Friday, October 30, 2015

Opening Pandora's Box

An opal ring flanked with two diamond chips. A silver palm tree charm. A vintage ivory necklace. A ruby and diamond bumble bee pin. A cabochon amethyst and diamond ring. Tiffany boxes filled with silver x's and o's. 

Jewelry I don't wear anymore. 

Jewelry that marks my relationship journey.

As I sifted through these remnants of my past last night, it took me to times and places of joy and sadness that I had not visited in awhile. These are bittersweet time travels. Recollections of happy times intertwined with heavy emotional decisions and conversations with the men who were significant in my life. Some, more so than others. 

None of the jewelry worked for me anymore. Some looked dull, some ill-fitting, some I once found beautiful, but now did not suit my tastes. I inspected each piece and recalled the moment I received it and how I felt when I wore it, before moving on to the next and the next and the next. There was a heaviness in my heart as I worked my way through this box that held these symbolic markers of my life's journey thus far. 

At the time, each piece was meaningful to me. Now, each piece is still meaningful, but in a different way.  They are reminders of who I was and where I have been and times of celebration  that I cherished before now.  As my life has changed and I have moved on, these remnants of past relationships remain. But they remain tucked away in a box, in a safe, with the bits of me that wore them then. I can't get rid of them. I don't really want to get rid of them. It would be like casting parts of myself away and even the parts that failed to succeed in love are some of the many bits that make me who I am today.

The woman that I am today is an accumulation of all those chunks of gold and silver and diamonds and gemstones that rest quietly in that box, influencing my choices and reminding me that I can and have gone on without them.

Even though they are locked away, I can always see them.

And I am grateful to have them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

There's no Place like Home, There's no Place like Home

My new flag?

I have always been a morning person but since I moved to Australia, I am even more of an early riser. It is no doubt a combination of the hot weather and the kookaburras that start their laughing around 4:15 am and the fact that the sun goes down earlier than it does in Canada in the summer. In the peak of summer here, we start tennis at 6 am and by 8 am you are feeling the sun's bite and drenched in sweat. There is no other option than to play early. If you want to do any gardening, it has to be done at the crack of dawn as well. 

After two years I am sort of into a rhythm. I rarely stay up past 10 pm. If I have had a really physically active day, I am under the covers (or laying on top of them) by 9 pm. It won't be long before I have become my parents who are in bed by 7 and up at 4 (kid you not). Maybe it has something to do with aging. Frankly, in their case, I think it is just plain crazy. But, to each his own. I have never been a fan of getting up before the sun is at least threatening to appear.

I am telling you all these riveting facts as a lead in to what I really want to say today, which is how much I am going to miss my new home over the next 6-7 weeks. I am going to miss my avian wake-up call and observing the play of light on the palm fronds out my patio window and the grazing kangaroos up at the soccer field at the end of my street. After the many challenges that changing countries has presented to me, it occurred to me this morning that I finally feel settled here in the land down under and in this quirky small town I now call home. 

However, even though this is my new home, I still call Canada my real home. I have been telling people all week that I will be gone for a few weeks. The mother/daughter team at the local Organic Patch grocery shop, my tennis ladies, my hairdresser, my neighbours, the stall holders at the weekly markets and anyone else who has gotten used to seeing me regularly. I don't want anyone to think I have disappeared and that I will be back. 

For the next few weeks, I will be deer-spotting and quail watching in B.C. and playing the role of Great Aunt Deb. After that, I will be looking out for elks and big horn sheep near Calgary and Banff with my dear friend Patti before heading east to Ontario where with any luck I will spot some brilliant red cardinals and blue jays and some pesky raccoons. The days will be shorter and colder but my heart will be warmed with many hugs and time spent with my family and cherished friends. I might even get a glimpse of that cute new PM of ours when I spend a few days in Ottawa with my girl. I wonder if there will be Trudeau groupies hanging out on Parliament Hill? Am I too old to join them? 

I have two homes now. 

It is possible to love two places at the same time.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Laundry as Therapy

As the weather is starting to warm up here in Queensland, the renovation here at number 29 will be taking a hiatus...well, for me anyway. While I am in Canada for 6 weeks wondering why the hell I chose to come in November, the kitchen will be gutted and replaced in my absence. This seemed like a stroke of genius to me when we started to plan the timeline. Am I right ladies?

I will be packing away the dishes and pots and pans and all the other kitchen gear toward the end of this week. I will miss the dust and dirt and noise and chaos and come home to a brand new kitchen. That's the plan anyway. Tim the toolman here will set up a table with a microwave, a kettle and use the BBQ for cooking. The fridge will move to the dining area and it will not likely bother him one iota. I, on the other hand, would find it very disruptive. So, every time I start to whinge about the cold rainy November weather in Canada, I will remind myself that it beats living through a kitchen renovation in a heat wave. 

The house is transforming nicely. I will have 3 rooms left to tend to when I get back. My trip will also give me some more time to think about how and what I want to do with the remaining spaces. My sinuses need a break from drywall dust and my neck needs a break from painting ceilings. 

Oddly, as much as I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends, I am feeling sad about leaving my new home and life here. I am feeling quite settled here now and with that feeling come the routines and rituals of life that I love. Just yesterday as I stood at the kitchen window watching the freshly laundered sheets blowing in the breeze it made me smile to think how far I had come. When I first arrived here and saw that most people here in this town hung their laundry to dry outside, I was perplexed. Why don't they use dryers? But now that it is part of my domestic life here, I actually like it. There is a peaceful quiet zen like quality attached to this chore that I like. When my girl was here earlier this year, I watched as she awkwardly hung her laundry the first few times before she got the hang of it (pun intended). One day as I watched her, I noted she was very particular about matching the colour of the pegs for each item and it surprised me. I did not think that sort of thing would matter to her, but clearly it did as she would sort through the peg bucket looking for colours that matched. I tend to go with a multi-colour scheme, but not quite willy nilly. I like the peg  colours to compliment the colour of the item being hung. Call me anal, but it almost turns the activity into a creative exercise. 

The clothes smell so lovely - especially bedding and linens. There is always a chance the birds will make a mess, but so far it has only happened twice. Not bad considering it is an every other day event around here. There is a bit of an art to it as well. I try to balance the clothes to catch the sun or breezes in the most efficient manner. I turn black and brightly coloured clothing inside-out to protect it from fading and sheets are hung symmetrically in half to create a fold line later. When I step away from the chore, I position the Hill's Hoist facing the most practical direction and then watch as the first strong breeze mockingly spins it off course making me realize I really had no control in the first place. Mother Nature is in charge from that point forward. 

As I sit here writing this account of one of life's simple pleasures, the radio drones on in the background and I hear a story of a man being arrested for raping a 2 year old girl and it makes me wonder what happened in the early life of the rapist that led him to commit such a sick and depraved crime. 

My guess is he never derived any joy from hanging laundry.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ready for Check-In

There was a day when I dreaded Mondays. That was back in the days when it meant the start of a new work week and going to a job I despised. All that has changed now and Mondays are generally relished. It is catch up day, blog day, quiet day after a busy get the picture. This renovation that has been on the agenda non-stop since early September is well underway and the weekends are big days of productivity since my resident handyman is available for two solid days to tackle all the jobs that I need help with and require skills I do not have. I feel so lucky to have him.

We were on a mission to finish off the guest room makeover this past weekend and I am happy to say, mission accomplished. There are a few finishing touches to complete, but I reckoned it was ready for the reveal. You would think that a simple small 10 x 10 room would be a quick fix, but it took almost two solid weeks of effort to pull it together. It had been pretty neglected and every square inch of the space needed attention. If I had to compare it to something or someone, I would have called it Pigpen...the character from the Peanuts comics. The old wardrobe was past it's prime, in disrepair and way over-scaled for the room, the carpet was gritty underfoot, the walls were desperate for fresh paint, the windows were dirty, the old blue vertical blinds were; well, old BLUE vertical blinds, the ceiling fan was an old clunker of a thing and at some point the resident child had stickered it with stars and it was BROWN. Everything had to change.

It is the first room off the living area heading down the hall, so I decided to carry the paint colours from there into it as well. Two reasons for that are that I wanted it to flow from one part of the house to the next and more importantly, I had leftover paint. We demolished the wardrobe and pitched it piece by piece out the window. It was not worth saving or trying to repair and it took up nearly a quarter of the space. Despite storage being an issue in this house, it was not really all that necessary in a guest room. It would also allow me to change up the floor plan and move the bed against a different wall so whomever is laying in the bed can enjoy the view out the window from a more comfortable angle. Hmmm, maybe a new place for my siestas!

Guest Room Before

For the record, this photo above here actually looks better than the room did. The doors of the wardrobe were already off when I snapped this beauty and of course you cannot see the dirt in detail. So, once the room was emptied and blinds removed, the work began. It took me a whole day just to prep the walls and fill all the holes from previous hangings and wash it all down with sugar soap and hot water. We took the old ceiling fan down and as it was on its last legs and we decided to economize by moving the old living room fan in there after a sanding and fresh coat of black spray paint. I love it when we can re-use or re-purpose with a good result. The ceiling, walls and trim painting took a few days and once that was done, rather than rip out the old carpet, I decided to see if steam cleaning it would bring it back to life for awhile yet. I actually liked the carpet, a simple camel coloured Berber, a classic really, and I have always liked grey flannel and camel together. It is a great spillover from the fashion world into interior decoration. I also happen to know that it is a great colour for hiding dirt. It had been years since I had hired a steam cleaner and done carpets myself, but it was well worth the effort and the carpet really came up nicely. It was worth saving. My back did not really agree, but she got over it in a couple days.

My next challenge was to try and figure out a way to provide at least some storage. With Ikea nearly 4 hours from here, that was out of the question and the local Bunnings (the Home Depot of Australia) did not have any flat pack wardrobes that I liked. As I was leaving Bunnings, disappointed in their selection, I happened upon a display of metal cabinets that looked sort of like tall narrow school lockers. They had a hanging bar, 3 shelves and were nearly the exact shade of grey of my trim paint. We were going for a bit of an industrial chic look here, so my design radar was activated immediately. I figured if it did not work in the room, it would work in the garage, so it was worth a go. At $129 it was also well within the budget. Between that, a row of hooks on the wall and a small chest of drawers, that should be plenty of stow space for a weekend stay for most visitors.

Tim the tool man here had that locker put together in no time and it snugged into the corner perfectly. The new blinds were sized and mounted, the new/old black ceiling fan installed and the furniture moved back in all by late afternoon Sunday, our self-imposed deadline. While all this was going on, the ex-owner of this house showed up at the front door with a cheque for us as we had overpaid on the rent prior to buying the place. I invited her in to see the progress thus far and she was pretty impressed. We were doing all the things to the place that she had always wanted to do one day. It got me to thinking how that is exactly what happened to my old house in Toronto after we sold it. I was so thrilled to see my old house transformed and now here I was transforming her old house. 

Kind of like dreams being paid forward. I like that.

Guest Room After