Friday, July 13, 2018

Hello Weekend, My Old Friend!

Guess who came by our front yard to usher in the weekend? Three young rabbits!!

Unfortunately the second one got away before I could focus the camera but the first one stuck around for a few shots.

Then the third one appeared and I was ready to snap a photo before it hopped off into our neighbor's back yard oasis.

I remember years ago, when Mom first mentioned spotting a rabbit in her neighborhood. She wondered if a pet rabbit had escaped. One rabbit was followed by several generations and Mom's home evolved into a rabbit watching haven.

Last year, at some point, I noticed a rabbit crossing the busy street into our neighborhood. After that, there was a rare rabbit spotting right in our own front yard. Not many sightings but enough to give me hope that the rabbit was too afraid to hop back across that busy street and we may have gained our very own neighborhood rabbit.

When I spotted not one, but two, then THREE small rabbits this morning my heart jumped for joy. The rabbits are going forth and multiplying. We may have our very own rabbit watching haven right in our own front yard!!

I am ready for a few days of quiet, reflective rabbit spotting. I may perch myself on our front door step bright and early tomorrow morning. Morning seems to be the time they hop through our neighborhood. 

In fact, I have noticed they seem to like dandelions. This may be the best weed control solution I have heard of.

Hello, Weekend. I am so ready for you!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Home, There is no Place Like It!

My West Coast Trekkers have returned. They conquered the trail, battled the elements, survived with what they could carry on their backs and made it back home alive.

I would imagine the West Coast Trail experience is as individual experience as you are. I am eager to hear everyone's individual stories, as much as I would love to listen in on a conversation among their group of four.

The beauty of the trail sounds like a universal "take home". Camaraderie among the fellow trekkers sounds like another. One example was a story about running low on food supplies which was immediately countered with a fellow traveller on the trail willing to share their excess.

The personal challenges of each individual will be interesting to hear as the stories seep out over the course of time. As assuring as it was to travel in a group, I'm almost as certain that travelling as a group presented its own challenges.

As the seventh day on the trail approached, I started feeling antsy about not hearing from anyone. The first contact was made at 11:08 a.m. on the seventh day. "11 kms until we're done the trail". Then nothing until 12:09 the following day. "We are all alive and well. Got off the trail early afternoon yesterday and found a motel ...."

Snippets of the updates that followed revealed the mental exhaustion of the prior week was starting to come to the surface. "Togetherness" is a wonderful thing. But for those who thrive on a lot of mental alone time, finding one's footing in civilization does tend to ignite one's homing device.

What started out as a trip to Victoria for dinner and the anticipation of leisurely enjoyment of living the good life with electricity, running water, dry shelter and readily available food sources became a non-stop drive towards home.

As the sporadic updates came my way, the first thing I asked when the bedraggled survivors showed up on my doorstep 27 hours after the update that "plans have changed a bit..." was if everyone was still speaking to each other.

It wasn't an easy "yes" to my question. I was a little bit relieved to hear the 54 hour old version of that answer, marinated in 27 hours of reflection after they drove the long road home. The answer was still a very positive one.

Upon their return to civilization, there were varying expectations, compounded by the high cost of holidaying in an expensive urban centre, along with a dash of various personality types meshing at the end of over a week of constantly being "on" and around each other.

The one thing my son told me was that he was surprised that he actually wanted to come home after this holiday. He has had the sensation of never wanting to come back after other holiday adventures.

If that is the "take home" after the West Coast Trail experience, I have learned all I need to know about such an undertaking. I am thrilled to see our home at the end of the street upon my return no matter how long or how far I have been away from it. There is a joy I feel within our home that is strong and unmistakable.

There is no place like home! There is no place like home! There is no place like home!

The West Coast Trail is a challenge many may wish to undertake. But for me? If I can force myself out of the house on the weekend to walk to the corner store to buy a Saturday paper, that is just as satisfying.

Home ... there is simply no place like it (in my humble opinion).

Monday, July 9, 2018

"This" ...

Memories triggered by a conversation with my youngest son brought about yesterday's post, which elicited a reply from my brother filling in a lot of the gaps, correcting and fine tuning my vague memories. Even at that, my brother had a few holes in the (much more) detailed memories he had, in and around the time he moved out of home.

Armed with Mom's old calendars and letters from her at that time, I thought I may be able to find some of the information he was lacking. So I set out on a mission after I got home last night.

I pulled out Mom's old letters and read everything she wrote to me in 1988 ...

"I washed six loads of laundry today ... one more to go"; she spoke of the endless ironing she did at the time while she had a grand daughter and soon-to-be daughter in law living with her. I remember her saying she didn't mind doing laundry and it seemed she preferred to do the laundry herself rather than having everyone do their own. 

She wrote of painting "Shauna's room", being so pleased with the new vertical blinds she bought for the room and the quilt which was the finishing touch. She had doors put on a shelving unit in the same room; she wrote of painting the bathroom, mowing the lawn every other day, trimming the hedge ...

She wrote about cooking for those who were staying with her, the people coming and going, the busy phone and one time she set up a writing space downstairs so she could "... keep Stacey company while she did her homework" and write to me at the same time. 

She wrote about her friend calling her up to go out for supper at McDonald's; sitting with the same friend so she wouldn't be alone after receiving some bad news; going over to the same friend's for a visit - not knowing for sure if she would walk or drive but the decision was made for her when she accidentally locked herself out of the house without the car keys; then climbing in the window upon her return home.

She wrote of the things she had to do, things that had to be done, an unpleasant exchange of words between her lawyer in Alberta and the lawyer in Saskatchewan as Dad's estate was wrapped up. Six months after Dad died, they were still in the process of tying up the loose ends. 

Our family dog, Tramp, was brought up on a few occasions - mostly because someone would need to be around to take care of him while she was away. She wrote of her decision to forego any dental work for Tramp to deal with his deadly breath, due to the fact that he was aging and may not wake up after the anesthetic.

She still smoked back then and wrote of getting her furnace cleaned, getting a special filter for her furnace and buying an ecologizer air purifier due to the fact that her granddaughter had developed a rather severe allergy to cigarette smoke. "I haven't quit yet but I've cut back", she wrote.

She wrote of the rather special connection my brother and I have which she said was pretty rare. She wrote a little about how she felt about me. Not much. That was not Mom's style. But I have her words in her hand writing, to have and to hold.

I tucked the year's letters back where I found them and tucked them back in their storage spot. I may go back and read the year 1989 another day.

As I sat on the floor with the box full of Mom's letters at my side, reading her words, seeing her hand writing, it was as if she was right beside me.

I heard her voice, I felt her energy and she was full of life. 

She wrote those letters to me thirty years ago. She was sixty years old, ambitious, energetic, motivated and she was in tip top shape. 

"This" was Mom. "This" is who she was. "This" is how she would want to be remembered. When all the memories of her last year with us fade to grey, "this" is what I will remember about Mom. "This" is what she would want.

It is a comfort to have Mom's letters here with me. I may never read through the entire box but it is good to know they are there. The months without her are passing and as time distances me from "the end days", my heart is at peace. 

I still miss her, but I'm letting her go ... "this" is what she would want.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

I Remember ...

I was just trying to do some mental math, as I wondered how old my brother was when he moved out on his own. My Youngest Son and I were speaking of the future last night and I was just trying to draw some comparisons.

I remembered where I was when I read My Brother's first letter to me after he moved into his first apartment. I was still living in the first home we moved into when we moved to Saskatoon. I remember the landscape around me as I read and reread that letter...

I counted back the years. Since we moved to Saskatoon in 1988, my guess was my brother moved out in 1989.

I then recalled him saying he wanted to prove to himself that he could live on his own and support himself before he got married. He got married in 1990. My assumption was confirmed.

I can remember how I continually forgot the year my brother married. I guess I never made a mental note of the year. 1990 is a nice, round number and easy to remember. Once I realized and noted this, I never forgot.

Not too long ago, I wondered how Mom would have felt after her youngest child left home. I now remember when My Brother moved out, his soon to be fiancée moved in. Mom's nest wasn't left empty for long.

A light and easy conversation with my Youngest Son took me down memory lane for a rather delightful walk through time.

I can remember thinking all of the knowledge I gained through various courses I had taken could be lost in a fraction of a second if my brain suffered an injury. I laughingly said that I should insure my brain because it would be such a shame to learn all of this information and stand a chance at losing it all.

It is now several decades later, my brain is still functioning and I even remember some of what I learned back in my learning years. But "retaining information" is still in the forefront of my mind. I worry less about what I learned from the courses I took and worry more about forgetting what I was just told.

Our brain is a precious commodity. We need to nourish, exercise, appreciate and treat it with care. As we go through the paces of living our life as we know it do we really appreciate what a blessing is to simply ... remember?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Barley Soup for the Soul

While Mom was nursing her appetite back to health after she lost all desire to eat, she found a recipe for barley soup and we made it together. Making that soup was one of the most stressful things we ever did together as she loosely followed the recipe and interjected what she would do instead. She had to rest midway through the entire soup production and I was left with the remnants of the soup in progress.

Partially following the recipe's directions, complicated by Mom's vague instructions left me in the kitchen not knowing which way to turn. I have no natural instincts when it comes to anything involving cooking. I either follow a recipe to the letter or else I have two "recipes" of Mom's where all I have is her passed down knowledge. I had no idea what to do when those two worlds collided.

I panicked, crossed my fingers and toes, then hoped for the best. It was one of the tastiest soups I've ever made.

In the afterglow of this traumatic soup making ordeal, I realized what a gift it had been to be on the receiving end of Mom's tips. She never professed to love cooking but she made very tasty meals. I didn't appreciate those whimsical comments of "well, I'd do this instead" until we were savoring our tasty soup together afterwards.

Mom's appetite came and went throughout the time that followed. She seemed to enjoy food a little more if it was something she specifically asked for &/or shared her meal with company. So on a following visit with Mom, I tried to replicate the magical barley soup.

I had made the mistake of telling Mom how stressful the initial batch of soup making had been for me. So the next time she left me on my own to tackle the second batch of barley soup. We may have started the task together but before long she left me to my own devices and I did my level best to recreate "our" soup from before.

Needless to say, it was not the same. I don't even think I tasted it. I left one small batch in the fridge for Mom and froze the rest.

She never did comment (to me) one way or the other about my soup but it was still in the freezer when she died. So I packed it up and took it home with me.

One of Mom's superpowers was taking something that didn't taste quite right and knowing exactly what to do to better it. Adding an onion, tomato juice, soup base &/or frying something up would often save a meal others may have thrown away.

I am presently in the process of trying to eat our way through our groceries and Mom's soup kept rising to the surface of something I felt ready to take on.

I tackled it this morning. I added some brown gravy, onion and chopped up some celery (Mom would have NEVER added celery, but I did) and hoped for the best.

I wasn't hungry, but I sampled it anyway. The celery was a little crunchy (Mom may have been right about the celery) and it could be a tad on the salty side. But? It tastes okay. It may even be classified as "good".

I thought of Mom and me in her kitchen making that initial batch of soup. She didn't have the stamina to do the job on her own but having me be her right hand cook was a good compromise. The result was a soup done according to her specifications, I learned a thing or two but most of all, it is the memory I hold onto. Even though I felt a blog titled "56 Years of Mother/Daughter Bonding Undone With One Batch of Soup" coming on at the time, it is still a little nugget from last year I have retained.

This morning, I stirred up Mom's soup and thought of that day. I remembered the relief in watching her eating and enjoying a rather hearty meal together.

Mom would comment, "Some live to eat; I eat to live". Food was never a source of entertainment or comfort to Mom. She ate what she needed to eat, enjoyed her cookies, an occasional O'Henry chocolate bar, Drumsticks and my sister's chocolate fudge at Christmas. But for the most part, food was not a big ticket item on Mom's things-that-brought-her-joy list. She ate to survive.

She did her level best to eat enough to survive but her illness took over and her relationship with food never quite recovered.

I sit here in my kitchen, taking in the aroma of Mom's barley soup and I'm grateful. Grateful for Mom's Barley Soup for the Soul.

Life's Little Blessings

When we wake up each morning, sheltered from the weather, secure in our environment, with the knowledge that clean water and food sources are accessible we are fortunate.

When we wake up each morning, with the ability to put our feet on the ground beneath us and walk, see where we are going and hear the world around us we are blessed.

When we wake up feeling a little off but it passes within the minutes, day or even several days later we are lucky.

When we wake up with a peaceful heart and are surrounded by walls where serenity rules we are beyond blessed.

When we wake up each morning, we should take a moment to count those very blessings before we place our feet on the floor and take our first step forward.

When we wake up counting our blessings, it strengthens our spirit and resolve to confront whatever the day has in store.

May you focus on your blessings today and allow your load feel a little lighter.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Easy Life

As I sit here living the good life - a life with a roof, clean water, ample food, easy transportation and a bed to sleep on each and every night - I can't help but think of those who don't have easy access to all of the above.

Presently, two of my three sons are out conquering the 75 km long West Coast Trail. They left on their adventure on Sunday. It is now Friday. They have carried everything they need to survive on their backs, spent five nights camping under the stars in (what appears to be) fairly decent weather. 

This morning, they should be nearing their destination. According to the Weather Network, they have woken up to light rain this morning, with 10 to 20 mm of rain predicted throughout the afternoon and evening, with 100% probability of rain overnight.

They have been walking for five days. They are supposedly headed towards the "easier" end of the trail. "Easy" being a relative term, I assume, after conquering the arduous challenges at the beginning of their trek.

Their packs should be a little lighter, having eaten five days worth of their food rations. But the idea of packing up a wet tent to carry on for what should be near the last day(s) of their trek is daunting to me.

My sons are accompanied by their aunt and a girlfriend. I can only guess as to the conditions they have walked through, challenges they have overcome as they test their endurance.

Why people voluntarily sign up for this challenge is beyond my comprehension, yet they do. There is consolation in the knowledge that this is a choice they have made.

As I wake up to a morning where our predicted heatwave is offset by driving to work and working in air conditioned conditions. I am sheltered from all weather conditions, good or bad, yet I still seem to find challenges within the days.

As I pack a light lunch and consider the possibility of picking up some take out item for supper and know that I have a reliable and comfortable ride home at the end of the day, I really must remember life as I know it IS a walk in the park.

There are so very many of those who cannot say the same. For those who do not choose the conditions they are living in and through, I cannot begin to to imagine. 

May your pack feel lighter today. And if you find yourself walking through the rain, tread carefully and may you enjoy nature's shower...