Zero to Sixty, continued

architecture buildings business city

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

23.  Getting married. My husband, Tim, entered my life like a tornado. He was, and always has been, a force to be reckoned with. Funny, full of life, big-hearted, loyal, opinionated, joyful, energetic, frenetic, and in general a lover of life. I credit him with so much of the good in my life — loving him has taught me how to love myself.

24.  Being there for the birth of my grandchildren. Not in the delivery room! But there afterwards to hold each of those tiny, precious babies as they entered into the world and our family.

25.  Being a mom. I’ve said it hundreds of times — being a mother is the most important job I’ve ever had. And our son, Landon, has made that job such a wonder and a joy. Was I a perfect mom? No. But I gave 100% of myself to the task. It’s easy to look back now and say I should have done this differently, or, I could have handled that better, but, in the moments that were, I believe I was doing my best.

26.  White water rafting. This was something I’d always wanted to do. So, a few years ago, myself and two friends embarked on a trip down the Kicking Horse River. It was the year before the huge floods in southern Alberta and run-off had been extremely heavy with water levels much greater than normal. Our trip was supposed to be category 3 rapids — they turned out to be mostly category 5. It was terrifying! But exhilarating and incredible. We saw some beautiful scenery — unfortunately we weren’t able to take any pictures. Hard to do when you’re clinging for life to the side of the raft!

27.  My first trip to New York. Tim surprised me for Christmas in 2004. We had taken a trip to Ontario to spend Christmas with my parents, which I hadn’t done for many, many years. New York was a fabled place to me at that time. Some magical city that I didn’t actually believe I’d ever get the chance to see. Well, Tim made it happen. We traveled by train from Niagara Falls, New York to Manhattan. We were in Times Square for the 100th anniversary of the dropping of the ball on New Year’s eve. I will never forget the magic of that trip.

28.  My mom teaching me to play cribbage. I was never much good at math — I struggled so much with it in school I felt like an idiot. My mother loves to play cards and whenever she had a few extra minutes you could find her playing solitaire or, if there was a friend visiting, cribbage or rummy. Crib intrigued me. What were these fifteen-twos and threes they were always counting? So, she sat me down one afternoon and taught me how to play. I have loved the game ever since. Really, I love playing any game (except Monopoly and Risk) and I attribute that love to my mother.

29.  Writing my first-ever short story in high school and having my English teacher tell me I had talent.

 

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and. . . I’m 60

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Life has a way of showing you just what you need to see exactly when you need to see it.

I celebrated my 60th birthday yesterday. The day started out like any other — we woke up, we said good morning to one another, and we talked about what we were going to do. With the understanding, of course, that somewhere in those plans was a birthday dinner with family and friends.

My assumption was that it would be our son and his family, maybe my brother and his wife, perhaps one of my other brothers who live a few hours away and a few friends.

When we set out for town in the morning, to get breakfast and run errands, I was feeling emotional — I wanted more than anything not to be having this birthday. What was the big deal, anyway? Sixty, it’s just a number, and I’ve never liked having a big fuss made over me. Why couldn’t we just have a bbq on the deck, open some beer and wine and call it done?

All I can say is thank God I didn’t get my way.

Tim took me to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. The one in downtown Edmonton. We’ve been going there once or twice a year for over 40 years. Crazy. I had expected to see the group I mentioned earlier and I wasn’t surprised when I saw them sitting there. And suddenly, I was happy. Because, this, I realized, was something they were happy to be doing for me.

Then, they surprised me after all. As I was turning around to grab Tim my mother walked up to me and gave me a big hug. Beside her were two of my sisters. I couldn’t believe it. They flew in to help me celebrate this milestone that I’d been treating like a millstone. A little later, after having been fooled into thinking no one else was coming, my youngest sister and my niece from Lloydminster arrived. More tears of joy and gratitude.

It was a wonderful celebration and I can’t explain how absolutely wonderful and special it made me feel. In the big course of things, a birthday really is just another day. It will pass, and then there will be another day. BUT, what yesterday showed me about birthdays is this: it’s not just about you and how you feel about it, it’s about all the people who make you who you are and how they feel about you. It’s about letting them show you their love and being able to show them in return, just how grateful and blessed you are that they are in your life.

And Dad, I know you were there, too. I had a dream last night that I was lost and in trouble. You helped me out, helped me find my way to safety. Everywhere I looked were dimes, bright, shiny and new dimes. They were pouring down from the sky and as I gathered them up I felt you smiling down on me. I love you. I miss you. Thank you for our family.

A poem for today

I’m supposed to be working on a short story submission, but I got looking through my old poetry. I really like this one. Blackie was such a good dog. And I still miss her.

 

Blackie

©Kathy Larson

 

She was our first, and only, family dog.

We got her from the SPCA,

A little ball of black and tan fur.

Our son, for whom the puppy

Would be a companion and also

‘life lessons,’ named her:

Blackie Bear Rosa, a mouthful, for sure,

But he couldn’t settle on just one,

So we laughed and said why not?

Within days she became just ‘Blackie’;

It was the name her ears perked up to.

This puppy, who would eat with her

Back legs waving in the air made us laugh,

Made us glad to buy chew toys and treats

And special dog blankets and an old fashioned

Wind-up clock that we wrapped inside a baby

Blanket to keep her quiet and comforted at night.

While she was little she held our son’s attention,

But as with most ‘family’ pets, she soon became

Mine.

And I loved her, utterly and completely.

She was my companion on the days waiting

For the school bus to bring our boy back,

She took me on long, soul-searching walks,

Walked me out of depression, walked me out of

Walking out.

For fifteen years she was part of us and when

We had to take her in and put her to sleep

Part of me went with her.  I cried for weeks after.

Walking in the door expecting the pit-pat, pit pat

Of her coming to greet me, or waking in the night,

Sensing her still there, at the side of my bed,

Dropping my hand down to touch emptiness.

All that remained was a lighter spot on the carpet

Where her rug had lain for all those years.

In time, the pain lessened, but not the loss.

Now, I remember her as a dear friend,

Visit her in photo albums, and, on occasion,

When we’re all together, say, “Do you remember when. . .?”

 

Memories

Back in 2009 I took part in a poem a day challenge.  It was a lot of fun and a great writing exercise. I love poetry; though I don’t read nearly enough of it, and I write even less.

It’s a blah, mid-April day here in the Fort today.  For some reason this poem popped up in my memories.

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Water Tower, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Kathy Larson

©April 5, 2009

We’d see it as Dad rounded the corner on to John Street:
Unimaginably tall, bluer than the sky,
Thrillingly extra-terrestrial.
We’d all cheer and he would tell us to be quiet;
I’ll turn this damn car around right now, he’d growl,
And we’d hush, but we knew he wouldn’t.
Still, the threat was there. He was tired, who knew?
Mom, quiet beside him, readying to face her parents,
Another one of us added to her brood.
Us, squirming in the back on scratchy ‘Corinthian leather’,
Three days packed in mid-summer heat.
Endless games of “I-spy” and learning to hate Charlie Pride,
Conway Twitty and Connie Francis.
Always, someone would pee their pants,
Though they tried hard not to,
But Dad wouldn’t stop, and then, he would.
To late. We learned, over time,
To cover for one another,
Whispering: Watch for the water tower.
The promise of cousins, roasted corn and a trip to Pepe’s
Along magnolia-shaded streets could make us forget anything.
Tell us the story about Man’o’War again, Mom, we’d plead,
And she would, thrilling us all with a fearless girl-child vision of herself
Weaving between the legs of this mythical beast.
Grandpa, proud, terrified, calling her softly to him
As stable hands trembled, witnesses to the unbelievable.
He was a nice horse, she’d say, I knew he would never hurt me.
Then Dad would start in with his stories
Of the famous Indian braves, Falling Rock and Sharp Shoulders.
Along the way we’d get tales of the princesses Ida Know and Who-me.
Somehow, the miles melted away, ‘til, despite the fighting,
The stories, the laughter, the crying and the ‘claw’,
The water tower loomed before us
Promising sanctity,
Delivering us unto heaven.

 

Day 76 — It seems I’m falling behind

It seems I’m falling behind in my goals. But perception isn’t always accurate.

Despite the longer gaps in my blog posts I have been quite busy working on my goals. Purging is continuing in all its forms and I am feeling lighter, clearer and more in control every day. My daily walks continue and my body and mind are definitely the better for that.

I spent the first two weeks of March back in my home near Edmonton. The first week, I watched my grandchildren while their parents went on a holiday. I had a great time and it was the perfect way to start off a new month. I love great beginnings!

The second week involved taking care of business at home. Vehicle check-up, personal check-up — the joy of having to find a new doctor — sigh. Then there was chores at home — the house needed a good cleaning prior to company arriving. Window frames needed painting, a shower head needed fixing, and electrical switches needed replacing — thank you Landon!

During that second week I was struggling. Struggling with the enormity of repairs and maintenance our house needs, struggling with feelings of self-doubt, struggling with anxiety over all the things I cannot control. When I get like that it can be very difficult to remain positive and to see that there is a way out from all the dark thoughts, the overwhelming need to BE IN CONTROL. Lucky for me I had my grandpuppy Hades to walk every day and, later in the week, we were expecting company.

Walking Hades got me out into the fresh air and allowed me to escape my internal drama for an hour or so. And because I could turn it off for that little while it made returning to it easier to cope with. Slowly, I was able to tell myself that I was doing fine, that everything would be fine, that my house was fine — you get the idea.

By the time our company arrived — Tim’s brother and his wife — relatives we consider good friends, I was, not to be facetious, in control. My house was spotless. The dangerous electrical switches had been replaced, my vehicle was given the thumbs-up, the shower worked properly and my window frames were painted. I could relax. Kind of.

Because, of course, you want everything to be perfect when you have guests. Not that I needed to worry — our guests are incredibly easy to get along with and so much fun to be around that we always have a great time. Spending a few days with them got me to let go and just enjoy our time together.

Something that was said to me a long time ago when I was a girl of about 13 or 14 by a friend of my mother’s came back to me during that second week. I had been complaining  to her about how messy our house was and about how I hated always having to be cleaning up. Why, I remember asking this person, couldn’t my mother keep a clean house (sorry Mom) and how embarrassing it was to me when people came to visit. My Mom’s friend, whom I had been babysitting for, said: Kathy, people don’t come to visit your mother’s house; they come to visit your mother.

Since then, I have, of course, heard that same adage repeated in many different ways and forms. And I’ve always thought how true it was, while in the back of my mind a little voice whispered: yes, but not your house. Your house will be neat and tidy and people will come and visit and be SO IMPRESSED. 

Well, guess what. I finally realized the actual truth of those words. No one cared that I had spent two days dusting, washing and scrubbing — they cared that they were there. With us. Laughing, visiting and living.

When I think back to those days when I was that snotty, opinionated girl I see that our house was not dirty — it was messy — how could it not be with ten people, a dog and two cats living in it? But it was always (almost) filled with laughter and fun. Just about any day after school we could come home and find my Mom sitting at the kitchen table having coffee or, occasionally, a golden Cadillac or a grasshopper with one of her friends while they played crib or double solitaire. My brother’s and sister’s friends came and went like our house was their own. My parents made them all feel welcome and comfortable.

We didn’t have a lot, but what we had they weren’t ashamed of.

Why, oh, why does it take so long to learn these simple lessons?

Purge away – Day 8

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Because I’m up in Fort McMurray it’s a little hard for me to do any really meaningful or substantive purging. But I tried.

I got rid of last year’s calendars. And put up our new ones.

Last year’s calendars were full of birthdays, appointments, holidays and the usual stuff we write on calendars. I imagine yours are just like mine. I like to go back through them and see what we did over the previous 12 months before tossing them out. It’s a nice reminder of how we used our time.

The calendars we use these days are a lot different than the ones we used to have. We don’t just get the free ones anymore from the bank or the local Chinese food restaurant. (Though I do still take them. After all, they’re free!)

My DIL usually makes us one that features their family. That’s always my favorite.  This year I made my own calendar that has everyone’s birthdays, our holidays and other important dates pre-printed on it. Life is so much easier when I don’t have to try and remember everything.

Also this year, I made a calendar for my mom that has pictures from the last year of dad’s life.  Snapshots of some of the great moments of us all together one last time, some poignant shots of the two of them enjoying the little time they had left – decked out in their matching Maple Leaf’s pajamas, always a smile on their faces.

I like calendars. I like them not just for their practicality, but for the pictures,  as well – especially the ones of family. This year, the one from Lee’s Restaurant in Gibbons has pictures of animals on it. Who doesn’t like pictures of cute puppies and kittens, colorful birds and glittering fish?

The free calendar is a standard size with decent sized squares for jotting appointment times and birthday reminders in. The family calendar, however, is fantastic. It’s a big one, with lots of room for writing on it.  And seeing my grandkids’s smiling faces each day brings me immeasurable joy. Just no way to beat that combination of form and function.

I know this was a small act of purging today, and really, all I did was make room for replacements. But I figure not all purging has to be about making a permanent hole in the stuff we collect, sometimes it can be about opening up a little more space for possibilities.

 

100 days of purges

January 1, 2018 — Day 1

I purged the left over sticky toffee pudding that I made for Christmas dessert.

It was lovely. It was fattening. It was made with 1 and 1/2 pounds of butter, copious amounts of sugar and smothered with a sauce made from more butter, cream and sugar. I had made a huge pan of it because we were expecting 22 for dinner on Christmas Day at my brother’s house. Only 15 could make it, so there was a lot of leftover pudding. (I am baffled as to why this dish is called pudding, because it is not at all pudding-like. Unless it is drowned in delicious sauce.)

I’ve been having ‘a little piece’ every other day or so, because I didn’t want it to go to waste. Instead, it’s been going to my waist.

So, this morning when I was considering what to purge I immediately thought of my pudding. Before I could have time to rationalise my decision I picked up the plate, flipped open the garbage can and let all that artery-clogging goodness go. My husband hollered in horror — “I could have taken that to work!” He doesn’t need it, nor do his co-workers, any more than I do. I felt good about saving them/us.

From there I threw out the stale sugar cookies, a jar of dill pickles I’d made in 2014 and which had been languishing in the fridge since about 2015.

I also did some emotional purging. I wrote on Facebook about 2017.

It was a year of milestones. My father turned 80 in July. He and my mother celebrated their 60th anniversary on October 18th. My grandchildren flew for the first time to attend our family reunion — the last one my father would attend. He died in October of kidney cancer after being diagnosed in May. My seven siblings and I were all in the same place for the first time in many years. We settled stuff. We bonded in grief and heartache and sadness and anger. We realized the depth of our love for one another and how we owe so much to our parents.

That was day 1.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Just a little rant. . .

It’s been a while. But I’ve got something to say and this is quite likely the best place to say it.

I wish to GOD that people would stop posting all those melodramatic posts about what it means to be a mother.

Don’t get me wrong – I know being a mom is a tough (tuff) job – but come on people! It’s not like you’re working in the salt mines or digging ditches in 100 degree heat all day!

The tone of all these posts that get circulated on the internet is that somehow being a mother is akin to being in shackles and that there is absolutely no respite or appreciation or compensation for the job.

I call bullshit!

I don’t get why all these women who wanted a home and family are now so bent on getting attention and recognition for their ‘sacrifices’.  It wasn’t a sacrifice — it was a choice. A choice women since the dawn of time have made. And they made it knowing that it would change their lives. Mostly for the better.

Despite all the mewling and whining and ‘woe-is-me’ out there, I believe most women who have been mothers or are mothers just get on with the job of being mom. That includes being wife, housecleaner and chief bottle washer. They get up each morning with a smile and greet their families without the marks of self-flaggelation upon their backs.

You don’t see a gazillion weepy-penned articles or posts about what it means to be a dad.  If all these women crying the blues think they’ve got it so bad, think they’re so under-appreciated and under-valued, why don’t they try being the dad for awhile. Gain a little perspective, then talk about sacrifice.

I was a mom. I loved it. Not every day did I love it, but 93% of the time I have to say, I completely loved my job. To me, it was the most important thing I could ever do in my life. Raising a child, teaching him, guiding him, providing for him. I chose that, no one forced me into it.

I was lucky, I had a husband who worked full time while I stayed home. Occasionally I worked at a part-time job when we wanted extra money for holidays or some big purchase. But mostly, I got to be at home – a place I took pride in, a place I felt blessed to have, a place I knew was my responsibility to keep clean and maintain as a trade-off for being a stay-at-home wife and mother.

I don’t get how the women in these posts and articles feel they need all this validation. They’re constantly bemoaning the fact hat their husbands come home and question them about what they did all day when they walk in the door to chaos and no supper. Well, I question that, too.

What the hell are they doing all day? Surfing Pinterest for the next great birthday theme so that they can impress all the other whiny-mommies? Or, perhaps it’s searching for butt and ab exercise routines that can be done in under 20 minutes? No, more than likely it’s for smoothie recipes to help them lose weight.

And, if it’s not Pinterest, then they’re probably on FaceBook or Twitter or just texting to complain about how hard their little lives are. Meanwhile their kids are being ignored, the house is a mess and they don’t get why their husbands are  no longer attracted to them.

It’s time for women to stop acting like martyrs. Time for them to step up, do their job, and do it well. Time for them to stop begging on social medial for respect and acknowledgement. Nobody, except movies stars and athletes, gets to do that.

You’re a mom — get used to it.

 

Monday evening — the end of the Family Day weekend

It’s 9 o’clock Monday night — should be making a lunch for tomorrow, but screw it. I’ll do it in the morning.  I’m just not ready to accept that it’s time to go back to work tomorrow.

We had a great FD weekend.  Went and watched our grandson, Timothy, play hockey yesterday.  He scored a hat-trick!  He’s six years old.  It was just too much fun.

On Saturday night I gave my love a red rare steak with scallops and mushroom risotto.  A Valentine’s Day meal, because the day before (actual Valentine’s Day) we had a crappy lunch at Ricky’s All Day Grill in St. Albert.  And, he kind of deserved it for the beautiful roses and the pink toolbox he got me!  I’ve always wanted my own toolbox — now I can go around fixin’ things to my hearts content. Like that’ll happen!

On Sunday we took our three grandkids swimming at Servus Place.  Always fun until some little stinker vomits in the kiddie pool.  Eeew!  We swam and splashed and soaked and steamed until I deemed it was time to get out and have a snack.  So, that we did and then the kids went to play in the jungle gym area for a bit.  A fun afternoon.  Home again, I got to fixin’ fajitas for supper. Mmmm, love fajitas.  Made me wish Tim and I were back in Puerto Vallarta.   Landon and Jenn arrived, and we had a nice family visit.  By the time they left around eight o’clock I was done.  Managed to stay up for another hour or so and then it was lights out.

Today, I just sort of putzed about the place.  Read a few more chapters of book five of Game of Thrones (I don’t want it to end — I’m trying to pace myself, but so bloody much is happening I can’t stop myself from reading on).  I cleaned off my dresser (unbelievable the amount of dust under all the crap I dump on there!)  Thinned out some of my hair care products (when did I become so obsessed with my hair?) and corralled the dozens of different tubes and jars of hand creams and oils I’ve collected to try to prevent my hands from getting any drier.  That’s a pointless battle.  The dresser looks great, though!

And now, it’s time to get ready for bed. I’ll check in on the Olympics one more time — so proud of our athletes!

August 3 & 4th

Day 216 and 217 — Tim and I hit the road for Lethbridge and a visit with Rick and Connie.  we’re going to spend a few days with them before the family reunion next weekend.  We’re going to go up to Beauvais with them for a few days.  Ah, to relax in the mountains by a lake!  Can’t wait.  Then, we’ll come back to their place and get ready for everyone else to descend.  Looking forward to a fantastic time with family.

Yesterday, we went to Coaldale and visited the Alberta Birds of Prey centre there.  (Will post pictures separately)  What a great place!  Loved how they had the birds displayed — some are in large enclosures, but they tether the big birds on perches in the open (under shade, of course) and it is wonderful to be able to see them up close.  We were lucky enough to hit the place at the time they were going to be exercising one of the bald eagles.  His name was Lincoln, and he was magnificent.  The handler — a volunteer — as I believe everyone working at the centre is was very engaging.  He invited kids to give a couple of the eagles a shower after Lincoln was done flying, and then told us about Spirit, a golden eagle.  Spirit was blinded by a shotgun pellet.  Brought into the shelter as a young bird he’s been there for 13 years.  I would have to say that he is probably the centre’s mascot.  He picked Spirit up and invited everyone to get their picture with him.  He is so tame and gentle that you are able to put your face right up to his.  Of course, I had to do that! 

I highly recommend that if you’re in southern Alberta you stop in Coaldale and take in the birds of prey facility.   Just watch out for the circling flocks of seagulls — I left with a not-to-nice souvenier on my white t-shirt! 

 

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