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

What do Santa and the hit movie Disabled and Dangerous have in common?

ImageWhat do Santa and the new release on Youtube – Disabled and Dangerous have in common? They both need to circle the globe. Disabled and Dangerous was released Thursday on YouTube to rave reviews and now we need to truly make it the heartfelt heist heard round the world.  Watch the movie.  It WILL make you laugh. Share it with a friend.  Share it with a hundred friends.  Eat cookies.  And if you are able – make a donation to an ALS society near you. This is just an ordinary stick-up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WX60P_GwS9c

Coming soon to a phone in your pocket

ImageImageThis time of year I untangle the Christmas lights and reflect on Christmases past. Two years ago in a snowy December, I got swept away with the rush and energy of the most intense, dramatic, mind blowing project.  My amazing friend, Barry Varga, aka Mr. Dry Wit, wanted to make a funny movie about three guys in wheelchairs robbing a bank. You heard that right. Barry has ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease, and was confined to a wheelchair himself. He wanted to shine some light on a grim situation, raise funds towards the fight against this disease – but mostly he wanted to give people a laugh. Barry asked my son, Levi, to co-write the script with him and my other son, Kyle, to direct the movie.  Some very generous and kind friends helped my husband cover the costs of our speedy production.  Kyle and his Vancouver crew only had a small window in-between classes to head to Calgary and do the four day crazy shoot.  I remember that getting off the plane one of Kyle’s wise friend’s said, Kyle we should never work more than a twelve hour day – and we all said, that would be insane – who would do that? But guess what? To cram it all in, we pulled a fourteen hour stint.  It makes my spine tingle  thinking about all the family and friends, and friends of friends, and kids of neighbors, and relatives of Barry’s and mine, that showed up everyday – following us  across the city -from the university to the high school, to a slushy street scene – taking part in everything from feeding the folks, applying fake tatoos, driving electric wheel chairs without a licence, babysitting the little toddler of an actor, or waiting (and waiting and waiting) to be a court room extra only to be left on the cutting room floor.   After that exhilarating Christmas shoot they took the footage back to Vancouver and created Disabled and Dangerous. Our movie is only eight and a half  minutes long, but a funny eight and a half minutes. 

We screened it in Calgary in June 2012 to a packed house and then sent it to film festivals – making it into three in New York City, and (drum roll) winning the audience choice award at the Iron Mule Comedy Festival in October.  It’s been a wild ride and now Barry and the guys want to share it far and wide with the assitance of some amazing dedicated women at the ALS Society of Alberta. I am absolutlely thrilled to let you know that Disabled and Dangerous will launch on YouTube on Dec. 19th, two years from the day we wrapped up the shoot.  It’s time to share Barry’s funny story idea.  The more views, the more people we make happy.  The official trailer is now available at http://youtu.be/nm8wGGEpg-Y or on the facebook page www.facebook.com/dangerousshortfilmgroup! It has 19,000 views and counting on Youtube – and that is just the trailer.  Check it out but please share the movie when it debuts on YouTube on December 19 and help make this “the heartfelt heist heard round the world.”  Remember this is just an ordinary stick-up.

How Winter Tiptoed Up and Slammed Me On the Head

Image I was a victim of seasonal denial. Sometime before Halloween I was saying – “Wow, this is amazing.  It is actually seven o’clock at night and it is still sorta kinda warm out.”  Not only that, I was marvelling at the display of radiant red and orange leaves glorifying the trees.  And being a really slow learner, I left the rake out in a pile of garden debris and wandered away from the task at hand mid-job to enjoy some frivolous distraction.  Then I decided to wait for another equally sunny day to finish the job, refusing to go do it the following chilly afternoon with a forecast of snow.  I believed autumn would go on and on and on. 

So it did snow – a gentle flurry of fluffy flakes, and I watched my neighbours’ set their yards and decks and lawn furniture in order through my livingroom window.  “Silly them, don’t they know there is always snow on the Eve of Halloween and this will pass, the sun will shine and melt all this fluff that they’re making a fuss about.” Image  

Wrong-o Daddy-o.  Yesterday I bought bananas and then realized I now had to venture home instead of making a scheduled stop unless I carried my bananas with me, because otherwise I’d be poking them onto a stick and eating them as a frozen treat as it was seventeen below – the temperature at which bananas and milk and other squishy and liquid materials freeze.  I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and passed by a mound of snow three times the height of my vehicle, plowed into a mini-mountain that cars could park in a hap hazard fashion all around.  The lost yellow parking lines  would be covered with hard packed snow until spring.     Image   

 

Image  It was time for boots and gloves and travelling with survival gear in the car – a tin can and matches and a fat candle. Yes, winter had crept up on me and was clearly knocking me on the head – my rake would be leaning against the fence until the next calendar year and the hose, frozen standing up in the shape it was in when I twisted it from the tap, would stand that way until March. Yep, this is winter.  And we’re deep in it.

Sixty Years of Wedded Bliss and Alberta’s Flood Waters

More than ever I wanted my parents to have a special 60th anniversary.  Sixty! – for heaven’s sake – they have been married to each other, taken care of each other, put up with each other, for sixty years – 720 months, a zillion weeks – a long, long time.  June 1953 when they exchanged their wedding vows was a rainy wet month in southern Alberta – they sloshed through the muddy church yard hauling up the bride’s dress to keep it clean.  June 2013, the year of this diamond anniversary, has involved epics floods that have devastated their city of Calgary, Alberta.

For months, myself and my four siblings have planned a family celebration of our parent’s wedded bliss involving their children and spouses, the grandchildren and spouses, and the two little great- granddaughters all meeting at our cottage on Shuswap Lake in B.C. – a seven hour drive from Calgary.  When I said, “hey, just pack a bag and we’ll make a little trip of it,”  I had never fathomed we’d be housing evacuation victims,  and glued to network forecasts on the country’s number one highway being washed right out with storming mad flood waters.

As distracted as we were with the hardships going on around us – property destroyed, power out, transportation a mess – it seemed my eighty-three and eighty-four- year- old mom and dad still deserved to have us rally to mark the occasion, but there was that matter of the main highway having vanished under muddy debris. Image

We waited it out a day and then I told the folks we would scout out an alternate route.  And there we were a few hours later jammed packed with a line of transport trucks all headed north when we all needed to go west.  We met up with fifty troops of army reserves returning from natural disaster duty – at the A and W in Red Deer, then struck off west finally over miles of land that couldn’t have been more lush as the rain came down again.  Reaching the Rocky Mountains we were forced to go south now and finally, after five hours of detour, were back to the number one.  Tell me about your honeymoon, I said to my mom, as the sun crested a peak and my dad slept in the back seat.

We pulled into the iconic Chateau Lake Louise for a late, late afternoon coffee. The waiter there, learning it was the 60th anniversary didn’t charge for the two desserts we shared, and bid them a respectful (awe struck) congratulations before we pushed on a mere half hour further to the Kicking Horse lodge in Field, British Columbia, for a evening meal in the railway town before bedding down for the night. Image

And I do feel guilty for high tailing it out of Calgary when I see on Facebook and in the news that the horrible messy clean-up is just beginning.   But the clan is gathering and this anniversary party must go on – stayed tuned for the low down – how much asparagus do twenty-seven people eat?  Should I keep introducing my folks as the ‘diamond anniversary couple’ – will the grocery store comp me my hamburger buns?  Are twenty-seven family members – twenty-six too many to spend three days with?  Will the folks share their six decade secrets of long matrimony?  These answers and more in the days to come…

The Homecoming Dance For Spring

Who knows where you will discover the tid-bits of information that ease you through life from season to season?  Long ago, a neighbor – a guy who studies entomology (bugs) and engages in long treks in foreign places – told me he never pulls up all his spent plants in the fall, leaving instead a ‘winter garden‘.  So I pass by flower beds where the owners have meticulously cleaned up every last bit of perennial foliage, undertaking a clean sweep of orderly beds, so only stubble remains in the black earth, readying them for the coming seasons – and I’m so tempted to follow their methodical inclinations.

Somehow I resist, instead I carve out a place for small heaps of snow to pile around a stand of stiff delphinium stocks. I leave a nest of black eyed susans stems to sparkle with crystal hoarfrost .  In the back garden the morning sun reaches a small bed of gangly flocks and shines through the tired golden leafs.  This year I even left the most stately eight foot hollyhocks, rising out of a bed of  snow.Image

I’m grateful to my neighbor who led me to the winter garden inspiration, but now it is late February.  The snow is crusty and hard, the dry crisp leaves rattle in the breeze, clinging to the stems like winter clings to the landscape.  On the February long weekend we made the drive through the mountains to our cottage seven hours west.  Home in Calgary, Alberta is a gardening zone three. A hardiness zone  is a geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone. [1]The cottage, in the interior of B.C., is in a place called the Shuswaps and is a more encouraging zone 6.

ImageDuring a short break from the wet weather we were having that weekend, the sun slanted through the slate blue clouds and searching hard, I found the smallest promises of spring’s revival. These weren’t tulips or even wee purple and yellow crocuses.  There wasn’t even a brave pale snowdrop blossom in sight.  But on the far side of the cottage, against the warmest wall I found teeny weeny hollyhock seedlings, dotting the damp earth.  I had shaken the small flat seeds from spent buds and stamped them into the ground on a fall day months previous, and now here were the beginnings of hollyhocks that would grow to reach the kitchen window high above them, and by August the long stems with a multitude of  ruffled pink and white blooms, encouraged by the sun and warm nights, will stretch even higher.  Image

In that zone six it is exhilarating to reap the abundant beauty of nature’s kindness, but my heart swells with admiration for the determined and faithful green thumbs working the soil in Calgary’s much cooler zone three designation.  Gardening in our foothill’s city is an exercise in patience, optimism and hope.  It might be long weeks before I find the hollyhock seedlings here where crusty snow is still the tired background for my now unappreciated winter garden. But alas, when I do see the itty bitty pale green seedlings peeping through the earth, displaying their own determination, they will beckon my faith in the homecoming of our sweet, though perhaps, too short, summer.Image


[1] wikipedia.org

Leaving Lily in Montreal

My mission – if I chose to take it – was to leave my eighteen-year-old daughter in Montreal.  Her dad and brother had just left to return to Calgary and now it was my job to finish, as they say, setting Lily up.  I made lists of what I’d accomplish – getting an account for her to pay her utility bills, a few simple cooking lessons (that I had some how neglected during the past eighteen years), arranging for an internet connection which hasn’t got any less complicated or expedient since I did the same for her older sister six years previous.  Lily is an organized detail person and could have managed all that on her own.  I didn’t need seven days to help her with it.  No, the real reason for my prolonged stay was that I couldn’t bear to think of leaving Lily alone in that small hot apartment before she had made a few contacts with potential friends.  The night before her first day of classes, against my boring motherly advice about getting sleep, she had me drop her at the apartment of friends of friends from home. She came in at one a.m. and told me that they were good guys who had given her tight advice about the city – so therefore potential friends.

The universities I was familiar with in the west all have distinct campuses.  The locations of McGill and Concordia right in the centre of Montreal make the down town community indistinguishable from the university community.  While Lily put on her little black French dress and was taken out by the Calgary connected friends I left the apartment in search of a breeze, and soon felt that the student age population owned the streets.  I was feeling rather alone in my dotage.

Lily and I had one more sweltering weekend together.  It was almost too freaking hot in the apartment to conduct cooking lessons over the gas stove so we sought out air-conditioned restaurants.  Our server in the Mexican restaurant around the corner was a classmate who invited Lily to go cliff jumping in the Eastern townships.  Lily had photography homework that night and rushed off to shoot a roll of film with another classmate (and another potential friend) and I saw Mama Mia – the movie, alone.

I’d never been to many movies on my own, but it had been a relief to sit in the air-conditioned theatre and wonder how many of the mother/daughter sets we’d seen in Ikea earlier had made it to Mama Mia to hear Merle Streep sing ABBA songs and drool over Pierce Brosnan.  Or maybe there were other daughter’s like mine who were engaged in tentative bonds with new acquaintances, while their mom’s escaped the oppressive heat to listen somewhere nearby in the dark to Streep’s character croon to her twenty-year-old daughter,

What happened to the wonderful adventures

The places I had planned for us to go?

Well, some of that we did but most we didn’t

And why I just don’t know

Slipping through my fingers

All the time I try to capture

Every minute

The feeling in it

Slipping through my fingers all the time.

The afternoon before I was to leave the weather broke, skies turned a steel blue and the rains came.  Back in Calgary Lily’s brother, Hudson, would be packing to make his move to the west coast with his band.  I would get home in time to see them off.  I made Lily and I supper of roast chicken, too sticky risotto, and grilled zucchini cakes and gave her verbal directions on washing dishes sans dishwasher. I had imagined us working together in the teeny kitchen but she was reading homework on the history of photography.  I could see her nodding off and so suggested she read out loud to me, and together we learned about camera obscura and deguerrotype and Henry Fox Talbot.  She finished up and fell asleep stretched across the bed in her clothes.

Since high school Lily would lie on the back of our living room couch in the afternoon sun to share what was on her mind, or we would go out to our favourite coffee/nacho shop.  Her brother, Hudson, liked to go out for breakfast with me after a late night with friends and do the same, talking more with me than at other times, letting me in on what his latest plans were and, being Hudson, his philosophical stance on them.  I couldn’t solve all of their young adult angst, (sometimes it just reminded me of my own),  but I learned to be less afraid of their troubles and just listen, trying not to yap back too much,  guiding them instead with careful assurances that they would find their path, just be careful to leave doors open, it was all about those open doors.

Watching Lily sleep, her blond hair spread across the new Ikea pillows,   I thought of all the photos she would take and print over the semester  and of all the images I will have pictured on long afternoons, as fall turned to winter. I hung my head out the window and listened to the students up late, calling out to each other, as they passed by, excited by their new independence.  It was time to go home.

To read more about Lily and I – along with the chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links:

Link to Amazon.ca  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Link to Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712