Gratefulness Therapy

Yesterday, Goodreads sent me an update on one of my favorite authors — Nora Roberts. From what I can tell, Nora keeps a blog through Goodreads, and yesterday, her post discussed all the things she is currently grateful for. She then told her readers to take turns posting their own lists. Most people posted in the comment sections. I thought I’d post mine here.

In these moments of uncertainty and actual physical jeopardy, I’m first grateful for my health and that of the people around me whom I love. I am fortunate to be able to say that no one in my family is currently ill, and although both my daughter and I were earlier this Spring, everyone is now healthy and (in my case) getting my pre-summer fat on in full swing.

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I’m thankful for the amazing place where I live, and the gorgeous Spring weather we have been having. There are few places more beautiful, in my opinion. Right now, with the reduction in traffic, I’ve also noticed that the air is incredibly crisp and clear, the lake cleaner than I remember it ever being.

I’m thankful that we live in a technological age so that while I’m home for an unknown period of time, I can take advantage of Zoom meetings so I have a reason to comb my hair and wear makeup, long drives in the car to keep us healthy but sane, social media communication to keep me in touch with the free world, telephone, music, microwaves, toilet paper, internet, laundry machines, electric lighting and plumbing… you name it. We are so fortunate at this time in history to have so many conveniences at our disposal.

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I’m thankful I discovered Matt Harnacke and his gorgeous horse Emporio a few months back. Eye Candy for the quarantined soul. https://www.instagram.com/p/B-48UGkn6gS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

I’m so thankful to have writing in my life. I absolutely love having the opportunity to tell stories, and right now, I’m very grateful that the novels I’ve been writing are being well-received. I’m thankful to the readers and to those of you good enough to leave your kind words of praise. You have no idea how inspiring that is, and how it keeps me going with the next project. Recently, I watched a Kenny Chesney video that spoke of the one thing you’d like to give the world. At different times in my life, that would have been differing things. Right now, I’d give stories. Story lets me take the world that is, imagine the world that could be, and link the two.

I’m grateful that my dog loves me unconditionally. She is my little buddy. She is loving this time with us home all the time. She is loving going for walks with my daughter. I’m also grateful that my soft, fluffy, uber-handsome cat has learned some personal boundaries and no longer sleeps on my head at night.

I’m grateful to have a teenage daughter who, although hating being stuck at home when she could be out with friends or playing volleyball or soccer or being at the mall or even being out finding a job, is doing her best to keep her spirits up, and her attitude positive.

I’m thankful for free Ebooks, and for reruns of The West Wing and Bones, and for other people’s music playlists, since I’m sort of sick of my own.

I am thankful to have time on my hands — probably for the first time since I was a teenager. I have finally had a chance to catch up with all the marketing I needed to get done, to update my website, to write some E-letters. I have finished writing one novel, and am 15,000 words into the new one. I also released a third earlier than planned. Next week I start editing the novel launching in July, and yesterday I started taking business courses through Linkedin learning. So far, I’ve had a quick info session on how to use Gmail better, a course on story telling for marketing, and a documentary on urban planning through technology. (That one is for a character in a book. I don’t have plans to tackle this myself any time soon). Soon, I’m going to buckle in to learn how to use Instagram for business.

I’m also thankful to own my own home and have low associated costs of living in this time of financial uncertainty. I’ve been making plans for low-cost home improvements I can tackle these next few weeks. I started hacking away at the overgrown bushes in my yard, and also plan to create a garden area. I am going to re-purpose a pair of truck rims left over from when my son sold his beater truck and turn them into summer planters for flower gardening. I’m going to repaint the peeling paint on my front patio, get the staple gun out and fix some spots where the patio carpet is coming up, and fix the screen door so that if we are still quarantined here once summer hits, we can get a breeze flowing through the house without letting the dog get out.

I’m also going to have a go at fixing the roofing on the patio. The corrugated roofing panel blew off in a wind storm awhile back, so I’m going to have a go at replacing that. I’m going to get some inexpensive patio furniture and a new barbeque and set up a little outdoor eating nook.

I’m thankful because I haven’t had the time to even catalogue all the things needing to be repaired around here, let alone tackle them, and now, for the next few weeks, I actually have time to start attending to them. As well, I’m thankful that I work for a company which prioritizes the health of its staff, so my needs are being provided for during this crisis.

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I’ve been thankful to have the time to cook proper meals, although with just myself and Sheena here, they sure do stretch a lot longer. So, I have a freezer stocked with leftovers — and I’m thankful for that, too. I’m also thankful for this book of muffin recipes that I get to try.

I’m very grateful to have people who are still working while I am home. On the flip side, I’m thankful to finally feel rested after a long time of working one job, then coming home and working a second.

I’m thankful for all the health care workers and the essential service workers, and I am so glad to be Canadian. We live in a great country with universal health care, and a government who has been proactive and also has been reflective enough to re-work assistance which has been incomplete or inadequate. I live in a country that is taking care of its citizens, with a leader who is taking this virus seriously. I am thankful for Canada, and for the job Trudeau and our other leaders are doing.

I know there are people who are grieving, and I know there are tough times ahead as the economic engines of our world start to reignite. For now, all my needs are met, I am healthy, I have time to accomplish so many things, and I live in a wonderful part of the globe.

So, that is me. What, in the middle of these stressful times, are you thankful for?

 

 

Sunshine and Staying Inside

Today, I am having an odd reaction to self-isolation — I am feeling an intense sense of gratefulness and love which I can’t seem to shake.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t felt that way everyday, but today, the sun is out, and even if I am sitting inside, my heart feels as bright as the sky outside my window. I’m going to enjoy this feeling while it lasts. I know it might not.

My elder daughter turned 23 on February 23, and that morning  a group of us all went out for breakfast at Denny’s. My younger daughter woke up that morning with a serious headache a sore throat and no appetite. She was annoyed, because she’d been looking forward to the breakfast. We didn’t really think much of it beyond that. She’d been to a volleyball match down at the Coast and I figured she picked up the flu at the tournament. I knew she was really sick when she voluntarily stayed home from the afternoon’s practice.

She missed several days of school and another practice mid-way through the week, and I played nursemaid. Even after she got better, she was exhausted and finding it hard to keep up with the volleyball training. With her being an A-type personality, I reminded her she had been sick — she should expect to be dragging a bit until her energy fully returned. It took her over a week. Eventually, though, she was back at full-power.

Approximately two weeks later, I had an appointment to get my taxes done, and for no apparent reason, I couldn’t stop coughing all the way through that appointment. I didn’t feel sick at all, but as luck would have it, I’d been scheduled to have an interview for a promotion that afternoon before my shift at work. People had started to talk about Coronavirus — it was already significant in China and heading that way in Italy — so I called in to see if they still wanted to go ahead with the interview. She postponed.

But I wasn’t sick. So, I went to work. I kept going all that week. By Thursday, I felt like maybe I was coming down with something — achy, and my temperature regulator seemed off. But, I certainly didn’t seem to have any of the dramatic symptoms being described in the news. Friday the 13th, I woke up with a crazy headache, and nothing I threw at it helped. If you’ve read my previous blogs, you know that by the end of my shift that day, I knew I was sick. My throat was raw, felt a lot like strep throat. I got my shift covered for the following day.

And I really was sick. It felt like the flu — but different. I honestly don’t know what I had. But to make a long story short, I missed another shift, then another, and I was still coughing. By then, the virus had started to explode around us, and I really didn’t know what to do. Ultimately, I drove into work, then once I got there told my boss, I just don’t think I should be here. It felt socially irresponsible. She sent me home, 811 told me to stay there, and my company committed to paying two weeks of salary so I could self-isolate. Then, three days later, my store location closed completely. Which means, now instead of two weeks of salary, they have me covered for four weeks. After that, I suppose I am with the rest of unemployed Canada — thankful for Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment to keeping the population cared for.

At first, I was too sick to do be anything but tired. Then, my appetite came back. Then my energy. Then I started to get productive.

My daughter’s volleyball league cancelled first one match, then another, then all of them. Season over. Her school, which is on spring break, is also on indefinite leave. The possibility exists that they might go online, but with libraries closed, this may not be a solution for everyone. Sheena is used to going mach ten at all times, and now she is home, no school, no sports, no friends — she has been amazing about it, but it is hard. Could be worse — we both recognize that — still, if I don’t find her something else to do other than bake, I am going to weigh 300 pounds before this is over.

Like everyone else, I spent way too much time watching news reports. Because of my novels, I recently joined Twitter, and that place is like a warzone — one I find myself too easily pulled into.  The Stupid Things People Say may just be my next book title, and it is going to be based on the anger all over the Internet.

I’ve kept in touch with a customer from work. I follow his photography on Instagram. He recently said to me, “I don’t think things are going to be the same after this.”

I think that might be true. I think after this, there is going to be a lot of grief and anger people are dealing with. Some people are going to lose a lot. That is going to be hard to accept. I mean, how do you get angry at a virus? Or a DNA sequencing glitch, or whatever this thing is. How do we get angry at something so small stripping us all of our facades of invulnerability, our vanity and arrogance, our beliefs in superiority and invincibility? How do we get angry at an illness when it shows us that the world is not what we thought it was and reminds us that our place in it is so insignificant?

It is so much easier to be angry at the guy who bought out all the meat, or the toilet paper hoarders, the politicians, Donald Trump. Not that there aren’t consequences to actions, not that people don’t say dumb and objectionable things on Twitter and Facebook, not that some leaders aren’t more adaptable than others, more wise than others. The thing is, as I’ve listened to the news, perused social media, stayed indoors despite the sunshine and have limited my social interactions with family to virtual ones, I keep realizing that we are all in this together. Some people are taking this more seriously than others, some are sick and some are not, some may lose and some may not, but I’ve realized, people say dumb things and do dumb things because they are human. Because underneath the bluster, they are afraid. No one knows how to handle this perfectly.

I’ve realized that underneath the hoarding, the bulk buying, the social media venting and cursing there is selfishness, yes, there is ugliness and frustration, also yes, but mostly there is fear. It is one thing we are all experiencing. It just looks differently on some of us than on others. Maybe not everyone is afraid of getting sick and dying, but everyone is wondering what it all means, what will our world look like after all of this ends.

We are the same.

There seems to have been the beginnings of a shift — or maybe today was just a good news day or I am more optimistic now that I am feeling healthy again — but I am reading more good news than bad today. People who have been fighting the illness are recovering. Others are finding creative virtual ways to connect through online arts groups, chat groups, etc. Whitespot had a drive-thru breakfast to raise funds for the food bank, someone organized a drive-by birthday party parade for children who are unable to have birthday parties — and complete strangers are parading their vehicles past birthday children with banners and balloons. Bauer is now making masks, a family run vineyard is teaching their children about business in their vineyard while they home school.

The police, other front-line workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks and other essential workers seem to be getting more veneration than I’ve personally seen at any other time in history. As is right. I’m sure people will be back to hating soon enough, but right now, I feel so much deep gratitude for these people who are continuing to work to keep us all safe and healthy and fed — even while their own lives are jeopardized and their own families are experiencing all the strains the rest of us face. Perhaps Americans experienced some of what I am feeling after 9-11, but this is a greater level of awareness of all the societal elements working to improve my personal well-being than I have personally experienced before. Within these moments of stress, I feel this undercurrent of gratefulness for the country where I live, the policies we live by, the politicians and others working to get us all to the other side of this pandemic. It is a warmth of feeling that supersedes the daily worries.

I had a video chat with my co-workers this morning, and it was great. I miss them all. Today was a moment of connection I didn’t even know I needed. Yesterday, one of the members of my book club sent out an email saying let’s go virtual, and one of the technologically inclined guys in the group suggested zoom — says it is easy.

This morning I felt a degree of appreciation for being part of these social groups that I normally overlook. I mean, I always like everybody, and I’m glad to know you. This morning, I just felt like I had to restrain myself from gushing out how much I love everyone — which seems to be my mood of the day. Hey, family, hey friends, hey complete strangers I’ve never met — I love you! We are all part of the same team — team beat the virus and team human and team Earth. I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced this sense of universal connectedness in quite the same way — and it took dismantling everyone’s daily lives and putting us all into isolation to make it happen.

I’ve spoken to my sister more this week than probably in the past month. Normally, we both live very busy lives. Right now, we get to check in everyday.

My eldest son’s wife called me for a soup recipe last night. They are stuck in a tiny bachelor suit apartment and there is a confirmed quarantine in their building, yet they seem happier than ever together — which is amazing to see.

My elder daughter’s boyfriend told me he loved me (you touched me, David – sob).

I learned something I didn’t even know about my younger son — he likes to do puzzles. What?? I hate puzzles, unless it is the puzzle of figuring out what happens next in the book I am writing. He does not get that from me.

He got it from my mom. She was sappily thrilled when I called her this morning to tell her about the mark she’s left on her grandson.

And my youngest? Last night when I was going to bed she was up making these amazing chocolate chip cookies. I had them for breakfast. Help. Somebody save me.

Last night I stayed up late playing on Canva and generally procrastinating on novel writing. I created a new release announcement — and seven bookmarks featuring the covers of seven different novels. They are my next series. I’ve only got one written so far, but I’ve got plans.

The night before that I was up until — well, I am not even going to tell you that. I started off researching the costs of hiring someone from Fiverr to read my books in order to create an audio book. When I realized how expensive it would be plus listened to a lot of really droning narrators, I decided, hey, I used to record songs, I have all the gear, I will just download Reaper and narrate the things myself. So, then I was up for hours recording myself narrating snipets of my novels onto my phone just to see how I sounded.

It is not the easiest thing to do, lemme just say. I speed up. I stumble over words. I add verbal stressors in places they don’t really belong — hats off all you actors! You make it look easy. And yet, after awhile, I thought, hmm, not too bad. I could do this. My favourite was the snippet I wrote for my art heist novel. Every third word was an f-bomb. Apparently, I make a decently convincing villain. Of course, then I thought, hey, why not call up my friends from the actor’s studio. Delphine. Jerome. I work with one of them. I watched the other grow up. They could do this…

I vibe on the creating. I get lost in the creating. I don’t even notice that it is two in the morning and I am still creating. I’ve informed my boss that I have reverted back to my preferred sleeping patterns and will need to be reintegrated gradually when that day comes.

I know that this pandemic fight isn’t over. There is a longer struggle ahead. I know I may not feel this cheerful tomorrow, and even by tonight I may be back to the unbearably snarky comments people who are afraid make to one another on twitter. Fear, I’ve realized, often looks a lot like hate. But right now, for today, I keep realizing another level and another of what is truly important and what is not. People are. Toys are not. Health is. A tan is not. Friendship is. Family is. Encouraging others is. Creativity — whether in innovative ways to fight this disease, in traditional ideas of writing, singing, painting, drama etc. (adapted to a virtual stage) is. Drive-by birthday parades definitely are.

Trying to love better and understand better and empathize instead of villainize — these all are. So, maybe Dan will be right.

Maybe, when this is all over we will remember what is and is not important.

And life as we know it will never be the same.

 

Seven Weeks

 

On August 22, 2019, I left my job. Have you ever been in a position where all the signs are just saying, it’s time to move on? I was in that position. Some of those signs were speaking louder than others, but really, when it comes down to it, it was just time for a change.

In 2016, I was managing a Bosley’s pet store, and I loved it. No job is perfect, but since I left that company for personal reasons, I’ve sort of cast around for work which satisfied. I found jobs which paid well that I hated, and I found jobs which paid crap but I loved. I didn’t find the perfect fit.

I’m more a joy and satisfaction kind of girl than a dollars and cents kind of girl, but this time when I quit, I wanted to be a bit more selective about my next position. Ideally, I’d like to find a blend of personal fulfillment, financial security, and flexibility. I am looking to build a writing career, after all, and I weigh that against my other employment options.

Will the job I accept offer enough time for me to continue with writing? Will it leave me too tired and eye-fatigued to write? Will it suck the soul from my being and leave me too emotionally drained to write? I’ve experienced all of these before. Or, will it fit me like Goldilocks’ bed — not too soft, not too hard, but just right?

I’m going to write more about the voyage of my job hunting experience in the coming weeks, but for now, let me just give the highlights — in seven weeks, I received nine job offers. Some of these were career type positions with high paying wages and great benefits packages, some were not. I briefly tried out two of these jobs, and although the people were nice, the jobs were not for me, so I picked up the last of those paychecks today, and tomorrow I begin life as a barista at Starbucks. lol. It might seem an anti-climactic end to such a choosy search, but it’s what I want. Baring early retirement, I am excited to begin.

And, today I received the employees benefits package manual, and let me just say, wow. This is one amazing employer. At least, on paper.

The point of this post is really not about the job hunt, it is, at the outset of Thanksgiving weekend, a tally of all I accomplished in the seven weeks (to the day) from the end of my previous full-time job and the start of my new job. Because, I am so grateful for this time I’ve had these past two months.

In these last few weeks, I have finished writing a novel – Feathers in the Snow. (Which means I am now up to seven completed novels — with publication of the third launching next month.) I have written blog posts, had an article picked up by Okanagan Life Magazine, am in the middle of an art gallery-related writing contract, have created a fiction writer’s course, have submitted several short stories to potential publishers, have formatted print and EBook editions for my soon to be published, The Heart of Things, and tonight reformatted the Ebook version of my former release, Honey on my Lips, which had some glitches the company was unable to remedy. I’ve checked the sample pages, and the book is fixed (yeah me!). I have signed up for a second year of NaNoWriMo, and tonight was contacted by a man who will soon need help writing his memoir. I feel like there is more, but I forget. In short, I have been productive, am on a role, and like I said to my son today, I feel like if I could only have six more months working at this pace, I wouldn’t need to get a second job at all.

I have visited regularly with my mom, talked politics with my dad, hung out with my sister by phone, at least, and with my brother-in-law over coffee. My eldest daughter and I went on a coffee-fueled nature photo shoot, and I’ve been to my younger daughter’s soccer and volleyball games, have tracked my nephews (by marriage) football games. I am prepping two of my children for their driving tests, and having so many great conversations with both my sons. I like these people. I love having the time to be involved in their lives.

I have regularly picked Sheen (the only one still in high school) up mid-day and taken her out for lunch before dropping her back off to sweat it out in pre-cal. Have baked and cooked and made healthy soups and meals and cleaned the house — although I never did get to the lawn and now intend to let winter just kill all the weeds for me, and I will try again next year. I love what being all domestic goddesy does to my soul. It makes me feel settled and somehow fundamentally healthier and (don’t hate me feminists) more female. I like it when it is organized in here and not falling down at the rafters. I mean, I am never going to be accused of being an obsessive housekeeper, but it’s nice to be able to see the floor again.

I’ve been to two art exhibit openings, to the Armstrong IPE, then skipped a bunch of other things I was invited to for various reasons, but mostly because, for as long as I had the opportunity, I just wanted to make the most of my time here at home. I’ve taken day trips and road trips, blogged about some of them, gotten too busy with the novel to blog about others until I didn’t care to bother anymore.  I’ve had great conversations with friends, have swum and hiked, and honestly meant to do yoga, except the dog thinks it is playtime when I sit on my mat, so yeah, that hasn’t really happened.

I have kept up with American politics — best reality TV around — been enraged at times, ridiculously saddened at times and currently am resting somewhere between hopeful and I-told-you-so. I bet you didn’t know that was an emotion, but lemme just attest, it surely is. Bigly. American politics has even led me to reading my Bible on a couple of occasions, although that might also have something to do with my new doctor pen-pal. He’s in Yemen. Doing doctor things. I’m mostly almost sure.

I feel, at the end of these two months, amazed by how refreshed I am. Body, soul, spirit. I feel in touch with the essential, peaceful, content, hopeful, sentient and self-aware parts of my personality which at times get sucked away in the challenges and demands of life.

There are also so many things I wanted to do but haven’t yet gotten to. I still have to create my self-publishing course content — but I have five more weeks to do that. I never did give up the junk food or lose all the weight — have a lifetime to do that. I haven’t always been great at getting to sleep on time (4 am. But that was only once. And the book I was reading was sooo good.). I never called the manager of Chapters, who said she would talk to me about taking on my novel once September arrived, and I haven’t even started the outline for my Nano novel. I need to get on both! I never did go see my boyfriend Gerard Butler in Angel has Fallen, and I didn’t get to the play I was supposed to go to last night or the art reading I had at one point planned to attend tonight. But I did binge watch season fifteen of Grey’s Anatomy and also the Netflix series Unbelievable. And I did cuddle my dog and pet her silky ears (she’s right here beside me right now, as a matter of fact) every day, as much as I possibly could manage. Oh, and I’ve started playing guitar daily in an effort to re-establish callouses. It’s almost like I might want to record again some day.

It turns out that going into Thanksgiving, I have an amazing amount of things to be thankful for. I’ve been feeling that way all month long, like my heart is just full, and brimming, and wanting to spill over — but in a good way. There is such a power in being selective with the choices I make. There is power in accepting the pros and cons which come with each decision. It’s a power that comes from deep down within. Choice is just that gift I get to give myself at this point in my life.

So, tomorrow I begin the journey of learning to be a barista. In the evening, I am meeting my former gallery associates for drinks — and I can’t wait. On Saturday I get to once again go watch my daughter in a volleyball tournament, and this one is just down the street at my alma mater, which is nice on multiple levels. Sunday, my sister is making Thanksgiving turkey and we are having a thanksgiving bonfire at the farm, then Monday, since my kids have to work through C’s thanksgiving, I’ll be doing dinner here. And I know, technically, those dates extend past my seven weeks off, but for some lovely reason, I have the weekend off. My second baristing day isn’t until Tuesday.

This has been a great moment in life. I feel rejuvenated, and am looking forward to what comes next.

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