Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Problems to Solutions, Curses to Gratitude . . .

As you'll see, this is SO NOT a Wordless Wednesday, although I have been trying that format recently. . . .
But here's a pretty picture for you, at least. . . a freighter anchored just outside of our little bay, its lights no competition for the technicolour show in its background.

That was the wordless . . . here come the words!
You've heard me grumbling a bit here about stress levels with a busy term start-up complicated by an additional set of committee responsibilities. My body, though, wasn't convinced I was listening to the signs of stress, so it decided I needed a more direct message. By the middle of last week, I was sporting not just one cold sore, but the threatened eruption of a second. At that point, I realized that following Saturday's 20.5 km  LSD (Long Slow Distance) run with an 8K recovery run on Monday, might have been pushing it, given that I haven't been sleeping well. So I skipped Tuesday's Pilates, Wednesday's planned 8K, and the yoga class I usually go to on Friday.

My body probably would have welcomed the yoga class, but my work stress was being compounded by my guilt stress over not visiting my mother for Far Too Long.  Folding a Vancouver visit into an already busy schedule meant something had to give, and yoga bowed out gracefully.  And in the interest of stress-busting, I was determined to get some goodies for me out of a guilt-propelled weekend: I'd do a bit of shopping, get some time with my granddaughter, and get to see a blooming baby belly on my youngest girl.

So there I was, finally settling onto the BC Ferry with a cup of tea Friday morning, having stopped to pick up a tube of Abreva at the drugstore on the way (a friend recommended it when she heard me moaning about the Attack of the Killer Cold Sores). I started working my way through a stack of marking, congratulating myself on my timing, on the multi-tasking (travelling to visit Mom AND getting my marking done at the same time, check!).  One part of my brain still running through logistics, exigencies, as I pointed out comma splices on the page, I suddenly chilled to remember that the keys to the condo were in my other bag. In my office. In my home. On our little island. Damn!!

I quickly texted my daughter to arrange pick-up of the spare set of keys we'd wisely left with her. Little chance she'd taken them to work with her, but at least I could stop by her apartment later in the afternoon and pick them up. She texted back speedily -- so sorry, but Dad took them quite a few weeks ago when he forgot his keys. . . and he never returned them.

So what Plan B could there be, besides crying (not that I ruled that out). I texted Paul in a panic, knowing he was in yoga class for another hour. By the time he'd got out, I had it all worked out. Luckily, he had his set with him (so thankful he's got in the habit of carrying his M0851 bag, and keeping his stuff together there!). I had him take them to the seaplane office where he arranged to have them sent over on the next flight for me to pick up in the Vancouver Harbour. Yes, it took me an extra 45 minutes in traffice but nonetheless a disaster averted. Gratitude Lesson #1.

And the Abreva started working -- seriously, this stuff is miraculous if you suffer from the Herpes Simplex virus occasionally. I've always been doomed to about ten days of discomfort and ugliness, but assiduous application of this cream seems to have shut down the entire operation. Gratitude Target #2.

Despite the added travel to retrieve my keys, I was in the apartment in time for a quick nap before meeting my pregnant daughter for dinner. Thin-crust pizzas, a glass of wine (or two?) for me, schmaltzy tunes on the piano nearby. . . .and that baby belly promising us an exciting November. Gratitude Overflowing . . .

Saturday morning, my sister dropped Mom off at my place, and we walked along English Bay admiring the contrast of white sails and huge rust-red hulls against the metallic colour of water reflecting a crisp blue autumn sky. We watched a squadron of Canada geese march down the centre of Beach Avenue, comically confident in their right to be there. We talked about Mom's practicum as a very young teacher going into a Vancouver school like the one we passed on the way. She scooped up shiny chestnuts, some still in their spikey green coats, to arrange in a bowl at home, and we remembered that my Dad would also talk about his childhood game of Conkers when the chestnuts fell each fall. Whether Mom's chestnut arrangement reminds her of our walk or it becomes only a vague impression for her, I have another happy memory of her stored away. Well worth the trouble of getting there. More Gratitude. . .

We walked to my favourite crêpe place, and while there Mom complained about the paucity of decent shopping in her neighbourhood. Since we were only two blocks from Robson Street's vibrant shops, I took that as a hint. Before long, we were meeting my sister at Banana Republic and helping Mom sort through an array of choices. She left with a new grey knit pleated skirt, a black Chanel-style cardi, and a grey/cream houndstooth-printed light knit pullover. Very pleased with herself! And then just for good measure, we stopped in J Crew and she chose a soft mint-green cashmere cardi to balance all those new neutrals with a bit of colour. I might have tripped over a purchase or two myself . . . But as the commercial says: Cashmere Cardi, XX dollars; New Navy Chick-Print Shirt, X dollars; Shopping with 81-year-old Mother and my sister? Priceless!

It got even better. That afternoon, I picked up my daughter and granddaughter for another walk, this time to a sushi restaurant, followed by playtime in a nearby park. Again, luckily, I'd managed a quick nap to recharge. And I spent a quiet evening on my own with the weekend papers, went to bed early, got up in time to run the seawall the next morning and catch a ferry that had me back on our little island not long after lunchtime.

My students are all writing in-class essays this week, so I'm conserving the energy I usually expend in preparing lectures and facilitating classes. Of course, the obvious corollary is that I will have hours and hours of marking this weekend, but I'm learning to take the respite as it comes. We're preparing here for Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and last weekend certainly put me in the mood. . .

Whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend or waiting for the American version at the end of November -- or perhaps you live somewhere that doesn't need to pour its gratitude into one annual celebration -- I hope you have a few things you can be grateful for, even when life's hurling challenges your way. Care to share them? You know I always love your comments.


30 comments:

  1. I'm glad you saw yourself reaching the tipping point and took action before it was too, too late. We can only push our bodies so far - as I've found and you know. Don't you agree that those breaks become more important as the years pass? It sounds like you'll be scheduling one or two over the months to come - if we don't, then the big, lovely breaks are used up in repairing and restoring instead of going straight to enjoying.

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    1. "Tipping point" -- that's a good description. My husband always marvels at how clearly my body signals that I need a break soon. He also chides me for ignoring it, but I'm getting better. As you say, the breaks get more important with each passing year.

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  2. If it makes you feel any better, I had cold sores from hell this past two weeks. I never had cold sores until a few years ago, and I know when I get them that it's a sure sign that I am super stressed. Mine were horrid, and my upper lip was blown up like a balloon to boot. Not pretty! In my case, Abreva did nothing. I booked an appt with my dermatologist and he gave me a prescription for meds that I can take next time I feel them coming on that will stop them dead in their tracks. Sorry about the long cold-sore rant!

    Fall is always such a crazy, busy time and our bodies need to adjust to the changing weather while our minds need to adjust to the busier schedules of school, activities, more social/cultural functions, etc. But it is fun!

    From a fellow Canuck, have a great Thanksgiving weekend! I usually host the family with turkey, my late-dad's famous stuffing and all the trimmings but this year my mom has suggested she take everyone out for a Sunday brunch to celebrate our 15th anniversary (my hubby & I got married on the Thanksgiving long weekend). So, I'm getting a break but feel like I'll miss it all. I might just roast a chicken and make a small batch of stuffing for hubby, me & the kids on Monday so we don't feel like we missed out!

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    1. It's true -- fall is such a lovely season but demands such a brutal re-adjustment to a more rigorous schedule.
      We'll only have one couple (and my DIL's brother) of our four home this Thanksgiving, but I'm happy knowing that the other three will be together. And we've got a huge turkey so there will be leftovers 'til forever. . . Enjoy your Sunday brunch and Happy Anniversary!

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  3. Mater, Do you have an emergency kit in your car(s)?? You know, the one with jumper cables, candles, emergency blankets, etc?? Maybe put an extra set of keys in the car kit .... better to head off the stressful situations if possible.

    Kris

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    1. Hmmm, that would be a smart emergency kit, the kind I always mean to put together . . . . I did think of leaving the spare set of keys in the car, but often my husband heads over to Vanc'r by foot/bus, so I'm not sure that will be the best solution. I'll probably entrust it to one of the Vancouver crew again.

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  4. Frances - I hear you. I'm on bed rest with asthmatic bronchitis. Man, this is seriously miserable. And kind of scary, truth be told. I have no idea, given that I take zillions of vitamins a day (amongst them, 3000 mg of vit c), sleep 8+ hrs a night, eat healthy food, do yoga, walk and cycle and avoid public transportation at this time of year. The pharmacist said, given our warm weather of the last year, it isn't even going around and he's done vastly fewer antibiotics prescriptions this fall than ever before. I'm feeling so sorry for myself. Forgive me for rambling.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that! And it is a bit scary. I hope that whatever meds you've been given kick in soon. You've had a lot of stressors in the last few weeks (months?) -- take care!
      and feel sorry for yourself if you want to, sounds justified to me.

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  5. This was such an uplifting read. The joy you take in your family, in averted disasters and in your beautiful surroundings is contagious. I'm very grateful today for a drop in temperatures, and a milder week ahead. The leaves on my liquidambar are beginning to turn, and I'm finally feeling Fall. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Thanks Sue -- I can't always make the switch from grumpy/frazzled to sanguine/grateful, so when I do it seems worth registering.
      Glad to hear you're finally getting some relief from the heat.

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  6. I know exactly what you mean about the joy of shopping with your mother. My sister and I took my 95 year old mother to San Francisco a few weeks ago for a football game. She is an avid USC football fan. We spent one morning at the spa, and the afternoon shopping. It's slow going with my mom - but it reminds us that we need to slow down.

    The trip was fun for all of us - only sad part was we lost the game!

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    1. Wow! 95 and she still loves all that activity -- impressive!

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  7. Those moments are among the best in life--when you can see the sunshine in spite of the rain.
    We should have our first really cool day tomorrow. I am looking forward to the crisp autumn air.

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    1. It's true, Debbie. Being able to recognize our good fortune even when we're being shaken a bit -- truly a blessing!

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  8. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving up there. Wish I was on the island basking in my view...things are a bit sticky for me these days.
    I'm going to try "wordless" posts a bit myself.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. If you were up here, I'd invite you you over for tea or a glass of wine to distract you from the sticky stuff. I hope you find some solace where you are, and that life begins to treat you more kindly.

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  9. Thank you for the reminder that there are always reasons to be grateful, if we look for them. It's pretty grim here in Madrid right now, with another demonstration (which I support) on Sunday, and a general strike looming for November 14. It's hard to remember sometimes that we're extremely fortunate, no matter the current state of politics and economy.

    Mr. Pants and I have been talking about heading to the States for Thanksgiving -- he's never been to New England in the fall (though he's made multiple visits in January, brave soul), and despite the lack of bright leaves in late November, I think we'll both enjoy it.

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    1. I've never been to New England although I managed to catch the fall colour around Ottawa one year -- spectacular!
      We're debating going to Barcelona next year -- don't know if tourism helps at all given the severity of the economic problems in Spain. Must be so overwhelming for so many . . .

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  10. I am so glad that the bumpy start to your day was redeemed by gratitude and wonderful moments spent with those you love. Being self-aware and knowing when to take a break is such a gift to yourself, one that more of us need to give ourselves.

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving, Mater.

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    1. Thanks, Lorrie -- you too. Sounds as if we're both celebrating it a day or two early, so that on the day we'll be giving big thanks for a fridgeful of leftovers.

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  11. This was a lovely post. I'm so glad that the key situation was salvaged and that you got to spend quality time with loved ones. Right now I'm feeling really grateful for having a loving and supportive partner, a handful of students in an introductory class that show tremendous promise as thinkers and writers, and seeing some patches of blue sky and sunlight.

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    1. That's a nice trinity for a gratitude list. Exciting to have those keen and eager students.

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  12. At any health food store, you may purchase Natrum Muriaticum 30c, homeopathic particularly useful treatment for HS1.
    One pill, 3 X's daily until change. Stop dosage as soon as improvement commences, since with homeopathics, more is not better (take no mint of any sort, toothpaste, candy, gum, as it may antidote).

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  13. It's a wonder how communing with family can lift mountains of stress. Loved hearing of your mother's spree. How lucky you are to have her... and vice versa.

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    1. Yes, I am lucky. Although much of her has gone, there's a sweetness that's becoming more and more prominent.

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  14. Happy Thanksgiving! My body will never get used to the timing of the American one--am so ready for a break, having made it through the first half of the semester as the new department chair and learning that the miserable pain in my shoulder and numbness in my arm/hand since July is the result of two (two!) herniated discs in my neck. Grateful it's not my dominant arm/hand, but keyboarding activities have taken a back seat. But not to complain here; just sharing some foibles that an academic might appreciate. And clearly you are a master at solving problems.

    BTW: read Atwood's brill "Bluebeard's Egg" in my fairy tales class. Will always think of her as a distant, chilly writer, but she does cook up some excellent prose poetry in her laboratory.

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  15. Ugh! Two herniated discs? That's awful, and I can imagine you'd want to protect that carefully. I've just had a marathon marking weekend and the shoulders, elbow, and wrist are squawking while my hamstrings have shortened considerably!
    Haven't read "Bluebeard's Egg" for ages -- she does astonish, doesn't she?!

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  16. Oh what a lovely weekend, and how good of you to see that your body was screaming out for R&R. It sounds fabulous, even with averted disasters.

    I took a break last weekend, meeting a few friends in Chicago, after being about to collapse myself the day you actually wrote this post. I am glad that I took that day off from the gym, and recognized my need to sleep in on my first day back. Now I feel fully refreshed and ready to tackle anything.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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