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!

Spark

I started this as an entry into some forgotten competition.  Was cleaning off what used to be my ‘writing’ desk and stumbled upon it.  Just a bit of the flotsam and jetsam that I sometimes manage to get on to paper.

 

Spark

I always wanted an Easy Bake oven, I tell her.  She looks at me with the incredulous look only an eight-year-old can have.  Her eyes say:  They had Easy-Bake ovens when you were little?  I smile.  Answer:  Yes, Hailey.  She smiles that bright quick smile I adore; caught.

My parents couldn’t afford it, I say.  She hmmphs and stirs the itty bitty bit of batter that will make three miniature whoopee pies. I am enjoying this more than I imagined I would.  Why couldn’t they afford it, she asks just before she pops a finger sticky with red velvet cake batter into her mouth.  Her eyes, big and blue, are searching.

Because I had seven brothers and sisters I say simply.  Her eyes widen.  She’s met all but one of my siblings, but she doesn’t compute that they add up to so many.  Well, I have Timmy and Ethan, she says matter-of-factly and Santa brought me one.  Oh, oh, this could be tricky.  I asked for one for my birthday, I say, hopefully dodging the “is Santa real?” question.  She considers this, is silent a moment, then just says: oh.

Easy-Bake oven baking is a lot more complicated than real baking.  All those tiny amounts of cake mix and water and icing and sprinkles are difficult to deal with.  The ‘whoopee cushions’ as Hailey calls them turn out okay, though.  They are messy as hell to put together but we do a pretty okay job of it.  There is one for each of us:  Grampa, Gramma, Hailey, Timothy and Ethan.  There is one extra.  I tell Hailey it is hers, because she’s the cook.  She’s pleased with that.

We all eat our one-and-a-half inch pies and make a suitable fuss about how good they are.  Truthfully, I find them rather dreadful and shudder to think of the myriad chemicals we’ve ingested.  But, she’s my granddaughter, they my grandsons; and I’ll do anything for them.  At that I wonder:  shouldn’t I have protected them from this, then?  What kind of grandmother allows her grandchildren to be poisoned with artificial colourings and flavouring?

The indulgent kind, that’s what kind.

And then it’s time to clean up.

January 1, 2013

Day 1 — I spent the very first moments of this New Year with those I love the most — my husband, my grandkids and though they weren’t here, my son and and his wife.  Landon called just after the midnight bells  — or, in our case, the televised bells in Niagara Falls — rang.  To me, that is happiness at its apex.

A post-Christmas post

So, here it is December 28th.  Christmas came and went in a flurry of activity.  It was one of the happiest Christmases I’ve enjoyed.  Everyone was relaxed and into the spirit — Tim and I have days of down-time following ‘the big day’ and that has been a wonderful bonus.

I really don’t have too much to say about Christmas itself, other than what I’ve stated above — it seems the older I get the less important gifts have become — it’s more about spending time with people you love and taking the gift of those times away with you.  Don’t get me wrong, gifts do still play a part, but I worry less about how much I’m buying and concentrate more on how happy what I’m giving will make the recipient.  So, if it’s one or two meaningful things as compared to a truckload of stuff that will be forgotten the moment it’s opened, that’s the way I’ve gone.

One of my favorite memories of these holidays will be the night the kids came over for our Griswold Family Christmas night.  We watched Nat’l Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a tradition) put out snack and finger food and just sat around eating and laughing and watching the kids (who really didn’t sit still for much of the movie).  Ethan decided that the Dickens’ Village display in the kitchen was far more interesting than the Griswold’s and their problems.

I found him rearranging everything and driving his flourescent green and purple HotWheels cars through the tiny plastic-cobblestone streets.   It was delightful.  He gave me  a big smile when I asked him what he was doing and said:  “This needs go here, Gramma”  as he picked up some tiny people and shoved them into the entrance of the church.  When he was finished there were lamp posts dangling off the edge of the shelf and groups of little porcelain people huddled together as if in fear of some unseen, monstrous danger, but everything was intact.  He toddled off to the next thing to catch his attention — a candy cane — which I am still wiping traces of off various surfaces around my house.

All in all, this Christmas break has been just the break I needed.

Wishing all a season of joy and happiness for the coming New Year.

Images of winter 2012

Here’s a collection of pictures from our winter so far.  It’s been a true winter this year — it began early and it ain’t lettin’ up for nothin’!  Hope you enjoy them.

Sunday evening, Dec. 2, 2012 — It’s comin’ on Christmas

Like Joni sang:  “It’s comin’ on Christmas; they’re choppin’ down trees. . .”

The 2011 Larson Family Christmas tree

The 2011 Larson Family Christmas tree

We went out this morning to cut down the Larson family Christmas tree.  Gunlor Pines has been providing us with our tree for over 20 years.  And so it was with hot chocolate, blankets and many layers of winter clothes that we headed off kind of early this morning with visions of the perfect tree leading us on.

Alas, we got to Gunlor only to find out it was closed.  And then, double alas, we found out it had been sold!  My daughter-in-law managed to contact the former owners who kindly told her that the place was closed on Sundays, but we could call and make an appointment for the next weekend.  (Saturday only.)  While we were there another vehicle pulled up — that made 3 of us wanting trees.  So, Jenn contacted the new owners, but they weren’t interested in coming to open up.

I’m thinking their little tree farm venture isn’t going to last too long. Ah, but I digress.

The kids did an internet search and found out there is another tree farm about 2 hours south of Edmonton.  They considered going, but it was getting late.  Tim and I had tickets for the Vinyl Cafe Christmas show, so there was no way we could go.  We had sadly accepted the reality that there would be no freshly cut nine-footer this year.  (In truth, I wasn’t all that sad.  And while I’m talking truth I have to admit that I’d much rather have a multi-coloured pre-lit artificial tree that is only about 7 ft tall.  It would make my life much easier.)

And so it has been decided that next weekend it’s Gunlor on Saturday, or the new place on Sunday.  Whichever it is I probably won’t be going.  We’ve got family coming for the weekend so I’ve got cooking and entertaining to take care of.  However it plays out come next weekend we’ll have our tree.  I’ll play Joni Mitchell while we bring it in the house and then I’ll put on It’s a Wonderful Life while I shred my fingertips as I string the lights.

Though I wish I had a fake tree I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I do love the smell of a real tree, and, that once it’s up and decorated it truly is a special thing and something that helps get me in the Christmas spirit.  It takes me back to trees past and all the memories hung upon countless branches.

Every year I go to the fancy greenhouses and take in all the beautiful Christmas displays with the designer trees in all their fashionable colours.  There are blue trees, copper trees, pink trees, red trees and silver trees.  Black trees, gold trees, sparkly trees.  And, yes, even green trees.  Besides all the colours there are different shapes and sizes.  Two-footers through to 12 foot giants.  Fat, full branched ones and skinny, one-sided trees.  Trees that will fit in corners and trees that hang upside down.  (I don’t like the upside down trees, they look so odd!)

I always aspire to change my tree decorating habits; I envisage a glittering masterpiece of red and gold, feathers and velvet streamers.  Something worthy of gracing the pages of Martha Stewart Living or House & Home.  But, in the end I turn away from those glimmering decorations and turn to my boxes of treasured ornaments, the ones I’ve spent my lifetime collecting.  They’re what really makes me smile.  And as I hang each shiny bauble, each hand-crafted paper ornament that my son made, or each ornament collected on holiday I’m reminded that our tree is history of us.

When my grandkids come over I love to point out this one or that one and tell them a little story about how it came to be.  I’ve started adding the ones they make now and try not to think to far ahead into the future when perhaps I’ll be adding ornaments from great-grandchildren.

In the end, I suppose, it doesn’t matter whether the tree is real or fake.  What matters is what you make of it.

Monday, near the end of November

It’s hard to believe, but this month is nearly at an end.  December is a mere 5 days away.

December.

Christmas.

The longest night of the year.

The beginning of the depths of winter.

It has been an exceptionally rough Fall this year.  For me, anyway.  I’ve had what I think is more than my fair share of trials and tribulations.  That may sound like whining, but I’m being honest when I say it’s been a helluva long haul.  And it ain’t over yet.

Oh, no.  There’s still plenty coming my way.  Only now, I’ve managed to gain a modicum of perspective and I think I’ll manage to get myself through without too much trouble.  (That’s my fervent hope, anyway.)

I’ve had help from those nearest and dearest who have listened, talked, calmed and helped me see that it isn’t as bleak as I sometimes paint, and when I’ve felt that I’ve painted myself into a corner they’ve been there with the rags and the thinner to help show me the way out.  I truly am blessed.

Sometimes, it’s easy to lose your perspective.  Easy to give into the dark thoughts and fears that wait for the times when you’re feeling weak and vulnerable.  But, with perseverance and love and kindness, eventually you’ll see that all the good, joyful, wonderful bits that make life bearable are still there and that they can overcome your fears and insecurities.

I don’t know why, really, it was so hard for me this year.  Usually, I’m pretty tough.  I can take just about anything and bounce back ready to fight.  But this time around. . .

. . .I don’t know.  The fight seemed to go out of me.  I’m tired of fighting, I guess.  And that confused the hell out of me.  Because if I’m not ready to fight, then what am I to do?

I know what I want to do — and that is simply just to be.  I want to relax in the evenings and bake cookies if I feel like it.  I want to go out for leisurely strolls in the cold winter evenings, even though I hate the cold.

I want to curl up on the couch and read.  Pick up the crochet book and the yarn I bought.  I want to rearrange my bedroom.  I want to wander over and see what my grandkids are up to and then wander back home and have a hot cup of tea and go to bed.

But right now I’m not capable of any of that.  Right now I’m simply rallying.  Rallying my defences — physical, mental and emotional.  And that is taking a lot out of me.  Slowly, slowly I’m beginning to feel strong again, a little bit of the fight in me is showing through again.  It won’t, I don’t think, ever come fully back.  And that, I believe, is because I won’t let it.

It’s time for me to take care of me.  There’s only so much of yourself that you can give away before something inside you gives way.  It’s been a tough lesson, one I would have thought I was too old to learn.

Apparently I was wrong.

I’m hoping that my mind is a little clearer a little more free again and that one of these days I’ll start writing something besides these angsty, self-analysis posts.  Until then, thanks to everyone who has continued to check in on my meagre and sporadic offerings.

The glass half full — with cranberries!

Thursday, bloody Thursday

I only wrote that because I had nothing else to say.

Lately, I feel like that all the time.  It’s been quite a struggle this past month.  But maybe, just maybe I’m beginning to see an end to it.

I hope so.  Because going around pretending to be happy is HARD.  I want to stop pretending.

Sometimes, as I said about a week ago, life just sucks.  There’s not a damn thing you can do about it but keep on living.

And so, I have.  I’ve gone to work, I’ve done an excellent job (I think) in a less than wonderful environment.  I’ve managed to stay on top of Union business that I’d rather have just forgotten about, I’ve dealt with difficult people, difficult situations and managed to maintain my respectability and sanity.  I’ve weathered my own little emotional crisis and have, amidst it all, found time to vacuum the living room and clean the bathroom.

Reason to celebrate!  And, at least, smile a little bit.

Maybe it’s just the turning of the weather, the cold, hard fact that winter is nearly here.  We did, after all, have snow today.  The skies were gray, the wind was cold and tempers were frayed.

We’re waiting for the thermometer to finally drop well below 0 before we have to make that inevitable trip down into the basement, where we’ve got the winter boots stowed away in the space under the stairs.  It’s a gloomy thought if you’re not 10 years old.

The thought that my grandkids are probably all looking forward to the magic of the first ‘real’ snowfall — the kind that blankets the world in white and transforms it into something new, strange and wonderful — is the only thing about the coming winter that can make me anticipate it in the slightest.

Once upon a time I enjoyed waiting for that first big snowfall because I loved the sense of surprise and wonder it brought to my son’s eyes when he saw it.  Sadly, now, I’ve lost that.

When it’s just me staring outside into the dark morning, knowing that I’ve got to spend 5 minutes brushing the damn stuff off my car before I can leave for work all I can do is think of it with loathing.

Ah, tomorrow is Friday.  For that I give thanks.

Wednesday, blustery Wednesday

Aargh!  They are forecasting snow flurries for today!

It’s too soon, I say, too soon!

Ah, well, it was bound to happen.  We do live in the frozen god-damned North after all.

I’ll just try and remember the beautiful summer we had and the absolutely stunning month of September.  Nothing to complain about there, that’s for sure.  But still, snow?  On October 10th?  It’s just not fair.

This is going to be a quick ramble about the past couple of weeks.  We celebrated our 33rd anniversary on Sept. 29th and spent a wonderful, somewhat leisurely weekend at home.  Tim bought me some beautiful roses and we went for dinner at what was once one of my favorite restaurants, The Creperie.  Sadly, it was not as good as I remembered it being.  In fact, the whole meal was a complete let-down.  The place is old, an institution, really, but whereas some institutions have worked hard to cultivate and maintain that specialty of feeling that goes along with such a designation The Creperie has merely stagnated.

The decor is too worn and frayed to be considered quaint or antiquated; poor Tim was nearly crippled by the time they got around to bringing him a chair that had even a tiny bit of support.  The tables are too small and wobbly — every time the waiter brought something to the table I had to lift my wine glass for fear of it winding up in my lap.

The food was barely mediocre — our parmesan crisps (cut up crepes deep-fried and then dusted with garlic and parmesan) were a soggy, oily mess — inedible.  My chicken cordon bleu was overcooked bordering on burnt, the vegetables were cold and the ‘new’ potatoes were anything but.  Tim said his crepes were fine, but nothing remarkable.  Dessert was a let-down as well.  Pre-frozen then thawed ice-cream filled crepes doused with store-bought chocolate and raspberry sauces.

The service was adequate, but not what I’d consider attentive.  When we mentioned the inedible crisps the response we got was, “yes, it’s a always a mixed bag when you order those”.    Wtf?  But, I had promised Tim I wouldn’t make a fuss seeing as it was our anniversary, so I just told the waiter to take them away.  Then, when we mentioned that Tim’s back was killing him because of the horrible chair he was sitting in and that we would like a replacement, he said he’d see what he could do.  Well, his stellar efforts brought Tim a chair just as we were eating dessert.

I have every intention of writing to the management of The Creperie to let them know of our horrible evening, but I’m terrified if I do they’ll offer us a coupon or something to return and I just don’t think I could.

On to better experiences. . .

We celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada last weekend.  We had our three grandchildren for most of the weekend and that was a blessing.  It was tons of fun — just the medicine I needed.  Prior to that I had been feeling kind of down in the dumps — I think it’s the changing of the seasons.  But with their boundless energy surrounding me I couldn’t help but be lifted out of my funk.

Monday, we went over to my son and daughter-in-law’s new home here in Bon Accord and had a lovely Thanksgiving meal.  It was simple, delicious food — roast chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, carrots, broccoli, gravy and stuffing.  Followed by pumpkin tarts and apple crisp — which I supplied.  Grandma always does dessert!

After we got home I decided to go out for a quick walk to help settle my tummy and I realized as I walked just how great my life really is.  I had spent a great deal of time earlier in the day talking to my parents and my siblings and that was a joy.  I got to spend precious time with my son and his family, I didn’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, my husband finally finished our deck, I have a lovely, comfy home in a small, quiet town where I can safely go out for a walk in the darkening evening.  And, to top it all off as I strolled about the streets of Bon Accord the northern lights came out to play.

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful weekend.

Life and the Concept of Clutter

Sounds like I’m writing a philosophical thesis, doesn’t it?  But, I’m not.  It’s just a few thoughts on a subject that bugs me — and millions of others, I suppose — the dreaded ‘c’ word, clutter.

My husband and I have fought many battles over what I call clutter and he calls history. It’s a collection of stuff that we’ve accumulated over our 35 years together.  Some of it’s good stuff, most of it is not.  There’s a lot of stuff we inherited from his parents and that is a particularly touchy area.  There is all the stuff of Landon’s, our son, that I’ve kept.  Our home is packed with bits and pieces of holidays, photographs, art (the kind we could afford), old toys, china teacups, pottery, glass, miniatures, cigar and cigarette cases, rocks, kitsch, junk.

Ah, and there it is: junk.  That’s what usually causes the fight.  (And just so I’m clear about this — no, Tim and I did not have a fight about our ‘junk’ — I woke up this morning thinking about clutter and what it means to each of us.)

Tim’s idea is that our clutter is a form of history.  And I’m beginning to see his side.  My idea is that it is a lot of useless stuff that needs to be gone through and gotten rid of in case we die in a fiery car wreck and our son gets stuck with the onerous job of dealing with it all.  I’ve tried pointing this out to Tim numerous times, because it is what he and his brothers had to do after their parents died (not in a fiery car wreck, though).  He says that although it was tough he was glad they did it.  It brought back a lot of memories of their lives as boys with their parents.

Landon won’t have that because he is an only child, and so, I guess, my reasoning is to protect him from the loneliness of such a task.  But, who knows?  Perhaps he would include his children and share with them some of the memories he had of growing up with us.  It’s impossible to know.

In thinking about my need to clean and purge I’ve come to the realization that it was born from the influence of magazines and television shows.  I love to pick up home decor magazines and leaf through them oohing and aahing over the gorgeous rooms and sparkling bare countertops.  I eye photos of polished wooden tables bare except for lavish bouquets of designer blossoms, and bedrooms with vast expanses of floors bare of anything save  hand-woven, rough-spun cotton throw rugs and I swoon with desire.

I read about ideas for taking treasured mementos and turning them into space-saving crafts — like making a collage of family photos on a wooden tea-tray, or decoupaging your children’s art onto a lamp base, or making mobiles out of old silver place settings handed down from Grandma or old Aunt Dottie.  These are fabulous ideas, and I tell myself that they would work, but then, I mention them to Tim and he gets a horrified look in his eyes.  You want to destroy our pictures?  And then, I get to thinking:  what happens if the project doesn’t turn out as nice as it should.  (This happens, trust me.)  Tim’s suggestion is to take the pictures, make copies and use them.  So, I’m then left with the prospect of still having the original photo clutter and a nice tea-tray that I won’t use, or having the original photo clutter and a tea-tray that gets shunted into a closet somewhere.

Which leads to my next big fear about clutter:  that we become hoarders.

I watch the television show, Hoarders.  It scares the bejeezus out of me.  It’s disturbing to see how out of control people can become when it comes to their stuff.  Could that happen to us, I wonder.  Already our basement is like a maze (even without the couple dozen boxes of my son’s family belongings, stored while they wait to move into their new home).  We have shelving units crammed to the rafters with junk, piles of wood and coffee cans filled with nails, screws, bits of this and bits of that.  Tim has at least a dozen different tool boxes and bags, none of which are full.  His workbench is a complete disarray of everything that just gets plunked there.

In the upstairs, just off our living room, is a closet where I keep my craft projects.  A couple of years ago I went through it and got rid of a bunch of stuff — but it is still crammed with projects I haven’t touched in years.  Beading, knitting, embroidery, calligraphy, painting, weaving, sewing, candle making — it’s all there in the dark, hidden beneath a dozen or so of our unworn coats.  Every year I say I’m going to get rid of those coats, but every year I hang them back up thinking there might be a need for them.  I do this with a heavy heart, knowing that there are plenty of people in our province who could use a nice warm, though slightly dated, coat come winter.  Still, I place them back on the hangers and close the closet door.  Out of sight. . .

. . .but not out of mind.  No, never out of mind.

Getting back to my slowly changing opinion about whether our stuff is history or junk.  I get where Tim is coming from.  Having a houseful of clutter is like having a houseful of interesting.  Those rooms that I so adore, the ones devoid of clutter?  Those would be boring after a while.  Especially to children.  With nothing to look at, touch or play with in such rooms, why would children even want to be in them.  Our rooms, though filled with clutter, and completely lacking any sense of design or decorating taste, are interesting.  When my grandkids come they always find something to ask about or to play with.  And Tim and I both enjoy sharing little stories with them about whatever it is they hold in their hands.

And, when we have visitors, people are always intrigued by some ‘thing’ we’ve got hanging around or sitting on a shelf.  It often amazes me what people notice, but I’m always happy to share a story with them.

And, so, that is why when I woke up this morning thinking with despair about having to dust my kitchen wall unit and the chore that it would be because there is so much junk in and on it, I remembered Tim holding Timothy up to the cupboard and taking out a small, painted metal horse that was part of a game he had when he was a little boy.  And I remembered the look of delight on Timothy’s face as Tim placed it in his hand, and how he listened so carefully while Tim explained how he used to play with it.

Someday, all of these things that have been a part of lives — the trivial, everyday bits and pieces — will be tiny reminders of who we were and that we were.  They are, in a sense, part of our history.

Still the question remains:   How do I achieve balance between history and clutter?  I’m going to leave it for a while; think about it while I dust and hold in my hands some of the past 35 years of my life.

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