Weekend Blues on The Farm

Again, I find myself feeling the need to apologize for my lack of blog posts in the past few days. Why, and to whom, I don’t really know but the compulsion is there nonetheless.

This weekend it was my turn to go up and ‘take care’ of my father, who has now been living on his own for the past ten months since the death of my mother last November. I love my father; I dread going there. I suppose it would be worse if it were the house I grew up in, which is the house that features prominently in my dreams when I dream about my mother (which is often), but they moved up to this farm about forty-five minutes south of Georgian Bay to ‘retire’  almost twenty years ago – if you can call a hundred acres and seventy-five cows a form of retirement – so there is some history there as well. History mixed in with a good dose of guilt and remorse. Lots of ‘should’ statements, such as “I should have gone up more often”, “I should have made more of an effort to visit”, “I should not have found so many excuses for not going” or ‘I should not have been such a selfish, ungrateful little brat”… You know, the usual things we beat ourselves up over.

I won’t get into how wonderful my mother was. I will instead redirect you to a post I wrote on a previous blog – in what seems like a previous life – that sums it up rather succinctly. Which is a bit of a shock, considering how drugged up I was during that time.

My sister and I have decided to take turns in going to visit my father, as it is quite a drive to get to as well as exhausting once you factor in the housework and cooking for him. He was married to my mother, who did everything for him short of wiping his nose, for fifty-eight years, so at first he was a bit lost. And since he flatly refuses to let us get housekeeper for him, it falls to us to fill that role. However, on this visit, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he’d been doing rather well on his own. I’m not sure if it was just for show since he knew we would be coming, but it looked reasonably clean. Even the plants showed signs of regular watering. What was not so pleasant, on the other hand, was how thin he looked. Otherwise healthy, but thin, which leads me to wonder if that’s just my mind at work again. Thinking the worst. But he was eating well, and seemed pleased to have me replenish the stockpile of sweets I’d baked for him on my last visit if reluctant to let me do anything else like laundry or bedding. It was a family stealth mission just to get the sweeping, dusting and bathroom cleaning in.

I had been sent a number of heart-healthy recipes to prepare for him and, while I did make two dozen low fat banana muffins, I must admit that I did not use the other ones. I didn’t laden anything with artery-clogging butter and refined flour or sugar, but my reasoning is this: the man is 82. He’s recently lost his partner and best friend of almost sixty years and he continues to work on his farm, although the doctor forbade any more cows since the triple bypass so now it’s soy, wheat and barley. So I figure, if he wants to indulge his sweet tooth every now and then, he should just do it. I know he won’t overdo it – he’s been almost militant since the heart attack. I suspect it has more to do with not wanting to be stuck in hospital again than anything else. I know firsthand how stubborn and bull-headed he can get since it’s like looking in a mirror -I am my father’s daughter, a chip off the ol’ block. Except for on the inside, both physically and emotionally, where I am very much like my mother. And for that reason, I made the oatmeal raisin cookies and date loaf squares using my mother’s recipes. I didn’t tell him that, of course. But it felt like something I needed to do.

The visit went better than they have done in the past, and not only because of his apparent increase in housekeeping skills. I guess it’s true what they say, that time really does heal all. But still, there were moments that caught me offguard which I suppose won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Like last time finding the dress she wore when she left on honeymoon, labelled and packed away in the farthest reaches of one of the closets, a picture of her in her wedding dress that was tucked into the corner of the vanity mirror in the room I slept in hurt my heart a little. It’s not like I knew her then, so it shouldn’t have. But it was more just another piece of her that’s been left behind, further reminding me that she’s no longer here.

I think that’s the part I struggle with the most.

Anyways, I have a backlog of baking posts that need to be seen to this week, as well as a project I’m working on. The same project I’d alluded to in my last apology post. But I still can’t say much on that topic lest I jinx it. But once I am able to, trust me – I will let you know.

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The Week After Last Week’s Ahead

So remember that post last Sunday when I mentioned that each week I would outline some specific things I’d like to achieve in the week ahead? Well, it’s Monday now which means that this Sunday has come and gone with nary a new list of goals in sight.

Am I abandoning my gameplan already simply because the week didn’t end up going quite the way I’d hoped it would? That would be so very typical of me, which would be the main reason why I will NOT be doing it this time. At least, at the moment, not if I can help it. I’d like to follow through on something, if only for the sake of knowing that I was capable of it. No, this week’s goals will be a continuation of those that were outlined last week. They are as follows:

1. Make those damned darling candy-swirled meringues that taunt you from the cover of last month’s Martha Stewart magazine. To borrow a phrase from the Nike commercials: Just do it.

2. Drag The Novel out for a revisit and possible retooling. See above Nike phrase – same rules apply.

3. Exercise at least three times this week. Maybe make it four, to make up for missing last week. But then again, I don’t want to set myself up for failure since that will ultimately do more harm than good… Andddd this is me shutting up now.

Except, of course, to leave you with that ubiquitous motivational quote that was no doubt dreamed up by some high-powered ad exec on Madison Avenue in the Eighties. But it has served as a powerful enough statement to have worked it’s way into our cultural lexicon, at least when it comes to seeking encouragement to push beyond what we believe to be our limitations. Therefore I obviously have no choice but to finish with it. Feel free to take it up as your own mantle for the week. And instead of talking about it…

Just do it.

Note re: the snide comment I’d made about the Nike slogan coming from Madison Avenue (in New York) According to Wikipedia, Just do it was created by Portland, Oregon-based advertising executive Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy, which continues to be Nike’s agency of record to this day. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Wieden

Mind you, further research has revealed that founding partners Wieden and Kennedy first met in 1982 while working on the Nike account at McCann Erickson, whose North American headquarters just happen to be in New York. So perhaps I wasn’t too far off the mark after all… But again, I digress.

A Slower Start Than I’d Hoped…

Unfortunately, this week hasn’t gotten off to the rollicking start I was anticipating. I was hoping that by today I’d be able to report that I’d accomplished at least one if not two of the goals I’d laid out earlier this week. But sadly, that’s not the case. And as is typical of me, I was quick to blame myself.

“You’re lazy.”

“What makes you think you’d be able to do that?”

“You’ll just try once, fail, and then give up entirely – so why bother?”

And so on, and so on. You get the idea. Last night was the lowest of the low points during which I’d managed to convince myself that I’m destined to fail at anything, and needless to say I woke up feeling pretty shitty. But over the course of the day today, I had a bit of an epiphany. That nasty voice inside my head would probably scoff and say ‘excuses more like’ – in fact I’m almost certain that’s what I just heard again now as I type – but there are actual reasons why I haven’t gotten anything crossed off my to-do list. None of which have anything to do with the ones written above…

1. It’s been hotter than Hades this week – so not really conducive to baking or exercising. However, in of the heat, I did manage to bake and build a birthday tank cake for my little man’s tenth birthday – something that was not on my initial list that perhaps should have been. I will try to remember to post a picture of it later.

2. I’ve been busy with other things – and while that may not be the best reason, it’s a legitimate one. Monday saw me very atypically volunteering for a school field trip with my son, something I’d never been able to do since he started school because I was always working. Considering I’m not fond of children unless they’re my own, it’s not likely something I’ll be doing again anytime soon. And the other days have been spent cleaning up the house, doing laundry, taking extra recycling to the depot and wandering around window shopping with my hubbie; again, all things that we’d never really had the time to do before. So while I haven’t made any headway with my personal list, there are other things that I’ve been doing in lieu of it.

And finally, the third one is harder to admit and the one I’m least proud of.

3. I’m scared – since those other two items don’t inspire much in the way of fear, I’m mostly referring to The Novel on this last one. Because dragging that book out again…that’s a bit of a struggle. I can still feel the sting of all those rejection emails whenever I think about going back to it. But I have to get past that somehow. It’s been long enough and – dammit – it’s a really good story, so it deserves a second chance. Especially since one agent I sent it to really liked the premise and invited me to a workshop he taught to get feedback where I learned quite a bit. And that I’d made some fairly classic rookie writing mistakes, but nothing that couldn’t be undone. And while it’s entirely possible that the agent only invited me because he wanted my money (to take the whole workshop series, which I didn’t) given that it was a small group of five other people, I’m inclined to think that there was something about my writing that he felt was good enough to take to the next level. And yes, he could have had a group like that running each day twice a day with every other naive new writer with stars in their eyes and been raking in a small fortune on the dreams of others, I don’t believe that was what happened. The nasty little voice, on the other hand…

So yes, there are reasons why I’m not where I thought I should be this week. But there are still a few days left, and I just have to keep remembering that we all have our good days and bad days and days where we feel like we should be doing more. The point is to ignore that little voice inside that keeps reminding you that you aren’t good enough to achieve anything and just keep plugging away as best you can. Maybe those bad days will suddenly take a turn for the better.