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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Next Message

Zayden chatting with Nanny

The next message you need is always
right where you are.

This is a quote from Ram Dass, sent by www.gratefulness.org

It is easy to be distracted by life’s minutia and challenges.  I forget what is important, what is waving me down as I travel through, hurrying, oblivious to opportunities right in front of me, simply not getting the message.

My inability to take time to write this past weekend gave me time to hang Christmas lights and to enjoy being outdoors in this unusually mild weather.

My interest in art kept me from my own, but allowed me to spend time at the Riverview Art Society’s Show on Saturday morning, and with my sister who is an artist, later that afternoon. And, gave me the chance to visit with other family I’ve not seen lately.

My sewing machine refused to cooperate as I tried to create curtains and sheers for my mother’s kitchen windows on Monday.  The ornery machinery gave me the message and occasion to spend a leisurely day with my mother, peacefully sewing by hand.  And, a chance to see the newest baby in the family.

A headache and lack of focus on Tuesday propelled me to the hardware store for replacement lights (‘tis the season) where I met an old friend and had a great chat.  To the grocery store where I simply wandered slowly enjoying the decorations, being in no particular rush.

A five-hour stint of filing, emailing, creating minutes and a “To Do” list for my volunteer work allowed me to feel productive and organized, and to connect with folks as I searched for information.

Picking up and dropping off a family member, twice today, took time but gave me time while waiting, to write in the car.  How luxurious! Quiet, undisturbed.

Some questions challenging my life’s work and beliefs pushed my buttons until I saw these as opportunities to re-examine what I hold to be true.  And to recognize as always:  my journey is not another’s journey.  We each find our own way.

The message is to relax and enjoy where I am, no matter what, to quiet my inner nattering, to be peaceful inside myself, to enjoy the ones I’m with and to “just be” in those moments.

The writing will come.  There will be time.

Photo is mine.  Words in red will take you to another site for additional information, if you click on them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hi there, do you mind if I spit in your sink?

I received this email from my nephew, Sionne.  He and Natasha and their two children, Ava and Owen, live in Toronto
.  He is sharing the story of his recent birthday and has given me permission to post it.

Email subject line: Hi there, do you mind if I spit in your sink?

(The subject line in my email is a quote from my greeting to Linda years ago.  I showed up at her door frothing at the mouth, literally.  I was on my way home from Nanny’s house, where I had eaten a mouthful of Bits and Bites mix, in which, I afterward learned, there had been a lone Brazil nut lurking at the bottom. When you read my note below you’ll understand why I am referencing that long-ago incident, and how I am still super-sensitive to specific nuts, reacting strongly even though I haven’t actually eaten the allergy producing nut, itself.)
If someone had told me that I would spend the night of my birthday dry-heave vomiting in a parking lot after leaving a restaurant where my birthday dinner was held...and then drive home hunched over the steering wheel, before falling asleep curled up in a ball while still wearing my daytime clothes (I think that’s referred to as Irish Pyjamas in some hardcore drinking circles,  no offense)… then I would have responded, "Wow, the old dude still knows how to really tie one on, once in a while, doesn't he?"  But in this case it was not at all a fun and games scenario, it was due to the effects of a one-word culprit: NUTS.
The evening started out innocently enough.  I left work early-ish and drove up from Toronto to meet Natasha and our children, to celebrate “Big #42 for Sionne” at a restaurant in Newmarket.  It was slightly past their usual dinnertime; I rushed in ordering and took the server’s recommendation of an Asian chicken salad with peanuts.  I went through my usual confirmation routine to ensure that there were peanuts only; not any other kind of nuts in the salad.
This is a delicate conversation because I want to establish that I have a mild allergy but am not *EpiPen/potential death/expensive lawsuit* allergic, which has been the misunderstanding in past.  This then involves a frustrating 15-minute reassurance conversation with the establishment's manager, who immediately quotes me whatever boilerplate disclaimer their lawyers advise they spout, whenever any Super-Duper-Allergic-To-Nuts customers are involved.
OK, so all the meals arrived and I started digging into my salad. Fortunately for me, I did not eat very much because Owen decided he needed IMMEDIATE help, cutting up his food.  I stopped my munching and moved over to focus on daddy duty.  Shortly after switching to address Owen’s concerns, I noticed that old familiar scratchy feeling.  I quickly asked the waiter if he was 100% certain there were only peanuts in my meal. “Let me check” he said.  Upon consulting a co-worker, he came back and provided the very unwelcome news, “Well, it’s usually just peanuts but sometimes we change it up and throw in assorted mixed nuts instead.” (<<< sorry, WTF!? seriously!?!?!?!)  This fully confirmed my fears.
Within minutes I was experiencing the worst allergic reaction ever. Usually I am lucky enough to notice the offending nuts before consuming them, or it’s one of the milder varieties, like an almond that causes only mild discomfort, at worst.  Not this time!  I was thrown full-on into the heebie jeebies.  I’d say on a scale from wonderful to anaphylactic shock, I was a lot closer to the yucky end of things.  When all the mucous membranes in your body are incredibly itchy - from the backs of your eyes to other less-polite-to-mention areas - the fact you can still walk and process rational thoughts is a welcome bonus but somehow little consolation. I suppose those of you who witnessed my *ahem* episode circa 1971, when I was a toddler, at Nanny's house can connect the dots and substitute in your mind’s eye, a big, adult hairy-faced man-baby acting like the 2-year-old version of cute little Sionne in the high chair… when he was unlucky enough to eat that dirty old Brazil nut...for the rest of you, just use your imagination, okay?
I quickly bailed out of the restaurant and started home…leaving Natasha to pay the bill and gather the kiddies, so she could follow in her own car. My head start did me no good, as I spent several productive minutes purging beside my vehicle in the parking lot, and then grabbing a toothbrush, I just happened to have on hand …so I could feverishly clean my teeth and mouth.

These activities took awhile.  Luckily, I managed to flag down Natasha driving her car as she left.  Told her not to worry if I didn’t arrive ahead of her at the house in Bradford.  I had to make an emergency detour to the drug store.  My purchases?  A big bottle of liquid Benadryl, some Pepto-Bismol, plus a new toothbrush to replace the newly polluted version.
I chugged the entire bottle of Benadryl; followed it with some Pepto to calm my stomach. Any of you who have ever experienced an itchy stomach lining will agree that the discomfort pain-wise is matched only by the strange feeling of having several internal parts itching that cannot be scratched. Good times, indeed!
The Benadryl worked its magic quickly, after sitting behind the wheel in the pharmacy parking lot for 10 minutes, I made my way home. Overall body itching abated; I was left with the single complaint of a pain at top of my abdomen, best described as Worst Heartburn Ever…On Steroids Times a Factor of 10.   I could feel it from the front all the way through to my back, underneath my shoulder blades.  I actually think it was my diaphragm, as I could only take short breaths for the longest time.  It felt like a big muscle tensing. Sort of cool but mucho creepy at same time; I would gladly skip any repeat occurrences.
Obviously I survived since I am writing to you.  It was an ordeal, and even with my natural Drama Queen tendencies, I am not exaggerating.  It was a major pain in the butt for the 60 minutes from restaurant departure until arriving at the house, rendered almost paralyzed and nearly unconscious from all the drugs I drank. No heavy machinery operating for Sionne that night, trust me.  Ava called me into the kitchen, smiled politely while they all sang Happy Birthday, as candles melted wax onto a cake that was my at-home surprise for this special evening.
Natasha thoughtfully baked me a Nanny’s Money Cake.  She also thought it would be fun for the kiddies if she put all 42 candles on it. Let’s just say that when half the candles are melted onto the icing before you can get everything lit, that’s a good indicator that you are probably getting too old to have a 1 candle per year policy when celebrating birthdays. When I blew them all out, there was so much smoke we had to open the windows, to prevent the fire alarm from kicking in. Yikes.  
I try to keep a glass is half full attitude most days, however a good formula for a depressing post-40 birthday is  feeling near death, while blowing out what feels like a thousand candles on your cake…and then being too sick to even have a piece of said cake!
Fortunately, I am feeling no lingering effects…thank goodness. I did sleep nonstop for about 12 hours thanks to the Benadryl.  I also had a serious “too much medication” hangover headache but that’s long gone.  While my special day was kind of rotten overall I hope telling this story at least provides some entertainment, and/or serves as a cautionary tale.

Speaking of cautionary tales I have two to share:
1) when you bolt out of the restaurant due to *poisoned* food, then you also have the wonderful opportunity to call back the next day, to politely ask for a meal credit or rebate, since not only was my birthday dinner ruined but basically my entire night. I’d say it’s more effective to complain right away, but that’s not always possible when you are huffing and puffing and dancing the funky chicken, instead of standing there quietly and making a rational argument in favour of good customer service. I’ve not given up yet on some satisfaction, so stay tuned for an update on how that works out with The Pickle Barrel’s management.  
2) when you have a high concentration of sweets-loving family genes distilled into your offspring, it’s not recommended to order a Pina Colada slushy, with a sugared glass rim and jaunty little umbrella decoration, and then to leave it unattended. Natasha told me when she came back to the table; Ava was sipping away on the straw of my abandoned drink.   In her words “It just looked so good, mummy…I had to try it, and you know it tastes even better than it looks!” but to her credit the little girl was horrified when she learned, it was in fact a grown-up drink with *gasp* AL-CO-HOL in it. Yet interestingly enough, not so horrified as to stop licking the sugar off the glass, but at least she refrained from further accessing the drink contents.  Let me say this: with the almost-daily crying jags taking place in her school classroom, plus non-stop arguing/debating/getting in last word with her parents on seemingly every possible topic of conversation, her apparent inability to fall asleep before 10PM more than 3 night a week and finally her deep-seated sweet tooth tendencies, I never worry about whether Ava is my biological offspring, since all the signs are clearly there to prove without a doubt, she is.
Don't even get me started about Owen. He looks like a total sweetie and is one of the most considerate little boys you will ever meet.  Watch out if you try to make him do something he does not want to do because he possesses a superhuman level of stubbornness.  The only thing that works is to trick him into thinking it's actually his idea...at which point he'll agree to do it. Sound familiar?  Like the classic chip-off-the-old-block or a case of The Force Is Strong in This One.

Yes, it’s true and I am not ashamed to admit it - my life is really quite a bit of a Gong Show these days. It’s not in any way boring and at least I can get some good mileage out of all the crazy stories as a result, right?
Hope you are not getting too slammed with snow storms. Toronto living has its numerous drawbacks for us but I am thankful at times like this when I hear about weather back east. Our forecast daytime high temp will be 10 degrees, hitting as high as 15 over next few days with no rain or snow in sight. I miss the slower-paced lifestyle there, but the Maritime weather really is terrible and the pleasant summer season is WAY too short every year.
That’s it for me. Toodles!
Sionne (xo)

Story and photos belong to Sionne R.

He assures the family that he will be talking to his doctor about this episode and will perhaps be carrying an EpiPen with him for his next meal outing.  I will update, to let everyone know what
THE PICKLE BARREL in NEWMARKET, Ontario is doing about their faux pas, bad service and nearly killing my nephew.  One hopes that they respond responsibly and respectfully.

If you click on words in red, you will go to another website with additional information.

First Snowfall







All images are mine.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Read a Poem

I read a poem
(not mine)

words bloom images
fresh, right, vivid.

Can I ever
craft a poem...
so perfect?

He is graduate student
has coaching
has experience
has talent.

I ache in the gaps
between us
and our work.

She is published author
has mentors
has experience
has talent.

Lover reminds:
Jealousy arises
from mirrored

Maybe yes,
maybe no...

yet calm,
I return to my work,
write and
write again.

Words sprout
in the envy-green soil,
swell into poems

gossamer dreams.

Image and words are mine.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prospect Village, Nova Scotia

               Two weeks ago, we visited Prospect Village,
    Nova Scotia.  Enamoured with the village, we spent an afternoon exploring on foot.

The original inhabitants were the Mi'kmaq people, drawn by
the fishing around Prospect Bay. 
Later in 1794, Irish and English fisher folk settled
the Village of Prospect. 

Though the area constantly endures strong winds and salt spray, perched on the rocky shore of Nova Scotia,
it is still considered to be a place of refuge during storms
and a good place to fish.

The name Prospect evolved from its earlier Mi'kmaq name, through subsequent mutilations by Irish and English explorers, cartographers and fisher folk.

We weren't the only foot travellers that day.  A photographer braved the winds and cool weather seeking to capture photos
of the wave action.

The trek through the village was time well spent. 
What could be more peaceful
than a day with wind and water,
friendly people sharing history
and spectacular views at every turn?

All photos are mine.  If you want more info about Prospect Village, check out http://www.prospectvillage.ca/
If you're searching for a place to stay, so you can explore this area too, click on http://www.prospectvillagebb.ca/

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cast Iron Griddle

Cast iron griddles and memories
last a lifetime; sometimes longer,
if passed down.

Heat griddle on burner,
acrid metallic smell, dollop of grease,
sudden sputter of shortening and steam.

Pancake batter plops circles spreading,
fragrant, bubble and coffee-colour,
crock of dark beans bakes slowly.

Brown bread cools, yeasty aromas,
frying pork chops sizzle and snap,
spatula scrapes across cast iron.

Flip pancakes and chops, add
seasonings, create pan gravy
and the Saturday nights of childhood.

Photo and words are mine.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wedding Blessing

When my daughter made plans to be married on the rocky coastline of Nova Scotia, she asked my sister to paint a picture of the site.

We travelled to their special place a few weeks before the wedding, took many photos and gave them to my sister for inspiration.

Rounds of wind whip the rough coastline, sending grand waves crashing, seawater foaming, creating a wild venue for a wedding, even more challenging for  painting.

My sister, Wendy is an accomplished artist with work found in Canada and the eastern United States.  So, the painting sounds like a simple request, right?

Not so!  Wendy suffered a debilitating stroke in 2003, losing the use of her right arm.  She has painstakingly re-learned to paint with her left hand.

Just as Wendy is a role model for anyone faced with a physical disability, my daughter is a role model for any woman struggling with painful changes and life-altering decisions.

Because they are both strong women, determined to weather the storms of life with humor and honesty to discover their own happiness, the painting is a link and a blessing between them.

For more information about Wendy Steel, read my blog entry of March 8, 2011.  All photos are mine.  Words in red will give you additional information, if you click on them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast, Nova Scotia

Down a twisting shore road to Prospect Bay, we crest a hill and before us—paradise!  Have you ever been to Prospect Village on Prospect Bay, Nova Scotia?  Unique combinations of older cedar shake homes and modern styles; a combination of respect for the past and valuing of a life lived in a place blessed with natural wild beauty.  Most of the homes in the village have remained in the same families for generations.

We stayed for a few days at the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast, while in the area for our daughter’s wedding. (See my blog entries for November 15 and 16, 2011.)  Our hosts Rosalee Peppard Lockyer and Allan Lockyer shared the colourful history of this Bed and Breakfast, through conversations over breakfast and a written history left in each guest room.

Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast was built as a summer home, in 1849 by James W. Johnston, then premier of Nova Scotia. Five years later, it was acquired by Patrick Power, a prominent Nova Scotian, and member of the House of  Commons from 1867-1872.  A devout Roman Catholic, in 1875, he gave the property to the Sisters of Charity who turned it into a convent and school.

In 1906, the Sisters of Charity left Prospect, unable to support the convent; the school was closed.  From 1909-1911, it became a “Glebe” or residence for priests who had ministered to this parish since its inception in 1794.  The cross was erected beside the house, on an old graveyard and original church site, to commemorate the 200th anniversary in 1994.

In 1917-1918, it became an orphanage for children whose parents died in the Halifax Explosion.

In 1926, it was again sold; this time to Margaret Young who operated it as a hotel into the late 1940’s.  Bob Lanigan was a teen when he worked here as a helper in 1932.  In August 2006, he told a story that Margaret could cook the halibut and haddock he’d catch, in a dozen different ways but she admonished him that besides her staples of potatoes and carrots, she had only two things on the dinner menu:  Take it or Leave it!

In 1950, a group of recreational fishing enthusiasts bought it for the Salt Water Fishing Club.  In 1989, it was sold and subsequently converted into a Bed and Breakfast.  In 2006, Rosalee Peppard Lockyer and Allan Lockyer purchased and now share this marvellous and miraculous place with folks who seek accommodations in Prospect Village.

Rosalee and Allan have retained the character of this 4 1/2  Star Bed and Breakfast by including luxurious linens, Nova Scotia paintings and art, Red Oak floors, handmade soaps and crèmes, organic regionally-sourced breakfasts, handcrafted furnishings, live music and unparalleled Maritime hospitality.

In recent years, the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast has been featured in the National Geographic Magazine in an article on Nova Scotia, in movies such as Baby starring Farrah Fawcett and Jean Stapleton, in Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas with Christina Applegate and in a documentary for TV on the fateful Swissair Flight 111.

Professional singer and songwriter of Maritime heritage, Rosalee Peppard http://www.rosalee.ca/ sings and tells stories with guests in the evening.   She and Allan began the KITCHEN concert series in November 2006.  Because Rosalee’s singing talents and oral “herstory” skills are in ever increasing demand, they are planning to sell this historic property…perhaps to another couple who could cherish the scenery and history of this unique property on Prospect Bay, an easy drive to Peggy’s Cove and to downtown Halifax.

We enjoyed our recent stay at the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast.  Were impressed with the warmth, charm and ambiance of the place, as well as the gentle grace with which Rosalee and Allan share Maritime hospitality.  It was a superb location for an intimate wedding!

We’ll stay there again! 

Many times, we hope!

All words in red will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.  All photos are mine.  Historical data comes directly from conversations and documents at the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast.   To learn more about the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast click this  http://www.prospectvillagebb.ca/  and to learn more about Rosalee Peppard click this  http://www.rosalee.ca/

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wedding in a Whirlwind...more

The wedding was planned, everything was ready,
then a post-tropical storm blew through the tiny village of Prospect, Nova Scotia.  An outdoor wedding set to happen on
the rocks at High Head, on the coast was saved from disaster
by the kindness of the owners of
Knowing of our dilemma, they offered their rear deck
for the ceremony.  They had also offered their living room but Melanie and Kelly were set on getting married outside,
in the wind and the rain.

The Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast had once been a convent for the Sisters of Charity, so came complete with cross and an atmosphere appropriate to the sanctity of commitment vows. 
(I'll tell you more about the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast
in tomorrow's blog entry.)

Ann, Kelly's mother offered blessings as we stood in the storm.  She is on the right, out of the photo.  Mary Ellen, the Justice of the Peace wore a fetching pink rain coat and a sturdy black hat. 
We couldn't figure out how the hat stayed on
in the gale force winds!

Kelly and Melanie with Zara in the background taking pictures, as Mary Ellen conducts the ceremony.  Kelly started out with a jacket but was soon soaked through,
then opted for just his shirt. 
What the heck he was wet anyway!

Kaleb is opening the ring box and we are crowding around trying to ensure that the box and the ring don't blow away. 
Shortly after this photo, Tim almost left the deck
in a particularly strong gust of wind.

We have these wonderful wet photos taken from the inside of the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast courtesy
of the warmth and generosity of the owner,
Rosalee Peppard Lockyer who created pictures for us.

Melanie and Kelly exchanging vows.  I am not crying,
just trying to wipe away salt sea spray and rain
from my eyes.  Kaleb is trying not to set sail across the deck.

Doesn't my little girl look happy?

Rosalee was thoughtful to invite Susan,
Melanie's step-mother inside
to watch the wedding, as she wasn't feeling well that day. 
We were so glad she could be there too.

Rings safely landed on fingers, vows repeated, prayers and blessings offered, we were set to go.  Rosalee opened the back door and hugged Melanie and actually offered to let us come into her beautiful home for a glass of wine.  How wonderful!  And brave!  We were all soaked.  We declined her generous offer and soggily climbed into cars to return to Melanie's and Kelly's place for a wedding dinner of seafood and steak, laughter and gifts, photos and music, and of course, a bit of wine.

Blessings on you both as you begin this
new form of your relationship together.

May there be truth and understanding between you.
May you enjoy length of days, fulfillment of hopes,
peace and contentment of mind.
May God bless you and keep you always.  Amen.

Words in red will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them. 
All photos are mine and Rosalee's. 
 If you want to learn more about the Prospect Village Bed and Breakfast,
please click here http://www.prospectvillagebb.ca/  and if you want more information
about the talented Rosalee Peppard click here  http://www.rosalee.ca/