Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of Year and a Frank Look at Resolutions

Each new year's eve I try to write a little summary of how the last 12 months have gone and set some goals for the next year. I've had years focused on health, or getting out of debt, or pursuing creative passions. I've focused on things I felt needed improving. But I feel a little different this year, more contemplative and less ambitious. I think this year I'd rather just focus on the blessings I've received, the things in my life I value, and the gratitude I feel. I don't especially feel the need to improve, set goals, and strive toward new year's resolutions. I think...maybe...what I'm feeling is contentment. I guess gratitude leads you to that.

I've been blessed this year to survive financially in spite of my husband yet again losing his job, and I've been blessed to feel totally supportive of his not going back to work fulltime this time. I want to see him relax and enjoy a well-deserved rest. I think I've finally figured out what he figured out many years ago -- that my sense of fulfillment is tied to seeing others be fulfilled. And if I can see him develop his piping program or pursue his hobbies and develop his interests, I will find that personally fulfilling. I am overwhelmed with love when I think of his years of dedication, support, sacrifice, and hard work, and I want to make this next year smoother for him.

I've been blessed with loving children who are more or less independent and making their way in the world. I've seen them pursue interests and develop themselves and reach out feelers into their lives, and it's exciting to see. I've been blessed with huggable, squeezable, darling grandchildren who lift my heart with their smiles.

I've been blessed with the animals in my life, their devotion and unconditional love and loyalty. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Brio running full tilt toward me with ears flapping and a grin on his face, as if I'm the best person on the planet, and his joy gravitates around me.

I've been blessed to have had situations over the past year that have encouraged me to learn and grow and stretch. I've taken on teaching a class of teenagers and -- despite trepidation -- grown to genuinely love and care about them. Such a neat group of people! I've taken up weaving and needlepoint and found creative outlets that give me joy. I've got scope for the imagination. And I've learned that my writing, while enjoyable, is not my identity or even (dare I say it) my passion. It's a good thing to learn, because then I can allocate the time it deserves but not obsess about it. I've learned it's okay for me and my interests to change with time.

I've been blessed with the spirit and a deeper conviction of how Christ's atonement applies to me and my life. As I've taught these young people, the principles I'm teaching them have entered more deeply into my own heart. I think it was Seneca who said you learn by teaching, and that's so true. I'm grateful for what teaching has brought me.

I've been blessed to deepen friendships with two people at church whom I didn't know very well before, but who have turned out to be delightful, fun, and generous friends. I'm grateful to still have my job in a time when many have lost theirs, and even though it isn't a joyful thing for me, at least I can tolerate it and it puts food on the table, so I'm glad for that. I've tried to rethink how I perceive my job. Instead of just thinking of it as sitting in a cubicle wiggling my fingers over a keyboard and pushing paper around, I've tried to see how it is actually an act of service for the ten people I support -- people I genuinely like -- and seeing it that way makes it more bearable.

I'm grateful to live in a place that allows me to pursue my religion and education and personal goals, that supports me with the basic necessities of life, and promotes equality and compassion. I live in a generally compassionate society. And it's got the added plus that it's beautiful here, a landscape that sings to me. I'm grateful this country let me in and that I feel at home here. I'm grateful God created such a lovely planet and lets us participate in part of that creation. I'm grateful for the knowledge of how to grow food and the gift of a bit of land to do it on.

I hope to carry this gratitude and awareness of my blessings into 2018 and look forward to the treasures this new year will bring. And I wish my readers (all two of you) blessings in 2018 too.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Almost Lost my Mind

Went on a short trip for a few days near Lake Huron and was sorely tempted to buy a bed-and-breakfast for sale... Beautiful area. Here are a few shots from the trip. This is the B&B...

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Away for a while

I'm going on a brief get-away for a few days with no internet access. Just hubby, dogs, needlepoint, and a bit of writing to do. So you won't hear from me until Saturday. Best wishes, everyone, and stay warm!  Kristen

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Posted in 2012, revisited in 2017

December 23 or Why Christmas Adam Comes Before Christmas Eve

Goodness knows the Bible women
get the limelight at Christmas time.
Elizabeth and Mary,
and even the innkeeper's wife...
"All is bright 'round yon virgin,"
"Mary pondered it in her heart..."

But Joseph's in the back of the scene,
anonymous figure with a staff
standing behind the donkey.
We don't acknowledge enough
the sacrifices he made,
the doubtful heart he stilled,
the tender courage he displayed.

The best crèche I ever witnessed,
Mary was sacked out cold
on the hay - exhausted new mother -
and Joseph was cradling the child.

We don't think about the years
that followed that Christmas night --
the arduous escape to Egypt,
life-saving visions in the night,
leading his family to the temple,
Joseph working the wood in his hands
while the young Jesus watched and learned.

There couldn't have been a Saviour
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lifted upon the cross,
risen from the tomb,
without a Father first.

- Kristen

Friday, 22 December 2017

White Christmas and Band-Aids

This year it will be a white Christmas. After an unseasonably warm and green autumn, the white stuff started last night, and now it's being followed by a frosting of freezing rain. I am snug at home today, off work for the holidays, and have cozy plans for music, needlepoint, and some general housecleaning. And shovelling.

All of this will be hindered, however, by a slight injury I got yesterday. I always keep Brio on the extendable leash when I let him out at 4 a.m., because if he's free to run off-leash in the backyard, he always barks, and I didn't want the neighbours getting an earful at that hour. But yesterday when I was bringing him back in, some furry gray critter (rabbit? cat?) dashed across the patio, and Brio of course bounded after him with a growl. And like an idiot, instead of using the button on the leash to stop the line from going out, I grabbed the cord with my free hand. And it kept zipping out at high speed and gave me a wonderful "rope burn" around my ring finger. Wow, did that hurt! I hurried into the house to turn on the light and inspect the wound, expecting to see bone and blood. Instead, it was a neat furrow ploughed across the joint of the finger, and there wasn't any blood because the zipping cord sort of cauterized it. I nearly passed out from pain and sheer squeamishness, though. Four Band-Aids later, I'm okay, but my sticking-out ring finger keeps hitting the Caps Lock key as I type. And I'm wondering how I'm going to shovel snow with one hand. You don't realize how much you use a particular bit of your body until you injure it.

The critter got away, by the way, whatever it was.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The End of an Era

Thirty-five years ago, I began playing the bagpipes. It wasn't the easiest challenge I've ever undertaken, but it was enjoyable and brought me a lot of adventure, happiness, and friendship over the years. I worked hard to get them. I've played our clan tune on the hillside overlooking my ancestral home in Scotland. I've played in a Welsh pub. I was the first female piper in the history of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment. I've trudged around Highland Games hauling twenty pounds of kilt and equipment for the last thirty-five summers. I've learned from Ian MacDonald and Michael Grey and Bob Worrall, legends in the piping world. I've played with the Toronto Police and, more recently, St. Andrews Pipes and Drums. But the most important thing bagpipes have done for me is to lead me to my husband, at band practice, thirty-one years ago. (I confess I also like watching the reactions when I tell people I play this unique instrument. Everything from fascination to horror.)

I am no longer able to play because of health issues and busy-ness and - let's face it - general exhaustion, and I quit the band a couple of years ago. And this week, as a final admission that I'll not be taking it up again, I sold my pipes to another female student in the band. They're good for her, the right size and weight, and I hope she gets many years of joy out of them. It feels weird letting them go, but also right. A new generation of players is moving up the ranks, and that's how it should be. And I admit a small part of me is gleeful that I no longer have to struggle with 8 yards of wool in a Port-a-Potty at the Games.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Low-Carb Diet

I lost 25 pounds last year just by cutting out sugar and most pasta and rice. (I can't cut it out entirely...What would be the point of life without pasta, after all?) The doctor would like to see me lose another 30, so I'm back on the diet again this year, along with my supportive hubby. I know it can be done, because I've done well with it before, but I suspect Christmas is not the right time to begin such an endeavour. I can't walk past a colleague's desk at work without being confronted with raspberry dark chocolate, caramels, fudge, doughnuts... It's a failure waiting to happen. I've told myself I will allow some occasional eggnog, which is my favourite thing on the planet, and this is the only time of year you can get it. But I think I'll be able to resist most everything else.

My wonderful husband has been making intriguing meals with spaghetti squash and bean sprouts and coconut milk and a host of other things that sound unlikely but that turn out magical in his hands. They're healthy and delicious and give me hope and determination. And if I'm good and stick to this, I'll double my wardrobe, because there's a lot in that closet that I almost fit into and can wear once again in the near future. That's incentive, too. I'm always motivated if I can save a dollar.

The other key to the diet is to keep my hands busy. We like to watch movies in the evenings, and it's a dangerous time with regard to snacking. But if I'm tangled up in knitting or crocheting, I'm less likely to reach for something sticky. I'll try to focus on other projects instead of lying about on the couch reading, too, because that's a dangerous snack time. And I'll keep up the yoga and -- gulp -- dog walking (in spite of the arctic weather). I'll pace myself reasonably and realistically, but hopefully by this time next year I'll be a lesser woman.

Sunday, 3 December 2017


They're having a bake sale at work to raise money for a charity, and I was voluntold to bring cookies for it. This weekend was fairly busy with baby shower, weaving guild meeting, etc. and I wondered if maybe I could cheat and get store-bought cookies to take to the bake sale instead. After all, I hadn't offered to do this, it was being put upon me. And the first thing I ever had published was an article called "You Won't Go to Hell for Using a Cake Mix." And my naturopath gave me strong instructions to say no more often. So who would know? Could I pull it off?

So I confess I went out Saturday and bought some decent-looking chocolate chip cookies, with the vague idea of not saying anything to anyone at work and letting them assume I'd made them without coming right out and saying I did. Yes, I'm that evil.

And then I remembered that our donations to the bake sale were supposed to have a full ingredient list with them, in case of allergies, etc. So I looked at the ingredient list of the chocolate chip cookies. Modified palm oil, soy lecithin, cocoa butter, inverted sugar, natural flavour... Who was I kidding? No one would believe I had soy lecithin in my kitchen cupboard.

So I sent hubby out at 10:00 last night to buy sugar (which I generally try not to keep in the house), and at 6:00 this morning I made 5 dozen peanut butter cookies. Now I can take an honest tray to the bake sale and my conscience is clear again. Except now I have a tub of chocolate chip cookies on top of the fridge which, after reading the ingredients, no one will really feel like eating.

Serves me right.

Maybe I can put them on a tray and give them as homemade Christmas cookies to the neighbours...