Walking for a Cause





For the past couple of years both my son and daughter have participated in a run to raise money for neuroscience – mental health and brain injury research – at the University of Alberta, in honor of their dad.  I had tossed around the idea of joining the 5K walk event this year, but I wasn’t sure I could do it, with my achy feet, bunions, blisters, fallen arches … you get the picture!

I’m not a runner, nor do I ever aspire to be, but I have been walking regularly for a few months now and it has become a really good habit.  Sure, there are days I wake up and think it would be nice to skip out and just stay in my pajamas with a cup of coffee, but I am quickly reminded of the way I feel while I’m walking and once I get home, so I get up and go and I’m never sorry I did.

The only event I’ve ever done that involved a lot of physical energy was a walkathon in my youth.  I think it was about 21 miles, but I’m not positive anymore and I haven’t actually thought about it for so long, until just now!  I don’t remember which fundraiser it was but I do remember being exhausted, hot and thirsty.

I recently returned from a trip with my daughter to Disneyland, where she ran a half marathon.  She had prepared for this event for over a year, and I believe it was everything she hoped it would be.  I was part of the chEAR squad (yes, it’s really a thing!) so I got to sit in a special place near the finish line and watch all the action – and they really do provide a lot of action!  It was so entertaining, and my daughter said there were things all along the route to entertain them and make it all fun.


When we got home from Disneyland I was inspired to do something, so I decided to jump in and register for the N.E.R.D. run event with my kids and another family who has been affected by brain injury, and I will be walking on Saturday.  As long as it isn’t too hot (my daily walks are at sunrise!) I know I’ll be OK and even though it’s not that long, and even though I’m not running, it will be an accomplishment for me, and I have my kids to thank for that inspiration.

I started walking because I wanted to be mobile and hold onto my mobility as long as I can moving forward.  But now I’m experiencing the other benefits as well and I’m hoping that even once it snows I’ll be able to get out there with some cleats and hopefully I won’t fall flat on my butt.

In the meantime, it’s never too late to take a leap, so I’m walking the 5K Saturday for brain injury and mental health.  I’m going to get a bib, an actual medal, and a cool t-shirt.

I’m walking for my husband.  And I’m walking for me.

That Special Someone

Two hands creating a heart

I was thinking recently about how, when I was a teenager and growing into an adult, I would observe couples together at social events or in our house when my parents had company.  I would think how nice it was that at the end of the evening, each couple got to go home together, that they would have each other to share stories of the day with, to cuddle up close at bedtime, that they each had someone special who was their own.  And I looked forward to having that experience when it was my turn.

When I got to live life as part of a married couple, those evenings were as I imagined they would be: the comfort, the companionship, the sharing of stories of the day.

Now, I have moments when I recall certain memories that only he and I shared, certain things that only the two of us experienced together.  Those live now only in my own mind.  I can talk about them, but no one actually shares them.  He was THERE.  No one can actually remember with me now, or fill in the blanks as my own memory fades. It’s a simple thing that we don’t really appreciate fully until it’s gone … like many simple little things.

And now, like others I’ve spoken to who find themselves in similar situations, I don’t really fit into groups of couples anymore, and they’re everywhere!  Couples who were friends are still friends, of course, but socially it’s difficult for me to join in on occasions where couples are the norm.  It just hurts to be there.  A lot.

I observe the random loving glances, the shared smiles or laughs, the small physical encounters as they brush past each other.  And it’s still beautiful to see – I will always appreciate it – but I’m not a teenager anymore, imagining what it will be like to have it one day.  I know what it’s like. I know what I’m missing.

That special someone. The one who could finish my sentences, the one who knew me inside and out, better than anyone else in the world and sometimes better than I knew myself.  The one who was the other half of me.

No matter how true my brain knows it is, there are sometimes moments when I cannot grasp how he can actually be gone and how I can be here.  Alone. Still breathing.



Facebook Memories


You know that annoying new feature on Facebook that regularly shows you memories from years ago?  Yeah, that one.  The one that’s constantly showing me pictures from a sad and tragic experience, pictures I only look at in my home on occasions when I’m able to do so without bursting into tears.

I guess it isn’t enough that Facebook asks me every single time I log in “What’s on your mind?” (like they really want to know) it now feels the need to PUT things onto my mind that weren’t already there in Kodak living color in that particular moment when I might just have been having a very happy day remembering all the nice and fun things I have to remember and avoiding giving too much time to those thoughts about how sometimes parts of my life just suck because my husband is gone and I miss him terribly.  Every. Single. Day.

And then, BOOM! There’s a picture I deliberately keep tucked away.

Doesn’t Facebook know that our lives go through cycles and that when we post something in the moment for a specific reason, maybe three years later we don’t need it flashed back at us because we can look it up ourselves if we really really REALLY want to?  I mean, we’ve already shared it once, is there some need at Facebook’s end for us to share it again?  Of course, there’s always a nice little note that it won’t be seen by anyone else as a past memory unless we choose to share it.

Thanks, but I CHOSE TO SHARE IT THREE YEARS AGO WHEN IT HAPPENED, NOW PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!  Are they running out of data or traffic or interesting shares?  Are people just not posting enough stuff anymore that they’re turning to reruns? Geesh.  Maybe other people get a wide variety of memories brought back up in their faces, but my stream seems to follow the same path every time, right into a Kleenex commercial.

That’s what is on my mind, Facebook.

(Before anyone feels the need to tell me, yes, I do know I can turn off the memories that appear, and yes, once in a blue moon there is one I enjoy seeing but I’m not a fan of reruns unless they’re ones of my favorite old TV shows.)




My kids’ Grampa, Flintstone Park, 1995

The door opens, a child barrels into the house, jumps into the arms of the man waiting with joyful anticipation, and yells: “Grampa!”  The man swoops the child up in the air and they hug each other with big smiles on their faces.  And I burst into tears.  Because it’s happening on a TV show and I know it’s something I will never experience in my home; it’s a small thing, in the middle of a comedy show that makes me laugh time and again, but it hits me hard just as many little things do when I least expect them.

Growing up, I always felt that I missed something in not having grandparents around the way other kids I knew had them, sometimes just down the street.  I only knew one grandparent – my dad’s mom – as my mom’s mom had passed away before I was born and sadly I have only vague memories of her dad because I was very young when he died.  My dad’s dad was never in our lives, or in his.  His mom lived until I was sixteen years old, but we lived about 800 miles away and only saw her about once a year.  I know she was a very good lady, but unfortunately, as my brother and I were the youngest of thirty-one grandchildren, she seemed old for as long as I can remember.  We had chats during our visits, but she wasn’t healthy enough to run around and play or to have us bouncing on her knee, and because of the huge family, our visits were generally crowded with activity, people, food, etc. and seldom quiet enough to actually bond closely.  I know my dad and mom had great respect for her, and I know many stories of her that confirm her character and determination in caring for her family and getting through very difficult times.  Circumstances dictated the nature of our relationship.

So when we had our children I was so grateful they were going to have grandparents close enough to build relationships and watch them grow up.  As parents, we’re always glad when our children can have something we didn’t have, or that we didn’t have enough of compared to what we would have liked to have.

When we brought Michael home from the hospital and over to my parents’ house the first time, my dad looked at him in his little car seat and told me he would pay me $10,000 for each one I had if I just kept making more!  My parents were part of my children’s everyday lives from the start, and when we moved to Alberta, there were regular visits and phone calls, and many memories were made.

Of course, both Grammas and Grampas are very special, but the relationships are different, at least that is what I have observed myself and in some other families too.  Grammas are a lot like moms; they can be fun but they also teach, correct, worry, and try to keep things somewhat organized and safe because they want to make sure their grandchildren grow up to be responsible people with good manners who obey the law and, well, you get the point. They’re often more relaxed than moms, and they’re good at reminding moms not to be too hard on kids.

But there is something about Grampas; just as dad is often perceived as the “fun” parent while mom is busy enforcing rules, making sure the house is clean, and trying to prevent any major injuries, Grampas seem to be the calmer ones, letting the kids have fun, go on adventures, try cool things, probably because they are being entertained themselves just by watching!  Grampas are full of mischief and stories and secrets.

Our children weren’t in the stage of life to be parents yet when Pat had his accident.  But during his time in hospital in Ponoka, he always lit up when little ones came to visit other patients and wanted to get close to them.  I remember him saying that he really wanted to have a grandchild.  I asked him what he wanted to do with a grandchild and he said, in his childlike way: “I could hold them on my knee and kiss them.”  He had it figured out.  he would have been a wonderful Grampa.

But while my children were blessed in having grandparents play an active role in their growing up years and even into adulthood, even though I was happy to see that they had something I had missed, here we are now and they will miss something else that I can’t give them.  If they have their own children one day, there will be stories to share, pictures to look at, and questions to answer. But they won’t experience the joy of bringing home their new baby and seeing the look on their dad’s gentle face that I know would be there: the sweet smile, the tears, the pride.  They won’t later hear their little voices holler with glee: “Grampa!” and neither will I.

After laughing through most of the above-mentioned episode, it took me a little time to gather my emotions together.  I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the slightest thing can still hit out of nowhere and feel like a stab in the heart in the middle of an otherwise uplifting experience.  We didn’t just lose him for now.  We lost our future with him that was still to hold so much, and this cute little boy on a TV show just reminded me of one more special thing I won’t get to share with the one person I was meant to share it with.

And, as it must, life moves on …


One foot in front of the other


I sail!  I’m a sailor!  OK, I’m not really a sailor, but these words of Bob Wiley from the movie “What About Bob?” are regularly used around my house whenever a new activity is started or a new skill is learned, such as “I quilt!  I’m a quilter!”

Actually, there are a lot of lines from that movie that have found their way into our family’s repertoire.  It’s an older movie, but if you’re even the least bit neurotic “interesting” you need to watch it.  And if you’re perfectly “normal” and never have any issues at all with anything in your mind – ie. fear, anxiety, depression, OCD – you MUST watch it because it will enlighten you as to the daily life struggles of probably everyone around you in your “perfect” world, which will also help you to see that no one is perfectly “normal.”  But I digress …

I walk.  I’m a walker.  This means that I regularly drag my butt outside – even when it’s getting hotter in the mornings (although I try to go earlier and earlier to avoid those temps) and even when it’s cold or slightly raining – and walk for a specified amount of time.  Every day.  I do it because I NEED to do it.  Every other activity that I enjoy and spend hours engaged in, whether it’s sewing, quilting, paper crafting, writing, or any other pastime of a creative and thoughtful introvert, is sedentary.  I want to maintain my mobility despite my age and continued aging, and because I’m middle-aged some things are already becoming a pain in the neck (back, legs, knees, hips, feet, bunions etc.).  I no longer have children to chase after, I don’t work outside my home anymore as the promotion and selling of my handmade items is all done from the comfort of home, and I have to force myself to move throughout the day for more than just a few minutes here and there going from one room to the other to find a needle or a seam ripper.

And I’ve come to the point where I actually want to walk.  It’s a strange combination, this wanting to go do something that I know is going to make me hurt in various places and wishing I didn’t have to do it but still feeling driven to get myself out there.  However, this wanting to walk thing is only about my actual morning power walk.  It has a definite purpose for me.  I’m not a leisure walker; I can do it if I have to, but I don’t often choose it.

The Schedule

I don’t like exercise.  It’s generally boring, it makes me sweat (anyone who read the post about summer heat will know that being hot and sweaty is something that can turn me into a miserable b–ch) and at this point I don’t even get a lot of results on the scale from doing it because once middle age hits, our bodies seem to think we’re doing all this moving just for fun and we aren’t really expecting anything more.

But as much as it hurts and takes away time from other things I’d rather be doing, it has started to make me feel better about myself.  It gets my circulation going first thing in the morning, it apparently releases good hormones (which is a good thing because there are a lot of other not-so-good hormonal experiences starting up at this age too), and it reminds me every day that I want to be able to move for as long as I can move, and the only way to make that happen is to persevere now.  It makes me feel better about myself because I’m sticking with something that’s good for me, I’m committed to ME.

I’ve been asked how often I walk and when I go, and I am immediately thinking “is this person going to ask me if they can walk with me?”  Some people find it easier to have a walking buddy because it motivates them and keeps them committed.  I see these twosomes once in a while, engaged in animated conversation while power walking around town.  I’m not that kind of walker.  I’m a stick the headphones in and crank up the tunes to pass this mundane and pain inducing activity as quickly as possible on my own schedule kind of walker.  I do often meet up with my daughter part way around and she walks with me for a short time before work, and we chat a bit as we go just to check in with each other’s plans for the day, but she is the person I can text whenever I want to, as early as I want to because we’re both awake in the wee hours, and say “I’m leaving now, are you walking?”  She’s a runner, so  it’s not like she depends on me for her routine and if she misses a day here and there I’m cool with that.  So that’s as much of a walking schedule commitment as I can handle.

I am committed to going every day, though, first thing in the morning before I do anything else.  I know myself well enough to know that if I get involved in another activity, I will put off the walking and either 1) not do it at all that day and end up feeling like a lazy slug, or 2) succumb to the guilt trip I take myself on and go later in the day when it’s hotter and much more difficult just to silence the reprimanding voice in my head.  I also like the idea of getting it done and out of the way so that for the rest of the day, no matter what I do or don’t do, I have taken care of my need to deliberately move.

The Gear

I’ve been watching my runner daughter find all kinds of colourful and useful clothing and gear and I’ve been almost jealous because just seeing all the cool stuff makes me want to be one of these people who actually needs it!  I’ve always wondered why companies make clothes for plus sized women in neon colors that scream “look over here at this bulging roll!”  Like, don’t they realize that we already draw enough attention, especially when we are MOVING?

When I started walking I decided I would be frugal and just wear comfy clothing, which works perfectly fine for the walking part.  But as it got warmer and I got more committed, I decided I needed something cooler, like maybe a tank top (I never wear one of these in public so it was a stretch, but sure made a difference in staying cool!) and some sporty capris.  I dared to try wearing such far out items and I have to say that just having some simple stuff that makes you look and feel more appropriately dressed for whatever your exercise of choice is, does make it more tolerable, more comfortable, and more fun.  I can’t do the cute shoes – I have fallen arches, a bunion, and uneven legs so the left shoe of any pair I buy always needs to be built up by a shoemaker.  But thankfully, even my SAS shoes come in a comfy running shoe that included a set of rainbow laces should I ever feel the need to draw attention away from my body and down to my feet.

Don’t be looking for me out there, it isn’t pretty.  And I’m not posting any pictures of me all decked out and ready to face the task.  But if you see an overweight middle aged woman hoofing it around town with headphones in, look past the bright coloured tank top with the flabby jiggles and know that at least she’s trying.  We all have to start somewhere!

What new activity have you started recently?

I’d rather be Quilting …


I have a list of a few things I really want to get done around the house, things I can do myself but just haven’t been interested in doing.  I look at them and think about them while I’m moving between rooms with my quilting projects.

I have a quilt on my machine that I started yesterday and was having fun with, but after a morning of walking, organizing my thoughts, balancing my chequebook, uploading pictures of a new quilt to my Etsy shop, and becoming distracted by other blogs that inspire me, I finally went downstairs and got the can of stain I bought for my new unfinished wooden kitchen table.  I have pictures in my head of how I want it to look, and a few good reasons for putting it off (like the fact that I have my sewing machine on it and I’m always working on something, so I don’t want any delays in that area!) but I can’t have the look I want until I open the darn can and get moving.  It looks rather boring just sitting there all unfinished with the IKEA stamp still showing, like a project that seemed like a good idea at the time and just never got done…

So I brought the can and necessary accessories upstairs, put it all on the counter, plugged in the sander, and then – in typical middle-aged fashion – got distracted.  I honestly can’t remember what it was that caught my attention, but before I knew it I was reading an email from someone who had “liked” a post on my quilting site.

I followed her link, read a few posts on her blog, and followed another link to a blog where I actually read a funny story written by a lady describing the back and forth inner conversation she faces when she decides to paint something!  It went something like this: I really want to paint this.  No, you don’t.  It’s too much work.  But it will look so nice.  Just hire someone. I can do it myself and save money.  You always do this. Remember last time? and so on …  At least my distraction brought me full circle and reminded me that I needed to get back to what I intended to start.

I sanded the table down, wiped it off, opened the stain and went to work.  Of course, staining with a rag goes quickly, and I find watching the wood come to life very satisfying until I have to get underneath something big.  I contemplated turning the table over, but – like the lady I mentioned above with her painting project – I don’t have anyone around during the day to help me with two-person tasks, and if you try to turn a table over yourself, it can put a lot of strain on the legs, which isn’t good.  So the best option was lying on my back under the table to catch the parts that were going to be obvious (I’m not bothering to stain the whole underside, because I don’t expect anyone else to lie down underneath it, except maybe the dog I don’t yet and might never have, but it won’t care).  Don’t try to picture that effort, it wasn’t pretty and it hurt my back, but only temporarily.


I took a break to decide whether or not to go ahead with the leg painting today too because that was an inner debate for more than a few minutes after I finally got to stand up again.  I sat down to relax and write up this blog post so I could just plug in pictures later.  But perseverance won (or maybe my OCD?) and I really didn’t want to be without a usable table for more than a day.


It looks just the way I wanted it too!  I even got some bonus stretching in while accomplishing one more thing on my list.  Of course, it would look more Good Housekeeping-ish if I waited to take the picture once it’s back in place with the cardboard out from under the legs and my white chairs perfectly placed around it, but this is how I roll.  I’ll seal it with wax first thing in the morning, right before I get back to my quilt … for now, I’m headed for my recliner with a cup of tea 🙂


UPDATE: Here it is back in place, all waxed, buffed and shining “like the top of the Chrysler building.”

Strong is over-rated


I want to talk about strength in adversity.

Some believe staying strong is a “choice”, that people can decide what to do with their difficult circumstances, and that one’s ability to face them comes from strength, while another’s inability – and possibly their choice to back away altogether – is a weakness.  I disagree.

I’d like to start out by taking this immediately to the extreme in suggesting that the choice is not about whether to endure a suffering with strength or to bemoan it and walk away in weakness.  The choice is made on a level much more basic, yet rarely discussed openly: do I want to live or do I want to die?

I’ve encountered various perspectives in my own journey, here a just a few:

“faith keeps you strong”

“all things are possible with God”

“good things come to those who wait”

“all things work together for good for those who love God”

Yet, I’ve seen people of faith crater in desperate ways, myself included; I’ve watched – and endured – situations that God could have fixed end badly; I’ve watched people wait and wait and wait – and I know what it’s like to wait – to end up with a result that is not “good” by any human perception;  I’ve watched – and endured – situations where God loving people have lost everything.  Did I – or we- do something wrong to affect whether or not the blessings came?  I doubt it.  But for a while, it certainly did cross my mind, and that in itself was damaging.

Does this mean I don’t believe the above statements? No. I just don’t believe they always apply to life on earth.  Like many religious verses and cliches, I take them with a grain of salt (partly because salt often gets rubbed into wounds while waiting on God) because while most of these things are conceivably true in the realm of heavenly life, they often don’t show themselves to be true in earthly difficulties.

One person of faith appears to be strong, another – sometimes stronger – person appears to have no faith.  The same is true of apparent weakness, regardless of faith.  I also believe that people of no faith sometimes turn to God in adversity because they are desperate and hoping that developing faith will fix their situation and again, sometimes it appears to do just that, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I don’t think God gives some people more strength than he gives to others, depending on how good they are, how much they pray, how much faith they have, or any other gauge of entitlement.  I don’t know how or why it comes or doesn’t come, but I don’t think we are necessarily in control of it.

I believe that people who appear to be strong in the face of great tragedy have chosen to live.  But they aren’t necessarily thinking of that as they go along.  They just know that there really isn’t any choice but to step up and face whatever comes along – sometimes with a good attitude, sometimes not – because they are still alive and there is no choice for them but to keep going.  Morning will come and night will come and they will still be here, so they keep going.  And whether or not they do it with optimism or negativity, as long as they keep going they have chosen to live.  They haven’t necessarily chosen to be strong, to endure their difficulties with hope and faith – some might, but not all – they might smile one day and scream the next, but they are alive.

This brings me to the other choice, which is to die.

While I’m not of that mindset, in keeping with the topic of this post I would say that I can humanly understand how some people could come to a point in their lives and their suffering when this choice is something they consider.  So it’s possible to be open to and even sympathize with the perspectives of someone with a differing view, without actually agreeing.  I don’t consider these people weak.  I just see that they are making a choice based on experiences and issues that are their own.

I don’t like the assumption that the way people handle certain things determines for others whether or not they are “strong”.  I don’t think pictures and comments reminding people that the best way to deal with life is to stay strong, think positively, stay hopeful, and keep the faith are helpful to everyone.  Inspiration can come in various ways depending on what a person needs at the time, but I often notice that quotes with less-than-optimistic themes – however real they might be – are frowned upon.  I think all this sets us up for comparisons, either those that others might make or those that we make ourselves when we feel that perhaps we aren’t as strong as we should be in similar situations, because we see others coping in ways that we don’t. What helps one person get through a hard time might for another person be a catalyst for further grief and pain.

I don’t want to see myself as strong or weak based on how I handle or react to things I face, or on how others might perceive me.  Am I “strong” when I’m having a good day and then not “strong” when I’m having trouble coping?  If my day doesn’t measure up to the words on the picture someone posted about never giving up, does that mean I’m not trying hard enough?

I’ve realized that many times when I’ve felt overwhelmed, beaten down by one thing after another and left feeling as though there is little to nothing to be hopeful about, I’ve chosen to keep going because I’m alive and as long as that is the case, I need to go on because the days will pass regardless of my ability to cope and I will wake up in the morning to do it all over again. Some days will be good and others awful.  I won’t always be able to smile and pretend, sometimes I will scream and cry and wish to throw back whatever has been dealt to me.  Some days I will feel hopeful and believe that God is helping me and other days I will see things as gloomy and sad and I will feel the loneliness that chokes me.  But that’s the way it has to be because I want to live. I’m a human being, complete with strengths and weaknesses, who has chosen to live. And in choosing to live, I have no other choice but to endure what comes my way, because it will most definitely come as long as I’m moving forward.  Sometimes being alive hurts.  So why aren’t pictures with quotes reflecting that truth welcomed and as widely spread as those that, in efforts to uplift, can become constant discouragements?

I think it’s more accurate and more real to see that this isn’t about being strong or not strong.  It’s about a choice between living or dying.  It’s better to focus on what the choice to live looks like – with both the good and the not good times – than to try to come up with some picture of what “strong” looks like.  Strong is a good adjective for cheese, for a body builder in a competition, or for a quilting thread!  But it’s not so great at describing the emotional depths of a human person.  Being strong isn’t my goal.  Living is.

So some days I leave the house smiling, energetic and ready to greet the world, and other days I have to splash cold water on my face, put on some lipstick and leave the house only because I really just want my mail, hoping no one will be able to tell I’ve been crying (I’d pour a drink too, but I have a policy never to drink alcohol when I’m mad or sad…), but either way, I’m alive 🙂

My Cottage on the Prairie


I don’t live in a house on the beach.  I don’t even live near water of any kind.  Even the numerous puddles from recent downpours have dried up.  My view is made up of trees, grass and dirt (there are other houses, but my trees do a good job of blocking them) so I don’t spend a lot of time gazing out the window.

But part of me wants to live in a cottage on the beach, and that part of me decided a while ago that even though I’m living in northern Alberta, I can decorate my home as if it were a cute little waterfront cottage.  It already has old style wooden siding, A few blocked in windows have decorated wood panels, and I’m attracted to antiques and soft beachy colors, so I’m trying to develop that inside my house.  When I closed in my back porch last year (pictured at the very top of this page) I tried to make it look cottage-y (my computer doesn’t believe that’s a word, but I use it a lot!) so I would have a place to sit in a rocking chair and enjoy a cup of tea without getting too hot or rained on, and when I walk into it from my living room I do have a feeling of being in a cottage.

This week I got my roof re-shingled and a few things touched up, and now I am in limbo regarding what should be next.  As soon as you update one thing, it makes others – while still without damage – look worse and in need of a redo as well.  I wasn’t contemplating new siding at all until I saw the new roof, and now I’m noticing things that didn’t bother me before, and having visions of what could be.

However, I’m also trying to balance needs with wants and be practical about changes, taking care of maintaining important parts without going too crazy on what is merely aesthetically pleasing.  The reality is that I don’t know how long I will be in this house.  I guess we all face that to a certain extent because we can’t predict the future, but it is especially uncertain when I’m still working through re-shaping my life without my husband in it.

In this house there are so many memories in every room, from every day encounters to big projects like replacing the steps at our entry, tearing down an old deck, or putting down our own laminate flooring (it was a huge undertaking for two inexperienced people that ended up being a lot of fun and very satisfying and probably the biggest home improvement project Pat and I ever did together).  For so long afterward, we admired it and were proud we had done it ourselves.  It needs a few touch ups now and the style and color are outdated – which tempts me to look into changing it – but we did it together and if I were to lift it all and replace it, I would lose more than the old floor.



We painted the outside a few years back – another huge undertaking – as a compromise (well, to be fair, Pat compromised because he really wanted new siding and I convinced him that painting it would be an economical uplift and a good family project) and when I look at it I can remember those days we spent in the heat working hard together.  If I cover it up with sharp looking vinyl now, I will lose more than the old painted wood siding.


This is not to say that I won’t make the changes as I go along.  Few things can last forever if they are part of a structure that gradually deteriorates or wears out over time.  But as things are changed one by one I notice mixed emotions.  I know I won’t be in this house forever because even if I don’t move in the near future, the time will come when my aging legs and knees will no longer be able to go up and down the stairs throughout the day.  But still, the thought of leaving it and going to live in a house where Pat was never with me is a cold one.  I can’t imagine how it would feel like “home”.

I have learned, though, that while time doesn’t heal as the cliche promises, it does give us room to grow and get used to coping with a forever wound, and that what might seem very difficult right now could become bearable in a few months, next year, or whenever the best opportunity presents itself.

For now, the reasons to stay in my “cottage” outweigh the reasons to leave it, and I just have to decide how much I want to do to keep it looking like a place that someone else might also want to live one day, in the event that life takes me down the road to another cottage.  I’m sure at that point, I will have learned that there are many things I can take with me that could indeed last forever, or at least as long as I’m alive, things that are smaller and don’t require the upkeep that siding and flooring do 🙂

Maybe the next cottage will actually be on the beach…


Life is Short; Buy the Pen (or the shoes, or whatever it is that makes you smile and isn’t illegal…)


I love journals.  I mean in the “oooh look at all the awesome journals!” sense when I’m standing in a bookstore or specialty gift shop, especially when I see the leather wrapped ones with the cool buckles or string closures.  I love the way the leather feels and smells, and I love unique paper, especially the handmade stuff with imperfections, color variations, and uneven edges.  I like to hold them and open them up and just feel the paper and imagine what kinds of things I would write in them.  I want to buy them all because something in my brain gets excited; standing in the store I always  feel like I could actually be faithful to keeping a journal and writing down the little things I think about and do each day so that one day when I’m old and losing my memory I could look back through them and read about my life.  Or someone could read it all to me, you know, like in “The Notebook”.

But I have this tiny weakness that prevents me from collecting them – I won’t use them.  If I buy all the journals I see that I love, I will one day have a big shelf of beautiful journals giving my children the impression that opening them after I’m gone will invite them into a private world of thoughts and dreams, and secrets that they might not otherwise have known about me.  And all they would see is empty pages, book after book, which would probably make them shake their heads at the money I spent collecting journals I never used.  Although that in itself might tell them something about me.  I know Kate would save them anyway, because she’s like that – nostalgic and sentimental – and they would be useful to her someday I’m sure since she will undoubtedly have more adventures to write about than I ever had!  At the very least she would have a nice shelf with beautiful journals.

I have on a few occasions set out with great intentions to commit myself to keeping a journal.  I started one when the kids were very small, noting their cute ways of saying and doing things, precious moments, words they made up and what they meant.  I wrote a bit about being their mom.  I even took the time to write at the beginning what my intentions were and that later in life the journal was to be duplicated so that each could have a copy for themselves.  I think there might be about ten pages at most; the last entry is probably from about 1989 and my kids are now grown into adults.

I have another that I bought when I took a big trip several years ago, because I had spoken to an older lady who had regularly kept a diary of her days and once, when she got sick and had a memory lapse for a period of about three days, she was able to look back at her diary and remind herself what had happened leading up to and during that period.  I thought that was a wise idea, so I kept close track each day on the holiday and wrote down things about my activities, funny things that happened and were said, and came home committed to continuing it.  It’s a special leather bound one that has a pen holder and I can even buy refills for it.  Let’s just say there are big gaps (because that’s the best way to say I didn’t follow through and actually forgot about writing in it – forgot I even had it at one point – and I have the two refill books I searched high and low to find, still in plastic wrap).

I have two – yes, two, because I have two children – “From a Mother’s Heart” books to write  in so that when I’m gone my kids can read about all the many details of my life that possibly haven’t come up in conversation over all these years (could you imagine there would be anything like that left to say?), or at least have them in writing somewhere for them to refer to if the details fade in their minds.  They are, at best, works in progress.  They seemed like a good idea at the time, but once again, my commitment to follow through lasted exactly long enough to track down and special order the second one from another store before I started the first (I had to know there would be two) and choose specifically which pen I would use to write in them (I’m picky that way), only to be challenged by the question of how to relate the same ideas and memories to each child without using exactly the same wording!  I love to plan and think about doing things like this; unfortunately, the plans are rarely helpful in actually getting started.

When I have set out to start a new journal, I’m always delayed by thoughts of how to start because I can’t help thinking of all the things I haven’t written down already, and the fact that if I actually persevere with this one there will be so much missing that I would have wanted it to contain, being the one journal I actually leave behind with something lasting in it.  In the end, I’m my own worst enemy.

The only journal I’ve been faithful to keeping is the one I started when Pat had his accident and it wasn’t even my idea.  It was suggested to me by a couple of people and I went with it, and it served many purposes, including becoming the foundation for this blog.  It was a way for me to keep things organized in my head and I’m very grateful that I did it.

So, in the words of Bill Cosby, “I’ve told you that story so I can tell you this one …..”

It’s been my desire for a while now to get back to actual letter writing, you know, doing things the old fashioned way.  If you’ve read some of my other posts you’ll know that I’m kind of attracted to the olden days, the vintage style, and a sense of the traditional.  I was a big letter writer in my youth and I enjoy getting actual mail.  I love technology and the ease of texting and emailing (partly for convenience and partly because I’m an anxious introvert who prefers to write and rewrite things before actually communicating them to someone else because all the words have to be just right, and talking on the phone doesn’t allow for autocorrect or “did you mean this instead of this?” and writing on paper just doesn’t have the same appeal with all the whiteout because I tend to wonder if people actually turn the page over to see what I was trying to hide). But I also miss getting real mail and I think I have to start somewhere in getting the ball rolling so that the art of letter writing and sending cards to people “just because” doesn’t completely die on the hill of convenience and economic decisions – we all know how much stamps cost, but can you put a price on the little jolt of anticipation we get when we open the mailbox and find an envelope without a window?

To that end, I succumbed to a sales pitch and a display of lovely modern fountain pens at a cool shop at the Lonsdale Quay market while I was on a recent holiday (I should say here that they also had beautiful journals, but unfortunately the ones I liked had the handmade paper which wouldn’t work with a fountain pen and because I compartmentalize things like this, it wasn’t the time to be drooling over something I probably wouldn’t use, especially with the new pen I was trying to convince myself to buy). I tried it out and it felt good when I was writing with it.  I’m a real Bic crystal pen fan, have been for years, but this, THIS was something special.

Trying it out reminded me of the days when my grade six teacher insisted that we all use fountain pens because it made a difference in the quality of our handwriting.  I didn’t appreciate the coolness of writing with a fountain pen at that time – of course, if you insist I do something it takes the fun out of it – but in my teens I used one off and on until the novelty eventually wore off (either that or I just got tired of having to buy cartridges because when you’re a teenager certain things aren’t worth the effort and quality handwriting costs money).

When I saw and tried this pen, various thoughts came together in my mind: it would fit nicely into my plan of renewing my lost practice of writing actual letters on real paper, it would give a traditional look to my handwriting, and at the same time I could maybe find a small leather wrapped journal with the proper paper so that I could use this pen to write down little things that come to mind each day when I’m thinking of and talking to Pat.  (OK, clearly, I cannot avoid the idea of journals.  In my defence though, I was faithful to keeping the other one about him and maybe if that’s the purpose behind it I will be better at following through!)

However, I have a strong practical sense and I don’t easily make decisions about purchasing unnecessary things, the category into which this fountain pen fit.  So after a long deliberation with myself (and with Kate who patiently waited while I hemmed and hawed), I said I would walk around and think about it.  Often this works to change my mind and I end up knowing I didn’t need the item so I’m glad I left it behind.  In this case, I was almost there – we were finished doing what we went to do at the Quay, and we were enjoying a last look out over the water before catching our bus.

Standing there in that place, which was always a favourite of Pat’s on our holidays, brought, in just a few seconds, many thoughts to mind of him, of how quickly and drastically life can change, and of how in the midst of practicality it’s sometimes important to indulge in things that make you happy while you still can, and my sudden thought was “Life is short; buy the pen.”  So I went back and grabbed it, along with a bottle of ink to refill it as I go, and I happily left with my new system of getting back to something old.  I’m strangely excited about my new fountain pen and looking forward to using it as soon as I can.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy and often the little things have a bigger effect than one would think.  And if you scroll back up now and really take a good look at that pen, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a fine looking thing.

I still have to find the little journal with the right paper for the fountain pen ink, but until then, I have some letter writing to do!


Stuart Is In Party Mode?

 Stuart is a minion.  A one-eyed cute as a button little minion in blue overalls.  He belongs to my cousin’s daughter, thus he is my cousin’s grand minion, and I supposed that makes him my first-cousin-minion-twice-removed.  He appears in photos on tropical vacations, and in everyday happenings around the house, restaurants, bars etc. and today he was all dressed up for Christmas sitting under the tree at my cousin’s house.  He is apparently in party mode, and I am reading the updates on Facebook about how he is behaving.  We are currently discussing what he would look like in lederhosen, singing in German…

Why on earth am I telling you this?  Because it makes me smile.  It’s a simple silly thing and it makes me smile and wish I had thought of it myself.  My cousin’s daughter has always been the life of the party.  She’s the person you just want to hug. She makes the room brighter just by being in it.  So it’s understandable that her little minion would take after her in that respect.

But more seriously, it reminded me of the little things that stand out in a day sometimes in the midst of turmoil and confusion, the unexpected things that make a difference.

I didn’t know when I left home this morning with my heavy heart, fighting off a germ of some kind, exhausted from lack of sleep in hopes of merely surviving the first of many “new normal” Christmases with my husband now in long term care, that I would encounter unexpected things that might have been little on someone’s scale of a day, but for me were big things.

I was counselled and given some thought provoking advice in a conversation which progressed beyond anything I had intended, and it made me look at some things I have been trying to block out.  This sweet lady has a way of bringing out things that have been building up in me and calling them as she sees them, with a lot of love in her heart.  She asked me straight out what it is that I’m expecting God to do that will make things OK before I stop being angry.  And I had no answer, because I’ve been asking myself the same question and I don’t know. 

Then I stopped in at my favourite store and was surprised with a special Christmas package of goodies just for me, with a beautiful note inside.  Apparently when I go in to enjoy their company and some peaceful “me time” browsing for inspiration and supplies for my next project, I make them smile.  Their kindness made me cry and I went to my van thinking about how my day started and how it was changing.

When I stopped in at my mom’s tonight, she told me to check in the garage because “Santa” had dropped off a couple of items for my workshop.  I opened the garage to find a router and a scroll saw gifted to me from a long time family friend who wanted to help me out by sharing his extra tools.

I thought about how I felt when today started, and how I felt after so much kindness had come my way from different places in a matter of a few hours, and I said a prayer of thanks.  Then I thought about what it was that I was expecting God to do that would make things OK before I stopped being angry.  And I realized that maybe it isn’t something HE needs to do. 


So if Stuart is in party mode, drinking wine and dancing around the Christmas tree, then maybe that’s where I should be too, and whatever our “new normal” Christmas is going to be this year, I want to have just as much fun as he does.