The Mindful Lymie

The sun is shining. The air is warmish. April has left all the fools behind and now we can release a collective sigh…. Ahhhh. Spring will arrive!

With the advent of Spring, I’m always eager to try something new and/or clean up my past. I was lying in bed thinking how I’m so tired of not creating anything. I want to watercolour, scrapbook, collage, and write poetry. I sign up for online classes hoping they’ll motivate me. When I have the energy, I attempt to create but cannot find the focus and give up after a few minutes. Or I quickly become fatigued or uncomfortable. Or I have the focus and motivation but not the energy.

I’m not alone. I belong to a few Facebook groups for people struggling with Lyme disease. The question of how we spend our time has come up in conversation before. I had an “aha” moment this morning.

  1. I need to find a way to create. Even if only for a few minutes a day.
  2. Creativity is an important part of healing.
  3. Other Lyme sufferers need an outlet for creativity but face the same limitations as me.

So, I’m starting a Facebook Group called “The Mindful Lymie“. Each month I’ll have a list. Each day will have a prompt. Members of the group will then take the prompt and create something. Anything! A poem, a photograph, a sentence, a collage, a drawing, or even a Facebook post. It really doesn’t matter. The purpose is to take a few moments a day to make something new, to focus on possibilities, and to express yourself. Creativity is not about being a great artist. It’s simply about making something.

I’ll encourage members to then share whatever it is they created. Or to even just talk about whatever comes to their mind regarding the prompt. We share similar struggles but most of the support groups are about symptoms, treatments, and advocacy. All very important issues that don’t leave a lot of room for anything else. Creativity is a great way to express feelings, struggles and pain. It can be cathartic, joyful or just plain fun. At the very least, it can be a distraction!

Here is the April list of Prompts.

Here is my attempt for April 2nd.


So, if you or one of your family or close friends has Lyme disease, please join my group, the Mindful Lymie!

Getting Ridiculous!

It wasn’t that long ago that I found out that my MSIDS (Multiple Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome) was a large contributor of my crazy dreams. Ok, I’ve always been a vivid dreamer but the past couple years my internal dream machine has been thrown into overdrive. My theory is that the more boring my life becomes because of this debilitating disease, the more my dreams try to make up for it! I’ll spare you the details. I need a switch to turn that stuff off!

 

I woke up this morning blogging in my head again. I’m trying to remember what exactly I said. Something about hatred. A friend recently posted on her Facebook wall about the nature of hatred. My takeaway was that hatred is when you wish something did not exist. Ah, that’s right, I was thinking about something I hated. Now what was it? Cicadas! Yes, I realized that I don’t actually hate Cicadas. I just hate their sound. If they could exist silently, I’d be a much happier person. I had this thought upon awakening because the constant ringing in my ears reminded me of Cicadas. 24/7 Cicadas. I do hate tinnitus.

I spend a lot of time talking about dreaming, waking up, and napping. I sense a theme, don’t you? My life revolves around sleeping. I tried to stay awake all day. I sat on my closet floor organizing clothes and stacks of paper that have been tucked away in bins for far too long. It felt good to take on a task. I keep hoping I’ll slowly declutter and clean this house inch by inch. After I quit my task (note, I did not say finish or complete my task) I went to run my bath water. I grabbed the bathroom cleaner and a sponge and scrubbed the baseboards and tiles as the tub filled. I didn’t even care that it made my body ache because I knew I’d be soaking in the tub. It occurred to me that this was a great way to get things done. I’m going to be more mindful about how I can accomplish tasks in small time fragments.

I caved by mid-afternoon and napped away the rest of the daylight. It was a good sleep at least. Now I am going to plan out the goals I’d like to achieve this week. I won’t schedule specific time for them as I can’t predict when I’ll feel up to the task. That just leaves me feeling tense, agitated, and frustrated. Instead, I’ll keep the tasks in mind and dedicate moments when I can.

It’s all going to come together! I just need to reframe how I view my life. Things can get done and I can feel useful again. It’s just a matter of readjusting my outlook. Wish me luck!

Well, that wasn’t fun!

The morning is almost gone and I had no idea. I developed a bad headache yesterday. Nothing new. I almost always have a headache to some degree. It worsened with every tick of the clock. My sleep was spiked with unbearable pain. While drifting from dream to clarity, I pondered what deems pain unbearable? What is a pain scale? If 0 out of 10= no pain, then is 5 a lot of pain or just a regular headache? Is 10 the worst ever pain or just a migraine? Can you go off the scale? Is it subjective? What are the RULES? I decided I was off the scale and wondered if a hammer would end all my struggles. Around 4am, I wanted to go to the kitchen and get a drink of water and an ice-cold pack for my noggin but I couldn’t move. I needed to not move. To stay in the same exact spot and try not to anger the headache god any further. I did however manage to grab my phone from the nightstand and text my husband a plea to not wake me at 7 and to get the kids ready and on the bus for school. There was begging involved. Why did I text him, you ask. I was sleeping in my daughter’s bed and she was sleeping on her pretty awesome new fold out bed mat thing next to me on the floor. Dysfunctional household? Perhaps. Let’s not judge.

My dear husband respected my wishes and even brought me a cold pack, coffee and medication. At some point I found my way back to my actual bed and propped my neck with a bean filled neck rest and a cold pack, sipped the coffee, swallowed the meds (which I doubted would help), applied another cold pack to my forehead, pulled up my divinely soft and warm blanket over my cold and clammy body and drifted off to sleep. Right before unconsciousness I questioned where my eye mask went but darkness quickly overcame me before I could answer the question.

I woke up and was disgruntled that I hadn’t slept. I was certain it was only 9:30. My headache was down from some ungodly number to what I would call an “8”. Progress! I was so snuggly in bed but needed to get up and feed my belly to keep the headache away. The clock read 11:03. What? Wow, I can’t remember when time passed by without my being acutely aware of it. No wonder I felt refreshed.

What is weird is that when I awoke I was writing blog posts in my mind. Words were flowing so fast and freely. Instead of attempting to put them down right now, I’m instead telling you a more mundane story. I don’t really have a good reason why. Just describing my morning.

Now I’m not completely off the hook for feeling “better” now that my headache has settled down somewhat. My hands are shaky. Perhaps from the medicine I took? Now let’s be clear. It wasn’t strong meds. It was two Tylenol and a sinus pill. It was only half a coffee. All of which were taken hours ago. I’ve eaten food. But the shakes are not leaving. I had a bath (standing in the shower was too much effort) an hour ago and feel nice and clean but I’m still sweating. My upper lip perspires constantly. It’s the damn Babesia polluting my body.

Oh, and did I mention why I think my headache was so intensely rotten? I started a new medication to treat my bartonella. In my usual half aware state, I took the full dose yesterday. I’d forgotten that I’m supposed to gradually increase from 1 drop to 10 drops over the course of a couple weeks. The adverse effect of taking too much at once? A Herx. That means the medicine worked so well, it killed off some of the illness but too much too fast and left me reeling. That’s my layman’s explanation anyway.

Ok, I’ve reached the point where I need to put the computer away and rest.

And as always, a picture for all your trouble. Until next time, take care….

Books | Melanie Ritchie

Books I’m attempting to read this week.

How shall I use my spoons today?

An average healthy person has unlimited energy in a day, assuming they eat well and take breaks now and then. Let’s say a spoon is required for each act they perform. They’d have more than enough spoons to get them through the day. An unwell person has limited stores of energy and must make conscious choices on how they will use their small stash of spoons.

This morning I feel like I have a million spoons! How awesome is that? I know! However, from experience I know that feeling will change almost without warning. I’m sitting here trying to decide how to use my spoons. I was slightly tempted to go to the store but I know that will use up all of my spoons and I have a list of things to accomplish this evening. I have to ration my energy. Ok, so what can I do that will only slightly deplete my energy? I signed up for an online watercolour course by Mindy Lacefield so maybe I could finally sit at my craft table and put brush to paper? Or I could get some computer work done? Or I could try to tame the mess that is taking over my house and choking my sanity? No way… that one would put me out for weeks! Ugh, what to do?

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/

I gave my 16-year-old long haired tortoise shell Persian cat a haircut the other day. She hated it. I hated it. It had to be done. She had matted hair because she refuses to be brushed. She must have been relieved because she’s been at my side ever since. She keeps pawing me for my attention. I cut her nails too but they keep digging into my arm. My arm is bleeding. I really wish she’d stop. I can only pet her so many hours of the day. It’s incredible that she wants my attention so badly. Usually she sleeps in her cat bed 23 hours of the day and our 1 year old cat vies for my attention. I love her but she’s driving me batty! Not only is she pawing me to possible death, she’s also drooling on me. Poor sweet Chloe!

Chloe

I’m so clumsy. Soon after my Lyme disease symptoms appeared (long before a diagnosis) I began to lose my grip. Jars, cans and objects would fall from my hands. I thought things weren’t as bad now but maybe I’m just used to it? Things don’t get placed where I am aiming. Cups fly across the room or crash to the floor when I was simply setting them on the counter. Today I managed to spill tomato sauce on the counter, spill spoonfuls of rice onto the floor, and send a bag of dates flying out of the fridge. All before 8:30am! I’d keep a safe distance if you see anything breakable or heavy in my hands. It is frustrating.

My mantra has become “it could always be worse, much worse”.

Chloe has finally settled into sleep on my left hand. I can still manage to type, mostly. I’m just relieved she’s not scratching me. Her scratches are itchy. I should buy stock in Polysporin. I’m not too worried about infection because I’m already on two antibiotics and several herbal supplements. I am already fighting Bartonella (cat scratch fever) that I acquired from the tick bite. Kind of a bonus freebie for when I got Lyme. I also got Babesia and who knows what else….

Well, I’ve come to the end of this post and I still have energy! I thought this activity would take up at least a spoon! Ok, onwards… let’s get some $#!% done!

What did I miss?

It has occurred to me that I haven’t been sharing the layouts I make monthly for Simple Scrapper. Shame on me! Simple Scrapper is such a great resource for memory keepers. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Wow, ok, so I’ve failed to share A LOT. Here is what I missed!

In no particular order…

1stday | Melanie Ritchiealberta | Melanie Ritchiecarefree| Melanie Ritchiefindyourway | Melanie Ritchiefuturenow | Melanie Ritchielightshine | Melanie Ritchieohnyal | Melanie Ritchieorangegreen | Melanie Ritchieshowcase | Melanie Ritchiesweetmittens | Melanie Ritchiethink | Melanie Ritchiecupcake | Melanie Ritchiemoment | Melanie Ritchiechildhood | Melanie Ritchieliving the dream | Melanie Ritchiebike | Melanie Ritchielegoland | Melanie Ritchiethe world | Melanie Ritchieto mom | Melanie Ritchieboldt castle | Melanie Ritchiesnow icecream | Melanie Ritchie

Now I must go nap! Peace out!

The night is still aglow with light

This morning I awoke to the rush of my husband’s footsteps as he dashed to the basement to see why we had no water pressure. He got as far as the light switch when he realized the issue was a lack of power. The ice storm caused a power outage in the neighbourhood. He escaped to work and the kids and I took the opportunity to sleep in. The power came back on mid-morning. Yay, power! Out here where we live, that means flushing toilets! It also meant coffee!

Winter | Melanie Ritchie

I also awoke with a migraine. Tonight I felt really horrible. Nothing would make the hammering pain in my head go away. My ice pack had thawed twice. The tylenol I didn’t want to take did nothing. My other medicines were making me nauseated. I had no energy to do anything and trying to sleep just felt painful.

I was lying there for hours and then I decided I’d make some tea. Once downstairs I thought I’d enjoy the lights of the Christmas tree. It’s still up because I haven’t had the energy to take it down. I had just enough energy today to make the kids lunch and a Swirlio (ice cream out of nothing but frozen fruit). So, now I’m on the couch enjoying my tree even though the festivities are winding down. I was too lazy to wait for the tea to boil so I’m having a V8 instead. A small cheat in my diet as I’m not supposed to have tomatoes (nightshades). I took my chlorella pills and I’m hopeful that sleep might come to me soon. For the first time today, my headache is aching less.

Today I had hoped to get a few chores done and to play a couple games with the kids. They got a cool Lego toy I wanted to build with both of them. Luckily, they were in a good mood and played together nicely without me. I spent most of the day in bed while they chatted with me before disappearing to play another game with rules that only they understood. I was supposed to go out for dinner with a friend but the weather worsened (I didn’t think it could!) and it was better that way because I would not have been good company!

While I was lying in bed I was thinking about my “to-do” lists. My council work, my design work, my house work, and my personal work. At this moment I don’t know how I’ll get back to my council work. I can’t even wrap my head around the things I need to tackle. Right now reading  a recipe feels like learning a new language. Simple emails feel complex. My design work I’ll worry about next week. My house work, oh dear, my housework. That is a never-ending story. My personal work… I’m itching to get started on One Little Word, to paint something, or to digitally scrapbook a page (I’m not up to making a paper one). I can’t decide what word to choose to work on for 2017. I thought about “heal” but am also considering “rest” or “pause”. I just don’t know. Too hard to think about.

Oh, and I really really really want to take a bus to the Women’s March on Washington in a few weeks. A group from Ottawa is traveling down to the march and  coming right back afterward. Since I find making lunch to be a completely energy depleting task, I’ve decided I’m probably not up for the trip. I hope the March is a success. There is so much that needs to be done.

I think I’ll try that sleeping thing again. Nighters!

 

So, that’s what happened.

In the Spring of 2013, I decided to plant a Japanese garden in my back yard. The mosquitoes were bad that spring. I remember having several large bites and even asking a pharmacist if they were bull eye rashes or just large mosquito bites. I was told I just have a mosquito allergy and to use Benadryl. I also had a sore and hot red mark that I thought was a spider bite. First it was just a red bite mark. Then it was hot and had a little black speck in it. Then the black speck got bigger. Finally, I scratched it enough to pull out a little teeny weeny spider. No, I did not. It was a tick but I didn’t know that then.

That summer I thought I had a “summer flu” that never quite went away. By the end of the summer, I was exhausted. Just an average day of activity left me lying on the bed by the time the kids were ready for their evening bath, I’d have chills and flu ache. I’d wake up drenched in sweat. My nightgown would be soaked. The next day I’d be even more exhausted.

One day at the end of summer I went to Niagara Falls for a couple days. I was feeling very tired and anxious. I’ve had anxiety for a number of years so I just assumed it was the drive that scared me. I get anxious in cars since I was in an accident a decade ago. At dinner with my friend and her visiting family, I began to have a panic attack. I’d never had one before and it was truly terrifying. It does feel like you’re dying. My heart was racing, time slowed down and I did everything I could to stay calm and focus on my breathing. I had no idea what was happening. I tried to act normal (my version of normal) as though everything was okay. I was confused because I was enjoying my dinner. There was nothing overly stressful about the occasion. I thought maybe it was due to my low iron. I was also beginning to experience shortness of breath, chest pains, and heart palpitations. I wondered if maybe it was all part of the anemia. I’d even read that anxiety can result from anemia. So I kept popping my daily iron pill.

The fatigue, chest and heart issues, and malaise continued. I had an annual Physical in the fall. I tried to tell the doctor about my various issues but got cut off. She told me I was only allotted 20 minutes and that included the examination. I said “but I’m only sharing everything because I thought maybe you’d see a pattern in all the symptoms.” She said “ok, tell me one more and then we’ll move on”. Um, ok.

I was feeling so guilty. It was my last year with my kids at home. My daughter was in half day kindergarten and I had all morning alone with my son. I wanted this time to bond with my son. I thought we’d make crafts and play games. I’d make his alone time with me special. Honestly, I think most of those mornings, I napped while he watched TVO cartoons. He didn’t mind because he got to watch his choice of show without his sister arguing with him. He’d try to learn from the shows as they were educational and he’d ask me all sorts of questions and I’d try to hold a conversation with him in my half-asleep stupor. We did occasionally paint, make crafts, scrapbook (his favourite) and play games but not nearly as much as both of us would have liked.

My little guy | Melanie Ritchie

My little guy during my first year struggling with the onset of Lyme disease.

At the same time I was becoming more focused on the increasing pain in my left knee. I could barely walk on it. The leg would give out. I wondered if I’d twisted something. It wasn’t until I felt a lump on the underside of my knee, that I went to see the doctor. She couldn’t see what would be wrong but agreed I should get an ultrasound. The lump was a lipoma and after seeing a specialist months later, I was told it did not need treatment and it wasn’t likely the cause of my knee pain.

Despite all these issues, I did manage to have a lovely vacation at Disney World with my family. It was exhausting and wonderful, all mixed together!

Disney World | Melanie Ritchie

Somewhere in that winter, I also went to the doctor about the possibility of fibromyalgia. Or maybe celiac disease. Or whatever might be the cause of my issues. Fibromyalgia was dismissed as I didn’t have all the “tender spots”. The doctor didn’t want to test for Celiac. I can’t remember why. Later that year, she did put me on a Gluten-free diet when I said I was still having the same issues.

I also visited the eye doctor about the sudden onset of migraines. I’d get multiple auras in a day over the period of a few days, every few months. I felt a lot of glare all the time, and found night driving difficult. Everything seemed too bright.

I had career ambitions and was working on various plans (teaching online classes, designing, and illustrating). Again, I felt such guilt. I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I couldn’t focus on writing proposals. It was a miracle I was able to accomplish the things I did finish. I felt like I was ruining my reputation with some colleagues I deeply respected. I’d been dependable up until now. Why couldn’t I get my act together?

The chest pains, breathlessness and feeling of vertigo and dizziness worsened. In the Spring of 2014, I went to see my doctor and he told me I’d tried very hard to manage my anxiety without drugs (counselling, meditation classes, etc.) but I really needed to take medicine to help me get to a place where I could cope. Then when I was less anxious I could wean off the drugs.  If the drugs didn’t help the anxiety, we’d know it was something else. I agreed. I had a variety of side effects but I knew that was common so I wasn’t too concerned. I’d been warned I’d get very tired and have hot flashes. No problem, I could handle it and I did. For the next two years, I accepted that my quality of life was diminished due to my fatigue. I accepted it because the drug had helped with the anxiety and the chest and heart symptoms were almost completely gone. I figured the issues must have been anxiety all along.

My kids were both in school full time the Fall of 2014. It was my first time with the house to myself in 6 1/2 years! I was sad and excited… bittersweet. I was sad that this phase of our life was over, but I was excited to be able to focus on my art, and to have a moment to myself. I had so many projects I wanted to finally take on and complete.

Instead, I slept. I couldn’t help myself. I’d try to pick something to do and I’d dive right in, get exhausted, take a “quick” nap, and find myself waking up just in time to get the kids off the bus. I was designing digital art during this time and writing blog posts. I wasn’t completely inactive but I wasn’t doing nearly as much as I had hoped. Every deadline was a struggle as I fought to keep my eyes open and see through the brain fog to brainstorm new designs.

In the Fall of 2015, I decided to become more active at the kids’ school. I became co-chair of the School Council (PTA). Some days I did my design work. Some days I did my council work. Often, I napped. I’d forgotten what life was like when I had energy. I assumed it was the anxiety medication. I assumed it was turning 40. I assumed it was sleep deprivation from having kids. Too many assumptions.

In the Spring of 2016, I felt I couldn’t do my design work anymore. I had tried to work on my proposals for other work projects. I decided to hold onto one small job I do every month. I wanted to be “present” for my kids in the summer and I couldn’t be juggling work and parenting.

It was then that my Mom mentioned reading Ally Hilfiger’s book “Bite Me“. She said Ally’s struggle reminded her of me. So I got it out of the library and read it too. All the pieces of the past three years fell into place. OMG, do I have lyme disease? Suddenly, it was all I could think about. I read the Horowitz Lyme-MSIDS questionnaire by a leading Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) Dr. Richard Horowitz.

Bite Me by Ally Hilfiger

All the issues I’d seen the Doctor for in the last three years were on this list. As well as several things for which I never sought help. I had the classic onset of symptoms. Except I never knew if I had a bullseye rash or a tick bite. WAIT A MINUTE… in a flash I recalled that spider bite and the horrible mosquito bites. At the time, I knew about bullseye rashes made by ticks. I didn’t know that ticks burrowed into your skin. I didn’t even know what a tick looked like. Suddenly, it was very clear. I didn’t know if I was bitten in my backyard or at the lake where we sometimes visit. It didn’t really matter.

I went to see my doctor and told him my fears that I might have Lyme disease. I handed him the completed Horowitz questionnaire. He asked me why I would think I had Lyme disease and I explained a short version of what I have written here so far. I also mentioned the neck pain I’d seen him for, the ringing in my ears for months on end that he also treated me for, or the lump in my breast and colostrum that had no business appearing. I told him how I had trouble finishing thoughts, fumbled with words, couldn’t concentrate on books or TV, smelled cigarette smoke when there wasn’t possibly any around, dropped things all the time because I could no longer fully grasp items, couldn’t tolerate loud noises or bright lights, and how my whole body ached. He diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and advised me to get tested for Lyme Disease and Co-infections (Babesia, Bartonella, etc.) with IgeneX.

By the end of October, I revisited the Doctor with my results in hand. He diagnosed me with Lyme Disease. He gave me the name of a LLMD in New York State. She was expensive and taking trips there would be costly for us. I did a little research of my own and found out a reputable Lyme Literate Naturopathic Doctor works in Ottawa. I immediately booked an appointment.

The first week of December, I had my appointment with the LLND. I was so eager to finally get treatment. She was better than I had hoped for! She assessed me and prescribed supplements and asked for me to have a Doctor prescribe certain antibiotics. She uses a variety of methods to diagnose illnesses. With my health background forms, the questionnaires she’d asked me to fill out in advance of the appointment, the test results I’d given her, a physical examination, and auricular assessment, she was able to diagnose me with Multiple Systemic Infectious Disease Syndrome (MSIDS). So basically, I have Lyme, Babesia (similar to malaria), Bartonella, and a bunch of other issues suppressing my immune system leaving me sick and vulnerable. Each with its own long list of symptoms. Some of the issues can be resolved but the Lyme can only be treated into remission. It will be a long process.

One of the problems with Lyme Disease treatment is that you get worse before you get better. When the bacteria is being killed off, toxins are released into the body causing a Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction. A “Herx” happens when your body can’t rid itself of the toxins as quickly as the bacteria is being killed off. To counteract the risk of a reaction, my LLND gave me a schedule to add new drugs and supplements slowly. I am now on everything and for the past two days, I’ve had constantly tingling hands (think pins and needles type stuff), hot flashes and sweat, sudden chills, dizziness, and physical fatigue.

Drugs | Melanie Ritchie

My supper time meds

I drink lemon water and take epsom salt baths to aid my body’s detoxing. I’m taking supplements that also help with the detoxification process. I’m struggling to take all the pills at the right time. I use an iPhone app to help me and it reminds me to take pills at 12 different times in the day!

Mittens | Melanie Ritchie

Mittens, the ever loving kitten keeps me company in bed, on the couch, or at the edge of the bath.

In addition to the pills, the LLND prescribed a new diet for me. It’s horrible! The only upside is that I’ll lose the weight I’ve gained since all of this started. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I can and can’t eat. It’s confusing because I was given some specifics about the diet and then also told to follow the Wahl’s Protocol Diet. So, my understanding at the moment is that I need to be sugar-free, gluten-free, and mostly dairy-free. I can’t eat potatoes. I think I can’t eat tomatoes but I’m not completely sure. I’m pretty upset about the potatoes. I can’t have vinegar, except for cider vinegar. I can eat sweet potatoes! I can eat avocados. I can eat two pieces of fruit a day.

The worst part (aside from the sugar and potatoes limitation) is that I’m supposed to add meat to my diet. I’ve been vegetarian for 21+ years! Wow, wow, wow. So last week, I dragged myself to the butcher that gets their meat from local farms that are organic, pesticide-free and run like farms rather than factories. That’s the only way I can make peace with this change. I want to know those animals had at least a semblance of happiness before they were slaughtered. I’m not thrilled but I’m prioritizing my health as more valuable than the life of the chicken. I’m not sure that’s fair or right, but that’s what I’ve chosen to do.

file_002

My first meal of chicken in over 21 years! Thank you nameless chicken for giving me your life. I’m sorry it has to be this way.

I’m still having my morning coffee, sweetened with stevia (on my ok list!), with a splash of cream (pretty sure that’s a no-no). I fully intend to cheat on Christmas Eve and possibly Christmas. Hopefully, I don’t regret it!

So, that takes me to now. My husband is very supportive and loving. My children are struggling to understand and accept that their Mommy is sick. It pains me to see my daughter’s anxiety over this. We’ll figure this out. We will.

I’ve made peace that I’m not crafting my way through Christmas like I usually try to do. No December Daily, no fancy photos, no Christmas crafts, and no sweet treats. I cut back on the decorations. I didn’t write Christmas cards. I just can’t do all those things right now and that is okay. Right now, the priority is to get better and spend time with my family. My biggest goal for the holidays is to play board games with the kids. Time together is all that really matters. And sleep. That matters too!

Little Elf | Melanie Ritchie

Photo techniques I won’t be trying this Christmas!

Thank you for reading my story. I’m sure if you were to read back over my blog posts the last few years, there would be moments where it was obvious something was wrong. Hopefully my future blog posts will guide us to a place where something is going very right! I’m going to try to write more about what I’m experiencing. My design work for the most part is on hold. This blog won’t have lots of scrapbooking, designing, or art projects for the next while. Follow me along for my journey and hopefully the art will return sooner than later!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! May you have moments of great peace and joy in the coming year!

Don of a New Age

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the final episode of Mad Men and you think you might want to at some point, then please DO NOT read this post. 

The series finale of Mad Man aired a year ago in May 2015. Yet in the world of Netflix and series binge watching, it’s never too prudent to post a “spoiler alert” advisory. I wasn’t able to watch the final season until a month ago. For a year I tried very hard to close my eyes and ears to anything to do with the show. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I was able to watch season seven on Netflix!

I had moments of trepidation as I sat down with my bowl of popcorn and icy cold Coca-Cola and hit the play button on my Apple TV remote. What would become of the characters? Would Don survive? Who were the heroes and victims? Would I be disappointed, angry, or delighted with the outcome?

After I watched the credits roll signifying the end of a brilliant TV drama, I honestly did not know how I felt. I was happy with how most of the characters continued on with their lives. It was the way they left off with Don’s life that left me wondering what happened next. This would not do! I began to google people’s reactions to the writers’ decisions to leave Don sitting in the lotus position, meditating on a California mountaintop. We never found out if he returned to New York to create the World’s most famous Coca-Cola Ad or whether he started a new life as his old self, Dick Whitman. I didn’t glean a whole lot of additional insight.

For a few weeks, the show would wander back into my thoughts. I’d vacillate between endings. Yes, he did return to New York! No, no, no, he found enlightenment and stayed in California. Back and forth, back and forth I went, wondering.

Then tonight, I was cleaning my bathroom sink and I came upon a new answer that gives me a sense of peace and closure. I’m good with this one.

So, this is Don’s story:

He is born as Dick Whitman and struggles a difficult childhood during the Great Depression.

He goes off to war and returns home as Don Draper, an identity he stole from the Lieutenant whom he accidentally killed.

He moves to New York where he builds a successful life selling stories on Madison Avenue. He has a model perfect nuclear family and a large suburban home. Yet he is haunted by his old life and is unfulfilled by his new life. Alcohol, affairs, and money do not soothe his soul.

The life he has built crumbles piece by piece. His belongings have been stolen. His home is sold. His divorce is final.

One day he achieves his biggest career goal and walks out the door.

He leaves New York to take an “On the Road” inspired drive.  I’m sure it is no coincidence Don Draper has always reminded me of Jack Kerouac (dark, handsome, hedonistic, haunted, lost, and grieving).

As he travels, he sheds off the layers of Don Draper: He gives away his car; He finds out his ex-wife is dying and his kids will get custody with her brother; He confesses his stolen identity to veterans. He returns to California where he had initially embraced his life as Don Draper only to find himself at a retreat with the niece of the real Don Draper. She gives him a final and harsh reality check by reminding him that he is Dick Whitman, not Don Draper. The last wisp of his Don Draper ego vanishes as he acknowledges his greatest transgressions. He attends a therapy session where he recognizes himself in a broken man who feels invisible. He embraces him.

The egoless man, formerly known as Don and previously as Dick meditates and finally achieves the serenity and harmony he has yearned for his entire life.

The show ends with the famous “I’d Like to Buy The World A Coke” Ad and we’re left to wonder whether Don Draper returns to New York to create the commercial or whether he stays on that mountaintop smiling indefinitely. Or something like that.

I chose to believe he does return to New York with the words of the meditation guru chanting in his head “A new day, new ideas, and a new you”. He pitches the greatest ad of the 20th century as a man who is no longer a caged Dick Whitman hidden in the Don Draper identity. A name is just a name and he has nothing to hide or prove. Ghosts no longer haunt him.

Having attained his freedom, his need to hustle is gone. He doesn’t have to sell us on Coca-cola. He wants to buy it for us instead. So, put your feet up, relax, and enjoy a Coke. Courtesy of Don.

 

 

 

The lowdown

Weird that “lowdown” as a noun means “true facts” and as an adjective it means “rotten and unfair”. I’m pretty sure there is some irony in there but I’m not about to dig into that one right now.

I’ve been at a standstill for the past year as I avoided my blog. I just wondered what the point was in sharing my thoughts and personal life. I mean, really, does the world need one more voice out there on the internet? I’m not profound like Brené Brown or Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m not George Takei, making you laugh as I throw a dose of heartfelt wisdom at you. Like most people, I fear the haters and I fear my own negative voice telling me I have no right to share anything.

So, poop on that, I’m going to start blogging again. And I’m going to start sentences with “poop on that”.

Life is too short to live someone else’s idea of how life should be lived. Ponder that tongue twister.

Right now I need to finish up a kit I’m designing for Pixels and Company, the digital scrapbook shop where I sell my digital designs. I mean, I REALLY should be on photoshop, not WordPress. REALLY. Sometimes, I think it is better to empty your mind in order to refill it with inspiration. I’m writing in hopes that I will share some of my thoughts to make space for new ideas. There, I’ve totally just rationalized my behaviour.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how, ultimately, I make the rules. I’m one of those people who likes order when it comes to safety and well-being. I get infuriated when people dirt bike or skidoo through our park, or when drivers pull crazy stunts and endanger lives. My heart breaks when people are cruel to others. I’ve always wondered how they could want to break the rules and not lose any sleep over it. Maybe it’s just not that important to them. Then I wonder how they keep getting away with it. How is it that so many rapists, murderers, racists, and really rich developers with a hankering for politics manage to keep getting away with their behaviour? Why isn’t the “boss” (police, government, authority) stopping them? Why are rules seen by so many as merely suggestions? Why am I driving myself crazy trying to do everything the way the rules have been written?

So, I’m going to be a little more selective about the rules I follow. Just the ones that aren’t important to me: being apologetic for not living up to standards set by everyone but me.

Like hiding my depression and anxiety. Actually I’m pretty upfront about the anxiety. It’s the depression I feel shameful about. You would think that after 20+ years of suffering from mild-moderate depressive episodes and earning a BA in Psychology, I’d have the good sense to accept my depression for what it is. An illness. You’d think that. No. Despite all the books, articles, memes, and conversations I’ve read and heard, I still feel any depression I suffer from is all my own doing. My fault. My weakness. My failure.

I can be flippant and light hearted about it on a blog but really, this is a deep wound that I need to heal. I don’t talk about it enough because there are real risks associated with sharing experiences of mental illness. Sure, commercials and memes all encourage us to share our stories but really, there is a risk of losing everything: insurance, reputation, promotions, love… and who knows what else. So, let’s say I share that I have depression. The people who have suffered nod in silent understanding. The people who don’t understand do what? Some are probably sympathetic. Some are probably rolling their eyes? Some are judging. “Maybe if you weren’t so lazy”, “maybe if you didn’t sleep so much”, “maybe if you changed your diet”, “maybe if you weren’t such a loser”. Maybe if I just wasn’t me.

The risk of denying my depression is that the depression deepens and I continue to believe the illness is actually my own inherent flaws. I’m lazy. I sleep too much. I’m pathetic. I’m a loser. I can’t do anything right. I’m a waste of time and space. I’m unloveable.

I am angry at myself for falling into this trap of thinking. I wonder why I’m depressed. I know I have a genetic disposition. I’m not supposed to talk about it but there is a line of my family tree where people have suffered and some have ended their own misery. I’ve asked for details but I can’t get much of the story. Perhaps it is feared I will succumb to my genes? This angers me. I think knowing who and where I come from and knowing what my ancestors have suffered (no fault of their own), I might actually be able to overcome it if I can understand it. It would also lessen my guilt of wrongly believing my depression is all my fault. (Why can’t I convince myself of that without needing the validation?) As Brené Brown says, I want to “own my history”. I can’t control the genetic conditions I pass on to my kids but I can hopefully give them the knowledge and tools they need to live their lives as fully as possible. Not to mention I want to to model good behaviour for them and I’m pretty sure they can see through the veneer of my attempts to cover up my self-loathing.

So, I’m breaking this rule. I’m depressed. I come from a long line of people who have struggled with it. It’s not going away by denying it or by blaming myself for it. I’m talking about it. Deal with it.

IT’S NOT MY FAULT! (No, REALLY, it ISN’T!!!) Stop the blame!

See you soon for posts about quilting, cute unicorn pens, and my newest Tupperware pickle container acquisition.

File Apr 21, 2 25 49 PM

 

I’m a Quilter, how splendid!

It seems like quite the exaggeration to call myself a quilter. However, I did piece fabric together with thread. So, I guess that is what I am. As Lilla Rogers likes to say, “All great artists start at the beginning”. So here I am, the beginner quilter.

I’ve wanted to quilt for years. The thought of actually doing it intimidated me. A couple months ago I downloaded the Periscope App and it imported my social media contacts. One day the app chirped at me to say one of my contacts was “scoping” live. It was Alyssa Thomas of Penguin & Fish. I knew she was the artist and author who makes whimsically adorable embroidery patterns and fabric. I was curious so I tuned in. She crafts nightly at 9:30CST. She’s so friendly and down-to-earth. I’m learning so much just by watching her.

I remember my grandma once tried to teach me to crochet. Her fingers moved so quickly I couldn’t follow along. She didn’t know how to slow down enough for me to learn. So, I never did learn to crochet. My Mom taught me to knit and sew. I was never overly adept at either but I did make a few things. I also taught myself embroidery but it wasn’t exactly full of proper technique. I did do a pretty awesome Kurt Cobain on a friend’s pair of jeans. I wish I’d taken a photo of that. Back then the only way to learn was to get a book from the library or find a relative who could teach you.

Fast forward to 2016, and the resources are amazing!

1. I’m watching Alyssa on Periscope which is like having that relative show me how to do things properly. I can’t explain how invaluable that is. Otherwise I’d stand at my craft table totally bewildered wondering where to start.

2. There are free challenges and patterns out there to try. Alyssa mentioned that she was part of the “Splendid Sampler” Quilt-Along. 100 mystery block patterns will be revealed twice a week for participants to quilt. The blocks are designed by a long list of artists. After the year is done the blocks will only be available in a printed book. Different techniques will be required throughout the quilt-along.

3. The groups of crafters are plentiful. Someone somewhere has encountered whatever quilting challenge you are facing and is willing to share their solution.

I have to wonder what my crafting skills would have been like as a teenager if I had access to today’s technology.

So, here is what I’ve made so far.

The block with the little Kimono clad girls is the “bonus” block handed out last week. It is my VERY first block EVER!!! It’s crooked and the points don’t match up BUT I did it and I’m proud!

The block with the heart is the first mystery block. 1 out of 100. I’m happy with it. I even needle turn appliqued the heart. Yahoo!

I’m not really going for perfect here. I want a colourful and quirky quilt that makes me happy. I do not have a big stash of fabric. Several years ago I bought some lovely fabrics off of superbuzzy, thinking I’d sew my baby some clothes. HAHAHA… what was I thinking? That didn’t really happen and now my nearly 8 year old likes to dress herself. So, my quilt will use up the few fabrics I have, plus snippets from baby clothes, and some fabrics I will purchase soon.

Today there is a new block so I must be off to check it out! Until next time….

My first blocks | Melanie Ritchie

 

Remembrance Day Poppy: Wall Art & Journal Cards

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I will observe two minutes of silence as I reflect on the sacrifices others have made so that I may have peace. It is an opportunity to practice gratitude and to remember just how lucky I am to live such a comfortable life.

I made a little poppy today and thought it would make a lovely 8×10 wall art. I turned it into 3×4 and 4×6 journal cards as well. You can download the freebie by clicking on the photo.

I hope you’ll take a moment tomorrow to recognize the veterans in your community!

Click on the image to go to my shop where you can download it for free.

Remembrance Day Poppy | Melanie Ritchie

Oh. My. Word! It’s nearly Halloween! Here’s a treat!

Boo! Did you think you saw a ghost? Or a shadow of my former self? I am alive. My blog is rather dusty. Summer happened and then the leaves fell off the trees, and now I’m here.

This past week, I started Lilla Roger’s “Make Art That Sells: Part B” e-course. So for five weeks, my head will be in a creative fog, whirlwind, cloud? I don’t know. Something where rainbows and unicorns swirl around my head while I bump into walls and unintentionally ignore people who are trying to talk to me. So, no offence in advance, peeps.

As for Halloween, I put a kit in my Pixels & Company shop and it will be on for half price until, uh, Halloween.

Trick or Treat Full Kit | Melanie Ritchie

Trick or Treat Elements | Melanie Ritchie

Trick or Treat Papers | Melanie Ritchie

Trick or Treat Papers | Melanie Ritchie

 

Trick or Treat Alpha | Melanie Ritchie

Trick or Treat Alpha Tags | Melanie Ritchie

Trick or Treat Freebie | Melanie Ritchie

To download the freebie, click on the photo and follow the link to my shop. Add the item to your cart and you will be able to download it instantly.

Have a fabulous Friday and an even better weekend!

The most important thing we do in a day is take care of each other.

While I was busy galavanting, eating, and entertaining, life outside the home apparently went on without me. Who knew?

I’ve had a busy few weeks. I had the pleasure of babysitting a sweet little baby for a week (well, a few days really). I got an awesome thank you gift for helping out. The mom knows I’m a big fan of Barbapapa and she spoiled me with a vintage book and a flowery mug, and some party streamers from Amsterdam. See those little Barbapapa faces in the flowers on the mug? Oh, Happy day!

Barbapapa Gift | Melanie Ritchie

Then my best friend from high school came for a visit. We had some really good eats and had a long overdue chance to just hang out and catch up on our lives. We also watched “Reality Bites” which was our favourite movie to watch together 20 years ago. I can’t believe how quickly time passes. I was surprised to see I still like the movie and my opinion of the characters hasn’t changed much. I had to laugh about us though. Back in the mid-90s we watched the movie in the basement of my childhood home. Or maybe in her home. We drank Coke and ate Little Caesars Pizza or a bag of chips. Now we’re both Moms of young kids sitting in my home commenting on how delicious the fancy cheese and baguettes taste. Subtle changes! Ha!

Sunset in Ottawa | Melanie Ritchie

Our first night finished with a lovely sunset in downtown Ottawa.

Drinks | Melanie Ritchie

We had a really yummy lunch at Burrito Burracho in the Byward Market. I highly recommend the Tortilla soup. Then we wandered a bit before treating ourselves to a Maple Beavertail before heading home. YUM YUM!

IMG_2919

It was just so good to see her! I was sad to see her go. She gave me a very pretty bracelet from Alex and Ani as a hostess gift. It has a little pineapple charm. Pineapples are a symbol of friendship and hospitality. How perfect is that? Plus, I love pineapples.

The day after my friend left, my family and I went camping with friends at a very kids friendly KOA campground. Despite the initial rain and the plummeting temperature at night, we had a great time. Only a few weeks until our next camping trip!

After the rain | Melanie Ritchie

Upon return from camping, we had a visit from my husband’s Aunt. She is awesome. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

Then I spent the next day preparing for my very first Thirty-One gifts experience. I set up a table at the kids’ school’s Fun Night. I’m selling Thirty-One products to fundraise for the school’s Kindergarten playground project. There seemed to be a lot of interest in the products but the best part was getting to talk to other parents. Normally at events I’m busy with the kids and I have no particular reason to start up conversations with strangers. This was a great way for me to be more social.

Then the next day my parents came to town for my daughter’s Highland dance recital. It was a really good show! I also enjoyed shopping for plants with my mom and my daughter. I had trouble limiting myself to a few carefully chosen perennials. My mom bought a few plants for me  too as a very early birthday gift. Yay!

Plants | Melanie Ritchie

On the weekend, I had various things to do but managed to work on something that has been brewing in my head for awhile. I greatly admire the Junior Kindergarten teacher that taught my daughter two years ago and is finishing up teaching my son this year. She’s just a lovely person with a very gentle heart. She is exactly the type of person I hoped would teach my kids. She inspires the kids with exploring nature, science, and art. She encourages them to think critically. Most of all, I love that she teaches compassion. As a thank you I wanted to create a painting for her. I chose to illustrate her class motto which I think should be everyone’s motto.

The most important thing we do in a day is take care of each other.

I was thrilled the painting came together so quickly. I’m often disappointed and frustrated with painting. Things don’t always turn out the way I envision them. This one just made me very happy from start to finish. Maybe because I like the motto so much? So, today I took it to the school at midday and surprised her with it. I think it is fair to say, she likes it. Which makes me very happy! Although, I am sad that I won’t have a reason to talk with the teacher anymore.

Taking Care Artwork by Melanie Ritchie

I came home and sat down to write this post and remembered today is the day my newest designs are released for sale at Pixels and Company. I can’t believe I forgot! I’ve been so busy! I’ll show them to you now. Tomorrow I will sit down at my computer and get started on all the design ideas that have been gathering in my head the past few weeks.

Frolic Full Kit | Melanie Ritchie

Weather Cards | Melanie Ritchie

Frolic Elements | Melanie Ritchie

Frolic Papers | Melanie Ritchie

Frolic Journal Cards | Melanie Ritchie

Frolic Cupcake Labels | Melanie Ritchie

Have a relaxing Monday evening!

In Good Company! My return to Digiland!

I am so pleased to announce that I’ve just set up shop at Pixels & Company as a designer. I’ll be designing alongside of Celeste Knight, Deena Rutter, Gennifer Bursett, Jen Allyson, Meredith Cardall, Robin Meierotto, and Shirley Polk. That is a pretty talented and inspiring roster of artists.

My new products will be released twice a month. This week I released a full kit (So True), a journal card pack (So True) and an element pack (Cork Flairs: Happy). They are currently at least 30% off!

Cork Flair: Happy by Melanie Ritchie

So True | Elements by Melanie Ritchie
So True | Full Kit by Melanie Ritchie

So True | Papers by Melanie Ritchie

So True | Journal Cards by Melanie Ritchie

Here are a couple layouts from some P&Co Creative Team talent:

Happy Day by Maribel Rivas

by Maribel Rivas

This Is My Crew by Kate Christensen

by Kate Christensen

Artist in Training

The world has done a disservice to artists by assuming their talent is simply innate rather than a skill that is learned and practiced. Hands do not just hold brushes and make beautiful things appear on paper… just like that. Most people wouldn’t assume the same for scientists and mathematicians. While we might acknowledge a brilliant doctor has an innate talent, we also recognize the years of study and training needed to succeed.

It is tricky being an artist because it is unclear when we can call ourselves one. Do I profess to be an artist when I first sell a piece of art? When I have a show in a gallery? When I study it in university? When I love art class and draw in my spare time? While some people have confidence to boldly declare themselves an artist, others feel like frauds. It doesn’t appear to be related to ability. Whereas, in most other occupations, one knows when they can claim their occupational status. If one wants to advance or improve, the steps to take are clear. Maybe it is because people see artists in two categories. One kind being like Van Gogh or Michelangelo. The other being hobbyists. You can’t be a hobbyist doctor, can you? Or maybe the difference is that being an artist can be considered a way of life rather than just occupational?

Being an artist is a humbling experience. Your art is your soul exposed on paper. Out there in the open for criticism, good or bad.  You sit down to create and sometimes there is no inspiration. Or things just don’t turn out the way you want. While I think routines and rituals are important for productivity, I think teaching artists about the creative process is vital. I don’t remember an art instructor ever telling me how to overcome “writer’s block” or a “lack of inspiration” other than saying “just keep drawing”. Sometimes I can sit there for hours and I’ll just become more frustrated.

In our jobs, it is expected we will be evenly productive throughout the day and week. In school or the workplace we’re taught to sit there and get the job done and keep on doing more, more, more until the bell rings or our co-workers leave. That is fine for many occupations, but a career requiring creativity does not follow the same path.

Creativity is energy that travels in waves

What I’ve come to realize is that creativity is energy that travels in waves. When I’m done an art piece, I often can’t jump into the next project right away. My store of creative energy has depleted itself. Sitting at my craft table or at my computer is a waste of time. I’m going to end up fretting over my lack of productivity and ever growing list of deadlines. I have learned to react when I see my creativity has waned. It is time to step away from my art supplies. It is time to rest my brain and engage my body in an activity. The activity doesn’t have to be rigorous. It just has to be something where the brain isn’t being asked to participate in any big way. I get lots of ideas when I’m trying to fall asleep but that isn’t very useful because I’m asleep before I can harness the creative thoughts. I used to get great inspiration when I was nursing my babies. My mind would wander and come up with all sorts of future to-do lists. Now that those babies are in school, I can tackle projects on a whim. Sometimes it is something annoying and dreaded like cleaning toilets and wiping down baseboards. Blah! Other times it might be gardening or yard work.

This morning I sat down to do my work and was immediately frustrated by my lack of focus and motivation. So I put on my rubber boots, stepped outside, grabbed my shovel, and started digging. An hour later I had accomplished a chore but more importantly, I had ideas overflowing for numerous projects. No one taught me to do this. I always thought this type of jumping to unrelated tasks made me flightly or lazy about my work. No! It is the creative process.

Artist in Training | Melanie Ritchie

See you tomorrow!

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break your bones but they’re so darn beautiful… and heavy. I just spent the past hour outside at the side of my house digging up rocks to build a retaining wall. I keep finding huge slabs of rock just beneath the earth. I’m torn between adding them to my retaining wall or placing them in my Japanese garden. They seem too aesthetically perfect to place in a wall that won’t really be seen by many. Yet they’re the right size and shape for the wall. Sigh, what to do, what to do?

I am building a retaining wall so I can level the land next to our house. I want to put in a sidewalk so we can actually get to our backyard without tripping. Just a crazy, zany idea I had. Our budget doesn’t allow for backhoes, rock deliveries, or installations so I’m being resourceful. I’m in no way qualified so this shall be an interesting experiment. I’m hoping my wall will actually retain its shape and hold everything in place. We’ll see. As I told my husband, “you can’t complain, it’s free”.

Sticks and Stones | Melanie Ritchie

Grass won’t really grow in this area so I’m hoping to find a good shade growing ground cover for this area. On my retaining wall I’m going to stuff moss and plants into the crevices of the rocks. I’m hoping that might beautify the space. Uh, maybe.

I’m also extending my vegetable garden to the back fence. It’s a process as our land really is dirt and lots and lots of rocks. A shovel almost always hits rock. Clearing the rocks in my original garden took forever. I call the process my “gym membership”. I line the garden with rocks as I unearth them.

Sticks and Stones | Melanie Ritchie

As well, I’m extending my Japanese garden around a tree to make mowing easier. I’m hoping of installing a DIY suikinkutsu, which is a musical Japanese water instrument garden feature. Woah, I’m not sure of how to place the adjectives in that sentence! There’s a pot hidden in the ground with a tiny hole at the top surrounded by stones. You ladle water over the stones and the water makes a lovely sound as it drops to the ground. I was enchanted by one in Ozu, Japan way back in 1999. I just have to figure out how I’m going to put out water for ladling. I don’t want to install a fountain and I don’t want sitting water attracting mosquitoes. We’ll see.

Sticks and Stones | Melanie Ritchie

I swear my garden will look better than this soon. This is just the beginning.

So I have a lot on the go considering I’m not a very knowledgeable gardener or handyman. Ha! My DIA (Doing It Anyway) attitude is genetic. My Grandma used to attempt to actualize all the creative ideas in her head. She passed it on to me. My Mom is the same way. I’m not giving up on my ideas even if they look a little rough at first.

In my next post, I’ll explain why I was out in my garden when I have so many tasks on my to-do list.

Cute Little Things Make Me Happy

I’m not talking about my kids although they are cute little things AND they make me happy.

Last week I went out for dinner with my neighbour friend. Every couple of months we like to frequent a vegetarian restaurant in town. It makes for a very pleasant evening.

This time was no exception. Plus, during our conversation she showed me these cute little figurines. They were adorable and I gushed over them. She had gotten them for me! Yay, that made me happy. They reminded her of “It’s a Small World” which made her think of me. She knew I’d love them and I certainly do! Now I need to find a worthy place to put them. I’m thinking next to my craft table.

The figurines are actually rubber stamps. Each has a green fairy doing something different. It will be hard to keep my kids from running off with these.

Cute Little Things | Melanie Ritchie

Cute Little Things | Melanie Ritchie

Are they not adorable?

Today’s Reading List

Reading List | Melanie Ritchie

I love the library. I especially love their online ordering system for placing holds. I have a few tricks up my sleeve that make it even more enjoyable. When the kids come home with scholastic order forms I put several of the books on hold. On occasion I do buy the kids books from the order forms but mostly I’m quite happy to borrow from the library instead. When I’m at a bookstore and see an amazing book I check the library app first. Same goes for seeing books on Amazon, suggested reading on blogs, and lists on Goodreads. The library is awesome.

Our local library used to be a hole in the wall. That is only a slight exaggeration. It was really quite unpleasant. Then the city or province (I can’t remember which) got funding to build new libraries. Within a year we had a brand spanking new library attached to our local community centre. It is a warm, inviting and aesthetically pleasing place. I love going there. I wait there while my kids are in activities at the community centre.

I also discovered our library has a subscription to Ancestry.com. As long as you are physically in the library you can access the website. I’m thinking I might spend more time at the library so I can do a little family research.

Here are a few books I brought home this week. I need to make myself a coffee, grab a warm blanket, and sit in the corner to read.

  1. Fairy Houses… Unbelievable! by Barry Kane – I’m planning on making a fairy village in our front garden this summer with the kids. Mostly to keep the kids occupied and entertained. Thought this book might give us some good ideas.
  2. Lore & Legends of Long Point  by Harry B. Barrett – My ancestors settled the Long Point area of Ontario. I thought I’d better read up on it.
  3. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils by Kurt Schnaubelt – I love essential oils. I have been surprised by the sudden popularity of them. I see pinterest pins touting all sorts of miraculous uses for them. While I love oils and believe they have healing properties I am skeptical and alarmed by the claims. I thought I’d read up and educate myself. If time and money were no issue I’d love to take a course. In the meantime, this book will be a good start.
  4. Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory – Anything to motivate me to fit creativity and drawing into my daily routine is a very good thing indeed. This past year has been about finding a new order to my day. I need to prioritize my art. Let’s see if this book helps.
  5. Gardening Lab for Kids by Renata Fossen Brown – This book just looks so cool. Combining gardening, experimentation, and creativity is exactly what kids love. I’m hoping we have a spring and summer full of outdoor play and dirty messes.

Well, that is all for now. I’ve got lots to do today. One child is home with me due to a mild fever, headache, and aches and pains. I’m feeling the same way. I need to catch up on planting seedlings. My house needs caution tape it is so messy. I have actual work to do. I have a cauliflower in the fridge that needs a recipe to go with it. I’d like to try out that new crafting tool I bought. Um, and maybe a nap in the afternoon might be good? See, VERY busy. Ha!

Have a great day! Tootles!

It’s Here! it’s Here!

Oh, happy day, I got the scrapbooking tool of my dreams! It showed up at my door pretending to be a cardboard box.  I opened up that box and there it was in its plastic covered glory. I bought myself a We R Memory Keepers Photo Sleeve Fuse which have just become available in stores. I am pretty busy these days but I kind of want to clear my schedule and play for a day.

Photo Sleeve Fuse Tool | Melanie Ritchie

So, what does this handy tool do, you ask? It is a burn tool that lets you seal off memorabilia and journal cards in page protectors. You can custom make your pockets  in the protectors. If you’re not a scrapbooker, just nod encouragingly, ok? If you ARE a scrapbooker (particularly of the pocket page/project life variety) you’ll understand WHY this is such a big deal.

I am looking to using this project because:

  • I won’t have to stress over how my portrait or landscape photos are going to fit  on the same page. As in, it used to be impossible.
  • I can use odd sized papers.
  • I can totally seal off sections. A locket of my daughter’s first curl. Sequins.
  • SEQUINS. Yes, I plan to fill pockets with pretty sequins and things that appear suspended in mid-air. It will be lovely.
  • I can seal off a bit of the top or side of open pockets where the paper or photo is always slipping out.

Freakin’ genius technology that is going to make this girl smile from ear to ear when she finally sits down at that craft table (eyeing it longingly right now).

That’s all for now. I’ll post again soon with a full report on the awesomeness of this tool.

Nighters!

Time Travel and an active Imagination

It is Friday! Friday! I’m doing my Friday happy dance! I just came home from a lovely evening out with a friend. We ate at a yummy vegetarian restaurant in town. Sometimes I don’t realize just how much I need a night out with good food and good conversation with a friend. I need to do this more often!

I’m so happy this week is winding down. I spent nearly every day the past two weeks at the kids’ school painting some canvas panels. I finished them five minutes before the bell rang on Wednesday. It was such a relief to see them done. I loved the process of drawing and painting. I loved being in the school lobby. It was a really positive experience for me. As all of you know, I have hermit tendencies so it was good to get out out of the house a bit. I have a renewed appreciation for being at home now. It shook me out of a rut and that was really needed. I spent yesterday and today tying up lose ends I hadn’t gotten to the past few weeks. One of those things was creating a couple of layouts for Simple Scrapper.

I made two very different layouts.

1. One is about the albums I loved as an older teenager. Even now when I hear the songs I am instantly transported back in time. I can recall the feelings, the smells, and the intensity of the moment. I wonder if it will still be this way when I am 90. I was inspired by a template that included two doilies. It seemed a bit odd that I might think doilies belong on a layout with Nirvana and RHCP album covers. I grunged them up with some purple mist and black ink. It seemed symbolic to me of a girl coming of age. The layout has bit of a messy look that fits well with how I felt back then.

Time Travel | Melanie Ritchie

2. This layout was so fun because it encompasses everything I love about Disney World. The joy I wanted to my children to experience when my husband and I took them on a very special trip in 2013. I wanted the layout to have some Winnie the Pooh elements on it but I didn’t want to detract from the photo or journaling. So I was happy to include a bit of patterned paper and stickers of bees and honey. I could look at the photo of my kids all day!

Magic | Melanie Ritchie

Did I mention that Simple Scrapper is hosting  a free photo organization class? Sign up here.

photocrush

Next week I hope to write posts about a cute little gift my friend gave me tonight, the paintings I made for the school (I have yet to take photos of them), and some thoughts I’ve been meaning to share for the past couple months. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I wish you good weather, peace, love, good health, and happiness!

Invisible or Superstar?

Often I feel invisible. This isn’t a complaint. I’m not actually invisible. I just feel that way. Sometimes it is even a preference. I’m usually content to hide behind the scenes. I opted not to speak at my own wedding. It’s a bride’s prerogative. I like being near people but don’t necessarily enjoy too much interaction. Put me off in the corner (preferably by a sunny window) with a task that doesn’t involve numbers and I am a very happy camper.

This past week I have been volunteering at my kids’ school. I’m painting some canvases for a courage to communicate initiative. I think if every kid learned how to communicate issues effectively we’d avoid a lot of childhood bullying and eventually workplace bullying. An exciting thought! I like being involved in this project because I believe in it. As someone who was formerly bullied in school and at work, I am eager to see others learn how to avoid or stop it. Somehow it makes the painting just that much more enjoyable.

Invisible or Superstar | Melanie Ritchie

I’m set up with my paints in the front lobby of the school. It is full of sunshine. I’m working by myself but people are constantly coming and going. It’s just the right amount of engagement for me. I’ve really enjoyed my time. A few more days and I’ll be finished my work on the project. I think I’ll miss coming in to the school every day!

Invisible or Superstar | Melanie Ritchie

I haven’t been invisible. It isn’t the norm for some lady to be painting canvases in the lobby so I stand out quite a bit. The people who have approached me have been so friendly and encouraging. I love how honest and open the kids are about their curiosity. There have been a few times when I am the equivalent of a super star, which I find highly amusing and endearing. My son’s class (four and five year olds) walks past the lobby to get to the gym. The students know me from my son’s birthday party and a couple of volunteer experiences.  I was greeted with waves and loud “Hi, ____’s Mom!” as the students walked past me. Each wanted their chance to give me a personal shout out. What I found even more amusing was that my son was mostly in his own little world as he walked down the hall near the end of the line. Even though everyone was saying his name as they called to me, he didn’t notice. He was busy hopping like a bunny or watching his feet as he walked. I had to “psst” to get his attention and then he gave me a shy little wave. Despite his claims that he doesn’t enjoy school, I’ve never seen him without a big smile whenever I’ve observed him there.

Invisible or Superstar | Melanie Ritchie

My daughter’s class has walked by a couple times as well and I got several waves from her friends but it was lacking the same exuberance. I’m okay with that. Although, my daughter runs out of line to give me hugs and kisses. That makes me happy but then I get a bit stressed as I have to pry her off of me and send her back on her way.

Invisible or Superstar | Melanie Ritchie

I haven’t felt like such a superstar since I lived in Japan. Back then, whenever I walked through a mall, I always felt like I was on display. Eyes were always on me. Strangers would stare. Some would say hello as if they knew me. Some would wave. My students would greet me if they spotted me out in public. Once I was dressed up for a party and heads turned. I think that is the only time in my life that heads actually turned to look at me. Well, aside from the time I tripped and fell in the middle of traffic. That was a different sort of attention grabbing. Maybe someday I’ll post a photo from that party in Japan. I’m sorry but I have no photo of falling flat on my face in the middle of the road.

I’ll have to share some photos of the paintings once they are complete. In the meantime, please feel free to gaze deeply at the photos of my paint supplies. Also take some time to have a wonderful weekend too!

Monday is the new Sunday

No, Monday is in no way the new Sunday but I didn’t blog yesterday so I was hoping to pull one over on you. Did it work? One could say I’ve already botched my attempt to blog 100 days in a row. I prefer to say that “life happens”. I had an overreaction yesterday. As I’ve mentioned, I’m recovering from Strep Throat. When my daughter complained that her neck was stiff and she had a sore looking throat, I immediately wanted a doctor to check her out. So, no blog post. We’re still waiting for results on the strep test but it appears she is fine. Certainly no meningitis. Better safe than sorry, right?

What I wanted to blog about is the movie “Boyhood“. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Critically acclaimed movie written and directed by Richard Linklater. I borrowed it from the library and finally sat down and watched it.

boyhoodposter

As you may know, the movie is filmed over the course of 11 years. I have to wonder what my thoughts would have been had I not known this little fact before viewing. Would it have been immediately obvious? Or would I have wondered how on earth they found actors that look so similar? Either way, it was a brilliant concept. Well done, Richard!

What I love most about Linklater films is his completely unconventional way of telling a story. There is nothing contrived about his methods. Most movies are well, dramatic. Big things happen. All the time. For most people, life just doesn’t happen that way.

Boyhood Movie

Photo Credits: Ellar Coltrane. Photo Credit: Matt Lankes/IFC

So this got me thinking about anxiety disorders. People are quick to blame anxiety on so many different things: Population growth, too much social media, allergens, too much work, being coddled by parents. I will happily (or anxiously) agree with most of those but I would like to add another one to the list: Movies and TV Shows. Before screens we had to rely on books but it takes longer to read so I’m guessing the constant flow of dramatic things happening are less jarring.

Boyhood | Movie Review by Melanie Ritchie

Photo Credits: Ellar Coltrane. Photo Credit: Matt Lankes/IFC

Watching the movie, I caught myself expecting Big. Dramatic. Things. to happen at various points in the film. I’d cringe or brace myself for something bad to happen. Something like “oh no, they’re going to get in a car crash… oh no, someone is going to get shot… oh no, she’s going to have a heart attack”. Usually, I’m right but not when it comes to Richard Linklater films. It is because he doesn’t rely on typical formulas. The intent isn’t so much to entertain the viewer as it is to share the experience unfolding on screen. I liken it to being a spirit guide watching its charge. We’re getting intimate insight into these characters’ lives in hopes of learning something about ourselves.

Boyhood movie review | Melanie Ritchie

Photo Credits: Ellar Coltrane. Photo Credit: Matt Lankes/IFC

I have to say, I much prefer watching this sort of film. I really think all my years of watching episodes of Hunter, Monk, and BH90210 (I’m being funny) have trained me to overreact to life. It can’t be healthy. Most of the time, big dramatic things aren’t always waiting to jump out at us. Life is usually more subtle than that. Experiences shape us the same way weather erodes a mountain. It’s not one big strike of lighting. It’s the constant elements beating down that changes its shape.

Boyhood movie review | Melanie Ritchie

Photo Credits: Ellar Coltrane. Photo Credit: Matt Lankes/IFC

I loved this movie because the boy had a real life. I wish he didn’t have to experience any trauma and pain, of which he certainly had more than his fair share. Yet it wasn’t a life of constant tragedy and euphoric highs. He pushed on through, observed, reacted, dismissed, internalized, and lived each day. He survived Boyhood and without a lot of unnecessary drama and anxiety, I was entertained.

Saturday Night

You may have noticed I did a little housekeeping on this here ole blog. I liked the way it looked before but I know it was a bit cumbersome to navigate so hopefully I’ve simplified things a bit. Let me know what you think!

My intention was just to post some layouts I’ve done the past few months but somehow that led to a blog clean up session! Just as well.

Anyway, my posting layouts has been long overdue. I haven’t had much time the past few months to do much scrapbooking but I hope that will change in the coming months.

1. I wrote about my views on faith. I enjoyed making a paper layout. I was so happy I even used up some 15 year old vellum AND made a washi tape leaf too! I covered a wood veneer shape (Always) with gold glitter. That was fun.

Personal Truth | Melanie Ritchie
2. This layout was so enjoyable to put together. Some whimsy, some paper, some tape, some thoughts. It does soothe my soul.

Soul Soothers | Melanie Ritchie
3. This was my heartfelt attempt to explain how my children are growing up and leaving their babyhoods far behind. I went digital with this layout.
From Mommy to Mom | Melanie Ritchie
4. I used instagram photos and Facebook statuses to document what I did during the same week in February during three different years.
Time Hop | Melanie Ritchie
5. Ah, Pinterest. How do I love thee?
Pinterest | Melanie Ritchie
6. Pocket Pages aren’t just for documenting your week. I used this one to tell the story of how I spent Saturdays when I was young. I love the nostalgia!
Hello Saturday | Melanie Ritchie

How fitting I should show my “Hello Saturday” layout last. How different this Saturday was from the ones of my childhood. Although my husband did text me an article about Golden Girls Lego. Not quite the same as watching an originally airing episode but I’ll take it. As well, I did indulge in some chips and dip. Definitely something I would have done in 1985.

Goodbye Saturday! Sleep tight!

 

Where was I?

Oh right, squirrels. I spent a good five minutes trying to remember what I wanted to write about. Happy Little Squirrels. Maybe a few other things too.

On Tuesday the kids and I went to the park briefly on our walk home. I’d just picked up our mail and I had a package with lovely calligraphic writing for the address. It was from my lovely friend Nancie Rowe Janitz. She sent me Happy Mail!!!!

Happy Mail | Melanie Ritchie

While the kids played I opened it and was over the moon excited when I saw the goodies inside. She had sent me a painting! I am now the proud owner of an original Nancie Rowe Janitz piece of art! She had posted a photo of it on Facebook a couple months ago and I had admired it then. Such a lovely and enchanting girl (I’m referring to the girl in the painting but it would apply to Nancie as well)!

Art by Nancie Rowe Janitz | Melanie Ritchie

Also in the package was Yogi tea. I LOVE Yogi Tea. I had mentioned to Nancie that I’m not able to get certain flavours of the tea in Canada (boo hoo) and she thoughtfully took note and sent me some. Isn’t that incredibly thoughtful? I think so. The tea came at such a good time since I haven’t been feeling well lately. By the way, the flavours are: Honey Lavender Stress Relief and Soothing Caramel Bedtime. YUMMY!

Yogi Tea Bag Message | Melanie Ritchie

The above photo is my first cup I had right after we returned from the park. It was the Honey Lavender Stress Relief tea. I feared the Soothing Caramel Bedtime tea would put me to sleep before I even made supper. So I had that later (see below). I love the tea but I also love the inspiring little notes on each tea bag.

Yogi Tea Bag Message | Melanie Ritchie

You are probably now very happy for me but wondering what this has to do with squirrels. Well, as my children were playing and I was hugging my care package, a squirrel was scurrying behind my park bench. I looked over and gasped. The squirrel had some squirming creature in its mouth. My first thought was that it had a mouse and then I came to my senses. Squirrels don’t eat mice. It must be a squirrel baby. Yes, that’s it. This squirrel was carrying its baby. It ran over and up a tree and down inside where her next must be hidden. Then she came out and ran across the park. Soon she ran back with another baby in her mouth. She did this circuit several times. She must have a pretty large litter of babies. Maybe six or so. I’m so curious about why she was moving her babies. Did she go out for a jaunt and go into labour? Or was she moving the babies from a pre-existing nest to a new one? How nerve wracking it must have been for her to have to leave babies in one place while she transported them one at a time. Once I got home, I looked up videos of baby squirrels and confirmed that was what I saw. Yup, it was.

Ok, so I covered the squirrels and the Happy Mail. Phew! Then I guess my mission is accomplished and my day is done. Goodnight friends!

7 years and it is still snowing

Yesterday afternoon I was rejoicing in the lack of snow left on the ground. I love that spring is finally approaching. I got the kids off the bus and my youngest wanted to play in the one remaining pile of snow near our culvert. It is a rather large and tall chunk of icy snow. The scene reminded me of when I first saw our home seven years ago. It was a dull, grey, rainy day just like the weather is now. I remember being surprised that there was still snow on the ground since my home 8 hours away in a warmer region was much more spring like with leaves starting to bud. Here, nature was still struggling to let go of winter. I was rather disgruntled as I hated the idea of having to adapt to an even shorter summer season. Pondering the snow pile, it occurred to me that it was exactly this time 7 years ago. Like, to the date. Woah.

7 Years ago | Melanie Ritchie

Our house the first time I saw it. 2008.

So, how did my life look this week in April of 2008? The ninth was a Wednesday. This year it is a Thursday (yup, that’s today). My parents, my husband, my newborn daughter and I arrived at our hotel downtown. We spent the next few days searching the area for a place to call home. On the Thursday my daughter turned one month old. Yup, we traveled 8 hours to search for a new home with a five week old baby! Good times. So if you go by the day of the week, that would have been 7 years ago today. By the Saturday (12th) we drove up to check out the last house of the day and right away it was pretty obvious this was where we wanted to be. We could envision our new little family growing here. Many of the things I had envisioned have now come to fruition and become fond memories. On the Sunday we put in an offer and by mid-July we moved into the house that has become our home.

mr_7yearblog1

Baby girl was hungry during house hunting.

It took a long time for me to get comfortable here. You could say I don’t easily adapt to new situations. Yes, you could say that. It has really been this past year that I’ve started to feel rooted to the area. Some things just take time. Seven years to be exact.

7 years | Melanie Ritchie

My daughter soon after we returned home from househunting. See how excited she was when she found out we bought the home?

Oh and to get totally off topic before I end today’s post. I mentioned two blog posts ago that I’d make an update on the usefulness of a sore throat gargle tea I made. Well, I finally went in to see the doctor and I have full blown strep throat (in my ears too). So, I guess the tea was a failure. Ah well, I tried.

Well, aren’t you the lucky ones?

During one of my many moments of procrastination, I found myself wandering the internet aimlessly. I was browsing my instagram feed where I came across a challenge I’d never heard of before. The 100 Day Project. The instagram photo asked the question “What could you do with a 100 days of making?” and it got me wondering exactly that. The project is the brainchild of Elle Luna at The Great Discontent. Well, actually, it was the brainchild of her art school teacher for a class project. She took it one step further and brought it to social media. Each participant decides what they want to make for a 100 days. Want to make a tutu every day for a 100 days? Go for it. Want to write an ode to your eyelashes each day for the next few months? Hook Rugs? Paint a rock? Invent Tofu recipes? Knit a really long scarf? Create to your heart’s desire? Yes! Just hashtag it when you’re done at the end of the day and post a photo to instagram. Repeat 99 more times and you’re done!

So, this morning I joined. I’m going to blog every day for a 100 days. See, you ARE lucky? All those ideas whirling in my head are going to be lassoed and thrown right onto the bright white screen for all of you to read. Ah, it’s like I just handed you a four leaf clover, ain’t it?

Now, a part of me (in my brain area) asked if I might possibly be insane adding more onto my plate when I’m already struggling severely to meet deadlines. Ah yes, that. Hmm. Then in my heart area, a thumping and highly repetitive voice said “Relax. Practicing the fine art of writing every day will HELP you meet your deadlines. Think of it as a primer.” I listened to my heart. Then my stomach chimed in and begged for some attention. So I pledged my allegiance to the challenge on instagram and headed to the kitchen for a snack. Here is what I posted:

luna-100dayproject-pledge1

The graphic was one of three. Participants get to pick which one they use to show they’ve joined the project. It’s free, by the way. Free of cost, free to choose, freewill.

Feel free to follow or play along. What do you think you’d like to make each day for 100 days?

My heart is a-flutter with clutter!

I love my stuff. I have lots and lots and lots of stuff. However, too much of something is not necessarily a good thing. So, I need to share the good stuff with the rest of the world. I joined a Facebook group for a 40 days of de-cluttering challenge. Perfect! I spent much of last week in a flurry of manic energy, running around the house sorting bins of stuff to keep, stuff to donate, stuff to share, stuff to throw out. It felt GOOOOD. Then on Sunday, I crashed. Zzzzzz.

This week I have to make up for last week’s inability to get computer/paper work done. I could not sit still or focus last week. The kids were off on Monday and sick on Friday. My husband was busy with a work event so I saw him sleeping briefly but that was about all really. Glad to have him back now that the event is over! Phew!

I have a really hard time letting go of things that still have purpose. I imagine the item sitting in a landfill taking up unnecessary space. Yet, it is taking up unnecessary space in my home. I’ve been trying to think of creative ways to get the stuff out of my house. I’ve been donating books, plastic bags and sticker sheets to the local library. I joined a BuyNothing Facebook group and a local Buy/Sell Facebook group. Every bin that leaves my home makes me feel lighter.

I’ve been thinking about my home a lot lately. How does it reflect my personality and that of my family? How can I keep it clean? What can I change or rearrange to make it more functional for our needs? How can I make it more of a haven?

OI!!!! The above paragraphs were written a month and a half ago. They were lost in the land of draft folders. I was on such a roll with organization and getting rid of stuff. It was halted when my in-laws came for a visit. I’m happy to report I had the bedroom and bathroom in top condition for their stay thanks to my de-cluttering efforts.

De-cluttered bedroom | Melanie Ritchie

De-cluttered bedroom | Melanie Ritchie

De-cluttered bathroom | Melanie Ritchie

I also hosted my daughter’s very chaotic and energetic birthday party. Then my husband left for Spain for 10 days during my kids’ March Break. The kids had varying degrees of colds. I hosted my son’s birthday party and then my husband returned just in time for my kids to return to school. That is when I crashed. Cold or flu, who knows. Then I lost my voice. Two weeks later, it has turned into tonsillitis and strep throat. My house is A MESS and I am very tired! I am happy to say I’ve gotten rid of loads of stuff but every room is still needing a serious minimalization. Yes, I like making up words and terms.

Now that I’m seeing hints of Spring, I know I’ll be outside soon working in the gardens. Which means I’ll have less time to tackle cleaning indoors. I’m pretty much okay with this. Turns out my messes will wait for me.

Right now I just want to feel better and get my design work done. I’ve been trying to work on a potentially awesome project for months but if I let much more time pass I’m going to lose it! So today, I tried a concoction I found on Pinterest that claims to rid one of Strep Throat. I’ve renamed the remedy “fire breathing gargle tea”. I steeped a cup of Lemon Ginger tea and then added a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and a teaspoon of cayenne. Woah! I gargled each mouthful for a good 10 seconds. Apparently Cayenne will kill off strep bacteria. I’m hopeful.

I’ll let you know how the tea works.

Fire breathing gargle tea

My Life with a Smart Phone

I have entered the new Millenium. In January, I got my very first iPhone. Before that, I’d occasionally use my husband’s iPhone 4. How has my life changed? You’d better sit down for this.

1. My friends can text me. Imagine that! It has been very helpful for sharing carpool duties and sharing info. I was shopping and saw something my friend was looking for so I took a quick photo and sent a text. I wish I’d had something like that in 1983. Am I right, ladies? (I’m sorry, I just really wanted to say that last sentence. No particular reason.)

2. People can reach me wherever I am. I can actually leave my home and not worry about the school calling me, or my husband wondering where I am, or the car breaking down and finding a phone. Amazing.

3. My husband can know where I am just by checking his Find Friends app. Some extra peace of mind in case I (perish the thought) get in an accident, get lost, or have a car issue. GPS is a beautiful thing.

4. Now I have something to do while I wait at the bus stop. Yesterday was the first day it was warm enough to actually use the phone without my fingers freezing. I bought a pair of those gloves that let you use your phone but my fingers still froze.

ritchie_iphonepost

5. Shopping. Ah, shopping. Coupons on the go! Price comparisons. So many wonderful things you can do in the middle of a store. Take photos of “this might work” or “ooh, gotta remember this for next time”or uh, this:

ritchie_iphonepost2

Heh, found this product sitting like this in the dollar store. It should say “Live”. I was tempted to change it to “Vile”.

6. When I’m working with Adobe programs on my computer, I usually can’t have my web browser or other programs open. With my lovely phone, I can check my email, facebook, or anything else I need while working on my graphic design stuff. Very important, indeed.

7. Photos are everywhere. I’m loving iCloud. Photos are taken on my phone and then I see them on my computer. That’s a serious level of awesome.

8. I can record my kids having funny conversations. That never gets old.

9. I can make lists and now I have no excuse for leaving my grocery list at home. It’s on my phone.

10. This is a biggie. It’s my cookbook! I’m constantly searching for recipes or ingredients on the Allrecipes app. Or if that doesn’t have what I need, I do a quick “google”.

I realize these are “uh, duh” reasons that are obvious but I’m okay with that. That’s kind of the point. I’m a little late to 2015.

I try to imagine how much easier this would have made my entire life. Then I try to imagine how my kids will struggle to fathom how it must have been for us old fogies to live in an era where information had to be sought out with great effort and often to no avail. I remember being limited to the newspaper, the encyclopedias, Sassy magazine, and whatever our library had on the shelves. I had to imagine what celebrities did in their free time. There was no twitter feed showing me what Alyssa Milano ate for breakfast. But here is what I had for lunch.

ritchie_iphonepost3

For my next post, I’ll show you how I made those Sharpie T-shirts in the last post.

The phone hasn’t rung yet.

Today was a bit on the exhausting side. Ah geez, it appears I need to change my post title. The phone just rang.

Let’s backtrack. It all began 7 years ago during a snowstorm. My baby girl was born. Ok, not that far back. At 10:30 this morning, guests arrived for my daughter’s 7th birthday party. I can’t believe she is turning seven. That’s just crazy!

My Little Pony Balloon | Melanie Ritchie

Anyway, the guests arrived and the chaos began. Nine girls and two boys running around the house screaming with excitement. It was like a scene out of a movie. I herded them to the dining room table where I’d set up our activities. We used Sharpies and rubbing alcohol to decorate t-shirts. Then we painted mini canvases with a masked out heart shape in the centre.

My example shirt | Melanie Ritchie

Sharpie Drawing | Melanie Ritchie

After crafts, I thought I’d delight the kids with rainbow flatbread pizza. I was seriously excited about this. Turns out kids really do prefer plain cheese pizza. BAH! Oh well, the more for me! Luckily, my husband knew we had a cheese pizza in the freezer. No problem.

Rainbow Pizza | Melanie Ritchie

Isn’t it lovely? It tasted delicious. The kids missed out!

Cake. Opening Presents. Hello Kitty Piñata smacking. Goodie Bags. The last guest leaves. The clock ticks 1:15pm.

Birthday Cake | Melanie Ritchie

Ok, here are two more cake photos because one can never have enough cake.

Icing Closeup | Melanie Ritchie

Yummy cake | Melanie Ritchie

It was a good party. 11 very loud kids including my own. Did I mention I had a severe headache since waking up?

Then after the party, my daughter needed to be a few streets away at another birthday party for 5pm. This was no ordinary party though. It was her FIRST SLEEPOVER party! That takes me to the point where I wrote the blog title. I was sitting here with the phone on the arm of my chair wondering if it would ring. Would my daughter want to come home once it was time to sleep? Right when I convinced myself she must have managed to fall asleep, the phone rang. My amazing husband went to get her but returned home alone. He smoothly convinced her to stay and gave her the comfort of knowing we could quickly come to her if she changed her mind. I think he just earned his Father’s Day gifts with that performance. Well done! So, we’ll see if that phone rings again.

It seemed a bit quieter in the house with my daughter gone for the evening. Even though, my son was busy playing and laughing with my visiting in-laws. There was a lot of laughter at bedtime when I introduced my son to the wonderful world of Whoopee cushions. Happiness is seeing your almost 5 year old discover the joy of a “tooter toy” as he likes to call it. He likes it so much he is using it as a pillow for his teddy bear. He had to get out of bed to get a tissue. When I asked him what he was doing he said “Mom, I’m getting a tissue but I don’t have to SNEEZE” and covered his teddy bear with it. Ah, a blanket, yeah, ok.

So, what did I learn today? 1. My daughter is growing up at the speed of light. 2. Kids don’t like vegetables more when you line them up like a rainbow and 3. Tooter Toys are awesome.

Stay tuned to find out if my daughter stays for the pancakes!

Mail from Japan! xoxo

The doorbell rang. It was the postman with a package sent all the way from Japan. Ooooooh, what IS it? Why I wouldn’t remember what it was is a bit confusing to me, but I’ve been rather flustered lately so I let it go. A couple weeks ago in a moment of self-indulgence, I ordered washi tape. I’m sure Maslow would have rated it as quite important in his “hierachy of needs”, right? Sure.

So, this wasn’t just any tape. This is SHINZI KATOH tape! Yeah, I know, pretty cool, right?

Ok, I’ll fill you in. Shinzi Katoh is an artist from Japan. He’s illustrated children’s books, is a fine artist, and a surface pattern designer for many different types of goods. Last year when I was at the World Showcase in Epcot, I saw a huge selection of his products being sold at the Japan Pavilion. Bags, cards, note paper, calendars, but NO washi tape. That is what I really wanted.

For some reason, a couple weeks ago I decided to google his name and found out I can buy directly from his online shop in Japan. All sorts of lovely stuff for sale.

This is what I bought for myself . Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

My Shinzi Katoh Washi Tape by Melanie Ritchie

Here is the whole assortment. Yes, I splurged! I got a 5-pack of thin tapes. I can’t wait to try those out.
In case you’re admiring the items behind the tape, I’ll explain. I like to tape things. Next to my super awesome Barbapapa mug is a pencil holder I got from the union where I used to work. It was kind of ugly but very functional. So one day I covered it in washi tape and added a sticker. Next to that container are three Tetley tea containers. Once I drank all the tea, I rinsed and dried them. Then I covered one in mac & cheese duct tape, another in rainbow washi tape (that reminds me of 1985), and another with valentines tape. See, I NEED washi tape! Who knows what I’ll tape next!
My Shinzi Katoh Washi Tape by Melanie Ritchie

I bought a set of 3 Christmas themed tapes. Shinzi Katoh has such a unique and whimsical style. The one with the monkey and banana on it can be seen here. It has safari animals on it. The tape is made from banana trees after harvest in Zambia. It’s a fair trade paper helping to give jobs to people in Zambia and to prevent deforestation and animal extinction. I like that!

My Shinzi Katoh Washi Tape by Melanie Ritchie
I love all of these tapes but I have a soft spot for anything with phrases on it like the tape on the bottom right. I had stationery and t-shirts like this when I lived in Japan. They always made me laugh with their randomness.

Well, that’s what I’m sharing today! Have a great day!

So long Target. Adios and Farewell.

Oh I am not happy about this. It was an exciting and long wait just over a year ago when Target opened up here where I live. My husband and I were really looking forward to shopping in a well merchandised shop. Hopeful, we were.

Target arrived. The store looked great. I enjoyed shopping there although the prices weren’t as reasonable as I’d hoped and there wasn’t quite the same selection as in the US stores. Oh bother! Still, I loved shopping there. They had many products I loved. Designers for Target make pretty stuff that isn’t always available elsewhere. What other store has such awesome and reasonably priced wrapping paper at Christmas time? The store was clean, tidy and price checker machines worked. I like being in this store.

Then a few weeks ago, it was announced that Target was leaving Canada. GASP. Maybe they’ll change their minds? Nope, it is happening.

So my husband called me when I was in the middle of writing a blog post on planners. He said Liquidation was starting at Target and told me the roads were clear. Hmm, a sale AND good driving conditions? Maybe I should leave my protective cocoon and check it out. So I put on appropriate attire and drove off into the sunlight.

The entrance was bustling. I’ve never seen Target busy here in Canada. Uh, yeah, that’s why they’re leaving. Lots of people everywhere. The check out line was winding around at least half of the store. Yikes!

Target Closing by Melanie Ritchie

I needed party supplies for my kids’ upcoming birthday parties. I was happy to see these items were 30% off. What surprised me was that many sections of the store were only 10% off of regular price. Liquidation, really? It didn’t really matter to me. I was hoping to get the items I’ve longed for at a less than regular price. As for the birthday supplies I just wanted to pay less than what I’d pay the party store. So, my trip was a success. While I wasn’t able to get some items on my “wish list” (hockey helmet, hockey sticks, Lego Friends) I did find many items (the towels I’ve been eyeing for over 2 years, curtains for my daughter’s room, some Transformer toys). My experience for the day was pleasant. Everything went smoothly but it was a rather depressing occasion to see one of my favourite stores about to close down.

Seeing the deserted Starbucks made me want to cry just a little bit.

Goodbye Target Starbucks by Melanie Ritchie

No more red bullseye. No more huge carts for the kids to ride in. No more cute items in the bins at the front of the store. No more mid-century modern Christmas decorations. WAHHHH!!!!!

Target Closing by Melanie Ritchie

I hate to think about people losing their jobs. I hate to think about the lovely stores sitting empty and deserted while we patiently wait for a new store to open up. Hard to believe it will a company as enticing as Target.

So, with tears in my eyes and a very long receipt in hand, Target and I parted ways.Goodbye Target by Melanie Ritchie

This isn’t how I planned it.

I really believed I would stay on track. I thought I’d have several blog posts written in the past week. I wanted to. I meant to. I didn’t. In fact, this post was postponed by a day because in mid-sentence I stopped to go to Target on a whim. Yeah, that’s how I do things.

Maybe I need a planner. Planners are all the rage right now. Have you noticed? They’re so pretty AND functional. I have to laugh though. Pretty planners have been around for ages in places like Japan. I was into them when I lived there 15 years ago. I stopped using them once I ran out of refills. Flying to Japan to get more just didn’t happen.

I bought my first planner at Kinokuniya in Matsuyama. It was a couple minutes walk from the English school where I taught. I would go there on my lunch hour. They always had an amazing selection of cute stationery, school supplies, and planners. That place made me so happy! The cover of my planner was hard plastic and the pages inside were all Barbapapa themed. Later I replaced it with a more protective plastic cover which had pockets to add your own personalized postcards or drawings.

Here is the front cover. I added a Barbapapa postcard to the back and front.Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

Here is the back:Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

I love the section dividers. My planner had sections for monthly planner, weekly planner, addresses, notes, stickers, photos, business cards/credit cards, and a little zippered pouch at the back. Oh and I even have a little paper punch that makes holes to fit the planner. So I can make my own planner pages. It has holes in it so it can be kept in the planner. Right now it is somewhere on my craft table.

Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

Stickers! I love Stickers! I still have sheets of these. There are stickers for most occasions you’d want to schedule into your planner. Funny how most of the stickers were in English even though I’m pretty sure they were only sold in Japan.
Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

The section dividers were also great because you could easily add or remove stickers. I have this lovely one of a flying Ojisan. I believe that would be an Uncle. Hey, why not!

Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

One of the most important parts of the planner (which I forgot to mention above) is the plastic insert. It is multifunctional. You place it behind your current week so when you write in your planner it doesn’t indent on the other pages. Nice and tidy! It is also a bookmark and a ruler. Fabulous!

Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

There are lots of extras you can buy to add into your planner. I added these “friends” sheets. I’d get my friends and students to fill them out. I’d sometimes use it as a teaching exercise.
Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

Here is the back of the Friends sheet. To the right is a sticker sheet with page protector. I would add my favourite stickers to it. As well, I’d usually get my picture taken at the local photo booths once a week or so. They called that Purikura. I don’t have them in my planner now. I’ll have to share those another day!
Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

Oh but look, I do have a photo in the planner! It was taken at Oshima just outside of Matsuyama in 1999. That’s me in the middle sitting with two students from the school I taught at. At the top you can see a bit of paper. Those are the notes sheets. Little perforated papers so you can write a note and tear it out easily. Brilliant!
Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

 

On the left is the business card or credit card holder. On the right is the zippered pocket. Very useful!
Barbapapa Planner by Melanie Ritchie

You’ll notice I missed a photo of something very important. The actual calendar sheets! Oh yes, right. I took them out to use in a scrapbook of my time in Japan. I refilled the planner with pages I bought in Korea but I have no idea where I put those. I have to say talking about stationery REALLY makes me want to hop on a plane and head straight to Japan. My favourite shop was called Space. The entire basement was full of notepads, stickers, pens, erasers, and letter writing sets. It was so awesome. I probably spent an hour there once a week on my day off. Definitely my happy place!

If you are loving your planner, hook me up in the comments. I’d love to know what companies are out there. Thanks!

Wise Words | Melanie RItchie

A Letter to my children: What other people think

Often I am writing letters to my children in my head but I don’t get them written down. I have a pin board with lovely quotes but I don’t explain why I’ve pinned them. There are nuggets of wisdom I want my children to really internalize to give them strength and hope throughout their lives. If for some horrible reason I’m not there to give the advice to them firsthand, I’d like to know they can read it in letters.

Today, I want to tell them about the importance of what other people think.

  1. It’s None Of Your Business. That’s right. If you, my children can wrap your heads around this, you’ll have a MUCH happier life. It does not matter what other people think. YOUR actions and thoughts matter. Not theirs. Instead, look at yourself and ask these questions: 1. Are you doing your best? 2. Are you being kind to yourself and to others? 3. Are you safe? If your answer is yes to all three, then carry on with your day. What other people think CANNOT be controlled by you. It is possible you are adored by someone and you have no idea. It is also possible they don’t like you. Is this your fault? Probably not. It could be that you’re just very different people. Or maybe they feel threatened because you’re competition in some way. Or maybe you remind them of someone who has hurt them. Maybe you remind them of something they don’t like about themselves. Or maybe they are very sad and need to release their frustration on someone and you seem like a good fit. Or maybe it is Thursday and they don’t like people like you on Thursdays. See, it’s ridiculous. It’s not your problem.
  2. You’re Not A Mindreader. Like the first point, you cannot spend your time guessing what someone else is thinking. What would that solve? Most All people are absorbed in their own thoughts. Yes, they may be thinking bad things about you. They may also be thinking about sharks, or how they really need to release some gas, or even wondering if you’re thinking bad things about them. It doesn’t matter because it isn’t your business. Ask yourself why their opinion is more important than your own? Why do you need their acceptance?
  3. You Are Not Perfect. I love you dearly but like all humans, you are not perfect and never will be. No one should expect that from you. Especially you. Are you worried someone is thinking about things you’ve done wrong? Well, maybe they are. I’ve wasted a LOT of energy and time worrying about upsetting others. Especially in work situations, you are often put into a position where you have to learn the job without instruction. You cannot become efficient at your job without first making mistakes. What they don’t tell you in school is that you are not always going to receive proper training to do a job. Yet you will be expected to do it well right from the start. That is a very difficult position to be in and I guarantee you will find yourself in that situation at some point. If you torment yourself worrying over how you’re perceived, you will be miserable. Of course some people will be annoyed by your mistakes. Others will understand there is a learning curve. It is not your job to think about it. It is your job to learn your job. Apply this to all areas in life. Becoming experienced = making mistakes and making mistakes = becoming experienced.
  4. Everyone Has A Hater. No one is always liked. Even your favourite movie star or stuffed doll has someone who isn’t a fan. Even the Dalai Lama has people who don’t like him. I’m sure there is even someone who doesn’t like the Kratts brothers. Can you imagine? Should that change how great they are? No. Do LOTS of other people like them? Yes! Lots of people like you. Don’t focus on the people who don’t. They don’t have to like you and you won’t be happier trying to make them like you. Think of it this way. Some people like mushrooms. Some people don’t. You can’t make someone love mushrooms. Tell yourself that the next time you feel rejected by someone. It will at least make you smile a little, right? Be like Taylor Swift, and Shake it Off! Haters are gonna hate, hate, hate.
  5. It Still Hurts. Even knowing all of this, it will always hurt when we know people don’t approve of our choices or values. We’re human. We want to feel accepted. It especially hurts when our loved ones don’t approve. Always use this as an opportunity to evaluate yourself. Again, ask yourself if you’re happy with your choice, what could be done differently, and is anyone being negatively affected by your choice and whether that can avoided. If change needs to be made, work to make that change. If not, then accept the other person has their opinion and that is their business. People are entitled to have their own opinions just as you are entitled to have a different opinion. It might hurt but be confident knowing you are doing what you need to do to be authentic and happy.

I’m sure I can add to this list but these are the thoughts that occur to me now.

I made a few journal cards inspired by the topic and you can download them HERE.

mr_wisewords_PREV900s

Happy Sunday!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Hello hello! How are you on this fine wintry Tuesday? Or maybe where you are is bright and summery? That sounds even better! I’m looking out my window and the sun is glaringly bright. I was outside an hour ago and it is bitter cold. The type of cold where the inside of your nose sticks together. That cold.

Yet it is most certainly a beautiful day in the Neighbourhood. It is great to have neighbours! Last week, our next door neighbours went to Disney World and I checked in on their cat. His name is Jim. While he is technically a neighbour, do not mistake him for Jim Nabors. Jim is a very friendly cat. I spent some time with him during the day. On the second last day I had to check in on him a bit later than usual so I took my daughter. She gave him lots of love which I think he really needed. He seemed lonely. The next day I took my daughter back. She entertained him while I tidied up the cat dishes and such. It was kind of fun to take care of someone else’s cat for a bit. Usually I’m the one needing a cat sitter.

So, last night the door bell rang. I looked a fright as I’d spilled some chili on my shirt as I was cooking and I’d spent the afternoon cleaning. It was my neighbour looking all refreshed from a trip away to somewhere warmer than here. Their sweet little family had a wonderful time at Disney World. That just makes me smile imagining her little ones taking it all in. Then she handed me a bag which I let the kids help me open. I love surprises!

Inside were two cookies. One shaped and decorated like Mickey Mouse’s head and the other like Ariel. My son had a big grin at the sight of Mickey. My daughter was pretty pleased with Ariel as she happened to be wearing her Ariel nightgown. A perfect match. I thought that was very sweet of my neighbour to think of the kids and bring them something back. See, great neighbours, right?

And yet, there was something else in the bag. Ooooh! How exciting! I knew no matter what it was, I would like it because I like Disney World and I like trinkets. You just can’t go wrong. What did I pull out of that bag? I squealed with delight (really, I did) as I recognized the pattern. It was a “It’s a Small World” mug! OH MY! I nearly did a happy dance but I didn’t want to break the mug, or expose myself in my flimsy shirt.

It turns out my neighbour reads my blog (waving to her, HI!!!) and saw that I’d mentioned “It’s a Small World” being my favourite ride. Turns out she loves it too. Even better!

Geez, for that I’d have taken care of a 100 cats. No, actually, I wouldn’t. Ok, I would have set up camp and overnighted with Jim. That’s more likely.

Anyway, her generosity was greatly appreciated and I LOVE my mug!

I promised the kids they could eat their cookies after school today. Oh, and the cookies have sentimental value for me. When we were in Disney World last year, we were shopping in a store in the Dino land area. My son (age 3) very sweetly grabbed a cookie and asked if we could buy it for his sister. Soooooo sweet! Heartwarming.

So I took a photo of our treats today. The Mickey cookie seems to have gone missing. I don’t think my son has eaten it but I think he might have put it in a safe place. Perhaps I should check under his pillow. I wouldn’t put it past him to have slept with it there. Ha!

Small World Mug | photo by Melanie Ritchie

Have a most pleasant day!