Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve

Another clear and beautiful Alberta morning dawns. Although it is scant this winter, the thin layer of white snow sparkles in the sunlight, bringing to mind the picturesque scenes that Christmas cards are famous for.

It’s Christmas Eve 2011…full of the breathless excitement and anticipation that the day before a big event is famous for. Like the days leading up to a birthday or New Year’s, the days before Christmas are filled with the hustle and bustle of shopping, of choosing gifts for those we love, of baking, of eating. Most of all, these days are full of remembering the people in our lives who matter to us, past and present.

Our daughter’s birthday is Christmas Day and for a number of years, we have celebrated her birth on Christmas Eve so that she gets a separate celebration for both. She is home for the holidays – time to catch up on her busy life and her on ours (although ours doesn’t change much) before she leaves again for her home on the other side of the country.

Our son is still at home and although we connect daily, Christmas affords us the time to slow down and take time to reconnect and remember, build new memories and enjoy time spent together.

The tree is laden with gifts, waiting for tomorrow morning. The fridge is stuffed with food to be enjoyed at leisure and Christmas songs and movies abound, filling our hearts with yuletide joy.

Love overflows, spilling onto friends and family, connecting the past with the present. That is the true gift of Christmas – reminding us of who we love and where possible, bringing our loved ones together – in spirit if not in physical presence - and always in our hearts.

Christmas Eve is the pause…the indrawn breath…the seeing, knowing and believing in the magic of Christmas and the power of love.

May your own Christmas Eve be bright and your Christmas Day be merry and filled with love.

“God bless us, every one” Tiny Tim, from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas Baking


Oh, the wondrous scents and tantalizing tastes of the festive season…the tangy sharpness of a warm ginger cookie, the heady aroma of a nutmeg log awaiting frosting, the citrusy crunch of fruitcake and the smooth coconut sweetness of chocolate drops affectionately known as moose farts.
At the end of the afternoon, my kitchen boasted eight racks of cooling confections proudly announcing the arrival of December and kicking off the Christmas season.
Familiar recipes, pages batter stained, with notes written in faded pen. Visions of my small children danced in my head as I baked, hearing their sweet childish voices in my ear as I washed out bowls of batter that they used to fight to lick and seeing their delighted smiles as they each got a fresh warm cookie from their favourite batch.
Today no little hands got in my way, no grubby fingers helped roll the nutmeg log dough in increasing grayish cylinders. No small aprons hung on their own hooks, no step stools to help them reach the counter for me to trip over. No sprinkles sprinkled on the kitchen floor, no dusting of icing sugar everywhere.
Just neat rows of perfectly formed cookies, Bundt pan fruit cake and logs that looked like logs.
Yes, my husband stole a few. Our son snuck up the stairs to pinch a few but his hands were clean and he didn’t disturb the rows or make a mess. So grown up now.
The cookies were packaged and tucked into the freezer to wait a few weeks before being enjoyed during the week before and after Christmas.
Our daughter will be home but her hands will also be clean and her actions neat when she selects her treats. She won’t fight with her brother to lick the beaters or get the last spoonful of frosting.
But every year, when I make Christmas cookies, along with the wonderful scents and delicious tastes, I am given the gift of remembering how it was when they were small and ‘helped’ me bake.
It is the best gift I could ever receive, especially with a ginger cookie to munch and a cup of tea to sip. Those aren’t tears you see on my cheeks, just reflections of the memories that warm my heart when Christmas baking warms my kitchen. Sweet memories of home and of Christmas.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Remembrance Day 2011 - Lives Less Ordinary

I had the privilege a few weeks ago of being asked to interview local veterans at St. Michael’s Grove Manor. The Spruce Grove Legion needed someone to write stories for the Remembrance Day section of our local newspaper.

I am a fiction writer so it was a step out of my comfort zone to write non fiction as well as to actually interview people. My characters are imaginary, their dialogue made up and their situations fully controlled by me. I was excited at the thought of doing something different but truly had no idea what or how I was going to accomplish this feat.

Harry, my Legion contact, met me at the front door of St. Michael’s with a smile and a warm handshake. He thanked me profusely then warned me that veterans usually don’t like to talk much about the war – he said not to be surprised if only one or two people were there to meet with us. My heart, already unsure, sank to my toes.

When we arrived at the meeting room, there were two people seated and several empty chairs. The staff had generously left a tray of goodies and pot of coffee so Harry introduced me then went to serve the treats. The two faces turned in my direction, waiting. My mind churned furiously wondering what I was doing there, how I was going to get them to talk and why I had ever agreed to something so outside my experience. Don’t over think it, I told myself sternly, and I dragged a chair over in front of the first gentleman, Henry.

“Hello,” I said softly. “Eh?” he replied. “Don’t hear well,” he muttered. I had brought my Dictaphone (do people even use those anymore?) but realized that it just wasn’t going to work. I opened my notebook, grabbed my pen and spoke again, this time clearly and loudly. He grunted. “I don’t talk about the war,” he told me flat out. I panicked momentarily then looked into his eyes and took a deep breath. “I don’t want to talk about the war either,” I replied. “I want to talk about you. Where were you born?” He looked surprised for a moment then slowly began to speak. I leaned closer so I could hear him better and when he paused, I’d say ‘go on’ and he would. After three pages of writing he asked if I would like to see his medals that he kept in his room. I smiled yes and he left on his motorized scooter.

I moved on to the woman who was been sitting beside him. She’d been quietly listening while Henry spoke. “I’m Jean,” she told me and started her story. As she spoke, I was aware of more people coming and Harry talking, serving cookies and coffee. Henry returned with his medals so I spent more time with him before I moved on to a lovely lady named Pat.

At the end of three hours, I had interviewed nine veterans or spouses of veterans. I had a camera full of photos that I had taken of them and photos they had gone and gotten for me – their weddings, them in their service uniforms, their families.  My notebook was full, my heart was overflowing and I was deeply touched by what these wonderful people had shared with me – and ultimately, with each other. As I left each person and moved on to their neighbour, the people I already interviewed kept chatting to each other saying things like “I didn’t know that, I grew up near there” and similar conversations.

Harry beamed when we finally left the Manor. “Can you believe it?” he asked me. I shook my head, overwhelmed by the response we’d had, the warmth and sharing that had developed and the bond I felt with these seniors as I had hugged them each good night and thanked them for their time.

I plan to interview the rest of the veterans who live in Spruce Grove and work with the Legion to compile these stories into a keepsake book – to capture real stories about real people who live in our community. This will create a legacy for future generations and a remembrance of the people who went to war and the lives they had before and after. Lest we forget.

Henry, Jean, Pat, Bill, Ivey, Dan, Dorothy, Anna and Nellie – you have given me one of the best gifts I have ever received – your life stories. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget you and our time together.

Friday, 30 September 2011

A Gift of Time

A number of years ago, my sister and I were having a conversation about time and how it always seemed to be in short supply. For my birthday that year, she remembered that conversation and presented me with an hourglass filled with one hour’s worth of pretty blue sand. The note in the card said that anytime I needed a moment for myself – to write, to think, to relax, even simply just to slow down and be – that I was to use the hourglass and give myself that much needed hour.  In essence she gave me a gift of time.
For the first few years, I found myself sneaking that hour on a weekly basis.  I would close my door and immerse myself in a peaceful sixty minutes of whatever I chose to do that week – read, write, listen to music, just to breathe.  It felt special and because it was sanctioned by my sister and supported by her note, I allowed myself to use the gift to the nth degree.
As time has gone on, I realize that the gaps between my stolen moments and reality are getting longer and longer. It has probably been at least a year since I last snuck away from the everyday into an hour just for me.  Not that I haven’t had time to myself but somehow the hour peacefully counted down by falling grains of blue sand brought me a much higher level of contentment and enjoyment.
Perhaps because it was found time. Or maybe because it was like a pause in my hectic life, granted to me through my sister’s insight in providing me with something my psyche needs but won’t regularly permit. Or even because it was a gift of love and caring.
I realized today that it is the last day of September and for the first time this month, I have been able to sit and think and breathe. To savour the moment and be present.
Tomorrow I will dust off my hourglass and set it in the sunshine.  I will make a cup of tea and settle into my comfy chair with a cat and turn the hourglass.  As the sand flows lightly through the centre, I will drink my tea and listen to my soul. Just for an hour…..my gift of time….one of my most cherished possessions.
The best gift in the world….the gift of time.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

If it's almost September, we must need new school supplies...

Ah, the smell of new loose-leaf, freshly sharpened pencils and new markers. It brings back memories of not only my own childhood but my children’s childhoods too. 

Doesn’t seem that long ago that our oldest child started school. Four years old, with braided pigtails and a brand new Little Mermaid backpack.  She’s still in school, but now it’s graduate school for her master’s degree. Her backpack is from MEC and although the Little Mermaid has long been replaced by real marine creatures, I can still see her sunny face as she headed out that first September morning.  

When our youngest child went to school, he too had a new backpack and sunny grin but of course, no braided pigtails. He did have a fresh back-to-school haircut that provided a nice white line between his summer tan and his newly shorn head. His backpacks changed each year too – Star Wars, Power Rangers, whatever the current trend was at the time – but his sunny grin was the same every September.

I am taking a class this fall so the one who gets new school supplies this year is me. While I do have a laptop, Netbook and iPad, there is something about the smell of real paper whether it is notebooks or loose-leaf that strikes a chord with me. It just isn’t school without new pencils, a brand new sharpener and a clean notebook, just waiting to be filled with knowledge, scribblings or whatever takes my fancy.

Some things never change…now I just need to pick a backpack. :-)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Sam’s and Hot Soup…

Been feeling lousy all week. Not sure if it’s a cold trying to start, the flu or just a case of being a little run down but every one of my 2000 body parts (according to the Lever soap commercials!) has ached since Sunday. Not getting worse nor getting better, just holding the same level of lousy.

Today’s remedy was hot soup at Sam’s, suggested by my sister. Seriously. Sam’s is a small cafĂ© on McLeod Avenue, open only during the week. They make delicious homemade soups, decadent salads and a London Fog latte to die for (even when made with soy for those of us who may be lactose intolerant). The atmosphere is homey and the welcome genuinely warm.

The soup wasn’t the chicken soup recommended by 2 out of 3 moms for a cold but it was a hearty rib sticking split pea and ham, accompanied by a whole grain bun and fruit salad. Gently coating my sore throat, warming the cockles of my heart (I presume you can say cockles in mixed company?) and generally nurturing my malaise and my spirit all in one shot.

Sunshine poured through the picture window, people on the avenue bustled by busy with their own lives and I meandered over my fragrant broth, inhaling wellness in every mouthful.

Sated and replete, I strolled back to work. My body parts still ached but a little less loudly.

Sam’s and hot soup….a sure remedy for what ails you. Sunshine, even on a rainy day.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A leaf fell today...


As I mowed my lawn, I noticed that one of my trees had dropped a few leaves. We’ve had some cooler weather especially at night and I wonder if the trees are starting to think that fall is coming already.

Or maybe, the tree was just experimenting and not really ready to lose its leaves yet. Just a trial run to see if it could do it properly when the time came.

Whatever the reason, it stopped me in my tracks and gave me pause. Our summer has gone so quickly this year it seems and the hot days have been fewer than usual. Don’t get me wrong – rainy summer days have their place too. But long hot sultry days smell like summer, feel like summer and cling to our memories like summer. Warm skin, cool drinks, light breezes teasing our tangled hair.

Can it be almost over already?

I sure hope not but I’m worried that it might be.  A leaf fell today…

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Dance of the Dragonflies

Today was another of those perfect Alberta summer days. Heading to Chickakoo Recreation Area, we enjoyed more than two hours hiking along the trails, up and down the hills and around the ponds, lakes and marshes. The sky was deep blue, the sunshine bright and the odd small puffy scout cloud drifted across the sky before disappearing below the horizon.

The air was ripe with the sounds of summer. Small groups of fellow hikers passed, their conversations floating on the breeze before melting into the dense green foliage. Runners with their dogs breathed by, their light steps in sharp contrast to our hiking boot clad feet. A couple of people on horseback trotted slowly, allowing their mounts purchase through the muddy areas, the odd snort from the horses mingling with the steady clop of their shod feet. Birdsong was everywhere and the distinct call of the loon added to the ambiance of the adventure.

Afterwards, we sat by the water eating our lunch. Have you ever noticed how much better food tastes when eaten outdoors? The delicious flavours mingled on our taste buds, filled our hungry stomachs, soothed our thirst and satisfied our senses.

Dragonflies guarded our picnic, keeping mosquitoes at bay and providing a variety of dances for our viewing pleasure. Never lingering long enough for a photo, they dipped and wove, soared and hovered, staying close but never invasive. Their wings shone coppery in the sunlight on their shimmering green, red or orange bodies. We were mesmerized by their beauty and captivated by the moment.

When we were done, we rose and with a last look at the lake, we made our way back to the van.

A few dragonflies accompanied us on our walk and then flitted away, dancing to their own music into the sunshine. Shading our eyes, we watched them depart before heading home with a sigh.

A simply perfect August day.



Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ice Ice Baby!


Each week on Wednesday night, I visit my mom in the city where she lives in a beautiful seniors’ facility. I call it Wednesdays with Memere.

Sometimes we stay in and after we share supper, she beats me at crib more often than not. Happily I don’t get skunked as much as I used to but often enough to keep me humble.

Sometimes we go to Chapters where she happily stocks up on all the paperbacks of her favourite authors that she can pile on her walker. Interestingly, while she tends to walk fairly slowly most of the time, she darn near flies through that store!  Like shopping with small children, it’s easy to lose sight of her as she whips from section to section, in search of reading material. Afterwards, we enjoy coffee at Starbucks while she rests and regains her strength and I catch my breath from chasing her. J

Sometimes, though, we go to the casino at West Edmonton Mall. One thing you should know about my mom is that she LOVES to gamble, be it bingo, lottery tickets or casinos.  And if you thought she could move fast at the book store, well, you haven’t seen anything until you see her maneuver through the slot machine aisles, in search of her faves.

She also talks to the machines. Mind you, most of the people there seem to think that the machines can hear them.  Maybe it’s just me, a casino newbie, who finds that a bit strange.  When we first started playing the slots together a few months ago, I must admit it was pretty Greek to me. She seemed to know how to play all the games, what won and what didn’t, instantly. I had a hard time concentrating with all the noise from the slot machines around us, including our own. Each time we go, I feel a little less awkward and more willing to try a new machine. What I am not willing to do is lose money but Mom uses her winnings as seed money for both of us (and my sister when she is in town) so I can happily play and lose my mother’s money instead of my own. (Don't worry - it's set aside as 'extra' - we're not using her lunch money or anything like that. LOL)

Mom is attracted to games like Zeus, Hot Shots and Mega and often has amazing luck.  I could take them or leave them until I found the machine that simply couldn’t be resisted…the Penguins.  They slip and they slide while giving you bonuses and when you win, the machine blares with the catchy melody and deep lyrics of Ice Ice Baby - a fun song made famous by Vanilla Ice and immortalized forever in this slot machine - and the penguins squeal 'wheeeeee...".

Clutching our twenties in our hands, we case the joint, waiting for a penguin player to tire and move to other slot machine delights. We clap our hands and hoot when we do well and pout and grumble when we don't. I find myself shrieking ‘yes!’ when the penguins leap off the cliff into the icy water (I presume it’s icy water, they are penguins after all) and doing my happy dance as the points rack up. While I still don’t like to gamble, my mom’s happy face to have company while indulging in her beloved pastime joined with the lyrics to Ice Ice Baby running through my head (which happen to be ‘ice ice baby’….go figure!) make it all worthwhile.

When we’ve had enough, we cash in our slips and the money goes back in Mom’s purse for the next time. We head home, happy and content. As I drop her off, I wave goodbye and consider it another  Wednesday evening well spent.  Ice Ice Baby! Wheeeeee.....

Monday, 18 July 2011

These lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Remember when we were kids and summers seemed to last forever? Hot, lazy days spent at the lake, camping, swimming, walking and fishing. Cool rainy days also spent at the lake, playing board games or penny poker, making tie-die t-shirts and other artsy projects with the Cold Lake art kids. The days were long as if time stood still for us to savour each and every sunshine or raindrop filled second.

As the years have gone by, it’s as if the hands of time are spinning faster and faster. Days seem shorter, nights even more so and weekends seem merely a blur. Even with spending our Saturdays in search of the best lemon pie in the area and consciously trying to live in the moment, time is still getting the better of us.

Our lazy, hazy, crazy days of summers past have been replaced by muggy, buggy  - and did I mention buggy? – days of summer present. Our wonderful hot days this year have been accompanied by small daytime biting mosquitoes that have put pause in our step and caused a small cramp in our usual summer stride. But fear not, we are Albertans and made of heartier stock than that! We do not go out with a whimper but instead don our protective cloak of bug repellent then tiptoe carefully outside and hope the bugs don’t hear us coming!

It’s already the middle of July and fall clothes are making their way into local shops.  We need to make our summer sing and sparkle and shimmer so that when we think back to it in the dead of winter (and we will!), it will be rife with memories of hot and lazy days. Bugs be darned, we've got to make the most of every single moment, every single drop of sunshine, every single drop of rain. Breathe deeply, live slowly, savour completely. Maybe that way, time will slow down a bit and let us catch up.

Just don’t forget the bug spray!

Monday, 11 July 2011

The End of an Era - Saying Goodbye to Harry

This week, the final movie in the Harry Potter series opens, culminating in the good versus evil showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort and bringing to an end ten years of waiting with great anticipation for the next book to be made into a movie.

I purchased the Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone book in either late 1998 or early 1999 after reading reviews about this magical book that enraptured the imagination. After voraciously devouring every page myself, I actually held off sharing it with our two children, wondering if they were too young for it. After a few months, I decided to take a chance and see how they would like it. I started reading it to our seven year old son as a bedtime story and his older sister soon joined in. The magic of those wondrous words spilled off the pages and into their wonderful imaginations, conjuring visions of Harry, Hermione and Ron and making them an integral part of our lives. As the books are long, they took many an evening to read, discuss and enjoy. The Chamber of Secrets followed and by the time we got to the Prisoner of Azkaban, the kids were reading the books themselves, each with their own copies.  As each new book was published, our collection grew by two until the final book graced our shelves.

The movies, starting in 2000 became a family ritual. Each was anticipated longingly, tickets purchased for the first movie on opening day (even if it was school day!) and the movie dissected, compared to the book and a proclamation made of thumbs up or thumbs down.  When the movies came to DVD, they were watched repeatedly as a family and whenever any of us felt the need for a little Hogwarts magic in our lives.

Eleven years, later, the children are all grown up – both mine and those in the series. This weekend, my husband and I will attend The Deathly Hallows Part 2 together, sans children. We won’t go on opening day but on the closest day we can manage to that.

It is with mixed emotions that I will watch this final Harry Potter movie.  I am happy to see the resolution of the series and Harry’s triumph over Lord Voldemort but I am sad to mark the end of the era of shared family memories, words lovingly read and absorbed, the magic of good storytelling binding us together in a common vision.

Our daughter moved to Newfoundland a few weeks ago, leaving behind her set of Harry Potter books. I carefully gathered them, with fraying covers and well thumbed pages and placed them on the shelf in my home office. While she may be done with childhood things, I am not yet willing to part with these well-loved mementos of time well spent.

Thank you, Harry, for the magical memories you have given our family. The tears I shed this weekend are not only for your triumph but for the part of our life that will also be over when the movie’s credits roll.  Bittersweet memories, indeed.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

O Canada, O Perfect Day

Today was one of those rare and beautiful perfect days.  Not just because of the weather although the sun was shining, the sky was Alberta blue and the breeze light enough to still be a breeze but strong enough to keep the bugs away but also because for a few scant moments, the world was in harmony.

Visited the St Albert Farmer’s Market and it was amazing. Crowds of happy people just like us, out and about enjoying the day and what it had to offer. Delicious smells, wonderful street music and lots of wares to sample and buy. Came away with peppers, green onions, Thai pesto, fresh bread and a freshly baked pie. Oh and icy cold freshly squeezed lemonade to quench our thirst.

Hiked for 10K along the Sturgeon River, enjoying the songs of the birds mixed in with the sounds of summer. Everyone was pleasant, happy to be out in the fresh air, lapping up the sunshine and warmth. Leaves rustled as the wind wove in and out of the branches, lush greenery telling the story of our rainy spring that has blossomed into enchanting summer.

All in all, a perfect day. Thank you, Canada and Alberta. Proud to be Canadian and proud to call Alberta home.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Connecting

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day, observing people as I am wont to do. As an aspiring writer, what better place to learn about human characteristics, dialogue and situations than to simply watch and listen. Overheard tantalizing snippets of conversation have led to some wonderful story ideas that currently reside in my ‘gotta write about this someday’ file. What I have noticed lately is the prevalence of technological forms of communication that are impeding or eliminating conversations between real people standing beside each other in a line up, at a checkout or just passing each other on a sidewalk.

While technology is a marvelous tool that keeps us connected to our five favorite people, it is replacing social conversation. While ‘nice weather, eh” may not be the most inspired ice breaker, small talk is a way to acknowledge people around us in an open way, possibly leading to more conversation and striking a connection. Hard to make eye contact with someone when their head is bent while they frantically text their BFF.

Eye contact and social conversation is an integral part of our human beingness (is that a word? Well, it is now…LOL). There are many solitary people in this world whose social contact is limited to trips to the grocery store, bookstore or post office (perhaps not right now with the postal strike but in general). Human beings crave companionship, social interactions and connections. It is said that your eyes are the window to the soul….but only if you can see someone eye to eye. Eye to iPhone is not the same thing.

Do I think this is the rise of the machines, as foretold in the Terminator movies? Yes and no. I think that if we as people lose our connection to each other, we lose some of our humanity. It’s hard to hug via text message, see fear, desperation, love and passion in someone’s eyes via phone call and even with Skype and other face-to-face communication tools, it’s hard to reach out and actually touch each other. Emoticons are cute but hardly the real thing.

Besides, if people stop actually talking to each other LIVE, I will have to resort to making up things for my stories. Truth is so much stranger and way more entertaining than fiction.

And if you think I can’t see you from my blog, you’re right. Next time I pass you on the street though, I’ll make sure to look you in the eye and give you a big smile and say hello. Who knows, it just might make our respective days just a little bit brighter.

Connecting through face to face conversations….who would have thought it could matter that much.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Rainy Days and Lemon Pie

It’s been raining for several days in a row and it’s hard not to succumb to a sense of gloom. Unlike falling snow, it’s not fun being outside in pouring rain – unless you’re at the lake. Swimming during a soft rain can be quite wonderful.

When we were kids, rainy days weren’t disappointments as much as opportunities to do other activities. Even when camping, the rain meant enjoying inside games such as Monopoly, Clue, Uno and Rumoli. At home, it meant movies on TV, reading books while wrapped in a warm blanket and mugs of tea or hot chocolate. It didn’t ruin plans so much as redirect them.

As adults, we tend to sigh at rainy days as if to dismiss them as being unworthy. We forget to embrace the opportunity they offer. Of course, going to our day jobs will happen whether rain, snow or shine but on weekends, we are disappointed if the weather is not sunny and fair. We hope that next weekend will be better and so on and so on.

This weekend, we finally remembered to embrace our inner child and enjoy the day we were given. Donning raincoats, we went about our day, just as planned. Like wet dogs, we gently shook ourselves dry at each stop, and ended up in a delightful cafe in Glenora. We gratefully downed delicious hot soup and fragrant fresh baked buns while the rain pelted the cafe windows. The crowning glory was a piece of decadent lemon meringue pie, shared in comfortable companionship before braving the rain for our next adventure.

How did we forget to take each day as it came and make the best of whatever it had to offer?

Perhaps the more important question is why on earth didn't we see sooner what we were doing? We finally understand that it’s not about what the day can offer us….it’s about what we can offer the day.
Actually it’s all about the pie….and my oh my, what wonderful pie! Maybe next weekend, it'll rain again....:-)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

i to the e: Stepping out of my comfort zone…


This has been an interesting week for me as I needed to step out of my small ‘i’ introvert personality and into a small ‘e’ extrovert personality for two separate occasions.

The first was work related. The national CPA payroll conference was held this year in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre.  It involved that ‘n’ word that strikes deathly fear into the hearts of introverts across the county. Yes, I do mean ‘networking’.  J

In my job, I deal with lots of people. However, this is usually on the phone or via email and occasionally in my office.  At conferences, you have to talk to people face-to-face ALL THE TIME. Yikes! Fortunately for me, there were usually enough big E extroverts around to carry the load, allowing the rest of us to be hangers on instead of initiators, at least most of the time.

The second was in my personal life but the fear it struck in my heart was as daunting as the aforementioned networking, if not more.

Sunday night was the launch of the Spring 2011 issue of Other Voices who have done me the honour of publishing my second short story Red Passion No. 9. I was given the opportunity to read my story aloud to an audience who were neither my family nor the protective cocoon of my Tuesday Night Writers.

On the one hand, I really looked forward to sharing my work. On the other hand, it meant speaking in front of a group. Double yikes! Gave a whole new meaning to the words 'big gulp'!

It turned out that I read first which kept my nervousness to a minimum. Speaking into a microphone was much less stressful than I'd imagined and the audience was receptive and appreciative to all of us who shared our work. It was SO much fun!

Thank you, Aspen, Erinne, Danielle and the rest of the terrific volunteers from Other Voices. The Untitled Bookstore is a real find (can't wait to go back and buy more books) and the whole evening was simply fabulous.


Now I have to write more stories so they can get published and I can do it all again!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Letting beauty find you...

A wonderful poet spoke to my writing group last week about living a poetic life. That doesn’t mean seeing poetry everywhere you go but it does mean embracing your creativity and bringing the consciousness of your inner artist into the life you are living. Let your inner essence spill over, bringing fresh meaning to what you do and bringing the poetry of creativity into your every day life.

She spoke of having a reverence for life, observing everything with an open mind and open heart. Articulate clearly each and every day about your experiences. Share your words – they may not sound like poetry but if they are the words of your heart, they are poetry.

Slow down and notice what is going on around you in this moment in time. If you are anything like me, you have a massive to-do list that leaves no time to enjoy what has already been achieved before you are on to the next item. By doing this, you miss the connection with ‘now’. I know that I do this myself every day. No wonder our psyches get so worn out – they are not being nourished or acknowledged.

She told a story of a time when she was healing from a difficult break-up and spent a lot of time walking, alone. Over time, she started noticing isolated pockets of remarkable beauty – a budding flower, a beautiful bird – and realized that the greyness and sadness that had enveloped her was lifting and beauty was finding her again. That’s when she knew that she was going to be okay.

Her story reminded me that if we look for something too hard, it becomes elusive and avoids us. We need to stop and refocus. Carpe Diem - ‘seize the day’ – slow down and let ourselves become grounded in today. Instead of our lists telling us what we should do, let our inner selves guide us to what we need. In the silence that ensues, beauty will find us and we will find ourselves living a poetic life, perfectly in tune with ourselves and the world around us.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Crazy for You….to the man I love and have loved for more than 25 years…


Yes, after all these years, I am still crazy for you. Or crazy because of you. Or something like that. J
Twenty five years ago in this very city, on this date, you and I were married in a lovely garden ceremony at the home of our friends Keith and Heather. It was a hot, sunny Saturday with temps well over 30 degrees C. While our guests were in shorts and summer dresses, we were in our wedding finery, exchanging our vows in front of family and friends.
Feels like yesterday. Feels like forever ago. I can’t remember when you weren’t part of my life, my heart, my soul.
It’s like marriage has melded us together invisibly as well as visibly. We may not wear matching Cpl’s Club jackets but our psyches match as do our hearts. Corny but true.
You are my better half, my foundation, my rock. You inspire me, encourage me, infuriate me and irritate the heck out of me. I am sure these feelings are completely mutual!
Yet I cannot imagine my life without you in it. Even before we were married, you were part of my life, my memories, and my past. There is more of my life with you in it than without you – that alone is something to marvel at, to cherish and to hold close.
You believe in me more than I believe in myself and you have never wavered in your confidence in my abilities. I hope that I have given you some of that back, if only in a small way.
Together we have our children and the life we have forged and honed. Our future looms ahead of us, bright, shining, and waiting to be discovered. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I can’t imagine growing old with anyone else. When I look in your eyes, I see our life together reflected there and it feels like home.
Happy 25th anniversary, honey.  I love you. Here's hoping we have 25 more....

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Last Friday in May

It was our routine the last Friday in May
to make the trip back to the past
a road trip through time though the present was now
we wanted the present to last

the first one for me was in May ’85
and it came at me out of the blue
so many sick people around every corner
I really didn’t know what to do

our first stop was blood work, the lab techs were funny
then on down the hall to x-ray
they all were so cheerful, so upbeat and helpful
while I could find nothing to say

my love was dead calm, he’d been through this before,
please be okay was my thought
when the doctor came in and gave the all clear
I dissolved into tears on the spot

in May ’86, the day before we were wed,
the tests all were perfect, no need to be sad
so we married in peace and said what we said
that’s when the good started replacing the bad

in May ’87 it was more of the same
and by May ’88 it was no longer a maybe
by the good grace of God and a doctor named Venner
we were going to be blessed with a baby

it was a long road for my husband and the cancer he’d fought
so the victory was made even sweeter
the May we went back for the final checkup
and handed our daughter to Peter

our eyes filled with tears and our gratitude flowed
for this place of such love and great healing
this doctor with patience and knowledge and kindness
knew exactly how we were feeling

there aren’t many miracles but I know we were one
and this doctor had helped us to cope
he had given back life to the one I hold dear
more importantly, he’d given us hope.
Dedicated to Dr. Peter Venner, Cross Cancer Institute


Monday, 23 May 2011

I Think I Love You!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to do something I had waited forty years to do and finally realized a teenage dream.  When I was thirteen, my bedroom walls boasted a multitude of pictures of David Cassidy.  Each month, I would wait anxiously at the drugstore for the newest issue of Tiger Beat magazine where I (like many other teenage girls) devoured every word written about this teen idol.  I dreamt of seeing him in concert but alas, I was trapped in northern Alberta while he toured the world and never came anywhere near Edmonton. This didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for all things David, although as I grew up, the photos came down and my dream was downgraded a few notches.

In 1983, I spent a week in New York City and was delighted to find out that David was appearing on Broadway in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  Somehow I managed to convince the friend I travelled there with to attend the show (she wasn’t a fan) and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I checked off the box in my list that said ‘see David live’ and moved on, or so I thought.

A few months ago, I discovered David would be appearing at the River Rock theatre in Vancouver and I knew I had another chance to see him perform. This time he would be singing the songs of my teenage years. I also knew I had to go. And this time, there would be no coercing a buddy – I would go alone. The dream was mine and mine alone. My husband, wonderful man that he is, did not laugh – all he said was ‘is your plane ticket booked?” and that was that. I was finally going to see David live, in person, in concert.

Vancouver offered me no end of excitement – from the SkyTrain (I love trains!) to my marina-view hotel suite, I felt like I was living the high life. Even fire alarms sounding in the hotel just an hour before the show was to start didn’t dampen my enthusiasm even though it meant running down nine flights of stairs and hoping I’d get back into my room in time to change for the show. Fifteen minutes before show time, the issue was resolved and I was able to get back into my suite to change. The theatre was a 1,000 seat delight and every seat was filled. I was in row E, almost dead centre.

When David walked on stage, I forgot that he was 61 years old (and that I was older too!). When he smiled and started singing, he was 21 again and it was like I had always imagined it would be – his voice was still strong, his charisma engaging and the overall electricity in the crowd was downright enchanting. We sang, we danced, we laughed and most of all, we remembered what it was like to be a teenager in love with a teen idol. He invited people down to the stage, so I went and was able to shake his hand (yes, I have washed it since!). 

When he finished his last song and left the stage, instead of feeling let down that it was over, I felt exhilarated and validated. It was every bit as fun and corny as it sounds, as magical as it could possibly be. A teenage dream became my middle-aged reality.  Bucket list item #13, check, check and my rose-colored glasses are still in place.

I am learning that it is important to be true to your heart, even if others don’t agree with you. Life is short and we need to live our dreams as much as we can, each and every day.

I can feel my heart beat…and it feels so good!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Life is too short to be ordinary….

My sister and I have a tradition of sending each other packages every few months, filled with treasures that we gather as we go about our days. It’s such a wonderful treat to get one of these parcels especially on a gloomy day or if life is being especially dreary.
We find or make funny or thoughtful cards and write each other letters. Although I love email and texting, I must say that nothing beats a handwritten note from someone to help you feel connected.
Last month was no exception to this tradition. Lip gloss in funky containers, brightly coloured summer socks, a couple of books with interesting titles – Murder by the Glass and Murder Uncorked (Wine Lover’s Mysteries – how fun!). Sets of greeting cards made by artist friends, summer themed earrings and sparkly bracelets add a thoughtful and fashionable touch. Each time I use or wear one of these little gifts, I think of my sister.
The card had the caption ‘Life is too short to be ordinary’, showing a pair of feet in glittery thongs, each a different colour with big flowers adorning the tops and shiny nail polish tipping each toe. It made me smile and reading my sister’s letter made me smile even more.
It’s a small thing to do something nice for someone else but brings immense joy to both the giver and the recipient. We have been sending each other these packages for years and neither of us ever tires of either the thrill of gathering the items we send or opening the shoe box, awaiting the surprise of what is tucked inside the tissue.
It’s an extraordinary way to connect, to share our day to day lives and to keep our sisterly karma flowing.
I am grateful for this sharing and even more grateful for my sister.
She makes my life less ordinary.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

On Being a Mom

There is no school that you go to to learn how to be a mom or a dad - basically, when you find out you are going to be one, you read everything you can so you know how to do it properly. You swear you'll never make the same mistakes your parents did - with your own kids, it will be different because you know what you are doing. Then your baby arrives and from day one, you realize you haven't got a clue and basically you wing it from there, one day at a day. You put your heart and soul into it and hope it's enough.
Over the years I have received many Mother's Day presents, breakfasts in bed and wonderful cards. While they are all special, my favourites are from when our son and daughter were small. As I unwrapped the tissue (okay, it was really 'as I opened the Shoppers Drug Mart bag'), I discovered a package of Teddy Grahams and a juice box - apple, of course. Two small faces shone with joy as we shared my presents - two of their favourite things that they believed with all their hearts that I would love because they did. Fingers sticky with juice were placed on my cheeks as they gave me sweet kisses and mumbled 'appy mubbers day'.
Now those children are grown up and don't eat Teddy Grahams or drink apple juice. Their gifts are also grown up and reflective of the wonderful adults they have become. So sometime, if you catch me in Safeway in the cracker aisle, with tears in my eyes and a Teddy Graham box in my hand, you'll know why. They remind me of the sweet innocent love that only children can give you - the true gift of being a mother. Thanks for the memories, my beautiful children. Love you forever. XXXOOO

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Everyday Fairy Tales Or How Dreams Really Can Come True

Last Friday, Wills and Kate got married in a fairy tale extravaganza. Like millions of other die hard romantics, I must admit I watched the wedding, admired her dress and envied her the dream come true of marrying a prince. Hopefully she has other dreams that will also come true (although not all, perhaps, in such a grandiose fashion).
It got me thinking about dreams, passions and yes, even princes.

This month, I get to realize a few of my own dreams.

Dream #3: Writing. A short story I wrote last year is going to be published in Other Voices Spring 2011 issue. My secret dream for my whole life has been to become a published author. Each time I took a few steps forward, I also took a few steps back as life got in the way (and I let it!).  Now I am pursuing my passion and it is slowly bearing fruit.

Dream #2, Parts A & B: Hawaii and Swimming.  I used to love swimming but over the years, I developed a chronic sinus/middle ear situation that would flare up every time I went into a pool, ocean, lake or basically any body of water (including my own shower if the water hit my ear the wrong way). Two years ago, my husband and I fulfilled Part A of this dream when we visited Hawaii’s Big Island on our first vacation alone since we’d had our kids 22 years ago. We were able to snorkel because I had discovered custom ear plugs (blue!) which prevented the ear infections but I still had sinus problems while using goggles.  On our second trip last year, I purchased a prescription snorkel mask that covers eyes and nose and enables me to see underwater – a double bonus. In a writing spa earlier this year, I wrote about swimming and how much I missed it. I mentioned that I enjoyed at least being able to snorkel. One of the other writers asked me why I didn’t swim with my snorkel mask. AHA moment and hello, Part B of my dream! Now my purple snorkel mask, blue ear plugs and dear husband accompany me to the pool every other night to swim lengths. Felt silly the first few times but quickly got over that when I realized it was the perfect solution to eliminating my sinus/ear problems and therefore allowed me the pleasure of swimming.

Dream #1: My very own prince. Yup, got me one of those too. This month will mark our 25th wedding anniversary and I can honestly say that being loved by someone unconditionally is one of the greatest gifts people can give each other. While this man can irritate me in a heartbeat, he also surprises me with his gentleness, caring and insight on a regular basis. He has always believed in me even when I haven’t believed in myself and I am very blessed to have him in my life.

So while my life may not be the fairy tale that Will and Kate are living, it does have magic, love and happy endings...and all I had to do was believe.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Happiness Project

I read an interesting book this weekend called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (www.gretchenrubin.com).
She realized one day, while riding a bus in New York City, that she was suffering from a sense of midlife malaise – a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief. She realized she was a fortunate person albeit a dissatisfied one but she didn’t know why.
After doing extensive research, she developed her plan on how to be happier. She made up her own Twelve Commandments, a list of Secrets of Adulthood and Four Splendid Truths. Then she spent a year integrating what she had learned into her life.
The book starts off with the line “I’d always vaguely expected to outgrow my limitations.” That really got me thinking about my own life because that is what I always secretly hoped too.
One day I will wake up more outgoing, remember how to work all of my technological doodads on my own, not be scared to drive in the winter and have a great hair day everyday. I won’t be short tempered or impatient, I’ll have time for all of my hobbies and I’ll exercise every day. And love it. And like Gretchen was looking to do, I too will laugh more and have more fun.
Am I going to every wake up and have all of those limitations be gone? Probably not.
Like most of us, I think, I spend my days doing all the things I feel need to be done BEFORE I can do all the things I really want to do.  Then when those necessary things are done, I have no energy left to do the rest of the list. My limitations kick in and ergo the resulting short temper, feeling of discontent and absence of spontaneous fun.  I cross items off my to-do lists, spend weekends doing everything but relaxing then wonder why all my days feel like Mondays. I am forgetting to be present in my own life. When did that happen?
Gretchen’s Second Splendid Truth is my favourite: “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”  
Could it be that easy? I think I will start my own Happiness Project and see what I can do. It’s certainly worth a shot and it might even be FUN!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

More about Tuesday Night Writers

It has been my privilege the past few years to belong to a wonderful writing group that meets weekly in my local library and throughout the year in ‘writing spas’. The group has almost always been just women (we did have one male member who brought an interesting perspective to our writing). The insights we experience about each other and ourselves have been truly enlightening.
There is something powerful about groups of women. The energy in the room becomes almost palatable as we weave our words into tapestries and mosaics. With only the rare exception, we leave in a far better state of mind than when we start each week.
Each of us brings our own needs, writing styles and creative colour to the blend. Even when given the same prompt or image to work from, the resulting words are at once individual yet also a startling culmination of our combined energies. Hearts are opened honestly, privacy and personal borders are respected yet the sharing helps us to grow, to bond and to heal where necessary. It is a safe place where just the act of writing down words too personal sometimes to share acknowledges their truth and frees our souls. We emerge replenished, restored and rejuvenated.
We are all different, yet all the same.  Brought together in the common goal of sharing words we have begun to share our lives and build friendships.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening: an amazing and worthwhile adventure where we are finding sisterhood while also finding ourselves.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Why I write...

I write because
  • it calms me and helps me to centre myself
  • it realigns my chih
  • it connects me to the world, to other people
  • it silences the negative energy around me
  • it makes me listen
  • it makes me realize
  • it makes me remember
  • it makes me feel
  • it makes me whole
Sometime I don't write because
  • I think I don't have time
  • I am too lazy to bother
  • I forget how it makes me feel
  • I feel empty of words
  • I am tied in knots inside that are too tight to loosen
  • I blend into the life around me
  • I am not grounded
  • my mind won't be still
  • I worry what people will think of my words
  • I fade to grey and then to black....

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Puddles and Pink Rubber Boots

Spring is finally coming to our part of Alberta, albeit very s-l-o-w-l-y.  Massive drifts of crystallizing granules of snow still line our roads and pathways but birds are singing happily as they dip in and out of puddles.
Other little birds are also enjoying the puddles. Our neighbour's granddaughter, Sophie, who is a little over two years old, stomped happily in the largest puddles she could find in our quickly drying cul-de-sac. Pink rubber boots, pink splash pants and her pink parka kept her warm and dry while her little feet scampered through the water and her happy laugh joined the trill of the birds enjoying their own puddles (of course, sans the rubber boots!).
My own daughter, now 22 and also sans pink boots, helped me chip blocks of icy snow from our driveway today. East facing, it takes its time in melting although the neighbours on the sunny south side of the cul-de-sac are ice-free. It made me think of her love for puddles and how her pink rubber boots splashed merrily through many years of watery springs, rainfalls and unseasonably warm winters. Pink turned to purple and then to none. The past few years she has moved on to splashing through oceans in her life as a marine biologist. Who knew that her love for puddles (and keeping worms 'warm' in her pockets!) would lead to that?
I miss those pink rubber boots and our happily splashing little girl....

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Earthsong

The last weeks of winter are always so hard to get through. Seemingly endless days of grey, overcast skies, mounds of dirty crystallized snow, puddles and ice mixing into a slippery cocktail that coats the sidewalks and roads.
Winter’s beauty is long past, her coat patched and threadbare but hanging on nonetheless. The birds are returning, their songs echoing through the frosty mists but the earth sleeps on, shrouded by the dregs of a season reluctant to depart.
As the days slowly lengthen, the cold will eventually surrender to the warmth of spring. Soon, hopefully, the birds can cheerfully herald winter’s demise as the sun breathes life back into the frozen earth so its song can be heard one more time.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Cupcake Day

In the seniors' manor where my mom lives, they have a wonderful tradition - once a month, iced cupcakes are distributed to every resident in the complex. What a delicious idea!  Many of these seniors are on their own, no longer bake for themselves and get few visitors.  A luscious cupcake, delivered with a smile, is sure to brighten their day even if they don't wish to eat it but only to gaze upon its succulent beauty.
A dollop of glorious sweet icing adorning a fluffy light melt in your mouth concoction, a sprinkle of chocolate or rainbows lightly nestled on billowing folds of cloudlike softness. A treat for the soul, the eyes and of course the palate should one wish to partake of the sweet confection.
Just think how lovely the world would be if everyone, everywhere could have their own cupcake day.

Tuesday Night Writers

Each Tuesday night, a group of writers meet at the Spruce Grove Public Library to write, share and learn. Over the years, our numbers have grown and we have opened our hearts to each other with our writing.