Friday, July 29, 2011

Mastering the Art of Relaxation

The forecast called for thunderstorms last night and today. Not a drop of rain fell; in fact, quite the contrary - the weather was absolutely perfect. This week spent at the cottage has truly been a gift (a huge contrast to the rainy, cold week we spent here last September). The days have been lazy (for me – not as much for hubby who spent a few days in plumbing/repair hell), with many hours spent gazing up at fluffy clouds until they resemble the profile of an old man, or the African continent.

I had almost forgotten the art of daydreaming. I can remember as a child spending endless hours on my back in the grass with my sisters or cousins just staring up at the sky. We were content in the silence which would only be broken when someone spotted “something” in the clouds. Our imaginations were finely tuned and sparked with boundless possibilities. We built stories around the imagery … and in between, we closed our eyes to feel the summer breezes flutter on our eyelids and the sun warm our faces.

That was me on the dock today. I laid back, breathing deeply, aware of every breath and gazed upwards. When the notion took me, I closed my eyes to really hear everything around me: the falcon’s babies shrilled from their nest; the chipmunks clucked and broke branches as they scampered through the forest and the motor of a boat whined in the distance. My senses were heightened and my mind was clear.

I suppose that is what it means to truly relax, to be in the moment. It is an act of loosening, letting go and letting in. I think this vacation stuff is working its magic. I am immersed in nature and bliss – and for that I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life at the Lake

There's nothing like an evening swim in the lake to wash off the grime of the day. No fancy body washes needed; a quick lather with my organic shampoo and a swim to the island to rinse and I am all set. My skin is soft with a lingering outdoors scent of the lake.

Life is simple here at the lake. Quiet and still - save the rustling of the leaves overhead, the pecking of the nuthatches and the song of the chickadees. The water laps against the dock and the canoe bobs alongside. A dog barks in the distance and soon the calls of the loon will serenade us to sleep.

Life at the lake is simple and good. And we still have five days of vacation left.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Proof of Life

Yesterday was the hottest day in recorded history for our region. The temperature hit 40 degrees C, and with the humidex, it felt like almost 50 degrees. That's what I love about living in our climate; the polar extremes of HOT in the summer and FREEZING in the winter. I enjoy the variations and changes that come with the seasons, and because we have four of them, we are pretty much in a constant state of flux and transition.

That's alot like life. We are slowly transitioning from one season to another and along the way we encounter unexpected storms and events, and extreme highs and lows - joy and pain.  We weather through them and try our best to appreciate the gifts that each has to offer, racking up the experience garnered from the stormy times as accumulated wisdom, rendering us more "prepared" for the next time.

In the sweltering heat yesterday, but in the comfort of air conditioning, the fam gathered to celebrated my step mom's (henceforth to be known as Mama T) birthday. No one loves her birthday more than Mama T and gets downright giddy, bubbling over at the cake, candles, presents and photo ops with the family celebs. There are always lots of "oooo's" and "aaahhhh's", "THANK you's" and "love it's". It's a refreshing change from our societal omnipresent dread of aging and birthdays. You can choose to make birthdays a marker of how OLD you are or you can celebrate them as a marker -a gift - of yet ANOTHER year lived and enjoyed. Birthdays are milestones that someone, somewhere in the world will never reach. They are proof of life.

So last night amidst cupcakes (thanks Sis), turkey, homemade fries, ice cream cake, shrimp, chicken wings (thanks Pop), BBQ burgers (thanks Hubby) and a glass or three of wine, we came together as one, and celebrated. Cause every life deserves to be celebrated, and every season enjoyed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hot Water

Life is simple at the cottage; we have indoor plumbing but no hot water. It's not a huge problem -- I clean up in the lake and on occasion have been known to take quick, "refreshing" showers. But hubby bought a midget sized hot water heater to replace the defunct, rusted version that sits under the decking now. The only problem is that the job to hook up the new one is not straight forward and requires some tools that need to be mustered. It's comforting to know that someday, the water will  run hot and steamy.

Last weekend as hubby and I lounged lazily on the deck at the cottage after a morning of swimming and sunning (me) and clearing (him), we received a text from my daughter informing us that there was no hot water at home. We looked at one another trying to conceal our mutual panic. I jumped on the phone to confirm my suspicions and hubby starting closing up the windows ...

The hot water tank had flooded the basement. With three hours to home, our daughter held back the tidal wave with the shop vac and a tidy selection of towels while Kidlet rescued her hockey equipment from harm.

The little episode cut our weekend a little short but we were grateful that the damage was minimal. Lucky us. I won't tell you where we keep our horseshoe!

As I search for the gift and lesson in this little adversity, I can only conclude that it seems the universe is taking heroic measures to keep us out of hot water.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Squeaks, Squeals and Wine

Mouse, Marg, Jill and I. When we were 13 years old we used to eat our peanut butter cups and Delmonte puddings together every day. We stayed tight through high school and kept in touch as our lives took us all in different cities and in different directions.

Over the years the weave loosened but stayed intact; we saw each other less often and not all together. But we had our pipeline and the town we grew up in to keep us connected. In the past 12 years the only time the four of us were together in one place was at the funerals of our mothers. All four of us lost a parent within a two year period. Sadly Mouse's hubby passed from cancer six months ago, and once again we congregated. We decided that very day to meet in the summer on happier grounds to enjoy one another.

The happier grounds was our cottage. We finagled our work schedules, made child care arrangements, and cleared our calendars to make it happen. We did, and it did not disappoint.

The worries about snakes and spiders was for naught HOWEVER my inherent dislike for mice was tested to the max! They seemed to pop out all over the darn place. We shrieked! We chased! We cornered and captured - and we split our guts laughing. And by the time I slipped my foot into my weathered TOMS to feel find a mouse sleeping in the toe, I was done - immune - depleted and over my phobia!

The girls and I spent a whole day dockside comparing spider veins where the heck did they come from?, reassuring one another that we'd come a long way, rehashing juicy stories from our teens years, comparing notes on raising daughters (we all have girls) and generally exhausting the goodness out of our absolutely perfect summer's day together. Marg said the weather was heaven sent and that our deceased loved ones ordered it so we could have some special time together. Lovely thought. 

All I know is that when I listen to Marg tell a funny story complete with full on imitations and hear her laugh as only she can, it is the voice of my teenaged friend I hear. When I look into the tiny face of my dear friend Mouse with her sparkling eyes and mischievous grin, I see the girl I spend my childhood with. And at the end of the night as Jill and I share parting thoughts of the day that trail off into slumber, we are roommates yet again. So much has changed but at the very core of it all, we haven't.

The refrigerator bulged, our bellies followed suit and after our festivities, the recycling bin was pretty much full. The time flew by too quickly but we cherished every second. We agreed to try our best to make it an annual tradition. I just hope we will be able to find stuff to talk about.  : )
Mouse and Marg wondering if dinner can be served dockside.
Chillin Jill
Marg in training


Tranquility in waiting

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Reunion to Remember

The weekend is coming early this week! I have the next few days off and am heading to the cottage to spend it with three very special gal pals. We have been friends since grade seven when we would congregate at the exact same table for lunch every day to unwrap tidy little packages of goodness, swap gossip and share laughs. Jill and I had already been friends for a few years when we moved to the big school for grades 7 and 8. We naturally attached ourselves to Marg and Mouse (she is tiny and nibbles her food) and together we were a fierce foursome.

Now after decades have passed, we remain friends; we have shared the thrills and chills of life; seen each other through marriages, divorces, mothering and buried loved ones. When we are together, it is as though time has frozen us into our 16 yr old selves. The teasing is relentless; the laughter overflowing and the comfort of being with people who have known you as a child - priceless.

I have been looking forward to this reunion for a long time and I just know it won't disappoint. I just have to make sure Mouse doesn't get a glimpse of the dock spiders (or any spiders for that matter) and that Marg doesn't learn about the poisonous snake that our lake is named after (she has a snake phobia). I just hope Jill doesn't take me out foraging for nuts and seeds in keeping with her Paleo diet and that the steaks will do.

I have been blessed with an abundance of love and companionship in this life. And for that, I am truly grateful. Now -- let the weekend begin!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Give a Little Light, Hope and Opportunity

We have electricity in our cosy little cottage retreat at the lake, but the tiny bunkie out back where my daughter stays, does not! Light is a luxury restricted to the handheld flashlight she carries to see the pathway and then hangs on a hook. And then the batteries burn out.

As mentioned in a previous post, I recently donated to and also ordered one of the solar lanterns to try out for myself. Since the first day it arrived in its simple brown wrapping, it has been wonderful. The lantern gives off a soft white light that illuminates an entire room and provides a renewable source of light. It brought me back to when we were in Kenya navigating the pathways in the absolute pitch black dark of night with our headlamps. Made me think about the people who don't have flashlights or headlamps.

Through Twitter I stumbled across a compelling social enterprise called Solar Sister. The slogan - light, hope, opportunity – is also the mission statement. This organization tries to improve the lives of women by providing access to solar energy in a way that reaches the people with the most need, the women and girls living in remote rural villages.

Solar Sister is a woman-to-woman direct-sales distribution system (remember the Avon lady?) for solar lanterns that leverages women’s family, friends and community networks to bring the solar technology right to the women’s doorstep.

So this week my "give a little" donation goes to Solar Sister. The best part of this initiative is that it empowers women with economic opportunity and helps lift them out of poverty - and it is a wonderful example of women helping women; sisters helping sisters.
Read about my Thursday's Give a Little Challenge and other posts. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Consider giving it a read.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I usually give one succinct honk as I drive pass my Dad's place at 6:25 in the morning - just to perturb their neighbours let them know I am thinking about them.

For the last two days their garage door has been open with my Pops seated on the front stoop reading the paper; a warm and welcomed sight. This morning I noticed him in time to swing the car into his driveway and jump out to give him a morning hug. Ever so brief as it was, it was a dose of comfort for both of us. This time I was careful not to through my arms around his waist and squeeze his healing back incision like I did the other night.

I can see that since his horrific near death experience last week he has a renewed appreciation for life. He told me he has been getting up to watch the sunrises - that they have been beautiful.

So in the grand scheme of things there have been gifts for all us. We have been reminded of that which we already know - that we cannot bank on tomorrow; that all we know for certain is that we have this moment, this day to enjoy and love the people who "make" our lives. We are reminded that something as simple as a sunrise is a glorious beacon signalling the arrival of the gift of a brand new day, in which all things are possible.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fast Food

First day back at work after a few days off and surprise, surprise ... it was a little hectic. I finally surrendered to the 33 degree Celsius heat on the way home and turned on the air conditioning. It was already past 6 pm when I rolled through the door with a growling commotion in my tummy. A quick inventory of the fridge and cupboards confirmed my shopping neglect. I bypassed the canned maple beans and resisted the grilled cheese sandwich option. I wanted a healthy dinner, and I wanted it NOW.

I found some frozen mahi mahi fillets and fired up the BBQ. A sifting mission in the veggie drawer produced 3 asparagus spears, half a red pepper, some baby carrots, a thick slice of yellow pepper, an onion and some cherry tomatoes. I tossed them with olive oil, sea salt, basil, fresh ground pepper and a splash of lemon juice. I rubbed the frozen fillets with olive oil and Cajun spicing. The box had promised a cooking time of 14 minutes. After 5 minutes of prep time and 15 minutes cooking time I had a delectable, healthy dinner.  The 1 minute microwavable rice completed the plate. It was a little gift I gave myself - a relaxing wind down from a busy day. And I think I'm worth the effort.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sun, Fun and Dragonflies

After a nightmarish few days, we were blessed with the gift of two perfect days. Truly, they couldn't have been more perfect, with deep blue skies, brilliant sunshine, high temperatures but no humidity. Once we knew that Dad was being moved off the Intensive Care Unit and scheduled to return home by Monday, Hubby and I took a few days at the cottage. I slept more than 9 hours straight and spent the bulk of the day dockside, swimming in our lake, reading my latest find - An Imperfect Offering, and leaning back in the  zero gravity chair that MIH gave us.

When I am totally relaxed with my mind emptied (as much as it can be) my senses become heightened; the world blazes in technicolour and every sound is significant. As I lazed back in my chair, breathing deeply and slowly, I heard a loud buzzing. The dragonflies were at it. One pair decided that my leg was the ideal romantic setting to procreate. Others were persistent visitors, landing often on hubby's shiny head making it look like he was wearing a colourful hair clip.

That dock time was as close to blissful as it could be. I reveled in the heat and deep calm I felt as my body and mind decompressed. Gratitude is what I am feeling; for the perfect days with my hubby, but mostly for the safe return of my Pops. Life just doesn't get any better than that!
Ahhhh ... our trio, dockside soaking it all up.

Fritz was played out after his frolics. What a tough life he leads.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


He’s coming home tomorrow, and the haze from this nightmare is slowly lifting. He went in for a serious operation on his spine – one for which he has been anticipating and preparing for months, and that would provide huge pain relief and an improved quality of life for him. Instead he took a detour.

It’s alarming when things don’t go as planned; when you see the surgeon appear in the waiting room hours too early with wistful concern sprawled across his face.

It’s shocking to learn that your father is anaphylactic to certain drugs, and that they almost lost him on the table. And it rocks your world to see the man who has been a tower of patriarchal strength lying flat on his back, hands restrained, face camouflaged by an oxygen mask and tubes coming out of every orifice in his body – and still with no spine operation.

It’s been a hellish few days oscillating between witnessing his suffering and discomfort and dealing with the aftershock of almost losing him. Simply put – I can’t envision my world without him in it. True to form he has turned his attention to recovering fully from this bend in the road, and refocusing on the operation he was meant to have; the one that will restore mobility and enable him to keep living life fully.

I have found gifts in the adversity of this last calamity. I have learned that my dad’s renowned ability to heal quickly is intact; that he has other health issues that can now be managed; and that we can’t take time with one another for granted. Most importantly, I was reminded that my dad has taught me some of the greatest lessons in my life by being the shining example of resilience and determination that he his.

Thanks for letting us keep him.

Friday, July 1, 2011


It was a long day yesterday, and just in case we had any delusion of control -- life exerted its supreme authority and delivered a smack down. Things at the hospital did not go as expected or as planned.

His surgery has to wait for another day; seems he had anaphylaxis to penicillin or perhaps the anesthetic. But no worries, they figured it out and he is recovering. He is disappointed that his procedure is deferred however his feisty spirit prevailed! Not to be silenced, he motioned for paper and pen and immediately started scrawling out directives, questions and feelings. We knew he was going to be okay when he wrote "how is my hair? His forehead wrinkled and his eyes squinted and I saw a flicker of his sense of humour ... I drew him a picture, and I think I saw a hint of smile. Just a little.

When we finally got to say our goodnight, he was talking and seemed calm and comfortable - a departure from the first glimpse we got post surgery. I can honestly say that it was the very first time in my life that I witnessed my dad in an utterly vulnerable state. His eyes seemed resigned as if to say, "this is exactly what I didn't want to have happen". He has made it known (and I suspect is a deep seated fear) that he does not want to become a perpetual patient.

So it will be a recovery of a different nature and we all shared his disappointment. He was so prepared and focused on getting to the other side of the operation to start his recovery. But that will have to wait for another day.

As the risk of sounding cliche, these life-imposed incidents remind us of what is truly important and to not leave issues unresolved, as well as provide us with opportunities to feel our family love and devotion merged into a powerful single force of support. It is times like these that we are tested, and feel the infinite power of a strong family. And despite the shreds of anxiety and emotion, there is gratitude for belonging to this wonderful, united, warrior tribe.