Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Arctic Longings

Spirit of the Arctic - photo by Lyn
I found another reason to sit on the couch ... a new Canadian television show called Arctic Air. It is set in the high north and the story revolves around an airline in the Northwest Territories. I'm addicted. It takes me  back to when my dad was working in Cambridge Bay - now called Ikaluktutiak (say that after a few drinks). Picture a six foot two beefy white man bundled in a puffy down parka moving amongst the diminuitive Inuit people. And he swears he assimilated! He lived his dream and while he was doing it, I took the opportunity to venture up to the top of the world for a visit; actually two - one in the summer and another for the winter experience. I could write post after post about the experience but I will leave that up to my dad, Polar Bear from Peering Through a Porthole.

I have never heard silence like that which I experienced out on the land. My dad and I were sitting on our ATVs out on the tundra, watching the sun roll around in the sky (it doesn't set in the summer) and inhaling the stark, majestic beauty when he asked, "Lyn - what do you hear?"
"Nothing - not a thing" I answered.
"That's right" he nodded, quiet satisfaction written all over his face.

And in the absence of any competing sounds (e.g. traffic, planes, city hum), if you listen very carefully, you can hear the whispers of the land, sharing its sacred secrets; you can hear the beating of your heart and the rhythms of your life; meditation is imposed.

On my last night in Nunavut my friend and I built an inukshuk as a marker that we had been there to that magical place. My dad the consummate collector had rescued a small anorak from the landfill and when I placed it beside our inukshuk to take the shot, I felt as though I was photographing the Spirit of the Arctic. My inukshuk lasted several winters and when my dad left the north, it was still standing.

Watching the landscapes and listening to the distinct Inuit clipped, blunt speech on the tv show has stirred a yearning for the Arctic. I wonder if I will ever again hear the profound sound of silence of our North. I wonder if my inukshuk has withstood the test of time - as well as my memories.

The North has much to teach us. If you are interested in Inuit culture, this will be a wonderful resource.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Up and Downs

I had the night of a thousand dreams that kept me entangled until 6:10 am this morning. The blurry green numbers on my clock radio screamed the bad news -- I had slept in past my 5:30 get up time. And that is how my day started. not good.

I wasn't late for work despite the time I took to chisel the ice off my car - upside. When I turned on my cell phone I got a red screen that warned me I had to reboot back to factory settings, which I did - only to get a big triangle and exclamation mark! not good. I took the battery out, kissed it for luck and it paid off - cell phone resuscitated. upside.

Just in case I didn't get the message, one more kick in the butt was in order; my work computer was seized by the "anti-virus" virus within 10 minutes of logging on. really not good. But they were able to get me set up on another computer while they restored my machine. upside

And so my day went ... ups and downs all day long. It was comical, really. Obviously there was something I was supposed to be learning, and there was a great deal of effort to make sure I got the message. Was it a reminder to go with the flow; to not overact to trials and tribulations - that the pendulum swings back every time; or was it just to make me appreciate the days that go smoothly? I check "all of the above". I don't have too many bad days, and I can't even slot today into that category. So I can't complain but I can laugh it off and know that tomorrow is bound to be better. And for starters, I'm off to bed so I won't sleep in!

I got the message.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Unexpected Surprise

It seems the seasons are as fickle as I am ... balmy and rainy one day - freezing and snowy the next. Winter can't commit! On one hand I enjoy the unpredictability of it all ... writing hearts and happy faces in the snow on my hubby's windshield and sporting my puffy sub-zero tolerant down coat one day - and the next - splashing in springlike misty rain. On the other hand, I worry about the effects of global warming and how different winters in Canada are now from those of my childhood. The frigid used to set in by November and last straight through March - with no reprieve. Not so anymore.

There is lots going on in my life right now - I'm changing gears as quickly as the weather. Hubby and I landed an extraordinary opportunity to go to China and so I am brushing up on my Mandarin, arranging our visas (which ask if I have suffered any mental issues???) and planning our adventure. Hubby and I had just been discussing how it had been a long time since we had been on an adventure together and with our cottage sucking a big chunk of our funds, it wasn't looking like that was going to change any time soon. But just when you can't see possibility on the horizon -- opportunity comes knocking and your dreams materialize from wishes to reality. F A I T H   It's always worked that way for me. I've been fortunate and it has made me a fearless dreamer.

China wasn't on my bucket list but it landed in our lap. China must have something to teach me, so we will go with open hearts and minds and be grateful for this unexpected gift.  

I hope where ever you are, what ever stage of your life that you are in, that you dare to dream, and then walk boldly towards them. 

Now -- the hardest decision -- will it be a rain trench or down fill coat for tomorrow?

Monday, January 23, 2012

All Better!

huh um *clears throat* I'm back! After a three day horizontal holiday (cable tv is the pits by the way), burning through boxes of lotion-treated Kleenex (I'm worth it) and slurping enough cups of tea to float a boat - I am here to celebrate the virtues of NyQuil! I dispensed of my nasty ailment just in time to go to work today. I started off slowly but as the hours wore on, my cold wore off.

So I am back, better than ever. Just thought you'd want to know.  : )

And I am going to China. Did I mention that?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sniffle, Snorkle and Cough

My head is fuzzy,
my nose so runny.
eyes are watering,
did I mention coughing?

It's called a cold
then why am I hot?
Wait! Now a chill
confirming I'm ill.

Powerful sneezes
and repetitive sniffles
Throw in some wheezes
and pass the Kleenex.

It could be a ploy
to get some tlc,
empathy, sympathy
a-choo, bless me!

More tissue please!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Living and Leaving

I just missed him by ten minutes. I called to say happy birthday to my father-in-law but he had already left for work. He's not one for long phone chats or alot of fussing but he does enjoy having his family about. However he's working all weekend so the celebration will wait for a week.

Gear shift. My ex-father-in-law passed away yesterday at the age of 92. My girls were understandably upset;  and as with Jewish custom, he was put to rest today. Amid swirling snow and frigid temperatures we formed a circle around the freshly dug grave and watched the solid wood casket adorned with the carved Star of David disappear slowly into the ground. We tossed poppies into the grave to commemorate his military service as the rabbi chanted in Hebrew. Then came the final and most difficult obligation -- to bury the dead. Each one of us took our turn at shovelling dirt from the pile onto the casket. It was a jarring sight, driving home the finality of death. I watched as his estranged son poured four shovelfuls into the hole -- one for he and his wife and for each of his sons, both of whom were not present, nor who were known to their grandfather. It was a heart wrenching sight. Were there regrets; words left unsaid? Would he find peace?

My daughter and I drove home in a blizzard, processing this ritual of death, discussing customs and these rituals that we cling to to ease us through this labyrinth that is our life.

Hubby just handed me the phone with a smile; my father-in-law was on the other end. My FIL joked that he and his son had run out of words in their conversation .... and then proceeded to chatter (uncharacteristically) about his day and all of the birthday wishes he received. He was clearly touched that his brothers had reached out to him and that he had heard from his loved ones. We agreed that a year lived was something that deserved celebrating. And so we will.

Today was a day of celebrating my father in laws --

one - a long life well lived, the return of his body from where it came, and the leaving of his spirit from this earth, and

the other - a year of life and milestone birthday (cheque is in the mail!)

Goodbye. You were loved.  Happy birthday. You are loved by many.

Life is a twisted yarn of irony, surprises, and mysteries. And that is what makes it worth living. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Memory Jolt

I was singing in the car on my way home from work. The sun was low in the sky under a blanket of gray and the wipers swiped in tandem with the music. I squinted to see the lines on the highway -- forgot my glasses at my desk -- and dodged pools of water that looked like small lakes.

And then it popped into my head - randomly, without warning: thoughts of my grandmother. I could see her  face and hear her faint, raspy voice. Flashback to my final visit with her. She told me to be a good wife and mother, and to have a happy life. She said not to worry, she was tired and ready to go. I kissed her and  whispered "I love you Gram", and she clasped my hands in hers and said, "I love you too Lyn. Every once in a while stop and say a little prayer for me".

And with that I walked to the door - looked back at her tiny, frail frame propped up in the bed - and said "Bye Gram. I love you". She smiled with great effort and mouthed "you too".

And so Gram, I kept my promise. I thought of you today -- and said a little prayer. It was random and unexpected, but memories are like that. Sometimes we choose them and other times, they find us.

You've been gone for twenty years; I still miss you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Day

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. 

Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. 

Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. 

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


If thoughts were made of ink, oh what a library of works I'd have.

Sifting through my stack of old journals, excavating memories scrawled in my handwriting from moments stolen mostly late at night after little girls were in bed. Random thoughts and musings; funny little things my little girls said and did; milestones; laments; dreams; lists and bits of paper -- copy of my first commission cheque, pros and cons of my new job offer, and lots of treasure notes. I called my daughter to recite one of the adorable entries I wrote about her.

At times the handwriting is meticulous and strong in permanent ink; and other times, it is hurried lines scrawled in faded pencil - each entry a desire to express and archive.

And now I blog. My MIH had my posts rolled into print; three years of thoughts put to ink in one big fat volume. Thank you MIH. And now as I flip through the pages, my words coming back to me, it confirms what I have always known to be true: that I write that which I need most to remind myself.

So it turns out that my thoughts are indeed made of ink. And oh what a library of works I have.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Closed for the Season

It's what we do here in  winterland -- we hibernate; bundle up; snuggle in and shut down -- or at least we try to. Hubby bribed dragged me out of our cave with promises of treats from the German deli. After sampling more samples than I ought to - but chocking it up to maintaining that layer of insulating fat we so desperately need to survive in the wild, we took a stroll on the boardwalk. Dr Doolittle chatted with the geese who had decided to forgo their trip south dummies and apologised to them for not having bread to share. And we wonder why they don't migrate...

The temps dropped to -12 C, confusing the creeks -- freeze or not to freeze -- and plunging us head on into our frigid winter, bypassing any fashion of acclimatization. It's not unlike having a bucket of cold water dumped on you without warning. I barely exchanged my umbrella for the ice scraper and snow brush but being the contingency planner that I am -- I was indeed prepared. Hubby was my willing partner in crime as I insisted braving the breeze off the lake to snap some "cold" shots - that is until the battery in my camera succumbed to the cold and my fingers lost all sensation. I took this as a sign to retreat to the cave, but only after replenishing all lost calories with a trip to the fish and chip shop.

After a four-hour duck into my Pop's place to roll his last three years and 600+ blog posts tidily into hardcover books and a glass or two of his finest fermented grapes, I am once again back in the cave, content and sufficed, bundled up and snuggled in and ready to shut down. Cause that is what we do here in winterland.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For

Winter has a dry sense of humour arriving on Friday the 13th - hours after I posted a woeful poem about missing winter. It snowed today ... like frosting on a cake, concealing the ice sheets that lay beneath. The wind howled and drove mini snow funnels across the hood of the car, making the drive to work treacherous and tedious. Well it would have been tedious if not for my new Zune loaded with my favourite tunes ... John Denver, Adele, and I sang my way to work. I arrived happy, on time and a little windswept with a hot cup of Tim Hortons in hand.

So Winter ... you've made quite an entrance, arriving fashionably late and a little obnoxiously.   But I am a gracious host and so I say - welcome! Now where are my mittens??

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oddly Strange

Oddly, strange
foggy rain
in January.

Wool, fleece
giving way
to umbrellas.

No snow
has fallen
to shovel.

Missing winter
in hiding
Oddly, strange.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Documentary Delirium

When I was a kid my parents bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica which included a set of children's volumes. Each of the books had a specific topic: fairy tales, nature, science, etc. The worn, faded cover of the "Famous People" volume with the pages falling out was a testament to my fondness for my favourite. Yup! Red Riding Hood and Rupunzel were tossed in favour of Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, Susan B Anthony and her fight for women's rights and "Give me liberty or give me death" Patrick Henry. Simply put, I was a cynical child who found fairy tales frustrating and childish, and true stories totally satisfying. Did I mention I didn't smile until I was seven?That has not changed (except for the part about me not smiling), and extends to my taste in films as well, especially documentaries. Real life is simply more riveting (to me).

I have been on a bit of a documentary roll lately, and enjoying every minute of it. Last night my daughter joined me downtown for a preview screening of Pink Ribbons, Inc. The film examines a myriad of issues around breast cancer and the corporate pink ribbon marketing phenomenon -- pinkwashing. “We used to march in the streets; now we run for a cure.” When the lights came up Harmony and I sat quietly in our seats, absorbing what we had experienced and regrouping. The film left an indelible mark and so much to discuss. What causes breast cancer? How can it be prevented? Where do the dollars raised go?  Who, if anyone, is spearheading the search for a cause/cure for this devastating disease? What about the hypocrisy in companies running pink ribbon campaigns that sell products containing toxins linked to cancer? How can we affect change in women's health care? Who is in charge?

If you have breasts and/or have ever donated to breast cancer research, you should see this film.  It was named one of the TOP 10 Films when it premiered at TIFF in September and when it opens in theatres February 3rd I hope people flock to see it. It is an important film. And hey - you need something to gnaw on when you are lying in bed with your insomnia! [steps off soap box]

Monday, January 9, 2012

On Top of Things

I am starting this glorious new year off on the right foot - on top of things. I pushed a little harder to make my work deadlines to stay ahead of the curve and prevent stressful bottlenecks. I took a healthy lunch to work and hit the gym -- have to try to reverse the concave butt the extensive time in my chair is imposing. I packed up my desk, washed my coffee cup, wiped down all of the flat surfaces in my workstations with fresh smelling disinfectant and left the office at a decent hour.

When I got home (stomach growing ferociously thanks to my workout) I sliced up a lean steak and threw it into a pan with onions, fresh ginger, garlic, red and yellow peppers, a few baby potatoes and broccoli. A dash of mango juice (holiday leftover) for flavour, some crushed chilies for heat, and ten minutes later I had a healthy, satisfying dinner. I scrubbed the kitchen down until it glistened and then hit the couch to reclaim my "potato" status. I got hubby to show me (AGAIN) how to use our Wii to connect to Netflix and then watched a documentary entitled God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan. I expected to be moved but I didn't expect the film to be such an eye-opener with respect to our North American culture and values. It was like a mirror being held up to our society ... and it was a little sad. I found myself thinking more than once that the Kenyan refugee camp offered them more than the fast paced, commercialized, unfriendly western society. Bottom line: it was a wonderfully satisfying film and an extraordinary story.

I feel good tonight. Fritz is making like a nice dog and sleeping on my feet and the twinges in my butt tell me I am on the right track for better health. And that is my goal: a more active, balanced, healthy life, with time to nurture relationships.

So hang on 2012 - 'cause I am out to conquer you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Around Town

A full week into January and winter is still sidelined; although on a particular day you can feel a hint of frigid in the wind. But this morning the sun streaming in my window signaled another day of glorious weather and coaxed hubby and I down to the lake to enjoy the reprieve.

So Sunday was spent as it was meant to be .,. in the sun, walking about our picturesque little town. The oaks stand mighty; the heritage homes are reminiscent of English manors; the main street is thriving and alive, and the lake hugs the community with deep affection.

Today was as close to perfect as you could get. Soon my pictures will be of a snowy, frozen world but until then, I am grateful for the above freezing temps, sunshine and freshness that is our January - for now. Here are scenes from our day.

Hot tea in a starry mug

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I am overly sufficiently sufficed with full of two plates of Chinese food tucked nicely into my food belly and I may be seeking a few TUMS in a minute, but it's been a good day.

We gathered a few days late to celebrate my Pops 75th birthday. I was wondering if it was going to be a major waterworks event, however it was just nicely sentimental. This was the birthday my dad asked for; he took control and organized the celebration to his liking: Chinese food; no gifts and no fuss. After my sister SKYPED in and we had our fill of cake he asked everyone into the livingroom. With kids sprawled out on the floor nursing their food bellies he proceeded to dish out special mementos to each of us: the metal insignia off of our Cadillac; his daybook of inspiring quotations; jewelry carved by his Inuit friends; pucks from his past hockey life .... you get the idea. It was fun to listen as he told the story of each item and watch everyone open their loot bag.

Then he ran a quiz of 10 questions about him and his family  -- and awarded a coin as a prize. The kids joked that they would have to study before the next famjam.

I think he enjoyed his birthday. We always feel the void when we are missing some of our precious family members ... but all in all, I think he could feel the love and admiration in the room. He ushered in 75 by giving a little -- no -- alot -- to each one of us. Happy birthday ... and pass the TUMS!
Mama T presenting the cake

Sis and her hubby SKYPED in

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hot and Bothered

Eyelids droop, fatigue sets in yet I am compelled to write.

My new fleece PJ's are conspiring with my power surges and wreaking havoc ... These days the power surges are coming fast and furious sometimes with only 15 minutes respite between. The heat onsets quickly without warning - firey heat blazing up my back. The clothes come off as quickly as I can unbutton, unravel and unzip. If my skin had a zipper, I'd remove that too. Hubby is getting used to the sight of me in various states of undress [wrinkles nose and looks quizzical] but somehow the hot flash factor is devoid of sexy. It's a throw back to the days when I was pregnant and my undershirt worthy boobs blossomed to enormous  and sore - and I invoked the look but don't touch rule.

Sleep is difficult with the "surge, remove, flash, freeze and pull on" cycle repeating continuously throughout the night. Hubby's sleep is no doubt being affected but it's the dog that I worry about. Kidding ... Brings new meaning to being "hot and bothered".

I imagine I sound like quite a whiner but really -- it's not a huge deal. In fact I have a theory that I am riding the tail end of this man-oh-pause thing and that it is going out with a bang.  As always, I am doing my best to enjoy this phase of my life.  I think I am starting to understand the "pause" part.

And so tonight, I had the urge to pause and reflect upon my day, my fleece PJs and my surges and flashes. Life is good.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Three Quarters of a Century

Your eyes are still the colour of a moody sky; your blonde hair is natural (and you still have hair!) with only traces of white when your sideburns get long; you still walk tall, and only when you are incredibly overtired do I see a hint of your true age.

Age is an important number - not to remind us how much time we have left, but as a marker of the number of years lived, and I have never met anyone who has crammed as much living into their days/months/years as you.

I remember helping you with your resume post retirement, and after adding up all of the years of experience in the various posts you held, it looked like you were 102!

I have many reasons to be proud of you -- too many to list here. However I think I have told you before that I am most proud of the ways in which you continue to evolve. You are proof of someone who is getting better with each passing year. You live up to your notion of a life long learner and are interested in the world around you. Better than that -- you are continuously excited by the life around you, and express it.

This milestone birthday is especially poignant, not only because you are 75, but because this year you set your sights on, and pursued better health. In the process you earned back some quality years.

So today on your 75th birthday I want to thank you for more than half a century of hugs, unconditional love, and for challenging me to be all that I am meant to be. Thanks for your stories, debates and for sharing yourself freely and leaving nothing unsaid. Lastly, thank you for being here.

And for that I am supremely grateful.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Small Blessings

I started this blog to attune myself to the blessings in my life and seek the gifts in adversity, and in the world around me. In the process I found myself becoming more observant and aware as I went through my day - living more presently and vividly. I tried to ingrain a habit of gratitude and intention of giving in myself - and I think my efforts are paying off.

I have much to be grateful for, however sometimes it is as simple as a bowl of hot stew at the end of a bitter cold winter's day, prepared by someone you love shared around a table of family. Such was my evening. So tonight before I slumber, my belly and heart are full and I am warm both inside and out - and for that I am very grateful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Dismantled

After a green Christmas, winter arrived with a vengeance. Last night the howling of the wind and the rhythmic tapping of tree branches on the roof lulled me to sleep. I awoke to a gray, dismal, cold winter's day - only a dusting of snow but bitter winds. What a perfect day to hibernate and dismantle Christmas. Undecorating is my least favourite thing to do, however my favourite music coming from my new Christmas Zune made it slightly more enjoyable.

Hubby and I bundled up and took Fritz for a walk ...

The last few ornaments were packed up and the tree went away for another year. As I tucked away the last piece of garland and folded the corner of  the box to seal it, I whispered silently, until next year. When next they are unpacked, how will our world have changed?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

And We're Off!

I am out of the gate and running; 2012 is officially off to a very promising start. New Year's Eve was a family event of course with both sets of parents coming over for meat dinner. Doris and daughter rounded out our table of eight - it felt like a big fat present! I can never get enough of family time.

I expected to spend the first day of the new year in quiet reflection and contemplation. The universe had other ideas, with a day of random, unplanned visits and connections.

It was a carry-over from yesterday's numerous phone calls to catch up with loved ones.  My friend Shirley called to announce she was a new grandmother and we shared a moment reveling in this exciting new chapter of her life. Her grandson was the first baby born in his community and is getting all the goodies and attention that goes with it.

Then Jilly called to ask if she could swing by for a visit. I could feel the effort she was making to the promise we made to to spend more time together. We sat at opposite ends of the couch, Fritz flopped in her lap, catching up, laughing, enjoying the ease of our friendship. Another blessing!

The day rounded out with a call from my far away Cuz. Far away Cuz is a special gift ... although we are first cousins, we never met one another until just a few years ago. How wonderful to discover a kindred spirit who is just months older than me, who named her daughter the same as Kidlet, and who shares a similar philosophy to life! We definitely feel the family connection and have lots to chat about. After about three and a half hours had passed and we were saying our goodbyes, the reality of the phone bill she will get sunk in. Yikes! We agreed that when life is bristly and the day a little difficult, the best way to pull yourself up is to make a gratitude list. So Cuz, today, on this very sparkly, shining first day of 2012, I   am grateful for your far-away kinship and for having you in my life. I am also grateful for more loving hearts than I have chairs at my table; the abundance in my life; and for this blog through which I tell myself that which I most need to learn whispering into my own ear ...

If I had to pick one word to sum up 2011 for me, it would be giving. This year I will try to make it be connections. The year has definitely started off on the right foot. Happy new year everyone.