Monday, July 9, 2018

Camping With the Kiddles

Camping might just be the quintessential Canadian pastime. That is what we have been up to this past week. We went camping with my daughter's family at a lake on the northern part of the Island.

Yes, I did mean to type "kiddles." It rhymes with "littles." We were camping with the grandchildren, which is the best kind of camping of all.

The Belly Boats and Kate

We brought our dog Kate along with us. Of course, it was not without incident. She began breathing in a laboured way on Thursday, just before the long weekend, and we planned to leave Monday morning. A visit to the vet on Friday provided reassurance and we purchased some expensive anti-inflamatory medication and an analgesic. Her breathing immediately went back to normal and she seemed fine throughout the trip, cavorting around like a dog half her age.

Rob Fishing in the Belly Boat
The belly boats had been packed away since the move. It was great fun to get out on the lake in them and do some fly fishing. We were fortunate to have several days of glorious sunshine. Although it was obvious that the lake was full of fish as they were rising all around us, we only hooked one fish, but I lost it. However, the loons on the lake looked sleek and well-fed.

Beach Time
The little lake had a large area with a sandy beach, and it was terrific for swimming. The beach was also a good place for building sand castles. Our double campsite was right by the lake and it had its own little beach area.

On a Hike. The Pilings in the Water Were Supports for a Bridge Built During the Early Logging Years.
We went on several short hikes while we were there. Our small lake was situated beside a much larger lake which is part of the Sayward Forest Canoe Circuit, a 48 kilometer loop. Of this, 40 km is paddling and there is 8 km of portage. We paddled the Bowron Lakes circuit in central BC several years ago and had a wonderful time, so we feel tempted to do this one now!

In the Camper One Rainy Afternoon
The boys had their bikes along and spent some happy hours riding up and down the gravel road through the campground. We had one afternoon and night of rain. It was a perfect opportunity to retreat to the camper and read, play cards, and play early literacy games. There was no wifi or cell service. (Yay!)

We Spent Time Around the Campfire
As the forests are not dry at this time, there were no restrictions on campfires.

Enjoying some fresh BC Cherries
There were cherries!

Roasting Marshmallows
There were marshmallows!

More Marshmallows
There were S'Mores! In case you are wondering what S'Mores are, they are melted marshmallows layered with chocolate inside of graham crackers, kind of like a sandwich. The chocolate melts because it is close to the hot marshmallow. Yum!

And More Marshmallows
The boys were thrilled so see their uncle when he was able to join us at the campground for the last two nights.

The Sun Going Down
The last night at the lake provided some great photo ops. There was a beautiful sky as the sun set.

Sitting Around the Campfire
If going camping is the quintessential Canadian summer experience, then sitting around a campfire at night staring into the flames and enjoying a beverage or two is the quintessential camping activity. We turned our Canada Day celebration into a Canada week!

Monday, July 2, 2018

It's Been a Year!

Today is July 1, Canada Day. On this day, Canadians are celebrating Canada's 151st birthday. This date is also meaningful to me for personal reasons.

It has been quite the year! Exactly a year ago today was my first day of retirement. It was also the day that we took possession of our new house on Vancouver Island. So, on this significant anniversary, I will dedicate this blog post to a romp through some highlights of the past year.


Celebrating 150 Years Since Confederation on July 1, 2017
In July last year, we drove out to the Island to sign the final documents and take possession of our new house. Then we raced east back to our house on the prairies to finalize the sale for our house there, to pack, and to move. The moving truck loaded up our belongings on July 25. During that month, amidst the emotions and exhaustion of preparing to move, we took time to enjoy some of our favourite things one last time.


August, of course, also was devoted to moving, except this time to unpacking what we had just packed up, and setting up our new home. We spent all of 12 days moving in and unpacking, then we were off again on a three-week camper trip to northern BC! We attended a wedding and visited with lots of friends and family. We especially had fun with our other set of grand kids -- who had also just moved into a different house. We attended a Fall Fair and also managed to fit in a hike or two.

A Hike with my Brother. Looking across the Valley at Hudson Bay Mountain.

In September, we finally stopped racing around all over the country and began to settle into our new community and new life. We were thrilled to discover that where our house is located in a rural area, there is an elaborate network of walking trails right outside our door.

A Favourite Local Trail
 September gave me a chance to get a first glimpse of what retired life might be like for me. I wrote about the relaxed pace of a typical day, which is a huge contrast to the intensity of the long hours of work that I was used to. Instead of the possible difficult transition that I predicted, as I wrote about about in a guest post (drafted in June and posted in September), I found that I was enjoying retirement very much indeed!


At the Pumpkin Farm
Of course, the best thing of all about our new location is lots of family time. For example, one glorious October day, I went to a pumpkin farm and corn maze with my grandsons and their parents. I also participated in an art show as a guest artist.


Snow in Our Garden in November
 In November, I participated in NaNoWriMo and added another 40,000 words to my novel. My daughter hosted organized and hosted an art show in Vancouver featuring 23 international gif artists, and I attended.  November also included a surprise trip to Hanover, Germany, for a film festival where my daughter showed her work. We followed that up with a visit to Berlin.

Erica at the International GIF Fest

In December, we visited Vancouver again and saw the Cirque du Soleil's Kurios show.

We Enjoyed the Show
December was a whirl of activity, including a family skate party, skiing, family coming to spend Christmas with us, and of course, a big family dinner.

Family Skating Party

In January, we really settled into our new life. We enjoyed spending time with the grand kids, as well as lots of walks and trips to the ski hill. When it rained nonstop for the last two weeks in January, we went to the furniture shop and bought new living room furniture. (See, that's what too much rain can do to you!)

We Love the Local Ski Hill

February involved lots of hikes, lots of skiing, lots of time with the grand kids, time spent with friends, yoga, volunteer work, and time to read. So this is what it's like when you have time for a real life!

Fun at the Playground


We went skiing on average once a week from January through April. We have made new friends here who like to ski. I joined a local group of artists and spent lots of time getting ready for an art show in April, and working with Erica to build an art website.

Rathtrevor Beach

I joined a writers' group, and started working on my novel again. I showed my paintings at a weekend art show.

Easter Egg Hunt

I set up a studio and gallery named Notch Hill Art, and launched the website.

Ocean Sunset

I certainly have not lacked for things to do this first year of retirement. Considering how concerned I was about making the leap to retirement, I have to say that I am the most surprised of everyone to discover how much I love being retired.

Kate Enjoys my Retirement Too
It has been interesting to look back over the year. Despite the stresses of packing up and moving to a new place, and despite my fears about throwing my career away if I retired, I would have to say that my retirement transition has been extremely positive this first year. I am glad that I retired, and I really like living on Vancouver Island!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Here, There, and Everywhere

Well, so much has been going on that I hardly know where to start. Since I last posted (a month ago!), I have been here, there, and everywhere.

In May, I flew to Illinois to attend a conference. On the way, I spent a lovely day in Vancouver with one of my best friends, and then my daughter and I went out for a fabulous dinner.

One of the Beautiful Buildings at the University of Illinois
 The conference itself was great, and I enjoyed it. I came away inspired to do more academic work!

Interior Detail in the Lobby of the Building Where I Gave my Presentation
One of the highlights of the last month was a visit from my Mom and brother. We had them for almost a week, and it was so nice to spend time together and visit.

With Mom and my Son
My Mom has health issues, and is on oxygen 24/7. But she was a trooper, and we went shopping and tried out some of the Vancouver Island dining hot spots. The weather was nice while they were here, and the rhododendrons put on a show.

Family Dinner
People came from near and far, and we got together for a big family dinner.

Erica and Tony
My brother checked out several great hikes in this part of the Island while he was here. The photo above shows one of them that Tony, Erica and I did one afternoon on the Enos Lakes trails. My brother is an amazing guy, and I know my Mom really appreciated the chance to travel here with him.

The day after Mom and Tony left, we spent the day mountain biking with friends who were on a holiday on the Island. The weather promised rain that day, but fortunately the rain held off for our ride and picnic.

Photo Op Beside the Englishman River
We spent one weekend doing volunteer work for our service club. On the day of the event, one of the club members and I flipped more than 600 pancakes! Rob reported for duty at 6 am and manned the coffee station (yes, that meant we had to set the alarm clock, ugg).

A couple of days later, we had lunch with some longtime friends from northern BC. They were visiting in the area. We are trying to talk them into moving here.

Getting Together for Lunch
And that is not all! During this same period, my son accepted a job offer in a city elsewhere in BC. He started work the week before Tony and Mom arrived, and made a long drive back on the weekend so he wouldn't miss their visit.

At the Harbour
We all got together before he moved to celebrate the new job. We went for fish & chips and a walk around the harbour. Last week, Rob and I made a two-day road trip to bring him his furniture and boxes of stuff. 

Loading the Truck
Of course, it poured rain as we went through Vancouver. It is a good thing that Rob tied the tarp down so well. Nothing got wet.

And that's still not all! There's the garden! The novel! Numerous hikes and a picnic, and more. But most of that will have to wait for another post.

Picnic by the Ocean. Yes, There was Food Too - Not Just Wine!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Announcing Notch Hill Art

Jude and her paintings at the Spring Showcase
Spring Showcase

At the beginning of this year, I joined the Nanoose Bay Studio Tour. This is a group of artists and artisans on Vancouver Island that hosts three art events a year -- a Spring Showcase, a Thanksgiving Studio Tour, and a Christmas Crawl. In 2017, I participated in the Thanksgiving tour as a guest artist.

The Spring Showcase is a weekend event held in the community centre. All the artists set up their booths in this central location and welcome the public to the event. This year, we also held an opening reception on the Friday evening, with wine, a caterer, and live music. Donna from Retirement Reflections, and lots of other friends attended.

The other two events are studio driving tours. Over each weekend, people take a driving tour to the participating studios. The advantage of the showcase is that everything is available in one place. The advantage of the tours is that people get to see the studios where the artists work, and their private galleries.

I am thrilled to be part of this wonderful group of artists. The group is super friendly and supportive. There is a wide range of beautiful art represented, including glass blowing, stained glass, pottery, jewellery, bonsai, woodwork, metal sculpture, mixed media, and photography, along with painters such as myself. One of the highlights for me on the showcase weekend was getting to know the other artists a little better. It also was fun chatting with all the people who came by to look at my display.

Rob's hoardings that he built for displaying my paintings were easy to set up and they looked great painted black. I forgot to take a picture of them before hanging the paintings! But if you look at the photos carefully, you can see them.

On the last day of the showcase, my daughter Erica and my friend Wendy came over from Vancouver to see the show.

Erica and Wendy at the Spring Showcase
Sunday evening, after taking down the show, we went out for a lovely dinner.

Celebrating after the show
Notch Hill Art

I am thrilled to announce that my new studio and gallery, Notch Hill Art, will be open for business at the beginning of June. I have hung the paintings and set up the gallery space.

Erica has built me a wonderful  artist's website for Notch Hill Art. To look at my collection of paintings, click here.

If you are in the area and would like to come and visit me in my studio, you can contact me through the website to arrange a time. The website includes a blog where I write about my current art projects and shows. Also, my paintings are available for sale via the website. I have provided a link to the Notch Hill Art website in the sidebar of my blog, so you can find it easily.

I will be participating in the Nanoose Bay Studio Tour's Thanksgiving Tour and the Christmas Crawl this year. It is exciting to embark on this new adventure. There are so many gorgeous views in this area and I am looking forward to painting them.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

How I Tricked Myself into Retiring

Dear readers, if you have been following posts on my blog, you will know that I am a recent but happy retiree. The person who is most surprised about this is me.

You see, during my career, I was the classic workaholic. I used to joke about it. "I am so busy. I have so much to do. Work, work, work -- that defines my life. I must be a bit of a workaholic."

I used to come home weeping with exhaustion after 12 and 14 hour days, when I had not had time to step away from the computer or eat a meal. We routinely ate dinner at 8:00 or 9:00 at night, because I seldom came home before 7:00 or 8:00 pm. Our family and friends lived far away, and although I made quick trips to visit as often as I could and kept in touch by phone, it was not enough. I was constantly frustrated that I did not have enough time for exercise or creative endeavours. The stress and the pace began to affect my health.

But, for all of that, I really didn't think that there was all that much wrong with my life. Or maybe it was more that I couldn't imagine that there was any other way to be. The big educational institutions where I had pursued my career had socialized me into excessive work as a lifestyle. I looked around and saw all of my peers working the same crazy long hours that I was. As we ran past each other in the hallways, our typical conversations went something like this:

"How are you?"
"Busy. Just unbelievably busy. How about you?"
"Me too. Busy, busy, busy. I'm dealing with the X crisis and the Y crisis, and I thought we had a solution for the Z crisis, but there's a new wrinkle, and it has to be dealt with today."
"Well. I have to go. I have three back-to-back meetings, and I'm double booked over lunch hour."
"Yeah, I'm racing to a meeting too, and I'll be here all weekend for the W event."
"Good luck."
"Take care."

As much as I tried to seek a better balance between my work life and personal life, the work demands were urgent and unrelenting.

Besides, I loved my career. I had spent decades studying and working in different roles within the university system. I was deeply invested in being a professor, researcher, and administrator. I didn't know who I was apart from my work identity. I was afraid of giving it all up, only to discover that my career self was all that I was.

When I began to realize that it was time to retire, I struggled with the decision. I remember that I started to write a blog post around that time called: "Throwing My Life Away." I never published it because it was so bleak and despairing.

Everybody's different, but for me, one part of the solution involved retiring in stages. The other part involved making a cognitive shift. Essentially, I tricked myself into retiring. To find out about my self-trickery, continue reading here.

I am thrilled to have been invited to guest host on Donna's blog, Retirement Reflections, once again. Please visit me there and read my post.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

World Building

It is less than three weeks until the art show that I will be participating in. The show opens on Friday evening, April 27, with a special event, and it is open to the public all day on Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29. Rob, dear person that he is, has been busy in his workshop building me a modular framework ("hoardings," he calls them) to set up in the 10'x10' booth so that I have somewhere to hang my paintings.

Building the Hoarding
 I have lots to do to get ready. As I mentioned before, over several weeks I have spent hours photographing my works, editing the photos, organizing them, and preparing them for my art website that is under development. I unpacked a couple more moving boxes to find some more of my paintings. (I still haven't found all of them.) But there is soooo much left to do to get ready, and I have not been ticking many items off the to-do list.

So what have I been doing if not getting ready for the art show? Well, skiing. The spring skiing has been fabulous. We have been going skiing a couple of times a week with friends, and last weekend I had a chance to ski with my son and daughter.

Sunny Day at the Ski Hill
 We also did some house stuff. Our new living room furniture finally was delivered. We replaced and upgraded two toilets. We replaced an item damaged in the move. All of this required much moving of furniture, reorganizing, and cleaning. There have been the usual things like car maintenance, doctor's appointment, tax prep, and grocery shopping. As well, I progressed on some academic writing projects, completing two of them recently.

My service group sponsored an Easter Egg Hunt, which I helped with. I hosted and cooked a family dinner for Easter. As well, I have participated in dog walks, attended a community talk, and spent time with my grandsons.

And there's more! Here is some exciting news. A friend and I are part of a new local writing group that has just formed. I recently attended a "meet and greet" organized by the Federation of BC Writers, and the people present at that event decided to organize ourselves into a writers' group. We have had our first official meeting.

I am so excited about writing again that I have resumed working on my novel. I have finished chapter 26 and am starting on chapter 27. I am getting near the end! Of course, once the first draft is done, the revisions begin, and I cannot say that I am looking forward to revisions. 

The other night, I wrote until late at night, finishing chapter 26. As I drifted off to sleep, my head was swirling with ideas and fragments of paragraphs to write in chapter 27. But then I woke up with a problem. (I guess my brain had been working on the novel while I slept.) I realized that my timelines did not line up properly for the plot to unfold the way that I had planned.

You would think that in a novel that takes place decades into the future, timelines would be pretty flexible. However, throughout the book, I have been building a world. And in the logic of this world, I have created the necessity for certain events to unfold a certain way.

There were two main time sequencing issues. Two characters are having babies, a couple of months apart from each other. Somehow, I had miscounted the due date for the first birth by several weeks. I couldn't just change the date easily, because I had already written about the birth and tied it closely to a certain season of the year. I had also miscounted the due date of the second birth, in this case only by about two weeks, but this also was problematic because I am intending for the mother to be doing something during the plot climax that is very physically grueling, and she would not have planned to do it if she had just given birth. Just as in real life, these fictional babies are being born at inconvenient times!

So the next day, instead of steaming along writing chapter 27, I spent hours recalculating the math for the dates of the births and other events. I corrected my timeline notes. Then, I went back and read through several chapters, and made corrections so the timelines would work out.

With this novel, I have kept a number of files of notes, supplementary to the novel. I have a list of characters with details like their age, appearance, relationship with other characters and so on. I have made a timeline of major social and political events in my imaginary world, both preceding and following the period in which my story takes place. I have written notes about the backstory. I have a list of chapter names along with the page of the manuscript on which each chapter starts.

Supplementary Notes
Some of my notes are very messy and scribbled. For example, I have drawn a rough map of the geographical area where my characters live. About two chapters into the writing, I realized that I needed to keep a timeline of the major events in the story, which takes place over the period of a year. I labelled the day on which the story starts as "Day 1." Quite a bit further along in my writing, I realized that seasons were going to be important in this imaginary world, so I went back and re-labelled Day 1, Day 2, etc., with dates, arbitrarily starting the story on November 16. Although I had a rough plot outline when I started this novel, I mostly have invented the story and the details of my story world as I went along.

For those of you who write fiction, how do you keep track of events and their sequence in a piece of writing as long and complicated as a novel? I would be curious to know about your method. I imagine that dates would be especially tricky to manage in historical fiction, and also when writing a memoir or biography. I look forward to your comments. 

And, yes, I am avoiding doing my art by writing instead. Perverse, I know, but at least the creative juices are flowing.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Counting Eagles

Photo by Vancouver Island Photographer, Rainer Willeke
In the morning when I sit at my dining table having breakfast, I look out over a forest of trees to a distant patch of sunlit ocean, backed by snow-topped ice-cream mountains. Often ravens are having conversations in the tall evergreens, and once in a while an eagle wheels overhead, just beyond my backyard. There is a little lake out of sight behind the trees, and I like to think that the eagle is swooping down to fish there, but more likely it is scanning the road at the back of our place, looking for roadkill. 

One of the things I love about being back at the BC coast again is seeing eagles. Lately we have been making regular trips to our local ski hill to go for an afternoon of skiing. This involves a drive up the coast, and then up into the mountains. It takes a little more than an hour. On the way I count eagles. (Note that I am not driving while I count. Rob drives to the hill, and I drive home.)

I always see at least one, and I have counted as many as six eagles on the drive. I have learned to look for their favourite perches, high up on dead branches. They like to position themselves where they can overlook both a stream and the highway. Open patches of field also are favoured. Sometimes I see hawks as well as eagles. I am speculating that the number I see on any given day depends on whether the tide is in or out. The Island Highway is just a few kilometers from the ocean in most sections, and when the tide is out, there is lots for the eagles to eat in the tidal pools.

This retirement gig is pretty awesome! I am grateful everyday that I get to be in this place and do the the things that I do. Skiing, for example. I have written before that skiing is part of my identity story. I love to ski. I have had some injuries that sidelined me from skiing for periods of a year or more, and nearly a decade ago, I even had one doctor tell me that I would never ski again. So now I ski much more cautiously, and am thankful for every additional year that I get to be on the ski hill.

A Happy Skier
We have met some new friends here who like to ski, and have had great fun meeting them at the hill. Later we debate the problems of the world in a bar or restaurant.

My Trusty Skiing Partner
Of course, not every day is a perfect day. Sometimes things break -- one of our toilets, to be exact, and we have been waiting for a week to get a plumber. Or technology decides to drive me crazy. For example, my mobile phone has decided that it no longer wants to communicate with my computer. So I can't upload my photos, just when I am trying to organize and edit my painting photos for my art website.

The sun does not shine everyday. This is the west (wet) coast. However, we put on our raincoats and boots, and out we go anyways.

Thursday Dog Walking Group

This morning most of the hardy members of my weekly dog walking group showed up despite the threat of rain. That is my dog, Kate, in the foreground. And yes! The smiling person on the left is Donna of Retirement Reflections.