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!

I Am Still a Mother

This post is dedicated to my mother…often misunderstood…whose opinions sometimes went unaccepted (by me)…but pretty much, my best friend ever. I’m remembering all of those times when I thought I didn’t do things as well as she did…and THAT, tonight, seems like foolishness. I love you, Mom, and I get you now.

At the age of 63, sometimes it’s easy for other people to forget that I am still a mother. All of those feelings I had when my children were just little babies…the insecurities, the fears, the awe and the weariness, the love and celebration…those feelings, I supposed, would just, one day, go away. But, they haven’t. They prickle on the surface of everything that remains…of me.

I saw my three children through their toddler and day-care years, all the while, dealing with the enormities of my own life and career(s). Did I ever have a good reason not to polish their little shoes white? Did I stop, for a moment, being a mother? At night, for all those years, there was my best-ever enthusiastic-reader-voice during every last-of-the-day book. There were the trips to the Emergency Room. There were goofy costumes. There were snowmen. Did I ever stop seeing them through countless agonizing nights of stomach flu or horrendous congestive explosions? All three? No.

Even when they were big Junior High sort-of-kids? No. Did I feel an intense responsibility to check their eyesight? get their teeth cleaned? attend to their vaccinations? Provide clothing around the seasons? Well, of course I did. Were they sometimes asleep when they should have been awake? Awake when they should have been asleep? YES!

I wondered if my night sweats would go away when my children were in High School. No. Was there some way I could possibly figure out how to get each of them on that tour? Was there a way that I could give my children everything that other children had? “I can do this”, I said to myself. Oh. But, then I started to notice the pulling-away…I started, then, to feel a nudge of what would be, according to the laws of everything in the universe, the separation. Would these laws of nature and life mean that I would stop being a mother?

No.

Surely, I could be a little less vigilant when they were accepted into University. No. The drives home…all hours. The push. The pull. That rage against the night. That anger that shrouded every single inkling of fear…that excruciating not-knowing-most-of-the-time-anguish. That incredible fear. A thing of invention? Perhaps. “I can do this,” I thought. I could manage my way through this utterly new and amazing puzzle…this huge labyrinth called life (of that time). Right? My children still valued me. They needed me, right?

What if there were miles that separated us? Rome? Nice? Spain? London? Was there a place on the planet that would take my child so far away that I would stop being a mother?

I wondered, with every new rite of passage, would I be absolved from motherhood when finally, I witnessed one child walk down the aisle? She was out of my arms and into the arms of someone who would love, cherish and create…a new life…a separate life… Was that the moment?

When something shattered in my child’s day, I was shattered. Every time I witnessed the tears of my son or daughter, I cried with them. When they laughed…when they experienced a success…when they were contented…I felt them and every part of them within me. As I sit here writing tonight, I remember their special outfits and Christmas concerts, the drumming strumming, flag-tossing explorations….I remember the music.

At one time, I thought that their growing was somehow connected to what I was doing and the choices I was making. But, no…they were growing despite me…despite my advice…my good intentions…or even my prayers.

They were making their choices and making their way and I have to shrug it all off some nights. I have to pinch myself with gratitude that I did what I could, to protect them. I have to let go with a sigh. I ponder about the present tense. At this time of my life, I still want to be valued. I want to move on through the years that remain, knowing that I still have something to contribute. Tonight I am wondering, ‘What did it all mean?’ And, ‘Who am I now?’

You say something and I roll my eyes, laughing.

I say something and you roll your eyes.

It’s the story of every generation before us…and will be…every generation after us. I am still a mother.

Nesting

The past three days, we have been pulled out of the deep freeze and into a melt.  I can not walk through the tall woods at the river, without hearing the constant mating thrums of Northern Flickers and without seeing the wild flurry as males, out of urge and instinct, chase the females, dodging in and out of branches. I can hear the echoing drum of the Pileated Woodpecker on the opposite side of the river and thrill to see my Alberta Birders’ archives of the splendid colour, later, on my computer at home.  It is as though everything has come to life, suddenly.  For so long, the world slept.

It all began with the Magpies.  My neighbourhood, even as snow mounted on our quiet circle, was abuzz with the squawking gathering of dead branches that were tightly woven into the growing bulb of nests, peppering the remaining Elms.

Evenings, I stood in contemplation while the adult Bald Eagles, flew west and east and west and east, gathering up lining materials and tall grasses, returning again and again to the nest that was clearly visible all winter long.  The juveniles have mostly disappeared, leaving the two regal raptors to forge out a life for the new.  It has been an intimate and powerful encounter to watch these families throughout such a harsh winter.

While these aren’t the best of shots, I have a wee archive of the interesting approach to gathering.  I can only imagine living in one of the ‘big’ houses along the ridge and having access, every day, to such wonder, just outside my windows.

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I celebrate, every day, the access I have to such wonder.  I really can only equate it all to an experience of grace.  My friend, Michael, is someone who knows and understands what I mean by that.  A person just wants to sing, at the top of their lungs…”HOLY!  HOLY!”

Whether one enjoys the nesting behaviours of an eagle, or the simplicity of sparrows that nest in a stove vent…it is all so amazing.

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Mr. & Mrs. 2018

As my children have become adults, I have experienced a sense of loss.  Some days my heart feels empty.  But, then I step out into nature and I observe what surrounds and once again, my heart sings.  I am reminded that God made all of this for me.  I am reminded that I need to take responsibility for such astounding beauty.  Sometimes it can all be very brutal, but at other times, it is pure fragility and tenderness.

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Fiddler’s Green
One, two, three, four, one, two
September seventeen
For a girl I know it’s Mother’s Day
Her son has gone alee
And that’s where he will stay
Wind on the weathervane
Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean
As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green
His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked too good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves a boy through Fiddler’s Green
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh nothing’s changed anyway
Oh anytime today
He doesn’t know a soul
There’s nowhere that he’s really been
But he won’t travel long alone
No, not in Fiddler’s Green
Balloons all filled with rain
As children’s eyes turn sleepy-mean
And Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain
For a boy in Fiddler’s Green

Digging Through Archives

My daughter (now, a teacher) and I were sitting together while she was still cozy in her kitty jammies this morning…me, at the dining table, she, on the stairs…she was telling me about a very inspiring Convention session that she attended on Thursday of this past week.  It turns out that the presenter was Ron Wigglesworth.  As soon as I started exploring his posts on the internet, I realized how his contributions to education and to students has been exceptional.  Anyone who has encouraged a connection between drawing and biology is great in my eyes…in fact, I’d have to say that he has done a lot of connecting between diverse disciplines.

I got thinking about archives of various projects and things that my students have explored in the past and I just thought I’d write a post that featured those.  I had fun teaching and in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that I saw the students’ hands, hearts and minds as extensions of my own.  I’m grateful for their hard work, their talents and their commitment.  For me, it was never about the marks.  A sampling…digital…there’s a load of stuff in my photo albums.  And, today, I’m celebrating it all.

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Cleaning Up the Desk Top Computer

I think I was looking for my photograph archives from a trip I took with my son, the summer of 2009, when I came upon some images from the end of the teaching year and celebrations with my students; specifically, my grade nine art students, our life sized sculpture exhibit and my grade seven home room.

It was that year that I invited my students to bring in a special object for our prayer table…so, every Monday, it would be the next person’s turn.  It started with me…and a stone. Jarrett Alley, a former student of mine, had passed away in 1997 at the age of 13. His place in the classroom was two rows back, but directly across from the framed article that remained, for all of my teaching years, a tribute to his life.

I think I always intended to copy and pass on a photo to each student at the end of that year, but evidently that never happened!

I’m going to loop the photographs here.  My students, of over thirty years of teaching, remain in my heart.

For the most part, I am out of touch with these students, so if my readers know any of them, please share.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Spoiler Alert, I suppose, especially if you read the review link below.

Room

This is a single-night (maybe you can stretch it to two nights) read.  I haven’t seen the movie, but thought that I would read this, for the purpose of sharing a teachers’ book club night.  Now, it turns out that the evening set aside for the book club recently, was already booked on my calendar.  Such are the busy lives that we all carefully negotiate. I thought I’d jot a few notes on my thoughts on the book.

It takes about four pages to get a sense of ‘the voice’ of the book.  Intimate conversation is shared by the protagonists, Jack and Ma, victims of the violent and isolating experience of being held captive in a room.  Jack has been born into this captivity, as a result of the horrible and redundant rape of his mother, at the hands of her kidnapper.  One would think, by this description, that the book would be an extremely sad piece of work, but what I found intriguing were the many sorts of activities and pretend games that the mother created for her son and how they, indeed, survived this bleak situation.

I felt empathy for Ma throughout.  Given even ideal circumstances, I know that I ache for my own children when they confront conflict or struggle, so I can’t imagine the obstacles that would be mine emotionally in such a crisis.  The reader sees the internal struggle of both mother and son, and also sees their vulnerability, but at the same time, can not help but experience amazement at their strength of character and gut.

I raise up a prayer for all of those victims of traumatic experiences such as this one. I pray for ‘the missing’ and for those family members who know this story intimately.

I recommend this one, but don’t know that I will go out to see the movie.  This might be a ‘wait until Netflix’ title.

A Thorough Review

 

May 8, 2015

…my 60th birthday!

Whoot!  It was a wonderful day!  And, yes, I taught the full day.  But then I had the pleasure of sharing a late afternoon walk with my daughter, Erin and pooch, Max. We did our bird, coyote and muskrat watching and enjoyed the warmth.  The afternoon with my students, was spent needle felting with Leah C. Donald, visionary for Art Felt Studio.  With our previous experience painting spring flowers, this was an amazing extension and a great opportunity to create a more-than-special Mother’s Day gift.  I enjoyed connecting with Leah and learning that one of her favourite spots is the Custom Woolen Mill near Carstairs, Alberta.  I told her that I had grown up with the smell of raw wool and we gave each other a big hug.  Thanks to my gang of grade three friends who made the arrangement for this magical activity!

Some people might be fearful of age, aging and the changes that passing years bring.  For me, being 60 means a freedom to be and I stand firm in my gratitude for that.

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Cell May 8, 2015 Franks, Needle Felting, Birthday 009

A Family That Lays Down Track is a Happy Family

DSC_2734I’m feeling elated.  A 6:30 a.m. drive, delivering my son to work…sleepy-head chatting…setting the digital clock in the car…making observations of Deerfoot Trail at this time of day.  A nice way to experience daylight savings time!  Max and I stopped on the way home and stepped into the center of a huge field of crispy dry grass.  As he bounded to and fro, I had time with the sky, the stars, bright studs in the darkness, revealing themselves more clearly, the longer I was present.  I am so graced by morning.

Seated in the sixth row pew each Sunday, I have the chance to connect with my friend, Johanne. I seem to have a little home in that row, having always shared it with people like Carol and Adam and for years, Johanne, when she travels from Sudbury to make time for her Calgary children. Another beautiful homily was delivered by Father Cristino-Bouvette at Mass and such grace received in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

So many reasons today, to feel grateful…

I think that some of the joy I feel today is a result of the evening spent with my children.  Family dinner was changed to Saturday and my daughter and her husband hosted.  On the menu, a wonderful Jamie Oliver light caesar salad minus the anchovies.  It is an excellent recipe!  Try it!!  We then put together our own home made pizzas on Cobs pizza bases.  Topped with a lovely sauce, mozzarella cheese, mushroom, roasted bell peppers and artichoke, these were amazing.  Yummers!

We followed good eats with a game of Ticket to Ride and all seemed well with the world!  I knew I was returning home to a nice smelling dog, given the earlier Saturday afternoon shampooing at the Car-Dog Wash.  A weekend doesn’t get much better than this!

 

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May 8, 2014

I’ve looked forward to every birthday…feeling so blessed for every year, even when those years weren’t so easy.  I am just so filled with gratitude for the mix of experiences.  God has woven his heart in and out of mine and I have never felt alone.  Yesterday was a beautiful day.  The sunshine was lighting up a brilliant blue sky.  I got up early to a birthday phone call from my friend Bob on the west coast and then many messages of love throughout the day.  Happy birthday…sung with my Dad on morning Skype…and later, Bonne Fete sung by my Fiset family in Ottawa over the phone.

Breakfast was shared with Kate at Cora’s…always eggs benedict, coffee and great conversation.

P1160470 P1160472My first crocus of spring on the ridge above the city…exercise, deep breath, time with my pooch.

P1160474 P1160477 P1160478 P1160485New old E.O Brody Co. Cleveland OH short vase for $2.00 at the Women in Need shop.  I didn’t have this one.

BrodyConversation with a neighbour-friend about shrubs that grow well on the north side of houses.  A wander around a green house, after a long bitterly cold winter…enjoying the smells and sights of so much green!

Dragon Pearl dinner with my children and so grateful that everyone could make it.

Dragon PearlFloral arrangement brought over to my home by another neighbour…gift from Dad for my special day.  Conversation about flowers and flower beds as we stood out in the warm evening air.

P1160486Happy birthday cupcake delivered by my daughter as I read over Facebook birthday messages…again, we sang Happy Birthday!  May 8, 2014 was quite a day!

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British Home Children in Canada

Recently, it’s come to light that my great grandfather, John Moors, was among the thousands of British Home Children who were sent, by ship, to Canada to spend their childhood years working for others.  In our family’s case, John was the only son of five children and in August of 1889, he crossed the Atlantic on the Parisian, along with 71 other children and in his case, he was sent out from Stratford to work on a heavily wooded farm in the Arthur, Ontario area, near Guelph.  He was separated from his family for almost nine years.

This is further substantiated by my Grandfather’s narrative,

“My father was born in England. He was a tall, big man with pale blue eyes and shiny red hair. It wasn’t very often necessary for Father to physically discipline us. It seemed to me he just needed to look at you and his eyes looked right through you.

He was sent out from England when he was a boy of about nine years of age (the age of 13 is substantiated by records), the only boy in a family of five children. He went into the bush country of Ontario as a stable boy. He lived in Arthur, not far out of Guelph, Ontario. Now, when he went out there, there was a hardwood forest in that part of the country. He worked there, the only member of his family in North America – until his father came out to Canada eight years later. Father became a foreman in a lumber mill which was hard, rough work in those days. He met Mary Eleanor Haddow in Hamilton, Ontario and they married.”

John Moors 13Yesterday, I attended the Mountain View Art’s Festival in Didsbury and there, met several descendents of British Home Children and had opportunity to meet John Vallance, himself, a Home Child of Scottish decent.  He and I both ordered liver and onions in the small town cafe and it was awesome to sit and hear him share his story and his memories.

I have much to learn and read about and will now pursue more information about the status and placement of my great grandfather.  It was not unusual for detailed descriptions of the children to be recorded, in regards to their appearance and behaviours as they were carefully inspected before their placements, many coming out of orphanages, long before separated from their mothers, fathers and siblings.  Each child came to Canada with their standard wooden box filled with a specific list of belongings.  Often the children were photographed as a matter of record as well.  I am looking forward to learning more about this and encourage you to visit a number of sites related to this subject.  I warn you that most of these stories are heart wrenching.

It was a blessing that John was later joined by his family who immigrated to Canada, his father, John Moors, along with his wife, Grace and their daughters Second Class on the Dominion from Liverpool to Montreal in 1900.  I count our family among the fortunate ones, given this particular time in history.

John and Grace Moors 1865 to 1935 Canadian Passenger ListSt. Andrew Lambeth Poverty 1898

P1110705Thank you to Bruce Skilling, Alberta Director of the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association for his warm welcome and information.  It was good to meet Hazel who created the beautiful quilt in commemoration of the 2010 year of the British Home Child and nice to share a meal with Connie! I am also very grateful to Lori Oschefski who has been working tirelessly, creating a data base and opening up the conversation about the stories of thousands of broken families and lost souls.

Hazel's Work

Hazel’s Work

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2010: Year of the British Home Child

2010: Year of the British Home Child

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John Vallance: An honour to meet you.

John Vallance: An honour to meet you.

John Vallance represented on 2010 Commemorative Quilt

John Vallance represented on 2010 Commemorative Quilt

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