Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Apparently I have a little problem - in a couple areas. Firstly, it's fairly evident that I should be looking into a 12 step program for journal junkies. Secondly, I should perhaps also look into my inability to understand the words 'simple, simplicity, simplify'.

It's a documented fact that I am unwittingly captured by journals by their size, colour, feel and not actual need.  It is also a fact that I am a perpetual, habitual list maker and organizer/documentor of most movements of my life.

I spied a sweet little planner in the colours that I am presently drawn to, with "Live Simply" on it. That is my mission, my mantra. I opened it to have an peek and it said "Take me to the Sea." It's a sign! I am meant to have it. 

I was filling out birthdays and events and I thought 'Didn't I just do that?' Yes ... I did, I have a 2015 planner that I use every day.

Do I need two? Is that going to make my life more simple?

Hmmmm ... I think not.

Now I have to figure out what I can use it for so I am not having to duplicate things.  Perhaps a spot to document my progress in the Journal Rehab Program.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oh No, I Did It Again

Oh lordie, I did it again. I can't help it. It's an illness. I need to google what the name of the syndrome is, besides 'Journal Junkie'. 

I try so hard to resist, to back away, to distract myself. I'm weak. It's my Achilles heel.

The problem is ... well, actually there are a couple problems. Just how many journals does one human need, and what more can I find to write in them? 

I want to order the Journal Makers to STOP! Stop creating such beautiful journals that feel so nice. I used to buy them for size and colour. I suppose I have pretty well every colour so that doesn't suck me in much anymore. But now, didn't they go and invent ones that feel so lovely that even with your eyes closed you don't want to let it go. They get into your hand and won't release. They are magnetic, just like red ones have always been to me.

I tried so hard to walk away. I shouldn't have made eye contact to begin with. It was a tree. And darn, don't I love trees. It reeled me in. Fatal error - I picked it up.

It had no price so I was just going to stick it back and run

But it wouldn't get out of my hand. It walked me over to the dude at the counter. It let itself release long enough for him to scan it.

Thirty dollars. Thirty AMERICAN dollars at almost thirty percent exchange. A LOT of money for an empty book. Way out of my price range.

I took it back and put it with its friends.

Next fatal error.

I didn't run. I hovered.

I looked over my shoulder and the darn thing zapped itself into my hand again.

It made me take it back to the dude and say 'oh well, it's only money.'

So, here it is. Yet another empty journal that is waiting for me to figure out something to fill its pages.

What is wrong with me?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

30 Days

Matt Cutts' Ted Talk entitled 'Try Something New for 30 Days' inspired me. Not necessarily to try something 'new' at this point, but to tackle something 'old' that has been on my plate forever and ever. He said 'The time is going to pass anyway, you might as well have something to show for it.' True.

I used to always have something to show for the long, dark nights of winter ... always a project that I could point to and say 'This was winter.'  I got out of that habit for some silly reason, which likely has something to do with the internet and Netflix.

I seem to be kind of spinning all the time - going nowhere. It's making time go faster, I think. It's making me dizzy, I know.

This year, I'm keen to tackle a series of 30 day challenges - at least six of them is the plan.I will see if that makes me any more productive. And less dizzy.

 We had the topic for our January WINGS meeting, so I have a whole team of supportive and encouraging, not to mention inspiring women behind me.

I am beginning now. Today. This is my official mission:

A) I will not turn the computer on until noon ...
B) I will write something every single day ...
C) I will clear one space daily ... 
D) I will throw out or give away something ...

I'll let you know how I do.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Planning to Unplan

I am a perpetual planner. I am a Mind Mapper. I am a 'To Do Lister'. I live by one. I live with one - in my daily journal, on the frig, on index cards, on my computer and staple gunned to my brain. It's how I map my day and my life.

I divide it into about a dozen categories then sub-divide it. I break it down in to annually, monthly, weekly, daily. Sometimes hourly. I add more things than I ever stroke off. That's the way it seems that I am wired. I think it comes from being self-employed for over a quarter of a century. I have to direct myself and keep on track, focused and productive. If I don't orchestrate every inch of that, no one else will. It's kind of overwhelming and tiring sometimes. Well, truth be told, as I age more it's like 'LOTS-of-times'.

Last year, I did something radical. It was one of the best and smartest things I ever did. I gave myself a gift in honour of ending my previous year and starting a new age. I gave myself the gift of August.

For the entire month I allowed myself to 'Just Be'. I would not spend the usual hours planning what I should do or should be doing. I would not even think about what I would be/could be/should be doing when fall and Reality arrived on September 1st. I released myself from any guilt.

It was nice.

Holding thoughts of August in the depths of  January.

Whenever my brain would start to slip into planning mode, I said sharply 'Uh-uh ... no thinking until September!' It was indeed strange but it was wonderful.

I spent more time staying home than I have in all the years we have been here. I didn't slip into town on my usual 'being busy' projects. I didn't 'Do'. I didn't 'Go'.

I sat on the front porch and read and wrote. I sat on my cabin porch and painted. I actually watched movies at night. That is weird for me.

It was refreshing, rejuvenating and peaceful.

I liked it so much that this year I have to PLAN on it. That sounds crazy - plan on unplanning. But if I know if I'm going to allow myself that gift again, I should not mess around so much in the other months.

Which means busy myself NOW.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Write On

My 'word of the year' always comes to out of the blue. It's not like I am sitting around thinking, 'it's time to choose a new word -what should I pick?' and then I go over a list of pretty words. I don't even know WHY I have a word - it's something I started a number of years ago and to be honest, by mid year I have to dig a little to remember what it was.

So it surprises me each year when a word plunks itself into my brain and declares that it is 'MY word'. And that's exactly what it does - it plunks. It does not flutter and float and settle in gracefully, it plunks and declares.

This year it slammed full force a few days before the year ended.

"WRITE" it said. And yes, in capital letters.

I heard "WRITE" and then wondering ... what???? ... the plunk finished with "WRITE - it is your word for the year." 

Where I keep my Soul Collage card so I can remember what my mission is.

Sometimes when the word comes, I want to negotiate a bit and see if I can't lead it some particular direction that I happen to want to go. Not this year, there was no doubt. It was in capital letters after all. It was yelling at me.

And holy cow ... a verb.

I don't usually get a verb, it's most often a word like 'clarity' in 2013 and 'simplicity' last year.

WRITE. That's an action word.

On New Year's Eve day I went to a Soul Collage workshop where we were choosing pictures that our 'soul' was directing us to. I wanted to cheat. Actually, I tried to cheat. I know exactly what I wanted my card to represent, what I wanted as a focus this year ... to 'let go'. Apparently the exercise wasn't about MY chosen intention.

My first Soul Collage card 

There were hundreds of photos that we got to choose from. The idea isn't to over-think it, but choose the ones that you are drawn to. As it happened, mine were about writing, about passing on stories. 

I went back to the pile to do a second one, searching specifically for 'letting go'. Again, the images that jumped out at me and would let me go had words. I wouldn't think it's necessary to have two cards that have the same message, but I did it anyway since it was so insistent.

What it did was confirm to me that my word for this year definitely must be WRITE. Apparently that's more essential than cleaning out my closets, and I can't say I'm real disappointed about that.

I'm keeping a card propped up right where I can see it ... write where I can see it - so I don't forget.

It's a plan.
The second one that came about. More word birds.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Camp

It happens almost every year. I intend to go camping because I enjoy it so much and then it's the end of August and summer is done. I promised myself last year that I would definitely make it a priority. I even scouted out and wrote down all of the sites at the Pinery where I would like to live.

Problem is, if you want to get to choose or basically have any of the spots at all, you need to book ahead … WAY ahead - like in January. My life doesn't work like that. First there's weather. I need to see the 7 day forcast. I am not an avid enough camper to be wet and cold.
Or even damp and chilly.

Then there is the fact that other possibilities could come up. It's hard for me to plan two weeks, let alone months ahead. I live to a great extent, Last Minute.

So, here it is, end of summer once again, no time left to run away to the lake for a few days, once again. But I am a big believer that everything one really needs is in your own backyard. Or side field, in this case.

The tent was up anyway because I had all the kids over for a camp out. I hadn't taken it down because JP and I were sneaking over there for little naps. It's heavenly with the top cover off.  With the breeze softly blowing, the canopy of trees and the crickets chirping,  it feels like I am away in a woods anyway.

"I'm going camping." I told Brian. "Where?" he asked, knowing with me that could pretty well be anywhere.  "Right there." I said, pointing to the field just feet away. "I won't be home - except if you want to BBQ me a hamburger - I can come for 'take out'."

Just like last year, I had a comfy bed - a pile of 10 quilts and comforters and a feather bet as my airmattress still has a leak in it from last time. I had my books, my writing a big bonus that I didn't have when I went 'off site'.
My dog.
JP likes camping. He also likes water.

'Can I come in, huh - can I? I like it in there!'

Not with those dirty feet, you're not.

'I washed them - are they better?'  No.

Well then I'll just lay out here with my sticks, looking ever-so-dejected.

'That's not working? I'll add a little more drama'.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Going Batty

It's Brian's fault really. Last week he told a friend "I can finally sleep without having one eye open - it's been five years since we had a bat in the house".  An hour later, seriously… actually LESS than hour later, what did we have? Yes. we did.

And yes, I know, bats are great and awesome and wonderful and all that. They are a major pest controllers. But if they are swooping around my house, around my head, then they are the major pests.

I never laid eyes on a bat until I was in my 30s. When Brian would tell of the time that a bat was in his bedroom when he was a child, I would pretty well hyperventilate Then we moved into an old farmhouse.

Ashley sees something coming ... me, I'm too busy 'smiling for the camera'

and still focusing on smiling
The first bat that I experienced, I was sitting down in the kitchen alone one night while everyone else was upstairs sleeping. Did I scream? Oh yeah. Big time. Had I ever before in my entire life screamed like that? No. Never. Ever. Did it cause Brian to hop out of bed and rush to save me? No. I think the ... ahhh ... okay, keep it nice ... 'silly guy' recognized a Bat Shriek.  Jamie, all of 13 years old, came to save me. "Get your Dad! Get your Dad!" I hollered at her as I cowered under a blanket. What did he do? When he finally showed up, he quickly shut the two doors locking me into the kitchen with a rippin' bat and a dog that was barking and going crazy trying to jump up and get it. Peeking through a tiny crack he said "Just open the door to outside." "Are you nuts?" I screamed at him; that and probably a few other loud and frantic sentences. What happened after that, I don't really remember.  I must have blocked it out for the sake of our marriage.

There were lots more bat stories in the years following. In none of them was he cast as the Hero. One of the most vivid images I have of Brian is seared into my brain. It was one of those 'never un-see it' moments. If I had only had a picture of it, I would have an entire line of cards and posters ... it would have gone viral instantly.

The setting: Our bedroom in the middle of the night. I wake from a sound sleep to the swoosh of air and wings close to my head. Scream ... from me: "Oh my Gawd! There's a bat in our room!!" From under the covers I hear "No there's not." Rapid conversation back and forth, ending with him being forced out of bed to get a badminton racket from the basement. (Yes, I know people, it's terrible but until you have a bat wooshing around your head, don't judge.) I am sitting in bed with all the lights on, covers clutched up around me - blanket over my head. He's taking forever. "Where are you? Hurry up!" I yell - numerous times. He finally appears. Honestly all thoughts of the bat were gone. My fear changed to dismay and laughter ... uproarious laughter. There he was, clutching a racket in both hands - dressed in cowboy boots, a tight leather motorcycle jacket and helmet … and briefs. Bare hairy legs and cowboy boots - a great look - one for the 'fantasy file'. I called to Jamie "Get the Camera! Get the camera!" He calmly and politely asked us to refrain from that. Well, something sort of like that. Then he informed us: "You can NOT do half-naked battle with a bat. Simple as that." That's when the true depths of his bat terror was revealed. 

Sometimes we only had one every few years. One year though, we had a number of them. By that time, I was spending a few weeks in the summer in Newfoundland and he was on his own with Bat Battle. He called in a professional ... 'Batman' - that was the business name. He spent a couple hours finding the spot and putting in a system where they could get out but not in again. Cost: $3500. 'Worth it.' my bat beleaguered husband declared.

We been fat-free ever since ... until he summoned them back which his fatal words the other day.
As John Paul and I headed up the stairs to bed there was one swooping around the hallway. Brian was in the bathroom. "There's a BAT!" I hollered. "No there's not!" he yelled back. I knew instantly from his tone that he knew full well there was a bat. He was HIDING in the bathroom. John-Paul high-tailed it out of there. 'GET IT!' Brian shouts at me. "WHAT!? YOU get it! YOU were the one who just put it out to the bat-gods and caused it. YOU get it." "Get a badminton racket!" he shouts. "We don't HAVE any badminton rackets anymore. We haven't for years now. We are Bat-Free, remember?  Three thousand, five hundred dollars - lifetime guarantee - remember?"

I searched the basement and came up with the only things I could find. He wasn't impressed. The only other thing was the broom. In the end, that was what stunned the creepy creature resulting in his removal. But there was no convincing John Paul that it was safe to enter the premises again. Even cheese couldn't coax him in. We had to actually pick him up and carry him in. He has made the kitchen couch his personal bed for the last couple months, but that night he got in bed between the two of us. He's not taking any chances ... he's moved back into our room.

That was last week. This week, JP and I have been on our own while Brian has gone fishing twelve hours away. Yep ... you guessed it. Bat fun again. No main man to defer to and no help from the four legged male. Dog gone. I opened the upstairs balcony door then went into the bathroom with the little sucker ... actually he was a BIG sucker - wing span on him of three feet ... well, maybe a little smaller than that but he was HONKIN' HUGE. There's not a chance that Brian would have ever been in a five foot space with a swooping bat.I can't say it was one of my favourite tasks but I had little choice. With a towel over my head, I took another one to flap at him to drive him out into the hallway towards the open door. Darned if he didn't get caught up in the towel which fell right on top of me. We both went tumbling into the bathtub. I got out faster than him. So I got the broom. I tried to get him to hang on to it so I could 'walk him' out the door. He refused ... very loudly and angrily. I think I know what bat swearing sounds like.

There's always a way to solve a problem if you remain calm and think - and it helps if you are highly motivated. I was expecting a guest for dinner and an overnight stay any minute. She would have simply freaked and ran if she knew we had a bat in our house ... Ever. I shut him up in the bathroom and went to the pond for the fish nets - two of them. I stuck one over top of him and slid the second underneath, walked him to the balcony and set him free.  There he was, zooming away with his three foot wing span as she drove in the driveway.

I didn't say a word about it and neither did JP. That's because he was outta there.

It won't take too many more bat adventures for Brian to be searching the internet for a new Batman. Or a new house.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Chapter 4: Island Adventure - the First Guest

Window view - candlelight reflection on the field of daisies.
It's fitting that my very first overnight guest on Ship Island is one of the gals who was with me when the opportunity to have it in my life presented itself.

When Brian offered to buy it for me as a birthday gift, since he ... QUOTE "haven't got you much over the past 70 years so I likely owe you some gifts" ... thanks Brian ... I didn't jump on it. "I don't really need another place to 'sit' when I don't have enough time to sit at the places that I have and love now." I told my two friends who had come up to see it with me.

Enough light for writing.
This particular friend is an "AND Girl".  We had played the game together at a workshop we were at.  The one person says something they want to do ... like "I want to go to Ireland" or "I am going to get a little cabin on an isolated island." The other person, for everything they say, replies with 'BUT' and follows with some reason that it won't work. "BUT you can't afford it. BUT it's hard to get to. BUT you don't have enough time now to do the things you want to do."  And then you switch and say the exact thing but with the reply of "AND" instead. "AND you can visit all those cool castles in Ireland. AND you can look up your family history! AND you can drink lots of Guinness!" When we did that exercise, the energy in the room totally changed to electric and excitement from the dragging down of every one's dreams.

We can find a photo-op anywhere.
Yes, she is an 'AND Girl'.
Her 'ANDS!' for the cabin were a rapid fire pistol:

 "AND you could have SO MUCH fun decorating it!
AND you can go over there and paint and write! 
AND it could be a retreat for other writers and artists and tired women! AND we could spend the night there!!!"

And so we did.

Morning coffee in the daisies.

I must tell you, this dear, wonderful, always-supportive AND Friend is a City Girl. When she slept in my cabin on the farm - feet away from the house with a big yard light shining like a full moon, she didn't. Sleep that is. She kept saying 'What's that?' 'Just the donkeys knocking around.' 'WHAT'S THAT???!!!!' 'Bullfrogs.' 'BULLFROGS! Oh LORD!" Yep, a City Girl, bless her heart.

So the fact that she was keen ... and I seriously mean KEEN to sleep over on Ship Island was really cool besides being completely fitting to be my very first overnight guest.
We packed a little bag with the most essential 'overnight-in-a-cabin-on-an-isolated-island' items ...
comfortable lounge wear, a book, journal, snacks and coffee.
 AND off we went.

From the outside looking in.

It was heavenly. 
We lit the candles and then went outside to look in. 
We both played 'taking pictures'.
We talked.
 A lot. 
We both said 
'Isn't this COOL?!'
 a dozen times.

We figured out how to make the couch into a bed so we didn't have to both squeeze into 
the tiny double bed in the tiny bedroom.

In the morning, we sat in the meadow of daisies and raspberries and read. 
We soaked in the peace and serenity and history and magic. 

And we were grateful.

 Grateful for friendship; 
 for freedom;
 for time 
and for the fact
 that it only takes
 the very simplest things in life 
to make us
And then another Very Cool Thing happened. 
I happened to just catch them as they were coming up the well-hidden path.
What fun! My family ... well a good part of it, got to see finally see where I am when I say I'm 'heading overseas'.
I think they approved.

Visitors! Woohoo!!!

Their very first time there.

Perhaps a longer trek than they expected.
I gave them the grand tour ...
the cabin, hout 'ouse, cemetary and Tom Tumbler,
leaving the Lighthouse and other challenging hiking for another time.
Then they said goodbye and we carried on for the rest of the day,
doing what we were doing.


Chapter 3: Alone On The Island

Sunset ... Little Red Boat parked for the night.
I would have been disappointed with myself if I hadn't done it ... if I haven't camped out at the cabin.

Time was short. I had a month's worth of work to do in six days. Hours were running out. The weather had not really been conducive to outside painting and I really needed to be at that task, but I also needed to fulfill my vision and expectation even more.

When I told people I was staying there - alone on the island - I'm pretty sure they thought I was just plain weird.. While they didn't come right out and say it, I suspect that they thought that I had a hole in my net. Some thought that I would be/should be scared. 'Of what?' I'd ask." All that is out there is some rabbits, maybe a moose and ghosts." "Yes ... the ghosts!" they agreed. "Well," I assured them, "I know that they were ALL hardworking, lovely people and they're glad that I'm there with them." 

Not exactly on the beaten path.
Being 'alone' wasn't necessarily on my 'need-to-do' agenda. I would have happily welcomed company for my first sleepover, but it wasn't to be. That evening, my friend came to see the place, we hiked to Tom Tumbler to view the icebergs and visited the cemetary, but she wasn't about to spend the night even knowing that it meant I would have to be alone. 'Nope.' she said, 'Can't do it.'  And so I drove her home in my boat, both of us giggling like school girls at how 'independent' we were, running the boat by ourselves. Oh yeah, my friends are as easily amused as I am. Apparently not quite as adventurous sometimes, but easily amused.

The setting sun illuminating the bottom of the Steep, Steep Hill.
Icebergs ... more than a dozen of them surrounding us.

Sunset from Tom Tumbler

So, there I was - back on the Island, alone. As the sun was setting, I trod up the steep, steep hill ... which by the way, was getting easier each time I did it. I wound my way through the darkened, sheltered path to my little cabin nestled in the woods. Inside my tiny little abode, I lit the candles.

Candles are up there on my top 10 things that I'm passionate about. Along with chairs and small buildings, I probably have more than most normal people, so the fact that there is no power did not diminish lighting inside the cabin.  It was peaceful and lovely. Everything is lovely by candlelight. As I do in my little cabin at  home, I went outside to look in, to savour the vision of a candle lit window.

Cozying up for the night.
A candle lit window is a comforting, welcoming thing even if there is no one but yourself to welcome.

I sat in the rocking chair, glad that I had dragged it up there. Just as candles are, a rocking chair is mandatory in a cabin. I began a fresh new journal. I wrote about my fascination with and love of the history of Ship Island and what it was like to be spending the night there ... alone. I must admit, I didn't sleep well or much, but that was okay. In the morning, it was drizzling and gray, which totally pleased me. There was no need to rush back to paint. I lit the wood stove, a little bit of overkill to just boil a kettle, but necessary for my cup of tea.

And there I sat in the flickering candle light  ...
 blanket, tea, rocking chair and journal. 
And just me.
 It was quite lovely.

I've gone camping alone for couple times but in reality one is not overly alone on a campground with 1200 sites. This time I really was alone.
Well, except for the rabbits, the 'maybe-a-moose' and the ghosts.

People were curious when
 I returned and asked
''How was it on Ship Island?"

 "Quiet." I told them. "Quiet."
There wasn't really much more to say.