Fix It!

There’s nothing beautiful about this!  This situation is a symbol for all things that can ‘go wrong’. This is one of countless conundrums that can take over time, temperament and wallets, in the swoosh of a moment! This is the babysitter calling in sick early morning.  It is the tire that is flat after you’ve fixed the perfect lunch and feel that you’ve got life by the tail.  And in this case, it is the hoses on my thirty-year-old washing machine on delivery day!

The single day that I don’t teach this week and it was my intention to paint in the studio and wait for the call about the delivery of my brand new washing machine.  This is the day I decided to visit the hospice for afternoon Thursday tea.  It is the day when I was starting my day with a poached egg and a piece of whole grain toast.  It is wild how perfectly we imagine our days.  Well, at least I do.

But sometimes…and not always…there is a challenge lurking around the corner.  It is the news that my loved one is going to die. I stare blankly at the doctor. I feel that I am being dangled helplessly over a giant precipice.

It is that full glass of Pepsi that I  perch on the counter.  I put the ice cube tray away. The popcorn is hot. I knock the glass over and on to the floor.  Broken glass and sticky bubbly, everywhere!  Ouch!

At the point when either event (or something far worse or something much more benign) happens, it is my choice as to how I respond.  My own responses are often surprising, but also, during a certain set of circumstances, perfectly predictable.

I thought it would be a simple thing to disconnect the hoses on my washing machine.  It’s hung in there for so long.  I’ve lived in the same place of 20 years and I’ve never turned off these valves, NOT ONCE.  So, with delivery to happen today, I decided to go to my laundry room and turn off the water and disconnect my hoses before bed last night.  I was already in my pajamas when this story unfolded.

It was 10:45 when I made my first clockwise turn.  I noticed for the first time ever that the handle for one of my ‘nipples’ (I’ve learned that this is what they are called) had broken off.  But, this is what the other one looked like after that clockwise turn.

Panic set in at this point.  As my readers might surmise, the next step was naturally to go to my tool box and to find a set of pliers.  Surely I could turn the nipples to the right, with pliers.  As I madly gripped the first nipple, the pliers slipped around the metal and nothing seemed to move.

I think I made my first cry out to the universe at this time.  It was 11:03. Trevor’s name appears in my cell phone contact list as THE PLUMBER.  So what if it was after eleven at night, right??  I texted Trevor in a wild breathlessness.   I don’t know what I thought he could do from the warmth of his bed.  I just needed a plumber-connect like one might need a psychologist-connect.

I took photos (these photos) and began to communicate a narrative of panic through the medium of text.  When I clicked SEND the photos whirred around and around and never did leave my phone, a feature of my phone/text/approach that is consistent with every other time that I am given one of these life situations.  I was given a message that I could try re-sending. Over time, I deleted the photos and settled back into a state of self-actualization. (At this point of writing I laugh out loud. I think that in the panic, choosing to write is a real stumbling block.  Couldn’t I be painting?  No. As this story continues to unravel for my readers, you will all see that presently I am in a holding pattern.  I can not paint while in a holding pattern.)  From Trevor, I learned that indeed, I needed to turn off the water.  And yes, the faucets should be turned clockwise.

Phone put down, I began to look for a water turn off valve.  I walked upstairs to my computer where I began watching Youtube videos about replacing washing machine hoses.  Oh my goodness.  There wasn’t a single set of valves that looked like those on my machine.  Click Click Click…minutes rolled by as I became saturated with too many ideas, too many calm confident male voices performing such ‘simple’ procedures on their washing machines.

Max, my border collie, looked on with a particular look.  I know he was quietly thinking, “I wish I could roll my eyes.”

I explored my house for all of its personal plumbing lessons.  If I didn’t know my pipes before, I think I do now.

By 11:50, I texted my friend, Wendy.  Her partner is a phenomenal fix-it guy.  But, again, what was I doing sending out SOS messages to my dear friends in the middle of the night?  Wendy is an amazing woman who is busy, with her fingers, hands and arms in so many things!  I thought, too late, ‘Wendy is probably sleeping.’

I went to bed, feeling exhausted and defeated, but not after having a chat with my son in the cold dank laundry room.   He made all of the right recommendations.  His first inclination was to ask for pliers in order to turn off the valves.  (I told him I couldn’t bear any more drama before sleep.)  The second suggestion he made was to turn the water off at the  main valve.  I told him, in my small voice, “Let’s just go to bed.”

This morning, at the crack of dawn, I left a phone message with Dan at Dr. Heat and Air.  I  thought it best to get calls out to all the perfectly wonderful guys in my life.  On my own, I have learned to rely on my village a little.  It’s taken time to feel confidence in doing that when in life, I always, in every circumstance, relied on myself.  Certainly, on days like this one, it is good to know really competent people in a variety of fields.  Beats GOOGLE all to heck.  While plumbing isn’t Dan’s expertise, he always gives me an ear and has wonderful recommendations.  Most important, he offers a voice of calmness and causes me to feel that I still have control and I can still solve problems.  He gave me that this morning, as well as another recommendation for a plumber.

I emailed Trevor the photographs.  I asked him for recommendations on name brands for good valves and asked if he would suggest any good ones.  I told him I’d keep him up to speed. (poor guy)

By this time, my friend Wendy was awake.  She sent me a calming message (as only Wendy can do) suggesting that, these challenges are tough.  (EMPATHY, right from the get-go)  Turns out she had put in a huge shift the day before, but that she would leave a message for her partner to contact me.

That brings us HERE.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and made a decision to ground myself.  I began this writing.

And since beginning this writing at around 9:30, Max barked at the front door. My dear friend and Wendy’s partner arrived, two wrenches in hand.  He was in the lowest level after giving Max’s rope a playful tug, two minutes later.  Five minutes after that, with water spraying a bit here and there, he completed the task and gave me directions for turning the water back on.  I stood in my tracks and wept, saying again and again, “Thank you.  Thank you.  It was so hard.  It was all so hard.”  A supportive hug and he was on his way to plant tomatoes and I was left standing, asking…

“What was that all about?”

Challenges are a part of life.  We can discover new things about ourselves by tackling them. We can connect with people through our challenges.  We can be creative and we can create.  Obstacles are not put in front of us as punishments or to make us stronger or even to teach us lessons.  Obstacles and challenges are just a part of what life is.  In the past twenty four hours I’ve learned a lot about washing machines, hoses and a little more about plumbing.

As my friend said, before leaving, “In the end, it’s just water.”

My washing machine has been broken since just a week before my brother’s diagnosis with Stage 4 Cancer.  The fact that a new washing machine will be here by evening causes me a strange bubbling up of emotion.  I know that John’s death and this story are not connected at all.  But, they feel connected.  It is ironic that it took so much energy, brain power and community support to get these hoses disconnected!

 

For the Birds: Early Spring 2019

I feel a bit of a cold coming on.  Max and I just returned from the river and I’ve had two pieces of toast slathered with peanut butter and raspberry jam and I’m presently sipping my third and last cup of coffee.

Before heading to the studio, I want to write a brief post to acknowledge just how beautiful it was to visit the river, in the rain.  Every day brings its shift in weather and atmosphere and every day brings to mind a different perspective, colour and life force.  I am just so grateful.

At the prompting of my friend, Nina Weaver, I read, with great attention, the first chapter of John’s gospel and I felt, as I read, that I am getting stronger over these difficult days.  Restorative yoga has been very beneficial to me, in the fact that daily, I am more conscious of breath…taking in healing and releasing suffering.  It’s a bit of a daily prayer for me now.  Life will always be different, without my brother’s booming voice being a part of it, but let’s face it, I carry him with me.  And so, today, I will bring him with me, into the studio to paint.

Watching the birds at the pond and now the river, is such a part of my mental, emotional and spiritual health.  I can not explain to my readers how entering into the watchfulness and presence of such vulnerable creatures is healing and even sustaining.  Focus moves away from self and ego and returns to the other…and to what is necessary to wholeness and health.  I am inspired every day.

Why did I decide to post today?  Well, I gain much through the act of writing, the practice of writing.  I don’t want to lose touch with that.  It was very hard to be caring for brother at the same time as my computer sunk like a stone.  Yes, I filled some journal pages and I wrote in the margins of my Bible, but writing didn’t feel as available through that period.  Writing allows my heartache to tumble out,  releasing a particular tension.  I don’t want to take the purchase of a laptop for granted, just as I never want to take the act of painting for granted again.

First to come in the spring, were the Magpies.  Then, the Canada Geese, the Mallards and the Common Goldeneyes.  At the same time, before snow left, the Robin’s song could be heard.  The House Sparrows gathered once again, in a flurry, at my back yard bird feeder.  European Starlings, Common Mergansers, Red Necked Grebes and more.  My friends at Frank Lake have photographed so many gorgeous birds.  At my river, I don’t see the American Avocets or the Stilts.  However, I have been amused and in love with interactions with these birds in the past.  I am very much about staying close to home these days; my energy is still quite low and  so, I certainly don’t look for places to go or things to do.  The next few photographs represent a few of the birds I’ve enjoyed this spring and ones that have built up the life force within me.

You may wish to click on the image to enlarge.  As well, here are two photographs of Mr. as he returned to the nest with a fish off of the Bow River.  For those of you know me, I don’t know how to pan, so the fact that I managed even two poorly focused images of Mr. in flight, is quite an accomplishment.  Have a beautiful day!

 

That I Would Be Good

Throughout my brother’s illness, I kept thinking…and often said to him, “You were always enough, John.”

I don’t know why I had those words on my heart.  And I spoke them often.

I spoke to one friend about my inclination and she said to me, “You, your brother, I am more than enough!”

With the death of one of my great mentors, Jean Vanier, this past week, I listened and listened again to his past recordings.  I read over things that he wrote.  I remain completely convinced by his view that love exists when we embrace those who are most vulnerable.

A baby born to its parents is put into a position of utter trust and vulnerability.  It can do nothing to earn or keep or appreciate your hard work and your giving heart.  The infant child can only receive love.  To be ill in body or mind, or to be dying, leaves a person in the same vulnerable state of being as was once experienced as an infant.  This coming and going of humanity leaves all participants in a place of tremendous sacredness/holiness/grace and belonging.

As I consider my own challenges, I need to remember that I am good, for the simple reason that I am.  I belong in a circle of belonging.

Sometimes the world can tell us differently.  Sometimes our own heads can try to convince us that we are ‘not enough’.  There are days when we act like squirrels, gathering in ‘stuff’, thinking that somehow that ‘stuff’ will make us safe/secure/better.  There are days when we forego time with our families so that we can work harder and earn more so that we can provide more, when all our families needed most was our presence.  We need to reflect upon that presence.

To each of my readers, “You are good.”  Celebrate your wondrous design.  Have a dance.  Listen to the words to this song.  Have a great weekend.  Thanks, Hollee, for sharing birthday dinner with my family. Thanks to Cayley, Shawn, Erin, Doug and Steven, Linda and James for Dragon Pearl feasting and Crave cake! Thanks, Steven, for the jazz invite in the middle of the week.  Thanks, James for attending with your ol’ Ma.  Thanks, Wendy, Tammy, Karen, Lauraine, Jas and Dan for Sunday jam at Mikey’s.  Thanks, nephew for almost daily “I love you”s by text.  Thanks, Dad, for 5:00 Skypes.  Thanks, Val, for connecting with me in real time and in dreams.  Thanks, Erin, for restorative Yoga. Thanks, Kath, for studio painting time, bird watching, dog walking, teaching big kids and small.  Thanks Mary, Pat and Janet for tea and snacks. Thanks, Facetime Friends, for all of those online messages. Thanks, John, for everything you were for me in life and how you inspire me now.  It’s been a good week.  I love you because love never ends.

That I Would Be Good
That I would be good even if I did nothing
That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
That I would be good if I got and stayed sick
That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds
That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
That I would be great if I was no longer queen
That I would be grand if I was not all knowing
That I would be loved even when I numb myself
That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
That I would be loved even when I was fuming
That I would be good even if I was clingy
That I would be good even if I lost sanity
That I would be good
Whether with or without you
Songwriters: Alanis Nadine Morissette / Glen Ballard

My Brother Called Me Sis

This post doesn’t have a lot to do with the title.  Eventually, I will write about the recent loss (death) of my big brother, John.  I may not grieve as others do, but usually it gets expressed somehow through creativity, either the lack of it, the complete stoppage of it, or the manic pouring out of it.  Writing is one of those expressions.  If you think that what I do is ‘unhealthy’, then I suggest that you forego these practices when you are grieving.  I haven’t judged the grief of others and I expect that the people who care about me will do the same for me.  I’m sorry if there is any aspect at all of my grief that is off-putting or frustrating for you.  I can only tell you that your discomfort with me or what I do, in no way equals the discomfort that I am experiencing presently.  Maybe I should write about things in a paper journal where it doesn’t make anyone embarrassed or uncomfortable.  Maybe I could burn the words or hide them at least.

I went to a restorative Yoga class last night.  I can’t believe what an hour was spent with myself, my beautiful daughter practicing next to me on her mat.  But once I got out and into the parking lot, I couldn’t stop crying.  I think that all we can hope for in grief is for some release now and again…some relief.

Today, I feel angry.

Today, I went to the studio.  I set up a comfortable place for Max.  I prepared my birch panels.  The Gesso will cure for 24 hours.  I messed around with some other stuff out there.  I sorted through my music.  I nested.

(just a sec…Max barking! door bell ringing! thump thump up the stairs)

Okay…so, how can I be angry?  This just happened!

Does my sister know me?  Mama bird??  Is that not the sweetest mug that you’ll ever see?  I am consumed with birds!  Thank you, Valerie Jean!  Thank you, Jean Pierre, Louis and Eliane!  I love you.  Any of my readers consumed by grief, please read the brilliant book by Kyo Maclear, Birds, Art, Life.

And, yes, about thirty minutes have passed since I wrote the words, “Today, I feel angry.”  And…again, I cried my face off.  How can I feel sad with so much love surrounding me?  How can I get angry?  It’s just the way it is and I accept it.

From the outset of this post, I wanted to write about parking.  It seems just one of those frustrating things that comes up now and then.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve had many hours spent at various medical buildings throughout the City of Calgary and over a very long period of time.  I’ll never forget the time that I couldn’t find parking at the Foothills Hospital on one visit, not in Lot 3, anyway.  I had an appointment.  I was already late when I decided to abandon my drive around and around and around practice and drove to the complete north end of the building.  To negotiate my way back to the Special Services building, I passed many couples where one partner was using a walker, or a person was in a wheel chair being pushed by a loved one, and even passed an obviously distressed person, a person feeling just like I was.  And on that day, I was in no position that I could assist or help and I flew by these people, ending up 45 minutes late for an appointment I felt I desperately needed at the time.

There are families who arrive at hospital late at night in order to meet up with a loved one who has arrived by ambulance.  There are Chemotherapy, Dialysis and other out patients who must endure repetitive and taxing appointments in various buildings around our city.  There are young fathers, racing to be with their partner for the birth of a child. There are the caregivers and loved ones of people who have been, gratefully/desperately/ horribly sadly, admitted into Hospice care.

I’m writing this post while I’m angry because I think a discussion needs to be opened up about paid parking in some of these situations.  Most incredibly current for me is the fact that I was issued a 65.00 parking ticket by Indigo, a private agency, likely hired by Intercare Chinook Care Centre in order to provide a ‘fair’ public parking solution for the families of residents and for the hard working employees.

I missed the ten day window for paying this ticket, given that I was planning a funeral and dealing with other matters and so just the night before last, I paid my ticket with the penalty, a total of 85.00.

Apart from the Hospice parking, there is an option to walk blocks away to street parking, that is also monitored for its two hour limit.  Anyone opting to use this street parking, would have to return to their location every two hours in order to move their car.

So, it was Holy Saturday afternoon, April the 20th.  I put my regular six dollars in for three hours of parking.  That parking would take me to 12:56 in the afternoon.  When I returned to my car at 2:28, my violation notice was waiting for me, tucked under my windshield wiper.  There were four other cars in the lot.  I stood in the parking lot and wept.  I was thinking to myself, “It’s Holy Week…it’s Easter weekend.  Everyone is home with their families today.  I am here with my nephew and my dying brother.”  It was at 3:00 am on April 21, that my brother died.

IMG_0870

I’ve archived here, ‘some’ of the parking receipts spewed out from the lot machine over the time that my brother suffered.  Is it a bit of a thorn in my side?  YES!  Do I have suggestions or solutions?  No!  But, I truly believe that this is a matter that must be discussed for solutions.

IMG_0869

I’ve turned my seething frothing anger about losing my brother toward this matter.  It seems ‘small’ of me.  Oh well. The efforts made by the Chinook Hospice staff and management on behalf of our family was of the highest caliber.  If ever I have opportunity to evaluate the program and their treatment, I will assign the venue the  highest accolades.  However, if given the opportunity to discuss parking, I will vehemently respond with the fact that there is a need for analysis and change.

At a time like this, it just makes me wonder what has happened with our world/society that we have perhaps lost compassion along with progress and maybe we traded in kindness for economic growth.

 

Gramma Reads With Royalty!

I didn’t wake until 10!! What??? The dreams that I had in the wee hours of morning were, again, of brother, but they were earlier dreams, back three months in the weeks at hospital, so less traumatic than recent dreams. That’s good, isn’t it? I poured out of bed and clicked my heels together! I had slept!! WHOOP! Whoop! But, QUICK! QUICK! This was the day that Gramma and Steven and Steven’s Mommy and Daddy were heading for the Seton Public Library, eager to enjoy the program, “Reading With Royalty”! The program would begin at eleven and there was still Max to get out and coffee to be had!

Program Description:

Reading With Royalty

Celebrate inclusion and diversity with our new glamorous family-friendly storytime program, led by local drag queen and king performers. Supported by ATB Financial.

Audience: All Ages – Ages up to 5

Gramma was picked up on a morning that felt oppressive, wet, chilly and grey! But how to turn a frown upside down? I was so happy to see my family and especially pleased to be sitting in the back seat with Steven who was nestled under his fuzzy blanket and constantly taking in his world through the windows, through the mirror and through the eyes of his Gramma. Together, we were about to be captivated by the magic of Seton.

Upon entry, the first piece of wonder was found in the huge YMCA swimming pool. What an amazing facility. Steven was in awe!

Gramma was captivated by the sculptural elements and a sense of flight throughout the facility! While I didn’t capture very strong images because of the back light and my lack of knowledge about the camera, I recommend to my readers that they take their own field trip to the venue and enjoy. Bird lovers, be surprised and fall in love with the themes.  Christopher Collins was the talented sculptor who created the birds.  I hope you will enjoy his imagery as they are so much more specific.

As we entered the Seton Public Library, we took in the aesthetic and the excitement first, but quickly discovered the helicopter!  The helicoptor carried on with the theme of flight, as did the suspended pinwheels.  What a glorious space and what a magical investigation for children who find these amazing flying machines in stories that they read!

It wasn’t long and we began to gather for the special event, “Reading With Royalty”.  There was excitement in the air!  The Seton Public Library offers graduated seating in amphitheater style for gatherings such as this one.

Not new to the Calgary Public Library children’s programming and Rhyme Time, our family nestled into a spot sandwiched between other grandmothers and their grandchildren and people who never miss Rhyme Time with their children.  Some were talking about the Fish Creek location…others, the Quarry Park location.  If you haven’t attended one of these programs, this Grandmother highly recommends! 

Today the MC was Tara and she did an amazing job!  My daughter and I were both moved by the land acknowledgement that was done, in such a way that children might understand.  We were prompted by verse to touch the land…as the acknowledgement was given and it was very special.  Tara then balanced the program of stories read by local Drag Performers and verses that were sung and acted out by the children.  This way the children were better able to pay attention to the two stories that were presented enthusiastically by L J Nailz and Oiliver Twirl.

Sending a link, here, to the kid’s book list that honours themes of inclusivity, creativity, acceptance and pride through the program, Reading With Royalty.

Oliver Twirl: drag performer and enthusiastic reader of the book, The Princess and the Pony

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is a story that naturally breaks down assumptions.  It explores that sometimes warriors just need cozy sweaters.  There were laughs that came up throughout the reading of this book, especially with the use of the word, ‘fart’.  What is toughness, anyway?  What does it mean to be a warrior?

Tara, MC on behalf of the Seton Public Library

L J Nailz reads Quit Calling Me Monster

 Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John and illustrated by Bob Shea supports children in their identities and their unique personalities.  It presses up against the act of labeling or naming.  It encourages ‘excellent manners’.

Steven is blessed to have this woman as his Mommy.

During the conclusion of the program, the performers were asked about their favourite music and what things they enjoy doing.  Oliver Twirl shared the fun of playing around with both masculine and feminine clothing.  Their favourite music included bubbly theater pieces and punk rock.  

To end, three large Dress Up trunks were brought out and children spent the next part of the morning playing dress up and pretending.  It was a great deal of fun although Steven, at his age, was just eager to do the stairs and to make his way back to the front seat of that helicopter!

Steven is blessed to have this guy as his Dad!

I am always impressed by the variety and the quality of programs offered by our Calgary Public Libraries.  It is with gratitude that we left today’s experience at Seton, feeling a part of a wonderful and diverse community here in Calgary.  Thank you so much to those who organized the program, booked the story book readers, pulled together the resources and covered these topics with finesse.  A very wonderful experience was had at Reading With Royalty!

Now, Gramma needs a nap!

Gramma Goes to the Lake

I’m skirting around the subject for now. I sit at my brand new computer, feeling like I’m recreating everything. In my vulnerability, I’m going forward, after a long period of sitting in what felt like dampness.

I had booked myself in to be with Steven that week. My body felt nothing but exhaustion, but when I had the chance to hold him in my arms and then watch him, giddy, ‘running running running’, I felt as though I had levitated somewhat into another world, some place above. The mire of wet mud that had been pulling my legs downward, suddenly let go and I was connected to other aspects of life and living. Most importantly, I was connected with my grandson, a personality who has more than once, shared with me the powerful innate sense of ‘being’, fully being, apart from everything but the sensory core of wonder. In a strange way, this is the exact same wonder I had been present to with my brother.

After breakfast and teeth-brushing, we loaded up the stroller with the big yellow truck and headed out on our adventure. It was with an openness to the world that we examined a pile of old leaves pressed up against the protection of a stair well, felt sand under our feet, threw sand into the water (stoop, back over head, release, stoop, back over head, release, a rhythm again and again…a series of new mechanical actions, each time followed with a laugh) and made observations of geese. While Steven wasn’t aware, Gramma was also silently moaning that she didn’t bring her Canon, as a male loon drifted by on the silky smooth lake water.

My own drifting movement through the muted spring background kept me present, concerned and in keen observation. “These are important times,” I thought to myself. “This grandson of yours is learning and practicing and discovering all of these moments and making new connections. You had better not miss out on any of it.” Morning was a gift.

This morning is a gift. I will be brave today.

What is Essential

… is invisible to the eye. Both scriptural and found in the eloquent pages written by Antoine de St. Exupery, these words resonate with me on this seeming ordinary April day.

As the world’s citizens gasped in horror while the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral fell to the ravages of fire, I not only grieved the loss/damage to such an iconic structure, but I immediately connected with my own memory and what the sense of place meant to me and my own family. I can not possibly know all of what Notre-Dame has meant over history, nor can I know the myriad of treasured moments shared there by other people just like me, from all over the world.

Instead, I think of my own three children and my, at-the-time, soon-to-be son-in-law. I think of the utter joy at the early morning surprise of a plane ticket from London to Paris, a subway ride into the core from the airpoirt and the magical events that unfolded, all of them shared as family.

Over the past ten years, if one runs just a few searches on the internet, one will find out how many of civilization’s greatest monuments have fallen, destroyed in natural catastrophes or through the mindless and hateful ravages of war. The destruction of the most cherished landmarks in human history shatters us, somehow, to the core. These are places captured in the minds and imaginations of all of us, places written about and found in movies, settings that we assume will always remain stable and present in those same imaginations.

I think we need to think about the fragility/the ephemera of our lives and our planet. This morning, again, I reflect upon what is essential. I’m hoping that through the damage done to such a seemingly permanent icon as Notre-Dame Cathedral, our human family might combine their efforts in creating a better world. Let us take pause and go into this day, empowered to make a difference.

Gramma Searches for Wood Ducks!

Yesterday morning, there was a nip in the air and by the time afternoon arrived beautiful large snowflakes were dropping from a springtime sky. To look at them was somewhat mesmerizing as they drifted so slowly to the wet ground.

9:30 saw my Grandson and me heading north to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Gramma was going in search of Wood Ducks…a lifer in her long bird wish list.

The Bird Sanctuary is yet one more jewel in this city that I treasure so much. I want to, over the years, share at least once, each of these places that I’ve grown to love.

With his little bowl of rice chex in tow and his toy car, Uncle, in his drink cup, off we headed, arriving slightly before opening. We let ourselves in through the side gate and having agreed to walk and not use a stroller,  we were off. My grandson was looking for Wode Guks and I was looking for Wood Ducks, but of no surprise, the Canada Geese became the main event with their flirting and honking, landings and take offs and other shenanigans. We even experienced the close-up hissing and big tongue of one dude along the way.

Wofe! Wofe! Sceery!

Sculture!

Walk. Train. Sky. Walk.

 

He carried that piece of wood along for most of the first half of the walk. I was mindful…continually scanning for predatory birds and canines, even skunks, porcupines and such. This was a very busy field trip for Gramma!

Bidge.

Bidge

Dutt


Goose

Bidge (I love this photograph, by the way)

Wode Guk! (please click on photos to enjoy larger images) Lifers, for me!

Wok. Wok. Goose.

Can you believe this kid?

Other birds… Redtail Hawk, Mergansers, Goldeneyes

Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck

Warming up in the center… In in in!

Another beautiful experience, shared with my remarkable, funny, interested, cheerful, resilient boy!

Gramma Visits the Pet Store

There are little opportunities for magic in an ordinary day.  Never take for granted a simple trip to the store where you might select a ripe cold piece of watermelon, or a trip to a pet store where you might pick up your own pet cat a four-dollar toy.  There are amazing things that happen in the blink of an eye!

Today, my grandson, shouted out (well, in his sweet voice) “Cement Truck!” and “Excavator!” when other children could only look on to a construction site, in awe…their hands lined up against the fence and their eyes, bugging out of their heads.

Today, my grandson learned Spruce Tree, Poplar Tree and Pine Tree.  He also learned that it’s much more fun throwing pine cones than heaping them up into piles.

Today, my grandson learned that it’s easier for Gramma to go down one of those super wide slides than one of those twirly ones…

It was when I heard my grandson talking to his Mommy about his trips to the zoo…saying Hippo and Maquaq and Panda and bamboo and cougar and YiYON! and Penguin and more…I thought to take him to a pet store.  This kid is amazing!

“Man man man man!”

“Awe!  Awe!  Awe!  Bunny!”

Not sure, at all, about ferrets!  Hmmmm….even baby ferrets!  They are just so busy…crawling under their blankies, hanging sideways, moving their food.  “Oh, they’re not so bad”, this enthusiastic gentleman tried to point out!  (Still not convinced)

What about that kitty over there, Gramma??  “Never mind,” this fella meowed!  “What’s wrong with me??”

“Kitty!  Kitty!  MEOW!”

Awe!!!  AWE!!!  AWE!!!  Bunny-washing!

This is the point where the Grandson started eyeing the hamster homes on the aisle…true attractions of the pet store visit!

“Hamster!”

“Amster!  Amster. RUN RUN RUN!”

Awe!

Birdie.

“Guinea Pig!”

“Piggy!  Piggy!”

EEEEE! EEEEE!

One last….AWEEEE!

Gramma Builds a Puppet Theater

It came to me like a dream…a waking dream. For weeks I had, during daytime hours, pondered what to do for my grandson for Christmas morning 2019. For some reason, I thought that this decision would lay down the tracks for every other decision I would make on his behalf for his entire lifetime. (Crazy, I know.) I don’t take my place as Gramma lightly, exemplified in my willingness to put myself out there as a bumble bee.  Isn’t my grandson handsome?

My mother had such a talent for sewing that for every Christmas and birthday, there were sure to be homemade gifts arrive in the mail or delivered, personally. They were tagged and finished beautifully, “To my Grand Daughter, with Love!” I follow in impressive footsteps. 

So, it was on a morning in October, that a waking dream came to me. I sleep in the deepest darkest lowest level of the house and it’s pretty cold at times. I was curled in snug under the covers, when ‘it’ came to me in half-sleep. “I could build my grandson a puppet theater!” I imagined him as he is now, watching his Mommy and Daddy being funny and laughing behind the stage…and then, with little friends, growing up…and then making hilarious fun as an upper elementary student…and then, possibly, with his life marked by all sorts of little stories that Mommy made up…and stories that he performed for evening entertainment, he might even take the puppet theater with him, after a long and probably painful storage dilemma between his Mom and Dad and him. Yes, I conjured all of this up in the rumblings of a dark morning in October.

When I woke and got up that morning, shuffling to the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee, I said aloud, “Gramma is going to make a puppet theater!”

It began with a plan.  I scoured Amazon, Ebay, Kijiji and puppet companies the world over.  Finally, I came up with a plan that I wanted to work with, a little homemade theater that I spotted on Kijiji.  If I had an interest in driving to the city of Lacombe to pick this one up for 100.00, it would have been easily revised.

But, nah…I would create something amazing, at least I would be the one with the vision!  In terms of tools, I just don’t have what it takes.  I needed to track down Santa’s helper, and quick!

After my communications with a high school shop teacher came up empty, I went to my go-to guy, Len, a neighbour who helps me with all sorts of odd jobs when I don’t have the tools necessary.  He works independently and I like to support him in his various efforts.

I took in account Steven’s height and the fact that I wanted at least one little friend to be able to participate with him during his childhood productions and so I drew up this plan.  Now, this wee sheet that was sketched out in my day timer was not so simple as it might appear!  Lots of thought went into this, so please, readers, don’t think that this came fleetingly!

Within a week or so…Len came up with some ideas of his own.  I talked to him about a concept of design that would align itself with Steven’s birthing songs and art…something to do with ‘Under the Sea’ or ‘An Octopus’s Garden’.  Insert music here.

I was pretty darned happy when Len and James brought the puppet theater off the truck and into the studio, even though the weight of this beast certainly didn’t mean that I would be moving it around a lot.  It would have to find itself a space and it was at this stage that I first became concerned that it might never really find its way into a forever-home.

Safe in my studio, I was able to begin measuring and planning for curtains, backdrops and decoration.  I began by applying two coats of primer.

In the evenings, I was bopping in and out of shops, planning and scheming a system that would work for the draperies.  I wanted them to mimic the velvet curtains I imagined in the grand theaters.  In the end, the installation of curtains ended up being so darned challenging.  This lady became one of my friends on this mission…taking several different exchanges as I would return rods…experiment…ask for help.

In the end I settled on these velour panels…and now, to seek out someone who might hem them up for me.

I won’t go into details (is this a detail?)…but, at one point, these small bits of hardware were purchased as a bit of an experiment.  I feature them here simply because the man who helped me in this department of the big box store, Home Depot, was such an angel and was seriously the greatest guy to talk to.  He was so excited about my ‘Gramma Builds a Puppet Theater’ project, that my problem-solving ended up being a huge conversation.  I just really treasure people like him and only regret that I didn’t ask his name.

I solicited a lovely high school student, Emmanuella, to sew the draperies, under the supervision of her Fashions teacher, Fierina.  Emmanuella has excelled in this area and advanced beyond all of the projects assigned.  It was a great idea for the both of us and I really enjoyed getting to know such a conscientious and beautiful person.

Rooting through my basement storage cupboard, I located some old tins of house paint and selected a colour that would help me achieve my underwater theme.

While pursuing the painting and project, I began to search out puppets.  Late into my evenings, I would explore on-line sites and finally decided to write a story about an Eagle Walk.  Ikea is the only store to have an eagle puppet, and ironically enough, I never did get myself to the store to purchase the puppet.  One day, perhaps. The eagle, therefore, was represented by a sound effect…very very cool!

Basically, I ended up purchasing puppets that I fell in love with, after exploring so many toy shops in town.  For the sake of this post, I have spared you archives for several locations.  It was actually Scholastic, on Macleod, where I tracked down chicken and monkey in a barrel, both two of my favourites.

I found a perfect stuffie border collie at the Goodwill store and at home, washed and dried it, gutted it, inserted a glove and created our Maxman character.  Thanks, James, for exploring so many stores with me, looking for the perfect puppet collection.

I began to decorate the puppet theater, first locating a dry erase board for puppet show announcements, at the Dollarama…hmmm…or did it end up being Staples? While at the dollar store, I picked up some rolls of ribbon, thinking I could create a celebratory effect by placing some of that here and there.  I am really NO DECORATOR!  Let’s face it, the greatest problem of them all was the curtain.  It was getting close to the wire, by this point, and while really wanting to pain scene backdrops for the theater, I let go of that project, thinking that this would be an idea for later gifts.

I painted a few bits onto the outside panels and opted to leave the front of the theater plane.  Embellishments definitely made a difference!

I think it was only a short time before the actual performance when I solicited the help of friends, Angela and Nigel, to create puppet figures for Doug, Erin, Gramma and Steven.  They came to our Christmas feast, with felt puppet figures in tow…and while Christmas went remarkably long due to an unforeseen crash by young Steven and a trip to the hospital so that his forehead might be taped back together…THE SHOW DID GO ON!  But…I get ‘A HEAD’ of myself here.

The puppet theater, at completion…

It was at the pre-function on Christmas day that the screenplay came to be created in a very collaborative way and with many laughs…all directed by our writer/editor in residence, my sister-friend, Karen.  The traditional big feast happened and then, interspersed with the drive to hospital and back, the $10 gift steal that happened incorrectly this year (and did I listen to the five people who tried to tell me?….next time, don’t be so polite), under my direction, the puppet show was set, complete with eagle sound effects provided by Tyler (mind you…the timing might have been a little off) and narration delivered, confidently, by Shawn (you are such a good sport!).

A small capture of that…

Sending love to all who helped this dream happen…

Somewhere out there, there is a video from this debut, but I don’t know where it is or if I have permission to share.  I just am grateful for Christmas magic.