplies. It didn’t last — we were too early on the scene. But, I still have some of those filters and produce bags!

33.  This is a joint one. Tim and I making the decision to move to Bon Accord from the city. Buying our big, beautiful house and making it our home. I’ve never regretted that decision. I am always happiest when I am there.

34.  Once I spent a week by myself at a friend’s of my sister’s cottage in Ontario.
I was going through some stuff and just needed a break. It was a wonderful, liberating time. All that solitude was seriously good for my soul.

35.  I won the Harlequin Romance Write Us A Romance contest back in the late eighties. I did it as a whim — had never read an HR novel — but thought, what the hey? how hard can it be? Well, once I started I realized it wasn’t that easy. I was so surprised and honoured that I won. That’s as far as it went though — it’s just not my thing.

Hodge-podge

The weather has remained spring-like — I can actually go out in sandals most days. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much rain so nothing is greening up or growing.

The river broke last Wednesday. It was amazing to see. I spent a day out just watching and taking pictures. Walked almost 11 km I got so caught up in watching the ice flow.

 

 

 

I am missing home right now. knowing that it is Spring and that my yards will be clear of snow I want to be there to get them cleaned up. I’m trying not to get too anxious about it, but . . . There will be time at the end of May. I’ll be home for about a week and I’m going to work hard to get everything ship-shape for the summer.

I’ve been trying to focus on my writing a little more these days. Working with my Aunt (ha,ha – she’s barely 9 months older than me) we are putting together a book of family recipes and stories. We have so many great stories in this family and it would be a shame for them to be simply forgotten. And when are stories told the most? Well, when you’re eating, of course. Though these days just about any recipe can be had by a simple click of a key, it would be nice to have family recipes preserved and handed down in written form.

Also, I’ve submitted a piece of poetry to a local magazine. Haven’t submitted any writing in soooo long. It was a bit scary. But now that it’s done I’m contemplating my next submission. There’s nothing quite so motivating as jumping in with both feet and saying ‘to hell with it!’

Tim and I got out for a motorcycle ride last Saturday. First of the season. It was incredibly windy, but a nice ride. We stopped at the Wood Bison lookout point near the Syncrude tailings ponds — I know seems kind of oxymoronic — but, hey this is Fort McMurray. While we ate our lunch a woodpecker – a pileated, I think – came by. I spent about a half an hour taking pictures of him. None turned out that great, but it was good practice.

 

 

Across from our apartment on what I call an island, but I don’t think it actually is, separated from us by the Clearwater River, lives a momma black bear and her cub. At first I thought she had two — might have been a different bear — lately I’ve just seen the single cub. I really hope that nothing happened, and that there is a mother out there with her two babies just happily foraging for grubs and goodies in the woods. Anyway, when I got home the other morning from my aquafit class I happened to see something big and black in the tops of the trees across the river. Dismayed, I thought it was garbage bags and got the binocs out to get a closer look. Lo, and behold! it was the momma and her cub up in the tree. I watched them for a while, amazed that they could be up in those skinny old trees like that. Then I decided to go across the street and see if I could get a decent picture. I couldn’t, but here it is anyway:

 

 

Well, I think that about sums up all the excitement in my life for the past week. I’m just a ramblin’ gal. Cheers!

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.

 

Day 68 and the purge continues

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As I said in my last post I was having a great time looking after my grandkids for a week. Well, the week ended on Saturday. It was a busy one and I’m so thankful I had that opportunity.

Busy as last week was I still managed to get some purging done at home.

I tackled the old sewing basket. This we inherited from Tim’s mother. It’s a good, sturdy one and it holds a lot. Over the years I’ve stuffed it so full of notions and sewing stuff that it had become next to impossible to find anything in it.

You know all the buttons, snaps and clasps that come attached to any new piece of clothing you buy? Jammed in there. Along with spool after spool of thread, sewing needles still with the thread in them, straight pins, safety pins, iron on patches, zippers and elastic. There was a large mason jar full of buttons – that Tim’s mom had collected. (My button collection is stored elsewhere.)

Needless to say it needed to be cleaned up. It took me an afternoon, but I did it. I chucked most of the elastic – because it wasn’t elasticky anymore, and I rounded up all the loose needles, de-threaded them and stuck them back in one of the three packages I found.

Then I had to unpackage all those buttons. All those tiny little plastic bags they were in bothered me.  First, what a waste of plastic and second, they were hard to get open.

Back in the day extra buttons were tacked to the inside of a garment – on a hem or a seam – a far more efficient and useful method. I’d think this way of providing that extra button or snap would be cheaper for the manufacturer. And it would save a helluva lot of time for the wearer when they needed to find that matching button. ‘Cause there it would be, right on the garment! Sometimes, old ideas are best.

This week is another busy one.  We have company coming and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do to get ready.  A leaky shower head to fix, window frames to paint and coat hooks to put up. It seems like there’s always something.

I find myself wishing that all the things I needed to get done were already done. That I could spend an entire day writing or baking or reading or walking. Anything but attending to what has to be done. Because when I do any of the former I’m left feeling guilty that I didn’t accomplish any of the latter.

My goal today is to turn that feeling of guilt into a feeling of accomplishment. I’ll get what I need to done and then I’ll focus on what I want.

 

 

Day 54 – and I’m feeling like I’ve cheated

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When I set out on this endeavour my goal was to write about purging every day for 100 days. I haven’t met that goal, and now I’m past the midway point.

So, how do I address this?  Do I make excuses, recount the partial successes,  or simply say: such is life?

To be honest, I’m happy with what I have accomplished. I’ve got myself back into a habit of writing and because of that am actually considering getting back into other forms of writing. (I haven’t started – but I’m doing some serious thinking.)

The original point of my little project was to see what I could purge from my life that was weighing me down and holding me back. Clogging the arteries, so to speak.

I’ve done a fair bit of that, and it’s been mainly the metaphysical sort. I’m feeling better – stronger, more confident, content in my own skin – for the first time in a long, long time.

Oh, there are days when I need to remind myself to tend my own garden, to leave others’ alone; days when I have to work at being happy and remind myself I’m not responsible for someone else’s happiness; and there have been days that I’ve struggled to get through simply because no matter what I did it wasn’t going to be enough.  That day.

But I knew that there would be a tomorrow and that tomorrow could be good. If I wanted it to be.

I always wanted it to be.

I count that as A HUGE success of this little undertaking.

I’ve also rid myself and our home of some very unnecessary clutter. Doing this in two places hasn’t been easy, or even (sometimes) very noticeable, but the feeling of just letting things go has been very empowering.

The significant other and I have VERY different ideas about what should be purged and what shouldn’t, and that’s something else I’ve learned along the way – how to be flexible without compromising.

As we move ever closer to Spring and that sense of the world renewing itself I feel myself being pulled to do more, to start accomplishing, to work harder at attaining my goals. I have to remind myself – Spring is just a season. It will pass. Don’t get caught up in the rush of it.

I need to maintain my balance, keep going one day at a time. Spring will move towards Summer as it always does, then Fall will return to remind me that Winter is on its way.

100 days out of 365. I can do that.

On the twelfth day of purging

The purge was pretty minimal today.

A pair of dollar store insoles. That’s what I get for trying to save a couple of bucks. I wasted them instead.

Something I know I need to purge myself of is weight. I am about 30 lbs overweight right now. I’ve gained this weight over the last couple of years. Somehow it just seemed to creep up on me and now, regardless of my efforts, I can’t get rid of it.

Wait a minute! Regardless of my efforts? My efforts have been pretty feeble if I’m going to be perfectly honest. Sure, I go out for a walk everyday – except today – it stayed around -33 all day and I just couldn’t convince myself that it was a good idea to go out in that kind of cold.

But I did do push-ups.  Five really hard push-ups. Tomorrow I’m aiming for six.

I’ve decided to add another 100 day challenge to my list. Push-ups. I think they’re like doing mini planks. Planks are good, so push-ups must be even better.

I really need to figure out a strategy for losing this weight, though. I know what I need to do to lose it. I need to find my will power again, and, I need to let go of this self- defeating notion that, just because I’m a few months away from being 60, I can eat what ever I want and exercise as little as I want.  Afterall, who’s gonna care?

Well, a bunch of people, I hope, but, most importantly, me.

 

100 Days of. . .

So. I’m going to try blogging again. This time my goal is to chart my progress over the next 100 days, or series of 100 days as this year (2018) progresses.

I’ve been inspired lately by a lot of posts I’ve seen on Facebook of people who have made changes in their lives and who have accomplished some pretty great things, all in 100 days.

100. It’s such a nice, compact number. Not too big, not too small. A reasonable goal to strive for. Whether it be 100 days of push-ups, 100 days of gratitude, 100 days of drinking a glass of water or 100 days of conquering fear. If you can do anything for 100 days, then you can probably do that thing for the rest of your days.

My aim is to document my progress daily. 100 days of recounting how I’m fulfilling my 100-day goals. I’ve been in a sort of limbo for a few years. Not accomplishing much. Abandoning hope, abandoning faith, abandoning happiness. It’s time to reach out, to hold on and to live. REALLY live.

I am turning 60 this year. In a few short months I will be, officially, a senior. Sigh. Sigh. and SIGH. I’ve been feeling that there is no point in trying to accomplish anything, anymore for so long that I’ve come to believe it. I don’t want to believe that anymore. I want to believe that in the time I have left I can make some real and lasting change in my life.

My first 100 day goal is to purge at least one thing everyday.  Something that weighs me down either physically or emotionally or both.

My second 100 day goal is to go for a walk. Breathe. Enjoy air and sun and wind on my skin. (This will be hard, I have to admit, when the temperature is in the -30’s, but we’re into the upswing towards Spring now. Ha, ha, ha.)

I hope my journey(s) inspire others as I have been inspired by others.