Ok, here’s the new plan for turning 60

Ok, here’s the new plan for turning 60

Drinking beer in anticipation of turning 60

Portrait of a blogger

I’ll be turning 60 in a few days. Unlike many, I’m not dreading it. My opinion has always been, the further I get away from my teen years, the happier I am. I don’t see each decade as a dreaded milestone, but an event to savour.

I’ve come up with a plan for turning 60

I don’t intend to “grow old gracefully”. No interest in that notion, whatsoever. Instead, I’m going to be as opinionated and irritating in my senior years as I have been most of my life. I’ll kick more shins (yes, I’ve done that), raise an eyebrow at stupid people and continue to be a pain in the ass.

Learning isn’t just for young people

Every day I want to learn something. Maybe a little thing, maybe a new skill. But I will keep learning and exercising my brain. Turning 60 years old means it’s more important than ever to keep my brain working. New ideas, challenging old thoughts, learning a different skill are all important.

What the hell happened to my knees?

Knee bends. Boy do I ever have to do more. Don’t know when they became so creaky. When mom was recovering from her various surgeries, I bought her a little set of purple weights to help get her arm strength back. I would often see her, at 2 in the morning, Kindle in one hand, a weight pumping in her other, exercising her arms. It always amused me. She’d walk too, for miles. Even at 83, with cancer closing in, she still managed to walk 3 miles without resting. I need to be more like that.

Be open to different voices

I will continue to say I don’t know everything.  It’s not a weakness to admit it. There is always more to learn. That means being quiet and LISTENING to people. It’s not always easy, but there it is.  BLM, First Nations, Women of colour, immigrants, millennials  – all have stories to tell.  It isn’t their job to teach me, it’s my job to learn. The older I grow, the less I know.

Challenge people who blame millennials for everything

One thing that pisses me off is the constant “you millennials, you young people are destroying everything” crap coming out of the mouths of my peers. Seriously? You don’t remember the dumbass crap we pulled? You haven’t looked around and seen what the mantra “greed is good” has done? We were lucky, there weren’t cameras taping our every move. We didn’t have helicopter parents telling us what a terrible world we live in. For any young person reading this – carry on, be a pain in the ass and change the world. Just because that’s the way it’s always been, doesn’t mean that’s the way it has to be.

Don’t forget the food

Lots of and lots of food. From every corner of the world. There are still undiscovered corners of the world to be explored. I want to start with Canada and work my way around the world on a culinary adventure. There will be disasters in the kitchen. But it’ll be fun.

Oh and more beer. There is always time for more pints of good beer.

And wine. Definitely wine too.

And pizza on the balcony with a friend, watching the sun set over the city.  Much more of that.

Final goal?

Work less in the real world and chase subscribers and donations for this site. I am haunted by something mom said, shortly before she died. While preparing to make YouTube videos for her and she said “I have a lot to say about the world, and it’s so different from what I used to think”. She died before she could share her thoughts with the world. I’m not waiting. Mom discovered late in life how to be “pushy”. Funny how a tiny 82-year-old woman was considered pushy when she refused to be treated as an invisible person.

I’m going to be pushy.

REALLY. FUCKING. PUSHY.

Come along for the journey. Enjoy the ramblings. Get irritated occasionally. Tell me what you’re thinking too. Lots of room for comments.

Love
Catpaw

Catsitting & the best toebeans around

Catsitting & the best toebeans around

Spent a couple hours trying to photograph some toebeans. No, I didn’t randomly stalk cats in the neighbourhood to photograph their paws. I’m catsitting. A friend goes away occasionally and I get to play with her cat Simone. I fire up the tablet and let her watch videos and read the newspaper to her. Quite honestly, she’s not terribly interested in politics. I think the rattling of the paper is more exciting to her. I spent nearly 2 hours tonight lying on the floor with my camera, trying to get good shots of her. She moves very quickly, and I suspect she enjoys yanking my chain. She’ll pose perfectly and when I lift the camera, focus cli… she moves out of the frame. Sly one that cat.  But she does have a lovely set of toebeans.

photo of cat toebeans

Whoa, nice set of beans

Simone is very patient with my antics. But occasionally I get this look:

Photo of Simone the tabby cat starring at the camera

Are you done yet?

If she could roll her eyes, she would. She’s too busy watching videos to pose and I get this bored “are you done yet, go read your book” look. So I put the camera away and let her enjoy YouTube. I pull out a book and read to her while she’s catching birds on the screen. Occasionally I get rewarded with a “murf” noise. Not sure if that means “shut up” or “wow, that’s interesting”.  Murf is the cat equivalent of the Canadian “eh”. Could mean many things.

Shh, leave my toebeans alone and let me watch YouTube

Photo of Simone the cat watching YouTube

Shh, don’t disturb me

She really enjoys the tablet. I initially tried a couple of games for cats – chase the squeaky mouse, swat the bugs, but Simone showed minimal interest. When I switched to Videos for Cats to Watch – 8 Hour Bird Bonanza, she perked up. She starts  a few feet away, watching, intently. Then, time to move in for the kill.

Simone the cat getting ready to charge the tablet

Crouch, stalk, attack

She’ll smack the screen a few times and then stroll off like “meh, I didn’t really want to catch that bird”.  A quick walk around the apartment, tail high and twitching and back at the screen.  But no way will she show too much excitement to the human in the room.

Simone the cat flaked out on the floor watching YouTube

Stop bugging me, I’m busy

When apartment circuit is completed, Simone plops down in front of the screen, stretches out and watches birds and squirrels flit about.  She’s quite companionable, as long as she gets her YouTube. Tomorrow her human returns and she’ll go through YouTube withdrawal. We’re trying to convince her human to buy Simone a shiny new tablet, but so far, no luck. I think the fear is she’d spend all night watching videos and eating snacks. Regardless, she’ll be happy to have her friend back. I’m a poor substitute at best.

You have to admit, they are killer toebeans, aren’t they?

Time away & a selfie in Stratford

Time away & a selfie in Stratford

Friends decided I needed a brain break from 2020. They arranged for a weekend of food, wine, a play and a selfie in Stratford, Ontario. One waggish friend asked if I combusted when I left Toronto. Happy to report I remained un-scorched. We meandered up via the back roads for a glorious weekend of wandering around, eating and sleeping. And more eating. Oh the food.  I’ve been trying to remember when I last escaped for a long weekend. At least 10 years, likely longer. There just didn’t seem to be any time to sneak off and be a tourist. Even before mom’s cancer diagnosis, there were other health issues that cropped up and kept us busy.  We wanted to go to Niagara Falls this summer, but life conspired against us.

People should think of Stratford for more than plays. What a great place to relax.  Great architecture, interesting history, wonderful places to stay and some of the best food I’ve had in awhile.  It’s been so long since I fully relaxed, I thought I’d never be able to again. Ah, the peace and quiet of Stratford soon put that into the past.

I took my camera with me, but didn’t use it a lot, more interested in just walking and drifting. I managed to get a few decent photos though.

Photo of signage for The Three Houses B&B

Only regret? Didn’t spend enough time sitting by the pool at The Three Houses

My only regret about the weekend? I didn’t spend enough time sitting by the pool, sipping wine and listening to our hosts regal us with great tales. We came for the quiet and left craving more entertaining stories – thank you David Lester! ROFL I could go back right now and not budge from the backyard pool. Just sit drifting with the breeze, laughing at the stories about Stratford & the festival. Single best weekend I’ve spent in at least 2 decades.

Photo of the front door of The Three Houses

The stories are worth the trip alone.

I did take some time to snap a selfie in Stratford

This is my favourite one. If I had just an inch or two more of height!

Selfie taken in a medusa like mirror showing just the top of my head

I’m too short for most selfies

The long weekend was … perfect in so many ways. Wonder if David needs a kitchen gnome. I’d be happy to perch in a corner, looking mildly decorative, being fed amazing breakfasts. Hmm, the banana pancakes. The croissants and jam. I better stop now or I’ll never end this entry.

Don’t forget to like this post if you’re on Facebook. Go on, stroke my ego! Stay up to date with Bitter Grounds by following on Twitter/Facebook. Don’t forget to follow my Instagram for fun photos and the odd wry thought.

A give away? No seriously – you could win a cool R. Delgado dino poster!

A give away? No seriously – you could win a cool R. Delgado dino poster!

Well, here we are again. Twiddling our thumbs, waiting for life to get back to a semblance of order. I’ve been thinking about doing a give away for quite a while and thought now is a great time. How about a cool R. Delgado dino poster?

Ricardo Delgado print of Utahraptor from his Age of Reptiles series a Utah

You could win this! Well, not this scan. You can win a real poster. Just keep scrolling down.

That’s just a copy of the print. I had a hard time getting a clean photo of it because it’s still in the original wrapping. I didn’t want to open it up and spoil it for a lucky winner.

So here’s the real raptor you can win. Click on the image to see it in a super large size so you can inspect it. It’s from Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles series and the art work is amazing.

Photo of the Utahraptor you can win

This is the poster you could win. Utahraptor by R. Delgado. From the Age of Reptiles series.

And yes, it’s a signed, numbered print.

Photo of print number & Delgado's signature

R. Delgado’s signature & print number

This has been sitting in a protective box for years. It’s in pristine condition and the colours are outstanding. If you appreciate illustrations, artwork and dinosaurs, this is the draw for you.  Or maybe you can enter for someone else.

When:
Draw will happen on June 27 5pm EST. Friends are not eligible to enter. Sorry my old pals, but that wouldn’t be fair.  That doesn’t include people who have friended me on FB to read my content. This applies to people I know in real life.

To Enter the Draw:

  • leave a comment below. At the bottom of the comments field, just above the submit button, is “If you agree to these terms, please click here.”  If you don’t click, you can’t submit a comment. Bit of a pain, I know, but I get hammered by spammers. It was that or one of those irritating “click on all the buses in the image” nightmares. Oh and I forgot to add, it might take  time before your comment shows up. Everything is held until I hit the approve button. Spammers, the bane of our lives.OR
  • Follow me on Facebook and leave a comment here -> https://www.facebook.com/bittergroundsmagazine/   The post is pinned to the top of the page, so it’s easy to find.

Facebook gets all the alerts when I post new content, so that’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on with the magazine.  Please note: I don’t farm emails. Not interested in sending you unsolicited stuff. You will get a message from me if you win. If you aren’t keen on this method, opt for the FB one.

The Draw:
I’ll toss your names in a hat, shake them around and pick one. I’ll contact you, the day of the draw and give you 48 hours to respond. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll draw again.

Details:
Poster will be shipped in a tube.  If you are in Toronto, you can arrange to pick it up instead.  Contest is not open to residents in China. Sorry, but mailing there is a nightmare. You’ll get a tracking number when it’s shipped.

Please note: shipping is normally pretty reliable however, sometimes shit goes wrong. I can’t be held responsible for any damage caused in transit.

Interested? Get to the comments field now! Once you’ve signed up, stick around and read some of the articles I’ve posted.

Death in the time of a pandemic

Mom ran out of time last night. She died quietly and peacefully shortly after midnight, after years of serious health problems, with humour and an undiminished sense of “screw you cancer”.

For quite a few years, Mom and I took a hard journey with chemo, radiation, surgeries and more doctor visits than either of us cared to remember. It wasn’t always easy, but we did it – together. Along the way, we learned a lot about each other and had a lot of laughs. I met mom – the woman. And let me tell you she was fucking amazing. Funny, resilient, compassionate and smart.

It was difficult trying to work, write and help mom. Often, I pushed projects aside because I wanted to spend the time with her. I knew we were on borrowed time and I wasn’t going to waste any of it. It felt, at times, as though we’d just get settled into a routine and then mom would become ill or something would happen. For about 5 years, I’ve been living on high alert, waiting for the bad news, rarely sleeping the entire night. It was hard to concentrate and stay focused, but I tried the best I could, which, at times, was not terribly good. But our motto was “we’ll just muddle along”. I’m thinking of creating a banner with that on it and hang it on my door.

It was lonely, waiting, listening to people moving around outside the room and not being part of it. I spent hours looking out the hospital window, down onto a normally frantically busy street. Never was it clearer we are in the middle of a crisis – rush hour boiled down to 6 cars and a handful of carefully distanced pedestrians. It contributed to a general feeling of disconnection from the world at large and the lack of movement outside those windows amplified that sense.

Mom was always my rock. We helped each other out and were there regardless. Lazy summer nights sitting on the balcony sipping tea and chatting. Random jokes no one else will quite understand. Long, walks to test mom’s endurance after her various surgeries. She was proud of how she handled the devastating effects of cancer. I was proud to be at her side the entire journey. I didn’t want to say goodbye but there was no choice. I feel selfish because I didn’t want to let go.  But it was time.

Despite the overwhelming sense of loss, I can’t help feel, I was one of the lucky ones. I could stay with mom throughout.  I wasn’t going to be haunted by the knowledge she died alone, like so many during this pandemic. One of the nurses even found a big bark-o-lounger they dragged into the room so I could sleep there with her and I got trays of food to keep me going. Originally, they thought she would be gone quickly, but mom being mom, did things on her own schedule.

She hung on for over a week, unconscious and mostly unaware of the world around her. That’s ok, I fancied she could hear my running monologues with her, talking about rearranging the apartment (we lived together), deciding what shows to watch while waiting and talking about how quiet the world had become. I read her news, played some of her favourite YouTube videos and often, just sat quietly holding her hand. Occasionally I felt her squeeze my hand, whether that was a spasm or she was aware of my presence, I don’t know. To my heart, she was aware.

She’ll be bitterly missed. Every day I’ll think of her and how quiet life is without her in it. She would sing in the kitchen when she got up to get breakfast, and this morning was brutally quiet. The silence was painful. But in the wider scheme of life, like I said,  I’m lucky. Others aren’t going to be able to say goodbye to people they love. The pandemic means they don’t have the luxury of spending a week just talking to their mom. I  had that chance.

So now, I am a card-carrying member of a wider club of daughters who have lost their mothers – I referred to it as the Sad Daughter’s Club when a friend lost her mother last year. When the quarantines and distancing are over, those of us in the club (and the Sad Son’s Club members) will get together, hug one another and share memories. Eventually, things will be better.

And one last thought. I wisely decided to not follow one of mom’s ideas – split her ashes up into envelopes and mail them off to people with the note “Guess who”.

Dropping out of social media for a breather

Dropping out of social media for a breather

Poster reading: Escaping the social media trap & leaving the OCD maze

I made a decision in Dec that it was time to step back from social media for a bit. It can suck you down into a soul-destroying pit if you aren’t careful. I was already stressed and depressed by the years of helping mom through her cancer treatments and operations. When I discovered I had spare time, because of improvements mom’s health, I noticed how Twitter/FB etc were so depressingly stupid. I can troll with the best of them, but sheer level of insanity being actively promoted on social media began to crush me. It was like watching the worse bits of zombie apocalypse shows on an endless loop – hopeless, dark and paranoid. So, sometime in Dec I went to the doctor and am back on antidepressant after many years. They also calmed my OCD. Lately the obsessive compulsions had started to interfere with my life in major ways. Unfortunately I hadn’t noticed how bad things had gotten.

As my general outlook improved, I decided no social media for awhile. It seemed to aggravate everything. I also took a long break from web work, photographing, writing, everything. I’ve gone for long walks, listened to old radio dramas, watched trashy monster movies (Reptilica rules; Godzilla drools) and read. Oh my I’ve read. Prior to Dec, I was having difficulties concentrating long enough to finish simple novels. Now, I plow through books at a furious pace.

Breaking up with the zombie apocalypse

Before I logged off though, I unfriended a whack of people who I began to view as unhealthy to talk to. Let me tell you, the calm and quiet on this end of the computer has been enlightening. Getting away from social media was one of the smartest thing I could have done. My head feels clear, for the first time in eons. With mom improving to the point of being self-sufficient, I had difficulties refocusing myself. That and the worry cancer will return. In short, I was slowly driving myself insane, with the help of social media. Breaking up with social media was much easier than I thought it would be. I simply … stopped.

I’ve enjoyed the break and don’t think I’ll look at things the same way. I’ve almost attained a zen feel to my outlook. Things are going to happen; some of which I can’t change. That’s ok now. Having a sense of balance back in my head means I can cope with what gets thrown my way. Good days; bad days. I’ll talk about them both here. But right now? The good are far outstripping the bad. I suspect without the disconnect, the antidepressants would not have been as successful. I’ll tell you, I’d forgotten how loud the noise in my head was. When it suddenly stopped, I had problems coping for a day or two. It was so silent. A million different voices competing through the daily noise. Not voices like strangers talking to me. They were me, my internal voice on steroids. My brain was like a runaway train. And the outside noise, oh god the loudness of the world. I was living with my headphones in and a white noise generator running constantly. I was often frantic with anxiety when I got home. OH THE BLISS OF SILENCE.

The sounds of OCD

Want to know what the ‘voices’ were like? Think of 10 people yelling at you to do things a certain way or warning you things aren’t “right” and if you don’t correct them, you’ll be in danger. Complicate that with a sensitivity to noise on a level that makes me sound insane.

You didn’t check the door but you need to take the steps a certain OMG did you touch that. CLEAN YOUR HANDS YOUR hands you didn’t say that correctly please please stop the sink has dishes in it I feel paralyzed what do I do I can’t make dinner in this mess the water isn’t hot enough wash your hands again no again I’m tired but we need to get the phrasing right that’s not balanced try to set things up properly no no you lost count now we have to start over wow it’s noisy wonder if did you remember the sanitizer Oh god this bathroom no nonnononononon check that door again did you have to go this way there’s always dog shit here and you know it does things to you you need to align those pages correctly if I start straightening this out I won’t be able to stop

You get the idea. The meds halted all that. I often wonder if the OCD causes the depression or the depression causes OCD. I still can’t deal with the external noise well so I bought a pair of earplugs that dim the sound but still allow me to hear conversations. Its difficult to explain the quiet and it’s searing effect on me. When I realised how silent everything in my head was, I stood in the middle of my room with my eyes closed and thought “not going to go off the meds again”. The peace and order in my thoughts are magnificent.

I’ve tentatively dipped my toes back into social media again. A few posts on Instagram, a tweet here and there. But I can’t bring myself back to Facebook. The sheer amount of insanity on the platform is keeping me away. I’ll go back, eventually, because I have friends I like to chatter with. Maybe…

I’ve been working on new content over the last week and very happy with what I’ve created. A few new Instagram posts have already gone up. Now with the weather improving, I’ll head out and start taking photos, well, as long as the COVID-19 stays at bay in my area. Look for a few stamp posts, a new vlog post, and some great tech news. Will be fun.