Sunday, January 26, 2020

Winterblues make me SAD

Stress and anxiety are not conducive to creativity and I am sorry for neglecting this space for so long. I have decided I either have to start posting here again or take the link off my instagram page so here goes.

There is no doubt about it in my mind: winter makes people sad. I was a winter baby and I like to say I never felt cold in winter til my mid twenties. I wore my running shoes, no long underwear and a leather jacket through the coldest months because I was too cool to feel the cold. I was one of those that said: I might not like it but it isn't a big deal. As I moved through my twenties towards my thirties; I was willing to admit that winter was hard but if you had the right kit you could throw yourself outdoors and get through it comfortably enough. Then I got to skip about 15 winters by moving to the tropics and I can't say I missed it although I tried to avoid ever complaining about the heat where we were.

Now I'm the crazy lady in a coat I could use as a sleeping bag, a silly but warm purple toque and muffled up to my sunglasses in a scarf at the bus stop saying: "at least it is sunny" when it is -20. I remember December-February to be a season of solidly sub zero temperatures in Ottawa. Now we have weeks rain and slushy mess while the temperature yo-yos from single digits above zero down to the deep cold of -20 and -30 Celsius. 

This is my third winter back in Ottawa. The first one hit me like a truck. The cold and dark were stressful and exhausting but there was stuff to do and we got through it. I started working at my current job at the start of our second winter. They say change is as good as a holiday so it wasn't as hard a winter for me because I was busy fitting in and I made a habit from the beginning to walk one or two legs of the public transit commute to my desk and home.

This winter has continued with the new normal with freakish yo-yo-ing of temperatures. The 50yr old Winterlude festival will have to take place more off than on the Rideau Canal Skateway because it becomes too messy and may even have to close if we have a week of plus zero temperatures just before or during the festivities. 

I am immensely grateful to live in a country that embraces and celebrates winter and that I have the resources and kit to keep myself and my family warm and busy through the darkest months. Throwing myself out of the house, volunteering for community and school events and enjoying the outdoors with my boys have rekindled an appreciation for our northern hemisphere seasons and kept the winter-blues at bay.

This winter, the obvious evidence of global warming affecting winter in Ottawa is exacerbating my winter blahs. So I'm finding relief in admitting to myself and others that my mental health struggles get worse at this time of year and I'm taking my self care up a notch by deliberately cultivating some good/better habits. This blog post is an effort at being more outgoingly creative. 

I've been keeping a habit tracker since March 2019 where I track both good and bad habits. Thanks to a daily habit of stopping and drawing little lines on a page in a journal, I'm consistently eating more servings of fresh fruit and veg and taking a vitamin D supplement and glucosamine for my ageing joints. I was tracking my steps on both my phone and my hand drawn tracker but I've given up on the former because I like the pretty patterns I draw for myself better than the electronic "badges" the tracker was awarding me. Keeping track of my alcohol consumption has helped reign in on that and on other habits that can become destructively compulsive like too much screen time.

SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a medicalized label for what i believe is a spectrum of emotions and physical effects we all suffer to some degree or another diagnosed or admitted or not. I started habit tracking to address GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). Learning and practicing coping and resilience strategies sometimes feels silly or even meaningless but making colourful lines on my habit tracker brings a little light into the dark days of winter and helped me focus through the mad days of summer. I'm going to keep it up for now.

Wishing all comfort and peace wherever you are. TTFN

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Thankful for the Space to be Me

When the going gets tough, I like to sort, organize and thus firmly set my sights on moving forward positively -- or at least with my bed made and the filing done. So this week I made this chatterbox/fortune teller/fidget folder and I have started handing them out to the good spirits that surround us and even popped a couple in the mail. It has been so much fun think there might be more. Let me know if you have a mess or collection that you'd like help with.

Chatterbox One References and Notes – Clockwise from the gold star at the top of the top left picture
Background is copy of a copy of a Tanzanian work permit
A picture of origami boxes with 2boys’ Shiny Turd
A clipping of jet silhouettes from the Canadian Aviation Museum’s floorplan handout
Inspirational words on sticker imported from Taiwan by a company called MultiCraft
Star stickers were imported from China by CTG Brands Inc.
A clipping from a picture of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from a Prelude programme produced by the NAC.
The sloppy mannaz rune was chosen to enhance relationships and was inscribed in silver Sharpie
Background drawing of a shooting star and words by Boy2
Clipping of an inspirational quote from Einstein on a sticker in the same packet from MultiCraft. Full quote on sticker: Learn from yesterday. Live for today. Hope for tomorrow. According to  The he finished the thought with:
The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Star stickers were imported from China by CTG Brands Inc.
Zimbabwe Ruins detail c.2004
The rune for “need” was inscribed in silver Sharpie but I’m glad it doesn’t show up very well
Detail of a picture of a bridge from a card my Dad send me in the mail in 2017
Words from Simon’s poem in the Republic of Childhood
Zimbabwe Ruins detail c.2004
The rune for “dice cup” or “vulva” was inscribed in silver Sharpie
Background clipping from an airplane notebook my Mum gave us
Words from Simon’s poem in the Republic of Childhood and from my business card
Star and sunglasses emoji stickers were imported from China by CTG Brands Inc.
Clipping from a picture on an entry ticket to Canadian Museum of Nature
The rune for “torch” was inscribed in silver Sharpie
Bee picture shot at the Round House Dar es Salaam c.2010
Live for today is part of the quote from Einstein as explained above
Zimbabwe Ruins detail c.2004
The rune for “day” was inscribed in silver Sharpie for positive outcomes
A copy of the cover of The Republic of Childhood – a chapbook of poetry by the Fisher Park Summit Alternative Poetry Collective presented by the Ottawa International Writers Festival in November 2017
Hope for tomorrow is part of the quote from Einstein as explained above
Monument where a road crosses the Tropic of Capricorn in South Africa detail c.2004
The rune Raido for “journey or path” inscribed in silver Sharpie
Our Defender Puma near Lake Malawi c.2010
Words from Simon’s poem in Republic of Childhood
Monument where a road crosses the Tropic of Capricorn in South Africa detail c.2004
The rune algiz for protection was inscribed in silver Sharpie
I clipped my husband out of a picture shot of him working on a job in Dar es Salam then printed in a corporate magazine c.2009
He’s now flanked by a picture of a tower near Niagra Falls clipped from a tourist picture we had taken as a family then printed on a shot of the falls at night when we were there in 2014
The crest is on a plane displayed at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and was clipped from a Treasure Hunt handout 2boys enjoyed working on there
Words from the header of page 2 of The Republic of Childhood
My cell and email coordinates
Star stickers were imported from China by CTG Brands Inc.
A clipping from a picture of the National Arts Center in Ottawa from a Prelude programme produced by the NAC.
The rune yera was inscribed with silver Sharpie

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ramblings of a Whenwe

I’ll leave the blog name for now but I had to change the byline. Change. It’s slow to come and fast to happen no matter where you are. After 12 years in Tanzania, I’m back in Canada with 2/3boys. Importing DH is at the top of my to do list.

About a month ago we were getting on a city bus with our backpacks, going out to the burbs to stay with my folks for a night or two when Boy B asked: “Mom, are we refugees?” “Nope, we’re economic migrants who are very lucky not to be living in the Jungle,” I replied to amused glances from a couple other riders. Either that or they were smiling with pity at 2boys for their mother’s ranting.

No more empty promises on regular posts. As ever, I am so very grateful for some real encouragement and support to properly make this a regular exercise. What’s different when you land in your hometown among old friends and family after more than 15years away? Everything and nothing. I’m keeping notes and digging through notebooks from a life that I left only 9weeks ago but it feels like a lifetime.

We’ve been moving since 01January this year and it is really good allow ourselves to settle in. We’re feeling very fortunate to have landed and moved very quickly into a comfortable house with an easygoing room mate. Having time to take time to get to know our neighbourhood and settle into housekeeping for ourselves is a blessing that is a challenge to put into practice but we’re getting there.

I had some business cards made up with this picture. The colour is a little washed out in print. The stone in the background is Ugandan granite. It is a grain grinding stone that DH picked up along the highway in Uganda on a route survey trip some years ago. The shell shaped object is called the Shiny Turd or something equally scatologically funny to 9 and 12yr olds. They made it by melting down their fishing weights in one of our last bonfires by the ocean in Dar es Salaam. They poured the molten metal into a shell – which may have been a smallish land snail shell BTW – and then when it had cooled, they broke the shell away. I folded up the boxes from animal print origami paper my sister gave me ages ago. They represent my empathy with every other human being trying to get and keep their shit together. Peace and love to all.

Monday, February 20, 2017 A picture is worth #1000words Dear Mama Keeping in touch. Sorry. I’ve neglected this space for so long. Some lovely folk have been encouraging me to write/publish so I’m going to riff on some of the pictures I’ve been sharing on Instagram. Having joined relatively recently, I am quite enjoying Instagram because the pictures are accompanied by stories and comments and links that take me to interesting places. If it occurs to anyone to click on the link to my blog it would be good to find something recent. I posted this pic from Dodoma when I was there on a school trip with Boy B. A week in the company of 41 eight and nine year olds was an adventure of note. It was really good to get home. I can now look back on it fondly from the other side of the second weekend back at home. We’re still unpacking from a quick post Christmas move. I reckon that if I can organize/empty one box per working day I might have the job done in about a month. We have too much stuff. Meanwhile, this last Saturday we organized two dhows to take us and a few friends to the sand island we can see from our stoop when it emerges at low tide. Such breathtaking views. 7adults and 8kids, the later are so spoiled from living beside the Indian Ocean that most of the grown ups completely tuned out their various complains of hunger, thirst, missing shoes, refusing to wear hats and we eventually all fell silent soaking it all in. It takes about 40minutes to get there. Dhow sailing boats have been in these waters for at least a millennium and a half if not two. These two were “modernized” by the addition of a relatively small outboard motor but were otherwise traditionally built with all wood pulleys and fixtures. If we weren’t perched on the gunwales, we were sprawled on the tarp covering the fishing nets that were stowed in the bottom of the boats. We were promised that on one way they would hoist the sail which is a marvelous thing to experience. They didn’t in our boat this time but they did in the other on the way home. These dhows were hired for us by the handyman and long term resident of the property where we now live. They came from the fishing village just up the coast. If I get to see them again, I will ask the crews how old the boats are and how they came by them. It could very well be that they have been handed down through generations. Their price for the day was more than reasonable, they knew and handled their boats as extensions of their own bodies and they were helpful and cheerful through challenging children and authorities. DH has decided that next time he wants to go at night and have a bonfire party. I don’t know how he’s going to allow for the windiness of the place or the navigational challenge of getting home in the dark. He’s going to have to discuss that with the dhow captains. Even if the later are keen to do it, I might not be brave enough to go along. And here we are Monday. As I write, a sunbird plays in the water thrown up by a sprinkler into a hibiscus bush. I just tried to sneak around to get a picture but I startled him away. I can hear the whistles and chatter of the alien but resident parrots. They’ve become neighbourhood mascots after it is suspected they’ve been abandoned and/or released by former residents of the neighbourhood. These ones are African Greys but I also know of a Ring Necked Parrot that was lost here by former residents of the very house we now occupy. That was years ago but it is not implausible that Timothy could still be around. Happy Monday all.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It never rains but it pours

Today we're expecting to go collect two more jack russel terriers and a tank of fish from the home of a departing family. The power is of course unreliable and I've got a list of power dependent but silly little tasks that I'm trying to get through. Apparently the about to be adopted fish are getting used to it. The last time I saw them was months ago and there's a few quite big exotic looking ones...the kids will love them. We had to have a tanker truck deliver water that we're now ratioing because we don't know when the city might turn their supply on again. I'm trying to put together my application so I can practice my new qualification as a polygraph examiner in this country. DH is putting in his resignation at his present job having officially accepted another yesterday. A year's rent is due on the house tomorrow. My to do lists are full and spilling over into project notebooks...meanwhile almost 6yr old and I take advantage of a spark of interest and seriously discuss the use of "to" vs. "too" in daily English writing. Life is beautiful. This is a shot of a nyala buck that followed his harem through the grounds of the cottage we hired over Easter near Pretoria, South Africa.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It is so marvelous to be back on line. I found it much harder to be the light one wants to see in the world when we were on day two of a neighbourhood blackout. The challenges of a 2.5yr old with chicken pox and creative, appetizing meals for the family with the quickly spoiling contents of fridge and freezer were a little overwhelming. Thankfully I haven't plugged in the chest freezer so I don't have to fret over finding any decomposing puddles in there and hubby got the message fairly quickly that a lunch out with Daddy on Sunday and a let Mom get some quiet time alone arrangement was in everyone's best interests.

Apparently the power company is stepping up its power rationing schedule. Usually they only turn off the power for a few manageable hours at a time. Two days seemed rather unfair from this side but there was also talk of a broken something or other. Transformers and cable are often poached in these parts. Given the lack of power for things like the computer and hot water for washing dishes I have had the opportunity to be outside more..or at least think away from the computer screen. Here's the latest of my garden safari. This fly is about half the size of my smallest fingernail. It hid behind the leaf and actually popped back and forth seemingly curious about the monstrous lens I poked into the bush right up to the edge of its leaf. Fond thoughts to all….must post and get off line -- I'm back on emergency back up power which gives me enough time to finish up, sign off and shut down. Pray for a short one!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Africa is Not for Sissies

It's dragons in the garden and road trips from Hell and it is battles of elemental proportions. It is two weeks since we flew home from our last road trip and the Landy is still standing in Mombassa without a functioning transmission. You know that you've had an extreme road trip when you manage to break a Defender. Ngorongoro was as marvelous as always and we made it through Tsavo for the first time which was incredible. Thankfully Kobus and I have managed to find two working power points in the kitchen so we can make ice and fire up the kettle at the same time. Here's a recent shot of a dragon-like caterpillar in our garden.