2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog again.   I am pleased to see that there were 2,300 views this year.  It’s not a lot in general – definitely not for a ‘successful’ blog – but it’s a great thing for me.  And it’s 100 more times than last year.

Progress, she is good. 😉

My year in review:

– My son turned 18!  He is an adult now.  It’s kind of scary how much time has passed but I do love the man he is becoming.

– He also graduated high school and began an apprenticeship for mechanics.  He works his ass off and I couldn’t be prouder.

– My daughter just turned 15!  Tall, gorgeous, funny and an honour roll student, she’s someone I am pleased to have in my life.

– The Boyfriend and I celebrated three years together. I am so pleased to have him in my life I can’t tell you.  It’s a wholly different relationship than any I have had before.  It began with a conscious decision not to make the mistakes of the past.

– The Grandbaby turned a year old too.  She is getting to be quite big too.  She is a happy little thing.  We haven’t seen her in a long time.  I am hoping 2015 brings her into our lives more often.

I did Shades of Pink again, though I didn’t succeed at NaNo this year.

Let’s see…  What am I forgetting?

Oh yes!

I got to go to Scotland.   The dream I have dreamt my entire life has finally come true.  Now, of course, I am determined to go back.

There have been some lows – like my back  – but I wouldn’t trade the last year for anything.

What’s in store for 2015?   A move, most definitely.  I think we’ll get our house this year.  Possibly back surgery, definitely rehab.  A lot of editing!  I am determined to get HW1 back on the market and follow it up with HW2.  I’d also like to see Lizendale and Vini, Vidi, Vici out there too.   A friend of mine has a marketing plan for his book that involves me.  I think I will try to be more sociable among the other bloggers, especially the ones I follow.  After all, how can you expect to get looked at if you don’t do any looking too?  

And lots more photography.  Getting out there to do it isn’t easy right now but I am trying.  I have a few pictures to post for you tomorrow, I think.  Maybe Thursday, start the year off in a gorgeous way.

I am off to get breakfast, blast some music and do some writing.

You guys rock and it makes me happy every time someone likes my blog or I see in my stats that people are looking.  Please, please click on the link in your emails so I can see where you’re coming from!

Muah

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Gratitude 2014

I have been trying to write this blog in my mind before putting pen to paper (as it were), as I do so much of my writing, but it’s been difficult.  

In fact, I wrote that yesterday.  I don’t understand why a blog about gratitude is troubling me so.  This holiday has plagued me with difficulties and stress and strain.  I would like to say that those sorts of things have never stopped me from finding the light but it has.  I spent many a dark year stuck in the loop of negativity.  

My MRI results, by the way, were not at all positive.  There is no solution to the problems I face but maybe there is a way to slow down the loss of the use of my legs.  I know that people live all over the world with arthritis in their hips.  I was diagnosed with it in the left one some time ago but now it’s in both.  

I don’t know the first thing about disc desiccation though.  I guess I will find out when I visit the spine clinic on the thirteenth. 

As for gratitude…   Let’s start with this:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. ~Melody Beattie

“It turns denial into acceptance.”   

Ain’t that the truth?  

I know that when I was diagnosed with FMS at 22 I didn’t accept it.  I fought it for years.  Oh, I spent some time pretending.  I spent some time faking at caring for my body (and did it well too, until other circumstances came up – like a minor complication with my second pregnancy and 5 abdominal surgeries).  Then my marriage ended and my life changed drastically.  I was suddenly a single mother, with shared custody.  I met a man who showed me, again, that people can be untrustworthy, abusive and cheats.  He trapped me in the US for quite some time.

It was after I came home, after my ex-husband helped me get home, that I began to see the light in my life, that I learned what gratitude is.

No.  That’s wrong.

It’s when I began to learn what gratitude is. 

To me, gratitude isn’t about just saying thank you, although that is certainly a big part of it.  Saying thank you is a very simple act that can mean the world to the person you are saying them to.  Saying those eight little letters can mean the difference between a harsh feeling and a good one, for you and the receiver.  

Being thankful is an important part of gratitude.  It took me a long time to learn how to say thank you without embarrassment.  Sometimes, it’s very difficult to do.  Sometimes, you need to find alternatives to the words.  Other times, you need to find ways to both say it and show your gratitude.  If someone offers, I usually tell them to pay it forward.  It is nice to do for the nice but the nice most often don’t want such things done for them in return for them to feel appreciated.

They would rather see that kindness extended to someone else.  After all, you never know who may need it most.  Even something so [seemingly] small as a smile can change the way a person is thinking that day.

Gratitude is a way of life, to me.  It’s about kindness, a positive attitude, a lack of expectations (which is a whole other blog but I will attempt to get into it a bit here), it’s about … being Light.  It’s a way of life.  

Oh, I said that already.  But it’s true.  It’s not easy to get there, it’s not easy to stay there.  It takes a daily conscious decision.  Sometimes, several times a day.  Take, for instance, my MRI results.  I was grateful to get them, let me tell you.  Knowing what is wrong cleared up a few of the clouds in my brain.  Of course, it ushered in other ones, but we’re getting there.

I was angry, depressed, angry. I couldn’t see past the eventual destruction of my lower back. Couldn’t see past needing a wheelchair and not being able to walk more than a few steps.  I couldn’t see past being a burden to everyone – more so than I already imagine I am.  

But…  I have a wonderful support system and, even though they unintentionally made me feel like I wasn’t allowed to be angry,  I did come around to seeing that they adore me (as I do them) and simply wanted to tell me, to show me, that life is not all about being able to walk.   I have been afraid of this degeneration my entire life, of being alone in it.  I am not alone.  I am well cared for, by those both near and afar, and I mustn’t forget it.

It is because of them that I constantly remind myself that there is much to be grateful for.

I do not expect anything of the people around me.  I do not expect that they will be there when I need them, (ahh… most of them would be aghast that I said such a thing but it is true);  I hope that they will be.  I do not expect that the government will honour our contract every month; I hope they do.  I do not expect that my daughter will come home safely from school every day; I certainly hope she does.  I do not expect that The Boyfriend will pick me up every Friday, or even that he will love me as he does every single day; I hope so.  

Each time these things happen, I am grateful.  I say thank you – for listening, for the ability to pay my bills, for my daughter’s health, for the opportunity to spend time with him.  I say thank you to the individual, to the Gods, to the Universe.  I smile at (almost) everyone I meet, whether I  have a smile in me or not; most often I surprise myself and manage to find one.  Sometimes I get a smile back, sometimes I don’t.   That’s fine too; I like to think they’ve taken it and passed it on to someone else when they have had a moment to feel better.

Ms Beattie’s words about gratitude turning a meal into a feast, a stranger into a friend are right on the money.  Every time you show gratitude, every time you say thank you, pass on a kindness – or start a kindness – you are allowing more light into your life, more positivity, more room for blessings.  Each time you allow a little in you attract a little more.

What am I grateful for?

Peter, my children, my best friends, my Family – both blood and chosen.  I am grateful for the roof over my head, for my cat, for my social worker, my OT and my pain doc.  

I am grateful for every breath, every step (especially those aided by my walker, because it allows me more freedom), every meal. 

I am grateful to be able to allow the Light into my life.  

And I am grateful for you.  

May 2015 be full of magic. May all the sorrows of the past year dissolve in the light of love. And may all tears shed dry to dust to be blown away by laughter. (That was a stretch, eh?  It is what I wish for you though.)

I hope, finally, that prayers are answered and that all you deserve comes to you.

I leave you with my favourite piece of music.  This is the most wonderful version I have heard.  

Muah.

Holiday Trappings

Sad but bright

Sad but bright

Merry Christmas, happy Yule, happy Hanukkah and happy Diwali!

Do I have everyone covered? 🙌

I put out some of the decorations at the beginning of December.  Today, I finally put up the tree.  Got the lights on and some garland (after the picture).  I realized that I need a new tree.  I think I knew that last year and didn’t do anything about it.  *laughs*  The tree is bent, missing branches and while I was putting it up bits of the ‘fir’ were falling off – much to my cat’s joy.

My daughter will add the rest of the decorations and then I will put the angel on top.

That will be the extent of the decor.  Merry making will be small.

Family gathered will consist of my children, The Boyfriend and possibly my ex-husband and his girlfriend.  She has surgery on the 18th and radiation therapy for a few weeks after that.   They may not be up to doing anything more than sitting on a couch and watching Christmas morning unwrap in front of them.

For me, Christmas is a time of stress, joy and a lot of work.  It’s massively important to me to carry on the feelings and traditions from my childhood – warmth, family, generosity, love.  Unfortunately, I put a lot of pressure on myself.

(Oh good grief!  I started this post three days ago.  Shit happened and I promptly forgot about it.  Let’s see if I can finish it.)

This year is particularly hard.  Partly because I have to watch my ex-husband, whom I count as a friend (though sometimes it’s difficult), suffer through watching his girlfriend deal with breast cancer.  He is standing by her in everything and that is excellent.  She had the tumor removed yesterday and everything points towards the cancer being completely gone just by surgery, so I’m hopeful.

In larger part because I have to watch someone I love get hurt over and over again in a (VERY!) bad marriage they can’t get out of without losing the children.  They also wouldn’t thank me for talking about it.

Mostly though, it’s because of my health.  

Maybe I wasn’t meant to finish this post until today because of what happened yesterday.  I had my MRI Monday evening and they told me that Doc S would be able to access the results on the hospital’s e-net.  Found out yesterday that he couldn’t do that because he doesn’t have privileges at that hospital and we have to wait until they fax it to him.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to talk about it when I have my infusion on Monday.

Two things happened yesterday that spiraled me further down into a major fit of depression and two crying jags – one of which lasted quite a while. 

First, while we were in my appointment and talking about the lack of MRI results I said, “I hope it shows something – ” here Doc S finished my sentence with me “- that can be fixed.”    Then he chuckled almost apologetically and gave me a sad smile.  “I wouldn’t depend on that,” he said.

What the fuck!   

Then we went shopping for walkers.  What a depressing experience that was.  It wasn’t that the shop or staff were bad or even that the atmosphere was.  It was that I’m 41 and we were buying me a permanent assisted living device. 

Ugh.  

Spent part of yesterday evening crying.

Then this morning I read my tarot card choices for yesterday.  It’s something I started on a whim – choosing one of the cards a local psychic offers on Facebook every morning.  Most of the time, the cards actually have good messages on them that are appropriate.   Yesterday’s cards are no different.  

The first one is called “The River Queen” and it reminds me that life is fluid.  There is very little rigidity to it.  Things fluctuate, flow and change out of necessity. To me, the only unchanging things about life (besides bills! *laughs*) is that we breathe.  Even that isn’t permanent but as long as we are living, we breathe.  And to get along in life we must remember to breathe, deeply, and let things flow from us with the exhalation.  Breathe in peace, breathe out stress.  Namasté. 

The other card is “The High Lady of Love and Compassion.”  She reminds us that love is our life force.  That love is real and that we are made from it.  “We align ourselves and are conscious of who we really are when we have compassion, generosity, reverence, respect, empathy, courage, faith, hope, integrity, persistence; all leading to brotherly love. The High Lady is here to remind you that you are never alone, always loved and cherished.”

I couldn’t have said that better.  It also reminds me that somewhere in the last few weeks, I’ve forgotten about positive thinking and, to a large degree, gratitude.  

So, for Christmas, I will be posting a gratitude blog and I encourage you to spend the next few days thinking about all the things you are grateful for.  This is a very material time of year – from American Thanksgiving to Christmas – and people lose sight of what the holidays are about.   Stop and think, for just a few moments.

And I will try to slog my way out of this depression.  It’s not chemical, it’s situational, but once depression has its claws in you it doesn’t matter what’s causing it, it is difficult to battle.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and I hope that you can too.  

Breathe.

She is beautiful

She is beautiful

Eclectic Collection Part Two & the Name the Macro game!

Good morning!  I have an eclectic mix of pictures and an anecdote for you this morning.  I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written.  Life is still more stressful than usual and it’s taking its toll on everything.  Hoping some of it will resolve itself a little this week.  I have my MRI on Monday and I hope they can have preliminary results to my pain doc by Thursday (though I am doubtful).  

Enough about that now.  On with the pictures! 

So, every Saturday, I feed the squirrels. They get a piece of bread with pb, some sunflower seeds and (on Sundays too) the core of my apple. There are two who take advantage of this most often – a black one and a grey/brown one with tan ears.  

Isn't he cute?  I know the colour is horrible.  Took the picture (through the living room window)  before I realized I needed to change my camera settings.  Did the best I could to fix it though.

Isn’t he cute? I know the colour is horrible. Took the picture (through the living room window) before I realized I needed to change my camera settings. Did the best I could to fix it though.

Yesterday, Tan Ears scared the bejesus out of me by plastering himself to the living room window like a starfish on a tank wall about 2 minutes after I’d put everything out. Then he proceeded to hide or eat every single piece of food out there, except for two little scraps of bread. Even licking the pb off the railing.  

The stuff he chose not to eat.   He came back later to pick through it.   Because he's greedy like that.

The stuff he chose not to eat. He came back later to pick through it. Because he’s greedy like that.  (And yes, I rotated the canvas on purpose)

I put my apple core out this morning – along with a blackberry, as an experiment – and before I’d managed to sit down with my tea and breakfast he was already there.  He ran up the tree with a piece of apple and ate it before systematically hiding every other piece of core.  The he sat on the railing and ate both halves of the blackberry like I eat chocolate – quickly before someone can steal it but with great enjoyment.

I need a name for him though.  “Cute Tan Ears” is somewhat unwieldy.  “Fluffy Tail” doesn’t work either.  Maybe just “Fluffy”… hmmm…. 

A few weeks ago we got a smattering of snow.  I wandered around the cottage taking pictures for you.  I have three of my favourites.  I like them for the textures and the colours.  

First up, one from my favourite plant in the yard – the Snowball Bush (aka Viburnum opulus “Roseum”).  I love the dark glossy leaves in the spring, the numerous globes of tiny white flowers in the summer and the bright red leaves in the fall.  And with our (really light) snow fall the bush (tree? It’s huge) got even prettier.

Isn't it gorgeous? I love the texture of the snow  and the lines of the leaves.

Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the texture of the snow and the lines of the leaves.

Next, my favourite evergreen – a Juniper (that I’m allergic to).    

The white on green is deliciously crisp. The snow is a bunch of tiny balls, rather than the typical flat flakes.

The white on green is deliciously crisp. The snow is a bunch of tiny balls, rather than the typical flat flakes.

Lastly, the blanket we had on the clothesline.  I bought my daughter a new blanket for her bed but in order for it to come into my home it has to be at least 75% safe, even though it’s on her bed, so it was airing out for a while.  It too got snowed on.

Bright pink and bright white.  It's the girlie version of black and white. ;)

Bright pink and bright white. It’s the girlie version of black and white. 😉

Next are a couple of macros.  

The first one was taken when The Boyfriend was working on his newest walking stick.  I wanted to try and take a macro of it.  I pretty much didn’t get what I wanted out of it but, I believe, I was taking it with my phone camera.  This is the best one of the lot.

I do like the sunlight in the amber.  Love the texture of the bark.

I do like the sunlight in the amber. Love the texture of the bark.

Speaking of macros…  Iiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Name that Macro time!!

This game comes to you from the perversion of my mind and, incidentally, has no prizes and you get nothing out of it but the answer.

And really… a real “wtf!?” feeling. 😉

This is a close up of a reaction to the application of freezing temperatures.

This is a close up of a reaction to the application of freezing temperatures.

Can you guess?  Let me know in the comments.

Finally, a picture I took hobbling down the road in an attempt to go for a walk a couple of weeks ago.  I liked the contrast of the dark branches against the pale grey sky.  Then, of course, I had to play with it in Photoshop.  Made it look all purdy-like.

Love this!   I treated the background with Hue & Saturation to turn the sky purple.

I treated the background with Hue & Saturation to turn the sky purple as an experimentation.  I absolutely love how it came out.

That’s all for me today, folks!  I am hoping to be able to get more pictures taken this week, I do enjoy it.  Maybe somewhere new, like Victoria Park in London.  They put their lights up, it should be nice.

I am going to do some writing, do some cooking, some shopping and maybe a walk.  Though combining grocery shopping and a walk may be ambitious.

Have a great day!

Muah.

EDIT:  I figured I should put the answer to the Name Game in the blog:  

 

*drum rolllll*  

It’s potato soup!  

I made bacon-potato-leek soup last weekend and The Boyfriend froze the leftovers.  He must have filled the jar too much and the Mason jar cracked.   The soup turned into this unappetizing (but still good when reheated with added fluid) sponge.  It was really awesome close up.  

See?

Totally cool!

Totally cool!

 

Speaking of Holidays…

Well, first, I wanted to share something with you.

I entered a photo contest!

I checked, used the auto-levels and auto-colour just to be sure I hadn't accidentally used a different setting.  All came out the same.

I checked, used the auto-levels and auto-colour just to be sure I hadn’t accidentally used a different setting. All came out the same.

I entered this photo – taken in January ’13 and first shared (with the above caption) with you about then – in a local contest.  The Lambton Mutual Insurance Company wanted photos from the area that showed the local geography to the best advantage.  I chose this picture, since I can’t get out there and wander around right now, and submitted it.    The picture with the most votes wins but because I entered through my personal FB I won’t be sharing the link to vote with you.  I try to keep my real name separate from my author name.

Paranoia.  It happens.  *laughs*

Speaking of the holidays…  For Father’s Day this year I gave my dad a short story.

Technically, I gave him the promise of a short story.

Father’s Day, in North America, is in June.  JUNE!

I have been neglectful (largely because of the trip) and my father has been super understanding. Thankfully.

However, I have finally, FINALLY, figured it out.  I don’t have a title yet but basically, the story goes something like this:  (Keep in mind that while I have and will do my best to keep the Druidic beliefs true in this story, any ceremonies and the association are fiction)

Keith Webb is a Druid.  He’s the youngest leader ever in the Associated Order of Druids.  The AOD was established in the UK in the 1940s.  Keith met an AOD Druid named August “call me Auggie” Stone in the late ’60s when he was just fourteen years old.   Growing up as he did on an acreage full of trees and gardens, raised by a mother who had a natural reverence for nature, Keith had an ingrained respect for the world.  When he read a certain set of books by JRR Tolkien, he began to think that there was a certain level of interconnectedness between all the creatures of the world and the planet itself.

When he met Auggie, he learned that there were people who worked with Nature and the power of the planet to try to better the world.  He soaked up knowledge like a sponge and rose through the ranks quickly.  At the age of 17 he met a girl who was also visiting the commune Auggie lived in.  Free love was rampant and the pair fell into each other’s arms.  They thought they would never see each other again but managed to conceive a child from their single union.

They married in order to keep their parents from forcing them to give the child up for adoption.  A wedding at 18 wasn’t something either wanted, they barely knew one another.  The marriage was uncomfortable and at times volatile.  It ended when the baby, a girl named Katie, was three years old and Keith’s wife died of pneumonia complications.

Suddenly widowed with a toddler, Keith turned to the Order for help.  Within four years, the Order had established a private boarding school with Keith as the Headmaster.  The school taught the children of AOD members, along with others who made the strict requirements required for entrance.  The school ran from grade 1 and allowed students who continued to adhere to the strict and exacting standards to remain until high school graduation.  Keith taught history, the basics of core Druid beliefs to the younger children and taught would-be Initiates as they came of age.

The children of the school are a mix of scholarships and children of the wealthy and well-known – stars, politicians, and high society.

The story begins when Katie is twelve years old, just before Yule and the Winter Solstice.   It also happens to be 1985.

Okay, so there was some character background in there.  *laughs*

The plot outline looks like this:

Chapter One:  An introduction to Keith and his reflections on his past.  Intro to Katie and her abilities.

Chapter Two:  Early morning class for Initiates about to be dedicated to the Order.  Talks about what will happen

Chapter Three: Katie is in class, English lit, her favourite with her best friend Carla, waiting on the teacher.  A substitute teacher appears and begins class.  The teacher seems to favour Carla heavily.  Carla is the daughter of widowed stage actor JR Metzak.  (Katie are Carla became friends because they both have deceased mothers.)

Chapter Four:  Bell rings and the teacher releases most of the class but slams the door and locks it before Katie, Carla and two others (one an AOD son and the other the daughter of a Witch) can leave.

Chapter Five:  Keith initiates conversation with the woman, asks what she wants.  Is shocked to hear the answer.   Phones police and parents of the hostages.   Katie stands between woman and classmates, creates a shield

Chapter Six: Keith is devastated to learn Katie is in the room.   Coordinates with police.  Calls the AOD for help.  Speaks again to the woman, gives a command to Katie.

Chapter Seven:  Katie gleefully follows the order.

Chapter Eight: Children are rescued, woman is arrested.

Chapter Nine:  Further aftermath

Chapter Ten:  Winter Solstice, wrap up.

It’s meant to be a short story.  Looks like it will be bordering on novella, given that my chapter lengths tend to be 1,000 to 1,400 words.  It should be fun to write.  

And I am pleased that I am excited about writing again.  I was hit with some inspiration yesterday about this story and now I find myself wanting to look at the HW series again and see if the excitement and inspiration follows there.  Discipline is something I need to re-familiarize myself with.  Between my stresses, my pain levels and the worry about my back, my mind wanders, which is also influenced by the toxings I suffer from daily.   We’ll see how it goes with a sincere effort.    Meanwhile, I’m off to develop Katie and  the antagonist a bit more.  

Have a wonderful weekend!  

Muah.