Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Entering the Golden Years 101

Ash...the transition begins.

Sixty. Fuck. How is this possible? No need to remind me by saying things like, "well it beats the alternative". I say those things to myself constantly to bolster my own enthusiasm for life. It's all good I tell myself. You are still alive, can still remember most shit, can still hit a tennis ball with some oomph and even get it on when the mood strikes. So, I should be content. Am I right? 

 I am content but it comes and goes in waves. And those waves get higher and harder and frothier everyday. I have lost count of the spider veins on my legs. I have begun the transition to grey hair with the help of my colourist (go will blend with the silver). My eyebrows are becoming as sparse as up days in the stock market. I am developing a penchant for eating my main meal of the day at noon. Those senior early bird specials ain't early enough for me it seems. And my bathroom scale must be broken, cause there is no way I weigh what it keeps telling me and lately I find it hard to give a shit anyway. 

I read books about the meaning of life (in case I have missed something), birds and longevity diets, skipping from one to the other like a mad woman unable to focus on any of them for more than a chapter before I fall asleep - usually before 9 pm. I never make it through the night without a trip to the loo and sometimes I just stay up and do some banking or mindless social media surfing (FB and Insta, as hip as it gets) until I am tired again. This broken sleep pattern then makes me unable to make it through the afternoon without a nice little power nap for about an hour - my nana nap. 

I am officially a senior according to some. When I get back to Canada this spring, I will be able to get a discount at Shopper's Drug Mart.  Ain't that something to look forward to?! I am less interested in fashion trends until I hang out with my fashion forward friends (young and old) and when I try to incorporate any of them into my wardrobe, I am an instant "fashion don't"! (Anyone want a pair of "worn only once" floral print tights or a pair of oversized triangular "brush" earrings?). I didn't think so. I like reliable cars even though I still wonder what it would be like to drive around in a vintage Karmann Ghia convertible that I have had a secret longing for ever since Ken Olin's character, Michael Steadman drove one on that series Thirtysomething a few years back. If you don't remember that show, you are too young to relate to this blog and if you do, dare I remind  you that the series ended 27 years ago. Truth. WTF!?

Twenty seven years ago, I did not have food sensitivities, age spots. droopy eyelids, molars that keep cracking, breasts that required underwire, sensible panties, progressive lenses, a need for Poise Pads and NOBODY called me Ma'am! 

This is it. I am running out of steam to fight the inevitable. The beginning of the last third of my life has arrived and I can no longer deny it, nor do I plan to inject, slice and dice or starve myself to be thin. I will draw the line at that permed grandma hair and Hilary Clintonesque pant suits, but for the most part I am going to try to do this aging thing with a modicum of dignity and a hint of style (think Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). 

So, bring it on. 

I may not like it but I can bloody take it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kitchen Memories

Have you ever wondered what to do with vintage kitchen utensils? You know what I mean - the things you remember your grandmother stirring, mixing or mashing with that bring back memories of your childhood. Sunday dinners and family holidays watching nan or grannie in the kitchen. 

We have recently had to sift through a kitchen and house full of such things as Mick's parent's house is now empty and unoccupied. There were cupboards and drawers full of old and worn bits and pieces that were laden with memories but well beyond their expiry date to be truly useful in a modern kitchen. I have always had a soft spot for such time worn utensils, so we decided to gather a collection of them and vowed to come up with an idea to repurpose some or all of them in some creative way. There was a complete set of wooden handled cooking ladles, forks and spatulas that apparently had been a wedding shower gift to his mother. I noted the fact that they had been "made in England", which likely contributed to their longevity. 

We both wondered how many pots of potatoes had been mashed with the masher as it was clearly the most used piece of all - the handle cracked from overuse and much of the paint worn away. It was clearly tied with the hand beater and slotted spoon. How many meals had Rita served to her family with these kitchen tools? How many times had they been tapped on the side of a pot, washed by hand, wiped dry with a cotton towel and put away until the next meal was prepared? Imagine the stories they could tell. So, we decided to create a tribute piece to honour the memories created by her and the tools she used to feed her family. 

A daily reminder to us and all who visit our kitchen of the history of food and family and love.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Sweetest Honey

In case dear readers you did not get enough of my last blog about magic and mystery, allow me to regale you once again with yet another tale of intuition and the miracle of what happens if you just listen to that wee voice in your head that makes suggestions, nudges you, or simply hovers around like an annoying house fly that you absent-mindedly wave away while you are focused on your news feed or newspaper depending on which decade you were born. 

It is only possible to follow the lead of that voice if you are consciously aware it is there in the first place. Most people are not. The average person is so wrapped up in the minutiae of their life they are not paying attention at all. There is no opening for the voice to sneak through. All that constant chatter in their heads creates an impenetrable barrier for the intuition to flow. I know this because I used to be that person. It has been about a decade now that I have been working on turning off the monkey mind. And it has changed my life. Many of you reading this have witnessed my journey and seen where it has led me. I never would have imagined my life would have taken such a drastically different route. I owe much of it to tuning into my intuition. 

So, today, as I fumbled around at 5 am. getting dressed to go for a walk, I noticed some cash laying on my bedside table. Some money I had emptied out of my pocket before bed the night before, strewn about amongst my books and earrings, sort of grabbed my attention. I rarely bring anything besides my phone on my walks. There really isn't anywhere to spend money along the way unless we pop into the convenience store at the corner gas station to buy a newspaper. But that is a weekend thing. Not a Thursday morning thing. My little voice urged me to pick up the five dollar note. I fought with the voice. "Why do I need that 5 dollars?" Just take it said the voice. "Nah, I don't need to take it." I went and brushed my teeth. I started down the hallway to the back door. "Go back - get that 5 dollars." "Alright, alright," I grumbled as I went back into the bedroom and stuffed the fiver in my pocket. Even Mick said, "you don't need any money - I'm not getting a paper today." I almost relented again, but reminded my self that my intuition is not something to ignore. 

Off we went toward the residential streets versus the country road walk. "G'Day Kanga, G'Day Roos,", I sang out at the corner as we passed the usual mob in the sports field at the corner. We normally head straight ahead from there but today we ventured left after a couple of blocks for a change of scenery. About two thirds of the way up this particular street we came across an ordinary house with a small stand in front. "Honey for Sale" I could see from the curb that there were 2 containers of honey, one a little larger than the other. PERFECT! I needed some honey. I walked across the lawn and took a look. One was marked $4.20 and the other as you have probably already guessed was $5.00. I stuffed my fiver in the slot on the rusty honour box and turned on my heels and held up my prize. "See Mick!, what did I tell ya? I knew that five bucks was in my pocket for a reason!" 

As much as he likes to poo-poo my "messages from the universe", even he had difficulty scoffing at this one. This was clearly a premonition I reckon. I don't know why I even bother arguing with that voice. It never steers me wrong.

And that is it sweet!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Magic and Mystery

No matter how many times people look at me like I am from another planet when I mention my belief in messages from the universe, it will never stop me from believing it happens. I have made major decisions in my life based on the strength of my intuition and I can assure you, it has been life changing for me.

However, I am not here to convince you. I can only share my experiences and you can decide for yourself if you want to consider the possibility. I write this today because I had one such experience at 3:30 this morning. I woke up in the middle of the night as I often do and noticed that the front of our cottage was awash in light. Not moonlight. Artificial light. I got up and looked out and there were three coach lights on out front. We moved here in May of this year and have been unable to get these lights to come on. We figured there was a wiring problem. We did everything we could to get them to turn on like putting fresh bulbs in and checking for switches that might have been two-way. Nothing. 

We don't really use them, so we just put it on the back burner item on the fix-it list. On at least three or four occasions, we would flip the switch to see if they would "suddenly" work but they never came on. So, when they lit up like the Fourth of July in the middle of the night last night, it was completely bizarre. The switch is on the lower level. We were alone in the cottage. Had a small rodent climbed the wall and flipped the light switch on? And, even if that were true, how was it that said creature was able to succeed at getting these lights to work when we couldn't. I sent Mick down to investigate and he saw nothing unusual other than that the switch was in the on position. He turned it off and came back upstairs and that is when I saw the first one.

"Hey darlin, I shouted, LOOK, a shooting star!" He stumbled across the room to join me at the window and that is when the show really began. In less than 45 minutes we watched and counted 52 falling stars streaking across the night sky. They were in every direction and some were smallish while some were long and vivid. Everyone was greeted with a number count. I said, "let's watch until we have seen 29 (our lucky number)", but 29 came in the first 15 minutes or so and it was a bit addictive so we kept watching. There is something so magical and mysterious about watching a meteor shower. The sky was crystal clear and the moon had just started to rise up over the horizon, so the conditions were perfect for viewing. 

Now, normally I keep abreast of these sorts of things. I like watching these celestial events and have seen many but I somehow missed the memo on this one and oddly enough, astronomers say this was possibly one of the best shows of the year. This Geminid Meteor shower was a "must see" for anyone who enjoys this sort of sky porn. 

We got to see it because those coach lights came on for no apparent reason and caused us to wake up and investigate that mystery and resulted in us noticing the night sky. One could chalk it up to coincidence. I get that. Could be. Or, was it something else? No one can say for sure. All I can say, is thank you to whomever or whatever caused our lights to come on giving us an opportunity to witness a little magic in the heavens. 

Now, for the record, we have tried to turn those lights on today and they are not working...again. 

It may well be a wiring problem, but why last night? Why at that moment? So, all you naysayers out there, go ahead and rain on my parade with your scientific explanations. I am going to go with my gut on this one anyway. 

Something strange happened and it was beautiful. 

Some mysteries are best left unsolved. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Botanical Love Letter

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Over the last few years, I have experienced this many times as Mick and I have navigated our relationship between Canada and Australia. It has been impossible to spend all of our days together. We were excited to finally be able to not have to endure these separations last December when he was retiring at 60. At long last we could look forward to spending our life together consistently. Well, almost. As anyone who has a partner with distant families knows, there comes a time when you need to return (sometimes urgently) to tend to matters like illness and death when you least expect it.

This past summer was the case for us when Mick's dad passed away. He had to return to Australia and I was unable to join him and so, once again we were apart for weeks. It has become harder and harder for both of us to live separately now that we are a team...or one soul as he so sweetly verbalized in a note recently. I found myself wanting to do something special for him while he was away, not only as a heartfelt gift to him, but as a distraction from the lonliness I was feeling in his absence. 

I had been thinking about creating a garden bed here at our cottage. My bff Peg had put the bug in my ear one morning as we sat drinking coffee overlooking the lawn. "You know Deb, that spot right down there would be a perfect place for a flower garden." I had to agree it was the ideal location as it could be seen and admired from where we sat and the section was sunny and had a gentle slope that would allow it to be viewed from the second floor in its entirety.

I decided to get started on the project after it had rained steadily for a couple of days as I knew the ground would be softer and easier to work. I would have to remove sod, lots of buried rocks and boulders and chop through roots, so the task was challenging to say the least. As I began to pick axe my way through it all, I was unsure about the shape of the bed. After a couple of days of excavating the site, I had a light bulb moment. A heart. A heart-shaped garden bed as a living, loving gesture to my sweet guy. After all,  I thought, the project was most certainly a "labour of love". It would be like a permanent love letter - a daily reminder to both of us as we would see it every day and every time we looked out the front windows of our cottage. 

I started to think about what plantings might be meaningful as well. I knew immediately I wanted something red in the middle of the heart. A solid perennial shrub that would root deeply and anchor the bed. I chose a Euonymus alatus "Compacta", better known as a Burning Bush. Green for most of the season, but maturing to a rich dark red each fall, somewhat symbolic of our maturing relationship. I planted some herbs that I will use in my cooking to represent the nurturing aspect necessary to keep love alive and thriving. I gathered a few cuttings and pieces of iris and peony long neglected on our property and gave them new life in this garden of love under the tall pine to reflect the beauty we see in each other.  I found a small evergreen in the forest that had self-seeded to represent everlasting love. A Purpleleaf Sandcherry, with its passionate reddish purple foliage and delicate pink flower was chosen to add contrast, a salute to the importance of contrasting interests and traits that draw us to each other and remind us that we are two different people and that, were we the same, life would be more than a little dull. 

A white flowering Viburnum was chosen for its fragrance, to always encourage us to "stop and smell the roses", although admittedly, we are both pretty good at that by this stage in life. I then filled in the leftover spaces with fun, colourful, flirty annuals and some daisies and black-eyed susans to keep things light-hearted and joyful. What relationship couldn't use a dose of cheer and colour from time to time? There are several boulders and rocks throughout the bed, the foundation holding it all together that will weather the inevitable storms and winds of change that will come. 

The final touch came to me as I felt the bed needed some ornamentation. Mick had been collecting some old bits of salvaged wood that with a little imagination I could turn into something personal to us both. We have long loved a Rumi quote "There is some kiss we want with our whole lives." I painted these words on the old wood in red script and it stands at the top of the heart reminding us both that we are each other's "some kiss". 

Now that this "tribute to our love" garden is complete, we can watch it grow and change together as we do, and as we weed and maintain this bed over the years, remember that as the garden requires maintenance to thrive, so does our relationship.

There was one sizable boulder in the area I was excavating, so it remains and I added another, as well as many of the large rocks I found while digging. Solid foundational elements to prevent erosion and add some interest seemed appropriate. The second boulder took every ounce of strength I had to move it up the hill from where I found it tucked into the wooded hillside covered in moss. As I struggled to pull it up on a sled, it reminded me of the challenges we encountered on the road to becoming a couple. As I pushed it off the sled and manoeuvred it into place, I knew immediately it was staying put and never moving again, just like us.

And, on a final note, there are some beautiful but pesky deer that live in the woods that surround our little patch of paradise and it will take constant vigilance by both of us to keep them from nibbling and destroying our carefully tended bed. As it turns out they don't like Marigolds, so they will be added each spring as a deer repellent.  Let's hope they keep their distance. If they don't, I guess we will just repair the damage and carry on.

The bed is just a few feet below a very tall old pine tree and so I have named it.

Love Beneath Tall Pine...for Mick.

Love Beneath Tall Pine

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mornings on Bayview Lane

She stands on her hind legs like a circus elephant
I watch as her neck elongates and her head
disappears into the branches
flush with leaves and unripened fruit

Her offspring
all spotty and eager to learn
nibbles on a hard undersized fallen apple
both tails flit and flutter
soft white powder puffs

I sip my coffee and watch them
Offering some sage advice now and then
They glance toward me
Then ignore me
The rest of the family arrives

The spotty one's older brother
He is imperfect
but does not know it 
or care 
I call him Missing Antler

His father saunters slowly up the drive
all perfect and proud
Full rack intact 
Afraid of nothing or no one
He is king

Finished with apples, they move to the meadow
for their next course
Chicory, thistles, Queen Anne's lace and grasses 
an endless feast on a giant platter
A satisfactory alternative to my marigolds

"Don't eat my flowers," I have told them daily
They have listened and obeyed
So far.
Still, I stand and go to the window
To check. To be sure.

A tiny precious hummingbird hovers now
Did it come to say good morning?
I decide to translate its visit that way
Hummingbirds and whales 
Surprisingly equal amounts of awe 

For a few minutes each morning, I am immersed
in this wild kingdom, this joy.
Were it not for the hum of the refrigerator
Reminding me of my place in the world
and my supposed superior humaness. 

This deer family poses no threat 
of fire and fury
like the world has never seen. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Damn Fine Man

For several months now, I have had a severe case of writer's block...or maybe life was just getting in the way. Either way, today I got the kick in the pants that I needed to put a few words down on a clean fresh page.

It is not exactly the kick in the pants one wishes for, but death can be funny that way. It kinda makes you want to kick start life as it reminds you how little time we really have here on this planet.

The world lost a good one today. Bloody cancer. Hate that bastard. Cancer came knocking on John Shields door about 21 years ago. Back then he managed to kick it to the curb, only to come face to face once again a couple of years ago in a different form. Fighting it at 60 was different than fighting it at 80. This time he lost the battle.

On this grey and rainy morning here in Ontario, I got the news that he had passed. My wonderful partner's dad had died on the other side of the world. It was dark there too, literally and figuratively. The Shields men were all gathered and had all seen him before he left this world, and left some pretty big shoes to fill as well.

I met John Shields in 2012. Not that long ago. I did however, meet his eldest son in 1977. His son is an honest, hard-working, strong, funny,  fiercely loyal man. A giver. The apple did not fall far from the tree. I was a little nervous to meet his dad. I was worried he would not embrace the idea of me - a woman from Canada that threatened to lure his number one son away from Australia. He was close to his two boys. Who was I to come along and upset the applecart? Turns out I had nothing to fear. Turns out he not only embraced me, he loved me. I know he loved me because he told me so every time we saw each other. Yup, that's right. This crusty old, tough-skinned Aussie man had a soft and gentle side that came as the most welcome surprise.

Every time we visited in his home or ours, he would take me aside and ask, "Is he treating you alright?" I would always smile and assure him that his boy was absolutely "treating me well".  He brought me plants from his well-tended garden to help brighten my own new garden. He supplied me with fresh basil - huge bunches of it, that he never used in his own kitchen. He just loved the smell of it, so he grew it. He grew lemons and oranges and paw paw's and generously shared them too. Everyone called him Pop. It suited him.

The first time he came to our little house, he glanced around and said I kept a nice home. I think it pleased him that his son was living in a love-filled home again after a few years of post-divorce bachelor living.  I liked that he liked it. I wanted him to feel assured that I loved his boy as much as he loved me. Doesn't every parent hope for that? I'm glad he died knowing that.

When his darling Rita's Alzheimers became too debilitating and he had to move her into a care facility, I watched the man's heart break a little more each day. He went to see her every day, his love for her unfaltering. He was a testament to enduring love. True love. As I said, he was a giver. Generous to a fault. He lived a simple, humble life and gave to his family always. He was a story-teller, with a cache of expressions that made me laugh out loud. He was a character, a truly memorable one. I do regret I never got to hear him play his accordion - even though I have been told it was something I really did not want to hear!

He and Rita raised two wonderful sons and I feel fortunate to be spending the rest of my life with one of his offspring. There is something comforting knowing that a part of John Shields lives on in my life through his son. I am grateful I got to know him these last few years. It is clear to me that he had a very positive influence on his entire family and sadly, a bright light went out today.

Hope you're resting easy now Pop.

Love you too.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Can Boomers Keep up? Will we want to?

As always I over packed for my current adventure. I am a "just in case" packer. You would think that after this many trips overseas, I would have scaled it back by now, but alas, I still find myself the day before I depart adding and subtracting items from my suitcase until I am hovering within ounces of the airline's allowable weight limit for my baggage. 

Inevitably, I arrive at my destination with a suitcase full of "just in case" clothing that I never end up wearing. I also end up wishing I had packed the odd thing that I hadn't. Case in point. Something that I tend to use almost daily as I am getting older is this amazing little tool called a magnifying glass! The one we have at home is not just any magnifying glass, it is lightweight with a tri-pod handle and lights up at the touch of a button to illuminate whatever it is we are trying to see clearly. 

Unlike a cane or a hearing aid that is visible to the outside world instantly announcing "aging baby boomer", this aid to our aging vision is like a little secret we use behind closed doors to read labels (can the print get any smaller?!), observe imperfections on our bodies (I was sure I had a melanoma on my toe recently!), or to just be able to take a good solid look at a myriad of everyday eensie weensie items that a decade ago seemed much larger. 

Packing that useful tool occurred to me, but since Mick was not joining me until a few weeks later, I did the noble thing and left it for him (after all, he is a year older!). I think it was only a matter of days after landing on North American soil again before I missed that damn thing...and Mick too as a matter of fact. So, the only solution was to pick one up over here (a magnifying glass, not a new Mick). I came across this really cool mini - almost steam punk looking one called Little Helper. It is much more complex than the one back in Oz, but it looks interesting and has these little clips attached that can hold any item you are looking at which is advantageous if you are the least bit shaky or looking at something super small. It was meant to be a belated Christmas gift for Mick, but I had to free it from its box today so I could read the fine print on my "welcome to Ottawa" parking ticket. Turns out I may be able to have it forgiven as a non-resident and generally unaware idiot from Toronto, but that remains to be seen.

Anyway, I digress. What struck me about the need for this aid was how it relates to life as we approach our 60's. As I near the final third of my life, it is not only my eyes that need a little assistance. I want to see everything with more clarity. My soul yearns to ramp up the intensity of my spiritual journey. I am reminded almost daily now that there is an end to this life. 2016 was especially loud and clear on this with the death of so many of my own age or younger. How can I make this final third count? How can I move through life with more compassion? More joy? What can I offer to help? Where can I offer help? Can I keep up with technology in a way that enhances my life? As a society, are we sliding down a slippery slope into electronic communication that creates a gaping chasm where personal direct interaction with one another once existed? Will I have the energy to embrace the constant change coming at me? Some days it seems endless and overwhelming. Is that why we die? Do we just stop giving a shit about this new thing and that new way. Do our cells finally just burn out from it all? 

There are many seniors in my own life who have chosen to stop learning. They have put the brakes on life in a way that leaves them in a cloudy state of disconnect from the world. They don't own a computer. If they own a mobile phone, it is only used for emergencies and when said emergency arises, they forget how to use it or it has lost its charge, so what's the point? They miss out on instant communication with their children, their grandchildren and even their peers who have kept up.  With each passing year, I find I have more empathy for these old timers who have decided to remain in the past. It's easier for them. However, this is not likely to be an option for aging boomers. We already bought in long ago. Once our elders are gone, the companies and services that still cater to the techno-challenged will make that type of enabling obsolete, forcing anyone who wants to opt out to stick with the program or die. I don't mean die literally. I mean die in terms of living so disconnected from the rest of the world, that day to day functioning becomes impossible. You will not be able to survive without an email address. Paper bills will not be an option.  

Who would have imagined a tweeting president or the ability to access the answer to almost any question on a device you carry in your pocket? I graduated from Ryerson's School of Journalism in 1985. It was the year before computers were introduced. We typed our reports on IBM self-correcting typewriters in triplicate. There was no spell check. We had to flip through a dictionary if we wanted to check the spelling of a word. We did that a lot because if we handed in a story with a spelling mistake it got an automatic "F". We took spiral notebooks to interviews. We used pens. How is it that all of this seems archaic now? Will the way we do things now seem old fashioned in another 30 years or so? Will I become one of those old folks that gets left behind in the dust of obsolete devices? Will my current iPhone seem "retro" in 2047? 

Maybe in the next 30 years I will begin to care more about how I spend my remaining years and it will seem wasteful to obsess over the latest gadget. Meaning will replace knowing. Optimizing joy will outweigh mastering Apple's latest must-have techno tool. I already prefer observing birds at the feeder over anything technology related. Is this what happens? Do we hit a wall one day? Is that the definition of "slowing down"? Will being current and relevant reveal itself as a time thief? Will I become that strange old woman feeding pigeons on a park bench? Will young people pass by with glances of disdain and pity?

And will I care?

That bench is becoming more and more tempting some days... or more understood at any rate.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The End of my Love Affair with Louis

I dragged the old Louis XV chair closer to the window this morning here in my daughter's first apartment so I could look out across the snow-covered rooftops while I sipped my coffee and ate my soft-boiled egg. She still needs a small kitchen table, so I had to create a makeshift dining nook. As she slept, I reflected.  Her apartment is a small walk-up and is much like one I lived in back in the 80's. I had forgotten what it was like to have to walk several flights up the stairs with groceries or down to the laundry room after rummaging for coins. It took me back to those days and memories of my first marriage when we lived in that apartment.

It was a short-lived affair in the grand scheme of my life. We were married just four years. We met in university. He was two years younger in actual years, but at least a decade younger from a maturity standpoint. We never should have tied the knot in retrospect. My trip down memory lane has been compounded now as I received an "out of the blue" message from his sister yesterday. I had not known what had become of his family and it was so strange that she should find me at this moment when I am staying in this apartment with all it's similarities to the past.

My entire month back in Canada has been a series of endings and closures. Literally. Many of my old reliable shops and services are gone. The mall I always frequented has been renovated beyond recognition. My favourite dress shop in Port Credit - gone! It is as though I was away for far more than three years. Even my old house is completely changed - renovated to the nines. So, in some ways it was comforting to see a few of my old bits of furniture and china finding new life in my daughter's first solo living space.

But back to this chair. This antique Louis XV chair that now finds itself in unfamiliar surroundings is not unlike this old broad sitting gazing out the third floor window of an apartment in Ottawa - a city she does not know well at all. The old chair used to sit upon a proper Persian carpet, one of a pair that flanked the fireplace in the old Montgomery house in Toronto. I had pined for those chairs for months, maybe years, visiting the antique shop where they sat waiting for a new home. I kept popping into that shop hoping for a price reduction, haggling with the owner to no avail and just as I was about to give up on ever owning them, it happened. The shop was closing and everything was being cleared out. I got them for half of the original asking price (even that was steep) and they were what finally completed the look I had been trying to achieve for years. It strikes me as almost comical now. I had been trying to create some crazy mini Versailles in my Etobicoke home and by the time those chairs were plunked down into the living room, I was over it. I wasn't completely over it, but I already knew my tastes were heading in a new direction and my love affair with everything Louis was fizzling out like a spent Canada Day sparkler.

I see this chair now as a turning point in my life. It represents where I have been and who I was or who I was trying to be. I recall how it made me feel like I had arrived somewhere. I was an adult. Only an adult would own such a chair, let alone a pair of them! Was that to be it? Was my journey in life over with the acquisition of those chairs? Had I reached some sort of pinnacle? Had I realized the ultimate furniture dream? Would owning those chairs finally make me ridiculously happy? There may have been a part of me that saw it that way then. I don't know really. I am in such a different place in my life now, although at that time I didn't see that coming either. I cannot even imagine "longing" for a piece of furniture now. My longings have evolved.

This chair reminds me now, just how much.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Rock Pile update!

Bromeliad in my garden

One week later. Countless mossie and madness making midgie bites. Forearms that look like I just adopted half a dozen kittens, thanks to bromeliads and their spikey-edged leaves, I am on the home stretch with these rock garden borders that surround our old swimming hole.

I have been forced to take a break today once again because this old bod of mine is demanding a day of rest. I have about another 12-14 feet of border to complete. I had left this section with the hardest packed soil for last and in retrospect, maybe I should have conquered that bit first when I was still fresh. The rocks in this last section are buried under hard packed clay-like soil and are clinging to their long-buried positions like a dog with a bone. They are mingled with old roots and I am uncovering ant's nests and native gecko hidey holes with every other stab of my spade and I am praying I don't come across any spiders or snakes that have possibly taken up residence as well. This section is also mostly under cover of a tree that produces an extremely toxic milky sap that can cause serious injury if it drips on your bare skin or gets in your eyes. It is called a pencil cactus or stick tree - a euphorbia that adds a gorgeous focal point in the corner but whatever you do, don't snap off any of the sticks as they will punish you with their sap. A couple months ago my Mick was pruning a few branches and got some on his hands and even though he washed his hands, the sticky residue remained and he touched his eye and we ended up in the emergency room at the hospital for an evening getting his eye treated for what amounted to a chemical burn.  So, you can see why I left this section until last.

The excavation continues

I have to do most of the work hunched over to avoid this miserable tree coming into contact with my body. The ants are furious with me. The soil is unrelenting and I am really beginning to wonder if I took on more than I could handle. On the up side, the result of all this toil is such a dramatic transformation that it is driving me to carry on.

Gardening in the semi-tropics is no walk in the park. I absolutely pine for my moist earth and cloudy skies of my Vancouver garden. I have given up trying to recreate my past floral choices. It may be possible in the southern states here, but it is like working against the grain to do it in Queensland. My neighbour stubbornly grows plants that have no business in a tropical garden, but she is in her garden 7 days a week nurturing and tending to her delicate specimens to keep them alive. I don't have her stamina or weathered alligator skin. I needed something that didn't need my constant attention. Hence, my venture in the world of Bromeliads. I have been researching these plants that are new to me. I can see that they could become an obsession, kind of like orchids. There are so many varieties - it's mind-boggling. For now I am making do with cast-off pups from friends and neighbours plants and taking what I can get for free. This way, I reckon if they don't thrive, as least I have not invested too much moola.

Bromeliads in their new homes

I am surprised they make such a stunning statement. Getting them into the ground is like wrestling kittens as I mentioned earlier. My poor arms and hands are a fright! We upset a gorgeous green frog who was nestled in the cool pool of water inside the inner cup of one of the broms we dug up next door. I am hoping he finds his way to my garden to resume his position inside the plant that now lives in my rock garden. 

It is truly a learning curve for me here. Who would have imagined I would be surrounded by palm trees, agaves, crotons and bromeliads? I am still a novice and learning the names of all these new plants and trees and figuring out their needs. My neighbour is a great source of information. I was agog last week when I visited her garden and saw a spectacular display of about two dozen assorted amaryllis in gorgeous shades of pink and red and coral and peach. It still amazes me that these are grown outside as perennials here. When they die off, they are replaced with masses of Cosmos and Shasta daisies in that particular bed, so she has a constant riot of colour all year round.

Just the other day, I noticed an orchid reaching up out of a clump of ginger that grows out near my patio. I had tossed my old spent store bought pots of orchids into the clump where they were pretty much ignored for a year or so other than the odd bit of water that may have reached them and now there are two blooming again. I lifted them up and out of their less than deserving locations and promoted them to more prominent positions where they will bring me a second round of joy for the next few weeks. In Canada I never had a spot to keep my dormant orchids and would toss them.  I love that I can just tuck them into the garden and forget about them here until they are ready to perform once again.

Ginger clump to the left of the chair where I toss my orchids and the new growth beauty that graces my outdoor coffee table now

Ready for her close-up!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rock On

Between the Orchid Show two weeks ago and the local garden tour this past weekend, I finally got the inspiration I needed to start tackling the neglected gardens here at our house. I got further inspired this past week as I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F...k by Mark Manson - particularly his bit about doing the hard yards. He talks a lot about how we all want our dreams and fantasies to manifest, but how many of us are actually willing to do what it takes to actualize these dreams?

He uses the example of how when he was a kid he wanted to be a rock star. (who doesn't?) He wanted it for years, but he came to realize that the truth was, he was not interested in the years and years of practice and rejection and hardship that paved the road to that moment on stage in front of his adoring audience. He wanted the destination - not the journey. We all do this. We want the goal but aren't too interested in the skill development required to score.

Hence, my present project. I wanted my garden to look great, but the task seemed so daunting, I kept avoiding it until Monday. When I got home on Sunday afternoon after touring some local residential gardens, I knew that the only way my garden was going to get restored to it's former glory was to roll up my sleeves and "git er done". Having hung up the paint brushes and rollers after completing the inside of this "fixer upper" we call home, it was time to start the whole process over again outside. Now, when it comes to gardening, I didn't "just fall off the turnip truck" as Dr. Phil used to say. In my past life in Canada, I had tackled two pretty major garden renovations already. My first foray was in North Vancouver and that is where I got myself educated. I immersed myself in everything botanical and lived and breathed the creation of my west coast patch of paradise. I went so far as to learn most of the Latin names of all my plantings. I memorized what plant needed which nutrients and which soils were required for my roses to thrive. I became a bit obsessed. When my daughter was born, I would take her baby monitor outside while she napped to care for what had then been demoted to my second baby.

Just when I felt I had perfected my Deep Cove plot, up went the "for sale" sign and I left my creation behind to head east and start all over again - this time in Toronto. I fell for what the real estate brochure described as "a charming character home with lovely English Gardens". Believe me when I say it was a stretch. The home had character alright and the sellers were English, but I think the adjective "charming" and the word "gardens" were exaggerations. It was indeed a fixer upper and I was able to see the potential. I am not sure if this ability of mine is a blessing or a curse. I keep saying I will never buy another old house but here I am again in yet my third "has potential" dwelling. Will I ever learn?

Admittedly, there is a sense of accomplishment associated with turning lemons into lemonade, but it is harder to do the squeezing with each passing decade. That is why this morning I am sitting here at my kitchen table gazing out at my half finished rock garden renovation and writing this blog instead of excavating rocks from under layers of soil and mulch. After two days of said task, my body is insisting I take a break. My glutes remind me every time I stand or sit that I am not 32 anymore, my knuckles are bruised, my triceps are tender to the touch and I have what is surely a case of dehydration headache. Ouch. It is one thing to garden in Canada, but it is an entirely different kettle of fish working in the semi-tropics with a shovel and Palm Tree roots.

The beds I am improving have not been maintained for many years. Some of the  plantings are re-usable and mature now but the rocks that would have been used instead of mulch originally have sunk and become covered in plant and leaf debris and dirt. The only way to bring this baby back to its former glory is to clear the debris, remove thousands of rocks, improve the soil, re-position some of the plants, add a few new ones and then re-use the rocks. It means doing the hard yards. Since paying someone to do this was out of the question, it was up to me. Was I willing (or able) to re-create these beds? Willing - sort of. Able - unknown. It has been awhile since I have summoned my major inner Manual Labour. Was he up for the task? Manual and I once removed an entire pool deck consisting of heavy interlocking bricks over a long weekend back in 2002. It was back-breaking work but worth the few grand it would have cost to have it done. Manual is 14 years older now. This morning I can see and feel he needs a siesta. The mind is willing but the body is rebelling.

This job will get done, but at a slower pace than it might have moved along 14 years ago. Like anyone, I love a quick fix. There is only one way to the desired result in life. You must do the work. Sometimes money can help move things along quicker. However, there was a story I read once about gardening that I have always remembered. Mick Jagger bought an old country estate and hired the famous English Gardener - Penelope Hobhouse to design his English Gardens, paid the money and went away. He came back a few weeks later to see what he envisioned as lush blooming borders of colourful flowers and was devastated when he saw what amounted to smallish seedlings spaced apart, with gaping chunks of bare soil. He was furious. Where was his beautiful garden -the one from the plans? What had happened? He had no idea that it takes from 5-7 years for a garden to mature.
Even his money could not hurry mother nature along. He had expected an instant garden.

Clearly there had been a miscommunication between them because I suppose he could have paid for fully mature plantings, but she was old school and she did things the old school way.

I took a few photos of my project. I am doing it in chunks. Here are some before and afters. There will be a new fence at some stage. For now, at least the beds will "rock it"!

Before - Mother-in-law tongue taking over, rocks buried beneath debris

Before - Removal of all debris and digging up of rocks to re-use later

After - Weeded, leveled, soil refreshed, rocks replaced

After - Mature Agave given new life 

New Bromeliads planted - generously donated by my neighbour

Fun with rocks...will erect a proper Inuksuk soon!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Love it.

The only solution to my Love Warrior hangover this morning is to write about it. I am just going to set aside my own messy life momentarily and ponder and absorb someone else's journey in relation to my own.

If you have not yet heard about this book by author, blogger ( and speaker -   Glennon Doyle Melton, you soon will. I knew several weeks ago that this book was coming. I even had a pretty good idea of what to expect. I knew she was a recovered alcoholic/addict and had suffered with bulimia for years and had dealt with crisis in her marriage. I already liked her blog. I even reckoned I would not learn much more by reading her new book. I was wrong. Her book dives way deeper into the pain and consequent self-examination than you can imagine. 

She does not hold back. Her story is a compelling, raw, gut-wrenching account of rock bottom to redemption but it is not all tied up with a bow at the end. There is hope, but no guarantee of happily ever after and that is what makes it real and relatable and honest. Or her word - "brutiful".  Shortly after this book went to press, she actually separated from her husband, so clearly, no Hollywood ending here.

A constant theme that resonated with me was her use of writing to heal or "blog as confessional" as I like to call it. She learns to wear her failures like a badges of honour and so she should. We all should. Sadly, most of us, including her, try to gloss over the messy bits. We hide behind what Doyle Melton refers to as "our representative" - the person we present to the world. We send that fake version of ourself out into the world while our real self remains hidden and unknown. Unknown, yet desperate to be known.  She talks about how our culture has created a world full of women who spend so much time looking in the mirror at their supposed flaws and trying to fix them, it leaves little time or self-confidence to live meaningful lives and utilize their real talents and gifts. Amen sista!

I predict this book will become a new anthem for women everywhere. Especially young women - the women who need this message more than ever. We need to stop sending that false self out into the world. That curated life. We need to stop buying into the bullshit. Stop pretending. Stop acting like we have it all figured out.  We need to lift and support each other and stop competing and just be our "brutiful" selves.  We need to speak the words. We need to communicate better in our relationships.  What do I need? What do you need? What do we need? Say it. Spell it out. Kick the fear to the curb. 

If you are up for the challenge, start with this book for inspiration. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

She can Fly

This momma bird
sings a sad song 
this morning
her nest
a silent 

There she goes
flying high
above clouds
and foreign lands
back to learning
and becoming
and growing
her own wings
that no longer 
fit in this nest

The momma bird
pecks at the
empty spot 
examines the tidbits
left behind
the scraps
unecessary for 
the journey
but the lifeless quality
of the tags and bags and boxes
saddens her
she will repair the nest
today is too soon
she needs to linger
to mourn
come to terms
once more with the
loss and grief she feels

She tilts her head up
but her eagle eye
cannot see
through the heavy clouds
that suit her heavy heart
this morning
Farewell and see you soon
are no consolation
are unable
to stop the tears that fall
mother's tears
a salty concoction of 
sorrow and pain
laughter and joy
and shared genes

Worry not
chirp the other birds
She will find her new flock again
like she has before
her wings stronger each time
she leaves this nest
The momma bird shivers
ruffles her feathers
composes herself now
There is work to do
food to gather
but not before she
sings a love song
releasing it up into the sky
for her baby bird
a sweet collection of notes
to carry her and support her
and catch her when she falls
and lift her to heights
she is yet to climb
assuring her how far she can soar
How far she will

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Avian Monarch

Becoming conscious
one eye
the other
oh good
a grey day
in this land of relentless sunshine
Roots that lie
north of the equator
long for moisture
balm for 
a poet's soul
Damp remnants
mark the footpaths
where rain fell
in the night
Bird seed turned to porridge
Yet they come
for a breakfast of gruel
I see 
as I plunge my morning fix

Write about us!
screech the cockies
The galahs doth protest
NO, us!
While the laughing one
perches silently
this will be his story
his tribute
his victory verse

How does he know
he is favoured 
above the others?
the more colourful
the more animated
the seed eaters
this confident king
his merriment obvious
loud and proud
the high branches of gum trees
surely extend 
for him 
and him alone

And so he laughs
his crown
is secure
his bush king status
despite that green and red one
that plots daily
to dethrone him
Those complimentary colours
no match for his
subtle aqua swath

Monday, August 22, 2016

Messy Perfection

The Unmade Bed

Everything about this moment
pause, pause.

Light, shadow and beauty
demanding my attention
their subtle flirtations
soul fillers

Make the time
see the art
I am far from ordinary
if you'll just pause
observe me
absorb me

A soft mist rises
from the dewy lawn
Early rays 
sneak through the 
crack between the blind
and frame
resting where 
my dream-filled head 
just laid

Don't make me perfect
Not yet.
Look at how perfect 
I am right now
Wrinkled, softened,
like you
at fifty eight
like you were
at seventeen
and thirty two
Like you have been
but were too hurried 
or too young
or too unbelieving
to notice

Standing now
viewing the unmade bed
while the world outside this gallery
swirls madly
 I frame this moment
my private Louvre
Paint me!
Photograph me!
Capture me!
Feeeel me.
See the beauty no one else can see
I won't be here long
so don't ignore me
Just pause

Monday, July 18, 2016

Grace and Peace with Rob Bell

I begin with a deeeeep s i g h h h h. 

A couple of deep in and out breaths. 

So here we are. And, like most of you I am feeling the heaviness. The weight of the messed up world on our shoulders and in our hearts. Like the quote I saw scroll through my newsfeed this morning:


With all that has been happening at what seems to be an acceleration of hate and violence around the globe, I have been turning inward on my own journey of growth and transformation these days, seeking ways to calm my own spirit and make sense of it if that is possible. 

This past weekend I spent a day in Brisbane listening to Rob Bell speak on the ideas from his book - How to Be Here. I have been on a Rob Bell kick lately. His podcasts (The Robcast), are my constant companions while I cook or busy myself around the house. I read this latest book in preparation for the weekend. Devoured may be a better word than read, as I cannot seem to get enough of his wisdom lately. 

His Australian tour could not have come at a better time for me. There are periods in my life that seem to come when I find myself needing to gorge on some soul food. Now is one of those seasons. He did not disappoint. Many people I talk to do not know who Rob Bell is and I find myself having to explain a bit about him. He is a motivational speaker, former pastor and author and was touted as one of the top 100 influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2011. He has toured with Oprah and Deepak Chopra and is a member of the Compassion Collective, a group of 5 authors including Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle Melton, Brene Brown and Cheryl Strayed. The group was formed to raise money for Syrian refugees and continues to fundraise for various causes. 

This group is like the Brat Pack of Conscious Living. They are so on fire right now, it is hard to imagine their flame getting extinguished. With any luck, it will just continue to spread and keep raising awareness and dollars for those in need. The world needs their energy and insight more than ever and I for one have jumped on their introspective bandwagon on my own spiritual journey with renewed fervor.  Since 2007 and the release of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, slowly but surely, my own life has steadily transformed. Next came Brene Brown's epic  Daring Greatly showing us how vulnerability and the courage to allow it in our lives could be a game-changer. That pushed me up another stair. Around the same time, Wild author Cheryl Strayed shared her story of her solo journey of over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Coast Trail that took bravery and courage to a whole new level of what it takes to heal for some. In so many ways these three women accompanied me on my own trail of transformation and now, more recently, I have discovered Glennon Doyle Melton and her blog - Momastery and found her story compelling and inspiring. She gives hope to anyone who has ever faced addictions. And now, as I embrace the wisdom of Rob Bell, I find myself elevated to an entirely new level of growth.

He has helped me make sense of the journey. Until now, it never felt like the big questions had answers. Why am I here? What is the meaning of it all? What is the point? I watched Rob Bell's video called Everything is Spiritual 2016 and it was like a lifetime of seeking and searching had finally hit pay dirt. So I started to dig deeper and read more of his books and listened to more of his podcasts and I am so happy to have found some teachings and conversations that address the big questions that combine science and spirituality, allowing them to co-exist in a way that makes logical sense to me, without the attached dogma of organized religion. 

There is a great story that Rob Bell tells that also gives me a way to explain to people who he is better than I can, if that makes sense. Hear me out.

He went to his mailbox one day to collect his mail and found a small painting inside. It was done by an artist who lived in his neighbourhood. He was familiar with this dude's work as he had seen it in a gallery. The guy does paintings on sandpaper of all things. The painting he made for Rob was of a hand emerging from the earth holding a bunch of strings. The strings were attached to clouds like a bunch of helium filled balloons hovering up in the sky. Rob asked the artist what the painting meant. The artist told him that he wondered who Rob was and what he did. So, in order to find out, he attended one of Rob's events. After the event, he created the painting to give to him. He told Rob that after hearing him speak, he now understood what exactly it was he did for a living. He told him that he tied up the clouds for people. He took all those thought bubbles we have floating around up in our heads and pulled them together. 

Yes! That is what he does folks. It is what he has done for me and it feels amazing. I could not have explained it any better than that. It also helps that he is an engaging, funny and captivating speaker. This energetic, enthusiastic man is bringing a positive, forward-thinking interpretation of Christian values into the world that deserve air time. I will attach a few links here for anyone who is interested in taking a look.