July 23rd

Day 205 — Spent a lovely afternoon with my granddaughter and my sister-in-law.  Went for lunch at Cora’s (not all that good), then went out to Salisbury Greenhouses (lovely place) and afterwards, ice-cream at Dairy Queen (always good).

Hailey was a little confused at first about why Michelle and I would want to go see a ‘green’ house.  We laughed and tried to explain, but until we got there I don’t think she truly understood where we were going.  Thankfully, Salisbury, like most greenhouses these days, isn’t just full of plants.  They had lovely furniture, gift ware, jewellery, clothes and ornaments.  We had too much fun looking at jewellery and Hailey modelled purses and scarves for us.  She is becoming such a charming and funny young girl.

Went for a walk in the evening with my friend Shelly.  Stopped by for a quick visit at my son and daughter-in-law’s place, ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in ages and stood talking in the street for a good 15 minutes.  I love living in a small town!

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June 27th

Day 179 — Day one of the holidays — and it was lovely.  Got up went for a nice long walk along a different path.  Not the usual 30 minute circuit Heather and I usually navigate when I’m working.  The air was warm, even though we’d had a helluva storm last night.  Lots of thunder and lightning, and, of course, rain.  But, other than a couple of slight showers that was supposed to be the end of the 40 days and 40 nights we’ve been enduring.

I did a lot of little things today — made pineapple marmalade, tidied the house, took care of small chores I’ve been putting off since forever.  I even found time to read my book outside on the deck a couple of times.  (In case you hadn’t figured it out, my deck is my favorite place to be in the summer time.)

For dinner I made crab cakes and salad with asparagus on the side.  Of course, I ate it outside.  Then I finished off a nice little glass of white zinfandel and read a few more pages of my book before going back out into the garden.

I love not working!

June 24th

Day 176 — Well the first of the last 3 days of work before my holidays begin is done.  Two more to go.  Here’s hoping they go by quickly.

I managed to get out for that evening walk I’ve been talking about.  Went out for about an hour.  I forgot how much I enjoy that time to myself.  Time to think, to ponder, to work things out.  And then there was the getting reacquainted with the rythyms of my body as I walked along.  The ebb and flow of air in my lungs, the surge of my leg and torso muscles as they contracted and elongated with my steps and the swing of my arms.  It’s a pattern of motion that is so conducive to calm and constructive thought.  I am definitely going to get back into the habit.

Tuesday morning

We had a big snowfall last week — an early blizzard, actually.  And it appeared the snow was here to stay.

However, over the last couple of days the temps have soared — yesterday we reached plus 9.  So, we’ve got all this melting snow causing the roads and streets to be quite treacherous to walk on.

Heather and I ventured out yesterday morning and again today.  Yesterday was a trial; today was better.

As I walked home from her house down the crunchy, icy street in the dark it occurred to me that it wasn’t that the conditions were so much improved over yesterday as it was that I had got accustomed to walking on the ice and slippery snow.  I had gotten my ice-legs back.

Ice-legs, I thought.  Would that be like sea-legs?  And, yes, I suppose it would be.

Here on our in-bound prairie ocean we have to learn a different way of walking come winter time.  It gets forgotten in the halcyon days of summer and golden gleaming of fall, when we can walk with all confidence and sure-footedness of the flat-land creatures we are.  But, let there come a deep snow-fall followed by a chinook to melt that snow and turn it into a rutted, frozen coating of slippery muck and soon enough we re-discover that unique way of walking that makes us look like drunken penguins.

It’s a head down, eyes scanning the surface before us, teeny tiny steps on stilted legs, arms held slightly out to our sides with backs either ram-rod straight or hunched over at the shoulders kind of stance.  And this is how we make our way through winter.  Shoulders drawn up against the cold, living in constant fear that your foot is going to betray you as you place it gingerly down, hoping, hoping, hoping that the ice has enough of a frosting of snow or grit to give your step purchase.

It’s a precarious way to tread through 5 months of  a year, but, you get used to it.

Gotta love those ice-legs!

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.

Another Saturday morning

Today is the first official day of Fall.  And a stunning day it is.  This September has been glorious.  Fine weather, beautiful skies, bountiful produce and gardens still flourishing.

Bon Accord put on an event this weekend called the Summer Skies Equinox.  A 30 hour marathon of events and activities all associated with the night sky began on Friday evening and will culminate at just past midnight on the 22nd.

This morning, Heather and I got up and went for an early morning walk — 6:15-ish — not something we usually do on a weekend and ended it with a stop for a cup of tea.  Well, I had coffee (thank God they thought of us coffee drinkers!).  The ladies from Vintage Petals tea shop in Morinville set up a little tea station outside the Golden Jems building and a handful of us early risers stood about enjoying a steaming cup while we chatted and enjoyed the dawn.

The morning sky has been stunning these past few days.   Clear, un-marred by clouds and a gorgeous array of colour from cerulean blue on the horizon to darkest indigo high overhead.  Venus and Jupiter have been twin lights shining a bright greeting in the Eastern sky each morning, and we were lucky enough to see them in perfect alignment with the moon one morning.

Had I been up to it last night I’d have gone out to check the night sky through some amazingly powerful telescopes set up by local astronomers.  Heather and her husband did and she says they got some fantastic views of the planets and even a couple of nebulas.

But, I was satisfied with my walk this morning, the clear, crisp morning air, the sky overhead, the town still mostly asleep and our footsteps crunching along the gravel road as we made our way towards the warmth of tea and community.

This is a picture of the sky as I see it on my walks. Not my photo, but it is in Alberta.
I found the photo here: http://amazingsky.net/2012/09/12/september-dawn/

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A month of my holidays is nearly done.  But I can’t sigh about it.  No, I’ve been having a wonderful time.  And, I’m looking forward to the next four weeks with a happy heart.

Am I looking forward to going back to work?  No way!  But, unless I win that fabled lottery, that’s where I’ll be heading.  And, it will be okay, because I’ve had such a great summer.

I managed to get the basement bedroom painted and redecorated before my parents arrived — which was a big job.  I decided to cover the ceiling with wallpaper — a pretty idea, but a bit of a trial.  I scraped stucco, I washed until I thought I was going to wash all the paint off and then I re-painted.  Patched and painted.  In the end, I was very pleased with my (and Tim’s) efforts.  I learned how to install a light fixture (got a shock for my efforts — nothing I ever want to repeat), and learned how to install baseboards and trim.  I have now decided I need to go out and buy my own set of tools to handle small repair jobs around the house.

Why have I waited until I’m 54 to do this?  The mind boggles.

But, anyway.  On with my wonderful summer.  I have read three books!  Three!  Sitting outside on my deck in the sunshine.  It has been totally wonderful to do that.  Some of that time was spent in the company of my mother.  The two of us, noses in books just sitting there enjoying the pages and the warmth.  Lovely.

We took my parents up to the mountains for a few days.  Stayed in Canmore at the gorgeous Lodges at Canmore.  Very comfortable condo-style accommodations with a full kitchen, two bedrooms and baths, a balcony with a bbq.  Was nice to be able to get up and have coffee without having to run out to a restaurant.

We spent a day just taking Mom and Dad around sight-seeing.  We went up to Lake Minnewanka with the idea of going out for a boat tour, but it was ridiculously expensive and Mom didn’t really relish the idea of being on a boat anyway, so we opted to take a short walk along the shoreline.  Dad, Tim and I walked to the lower falls at Johnson’s Canyon, a spectacular walk along a board walk built alongside the mountain wall.  We got some pretty shots of the water rocketing its way through the canyon.

We also went up to Banff Hot Springs and had a soak.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t very crowded.  I think the water had a wonderfully soothing effect on my Mom’s knee, which she recently had replaced.  Because of the knee she wasn’t able to do as much walking as I had planned for us, but we still got to see a lot and had a wonderful time together.

I tend to forget sometimes that my parents are in their seventies.  I think of them still as being able to do anything.  The truth is they can’t, and this trip showed me that.  Dad’s hair is white, Mom’s is salt and pepper.  They tire quickly and take lots of little naps.  They’re content to sit and read, or do crossword puzzles or watch the Jays on tv.  There’s no more go, go, go.

Dad still goes out for a walk everyday — he still has some reserves of boundless energy — he just has to pace himself in spending them.  He took my bike out for a ride one day and also went golfing by himself.  Mom, on the other had is quite happy being sedate.  In all, my parents were out West for a few days over a month.  Two weeks with my sister and her family in Manitoba, then a week in Lloyd, then the rest of the time with Tim and I.

I was happy that they got to see their great-grandchildren for a couple of times.  Grandpa played harmonica with all the kids — the noisiest, most raucous, out-of-tune concert I’ve ever heard!  Whether there’ll ever be such an opportunity again, I don’t know.

This coming week I’m going to have my three darlings staying with me.  I have been looking forward to this 

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Spring when I hatched the idea.  Just to have them come and spend a week with us, hanging out, going to the beach, playing at the park, eating ice-cream.  They arrive this afternoon and I can hardly wait.

After they return home I’m going to spend some time just puttering around getting small maintenance-y things done before Fall arrives.  I am determined to have this house ready to go for the coming winter.  Tim will be working hard to finish part 2 our deck, which will be nice.  No more dirt, weeds or ants to contend with.

At the end of August we’ll be heading to Toronto to see Bruce Springsteen and his Wrecking Ball Tour.  I am so excited about that!  I love the Boss — can, and have, listened to his music all day.  I own darn near every album he’s ever made and I marvel at the man’s talent, musicality and social awareness.  He is a modern-day troubadour of the highest caliber.

I have been trying to put together a list of songs I hope to hear him play when we’re in TO, but when I checked out the set-list I haven’t seen any of them on it.  There are SO MANY songs I’d want to hear him play — maybe if I had a private concert?  Oh, one can dream!

Well, friends, that’s my blog for today.  Just a rundown of my happy summer.  Hope yours has been as wonderful.

Thank you

Thank you everyone who left me such lovely comments about the Kreativ Blogger award.  Sorry for the delay in replying, but, as usual I’ve been crazy busy. 

At this moment, I am typing on a computer in the Olds College Library.  It’s a beautiful spot.  Both the library and Olds.

I am here on a CUPE Weeklong School retreat.  Taking New Officer’s training.  As I’m now 3 years into my term as President of our Local I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘new’ officer, but I figured the training might have some relevant stuff. 

Turns out the first two days are all about public speaking.  Now, I can speak, some times endlessly.  I’m also fairly confident getting up in front of a crowd and saying a few words on behalf of whatever.  But, when it comes to personal stuff — that’s a whole new ballgame.

We started out having to give a short, 2-minute, blurb about ourselves.  I wrote it out no problem, but when I had to get up and read in front of everyone.  Well.  I was nervous.  My voice shook.  My hands shook.  I couldn’t look at anyone.  Of course, everyone was kind and told me I did fine, but I felt ridiculous as I walked away from the podium.

Today, I have to make a 5-minute speech.  We were told it can be about anything we like.  I chose New York.  Because, well, it’s the greatest city on earth (that I’ve been to) and I love it there.  Am planning my third trip. 

So, anyway I practiced my speech in front of my roommates last night.  Apparently I say um and and a lot.  Also I bob and weave.  Looks like I’m trying to dodge a fight.  The first time I did it, it took me 10 minutes.  Decided that I had to drop a lot of extra detail if I was going to make the 5-minute mark. 

Gave it another go.  Got it down to exactly 5 minutes, but still too many ums and ands.  Tried concentrating on standing still, but then I felt like a total knob.  Maybe I’ll just try swaying.  Oh, another thing I do, I wave my hands around.  But I think that could be a good thing.  Distract people from the panic-stricken look on my face.

On my walk this morning I gave myself a pep-talk.  This is not life and death.  This is just a short speech in front of people who will treat me kindly.  I’m third to go this morning, so I’ll be getting it over with quickly.  Once it’s done, it’s done.  I can move on and put it behind me.

I love to write.  I think I wrote a very good speech.  It’s the speaking part that terrifies me.  But, I can fake the confidence I need.  I know I can. 

And you know what else is really lovely about this place?  There are horses out behind the residences where I’m staying.  And they have foals.  New ones.  There are even a couple of sets of twins.  I watched them playing in their pens beside their dams this morning. 

God, they are the sweetest little things with long, gambly legs and their soft twitchy noses.  They were calling out to one another, but because they’re separated by fences the most they can do is bump noses before leaping away and kicking their little heels in the air. 

Meanwhile, moms are standing eyeing me like I’m some sort of predator.  With a soft nicker they’d summon their young back to their side.  They’d come, reluctantly, and mom would give them a reassuring touch, but the babies would toss their little heads in impatience and leap away. 

Hopefully, later, during a break I’ll be able to get back over to the pens when staff are present and get up close and personal with a couple of these little beauties.

The perfect snow

When Heather and I started out on our walk this morning we were joking about how the weather is never what it’s forecast to be.  But it was very mild  — 0 degrees — with barely any wind and just a few snowflakes drifting down around us.

As we got further into our walk, though, the snow began to get heavier.  Soon, it was that beautiful snow, the kind we remember from our childhood.  Big, soft, white, fluffy flakes that tickle your face as they land.  They stuck to my glasses and drifted into my mouth while I talked, making me choke a little.  But, it was nice.  We laughed and enjoyed watching the snow plummet down to the ground where it swirled and danced around our steps.

This is the kind of winter I like!  If it could always be this beautiful and heart-lifting I’d never complain.  Yes, there will be shoveling to do later, but it will be fun –like shoveling feathers.

My picture is a poor one, shot from my balcony door — all I had time for in the rush to get this done and then get ready for work.   Hope it conveys some of the beauty I enjoyed this morning.

So, it’s a New Year. . .

. . .  and, as always comes the resolutions.  This year, like last, I’ve resolved to not make any.

There, that’s done.

Now, onward.

As it is a new year, however, I can’t help falling into the trap of looking back and wondering what I can do to improve myself, or make better use of the life I have.  Therefore, I have come up with the following ‘to-do’ list, or perhaps ‘want-to-do’ list, might be a better way of putting it:

1.  Each day, do one thing that makes me happy — this could be to write a poem, take a picture, read a book, help someone in need, write a letter (a dying art, and one that I’ve tried numerous times to revive), post a blog, watch a silly sit-com (How I Met Your Mother; New Girl), visit the art gallery, take a walk in the sunshine, play a game with my grandkids, there are many, many things that make me smile, make me happy — I need only do one a day to keep my balance.

2.  Stay true to my goals — this means WORK on my novel.  I did not spend an entire month of my life writing like a fiend to just let those 50,000 words grow mold.  It also means focus less on work and more on life — at 53 (damn near 54 years of age)  I have come to the realization that work, though necessary, is not the keystone of life.  Life is.

3.  Read a book a month.  I love to read.  Really love it, almost as much as writing.  But, for the past 5 – 10 years I have not been reading as much as I once did.  I have let work, and work-related obligations, my unrealistic expectations of myself and what it means to be ‘successful’ take control of my life and my time and have, sadly, let reading slip away.  I have a small library of books that I’ve been given and that I’ve purchased just sitting collecting dust.  No more!  I will make friends with reading again.

4.  I will waste time looking through home renovation and decorating magazines.  And I will watch HGTV from time to time.  I love reading about ways to make your home beautiful.  Though I may not do any of things I read or watch I can gain excitement and grow enthusiasm from them, and who knows?  Maybe, just maybe I’ll find something that sparks my creativity.  I used to be quite creative  — stencilling tables, walls, furniture, painting old chairs, sewing dolls, making things out of wood — I would love to find that in me again.

5.  Start crocheting again.  Once upon a time I used to crochet all the time.  Over the past 15 years all I’ve done is buy wool and patterns.  Those materials that I haven’t donated or sold at garage sales are sitting in baskets and in cupboards.  The basket of wool makes a nice, ‘homey’ decoration in my living room, but, really, that wool would make a lovely shawl or scarf.  For me.  Ha, ha!

6.  Paint the bedroom my grandkids stay in.  It is such a hideous space right now.  Plain white, ugly grey accordion closet doors, makeshift shelves Tim put up shortly after we moved in.  I envision lovely sky-blue walls with billowy clouds on the ceiling.  I would replace the plastic mini-blinds with a venetian shade and light, cottony curtains.  I would remake the closet into a toy closet and add a small bookshelf for the books I’ve started collecting for them.  It would be a space as delightful as they are.

7.  Become a better, more accomplished cook.  It’s funny.  I’ve always liked cooking, but as I’ve matured I have come to love it.  I’ve always collected cookbooks and recipes — just ask my husband who is constantly telling me there is a better way to organize them than in the one cupboard and two drawers where I have them stashed and stuffed — and I like nothing more than to sit on the floor with recipe books and cut-outs spread all around me reading through them for inspiration.  I invested in a Kitchen-Aid food processor this Christmas — fantastic sale at London Drugs on Boxing Day!  Can’t wait to put it to the test.

8.  Develop a system for keeping my office neat and tidy and actually follow it for more than a week.  ‘Nuff said.

9.  Dream more.  Plan trips I might never get to take.  Fantasize about money I’ll most likely never have (the current Lotto Max commercial?  That’s me and Tim.)  Imagine a bright future for my son and his family in which money, stress and worry is non-existent.  See Tim and I living ‘down east’ temporarily like we’ve talked about ever since our motorcycle trip to visit my brother and his family in Dartmouth, NS.  Actually getting to meet Stephen King and blubber on to him about how great I think he is and how his writing and his life have inspired me.  Be short-listed for a writing prize or award.

10.  Organize my photos!  My lord I’ve got gazillions of them.  Digital cameras are wonderful, but the hundreds of pictures I’ve downloaded that never get erased, shared or printed is ridiculous.  So, I have decided to become ruthless.  And actually take the external hard-drive I bought for storing my pictures on out of its package and use the damn thing!

11.  Exercise regularly.  I walk a lot, but not nearly enough.  Once upon a time I used to walk for at least an hour every day, now it’s a half hour 3 – 4 days a week.  I have a treadmill and free-weights that I barely use.  I will endeavour to use them at least 3 times a week.  Yoga starts again on the 16th.  I bought myself a good mat and am determined to start doing a few exercises each morning before work.  This sounds exhausting.  Don’t know how successful this ‘to-do’ item will be.  Perhaps I’m just getting lazy.

12.  Blog at least once a week, but not more than twice a week.  Trying to blog everyday had become a major source of stress for me.  I was comparing myself to many other bloggers, some of whom post two to three times a day.  In my job I don’t have the time to blog (I’m rarely sitting at a desk) and, even if I did, my employer would not take kindly to me using my work time for personal pursuits.  I’ve tried blogging during my breaks, but that never works because I take my break in the classroom and there are always others in the room and you know what that is like.  No concentration, constant interruptions, etc.   Mornings are too rushed and in the evening, well, if I’m going to work on my novel I need the time for that.  So, once a twice a week it will be.

13.  Visit other bloggers on the days I’m not blogging.  There are so many fine bloggers out there, many whom I’ve subscribed to and yet I can’t seem to keep up with visits.  Currently, my email has over 400 notifications in it, none of which I’ve checked up on.  Two-thirds of these notifications are from bloggers I subscribe to.  I feel terrible that I never get around to reading half of what enters my in-box.  There is a ton of great writing there, I just know it, but I simply don’t have the time.  So, I will read what I can, when I can and comment accordingly.  The blogging world is made up of some of the most amazing, understanding people in the world and I know that this will be fine with them.  And really, it’s only just me.

14.  Worry less.  I used to joke:  If I don’t have something to worry about, then something must be wrong.

15.  Say “I love you” more often.  Such a simple thing, and yet, so often forgotten.  I want the people I care about to know it.  Saying those three little words is all that is needed.

16.  Thumb my nose at 2012 Doomsday predictions.  I read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy a couple of years ago.  It affected me more than I thought.  I have carried a seed of dread in the core of my being ever since finishing it.  I have allowed it to grow and it has spread a noxious weed that has tangled itself throughout my being.  It’s time to yank it out and burn it.  Better to believe in present day examples of the good of humankind when disaster strikes rather than some imagined apocalyptic  horror.

Well, that’s it.  My list of things to do this year and beyond.  I’m printing it off and placing it near my writing station.  On a wall, where it won’t get lost beneath a mountain of paper.  Now wait a minute, what number does that come under?

 

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