Love Your Family in Covid Times

A blessing that has come to me during these strange times is a weekly check-in with my siblings and Dad on Sunday, after I attend my ‘virtual’ Mass with Bishop McGratton.  10:00 am Comox Time, 11:00 Calgary Time, 1:00 Ottawa Time.  These conversations are always so pleasant and I feel so grateful.  While these are not ‘real time’ connections, they are more than we’ve chosen to do over the past many years, through our years of separation from one another.

Today was really fun, mostly because my brother Cliff was sorting his tackle box.  Cliff is a charter operator who has, of course, had business grind to a near halt…first because of last year’s catch and release policy, and this year, due to Covid.  It was fun to have him do a show and tell.  This week we also discussed paper barn owls, bamboo gardening, tomato gardening and reminisced about Mom and Dad’s property in Frankford, Ontario.

I love my family.  I miss them terribly.  But, we are making the best of things.  I hope that my readers will make sure to connect with family as much as is possible through these strange times.  Happy Sunday!

Pandemic Parades in Covid Times

My 65th birthday began as most days do, with time well-spent at the edge of the Bow River.  The vast numbers of Midges at the river meant that Swallows were feeding in droves of thousands, skimming the water over and over again.  The Bald Eagle adults were feeding new youngsters on the nest and this always creates lots of magic at the river.  While the day was turning out to be grey and a little chilly, I still felt that I was able to breath, relax and do a little reflecting about what my life is all about, what I value and what is important to me.

In the afternoon, on the advice of my middle daughter, I watched a couple of episodes of the The Great Canadian Baking Show.  I laugh as I think about this because the last thing I am is a baker.  It was relaxing and mindless television and that was okay.

Colourful gifts were appearing on my dining table.  Thank you, Kathy and Val!

I walked Max…

I captured a quick photograph of our new vent resident…

…before heading over to my daughter’s for a Dragon Pearl take out dinner.  The Dragon Pearl brings up so many memories for our family.  It’s been our favourite family restaurant since the children were in high chairs.  I miss and love all of the people who cook and serve at this beautiful little spot in Inglewood.

While any food in a take-out situation doesn’t taste exactly the same as if you are eating it in the restaurant, it was a generous and loving thing to sit down with one of three children and to eat such delicious food.  After all, my grandson was sitting at the end of the table, entertaining me with his enthusiasm about the cupcakes that were hiding over in the red pan.  I opened his card and he vibrated with excitement and loving smiles.

A little over halfway through the meal, he started pointing and saying, “Auntie Cayley” over and over again.  My son-in-law’s eyes started shifting side to side.  He was just acting weird.  So, finally, I looked over my shoulder to the front yard and saw Pigeon on the yard, pressing mounted balloons into the gardens. I saw her partner, Shawn, waving and signalling. I went to the door and was excited enough about the balloons and the company when all of a sudden cars began to file past, covered in hand made banners and decorations.  The participants bonked their horns enthusiastically!

Oh my gosh!  It was a stream of my friends in cars!  Let me tell my readers something.

On the television feel-good news stories and on social media, we’ve all seen friends and families and teachers creating parades for friends, family members and students.  It looks like a lot of fun.  It also warms your heart when you see it.  But, to have it happen in your own life is beyond exciting.  I broke out into an immediate ugly cry, sobbing uncontrollably. I felt such overwhelming love pour into my life.  It would have been perfect had my son been able to be there to enjoy it, but truthfully, it was an experience I will never forget!

We celebrated with yummy cupcakes, a sip of wine, lawn chairs and more birthday greetings, reminiscing and physical distance.  I loved this experience…a combined effort of love and celebration.  Thank you, friends and dear family!  If you wish to really make someone’s heart swell and to fill them with an affirmation of love, try throwing them a parade.  These are pandemic times, so throw pandemic parades!

Messenger in Covid Times

Another way to communicate with your loved ones through these crazy times is through Messenger.  I used to call this Face Time, but then what do I know?  To enjoy a messenger visit, I have to log on to Facebook.

  1. Go to the messages icon at the top.
  2. In the top white band, you will see the New Group option.  Click on that.
  3. You will see a list of friends and to the right of each of their names, a circle.  Click on the name of each person you want to join a particular chat.
  4. Click the word, Create, that appears in the bottom right.  You have formed your group.
  5. When you wish to chat and see this group, instead of clicking on the telephone icon on the top right, click on the wee movie projector.  A large screen will pop up and people will join as they answer their calls.

Sometimes it’s nice to establish, as much as you can, a time that works for all when using any of these methods.  As well as time and day, some within your circle may have to use these technologies throughout their work week, from home, and it may be too much to expect them to use the same technologies in their down time.  Be very amiable to some people opting out when you make the invitation.  It can be really exhausting to always be connecting through technology.  We yearn for real connection, but sometimes we just do the best we can.

I use Messenger as a way of connecting with my siblings and my father on Sunday afternoons.  It has become a short, sweet gathering that I truly enjoy.  We haven’t been the greatest as staying in touch with one another over the years, so this is something very new and I really really love it.  Here are a couple of screen shots from messenger gatherings. We live in Comox, Calgary and Ottawa.

I’ve also used this method for one-on-one chats with my high school friend, Ramona, who lives in Michigan.  With her, I can talk about worries, fears, good books and landscapes…we shared a few sunrises since beginning this connection.

My cousin Margy can always make me laugh.  She can update me about family in southern Alberta.  We can truly relax with one another.

I spend a lot of time alone these days…by making these connections on various systems, I am able to remain close, while far away.  I love you all!

Valerie

I never get tired of remembering the birth of my sister. As a little girl there are only certain details that are real, so a woman, once older, has to sift out the details that would belong to others.

My memory is of the air. It was an April evening. There were shear curtains hanging on my window. The bed lined up along that wall, I turned to face the window. There was still a soft light. I already had three brothers.

I said (spoken or in my head…I don’t remember) “Dear God, if you are giving me a sister, please move the curtain.” The window was closed. I remember being hot. The blankets were tucked around my neck. I fell asleep, looking at those curtains, waiting for them to move and believing that God could do it. Already, I believed in miracles.

I fell asleep.

In the morning, my next recollection was my father touching my shoulder. “Kathy. Kathy. You have a sister.”

The next recollection was of her home coming. I remember the front hallway and a beautiful bassinet where my mother placed her so tenderly. Most wonderful, I remember my mother looking so absolutely beautiful. I remember embracing her.

In 2013, these photographs finally surfaced in a packet of undeveloped negatives. These would be photographs of Valerie, taken in the hospital. In those days, a baby couldn’t go home with a mama until after the mother had demonstrated that she could bathe the baby. It’s amazing to think that these photographs were snapped by someone in the hospital, using colour film, 53 years ago.

Next, one of my favourite photo memories, this time, in black and white film.

Next, one of my favourite family reunion photographs…simply because Val and I are together with our Mom and Dad. Little do people know when snapping a photo or two, just what that image might mean, years down the road. I’m likely more attached to these memories than most….I’m pretty caught up in nostalgia. In these days of isolation and separation from family, these become more important.

And finally…just snapped yesterday…a photo from the very current on-line communication format…my sister, Val, with her beautiful daughter, Eliane. They are both angels.

I love you, Val and Happy Birthday! You’ve always been such an efficient and hard working woman. You have had remarkable strength. You have accomplished so much and raised two amazing children. We’ve spent more years apart then years together, but I want you to know that I could not have been more blessed than having you come into my life on that April night. Mom would be so proud. She, is loving you into your life, still.

One day, when all of this is over, I really really want to go on a road trip with you. I want to go to one amazing concert with you. I want to hang with you again. I love you. And for now, remember, Love Can Build a Bridge.

Uh Oh: Bird Tales From the Vent

Just recently, I’ve been publicly shamed on social media for asking for photo credit and explaining my distaste for the blast of photographs being published on line of members of the public, hoarding or standing in long lines in store environments. Just my opinion, but these photographs fall into the same category as Wal-Mart shopper photos, babies having temper tantrum photos and Fat Lady photos. I just don’t get what the purpose is? Oh…I received the explanation that publishing the photo of a profiteer who was bragging about the resale potential of a cart load of thermometers had shifted the behaviour of the big box stores and convinced them to limit sales. (all myth and absolutely no idea WHO the person was and what the product was and what the motivation was) Bull Winkle Twinkle Fairy Dust! Are you kidding? Social media photographs do not convince companies such as Home Depot to change their policies? And as a follow-up, it’s interesting that Reddit has deleted the photograph, while the legacy of hateful comments remain spouting off about Capitalism and such. Haters need to hate.

I digress. Because I spoke out about the negativity of such content being shared over and over again in formats such as Reddit and Facebook, I was labeled a lunatic who takes pictures of baby deer and eagles and was reminded that I am dumber than door nails. Too bad. I look at the fact that this person didn’t read or take in my concerns or my views on this subject. He only saw his own perspective and then BLACK OUT….the thread disappeared and the big BLOCK happened. Wow! UH OH!!! I’m telling my readers, we are living in very troubled times. Kindness is required.

And…back to the ‘baby deer and eagle photos’. It is my choice to try to retain a positive expression of social media. If I get so rattled, in real time, about something political or what I view to be a social injustice, I might post, but you will notice those discussions/threads disappear off of my social media within days. I think that what the world needs at the best and the worst of times is positivity, enlightenment and gratitude. If readers/posters want to be miserable all of the time, it’s their prerogative. There is room in the world for all of us. Just don’t block me, shut me down, silence me when I wish to share an opinion along the way.

Check out ethical practice when it comes to posting photos, specifically to shame others.

On the subject of this post…another big UH OH! Some of you have followed Tales from the Vent over the past seven years. At my kitchen sink and window, I find myself in close proximity to my neighbour’s vent. Over the years, this has typically provided a nesting site for House Sparrows, but the past few years, there have been nest wars between Northern Flickers and House Sparrows. Well, look here, what was spotted this morning at the vent. OH NO! Pigeon poop potential! It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this season. I’ll keep you up to date!

Friends, Family and Feasting!

I think that if you’re living in Calgary, you’re likely really happy that this has been a long weekend.  Tonight, folks are washing their work clothes and there’s the smell of steam in the air as the shirts get pressed for the coming week.  It was glorious to have that extra day.  While this weekend has seen a return of winter, it has certainly been warmed by friendship, family and feasting!

I was listening to CBC radio in the kitchen early this morning.  There was a great interview about walking, featuring explorer, Erling Kagge. It kept me happy as I drank my hot cup of coffee and prepared a nice brunchy meal for my family.

Food brings people together.  Yesterday I headed to beautiful Wendy’s home, where she has taken on a monthly gathering called Brunch with Buds. For this event, I made, for the first time, a batch of Chai french toast.  I was excited and looking forward to seeing my friends and meeting new ones.  Conversations flowed  and wove in and out of the cozy rooms.  Surrounded by art, good smells and music we were all put to ease and the stresses of the world fell away, at least for a short time.

I caught Jocelyn, mid-sentence.  But, look at that cute waffle maker!

Educator, ally, life long learner, artist and lover of live music, this is a strong woman! I Love you, Jocelyn!

Anam Kazim is a former member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.  Here, she is posing in front of a portrait that was a collaboration of create! participants when Wendy initiated a number of classes and events in the East Village as it related to the Golden Age Club, at the time.  Artist and photographer, Michael Collette, spearheaded this collaboration.

Anam is open, warm and very articulate and presently exploring entrepreneurial pursuits, offering health and wellness solutions via natural/herbal medicine.  Anam is a strong woman.

I caught Karen Pickles in this beautiful shot.  What a driven and inspiring woman who cares for and is motivated by needs of ‘the other’.  She is another one of our circle who loves live music and is a maker.  Her mediums include film and paint, but are not limited to those.  She is the President and CEO of Stresscase and she is a strong woman!

Steven and Katrine are in deep conversation.  It might be that they are talking about Jazz, or possibly Beakerhead.  Katrine is a Geologist…that makes two Geologists in my circle of friends.  By sharing in these brunches, Wendy is giving us the opportunity to put our heads together.  I just love it!  Steven is on his way to becoming a jazz percussionist.  He inspires me.  He also has such a sense of humour.  I like that he can make me laugh so easily.  I wish I could laugh more.

I really wanted to capture a particular sensibility here, with Stephen as my subject; the hyacinth to the right, the boxes of inspirational cards and angel cards stacked on the coffee table.  Stephen is a writer and he is also one of the most incredibly supportive people I know.  His calm demeanor helps me to open up and over the years I’ve felt I can trust him with my ideas, my challenges.  He is steadfast.  I didn’t capture his blue eyes here, but he has incredible blue eyes.  Stephen is a good human being.

Suzanne Presinel looked so familiar to me, but this was our first time meeting in a situation where we could sit back and chat about ALL SORTS of topics.  We realized at some point that we’ve encountered one another at Esker programs…where Suzanne volunteers on a regular basis.  The most wonderful thing is that she is deeply entrenched in the Boomerang Bag Global Grassroots Movement, here in Calgary.  Suzanne is a strong woman.

The food….well, the food was exceptional.  That’s all I can say.  Beautiful coffee was served and the various dishes were scrumptious.  Just look at this salmon mousse and the wee chicks on this serving dish!!

Here’s a strong woman!  Lauraine has just grown to be such a special and supportive friend.  She is an amazing mother and she is a remarkable person to have in my circle.  Always helpful, she seems to fill gaps.  Lauraine is creative and like so many of us, she too, loves live music.  She inspires me to seek balance and to takes steps to simplify my life.  She is a practicing Psychologist as well as part of a high school student services team.  I can only imagine that Lauraine is likely making a huge impact on people’s lives, especially adolescent lives.  We need more like her.

I’ve met Sarah before and know her to be a generous and caring neighbour.  She loves fun and is open.  This is her friend, Kat, who I met for the first time.  I have to say that I really enjoyed our conversation and look forward to seeing her again.

And here she is….Wendy. She is the lady who made this wonderful brunch happen! Wendy is smart, funny and has a huge heart.  She works so hard.  No one works harder…but always work that makes for good and that she loves.  Wendy is a connector.  She has brought a world of people together over time.  When with Wendy, the conversation is inspiring and positive.  Despite the troubles in the world or in the community or even close to home, Wendy is one of those people who looks at a situation and asks herself, “What is it that I can do?”  She brings the positive into conversations.  She is a maker!  So much collaborative work and creation happens within our city because she makes it happen.  Teaching at the Colonel Belcher, the Central Library….working with innovators and linking up with Mount Royal…and let us NOT FORGET her amazing abilities as a creative in the kitchen.  Food just tastes way better when Wendy prepares it!  Thank you for the blessing of your friendship, Wendy.  You are such a strong woman.

I drove home feeling energized, with a whole number of conversations floating in my mind.  It was time to clean my house.  I was excited that today I would host my family for a nice hot breakfast.

Photos?  Not a one!  I guess that speaks to the fact that we were totally wrapped up in…..nope, not the food….my grandson!!  I shared Steven’s home made Valentine’s paintings with everyone and then it was all about the french toast, for Steven.

I’m grateful for my children and for Shawn and Doug.  I felt blessed.  Thank you to Cayley and Shawn for bringing our celebratory Prosecco and orange juice!  My family means the world to me.

Oh!  I DID get one photograph….QWIRKLE board!  One game under our belts!

Gramma’s Treasured Time

I had a couple of weeks where I had a chance to spend the days with my grandson and don’t want to be remiss in acknowledging that time.  I look back on those days with a warm and happy heart.  He is changing so fast and so much and he is just such a funny person.  I love to talk with him.  I treasure every moment.  A collection of images for our times shared will be included here…but first…

All of the poems I read on the internet…poems for grandsons…were stupid.  The intentions were lovely and they were very very sweet.  But, none of them suited my grandson.  ‘Perhaps one day I will try to write a poem for you, my wonderful magical Steven.’  For now, the poem that best suited our little boy who loves ants and lady bugs and spiders is this one, written by William Carlos Williams, for his grandson.  It is titled, The Turtle.  I apologize that these bits are unclear.

I love you, Steven.

 

Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah

Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind”

This, borrowed directly from a beautiful relation’s blog post this morning.

Several events unfolded yesterday that were totally out of my control.  These events did NOT happen to me, but happened to two of my children.  As every mother knows, when things spin out of control for a child, it is a natural outcome to want to swoop in and save them from the experience and the outcome.  Even at not intervening yesterday, I was thrown into a ‘spazz’, as Alyssa writes.  I haven’t learned in life to ‘still the fluctuations of my mind’…but as I read these bits this morning, I certainly can see the value in doing so.

So, thank you for the words and as this morning feels full of calm, it is easier for me to look back over yesterday, with a clear perspective.  I am thankful for conversations with Adrienne and with Karen.  I am grateful for the engaged presence of Shawn.  I am thankful for a full night of sleep.  It is a celebration that I rolled over and looked at my clock lit up in the darkness of morning, to discover that indeed, I had slept until 6:30, instead of a week-long frustration of 2:00 am wake ups.  I apologize that I went a little off grid yesterday and was a grumpy-pants with some of the peeps in my life.  Today is a new day.  And I hope that when, next time, there are circumstances beyond our/my control, that I will climb up onto that strong branch and look down upon the situation, with a degree of separation.

The Bald Eagles have left their typical routines at the edge of the Bow River and both juveniles are absent.  It is very quiet as autumn approaches.  Here are the last photographs of Mr. who after a summer of raising two juveniles on his own, is remarkable and held, by me, in high regard. Here are the last photographs of the juvenile that really resisted leaving his home, the nest and its territory.

Mornings are darker and the sun fades earlier.  I am experiencing some loss of the rich sights and sounds of summer.  With the full moon, I feel that I am entering the next season and I am assured that it, also, will be beautiful.

I’ve received some recent e mails from my friend that fill me to the brim with the love of nature.  It is interesting and I do contend that one needn’t go very far in order to enter into the mysteries of the natural world.  And so, I share these words, without permission to illustrate that point.  (sorry, friend)

One day. “You would have liked the view from my kitchen window. As I unloaded my groceries I thought of you.  Blue jays came calling.  Flying among the shrubs and trees.  Perhaps finishing off the few apples, raspberries and saskatoons that are still on the branches.  If i took pictures there could have been some good ones.”

Another. “So, I cleaned bathrooms, quick vacuum, suppers ready and now im going to watch tennis.  But this morning there were lots of robins.  Don’t they leave, shouldn’t they be gone.  And a couple of flickers eating ants in my lawn, good thing, but they do stir up the roots, not so good.”

And finally. “Went out to my gardens today with the intentions of moving some lilies around.  My tiger lilies in front are too tall and some Asiatic in the back get hidden.  Planted them with good planning at the time, i thought, but the ways of gardening you need to change things.  However, the ground was a bit too wet.  Did pick mushrooms, again, in my lawn.  Heard Mr. Hole the other day say mushrooms in the lawn are a good thing!

Deadheaded a few perennials and cut down most of my delphiniums as the leaves have now turned brown.

Lots of perennials still in bloom, fall asters beginning to blossom.   Sending a couple of pics.  My primula is back in bloom again.  It is one crazy plant, blooms for about 3 months in spring, rests for a couple and then starts again.  None of my other primulas do this.  So, don’t know if its location or variety and of course haven’t the tag anymore.  Even with the summer blooms gone there is still so many shades of green to enjoy.

And, wished you were here to identify a bird that was out the whole time with me.  Googled and think it was a downy woodpecker.  Cant say I’ve ever seen one in my yard like that before.  White breast, black and white feathers and no everyone is was not a magpie.  Rat a tat tat on my bamboo stakes the whole time.  Bamboo is strong, I would have thought its beak would get sore.

Still lots of robins and blue jays in the gardens.  And everyday a lone flicker comes to eat the ants.  Wonder if it is the same one and why doesn’t it tell its friends to come feast at my place.  So, I have put up with ants and aphids in hopes that the birds can live without my use of pesticides.”

I feel blessed with the beauty of these descriptions of ordinary moments, that truly ARE extraordinary!  Thank you, friend, for taking me to the peaceful sanctuary of your garden through words.

Now, I’m posting just a couple of your photographs, without permission.  Get back to me if you wish me to remove any/all of your creative material.  I’m celebrating your connection with nature and the beauty of your garden this morning.

Photo Credit PT

Photo Credit: PT

Today, I’m going to try to be more mindful.  I’m going to demonstrate calm.  I hope that I can be here, in a healthy capacity, for those who need me.