Simplicity

It’s been a while since I have been here. All is well and I hope things are moving along for you too. I have fallen into an easy routine of sleep, eat, work. Not much has changed except I don’t go out. I have driven three times this month. Three. Very strange for a gal who used to commute daily to and from work and then travel to some piece of solitude in a forest somewhere with my dog. I went to a nursery for a curbside pickup, I scouted some green space locations for work, twice. That is all. It feels foreign to operate my vehicle. I long for the day when I can go on a road trip and sit in solitude again.

My baking obsession has made way for my garden obsession. I made babka on the weekend and I feel solid on my bread skills. I know what to look for in yeast, textures and slowly getting the hang of proving. I am not an expert but past Robyn can sure learn a lot from present Robyn.

In case you are wondering, Babka is chocolate bread and worth the three days it takes to make.

I have been drawn to Pacific Trail documentaries. I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed years ago and have always thought that type of quest would be good for me. When I drove from Edmonton to Big Sur, I spent enough alone time to figure things out and learn what makes me tick. What I didn’t do was act on those gut instincts. I suppose it’s all a process. I wasn’t brave enough then, but I am now. I finally acted on some of those inner voice lessons. After watching a few of those Pacific Crest Trail documentaries, I learned a few things:

  1. I like a comfortable bed and find tenting exhausting. Sure there was a time when finances prevented me from comfort camping in a hotel and I enjoyed the stars and wilderness and loud nature quiet, but sleeping on the ground or in a trailer is not my thing anymore. I’d rather be in a cottage with a front step that overlooks nature.
  2. Self exploration is a gift. It can be found through meditation, walking in nature or just sitting alone. You don’t need to walk 2668 miles from Mexico to Canada to to learn about yourself. But it can teach you what you are made of.
  3. I have spent enough alone time with myself to learn I need more alone time. I cry deeply and it cleanses something within me. It happened on a rock watching whales at Devil’s Slide, standing in the ocean at Chesterman Beach, paddling down the river at Saunders, poking my finger in a bullet hole on a church in Freudenstadt, lying in a hospital with kidney (almost)failure. Each time there was an awareness that I was part of something bigger than myself.
  4. The world isn’t going to go back to the way things were. A new way will happen and no one knows what it is yet. Accepting new things will ease transition.
  5. Living simply is easy and restful. Those people on the Pacific Crest Trail learned that by mile 1500. You don’t need much. I don’t think my family needs multiple cars. If we move somewhere more urban we won’t need any. If we move back into nature we will need a couple. I am leaning towards a more urban life where I can walk to nature, the market or the grocery store, the library and (this is where I am trying to think of what else I need but am stumbling) but I will have to drive to work unless they let me work from home forever.
  6. Making food with your own hands is satisfying and meaningful. We ate out once in two months. Was it worth it? No. The food we make is so delicious. We waste less and plan more. We also snack less – or I do, I can’t speak for my family. I make delicious baked goods and we sample that once a day rather than eat like we will never see food again. When I do for myself, I feel comfort in knowing what is in my meal. Simple. Fresh tastes amazing. The green onions on my growing table taste so good in rice, eggs and on sandwiches. I grow it and cook it and eat it. Simple food is satisfying, I can’t think of another word that works better.
Three harvests so far, #4 is for sour cream and onion biscuits.

I suppose I am consoling myself that my vacation has been cancelled and I won’t be traveling out of the country for a very long time. I live a simpler life now and decided to take a vacation in my back yard where I will stand in my garden and let tears cleanse me. Being alone in peaceful silence or loud neighbourhoods will have to be enough this year. I have enough fire wood to sit under the stars and the aurora borealis and poke the coals to enjoy a favourite pastime. Not having disappointments or drama or big expenses won’t be missed this year. A simple vacation is what I need this year.

Endless time

How is everyone doing? I am on day 30 of being safe at home. That is a lot of days and it doesn’t look like it will be changing anytime soon. Summer festivals are dropping like dominos. My favourite ones are done so there’s that. But I am looking forward to summer anyways. With endless time on my hands, I’ve planned a couple of vegetable garden beds using insanely large plastic storage containers, I have a couple of six foot and four foot bins. The plan is to grow root vegetables, so we will see how that goes. At the side of my house I grow sweet peas, I think I will grow green peas and beans instead. I just hope the snowing will stop because I long to sit on my deck and enjoy flowers.

As it warms up I think my baking will slow down. Hot houses and hot stoves are not a good match. Meanwhile, I have been a machine with little projects. I have made green onion cakes, pasta, pizza dough, cookies and cinnamon buns. I am loving it! It has opened up new friend chats as we talk about proving dough and weighing flour. It is weird what I find fun now.

Speaking of fun… Beverly Clearly turned 104 on the weekend. I read a lot of her books when I was in elementary and jr. high. In grade six I read The Luckiest Girl of hers and passed it around the class for others to read. I must have read it a dozen times before I went to high school. I have thought about the characters in the story a lot over the years, so I decided to borrow it from the local library (online because the EPL is currently closed). Can I just say, I was still enthralled with this story and surprised at how well it stood up. The story takes place in the 1950’s but aside from clothing, telephones and hanging laundry, the rest felt pretty current, or at least current enough. The big takeaway is the character development and archs. I think Clearly was an under-appreciated author and was lumped into the children’s category as if that was a slight on her work. It has made me seek out other books I read way back then and see how they hold up.

I am quite impressed with 11 year old me. 11 year old me had an argument with the Mrs. Erickson, the librarian, about how I should diversify my reading repertoire and read new authors and finish what I start. I said why do I have to finish books I don’t like? I still won’t finish a bad or boring book. With the millions of great books out there, why spend time on something that won’t hold my interest? I am looking for more books from my youth like Mom, the Wolfman and me by Norma Klein and Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater to see if they can still capture my attention.

I overheard my son chatting with his girlfriend about how his parents (me and hubs) read to him and his sister every night. AND BIG BOOKS TOO! (Big books?) He mentioned some of the ones that stood out, like Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B.White, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Holes by Louis Sachar and the Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling. We read to them long after they could read to themselves for a couple of reasons. Obviously emotional connection was the number one reason, but critical thinking had to be number two. We would discuss books at dinner and talk about why characters made certain choices or why the author did. When my kids were reading on their own, I would also read the same story so I could talk to them about what they were reading and thinking. These were some of the greatest conversations. It’s why I want to join book clubs and why I am always disappointed in the book clubs I join. People tend to want to go to book clubs for socialization. I want intellectual conversation. I don’t tend to last long especially when people don’t even read the book before the meeting.

So far I have read 11 books for the year. (It’s funny how the number 11 still shows up daily for me). My goal is 40 by December. I will likely reach that goal. But I am looking for a book that hooks me as soon as I read the first page. Any suggestions? I don’t want to have to slog through 100+ pages before I get into it. So don’t suggest those books. I like family generational epics like the Rice Mother by Rani Manicka or Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I like a good memoir too like Educated by Tara Westover or Spoiler Alert the Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello. Bonus points if it is available in the EPL (Edmonton Public Library) data base. I am in a bit of a fragile state so sad or scary really need to be left on the shelf.

Let me know what you are reading and stay healthy friends!

Magic

How is everyone doing? I am on day 19, but by the time this arrives in your inbox, it will be day 24. (Spoiler Alert* I write ahead and autopost) I am on my second cup of coffee. That alone should tell you how its going for me. I limit myself to a single cup every day. Love and care go into making that cup from heating up milk to stellar quality beans to the perfect pour. Perfect for me. Everyone has their way of making coffee and we all are particular about it. But here I am on cup number two, equally as perfect as cup number one and served in today’s mug which is Mary Poppins and the chimney sweeps dancing on the rooftops of London. What is better than one perfect cup? Two, two is better.

Normally Mary is my tea mug. When I drink from it I get a little bit of magic touching my lips. I am slightly concerned there will be a coffee aftertaste in my tea mug but fingers crossed I can banish it. I am looking for magic everywhere and fingers crossed it will arrive when I clean my mug.

I have had a few requests to see what my office looks like now that I work from home. I tell everyone I am in the basement, which is true, but it isn’t your typical basement. When we were looking for this house 20 years ago, a walkout basement was on the wish list. When we saw this one, I liked it because it didn’t back onto a mosquito nursery or a community park. I want privacy. I want to walk out my back door and into my garden without having people watching what I am doing. Which is nothing, but I want my nothings done in private. I completed my degree in the basement. I wrote four novels in this basement and I am working on the one that I think is publishable. All of this done in private. Privacy is magical.

This is my workspace. It is the opposite of my workspace at my job. Here I am surrounded by things that inspire me. I have four photos of my children. A letter from Judy Blume she wrote to me (THIS IS MY MOST VALUABLE POSSESSION), I have a Club 33 pin and a box of flip art by Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. I have a working T.A.R.D.I.S. and a Toy Story kaleidoscope. I have a Tiffany blue and silver bowl my sister gave me when I graduated the second time around. I keep it filled with toys, lip balm, wireless earbuds and really good pens. I have a tiny polaroid of me and my siblings on my 51st birthday. (I worry that will be our last photo together.) I have a street made of lego and a miniature bow tie quilt made from 1930’s replica prints. The entire room is inspired by Mickey Mouse. The colours are Black, White, Red and Gold. The art on the walls are Disney animation, mostly artist sketches and Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky prints. My office is made of magic. What is more magical than Disney, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Doctor Who? Shout out to my coffee!

Magic keeps me inspired to do things.

I find magic in coincidences. Those times when you are chatting about something and suddenly it shows up in your life. Or unexpected magic like when a friend you haven’t spoken to since grade 10 messages you and says remember me? That happened Thursday. We worked together at the local ski hill and that brought back a flood of fun memories! Or when you wake up and your kids are still sleeping and your dog has taken the hubs for a walk and you get the kitchen to yourself for a whole hour to eat breakfast in silence. Or when you are reading a book and Glennon says something smart and you think YES! A MILLION TIMES YES!!!!! Or when you say yes instead of no and attend a Zoom Class and the teacher VALIDATES YOUR IDEAS!!!!! Pure Magic!

I gave up waiting for magic to happen and having expectations for things to be a certain way. Giving up was the unexpected key. Tiny little magical things happen every day, you just have to recognize them when they appear. Then be grateful you have magic in your life because THEN, more comes. It truly is magical.

Stay healthy friends!

Fear and Anxiety vs Strength and Confidence

Day 15.

15 days of working from home and pretending everything is status quo. It’s not though. I am sure it isn’t for you either. Maybe it is, I don’t know. From the look of things on social media, I suspect things are not okay for you either. I received some good news at work today and until I heard those words, I didn’t realize how much fear and anxiety I was carrying. No wonder it has been difficult to do my work or provide comfort for family and friends. This shit is hard.

I am wrestling with a lot of “you should do this..” messaging in my head. It is as if Good Robyn is fighting with Bad Robyn. I have a Good Donald Duck and Bad Donald Duck that I can wear on my shoulders. They adhere with magnets and remind me of the old cartoons with the devil whispering bad yet fun things to do in Donald’s ear. That is what has been happening in my head this week.

Good Robyn thinks I should keep busy, there is an endless pile of tasks to do from cleaning out the junk drawer to washing baseboards. She wants me to take advantage of this “extra time” everyone is talking about. Bad Robyn wants to watch Disney+, read trashy novels and let the housework pile up around her. I have been forcing myself to do extra things but to be fair, my routine isn’t all that different until the weekend.

I work a 7.5 hour day and sometimes it stretches to 8 or 8.5 hours. There is work to do, granted I am lucky because I can work from home and this helps keep me and my famjam safe and healthy. I save time on a commute and I don’t have to pack a lunch. Honestly, this is the best thing ever. I go upstairs and make lunch. Yesterday I blistered fresh tomatoes and laid them on a bed of ricotta. It was delicious. This is a lunch I can’t normally do on a work day. It isn’t a portable snack and it would get soggy. I love not scraping my windshield and sweeping off 15 cms of snow. You heard right, it is still winter here in Edmonton. March came in like a lion and out like a lion. Weather is broken but I can only focus on one bad thing at a time, sorry climate change, but don’t worry, I am still practicing single use plastic avoidance and recycling.

Evenings are pretty much the same as well, except the family makes an effort to connect before and during dinner. This is hard with 3 introverts and one extrovert. But we do it because social interaction is important and reassuring for each other. We watch tv or youtube favs and read. Sometimes we call people because keeping in touch with family and friends is also important.

Weekends for me start at 5:00 p.m. on Fridays. I go upstairs and we make dinner, chat and decide on a family night movie. Well, the daughter decides because Friday is her night for media control. We only have a single tv. I know that’s odd, but that is how we roll. The basement tv is for video games. I miss adventuring and exploring. Instead I spend my weekends stress baking. We love the results of that. No butter this week, so that might be problematic but I have a pound in the freezer for just such an emergency. Bad Robyn wants to stay in bed until noon, eat garbage and read trashy novels. Good Robyn wants chores done, books colour coded, spices alphabetized and virtual dinner parties organized. Bad Robyn wants to not shower for two days and have hideous hair. She wants to cry and rage, then eat doritos. She thinks about drinking all the wine and sending hate mail to politicians. She wants to yell at people to go home and behave and do what they’re told for once in their goddamn life. She wants to say “fuck off and do it yourself” when someone asks for a favour. Good Robyn sighs and does what is expected of her…mostly.

As a mom and a responsible citizen, it’s a fine line between doing what I want and what I need. I am beginning the practice of Saturday is for Bad Robyn and Sunday is for Good Robyn. Weeknights after 7:00 p.m. Bad Robyn is going to rule the roost because Good Robyn holds the fort all damn day.

I think the key to getting through this new normal is being kind to ourselves. Stir crazy is normal. Sadness is normal. Happiness is normal. Fear is normal. Confidence is normal. The point is, no matter what you are feeling it’s all okay. Do what you need to do to get by. Just like you do in regular life. We do what we need to do, it just feels a little different.

Hang in there friends. We’ve got this. And maybe, just maybe, we will come out of this better for experiencing it.

Simple things

Well how are you all doing? I think you extroverts are struggling more than us introverts, sorry about that. I have a few group chats happening with various friends, one friend is hosting a dinner party for all of us to cozy on up to Zoom while we munch away on our dinner and drink wine. I am less inclined to want to chat and visit but I know it’s important to my pals who need the conversation to keep them energized.

I have been home for nine days with the hubs, my two adult kids and my pal Cap. We connect over meals and have long newsy chats after work while dinner is being made. I like this scenario. It reminds me of staying home with the kids when they were small. I make sure I check on my parents regularly and that keeps me up to date with the sibs. I am not adventuring other than going outside at noon with Cap and going for a quiet walk in the neighbourhood so it feels like I have been away for along time. It’s only nine days yet it seems like I have endless time to do things. How is it possible that days are longer and minutes are 5x longer than last week? Why do I have so much energy?

Well, limiting human contact is energizing for me. I am not tired from the daily buzz and conversation at work. When I ‘come home’ after work (walk upstairs) I feel like I have enough energy to do a million things. I visit with the famjam, I try out new recipes (I made fresh pasta on the weekend). I am reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle (read this book especially if you are trying to find your way). I am watching Belgravia, Julian Fellowes’ new series (I like it!) I am doing art. I am writing. I am also sleeping like the dead! I go to bed at 10 and sleep until 7 now. That is a minimum of 8 hours sleep.

It isn’t all good though. When a fellow at work asked how I am doing I replied, “Living the dream in between panic attacks”. It is a scary time and it frustrates me that many people aren’t taking this seriously. I personally know three people who are showing moderate to severe symptoms and one is in hospital with Covid-19 pneumonia. We don’t know if he will be okay. I worry about my family and what if they pass it on to my mom or me? Then what? I did learn a valuable lesson in January when I was grieving. I learned to feel all the emotions and not stuff them into your socks. So I felt all those emotions from fear to anger, sadness and pain. It comes back around to joy and happiness. I pay attention to little things and laugh out loud at them. Kermit dancing to Stevie Nicks is one of those joys. My son’s gallows humour is another. My daughter is hilarious and is sharing stories she is writing for school. She will be a great writer one day. My dog plays tricks on me then laughs. His laugh is all it takes to lift my spirits.

I cobbled together enough ingredients to make the next Basically Baking challenge! I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying that! I have learned so much from it. Food has become a simple pleasure. We are mindful of waste and are even collecting veg scraps to make broth with. I wish it was warm enough to sit on my deck. It keeps snowing so that won’t be for a while but going for walks alone in the woods works just as well. Lynden my tree and I have been communing. The energy transfer is intense and I love every second of it. Of course I still meditate every day, now twice a day, today was 1120th consecutive day of meditation. Without it…I don’t want to think about the state of my mental health. I crave it every day.

I realized it is the little things that get me through. I think after this I won’t go back to big splashy things. I think the simple way is better for me, my mental health and my soul. Just a reminder if you need a place to go when things get to be too much, hang out for a while at the Edmonton Tourist Community. There are some lovely people there.

Stay healthy friends.

You are Mr. Roger's Helper

I work from home now. I like a lot of things about working from home. The commute is easy. I don’t have to wear business attire. It is very quiet and I have a window that over looks my garden. Sure it’s only been a day, but so far I like it.

My co-worker Cap goes outside a lot. I suspect he is taking smoke breaks, but whatever, he still gets his work done. He doesn’t wear pants, I am also okay with this. I share this space with three other adults. One is taking on-line classes with the University of Alberta. They haven’t got it all fine tuned and its a bit chaotic, but at least it is continuing. One is retired, but volunteers with Meals on Wheels. Their new protocols mean less hugging in gratitude and more verbal gratitude for continuing to bring food to the infirm. The other one is on a break and is returning to school in the fall, hopefully.

We went to gather some food last night after dinner. The stores are pretty much empty of food and people, but I was able to get what I needed. This reminds me a lot of the books I have read about war time rations. I am grateful I listened to stories of my grand and great grandparents. I understand about rations and economizing. I think I will need to do a lot of this. Protip: Cabbage is a great soup filler and it was the only vegetable available last night. We are not there yet. But we might get there sooner rather than later.

Here is a wonderful side effect of this pandemic, people have been extra ordinarily kind. From smiles and hellos, to not taking everything off the shelf. I only took two packets of yeast, that will yield me 12 loaves of bread. I left some for other people. I am set until May. The helpfulness of tech support to get me up and running was wonderful, sure its their job but do you know what kind of patience it takes to answer stupid questions because people don’t read? Kim and Nathan, my tech support were amazing. Stop being stupid and impatient people. This isn’t about you. It is about all of us working together for a common goal, survival. This of this a World War III, only this time we are all on the same side.

My daughter was wondering what kind of PTSD we will have when we get to the other side. You know what she means, its like the how the survivors of the depression in the 30’s hoarded bread clips or rubber bands because you never know when you might need them. She thinks she will always practice the two metre distance from people, or will forever wash her hands for 20 seconds singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. As an introvert, I was born for this self isolation thing. I don’t have to host a social gathering? SCORE! All the parties are cancelled? YES! I can stay home and pet my dog? I am living the dream!

But in all seriousness, please listen to your health authorities. Ours is excellent. She speaks from a knowledge of science and answers hard questions. She isn’t sneaky and she practices what she preaches. She came down with a cold, so she self isolated and tested negative for Covid-19. I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to see women of science leading our country in times like this. They are the calm, factual guiding lights. I wish I could say the same for our elected leaders, this is not the time to force through budgets and fire doctors and lay off nurses. This is not the time for fake facts and lies. Anti-vaxers are going to have a tough time when they release a vaccine for Covid-19, science is on one side and they are on the other. Good luck with that.

I have noticed a heavy increase in my blog post Mr. Roger’s Helpers. I don’t know who needs to hear this, those words were meant for children because you are adults and need to be the helpers now. That means you reassure your children. You stay calm and learn the facts. Stay home to protect others. You are the helper. Ask you neighbour if they need something, support food banks if you can, help tutor students online or stop being so demanding. The facts are we are in this together. Stand up and lead, if not your community then lead your family or your group of friends.

You are the helper.

If you find you are overwhelmed and you need a place to catch up, come visit the Edmonton Tourist Community on Facebook. We have been checking in, and being a shoulder for each other. If you need to stop being the helper for an hour, do it. We are open and can listen. Hang in there friends, we are in this for the long haul if you want to believe it or not.

Edmonton Tourist: Hiatus

Where I wish I was…

The world is a strange and curious place lately. I hear healthy people say things like “everyone is overreacting” “Why is everyone panicking?”. I am part of the demographic that is at high risk for infection. This means I am thinking carefully about where I go and who I spend my time with. The last time I had an infection, my daughter called it the time I died. I was so sick my kidneys shut down, and organ failure caused other significant issues. I only ever remember being that sick one other time, and that was when I had red measles when I was a kid. I was so sick the doctor CAME TO MY HOUSE. My dad thought I was dying. Honestly, I thought I was dying. Being that sick is not something I recommend. I am the main provider for my family. Three other adults depend on me to support them while they go to school and look after the home. I rely on them, and no one wants to let each other down.

My intuition is telling me to slow down and self-isolate. This means all non-essential social gatherings and events. What makes it essential? I don’t really have an answer for that, but I am sure I will recognize it once it happens. I am still going to work because, so far, the risk is low. I eat at my desk and don’t visit the cafeteria. I am NOT A HUGGER, nor am I affectionate – so I have that going for me. I am a bit of a germaphobe, not as bad as my workmate, but pretty damn close.  Honestly, I feel better than I have in ages, years even. I am not overly concerned, but I will be taking precautions.

I am going to use this time to catch up on reading, and I have a stack of books that are begging me to read them. I am going to bake and freeze things because baking is fun. I love making bread, savoury and sweet things. Comfort food will be nice to have since eating at fun bistros, and restaurants will be one of the places I avoid for a while. Soon my garden will need me, and I am looking forward to growing things. I have a lime tree in my front room that needs some TLC, so I need to do some research on how to love it a little bit more. My blog is going to change for a while. I hope you understand. The support you give me is amazing, and all the notes and emails you send are appreciated. Let me know where you are going and send me photos! I am making a list of places I need to visit once this craziness calms down.

Do I expect everyone to follow suit? No. I am not the WHO or a credible health organization, but I do read their updates and listen to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s daily updates. This is important information for my area and maybe yours but pay attention to credible sources. I need this for my job but its good to know for my home life. The time for “not believing in science” is over. Facts are important and will save lives.

The bottom line is to listen to the facts and make good judgements. Subscribe to your library’s ebook borrowing system, eat good food, drink clean water and wash your hands for crying out loud. Stop being gross not just during this world pandemic but forever, okay?

This will pass.

Stay healthy everyone.