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Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolution time

someone gave me one of those 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' books for Christmas.... on a Christmas theme. i was a little low before i read it. now i'm seriously depressed. why did i read it at all? i know i don't like those books. i hate stories of people gushing about how a single random act of kindness changed their lives. and i have a really dysfunctional family, so stories of the perfect family christmas celebration don't do much for me either. i think i was hoping the book would cheer me up, but it had the opposite effect. maybe i'm just jealous of those writers and their family gatherings and longstanding traditions. am i too cynical to appreciate what they're trying to say?

but, much as i regret reading the thing, it has made me face my despondency. since i lost one of my dearest friends last spring, i've been in and out of depression. up and down like a roller coaster. it's not going away on its own, so i guess i'll have to do something about it. working harder hasn't helped. no surprise, but that's always been my first choice for dealing with problems. work harder. in fact, one of the first things my 'executive coach' said to me, in our first session was, "you work too hard. what are you hiding from?"

i replied, "well, life, obviously." but we all know hiding from life doesn't make it go away.

so, be it resolved that granny has some problems she needs to work through; 2011 shall be the year of excavation into the deep and dark realms of the soul. it might get ugly. there's some nasty stuff down there.

one of the deep dark issues is trust. i'm not good at it. and, frankly there are some sound reasons for that. but human beings are wired to trust. we can't have meaningful relationships without it. with anyone. by best relationship right now is with my dog. i love my dog, but he hasn't solved my loneliness.

for me, writing is therapy. writing about things helps me work through them. but there are big trust issues with letting anyone else read what i write. is it enough just to write it, or is sharing the information part of the therapy?

Resolution #1
make writing about emotional issues a priority. regularly, and in a disciplined way.

another issue is marital status. 8 years ago, on new year's day, my husband dumped me. it was never explained, and technically, we're still married. this needs to be cleared up. i need some understanding of what was going on in his mind, and why he did it. and i need a divorce.

Resolution #2
contact the ex. request an explanation. notify him that i want a divorce. begin divorce proceedings.

another issue - i don't seem able to rest, or allow myself leisure time. is this avoidance, or just habit? there are things i used to love doing, that i won't allow myself time to do now. even my music is always related to teaching or an upcoming gig. can i do it just for pleasure?

Resolution #3
remember how to rest, and to play. then do it.

....all very personal stuff, but i guess i'm a bit self absorbed right now.

on a lighter note, i have a christmas story for you.

i call it 'Ada's Christmas Apple'

Ada lived next door to me years ago. She was probably in her mid 90's when she told me this - a tiny bird of a woman with huge, strong hands, clear blue eyes and a thick shock of shining silver curls that seemed to have a life of their own, always in mild disarray.

we were standing outside in the yard chatting, as we often did. it was just a little before Christmas. i must have made some comment about gift giving. that was all the invitation Ada needed to start a rant on the blatant and thoughtless commercialism of the season. then she said, "i'll tell you a little story, about the one of the best Christmas gifts i ever had."

and she did. here's my paraphrase of Ada's story:

Ada was one of 10 children... the youngest, i believe. her father died when she was very small, leaving her mother to provide a home and basic necessities for those 10 children. she worked as a laundress, did sewing and mending, and had a small farm, where she raised some chickens and grew a huge garden.

now, Christmas was a big event for Ada's family. the small clapboard house was always fragrant with baking and pine boughs and secrets for many days before the final festive day. she didn't know how her mama did it, but there was always a special meal, and a gift for everyone, every christmas. the children would also team up to make gifts for each other from bits of wood or yarn or fabric, and everyone loved the giving as much as the receiving. on a prosperous year, there would even be raisins and sugar for baking. this particular year was not a prosperous year, but not one of those 10 children questioned whether there would be a gift from Mother in everyone's stocking on Christmas morning.

when she and her sisters woke that morning, in the big bed they all shared, their thoughts were united. with smiles and giggles, they joined the boys downstairs where everyone had hung a stocking the night before. the stockings weren't anything fancy. just the same nondescript woolen stockings Mother always knit for them all to wear through the winter. some were darned and patched, but all were clean and in good repair. and from the top of every child's stocking a bright new pair of mittens was peeking out. Ada's were the cheeriest red she could imagine. she pulled them out excitedly and put them on. the color alone was enough to keep her warm on the coldest day.

but, wait, there was something else! the toe of the stocking was still weighted down. as she reached her small hand down into the warm stocking she could see her brother, beside her, pulling something up from the toe of his stocking. her fingers closed around the smooth, firm, cool skin of an apple, just as she saw another just like it in her brother's hand. a whole fresh apple! all to herself! where had Mother got them from? none of them had seen a fresh apple in months. even the dried apples in the muslin sack in the pantry were nearly gone by now. a whole fresh red apple - and there was one for each of them! they didn't even have to share!

most of the apples were gone before breakfast even began, crunched up and practically inhaled immediately. a few of the kids saved their apples until after breakfast. one or two even saved theirs for later in the day. but not Ada. she put her apple carefully in the pocket of her apron and carried it with her all day. it was there when she put on her coat and lovely new mitts to bring in the kindling for the woodstove later that day. it was in her pocket as they ate their simple feast later in the day, and it was still in her apron pocket, bumping a gentle reminder against her leg, as she went upstairs to bed that night. she put it under her pillow and slept breathing its sweet scent.

the next morning, Ada's first thought as she opened her eyes was for her apple. she reached for it under her pillow, but it wasn't there! none of her sisters seemed to be awake. had one of them come across it in the night? had someone found and eaten her precious apple? surely no one would be so cruel? no, there it was..... just beyond her toe at the foot of the bed - a cool lump at her feet.

well, that wasn't the place to keep it. she'd have to think of something better for tonight. so, all day, as she did her chores, the apple, once again safely in her apron pocket, bumped companionably against her leg. but she worried about the best place to put it. if she just left it out somewhere in the house, someone would be sure to think she didn't want it. she couldn't put it outside. it would freeze in the sub-zero temperatures. if she put it in the barn, the chickens or another creature would find it, and they would certainly eat it. then, as she placed the kindling in the box near the stove, she spied the loose board behind the stove, on the wall between the kitchen and parlor. behind it was the place perfect for a lovely, juicy apple. not cold enough to freeze, but cool enough that the apple wouldn't spoil quickly.

so that was where Ada secreted her treasure away each night before she went up to bed with her sisters, carefully pulling the board away just enough to place her treasure gently between the studs of the wall. in the morning, as she did her chores, she would retrieve it, lovingly returning it to her apron pocket for the day, to ride along and bump a quiet reminder to her of her delicious secret. and now and then, when she had an opportunity, she went alone to the barn, where she climbed the ladder to the hayloft. she would find a comfy spot in the hay, all the better if there was a sunbeam to enjoy. she'd gently pull her shining red apple from her apron pocket - almost exactly the color of her beautiful new mittens! and she'd breathe deeply the succulent sweetness of it. she'd roll it on her cheeks, feeling the perfect, smooth coolness of it. she'd hold it in the sunbeam and admire it from all angles - top and bottom, all around its delicious firmness.

she did this for more than a week.

well, Ada was not very old then, but she was old enough to know that apples don't keep forever. so she was watching for signs that it was losing its freshness. she knew that spoiled apples are not at all good to eat, and she had every intention of eating this one. when she could see subtle indications that her apple would soon be past its best, she made yet another trip to the barn. she climbed the loft and found her favorite comfy spot in the hay, right where a bright sunbeam liked to be at that time of day. she looked her apple over very carefully, memorizing everything about it. she rolled it all over her face, loving the feel of it against her skin. she took many, many deep breaths, trying to store some of that sweet scent inside herself for the remainder of the long winter.

and she bit into that apple, with the biggest bite her small mouth could manage. she chewed slowly, savoring the juicy sweetness that filled her mouth, and the explosion of apple scent that escaped into the air. another bite, savored slowly, and another, and another, till there was only the core. and she ate that too, licking every finger carefully so no drop of flavor was lost.

for weeks after, every time she filled the kindling box, Ada smiled fondly at the loose board in the wall which had protected her treasure every night, and she missed the weight of it in her apron pocket.

but Ada never forgot the simple gift of a fresh apple on a farm in a northern alberta winter during the first decade of the 20th century. and she couldn't believe that any of the brightly wrapped gifts under any Christmas tree in 1990 could mean as much to any child as that apple had meant, and continued to mean to her.

Monday, December 6, 2010

ice fog

... tiny ice crystals suspended in the sub zero air. it looks like fog, but it's intensely cold, and the pale rising sun hasn't strength to burn it off.

i've been signed on for 'Executive Coaching'. it's a bit foggy too.... leadership training with a fancy name, really... and a fancy price tag to go with it. fortunately, the national office and my local board are paying for it, and the 'coach' contributes a sizable discount, in support of Habitat. i'm remembering some things about myself, being reminded of things about the society i live in. and i'm getting an uneasy feeling that 'corporate' leadership has some unsettling manipulative qualities about it. semantics become very important. if we are to persuade people to behave in the ways we want them to, we must never make them feel defensive. if we are to channel them in the directions we wish them to go, we cannot 'challenge' them, but must 'suggest' and .... coerce, really.

i was in a meeting earlier today with a 'facilitator' who used exactly that kind of language and behavior modification. and i thought, 'how politically correct her speech is. how cautious, how flavorless and insipid." i don't want to be like that.

but my board DOES need some leadership. we need to do some long range planning, and it's the Executive Director's job (good grief, that's me!) to initiate that and oversee it. so, ok.... i can spell moderation, but i'm still learning how to practice it. there are skills i need to learn. but i'm damned if i'll be some bland mealy mouth with secret motives.

mainstream lifestyle is not something i strive for. i cringe at the SUV's and monster houses, at the latest fashions in luxury lifestyles. i've never owned a new vehicle or had a manicure in my life. i'm not attracted to the artifice that seems to be a requirement for 'respectability'. not that new vehicles or manicures are a bad thing.... but they and their ilk have become the measures by which society judges its members. not that i don't appreciate craftsmanship and quality, but these things too are judged through the grimy lens of artifice, and seem to have value only if they carry a large dollar value, or are 'impressive'. some folk don't seem able even to recognize quality or value without an attending price sticker.

my challenge (oops, not supposed to use that word) is to be respected and listened to in a society whose values, for the most part, i reject. i'm expected to bring about change in this society, for the benefit of an organization i passionately believe is making the world a better place. how do i do that without prostituting myself, and with integrity and kindness?

Monday, November 22, 2010

it's back

the bloody awful stinking cold is back. already. a couple of weeks ago i was walking along the creekside trails with the dog, shuffling lovely fallen leaves in the autumn sunshine and loving life. but winter has returned suddenly and without preamble. there's already 6 or 8 inches of snow. we're expecting -30 tonight, and it's only November. i was out crawling around under the radiator of my truck in the dark last night, hunting for the cord to the block heater. how does it always manage to disappear over summer, and why is always it black as an oil company CEO's heart outside the first winter's eve when i realize that i have to plug in the truck? i think i plugged it in twice last winter, it was that mild. and certainly not before late in December. my heart quails at the thought of what it will be like in February, after a start like this. and what my utility bills will be like if it's this danged cold all winter.

i hate winter. as my joints get older and creakier i hate it more and more. if we were meant to live in cold we'd have lovely thick pelts.

which brings me to one of life's pleasant diversions. the lovely dog. he's turning in to a very nice boy. he now weighs 35 lb (@6 months old, so some growing to do yet), and had his first trip to the groomer's today, in order to excavate for eyes. as he's a 'non-shedding' breed, his hair grows continually, so he needs regular haircuts. he's so wiggly and friendly, i don't dare go anywhere near his face with a pair of scissors. i can manage to trim his main parts, but i'm fearful of blinding him if i attempt facial hair. so, off he went, and made a whole bunch of new friends there. the down side of the lovely dog, which i should have twigged on long before i did, is that he needs to be walked. several times a day. which has been most pleasant so far. but the thing i didn't foresee, and really should have, was the walking him in the bloody awful cold. i hate the cold. he, however, seems to love it. if i were more like him, and had several inches of thick, curly R40 fluff all over my body, and webbed feet that appear to serve as excellent snowshoes, i might be less grumpy about it, but, no matter how long i go without shaving my various body parts that are inclined to sprout fur, i'll never have an R factor of more than .05, and my matronly physique sinks through, straight to bedrock the minute i place a foot on the wretched white stuff. "think positively", i tell myself. spring is only 5 or 6 months away.... maybe 150 or 200 sleeps. oh god, that's forever. if i don't freeze to death, i'll die of old age before it warms up.

another hopeful diversion was a Canadian Home Builders' Association jury i was asked to sit on, to determine the winners of the annual awards for excellence in home building. i was really excited about this, thinking there would be some innovative, imaginative, exciting homes. well, there might be..... i didn't actually get to see the homes. i got to spend 4 hours wading through several dozen binders full of pictures of homes, in a room in a high rise with a wall of glass that bled every BTU that may have originated in my proximity to the sub arctic outside. kept my coat on the whole time and wished i'd worn my hoody, snow packs and long johns instead of 'official personage' garb. i guess the photos are meant to streamline the process, which used to take most of a week to actually visit every entry. but i couldn't make out anything really exciting from the photos.... and the real disappointment was that the judging criteria made no mention of innovative building techniques, materials or designs. nor any suggestion that there may be value in environmentally sustainable materials or methods. zero mention. in bloody NORTHERN ALBERTA where it's regularly THIRTY OR FORTY BELOW ZERO for grueling months on end, and there's real value in building with energy savings in mind. some builders made mention of energy conscious features they'd built in, but there was no criteria for giving credit for doing it. and, most disappointing of all, they were pretty much all the same. 'higher' categories were just bigger, with more expensive materials. pretty much the same styles, very little variation in floorplan. it was very clear what's 'in' these days, cuz they all had it. my little bitty low budget condo done in discounted and recycled materials is more interesting than any one of them. builders in this town are just plain boring. it's all about the status quo, which is mediocre and conservative at best. certainly not cheap, with granite countertops and exotic woods, but everything looked the same. builders seem to think everyone WANTS their homes to look the same, and i suppose they're right.... they build what sells. blah.

but this isn't just a rant. there's good news too. i've convinced my board (with winter budget control in mind) to reduce my hours to 4 days a week for Dec, Jan & Feb, which is very exciting. i've nearly got all the bits and odds (how can one person possibly have so much STUFF?! i downsized before i moved!!) sorted into their appropriate rooms (except the basement, but we wont go there.... unless laundry needs URGENTLY to be done) and am working on final trim and lights, etc to finish things up. the creative juices begin to flow. will post a shot of windows i painted white-on-white for a sort of frosted glass look, in lieu of draperies when i took the hideous clattering vinyl vertical blinds down in the living room.

once i get the trim all done, and ugly 'boob' lights replaced, i see quilts, watercolor painting and calligraphy in my future. i've already started my first batch of home made soap.

if you tell anyone i said this, i'll swear you're lying, but.... there's a possibility i might even start cooking real food again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Every now and then we get something really unique at the ReStore. the photo doesn't do this justice. it's about 2 1/2 feet across, and made up of hundreds of hand cut lead crystals. a staff member insisted on taking it home to individually polish every one of those crystals, as it was filthy when it showed up, in pieces, in a cardboard box in the trunk of someone's car.
when she arrived at work a couple of mornings later, she was grinning from ear to ear as she called to us from the door, "Wanna see something really special?"
so off we all toddled behind her, in the bright morning sunlight to see what she was on about. she lead us proudly to the back door of her beat up little car, which she opened with a flourish and a beaming face. +
no kidding, it was blinding. she had somehow carefully balanced it upside down on a pylon to keep it in one piece for the journey, and as the sun hit all those faceted crystals, the whole inside of her car lit up with rainbows.
can't you see this in some funky little place with a patchwork quilt thrown over the couch, and an overstuffed armchair? or maybe in a bright little bathroom with a high ceiling and a clawfoot tub? a teen girl's bedroom with a faux zebra skin coverlet......
when it arrived, we were certain the 'crystals' were acrylic, or, at best, glass. they just looked awful and cheap, all dirty in that cardboard box. but, holy crow! they're the real deal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn is Subtle... northern alberta. we don't see the
brilliant blaze of red touched with gold that eastern canada gets. there's the occasional flash of red in a tree, but reds this far north like to hug the ground, and are more common in shrubs and undergrowth. gold is the most predominant autumn tree color here, framing the darkening green of spruce and pine. by winter the evergreens appear almost black - a combination of coniferous heredity and failing sunlight.... this photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, just as the leaves began to turn.

the trails through the city centre follow a ravine shaped over the years by a muddy little creek. cyclists, pedestrians and wildlife meander back and forth across it on numerous narrow foot bridges. i haven't counted the bridges, but i'd hazard a guess of a dozen or so. the potential for under-bridge dwelling trolls is huge, but word hasn't reached the trolls yet... maybe they don't like the climate - or perhaps i'm unfairly stereotyping trolls. maybe they don't all terrorize travelers, demanding a toll to cross the bridge. still, i think of trolls every time i cross a footbridge.

the asphalt paved walking trails are strewn with gold. forsaken leaves lay at my feet in the bright, sun like shining pieces of eight on the dark surface of the path. more leaves whisper overhead as the fallen crunch underfoot. an occasional golden offering drifts down. we're at the halfway point of autumn now, with trees still beautifully garbed in brilliant color, and the earth scattered with brilliance.

there's a large, lone manitoba maple on the landscaped lot of an apartment building near me - brilliant gold with trunk and branches of jet. the grass surrounding it is still very green, as we've had rain for most of september. beneath the tree is a perfect circle of gold, a brilliant spotlight on the lush green, and against the upright black trunk of the tree. the maple's solo performance - its season premiere, against the darkening sky.

as summer exhales her last breath, the air redolent with moist earth and ripe berries. so thick and rich and sweet with scent i marvel that i can see through this dense aromatic, invisible olfactory fog.

there's frost every morning now. the world wakes, yawns and stretches. the first morning rays of gold pour over the horizon and prickle the edges of leaves and twigs with sparkling astonishment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

puppy = love

this small, hairy (i'm told it isn't fur) quadruped is teaching me some lessons. perhaps i learned them once, and have forgotten.... after all, i did raise 4 children, who seem to have survived the ordeal without major psychological damage. surely they taught me some of these lessons.

so far, he's taught (or reminded) me about:

forgiveness - when i get distracted and don't watch him as closely as i should (puppy trainers will tell you, "out of sight = in trouble") and i scold him and put him in his kennel for something that he really hadn't been told was not allowed - he comes out of his kennel wagging his tail, and glad to see me. it may be just the puppy equivalent of 'goldfish memory'. maybe he's already forgotten the incident, and he's merely glad to be let out. but he seems to learn very quickly not to do these things again, so i don't think they're forgotten. just forgiven.

acceptance - though he'd much prefer to be out romping all day, he philosophically accepts that i spend most of every day at a desk or working at the ReStore. he very quickly learned not to complain about it; he takes a nap under the desk until i'm ready to go for a walk. then he's delighted to go for a walk, with no recrimination.

hospitality - he's the friendliest creature i've ever met; always glad to see everyone, regardless of age, race, social status or species. he does, however, have a soft spot for puppies (of any species)

enthusiasm - whatever he does, he does with his whole heart. even in a room full of puppies, he stands out as the one having the MOST fun. he's a blur of motion and wagging tail, racing from one friend to the next.

unconditional love - he doesn't care what my truck looks like, what my clothes look like, or how big my house is. he doesn't even judge me for the kind of food i give him. he just loves seeing me when he wakes up in the morning, always looks delighted when i call his name, and is sad to see me leave without him.

and he's doing a pretty good job of training me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

what next?

is it september already? yesterday it was july.

the dog sleeps contentedly on his blanket on the ReStore floor. he's a happy little guy. with occasional exceptions (like when he ate 10 inches off the corner of the love seat's cushion while i tried to hang some shelves in the bathroom) it's hard to imagine life without him now. this is a rare moment of calm... no customers at the store (no staff either, but that's another story), the phone not ringing.... a bazillion things i should be doing, that i'll get to.... but first, i'll savor the calm.


began with a holiday.... at least that was the plan. but just a few days before the scheduled departure date, for a trip to the Kootenays with a girlfriend, a staff member became very difficult, shouting at me on the sales floor, in the presence of customers and other staff (and my new puppy, who was terrified by the verbal violence and kept me up all night with his crying over it - the night before a live spot on a local morning radio show.... but that's another story). the employee was reprimanded, the situation was discussed, solutions to grievances were sought, and i thought we had the beginnings of resolution.... and the employee promptly repeated the performance in a matter of days. so, as i had suspicions that he was going to quit, and as he was the only remaining management staff while i took my holiday (which was very badly needed.... burnout impending.... was NOT cancelling or postponing) .... i opted for staying home for my 'holiday'. to be available, just in case.

then the fellow who'd assured me that he could do some renovation work on my condo dropped the ball. left me with a heap of old kitchen cabinets piled in the middle of the kitchen because they were too heavy for him to move. so i moved them. had to make room for the new ones. and he left a hole in the bathroom floor which he'd cut to check for dry rot and didn't have time to repair. so i repaired it. and a whole pile of other work that he assured me he'd do wasn't done. so i did it. over my 'holiday. 12 or 14 hr days of drywall mudding, sanding, painting, laying laminate, coordinating plumbers, electiricians, etc. ...and walked the very energetic (read 'psycho puppy') dog. by the end of the 2 weeks 'holiday' i thought, "i'll have to go back to work for a rest".

on my return to work on the 17th of August, there was immediately a series of days dealing with the aforementioned difficult staff member... sort of. he didn't come in to work, didn't answer calls, etc. and the new guy who was working under him came in to say he'd just taken a stick in his leg swimming in the river (12 stitches) and couldn't work. this got infected, and he was off for 2 1/2 weeks. also on the day of my return, my construction supervisor for our Habitat build gave 2 weeks notice. he'd accepted a plum job in Edmonton. and, of course, it was the end of summer, so the summer students would be gone in no time.

leaving me with one 1/2 time employee to run the ReStore (usually 3 staff plus myself) and complete our Habitat house.... organize volunteers, orientations, work shifts, meals, trades, donors, teams, services connections, yadayadayada for a 2 unit semi-detached house for occupancy by the first of December.

then, just as the summer students were leaving, they passed on the killer cold. i've been so sick. but interviews had to be done, new staff had to be hired, volunteers have to be recruited, scheduled, and kept on track. i should be jailed for spreading this monster bug around.... and i know i have......

haven't been to see my very elderly parents for several weeks because i don't want to bless them with this bug.... they've been in and out of the hospital all summer.

and just when i thought things couldn't get much worse, i found a notice in my mailbox telling me the electricity is going to be disconnected.... good grief!! when's the last time i paid the bill?! the summer is such a blur..... i can't remember.... must be a while! so i got it all paid online immediately, called to tell them so, and they disconnected me anyway.... because my bank doesn't give a transaction number for online payments, and they had no proof i'd paid.... i went to the bank personally to get a transaction number, as none was given at the time.... and was told "we don't do that." "what then," i asked in bewilderment, "is the point of making payments online, if i have no proof that i've made the payment?" this was met with stony silence, and will soon be rewarded with a letter to the branch manager.

bloody hell. it's cold here at night now. and dark. the dog - now a boisterous 25 lb of teeth and energy - doesn't like the dark, so i have to carry him up the dark stairs to his bedtime kennel.... it's that or drag him by the collar. he doesn't like those dark stairs. and i'd just bought lots of lovely groceries in celebration of the new kitchen. the fridge was full to burstin' with delicious things.... which have all spoiled. and more than anything else, i want a nice hot cup of tea to soothe my poor raw throat before i climb into my cold bed with my hot water bottle. fortunately, unlike the electric stove , fridge and tea kettle, the hot water is gas powered, so i comfort myself with lots of hot baths. it's a week today, with no power..... i was told 1 to 5 business days.... and of course there was a long weekend in there......

as i walked the dog the other day, i wandered down a new trail, and found myself in a neighborhood sporting houses all in excess of 4000 square feet. beautiful stone and brick work all over the place, perfectly manicured yards, 3 and 4 bay garages with numerous brand new vehicles parked in front of them. and i thought "i wonder how many of these people have ever had their power disconnected. or ever gone without anything at all..... and i felt a wee bit sorry for myself. but as i went a little further, and found myself back among the glorious autumn foliage of the trees along the creek, with the smell of the wild cranberries sweetening every breath, i remembered that i lived for years without power, by choice, in a log cabin along the Yukon River, and didn't consider it a hardship. and i thought of the millions of people in Haiti and Pakistan, whose lives are endangered by circumstances they have no responsibility at all for. all things are relative, after all, and my small inconvenience is, sadly, self-inflicted, and gladly, not life threatening and only temporary.

the fellow with the stitches in his leg is back at work now, but my 1/2 time worker just called in to say she has a Dr's note saying she has to stay home all week.

i'm starting to think i should just stay in bed tomorrow morning. if the power isn't on when i go home tonight, i'll be sorely tempted to do that..... till the dog needs a walk......

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

you might be a redneck

if you've driven around with a toilet in the back of your truck for so long that you forgot it was there....

you might be a redneck

so the truth is out. i have to come clean. i guess i'm a redneck. the toilet in question came out of my main floor half-bath.

which is still toilet-less.

but it was cracked, and i had to hire a plumber to change some pipes for the kitchen reno, and the reno of the upstairs bath.... so i asked him to take it and the ratty old sink beside it out. (still sink-less too) there are 2 brand new low flow toilets, still in boxes, stacked in the sink-less, toilet-less bathroom, awaiting installation of the new floors in both baths before they can go in.

so, the toilet. i got the plumber to help me move it from the front step (cuz i didn't want to LOOK like a redneck, and the neighbors might object) to the box of my pickup, for disposal. but every trip to the landfill costs me $10, so i thought i'd wait till i had a full load at least. there's carpet to tear up still.

then all hell broke loose at work, and i nearly fired 2 staff members. probably should have, but i really NEED a holiday (which began today) and they're both disabled in some way, so i try to be .... what? stupid, maybe...... it's an authority issue, so it'll come back, and i may have to fire them anyway. but, first, i get my holiday.

so, with that, and trying to get the kitchen back into functioning state (new cabinets are in) i really did forget about the toilet in the back of my truck. the truck box has a hard cover, so the thing's not sitting proudly back there making a spectacle of itself. it's laying on its side, with the cover almost closed, as the toilet's just a tad bigger than the depth of the box...... cover tied down with a bit of string i happened to have behind the seat. (if you can always find a bit of string or wire or rope behind your truck seat, you might be a redneck) .... and a 6 inch gap through which there's an occasional gleam of white porcelain.

meanwhile, i got a panicky call from a young bride, whose wedding violinist had cancelled. 3 days before the wedding. was i available? k. sure. i can do that for you. i know the repertoire. rehearsal and wedding at the brand spankin' new ginormous catholic church.

on the natal day, off in the furthest corner of the parking lot, if you were looking, you might have seen a rusty little red ford ranger pull in, with the hardtop on the box tied shut with a piece of twine, and a used toilet peeking from under it. as the door opened, a middle aged woman in fromal concert black stepped out, reached back in for a violin case, and strode purposefully to the church.

which is magnificent

she joined the pianist in playing Pachelbel's Canon in D as the gorgeous bridal party made its solemn way up the sun dappled aisle under majestic gothic arches towards the massive stained glass windows, under the reverent eyes of the priest. it was a beautiful wedding.

then she packed up her violin, and strode, in formal concert black, back to the furthest corner of the parking lot, where awaited the rusty little ford ranger, with the used toilet in the back, protected partially from the public eye by a frayed piece of twine. and she drove her toilet home.

some twisted part of my psyche finds the whole thing humorous. though others may not. and, i did try to be discreet, but i couldn't park too far away. it was HOT out, and i can't walk far in those shoes. ..... but i wonder if someone noticed, and if that's why i haven't yet been paid...?

so... the toilet.....i didn't want to dispose of it at the ReStore. firstly, we don't take used toilets, for a number of reasons, and, secondly, we pay for our dumping, and i don't want to set an example, for employees to bring their oversized trash there for 'free' dumping. so finally, as, with all-hell-breaking-loose-at-work, i was getting no further with renovations (and, specifically, tearing up of carpets) any time soon, i asked the maintenance guy at my condo if it was acceptable to put such things in the communal dumpster. he replied, "not really, but everyone does it, so, here, let me give you a hand with that." and after 2 weeks of driving around with a toilet i wasn't sure what to do with, it was gone.

life is never dull. a bit weird at times, but never dull.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

thinking of ice

.... not wishing for more than a few chunks of it in a tall glass, but remembering it. it was very warm here today. the new pup doesn't like the heat. he has such a thick pelt, he suffers in the heat. i give him ice cubes to gnaw on, and wet his belly with cool water. i wish there was a pond i could take him to.... but must wait till he's had his second round of shots (next week) before we can go to all the good places where everyone else gets to go.

ice. i know this will demonstrate just how gauche i truly am.... but i love nearly frozen white wine on a day like today... with ice crystals thickening it... or at the very least, very well chilled wine over ice.

the images are from a pond hockey gig last winter, where the bands play in a big canvas 'beer garden' tent while the sound of skates on ice and sticks hitting pucks punctuates the rhythm of the music. i couldn't resist getting a picture of this fellow playing hockey in a cowboy hat in -15 or 20 C.

i'm not a hockey fan at all, but i love the pond hockey event. it's all about community and outdoor activity and celebrating life in the dead of the coldest month of the year (february)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

new baby

Meet the Maestro. He's in his finest concert dress for the photo. My new best friend.... if we survive puppyhood. We both need a lot of training. He's a little whirlwind of energy with a very sharp mind. i'll have my hands full with him, i think.

must go... potty time

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

mixed messages

a recent weird, convoluted and deceitful conversation with a new employee and her parents reminded me of these photos, taken when i was stranded in Kansas City, MO last november. it's the mixed messages in the landscape that got my attention.... as with the aforementioned people. the 'free abortion alternatives' next to a church, and shop sign with the name 'it's a dream' nearby.... the brewery and big beer billboard next door to a church with very fundamentalist posters/notices on the door. we're complex creatures - have created a complex society. truth is sometimes difficult to find, let alone communicate to others.

i'd much rather take pictures of mixed messages than try to decode them. i hope she enjoys her unemployed summer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

some need a red sports car

.... for me it's a red kayak. ....with the most beautiful carbon fibre paddle. purchased recently, i suppose this must be my midlife crisis happening....

and a handsome young black haired four legged portuguese fellow to go with it. my kids have named the new canine member of the family (who should be coming home in mid August) Maestro. this is their revenge, after decades of putting up with my musical preoccupation.

just shortly after we put in, the skies opened. son David, in the picture, (though he's handsome, he has only 2 legs, and brown hair) had borrowed my wetsuit, as he had no bathing suit with him. he was cold enough, but i was soaked to the skin and cheerfully hypothermic. we then went home for a nice hot cuppa.

she's a 12 foot Jackson Daytripper. not meant for 2 people, and doesn't exactly turn on a dime loaded up like that, but she can do it when need be, and she'll have no trouble carrying me, some gear, and a puppy. and she's easy for me to load and unload from my little truck all by myself.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

from the nursery

meet Sadie, Portuguese Water Dog and mum of my puppy. one of these adorable little wigglers will be coming home with me late in July, after the breeder has made her selection. my daughter and granddaughter have already named him for me.... Maestro. Porties are one of the 'hypoallergenic' breeds. this was a big issue for me, as i'm very allergic to furry things. they were bred in Portugal (what a surprise) by fishermen, for use as working dogs. they helped set nets, ran errands from boat to boat, and did water rescue. they're now used predominantly as water rescue dogs. very intelligent, males about 65 lb, high energy with long wavy hair. Sadie has had a haircut.

my ReStore is on the edge of an undeveloped area which is popular with homeless people in our city. they have good taste; it's a lovely part of town. but some of my board members worry about my safety during the time i spend at the store alone - opening and closing, and working before and after hours. so, when i suggested that i might have a dog with me at the store, they liked the idea.

it's a bit odd, this sudden loneliness i'm feeling. my dear friend Laurie, who died recently, lived more than a thousand miles away, and there were sometimes stretches of time when i didn't see her for a couple of years. at times we kept in touch only sporadically, over the 30 years we knew each other.... it's not like she was involved in my daily life. but she was always THERE. reliably and permanently connected directly to my heart. i've never felt such loneliness as i've experienced since she died. it's an ache that just doesn't go away. so i want this puppy very badly. unsure what the connection is, but there seems to be one. perhaps i'm expecting too much of this pup. but i think in need something that needs me, and that needs to be exercised and entertained, to bring me out of my funk, as i tend to be reclusive when i'm unhappy.

i've mentioned to my staff that there may be a pup joining us at the ReStore later in the summer, and shown them the pictures. after the 'aaaaaaw's' they stoically assured me that it would be a hardship, but they thought they could tolerate that.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The excitement is BUILDING!

And, lo, a mighty host appeared, clothed in shining .... denim? and the joyful sound of .... hammering? was heard throughout the land.

Behold, Habitat for Humanity Waynorth's 2010 contribution to breaking the cycle of poverty through enabling low income families to own a home. This is an ICF (insulated concrete form) duplex, with walls rated at R50. Windows and doors are all low E - i'm told you can nearly heat these places with a candle. The folks you're looking at are Habitat for Humanity staff and board members, and some very generous building contractors who are providing their services at very low cost. This was our first 'official' meeting w everyone all in the same place. Not easy to manage, but a lunch meeting with free pizza convinced them to come. We're also hoping to begin a renovation in the fall, of a home built in the 70's, in need of TLC, which we may be purchasing from the city.

These folks all look pretty ordinary don't they? That's the really thrilling thing about Habitat. Everyone IS pretty ordinary. No divas or superstars. But together we make a very big difference.

I was in my granddaughter's classroom this morning. She and i did a little musical interlude for everyone, with our violins. About 15 kids. So far, our little HFH affiliate in north-of-sanity Waynorth has put 9 low income families with a total of 30 children in their own homes. It's been shown that NOTHING breaks the cycle of poverty more effectively than home ownership. That's 2 elementary school classrooms full of kids whose families now have equity in their own homes to help build their futures with.

I love my job.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life goes on. AKA in memory of Laurie

o the summer time is comin'
and the trees are sweetly bloomin'
and the wild mountain thyme
grows among the purple heather

there's a chokecherry tree in full bloom not 20 feet from my open window. the air is thick and sweet and intoxicating. it's like breathing sparkling wine. little green heads are butting their way through the earth in lovingly tended flowerbeds as i walk the city streets. on the walking trails along the creek, i smell the trees growing. hear the sunlight dripping like amber honey off their leaves, feel it mingle with the salt on my skin.

there are babies everywhere. puppies and kittens in the arms of children; lambs and calves in the new-green fields; acres of baby plants at the local greenhouse. the very air is pregnant, thick with plant hormones. life is beginning all around me.

i sit, with silent tears washing my cheeks, remembering a garden on the Sunshine Coast, and the gardener who will not return to it. ever. her partner has planted 3 new rose bushes in her memory. i'll plant some here, as well. and lavender. she loved roses and lavender.

Laurie and i met nearly 30 years ago, when she advertised in the local newspaper for female musicians to start an all-girl band. we jammed a bit, and things clicked. then we discovered that we'd both signed on for high school upgrading at the local college the coming fall. i was a single mum with 2 small kids, and she was tired of playing the bar circuit. we both needed to 'better ourselves'. so we were going back to school. though we continued to make music together for all those years, we never did pull the all-girl band together.

once school started that September, we spent almost every waking moment of the next 8 months together, studying our brains out. there weren't a lot of options available to upgrading students, so we had almost identical class schedules. i'd been a complete bomb as a student prior to this. in retrospect, i think as a child i was at least marginally ADHD. it didn't even 'exist' at that time, and it presents differently in girls than it does in boys, so i was just considered a 'troubled child', or 'difficult'. add a gluten intolerance (also unknown at the time) that makes me sleepy and depressed and unable to concentrate, and an extremely dysfunctional family background, and you have a kid all of the teachers pass just because they don't want to have to deal with her for another year. in that 8 months we spent completing high school upgrading, Laurie taught me how to study. i'd drive up to her house every morning in my huge, ancient Chrysler, and pick her up on my way to school, and drive off with her in the front seat, and mountains of school books in the back seat.

we studied. hard. and we both worked evenings as well. all my life i'd been told i was stupid and lazy. until then, i believed it. Laurie wouldn't believe it, so i tried harder than i'd ever tried before. there were times when our social studies teacher would show these filmstrips on history. ....with a recorded male voice droning endlessly on about socialism or communism, then a ping to tell the operator to go to the next frame. the room was a mini ampitheatre, with concentric semicircles of seating rising from a circular area at the bottom, where the screen was. Laurie and i would sit side by side in the front row where no one could look back at us, and set our notebooks on the table in front of us, open for taking notes. we'd each hold a pen in one hand, and we'd lean our heads and shoulders together for support, while we took a nap. we both had jobs to go to after school was out. and i had kids to take care of after that. when we'd been awarded top marks for the program, the social teacher told me, "i knew you two were sleeping up there, but i couldn't say anything, because you got the best marks in the class." we got top marks in every class. when i held that diploma, and that wad of awards in my hand, i thought. "i'm NOT stupid. the sky's the limit. i can do anything i set my mind to." and i signed up for the B. Mu program.

Laurie took us to our first live theatre performance. it was The Hobbit, and it was magical. i'd read the book to the kids. several times. we all loved it. My 4 year old daughter spent the whole time of the play in terrible fear that every time the lights went down or the curtain closed, it was over. she SO didn't want it to be over. i spent the whole time expecting someone to realize that we didn't belong there. waiting in shame for a tap on the shoulder, and an angry voice telling me we'd have to leave. but the tap on the shoulder never came, and this was the beginning of my love for theatre. Laurie was the first person to show me that where i came from is not who and what i am. since that first magical show, i've been in many, serving as musical director for several of them.

when i re-married, Laurie stayed with my kids while we went on a honeymoon, and when, years later, my husband left me, i went into a complete tailspin. Laurie sent me a plane ticket to the Sunshine Coast, where she and her partner had just bought their dream home. it was a total package, also including a detailed itinerary with a bus ticket to get me from the airport to the ferry, and a ferry ticket to get me to her side of the pond, where she picked me up, took me home, and mothered me back to something close to sanity.

after several years of unexplained illness, while she studied for her B. Ed. Laurie was diagnosed with Multiple Schlerosis. it took her 8 years to do the 4 year program. much of the time she was in hospital. at the end of her 6th year, she was in a wheelchair. they told her she'd never walk again. i think it was at this time that she was also diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, which causes joints to fuse, and is extremely painful.

but she didn't accept that. over the next 2 years, she progressed gradually from a wheelchair to a walker, to two canes, then one, still working her way through the B. Ed program, and when she graduated, Laurie was not only walking, she was cycling, x-country skiing and swimming. her gift to herself on graduation was a cycling trip through Europe. during that trip, she received a standing ovation from the patrons of a small roadside cafe in Greece, who watched her toil up the side of a mountain as they sipped their morning coffee. as she coasted down from the summit, and through their small town, they rose to their feet, clapping and cheering. they had no idea how much she deserved that, or how much it meant to her.

.... and those are only highlights.... i could write a book about this amazing woman, my dear friend Laurie.

i don't understand how spring can come without her. it should still be winter.

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's over

This is Laurie. Artist, musician and gardener extraordinaire. Weaver. Philosopher. Educator. Devoted friend.

Laurie died last week in a scuba diving accident on the Sunshine Coast. She was one of my dearest friends. A sister to my soul for over 25 years.

I am broken.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Old Woodland Cree Story

meet Flower and Snoopdog, my granddaughter's best friends. Flower looks like a cat, but he isn't really. my daughter found him years ago, a very young kitten, nearly frozen to death (he only has 1/2 his tail as a result) in a parking lot in -35 degree weather. So Snoop, being a gentle little guy, took him under his wing, so to speak, and mothered him. As a result, Flower thinks he's a dog, and they're inseparable.

Seraphine just posted a picture of a much loved, and recently deceased pet, and her usual gentle tongue in cheek commentary on the state of things, which brought to mind a story a friend told me years ago. she was working on a degree of some kind, and studying Cree traditions. most of the first nations people in this part of Canada are Cree. Woodland Cree, specifically, in northern Alberta. So in her research, she came across this story, which she told to me.

it seems that in the days before memory, dogs and cats were very good friends. they enjoyed each other's company and lived peaceably in villages alongside each other. their lodges often stood side by side. on this particular day, the dogs were having one of their clan meetings in their lodge, and the cats went about their business as usual. now, at that time, dogs were very fastidious creatures. not only did they wipe their feet before entering the lodge, keep all of the firewood well away from the fire pit for safety, and NEVER leave their bones laying about the place, but they also removed their bung holes before entering the lodge, and they hung them on a special many-branched pole that was erected just for that purpose outside the door of the lodge.

cats had a mischievous side then, just as they have now. in fact they were well known in the villages as tricksters. on this particular day, one particular cat didn't have enough to do. he'd caught a fish and eaten it, groomed his fur, and sharpened his claws, had a nap in the sun, and there was still a whole lot of day left to fill. he strolled past the lodge where the dogs were meeting, and he heard them all discussing matters of import inside. for a while he watched the patterns the smoke coming through the smoke hole in the centre of the lodge roof made against the clear, calm sky. and as he rubbed against the pole in the lodge entry, he looked up and saw the bung holes. just as he had many times before. just where they always were when the dogs were meeting. but on this particular day, those bung holes gave the cat an idea.

with a delighted flick of his tail, the cat ran to the door of the lodge. he poked his head behind the skin covering the doorway, and shrieked, "Fire, fire, the lodge is on fire!" then he darted out of the way to hear and see the fun. from inside the lodge, the dogs took up the cry of "Fire, fire!" and crashed into each other, and into the support poles of the lodge in their panic to get out of the single doorway. there were yelps and growls, yips and howls such as had never been heard in the village before. by the time the first dog's snout was thrust out the doorway, a crowd had gathered outside. as he raced to safety with others snapping at his heels, the first dog out snatched the first bung hole that came within his reach and put it on. the second dog out did likewise, until everyone was safe and accounted for.

when they realized they had been tricked, they were relieved that their lodge was not harmed, but they were not pleased. and there was a loud hue and cry to find the culprit who had so disrespectfully interrupted their important meeting. of course it was a cat, but WHICH cat? they never found out, because just when they were getting all worked up about a possible conspiracy, they realized that they'd all put on the wrong bung hole.

and they've been checking each other out ever since, in an effort to get their own back.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Frosty says "Farewell!"

he's shrinking, and his proboscis has abandoned ship. it  was actually in the act of deserting as the photo was snapped!  winter, usually an evil tempered hag by march, is suspiciously mild just now.  no doubt she's in lamb's clothing. it's an ill fit. she'll shed her unwelcome skin any day now. be assured that we'll be seeing the lion bare its fangs before april lifts her sweet face.  the streets and pathways are a sheet of ice each morning, and a torrent or a quagmire by the evening meal.   the heat of the sun on bared skin is a lover's tenderest kiss. buds of tree and shrub are pregnant with summer-to-come, in the latter, much swollen phase of gestation, where even a cautious sidewise glance brings empathetic discomfort.  winter, the deceitful harpy, isn't finished with any of them yet. she'll have one last bite at the naked skin so newly caressed, and do her best to abort the unborn green yearning for life. 

but she hasn't beat us yet.  

Sunday, February 21, 2010

i've an evening to sit by the little electric fake fireplace i put in my condo in the city, with a glass of northern alberta honey wine close to hand, and my feet up, catching up on friends in blogland.  the fireplace is fake electric because the condo assoc won't let a real one near the place, it being an old building.... and i like the house cool, but my poor skinny little granddaughter turns blue before long when she comes to visit.  so, as i don't want to discourage visits from the apple of my eye, i found a cute little corner thingy that looks pretty realistic, if you don't look too closely.  i turn it on when she comes over, so there's a warm corner for her, and the darlin' girl loves it.   sits herself down in front of it to do whatever it is she's doing on a given day, with a happy smile.   life is good.

and busy!   living in the city, and teaching violin for the local college's music conservatory in my (hysterical laughter) spare time, there are all sorts of musical opportunities popping up like mushrooms.  this photo was taken by a professional photographer friend, for me to include in my portfolio.  haven't even sent it out, and already i have numerous harp gigs booked over the coming year, on top of the usual ones with the Irish band.  we just had the faculty and conservatory recital last night, which was filled to capacity.  a little daunting, following after folks with Master's Degrees in Music with my celtic fiddling, but it seemed well enough received.  and no one so full of themselves that they look down their noses at the rest of us.  

the ReStore is doing well, picking up nicely after the expected lull over the dark of winter. the sun is stronger each day - the worst of the dreary season over..... and our Habitat for Humanity affiliate is planning our 2010 build!  we've been approached by the city with an offer to purchase a property they got through a mortgage default, that they've been renting out for years.  it's in very sad shape, but structurally sound.  AND a local builder has offered to frame and sheet a duplex for us, billing us only for his cost, for us to finish.  if it all comes to pass, we could be building, not one, not two, but THREE homes for local families this year.   As our average since 1996 has been one home every two years, this possibility is THRILLING!!  i'm enjoying being in the thick of it.... which means a lot of time spent away from the ReStore.  Fortunately i've managed to snag a very excellent employee, who i've just promoted to Floor Manager, as the affiliate has suggested changing my job description/title to include that of affiliate Executive Director.  it's a big vote of confidence, and very gratifying - and exciting. they may be sending me to the national AGM in that capacity in April, if i can convince them that i can be trusted not to loose my passport again....  here's hoping!

spring blessings 

so that's what's been happening.  hardly been home to do more than eat, sleep and wash my dainties.   

Monday, January 18, 2010


while on holiday recently, i stayed with friends on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast.  one of these friends is a weaver, so i had the pleasure of helping her warp her loom for a batch of rugs she planned to make.  

she's the same friend who gave me the loom i have. the loom which i'm pleased to report is now assembled in its own little spare bedroom, surrounded by bookshelves and assorted boxes and bins of various bits of fiber and miscellany.  no picture till i get it warped.  

so, you see, to some of us, being warped is a good thing.  productive, even!

Monday, January 11, 2010

a January morning @ the ReStore

these days, the sun is just heating the horizon as i come to work @ 9 each morning.   for all the cold and snow and darkness in northern alberta, we DO have pretty incredible sunrises and sunsets.  and, unlike the tropics, they last a long time here.   there's time to pull up a comfy  chair, stretch out one's legs, sip a warm cuppa and take a gazillion pictures as the horizon warms, glows, bleeds all over the sky, and gently fades.  

this is the southeast corner of my ReStore yard.  the tree is a black poplar - considered by many a weed.  it's the tree that makes all that high quality pulp for paper for  your photocopiers and computer printers.   and that nice soft toilet paper with the quilted surface.  pulp and paper are second only to oil here.  very big business.  this is a tree that can be cut down to a stump, its roots mangled, and come back stronger than ever, with dozens of offshoots filling a circle with a diameter of sometimes close to 100 feet.  Or be completely denuded of leaves by tent caterpillars several summers running, and make a comeback. they're incredibly resilient. from their unopened leaf buds in the spring, oozes a sticky substance known to herbalists as 'balm of gilead'.  good for healing wounds, skin conditions, etc.  this one is somewhere between 30 and 40 feet high.  a good size for a northern tree, but not half the size they can grow to, given the right encouragement. she's still decked out for the festive season in glittering, frothy hoar frost.  in order to show the lace on the tree i had to expose the sky more, and the colors washed out.  so i opted for a silhouette of the tree and the full glory of the color on high.  the temperature was -32 F when i took this picture.

this is the tree my store mascot, the groundhog, likes to bask in the sun near.   i'm considering building a deck or a patio around it, with a big climbing toy for the kids in summer, and a picnic table where ReStore staff can have our lunch and coffee breaks when the weather's good.  maybe do some saturday classes for people to make mosaic flower pots and patio stones from broken tile etc. i also got wireless internet for the store when we set up, with doing paperwork, etc outside in the shade of the tree on summer days in mind.   

the chain link fence with the prison wire on top was installed by the city, who ran a recycling centre here pre ReStore.   the field beyond the fence is the edge of a park that follows the creek which cuts through the city.   the homeless people sleep amongst the trees along the creek when the weather warms.  the  city fathers didn't like homeless people coming in the yard after hours and taking things to build shacks along the river with, so they imprisoned the tree and everything west of it.  the deer crawl under low spots along the fence and wander the yard at night.  i often see their tracks as i open up in the morning.   no doubt the homeless people can do the same, if they have need to.  their tracks aren't as distinctive as those of the deer, being the same species as staff and customers. our feet are the same; homeless or not.  not that there's any need to track them. not that there'd be any crime in them taking some things if they needed them.   housing people is, after all, our reason for existence. 

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Green New Year

There's no snow on the Sunshine Coast.  I'm visiting friends there for the week after Christmas. It's been raining today, but compared to the -28C that they're having back home, this feels like spring.   The rhododendrons are covered with fat buds, about to pop, the grass is green, the moss is green, there's green all around me, and i can smell things growing.  It will be 3 or 4 months till things smell like that at home. We walked down to the lake yesterday. I had to peel off my jacket, down to a T-shirt - I was too warm.  Sigh.   It's going to be very hard to go home to the cold.  

HAPPY NEW YEAR.   My resolution is to find ways to be more environmentally responsible, and to take better care of myself.  The holiday has shown me how dangerously close I've come to a total burnout/meltdown/flameout.  

may you discover two thousand and 10 blessings in the coming year