Your personal invitation to my 100th Blog Post Party!

When I first clicked “Publish” back in September I had no idea where this blog was going. It evolved, along with my newly restored ability to go for long walks, out of my time off work to recover from hip replacement surgery. My initial goals were to give myself an excuse to write more regularly, and to find an audience for my writing. The blog has been a success on both counts. While I haven’t been able to maintain the same pace since going back to work, I have managed to post at least once or twice a week even in my busiest times. I have been “Freshly Pressed” and managed to amass over 1000 followers– some of whom appear to be actual human beings, and a few of whom are actually interested in reading what I’ve written (as opposed to trying to entice me to buy their products or join their pyramid schemes… but hey, nobody said this was a perfect world.)

Yes, my daughter made this. From scratch. Did I mention her cakes were epic? The figures are made out of coloured chocolate. She even made the fondant. When I was 16 I hadn’t even heard of fondant.

Turns out, the best things about blogging are those actual human beings — both the ones who read and comment on my blog, and the ones whose writing engages and inspires me daily. So when I pondered how I could mark the milestone of my 100th blog post, it occurred to me that what I really wanted to do was to celebrate with those people whose blogs have been such an inspiration to me.

There are, however, some obvious logistical barriers. Most of my blogging friends live very far from me and from one another, and many of them blog anonymously. So as much as I would like to have my daughter whip up one of her epic cakes and have my blogging buddies over for a party, it’s not going be feasible.

Unless I make it a virtual party!

So, welcome to my 100th Blog Post Party. Break out the balloons, pour yourself a glass of your beverage of choice, and I’ll take you around the room and introduce you to the other guests.

There’s Matt from Must Be This Tall To Ride. Matt has just come through the toughest year of his life, but he has distilled an incredible amount of wisdom out of the pain of his divorce. I look forward daily to his insightful writing as he navigates his single life and the challenges of part-time parenting. And speaking of distilling tough life experiences into some amazing writing, I’d like you to meet Fish of Gold, Ziya Tamesis at A Day with Depression and Jess at The Fevered Pen.

I have become very fond of little Phillip through the stories and pictures his mom shares on That Cynking Feeling. Elizabeth at Living with Autism also blogs eloquently about her experiences parenting her autistic son, Dylan.

I’m impressed by those bloggers who can manage to produce interesting reading day in and day out, like Alienora Taylor at ALIEN AURA’S BLOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND! , Doobster at Mindful Digressions and Pat at Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss.

As a “woman of a certain age,” it has been a delight to share my midlife journey with the likes of Bulging Buttons, Elyse at FiftyFour and a Half, and Renee at Life in the Boomer Lane.

Some of you, like Tyler Pedersen at The Ancient Eavesdropper, make beautiful pictures.

Some of you make me think, like Ryan at Rumblings.

Some of you make me laugh, like Arden at Writing While Wining (Caturday!)

Lots of you make me laugh while you’re making me think.

I could go on.

Come to think of it, it’s just as well this is a virtual party. I don’t think I have enough dessert plates to invite everyone.

Welcome one and all. I’m glad to have you in my life. Let the partying begin!

party
I promise I won’t make you wear the hats. That’s a Christmas party thing in my world. But if you DO have a tissue paper hat kicking around and you WANT to wear it to my blog party, I won’t judge.

 

Postscript: Since I just posted this a few days ago, I’m going to cheat and link it up to today’s Daily Prompt.  Because it’s my party and I’ll cheat if I want to!

 

 

 

Strive to thrive

Today’s Daily Prompt asks, “Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it? Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of? Tell us how you work best…. show us PRESSURE.”

Do I thrive under pressure? Frankly, I’m never sure how to respond to this question. Do I handle myself well under pressure? Absolutely. I have a reputation for being able to do good work quickly. I’m good at improvising solutions. In a crisis, I’m the one who copes.

The truth is, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I have high expectations. I’m apt to hand things in ahead of the deadline– sometimes just because I worked quickly and got the task done early, and sometimes because I set my own deadline, earlier than the real one, so that I could be absolutely sure I would be done on time.

I was in grade four when I first appreciated the tyranny of my own high standards. I had a big social studies project due: something along the lines of “Everything There Is to Know About Australia That Can Be Derived from Back Issues of National Geographic.” (This was, after all, pre-internet.) I had done a fair bit of work, but I had also done a fair bit of procrastinating. The project was due on Monday morning. Sunday night rolled around and I wasn’t done. I went to bed with my stomach in knots. I had never failed to hand in an assignment on time unless I was sick. I didn’t know what the teacher would say, but I could imagine no  consequence more horrifying than Miss Miller’s disapproval.

Morning came, and I got up and got dressed for school with the demeanor of one preparing for execution. By breakfast, I had worked myself into such a state of anxiety that I was feeling physically ill.

My mom was astute enough to see through the root cause of my ailment. She gently suggested that if I wasn’t feeling well I should probably stay home for the morning, and we would see if I felt better after lunch. I asked her if it would be OK if I worked on my project. She just smiled, nodded sagely, and said that would probably be OK — if I felt up to it.

By lunchtime the project was finished and, miraculously, so was my mysterious stomach ailment. I went off to school for the afternoon, vowing to myself that I would never again put myself in the situation where I was late with an assignment.

There, have, of course, been times since then when I have had to ask for extra time to complete a task. I learned that I could ask for extra time without making myself ill over it. But I still don’t like it if I can’t meet a deadline, no matter how legitimate the reason. The truth is, I think I’ve learned to cope well under pressure by taking control of the pressure — by exerting the lion’s share of the pressure on myself.

Do I thrive under pressure? I’m not sure thrive is the right word. I get a lot done under pressure. I do good work under pressure.  But thrive?

A better path
A better path

When I was on leave recovering from my hip replacement, I had a glimpse of what life would be like without the kind of pressure that has become my norm. I was in better physical shape than usual — in spite of just having had surgery– because I was exercising more  than usual every day. I was more creative — and more creatively productive– than I have been in a long time because I had time to focus, and because the daily walks fuelled my imagination. In short, I experienced something far closer to what I would call thriving than I have ever encountered under even the most exhilarating pressure.

At least now I know what I’m really striving for.

Impact

Today’s Daily Prompt: Tell us about a habit you’d like to break. Is there any way it can play a positive role in your life?

I like meteors.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks around August 9-14 every year. Like most events in the night sky, it is best viewed far away from the ubiquitous light pollution of urban areas. I’ve often been fortunate to be at the family cottage where we can lie on the dock, away from even the obscuring effect of the cottage lights, and listen to the lapping of the water and the distant cry of a loon while we watch for “shooting stars.”

Lying next to that particular body of water to observe bits of space rock burst into flame as they enter the earth’s atmosphere is made extra exotic by the fact that West Hawk Lake is actually a meteor impact crater. It is, therefore, hard not to contemplate the reality that once upon a time one of those pretty lights shooting through the night sky fell all the way and hit the earth right where you are lying–with enough impact to make a hole in the ancient granite of the Canadian Shield that is approximately 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in diameter and 115 metres (377 feet) deep. It’s enough to make one go rooting around in the shed for dad’s old hard-hat.

Shooting stars are a beautiful sight when you are privileged to catch a glimpse of one. Perhaps because they are so ephemeral, they have throughout history acquired near-mystical significance. People once saw them as divine omens. We make wishes on them. But in reality all that magical beauty is just the long-distance view of something crashing into the upper atmosphere and being destroyed by the resulting conflagration.

That’s a less lovely image. In fact, it sound kind of messy.

Pretty nice for a hole in the ground...
Pretty nice for a hole in the ground…

Judging from the way the rocks are jumbled along the shoreline, I assume that, when the meteorite (which is what you call a meteor that actually lands) landed in the middle of the stretch of Canadian Shield that is now West Hawk Lake, it was extremely messy. Today,  the outcome of that catastrophic impact is an exquisite, spring-fed lake that has been my family’s summer destination for three generations.

We may wish on shooting starts, but it’s the meteorite landing that has the biggest impact.

I had my own crash-and-burn moment this week. In spite of my best efforts to ease myself back in gently, my first few days back at work after my leave left me feeling very much like I was hurtling into the atmosphere with enough force to ignite.

For one thing, there were some organizational changes announced just prior to my first day back, so I walked straight into the predictable tizzy that results from any such announcement. On top of that, this is a super busy time of year in my office. We are currently short-staffed. And of course, there was the shock of the overall pace and complexity of it all after so many leisurely days of doing, and thinking about, one thing at a time. But all that wasn’t really enough to explain why my head exploded.

Then about halfway through the week something shifted. I realized that I had fallen into an old habit that never serves me well: the habit of believing that I’m stuck in a rut, when in reality the tools to pull myself out of it have been in my hands all along. I realized that the greatest gift of my three month break from the familiar wasn’t all the fun I had while I was away, but rather a renewed clarity about things when I came back. I saw that for the umpteenth time in my life I had slipped into convincing myself that my work was something that happened to me, rather than something that was mine to create.

I remembered what I liked about my job: I have the great good fortune to be in a position to make an impact.

Marilyn Monroe is reputed to have said, “Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

I may be a little singed by the time I hit the ground, but when I do, I intend to leave a mark.

Many is the new Domestic

Note sure what the folks over at the Daily Prompt were smoking this morning! Today’s suggestion is: Click over to your favorite blog, and pick out the 4th and 14th words (that aren’t “the” or “an”). Drop them into this phrase:

“_____ is the new _____.”

There’s your post title. Now write!

Some days I think it would be nice to come home and curl up in a box.
Some days I think it would be nice to come home and curl up in a box.

I’ve had a long day. First day back at work after three months leave. No easing back in. I decided the only way to quit the quiet DOMESTIC life of my leave of absence was cold turkey. It’s not as though my job is physically taxing like, say, hanging drywall. But it can be mentally exhausting. Today it was that in spades. You know those days when you aren’t sure you really want to be a grownup? Then I made a dash after work to visit an elderly friend who is in hospital recovering from major surgery. Then another dash to pick up my daughter. And, well, I’m tired.

And now the flying devil creatures in Daily Promptland are asking me to choose my favourite (stubbornly spelled the Canadian way) blog! What next? Are you going to ask me which of my children I love the most? What kind of loser do you take me for?

My “favourite” blog is a moving target. My taste is very eclectic. Maybe I’m fickle.  But seriously, I’m hard pressed to choose which was my favourite blog of the last 24 hours, let along my favourite blog period! The options are too luscious, the well too deep!

But in spite of my fatigue, and in spite of my pique over today’s prompt, I won’t put off my next blog post until Saturday. I refuse to be beaten by this devilish prompt! So I cheated. I seeded my post with links to MANY of my favourites-of-the-moment. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but as good a representative smattering as you’re going to get on the few brain cells left at my disposal this evening.

I tend to prefer to write my titles at the conclusion of the writing process, after I’ve figured out what it was I had to say. So yes, I cheated again. I found the title in another of my current favourites, after writing out most of my little snit, and couldn’t believe my good fortune at how apt it was.

Feeling at home in the vast and varied blogosphere. Many is the new domestic.

Slow Down

Today’s Daily Prompt poses: Your entire community — however you define that; your hometown, your neighborhood, your family, your colleagues — is guaranteed to read your blog tomorrow. Write the post you’d like them all to see.

bank 1Although, as this blogger observes, I thought that’s what I was doing already, this one did give me pause. And here’s why—

This morning I decided to check out another walking venue that I haven’t  seen in many years. South of the city, along the same wiggly Seine River that winds past the old monastery, is a wooded area called La Barrière Park. It’s at least 25 years since I last set foot in this park. Then, I was a young teacher supervising a school picnic, surrounded by noisy teenagers. Today, aside from the maintenance crew and a couple of dog walkers, I pretty much had the place to myself.

But before that I got lost. To get to the park I had to drive through a new development that has been going up in the south end of the city. There are roads that are so new they aren’t on my map. And there are no meaningful landmarks—just acres and acres of huge, beige and grey boxes. At one point I ended up on a brand new stretch of road that ended abruptly in a massive dirt field. I came very close to just giving up and backtracking my way to a more familiar haunt, when suddenly I found myself on what I knew to be the right road, going in the right direction. Phew.

When I finally found my way into the park, I left my car alone in the parking lot and set out along  a rough maintenance road, past the picnic shelters and the baseball diamonds, over a solid footbridge, and into the woods.

pathThe forest was quiet. The sound of fallen leaves crunching softly beneath my shoes was occasionally punctuated by the rustle of a bird or squirrel moving through the branches above. The path was wide and well-maintained, but in such a way that it didn’t feel like a human construction. The only litter on the forest floor was the natural forest litter of fallen trees and broken branches, many of which were thick with moss. In one spot someone had perched a split log atop two adjoining tree stumps to fashion a primitive bench.

Something about the forest felt safe. Safer, I realized, than I felt driving around lost in the new subdivision.

Tomorrow is the last day of my leave. Monday I will be back at work. Back in the “real world” after many days spent walking and thinking and writing. It’s time to go back; the muscles around my new hip feel strong and my leg feels stable. When I step on the bus on Monday morning I won’t be carrying a cane.

forestBut I’m going to miss the slow rhythm of these days. I know I am going to have to fight to maintain the sense of equilibrium that I have found with all this time to squander. I’m going to have to be very intentional about making time to walk in the woods. Time to think. Time to write.

And the thing that bothers me most is that as a community we seem to accept that that will be the case. We accept that life is hectic. We accept that “busy” is the norm.

I want to continue to challenge that notion as my own “busy-ness” ramps up again in the coming weeks. I am determined to keep wandering in the woods, and not to get lost among the boxes.

And I want to challenge you, my community, to slow down. And go for a walk in the woods.

seine 2

Leaves

red 2    The leaves are changing colour. I used to think it was sad that the beauty of the autumn foliage signaled the end of the leaf’s life, until it occurred to me that the tree is not dying. It’s just shedding some worn out bits, the same way I shed my hair and skin cells. It’s getting ready to rest. To go on leave, as it were. To take a break for a while from its work of photosynthesizing until the snow melts and the sun warms the earth and the new growth emerges.

If I chase that thought of photosynthesis as work, it makes me think differently about the diverse colours of the fall leaves. It makes me think about the green sameness of the foliage when it is hard at work in the spring and summer of its life. Come fall when it stops working—when it goes on leave—is when it shows its true colours.

yellow 1I’m feeling that way these days. I’m on leave, but just for a brief season. Still, I’m feeling like I have finally been able to shake the green sameness of my work day out of my head and spend some time feeling, and being, my true colours. And now I’m wondering what it will be like when my leave is over—when I go back to my photosynthesis factory with all the other green leaves, doing the things that make us blend together.

Now that I’m over the hurdle of the immediate post-surgical period, this part of my leave feels a lot like retirement. I still have lots of exercising to do to build up the muscle around my new hip; but honestly, needing to go for lots and lots of walks hardly constitutes work in my universe. Going for a long walk every day is one of my true colours. So is having lots of open-ended time to listen to the aspens rustle in the wind while I play away at my creative writing and reading. So is having long stretches of solitude.

red 1When the time comes, I’m going back to a desk surrounded by concrete. To reading emails and writing reports. To meetings and more meetings and meetings about the meetings. It’s a good job, and all, but I think I need some different colours to shake up the green sameness of it all.

The seasons change. Spring will come back and the trees will once again be a riot of green. In a few weeks my own leave will be over and I will have to put some of the things I want do on the back burner to focus on the things I need to do, at least until it really is time to leave.

Perhaps in the meantime I could be one of those trees that sports purple leaves all summer long.