It’s Hot. I Know It’s Hot.

It’s hot. I know it’s hot – at thirty-two degrees it is almost as hot as the summer days ever get in Calgary, this city in the long shadow of the Rocky Mountains.  Standing barefoot on the lawn, dead heading petunias already spent from the heat, I get a whiff of the strong perfume of a peppery wild geranium in the still air. blue delphiniumsIt’s quiet on our city street.  A sparrow chirps and then there is just the beat of a sprinkler keeping a newly planted berry bush alive next door. And now there is the sweet drone of bees discovering my blush pink roses. The peace, the myriad of scents, the calm energy of nature alive with intention these are the soft blessings of summer. But it’s hot – oh so hot. 

 

I rally myself in the heat to remember the long winter that drags us down. Beads of sweat are at the nap of my neck and I leap across the too hot sidewalk but, “Come on, think,” I tell myself, “of all those days relying on car heaters, and scraping angry pebbles of ice from the windshield, cursing that I’d left gloves in the house. Just remember wanting to skate but how it was too cold to skate. So I’m roasting now – big deal,” I go on to no one but myself, recalling all too plainly staring down heaps of snow on cars, and walks, and piled against front stoops and how I had trouble imagining this too brief summer – with the landscape so locked in winter’s breath. 2014-01-13 15.03.29

“Buck up,” I tell myself as an ice cream truck plays it’s jingle somewhere in the neighborhood, and I resist complaining of the heat that glistens on my brow. best splash park Trying to think ‘summer’ my inspiration is to call my daughter and offer her girls a trip to a splash park, “Pitter patter, let’s get at her,” I’ll say, but first I’ll fetch a dish to pick the ripe red cherries reachable from the shade of an apple tree, and feel the wonder that is this country that after six or seven months of cold, cold temperatures – still bears remarkable fruit. cherries

Grown-up Coloring Time!

Just hanging out at the lake and rather than cleaning up last night’s BQ mess or encouraging the wasps to back off, I updated my Goodreads. I love Goodreads until I see all the books I marked ‘want to read’ and have to take a deep breath and know that it’s just wishful thinking. So there I was cooling off from the summer heat with a glass of lemonade, filling the hummingbird feeder, then cruising Goodreads when surprise – I found a review of my artistic daughter, Shea Proulx’s, ABC Monstrosity. The reviewer was exclaiming over how fun and original and different than all the other kids ABC’s it is.  It’s a recto verso book, which means you turn it around (and upside down) and there is another book at the back. That one is a Counting 1-2-3 made up of a compilation of pictures of items that parent’s days are full of – one sippy cup, two rubber duckies, three soft spoons, four plug protectors … you get the picture.

Alice ABC

The ABC side is a clever visual narrative that tells a story for kids, while it teaches them with crazy made-up words and real science. Oh, did I mention that it is an adult colouring book to boot.  You can colour the fun objects as they build up on the pages and when you’ve made it all lovely give it as a gift to someone you love. She’s a smart kid, that daughter of mine, and I love the story time treat she’s created. This is her second adult coloring book – the first is Alice in the Womb a whimsical picture story of a human baby’s growth in utero, surrounded by a “creature filled dreamland”.

Shea Lucy flowers book

If you find comfort, relaxation or creativity with adult colouring I don’t mind telling you how to get hold of your own copies of ABC Monstrosity and Alice in the Womb. They are both available on  Amazon.com  and  Etsy.com . The artist is one of the Text Me, Love Mom kids all grown-up.  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 

book cover

 

Dog Days of Summer Whispering …Fall

So there comes that time when the dog days of August begin to whisper quiet hints of fall, and it’s then that I begin to question whether I got to the bottom of the ice cream cone that is summer in this country we live in. rope swing Did I lick the very last, hard to reach drop of the sweet treat of a Canadian summer.  I’ve been fortunate to spend some time on a British Columbia lake – did I tread bare foot often enough down the wooded path?sunset  Did I swim at every delicious opportunity?  Were enough fresh peaches consumed, and raspberries covered with cream? farm standAnd even when tired from early sunrises did I push off in the kayak at sunset?  Did I fill enough buckets with pebbles for my granddaughters to toss into the lapping waters?girls on beach Did I snip fresh garden blooms to decorate the table – and simply put – did I stop to smell them? Ah, the fleeting season we cherish.chairs jasper

Oh Baby – Let’s Swing

“How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down! ”

The Swing –   Robert Louis Stevenson

Up at our cottage there is a small clearing in the trees, with a view toward the lake.  It is a place some of us (probably the girls) always looked at as if it was where you would slip off to with a new boyfriend when it seemed you had been inundated with aunts and uncles, and cousins or other lakeside visitors –  to get away and whisper, or steal a kiss without being observed by dad.

It is a place to go when you are feeling like a moment, or being contemplative, or are in love, or out of love – a place away from the other places, a place to steal a kiss, or tell a secret. IMG_4581

 

 

 

And then our eldest had a baby who has a love of swinging, and we’d drive for twenty minutes to the park beside the local baseball diamond.  At last I knew what the spot in the trees needed – a swing – a swing for a toddler, but a swing for a long-legged kid or a grown up, too.

Lucky for all of us my son-in-law, the toddler’s daddy, is a recently graduated architect with a passion for building – no pre-packaged swing set kit for us.  On three of the hottest days of last summer he happily constructed the perfect, simple baby swing and a ‘big’ swing, and a place to climb and slide – with awe struck assistants from those of us eager for the finished product.

It was a hot summer with the lake temperature invitingly warm, so swimming and boating and floating we’re so much of what we did – not much swinging at all.IMG_4641

But it’s British Columbia, Canada and there are long crisp seasons where the lake is the backdrop for more quiet pursuits, times when there will be a fussy baby that needs to be soothed or too many folks will be crowded inside, and two others will have to slip out to that spot in the trees and take turns simply swinging.nest painting-2

It’s January now, the ground is icy white, the still air promises more snow and cold.  But hey, it’s time to dream of  spring and going “up into the air and down”….

I Imagined that We Get Hot, Fat, and Grow Mustaches But I Need to Know More

I’m not freaked out about my age.  I worried more turning thirty-nine than I did fifty.  Thirty-nine seemed the end of youth.  No kidding.  At fifty, while I sometimes long for my mom on Sunday mornings to be making pancake breakfast in my kitchen, complete with juice in silly little glasses, I get that I’m the matriarch in the house.  My first kid left home when I was – just a sec – math is hard for me when I haven’t slept all freak’en night –eighteen plus twenty-five equals forty-three – holy shit (excuse the language, I’m tired and cranky) was I only forty-three?  These days women are having babies at the same age that  I was all boo hoo over mine packing her bags – no wonder I’ve been blogging on that subject forever.

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Where was I?  Right, I’m not upset that I’m fifty – something-in-the-first-half-of-the-fifties.

Okay you guessed it – it’s this menopause bit that has me feeling crazy.  (Acting crazy?)  And somehow it seems aside from information gleaned from all those stupid email jokes with pot bellied old ladies with saggy boobs threatening their ill-prepared husbands, I don’t have the hard facts on this hormonal upheaval.  I kept meaning to buy a book about it – seriously, this isn’t a dumb menopause joke – but in all the hundreds of times I was in a bookstore, I forgot.  Right now I want to mention something really basic, almost intuitive, that I couldn’t remember the other day, but I can’t remember what that was.  I did finally buy a book, and somewhere in the pre-amble to how for the next few years my life would be wacked, it told me I’d have trouble staying on task, and true enough I have, so much so that I haven’t been able to read the manual.

Just after I had that daughter of mine who left home eons ago – and is currently hormonally challenged herself – but at least she gets a baby out of it – I ran off to the mall for baby nail clippers and rubbing alcohol for that nasty umbilical cord bit and left her with her daddy.  I thought the boys (boys, not men, I was just a girl back then) were staring at my voluptuous-as-never-before breast feeding body (I actually felt like a cow), but was shocked to look down and see I was leaking milk through my light cotton dress.  Being almost the first of my friends to have kids – no one had informed me about how I might  leak while out in the mall.  I could never figure out how I missed that fun fact of how being a new mommy involved having boobs with no self control.  And now I can’t figure out why I don’t know much of this menopause stuff.  Yeah, I guess I always imagined that we get hot and fat and can grow mustaches.  But where are the women warriors that are supposed to inform me about all this not sleeping (leading to hormonal blog writing), the ridiculous benign, yet annoying, restless legs,  the lost of nouns and names and the further hindrance of my limited ability to do math.

And what was the evolutionary purpose I wonder, as the moon continues to rise on a November morning with me wide awake at 3:56 a.m.?  It had to be that back in the day, having outlived our reproduction purposes the grand plan was that, not sleeping, we would wander out of the cave to rub sticks together and be eaten by a dinosaur –  leaving more berries and wild animals for the younger women (my timeline might be skewed but you get the picture.)

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Sometimes I see a women near my age who looks serene and calm, or maybe even a little giddy.  And I think – she’s done, she’s been through it and come out on the other side, maybe she’ll tell me the brand of cream I can buy at the health food store that I can rub on my forehead and I’ll be able to remember the names of my four kids again.  Help me, women friends out there in blog-o- (oh, God – I can’t remember how to spell what I want to say, my spelling was never top notch but it’s leaving me with my math and my nouns) okay, tell me just this, this could go a long way – how do I sleep again, like a baby (well, not my daughter’s baby) but those other babies that sleep all through the night?

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A Perfect Glory Of A Day

Is it over stated to say it is a glorious fall day?  Glory is in the air. ‘Glory’ – (Webster’s definition) ‘something marked by beauty or resplendence, as in a perfect glory of a day.’

Neighborhood kids that went to school wearing new fall cardigans and jeans will be coming home to put on shorts and run barefoot.  Still, a news story reported that the weather is going to change shortly and the s- word is coming.  The reporter said it that way – the S-word.

It was enough reason to change into my gardening clothes and bring in the harvest.  I can harvest my teeny weenie vegetable garden in a couple of hours.  Maybe vegetable patch is a better way to describe what I have going at the top of the yard.

I planted potatoes in the spring for the simple joy of digging them up  – it’s like a game of hide and seek.  A kid from the coast might like to chase clams on a sandy beach, digging into the wet sand where they see a spray of salty water spurt up.  A kid from the prairie has to make do with digging up spuds.  But it’s a sport to see what’s down there in the dark earth, hiding from the slugs and weather.  With my measly three dozen potatoes piled on the kitchen counter I considered letting the whole vegetable patch be poppies and sweet peas next year – maybe just a corner designated for the rhubarb.  Not being a big fan of rhubarb, even baked into a sweet strawberry pie, I could take it or leave it, but  I love the way the phallic shoots pop up first, announcing spring.

Contemplating what other flowers I might add to the mix I started to unearth the carrots, pleased that the green tops were pulling out of the ground with the orange spears still attached.  Suddenly the farmer genes that my grandparents passed along were winning out – I knew that I would poke a small variety of seeds into the ground again next May.  It wasn’t the sight of the muddy carrots, that convinced me to continue – it was the sharp sweet scent, a scent you can’t quite pay money for at the grocery store.  A scent that made  me think of being seven-years-old and my mom washing garden carrots off with the hose and treating us to the first ones big enough to warrant pulling out on a hot summer’s day.

My Grandmother – Nanny – to all our family, started farming on her own homestead at age sixteen when she married my grandfather.  And after they retired to town, she tended a gigantic backyard garden brimming with peas and beans, carrots and onions, beets and raspberries – until she was ninety-four-years old.  She saved money by canning and freezing her bounty.  I carry on the gardening tradition in my two small raised beds, even though my little effort probably costs me more in seeds and water than it saves over the half dozen meals it supplies.

I put away the shovel, rinsed off some of the small sweet carrots, and sat on the grass in the late afternoon sun to crunch on them.  The planting, tending and harvest are  comforting rituals – marking one season passing before the long winter and the anticipation of the spring to come.  But right then, I relaxed on the lawn that will soon enough be white with snow and embraced the glory of the autumn sun.

Come Back, You Summer Revelers

Tell me, how can it be that my husband wants to go back to the cottage this weekend and take the motorboat out of the water.  As usual, as is my role, I protest.  “No, no, no, it can’t be time to take the boat out.  Summer is hardly over.”

It was only a month ago that we had sixteen people at the cottage, some bedding down on air mattresses or couches, others wondering if they could sleep in the boat, rocking on the water through the night.  And a few weeks after that we had loads of folks again, and in exasperation of emptying the dishwasher another time from meals of fresh buttery corn and juicy burgers and failed popsicles – I declared – “When will this end?”

And then it did.

Come back, you summer revellers.  I don’t want to put the floaties away and stack the outside chairs and tie up the canoe against the rising water of next spring.

Let’s squeeze our eyes shut from the smoky fire and then squint into the night sky at the mid- summer comets.  Let me get mildly upset that someone’s used my beach towel in their impatience to dry off from a swim so that they could slice the last peach in the box, before dribbling it with cream.

I want to not be able to decide between reading my book on the dock (yes, that silly book), and chatting with my visiting kids and their gregarious friends, or trying again to make those popsicles.

Even more so I want to take another solo early morning kayak ride on the lapping lake, watching in awe as the osprey flies over.

And so I wish now, that with each swim I had stayed in the lake even longer, floating on my back, adrift in water that was ever so, never so warm.

Look Up – and Love the Ones You’re With

It’s spring, the weather is warming, the trees are budding a fresh happy green, and I want to start a campaign. It doesn’t have to be on every bus bench, or t-shirt, or go viral on the internet.  It’s made up of two simple words, ‘Look Up’.  Look Up.  Look Up.  Look Up. Though, my campaign has a subtitle – ‘Love the One You’re With‘.  So right now, stop staring at your screen for a minute and smile at someone nearby.  Smile at your partner.  Smile at the person at the next table.  The one right beside you at the transit station.

Didn’t you go out to a coffee shop to escape the loneliness of working at home?    So let your eyes, and your humanity, drift away from focusing on your iPad.  Take a break from texting on your cell phone. Look Up from the work, or play, that is keeping your attention on your laptop.  Engage a stranger, if only with just a smile.

I am guilty, too.  I have to wait to meet a friend at a restaurant, and I immediately reach for my phone.  I hear that twinkly sound of  ‘you’ve got a text’ and I’m immediately eager to see who is reaching out to me.  “No, just Look Up”, I tell myself. The greeting will wait for me, if I just resist the urge to look down – away from the world unfolding around me, the toddler impressing his parents at the next booth, the waitress who might linger at my table, or I could gaze out the big window –  see the golden setting sun, the small birds on the horizon, the row of purple tulips.

Perhaps I’m alone having a pick-me-up in a favourite coffee shop –  what do I do? Voila, I reach for the comfort of my phone, to check my text messages, my email messages and maybe even Google the weather.  Instead, I could resist the temptation to touch my cool perfectly weighted phone (thanks Steve) and smile at a stranger, or pause to connect with a silly comment about the weather, the way people used to – in the old days – sharing a thought with someone new.  Worse is when we can’t resist the sneak a peak at the iphone when we’re not alone, but are with friends or family that we’ve sought out, or who have sought us out, to spend a few low-tech minutes of actual straight up human connection.  That’s where the subtitle comes in – the ‘Love the one (s) your with’.

On a recent wet and windy day I stepped into that warm coffee shop to view the customers in the line-up, and those hunkered down at the tables with their half-sweet-non-fat-extra-hot-vanilla-what ever’s all looking down, hiding with their many sized screens.  “Look Up,” was what I wanted to bravely call out.  “Look Up and Smile.” 

Challenge – To Buy a Thing (anything) I Must Get Rid of a Thing

It started a few years ago.  I was reading something in my long quest to live a more Zen existence.  (When my four kids were infants I actually, in desperation, attended a class on how to be more organized at home – and nervously laughed at (not with) the anal instructor who only let her kids wear two different colors from the whole rainbow of colors).   Part of organizing was major de-cluttering and gaining space in my space. With that in mind, for the last two years, if I bought an item of clothing (a weakness) I gave one away – buy one, lose one – no breaking the deal. It wasn’t that hard – my closet was dreadfully full but now, on that road to feeling free-er, I just made a new deal with myself – this could be a much bigger challenge.  Now, for every single thing I purchase – I have to rid my home, garage, yard, or car of something.  Yet, buy one, lose one can’t become an excuse for careless consuming, it has to be more of ‘I have too many things surrounding me, and if I believe I need something else – ie. a book for winter reading, a snow shovel that isn’t annoyingly bent, a colourful (hopeful) spring table cloth, a basket for the growing collection of granddaughter toys … I need to give something up. If there is nothing to let go of – there is nothing to gain, sort of thing.

My dear grandmother was a bit of a hoarder – having raised her family through the depression when people darned socks instead of discarding them, and sewed clothes from flour sacks (seriously).  When she passed away we would marvel at what she had kept, and then my mother would say, of course she kept that – she kept everything.  Her saving grace was that she didn’t buy a lot.  She seldom went shopping just to be tantalized, mesmerized even, by a new fancy thing.

I like to have the objects that cheer, inspire or comfort me near by.  But I can’t stand clutter.  When I was raising four kids in this house – kids who might be on a total of six sports teams, working on x number of  ridiculous dioramas for school, building their own collections of fairies, celebrity paper dolls, heart shaped rocks, animal bones (they thought dinosaur carnage – most likely cow’s), or snowboard parts – back then, I was a sucker for every de-cluttering book that came down the pike.

So awhile back as they were all in stages of leaving home I took up a ‘get rid of one hundred item’ challenge.  I kinda have an aversion to throwing things away.  I’ve made solo trips to the well managed local dump but I can never help thinking, as I toss my broken junk into the seagull filled pit, that maybe someone, somehow could use this or that.  So I mostly take it to the Society for Women In Need, even though I’m pretty sure that as I drive away (rip out of their parking lot so as not to be recognized) the staff are cursing my back, demanding to know which women in need could possibly need my junk.

The first twenty-five of the hundred was easy-peasy – clothes that never fit, linens without destinations, other kids lost articles.  The second twenty-five went slower, shoes I wanted to wear but never wore, useless kitchen gadgets, smelly lotions, soaps, and bubble baths that were never opened.  I picked up speed again after a few calls to the kids asking permission to ditch the floppy frayed stuffies – agreeing to keep a certain large teddy, a ratty twisted tail cat, and Bunny Ding Dong (I never would have tossed Bunny Ding Dong).    

I flipped though my library of de-cluttering Zen books and gave myself permission, as instructed, to give away gifts that just never hit the mark.  “If you thanked the gift giver and felt appreciation for the gift – you don’t have to keep it.”  I think I hit my stride at around sixty items packed into boxes and bags or handed to friends.  Two of my neighbours started their own one- hundred item cull as I reached eighty, and then ninety items, and pontificated over how exhilarating  it felt to look around my living room and say – hey, I don’t even like that vase collecting dust on that high shelf, and pull it down along with the stupid angel ornament.

That was two years ago – today I start – You-can’t-bring-anything- in-without – bringing- something-out.  With some zany misplace enthusiasm I got groceries yesterday and thought – does this count?  If I buy two tomatoes, sure I can compost those two potatoes with the long eyes growing out of the bag.  The peanut butter is to replace empty peanut butter, and the dish soap likewise.   Slow down, I told my hyped-up self, looking at the three bags of groceries on the floor.  Clear up the pantry for the food bank – like, hungry people want my unopened anchovy paste – but stick with the original plan.  Groceries don’t count.  Hubby might wonder what’s happening, if you become a crazy extremist de-clutter-er.

But if I really needed a new rug for that spot beside the bed – something has to go.  And if I buy those flower pots at Ikea to put some sunny-wishing-for- spring flowers in, what will they usurp?   The goal is to never own more objects then the ones I have accumulated already.  Luckily, hubby isn’t much of a shopper – except for an occasional foray into Costco to buy a container of juice that won’t fit in the fridge and mustard for one thousand hot dogs.