Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Unpacking the Memories

Each Christmas season as I dig out the boxes of  decorations I look forward to all of the memories that are about to descend on me.  I'm no Martha Stuart so no monochromatic or thematic decorating schemes for me.  What erupts out of those plastic storage bins and cardboard boxes are friendly faces and experiences, years and years of them.

Ornaments made out of leftover egg cartons (with lots and lots of glue and glitter), walnut shells made into little mice, paper rings so faded it's hard to tell if they're red or green anymore created by childhood hands just yesterday.  The lovely crocheted stockings made by our elderly neighbor when our twins were born, an ornate dream-catcher from a former student, so many from former students.  So glad I took the time to write their names and years on them as surely I wouldn't have been able to remember them all otherwise. The yellow-slickered fisherman from our trip to PEI is one of many ornaments picked up on memory-filled vacations.  I hang the craftpaper Rudolph, plug in the stocking lamp, settle mini Mr. & Mrs. Santa into their rocking chairs. The hand-made picture collage/advent calendar is hung and I've set the Santa cookie plate onto its spot on the mantle.  The Christmas book is on the shelf and the wonky elf has taken his place in the sleigh I made at a toll painting class many years ago.  So many of our small treasures were gifts from our small children, bought at our local craft fair which was a yearly event in itself.  I have fond memories of our children running around hiding what they had bought for each other when I knew it wouldn't be five minutes after we got home that they would have spilled the beans on all the goods they had gotten.  I'll tell you if you'll tell me :)
As I place each of these treasures into their own spots I am flooded with emotion (again!)  You see Christmas is one of those times of the year where it is about so much more than a "holiday".  It is a season of memories past and a time to create more memories to add to those that already fill your heart.  It is a time to treasure all life has given you and a time to celebrate all that life is.  Time now to go off and make some Nanimo bars, Cyclops and Butter Tarts, wrap some gifts, tie up some loose ends on those gifts I'm making and then settle in and enjoy the sparkle that comes with Christmas.

 I know it is only December 5th but the spirit of the season is upon us. 

 Have a wonderful holiday everyone and


Monday, November 26, 2012

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away.  Roll up we've got everything you need
Well, the evening was magical and it certainly had everything I needed.  I left BC Place Stadium last night feeling like I had indeed been on a magical mystery tour.  Paul McCartney took us from a blasting, fire-filled, sparkling, stage-vibrating rendition of Live and Let Die to a smokey, subtle, emotional piano solo version of Hey Jude. The shift was dramatic and  the crowd went from rowdy to dreamy in five seconds flat. The 40 000+ people who were there swayed to the music, held hands with their loved ones and swayed side to side as almost each and every one of us sang along.  I'm not sure what was in the heads of other folks at this time but for me Hey Jude brought back memories of junior high school.  Awkward boys and aggressive girls hopped and bopped to the tunes at our school dances while everyone nervously anticipated that "last dance".  It was always Hey Jude.  It was so long.  If you ended up with the boy or girl of your dreams you were guaranteed 6 minutes and 52 seconds of pure bliss.  If you ended up with someone whose arms you didn't want wrapped around you it was the longest 6 minutes and 52 seconds of your life. 

That's how the whole evening went for me, from bouncing in my seat, clapping my hands and screaming like a 15 year old girl  to wiping the tears from my eyes as memories and emotions  flowed through me.  I loved it all.  Music does that to me.  It winds me up and calms me down and last night the good-looking Beatle played me like one of those beautiful guitars he courted us with on and off through the three hours of solid hits he honoured us with. 
The Long and Winding Road was one of the first piano solos of the evening.  The music was beautiful, and the words came back to the tip of my tongue oh-so-quickly.  I'm not sure all of those who sat around me enjoyed my version but really, I didn't care.  In fact, I sang along to almost every song, sometimes quietly and sometimes at the top of my lungs. Sometimes tapping my foot and sometimes clapping my hands over my head and hooting in between verses. My husband didn't elbow me and tell me to stop and nobody threw stuff at me so I'm thinking either they were singing along or they were wrapped up in their own memories.  Paul took us all down a long and winding road last night and we loved him for it.

It was the shortest three hours of my life and I didn't want it to end in spite of four curtain calls.  We were taken through the crazy era of the British Invasion, honoured with Blackbird - a tribute to the civil rights movements and got to share a little of the love he had for both John and George. People waved their bic lighters (alongside their cell phones), pumped up their peace signs and screamed for more whenever he stopped.  It seemed impossible that this 70 year old man could whip the crowd into a frenzy with a bit of a smile, that lazy Liverpool accent or memory-filled songs that we could all identify with.

Yesterday, all my troubles did seem so far away.  I was with people I love listening to music I love remembering memories I love.  There were moments of pureness through the evening but I think my favourite was the piano solo of Maybe I'm Amazed. The original video shows a man and his family and it reflects how life was for our family at this time as well, all wrapped up in each other, living life simply with no real understanding of how quickly it would all pass.  I loved this song when it originally came out but I love it more now.

Special times are made more special by the people you share them with and I'm so glad I shared this evening with the people I did.  It did my heart good to see my husband singing along with the rest of us (although much more quietly and dignified).  It did my heart good to lean my head toward my sister-in-law's as we sang Yesterday.  My husband's younger sister is still giving him the gears over his 1969 version of Yesterday and we all had a good laugh as we looked over to see if he was singing along with Paul last night.  I had my own pictures in my head of my older brother shredding his air guitar and flipping his hair over his head as well.  Music is all about emotion and last night we all travelled back in time and through a gamut of feelings.  In the words of my grandson, "IT WAS AWESOME!".

As we were reminded time and time again last night:

O-bla-di, o-bla-da, life goes on, brah!...
Lala how the life goes on.

And if you want some fun,
Sing O-bla-di-bla-da.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How To Be An Explorer of the World

When was the last time you were an explorer?  Perhaps on a vacation?  Maybe it was moving on to a new town or a new job or a new relationship.  I have always loved change.  I know most people feel discomforted by it but I love it.  Deep inside of me is an explorer longing for "new".  Sometimes that new can be as simple as changing my perspective but sometimes it requires something bigger. 

It is the time of year that I like the least.  The skies are a constant shade of grey, the ground a muddy mix of browns.  The landscape is bare, trees have shed all but the one or two leaves that simply refuse to drop.  Friends on Facebook are posting their pictures from the far-away sunny places they have gone to escape the dreariness.

It seems a perfect time to spice my life up with a little bit of "new".  Now, I wish I could take credit for the project I am about to undertake, but I can't.  A few years ago one of my daughters requested a book on her Christmas list (she's a crazy, voracious reader).  When I found it in that lovely little bookstore in Fort Langley, Wendel's, I was surprised on so many fronts. This wasn't a book you 'read', it was a book you 'experienced'.  This book was definitely not one I would have ever picked out for this daughter.  This book was certainly going to challenge her comfort zone.  I couldn't wait to see her embark on the journey this book was about to take her on.  As I browsed through other books by the same author I found one that I believed would take me on my own journey.  I have owned the book for a couple of years now and every now and then I take it off the shelf and  browse through it.  Parts of it are daunting, parts intriguing and some parts just look plain old-fashioned fun.  I'm not sure why I didn't delve into it right off the bat but I do believe the time is ripe for me to take it on.

Keri Smith has a LOT of books that make me curious but this is the one I chose and this is the one I am going to start with. The project that I am going to start with is Exploration #41 - Found Faces (there are 59 Explorations in this book).  I am going to haul my camera around with me for one week starting today and I am going to capture every "face" that I see. The only catch is that the faces cannot be attached to people, they must be "naturally-occurring"!   This challenge will make me look past the "dreary" into the details of the world around me.  It will infuse me with curiosity and will refocus me, which is just what I need right now.  Can't wait to share the pics of what I "see" this week.
Some other books by Keri Smith:
Finish this Book,  Wreck this Journal, Living Out Loud - Activities to Fuel a Creative Life, The Guerilla Art Kit, Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes, The Non-Planner Date Book, Boyology: A Teen Girl's Crash Course on All Things Boy.
This is a pic of Wendel's book store in Fort Langley, B.C.  If you haven't been there, it's a must see but make sure to take your wallet.  Wendel's also has a lovely little cafe where the soup is divine and the sandwiches are real.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

60 Years Together

A young 18-year-old couple on their wedding day in Calgary sixty years ago today.  Happy Anniversary to my mother and father-in-law, Georgina and Bill Brown of Donalda, AB.
Bill Brown and Georgina (Watson) Brown
November 18, 1952  Calgary, Alberta
Congratulations to my mom and dad on their 60th wedding anniversary.  They have been a model of how to work things out over the years. Like all couples they have weathered many ups and downs through their years together.
The 1950's were the years of stay-at-home moms and large families.  While we were a large family, my mom was always a working mom.  One of the finest legacies she has left her family is the value of hard work.  My dad was the same.  I remember many years of my mom working a regular job while raising her family and dad often working an extra job alongside his military career.  I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where all chores were shared, at least that's how it appeared to me.  It was not unusual to find my dad in the kitchen making dinner if mom was working late or scrubbing the floors or toilets if that was what needed doing. 
While we were military and moved often enough I have fond memories of our years in Edmonton.  We had a large yard, both front and back.  There were trees to climb and lawns to lay on.  Our back yard was completely made into a garden.  Vegetables on one side, potatoes on the other.  My mom and dad froze and canned the large bounty from our garden every year. 
Our home was a military home.  We often heard, "because I said so" and had our regular chores.  Mom and dad split the chores (perhaps not evenly but it appeared that way) so it always seemed strange to me that I got the inside chores and my brothers got the outside chores.  Dishes and sweeping were mine (and later my sister's) and the garden weeding and lawn cutting belonged to my two brothers.  I ironed dad's work shirts (still know how to do a long sleeve with no crease to this day) and my brothers polished his shoes.
I have a brother 1 year older and another brother 1 year younger and a sister 7 years younger so there were many years with just me and my brothers.  I grew up a tom-boy and was always supported by my parents with the many sports I played growing up.  For me it was fastball and swimming and for my brothers it was hockey.  My parents attended everything in those days.  My dad coached both ball and hockey and my mom was always there scorekeeping or doing whatever needed to be done.  Our Rambler station wagon was filled with sports equipment year round.  We honestly did live by the "be home when the streetlights went on" rule.  We were outside kids and I imagine my parents were glad of it.
My parents had their own struggles through the years as all married couples do.  What I learned from them was that even when things got hard you stand by each other.  You don't give up, you work it out.  Even if it takes time, you work it out.  Their 60th anniversary is a testament of their commitment to each other.
There are moments in life that define us all and there are a couple of memories I have that define my parents for me.  When my brother and I were in high school my mom quit her job and returned to complete her grade 12.  She had ended her schooling in grade 10 and I think this must have always been on her mind.  In the fall of 1970, my grade 11 year, my mom joined me and my brother on our daily trek to school.  My first thoughts were that I wasn't too excited about my mom going to school with me.  However, our high school was large and I rarely saw her aside from the drive in and the drive home.  Every time I think about this though I am amazed at the courage and strength it must have taken her to give up her pay cheque and go to public school with her two children.  I believe I had some appreciation of it at the time but I do know that I have more appreciation as time passes.  My mom is a very intelligent woman and I don't believe she needed to prove anything to anyone other than herself.  She has always been determined.  I believe I inherited this quality from my mom.
For my dad, it's less about one event and more about the way he has lived his life in general.  My dad has never been afraid to take on some new experience.  When he bought the boat with the hole in it we all learned to fiberglass.  When the 1957 Hillman I drove kept losing the clutch, we learned how to change it.  When we moved to Comox he learned to navigate the tides and the buoys coming in and out of the bay.  When peacekeepers were needed he signed up.  He sings loudly, off-key and often.  I remember him lying on the couch laughing his head off at that crazy Wiley Coyote.  My dad knows how to laugh and faces life head on.  I think I have inherited some of these qualities. 
We are not a family that communicates well or often but when I think of my parents I think of what a successful life they have made for themselves.  They married at 18, had 3 children in the next 3 years and another 6 years later.  My dad's career in the Armed Forces has taken them all over the world.  They weathered two housefires early in their marriage where they lost all of their belongings.  They have faced hard times and good times and have come through it all together.  They taught us to work hard and be respectful and we have done both.  They taught me to love sport, to get involved, to speak my mind openly and honestly and to put my everything into everything I do.  I believe that I have lived my life the way they had always hoped I would. 
Happy 60th Anniversary Mom and Dad!  I hope your day is filled with wonderful memories and wonderful plans for the future.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Ava Irene Janzen

Dear Baby Janzen,
You are not here yet but we are so full of anticipation waiting for you to arrive.  When I was a young mother I was always amazed at how much love could fit into one heart.  When I met your Grampa, I thought my heart was full.  Then your uncle Jason came along and lo and behold there was room enough in my heart for two and I thought it was full.  Then aunty Christine entered our world and lo and behold, there was room for three.  Surely now my heart was full.  A few years later I learned that I was having your mom and your aunty Carrie.  They weren't yet here but already they were in my heart and then when they arrived I knew for sure my heart was full.  I was wrong. 

As our family grew and grew there were so many moments that kept squeezing themselves into my already overflowing heart.  Little things, big things, it didn't matter.  They kept finding a way into those empty spaces I didn't know existed.  When Lizzie and Kai and Austen arrived I began to wonder if my heart would be able to still fit inside of my body.  So far it has.  Good thing because as I sit here thinking about you and your mom and dad I know that already you have found a way into my  heart, making room for all of the wonderful and amazing moments that have already happened and for those we are, for now, dreaming about.  I can't wait to meet you.

Well Ava, Gramma's been away from home for a few days and since that time you made your grand debut.  You and your mom and dad worked hard to get you into this world and we are so excited you are here.  While I was driving into the city to meet youI noticed two things.  First, I noticed the sun shining down on my face along the drive.  It seemed like it was you shining down on me warming me up my heart and telling us all that you were going be sprinkling sunshine into all of our worlds.  As the sun set and stars started to come out I noticed it was a clear and sparkly night.  The big dipper pointed me in your direction while all of the other stars cheered me on, twinkling and blinking the whole way.

Your journey took 27 hours and I will never forget how strong and determined your mom was the night you were born.  Some time in the future, when you are a little older, you can get her to tell you the story of how she thought she might drive home from Chilliwack, at 3:00 in the morning, by herself, with very little gas.  Good thing Grampa and I were around to talk some sense into her.  As it turned out, you didn't show up until the next evening, fashionably late I must say :) 

Your mom and dad chose a beautiful name for you Ava. To me, Ava sounds strong and serene and beautiful and it seems just right for you.  It brought tears to our eyes as your mom and dad told us your middle name.  You will get to meet your great Nanny within a few weeks, the strong and amazing woman you were named after.  We feel blessed to have her in our lives and we know she will feel blessed to have you in hers.  It also seems just right that you have a unique first name and a name connected to the past for your middle name. It reflects everything your mom believes in; individuality and family.

The first thing we all noticed about you Ava was your beautiful hair.  So much hair for such a little girl.  I dreamed of you a week or so before you were born and in that dream you were sitting on the dock at Papa's cabin, your feet dangling over the wharf, your fishing line bobbing in the lake and your beautiful hair hanging down your back in french braids.  I love to do french braids and your mom still, to this day, likes to sit down on the floor in front of me, hand me a brush and two elastics and flash that smile of hers at me as she asks me to braid her hair.  I can see you with the same mischievious smiling face.

As we spent a little time getting to know you that first night we were all amazed at how peaceful you are.  You did stay awake a bit that first night and gazed around, taking in this whole new world and all of the people who came to welcome you.  Your mommy and daddy are already calling you, "Princess" and we all agree with them.

You are born into a big loving family, Ava.  We will all cheer you on in all you take on in life.  We will all be there to help you through whatever comes your way.  We will all love you unconditionally.  We are bursting with pride at how beautiful and serene you are and we are all gazing down in wonder at you.  We know your mommy and daddy will make sure you have a life full of love, travel and adventure.  We know that the outdoors will be special for you and we know that family is important to both your mom and dad.  We love you Ava with everything we have.  Welcome to our world wee one!

Monday, November 5, 2012

First comes love, then comes marriage. . .

I am a marriage commissioner.  I can't think of a more perfect retirement job. I spend time with people who are in love and who are embarking on a lifetime of adventure with each other.  When they share their vows with me I get a glimpse inside of their hearts and I find that very special and rewarding.
I have married people in horse pastures, on baseball diamonds, underneath waterfalls, in fancy gardens and ordinary kitchens. I have married people in their 20's and people in their 80's (No, not to each other:)  I have married people as hundreds have watched on and I have married people with just their two best friends there to witness both their love and commitment to each other.
Yesterday I received an e-mail from a young woman wanting to know if I could marry her and her fiance on December 21st.  I confirmed with them that I was available and that I felt honoured to be included in their special day.  Her response explained why that day was so important to them.  December 21st is a special day in the Mayan culture. 
The Mayan culture predicted a change in consciousness in the world around December 21, 2012.
They predicted a deep change in the universe through the alignment of planets.
This will result in a shift of focus from materialism and selfishness into love, kindness and internal peace
I can't think of a better reason to pick a day to be married and love that it fell on my birthday. I hope they're right!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Austen Robinson Watts - We Love You!

Well Baby Watts, your journey into our world has begun.  It's just after 11:00 am on a blustery fall day (October 20) and your dad has just called to tell me that you'll be here later today.  Mom is doing well and is at home doing the work she needs to do to bring you into the world. 

My stomach is all a-flutter and Grampa and I are going to try hard to keep ourselves busy while we wait to take the trip into Vancouver to meet you.  I'm thinking of your mom and dad right now and know how excited and anxious they are to finally meet you, just like the rest of your big, crazy family.

Well Austen, this blog started out addressed to "Baby Watts" and now you are here.  It was a long ride for all of us but mostly for your mom and dad.  50 hours is a long, long time to wait to get into this great big world but now that you're here it seems like it was no time at all.

Your mom can, and I'm sure she will, remind you from time to time about how hard she and your dad worked to get to meet you.  What I am going to share with you are just a few of the ways you touched my heart in those first few moments after I met you.

You are determined.  You also worked long and hard to get into this world and we are grateful for your determination.

You are peaceful.  As doctors and nurses checked you out after you arrived, you simply and quietly looked around and took it all in.  I am wishing you a lifetime full of peace.

You are beautiful.  Your dad prefers the word handsome but to me you are beautiful.  It is so amazing to see you with your mommy and daddy.  It is clear to see that you have changed them both already.  They have gone from a couple to a family since you arrived.  They can't keep their eyes off of you and they love you with all of their hearts for the miracle you are.

You are unique.  As these moments change into days and days into months and months into years we will all get to know the unique you.  You have just begun and I am curious about who you will be.  Will you have your mommy's and daddy's love of sport?  Will you survive Grampa's teasing?  Will you be a go, go, go kind of guy like your cousin Kai?  Will you want to take long walks with your cousin Lizzie looking for perfect skipping rocks as you go?  Will you love to be in the kitchen with Gramma spreading ingredients over every surface alongside Kai and Lizzie?  Will you love spending time outdoors, reading books, watching the Yankees and travelling the world? 

It's your first day at home today Austen.  You only arrived two days ago but already it seems like you've been with us forever.  The world seems just right now that you're in it.

We love you!

Monday, October 15, 2012

No More Cook Books?

For those of you who have been following my last few blogs you will recognize the theme of "getting rid of stuff".  My family was here for Thanksgiving weekend and my oldest daughter, the list-maker, labeller, super-organized one suggested that my next purge should be my cookbooks.  My initial reaction was one of shock.  But really, as I looked at the collection through her eyes there did seem to be an abundance of them.  So, this past week I started going through them and culling the ones that had no dirty pages,  the ones I had bought with the best of intentions but had never actually opened up,  never pressed open on the kitchen counter and splattered with the ingredients of those special recipes that had caught my eye in the first place but had never materialized.
It really wasn't that hard to get rid of those ones because there were no memories attached to large family events around a table full of food from their pages.  I loaded them into a few boxes and bags and set them in the laundry room to take to the thrift store.    Another of my daughters was home the next day and I offered her the chance to look through them before I tossed them.  She politely declined stating, "Really mom, if I need a recipe I just go online."  I thought for a minute and was actually surprised to realize that many of the recipes I am currently using have come from the same place.  As carefully as I might look, I'm pretty sure there are no quinoa recipes in my Gramma Dot's copy of the original Five Roses Flour cookbook.  In some ways this makes me sad.  In the back of my Gramma Dot's cookbooks are all of her favourite recipes and the notes that go with them.  They are all written in her no-nonsense, firm hand-writing.  There is always, always a picture of Gramma Dot in my head when I am using one of her cookbooks.  It makes me think of her, not always fondly, but mostly.  She was a hard task-master when she supervised:  wash your hands, measure correctly,  follow the steps, clean as you go, don't sass me.  My children will tell you that she didn't soften with age. 
I know my own cookbooks would reveal my own favourite recipes in a snap.  Some of the pages are spotless.  Those would be the ones I never used.  Then there are the others.  The pages are worn, covered in ingredients, have their own notes (I used one tonight that had the word, YUMMY, written at the top) and I'm sure if my own children inherited them, those particular recipes would also conjure up pictures of me in the kitchen. I know that in my lifetime those cookbooks full of recipes and stories and memories will continue to be an important part of my kitchen.
I can't dispute the move to technology in my own life though. My i-pad is a staple in the kitchen.  I often read books on it and had it by my side as I followed You-Tube instructions for the diaper tricycle we made this week and for a sewing project earlier this month.  Still it makes me sad that one day my own cookbooks, along with Gramma Dot's may not find a place in the home of my children.   I will just hope, that like Gramma Dot's old school bell that sits on our bookcase, they may get a spot simply for the sake of the memories.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


"Birthdays get harder as you get older. As you approach the age your own parent left this planet you feel so much more vulnerable.   Thanks for making the journey easier."
A long-time friend of mine posted this on her birthday not long ago.  She is far from the place she grew up and the place I know she thinks of as "home".  She has a large and loving family and extended family and is blessed with a world-wide circle of friends.  If you knew her you might think she's never had a care in the world as she is always smiling and always facing life's challenges with the best of attitudes.  Yet, like most of us, as life's clock ticks on she is feeling more vulnerable than she did a decade or so ago.
I too am feeling the vulnerability of life as "young-age" leaves me farther and farther behind.  It is not that I have an impending sense of my own demise.  It is not that I have regrets (although I do have a few:) It is more that I have a sense of finite-ness, that there truly is an end to this journey and it's not as far away as it used to be.  You might think (especially if you're "young") that this would make life just a little sadder, but it doesn't.  What it does is wake you up to all that is around you and all that is within you.  It reminds you that "some day" is today and that thing that you've always wanted to do or see or be needs to be done, seen or become.  Not tomorrow.  Not next week.  Now.

Having married my high-school sweetheart makes aging all that much easier.  We understand each other's aches and pains, pretend we can still hear each other and help each other look for our glasses, keys, sanity.  We have worked hard at our chosen careers and are looking forward to the years of enjoying all that that hard work has brought our way. 

One of the true blessings of getting this far in life is seeing our own "children" parenting their children.  We live close enough to see both our own kids and our grand-kids on a fairly regular basis. We get to share both big and little moments together and know that we are blessed to have much laughter and love in our lives.

Another friend of mine is contemplating the "empty nest" years that are quickly descending upon her.  We have survived this phase of our life.  I won't pretend it was easy, it wasn't.  We missed the busy-ness, noise and chaos that was our life for so many years.  We missed our kids.  We have learned to enjoy the quiet, the tidiness but mostly we love knowing where the remote control is at all times.  We love when they're home as the house fills  up again with noise, mess and laughter.  We do miss them when they go but we accept that life is meant to be that way, at least in our culture.  I keep telling them all that the day will come when I come to live with them and I can't wait to leave the towels on the bathroom floor, the lights all turned on and unfolded clothes in the laundry room! 

An elderly gentleman neighbor of ours once described life as being the same as a full bath.  When the bath is full, you can hardly notice the water going down the drain but as the tub empties the water that is left swirls faster and faster and faster.  I think he was right.

I think we are getting closer to the "swirling" stage but still have a bit of water left in our tub.  I do feel vulnerable.  But in that vulnerability I also feel so very aware.  Aware of our family who are close by.  Aware of our family who are far away.  Aware of our health and wellness.  Aware of our dreams; those we've realized and those that we are so carefully planning.  Aware of each other and the love that has grown stronger and stronger over the last 40 years.  But mostly I am aware of each day and making the most of it. 

Thanks Cecelia for reminding us once again to live each day to its fullest.  You are a special part of our past, a wonderful part of our present (thanks to FB) and hopefully, a soon to be part of our future. 


Friday, October 5, 2012


How could you not look at this picture and be grateful for such a full and happy life?  When I look at my family I feel so much love, happiness, pride and gratitude.  If you would have told me 40 years ago that this is where I would be in life I would not have been able to envision it.

Much of my time today is spent being mindful and focusing on living in the moment.  I am extemely conscious of how I spend my time and who I spend it with.  I have many great friends who inspire me and support me and while I find they truly enrich my life they don't hold a candle to my family.  As I look at these faces I know only some of the stuggles and joys they have had in their lives.  As it should be, their husbands and wife are their "go-to" people now.  I do know however that they have all faced challenges and stood by each other to overcome them. I know when they have good news that sharing it with each other is important to all of them.  I know they have hopes and dreams for their futures and the futures of their children but somehow, in a way I never did, they also know how to enjoy life each day as it comes.  They look at their children and each other and are so aware of time passing as they hold on to each moment in their hearts and their minds.  They don't live in the past and they don't live in the future, they truly know how to live in the moment.

As we gather this weekend around our traditional turkey dinner we will once again talk about all of the things that enriched the year that is quickly passing but more importantly, we will take a moment to share with each other one or two things that make our lives more full at this time.

Before the year ends we will have two new little individuals among us.  They too will bring something to our lives that no one before them has brought.  We will meet them and get to know them and make sure that each and every day they know they have a large and loving family who will think they are the center of the universe (which, of course, they will be).  While Elizabeth turned 8 this year and Kai turned 4, it seems we have never been without them.  The sparkle in their eyes, the smiles on their faces and their off-beat senses of humour have enriched our lives in ways we can't even describe.  They are clearly as different as night and day in some ways and as similar as brother and sister in other ways.  They have their own unique personalities, stengths and gifts.  They live life to the fullest and when they are with us their laughter and noise fill our house and our hearts.

This sense of family that is bringing tears to my eyes as I write often comes together at our house because it is large and it is "home".  What we have all learned over the last couple of years though is that "home" is wherever we are, whenever we are together.  Home will change in the next couple of years as we all shift and change with new jobs (or, in my case, no job:), new family members and perhaps, new communities.  Wherever we go, whatever we're doing will not change that we are family.  While I have so many things in life to be thankful for, my family will always top the list.

Wishing you all a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving weekend.  I know ours will add more memories to our already full memory "banks".   So grateful for so much!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Freedom (aka Simplifying Life)

I had to look up the word "synchronicity" before I could write tonight because I believed it was the right word but needed to make sure so I googled it and this is what I found, "the relation that exists when things occur at the same time".  It seemed strange to me that these events did occur at the same time but I think that's what makes this all so interesting. 

Event 1:
A few days ago my friend Rebecca (one of my favourite bloggers) wrote a blog called, Material Apathy (  Much of what she wrote got me to thinking about my own life and my own materialistic tendencies but mostly what it got me thinking about was my future.  For those of you who read regularly (thanks to both of you :) you know that I retired this year.  Retirement is one of those stepping stones in life that really gets you thinking about what you want to do, who you want to be, where you want to go and how and where  you want to live out your days.  One major decision my husband and I have already made is that we do not want to retire where we currently live.  Soooooo. . . one of our major tasks is taking care of our "stuff" and trust me on this one, we have a LOT of stuff.  This year, while my husband continues to work, one of my jobs is to start the decluttering process.  So far I have gotten rid of. . . . . oh yeah, nothing:(  Seriously though I've only had July, August and September).  That leaves me approximately another 9 months.  I swear, honestly, that as soon as the sun stops shining and the rains start to fall that I will tackle this mammoth task.  Honest, I will!  I wanted to thank Rebecca for moving this back up to the top of my "to do" list.

Event 2:
My son got a job in a career that he calls the "family business".  After much frustration, disappointment and outright discouragement, he has cracked the teaching profession.  We know he will be amazing as he has worked hard to get where he is and has much support from the many family members who went before him.  When things fell into place he wrote about his journey.  It was a powerful article full of emotions and hope for the future. His blog called Possibilities ( also got me to thinking.  While we often believe that our possibilities lessen with age it turns out that they actually increase.  Jason's article kick-started my own thought processes about what actually is possible, for me, for me and my husband, and for our family down the road.  Again, the possibilites cannot be realized without relocation and relocation cannot be realized without decluttering which takes us back to Event 1.

Event 3:
While I was browsing Pinterest (which takes up a considerable amount of my time which in turn gets in the way of my decluttering) I came across a pin about a book called, You Can Buy Happiness (and it's Cheap).  The book keeps telling me that it's time to declutter if I really want to live the life I think I want to live.  Karma?  You bet!

It seems that these three events are absolutely tied together and that the greater universe is working together to actually get me to DO something rather than to simply think about it.  This is what kept me up tonight and contibuted to my blogging at 1:50 in the morning rather than sleeping.  Tomorow when I wake up, slightly later than usual given this unearthly hour, I will take pictures of the big items we need to get rid of and get them on Craigslist.  On Tuesday my task will be to go through my beloved books (well at least in one or two rooms).   In the front of my mind, as I sort through books, I will focus on the life I want to live and know that 9 months will pass quickly if I don't get started.  Wednesday will be "clothes" day and that will be it for this week as my mind turns to our family gathering, perhaps for the last time in this "home" for our Thanksgiving weekend together.

Seems like a good plan.  Thanks Jason, Rebecca and Tammy Strobel (author of You Can Buy Happiness) for getting me going!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Little Treasures

One of the joys of being retired is having TIME.  Last week my two grandchildren came out for two days to prepare some baking and artwork to enter in our local Fall Fair.  The day was full of fun; painting, drawing, picking flowers for an arrangement and baking (with all the requisite cracking of eggs, flinging of flour and oh-so-accurate measuring). 

Of course, as four year olds and eight year olds go, we had to have a lot of "breaks".  So we played tag, went for a walk, danced in the kitchen, read some books, made a lot of music/noise and sat on the deck enjoying the breeze and the sunshine. 
 In this picture Kai and Lizzie are sampling the goods (which they did more than once).  Kai is quite a story teller and it's lucky for him that Lizzie is such a good listener:)
The time went too quickly and soon it was time for the wee ones to head home.  The beautiful part of kids though is that their joy and playfullness linger for days after they are gone.  As I tidied the house I just couldn't put some things away because it made me smile just looking at them.  So, the books ae still on the loveseat, the perfect skipping rocks are still on the counter, the hairclip (who knows why) is still attached to the kitchen drawer handle,  the artwork still hangs on the fridge and the supplies are still waiting on the steps for someone to take them upstairs.

I've said this before and I'll say it again.  I feel blessed to be close enough to our grandchildren to have days like these where we can hang out, create and just play together.  I am always exhausted when they leave but when I flop onto the couch for a nap once it's quiet again, it is always with a smile on my face.

Thanks Lizzie and Kai for being such terrific kids!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.
Oprah Winfrey
While I am not necessarily a big Oprah fan, I do agree with her definition of passion.  I opened the Vancouver Sun last week, as I do every morning over a cup of hot lemon water, and started flipping through the pages to see what was going on in the world.  I know many friends who have turned to technology for the latest world news but there is something relaxing about sitting at the table with my hot drink and turning the pages, actual pages.
Liron Gertsman, 12, saved up for his state-of-the-art camera and lenses for three years.
I "flip" through the paper each morning stopping every now and then to really read articles that catch my eye.  On this Friday morning the article about Liron Gertsman caught my eye.  Liron is a 12 year old birder.  He is passionate about birds as anyone can see when they read Pete McMartin's article.  It is well worth the read.  However, there seemed to be a blog bubbling up in my brain.  Saturday morning Daphne Bramham's article on the last glorious days of summer and what they mean to her reminded me of all of the things I love about summer and will miss as the leaves start turning.(  Still later in the day I caught the story of 93 year old Olga Kotelko who started competing in track and field at the age of 77.  She speaks articulately about her passion for competition, fitness and the life she lives.  (
While I was browsing at the Harrison Craft Market last Saturday morning I ran into a passionate young woman I know.  She spoke at length about how challenging and exciting her life is.  She is young and living her dream.  She designs her own jewellry ( and teaches yoga ( .  One of Carla's most memorable teachers is the one who let her out of class 15 minutes early before lunch so she could go sell jewellry, the one she felt supported her dreams, perhaps without even knowing the impact she was having.  I believe Carla is one of the few people I know who has been able to live her dream.  I wonder if she knows how fortunate she is to have discovered that at such an early age.
I read a blog written by my friend Rebecca last week (  While Rebecca is not writing about passion per se it is clear to all who read her writing that she has a passion for both life and for writing.  It seems both of these passions have been a part of her life since childhood.  I always feel more energized after reading Rebecca's blog.
I picked up the Agassiz Harrison Observer yesterday and the front page was a story of our local maintenance man turned musician, Todd Richard.  While those of us who know Todd have followed his journey from the beginning the bigger world is learning all about how to chase your dream.  Todd (and his wife, Sylvia) have made many sacrifices and perhaps this is where some of us fall off of our "dream wagon".  It is inspiring to read Todd's story and see his dream coming true. ( 
Thoughts tumble around in my brain day and night and these stories, along with many others in the last few days, have me questioning where passion comes from. Liron Gertsman doesn't know nor do his parents. Olga Kotelko clearly didn't know for 77 years.  I am always inspired by peoples' passions. I find myself becoming more energetic as I read/watch/hear their stories. From a 12 year old boy whose passion began at 5 years old to a 93 year old track star who found her passion at 77 to our local "dreamcatchers", these are the real stories of life. No writer of fiction could come up with stories this great.  There is so much bad news in the world these days, particularly on television and in the papers.  It's been a very refreshing few days reading and hearing about the positive side of life.
I will sign off for today with a picture of the two people who regularly renew my enthusiasm for life and fuel my passion for fun:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Sadness, can I come in for a while?

Today, sadness came knocking at my door and it was the kind of day you might expect a visit like that.  The thunder rolled, the clouds hung low at ground level hugging its greyness around even the brightest summer flowers.  The rain was relentless.  So when it knocked I let it in and told it gently that it could stay for awhile but it couldn't move in.  Depression has knocked at my door before as well but I've come to know the sound of its engine in my driveway and its more subtle, urgent knock.  It too has wrapped its arms around me and we've done the long slow waltz that is so hard to let go of.  But today, today it was simply sadness needing a place to hang out.

So much of what I and others share with each other is full of joy, as it should be.  I was reminded by a message I received yesterday that it is sometimes important to also share the darker side of your life as well because we all experience that, even the happiest of us.  I have three very close friends who have lost loved ones to suicide.  I feel honoured that they have felt safe enough over the years to share both their depression and their sadness with me.  It provides me with the opportunity to remind them that our love and friendship is unconditional.  It provides them with a safe place to just be.  It reminds all of us that we need others in our life who can not only make us laugh but who can love us even in our dark times.

I was also reminded yesterday that I can not be responsible for another person's happiness.  I was reminded not to compare my life to anyone else's and to take charge of each day and make it the best it can be.  Over the last few years I have read a lot about living my life with intention and learning to stay in the moment.  I have many great friends who I can discuss these ideas with and a great family who models this in their own day to day lives.  We've all heard the words, living in the moment, and understand the concept but it's another shift completely to practice it day to day.  I have let go of relationships with people who make me feel bad about myself and have nurtured those relationships with people who bring positivity into my world.  Sometimes though, my own worst enemy has been myself and I make it a point each day to say kind things to myself.  I have learned to meditate and this has made a world of difference as well.  The practice of meditation, and trust me - it takes practice, calms my busy mind and brings quiet to my soul.

I count my blessings daily and there are many to count. I have a full, rich life and this is no accident.  I read.  I share.  I listen to others.  I take risks.  I accept (okay, I'm learning to accept) my mistakes and flaws as just part of who I am.  I am striving to be a better person one moment at a time. Sadness did come.  It stayed til the wee hours of the morning when I told it quietlly but firmly that it was time to go.  Today is a new day.  I am grateful to have it.  I am grateful for the people in it.  I am grateful that I live in a part of the world where I can decide what I do with this day, who I spend it with and where I go.  Yesterday I chose sadness.

I hope you do too!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Staying In The Moment

Today is the first "legitimate" day of my retirement years.  I was finished work on June 30th but with the holiday long weekend in there it didn't feel like it until today.  So, what did I do with my first "official" day?

As you can see from the picture above, I went for a bike ride, a long, slow bike ride.  With a lot of coaching and support from my sister-in-law (certified yoga instructor extraordinaire.  Check out her website I am working hard to stay in the moment and enjoy the beauty around me.  So, what did I notice on my bike ride tonight?

I noticed the wind in my face.  While it was a refreshing breeze it made the first 10 km of my ride just a little harder.  I will remember the coolness of the breeze and the goose bumps on my arms when the temperature soars to 30 degrees later this week.  With the breeze came the bumping together of the clouds above and a little tease of blue sky as the clouds parted and gathered again and again.  That breeze also rustled the beginnings of the corn plants.  At this time of the year it seems they go from six inches to six feet overnight.  Today, they are six inches.

I noticed how green everything is.  All the greens a mind could imagine.  While we've complained (at least I have!) about the dark, gloomy June and wet start to July it certainly has made everything around us lush and fresh. 

I noticed how many really BIG trees there are around here.  So many fields and yards full of those kinds of trees that look undressed without a hammock or an old tire swing.  It is this kind of tree that MUST be in the yard of that last home we buy, the one we will settle in into our old age.  The one our grandkids (and hopefully great-grandkids) will swing in and climb on.  The one we will sit under with a cool lemonade on a hot summer day.  You know the kind!

I noticed (even though I'm not supposed to:) the songs on my i-phone as I pedalled through farm roads.  Thank heavens for whoever thought to put Celine Dion in the same room with Andrea Bocelli.  This song was MADE for a summer evening, especially one where your senses are alive to all around you.  Some of my other favourites are:  Brown-Eyed Girl (of course!), Home (by Phillip Phillips - that song just reaches my soul), Ray LaMontagne - You Are The Best Thing and  anything by James Taylor.  I can't imagine a world without music!

I noticed a lot of barns.  Most of them with long drawn faces.  All of them missing a few front teeth.  There's something about old buildings that catches my eye and, quite often, my camera's eye.  There's a story in each of those old buildings about bumper crops and the lean years.  One of my dreams is to have shelving made of old barn boards, hung up with wrought iron brackets. 

Well, that's my bike ride for this evening.  The rest of the day involved a trip out to Harrison to check out the overflowing lagoon and have a bit to eat and a dance in the kitchen.  Yes, you heard me right.  My husband, the shy one you all think you know, loves to catch me up in the middle of baking or cleaning or doing the dishes and take me for a spin around the kitchen.  Often the radio's on and after so many years together it's usually easy to match his steps.  Today, the song was in his head and this made my task a little more challenging.  The usual smile at the end of the interruption today turned into laughter.

So much to be grateful for:)

Friday, June 1, 2012

As One Door Closes. . .

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.

As retirement calls my name it conjures up so many wonderful plans for the future and so many wonderful memories of the past.  As I dream of biking through the rolling hills of the Cotswolds I tear up thinking about how quickly my teaching years have passed and how much I will miss the energy and enthusiasm of the students I have worked with.  People ask me all the time why I would choose to work with __________ (pick your favourite: primary students, teenagers, middle school kids, 10 year olds etc. etc. etc.)  I chose to work with kids for two reasons; because I love kids and because I believed I could make a difference.  I still love the kids and I believe I have made a difference. 

I have worried throughout all of my years of teaching about keeping kids enthusiastic.  I watched my own children the same way I now watch my grandchildren.  I watched carefully trying hard to ensure that they had a love of learning.  I'm not talking about subjects here, I'm talking about learning.  Each child is so special and unique and they all have a love of something when they come to us at school.  I sometimes worry that we don't pay enough attention to the things they do love.    I watched my grandson eat his breakfast the other day and noticed that he wasn't still for one second while he ate. He's a busy guy; up, down, over, under, on and around.   I love that about him.  I listened to him as we walked through the rain as he said, "I LOVE rain.  I LOVE puddles."  He LOVES a lot of things.  I love that about him.  I watched my granddaughter learning to knit.  Those stitches must have fallen off the needles 50 times.  After several times she said to me, "Gramma, I'm getting way better at casting on, aren't I?"  She has so much patience.  I love that about her.  I listened to her read a story to her cousin with such inflection and enthusiasm.  I love that about her.  I tried hard in my classrooms and later as a principal to look for the wonderful things in kids, all kids.  I think aside from the basic skills (reading, writing, 'rithmetic) that our job as educators is to make sure that students leave our care as confident learners, knowing that whatever they want to take on in life is at their whim because they KNOW they can learn whatever they want to.  I know it's hard to accept, but often they want to learn things we don't want to teach them or worse yet, things that society doesn't value.  If we could only accept that they will grow and change and learn in their own way and in their own time.  One of my favourite quotes reflects  what I am trying to say,

"If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructable that it would last throughout life."

I did not leave school as a confident learner.  School, for me, was all about sports and social life.  When I hear teachers now discussing those darn kids who just don't care about school I wonder how many times my own teachers said the same thing about me.  I believe that we all find our own way, I truly do.  While I was an average student in school I excelled in university, probably because I didn't go until I was 27 years old.  I know that it wasn't a path I would have even considered without the constant encouragement of my husband who had more faith in my ability that I had in my own.  This is a good time to remember that we ALL need cheerleaders as much as we need "teachers".  We need support as much as we need advice.  Sometimes we need others to have dreams for us because we don't have enough confidence to have our own dreams. 

I have so many dreams and plans now that 24 hours a day isn't enough to fulfill them all.  I have an amazing family. They are all good, kind people.  Their senses of humour are a bit off but I imagine they would tell this was nurture rather than nature:)  I have a husband who models everything I believe about caring for those around him.  I have two grandchildren who renew my own sense of wonder each time I am with them.  By the time Christmas arrives I will have two more grandchildren and can't wait to meet them and see who they are!  I do look forward to all that is coming down the road for me but today, in the moment, I also feel some melancholy, as it should be!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

So much to learn, so little time!

Over the last year or two I have begun to dabble in yoga and meditation.  While most of my dabbling has been reading I am beginning to branch out a bit into the practice area as well.  I must give all credit for this newfound interest to my sister-in-law, Sherri.  Sherri is a constant inspiration to me.  She's faced some tremendous challenges in her life and the way she has responded to them all has been through gentle action.  Sherri is a gentle person so it seems just right that she found her way to yoga and meditation in her quest for inner peace.  Sherri and I have been related for almost 39 years (YIKES!).  Over those 39 years we have become very close.  I think we see in each other the parts of ourselves that require nurturing and we know that we are safe in sharing our even our darkest secrets with each other. 

Sherri shared a book with me a couple of years ago called, Perfect Health, by Deeprak Chopra.  Many of the ideas in the book took me back to a very interesting course I took a few years ago called, The Incredible Spoon Bending Workshop & The Power of Intention.  Yes, I bend spoons:)  Why??? Because I can:)  Reading Perfect Health led me to other books, a few websites, some magazines and lots of questions.  Curiosity began to build and that curiosity led me to a couple of yoga classes.  While I always hear that yoga classes (and in fact, most exercise classes) focus on individual development I felt quite uncomfortable amongst more experienced practitioners.  The instructors were great, they helped me with blocks and straps and modifications but I just didn't feel at ease.  Our adult children (surely there's a better term)  all live in the city so we go in often and it is here that I have found a way into yoga.  In the summer I took an introductory course at Semperviva, just a couple of blocks from my son's place.  Last weekend I did a mini-retreat (yoga, meditation & Ayurveda) in Stanley Park, just a short way from our daughter's. I truly feel more comfortable in anonymity while I find my way.  I think I also need to try many different classes so I can find a yoga practice that suits my needs.  I am not strong enough for most of the poses right now so the restorative yoga and settling yoga seem just right. I am sure in time that I will move on to those beautiful flowing sequences but for now, lying with my legs straight up against the wall seems just right!

The meditation has come much easier for me than the yoga.  While I am still at the guided practice stage ( and may never move from here:) I find it very easy to focus on the breathing, the words, the music and feel incredibly relaxed at the end of each session.

While I am working full time I am satisfied to dabble, read, learn, explore and experiment.  However, retirement is whispering my name and I know that yoga and meditation will be a big part of life after teaching. 

Thank you Sherri for sharing your passion and your knowledge and for opening up a whole new world to me!