Sunday, January 7, 2018

So long, 2017! Onwards to 2018!

A Christmasy family portrait - taken before the virus struck
We expected to spend the final weekend of 2017 celebrating the new year with friends from Ottawa but, unfortunately, we've both been sick as dogs since Christmas with a nasty cold/flu thingy, so they sensibly opted to postpone their visit until later. We were disappointed, of course, but they made the right decision. We wouldn't have wanted them to get this nasty virus, and the truth is we wouldn't have been very good company.

Honestly, I can't remember when I was last so sick for so long. For the first three days, I barely got out of bed and felt too awful to do much of anything. Since then, I've improved marginally each day, but it's been a long, hard slog - nearly two weeks now! 

I suppose it's fitting 2017 ended with a whimper since, in many ways, it was a tough year. There weren't any major catastrophes - just a long series of  mundane challenges that left me feeling worn out and discouraged. Here's hoping the longer-than-expected break from work enables me to tackle 2018 with renewed energy and enthusiasm. 

When I wasn't sleeping over the holidays, I spent a lot of time thinking about my intentions for 2018. Intuitively, I have a sense it's going to be a big year, filled with new adventures and challenges - but perhaps that's wishful thinking. So far, there's nothing to suggest there are major changes on the horizon - though I'm keeping a sharp eye out for interesting job prospects. 

On the running front, my expectations are modest. 2017 wasn't a great running year for me. Sure, I completed a few races in the spring and fall, but I ran all of them more slowly than I hoped and never got into a good training groove, despite kicking it up a notch in the early part of the year. More discouraging, my weight, which had remained pretty constant over the past few years, crept up to the point I felt positively chubby. Added to which, constant stiffness and joint pain were making it harder to run.

Fortunately, Husband announced at the end of November that he was willing to try going on the Plan for a few weeks, which was significant because he does most of the shopping and cooking and the burden of following the prescribed menus was going to fall mostly on him. Normally, neither of us is into dieting but we'd heard about the Plan from family and friends and thought it might be worth trying. We figured it couldn't hurt because the recommended recipes were healthy and calorie-full. In the end, we found we liked the food, and it worked for us. So far, I've lost nearly 9 pounds and Husband's down nearly 6, and we're both feeling more energetic and less achy overall - or at least we were until we got sick. 

Given our success to date, we've decided to carry on "planning" for awhile longer and couple that with more regular strength-training in hopes we'll be in better shape by the time gardening season rolls around. I'm hoping carrying less weight again will make running feel easier when I get back to it, but time will tell. I'm pretty darn stiff after laying around so much the past two weeks so more yoga is in order as well.

Anyway, back to those intentions. In terms of my physical health, what I most want is to end 2018 feeling comfortable in my skin - more flexible and energetic, as well as stronger - which of course means eating well, getting enough sleep and varying my exercise regime so its not so focused on running. With relatively little effort, all that should be do-able.

Emotionally and psychologically, my intentions are more challenging. I'm not particularly happy at work these days, and the situation isn't likely to change so I need to find a way to address that. I started exploring other opportunities before the holidays but there's still plenty I can do on that front.

Most importantly this year, I want to get more serious about practicing gratitude and compassion - towards myself and others - and to be braver and more accepting of "what is".

Case in point, I learned just before Christmas that I have a tiny cancerous lesion on my cheek. It's no big deal in the sense that the doctors who've examined it all assure me it's entirely treatable. I just need to have the darn thing removed. Nonetheless, I found myself feeling dismayed last week when the surgeon advised that I'll end up with a scar about an inch long. Of course, no one wants a scar in the middle of their face but I was annoyed with myself for finding the news so unsettling. What I should have felt was happy and grateful that the lesion was identified while it's so small and that I'm able to have it removed quickly. Chances are the scar won't be that bad and, anyway, now would be a good time to get over worrying about my looks and accept that I'm aging and my face is going to reflect that.

I'd like to be braver in other ways too. Husband and I have been talking for some time now about when I'm going to "retire" - by which we mean leave my reasonably well-paid government job to pursue other paid and unpaid opportunities, do more traveling, and work with him to develop our country property - but it's hard to give up the "golden handcuffs". I can't help worrying about what will happen if one of us gets really sick and we have to hire folks to look after us for an extended period. Of course, it's sensible to consider such contingencies, but the reality is none of us knows how much time we have, and Husband and I won't be able to tackle even half the projects we have in mind if I postpone retirement too long.

My intentions around gratitude and compassion have a lot to do with not beating up on myself when I fail to meet expectations, but also about being kinder and more understanding of other people. After all, we're all going through stuff others know nothing about.

Last but not least, I'd like to spend more time reading great books, writing, knitting, painting and doing whatever else flexes my creative muscles. With everything else going on, there wasn't much time for creativity in 2017 and I found I really missed it. If I want to live more creatively in retirement, I need to stay in practice.

In summary, my intentions for 2018 are to:
  • get more comfortable in my skin
  • deal with my work situation
  • practice compassion and gratitude
  • be braver and more accepting of what is
  • spend more time doing creative activities
In addition to the above, I am of course planning to spend lots more happy times with this little guy.

What about you, gentle reader. What are your intentions for this bright new year?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Creative November Challenge Day #26: The challenges and opportunities of technology

I took my Nikon to the parade and fireworks last night, hoping to capture a few good images of folks enjoying the colourful, brightly lit floats. Unfortunately, I had my camera settings all wrong so finished the night with very few shots worth saving. When all was said and done the only image I really liked was this one. Despite being grainy and out of focus, it captures a little of what I felt as I sat with my nieces watching the parade approach.

I converted the image to black and white, before cropping it, applying a couple of filters, and tweaking various elements to achieve an effect I liked. The whole exercise was a good demonstration of the challenges and opportunities of technology. While I'm grateful the technology let me salvage something from the crap I shot last night, I'd have preferred to be more adept using my camera so that I captured images I wanted in the first place. 

Needless to say, I didn't feel inclined to pick up the Nikon today but I couldn't resist taking this pic of Jackie with my iPhone. She had a wonderful time with the girls but was in dire need of a nap by the time they headed home at noon.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Creative November Challenge Day #25: A day of mixed emotions

Today was a gift in so many ways. To start with, the weather was fabulous - mild and sunny with very little wind - which made for a lovely 8k run up river and back this morning.

With temperatures hovering around 13C, we figured we had no choice but to take Jackie to Risser's Beach for a walk. As it turned out, we had the whole beach to ourselves so were able to let her run off leash for much of our time there, which - needless to say - she loved. 

I'd taken my Nikon with me but was too focused on spending quality time with puppy and Husband to break it out. In any case, my iPhone did an okay job in the bright light of midday. 

By the time we made it home, we had just enough time to tackle a few chores and squeeze in a short visit with my folks before picking up these two sweeties for a sleepover. 

Our evening with them was heaps of fun. We started by making homemade chicken tacos for supper, then filled travel mugs with hot chocolate and marshmallows and headed downtown to take in the local Santa Clause parade, followed by some fabulous firework. Once home, we cooked up some popcorn, played Jenga and read two books together before the girls finally tumbled into bed around 10:00 pm.

It would have been an almost perfect day but for one thing. We learned this morning that my mum's last remaining sibling, our dear Aunt Marg, passed away last night. She was 92 years old and had been ill with cancer for some time so the news wasn't a surprise. Against all odds, she'd hung on long enough to celebrate her birthday on Wednesday before lapsing into unconsciousness the next day and slipping away around 2:00 am.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Aunt Marg as we rushed from one activity to another today - remembering our visits with her over the years. She was an extraordinary person in many ways but two things stand out for me. The first was how bright and intellectually engaged she remained to the very end of her life. She never stopped learning about topics of interest to her and loved nothing more than discussing what she learned with others. The second was her determination to care for herself physically and mentally through diet and regular exercise. I'll never forget how impressed I was when she took up biking and cross-country skiing in her sixties when she began having heart issues. What a wonderful role model - proof positive that fitness can be gained at any age.

So, as I head off to sleep tonight, I'm filled with mixed emotions - deep sadness about Aunt Marg's passing mixed with intense gratitude for a day filled with some of the people and places I love best. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Creative November Challenge Day #24: Away

There's been no time for much besides work the past few day but, fortunately, there was a terrific sky as I headed to the ferry tonight and, since I was a few minutes ahead of schedule, I had time to grab two or three photos. This is one of them - tweaked only slightly to capture what I saw. 

It's moments like this one that remind me why I'm so grateful to live where I do. Happy weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Creative November Challenge Day #21: Struggling

Halifax Seaport Market just after sunset

I'm having a hard time with this challenge. It seems that most days I can find time for photography or writing, but not both. 

Today, I'd hoped to head out for a photowalk well before sunset but got stuck at work later than planned and missed the best light. As a result, most of the photos I took were grainy and far too dark. I like the composition of this one but not much else.

My objective when I headed to the waterfront was to photograph this recently installed monument celebrating women who volunteered during World War II. I'd hoped to capture it with the colours of the setting sun behind it but had to make do with the illumination provided by floodlights. The monument consists of three sculptures. Much as I like the sentiment behind them, I can't say I like them much.  

Directly behind it is another monument celebrating immigrants who came to Canada via Pier 21. I've always loved the energy of this one and the floodlights do a better job of highlighting the central figure.

Here's hoping my efforts bear more interesting fruit tomorrow.