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!

 

Simple Gestures of Love

So many gestures have been made for me and my family the past while.  I don’t want to forget any of them.  As I set out on the journey of another day…the journey of an hour…I am taking pause for reflection.  I am saying, Thank You.

When everything slows down…becomes more simple…I notice more.  I see the love and the detail that goes into simple things and simple gestures of love; right down to the way a package is wrapped.

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Tribute to a Friend

I asked Wendy, about a month ago, if I might write about her on my blog.  She said, “Well, what is there to write about?  But, yes, sure. That would be fabulous.”  ‘Fabulous’ was something that Wendy said…about good food, beautiful places, and even about a wild flower found along a trail.  As I pour over the myriad of wildflower images that I snapped along our various walks and hikes over the years, I selected these two because today, they seem to mark my feelings best and capture the magic of what a true friend is. The first flower is a wild orchid. We were always so excited when we spotted a variety of orchid….typically hidden and not very showy…just remarkably beautiful and tucked away in some rich loam under a bush, usually in the shade.

Yesterday morning my sister-friend slipped out of this world and moved mysteriously into the next…and she did this without ever seeing my words written down.

I’ve decided to sit with thoughts of Wendy this morning, while the sun shines bright on the snow.  Somehow it feels warmer today.

I attended the concluding evening of a church mission that was hosted in our parish last evening, prayed for the peaceful repose of Wendy…for the journey that my brother is taking…for my family and dear friends.  The priest shared something interesting, once finishing up the Gospel reading about service…the one that’s read every Holy Thursday about Jesus bending down and washing his disciples’ feet… he said, serving one another does not always mean saying a whole lot…sometimes it means just sitting and being with the other.  So, this morning, I’m sitting with thoughts of Wendy and I’m not going to say a whole lot.

There will be a whole number of people who over the coming days and weeks, months and years, will talk about Wendy’s accomplishments because she was indeed, an accomplished woman, coach, teacher, political force to be reckoned with, orator, curriculum writer, baker, crocheter, wife, cadet…she was all of that and more, but this morning as I contemplate why the huge ache in my heart, I realize that it was the enduring presence that is Wendy, the friend, to me that I most celebrate.  So, I will not let this post be about anything but that, her love and wisdom and friendship.  What I wish to most strongly communicate is Wendy’s courage and fortitude and extreme vulnerability…those qualities that Wendy gave through her presence with me and with our group, affectionately named the Ya Ya sisterhood.

The other sisters; Val, Darlene, Carla and Cathy; had the blessed opportunity to work with Wendy some years before our first meeting.  It was Val who invited me to join in the regular gatherings with her circle of friends in order to enjoy food, drink, lively conversation and a hot tub now and then at Darlene’s.  I was a very vulnerable person at the time, digging deep in order to stay afloat, raising three children on my own, all the while trying to do a great job as a teacher. I am forever-grateful for the friendships that were established at the time and how they have continued to change my life for richness of experience, knowledge and love.

Our activities included regular hiking, gourmet dining hosted by Wendy and her husband Darren and wonderful daughter, Becca…basement movie gatherings and themed photo opportunities.  We consumed, voraciously, the times we had together, always rallying around the person(s) who was/were feeling most overwhelmed at the time, offered genuine support to one another, invaluable advice and resource-sharing.  Wendy gave me confidence.  She also had one heck of a sense of humour.  She was a straight-shooter and never muted a point.  Her determination and will was contagious.  We have, over the years, all benefited from her drive and her commitment.

Wendy had an ability to roll with the punches.  She lightly jested that she was much like a unicorn because her health matters that gradually grew to be insurmountable were uniquely challenging.  I admired how hard she pushed against every obstacle and I was inspired by the strength of her family and the love that the three of them shared.

On Monday, I sat watched Wendy enjoy a bowl of Thai Soup while I ate a Greek Salad in the Fanning Center cafeteria.  It was all so ordinary.  We said ordinary things with one another.  And, I’ve decided that this is what life is, a long string of ordinary moments.  It is right to enjoy each of those.  A cup of ice.  Saying hello to the other person in the elevator.  Advocating for support.  Leaning down for that embrace at “Good-bye”.  Laughing at the ritual of asking a complete stranger to take a photograph…

Late that night, my cell phone rang…I didn’t get it in time.  It was Wendy’s number on my phone.

I called back and Wendy didn’t pick up. I’ll always wonder what Wendy might have said.  More than anything, I will remember.

Oh what a treasure to have shared the mountain air with Wendy…fabulous food…nice drinks on a back deck, laughing and talking and looking up at the stars.  I will love you always, dear friend…and nothing will take these years from me.

It is 4:00 in the afternoon, on Valentine’s Day.  It has been a blessing to look over photographs and to think about all of the wonderful times we have enjoyed.  Good-bye, good and faithful servant.

These images are a small sampling and many moments are buried in my archives or sitting on some one else’s camera…but these offer the gist of a remarkable friendship.

Hikes:

Kath's Canon June 28, 2015 Flower Walk 073

 

 

 

Food…

 

Photo Booth

Jarrett

This morning, having my coffee, with my tree lights on and CKUA turned down low, so as not to wake up my son, I contemplate what to make for sandwiches.  It’s my day for lunches.  I have my son in my life.  It’s not always ideal.  He’d tell you that.  Sometimes we’re lonely even when we live in the same house.  Sometimes we collide like some beautiful ball of sparkling energy.  We had breakfast together this past weekend.  I liked that.  A Smitty’s breakfast reminded me of all of those special family breakfasts out…such a treat, so many years ago.

A short post.  I am just so grateful that James is in my life.  Every day is a blessing.  I know he doesn’t always feel that.  I know sometimes he feels judged or alone or criticized…sometimes he doesn’t feel free.  But, he is here.  We are both safe.  We both love one another.

Twenty-one years ago, I lost a student of mine.  And his mother lost her son.  And her sister lost her brother.  And his father lost his boy.  This past summer, another mother lost her son.  I have seen so many mothers lose their sons…since I had the privilege to be their teacher, at least in most cases.  I want to send out inspiration and love to all of those mothers who have lost their children.  The grief that you are going through can only be unimaginable.

Teaching is such a special profession.  It’s a life-giving, heart-zapping process, but it’s so very important.

In light of the season…and because I have a grandson in my life now…I will do everything in my power to appreciate my own boy and my grandson.  Jarrett…you remain, like so many years ago…the same to me.  You are a young boy.  You are athletic.  You are determined.  You are funny.  You have friends.  You never change.   You are in my heart.  Today, with your love and spirit, I send out strength for your family.  I love you, Jarrett.

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They Remain With Us Through Remembering.

This morning, at 11:00 on the 11th day of the 11th month…I will remember.  I am forever-grateful for the service of my family members…some of them acknowledged here.  I especially remember the 100th anniversary of the armistice and those who represented Canada in World War I, the Great War.  Click on the individual images in order to enlarge.
   

All Hallows’ Eve 2018

It’s off for a dog walk…a little after seven in the morning.  The streets are dark, although headlights pop on and off …vroom vroom… drive the cars for ‘another day at the office’.

I wanted to post some quick photographs.  I have several things to write about during the coming days, but it seems I have no time at all, until the weekend.  This photo collage will be a smattering of art resulting from the magic of children over the years.  I thought my teacher-friends might take the cue and mix up some paint today.  If not, enjoy making the day the sort of magic my mother and father always created for me when I was a little. Be safe out there.  I’ve got a grandson to enjoy.  He’s going to be a Bumble Bee this year!  BZZZZ!

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein

This was another one for the throne room…this does not mean that books in the bathroom are any less interesting than ones on my bedside table or ones next to the red couch, it just means that I choose a different genre and always something a little less cerebral than my preferred reading, fiction or non-fiction.

Another second-hand-book-find, What Elephants Know ended up next to my other books about elephants.  I liked that Jane Goodall wrote a quick recommendation.  “You will be fascinated, angered, and charmed in turn by this beautifully written story.”

Dr. Eric Dinerstein is the Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE and so I was very interested in the fact that he wrote a novel and I anticipated that the book would be written from a unique and knowledgeable perspective.

This was a lovely book that I’d recommend for students grade five to grade seven.  It was a quick read that left me thinking about the vulnerability of our wildlife and ecosystems.  The protagonist, Nandu, is a beautiful character who, through his young life, teaches about the numerous impacts made upon these, while exposing the reader to the vulnerability of humanity, as well.

I think this would be a wonderful book to read aloud to students.  It is refreshing to find a book that is culturally diverse and can open eyes and hearts to a different human experience.  Grade three students, in their study of India, may really benefit from this story.  Nandu’s relationships with his female elephant, Devi Kali and with the plants and other animals of the Borderlands are described beautifully.

This is a two evening (10 potty visits) read for an adult.  I recommend doing a quick review of the book before sharing with your students/children so that you know the sensitive topics that will come along.  Give it a go.

What Elephants Know

 

 

Of Song and Water by Joseph Coulson

I picked the book, Of Song and Water off a shelf at a second hand shop.  I loved the title.  That was my sole reason for choosing it.  Quickly running my fingers through the pages, I decided it would be placed in what my father used to call ‘the throne room’.  You got it?  Something about the size of the font.  And…it seemed like it wouldn’t be a need-to-think-deeply sort of book.

In the end, this turned out to be a remarkable story, a book where music could be experienced through the written word and where colour could be heard.

Hearing Colour

As happens with similar narratives, I was seduced by the intimate disclosures revealed on this family line.  Coleman’s life, love of music and connection with water were woven through memory and the life of his father, Dorian. Given my years living on the edge of Georgian Bay, I also found the setting of the Great Lakes to be nostalgic in its description.  I’ve not spent time in Chicago or Detroit, but I can imagine these places, based on movies, media and books.

This review is my favourite and expresses my sense of the book.

“Joseph Coulson’s second novel, Of Song and Water, concerns a jazz musician coming to endings: a career on the skids because of hands that can no longer make the chords he needs; a boat, falling apart and weighted with memories of his father, and of his father’s father before him (both men casting long shadows); a divorce; a former love he walked away from for his music; and a daughter preparing to leave for school.”

Throughout the writing, there is evidence of an intimate understanding of Jazz…and sections that describe Otis and others in performance, are rich with the detail and process of the genre.

I am very happy that I came upon this book, quite by accident.  It was a rich and generous piece of writing.  There were many surprising moments for me.  Again, I like the intimacy of language and I am a kook about description.  This wouldn’t be a book for everyone, but really appealed to my taste.

“Coulson moves fluidly between the past and the present, and the novel is ultimately quiet, affecting and redemptive.”

Of Song and Water

 

 

 

 

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Okay…so, I’ve been really bad about archiving my reading or even rating books on Goodreads, a habit I wanted to get into for some unknown reason.  In my 60s, I have no explanations for what I choose to do or how I prioritize.  I hope that I come to some clarity on that when I begin reading, along with my sister-friend Karen, The Spirituality of Age: A Seeker’s Guide to Growing Older by Robert L. Weber, Ph.D and Carol Orsborn, Ph.D.  There has to be SOME sort of explanation for my present state of mind and the strange rituals that guide my life right now.

I’m going to begin by reviewing my most recently-completed book…I qualify this because I had three going at the same time.  The Naturalist by Alissa York is still waiting on my bedside table…40 pages left to go on that one.

H is for Hawk is my most recent ‘favourite’ book.  I fall in love with a lot of books, but seriously, this one closely follows The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, as a book that will impact me for a very long time.  The reviews seem to be mostly-positive…but, this wasn’t my experience at my Calgary Public Library book discussion!

For reasons that I won’t go into, I left the book discussion group I attended for over a year at the Forest Lawn Library.  Quickly, I went in search of something else and found the group at the Fish Creek Library.  I already had the title on my book shelf, surrendered by my daughter when she put it down on the dining table and said, “This is just a strange book…you can read it if you want.”  So, I fired my way through H is for Hawk, completing it in five nights and two day-time sessions.  It was/is breathtaking

I really enjoyed the book discussion and I’m very happy with how that discussion was moderated as well as how respectful the conversation was.  Yeah!  Only two of us enjoyed the book, while the majority found it a real chore to read.

I realized, during my reading of the book, that the writer, at the loss of her father, lived a similar journey of grief to my own.  She was circling her pond, metaphorically-speaking, just as I was at the loss of my mother.  I have very-much entered into nature more deeply as a strategy of coping during these past five years.  Everything that Macdonald wrote about her experience resonated with me.  I found it refreshing to see someone so exacting about her response to the Goshawk, Mable…her relationship to/with the landscape…her withdrawal from human connection and her obsession with history, books and the hunt.  I found her book liberating.

Given the complexity of the book, I will read it again and likely, again…it would be very arrogant to think that I could contain its power in a simple post here.  I strongly recommend the book, although I wouldn’t recommend it to some of my besties as they know what sort of books I adore and they are not usually things that would appear on their own favourite book lists.  I don’t know.  Suffice it to say, that I found it to be delicious.  The author is a beautiful writer.

H is for Hawk

Creator: Camilla Cerea Information extracted from IPTC Photo Metadata

 

Quiet Like Watercolour

My son and I have been hanging out quite a bit.  Honestly, while there’s not a lot of talking, I am getting so that I just enjoy being still with him.  We sit across from one another at the feast table for our first coffee each day.  Not much gets said but “Good morning.”

Recently, a friend from my teaching world and my church family, lost her eight year old son, very suddenly.  He will be laid to rest this week.  Caleb gave the gift of his organs so that others might have life.  Everything about the situation seems impossible.  I hold Caleb’s family…his two brothers, sister and Mom and Dad very close to my heart. But, as a mother, I most deeply imagine (because one can not truly know) Caleb’s Mommy’s pain.  It is such a feeling of helplessness, no matter what way you look at it.  I am so sorry. In thinking about it, I’ve decided that the best I can do in my life is to honour the lives of those I love, most especially, my family.

I haven’t been much for hanging out in crowds the last long while.  I like the quiet that my son and I share.  I like walking with my daughters and my grandson at the river.  I like hanging with Max on the red couch.  I enjoy my daily conversation with my father via Skype.

Today, I nudged my son to drive out to the Leighton Center with me to see, on its final day, an exhibit by beautiful lady and watercolourist, Brittney Tough.  I met Brittney, gratefully, through my experiences painting down at the Rumble House.  She is one amazing artist!  This exhibit demonstrates her patience and her skill.

The drive to the Leighton Center is so calming; the countryside, so beautiful.  Presently, canola fields are ripened.  Hawks call out from above the landscape.  Mountains to the west are veiled in smoke.

The exhibits Threaded Through Paint and Bison, Bison, Bison were both stunning.  I really felt at ease and peaceful sharing this time with my boy.  Congratulations, Brittney! (Say ‘hi’ to Harley and Alistair) Your notebooks and explorations in colour are spectacular…your compositions, pure genius!

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