Safe Space Check-in & Life with Plants (So Far)

In January, I mentioned wanting to make an effort with my living space which, if you recall, looked like this:

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I’ve been making slow steps here and there (and hitting you over the head with it), and as of several days ago, looked more like this:

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So, marginally neater. Most surfaces are still covered with paper clutter (my specialty), but I’m not stressed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?

In clearing and tidying one space at a time, I’m reminded of another (tiny) issue: it looks a bit devoid of personality. Of course, it’s evident someone lives here. But who?

To perk up my apartment, I’m finally starting to invest in some indoor plants.

Apparently I’m not alone in this. The New York Times recently published this article about how millennials are filling their homes and workspaces with plants.

Until recently, I’ve only really owned a leggy dracaena plant (in the top photo) that I bought my second year of university. (I briefly had a baby aloe plant, but the lack of all-day sunlight – and no window sills – resulted in its unfortunate demise.)

The plant used to reside at my mom’s house. She had the space, the right type of light, and she’s got a super-green thumb. Then I moved, and she told me it was time to claim my friend.

Travel’s been the main reason for not having more plants. I didn’t want to wander off somewhere for two or three weeks and leave them to die from a basic lack of attention.

But since I can’t afford to go very far and my leafy companion looks bit lonely, I figured I’d try again.

I’d fully intended to start slowly – doing lots of research to make sure I got plants that were hardy, relatively low-maintenance, etc.

But one evening, my friend Renee offered me one of her spider plant babies — already a solid size with decent roots — and I happily accepted.

After I’d gotten it home and placed it in a jar of water, I briefly panicked. I had soil, but no small planters with drainage.

Enter YouTube. This enterprising green-thumbed spider plant owner was super-helpful and informative, and by the next night, voilà:

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I call my plant Val (for the cheesy Valentine Day-themed tumbler I bought from Dollarama to keep her in).

She seems to be doing well – she’s sprouted two leaves. So far, I’m doing something right.

Of course, this has now sparked a bit of an obsession.

Three weeks after bringing home my spider plant, I went browsing with a friend at Home Depot to get some ideas for other types of plants …

And against my better judgement, walked out with a lemon button fern.imag1601824270745.jpg

Now, some people say ferns are easy to care for; others say they’re among the fussiest houseplants around.

I’m doing my homework and trying my best, but let me put it this way: I don’t think I’m winning the fight to keep my fronded friend – dubbed “Vern the Fern” – alive. Vern currently doesn’t resemble the photo you see here.

Amid all of this, I’d been on the lookout for a plant that I thought was cute, but turns out to be one of the plants to own, according to Instagram and plant lovers: the pilea peperomioides, a.k.a. the Chinese money plant, missionary plant, pancake plant, etc.

When I started researching pileas, online information suggested that one’s best bet was to get a baby plant from another pilea owner, as trying to buy one can apparently cost you $30.

Thirty. Dollars. It’s like the Cabbage Patch Kid of plants.

However, one of the Facebook groups I’d joined had been (and still is) on pilea watch. The first time someone posted a sighting of baby pileas at Canadian Tire – for a fraction of the standard price – word got out and they were gone in almost no time.

The second time there was a sighting, I marched myself to the store the following afternoon and got one of the last three plants.

imag1611-1978273529.jpgFor now, I’m the proud owner of a baby pilea. About two weeks after bringing it home, bugs started emerging, so – thanks to some Facebook advice – I dumped out the soil, washed the plant and roots as well as I could, and re-potted it.

This is what it currently looks like. I’m watching it closely to make sure (a) it’s bug-free and (b) it lives. Keep your fingers crossed.

I’m currently on a break from plant collecting to make sure I can handle caring for my leafy new charges.

It’ll be a while before I successfully create my own private Wakanda – and I’m not aiming to own hundreds of plants – but I think I’m on my way to making my abode a little more homey.

 

 

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2018: Self-Care & A Safe Space

I’ve been trying to write this for about a week now.

But every time I try to finish, life and work seem to interrupt … which, I suppose, is part of the theme of this post.

So if you’ll indulge me for a bit, let me get this out of my system — and I am a bit cranky, so you’ve been warned.

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed for the past week and half.

December — which, if you celebrate the holidays, can be a stressful time for anyone — just felt more exhausting than usual.

For starters, my workplace has been going through considerable changes over the past few months. What I originally thought could be a chance to take on a little more work and improve my skills, has become a frustrating grind. It’s a struggle to keep up at times, and occasionally I’m finding it tricky to concentrate on multiple tasks at once. This could just be a bumpy adjustment period which still could turn out to be positive. But right now, it doesn’t feel that way.

I was also psyching myself up for Christmas … but when I wasn’t procrastinating, I was  rushing around and running errands. And it was also holiday party season, so I felt like I was pushing myself to be social – even on days when I wasn’t in the mood and preoccupied with all the tasks I had to get done before Christmas.

Then, add several days of jury selection to the mix. In hindsight, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but it definitely threw me off schedule.

So I’m currently having a bit of mental fatigue. I’m genuinely wondering if I’m mildly burned out.

In an ideal world, I’d take some sort of leave of absence. But as a household of one, and with the cost of living continuing to rise, the economics to do so isn’t really in my favour.

So, how to deal?

Well … I wanted to start the year with a self-imposed social moratorium (excluding a previous commitment) for a week or two — just to collect my thoughts, rest and recharge, and re-organize. I need to start taking care of myself again, so I can get my act together. Perhaps this might be something I’ll have to do more than once this year. But we’ll see how this month goes.

Speaking of re-organizing …

From time to time, people ask me from time to time how my apartment is. I mean, it’s still in a good location, and it serves its function by giving me shelter and the things I need on days I don’t have to go out into the world. But when I look around, my surroundings aren’t exactly inspiring. A more fitting word would be “underwhelming”.

Recently I came across this skit (on one of my favourite late-night programs), and it’s giving me a bit of inspiration:

I like the idea of a safe space, of being able to escape the harsh, tiresome world — in real life or online — by turning my apartment key and opening the door to my own little oasis.

If you think about it, that’s what your living quarters should be – not just the space that holds your crap but your home and, what’s more, a safe space or an oasis.

Of course, part of having an oasis or refuge is having a space that’s relatively clean. I started 2018 with my apartment looking like this:

If cluttered spaces denote cluttered minds and cause stress, then it’s no wonder my apartment looks like what happens when mild anxiety vomits up Christmas.

Currently, it looks something like this:

Slightly less crap, but still very much a bit of a hot mess.

I’m not looking to redecorate (yet), but I think de-cluttering and purging, a bit at a time over the next little while, would be a practical start in helping me decompress.

Even putting on my big girl pants, getting on my knees and scrubbing my oven and fridge would probably make a world of difference.

If I’m going to be a little less stressed, then perhaps coming home to a cleaner space would help me decompress.

Baby steps.

 

 

My Personal History Project

So. I know it’s been a very long time since I’ve last posted.

If you’ve seen my last entry, then you know the reason why.

It’s been a bit of a tough, depressing time, to be honest.

But in addition to losing my father, I also moved into a new apartment. Which, apparently,  are two of the most stressful things that a person can go through.

There have also been job cuts at my workplace. Fortunately, I’m safe, for the moment. It merely means that I have at least one thing that’s resembles normalcy this year so far.

And now, we’re barrelling into summer. And with no major trips planned – only one short one, but more on that later – it seems like it’s going to be relatively sedate.

In some ways, that’s fine. But I’ve been bored.

And that boredom got me thinking: beyond what I do for a living, who am I, really? What am I?

I’m of Jamaican parentage. But if you know the island’s motto (“Out of many, one people”), then you know there’s a bit more to it than that. It’s been a question that’s taken up residence in a deep corner of my brain for at least the last couple of years now.

So, it was late on a Saturday night roughly a couple of weeks ago, that I decided I would start trying to find out.

I ordered a DNA ancestry test online from one of those companies in the States and mailed back a saliva sample, just to see what they’ll find.

Now, let’s be clear: I don’t in any way, shape or form think this test will magically tell me everything I need to know about my genetic makeup. It’s not necessarily going to tell me where specifically my lineage came from, or from what side of the family. Not unless I’m willing to shell out more money and start begging family members to pay money to swab their cheeks or spit into plastic vials.

But it would be nice to have some sort of clue.

I probably won’t find out for at least another couple of weeks. So in the meantime, I’ve taken up another mini-hobby …

One that’s led me in a direction I didn’t intend to go.

 

 

My Father, The First.

I can’t believe it’s almost mid-May.

The weather here in town is finally getting warmer, and the air is – for the time being – a bit fresher.

We’ve just celebrated Mother’s Day.

A month from now, it will be Father’s Day.

But this one will be different. And it’s the reason it’s taken me so long to write this.

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Mid-February. Valentine’s Day, to be precise.

I’ve been at work for perhaps an hour, at most. I’ve just left my desk to get my morning snack, when I look at my phone and notice my younger brother has called.

He pretty much never calls me.

I don’t automatically think anything is amiss. I just assume maybe he needs some sort of favour.

I dial, and my brother picks up. All he says is “Hi.” But his voice sounds … strange. I can’t tell if the line is strained, or if it’s him.

But the next voice I hear is my mother’s.

My dad isn’t doing well. He’s in the emergency room at the hospital.

My mom explains he was at a self-service car wash, when his heart stopped. He fell and hit his head. A fellow customer found him – on cold, wet, soapy concrete – and started performing CPR until an ambulance arrived.

I hear myself say, “Oh, no.” But it sounds … like it’s someone else doing the talking? It sounds much too calm for it to be me.

But as soon as I’m able, I’ve left work and am on my way to a hospital in the north-east end of town.

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I’ve heard it said by other people, that your father is the first man who will ever love you.

In his quiet, awkward way, I can’t dispute that he has.

He was the one who would come home from work, and whose voice would soothe me, after I’d been crying in my playpen for most of the afternoon (and driving my mom nuts).

He was so good to my brother and me. When it wasn’t our caregiver, he’d look after us in the evenings, when our mom was at work. I especially looked forward to the summer, when he would take us on bike rides around our community.

I recall him helping me with my first big science project in second grade. Although, it was painfully obvious that there was no way an 8-year-old could accurate reconstruct electric transmission towers, nor properly explain the concept of electricity, without a lot of adult input.

He took us everywhere – to skating lessons, softball practice, piano lessons, anywhere we needed to be dropped off.

He bought us pets. Helped us with multiplication tables. Taught us to drive (he was an excellent driver, but a terribly impatient teacher). And, on the odd occasion when we were frustrated with school, he’d listen and help us talk things through.

He helped me move back and forth between home and school in Ottawa during university.

He helped me move into my current apartment.

And he continued to help me, whenever I needed it.

Dad was never the kind of person with whom you’d had long conversations. At least, not with me. I try to call my parents’ house every other day or so. Sometimes my mom wasn’t there, and I’d say hi to Dad. A good conversation was one that lasted more than 90 seconds.

Whenever I’d go to visit, he would drive me home. He never said he wouldn’t.

The last time I saw him was at the end of January – just days after my 37th birthday.

As a birthday present – as he felt he had to get me something for my birthday – he got me a WaxVac Ear Cleaner (“as seen on TV”). Truth be told, I was annoyed. But I knew that he meant well. He always did.

**************************************

I arrive at the hospital, where my brother is camped out in the waiting room with various other people.

Eventually, my mom appears, and explains to me what she knows. She wasn’t with him when it happened. She was at home, waiting for him to return with the car so she could go grocery shopping. When she hadn’t, she’d gotten annoyed and left him a voice mail on his cell phone, asking where he was.

The next phone call she got was from an emergency room doctor.

Shortly after that, the doorbell rang, and she came face-to-face with two police officers, who came to identify my dad, and took her to the hospital in their cruiser.

She takes me to see him, but warns me beforehand there are a lot of tubes and the like surrounding my dad.

And she’s not kidding.

Tubes. Machines. At least one IV drip. And my dad. Motionless.

As hours progress, they change his sedation when he starts moving around. They do a scan to see if there’s any sort of brain damage (he hit the back of his head when he collapsed). They eventually move him into intensive care, put him on a cooling pad when he spikes a fever.

The next 72 hours are worrying. Heart-wrenching. We all have our moments where we break down and cry. Family and friends stop by to keep us company. But we try to remain cautiously, quietly, optimistic. We keep watch for a sign – any sign – he’s going to improve.

But despite all the various drips keeping him medicated, hydrated and fed, he doesn’t get better. He doesn’t even squeeze anybody’s hand when they talk to him. All he starts to do is bloat from all the fluid.

So we have to meet with a doctor, to decide whether to keep going a bit longer or let him go.

Just after 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 18th, we request to the staff to start removing tubes, but to keep him sedated.

We want to give him a dressing gown and socks to put on him – my mom says if he could see himself, he would be a bit mortified and want to look a bit more dignified. And especially have his feet covered – he wore socks most of the time and didn’t like people touching his feet. I don’t recall if we got very far with either request. Maybe the socks.

My brother is taking it really hard, so he spends a lot of time in the cafeteria or the chapel. But my mother sits to father’s right, and me to his left, each holding a bloated, motionless hand, getting up every once in a while. When we’re not looking at him or each other, we’re glancing at the machines monitoring his breathing and heartbeat.

Late afternoon/early evening, the nurse on duty swabs out his mouth and cleans him up a bit. You can hear the noisiness of his breathing as he attempts to inhale and exhale with all that mucus.

And then – sometime between 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. – he breathes. Stops. Takes another delayed breath. Then just … stops.

This feels like I’ve just witnessed someone else’s dad pass away. Not mine.

I know exactly what’s happened. But it doesn’t fully register for another seven or eight minutes.

**************************************

It’s been almost three months.

The raw wound of grief is presently scabbed-over, intermittently throbbing at its source.

Some days, I’m fine, and go about my business. Some moments, all it takes is a thought. A flashback from the hospital, or from the visitation before the funeral. And then the lump forms in my throat, my eyes start to water, or my nostrils start to sting.

And now when I look in the mirror, I’ll see my missing family member in my face, for the rest of my ife.

Even when I laugh at someone’s jokes or try acting like myself, I obviously won’t feel like myself, and don’t expect to for a long time. The melancholy is holding on and lingering.

I’m a bit frustrated at all the things I’m trying to learn how to do, because when my dad was here, he would insist on doing it for me. He’d never show me how. He’d just do it.

I look at my mom and worry. I worry when she gets upset. Even more when she tells me she’s had another sleepless night, and has tried a number of remedies, with zero result. Wonder how much time she has left with us. Wonder how much time I have left.

I know this happens to everyone. I knew it was going to happen one day. Prior to all this, I’d only recently found myself wondering, how much longer will he get to stick around? A couple more years? Five more?

I honestly can’t explain why. I wasn’t wishing him ill will. But the thought was there.

I just didn’t think I’d get the answer so soon.

My dad was a lot of things. Quiet. Gruff. Generous in time and spirit. A complainer. For all his good qualities, he had his foibles and failings.

But he had a huge role in making me the person that I am. For that, I’m thankful to him. For everything.

And right now, I’m missing him terribly.

So, What Happened Was …

Heyyy …

So I realize that, with the advent of February, it was a new month … which was supposed to mean a backlog of posts from travels, etc., were supposed to be up here, for all of you to read.

And then – nothing.

There are a couple of explanations for that:

(1) Lack of motivation/laziness. Right after the alcohol-induced exhilaration that comes with ringing in the New Year – and all those lists one starts to make in one’s mind of all the things one plans to accomplish – comes cold, harsh, winter. Which, naturally, wipes out any sort of (actual) sunlight or stimulus for about eight to ten weeks.

Usually, Vitamin D helps the former. But I’ve yet to find anything that helps with boosting the will to sit on my couch and write or type, even if I don’t feel like it. I have, however, mastered the art of staring at my journal. (Because as we all know, if you stare at something long enough, it will merely levitate and go in the direction that you will it to.)

(2) Trying to do things worth writing about. I know I usually write a huge list of goals (under the guise of NOT calling them resolutions) at the start of each year. Within a few days before writing the posts, I normally have a rough idea in my mind what goals I’d like to strive for. And believe me, I had every intention of doing another one. But somehow, I just couldn’t fully formulate what I wanted to write about. And then I started telling myself it was going to be a lame list, and not worth writing. And then I just got lazy.

While that was all happening, I just started vocalizing to other people what I’d like to do. Like trying my hand at the ukelele, since I had been absolutely obsessed with it for about ten minutes. Or perhaps joining a choir, because spending my days around my apartment singing along with iTunes while cleaning wasn’t quite cutting it anymore. Or perhaps hoisting myself back up onto the exercise wagon, after so ungracefully letting myself fall off it several months before.

So, I vocalized my obsession with the ukelele on Facebook. A friend offered to lend hers to me to try it out,  since she had her hands full with her newborn son. And I DID tune it using an online Web site, and tried to find a beginner’s YouTube video. But time is a tricky bastard, so I haven’t had a chance to try it again since.

Over Christmas/Hanukkah holidays, while at a friend’s party, she mentioned I should try joining a community choir, of which she was a member. I finally attended a couple sessions, at the beginning of February. But it’s been six weeks, and work has played a major role as to why I haven’t yet returned. I even managed to attend a couple of Sunday evening sessions of my friend’s new start-up choir, when my work schedule temporarily changed. But it’s now changed back, so no more of that.

And back in February, I finally made the decision to resume exercising. I felt like I was really neglecting my health – not really being active, and eating quite terribly. Plus, I’m now 36 years old. Sure, I’m still relatively young. And my body is retaining its shape – but barely. Age is starting to take its toll.

So, with the exception of a few days here and there (due to exercise-related soreness, or schedule changes), I have been trying to exercise in some form at least two to three times per week. Which is all right.  With the opening of a new barre workout place within walking distance of my home, I’ve been attempting to do that as well, to bump up my physical activity. (As you can tell, that’s the only thing I’ve managed to stick with.)

(3) Work happened – in a good way. In January, I returned to my old job, after some discussion with my boss. It’s okay, for now. But I know I can’t allow this to become a permanent situation. So before Christmas, I started doing a bit of networking – talking to folks here and there. I continued my networking into January. And unexpectedly, it bore a bit of fruit! I just finished three weeks working in another area of the building.

Boy, was it ever different. It was challenging, a bit frustrating, a little intimidating, occasionally overwhelming, very humbling, and absolutely inspiring. Oh, and my brain hurts. I actually questioned whether I actually liked what I was doing. I had a bit of a feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if I wasn’t really measuring up to the others I was working with. But when I had a feedback session with the woman who kindly took me on, she said I did really well. I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard that from someone. And that’s the kind of thing I need, to make me want to work even harder.

Will they take me on again, during the summer? Who knows? Maybe not. But maybe I’ll get another chance to work there later in the spring. That would be very nice. But if I could finagle a work situation that would allow me to try something new each month between now and, say, September – a week here, two weeks there – that would make this year much more enjoyable and would provide more incentive, rather than frustration.

So, there you have it. I’m FINALLY trying to change things for myself, instead of writing and complaining about them as I usually do.

But some other business on this blog remains unfinished. Namely, writing out those travel posts from last summer. Considering how much time has elapsed, they probably won’t be as fresh as they should be. But please forgive me for that. Hopefully I’ll be better about that this year.

What Do I WANT?

Apologies for not writing this month. It’s been a busy and (sort of) strange one.

Due to some short-staffing in my department at work, I’ve been working more than usual. It’s taken a bit of a toll, sapping energy and motivation.

Adding to that, my workplace is in the midst of budget cuts and – as a result of that – layoffs.

For the last two and half weeks, the work environment was weird, tense, and perhaps a bit anxious.

And then last week happened.

Instant messages over computer, lowered voices in corners and hallways, speaking in sad, hushed tones about co-workers who had meetings with bosses in cramped offices … being told they were being let go … that while they were perfectly welcome to stay in touch, not to count on getting steady employment – that they were better off looking elsewhere.

I was not one of those who had a meeting. However, in the days leading up to those pink slips being handed out, I didn’t lull myself into a false sense of security. I kept reminding myself that – like anyone – my job could be at stake.

It also had me thinking about what I would do, if I were to get a much-feared meeting.

Honestly, by this point, exhausted – perhaps a bit burned out – by work, I couldn’t imagine myself crying over a decision that wasn’t in my favour. I’m not sure I would have been upset at all.

On a personal level, things are … okay. When I haven’t been working like an ox, I’ve been trying to get out and do things here and there. I signed off for another online dating Web site. But it seems I’m running into more of the same types of people that turned me off the previous site. So I took a break in mid-March, slightly discouraged, wondering if it’s even worth it.

I remember mentioning my experiences with a friend at work – someone who’s had a couple of long-term relationships and not doing shabbily at all in the dating department – and she asked me: What is it that I’m looking for? What is it, exactly, that I want?

Perhaps this is the question that applies to all aspects of my life.

What is it that I want?

I keep asking myself this question. And I don’t think I have or know the answer. Or, everytime I try to answer, the words come to mind seem … I don’t know, trite? Phony? Cliche?

Maybe what I want is to have more fun with my life? I honestly don’t know anymore.

I’m hoping that this summer is my first chance in two years to do things other than just work. To do fun things that all my other friends do. Perhaps I’ll re-discover and re-claim a little bit of who I am. Or finally start to discover it.

The Search … Is Over.

Ah, September.

A time of changes and beginnings.

Students return to school. Some people get new jobs.

Others move.

If all goes well, I’ll be adding myself to that third group of people, shortly.

Yep, I am moving. (Yes, I know, what took me so long, etc., etc.) But not in the way I’d planned.

I gave up the search for that piece of real estate I hoped I stumble across and fall in love with … in favour of a just-as-suitable, decently-sized, one-bedroom apartment for rent, in a decent part of town, MUCH closer to work.

I’m scheduled to do my initial move next week, and then move more things over to the new place – and purge things as I go – over a two-week period.

Right now, I’m not so much excited as reminding myself of the things I have to do, while stuck at my final week of work before my upcoming three-week vacation.

But perhaps once I’m sleeping in my new bedroom and I’ve started exploring my new neighbourhood, I’ll be giddy with excitement.  

I also won’t be posting a whole lot (not that I have been, this year) until I get a new computer. Which may be a while, considering that “sofa bed” and “dining table” rank a little higher on the “need to get” list.

But I hope the change in atmosphere and this beginning of this new, small chapter gives me the fire in my belly to get back to posting more, and doing so more frequently.

Stay tuned.

*Image courtesy of Fort Moving.