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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Our handsome guardian angel.

Dear Larry, Dad, Grandpa:

It's been 13 years since you left us but your memory will always live on in our hearts. 

Wish you could see your grown-up grandchildren now and meet your two great granddaughters, who will have to get to know you through the many stories told by your family, friends and students. 

We feel you are with us on so many occasions. You are our handsome guardian angel, always looking over us. 

You are never forgotten and will be forever loved. ~Maureen
  

Funny how I can still so easily be moved to tears, even after so long. I heard a new one the other day: "Grief is just Love with nowhere to go." That makes sense. We sure had love, even if we didn't say it every day. 

Annie and I took baby Adira to meet your mom the other day. Grandma is turning 98 in February. We are so proud to celebrate our 5 generations. I know you would be proud too. 
Your great granddaughter Leti seems to have your smile - I often see it flash across her face. 

I find myself repeating your silly sayings (many unfit for public consumption) and wondering how you would fare in this pandemic situation. I'm sure you would be ok with the isolation bit - you often said you weren't very fond of most people anyway! Hah. 

I miss you, Dad. I had a visit from a cardinal last week - the first one in about a year. When I posted your photo online, with the anniversary of your passing, someone said, "There's your cardinal." I like to think you are somehow aware of us. We are certainly aware of you. ~ Dee.


I miss you, Dad. But I dream, and I often wake up with the knowledge that I have received a visit from you. I know this is special, because not everyone gets a visit, or remembers the details.
 I treasure these visits. They are little flashes of a life we shared. 

Also, in April we welcomed a new member to our family. He shares your birthday, and your name, I take much pleasure getting calls from the vet about Larry Leeson. ~ Cath.



We love you. We remember you. We celebrate the time we shared and the influence you had on our lives. 




Larry Leeson was here in physical form from September 4, 1941 to January 14, 2008. 
His presence lingers around his loved ones. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Retreat to a room of your own


In Victorian times, being able to provide a woman with “a room of her own” was a sign of wealth. In addition to the regular family living spaces, the lady of the house had a small space – sometimes an alcove off the bedroom (in one of those lovely castle-type turret towers) or a glorified closet off the kitchen, or a corner of the porch – where she could lose herself in a few moments of peace. She might keep her books, her needlepoint or sketch pad in there. And she might have a small bottle of brandy hidden in there somewhere, with which to lace her blueberry tea. Who are we to judge? Victorian times were hard!

Fast forward to the next century and the tradition continues, somewhat. Did your grandma or mom have a sewing or craft room that you were not allowed to enter? Turns out she didn’t just want to keep you out of her things. She was protecting her space. Her right to privacy. That sacred little room might be where she indulged her innermost thoughts and daydreams. She might have even shed a few private tears in there.

One thing that real estate brokers are noting through this pandemic is a trend of people moving out of the city and into the country. Everyone is looking for more space, to distance themselves from others and provide a layer of protection from the virus – but also for the mental health benefits. Something inside of us is pushing for isolation, peace and quiet. We are taking more walks in nature, spending more time in the kitchen, reading more. This situation is forcing us to spend more time alone with ourselves. Look around your home. Do you have a room of your own where you can retreat from the world, explore your artistic side, lose yourself in a good book or just sit and be alone with your thoughts?

We spend so much time connected to others through technology these days that we forget the benefits of alone time. If you have a small space that you can convert into a room of your own, now is your chance to transform it. Get rid of the clutter, separating things into piles of keep-recycle-trash. Give your space a fresh coat of paint or just move a favourite chair, lamp, or piece of art in there. It’s even better ‘head space’ if your room has a view. No one is going to judge if you turn your walk-in closet into your own private den. Just tell them it’s for your mental health.

Men have been doing this for years with their man-caves. The garage, workshop or basement is where they go to be alone with their thoughts and we are not supposed to mess with that sanctuary. Well, everyone needs a space to call their own. Decorate it and fill it with your special things and enjoy.

 


 

There are silver linings to this Covid cloud

  “I have a challenge for you. Tell me one way that this pandemic situation has been a GIFT in your life.” Here are some of the 75+ responses I received to this post on Facebook:

Lots of people strengthened connections:

“…Covid has allowed me to bond with my son...I’m happy to be locked down with wife and kids. Lots of laughs!...My 7-year long distance relationship turned into us co-habitating since April!.. I made some friendships even stronger by having real conversations… I was able to spend three months by my father’s side before he passed.”

Even some of the frontline workers can see the positive:

“It seems to have galvanized federal, provincial and county governments to almost conquer homelessness. Other charities and issues are suffering, but I think this focus on housing could be one of the blessings from Covid.”

We slowed down enough to notice things around us:

“…there seems to be more birds visiting our yard this year. Maybe we were home more and maybe it was quieter. Maybe we sat and watched and listened more. We definitely saw some birds we had never seen before including an Indigo coloured bird. We realized if we had to stay home, we were truly blessed to have a beautiful home to lock down in. We missed a milestone Anniversary Trip, but spent a beautiful day on the River enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us…”

“I'm discovering more and more local businesses to support!! …I’m saving money on my commute and spending locally…Every purchase means so much more to both the customer and the business. I'm even reaching out to local musicians to see if I can buy albums directly from them instead of going through a website. Put all the money in their pocket instead of website fees etc.”

Others focused on themselves:

“…I was able to focus on ME for the first time in a long time…I LOVE the slower pace and a forced break from my business and working pretty much every weekend for the last 13 years…I’ve been taking courses and doing a lot of reading…I've gotten to focus more on the art that I love to do. I'm able to practice and get better at my craft…My immune system is compromised right now so I don't go out much. It's broken my restaurant habit and I'm really enjoying cooking more often…I finally quit smoking after 10 years…I’m never going back to being too busy to really enjoy life.”

But perhaps of all the comments, the winner was:

“Not having to wear pants.”

As the end of 2020 approaches, it’s good to look back and count our blessings.

 


 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Waiting for the expiry date

 

 

“Today I will live in the moment. Unless the moment is unpleasant, in which case I will eat a cookie.” This is the message on my desk calendar. It’s kind of my mantra these days.

After the first few weeks of self-isolation, when the novelty of wearing yoga pants all day and never having to put gas in the car began to wear off, I started playing the game with expiry dates.

It is something I have been doing since I was a child. You pick up a carton of coffee cream, look at the date and imagine what might be different in your life by the time that date arrives. In the past, I have looked at the date and thought, “Huh. By the time this milk goes bad, I’ll be a married woman!” – or – “by the time this cream expires the baby will be here…”

No one could have guessed, back in February, that when we reached the late March expiration date on the carton, life would be very different indeed.

For a family that is accustomed to gathering en masse for Sunday dinner each week, this surreal period of isolation has been very hard. Coming from a journalism background, I realize I read far too much in the way of news and public health reports. My family is getting tired of having their very own Covid police officer.

Over the past nine months we have tightened up, relaxed, and re-tightened our restrictions. At the moment we are not supposed to be gathering outside our household. Again. It feels like a punishment. Does that mean we didn’t do it right the first time, so we have to do it again, for longer? Ugh. I feel like we have been collectively grounded, but we can’t remember our crime. Did we have fun, at least??

By the time we reach the date on my current carton of coffee cream, the year will be over. I am an eternal optimist, but I might need more than the few weeks on a dairy product to consider the future. So as we look forward to the end of 2021, I think we can all start thinking about the expiration date on this particular moment in time.

I’ve read the conspiracy theories. I’ll take science, and a vaccine, when it has been tested and proven effective. And then, when the threat has passed, we might have a huge outdoor party on the farm, with food and live music and a campfire, to celebrate the simple things in life. Like hugs. Harmony. Handshakes. This virus has an expiration date. This too, shall pass.

-30-moment. Unless the moment is unpleasant, in which case I will eat a cookie.” This is the message on my desk calendar. It’s kind of my mantra these days.

After the first few weeks of self-isolation, when the novelty of wearing yoga pants all day and never having to put gas in the car began to wear off, I started playing the game with expiry dates.

It is something I have been doing since I was a child. You pick up a carton of coffee cream, look at the date and imagine what might be different in your life by the time that date arrives. In the past, I have looked at the date and thought, “Huh. By the time this milk goes bad, I’ll be a married woman!” – or – “by the time this cream expires the baby will be here…”

No one could have guessed, back in February, that when we reached the late March expiration date on the carton, life would be very different indeed.

For a family that is accustomed to gathering en masse for Sunday dinner each week, this surreal period of isolation has been very hard. Coming from a journalism background, I realize I read far too much in the way of news and public health reports. My family is getting tired of having their very own Covid police officer.

Over the past nine months we have tightened up, relaxed, and re-tightened our restrictions. At the moment we are not supposed to be gathering outside our household. Again. It feels like a punishment. Does that mean we didn’t do it right the first time, so we have to do it again, for longer? Ugh. I feel like we have been collectively grounded, but we can’t remember our crime. Did we have fun, at least??

By the time we reach the date on my current carton of coffee cream, the year will be over. I am an eternal optimist, but I might need more than the few weeks on a dairy product to consider the future. So as we look forward to the end of 2021, I think we can all start thinking about the expiration date on this particular moment in time.

I’ve read the conspiracy theories. I’ll take science, and a vaccine, when it has been tested and proven effective. And then, when the threat has passed, we might have a huge outdoor party on the farm, with food and live music and a campfire, to celebrate the simple things in life. Like hugs. Harmony. Handshakes. This virus has an expiration date. This too, shall pass.

-30-



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Back in the saddle again

Now that Covid numbers are back on the rise, it’s time to come up with some creative ways to spend time with family and friends. When my daughter posted a photo of herself taking horseback riding lessons, I asked if I could tag along.

I haven’t been riding for over ten years. And even then, I was just refreshing my childhood knowledge of the basics. I didn’t even get past the level of a trot. Not on purpose, anyway. I was on a horse once who had ‘spring fever’ with a heat thrown into the mix. She took me on an unsolicited canter that had me laughing maniacally as I flopped around the ring. That episode marked the end of my last session of riding lessons.

I am a bit nervous around horses, as they tend to be unpredictable. Of course, horses are very sensitive so if you bring your nerves around them, it has the potential to be contagious. The instructor, Debbie Williams of Turnout Stables, has known me for about 40 years so she chose a horse that was particularly well-seasoned and easygoing for me to ride.

His name is Nigel. I once had a roommate named Nigel. He was from London, England, and he liked to make a teepee out of his toast in the morning after it emerged from the toaster, to make it crispy. As a result of this mental connection, I spoke to my horse with a British accent for the remainder of the lesson.

The horses were just being let into the barn when I arrived at dusk. I say let in and not led in, because the girls in the barn literally opened one door at a time to allow in their various charges, who seemed to know which stall was theirs. Some of them tried their neighbour’s stall first to see if they had better treats.

Once my horse Nigel was brought in, we attached the cross chains to each side of his halter and I introduced myself. I followed my instructor’s directions to brush the horse all over. I noted Nigel had huge burrs in his mane. He must have been rolling in the meadow that sunny afternoon. I always get nervous lifting the hooves to pick the mud out of them, but Nigel was fairly agreeable. To be honest, I think he slept through most of it.

Once in the riding ring, Nigel walked in a slow wiggle around the ring, allowing me to reacquaint myself with the necessary leg placement and hip movements. I gave him a tap with my bedazzled riding crop and we moved up into a nice trot. An hour of squatting, posting and bouncing gave me quite a workout, to which my muscles would loudly attest the next day.

Debbie says her riding school membership has multiplied exponentially since the beginning of the virus restrictions. I’m happy to be back in the saddle again. I will have to stock up on allergy meds, though. I just remembered I'm allergic. 

-30-



Sunday, October 25, 2020

Do like the Danes and find your Happy Hygge

 

As November approaches in Canada, that time of year between coloured leaves and sparkling snow, we prepare ourselves for the bleakness. To lessen the depressing effect of the damp chill that is coming, set yourself up for some good old-fashioned “Hygge” in your home.

The Danish cultural tradition of “Hygge” (pronounced “HOO-ga”) refers to the practice of gettin’ cozy. It’s about pulling ALL the pillows and blankets out of the linen closet and making yourself a huge nest in the corner of the overstuffed couch, in front of the fire, with a hot drink and a good book. Hygge is about lighting a scented candle and padding about the house in your flannel pj’s and slippers while your homemade soup simmers on the stove. But it’s much more than that. Hygge is about being in touch with your surroundings, whether they are indoors or out. It’s about building yourself a tiny piece of sanctuary – a retreat from the world.

If you’re truly looking to experience a moment of Hygge in your busy day, you need to eliminate distractions for a moment. Don’t worry – you only need about 15 minutes of Hygge to feel a positive, relaxing effect. So put your phone away, turn the radio and TV off and close your laptop. Find your comfy spot, close your eyes, and listen to the sound of your own breathing. Try to spend 3 to 5 minutes concentrating on nothing but the sounds inside your own body.

Hygge doesn’t have to be indoors. Maybe you feel more relaxed when you are in the great outdoors. This season might need a little help, so think about where you might be able to get yourself next to a source of heat like an outdoor fireplace or heater. Steal another tradition from the Scandinavians and heat a cheese sandwich over the flame. Just do yourself a favour and use quality sourdough bread and Gruyere cheese. It should be a complete experience for the senses.

You would think that Canadians have their own version of Hygge. Of course we do. It’s anything that you do that blocks out worry or stress. Like taking a bubble bath. Take a walk, or bike ride, or mystery tour in your car. Take time for some Hygge every day.

The best way to amplify the effects of your Hygge is to share it with others. During Covid that might mean picking up the phone (I know, but I’ll make an exception in this case) and calling a family member or friend. If it’s safe to gather in small bunches, consider inviting a few close friends or family over for a walk in the woods. Bring a thermos of cider or tea, and make sure you make plenty of stops, to listen to the forest around you. Breathe in the earth smells. Listen for the sounds of burrowing animals.

Practice regularly, all winter long. Happy Hygge.

-30-

 


Monday, October 19, 2020

Bird in the House

The cats told me there was something in the ductwork. The three of them were sitting on top of the boxed Christmas decorations in the basement, meowing and leaping, knocking garlands and ornaments to the floor in an attempt to reach the ceiling. Junior, feeling agile, managed to launch himself up and onto the ductwork. I don’t know how much weight that stuff can hold so I shooed him back down. The object of their interest was making a fair amount of noise in the tin and causing a great deal of feline excitement.

I told my husband I suspected something was trapped in the ductwork, again. It has happened at least three times before. Following the noise, I pulled the end off the pipe and the bird flew out to sit on a pair of cross country skis braced over the rafters. As usual the Farmer was no help whatsoever. He came downstairs, grabbed a broom and started waving it at her.

“What exactly is that supposed to accomplish??” I asked, exasperated. I directed him to stand back, as I turned out the lights and climbed up onto the shelving to reach the basement window. As the only source of light it was an obvious exit, if she could reach it before the cats did. She did.

“Now will you get someone to climb the roof and fix the screen on that chimney?” My husband doesn’t do roof climbing. He is not fond of heights. So we have a few spots that need attention before winter, if we don’t want to welcome other wild houseguests.

Some people say it is good luck to have a bird in the house. Others say it means a change is going to come. Still others believe it is a bad omen, or a sign that death is coming. It certainly has been a sign of death coming to the birds, anyway. This one was lucky that I was home to hear her in the inner workings of the ducts. Others have not been so lucky. I’m just glad it was a bird and not a squirrel. Those things freak me out.

But wait – I looked it up and apparently a squirrel in the house OR ON YOUR BED is a sign that you should let go of useless thoughts and forge ahead with your plans. A squirrel ATTACK is a sign that you will soon be blessed with luxury and a special relationship.

I don’t know about you but I don’t think having wild rodents in your home is an attractive quality in a person. Occasionally I hear a squirrel or some other little beast in the attic. We tried putting a live trap up there but they didn’t bite. We had better get a handle on this situation before winter. The last thing I need is some animal giving birth to an entire litter of critters between the walls of our house.

-30-??” I asked, exasperated. I directed him to stand back, as I turned out the lights and climbed up onto the shelving to reach the basement window. As the only source of light it was an obvious exit, if she could reach it before the cats did. She did.

“Now will you get someone to climb the roof and fix the screen on that chimney?” My husband doesn’t do roof climbing. He is not fond of heights. So we have a few spots that need attention before winter, if we don’t want to welcome other wild houseguests.

Some people say it is good luck to have a bird in the house. Others say it means a change is going to come. Still others believe it is a bad omen, or a sign that death is coming. It certainly has been a sign of death coming to the birds, anyway. This one was lucky that I was home to hear her in the inner workings of the ducts. Others have not been so lucky. I’m just glad it was a bird and not a squirrel. Those things freak me out.

But wait – I looked it up and apparently a squirrel in the house OR ON YOUR BED is a sign that you should let go of useless thoughts and forge ahead with your plans. A squirrel ATTACK is a sign that you will soon be blessed with luxury and a special relationship.

I don’t know about you but I don’t think having wild rodents in your home is an attractive quality in a person. Occasionally I hear a squirrel or some other little beast in the attic. We tried putting a live trap up there but they didn’t bite. We had better get a handle on this situation before winter. The last thing I need is some animal giving birth to an entire litter of critters between the walls of our house.

-30-