Doors Open YYC!

I’m feeling a little reflective tonight.  And once reflective, I write.  It’s what happens.  I’m close enough to enjoying the deposit of my pension into my bank account, as well, that I stopped off and bought myself a bottle of wine, so I’m sipping a glass, gratefully…and that also causes me to write.  I anticipate that very soon my go-to medium will be paint…but for tonight, this is awesome.

As for the reflection…

When someone gets physically ill, friends swoop in to help.  Sometimes meals are prepared or sometimes a person drops in for a visit.  There is evidence of injury or illness and it is apparent that that someone might need support.  The last while, I’ve suffered a different sort of illness…I’ve had a lot of struggle and as yet, I don’t even know how to describe it.  But, I’ve not been well.  I don’t think that the people I encounter in my day can even see it.  It rides beneath the surface, though, of pretty much everything.

But, enough of that…

What I want to do through this writing is to acknowledge one person who sat with me through this time….there were others and I am so grateful to them…but tonight, I want to write about Pat.  For one, I know she will read this post.  Not many will.  That’s okay.  In 2005, I began to write on a whim…never guessing that 13 years later, I would still be doing this.  I didn’t set up a blog with the intention of being read, but rather for a place to write.

About Patricia…Pat has this remarkable way of loving others…of genuinely caring for them.  Her love is not of the sentimental variety, but rather that of a reliable friend. Her friendship is not easy to describe, but as a single woman in a sometimes-tough world, I’ve been able to now track back through years where Pat has been a support to me.  She has never abandoned me.  It’s as though, at times, I’m sitting on a chair in the center of a room, with my nose cut off….everyone else is thinking it’s weird or ugly or distasteful and so they pull away…but, not Pat.  She’s there.  She’s staring right at my face, where my nose once was, and she is caring and kind and present…present, when many others face outward and away from me.  I wanted to begin this writing, about Doors Open YYC…by announcing my gratitude for Pat.

Her kindness has appeared in a package of home made cookies, wrapped up…just enough for my son and me.  It has been in the form of invitations, even when I could not muster up the means to respond or accept or sometimes, to get out.  It has been in the chatty drives…chats about everything but the big grey cloud that seems to hover over me. Like the cut off nose, Pat chooses to look through the grey cloud…I know she can see it, but it is such a relief to have the darkness pushed away with the gentle stories of a friend.  There are countless acts of kindness that I could mention, but suffice it to say that I aspire to be more like Pat in the world.  I will always be appreciative of Pat’s generous heart.

Recently I received one of Pat’s invitations via e-mail,  to do a day of Doors Open YYC.  I would have Pat all to myself and I thought, “What could be more wonderful?”  And so we went…

…and I enjoyed every moment!

On our list of destinations…Aleppo Soap  , the Calgary Buddhist Temple and Fiasco Gelato.  As I reflect upon the magic of the day, I have to say that the three locations we visited this year, were all about healing, kindness and strength of character.

First stop, Aleppo Soap is a business established and grown successfully by Syrian newcomers.

“Before Sabouni fled Syria, his soap factory was destroyed. His family spent time in Jordan before coming to Canada, where he tried to start the business again, but it wasn’t a success.

Now, he’s grateful he, his wife, and four children — his youngest son was born in Canada last year — have a chance for a fresh start.

“The Canadians come to support us, make me so happy … I want to say thank you Canada because I am grateful because it gives me and my family a new chance,” he said.”

We enjoyed a lovely tour of the soap factory and Pat and I both purchased some products afterwards.  The soap is so exceptionally beautiful.  There was, in the context of Aleppo, pride, generosity and hospitality.  I was so happy to see this venue well-attended by Calgarians.  I am in awe of the courage and hard work of the folk who have manifested their vision here in Canada.

 

Next, we headed for the Bridgeland area and enjoyed the hospitality of a Buddhist Priest at the Calgary Buddhist Temple.  Again, we were given a brief history and a simple explanation of the rituals, bell ringing and chants.  I found the temple to be very beautiful in its simplicity.  Those responsible for the tour were very generous with their time and reflections.

“The Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism was founded by Shinran, a monk who lived in Japan in the 13th century. Jodo Shinshu means “true essence of Pure Land Buddhism” (or, literally: Jodo, meaning Pure Land or realm; Shin, meaning True; and Shu, meaning religion).”

Finally, we headed for Fiasco Gelato!  This was a very popular tour!  Fiasco Gelato is a story all on its own!  I was amazed by this place and really suggest that if you haven’t made a stop at the store, that you do!  What a positive approach to business.  Things haven’t come easy for the visionaries behind this place, but they have persisted and have created an amazing place…a great product…and a community-engaged enterprise. They have built something that matters!

“Fiasco is built on empowerment, innovation, forward thinking, strong relationships, passion, and the best customer experience. We are people focused and so little of what we do here day to day has to do with our product and more about doing great work and making people happy. We are here to do things differently, think differently and challenge the norm. We want people to be the best versions of themselves and think in terms of work and life blending together rather than segregating from each other.”

All three venues explored by Pat and I were places that nourish the spirit and sooth the soul.  The day could not have been better!  As I dipped into my container of Passionfruit Lemonade Gelato last evening, I was thinking back on how blessed we are in our city…how blessed I am.  I hope that every person who feels weary or sad or overcome with difficulties, grief or illness will find, in their lives, some one who is kind.  I have that in my life.

 

Boulder Hot Springs and Farewell, Dear Friend!

I felt a degree of anxiety about the drive into Boulder.  It was raining on and off and I was lagging behind Ramona.  I didn’t sleep well on this trip.  I was processing a lot and it had been a big day…cattle drives, Lost Creek, the Mineral Museum and the Copper King Mansion.  The skies were dramatic and thunder was rumbling.  I was really happy when we pulled into the Boulder Hot Springs, shortly after pulling off of the I-15.

The building facade was magical.  The receptionist was calm and welcoming.  I liked the place from first site.  Some time in the early 1990s, this space was purchased by writer Anne Wilson Schaef and is presently owned by a Limited Partnership.  I’ve read some of her work and it was a surprise to see some of her titles sitting on the counter.  From that point forward, the entire evening became one of continued healing and peace.  I am so grateful that Ramona sought out this venue.

I wouldn’t go into the hot pools while the thunder was booming…but, as time passed, the weather cleared, we popped into the outdoor pool…and then popped out, with the coming of the next series of sky flashes.  It was wonderful for even that short time to recline back, pool noodle on my neck and float with Ramona…speechless…ears submerged…until I shouted out to Ramona that we needed to get out.

I then stepped into the hot springs steam where I shared space with a naked woman doing yoga.  Briefly, I remembered my younger body.  I remembered the University of Lethbridge and the wonderful cleansing feeling of the sauna in the Physical Education department.

This would be magic…I knew it.

Our room…

IMG_0959IMG_0961IMG_0963IMG_0966

and the art…

DSC_0104DSC_0105DSC_0106

I claimed the time as mine…shared with a friend…so, no photos of the pools.  And because of the rain, we didn’t head up to the sculpture, Seven Generations.

The space…the food…

Click on individual photos to enlarge.

 

 

 

 

Ramona’s camera…

 

 

 

 

After a scrumptious breakfast, I went for a walk on the property.  Everything about the air was delicious.  I watched the swallows, followed closely by the cat and listened to the cock crow.  I felt mixed feelings as I headed for the parking area and embraced Ramona for the last time.  Tears wouldn’t come…not until Ramona headed east, at the end of the driveway and I headed west.  I had tears until I reached the town of Boulder, stopped at the gas station, filled my water bottle and resolutely headed north on the highway.

It was a wonderful time, dear friend.

 

 

An Exceptional Gathering, Romanian Style

If I write all that is on my heart before bed, I will be up very very late and tomorrow there is the food prep still ahead.  Suffice it to say that gatherings out in Chestermere with the Ya Yas continues to be one of the most delightful events possible for me.  We are six women (we missed Dar today) who have grown to support, confide and laugh loudly together and today was no exception.  The visit shifted my entire view of things and caused me such peace that I have been happily working away with my own meal preparations ever since.

As I have written several times before, Wendy’s husband, Darren, treats us like we are all princesses.  He is a genuinely talented chef, but also very entertaining with his tremendous knowledge about food, ingredients and food preparation.  If I get a minute tomorrow, I’ll make certain that I tag some of his previous menus.

But for now…just wanting to link up with Darren’s own blog and his narrative about his special creamed chicken recipe.  Today’s menu was delicious!  Homemade Borscht and sour cream, perfectly mashed potatoes and some sort of corn meal ‘stuff’…(Oh…just wait a minute; I’ll go and look it up….)

I’m back. (didn’t find the name for the dish that was made of cornmeal) OH YES I DID FIND IT….Creamed Chicken served with Mamaliga (polenta).

I didn’t grab a photograph of our dessert…poppy seed loaf and special cookies made with a substitute flour and hot tea served in ornate tea cups.

Here you go…a link up with the narratives around this particular dish, Creamed Chicken.  Such a wonderful and detailed accounting of tradition and preparation of this meal. 

Thank you for hosting, Wendy and Darren….and thank you to each of you for your generous hearts.

Pancakes

It took this experience to understand that when friends or acquaintances are doing their eight to twelve weeks in a cast for whatever reason, they need a hand and they need connection.  It’s been fifteen days and I still often feel this claustrophobic panic spill over me on a regular basis.  At those moments, I let the air out of my cast and pull it apart and gasp for breath.

I’m not writing about this experience because I am soliciting comfort, support, pity or even empathy…I’m writing because I find it all so surprising.  I also think that the notion of “walking in the other person’s shoes” comes truly to mind.  I’m being hard on myself for not always responding, with empathy and in a concrete way, to those who have endured the drawn out period of healing a fractured bone.

Stampede came to town…and Stampede left.  I wouldn’t have known it as it seemed I was cloistered in my family room, to the point of even sleeping on this same level.  It was a very hot spell for Calgary weather and so, to be honest, it was physically uncomfortable at night.

It was an absolute joy when first, my daughter, and then my friend, offered to take me out for pancakes at two of our pancake breakfasts.

I remembered bringing my children to these and even hosting my own over the years and so the experience brought up a lot of positive memories and let’s face it, everyone seems pretty happy at a Calgary Stampede pancake breakfast.  I feel gratitude about these two experiences and while I was a true ‘hop-along’ and still had that sense of walking in a brick of dried cement, I also felt gratitude and I felt free.

IMG_20150710_084032

Cell July 17, 2015 004

IMG_20150710_084402

Live music, line dancers and free thinking ladies.

Cell July 17, 2015 003

IMG_20150710_081251

The line moved along quickly.

Oakridge Co-Op was the first…and next, Greengate Garden Center.

Pancake Breakfast

Katie Ohe’s Idea Books

Perched on Katie’s kitchen counter…a simple black sketchbook…a place to capture her ideas while she is preparing food or perking coffee.  Some of the collages feel so familiar to me.  For one, I also enjoy using found objects such as onion/fruit sacks as underpinnings in my collage work.  Katie lovingly leafed through pages…chatting with us along the exploration.

It was in the kitchen that I shared with Katie how commercial galleries had once owned my spirit…and how, belonging, caused me to freeze.  She received that disclosure with so much warmth.  I will carry the conversation that followed, forever…a very healing experience.

P1140317 P1140318 P1140319 P1140320 P1140321 P1140322 P1140323 P1140324 P1140325 P1140326 P1140334 P1140335P1140333 - Copy P1140334 - Copy

Still Going Back to Move Forward: The Chit Chat Cafe of Napanee

I am still trying to complete my blog posts around my months shared with Dad in Belleville, Ontario.  Sometimes the present really must squash out the past…but at other times, the past needs to be integrated into what we have in this moment.  I treasured my time with my father above any other time we have shared and I never wish to forget the fragile and strong of that couple of months.  Through my father, I met so many lovely people, people like Andy and Sherry of the Chit Chat Cafe & Corner Market.  This afternoon, I updated a Blog that Sherry and I set up for her business and linked it to a Facebook site, so I think their social media is about as current as it can be.

For years, Mom and Dad drove out to Napanee, Ontario; sometimes after church for a piece of dessert or sometimes on a weekend for a Dinner Buffet and Live Music concert.  Most important to me and my family was the kindness that these two folk showed my parents, especially through these last couple of very difficult years.  Always having time for kindness and cheerfulness, these two have a way of making others feel special and then feeding them the very best of food.

During this journey of grief, some Sundays Dad and I left the parking lot after church and turned north east to Napanee…and somehow the coffee, the good people and the eggs benedict managed to do some comforting.

The best eggs benny I've ever eaten.

The best eggs benny I’ve ever eaten.

The second dinner concert I attended, with Dad, was a performance by Jay Aymar.  A fantastic story teller and an authentic song writer, Jay left us with lots to think about.  Music is a big part of our family, so music coupled with good food is an especially  magical combination.  Jay Aymar’s blog, Road Stories, is very entertaining for the real-life experiences he shares.

Sherry's Peanut Butter Chocolate Trifle

Sherry’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Trifle

Lemon Poppy Cake

Lemon Poppy Cake

A First Serving

A First Serving

P1110855 P1110859 P1110860 P1110881 P1110903http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4mhhgk8Avg

Happy Father’s Day!

My Dad: Moose Jaw Tech

My Dad was the man with the Plan B.  He was the person, in my life, who had backbone when backbone was required and helped me with the BIG decisions along the way.

I remember a time when my Dad  placed his hand on my shoulder in a situation where he was unable to speak.  And, through that gesture, he gave me strength to go forward in acceptance and confidence.

Dad was the one who taught me about being directive in my life…so, I knew I wanted to stay the course and keep my head up.  He taught me to be able to flex for the inevitable surprise and to do so, without fear.

Dad taught me to have opinions and ideas and never was a dull man around a dinner table.  We learned about politics and economics and sports.  We talked about EVERYTHING.  I guess, in part, I owe this blog to him. ;0) 

I love my Dad, for the life he built for his family.  This year, my Dad turned 80 and he writes me E Mail.  I look forward to his little notes.   I couldn’t be prouder of the person he is!  My Father is a wonderful man.