Saturday, 30 October 2010

7 Jays

This morning I was up with the jays ... seven of them  ... two or three at a time rocking the feeder at the front and scattering sunflower seeds to the others on the snow covered ground below.  On the lake side, sparrows ate more sedately, one fluffed up little soul huddling in the seed tray itself.  Kenya bounded out the front door and chased the jays who then took over the back feeder.

First snow up here ... a dusting only that rests on branches, ground and porch roof.

I just received word that a very old friend has died.  John was a good family man, husband, teacher,and friend.  We were all young and poor and in our twenties when I knew him and his wife best.  We sustained each other through some pretty hard times back then.  Heather taught with me at Briarwood Elementary School while John was off work. 

I was a single mom with two kids and very little education;  they were a little better off because they were a couple with one baby and the good sense to have got their education before embarking on a family, but those were pre-medicare days, and John was very ill for a time. We all lived in an apartment building on the wrong side of the tracks ... and practically on top of them.  We provided each other with practical help, like rides to work, the occasional loan of a car or babysitting.  Cups of sugar, recipes and samples of baked goods passed freely between our households.  But it is the shared laughter I remember best.  We giggled while tumbling down hills with our children at the Arboretum  or dressing up for a Hallowe'en party.  We went on picnics with our kids.  Those were the years when we were money poor but rich in youthful energy and dreams.  I haven't seen them for several years now, but they were a  large part of my life ... and I am saddened that John is gone; that he will live on only in such memories.

Friday, 29 October 2010


October 29, 2010
Organizational Friday or Procrastination Depot

I have just finished tidying my chest freezer and inventorying its contents in order to discover what I need to buy to stock up for winter.  (I have been told I am the only person in Christendom who has a catalogue of her DVDs ... and now this!) 

What I discovered:     I do not need to buy ground beef or sausages until 2020.

            Likewise chicken thighs and pork tenderloins.

I am not terribly keen on chicken thighs and that is likely why I have a surplus, but I suspect that the reason for everything else is that I can never find what I am looking for in the cavernous depths so I always eat from the top down.

Does anyone out there have a simple solution for keeping a chest freezer's contents under control and available?

I am thinking of boxes or bins of some kind.

The birds are busy emptying the feeders ... jays, chickadees, red breasted nuthatches, snowbirds, downy woodpeckers, and sparrows so far.  The red squirrels continue to be foiled by the cds that hang along the line between the trees and the feeders ... or maybe they are simply content with the seed that the jays deposit on the ground.

My next task is to organize the bins and satchels containing teaching paraphanalia.

And then I will get down to writing based on last weekend's writing workshop.


I just read an article about procrastination.  Apparently we procrastinate because our various selves are thrashing things out.  The first step we need to take is to identify those different warring selves.  Blogger Oma is often at odds with Lazy Oma who cannot abide my tidy self.  My persona that detests such things as bills and taxes is always at loggerheads with most of the others.  Then there are Funky Furniture, Reader, Movie Buff, Gardener, Dog Walker, and...  and...  and .... 

And that is why we clean out a freezer rather than go through a sloppy in-box (the real tangible wooden kind  that contains bills) or sit down to write a travel piece.  Of the three, the most enjoyable is undoubtedly the writing assignment ... but it requires time and effort .... concentration ... whereas the freezer just is ...

I am trying to clear the decks of distractions ... so that I can write.  Maybe the travel pieces.  Or maybe start something for NaNoWriMo.  Monday is November 1, the beginning of the next challenge. I might decide that it won't be a novel this time ... and ... if I do it ... I won't subject you all to the throes (and vile prose) of daily first draft NaNoWriMo writing.

Instead my blog posts might become 5 minute warm-ups for the contest.  Or maybe they will be become a means of putting off writing the book. NaNoWriMo Oma foiled once again by Blogger Oma.

Procrastinator Oma who has played a game, hung out a load of laundry, spent an hour on the phone, cleaned out  the compost pails, and packaged the outdoor solar lights and their batteries after sorting according to viability ... instead of getting on with the business at hand ...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Grey Day Wake-up Call

I spent most of yesterday at a travel writing workshop given by Laurie Gough.  There were about a dozen of us there ... all but one were women.  Laurie did not start with one of those artificial circle introductory sessions ... she let things unfold naturally by creating situations in which we chose different partners with whom to interact, so we all met a variety of people and shared our passion for travel and writing.

Laurie relies on the same books I use when I teach writing skills ... Nathalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones; Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird ...  and on the work of some travel writers who have published books about travel writing.  But mainly she reaches into her own experience as a travel writer and as a freelancer. 

It was a very good workshop, not only because of the solid content base but also because of the people involved.  Writers all.  Travelers all.  Interesting people with stories to tell, experiences to share.

Often these local workshops are peopled only by Wakefielders, but this one attracted a range of people from as far away as Montreal.  And they brought with them stories of backpacking in the Himalayas, years spent in India or Indonesia or the Fijian islands.   Most of them had traveled solo, and all their stories revealed a sense of adventure.  I heard stories of trips gone bad, youthful naivete resulting in terrible mistakes, miraculous rescues, and discovery of one's roots far from home.. 

We spoke of honest writing and balanced observation; of ways to structure our chronological memories so that they would hold together as stories and maintain interest. Laurie views travel writing as stories with plot lines, set in interesting  places ... and most important, peopled by fascinating characters.  She touched on things like effective dialogue, concision and vibrant prose, and the workshop contained elements of teaching, group interaction and individual writing.  The course could have been much longer than the 6 hours she had allotted.

At the end, people wanted more ... more opportunities to work together ... more chances to share with one another. We hope to create a writing group, perhaps on-line, maybe getting together once a month or so.

I spent a good part of today walking Kenya and later taking a friend to the Ottawa terminal ... so more tomorrow when I am up for writing again.

The house felt emptier than it has for the past while ... and greyer.  I will have to fill it with colourful words and paint, I guess.  It's time ... and maybe I will start with one of the ideas birthed by the workshop.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Life in the Slow Lane ... again ...

So ... yesterday I got lost in a parking garage ... well actually it was my car which was misplaced ... finally I asked a young man what one did if one lost one's car ... and he said, "Report it stolen."  After my first stunned reaction I laughed and he said it had also happened to him.  Then he explained the strange layout of this garage and wished me luck.  I began again and this time I saw my car on a level below me.  How to get to it though was not quite as clear but I managed.  My left brained reasoning worked where my right brained sense of direction had let me down and the old girl and I were finally reunited.

The other parts of the day were a lot less stressful and the highlight was holding Lily who stretched, yawned, snuggled into my neck, and pooped contentedly, all the while making soft little whistling and snorting noises.

My garden is almost tucked away for the winter, the steps I've fallen down twice now have a hand rail, another hand rail has been fixed, and two new bird feeders are feeding the gluttonous jays.

I am thoroughly enjoying my vacation from teaching and stress ... and sleeping through the night ...

Life is good but it does not make for very exciting blog posts.

I am beginning to feel the faint stirring of artistic urges again ... pumpkin carving and small postcard sized paintings of ideas for furniture are beckoning, tempting me to get out my paints.

Have a great weekend. I will be at a workshop on Sunday but the rest of the weekend is blissfully empty so far.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

New Beginnings

I could also have called this post "Life After Teaching:".

In 1997 I discovered that there was a wonderful life awaiting me ... one that centred on enjoyment without deadlines, reports or marking loads ... I retired.  Oh ... I kept on being active.  In fact I kept on teaching ... but in places like Jordan, Mongolia and Kenya.  It was also the era of discovering just how much enjoyment could be derived from things that cost little or nothing ... writing ... rollerblading ... kayaking.

Then came the big change ... an end to a life filled with travel and volunteering opportunities ... a beginning to a life with a puppy ... a life that occasioned the building of this house with all its related problems ... a life that demanded money, often more than I had.

This past  June  I re-entered the work force almost full time and discovered during those five months that I still loved teaching ... and this time really enjoyed the students ... all older international travelers who were interesting people.  But I also realized again ... or was reminded of the fact ... that life in the work force robs you of time and energy ... and at 70 both of those are in short supply.  Anything that is in short supply is far too valuable to be traded for money.  And besides, my house is comfortable now and so I can live on what I have without having to make more.

I have decided to limit my teaching from now on ... Enough to give me the pleasure.  Not enough to deprive me of my daily walks with Kenya, my leisurely mornings at the computer, my relatively clean house, my attempts at art and writing ... but most of all, I am reclaiming the freedom to get up in the morning with a blank calendar page to fill in all kinds of pleasurable ways.

I am rearranging my life starting today.

And the first things on my calendar are a dinner party at Erin's this evening,  two weeks with a new friend to just have fun and get things done around here to prepare for winter , (we are planning to carve pumpkins) ....and a travel writing workshop with two friends and six other people. 

And you never know what will emerge from an artist's date, time to develop a little boredom, days spent with new folks, or stirring up your intellectual curiosity, do you?  Perhaps the next phase of my life will be very different from the last one.  Or maybe it will simply be the last happy one spiced up a little ...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Lily after a night's sleep in the real world

... another reason to believe there's more to life than meets the eye ...

Hard not to believe in heaven these days ...

BJ, the Good News Bear

Yesterday I saw Lily's pre- and post- arrival photos ... sweet with a masses of hair ... exhausted happy mom, grandma and "auntie" ... delighted dad ... and smiling grandpa ... Lily has entered a loving family circle.

I stopped taking my Vitamin D and am beginning to regain my energy ... had the second test yesterday ... will get the results next week ...  it seems you can't believe anything you read about how to keep healthy these days.  I had read that 2000 units of Vitamin D was a healthy level to take daily ... everyone from the cancer society to the osteopaths were recommending it  ... so I got my dosage up to 1800 ... and may have freaked out my calcium. 

I really am beginning to think it is better to simply eat properly, exercise, keep your weight reasonable and keep dogs if you want to stay healthy.  Then throw in a little human companionship, intellectual stimuli, and a garden ... and you have paradise.  I hope that my doctor concurs when she gets the test results!

Olive and Chelsea arrived this morning and will be with us for five days.  Olive is staying outside till she is sure of her new surroundings, person and dog.  Chelsea is inside sharing an uneasy truce with Kenya.  You may remember that Chelsea is the very old lumpy English Lab who is an incorrigible food thief and is on medication for tremors.  They are both nice girls and in a few minutes I will speed up the adjustment process by taking them all for a long walk.

Then I will make a pot of chili con carne using local beef, my own tomato sauce and other stuff from the garden ... my own and that of local farmers.

I am going to take a break from teaching after Helmut and Ottilia leave, entertain a friend and fellow writer for a week or so, and take a travel writing course during that time. I plan to relax and live a healthy stress-free life for a while. I want get back in the habit of sleeping at night, playing during the day, and working when necessary.  Maybe get some of the outstanding chores accomplished.  Maybe start writing and painting again.  

And now I am off to dress and walk puppies.  Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Lily has arrived

8 lb. 6 oz. ... by Caesarean ... finally ...Jesse, Eric, Lily and Tamarak all doing well and madly in love despite sleep deprivation ... Congratulations everyone ...

Monday, 4 October 2010

High Calcium Levels

So ... my doctor's office called ... they want to do more blood tests because  my calcium levels are too high.  I always thought it would be a good thing to have lots of calcium.  Nope ... it always means there is a problem.  The most common one is hyperparathyroidism ... 98% of cases of high Ca ... The second cause is cancer ... but ususally not the cause if you are not really sick with a malignancy. 

So ... what is this hyper parathyroidism?  I am not quite sure but I do know it is fixable ...

And these are the symptoms ... I have starred my own ...

Symptoms of Parathyroid Disease
    *Loss of energy. Don't feel like doing much. Tired all the time. Chronic fatigue.
    *Just don't feel well; don't quite feel normal. Hard to explain but just feel kind of bad.
    *Feel old. Don't have the interest in things that you used to.
    *Can't concentrate, or can't keep your concentration like in the past.
    Osteoporosis and Osteopenia.
    Bones hurt; typically it's bones in the legs and arms but can be most bones.
    *Don't sleep like you used to. Wake up in middle of night. Trouble getting to sleep.
    *Tired during the day and frequently feel like you want a nap.
    Spouse claims you are more irritable and harder to get along with (cranky, bitchy).
    Forget simple things that you used to remember very easily (worsening memory).
    Gastric acid reflux; heartburn; GERD.
    Decrease in sex drive.
    Thinning hair (predominately in middle aged females on the front part of the scalp).
    Kidney Stones.
    High Blood Pressure (sometimes mild, sometimes quite severe; up and down a lot).
    *Recurrent Headaches (usually patients under the age of 40). (*just starting agai after years of being headache free.)
    Heart Palpitations (arrhythmias). Typically atrial arrhythmias.

So ... at least there's a reason for being exhausted all the time ...

Now to get things back to normal.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Appreciating Weekends Again

It is clearly time to retire again ... should that be re-retire?

I am tired.  I wake up thinking about sticky grammar problems and how to fix them.  But most of all, I look forward to weekends because they are opportunities to get caught up on rest, house cleaning and dog walking.

Except for the fact that my friends are not all retirees like me, weekends were almost indistinguishable from weekdays before I started teaching again.  Back in those days weekends were times for visitors ... dinner guests ...  house guests ... and invitations to spend time playing or eating with working friends. 

These days my house is so grubby I feel as if I cannot expose it to any but the blindest, friendliest and most forgiving eyes.   Besides I have no energy left to entertain or even go out to play.

This weekend is the first of the local Artists in Their Environment tours.  I would like to visit the places in the village and close by ... and may do that. It will be on again next weekend but that is Thanksgiving and I really would like to do something special like sharing a meal if possible.

Lily is now overdue so we are all looking forward to her entrance into the world.  I haven't had a chance to do the high chair for her but I gave her the little elf artists' cupboard.  Jesse can store her diapers and such in it for now ... and later Lily can use it for art supplies.  I just assume that she will, like all her female relatives, be artistic and that she will need storage space.

Helmut and Ottilia will finish up in two more weeks.  My longed for vacation will be bitter sweet though, for   I will miss them when they return to Europe.  Helmut 's warmth and gentleness remind me of my father.  He is also about the same size as Dad was, and has the same baldness patterning and accent.  Ottilia is as outgoing and talkative as Helmut is quiet but she is wise and funny ... and they provide a counterpoint to one another ... and they brighten my life as well. 

So ... two more weeks of sporadic (at best) blogging, I am afraid ... and then my quiet life will resume, and with it, the energy and the time to write.