From the City to Bush Country

First of all, thank you for following my blog. It’s been years since I last wrote a post. Rather a lot has happened since then. For instance, I moved from the city to the Northern Ontario bush.

I tried my hardest to forge a simple life in the city, but it wasn’t meant to be. The crowds, the traffic, rapid neighbourhood gentrification, chronic back pain, stress…. It got to be too much, so my husband and I decided to move with our small son to an acreage in the Almaguin Highlands, just west of Algonquin Park. We have named the property the Land of Lackadoo in honour of my late husband, who passed tragically and unexpectedly mere weeks before we moved.

I will no longer be posting to this blog, but I’ve started a new one to chronicle the transition from the city to the bush.

I sincerely hope you’ll join us In the Land of Lackadoo.

 

Spinal Thoughts (totally spinal. totally.)

Holy amazeballs! I just realized something the other day that has me grinning like an idiot: I now have the ability to engage my core without first demanding absolute silence to concentrate.

This. Is. Huge.

psoasThe benefits of strengthening my core muscles stretch into every area of my life: work, hobbies, creative pursuits, playing with my small son. For the past 8 months, I have been off work healing my spinal injuries. Believe me, frequent “rests” that had me flat on my back thinking about the long list of things I couldn’t do was the perfect recipe for depression, which can be a devastating distraction from getting better.

I won’t lie – it’s been a long road. And the roller coaster of feeling better, overdoing it, and sliding backwards again is exhausting. But, gradually with daily exercise, medication, chiropractic treatments and pilates, I am improving. The measure of two steps forward and one step backward has changed. It used to be measured in hours, then days for what seemed like forever. Then it was weeks and finally, I had a whole month of “good” days. Now I experience way less pain, I have way better mobility and I am way more optimistic.

This kind of journey takes focus, support from family and friends, a solid health team and sheer determination. At 44 years old, I will not accept limitations without a fight. And I will not accept illness without finding out if there is something I can do about it.

Spinal injuries can be maddening – there are no shortcuts to healing. But, working on mobility and strengthening with Pilates has been a real lifesaver for me. For one thing, it got me out of the house and made me feel like I was part of a community. I started 6 months ago when I would hobble to class and think, “Now, pay attention to the instructions so you can do the exercise at home.” And I made an honest effort. Every time I got out my mat I would try my damnedest to recreate what I learned in class. (Of course, I almost never could because I was trying too hard.)

And then I had an epiphany while hanging laundry the other day. It had been two years since I dared to try that household task, and that saddened me because I actually like hanging laundry on the line – the smell, being outside, doing the environment a favour, blah, blah, blah. I’m weird that way. Anyway, this particular chore involves reaching, bending and twisting – movements I haven’t dared to even consider for a long time. Even trying it could be a really stupid thing to do right before I go back to work. But something marvellous happened.

The Pilates kicked in.

About halfway through the basket of wet clothes, I noticed myself engaging my core and using more efficient movements as I bent and reached. I had also set myself up so there was no twisting. My body is integrating all the work I’ve been doing, and my newly developed body awareness means that I am at far less risk of reinjuring myself. (phew)

There She Was…Gone

This past Friday evening, I attended Diaries and Dissent in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. Organized by Rebecca Cuneo Keenan, it was a refreshing gathering of (almost all women) bloggers  for an open-mic night in the back room of one of the local restaurants. The event was a most-welcome diversion from my current crappy circumstances – a night out, an opportunity to bask in other talented writers’ creativity, a chance to share my own writing.

What I didn’t realize until the next day is that the theme was Love – so, my reading about a silly car I used to own was, perhaps, a tad out of place. But, I really did love that car. Ten years old when we bought her, she was a 1991 black convertible Lebaron. Eventually, we nicknamed her The Enchilada – more than just a car, she really felt like a member of the family. She brought my newborn son home from the hospital, and my husband and I cried together when she finally gave up the ghost.

She had personality. A sense of humour. Style.

And stories

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It was a typical Saturday in May 2007; warmish, sunny, perfect for taking The Enchilada out to run errands. I was 6 months pregnant, and quite frankly, tired of my man’s shit for the day. I sat crammed into the front passenger seat. Due to the large amount of supplies from Home Depot that stuffed the car, my seat was pushed all the way forward, knees around my chin. Over my right shoulder, sticking out my window were several 8-foot lengths of wooden boards for a garden project.

We pulled into the grocery store parking lot. Somehow, I extricated my girth from the car. For obvious reasons, we couldn’t leave the window down, so my man pulled out the boards and placed them on the ground underneath the car. He put up all the windows, shut the door, then realized that the keys were locked inside.

This, of course, was my fault. [Insert the special type of vicious banter that only long-term couples expecting their first baby engage in without breaking up here.] While mansplaining why it was my fault that he didn’t take the keys out of the ignition, my husband retrieved the hide-a-kay from the wheel well, got the keys from the ignition, locked the car, put the hide-a-key back in the wheel well, and we went about our business.

So wrapped up up in our own bullshit that we didn’t notice we were being watched. By a dangerous offender.

Pause for thought.

We did our groceries. When we returned to the parking lot, we found the wood where my man had placed it on the ground.

But no car.

NO. CAR.

NoNoNoNoNo. Nope. This is not fucking happening. But, it did and it was. The car was gone. Undeniably not where we left it.

Pregnant, cranky and no way to get my groceries home. It was awhile ago now, so some details are fuzzy – running in circles, hyperventilation, friends and neighbours trying to calm my pregnant ass down, a store manager that really just wanted me to go away. Somehow my best friend ended up at my side talking to the police who were called to the store.

Officer: What’s the make of car?

Me: A 1991 Lebaron. Black. Convertible.

Officer: That should be easy to find. There aren’t many of those left on the road.

My best friend: It also has a duct-tape roof.

Me: And no hubcaps.

My best friend: It should be really easy to find. The duct tape is silver. The whole roof.

Me: Okaaay. I think he gets the idea.

My best friend: Yeah, but it will be reeeeally easy to spot on the road.

She was right, of course. The thief chose to steal a one-of-a-kind, stand-out, people-stare-when-you-drive-by-because-it-looks-like-a-piece-of-shit kind of car. I went home, allowed friends friends to calm my pregnant hysteria and eventually went to bed, tired, sad and worried. At 4 in the morning, I was awakened by a call from Vaughan police saying they had recovered the car, exactly 12 hours after it was stolen.

The next morning, my best friend drove me to Vaughan to reunite me with The Enchilada. One hundred seventeen of my own dollars later, I got her out of the impound. She had to be towed, you see, because the thief (who was a 21-year-old violent offender wanted by the RCMP) didn’t give up without a fight. Police had to ram my beloved, unique little baby when he wouldn’t pull over. The driver’s side was fucked – dented, scratched – plenty new scars. The muddy footprints on the driver’s door also told a story of the thief being forcibly removed from the car through the window. There was a hole in the passenger seat where he had stabbed the Swiss Army knife he found in the console.

But.

He filled the tank with gas and only drank a couple of beers out of the case that was in the trunk.

And…

He got a weapons charge for the Swiss Army knife that belonged to us. He also left his cell phone in the car along with a huuuge NY Giants ball cap and one leather glove. (OJ much?)

So…

She had more wrinkles, more scratches and dents, but she was alive and we got her back along with a helluva story. For that, I am thankful.

My Stupid Back: What I’m doing to smarten it up

MRI

When I started this blog about embracing simplicity, it had a lot to do with leaving behind the trauma of the job I had just quit. I was on a quest to remove any and all unnecessary stress from my life. With an abusive boss and indifferent management removed from the equation, I could go about finding the joy in life that we are all entitled to. Right?

In retrospect, there were a lot of factors that I did not consider. I’ve heard people talk about how we hold emotional tension in certain parts of our bodies, and honestly, I always thought that was hokum. It was easier for me to wrap my skeptical brain around the mechanics of having too many things to do in too little time, the effects of cortisol on the body, and poor posture. The truth is, it was probably a combination of factors – a perfect storm of mechanical issues, bad habits and stress. As a working mom, I was lifting my toddler into and out of his car seat twice a day, cooking and cleaning, gardening, and smiling through my deflated ego as I alternated between sitting at a desk and dashing in a different direction every five minutes for eight to ten hours per day. Every task was completed at top speed. I was also fooling myself into believing that this really was the urban dream life I always pictured.

Looking back, all I can think now is, No wonder…

I have always been a proponent of simple living – growing the food you eat, making beautiful things, remembering at all times what’s really important, and minimizing any and all stress.

I have made strides in the years since that horrid job. I have a new job that I really love with management that appreciates, encourages and respects all staff. I have followed my passion and published a novel, with another one on the way. My man has taken on more of the household chores and my son can climb in and out of the car himself. My free time is spent on the things that lift me up: writing, design, gardening, sewing and playing with my little boy.

So, why the hell did my body collapse on me three months ago?

In a nutshell, all of my efforts were too little too late. More to the point, I was still holding all of that old tension in my joints and muscles and it was causing a mind-blowing chain reaction from head to toe. It didn’t help that my work and hobbies all require an awkward back posture. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but essentially, mild scoliosis, an osteophyte and some bulging discs were aggravated by incorrect posture and a bloody lazy core.

My body decided it had enough of my bullshit and walked off the job.

It’s been a long three months filled with doctor appointments, assessments, exercises and treatments. I don’t leave the house unless it’s for an appointment. I am forced to spend 80% of my waking hours lying down because I am unable to hold myself upright for much longer than two hours at a time. So, yeah, it got my attention.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom and I am optimistic about getting my life back. I have seen progress with chiropractic care, loads of rest and hourly stretching. For the past couple of weeks, I have also been receiving private sessions with the highly accomplished Pilates instructors at The Loft Pilates in Toronto. These sessions have encouraged me to slow down, breathe and take stock of the situation. (I’ve always had a tendency to dive headfirst into activities without giving much thought to form.) I also have a heightened awareness of my body and movements and I’m learning to catch and correct myself before I can do any further damage. When I engage the mind-body connection, it’s remarkable how I can will a specific muscle to calm down and release.

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I’m not out of the woods yet, and those magical moments of clarity and control are still fleeting. But the serious depression and constant sense of foreboding have waned. No longer am I gripped by fear of a future shaped by physical disability. I have managed to find the feelings between the thoughts, and to slow down my whirling brain. With commitment and faith in my body’s ability to heal, I am optimistic. And that is simply wonderful.

Nathaniel the Tarantula

A little while back I wrote about my boy’s awesome idea for this year’s Halloween costume. I am pleased to report that, through a collaborative process, his idea developed from conception to the real thing.

Kids tarantula costume

BIG spider…

AND he’s a finalist in a halloween photo contest!

Vote for The Tarantula to win this contest in two easy steps:

1. View the great photo of our spiderific creation by Tangerine Photography.

2. Click LIKE to vote for The Tarantula.

Thanks for your support.

Here’s how it all started…

Kids tarantula costume sketch

Latest writing project

Several people have asked me if I’m working on anything new. The short answer is yes. For the long answer, check out this post on ProsperoCity, my blog dedicated to writing.

Up, up and away…

You may or may not know that I sew. A lot, actually. So much that I’ve started a separate blog to chronicle my projects. Most recently, I helped a good friend design and construct 26 (twenty-six!) superhero capes for her daughter’s 6th birthday party.

 

Read more…

“Step into my parlour…”

You know, for someone who wants the simple life, I seem to have a rare talent for planning complicated projects.

Hallowe’en is coming. It’s always been my favourite holiday, even more so now that I’m a mom. For about a month now, my 5-year-old and I have been dialoguing about what costume he wants me to make this year. First, it was a skeleton and I must admit I found the idea of buying a costume oddly inviting – waaay easier (and cheaper, too, as it turns out). Then, he suggested a ghost. A small section of my artistic side died at the suggestion of a sheet with holes cut in it. He must have sensed it because his next idea was a robot. Finally, lastly and no turning back or changing of minds, he has decided on a tarantula.

Awesome.

Since settling on the creepiest of all spiders, he has been asking every day when I plan to get started. We did some sketches, which he coloured, and purchased the fabric yesterday. I’ll post my progress.

Yes, it may look messy, but believe it or not, it makes sense to me.

View from the back.

 

Just trying to get my head around all the pieces we’re going to need to put this puppy together.

 

The black and rust-coloured fun fur is absolutely perfect. Now, all I have to do is turn 2-dimensional swaths of fabric into a 3-dimensional gigantic spider. No problem!

 

 

 

The Coop

I’ve been a tardy blogger recently as my time has been taken up with attempting to decipher the mysteries of internet marketing, work, a vacation (yay!) and tending to my garden. I’m going to stray from my usual topic of late, self-publishing, to focus on something that just plain makes me happy: my garden.

For years, in our small, city garden, we had serious issues with racoons having a pool party in the pond, taking a bite out of each tomato and generally trashing the place. Enough was enough, so my man built an enclosure for the vegetable patch. It’s basically a pergola covered in  chicken wire and it works like a charm! It’s also a handy place to keep our parrot safe and secure when the whole family is outside.

The plot is only about 7′ x 9′, but thanks to square-foot gardening, I can pack it all in and keep the critters out.

My boys chose the seeds this year – sunflowers, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans and carrots. I chose the seedlings – tomatoes, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and eggplant. (Actually, that was purchased by accident. Not sure anymore what I thought it was.)

Part of the reason we can fit so much into such a small space is that the vines like the pumpkin, cucumbers, cantaloup and watermelons can climb on the chicken wire. Mind you, it’s my first time growing pumpkins, so we’ll see what happens!

The accidental eggplant.

Finally! A sunflower that the squirrels can’t destroy and scatter around the garden to mock me. In case you’re thinking that looks like a painting behind the sunflower, you’re right. It’s from the set of a play I wrote and directed a few years back…

Book Launch Highlights

Last Friday, I launched my book, In the Fool’s Footsteps, and I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. I invited friends and family to my local bar and restaurant, where much of the book was written. (There was something creatively magical about three coffees and two pints that propelled the story forward.) Champagne, food, a reading and book signing – perfection.

Click here for a quick video of a portion of the reading I gave.

In the Fool’s Footsteps is available on Amazon ($12.99 for the paperback; $9.99 for the ebook).

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