Success

Abhishek Ratna 123a4wd

I saw something yesterday about managing a successful blog.  I wasn’t looking for that topic; it came up in a post on another blog I follow and it got me thinking.  I’ve not really considered whether or not I’m “succeeding” at blogging.  What is success anyway?  Isn’t it a term relative to whatever your intentions were when you set out to do something?  Since we all have different intentions and reasons for doing things, our success or lack thereof is personal and subjective.

So after I stumbled onto this subject, I did some thinking myself and I realized that perhaps the seed of blogging was planted in me many years ago before computers lived in every home and the internet was available to open our innermost thoughts up to the scrutiny of a whole world.

Writing for fun

There’s always been a bit of a writer in me.  In elementary school, I enjoyed creative writing assignments, and in high school, I often wrote stories on my own time just for fun.  Sometimes I wrote stories about the TV characters I liked as if I were writing an episode here and there.

I thrived when it came to essay questions on exams while others cringed and bit their lips, because I was great at memorizing material, and having the opportunity to express my own interpretations of everything in my head was much better for me than tricky multiple choice or direct question and definite answer tests where you were either right or wrong.  One of my clearest memories of this is a year-end high school final exam that was just four essay questions and nothing else.  I can still see myself sitting there in a gym filled with students, looking at it with joyful anticipation.  I think I heard several gasps around me once the start timer went off, but I was in my glory.

I had no issues with book reports; in grade twelve I wrote one up in its entirety while working coat check at a New Year’s Eve parish dance, and it earned me an 87% grade (not bad for a book I didn’t actually read … well, OK, refused to read, but that’s another story…)  and I loved writing essays.  I especially enjoyed having the chance, in a grade eleven Social Studies class, to write an opinion piece.  I believe this particular paper was one of my first open expressions of an opinion I knew wasn’t necessarily shared by my intended reader.

My teacher gave me an “A” for my writing, even though he would have a few comments to make about the subject and my position on it the following year during a parent-teacher conference, although I had him for a different subject at that time.  Actually, it was grade twelve English and he was the teacher responsible for the above-mentioned book I refused to read!  But that entire humorous event (well, humorous to my parents and I, not so much to the teacher…) would take too long to describe here and might make a good start to another post.

If there had been a blogging world at that time, I would very likely have been part of it.

Bloggers aren’t hiding

I never was, nor do I ever desire to be, a public speaker.  You won’t see any TED talks with me addressing topics or teaching anything.  The people who do it are great at it, but that’s just not my style and it doesn’t fit well with my personality.  I’ve taught things in small groups where I’m confident in the subject matter, but it’s a nerve-wracking experience overall and I no longer feel the need to force myself into those situations.

Some people might believe that people like me throw out our ideas and perspectives in writing rather than in person because we’re hiding behind our computers, not wanting to face the reactions our opinions produce.  Maybe some cowardly people do this in hopes of avoiding repercussions, but the rest of us – most of us – aren’t hiding from anything.  We’re just much better able to convey ideas in writing than out loud or on the spur of the moment when the subject matter comes up.

I’m quite fine with facing any responses to what I write, and if I end up in a conversation  in person about anything controversial, I’m fine with respectfully expressing my opinion and taking whatever comes back at me.  In high school I was quite often a single voice standing up for what I believed in regardless of what was being taught to me, even at the risk of drawing undesired attention or losing marks, because even though I’m generally not good at speaking publicly, I won’t sit quietly when something important to me is squashed or mocked, or if I’m feeling forced to do or accept something that goes against my personal beliefs.  I stood up to the group of boys verbally bullying a disabled girl in school.  I am definitely not hiding.

Some people like to talk about all their ideas, some like to write about them.  My son – a champion talker who is making very good use of his gift in building his business – asked me as a kid why he had to sit down and write a book report when he could give me in a short half hour a very accurate oral presentation about everything he was supposed to know about the plot, characters, and other book report-ish stuff (we homeschooled and yes, his speech would have rivalled any written report and probably included a lot more dynamic expression too, a skill of which I was often envious).  I told him – as any teacher would – that the purpose was to learn to write properly and to express things in writing.  He scoffed at the idea and grew up to become a national award-winning salesman.  I think he “writes” cheques.

Starting my blog

I first started blogging with some craft projects I was doing a few years ago because it seemed like a fun idea and I saw that others were using blogs to share their crafts.  I posted pictures of cards I was making and included information about the supplies and techniques used so others could find ideas as we all do when we come across someone else’s projects.  But it wasn’t really a writing blog and I eventually lost interest.

This blog you’re now reading came about when I decided I would eventually share the story  of our journey through the tragedy of my husband’s traumatic brain injury.  I started by writing a few posts on unrelated topics and when the time felt right, my regular posts shifted into the originally planned subject and became a journal of sorts.  I was told a couple of times that I should write a book about it, but that didn’t seem like something I wanted to do.  I didn’t want to write about it because I had to (with deadlines and scrutiny and publishing etc.) but because it was therapeutic for me and I hoped it would maybe help someone else in my position.  Blogging was more relaxed and flexible.  It became a way for me to express myself, my pain, my sorrow, my perspective on life, faith, tragedy, loss.

And then after we lost my husband last year, it became a place for me to share what that meant, how I was finding my way, along with some humour, ideas, opinions, struggles and all kinds of real life stuff that is sometimes hard to just openly talk about (no, I’m still not hiding!) because organizing thoughts into written paragraphs doesn’t happen for me on the spot in a conversation.  It happens while I’m out for a walk, or while I’m sewing a quilt top together, or when I’m reading the news.  I process.  And then I write.  And somehow it does me good to do this.  If any other person finds anything comforting, funny, or helpful here, that’s great!  Writing is good for my brain; it keeps me thinking, learning, reflecting and processing.

A Successful Blog

So do I consider my blog successful?  Is it what I wanted it to be?  I think so, yes.

According to what I read yesterday, in order to have a successful blog you need to post almost daily and write about a variety of topics in order to gain followers and drive traffic to your blog.  Well, I don’t post daily.  I do have regular followers, but I’m not driving a lot of traffic here.  Do I need to?  I’m not selling anything here and I’m not expecting this blog to go viral and make me rich.  I’m not interested in writing things that will make money or bring me fame, haha.  If by some freak event this were to happen, then I would HAVE to write.  I don’t want to HAVE to do the things that I currently enjoy doing because they will become work rather than simple pleasures.  Would I like to be paid to write?  Sure, that could be fun, but only as long as it didn’t require me to give up the rest of the things I like to do.

I think the hints I read about are great for people who want to make blogging part of their paying job, a supplement, or who need to drive traffic to a blog in order to advertise or promote products, books, etc.

If people read my blog, like/share a post, or leave a comment, then of course as a human being I appreciate that and it reminds me that I’m not just writing in a void.  If a publisher is somehow led to my original journal about Pat and thinks it would make a good book, I wouldn’t scoff at the idea.  But I’m happy just being here, writing when I feel inspired, and sharing – not hiding – my unique perspectives and day to day thoughts.  If nothing else, one day my kids will have a lot to look back on that will remind them I was always thinking, that I wasn’t afraid to stand up for what I believed in, and that I spent time doing something I enjoyed.

(By the way, the teacher mentioned above was a good guy.  In his defence, I don’t think he’d ever encountered a student like myself who refused to conform on principle and didn’t care about the consequence.  He couldn’t break my spirit and I think it baffled him a bit.  I bet by now you really want to hear the whole story, don’t you? Watch for the two-parter next week, “Rebel with a cause“…haha)

 

Advertisements

One foot in front of the other

IMG_0199

I sail!  I’m a sailor!  OK, I’m not really a sailor, but these words of Bob Wiley from the movie “What About Bob?” are regularly used around my house whenever a new activity is started or a new skill is learned, such as “I quilt!  I’m a quilter!”

Actually, there are a lot of lines from that movie that have found their way into our family’s repertoire.  It’s an older movie, but if you’re even the least bit neurotic “interesting” you need to watch it.  And if you’re perfectly “normal” and never have any issues at all with anything in your mind – ie. fear, anxiety, depression, OCD – you MUST watch it because it will enlighten you as to the daily life struggles of probably everyone around you in your “perfect” world, which will also help you to see that no one is perfectly “normal.”  But I digress …

I walk.  I’m a walker.  This means that I regularly drag my butt outside – even when it’s getting hotter in the mornings (although I try to go earlier and earlier to avoid those temps) and even when it’s cold or slightly raining – and walk for a specified amount of time.  Every day.  I do it because I NEED to do it.  Every other activity that I enjoy and spend hours engaged in, whether it’s sewing, quilting, paper crafting, writing, or any other pastime of a creative and thoughtful introvert, is sedentary.  I want to maintain my mobility despite my age and continued aging, and because I’m middle-aged some things are already becoming a pain in the neck (back, legs, knees, hips, feet, bunions etc.).  I no longer have children to chase after, I don’t work outside my home anymore as the promotion and selling of my handmade items is all done from the comfort of home, and I have to force myself to move throughout the day for more than just a few minutes here and there going from one room to the other to find a needle or a seam ripper.

And I’ve come to the point where I actually want to walk.  It’s a strange combination, this wanting to go do something that I know is going to make me hurt in various places and wishing I didn’t have to do it but still feeling driven to get myself out there.  However, this wanting to walk thing is only about my actual morning power walk.  It has a definite purpose for me.  I’m not a leisure walker; I can do it if I have to, but I don’t often choose it.

The Schedule

I don’t like exercise.  It’s generally boring, it makes me sweat (anyone who read the post about summer heat will know that being hot and sweaty is something that can turn me into a miserable b–ch) and at this point I don’t even get a lot of results on the scale from doing it because once middle age hits, our bodies seem to think we’re doing all this moving just for fun and we aren’t really expecting anything more.

But as much as it hurts and takes away time from other things I’d rather be doing, it has started to make me feel better about myself.  It gets my circulation going first thing in the morning, it apparently releases good hormones (which is a good thing because there are a lot of other not-so-good hormonal experiences starting up at this age too), and it reminds me every day that I want to be able to move for as long as I can move, and the only way to make that happen is to persevere now.  It makes me feel better about myself because I’m sticking with something that’s good for me, I’m committed to ME.

I’ve been asked how often I walk and when I go, and I am immediately thinking “is this person going to ask me if they can walk with me?”  Some people find it easier to have a walking buddy because it motivates them and keeps them committed.  I see these twosomes once in a while, engaged in animated conversation while power walking around town.  I’m not that kind of walker.  I’m a stick the headphones in and crank up the tunes to pass this mundane and pain inducing activity as quickly as possible on my own schedule kind of walker.  I do often meet up with my daughter part way around and she walks with me for a short time before work, and we chat a bit as we go just to check in with each other’s plans for the day, but she is the person I can text whenever I want to, as early as I want to because we’re both awake in the wee hours, and say “I’m leaving now, are you walking?”  She’s a runner, so  it’s not like she depends on me for her routine and if she misses a day here and there I’m cool with that.  So that’s as much of a walking schedule commitment as I can handle.

I am committed to going every day, though, first thing in the morning before I do anything else.  I know myself well enough to know that if I get involved in another activity, I will put off the walking and either 1) not do it at all that day and end up feeling like a lazy slug, or 2) succumb to the guilt trip I take myself on and go later in the day when it’s hotter and much more difficult just to silence the reprimanding voice in my head.  I also like the idea of getting it done and out of the way so that for the rest of the day, no matter what I do or don’t do, I have taken care of my need to deliberately move.

The Gear

I’ve been watching my runner daughter find all kinds of colourful and useful clothing and gear and I’ve been almost jealous because just seeing all the cool stuff makes me want to be one of these people who actually needs it!  I’ve always wondered why companies make clothes for plus sized women in neon colors that scream “look over here at this bulging roll!”  Like, don’t they realize that we already draw enough attention, especially when we are MOVING?

When I started walking I decided I would be frugal and just wear comfy clothing, which works perfectly fine for the walking part.  But as it got warmer and I got more committed, I decided I needed something cooler, like maybe a tank top (I never wear one of these in public so it was a stretch, but sure made a difference in staying cool!) and some sporty capris.  I dared to try wearing such far out items and I have to say that just having some simple stuff that makes you look and feel more appropriately dressed for whatever your exercise of choice is, does make it more tolerable, more comfortable, and more fun.  I can’t do the cute shoes – I have fallen arches, a bunion, and uneven legs so the left shoe of any pair I buy always needs to be built up by a shoemaker.  But thankfully, even my SAS shoes come in a comfy running shoe that included a set of rainbow laces should I ever feel the need to draw attention away from my body and down to my feet.

Don’t be looking for me out there, it isn’t pretty.  And I’m not posting any pictures of me all decked out and ready to face the task.  But if you see an overweight middle aged woman hoofing it around town with headphones in, look past the bright coloured tank top with the flabby jiggles and know that at least she’s trying.  We all have to start somewhere!

What new activity have you started recently?

I’d rather be Quilting …

IMG_0181

I have a list of a few things I really want to get done around the house, things I can do myself but just haven’t been interested in doing.  I look at them and think about them while I’m moving between rooms with my quilting projects.

I have a quilt on my machine that I started yesterday and was having fun with, but after a morning of walking, organizing my thoughts, balancing my chequebook, uploading pictures of a new quilt to my Etsy shop, and becoming distracted by other blogs that inspire me, I finally went downstairs and got the can of stain I bought for my new unfinished wooden kitchen table.  I have pictures in my head of how I want it to look, and a few good reasons for putting it off (like the fact that I have my sewing machine on it and I’m always working on something, so I don’t want any delays in that area!) but I can’t have the look I want until I open the darn can and get moving.  It looks rather boring just sitting there all unfinished with the IKEA stamp still showing, like a project that seemed like a good idea at the time and just never got done…

So I brought the can and necessary accessories upstairs, put it all on the counter, plugged in the sander, and then – in typical middle-aged fashion – got distracted.  I honestly can’t remember what it was that caught my attention, but before I knew it I was reading an email from someone who had “liked” a post on my quilting site.

I followed her link, read a few posts on her blog, and followed another link to a blog where I actually read a funny story written by a lady describing the back and forth inner conversation she faces when she decides to paint something!  It went something like this: I really want to paint this.  No, you don’t.  It’s too much work.  But it will look so nice.  Just hire someone. I can do it myself and save money.  You always do this. Remember last time? and so on …  At least my distraction brought me full circle and reminded me that I needed to get back to what I intended to start.

I sanded the table down, wiped it off, opened the stain and went to work.  Of course, staining with a rag goes quickly, and I find watching the wood come to life very satisfying until I have to get underneath something big.  I contemplated turning the table over, but – like the lady I mentioned above with her painting project – I don’t have anyone around during the day to help me with two-person tasks, and if you try to turn a table over yourself, it can put a lot of strain on the legs, which isn’t good.  So the best option was lying on my back under the table to catch the parts that were going to be obvious (I’m not bothering to stain the whole underside, because I don’t expect anyone else to lie down underneath it, except maybe the dog I don’t yet and might never have, but it won’t care).  Don’t try to picture that effort, it wasn’t pretty and it hurt my back, but only temporarily.

IMG_0183

I took a break to decide whether or not to go ahead with the leg painting today too because that was an inner debate for more than a few minutes after I finally got to stand up again.  I sat down to relax and write up this blog post so I could just plug in pictures later.  But perseverance won (or maybe my OCD?) and I really didn’t want to be without a usable table for more than a day.

IMG_0184.jpg

It looks just the way I wanted it too!  I even got some bonus stretching in while accomplishing one more thing on my list.  Of course, it would look more Good Housekeeping-ish if I waited to take the picture once it’s back in place with the cardboard out from under the legs and my white chairs perfectly placed around it, but this is how I roll.  I’ll seal it with wax first thing in the morning, right before I get back to my quilt … for now, I’m headed for my recliner with a cup of tea 🙂

IMG_0186

UPDATE: Here it is back in place, all waxed, buffed and shining “like the top of the Chrysler building.”

Strong is over-rated

red-lipstick-elizebeth-taylor

I want to talk about strength in adversity.

Some believe staying strong is a “choice”, that people can decide what to do with their difficult circumstances, and that one’s ability to face them comes from strength, while another’s inability – and possibly their choice to back away altogether – is a weakness.  I disagree.

I’d like to start out by taking this immediately to the extreme in suggesting that the choice is not about whether to endure a suffering with strength or to bemoan it and walk away in weakness.  The choice is made on a level much more basic, yet rarely discussed openly: do I want to live or do I want to die?

I’ve encountered various perspectives in my own journey, here a just a few:

“faith keeps you strong”

“all things are possible with God”

“good things come to those who wait”

“all things work together for good for those who love God”

Yet, I’ve seen people of faith crater in desperate ways, myself included; I’ve watched – and endured – situations that God could have fixed end badly; I’ve watched people wait and wait and wait – and I know what it’s like to wait – to end up with a result that is not “good” by any human perception;  I’ve watched – and endured – situations where God loving people have lost everything.  Did I – or we- do something wrong to affect whether or not the blessings came?  I doubt it.  But for a while, it certainly did cross my mind, and that in itself was damaging.

Does this mean I don’t believe the above statements? No. I just don’t believe they always apply to life on earth.  Like many religious verses and cliches, I take them with a grain of salt (partly because salt often gets rubbed into wounds while waiting on God) because while most of these things are conceivably true in the realm of heavenly life, they often don’t show themselves to be true in earthly difficulties.

One person of faith appears to be strong, another – sometimes stronger – person appears to have no faith.  The same is true of apparent weakness, regardless of faith.  I also believe that people of no faith sometimes turn to God in adversity because they are desperate and hoping that developing faith will fix their situation and again, sometimes it appears to do just that, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I don’t think God gives some people more strength than he gives to others, depending on how good they are, how much they pray, how much faith they have, or any other gauge of entitlement.  I don’t know how or why it comes or doesn’t come, but I don’t think we are necessarily in control of it.

I believe that people who appear to be strong in the face of great tragedy have chosen to live.  But they aren’t necessarily thinking of that as they go along.  They just know that there really isn’t any choice but to step up and face whatever comes along – sometimes with a good attitude, sometimes not – because they are still alive and there is no choice for them but to keep going.  Morning will come and night will come and they will still be here, so they keep going.  And whether or not they do it with optimism or negativity, as long as they keep going they have chosen to live.  They haven’t necessarily chosen to be strong, to endure their difficulties with hope and faith – some might, but not all – they might smile one day and scream the next, but they are alive.

This brings me to the other choice, which is to die.

While I’m not of that mindset, in keeping with the topic of this post I would say that I can humanly understand how some people could come to a point in their lives and their suffering when this choice is something they consider.  So it’s possible to be open to and even sympathize with the perspectives of someone with a differing view, without actually agreeing.  I don’t consider these people weak.  I just see that they are making a choice based on experiences and issues that are their own.

I don’t like the assumption that the way people handle certain things determines for others whether or not they are “strong”.  I don’t think pictures and comments reminding people that the best way to deal with life is to stay strong, think positively, stay hopeful, and keep the faith are helpful to everyone.  Inspiration can come in various ways depending on what a person needs at the time, but I often notice that quotes with less-than-optimistic themes – however real they might be – are frowned upon.  I think all this sets us up for comparisons, either those that others might make or those that we make ourselves when we feel that perhaps we aren’t as strong as we should be in similar situations, because we see others coping in ways that we don’t. What helps one person get through a hard time might for another person be a catalyst for further grief and pain.

I don’t want to see myself as strong or weak based on how I handle or react to things I face, or on how others might perceive me.  Am I “strong” when I’m having a good day and then not “strong” when I’m having trouble coping?  If my day doesn’t measure up to the words on the picture someone posted about never giving up, does that mean I’m not trying hard enough?

I’ve realized that many times when I’ve felt overwhelmed, beaten down by one thing after another and left feeling as though there is little to nothing to be hopeful about, I’ve chosen to keep going because I’m alive and as long as that is the case, I need to go on because the days will pass regardless of my ability to cope and I will wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Some days will be good and others awful.  I won’t always be able to smile and pretend, sometimes I will scream and cry and wish to throw back whatever has been dealt to me.  Some days I will feel hopeful and believe that God is helping me and other days I will see things as gloomy and sad and I will feel the loneliness that chokes me.  But that’s the way it has to be because I want to live. I’m a human being, complete with strengths and weaknesses, who has chosen to live. And in choosing to live, I have no other choice but to endure what comes my way, because it will most definitely come as long as I’m moving forward.  Sometimes being alive hurts.  So why aren’t pictures with quotes reflecting that truth welcomed and as widely spread as those that, in efforts to uplift, can become constant discouragements?

I think it’s more accurate and more real to see that this isn’t about being strong or not strong.  It’s about a choice between living or dying.  It’s better to focus on what the choice to live looks like – with both the good and the not good times – than to try to come up with some picture of what “strong” looks like.  Strong is a good adjective for cheese, for a body builder in a competition, or for a quilting thread!  But it’s not so great at describing the emotional depths of a human person.  Being strong isn’t my goal.  Living is.

So some days I leave the house smiling, energetic and ready to greet the world, and other days I have to splash cold water on my face, put on some lipstick and leave the house only because I really just want my mail, hoping no one will be able to tell I’ve been crying (I’d pour a drink too, but I have a policy never to drink alcohol when I’m mad or sad…), but either way, I’m alive 🙂

Cool ramblings (or “Fall is my favourite season”)

If you’re a person who loves everything about summer, this post isn’t for you. You might want to go back outside to your garden or your lawn chair and just sit this one out! What are you doing on your computer anyway, when the weather outside is great for you? Ha ha, Go get a tan, bask in the sun, sip your cocktails, and enjoy it.

While my preferences aren’t necessarily common, I know I’m not alone in them. This post is for people like me who could live very happily without ever having summer.

image

 

I’m sitting on my porch with the windows open, listening to the birds. I’ve just hung up a little sign I was given for Christmas that has a picture of Snoopy stretched out on his red dog house and the words “happiness is a little peace and quiet”.  I need another one that says “happiness is a nice cool breeze”.

Today is a lovely day – for me.  It rained overnight and there’s a beautiful cool breeze blowing through my house, a breeze which would undoubtedly be sweater worthy for many others, but I’m relishing the chill. I can breathe better; I can think better. I can function and I’m in a much better mood. (FYI:  Summer depression is a real thing. Not saying I have it, but it exists. I think I’m still just on the edge where it can be managed by hiding indoors with lots of water and Tylenol, and thinking about fall… )

It occurred to me the other day in conversation that there is absolutely nothing I like about summer.  For the sake of further discussion – and before anyone jumps on that one statement with questions like “what about flowers?” Or “what about the sunshine?” Or “what about…?” – let me clarify: there isn’t a single thing about summer that I like and cannot enjoy during another season, without enduring all the things I hate about summer.  For the record, I do like flowers and mine are fake so I can enjoy them anytime, their beauty doesn’t depend on rain or shine, and I can change them whenever I wish, with little or no work at all! Don’t be mistaken; I’ve received many compliments on my lovely artificial blooms.

I don’t like bees, bugs, mosquitoes, camping, gardening, eating outside, extreme heat that makes me physically sick, massive storms that knock the power out or do other damage, and any number of other inconveniences summer brings, including a noticeable lack of good television programming for people like me who only manage to keep their sanity by tuning out summer and focussing on other stories in other places, while sitting in front of a fan or air conditioner. The good shows are over until fall and the interim programs are usually lame because the networks know most people are outside! (obviously I know that many things I find inconvenient will be the very things summer lovers enjoy, so there’s no need to tell me that. And again, why aren’t you outside instead of reading stuff on the Internet? You must have some summer thing to do…)

I LOVE FALL!

Now think about this for just a minute: if it weren’t for the impending winter bringing its own set of frustrations for many people, myself included, who can really not like fall?

Fall has beautiful colours and days still warm enough for outdoor people with no extremes to cause problems for summer heat haters.  Everywhere you go you can wear the awesome sweaters that are too warm for indoors in winter but not warm enough for outdoors, and far too warm for anywhere in the summer. You can still wear sandals and capris, go for long walks and hear the birds. The sun still shines for people who want to be out in the middle of it, but not intensely enough to annoy people who spend their summers in the shade trying to avoid it.  There is no snow to shovel, but there is already an anticipation of holiday seasons that puts people in a good mood.

I vote for fall. I’ve never heard anyone complain about fall other than the fact that it’s followed by winter. I would actually like to have fall all the time. Is there a place I can live where I could get that? I could also tolerate spring in a pretty place with no mud. Is that possible? Spring – fall – spring – fall.  If there is such a utopia, please let me know.

Right now I need to go and close all the windows of my house so I can trap the  wonderful cool fresh air inside before the sun starts beating down again…

 

 

My Cottage on the Prairie

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t live in a house on the beach.  I don’t even live near water of any kind.  Even the numerous puddles from recent downpours have dried up.  My view is made up of trees, grass and dirt (there are other houses, but my trees do a good job of blocking them) so I don’t spend a lot of time gazing out the window.

But part of me wants to live in a cottage on the beach, and that part of me decided a while ago that even though I’m living in northern Alberta, I can decorate my home as if it were a cute little waterfront cottage.  It already has old style wooden siding, A few blocked in windows have decorated wood panels, and I’m attracted to antiques and soft beachy colors, so I’m trying to develop that inside my house.  When I closed in my back porch last year (pictured at the very top of this page) I tried to make it look cottage-y (my computer doesn’t believe that’s a word, but I use it a lot!) so I would have a place to sit in a rocking chair and enjoy a cup of tea without getting too hot or rained on, and when I walk into it from my living room I do have a feeling of being in a cottage.

This week I got my roof re-shingled and a few things touched up, and now I am in limbo regarding what should be next.  As soon as you update one thing, it makes others – while still without damage – look worse and in need of a redo as well.  I wasn’t contemplating new siding at all until I saw the new roof, and now I’m noticing things that didn’t bother me before, and having visions of what could be.

However, I’m also trying to balance needs with wants and be practical about changes, taking care of maintaining important parts without going too crazy on what is merely aesthetically pleasing.  The reality is that I don’t know how long I will be in this house.  I guess we all face that to a certain extent because we can’t predict the future, but it is especially uncertain when I’m still working through re-shaping my life without my husband in it.

In this house there are so many memories in every room, from every day encounters to big projects like replacing the steps at our entry, tearing down an old deck, or putting down our own laminate flooring (it was a huge undertaking for two inexperienced people that ended up being a lot of fun and very satisfying and probably the biggest home improvement project Pat and I ever did together).  For so long afterward, we admired it and were proud we had done it ourselves.  It needs a few touch ups now and the style and color are outdated – which tempts me to look into changing it – but we did it together and if I were to lift it all and replace it, I would lose more than the old floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We painted the outside a few years back – another huge undertaking – as a compromise (well, to be fair, Pat compromised because he really wanted new siding and I convinced him that painting it would be an economical uplift and a good family project) and when I look at it I can remember those days we spent in the heat working hard together.  If I cover it up with sharp looking vinyl now, I will lose more than the old painted wood siding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is not to say that I won’t make the changes as I go along.  Few things can last forever if they are part of a structure that gradually deteriorates or wears out over time.  But as things are changed one by one I notice mixed emotions.  I know I won’t be in this house forever because even if I don’t move in the near future, the time will come when my aging legs and knees will no longer be able to go up and down the stairs throughout the day.  But still, the thought of leaving it and going to live in a house where Pat was never with me is a cold one.  I can’t imagine how it would feel like “home”.

I have learned, though, that while time doesn’t heal as the cliche promises, it does give us room to grow and get used to coping with a forever wound, and that what might seem very difficult right now could become bearable in a few months, next year, or whenever the best opportunity presents itself.

For now, the reasons to stay in my “cottage” outweigh the reasons to leave it, and I just have to decide how much I want to do to keep it looking like a place that someone else might also want to live one day, in the event that life takes me down the road to another cottage.  I’m sure at that point, I will have learned that there are many things I can take with me that could indeed last forever, or at least as long as I’m alive, things that are smaller and don’t require the upkeep that siding and flooring do 🙂

Maybe the next cottage will actually be on the beach…