Wednesday, September 29, 2010

return of the nut people

Oak trees thickly line the parking lot at work. Squirrels and wind have joined forces, and the ground is strewn with acorns. I love the little hats that fit so snugly.
When I was a child, my mother made little nut people. She used a plump pine cone for a body, small peeled twigs for legs and arms, and a hazelnut for a head. She added bright woolly scarves and toques and the tiny nut people looked set for the ski slope. My friend the little boy next door, and I, happened upon these hand made treasures.
My childhood was of another era, when children were not as closely supervised. We were left to explore, and discover, and in this case, vandalize. We saw, not the nut people, but the nut. We had cracked open the heads of the whole ski party before Search and Rescue arrived with a shriek. Of course, like Humpty Dumpty, all the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put the nut people together again. Sorry mom. I'm gathering acorns for you this fall as penance.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

how many muscles does it take to smile

My commute this morning was fraught with peril and hazard. A five minute red light, road construction, an accident, a detour, and finally, construction on the detour route itself. This is when I glanced to the right at the car waiting beside me in the next lane.
The driver was doing facial exercises.
Possibly as a stress reliever.
I know it had that effect on me.

Monday, September 27, 2010

whoosh

I stepped out of work today and was immediately enveloped in warm, moist air that smelled like...... laundry soap? Apparently, this air has swept half way around the globe, from Hawaii.
Evening traffic is rushing past, whooshing through the rain. I can almost hear the surf.

knock knock

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there," my grandson asks, his voice squeaking with joy.
"Boo," I respond. "Boo who," he asks smugly.
"Don't cry little boy," I bleat out. Laughter from the back seat follows.
"It's still your turn, grandma."
"Oh, Ok, Knock, knock."
"Who's there," he asks sweetly.
"You," I declare.
"You who," he asks happily.
"Were you calling me," I ask, my voice filled with mock surprise?
More hearty laughter.
"Go again, grandma," he urges.
"Knock, knock," I say warily.
"Who's there," he responds confidently.
"Orange," I reply, searching through my limited repertoire of dusty knock knock jokes.
"Orange who," he asks, right on cue.
"Orange you glad I didn't say......................"
" banana," my daughter helpfully supplies.
"Orange you glad I didn't say banana," I trill.
His laughter fills the car.
"Oh grandma," he declares affectionately. "You're so funny."
I won't quit my day job.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

danger was on my mind

The morning sun was, as my grandson put it, "baking down," on us. Perhaps that was why he suddenly announced joyfully that he had arrived in Africa. We were on the large soccer field that stretches out behind our church. "Watch out for Lions," he cried. "Quickly, up on the elephants," I urged. As I turned to scoop up my tiny granddaughter, my eyes lifted and I glanced back toward the church building. Danger was on my mind, and danger was very suddenly on the distant horizon. A huge, muscular Rottweiler trotted out of the trees beyond the church and froze, it's powerful head swivelling, it's muzzle lifting as it sniffed the air. "Watch out for...." my grandson began again.
"You must listen carefully," I said calmly. We must walk very quickly. We must be very quiet and walk quickly until we are inside the church." I knew that a large dog on the loose could be nothing more than a friendly house pet wandering unsupervised, but it could also be a dog defending it's territory. I could feel an unreasonable fear chilling my heart. "Dear Lord," I breathed aloud. "Surround us with your angels. Protect these children." "This is like in Bambi, isn't it," whispered my grandson.
It felt so wonderful to step inside the church, a true sanctuary. My husband mentioned that as he was vacuuming, the pastor suddenly emerged from his office, concern etched on his face. "Where are the little ones, where are the kids?" he anxiously asked. He too had seen the dog and felt fear.
I haven't forgotten to say thank you.

time lapse

"I played with twins, Grandma," my grandson confided. "They had the same head." The conversation continued and the little strangers, recently met, where referred to as friends. Every child is a friend to my grandson it seems. How wonderful. Personality traits emerge very early. It's as amazing as time lapse photography to watch.

watchers from a distant shore

One hundred stories seemed a long way off when I began my blog, and now, one hundred and one is in the works. I feel a certain compressed excitement, and sentimentality, like celebrating the birthday of a dear friend. It seems fitting that an email would arrive on the very day, and contain tips on how to search my blog's stats. A simple click, my friend assured me, would reveal answers to questions I had never thought to ask, and would unlock the mystery of sort and polish. Who is reading my stories, where do they live, which one is their favorite, and how many others feel the same.
I clicked.
Sure enough. It was all there.
I happily emailed her back with this revelation.
People want to laugh.
And, they love to see you suffer, and live to tell the tale. This is not because people are unkind, but really, quite the opposite. They can empathise. They've been there, and it gives them hope to see someone else grip the surf board of life with whitened toes and ride out the waves. The Bible talks about a "great cloud of witnesses," that watch us run our race here on earth. Watchers from a distant shore. We just can't hear the cheering over the sound of the surf.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Bonnie Gene


A long white box, plastered with twenty four postage stamps arrived yesterday. It had travelled by air and truck and finally car, to arrive at my door. Nestled inside, was my quilt.

In early March, I entered the Wee Quilt Challenge, held annually at McDougall Cottage in Cambridge, Ontario. The theme was Celtic Connections, and each entry had to include plaid fabric. My little quilt travelled there in the spring, and was displayed with other entries.
I had been waiting with baited breath ever since, to see a brochure of the show, to scope out the competition so to speak.
Weeks, and then months passed, and now, my quilt had returned.
When I opened the long, white box, no brochure wafted out. I shook the box and peered into the dark interior. It was just like receiving a parcel from my sister. Never a note, not even a peep. I took my wee quilt to guild that night and showed it off, bemoaning the lack of brochure, or info. on next years challenge.
And then, as is so often the case, when I had finally given up all hope, my longing was satisfied, and a plump envelope arrived the very next day, stuffed with brochures aplenty, and a lovely note as well. These will go to guild next month, so McDougall Cottage will receive double billing as penance for my impatience.
I've read and reread, and I sheepishly admit, read again the little blurbs under each quilt. So amazing. One theme, yet so many ways of interpreting it.

My own wee quilt began in the dead of winter, as I mulled over the idea of my Celtic connection being a genetic one.
I began to sketch and plan. Celtic grandparents appeared on every limb of the family tree, as it branched out into the mists of time. The only exception was my Norwegian grandfather, but everyone knows the Norsemen braved those stormy northern seas around the British Isles.
Choosing photos was more time consuming than I had expected, but was pure joy. Transferring them to fabric was pure grief. I loved appliqueing the center scene, but I gritted my teeth and sweated, appliqueing the pictures around it. The Vancouver Olympics came and went as I toiled on. The deadline loomed and was suddenly upon me. Off went a digital image at the eleventh hour. Would it be accepted, would it, would it..... It would! A little paragraph was composed, and into the mail it went.
And now, like a homing pigeon, it has returned. The judges remarks were kind, although no Wee prize was awarded. Still, my goal was to enter, and enter I did.
I called my quilt Bonnie Gene and sent these words along with it.

A generation ago, the question, "What are your connections?" or the observation that someone was "well connected" referred to family ties. This is what immediately sprang to mind when I read this year's theme. My connection to all things Celtic is more than an admiration of its culture, music or artwork, but is in fact, part of my DNA. Beginning with the idea of an immigration stamp (kindly applied by my daughter's steady hand), photos of five generations of ancestors surround an appliqued wee cottage as do spider web quilting and antique buttons. I'm proud of my bonnie genes!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

me, myself, and the radio dial

Driving to work yesterday morning I thrilled at the golden slanting light of September. We don't really have much in the way of autumn color but there is the unmistakable look of fall. Part of it is the angle of the light, more like afternoon light in the summer. Very warm colors and lots of shadow.
My morning musing made me realize that I enjoy time alone in the car. It's a chance to talk to myself about a million topics, find out how I'm doing, ponder and reminisce. Once in a while though, for one reason or another, I'm not good company. I'm sure this is why radios were put in cars. The radio has entertained me, taught me, kept me awake and kept me company. I'll be off to work again in the morning. Just me, myself and the radio dial.

short and sweet

As we left for work, we used to say, "I hope your day is quick and painless." It sounded too much like death, so now we say, "I hope your day is short and sweet," like a story, which of course is what a day is, although it can feel like death around two in the afternoon.

bus boy

One of the sure signs of autumn, the school bus, is on the road again. I pulled up behind one this morning and found it so entertaining that I followed it for several blocks. Two boys, seated right at the back were clearly having the most marvelous time. There was toe-tapping and shoulder shaking, and periodically, one would throw back his head and sing, who knows what? Well, I suppose the bus driver knows, poor fellow. It made me think of all the cliches about joyous parents celebrating summers end, and despondent children, reluctantly heading back to school. How do these ideas catch on. The truth is probably just the opposite. The kids are feeling bored and restless by the end of August and can hardly wait to get together with friends again. Shopping for new cloths and school supplies, back packs, and running shoes, what kid doesn't love that? And what parent does? Oh they may vicariously thrill to the sight of fresh pink erasers and color coded notebooks, but the line ups, the decisions, the money! And, most parents have enjoyed the extra time summer gives them with their children. Camping, trips to the sea shore, and parks, they are the finer moments of family life, the very times that parents cherish, and they are over for another year. Commercials may show frolicking parents, but the real singing and dancing is being done by the children. Mom and Dad have mixed feelings.

Monday, September 20, 2010

golden girl

It is my September baby's birthday today. As the afternoon light slanted, I decided to gather a bouquet of blooms to deck the festal table. Out into the yard I wandered, scissor in hand. A golden dahlia, for my golden girl, bright yellow rudbekia, delicate fever few, lemon yellow gladioli, rich wine flecked dahlia, mauve sedum, sweet, heavy scented rose blossoms. Autumn glory.
I remember the bouquet my mother and father brought to the hospital when this girl, a wee baby, lay on my arm, tender and tiny. It was a sheaf of green Bells of Ireland. It seemed to me then, that the occasion must be marked by flowers. Banks and sheafs and wreaths of flowers would have seemed too little a tribute. Let the bells ring.

brushed steel

It seemed a pity to put our old, scratched, dull sink into our new kitchen. It would be akin to dirty sneakers with a white dress. Picking out a new one seemed simple enough. Stainless steel, two basin, how hard could that be. Standing before the sink display I felt the first flicker of doubt. Still, a decision was made and a youthful lackey was dispatched to the warehouse to retrieve the winner. Time passed. He eventually returned with a tattered opened box. Parts seemed missing. A second clerk braved the warehouse. More waiting. Ahhh, success. I joined a long queue. My plan, pay and run.
The next morning, the sink was wrestled from its factory sealed box and we were astounded to discover that the box and contents were complete strangers. A phone call confirmed that a distant location still had two sinks available. No, it could not be put on hold, store policy, but there were two after all. Back into the car, back in to the store, back in to the warehouse. A lengthy wait ensued. The computer was consulted. Amazingly, the last sink had been sold just moments before. One remained on display but couldn't be sold. Store policy. I joined a long queue to return the misboxed sink.
With a sinking heart ( sorry about the pun) I drove despondently to Home Depot. I dreaded starting over. I dreaded comparing prices and features. I dreaded waiting. I was met as I entered by a young worker. Could he help me find something, he queried. " Sinks, please," I said wearily. "Follow me," he said gaily. We were before the sinks in a moment. "Pick this one," he urged. "It's my favorite." It became my favorite too. He escorted me to a til, bearing the sink before us and placing it on the counter. A new clerk sprang to my aid.
I recalled with resignation, the sale priced sink of the other store. "I don't suppose you'd want to match the sale price," I sadly mused, more to myself than anyone else. "It's not even the same brand...." "Sure, why not," the clerk enthused, waving his arm in a grand, sweeping gesture. Twenty nine dollars was duly removed from the bill. It turned out to be the perfect sink. The brushed finish did mean we had to exchange the faucet we had painstakingly selected, for one with a matching brushed finish, but, in for a penny, in for a pound. I love the new faucet even more than the first one, no flicker of doubt about it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

storm surge

Trouble doesn't arrive like a book of the month selection, chosen with care, and postage paid. It's more like storm surge, catching the unsuspecting off guard. Waves crash. Wind howls.
The words of an old song, comfort.

When I think I'm going under,
part the waters, Lord
When I feel the waves around me,
calm the sea
When I cry for help,
oh, hear me Lord
and hold out Your hand
Touch my life
Still the raging storm in me

"un" time

Procrastination is a wonderful thing. It has fueled the fires of many a creative endeavor. Right now, I should be unloading and loading my dishwasher, but instead, I am revelling in the feeling of stolen time. Life has so many should do's. Treating ourselves to a little rebellion now and then is freeing. Of course, too much of a good thing loses its charm. Tasks left undone can accumulate faster than dust on top of the armoire and begin to clammer for attention in a distressing and self defeating sort of way.
Lists are a boon to the procrastinator. Ordered thoughts, planning and prioritizing--this is what lists do best. There is a power in ticking items off. Self discipline is it's own reward. Accomplishment is sweet. But so is the luxury of "un" time. Unstructured, unscheduled, unplanned.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

polyvore bookmarks

It's been a bit of a stretch for me to create digital collages on Polyvore. My computer has balked and frozen and I've had trouble "clicking and dragging," but finishing a project has been exhilarating as a result.
These were bookmarks for an "i heart books" challenge. This is a group, created by my daughter that has regular challenges and contests. Addictive and fun.
unlocked

unlocked


parting the mist

parting the mist

beyond

beyond

Friday, September 10, 2010

pitch, patch pepper

Merging onto the freeway at 264th is hazardous. Too many things to watch out for as you become one with the flow of traffic. It reminds me of skipping at recess as a child.
Two girls would be turning the long, grey skipping rope, while the rest of us formed a wavering line. The girl at the front of the line would lean forward as though to jump, and then back, forth and back, until she reached that critical moment where focus of mind and eye allowed her to leap into the arching rope and skip in perfect harmony, then faster and faster. Pitch, patch, pepper. Such light feet.
But not everyone nimbly leapt. Some tripped and went to the back of the line. That was part of the thrill. The danger. The triumph. The stakes are a lot higher at 264th. Maybe a skipping rhyme would put me in the right frame of mind next time.
Had a little sports car,
went around the corner,
Lemon and Lime, be on time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hope by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

joie de vivre

We have a middle aged car. Or possible an elderly car depending on how you calculate auto years. Ten years and over 280,000 K's. On our way home from the hospital Saturday evening, the engine warning light suddenly cast an ominous red glow over the dashboard. One ignores warning lights at their own peril, so, abandoning routine, I set off to work Tuesday morning in the truck. Now, the truck and I have not bonded. We are a bit wary of each other. We don't know each other on a first name basis. This became obvious when I clicked on the radio and heard sports! I pressed the scan button twice and watched station call numbers flash past. I listened with growing angst to snippets of music and garbled words. I finally settled on a French station. Ahhhh, the joy of music, unsullied by words.
I am bombarded with music all day at work. It is usually the lyrics I tire of first. My husband, who has an ear for music, is inexplicably able to filter out the words and simply enjoy the music, but I am just the opposite. There seems a power in words that cannot be ignored. Listening to music, sung in a language I didn't understand was a refreshing change. I caught the odd word, something about life being good and free, but it was the music that took centre stage. This is why I love classical music too I guess, although a lot of it is too pensive. This was toe tapping, mandolin and fiddle playing, joie de vivre music. The message was clear, even without the words.

Monday, September 6, 2010

summer supper

Pastel peach salmon fillets with a caramelized sear. Emerald bright green beans, tender crisp and redolent of garlic. Crisp, juicy corn on the cob, anointed with butter and sparkling with salt. Steaming mugs of golden tea, yogurt, cool and thick and thin chewy cookies.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

the one that got away

This has been the summer of the salmon. When I spied brilliant orange fillets of wild sockeye, plump and cool at the grocery store, I imagined them searing in olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon adorning them. What a timely treat. They would be quick to prepare which was important because the afternoon was well along. I arrived home with my bulging bags from various errands and supper prep moved to the top of the list. Now for the fish, the fish..... has anyone seen the salmon? Apples, eggs, green beans, broccoli, where in the world is the fish. The receipt showed it had made it over the scanner, but apparently, not in to my cart, not in to my truck, and definitely not in to my kitchen. As I regrouped, my father made his way upstairs to show me his arm, swollen and sore. My daughter informed me that my washer wasn't dispensing the soap. It was now five past six, and the store was closed for the day. It was also supper time.
Telling this tale of woe sometime later, to my daughter, I said, "I'm glad your sister suggested soup and tuna melts for supper, I was just going to.. " "Cry?" my daughter suggested. "No," I laughed, "not cry." And that's when I realized aging has given me a measure of resilience and I'm grateful. I'd have been grateful for salmon and fresh green beans sauteed in garlic, but tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

poor poppa

"Police, fire, or ambulance." a voice queried. "Ambulance please" I stated quickly. By the time I had given my address, I could hear the First Response siren heading towards us from the Fire Hall.
After moving to Aldergrove, my father kept track of the Fire Station siren and observed that a day was not complete without hearing it's wail at least once. This time, I felt only relief.
Now, in his elder years, my father's diabetes has caused a few trips to the emergency ward. Tonight was one of those trips.
We were so relieved that an overnight stay was finally ruled out, IV lines would be removed and we'd be on our way. The male nurse, thinking that pulling the tape off in one quick movement would be most humane, pulled away, and skin tore wherever tape had touched. The cure was definitely worse than the ailment. My poor poppa. Not a peep! "Why didn't you yell?" I gasped. "I couldn't," he admitted, "It took my breath away." He arrived home swathed in bandages (all tape free of course) We all feel a little shell shocked, but amazed by the help available to us tonight. Four firemen, two paramedics, three nurses, two lab technicians ( he had six blood tests over the course of the evening), an x-ray technician, and a doctor ( in a pear tree??). As I listed them off, I heard a dreadful version of the twelve days of Christmas in my head. Must be the late hour, but it's made me smile. I'll tell Dad in the morning.

Friday, September 3, 2010

music to my ears

I've begun to reacquaint myself with my kitchen, post flood reno. I pulled bowls and glasses and pots and pans from boxes and decided where they would fit into the new space. One difficult to reach cupboard had become a storage bunker and culling was required. It was a bit like an archaeological dig. Back I went through pre-Aldergrove, circa 1978 wedding gifts, my childhood kitchen, my grandmothers kitchen. Music to weep to, was the unfortunate soundtrack sighing in the background. Where's Motown when you need it. Some bee bop and shoe bop sha whanna whanna would have lifted my spirit. Cry me a River would have steeled my resolve and I'd have been dancing among the wrappings to Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

confession

Confession is good for the soul. This is why I feel compelled to confess that I ate four samosas for lunch.

My kitchen is still in a state of reno chaos and sandwich bags and glad containers are elusive. During the morning at work, I felt a growing sense of apathy about my packed lunch, that peaked as I peered into my brown bag at noon. I longed for something warm. Something satisfying. Something filling. I soon found myself standing at an Indian lunch counter clutching my spare change and debating the merits of pakora versus samosas.
Samosas won,......but four?! Deep fried, full of spiced potato and served with a sweet dipping sauce, there is really nothing good, from a health standpoint, that can be said about them. Eating one might be seen as a treat, but four, a death wish.
There was something comforting about eating them, one after the other as I did though. They were warm, and satisfying and very filling.
I have to go now, I feel like going for a long walk................

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

heavenly

It was easy to believe in heaven when I looked at the sunset tonight. The sky was robins egg blue with clouds the color of apricots, their edges molten gold.