Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Hot Weather

It has been hot this week. I mean hot. Shoes melting into the concrete kind of hot. I dump buckets of water into the potted flowers beside the front door, and still they dry up and die. I haven't walked the dogs more than a block all week, and as soon as we get home they stretch panting on the cool tile floor and roll their eyes at me.

Saturday I leave for Utah, where no doubt it's even hotter, but everyone consoles me with "But it's a dry heat." Which means I may not have to worry about the hardwood floors buckling from humidity, but I'll sunburn within minutes.

Not that long ago, it was -30, and my friend posted on Facebook something to the effect of, "First one to complain about the heat this summer gets punched in the eye." So I won't complain. I'll dart out into the garden to gather limp peas and bolting basil and I'll soak up every bit of summer I can. I know in three months we'll have snow again.

Monday, 27 July 2015

It doesn't get very profound around here

A Haiku for the day...

Cool breeze from the lake,
sour cream bean dip with corn chips,
and a book. Pure bliss!

Friday, 24 July 2015

We're at the Foraging Stage

The garden is slowly beginning to produce, a trickle of vegetables that will grow to a torrent within a few weeks. A handful of green beans here, a couple of pea pods there, the occasional zucchini. I rummage among the leaves and come in with handfuls for dinner. There is nothing more satisfying.

Overheard on the Bus

The other day I was riding the bus home from work, and two physically challenged young boys got on the bus accompanied by a woman. They were all three chatting in the seats in front of me, so I couldn't help overhearing their conversation.

One of the boys was recounting how people tend to speak down to him, as if he's a little boy, when he's seated in a wheelchair, and pointed out in his deepening voice, "I'm fifteen." But sometimes people act as if he isn't old enough to speak for himself or capable of making decisions just because of his physical condition. Once he was pulled aside by security at the airport and questioned about whether his parents, with whom he was travelling, treated him well, and whether he was travelling with them by choice. "I was, like, we're going on vacation!" While I understand security's motives and applaud their being proactive, I could also understand this young man's desire to be treated like anyone else.

Then the other boy told of a time when he was seated on a stage, listening to various speeches. A blind woman came on stage and sat down on his lap, thinking she was sitting on a chair. And the sweet kid didn't move or say anything because he thought it would be too awkward and would embarrass her. And no one else on stage or in the audience noticed she was sitting on him. Of course the longer he didn't say anything, the more awkward it would have been to speak up. So he sat for half an hour with this woman on his lap, through an entire speech, and then she finally got up and left, completely oblivious to what had happened. As he told the story, he was laughing so hard his eyes were watering, and so were his companions'.

We are all aware of the challenges those with physical difficulties face when it comes to staircases and too-high kiosk windows. I've had people ask me for help reaching items on top shelves in grocery stores, and I've driven a blind friend to church. But I somehow hadn't stopped to think about the other challenges they face -- the unseen ones, the verbal ones, the attitudinal ones. Being thought to be somehow lesser or incomplete or incapable. Being mistaken for furniture.

I can't help but wonder if that blind woman, at some point during the speech, realized she was sitting on his lap instead of a chair. Maybe she didn't know what to do, thought how awkward and embarrassing it would be to say or do anything, and so did nothing. Her mistake can be forgiven, of course, and he found it hilarious himself. But I'm more appalled by the people around him who didn't notice his dilemma.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Blast from my Childhood

I suddenly had an uncontrollable hankering for the scones of my childhood -- the deep-fried dough ones, not the tea biscuit ones - that they used to serve us for lunch at Edgemont Elementary, with honey butter in tiny paper cups. I went online and found them, and they're even called Utah Scones. So of course I had to make them immediately. It brought back fond memories of Mr. Conk unfolding the tables and benches out of the walls of the lunchroom, the hair-netted lunch ladies, the satisfying click of the hole-punch punching my orange lunch ticket.

My sons stood at my elbow at the stove and ate the scones as fast as I could produce them out of the oil. They tried different combinations -- honey and butter, cinnamon and sugar and honey, maple syrup and powdered sugar. And demanded to know why I hadn't made these for them before. I've been holding out on them. Their childhoods were not complete and they were now questioning the entire way they were brought up, sconeless. Son Number One apologized for whatever it was he did as a child that kept me from making these for him before.

Son Number Two is a spiritual seeker, and Son Number One turned to him and said, "You've found it, what you've been searching for all your life. You can stop looking for the ultimate heavenly experience. It's scones. Who knew?" And Son Number Two announced he could now die fulfilled and happy.

It's nice when something I cook finally turns out right!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Job Postings This Morning

I was scouting out some job postings this morning, just out of curiosity. Some of the fun ones I came across:
  • hog wrangler
  • weekend milker
  • senior cheese maker
  • funnel cake expert
  • games operator (for fairs and carnivals)
  • bus route designer
  • frozen dessert technician
Do people do these for a living? How do you get into these kinds of things? Imagine travelling around Ontario all summer working in a food truck that specializes in funnel cakes, corn dogs, and poutine. Or becoming an expert on delivering piglets. Or inventing new frozen desserts. Where do I sign up?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Garlic Harvest

I've brought in my garlic from the garden and spread it out on paper to cure before I store it. The heads are firm and plump and fill the house with a delicious tang. It's one of my favourite things to harvest.

There's a garlic farm for sale east of Toronto, and I envision myself surrounded with that lovely smell all of my life. Tempting, very tempting!

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Opening Ceremony of the Pan Am Games

Cirque du Soleil has pulled it off again! A spectacular show last night, with so much colour and motion going on that you worried you'd miss something. The featured Native dancer put so much passion and energy into his performance, it was electrifying. I remember seeing someone do that Eagle hoop dance when I was very young, in grade school, and I have been fascinated with it since.

For some reason, when everyone came on stage in their various native costumes, I was moved to tears. All these different people, all these nationalities represented, all dancing together to the same common beat -- it really hit me. We can rise above any differences between us and just celebrate together as brothers and sisters. Toronto is home to people of so many backgrounds, and yet for the most part we all get along and respect each other really well. I'm proud of you, Toronto, and glad to live in such an environment.

There's something really neat about hordes of ordinary citizens getting together to admire and support the athletes who have trained and worked so hard and accomplished great physical feats. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and more anxious, but as I watched the parade of athletes I found myself worrying one of them would twist an ankle or something during the opening ceremony...but then I realized, as I watched them, that they were completely confident and at ease in their own bodies, graceful and sure in their movements. They weren't likely to get injured from something as simple as walking and waving in a distracted crowd (which would be fraught with danger for someone klutzy like me) because they've trained all their lives and trust their bodies. As I sat eating strawberry cheesecake muffins on the couch and watched, I completely admired the discipline it took these people to be so healthy! And was glad for the fact that we are all different, I in my pudginess and they in their lithe grace. I was glad that we are each free to choose our own paths and pursue our own interests.

The most endearing moment of the whole show was toward the end, when my son's friend's mom carried the torch as part of the 1984 Olympic team...and got lost. It took two or three tries to find the woman she was supposed to hand the torch off to. I found it sweet, and representative of the whole idea of Olympic sport -- try, try again, and again, until you find a way to succeed. She couldn't have planned it better.

Humans are playful and determined and fierce, and pretty cool all in all. The next few weeks will bring crowded commutes and probably too many late nights watching the various events on TV. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Family Reunion in Utah

My family is making plans and preparations for a reunion this August, and I can hardly wait. The last time we were together was at my brother's wedding, which seems ages ago. I miss the warmth and closeness, peace and absolute joy of that event, and I'm excited to fly down. I'm going by myself because no one else in my house can make it, which I'm sorry about, though I admit I love the freedom of flying alone. There's something delicious about lounging around an airport with no one to keep track of and nothing to worry about but my carry-on. If my flight is delayed, it's not as dire as if I were juggling toddlers with diapers and baby bottles. I enjoy airports, full of stories and adventures and mysteries I like to puzzle out while I'm people-watching.

I sincerely enjoy each person in my family, too. My siblings and I have always gotten along great, my sisters-in-law feel like sisters in fact, and my nieces and nephews are remarkable, intelligent, fun, and talented people I like to hang out with. I've never understood people who fight with their family members. I don't remember doing that even as children. We'd cheerfully give our lives for each other, without question, we encourage each other through difficult times, we rejoice with each other when things go well, and we have a great time just laughing and talking around the table. I'm fully aware how truly blessed I am.

Living in a foreign country, far from relatives, can be lonely, and sometimes I forget the rhythm and flow of belonging to a family group. I need periodic doses -- infusions -- of that coziness, that spirit.

Less than a month away now!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

One Amazing Husband

I came home from a long day at work last night, braced to have to mow the lawn before today's predicted rain. And found that my wonderful husband had already mowed the lawn for me. And trimmed the hedge. And weeded the Japanese garden. And bagged up all the garbage to put out this morning. All of these things are usually my job, since we fell into the pattern long ago of me doing the outdoor stuff and him doing the indoor stuff. But he had done it all. And he had made spaghetti and meatballs, with a separate kind of meatballs for me since I don't eat beef or pork. With freshly grated parmesan. And had done the dishes.

I gotta say, I love having him off work!

Sunday, 5 July 2015


I just watched The Way, a movie with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. I won't give any spoilers, but this is a film worth watching. People set out on pilgrimages for different reasons, and often by the time they complete the journey, their reasons have changed. I found it moving and sweet and it made me really fall in love with the characters.

I have considered doing the Camino myself, and there's a pilgrimage in Japan to 80 Buddhist temples that also intrigues me. I've thought about following in my ancestors' footsteps from Illinois to Utah. And I've considered walking where Terry Fox walked, in his honour. I don't know if I'll ever do any of these pilgrimages. There are days I can hardly walk my dog to the park. But the longer I put it off, the less likely I'll be to complete it. I'm not getting any younger or healthier. My reasons for wanting to go vary...honouring ancestors, proving to myself I can do something difficult, seeing what I'm made of, seeking single-minded dedication and intensity of experience, a way to develop humility, seeking grace, doing something notable before slipping into old age, getting close to history...or, to be honest, a way to justify taking two months off work and just spending time with my husband. All valid reasons. I don't know if they're good enough to carry me the whole way. It will need some more thought. But it's definitely something worth thinking about.

We need time to think intensely, to ponder the bigger questions, to take inventory of our souls. To watch the tides and figure out the rhythms of our own lives. We need quiet contemplation, time to commune with nature and God...and then we need to be up and doing. It seems to me a pilgrimage is all of those things.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Lavender Season

Did you know there's an association in Ontario for lavender growers? And you can buy tickets to go into the fields of a lavender farm? There are honey tastings and wine tastings. Lunches featuring lavender-flavoured foods. Massage therapy with essential oils. All on a lavender farm near you. I even know of one where you can rent the farm for a wedding--I imagine it's a perfect romantic spot, surrounded by fields of pale, delicate purple.

It's an industry I haven't really thought of before as a, well, industry. But I suppose there is a fairly large market for it, because lavender can be used for all sorts of things, from soaps and candles and perfume to puddings and soups and gum. Now that I've heard of lavender honey, I don't think I can rest until I've tried some.

I have a swath of lavender, three different kinds, growing in my garden. I planted it in a big patch so that I can go stand in it and pretend I'm in Provence. I gathered a handful the other day and made cookies with the buds and flowers (yum!). Happy bees. Happy me.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thoughts as We Approach our 30-Year Class Reunion

Oh. My. Word. I. Am. Old. Those are my first thoughts when I get the email. Thirty years since we left Timpview High School. And then, as I scroll through the short bios and photographs of my peers, I revise that to "Hey! We're holding up pretty well!" I recognize most of the faces and all of the names. The smiles are the same even if the hair and figures have altered. We all have similar stories -- kids, grandkids, travel, work, illnesses, ups and downs -- with a few variations on the theme, but on the whole, it feels like we're still the same group we were thirty years ago.

I grew up in a smallish town, and a lot of the kids in my high school I'd known since we were in kindergarten. We went to school and church together, and a lot of us went on to university together. An astonishing number of us married fellow classmates. It was heartwarming to read what they'd written -- the humour, the updates, the losses, the testimonies -- and even though I know most people roll their eyes when it comes to class reunions, I can honestly say I'm interested in how they all turned out, where they all ended up, and whether life has been kind to them. Some of them ended up predictably, following the passions and interests they had at a young age. Some of them surprised me (how many of them now live in China?).

I doubt most of them even remember me, as I was the shy and awkward geek hiding behind the book in the lunch room. The one with the denim overalls and the two braids, like something that rolled out of a Kansas cornfield. (What can I say? It's an uncomfortable age. At least I avoided the Farah Fawcett hair.) Class of '85, you're a great bunch, and it's been a privilege to know you!