the laziest of the lazies

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The snow is starting to pile up. I mean, technically it started to pile up when it started to fall, and when the plow came by the first time and made a small fortification across the foot of our driveway. But we dutifully shovelled it and cleared it, and our neighbours snowblowed it (or is “snowblew” it? what is the correct past tense of “snow blow”? and is “snow blow” even the right verb?) and we made comments on it in person and on Twitter, and took photos of it to share on Instagram. Look at all this snow! We said. Crazy!

Like anything, at first it is a novelty. Then it is tiring. Then it starts to become a presence, and a nuisance. Our large deck has been reduced to a narrow path between heaps of white. I climb up and over one to get to the bird feeder. When I stand at the kitchen sink to look out at it, the snow is as high as my waist. The birds sit on the snow at eye level, as though they’re in the zoo and I’m standing at their exhibit window, looking in. I watch the smooth-headed crow reach on his skinny legs and peck into the bird feeder, reaching for seeds.

The last week of my Christmas vacation was spent being lazy. Not entirely so: we did ring in the New Year by popping open a bottle of Prosecco, and watching countdowns on TV. Earlier that evening, we made ribs and cornbread and homemade mac and cheese. Adam’s cousin came over later and we drank and smoked some more, and made jokes, and laughed. Late into the morning, I went to bed.

Then, we got lazy. We wore spots into the couch. (Really, I should admit, those spots have been worn in long before now.) We lay one at either end and twined our legs in the middle, Adam facing the sports on the television, me facing away from it, reading and zoning out the yelling sports announcers. Or, I’d have my laptop on me, and headphones in, and watch episodes of “The Office” or “The Mindy Project.”

Now the vacation has ended. Today marked the return to school for me, and to work for many others. All that lazy renewed me, and makes me excited for non-lazy time. I’m pumped to get creative again, to be productive again. (Although there will always be room in my heart for lazy times.)

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four simple goals + one little word 2014

NYEonelittleword

New Year’s Eve, as you no doubt are aware, is the time when a lot of people set goals or resolutions. It’s a natural turning point, a time to look back at the year behind us, and look ahead to the year just starting. It’s exciting and personally, I’ve always enjoyed the chance to do some reflection on a whole year wrapping up, and think about what the next year holds for me.

In years past I filled out a long questionnaire (this is a post on my old blog, huminbean, with the 35-question list, in case you’re interested). I would print out my answers and save them in a personal journal. I did that for a few years, and while I do like to go back from time to time and read what I wrote, especially because there are lots of things from each year that I don’t remember anymore, I find that there are only a few questions where the answers really change year to year. (The “personal fashion statement” one, for me, is sadly the same – jeans and tee shirts – as always.) It’s a fun exercise but things change and evolve, and I’m finding the older I get, the busier/lazier I get too.

So this year I’m tagging along with two trends I’ve seen in the blogosphere: Four Simple Goals (on A Beautiful Mess) and One Little Word (originally by Ali Edwards, and seen by me on Elise Blaha’s blog Enjoy It.)

As you can probably tell by the words “simple” and “little”, the idea is to keep it simple. Last year I did pick a word, thinking I would try the “one little word” idea out, and the word was “Realistic”. But nothing much came of it, other than writing it in my journal and thinking about it for a few days afterward, and at a few times throughout the year (“Oh yeah, I picked a word for this year, what was it?”)

This year I pondered a bunch of words. Magic, thrive, open, joy, etc. Those words are kind of obvious, but they definitely fit the bill of one little word that could carry you through a new year. They’ve got lots of potential but they also make sense. Who wouldn’t want magic, or to thrive, or to be open and joyful? But none felt right for me. I went for a walk and let my brain mull and toss words around. And the word that came up was a strange one: deal.

But the more I thought about “deal” the more it felt like a fit. The last few months of 2013 were a bit difficult for me (I tack the word “bit” on there to make it seem like less of a shitshow and downplay how much I felt like just running away, several times), but I came through it. I dealt with it. Deal with it, Noble. That’s my new mantra. So much – so much! – of the things that stress me out are really not a big deal. When I take a deep breath, take a step back, and then “put on my big girl panties and deal with it,” (i.e. see a counsellor, write in my journal, and then deal with it) it’s totally do-able. So the word “deal” works that way.

Then there is the thought that life is a deal. It’s a compromise, a trade. We get to live this amazing life, but we are also alive, human, fallible. Shit happens. For real. But then sometimes you get a sweet deal. And then there is “let’s make a deal,” like let’s do some business. Or “deal the cards,” like playing a game. Or “the hand you’re dealt.”

And then the word “deal” flipped itself around and turned into “lead”. And it felt like the two needed to be together so I left it like that. To lead – sometimes people say I’m a leader. And I feel like a leader, sometimes. Other times I feel like a big old con artist, like “if people knew how small I can feel in my head, they wouldn’t think that!” But leading is important. And I want to continue to lead, in whatever weird and goofy way I do that, in 2014.

Also the word “lead” makes me think of a dog at the end of a leash, and how that dog is rarely content just to walk on the leash, it’s constantly pulling you forward or making you tug her out of a ditch. This is how life is. Very little slack and lots of pulling you forward whether you like it or not.

So those are my “one (or two) little words”. Let’s see how they play out in 2014.

NYEfoursimplegoals
And then there are the Four Simple Goals. I did a lot of thinking about these, and considered a number of different things I’d like to do more of in 2014. But in the end I narrowed it down to the four you see here.

NYEsketchbookUse my sketchbook more // As a graphic design student, there are lots of projects to work on at a given time. And time is elusive and so it’s tempting to go with my first idea, sit right down at the computer and just get ‘er done. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need to do, too. But, last year I sketched a lot more than I have done this year. It very likely was because I knew the teacher was going to collect the sketchbook at the end of the term and she was expecting to see process pieces for all our work. But I miss the hand-to-paper connection, and I miss trying out ideas in pencil first, and having a variety of ideas to choose from.

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Plant a garden // My Mom has gardened since before I can remember. I love plants too and when I lived with her, I’d have a bed of my own for tomatoes (my favourite!). The last two summers, although I have a place of my own now, I haven’t had time to garden because I was too busy working and going back and forth between North Sydney and Baddeck. I had pots on the deck but that’s just not the same. This year I want to break ground and make some plants grow.

NYEmoveMove every day // Physical activity does so damn much for me, it’s crazy to think I’d consider not doing it. Yet, I fall victim to inertia, and get lazy. But every time I get up and go for a walk, or do some yoga, or whatever, I always end up feeling good. I work shit out. I think things through. I mull. I get distracted from myself, and that relaxes me too. But I get all intimidated sometimes thinking I must have rock-hard abs or some other measure of physical perfection, in order to just do what the human body is meant to do, and move. Eff that. More movement in 2014.

NYEnextstepFigure out the next step // School is ending in June. And what happens to me after that is all up-in-the-air right now. I’ll be looking for a job, but I have no idea at this point what is available, and if I’ll get hired somewhere. I’m also considering getting more education, and possibly also self-employment. But they are all big question marks right now. And I’ll admit it’s all kind of scary and I’m trying not to freak out about it. (See above: “deal with it, Noble!“) So this one is a goal that would happen whether or not it was on a list, but I figure, to put it on the list is to be proactive about it and think of it positively. Instead of like a big scary unavoidable thing that I’ll try to avoid.

****

So there it is. One year ends and another begins. I wish you all a merry time tonight, whatever it is you’ll be doing, whether it’s going out and partying, or staying in with pyjamas and a movie. I hope you’re happy and healthy, and that 2014 brings you abundant blessings. See you there!

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the important thing

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Yesterday I was standing in line at the Super Store. It was a long line so I resisted the urge to take out my phone (because really, I don’t need to check Facebook and Twitter a hundred times a day, just ninety is fine), and instead I let my eyes wander.

Eyes like to wander, it lets the brain relax.

Not like, “he or she has got a wandering eye,” as in they’re a cheater, that’s a whole different thing, although it’s probably related. Whatever. Not the issue here.

Anyway, of course, right at the checkout the people who design these things know that customers are bored and letting their eyes wander, so there are lots of messages trying to get our attention. Candy bars, gum, soda, batteries, tic tacs. Bright colours, flashy packaging, lining both sides of the aisle.

And there are the magazine headlines. It occurred to me, standing there shifting my weight and leaning on my cart, that they are not so much advertising articles as they are making promises, promises which seem a little strange when you consider that it is a pile of glossy paper that is making the promises. I mean, how can a floppy old magazine make all these things happen?

Seriously, no word of a lie, here is what the January 2014 “Real Simple” magazine promises, in all-caps down the right-hand side of the cover:

Reduce your debt. Increase your strength. Improve your diet. Say no to perfect parenting. Make peace with your gadgets. Simplify your wardrobe. Solve your skin problems.”

That’s all exactly what my life needs, to be perfect! Man! And all I have to do is spend $5.99 and all of this will happen!

The image on the cover is of orchids and smooth rocks in a bowl, like you might see in a spa, or in an ad for a spa. The headline: “How to live THE BALANCED LIFE.”

Here’s how I’ve figured out how to live the balanced life: I don’t buy magazines anymore. Except for when I do (gotta have balance!) and then I remember why I don’t buy magazines. Oh yeah, except… for my monthly subscription to Chatelaine that I bought a few years ago, and renew every year, but only read that month’s issue maybe every other month or so.

The exception is the rule. The rule to balanced living: there are always exceptions.

The truth is, we’re all busy. There will always be a million options for how to spend our money, how to spend our time. I have an hour right now, do I spend it doing the dishes? Do I spend it sweeping the dirty kitchen floor? (And how does it get so dirty so fast? That’s the burning question, seriously.) Or do I go to my office, shut the door, and spend it writing?

For right now, the important thing is writing.

There will always be dishes.

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shovel, sleep, repeat: the holidays continue

IMG_9523Although I love the program I’m in at NSCC, I am also loving having a break from it for three solid weeks. Even though much of that time I am shovelling – we’ve easily had a few feet of snow in the last week and a half. And so far the snowblower Adam’s been talking about getting has not materialized.

Here are some photos from my holidays so far. The first one up there is one of my Mom’s two cats. This one is Ginger (original name, I know!).

Oh and I must mention, if you love cartoons and you love family/Cape Breton/Christmas, check out Kate Beaton’s Twitter and/or Tumblr for her day-by-day cartooning of her visit home to Mabou for Christmas. It is brilliant, funny, heart-warming stuff. (And butt-warming too, from sitting on the pellet stove.)

IMG_9525 Anyway, back to me. Ha. But seriously.

IMG_9527Have I mentioned that I love me some walking track? Well I do. Even when it’s cold and snowy.

IMG_9533 Woo Christmas shopping! The malls are a zoo. It’s to be expected, I know. But it’s still unnerving when you’re standing by Future Shop waiting for your boyfriend to meet you, and people are just walking so close to you, on their own little important missions. Personal space people!

IMG_9534Easy decorating, it’s what I’m allll about. Stick some Christmas ornaments in a basket and call it done.

IMG_9537 IMG_9540The parking lots of the CBRM are slushy at the moment. Top is Walmart in North Sydney (yep, I shop at Walmart sometimes, so just go ahead and judge me now, it’s cool), and bottom is Doktor Luke’s coffee shop in Sydney.

IMG_9543Hey it’s me! Out of the house AND wearing eyeliner! Something must be going on…

IMG_9544It was a gathering of women for a Secret Santa potluck, and it was the best. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt.

IMG_9546 No joke, food is the best thing about the holidays. Or a very close second to like, family, and all that. I guess.

IMG_9551Later the mister and I went out (that never happens!) and saw some bands play at the Phoenix in North Sydney. This is Adam’s cousin Connie in The Pranks.

IMG_9555And the next morning we partook of banana chocolate chip pancakes. And I made enough that I could snack on them for days afterwards.

IMG_9560 IMG_9561Which I will need to do from all the shovelling.

IMG_9564Adam got my bird feeder up on the railing and the crows visited soon after.

IMG_9567More walking track love. Those footprints are all mine! There was a bit of freezing rain going on so I had the place to myself. (I was going to walk at the Emera Center, indoors, but it’s been closed for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.) And honestly, the freezing rain wasn’t so bad, just a light sprinkle.

IMG_9572 IMG_9574 IMG_9576And then this morning I woke at a very early hour and made my way over to Sydney to the CBC building on George Street. I’m on the Cape Breton Information Morning Issue Panel, which means sometimes I go in on a Thursday and have a chat with two other folks on the panel, as well as the host Steve Sutherland. So for Christmas Eve, the producers at the show asked the Issue Panelists to come in throughout the morning and have an informal chat about holiday traditions and books. And also, eat shortbread cookies.

IssuePanelThis photo is by Steve Sutherland and was on the Information Morning Twitter feed, which I encourage you to follow if you’re into that Twitter thing. Left to right: Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith reading the news; Michelle Stephens, musical guest; and three of the numerous Issue Panelists: Vanessa Childs-Rolls, Grant Haverstock, and myself. All of us looking rather cheery for 6:34 am.

So now it’s time to head to Baddeck to visit my Dad, and then come home, finish wrapping presents, and then curl up with my fella. I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and hope that your holidays are everything you wish for. I’ll write again before New Year’s Eve with a bit of reflection on the year that was, and the one coming up.

And stay safe!

xo Leah

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the holidays so far

IMG_9456 IMG_9464I’m definitely not one of those folks who decorates every room of the house for Christmas and has a tree in several rooms and a colour scheme and all that (but if you are, more power to you!), but I do like to have a few lights up and a tree. We have a little mini artificial tree that was left behind by the previous owner of our house, and I put lights in the front window and around the side too. I think if Adam were more into decorating (he’s not at all!) we might do more, but where it’s just me doing it, I do a little bit and leave it at that. I just like to have lights on at night, it makes the living room so cozy!

IMG_9468So school is done now for the semester, yahoo! It was a tough last month, I found myself struggling a bit to keep stress at bay and still complete my work. But, “inch by inch, life’s a cinch,” as someone helpful told me last month (the rest of that is “yard by yard, life is hard”), and I kept a daily calendar with what I had to do each day, and crossed each day off as it passed. And now the Holidays are here. I realized that stressing about things isn’t just for school, that it’s probably just a part of who I am, because now I’m stressing about Holiday things!

Well, not overly, but the thoughts are there: “Must get awesome presents for everyone!” “Must bake for everyone in the neighbourhood!” “Must visit everyone I know!”

Then I cut myself off at the pass and think, “No, actually must rest and relax and enjoy my time off.”

The picture above is of a stovetop simmer, the recipe I got from A Beautiful Mess. It is simple to make and makes the house smell amazing.

IMG_9470A dear friend came over and for the fourth year in a row we made chocolate rum balls. Yup, that’s an entire pot of melted butter. In our defence it was a double batch.

IMG_9481Dim sum at the Canton in North Sydney with friends.
IMG_9492 IMG_9493I do love to send Christmas cards. I’ll probably still do it once the stamp prices increase next year, but perhaps send fewer. That’s a bit sad.

IMG_9495The big storm on the weekend left a lot of snow, and got us talking about getting a snowblower.

IMG_9499A basket of citrus fruit in preparation for making lemon squares later.

IMG_9500A paper garland I made last year out of an old Chatelaine magazine.

IMG_9501 IMG_9502 IMG_9503Decorations on our little tree, some from my friend Tanya’s sister, who was clearing out her stash. (She’s one of those aforementioned folks who decorates all the rooms in the house.)

 

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life lately

IMG_9412A meal at the NSCC cafeteria yesterday: turkey pot pie, salad, and pecan pie for dessert. Total: $9.75. I take an empty Tupperware with me now to school so I can take the inevitable leftovers home or eat them later on in the afternoon.

IMG_9414 IMG_9415A project I’ve been working on for Studio: Print class. We had to take an existing package (I used Boursin cheese), recreate it on the computer, make up a new brand and design the package, then print it, and cut out and put the package together. This morning I took product photos of it in the studio here at school, and I’ll be submitting those to my teacher this week, along with the package itself.

(The name of the cheese, Carini, was suggested to me by Adam, and it’s the title of a Phish song. (His favourite band.) Sometimes when I have no inspiration, he gives me some from the strangest places.)

IMG_9417And then of course there is the walking track. Which has become my new favourite place to be or thing to do. I go there in the late afternoon/early evening, after school, and walk 1 or 2 miles depending on my energy level and time. That’s 8 or 16 laps of the Emera Center, or 4 or 8 of the Carmen Young track. (Outdoors is my preference if its light out and not too stormy.)

IMG_9422I’m getting a bit bolder about taking pictures at the walking track, too. The first several times I was there I felt shy and like the new kid, and I felt like people were watching me and what I was doing. Now I feel more comfortable there, since I’ve been there myself a number of times.

I still don’t want to be obviously snapping shots of the other walkers or the people using the ice, because we live in an age where people are worried about privacy, and I totally get that. I don’t want to be known as “the creep who puts people’s picture on the Internet without their permission,” but I also love taking pictures of my daily life, mainly for my own personal scrapbooking and memories, but also for this blog. So, I’m getting a bit bolder with photo-taking.

IMG_9423 IMG_9427Two genius ideas I saw other people doing: using a deck of playing cards to count your laps (three women who were walking together, and said that they forgot otherwise, because they were too busy gabbing), and going down one staircase and up another to add some cardio to the walk (a couple ahead of me were doing this and I decided to do it, too).

Another friend of mine who is in school here at NSCC says she has been going to the gym and it’s really helping her unwind and get her mind away from school, and house chores, and all the normal rigamarole that can wear a person down. I can attest to that! Taking my walk in a well-lit, temperature-controlled public space with other people also being physical, while listening to my own music and being by myself, has been so helpful in relieving stress.

 

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making me happy // the figure skaters

communityroomLast night at the Emera Center, the figure skaters were practicing. When I walk there and the hockey teams are practicing, it’s interesting, but the figure skaters! Especially the older pairs, watching them fluidly skate in tandem, holding hands and matching their strides, it was mesmerizing! A few times I nearly ran into the fire extinguisher mounted on the wall, because I was watching the skaters as I walked.

I’m getting quite fond of the indoor walking track, especially as the weather has been so stormy this past week. I like that I can plug my headphones in and listen to music, and have “alone time”, but that there are other people around. And I think it’s motivating that the other people there are also being active, whether it’s the other walkers on the track, or whoever is on the ice, hockey players or figure skaters. And there are usually a few people in the stands watching whatever practice is going on, and people stop and chat with them. It’s community. It feels good.

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