Blissful. That's how I would describe my yesterday. It unfolded beautifully and started with a small risk. I interrupted a dream about three donkeys which somehow seemed quite prophetic at the time, to get up at 6:15 and drive down to the Marina for early morning tai chi. A risk because I wouldn't necessarily know anyone or know some of the forms. I arrived in the middle of warm ups and the woman I stood next to gave me a bright smile. All was good. What a thoroughly refreshing way to start the day. I love the form using fans and keep promising myself that I'll learn it.
After, I walked around the Marina, so pretty in the soft morning light. I had lunch with a good friend and we walked around some of the gift stores in the Bay Street area. That evening, my step-daughter Carole invited Rob and i over for dinner as a thank you for helping to move a fridge into her basement. So we had delicious home-made quesadillas and visited with her and our 2 1/2 year old grand son Ollie. Later Dad called to say that he had safely arrived home from visiting his lady friend Sandy at Lake Shebandowan, a good hour's drive away. One of those deep peace in the heart kind of days which started with a small risk, a tiptoe out of my comfort zone.
What little risk can you take today or promise yourself to take tomorrow?
As a quick aside, I wanted to add the 'then' part to this post, an inscription from a dear friend in a book she gave me as an emigration pressie when I left England for Canada. I think I mentioned it in a previous post but have since found the book. I had forgotten the personal note she added to the quote:
Have a wonderful life.
My wish for you today: do what little steps you need to do so you can embrace your wonderful life.
This morning held a sad but interesting contrast. My friend Val and I had plans to get together to watch a movie at her home today. As Val's plans kept changing, so my day shifted a little but my day is one of those mostly blissfully free days that can shapeshift at will. At 8:20am I got a text from Val saying that her dad (who is in hospital) had been taken into ICU and that she was heading straight to the hospital. He had gone into cardiac arrest, she later explained in another text, but "they brought him back" so now the family is just waiting to see how he fares. She's surrounded by family there so that, at least, is good.
When I looked outside, a starling was perched on my clothes horse. I still have no clothes line so drape wet clothes over a tri-fold wooden clothes horse Dad made for me years and years ago. I had done a late wash last night and left the clothes out overnight. This morning, on one of the lower rails, a starling perched, pecked then side-shuffled, picking bugs off my clothes!
Peck, side-shuffle, peck, side-shuffle.
It must have been a good night for bugs as the starlings had also cleaned my gutter out by pecking at bugs. The back deck was splattered with dead wet leaves and sticks.
But my thoughts were mostly with Val as I prepared breakfast and I thought of Barb, a college friend, who lost her sister. I've lost touch with Barb over the years but I should try to find her. Like Val, she was a shy friend, lovely and loyal. I remember that today is Barb's birthday. The summer that Barb's sister died, we repeatedly went to the movies together. Always her choice, always Raiders of the Lost Ark. That became her coping mechanism.
The familiarity of the movie, a comfort. The action, a distraction.
When Mam died, I took to watching movie after movie, preferably a good drama that I, too, could lose myself in. When another friend discovered that her boys (young men the same age as Dane in their mid to late 20s) both had heart problems, she coped by watching foreign movies, ones with subtitles. She said they had to have subtitles as she seemed to crave the extra attention needed to read them.
How do you comfort yourself? What are your coping mechanisms? Maybe they'll vary depending on what you're dealing with. Another thing I did when Mam first got sick was to reread a book I'd helped edit. Knowing what to expect, knowing the storyline, basking in the familiar, comforted me.
Following is a poem I wrote several years ago about Barb and I and our summer of watching Raiders. I wonder how she feels about the movie now. If she can bear to watch it. As a side note, trying to find this poem was interesting as I lost years of my work to a virus and my only access now to that work is through emails where I had sent my work out to my writing groups. So I had to plow through tens of emails, downloading lost poems to find this one. Doubtless I would still be doing that had Rob not come home and helped. But to recover and rediscover those poems felt satisfying on a day tinged with possible loss.
We watched the same movie seven times that summer:
Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Barb’s choice, not mine.
Her eldest sister had died early spring,
not yet thirty years old,
shoveling snow in northern B.C.
Her other sister, on a cruise at the time,
was told not to come home.
So Barb called me often: “Want to see a show?”
Stifling house, dense air, heavy drapes,
sad eyes, muffled sobs, ghostly wails:
I drove my car with the windows down.
Lost in a world of rolling rocks, whips, snakes
and thunderous sound,
buttered popcorn and Harrison Ford’s lop-sided smile.
I cringed at the skeletons,
envisioned Barb’s sister cold, rotting,
her two babies growing up, playing tag around the tombstone.
I cast sideways glances at Barb,
but her eyes shone only with excitement
when good conquered evil in the end.
After, over ice cream,
she trembled with rage, wearing her dead sister’s earrings.
“They never told me she had a weak heart!”
She sighed in her driveway: dark trees, dark house, dark heart.
“Let’s get together again soon,” I said.
Her answer: “Sure. Want to see a show?”
Healing thoughts to Val's dad, Val and her family. Loving thoughts to you with thanks for reading. Hold your loved ones close.
Yes, I'm alive! It's been over a week (just!) since I last blogged, longer than i intended between posts (are they posts or entries?) so you may have wondered about me, but the title of this blog doesn't refer directly to me although I am still alive (rather obviously! Lol). It refers to the coolest lettuce that Rob has ever picked up from the grocery store. Lettuce? Yes lettuce. It is alive. It tells us so on the bag. It's grown, roots and all, in this little bag, 3 types of lettuce, all delicious and crispy and fresh as fresh can be. One of those things that you wonder why no one has thought of it earlier.
Rob popped it outside to keep it healthy although it was grown in greenhouses. I suppose now that I'm writing about it and thinking about it more, it's a little freaky that it hasn't been grown in soil and that it's still alive as we eat it. But no more alive than garden lettuce. I should explain that our house is darker inside in the summer than in the winter due to our deciduous trees which offer bountiful shade in the summer. So, outside, the lettuce gets much more light. So far it's happy sitting on the outside table soaking up the natural elements. Which, on this gorgeous morning, is where I also feel called to be. Eating a lovely fresh salad with lettuce picked right from the table.
As I'm using this blog to make myself accountable and as my dear, no bullshit friend Linda reminded me last night, I said I'd mention how my decluttering is going. Not great. I mentioned downloading an ebook (which was an exciting adventure in and of itself) which examines what your clutter is trying to tell you (the title of the book actually) and also looks very interesting and has exercises to do so you can understand why you clutter in the first place (the author, Kerri L. Anderson refers to clutter as excess weight, unhealthy mental chatter).
Linda said, "Stop reading, act."
Hhmmm...she has a very good point. But I also know that it's important for me to understand the why of things and to approach something overwhelming sideways otherwise I get nowhere fast.
So maybe I'll eat a lovely healthy salad while I'm exploring the whys and next little steps to eliminating clutter...then I can act. Today. And let you know soon how it's going.
Wishing you a day of good, healthy food to eat, warmth and sunshine, and all the lightness that summer invites.
We have a habit of keeping the radio on in the kitchen so as we wander through the house or even as we come home, we can hear music. Sometimes I think this is a waste of electricity, something I would never have indulged in for most of my life. But then I tell myself that the plants in the kitchen are thriving because of the continual music. It's also a way of hearing odd tidbits or slices of music that I wouldn't normally hear. Like hearing that today is Anne Frank's birthday.
I believe I first read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 11. I know I was a little younger than Anne was (13) when she started her diary. I had grown up with parents who lived through WWII as children and grandparents who had lived through it as adults, my Grandfather Boag having fought in the war and being a POW a couple of times. (he died of natural causes when Mam was 15) So I had a flavour for the huge impact the war had on everyday lives and knew about the persecution of Jews and how some of them hid.
I can't remember now if I chose the book or if it was gifted to me. Because I was younger, I have a feeling that I chose it. I remember Mam telling me that if I had any questions about it to ask her and that it was a very important book. I started to write my own diary as "Dear Diary" (I think for a while I might have used an actual name, perhaps my middle name, Yvonne) fashioned after Anne's inclination to start her entries "Dear Kitty". The book consumed me. I read it and reread it. I became obsessed with everything about Anne Frank, an obsession that somewhat remains to this day. A couple of years ago, a friend visited the Secret Annex where Anne and her family and four other people lived in hiding for two years. Fascinating. It didn't occur to me to look online until today to discover that there are many pictures and information that I hadn't known about before. Check out the website if you're interested.
You probably know that Anne and the others were discovered in 1944 and hauled off to concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot were together. I have never forgotten the end of the book which told of Anne's death. Margot, weakened by the terrible conditions, fell and died. To paraphrase the end of the book: Margot's death did to Anne what nothing else could, not the years in hiding, not the capture, not the separation of the family, not the concentration camp itself: it broke her spirit.
Anne died not long after.
Following is a video of Mieps, one of the incredibly courageous people who helped hide the people in the Secret Annex. It's less than a minute and a half long )so please take the time to watch it) but is totally sobering and tells of the moment that Anne's father (the only survivor of the eight people in the Secret Annex) finds out that his daughters have both died.
Anne's diary is full of the optimism and sometimes the moodiness of a teenager despite her incredible circumstances. It's grounded in everyday details but she never stops thinking of tomorrow, whether dreaming of freedom and a better world or fearing being discovered or pondering her ambitions.
Sometimes tomorrow is what gets us through today.
A favourite song became an anthem for me during a sometimes difficult transition to Canada. Don't Stop by Fleetwood Mac. Sometimes I felt lonely and wanted contact from friends in England. A day without their letters in the mail could be crushing so I learned to embody the words of the song and keep thinking about tomorrow. A letter could be on its way that very moment, ready to drop through the mail slot tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a good place to pin your hopes.
But it's even better to embrace what you can of today. Tomorrow is not a good place to permanently live. In fact it's not really a place at all...it's always out there somewhere. I like the song and lyrics of Alan Doyle and Sean Mccann of Great Big Sea, Ordinary Day. Another powerful song to choose as an anthem, one which acknowledges that sometimes our today can be clouded by how we anticipate our tomorrow to be. A song that focuses on our state of mind, our attitude, the biggest thing we can control in our lives whether living through today or dreaming of tomorrow.
In this beautiful life, there's always some sorrow
It's a double-edged knife, but there's always tomorrow
It's up to you now if you sink or swim,
Keep the faith and your ship will come in.
It's not so bad
And I say way-hey-hey, it's just an ordinary day
and it's all your state of mind
At the end of the day, you've just got to say,
it's all right.
What song would you choose as your anthem today? At this point in your life?
May your today be delightful and your tomorrow be bright.
Sometimes I have an idea in mind of what the blog will be about. Usually, actually. But then it may veer off in some unforseen direction. I took pictures of some of my bookmarks last night, intending this blog to be about the pleasure of bookmarks...what? You're asleep already? But as I was pondering about that, I realised there was something else that I wanted to share as well. To do with books. So it's semi-related.
Do you have many bookmarks? I wonder if they wait like flowers in a vase waiting to be chosen for a specific book. Do you dog ear pages? Use old receipts or scraps of paper? A friend once cautioned about about not buying her any more bookmarks. She stated that she only needed two. I have a thing for bookmarks. I love them. I have lots yet often can't find them as they tend to live in my special books. In an earlier blog, you may have noticed my metal 'serenity' bookmark which lives in 'My Prosperous Heart'. I don't designate a bookmark to a particular book, it often just happens, as if the book itself claims it.
Except one of my absolute favourite bookmarks which Maggie (aka Souley--a dear friend from childhood) sent me a couple of years ago. That one lives in my present gratitude journal (also an earlier blog about those) and moves to each new gratitude journal. It's the bookmark you can see below.
What does any of this have to do with the blog title? Nothing.
Recently, I borrowed a book from Dad: 'Little Ship of Fools' by Charles Wilkins. I have lots of Charlie's books, many autographed by him but my dad was shopping at Chapters one day and this book appealed to him so he bought it. He thoroughly enjoyed it and I hadn't read this particular one. I can't put it down. The story is interesting. But the book itself smells. I keep picking it up to smell it.
I adore the smell of new, freshly minted books and often bury my nose, very literally, in them but this particular book has a very different scent. It smells of mint imperials. You know those hard white Scotch mints? Dad keeps them on his bedside table. Has done for years. Mam used to keep them loose in her purse. Growing up, her handbags always smelled of mint imperials.
At a time when Dad's own life is rapidly changing in very good ways, I cling, just a little bit more than usual, to the lingering, calming and pleasant scent from a borrowed book and a time long ago.
A couple of years ago we had to give a brief introduction of ourselves in a playwriting group. I had a little time to think about it and realised that I consider myself a northerner through and through: born in northern England, moved to North Vancouver and now live in Northern Ontario.
This morning I drove halfway across town with my mixed music cd playing. When "Life in a Northern Town" by Dream Academy came on, I cranked it up and sang loud. It's one of my all time favourite songs, partly of course because of the great energy and beat of the song itself but also because the words resonate with me and immediately transport me back to my hometown in the mid to late 60s.
The first line is : "Salvation Army band played..." We lived out back of the Sally Ann. They often played their band on our street corner or marched up and down the street or practised with the hall doors open. Once they played right outside our house. Unfortunately Dad was on nights at the time and certainly didn't appreciate them playing outside his bedroom window. He called down to Mam a few times to tell them to move on. But she didn't. Finally Dad opened the window and yelled at them himself. Lots of choice words. They moved on quickly and we ended up with a humourous family story.
The third line of the song is "...And the morning lasted all day...all day..." The way it does when you're a kid. The way it still can when the sun is high, the sky is blue, trees are blossoming and you're going about your everyday life in a northern town.
Choose any of these beginnings:
Once upon a time...
Once in a different lifetime...
Many moons ago...
Over nine years ago...
Oh! The irony!...
They all apply to this blog. I'll choose to combine two.
Oh! The irony! This morning, I read a blog post from my dear friend, Linda, a question about 'clearing'. Physical or spiritual? I decided to write my blog today about my clearing journey...often a very halting one. To do this and to be transparent, I decided to take a photo of what I'm clearing in my bedroom (a huge laundry basket brimming over with books--don't worry, you'll see it here soon). On the floor, unearthed by my clearing of the books into the laundry basket (from several tottering piles on the floor), I found an envelope. Front side up, it said 'Roby'. A card for my husband Rob. Our nicknames for each other are Roby (his middle/Chinese name being Yui-Ming) and Suey (my middle name being Yvonne. Judy, Rob's ex-wife joked once asking if he had ever called me 'Chop Suey'. But this Suey nickname originated from our joint middle initial. Besides, in retrospect, it would be funnier if he had called me some kind of English dish rather than a Chinese dish ).
I have no idea what the card was now. I obviously kept the envelope for what was written on the back. And the irony and magic of finding it today is not lost on me.
Today is Sunday. Usually I visit Dad at 1pm-ish on Sundays. Occasionally I work but try to arrange my schedule around being off on Sundays at one as much as possible. Sometimes something else crops up in my life and our time has to be rearranged. When Dad started going to church at the beginning of this year, I suggested that we choose another, less busy day for him (Sundays originated as a way to break up the weekend for him) but he wanted to keep our visits the same. No worries. Last week as I wrote down my July work schedule for him, I mentioned that I had taken a 7am to 5pm shift on Sunday 1st July, the opportunity of 10 hours at time and a half too much to resist. Hope that's okay? I asked, adding that he might be busy with his ladyfriend, Sandy, at her camp then anyhow. And we could arrange a different time, maybe even after work that day, to visit.
Last Monday, the next day, when I talked to Dad, he mentioned that his Saturday plans with Sandy got rearranged and he was going to her home on Shebandowan Lake on Sunday now. Today. I tried to rearrange but said my Monday was already busy. Dad didn't seem to want to rearrange a visiting day at all. Although that has now changed and we're getting together on Tuesday, at the time I must admit I felt a little put out. Dad didn't mean to make me feel that way and I could have been a lot more grown up about it, but feelings are feelings and I believe in experiencing them as much as possible otherwise they'll just end up as extra pounds on my body or dark holes in my soul. Of course, I said it was fine. And for him to enjoy himself. I sincerely meant that. Sandy is a refreshing breath of fresh air in his life and it is heartwarming to see them together. I also have wonderful friends who could empathise and validate my feelings. One in particular, Fran, said that she hoped i would do something fun and just for me in the time I normally see Dad.
I am. I'm writing this blog. About the importance of that envelope and what was written on the back.
Over nine years ago, Rob had a massive heart attack. On Ontario's very first official stat holiday in February, Family Day. Oh! The irony! What Dad wrote on this envelope is from that day.
I had been at the gym then grocery shopping. No cell phone. No one could reach me. Rob had left for work at Joe's on Arthur, a restaurant, early in the morning. We'd had several days of escalating bickering. We had 4 tickets to see The Rankin Family perform that night. I was looking forward to it as a fun way of spending time together---our schedules too busy, our lives and hearts too far apart for far too long. Somewhere down the line his ex-wife Judy was invited to join us. Much as I like Judy, much as we get along, I didn't want her to be there this night. My jealousy contributed to the arguments.
I drove into my driveway after gym and grocery shopping. The most eventful thing that had happened was that my antiperspirant had slipped from my hands in the shower at the gym and broken on the floor. A police car followed me into the driveway. Shit! Had I been speeding? Had I not seen it follow me home? I got out of the car holding my bags of groceries.
A kind police officer came up to me and verified who I was. She said they'd been trying to find me. Did I have a husband, Rob Lem? Yes. Well, sort of a husband not legally married. Did I say that? Was he okay? I know I said that. Something about being taken to emergency from work. Oh! She asked if I was okay. Yes, I'm fine. Did I want a ride to emergency with her? I held up my hands with the bags of shopping and said, "Oh. I can't. I have groceries." So you can drive yourself? Could I? Sure. She got back into her car. She was really sorry to have to tell me. I went to her window.
"Do you know what happened? He's alive, right?"
"I'm sorry. I don't know. I have no other information other than what I told you. He's been taken to emergency from work and everyone was trying to reach you. I'm so sorry. Are you sure you're okay to drive? You have someone to call?"
"Yes. Yes. Thank you so much."
I took the groceries inside. Left them on the kitchen counter. Maybe I let my dog Rogue out. I know I called Mam and Dad. I told them what I knew and I told them that I was going to the hospital. They offered to meet me there. I insisted I was fine. I was only calling them so someone knew where I was. They asked me to keep them informed. Dane, my son, my emotional rock, who lived with us at the time was in Jamaica.
I drove to the hospital. At one point I couldn't see because of the streams of tears. I promised myself that when I got there I could cry all I wanted but first I had to get there safely. Rob was far from fine but he was alive. Scheduled surgeries were cancelled while the cardiac team tried to steady his heart. He had angioplasty and three stents were put into his arteries. He was unconscious and put into a coma-like state by cooling his body to an almost hypothermic state so the blood flow would be concentrated on his heart and major organs so his heart could heal and not work so hard to heat all areas of his body.
A pastor sat with me while I sobbed uncontrollably. On my behalf, he called a school to alert a teacher friend that I wouldn't be able to keep our dinner date that evening and he called Judy and asked her to call all the kids together. I have never been more relieved to see anyone than I was to see Judy when she walked into the small family room. We hugged and I soaked her coat with tears. At one point, the nurse called for "Mrs Lem" to come in and discuss surgery and to see Rob. I stood up. So did Vanessa, my step-daughter, and Judy. I pleaded with them that I go in. And I did.
I was trying to find someone to take the Rankin Family tickets and had managed to reach one of the people, a customer in Joe's on Arthur, who had given Rob CPR. But he didn't want the tickets, just wanted to know how Rob was. Finally, we found some staff who knew someone who knew someone...
Much later, I remembered to call Mam and Dad. I started to cry all over again. They told me, "Don't cry." But I couldn't stop. Dad needed to do something to help. But there was nothing anyone could do. Mam said Dad needed to feel useful. I remembered the groceries on the table and suggested that Dad could see to them maybe. And he said he would also take Rogue for a walk. I had no idea how much longer I'd be at the hospital. This way I didn't need to worry about anything else.
I came home to the note on the back of the envelope.
Many moons ago. Once in a different lifetime. Once upon a time.
That's how long ago this all seems now. But I found the envelope this morning, on a day when Dad and I usually get together, a day when our regular routine has been interrupted by a new phase in his life. A timely reminder that wherever we are, whatever else is going on, when we need each other, we're right there.
Oh! The irony!
Whew! Such a long post. Thank you for sticking with it. It feels like a very important one. And now I have time to plant my annuals and also to plant some coneflowers and black-eyed Susans that Sandy generously gave me. Another good use of the time that Dad and I usually spend together. Enjoy your time today. Treasure those you hold closest.
Welcome! I'm Sue Blott: a writer of all things, a poet at heart, mom, wife, daughter, step-mom, grandma, tea drinker, tai chi-er, mystic, artist, dreamer...and now a blogger! This is my world.