Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Heading to Utah

Tomorrow I am going to be flying home for a couple of weeks and I won't have access to internet while I'm there, most likely, so I'm just letting you all know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth -- I'll be in touch when I get back. Heading out to see family and do a couple of book signings and go to BYU-Rexburg Education Week. Woohoo!

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Feeling Better

I was reading Susanna Kearsley's author website this morning, and she mentions that you can't please everyone, so ultimately you have to be true to your characters and what you're trying to do and write for yourself. Which tells me she has had not-so-great reviews too, in the past. It makes me feel much better, because if an utterly fantastic writer like Susanna Kearsley can get a bad review, then I can certainly expect them too.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Book Reviews

Well, the first reviews are starting to come in for The Song of Copper Creek, and once again there's a range of opinions that takes me from euphoria to despair to giddy heights again. You never can take them too seriously, because I always find that what one person loves the next person hates. The very element that delights one reviewer makes the other roll her eyes. One says she was drawn in instantly and couldn't put the book down, and another says it was slow-moving and she walked away from it for a few days before returning to it. One liked that it wasn't a romance and one was disappointed it wasn't. One loved the descriptions of day-to-day life and one didn't. And one whined that this book wasn't like another of mine that she'd enjoyed. But I make a point of never writing the same thing twice. I don't read all the same type of book, so why would I write them all the same? So a wide range of opinions. What do you do?

You write whatever you want to, I guess. You sure can't please everyone, so you may as well please yourself.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Butter Tart Day

I take it back. Today is the best day... This is how I spent my morning...


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Update on the Garden

I communicate with a group of homesteaders and farmers on Facebook, most of whom are in Great Britain or France, and we share photos and stories about our gardens from time to time. They seem to be a month ahead over there in their season. They're harvesting zucchini already, which mine here are barely starting to flower. We've had a cool, wet spring without much sun.

The rabbits got my beans and peas, going down the rows carefully nipping the heads off each plant, but the kale is doing fine. They seem to leave that alone. The tomatoes are forming fruit but the greenery is spindly this year. One cucumber has germinated (or survived the rabbits, anyway). The yellow summer squash didn't come up at all. The spaghetti squash that went crazy last year is struggling this year. The spinach didn't germinate. The peppers haven't budged sicne I planted them out (I think the soil is too acidic for them). The blackberries and raspberries are doing great but the blueberry bushes both died. The asparagus has gone to fern. And the beets and onions are still mere wisps. I'm not sure what's going on this year, but it's not going to be a great harvest.

At the end of this season, I'll churn everything under and leave it in situ to decompose instead of putting it in the composter. Then I'll get some bales of straw and cover it over for the winter and hope for a better result next year. Seems weird to even be thinking yet of the end of the season. It seems like summer just barely got under way.

Friday, 7 July 2017

In Which Maple Nearly Loses his Head

I came home from work early yesterday, and my husband had Maple out in the yard so he didn't hear me come in. I opened the back door and came outside, and Maple came scampering to me, wriggling with joy. I bent down and he practically leaped into my arms and turned his face toward mine. And I thought "Wow, I'm about to be licked for the first time by this dog!" But then Maple caught himself, pulled back, and regained his customary composure. I set him down and off he went without a backward glance. But for a moment there, he let his feelings slip through.

He's always been an undemonstrative dog. I don't know if all shih tzus are like that or only Maple. He's always been aloof and disliked petting and fussing over him. That's part of the reason I got Brio, to give me those cuddles and affection Maple lacked. (And Brio gives it out in spades.) Maple turns his face away from you and pretends you aren't there, refuses to come when called---for a while I wondered if he was deaf, but he seems to have no trouble hearing the plastic wrap coming off the cheese two rooms away---and in general acts more like a cat. Or a squirrel, all skittish if you try to pick him up. He's always been treated gently and kindly, but I guess it's just his nature.

But for one brief moment yesterday, he forgot himself. And it was lovely.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Book Giveaway on Goodreads.com

I'm giving away five free copies of my newest novel, The Song of Copper Creek. Go to Goodreads.com to enter. Open only to the U.S. and Canada right now.  Thanks!  K

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Take Me With You, Peter Mansbridge

Yesterday was the big birthday bash for Canada, and also the final hosting of The National with Peter Mansbridge. After a long and successful career, he is retiring, and we got to see him yesterday without a tie, relaxed and happy on Parliament Hill. His familiar voice means news to me, and it will be weird hearing someone else's voice instead.

People at work are beginning to retire too, and when I think of the 15 years lying ahead of me until I can retire, it seems unbearable. A day at a time it's fine and I'm content and I like the people I work with. It's an interesting topic. I might go stir-crazy if I were home all day every day, since I'm so used to bustling about. But fifteen years when taken all in a lump seems like eternity. I will be too feeble to do anything or go anywhere by then. I won't have the eyesight or memory left to read a novel. I won't be able to bend over to weed a vegetable patch, or have the manual dexterity to thread my loom. By then my dogs will be dead and I won't be able to walk around the block anyway. I won't even be able to content myself with baking biscotti all day, because I'll have lost my teeth by then...

Oh, I know I'm being overly dramatic. Sixty-five is the new fifty and all of that. I've seen people well into their 80s still dancing and doing tai chi, and if I'm good about diet and exercise, there's no reason why I can't be one of them. But it seems like such a distance away. By the time I retire I will have been in a cubicle the size of my dining table for 44 years.

Where's that spoon? I'm tunneling out.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Spinning Wheel Parts

Today hubby and I drove to St Marys to drop some antique spinning wheel parts off with Reed Needles, a very interesting fellow who repairs wheels, as well as being a clock maker. It looked like a fascinating workshop to explore. Here was a man who had turned his passion into a living, and had carved out a quiet, peaceful spot in which to work. The room was small but filled with light and the smell of wood shavings, and I could have lingered all day if we hadn't been in a hurry to get back for a piping engagement this afternoon. I admire people who find ways to follow their hearts and who create with their hands, who keep old traditions and arts alive. I want to be able to live in a small village, with everything I need within walking distance and nowhere to go, no traffic to battle, no urgent schedule to keep. I want to be able to make a living with the work of my hands.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Letting Go

I've never been good at letting go of things -- old dreams, old friends, old habits. But I agree with the Buddhist attitude toward material things and remind myself that I'm going to be letting go of all of this stuff at some point anyway, unless I can take a U-Haul into the next life (and imagine what the fee would be for that!). So I'm currently trying to downsize a bit and I've set myself the goal of letting go of one material possession a day. I have to either discard or donate one item.

I'm primarily focusing on books right now, because that's my biggest area of hoarding. I run my finger lightly along the shelf (shelves. Oodles of them.) And I pause here and there and a) try to remember what the book was about, and b) remember whether I liked it. Surely I must have, if I've kept it all these years. Some of them are dear favourites which I won't part with until someone pries them from my cold dead hands. But some of them, though they gave me great enjoyment, are probably not going to be re-read and couldn't be called my favourites. So one by one I've been slipping them into the book exchange shelf at work for others to enjoy.

Some are in perfectly new condition and I could probably sell them on eBay and recover some of the cost. But I fear if I held onto them long enough to run the auction and package them up and then have to walk them down to the post office, I will chicken out entirely and end up keeping them. Better to let go quickly, without prolonging it. Because---contrary to Buddhist philosophy---I really am attached to some of these. Not just the words within them, but the actual feel and look and scent of them.

Other than books, there's really not a lot else to downsize. I've been pretty frugal over the years. But books are my passion. Choosing from among them is like trying to choose which child to let leave the home.

Maybe, like the children, the books will come back again...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Baling Hay

My sister loaded her barn with hay yesterday, and even just hearing about it secondhand brought back instant memories. There's nothing so delicious as the smell of fresh-cut hay. I'm immediately six years old again and playing at Grandpa's farm. The chickens with their rusty-gate sound. The rooster that sounded as if he'd been cut off mid-yodel. The snuffling of pigs. The light filtering through the gaps in the barn wall, highlighting the dust motes (I used to think those little swirling specks were the sunbeams, and I'd stir them up with my hand to watch their patterns. And wonder why Jesus wanted me to be one of those. My friend Shirley used to yell the last syllable, and for the longest time I thought they were called sun-beeps). The hollow thunk of my feet on the back steps. The cavernous crunch of horses chewing. The heat and baked dust of the barnyard. The feel of the old tractor's wooden-knobbed steering wheel. Playing drums on the seed spreader. The hidden little pockets of play space behind the barn and in the old camper and even on the silage mound. And over it all, that magical scent of hay.

Grandpa's farm is gone now, paved over and buried under new houses. Even the street names don't reflect the fact that such a wonderful place existed there. It seems like one of them, at least, should have honoured what went before. I am so happy that my sister's children will get to form those kinds of memories for themselves on their new farm. Their experience will be different in some ways but the same in others, and binding it all together (with baling twine!) will be that golden, dusty scent of hay.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

New Book Coming Out - The Song of Copper Creek

My latest book is coming out in July. For a sneak preview, you can check it out on my website:

New book on my website

I'm happy with this one. It's more on the serious side than my other books, and some of the characters from Desperate Measures make a reappearance. Covenant did a great job on the cover!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

50th Birthday

So I thought I'd write something profound for my 50th birthday, something about the great experiences I've had, the lessons I've learned, the wisdom I've accumulated. But I woke up feeling basically as clueless as when I went to bed last night, with no great wisdom to impart, so I guess achieving half a century doesn't really change much. I'm your average plump, graying 50-year-old, who still feels 14 inside.

I spent the morning unburdening myself of paper (i.e. cleaning out my filing cabinet), then took myself for cajun chicken and buttermilk biscuits (I did warn you yesterday). Then I walked to Valu Village and tripled my wardrobe -- four pairs of pants, three shirts, and a skirt -- for $66. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. And then the cashier asked me if I wanted the Seniors' discount. Yep. How's that for a kick in the chops? Today of all days, you have to ask me that? Luckily my first response was to laugh  out loud, which tells me I think I'm okay with this aging thing after all.

Trundled home again, threw out old clothes which were too threadbare to even recycle (I have a rule about tossing old things if I buy new ones), and fell asleep for a while on the couch reading a book. I'll spend this evening quilting and watching an old movie and accomplishing nothing much else. So it's a perfect day. No cubicle, no boss, no deadlines, no commute. Just a rainy afternoon and my puppies curled warmly beside me on the couch. Lovely.

Monday, 5 June 2017

I'm pulling a Mrs. Morgan

When I was 18, my sister and I went to Britain and travelled around, staying with a few acquaintances, and one of these was Mrs. Morgan. She told us she had recently gotten £20 in the mail that she hadn't expected. So when she went to the store, she decided to indulge in a little extra treat, because she had that £20 windfall. Then she went to the next shop, and she told herself she could afford to splurge a little there, because she had that £20 windfall. And so on at the next shop, and the next. By the time she got home, she had spent that twenty pounds several times over.


Today I was out for a walk at lunch and decided, "Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm going to just treat myself a little." So I bought a slice of cherry cheesecake and ate it on the bench in the park. I don't do that kind of thing often, and it was lovely. And then I thought, "I'm going to be home alone tomorrow, everyone will be gone to work, and I'll want a little celebration on my own for my birthday." So I bought some tapioca pudding (my favourite) to eat tomorrow... And then I thought maybe I'd make a special dinner for myself, because it's my birthday... And well. It was Mrs. Morgan all over again. By the time the birthday is past, I fear I will likely have celebrated it several times over!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Taking a Stand

Turned on Facebook this morning and found the announcement that a bunch of U.S. cities are honouring the Paris agreement on climate change no matter what the federal decision is. I am proud of these mayors for their commitment and their backbone. You have to do what is right, no matter what anyone else is doing. You have to draw your line in the sand somewhere, and it was encouraging to me to see that these mayors are doing so.

And then I saw President Trump's tweet about not agreeing to anything that doesn't support the U.S.'s interest. And I'm wondering how saving the planet isn't in the U.S.'s interest. Where does he propose the U.S. go when the world becomes uninhabitable? How does he expect the country to carry on functioning when the resources and systems of the earth collapse? The U.S. is part of the larger world ecosystem. Baffled that he doesn't understand that what is good for all is good for the one. Puzzled that he thinks economics and finance are the only things worth protecting.

It comes back to the Buddhist philosophy that we are all one. If I look after your interests, it is simultaneously looking after mine. Like the old saying says, if you carry someone across the river, you get across it yourself. We are to love our neighbours -- not "as much as" ourselves but as ourselves. They are us. There is no us and them. The other citizens of the earth---including the animals---are us. We humans are part of the ecosystem we are trying to protect.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Shoe on the other foot

Usually it's Brio comforting me when I'm sick. This time it's Brio's turn to to feel unwell, and I have to say, there's nothing quite so tugging-at-the-heartstrings as a sick puppy. He spent last night curled on a blanket on the couch, his nose buried against my leg, and now and then he would roll his eyes up to look at me so pathetically, ears drooping. Poor little delicate muffin! I'm sure it's just something he's eaten -- he's always nosing around the yard -- and he'll be fine in a day or two. But it brought home to me once again how much I love this dog and how comforting he has been to me over the past four years.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Talented Artists

Well, my concept of what a quilt is has altered. There were some traditional, beautifully pieced quilts at the Quilt Show, and I'm in awe of someone who could imagine such beauty and then actually pull it off. But there were also fibre arts there that I had never seen before and couldn't have imagined. Three-dimensional portraits. Needle-felted landscapes. "Starry Starry Night" recreated in dyed dryer lint (not kidding). Thread painting. Needlework like I've never seen before. And one woman created the most amazing, detailed pictures that looked like photographs -- forests and waterfalls and rivers -- out of thousands of tiny, intricately-cut pieces of fabric, layer upon layer.

I walked through all the venues and displays with my mouth hanging open and knew myself to be among masters. I marvelled that someone could put together a quilt (that would have taken me three lifetimes to create) and then donated it to the auction to raise money for Mennonite relief. And there were dozens of them donated. I especially enjoyed the display in the Mennonite church, where they had spread the quilts out over the pews, and it felt like a giant slumber party.

Two quilts were special favourites of mine -- one was a zany, cheerful montage of brightly-coloured houses representing Newfoundland, and one was done mostly in whites, with a snowy owl and the quilted outline of a Native-art bird in the moon overhead. Almost haunting in its beauty.

The friend I went with is an amazing quilter herself, and she went home with lots of ideas for new projects and the contact info of two women she wants to take classes from. While I was viewing everything as if it were in a museum, she was viewing it all as inspiration she could take home and act upon.

We also checked out a pottery display, weaving display, and an antique shop or two, and stopped for lunch in a little place where we sat in a garden while the Hungarian owner fired up our meals on an outdoor grill (hamburger for her, sausage on a bun with sauerkraut for me). We toured a little "pioneer" type museum and admired their herb garden. (I love the smell of old wood and dust and stone you get in old houses.) We stopped for cookies and tea in the basement of a church, where they served the tiny cookies on little serving trays cleverly made from saucers glued on top of upside-down tea cups. And my friend bought four slabs of pine she's going to take home and turn into some sort of Christmas project.

I look at cloth and fibre differently now that the world of weaving is opening up to me. I understand and have new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into the kinds of projects we saw this week. I enjoy talking with the artists, and find kindred spirits all around me, eager to talk about their passions. We met such interesting, talented, and accomplished women! And I include my friend in that group.

A delightful day out.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Back on line! And off to the St. Jacobs Quilt Show

Hi again! I'm back from a lovely few days of gardening, soaking in the sun, reading, writing, eating too much, and more gardening. The vegetable patch is in, the lawn in mowed, the rain is falling, and I'm off to spend today at the quilt show with a friend.

Sometimes I go to these shows and come away with all sorts of ideas for things I want to make. Sometimes I feel as if I'm in a museum and these pretty things I'm seeing are meant to simply be enjoyed and not meant to be replicated at home. I'm hoping today will be the latter -- I've already got three projects on the go at home!

I remain fascinated by the ability to take two-dimensional cloth or yarn and turn it into something three dimensional and functional as well as beautiful. I admire people who can understand and manipulate colour (I find I have a hard time telling if things match or complement each other). But I have a passion for colour myself even if I'm not good at it.

Something about quilts connects you to your ancestors, to the strong and capable women who came before you (though nowadays many men also quilt). Those pioneer skills weren't honed just to make blankets to keep families warm. They demonstrate the creativity and imagination of their creators. Quilts can tell histories.

And now that I'm weaving, I have a new appreciation for the fabric itself. I love the idea that I can create cloth without electricity, from sheep to blanket. I can create cloth that will wrap infants, hug the shoulders of a bride, get trampled underfoot as a rug, and beautify homes. It's an awesome thing and a responsibility, when you stop to think of it.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Off Grid for the Week

I am off work for the next week and will be away from Internet access, so you won't be hearing from me for a while. Thought I'd better let you know so you don't worry I've fallen off the face of the planet. Just rejuvenating.  Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

p.s.

And dandelions. Lots of dandelions. Can't forget to mention those.

I actually like them. I don't know why people don't. Great swaths of cheerful yellow, like buttercups. Followed by swaths of fuzzy white.

Well, and then bare spikes that just bend over instead of cut when I mow over them. Not so pretty then.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Explosions of Colour

Overnight, the earth has woken up and put on its finery. All at once there are lilacs, crabapple trees, trillium, wild columbine, tulips, flowering almond, and grape hyacinth, all vying for attention. To go from the blah grays and browns of winter to the shrieking pink of blossom time is almost staggering. I keep having to stop dead in the middle of the sidewalk to just look and look. I can't drink it in deeply enough.

Spring blossom time and autumn harvest time are the times I feel the most blessed. What abundance! What generosity! What a wonderful earth we live on!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Silent Retreat

I have had laryngitis since Saturday. Not a squeak. My husband says it's a dream come true.

But it's difficult to rest my voice, as instructed, when I have to work in an office full of people. So yesterday I finally put a sign on my cubicle and pinned one to my shirt that says "In silence. Namaste" and pretending I was on silent retreat.

A couple of interesting results came from this. First was the realization that I can, in fact, just drop out of spoken interaction and do a silent "retreat" any time I want to. Why not? It counts as a religious thing, and people in Toronto are hyper-sensitive around religious things. You don't have to explain it or apologize for it; you just declare it. No one questions it. People actually go out of their way to help you do it. Secondly, it's amazing how much you hear when you stop talking. I had no idea I talk so much. It's an embarrassing realization. And thirdly, all day long, if I really had to whisper something to someone, they would whisper back to me. It worked at home with my son, too. I got a kick out of reminding them that I'm the one who has to whisper; they don't! But a soft answer does indeed turn away wrath---or at least, turn down the volume of all concerned. It's an interesting phenomenon.

I also find it interesting that, as I searched for Hindi silence signs on the Internet, I found the phrase "In silence." Not "Being silent" or "On silent retreat," but "In silence." As if it's a room you enter, or a pond you swim in. And it does end up feeling a bit like that, after you've tried to be silent an entire day. A sort of cocooning bubble forms around you, a hushed sphere that others sense (maybe that's why they whisper too). It's a peaceful, empowering place. And I look forward to entering it again today.

Namaste.


Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Too Old to Pretend


At 5:30 this morning, on my way to the bus station, I saw two racoons. One stayed in the trees, but the other dashed across an open area and took cover – impossibly – in a dead-end surrounded by chain link fence. I stopped to try to see where it had gone, because the only hiding place I could see was the ventilation system of the Community Centre swimming pool. (Someone’s not going to be happy.)

As I stood there, I caught the scent of chlorine from the pool, and immediately I was transported back to childhood and the wonderful summers spent at the three pools on the local university campus. The indoor pool where you had to wear their issued swimsuits made of some black stretchy material that sagged when it got wet. The outdoor pool at Helaman Halls where you could always smell a barbecue going somewhere. And the one at Deseret Towers, where they played the radio. I’ll always remember swimming to “I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you…” (which, when you consider that double negative, isn’t actually a very complimentary song!).

My cousin Janice and I would commandeer a set of the pool concrete steps and pretend it was a reef and we were mermaids (back before mer-ism was fashionable). Somehow, without really even discussing it, we formed a make-believe world in high detail, and each assumed (correctly) that the other saw what we imagined.

When I was probably 6 or 7, I once sat before the open doors of a living room cabinet, where my parents kept LPs, and pretended that it was a kitchen. I spent hours “cooking” and entertaining guests, lost in play. But when I went back to it days later, I couldn’t seem to recapture the magic. No matter how I tried to recreate it, the cabinet remained boringly a cabinet. Even at that age, I feared I was “growing up” and losing the ability to imagine. I knew someday I’d be too old to pretend. I realized that imagination wasn’t real.

I was wrong, of course. As a writer, I’ve learned that you never get too old to pretend. That’s all fiction writers do. We enter imagined worlds and take dictation from what happens around us. I don’t know how it is for other writers, but sometimes that imagined world is more real to me than my real life. My characters become my friends or alter-egos. I look at the street and see it as it was in 1880, and I'm startled by the passing of motorcycles. Bits of imagination trickle over into my real world, and I find myself using words from past centuries, like “forsooth” and “alas” and “hence.” I carry on conversations with people who aren’t there (and yes, I know they aren’t there, but that’s irrelevant).

I suspect all writers are a little bit mad.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Foraging on the Way Home

As I was walking home from the bus today, I saw an elderly man out in the brush, collecting dandelion greens. When he noticed me observing him, he straightened and looked a bit embarrassed. If I hadn't had laryngitis, I would have gone over and told him that there were other edibles at his feet that he was missing -- burdock root, plantain, lamb's quarters, garlic mustard, violet, purslane...

If there was a sudden famine, I think I could support us at least for a while on weeds. I just hope we're never hungry enough to put my skills to the test.

Traffic to my Blog

Wow, yesterday there was a spike in visitors to this blog. 215 in one day, primarily from Russia and China. I'm curious why and who. I'd love to hear from new readers, if you want to leave a comment or send a message! I know 215 isn't high for some bloggers, but it is for me. I'm left wondering "What did I say?" - Kristen

Monday, 8 May 2017

The verdict is in

The local restorer of antique spinning wheels told me it would take $350-400 to get the spinning wheel back into original condition, so I am thinking it will become an interesting piece of folk art on the wall. Or go for parts. It's a sad end for a lovely -- I guess you'd call it a machine, or maybe an instrument -- and I am sorry to see someone's heritage be abandoned. But realistically, it isn't my heritage or me abandoning it... So I guess I can live with that.

I went to a weaving and spinning conference on Saturday and wandered through the juried show and the vendors' hall. Bought some more supplies to weave some more towels. One vendor had big bowls of various types of wool, cotton and silk set out, and people were encouraged to run their hands through them to feel the differences in the fibres. I have to say, alpaca and yak are my absolute favourites. So soft! I wanted to curl up in the bowl like a kitten. I am a tactile sort of person, always wanting to touch the golden patina of old wood, fabrics, yarns, even the vegetables at the market. Not only was it allowed to touch these fibres, it was encouraged. I love that.

But I have to say, gone are the days when every household had a carder and spinning wheel. You have to be very serious about the hobby if you want to get into it these days. A drum carder alone was over $700. I stood there open-mouthed, flashing back to my teens and carding wool with two wire dog brushes. Sheesh!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Restoring an antique spinning wheel

A friend (the wife of the fellow who gave me the loom) has given me an antique spinning wheel that apparently came with great-grandma on the boat from Sweden. It's in rough shape and is missing a couple of small parts, and I think even if I manage to restore it, it will only ever be for display and not usable. The name stamp is N. AES HJULBACK (umlaut over the last A) but I can't find anything about that name on the Internet. It likely dates from the mid-19th century.

I've sent an email to a local man who might be able to help (he restores these things), but I'm torn---do I really want to spend money to fix it? Do I really want to take up another hobby? Could I convince my little sister to raise an alpaca on her farm and mail me the wool? How can I not fix it up? Someone loved it once.

Or then again, maybe someone hated the thing and wished she could have left it behind in Sweden. We'll never know. Am I going to have a grand-daughter one day who will get starry-eyed over my old Brother sewing machine and imagine Grandma lovingly sewing with it? When in reality I detest sewing and only touch it when I have to?

Did Grandma haul this thing to the new world because she couldn't bear to part with it or because she had no choice if she wanted to wear clothes?



Friday, 5 May 2017

Rain

Stayed home sick again today. Spent the day lying on the couch reading about climate change and sustainability. Which might not be the thing to read right now, with the week of constant rain we're having... The garden soil is slowly turning to pudding. I'm sure the beets, onions, peas, lettuce, kale, and spinach I've already planted are rotting instead of germinating. My son came home and went directly into the shower to hang all his clothes up to dry, he was so drenched. Brio paces from window to door to couch, wanting to go out, but when I let him out into the backyard, he dashes back inside again within twenty seconds.

The news on TV is all about the flooding going on in various places in Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. And the book I'm reading talks about human migration caused by climate change. I'm starting to feel glad we never bought lake-front property. All the food storage in the world doesn't help you if it's five feet under water. I must remember that if we ever go to buy land. At the same time, there is likelihood of future water scarcity, so the land would have to have some sort of dependable river or lake on it... But maybe the house should be on stilts. The way it's looking outside, stilts are definitely a good idea.

Perfect weather, however, for curling up and watching the DVD of Les Mis.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

My Immune System has Other Ideas

Well, after that burst of energy, I'm flat on the couch. Spent the night with fever and chills and the suspicion I'm catching a humdinger of a cold. I took today off and will sip hot lemon water and onion soup and try to get on my feet again in time for a big meeting at work tomorrow. And I have a weaving event on Saturday I don't want to miss. And I'm supposed to sing in front of 200 people in church on Sunday as part of a quartet. And...well, I just don't have time to be sick.

In dealing with Fibromyalgia, which is an auto-immune thing, I've always been focused on the pain and haven't given much thought to the fact that my immune system is compromised. But I keep catching every bug out there (likely doesn't help riding the crowded subway every day) and I've had Pink Eye four times or so this year. I feel the need to curl up in a cocoon and stay away from all exposure to people for a month or two to let my system settle. I need one of those bubbles out in the wilderness. I've been trying to eat healthier and get better sleep. How else does one build up the immune system?

Please don't tell me the answer is exercise. It's always the answer. Bleh.


Monday, 1 May 2017

A Typical Morning


I got up this morning feeling rested after a productive and happy weekend. Got ready for work, let the dogs out, had breakfast, packed my lunch, did a load of laundry, did a batch of dishes, checked my emails and Facebook, took out the garbage, meditated for 15 minutes, and did some light yoga stretches. And was out the door by 5:15 a.m.

It felt great. But there’s something so wrong about it!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Kindred Spirits

So I just realized it's been a week already since my last post. Good grief, where did the time go? I haven't even put away the gardening gloves yet from last Saturday. Sheesh.

This week I made two great connections, one with a cousin I haven't seen since childhood and one with a friend I haven't seen since high school. My cousin and I have chatted on Facebook from time to time, but this week a deeper connection came when we found out we both have Fibromyalgia. Suddenly there was someone else in the universe who knew exactly how I feel! I am sorry to hear she has the same dilemmas, but it was also comforting to know she still manages to carry on, raising her kids and having a good life. So now we can support each other on rough days. You know, those days when it's a burden to tie your own shoes and your earrings feel too heavy.

My friend I managed to connect with through a lucky chance encounter with her nephew here in Canada. She still lives in Utah, and the emails have been flying back and forth since we got back in touch. Thirty-two years to catch up on! Hard to believe. We were once inseparable. She's the one who fed me cornbread and turned a bad day into a good one, which I've blogged about before. So great to hear about her life, her family, her ambitions. She's still the same fun and energetic person and it's great to find her again.

For most of my adult life, I haven't really felt the need to have friends. I'm busy with work and hobbies and family and church, and I'm quite content on my own. My husband has been the greatest friend, always there. But now and then I feel the lack of sisters up here, and realize I need some female companionship to round out my life. I had a good friend Tracey Firth who died too young over a year ago. There are people I love but they're just as busy as I am, so we rarely connect. And I have acquaintances from church and work, but it's not like we really get together or anything outside of those venues. It's primarily people I've stayed in touch with over the Internet who fill the friendship role for me. Now I have this newly re-found friend to enrich my life. So grateful for technology at moments like this!

So lots to catch up on, thirty-two years to summarize...and yet no words are really needed at all. That's the best kind of friend!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Earth Day Activities

I was outside by about 8:00 this morning, after a decadent morning lying in late and reading a book about the Borgias. Came back in at about 2:30 and it felt as if only a couple of hours had passed. I love being outdoors!

Got the entire garden weeded and raked, the support structure for the peas put in, and the peas planted (Swedish Reds). Also planted beets, onions, lettuce, spinach, kale, and lamb's quarters. (Yes, I know it's a weed. But it's yummy, so I save the seeds and purposely plant it.) Hubby bought dwarf raspberry and blackberry bushes and planted them. Built wooden raised boxes to go around the two existing asparagus beds. Set out paths and stepping stones in the garden. Planted some flowers and sedum in the front yard. Stirred and distributed the compost. Filled the two planters beside the front door and planted them with chives. (Yeah, I know, but they have lovely purple blooms!) Came in to find Son #3 making a delicious cabbage/vegetable/noodle stir fry. Threw in two batches of laundry. Made spaghetti squash and sauce/cheese (the low-carb equivalent of pasta) and put it in the oven. Browsed farmland on the internet for a little while... (Yeah, I know.)

Now it's 7 p.m. and I'm back on the couch with the Borgias again. I wish all days could be like this!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Spring Planting

They say that when the daffodils bloom, it's time to plant chard, spinach, beets, and onions. When the maple trees start to blossom, you plant peas. When the white oak leaves are the size of a cat's ear, you plant potatoes. Beans and cucumbers go in when the apple trees drop their petals. And you set out your tomatoes, melons, and eggplants when the peonies flower (which is always on the Victoria Day weekend, our last-frost date). That's the holiday weekend when gardening centres burst with hopeful shoppers, and everyone is outdoors trimming their grass and spreading mulch. It's as if we all emerge from our cocoons at the same time, and people bask on their front porches, softly fanning new wings.

I've always been impressed with how neat and tidy people keep their yards here. I guess when your summer season is only a couple of months long, you milk it for all it's worth. The sound of lawnmowers revving up is the sure sound of summer. Strangers smile at each other as they pass at the store clutching lawn bags and canvas gloves, as if congratulating each other on surviving yet another winter. There's a collective sigh of relief---and then frenzy to get out into the garden.

To me, the fascinating part of spring is when the hillside at Dundas Street and Mississauga Road suddenly goes from being a non-descript and uniform blah-brown to flaming yellow as the forsythia bursts into blossom. You don't know they are there all year, but for a few exciting weeks in April they make their presence known. It's a brief shout before they fade back into the understory. I planted a forsythia in the backyard and I'm always thrilled at the first shimmer of colour, like a fire about to catch hold of dry twigs. I stand at the kitchen window and let my eyes drink in the colour the same way my skin soaks up the fresh-emerging sun.

Tomorrow is Earth Day and I'm planting... The maple trees are blossoming.







Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Beautiful Buzzards

As I waited for my bus today, I was enjoying the mild air and soft sunshine, and I looked up to see three enormous birds circling above a nearby condo building. They were far away but still looked huge, and from the shape of their wings I think they were likely vultures. I watched for at least ten minutes as they soared and swirled gently, riding the breeze against the pearl-coloured sky, and not once did any of them flap their wings. They just glided, higher, in lazy swoops, and finally disappeared over the horizon.

There was something lovely about it---even if they were vultures. Something was so calming about their effortless dance. They don't fight the currents, they play with them, and look how high they soar.

I who struggle constantly against all currents can learn a lesson here.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Lots of Planning, No Progress

My husband and I decided to tackle a project today. We're both off work and there was a whole day ahead of us to get a lot done. We went out to the backyard to look it over and decide on one thing we could accomplish. But there's so much to do. Should we focus on the far corner of the yard where a mulberry tree would look good? Should we put up grape trellises or espaliered apple trees? Should we just focus on getting the fountain to work and clean up the winter debris? What about building a box to shore up the asparagus bed?

We ended up driving to the greenhouse to look for a mulberry tree, but they hadn't been delivered yet. So we ended up wandering around looking at jade trees and lemon trees and fantasizing about putting up a greenhouse. Lining our walkway with oleander. Putting a gong out front to act as a doorbell. Talked to the lady about what to feed my orchids. And then we saw an oil painting hanging on the wall of the garden centre that would be perfect for my grand-daughter's bedroom. And today is her birthday. So we bought the painting and then picked up Son #3 and drove to visit the grandkids to deliver the painting and Easter chocolate and stuffed bunnies. Stopped for fish and chips on the way home. Hubby went to take a nap and I retired to the couch to read and doze. And now it's 6 p.m. and we didn't get a thing done today. We didn't even decide on a project, much less do one. And the laundry hasn't been done and the floor needs sweeping. And we'll probably end up curled up watching TV tonight and not do those things either.

A pretty nice day, all in all!

P.S. An hour later -- I went out and took the mulch off the asparagus beds, and my husband got up and went to band practice. So the day's not a complete washout!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Home Day

I stayed home sick today so I wouldn't spread Pink Eye around my office. Spent a peaceful day reading, cooking, writing, walking the dogs, and sitting in the back yard. Then I came in and watched No Reservations. In part of the movie, they are cooking Dover sole. And guess what Son #3 cooked at school today? Dover sole. Ha!


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Even More Amazing

I was supposed to babysit my grandkids tonight, but I woke up with pink eye...of course. So Amazing Son #3 is going to babysit them instead. It's noble. It's wonderful. I am blessed.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

My Amazing Son

I came home from work on Friday just beat, to find Son Number Three making leek and potato soup with french bread. And honestly, it was the best soup I've eaten. And I'm not just saying that because he's my kid. The fact that he would think of doing it is just as amazing as the fact that he can do it.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Practising for Someday

It was a difficult day today, and I can't even pinpoint why. The usual two-hour slog to work and the usual two-hour slog home. The busyness in between. Nothing extraordinary. It was a gray, rainy day, though, and somehow my spirits just plummeted as I travelled, and by the time I got home all thoughts I'd harboured of writing went sort of out the window. I could tell I was headed for a bout of major depression, so I decided to be nice to myself and try to head it off.

I covered the windows with dark curtains and turned on a low light. I turned on the Fireplace Channel on TV (don't laugh. It was the best I could do because the switch on our gas fireplace is broken). I curled up with a fuzzy blanket, my dog, a mug of hot chocolate, and Susanna Kearsley's The Shadowy Horses, a favourite no matter how many times I read it. And I just pretended I was in a cabin in the Muskokas, with loons on the lake outside the window instead of mallards in the swimming pool. All I lacked was a candle scented like wood smoke to add authenticity.

And it worked. I'm feeling cozy and restored to myself again. I wrote for an hour or so. Now I'm going back to the couch with my book and dog.

Someday when I'm retired, I will do a lot of this.

The book I'm currently working on is one I'm co-writing with my biologist sister about caring for the earth. It's also a cozy sort of book, and I'm hoping one day some other frazzled woman will find peace curling up with it by the fire.


Writers start young in our family...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Loreena McKennitt and Doomsday Preppers

Yes, I really can link the two.

I once went to a live concert to hear Loreena McKennitt, a talented musician. Her music combines folk music and poetry from several cultures, and since I love her CDs, I was looking forward to seeing her in person. And the music was good. But she spent long periods between songs talking to the audience, explaining the sources of her inspiration, giving lectures on musicology, and generally yammering. I found myself at first interested, then bored, then irritated. I didn't want her doctoral thesis. I wanted her to just sing already!

"Preppers" are people who spend much time and energy focusing on the future. They prepare for predicted disasters and challenges, which can be a smart thing. But if you focus too much on the future, you're in danger of missing the joy to be found in the present. Sometimes they're too buried in emergency candles and freeze-dried stroganoff to remember that they're alive now.

I'm the same in many ways. I dither and prepare and plan and make sure I have every micro detail covered, but I never get around to doing the thing I've studied and prepared for. Witness: I've studied eleven languages, and the only places I've travelled to outside of North America are Italy and Britain. I've learned everything I can about farming but still live in the suburbs. It's as if I'm always waiting for life to start, but meanwhile it's going on all around me.

I admire Son #2 because he's actually acting. He and his partner have strongly-held values regarding right living and being close to the earth, and they're doing something about them. They've taken a 5-month leave from work in order to go WWOOF (volunteer) on a farm run by an intentional community. They'll try it out and decide if they want to join such a community and/or homestead themselves.

It's cool to me that they're willing to take risks and reach out to grasp the lifestyle they believe in. They're willing to take action and try...even though rather unprepared. I respect that, and I sort of envy that fearlessness. I need to stop tuning my instrument and just sing my song. Good or bad, this is what I have to offer. I need to stop yammering and just get on with it!

Saturday, 1 April 2017

I was born a century too late and twenty years too early

One of my favourite things is watching Ruth Goodman on TV. She's the kind of person I want for a friend. I want to work with her. She has taken the ordinary bits of history, the small things that make up regular life, and made them fascinating. I watch these shows or I read books about the last half of the 19th century and I feel  almost as if I've come home.

I don't have an idolized view of that time period. I know it was hard labour, without the medical knowledge we have now or the conveniences we've come to see as necessities. Women were often isolated and overworked and undervalued. But there is something so appealing about it at the same time---working with your hands, connecting with the earth, providing your own basics, focusing on needs instead of being distracted by wants. You can sit down at the end of the day knowing you have accomplished something useful and of worth. You can see the connection between your labour and your life. Right now all I do is push paper around all day and sometimes I can't see the use of it all. Yes, I get a pay cheque, but I am not convinced it contributed anything worthwhile to the universe. I'm removed from any good I might be doing.

On the other hand, there is a back-to-the-land movement going on right now that rivals anything in the 60s. This time I think the movement is more thought-out and organized and will be more permanent (because it has to be, I think). Young people have an ideal that really is doable and based on values, not just a reaction to the dominant culture. I look at the great ecological projects and communities that are arising, and I want to be a full-fledged part of it. This is just what I've planned and prepared for all my life! Finally I find like-minded individuals. Except I'm getting too old and creaky to labour that hard physically. I'm closer to the sitting-by-the-fire period of my life than the go-into-the-woods-with-an-axe period.

The other day I was reading an article in the newspaper about a group of young people who are tackling the problem of the urban tree cover and forestry in general, and the thought came to me that the future is in pretty good hands. The younger generations have an interest in this stuff, some of them feel a calling to address environmental issues, and there is an awareness and will among them that is less visible in my generation.

The idea also occurred to me that these young people have a lot of knowledge and resources at their fingertips. People my age and older have put a lot of their knowledge into books and YouTube. I have learned and studied all my life, but the younger generation can learn from the same sources I did. They don't need me specifically in order to carry on. Which means I can sit by the fire and leave it in their hands with confidence. I don't know if this is a sad thought or a comforting one.

Then I catch myself thinking like this and tell myself, "You're 49, not 79. What's the matter with you? You still have 40 years left!" Except it doesn't feel that way. It's getting harder to get out of bed and get down the stairs every morning. Sometimes when I've been lying on the couch I can't sit up and stand; I have to roll off onto my hands and knees first and pull myself up to stand. There are days the dogs tow me around the block and I can hardly keep up with them, and I tire out before they do. But, granted, there are also days when I feel fine and get a ton accomplished with hardly a twinge. Those are the days I browse the real estate ads looking at acreage and daydreaming.

I guess I have to approach it with a different mindset. Sometimes there are days (not periods) for sitting by the fire, and there are days for plowing fields. And that's okay. I can feel good about both.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

I've figured it out!

When my boys all hit a certain age, they seemed to disappear into the basement and only surfaced rarely for air or light or food. I could never figure out how they could spend so much time in the dark, in one room. No matter how many activities they may have going on, how could they do without sunlight? I can't stand being indoors for more than an hour at a time. I've never been able to understand it. And I was never able to coax them out of the dungeon for long.

But today I read a line in a book called Dropped Threads, edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson, that gave me insight:  "When boys hit adolescence, mothers are expected to back off, because we need to let boys turn into men---a mysterious process, which, like bread rising, must happen undisturbed, in a dark warm place." That's it! They weren't avoiding sunlight or shirking their chores; they were rising until double in bulk!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Weaving Update

This weekend I met with my weaving group to look at each other's projects, discuss problems we've encountered, and tour one weaver's fantastic basement fibre studio. This woman has probably four or five looms set up in her basement, shelves and shelves of threads and yarns, beautiful dyed warps hanging ready to dress the looms, and every book about weaving that one can imagine. She's in full production mode, turning out towels and scarves and other lovely things to sell. She has years of experience, and every question we posed, she had a solution. And best of all, she demonstrated to me how to put the "cartoon" (tapestry pattern) on my big floor loom, so now I can do BIG tapestries. Like, I could do a thirty-foot long tapestry if I (insanely) wanted to. Whee!

It's fun to think that whatever I imagine, I can make. All the limitations I thought were holding me back do not, in fact, exist. Some of the other weavers displayed some beautiful projects they've made and the things they've done with various colour blends. It really sparks your imagination. Don't know how it will turn out? Try it! Always wondered what such-and-such a combination would look like? Try and see! You're really free to play and experiment, and the only risk is a bit of money for materials. And even that isn't much of a risk, because a scarf is warm and wearable no matter what the colour ends up being, and you can always dye things afterward if you really need to.

I have great plans for my next tapestry, as soon as this one is done. Yesterday I spent six hours working on it, without realizing how much time had passed. That tells me I was "in the zone." Usually that only happens when I'm writing.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Feminism Hits a Low Point

Okay, I've got to say it. I opened up a magazine today and my first thought was, "How can we possibly have equal rights for women when there's this?" From the cover I thought I was going to read about entrepreneurial women across the globe who have taken the initiative to forward women's situation. And instead it turned out to be all ads about scanty swim suits, make-up, and ridiculously-high-heeled shoes. And of all things, the headline on top of one page was "Girls just want to have fun." There you have it in a nutshell---women are airheads incapable of doing anything serious or thinking about anything more pressing than the correct colour to wear this spring.

How can we honestly expect men to take us seriously if being a woman is defined by the amount of goop on our faces and the height of our heels? Can we blame them for ever thinking we're incapable and stupid? What kind of image are we trying to present to the world? I can take on unequal pay and abuse against women by slathering on eye shadow and wearing three inches of strategically-arranged fabric? Feminism took a giant step backward today, and I feel enraged and offended, with nowhere to land my punches. This is not representative of women, or fair to women, or worthy of women.

There, I've said my piece, and it's only 4:50 a.m. The day can only go uphill from here.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Habits of the Writer

Instead of taking chunks of vacation time this year, I have been taking half days off now and then from work. Initially this was to accommodate my dogs (now that my husband has a job, they are left alone too long some days so I come home early to let them out). But the un-looked-for side benefit of this arrangement has been a free afternoon and evening to write.

Ordinarily I am trying to slot my writing into my life in odd snatches here and there -- early Saturday mornings, the occasional moment I find myself alone at home. (I have a hard time concentrating if anyone else is in the house.) But having one whole afternoon and evening a week dedicated to writing seems to have spurred a creative wave. I find myself writing not one but about five books at once. Ideas are pouring in faster than I can deal with them. Murder mystery and ecological treatise and romance and---it's all jumbling into my brain and I'm typing madly to sort it all out. The other night I dreamed an entire murder mystery start to finish, and I jumped out of bed at 3 a.m. to write it down before I forgot it.

I have carried a notebook around at all times for years, to capture any thoughts or quotes that come to me. Now I actually have time to sit down and use some of them. It's energizing and refreshing, and with spring on the way it's a fantastically productive time. Except soon I need to stop and concentrate on gardening. So the pressure is on even more.

Who is putting this pressure on me? Well, no one, really. I have to get one manuscript to my editor by about June. That's it. So why the panic to get it all out of my head and into the computer? It's not that I'm afraid I'll forget the plots---I've taken extensive notes. But the pressure builds up like a log jamb and it all has to come out. It's almost a physical sensation. The more I write, the more I want to stop everything else and write. Seize the day! Seize the pen!

Until gardening season, and then all I'll want to do is garden. Until next winter, when all I will want to do is sleep.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

Post-St. Patrick's Day

I took yesterday off work just for a break, and I had a lovely day. Slept in to 6:30 (which was amazing). Got up and wrote a mystery for hours, worked on the tapestry for a while, played ball with the dog, went grocery shopping, watched an old episode of Dead Zone, read Malcolm Gladwell, napped, then walked down to the library and the mall, where I bought seeds in preparation for spring planting. Husband came home from work and made hamburgers. Listened to my son describe his butchery class (not quite so fun, but nice to interact with him). Drove my son to his friend's house. In bed by 9:00.

All in all the perfect, relaxing day. I would love every day to be like that, full of creativity and accomplishment. No pressure, no need to wear makeup or a watch. M. Fukuoka (I think I spelled that right) taught that the art of living isn't to do this or do that, but to learn to Not Do. To learn to let things unfold as they undoubtedly will anyway, and not waste time on trying to micro-manage everything in life. He would scatter a variety of seeds in his garden, for example, and let nature decide what would survive and where, according to each little micro-climate, soil conditions, etc. Whatever could thrive would thrive, without human intervention. All he had to do was open up the possibilities, and nature did the rest.

I think it takes a lot of courage and humility to loosen our grasp on every detail and trust nature to know what to do without us directing everything. Just as it takes courage and humility to let go of what we think we control in our lives and tell God "Thy will be done." But imagine how freeing that would be if we could actually do that! How restful it would be not to try to organize the universe ourselves. To tap into the creative and nourishing energy of the earth and let it sustain us without trying to dominate it. Mr. Fukuoka managed to do it, and he lived to be 95.

One of the hazards of being an admin assistant (correction: I got upgraded to "Executive Assistant" this week, which means absolutely nothing in regard to change, but looks nicer on a résumé) is that you have to micro-manage everything. It's my job to make sure every staple, every paper clip, every number in the Excel sheet is as perfect as possible. Meetings have to end on the dot so that the next one can begin. Every sheet of paper my boss needs must be at her fingertips. There can't be a single typo. Words must not run into the letterhead. The muffins provided at the meeting must accommodate every person's dietary restrictions. There can't be any glitches. It's my job to make my bosses' world run smoothly.

When you've been buried in that kind of precision and micro-management 35 hours a week for 30 years, it's a difficult thing to step back and relinquish control. But really, we control very little in our lives, when we're honest about it. I can make every possible effort, but there can still be a power outage that wipes out my beautifully-crafted PowerPoint, or the Catering Department could mess up the muffin order, or someone might be ill and postpone the finely-prepared meeting. I could be hit by a bus on the way to work. The government could shut us down completely.

The key, I think, is to do your best but keep it all in perspective. Be flexible. Don't let your ego intrude, and don't let your sense of self worth get entangled in it. Because ultimately that isn't what matters. The only thing really required of us is to keep breathing in and out, eat, sleep, and take care of those around us. The rest is just frosting.


Friday, 17 March 2017

The latest crazy update about Best Buy

When my husband took the computer back to Best Buy, they printed him out a receipt to prove it was returned. And on that receipt was a phone number and email address that wasn't his. So either the thief put in his own information (which would be nutso), or he made up a random bit of information to throw people off the track. My husband - ever clever - figured out that the email address and number belong to a man who lives not far from us. He gave MasterCard the information to follow up on, and the MasterCard service person said, "You've done more for us today than we've done for you!"

Hopefully one more thief will soon be out of commission.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

p.s.

For those of you wondering if the thief was lying wait, planning to break into our house to steal the computer after it was delivered...Hasn't happened. And my husband has now turned it back in, so if anyone does break in, they're out of luck. Nothing else in my house is worth $3,000, including the clunky old machine I'm typing on right now.

Think about it. How can you order anything online with a stolen credit card? If you put in your own address, the police can nab you. If you arrange to pick it up at the store, the police can be there waiting for you. The only option is to have it delivered to the credit card owner's address and then break in and get it. Seems like a lot of bother, doesn't it? It's easier to be honest.

Though I am going to have a word with Best Buy about their online order form prepopulating with our home address. Now the thief has it too. I bet most online retailers have that same safety hazard.

Two funny observations this morning

1. I got up and got dressed in the semi-dark as always, a black top and what I thought were black pants. I went downstairs, had breakfast, read my scriptures, did a little yoga, and went to work. On the way, I thought about things I'm grateful for and decided to try to be more mindful today. Rode the bus. Stopped for a doughnut and to sit and read the newspaper. Got to work. Went into the washroom...and discovered my pants were blue, not black. It took me three hours to notice. So much for being mindful!


2. Last week my husband's credit card number was stolen. MasterCard called us to say someone had spent $3000 at Best Buy with his card. Luckily they will reimburse us and everything, but he has to get a new card. Last night a box was delivered to our home...a Macintosh computer from Best Buy. The thief had it delivered to the address associated with the credit card, instead of his own address! How's that for smart? We'll call Best Buy and MasterCard again and figure out how to return it. Just had to laugh, though.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Wow, the timing is perfect!

And wouldn't you know, I just ran across this quote:

Bertrand Russell — 'In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.'

I guess it's time to do that about the pace I've set for myself and my assumption I can (or should) maintain it.

Reflections on Fallability

Well, my last post was about how our sense of self worth can't be based on our identities other than as children of God, because we will fall short and disappoint ourselves. And boy, did I do that yesterday! I had to put together an important meeting at work (weeks in the making), and my job was to not only participate in the discussion but to take minutes and record the meeting so we could refer back to the content later. All went well...until the meeting ended an hour and a half later and I realized I had never turned on the digital recorder. Aaaugh!

I looked at my boss and she was just shaking her head in disgust and despair...because this isn't the first time I've messed up lately. I seem to make small, stupid, but crucial mistakes every day lately. Is it "Fibro-Fog" associated with my Fibromyalgia? Is it cognitive impairment? Early Alzheimers? Mindlessness? Just run-of-the-mill stupidity? Or is it that deep down I just don't care?

Well, no, I do care about being competent and reliable. I do care what people think of my intelligence. I do try to do my best job at whatever I'm doing. But maybe---and this is probably the real explanation---I'm trying to do too much. I support ten people at work, whereas no one else supports more than three. I have a huge volume of work flying at me from all directions, and balancing and juggling everything for the past 22 years may be catching up with me. There's no chance to focus on one thing and do it well, because I'm busy lobbing a hundred balls into the air. Maybe my brain has reached saturation point and there just isn't room for one more bit of information. There's never down time to get organized and rejuvenate. Things are slipping through the cracks.

It's difficult to admit I've got more on my plate than I can handle. Up until now I've been able to manage just fine. I like being able to say yes to whatever is piled on me. Is that because I actually enjoy being busy? Maybe partially. But it might also be because I'm trying to impress other people. That's idiotic, and I'm not impressing anyone lately. It's difficult to take a hard look at your own motivations to figure out how you dug yourself into a hole. The truth isn't always pretty. And I don't like disappointing myself.

It's a good thing I wrote that last blog entry so I can reread it, because right now I'm feeling pretty lousy. I fantasize about dropping out of society, living in a hut in the woods, and foraging for my food. I compose my resignation letter in my head at least once a day. I imagine myself going berserk, grabbing my passport, and getting on the next plane out, no matter where it's going. I take note of small obscure villages where I could disappear to and no one would be able to guess where I've gone. I imagine myself baking an entire batch of cinnamon doughnuts and eating them all in one sitting.

Yep, definitely time for a break. But more than that, it's time to talk to my boss about scaling down.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Good Message at Stake Conference Today

One of the speakers in church this morning said something I liked. It was a quote she once saw written on a chalkboard: "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

And the main thing is that we are children of God, loved, and inherently divine. And nothing and no one can challenge or diminish that fact. Any other role we play in life (and there are many) can come and go; we can fail, and we may feel inadequate at it. We may not be the best mother we want to be, the best employee, the most successful teacher or perfect friend. We may not always be a spouse, a musician, an artist. Life changes and things are sometimes lost. But we can't fail at being a child of God. It doesn't depend on our actions or our successes. We don't earn it. Our identity as a child of God can't be taken from us.

Because of this, if we base our sense of self-worth on our other roles (parent, friend, whatever), we set ourselves up for a roller-coaster ride. Some days we might be confident and good at it, and some days we might fall short or disappoint ourselves. But if we base our self-worth on being a child of God, we will have a firm foundation and a sure anchor in whatever storm life may throw at us. That knowledge helps us maintain inner calm and peace, no matter our circumstances, and no matter what else in our lives might crumble.

My great-grandmother used to call these sorts of thoughts and insights her blood transfusions, because they buoyed her up and gave her new life. That's how I feel after today's reminder.




Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Just Ask

I am slowly cluing in to the fact that if you just ask for what you want, you tend to get it. And if you never put yourself out there and ask, you likely won't get it. Sounds basic, right? But it's been more and more obvious in my life lately.

The other day I mentioned to someone that I was interested in learning to do tapestry. And she happens to have an actual tapestry loom that she's not using and would be happy to let me use.

I mentioned to someone else that I once learned to spin wool and would be interested in doing it again. And she said she has her great-great-great-grandmother's spinning wheel she's happy to unload on me.

I have been wondering in my heart whether any of my efforts at teaching the youth at church are sinking in (because I can hardly get them to talk), but someone came up to me on Sunday and told me she's heard great, positive feedback from the youth about me so far, which gives me encouragement.

And just yesterday I told my boss I was having trouble finding someone to watch my dogs now that my husband is starting a new full-time job...and the outcome is that I now work half-days on the two days a week that were a problem...using just one vacation day a month to cover it. Oh, and my title has been upgraded to Executive Assistant, without my asking for it. So I solve the dog problem and get a couple of writing nights a week, just like that.

Well. So problems are being solved left and right, God is providing what I need, and things are looking up. It makes me think a little harder about what I ask for and what I project out there into the universe, though. I don't want to take too much advantage!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Final Edits are Done!

Just finished proofreading the next manuscript for the last time. The Song of Copper Creek comes out in July, and I'm hoping to do some book store appearances while I'm in Utah and Idaho this summer. Stay tuned on my website for details as I learn them.

www.kristenmckendry.webs.com

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Happy St. David's Day

It's March 1st - Daffodil Day - so naturally my thoughts turn to Wales and the great memories I made there. I went on an immersion course (Cwrs Wlpan) in 1986, the first time I'd been out of the country and the first time I'd seen grass being properly green, the way grass is meant to be. I was in awe the entire three months at the beauty of that country. I remember watching a tractor patiently turn a steeply sloped green hill into brown corduroy, trying to count the number of varieties in a hedge to guess at its age, and sneaking out of class to go watch the cricket match. The roads were impossibly narrow and the stone walls that blocked the view begged to be touched. It was a tactile sort of place, where you wanted to run your fingers over every surface, every ancient rock, every wall and tree. The air was softer, somehow, and the clouds lower than I was used to. I would go for long walks and gather bits of wool off of barbed wire where the sheep had rubbed against the fences (I still have a bit of it in a shadow box on my wall). I couldn't comprehend the age of things. I never grew tired of watching the gentle light on the hills.

The people were a bit reserved until I tried to speak Welsh with them, and then they were the kindest and most welcoming people ever. One woman shuttled me to church because I was without a car, even though she wasn't a member herself. One found out I couldn't have tea or coffee and then went out of her way to make sure I got milk every morning instead (even though the resident chef insisted milk was only for children). One couple brought me flowers when I was sick. I have only the warmest feelings for the people I met there. I made friends in those three short months that I am still in touch with thirty years later.

A magical experience. A transforming experience, as only travel can do when you are young. I pull out my Welsh books now and then for a refresher, though I've lost much of the bit of language I knew. I still listen to the haunting folk music (it all seems to be in a minor key), and I even once took harp lessons for a time. I may not ever get back to Wales, but a part of my heart will always live there.


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Underway

A little progress made. This is going to be a loooong-term project. And I've never spent so much on yarn before. So it better turn out!



Monday, 27 February 2017

Undertaking a new weaving project

So now I'm on to a more ambitious project. I wanted to try doing a tapestry but didn't want to afford an actual tapestry loom. I've come up with my own version which I think will work fairly well, and I can at least practise on it and decide if I like tapestry before putting out money for a professional loom. It's constructed from a sheet of masonite, a dowel, and an old weaving reed that was too damaged to use on my floor loom. I cut it in half to provide spacing guides at each end. I started warping it last night and will finish today.

Behind the warp threads is a pattern I had left from my stained glass days (painted glass, actually. I never did the actual glass cutting). I envision basic, bright colours of weft outlined in black embroidery to make the tapestry end up looking like stained glass.

I just need to decide what to use for the weft. Embroidery floss would be ideal for colour, detail, and ease of pulling through the cotton warp, but it would take a ton to fill the whole picture. Yarn is cheaper, probably, and would fill the space more quickly, but it might be too rough to pull through the warp without tugging the strings out of place. Maybe mercerized cotton would be slicker and tug the warp out of place less. Must go prowl around Michael's and see what my options are.

I'll let you know how it goes!




Thursday, 23 February 2017

Record-Setting Weather

It got up to 14 degrees or so today, the warmest it's ever been here in February. The sun was streaming through the windows at work and I just couldn't stay indoors, so at lunch I burst free and went for a walk in Queen's Park. Delicious-scented air, a caressing warm breeze, painfully bright sunshine, and a perfect cloudless sky. I walked beneath the sycamores and listened to my feet crunching the gravel and wished I could just keep on walking forever, right out of the park and across the trans-Canada highway and right on going. It was physically painful to crawl back into my cubicle again.

I have grow lights up and little sprouts starting of various herbs and greens. I open a bag of potting soil and put my face right in and breathe deeply -- that rich, damp fragrant earth is the best smell on the planet. I look out at my garden---currently a sea of mud---and envision beds of vegetables growing. The garlic is two inches high. The asparagus still sleeps under a foot of autumn's rotting leaves. It's too early to uncover it---they're saying we'll be back to just above freezing tomorrow. But the hope is there. The promise is there. Waiting, biding its time. Sending out little teasing whispers... Spring is coming.

How on earth did I end up in a job that keeps me pinned to a desk indoors? It's not where I belong.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Counting My Blessings

Sometimes you just get filled up with so much gratitude that you'll burst if you don't share it. Yesterday I went to the funeral of a friend's twenty-year-old daughter who died suddenly. As I hugged the mom, she whispered, "I just miss her so much!" And then I spent several hours last night with my son and his girlfriend, just talking and laughing and eating together, and I couldn't help but feel so, so lucky and grateful that he's alive and well and happy.

My husband had band practice yesterday and got to play someone's pipes made in the 1850s. His face was lovely to watch as he described it. I have an interesting and generous husband who does so much for other people, and I'm glad he's getting to do something for himself, something he loves.

This morning I woke to birds singing and a fantastic salmon-coloured sky. It's supposed to get to nine degrees today, which is amazing. I am carless today and will have to bus home from church...but think of the glorious weather I'll get to walk home in from the bus station! And there's leftover chicken curry for supper. And best of all, tomorrow is a holiday and I can stay home and play.

Yes, life is good.

Friday, 17 February 2017

What's on the menu?

When I woke up this morning, there was a container of homemade shortbread, biscotti, and oatmeal cookies on the counter, and Son Number 3 had stuck a sticky note to my calendar: "Thursday's menu is hot vichyssoise with purple potato and french bread." Now that is the kind of thing to wake up to! His culinary course has been worth every penny.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Stuart McLean

I heard the sad news tonight that Stuart McLean has died. I feel like I've lost a friend. I spent this evening listening to CDs of The Vinyl Cafe and eating half a bag of red licorice. Sometimes it's the only possible response.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Handwoven tea towels

Fresh off the loom. They have a few faults, but I'm pleased with my first project.




Traveling the world

Ever since I discovered you could walk around far-away places on Google Earth, I've been addicted. Famous places like Rome, Florence, Istanbul, Reykjavik, Cardiff, London... Closer-to-home places like Sudbury, Port Dover, and Pembroke. Places with fun names, like Manitouwadge and Attawapiskat. Intriguing place-names like Bear Rump Island, Pickle Crow, Ravenshoe, and Moose Portage (I wonder, is it necessary to carry your moose there?).

This morning I discovered you can walk around the botanical gardens of Kyoto on screen. Unfortunately, the film crew went during the gray part of autumn, when nothing much was in bloom and there were few leaves on the trees. But you could see the structure and it was still interesting, and probably as close as I'll ever get to actually going. Wouldn't it be amazing to be there during cherry blossom time?

There are so many beautiful places on this earth to check out. I can't live long enough to see them all, nor can I afford to go everywhere I want to see, but thanks to the Google Earth people, I can virtually see just about anywhere. And I can drop by and walk my old childhood street and wave at Mom and Dad's house anytime I want to. A heartfelt thank you to Google!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Celestial Chaos

A friend at church (who has very young children) said her father describes that noisy, messy, happy parenting stage as "celestial chaos." I love the term. I like things orderly. I'm a minimalist at heart, and I love the sight of clear counter tops and neat rows of books. But I also love it when the house reflects who lives there. Clutter usually annoys me, but if it's creative clutter, I have no problem with it. Paintbrushes left by the sink. Balls of yarn on the coffee table. Bags of potting soil tucked by the back door. Sheet music splayed over the couch. Fingerpaintings stuck to the fridge. Signs of life going on. Signs of interesting people being busy.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Small Miracles...(Maybe not so small)

Tonight I was supposed to rush home from work, meet up with a friend, and hurry up to the temple in Brampton to get there for 7:00. As I was coming home, I kept watching the sky, because the news said we were in for snow. The sky kept getting darker and darker, great towering big clouds with the sun shining behind them like something off a Mormon Tabernacle Choir album cover. Beautiful but a bit frightening. You could see hazy sheets falling beneath them as the snow approached.

Now I am not great at night driving, and I'm terrified of driving in icy or snowy conditions. I didn't want to bow out of the planned trip, but on the other hand, I didn't want to be responsible for smashing the car and killing my friend, either. So I flung some pretty desperate prayers skyward asking that the snow hold off until I got home from the temple, around 9:00 p.m. If I was meant to go do this work at the temple, I'd do my part, but I wanted God to do His and keep the weather at bay until we got back home.

When I switched buses at the mall, the sky was right out of a thriller, dark and menacing and promising an amazing storm. Fine snow was beginning to flurry and swirl in the icy air. The storm was arriving. When I got off the second bus at home not five minutes later, the clouds were moving off toward the lake, the blue sky was coming out, the sun was dazzling...and there was absolutely no snow. It was beautiful as a spring day. I watched the sunset in a perfectly clear sky.

And here I am, home from the temple safe and sound, 9:00 p.m., and not a flake has fallen.




Wednesday, 8 February 2017

On the News Tonight from Alberta

They said it was -34 degrees today, but watch for severe winter weather coming in from the west. So I guess -34 doesn't count as severe.

There's something both hilarious and frightening about that.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Setting up more grow lights

Got three more light fixtures and full-spectrum lightbulbs to hang over the shelves of seedling trays in the dining room. Lettuce, microgreens, radishes, and basil so far. Sixty dollars worth of light...to grow about fifty cents worth of salad. 😛

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Essential Possessions

There was a poster on the subway this morning that said to list the possessions we consider most essential to our lives. It was an interesting question to pose, and I've been thinking about it off and on all day. I've come to the conclusion that most things I have are not essential, but there are some things I do find useful -- though I may not need that particular one. But there are some essentials that contribute to the kind of life I want to live. A few favourites I would hate to lose:
  • my Book of Mormon with all of my notes and comments in it
  • my wedding ring (second one. First one got stolen.)
  • my glasses (blind without them)
  • the good chef knife
  • various crochet hooks and knitting needles
  • my steam canner, dehydrator, and juicer for putting up garden produce
  • mason jars (ditto)
  • I have a good hoe and digger I prefer to use in the garden
  • paper and pens
  • probably my old journals and photos, though if I could digitalize them, that would do
  • I'd hate to lose my guitar and banjo, even though I am rarely able to play them anymore
  • the memory sticks containing my writing (which means I'd need a laptop)
  • the socks my late friend Tracey knitted
  • my homesteading books
  • my jars of homegrown beans and seeds
  • my recipes
And that's about it. That's what I would take if I were to move into a tiny house, for example, or if I had to pack a bag and head for the hills on short notice. I didn't include the dogs, because those are friends, not possessions. But basically that's what I value, and that's what I'd need to set up house. (Well, and little things like soap and toothbrushes, but you know what I mean.) The list still looks a bit long. The guitar and banjo are for sentimental reasons only, so they may have to go in a pinch.


I know my husband would grab his bagpipes and his family history research. Some important documents and a couple of favourite books. Maybe his pizza peel and rolling pin, and he loves his cast iron frying pan. And that's probably all he would take.


When it comes down to it, you need surprisingly little in life.

Monday, 30 January 2017

On to something optimistic

The seed catalogs are starting to arrive in the mail! Always a sign of spring approaching. The temperature has dropped to about -15 this week, but there's only a dusting of snow, I heard a chickadee yesterday, and it's possible to imagine summer again.

We are planning to travel a bit this year, so I have to think about what to plant that will be able to basically babysit itself while we're away. The kids will be here taking care of the dogs, but I don't want them to have to do intensive farming in my absence. If I'm wise I'll avoid things that have to be harvested daily, such as green beans, or things that will ripen in the weeks we're gone, such as zucchini. And yet I look at the planting suggestions for some horseshoe-shaped beds I want to try, and I can't help myself. I know I'll break down and start cramming in everything I love, the way I always end up doing every year.

I also like to try new things every year, and this time I think it might be okra. A relative of hibiscus, they have lovely flowers that look like flamenco dancers' skirts. If you dehydrate them, they lose that slimy feeling people object to, and you can snack on them with a little salt. Even if I donate the okra to the food bank and just grow them for their flowers, they're still a lovely idea.

I also want to splurge on some space-saving columnar apple trees to plant on the north side of the garden. Other than blueberries and strawberries, I don't have fruit growing in the garden, and I'd like to do a few more things along permaculture principles.

I was talking to my boss today about travel plans for the summer, and she suggested we time it so that we hit New Brunswick in September, when the colours are at their best. Which sounds reasonable. Except that's the time the harvest is coming along thick and fast. When I told her the reason for my reluctance, she gave me a weird look, and I felt just how odd I probably am, out of step with everyone around me. Doesn't everyone schedule their vacations around tomato-bottling season? Isn't everyone in sync with the temperature and weather and phases of the moon? So I just mumbled something about school being back on by September and left it at that. (Which is still a good argument against travelling then; my son wouldn't be able to let the dogs out if he's at college.)

I like that my rhythms and activities interplay with the earth's. I like watching the sky for signs of pending rain. I like feeling I'm not just interacting with nature but that I'm part of it.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

A Plea for Compassion

Facebook is on fire with political commentary right now, and for the most part I try to avoid it, but today I feel I need to say something. When Prime Minister Trudeau stated that Canada would welcome those fleeing terror and persecution, one of my fellow Canadians posted a rather nasty reply pointing out that "millions" of Canadians are starving already, implying that there isn't enough to go around so we should close our borders too. And I couldn't stay silent.

Yes, four million people in Canada are food insecure. (Which I'm attempting to help address, in hopefully more useful ways than posting on Facebook.) But 30 million aren't, and they're able and most likely willing to help those who are. There are resources and options for the poor to turn to. Even the homeless are entitled to health care. We don't have bombs falling on our streets. Yes, we have room for improvement. Of course we do. We're human. But even our poorest are better off than many around the world. (Just watch True Cost if you have doubts about that.) Knowing that women in Bangladesh are living on $10 a month doesn't make the poor here feel any better, I'm sure, but I offer it as a contrast to keep things in perspective. I have never seen a naked beggar in the streets of Toronto. I've never seen a woman purposely mutilate her child so that it could win more sympathy here. The homeless man I meet every day on my way to work is warmly dressed and sells newspapers to passers-by. His name is Gary and I stop to talk with him occasionally just to touch base and keep tabs on him. He has a shelter to go to at night and food available when he decides to take advantage of it.

I'm not saying we don't have problems here. There's a lot of work to be done. But going out to work in a food bank or clothing drive is more helpful than making snarky off-the-cuff comments on social media. If this gentleman isn't happy about the poor among us, what is he doing about it? The whole idea of living here is that if you need help, you can reach out for it, and if you can offer help, you extend it. That's how this is supposed to work.

I came to Canada 27 years ago, not as a refugee but as an immigrant. From the moment I showed up at the border in a snowstorm at midnight with a fussy baby in arms and not all the right paperwork, I have been shown nothing but kindness. (The border guard let me in, with a suggestion that I get the required medical done in the next few weeks.) I have encountered generous and genuinely friendly people. People who help you carry strollers up the stairs at the subway, who let you merge into heavy traffic in front of them, who help each other shovel snow without thinking about it. I have had so very few negative interactions with anyone, and usually that was due to simple misunderstandings. I've had many days where I seriously want to stand up in the subway, throw my arms wide, and announce to everyone: "Look at you all, sitting here so quietly and peacefully together! You are all from different backgrounds and cultures and religions, but you are sitting here together getting along and making this a pleasant place to live. Thank you!" Maybe someday I'll get up the courage to do it.

The remarks about Canada being diverse are true, at least in the Toronto area where I live. I am usually the only white female on the subway when I go to work, often the tallest person in a crowd, and I can (and have) counted about ten languages being spoken around me as I walk down the sidewalk. (My husband used to wear a kilt and yarmulke, for heaven's sake.) Church potlucks are great because you get anything from jerked goat and cod tongues to curry and dumplings. Last week I went to the public library at around 5:00, and there were four or five Muslim teenage boys quietly gathered in a corner with their prayer rugs, whispering through their prayers. Not attracting attention. Just quietly showing their devotion. And not an adult around to make them do it. The other library patrons quietly moved around them, giving them space and privacy to pray. I've seen Muslims drop right in the Tim Horton's parking lot (off to one side) with their portable rugs at prayer time, and no one bats an eyelash. (The first time I saw a man kneel on the parking lot median, my first impulse was to stop and ask if he needed assistance...and then I saw the rug and realized he hadn't dropped his keys or had a fall. It was kind of funny, actually.) The point being that you are allowed to be yourself here, and people give you room to do it.

Even though Canada isn't perfect, it has an attitude of caring and welcome and kindness, and our first impulse isn't to blockade ourselves in a bunker; it's to reach out with compassion. As long as our first impulse is to do that, we're on the right track. Can we help everyone? No. But we want to, and that is what makes me love it here.