Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Times are a'Changing

Change is in the air. The days are getting shorter and now when I leave for work in the morning, it is barely daylight; a reminder of the impending end of summer as if the back to school ads weren't enough. Kidlet is gearing up for her second year of university. The reappearance of her hockey equipment is signalling her decision to try out for the varsity team. She has missed the game I admit that I have too so if her tryouts are successful and her shoulder holds out then her roomies will have the pleasure of her omnipresent hockey bag in various degrees of stench being stowed in the utility room. And I will pass the along the Fabreez to her worthy mates.

Harmony is in the throes of shifting creative directions in her career and my oldest daughter is finding new roommates. To add to the change mix my organization is in flux as well - thank you Mr. Harper. Oh well,  fall seems to bring about change and I have learned its better to embrace than avoid.

I started back to the gym this week after months of being MIA just like my waistline.  I figure it's better to spend lunch hours getting exercise rather than overeating or spending money. And it's part of my effort to keep a promise to myself for better work / life balance and good health.

I've missed our little cabin up north so I am looking forward to the upcoming weekend - our last summer hurrah at the cottage. Hope Harmony caught the rogue mouse that was roaming around. It's been two weeks so I know I will notice lots of changes - maybe even some partially clad trees and such. 

Politically there has been some chatter about our left wing and moderately left parties merging to conquer our conservative government. I think it makes sense, but then again I lean to the left and anything that will create a strong opposition to the destruction path our leader is taking the country down is good in my books.

Change is in the air. I can smell it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Monumental and Minuscule

Forces of nature; the weekend was full of them. Hurricane Irene barreled up the eastern coastline leaving a wake of destruction and anxiety and dominated CNN coverage. Apparently they are only capable of covering one story at a time. In Canada our attention was fixed on all things Jack Layton ... synthesizing his passing; watching his celebration of life; pondering his legacy. 

Earthquakes, hurricanes, revolutions, revelations, uprisings and rising up. And in between, fresh tomatoes from my dad's garden, walks by the water, tea with my sister, daughter time and family dinner. 

Life is like that ... the monumental intertwined with the minuscule. Equally rich.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Canadian Send Off

Today I, like so many of my fellow Canadian around the country, watched the celebration of life for Jack Layton, a beloved leader who passed last week. I sat mesmerized by the outpouring of love, admiration and appreciation for his optimism, integrity and his commitment to his ideals and causes. My hero Stephen Lewis delivered the eulogy with his unique brand of eloquence and grace. 

Everywhere I went today I saw signs of grief for the man who will be sorely missed. Flags were flown at half mast; yellow and orange (his political party colour) ribbons were tied around trees and lamp posts and his campaign signs were randomly posted around town.

More than we would admit in life, he moved us more in his passing  ... the reality that a light had been extinguished; a powerful, socially conscious voice silenced. Canadians seem to be thirsty for vision and hope for a better country - a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity. He fought tirelessly for those ideals, and in the throes of his dying, he reached out to assure us all that hope was not extinguished, but that change for the world we want to live in could be ours to create. 

Every once in a while a person comes along who can touch the hearts of the collective and remind us of the fairest face of humanity.

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”
Arundhati Roy

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School

Back to school! That used to mean loads of washing and clothes to organize; new lunch boxes; haircuts for the girls; shopping for new shoes and school supplies. It meant the return of routine, bedtimes that gave way to some mommy quiet time; lunch meat; Glad sandwich bags and daycare. It meant regular bath times and braiding hair. And it usually meant a few shed tears on the first day (me doing the shedding).

Back to school these days looks a different around our house. Kidlet rounds up the boxes and cr@p really important stuff that she didn't unpack when she moved home after first year; we strip the cupboard of pasta and random canned goods; we shop for bedding that will compliment her purple room; and I keep my fingers crossed that her beloved hockey bag will miss her enough to follow Kidlet to school.

Kidlet and I spent the day meandering around her university town. I tripped along behind as she made the rounds to the bookstore, the registrar's office and the bank. I discreetly peered from behind clothing racks as she dropped off resumes and took impromptu interviews. The best part was the sneak peek I got of her student housing apartment which was more than a little upscale from the student pads of my era. There were no holes in the wall, no critters popping out of cutlery drawers, and all of the cupboard doors were on their hinges. Her mattress is not propped up on bricks, there were no empty wine bottles draped in candle wax (not yet anyway) and there was actually a suite of cleaning products on the counter. I think once Kidlet and her roomies figure out how to get those nasty stains out of the toilet and how to get the carbon monoxide detectors to stop beeping, they will be in for some good times.

This time of year  I always get in a back to school frame of mind. I am looking forward to the change that the fall brings. I will miss the quiet that befalls the house when Fritz has no one to bark at; and the pile of shoes Birkenstocks at the door that are so fun to trip over not to mention the collection of hockey sticks that attack me when I pull the vacuum cleaner out of the closet. And I take comfort knowing that whatever changes occur when Kidlet leaves for school -- they are temporary. She'll be home again before I know it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Noble Life and Gracious Exit

Canada lost a favoured son today. It's after midnight so technically it was yesterday. He was the consummate leader - someone people wanted to follow. He was a whirling, swirling vortex of energy, principles and charisma. His was champion of the causes of working men and women; the disenfranchised; the underdog - giving voice to those without one.

He swung to the left in his politics; a socially conscious citizen of the world dedicating his life to service and change, and pursuing his ideals with passion and eternal optimism. And regardless of what political stripes you wore, you couldn't help but admire and respect an individual so genuinely committed to fighting for the causes he believed in.

His name was Jack Layton and just four months ago, he came from behind in the election to become the leader of the official opposition in Canada. He ran his campaign while fighting to hold onto his health, and shortly after his historical victory, he succumbed to cancer. But just two days before he passed, he wrote a letter to Canada; a letter that would bring a tear to a glass eye. I am posting a link to it here that you may also become inspired, as was I: Letter to Canadians from Jack Layton

The world needs people like Jack Layton.
"My friends, love is better than anger. 
Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. 
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Telescoping Autumn

I cringe in denial at about what I am about to write ... the signs are there; the transition has begun; autumn is in the air. This weekend at the lake, I saw the first hints of fall. The heat of the day gave way easily to cool evenings and even cooler nights - just perfect for sleeping. When I stood on our deck overlooking the still waters of the lake, I could smell autumn. The white birches were already shedding their yellowed leaves like tears on the dock.  I am not ready to let go of summer. It passed all too quickly. But it has been exceptional to spend so much time immersed in nature, decompressing away from the city.

So I will be sure to enjoy our next few weekends of summer and fit all the swimming in that I can. Soon I will retire my bathing suit  and trade tank tops in for fleece, flip flops will give way to rubber boots and our fireplace will get a real work out. The maples will turn crimson and gold and the forest will be stripped barren except for a lush carpet of dropped leaves.

But I am getting ahead of myself. What happened to living in the present? Summer, spring or fall, I love the changes and variety of each season. Yup, it's all good!

The evidence as follows:

inner secrets

campfire remnant
It's started
Signs of aging

Thanks MIH

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Give a Little Hope and Life to those Suffering the East Africa Famine

Photo from UN Info Service  
For the past month, I have been consumed with the disaster that has unfolded with the famine in Somalia. The devastation to human life is epic and something that in the West, for most, is inconceivable. We cannot grasp the sheer magnitude of suffering and I am not sure we even want to. We turn away from the horror and the ugly and the reminder of the comfort and abundance in our own lives. Life is stressful these days for everyone it seems; it’s too much to take on.

But how can we not? As I searched for my weekly “give a little” opportunities, I couldn’t get past the famine and the eyes of the mothers who have sacrificed children on the trek to save their families. I couldn’t get past the pools of sorrow and fear in the eyes of  babies who have no parents. It’s humongous with more than 12 million lives at risk and experts are predicting the effects of this drought will be felt for years after.

I usually try to pick organizations that provide sustainable solutions to communities who need it most. But what is more “sustainable” than providing basic sustenance for people who will die – and are dying - without it? So for the past four weeks I have donated to agencies dedicated to providing food and care to the people who have been devastated by the drought; this disaster not of their own design nor making. In keeping with Wendy Smith’s philosophy of spreading the love, I donated “a little” to four different agencies. I stuck mainly to Canadian agencies because the Canadian government is matching all donations until September 16th:

Oxfam Canada East Africa Food Crisis
Red Cross Canada Horn of Africa Drought
Free the Children Program to Help Build a Sustainable Future
World Food Program (WFP)

I know we are weary and have problems of our own but I can’t help feeling that any problems we may be encountering here at home, pale in comparison to the mountain of hopelessness that is building as I type these words. Wendy Smith taught me that a little goes a long way, when multiplied by many. So – I am giving a little hope to our family across the world, that they may know that we care if they live.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Food Confessions

Tomorrow's aspiration
Today was what I would call a  bad eating day ... you know, the kind of day when anything within reach that is loaded with sugar, fat, carbs, salt and preservatives found its way into my mouth. I was rushed this morning and left without my lunch ... so that meant a whole grain blueberry muffin at the Tim Hortons drive through. My cure for droopy eyelids is always fuel so at lunch I went out for an egg salad sandwich - and came back with a mess of french fries (and the sandwich). Fries sit like a rock in my stomach so I wasn't hungry at dinner. So I skipped the main course and had chocolate cake for dessert AND (gotta love this) Skinny Cow caramel swirl ice cream.

So as I finish this tidy little bowl of unsalted peanuts and water, I feel absolutely gross. I've hit my gastric rock bottom, so much so that a coffee colonic sounds like a treat! They say it is always darkest before the dawn, and I am in a pretty dark nutritional place. So tomorrow is a new day, and I will cringe at the sight of anything that is not a fruit or vegetable. I absolve myself from my dietary missteps and I am sure I will do the penance I deserve. And I will start anew, tomorrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Scenes from Cottageland

This is one of the few weekends that hubby and I haven't spent up at our cottage. My dad's surgery was scheduled for Friday (rescheduled from June 30) however the doctors weren't confident that they knew exactly what drugs he reacted to. They don't want to take a chance with his life (HALLELUJAH) so they called it off until they can be sure. Pops is handling it with a remarkable attitude; he has released that over which he has no control and has chosen gratitude for the diligence of his doctor. It will happen all in good time.

So- I thought I would share a few pics taken at our cottage, Falconridge. It's the next best thing to being there ....
Next lake over apres portage!
This is on the lake beside ours. This reminds me of a Group of Seven painting.
Canoe trip
Our "shower" at the cottage

Neglected rubbers

Lunar moth in the making

Restaurant dock at sunset
Dock outside the restaurant
Chipmunks chasing nuts on the deck

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tarnish and Brilliance

It is tarnished, this dollar-sized silver pendant, but the turquoise manages to defy the time inflected camouflage. It is special because it was yours; I was with you when we bought souvenirs to remember our trip to Mexico. When I hold it in my hand and tightly wrap my fingers around it, I can feel your energy; it pulls you close ... or at least your memory. I hesitate to clean the protective film of tarnish and expose the brilliance.

I love change; in fact I embrace it. However there are just some things that I like to preserve and wish to remain the same. My memories are like that; history - not so much. I miss you and when I touch something that you touched, or read a book I know you held in your hands,  I can pull you close and for a brief flicker of time, forget that you went on ahead.

So back the pendant goes into the treasure box with the rest of my mementos; there will be another time for remembering. And maybe I'll even clean it and wear it from time to time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Musing and Mantras

Take the best, and leave the rest.

This is one of the mantras I live by - whether it be advice, a complicated relationship, situation or a grisly piece of meat! Perfection can be elusive; I have found it is better to develop a reflex of extracting and focusing on the the "best" rather than that which is not desirable.

I thought of this mantra when I pulled out the block of cheese and it had mould on it. I hacked off the nasty bits and ate the rest. And you know what? I didn't die.

I was reminded of this when I was reading A Course in Miracles; I loved the principles but was alienated by the constant reference to Jesus Christ (in places it didn't seem to fit). I mentally replaced the references with God and pulled the spiritual messages out. And it was uplifting.

I deployed this approach with our furball Fritz. I overlook his yappy barking at invisible intruders, his inability to respond to any command other than "sit" (only if I am dangling a treat in front of him), and the fact that he hogs half the bed. Instead I choose to focus on his unconditional love and the sloppy licks he so generously bestows when I walk through the door at the end of the day.

And I hope you do this when you read my blog .... take the best, and leave the rest!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pushing Through

It is just days away, your next crack at getting the relief you so desperately need. It’s been getting rougher for you but the pain seems to fuel your resolve. You are the centrepiece of our family; our strength and foundation. It almost broke me seeing you rendered helpless, your body connected to a network of tubes, lines and sensors. But it was an illusion. You were not helpless nor disabled – nor silenced. You pushed through the post op grog to save your own life. Even laid out, drugged, and restrained, you were strong, defiant and in control.

And I just know that it is that very defiance and strength that will push you through the procedure, the pain and the recovery. You will come out the other side - better. I am counting on it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More Than Half the Fun

Just returned from another wonderful weekend at the cottage. It was one of the rare trips that didn't include Fritz (our incorrigible miniature schnauzer), so hubby and I had lots of time to get some things done that are just easier to do without the distraction of a hyper-charged, curious yapping fur ball. Yes, I really do love him. 

We alternated dips in the lake with trimming slashing the deciduous overgrowth and puttering with tools. Hubby built a ramp to bridge the swamp to the bunkie and I made like a crazy woman yielding a rusted "vintage" pair of garden shears, wildly snipping at anything that dangled my way. It was exhilarating enough to release me of any embarrassment despite the odd look I was tossed by a fellow cottager walking by with her dog. I am not sure of the object of her disdain ... my baggy cargo pants tucked into my rubber boots, or my over-sized safari shirt that covered everything leading into the large suede work gloves. Or maybe it was the fact that it was almost 30 degrees Celsius out and I was a mite overdressed to combat the horse fly-fest.

When I worked myself purple (if only I could really sweat) I tore off the copious layers of clothing, pulled on my bathing suit and tore down to the lake for a plunge. Hubby's family have deep roots on the lake and several uncles/cousins have cottages across the way from us. The one sure way to attract the relatives is to put on a two piece bathing suit. I can sit for hours in my modest one-piece but the moment I don the two-piece (easier to bathe in the lake in) we get company. And it isn't a pretty sight for anyone! [Note to self to wear more clothing.]

Hubby and I had hours to rebuild our cottage from the comfort of our deck chairs, and dream up endless possibilities for the future of our little slice of heaven. We finally decided on a name for the cottage: Falconridge. The overriding characteristic of our cottage experience is the  presence of our beloved falcons. We love them even more since they moved to the property next door and aren't constantly swooping us. So Falconridge it is!

As hubby and I continued our cottage reno dreamfest in the car ride home, it occurred once again to me that dreaming is more than half the fun of doing -- and alot less expensive.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thirty Year Throwback

At first glance, they are group of strangers; middle aged, graying people with the trials and tribulations of their lives scored into their foreheads and around their mouths. I scan the photos eagerly, searching for recognition, clues of identity that thirty years of absence have buried.

I haven't seen these faces of my college classmates for three decades, and now they smile back at me from tagged images on Facebook. I try to zoom in to read the the blurred name tags on their chests, to no avail. Why can't I recognize anyone? Have I forgotten that I too am a middle aged woman? I click furiously through the photos trying desperately to find the boyish looks that I remember in the grown men before me. Then I get a break -- and make a connection -- oops - that was my "ex". I finally come across some photos with tags. Why is it the minute you see the name, the face becomes instantly recognizable? The image in front of you is supplanted by the one you remember.

I had an easier time with the women. My friend Imbi still had the long deep dimples in her rosy cheeks and Melissa was the same serene beauty she was way back when. It made me a little sad that I had missed the reunion. I often wonder how everyone's lives turned out. We stoked some big dreams thirty years ago and there was an eternal stream of optimism. We left one another, draft scripts in hand, yet to be played out.

Judging from what I could tell,  most are enjoying a good run. And there is something satisfying and pleasing in seeing our youthful idealism and ambition cloaked in a softer, wiser (and maybe a little larger) frame. It's kind of like learning how the story turned out. It's all good (and I have a few new Facebook friends).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to Business

It's way past my bedtime; I have to be up tomorrow morning at 5:30 but I am clinging to the last few threads of vacation. It was a wonderful 9 days spent at the lake trapping mice, chasing Fritz and bathing at the dock. It took a few days to get my knickers unknotted and totally unwind and relax. But it wasn't long before I adjusted to the new rhythm of life at the cottage - waking up after sunrise and after the smell of coffee brewing permeated the room, deciding whether to drink that coffee on the deck or the dock, with the toughest decision being what swimsuit to wear. And did I mention the perfect, pristine weather of sunny days, high temps and cool nights and absolutely no humidity.

Ah yes - it was grand indeed. And now I am home, tan lines intact, laundry done, lunch for tomorrow made and ready to face the week ahead. When we pulled away up the rustic pathway that we call the cottage road, away from the peace and tranquility of our special hideaway I had that fleeting moment of disbelief that this dream of ours is real, and that I am so very fortunate to live it.

So to end this vacation week on a high note, I will close with a note of gratitude for these precious days of relaxation and also for a job I love so much.

And I wish all my blogger friends peace wherever you may be.