A Calm Mind

There are no words to describe the feeling of waking up in the morning with no worries. At first, it started to worry me… how can my mind be without worry… I must be forgetting something. But I caught myself falling into the old habit, and actively decided to just let it go, and enjoy the moment.

Waking up to a calm mind that is not racing, ruminating or over-processing things is new to me. What a wonderful feeling it is!

It’s not because I won the lottery. It’s not because stress has magically disappeared from my life. It’s not because certain people have suddenly found the exit door from my life.

Do I have things to worry about? Yes I do, but I don’t let them linger like they used to.

I remember being taken to the doctor’s office when I was 12 because I frequently suffered from stomach aches. After an abdominal exam and not finding anything, the doctor’s advice was to stop worrying so much otherwise I’d develop an ulcer.

But there was so much to worry about: Getting good grades, pleasing my parents, getting my homework done on time, fitting in at my new school, being the “husky” kid, being the shortest boy in my class.

And as the years went on, my worries changed, but worry was a constant: maintaining a good average in high school to get into university, choosing a major in university, completing university to get a good job, the first work assignment, the first apartment, money management, the first car, paying my dues at work, health, relationships, the second apartment, noisy neighbours, the third apartment, car repairs, illness in the family, the first house purchase, home renovations, dog poo in my yard (and I don’t own a dog)… you get the picture.

At any point, I had a stack of worries circulating through my mind, but that seemed normal to me.

Along the way, I had read several self-help books and taken stress management courses to develop a tool kit to help keep my cool and to keep me grounded. Things seemed to be in check, but worry still followed me around even in the quietest, most relaxed moments. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

Winter: Not Enough Moisturizer in the World

On a snowy, blustery day, to me there is no greater feeling than to look out the window, to stick out my tongue at Old Man Winter, and then to curl up with a good book to enjoy a good story, to catch up on some of my binge watching, or to grab my laptop and work on some stories of my own. When my cat joins in and purrs contentedly by my side, everything seems right with the universe.

But nothing turns this Norman Rockwell moment upside down faster than to glance down and to notice blood trickling from my knuckles. Welcome to my nightmare of wintertime dry skin.

The combination of bone dry air outside with heated houses, heated cars and heated offices lends itself to there being very little moisture in the air. Without proper protection and hydration, these factors can quickly conspire and take their toll on skin.

When I was much younger and my skin could bounce back like an elastic, I didn’t have to worry too much about it. But once I passed 50, there have been days I thought that there was not enough moisturizer in the world to stay on top of it.

We are told that one way to hydrate properly is from the inside out. That has never been a problem, as I always seem to have a cup of water or green tea on the go, refilled frequently throughout the day. When my tummy makes that sloshing sound when I walk, I believe I’ve done my part. But my skin still gets dry.

So the next tactic is to work from the outside in. In my 20’s it started out easily enough, with a special face soap that didn’t dry out my skin, a little daily dab of moisturizer on the face and an application of hand cream on the driest days and I was good to go. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour

Cat Food: When Her Favourite Is No Longer Her Favourite

When it comes to Ivy the Wonder Cat, mealtime is usually pretty straightforward. She has four or five types of good quality wet food on rotation, she has a bowl of her favourite dry food, she has three kinds of treats in the cupboard, she has an exercise/feeder ball in the play room and she has plenty of fresh water to wash it all down and to stay hydrated.

Most times, she has a pretty healthy appetite and her bowls of wet food are gone in three or four visits. Sometimes, my social eater might gobble them down in two visits.

And based on the way Ivy operates, mealtime seems to confirm what I have heard and read about cats liking structure and aren’t fans of change.

She likes her meals served at the same time each day, and you can set your clock by Ivy. My extroverted kitty has no problem waking me up from a deep sleep that encroaches on her meal time.

Similarly, she doesn’t like me to diverge too often from a small rotation current favourites as it seems to disrupt the routine, resulting in uneaten portions. That being the case, when I am at the pet store, there is really no guesswork involved. I know what her favourites are and I just have to keep buying them, which certainly makes life easy for me.

That is, until the dreaded day one of her favourites is no longer her favourite. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour

Where Is My Chap Stick?

It doesn’t seem to matter how much water we drink, having dry lips is a fact of life in winter with our heated cars, heated offices and heated homes, when the humidity outside is non-existent.

Nothing screams winter like a bad case of chapped lips. In Ottawa, where we are typically in sub-zero bone-dry cold air for weeks at a time, keeping an assortment of lip balms within reach is an essential. It only takes one missed application to get lips so dry, you can grate Parmesan on them.

When I don’t take the necessary precautions, there have been times I have looked in the mirror and thought my winter lips bore a striking resemblance to my cat’s scratching post, with unruly pieces sticking out of vertically shredded bits. I don’t feel too bad though because I know I’m not alone.

Over the years I have tried a number of lip balms including some pretty expensive ones, and to my surprise, the one that seems to work best for me is the basic, classic, unflavoured Chap Stick. The challenge is keeping track of those little guys.

I don’t know why, but I can’t have just one Chap Stick and move it to wherever I am. Even if it travels in the same circles as my keys, my wallet and my iPhone, for some reason it keeps escaping. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour

My New Year’s Resolution for 2019: Expecting More

New Year's festivitiesWhen I attended university 35 years ago, majoring in business administration, the book “In Search of Excellence” written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. was often referenced as a case study in best practices.

As a student in the 1980s, the book resonated with me. I was particularly in awe of the innovative concept of seeking input from clients and front line employees for simple yet effective ideas for enhancing the quality of products and services. The concept’s success was further demonstrated in the documentary movie that was making the rounds at that time.

“In Search of Excellence” was probably the book that inspired me most to pursue a career in business. Even as a young man, I was moved when a business (a store, a restaurant or a service) valued quality and worked a little harder to achieve it. This was (and still is) an important value for me and it appealed to me to think that a business career could revolve around the theme of quality.

But when the business world constantly hungers for a competitive edge, management principles are ever-evolving and replaced by new theories and best practices. And as a consumer, I am saddened that quality has been caught in the crossfire.

Some products don’t seem to last as long as they used to, despite the call to be more mindful of our use of landfills. Some stores are ghost towns, where it is impossible to find assistance when I need to ask questions or to get a product from a high shelf. And when I am able to find assistance, on some occasions I am given wrong directions or wrong answers.

I have also noticed some products I buy often getting cheapened by cutting corners on workmanship or incorporating cheaper materials. It is very disappointing. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring

Mission Impossible: Wrapping the Presents

I thought I was doing well this Christmas season, having made a list and checked it twice (OK, I admit, more like two hundred times… per day), the halls were decked early (fa la la la la, la la, la la), I shopped early, and when I did have to go out in December, I shopped at off-peak times. I was organized and on time… or so I thought.

I hadn’t anticipated that my biggest hurdle this year would be wrapping the presents.

The challenge this year is twofold. Ivy the Wonder Cat seems to have made herself at home in my writing room, the room where I keep all the wrapping supplies. Over the past year, this is where she made the habit of going for her morning naps, which sometimes stretched into afternoon naps, sometimes concluded by evening naps.

When I realized that this was THE spot where she felt most comfortable and secure, I moved her cat bed there which seemed to have sealed the deal and her specific purpose for that room.

In previous years, I would hide the presents in the closet of that room, and then when she wasn’t looking, I’d run into the room, close the door and then a couple of hours later, I would walk out with the presents wrapped and ready for the big day. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas, Humour

How Old Blog Posts Can be Like Old Home Movies

This fall, I celebrated my fifth year as a blogger with great joy (… and surprise) at having achieved this milestone.

From the beginning, I always thought of the blog as my rehearsal space to sharpen my creative writing skills, as I began the transition from full-time career #1 to full-time creative writer. The fact that many of you have joined me in that journey and encouraged me along the way has been incredibly heartwarming and a source of boundless gratitude. Thank you everyone!

I admit that some weeks it was incredibly difficult to find the time or inspiration (or both) to produce some fresh content, as well as to stay on top of my social media presence to get the word out there. But with only a few weeks off here and there, I managed to keep at it and to not give up. For that, I am incredibly proud!

When time has been in short supply, I had to focus my efforts on moving the blog forward, and not looking back. Then weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and BOOM! Five years went by and I suddenly had a repertoire of almost 300 blog posts. How did that happen?

And that is where the fun began. When time finally permitted, I went back and read some posts from my first year. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Writing