Sunday, October 14, 2018

Art, Family, and Food onThanksgiving Weekend

Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Thanksgiving, for me, has always centered around family coming together from wherever we are and enjoying good food. Now that I have retired and moved back to BC, it is much easier to enjoy holiday celebrations together. I live near my oldest daughter and her family, and my two other (grownup) children are just a ferry ride away. Rob’s two kids and that set of grandchildren live farther away, and we are planning to travel to spend Christmas with them. 

But, this Thanksgiving was a little different from past years. The studio art tour group that I belong to hosts three events a year — a Spring Showcase, a Thanksgiving Studio Tour, and a Christmas Crawl (which is also a studio tour). I participated in the Spring Showcase, and wrote about it here. The Thanksgiving Tour includes all three days of the long weekend. 

For the tour events, artists open their studio/galleries to the public. People drive from studio to studio to view and purchase art, including paintings, pottery, handmade glass, wood carvings, jewellery, fabric art, and soap. Twenty studios were open for our Thanksgiving Tour.

This is the first time I have been part of a tour. It required lots of preparation.

This photo above shows my new sandwich board sign. There are also photos below showing the sign I now have in front of my studio. My daughter, the net artist designed the logo, and Rob built the cedar signpost and sandwich board.

I had lots of visitors to my studio over the three days, and even started a new painting.
Read more about Nanoose Bay Thanksgiving Studio Tour here.

My younger daughter, her friend, and my son came over on the ferry for the long weekend. Because of the tour, I did not have time to cook a big Thanksgiving Dinner. Instead, my daughter had the whole family over on Thanksgiving. She cooked an amazing feast! We also went out one night to a local English style pub and had a great dinner there, followed by some goofing around.

The weather has turned to Fall, and the leaves are brilliant colours.

I am grateful for my family, good times together, the chance to make art, and the beautiful place that I live.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Last Good-Bye

My Mom died this summer.

She had been in poor health for a long time. She had a couple of close calls last winter, and a rough spring. But she bounced back this summer. She gained back a few pounds. She resumed her busy social life and many activities with new vigour. We stopped worrying quite so much.

And then one day on a sunny morning in August, Mom went downtown for a hair appointment. She was chatting with people. Suddenly, she gasped, collapsed, and stopped breathing. That was it. The end. Neither CPR, nor anything the paramedics did could bring her back.

It took me by surprise. It took us all by surprise. We were not ready to let her go.

Mom with her Youngest Grandchild

Mom and Me in 2014

I went back to my hometown to visit Mom earlier in the summer. I stayed with her in her spare bedroom, and we spent a lovely week together. I went with her to have coffee with her coffee buddies, and to lunch at the seniors' centre, followed by an afternoon of playing cribbage. I accompanied her as she purchased flowers and we went up to the hospital so she could give bouquets of flowers to patients who needed something to brighten their day. She used to do this every week.

We had some lovely dinners at my brother and sister-in-law's place, cooked at home some nights, and went to the Legion for beer and burgers on Friday. Mom's two youngest granddaughters came for a visit on Saturday afternoon, and we all went over to the playground across the street. Mom and I also did several drives out into the country to all of Mom's favourite places. We even did a short hike to the fossil beds. 

Mom and Granddaughters Returning From the Playground, July 2018

At her initiative, we went to tour the two seniors' residences in the community. Mom wanted me to see the places so I could see for myself that she was not at all ready for that type of living arrangement. She talked about her plan for how she would manage to get out and around this winter once the snow became deep. (She did not drive, but used a scooter for mobility. However, the previous winter, there had been some weeks that the snow had been too deep for the scooter.)

In the late afternoon of July 25, I gave my Mom a hug, jumped into the little white rental car, waved good-bye to Mom who was standing at her window waving, and drove away. That was the last time that I got to hug my Mom good-bye.

I was planning to visit again soon, in August. Rob and I were going to drive up north and arrive in time for the Fall Fair. We planned to celebrate my mom's 85th birthday with her on August 31. But just days before we were about to leave on the trip, my brother phoned with the news of her passing. On August 31, instead of celebrating my mom's birthday, we held a Celebration of Life service. 

Her one surviving sister, and every one of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren came to the service. It was the first time in I don't know how many years that all of the family has come together.

Dad, Mom, Me, and My Baby Brother

I flew up the day after Mom passed away and stayed at her place in the same spare bedroom in which I had stayed just three weeks earlier. It felt peaceful being there at Mom's place, surrounded by her stuff, remembering her. It gave me a chance to grieve. As well, I spent lots of time with my brothers and other family who live in the area, and we supported each other, and made the arrangements together.

At my age, I now have had quite a few experiences with death. But there is nothing like losing your mother. It is so stark and irreversible. I am now the oldest generation left in this branch of the family tree.

I spoke at the service. I said that I can always come home to Mom because I have her in my heart.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Something You Don't Know About Me

Something you don't know about me -- what could that be? I have been writing this blog for ten years now, and I have written about a lot of different aspects of my life. But not everything. For example, I have hardly written anything at all about the kind of work I did before I retired, even though it consumed 40-60 hours a week of my life for 35 years.

But that is not what I am writing about today.

A thing that not many people know about me is that I do not watch TV. At all. Ever. With a couple of small exceptions.

I watch elections, including Canadian provincial and federal elections, and American presidential elections. I watch the Winter Olympics (but not the Summer Olympics). And I watch FIFA World Cup soccer, both the men's and the women's competitions. Other than that, nada.

We do actually have a television. It lives in the basement, where we mostly use it to watch movies. These are not movies on TV, but selections from Rob's huge collection of DVDs. Recently we began to subscribe to Netflix, and sometimes watch Netflix movies on the television. I occasionally watch an episode from a Netflix series on my iPad, but not very often.

Cycling the Local Trails
Rob watches lots of movies every week, usually on his computer. He is a bit of a movie buff. But he doesn't watch much TV either. We do have a digital cable package, and when my son lived with us, he used to watch hockey.

My experience with the TV is so limited that, until the recent World Cup competition this summer, I didn't even know how to use the remotes to turn ours on, or how to find channels. I do not have any interest in TV. I am so unused to being around a television that when I am in a place where there is one blaring, such in a bar where several are playing, I find it hard to mentally tune them out.

A Visit From Our Good Friends Blanca and Vaughan
I grew up in a house where the TV was turned on all day long, and as a child, I did watch TV. However, on the northern frontier where I grew up, TV did not come to our community until I was in primary school. When it did finally broadcast to the north, we only received one channel and there was no cable. It was CBC, our Canadian national television station mixed with some local programming. Eventually we got two channels, CBC and CTV.

Yoga on a Log
When I left home at 18, I stopped watching TV, and never felt the lack of it. When I got my own apartment, I did not get a television. My life was so busy that I did not want to "waste" time watching TV programs. I read a lot instead.

My first husband brought a TV back into my life, but I still rarely watched it. I did have a brief interest in LA Law and Star Trek, Next Generation in the late '80s. My preschool-aged children watched children's programs like Friendly Giant, Fred Penner, and Sesame Street. When I became single again, the TV went down to the basement and we no longer subscribed to cable, until the kids became teenagers and begged me to get cable once again. Occasionally I would watch something with them -- Friends, That Seventies Show, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, or Family Guy.

Rob's High School Buddy Comes to Visit
Because of my lack of immersion in TV programming, sometimes I feel like a bit of a cultural idiot. Back in the days when everyone was breathlessly following a series such as Dallas, or Survivor, I was unable to contribute to conversations at coffee break or at a social gathering. I don't know the names of television actors or the characters they played. Similarly, I can't say who won the Stanley Cup this year, nor do I know which player was traded to which team for what outrageous sum of money.

A Trip Up North to Visit My Mom
But, strangely, for the three things that I do like to watch -- elections, Olympics, and World Cup -- I become totally obsessed. This year was a year in which both the Winter Olympics and the men's World Cup took place, as both of them are on the same four-year cycle. So I had a period of excessive TV watching in February for the Olympics, and another period in July, watching World Cup.

One of Several Yummy Dinners on the Deck
I think the reason that I like the Winter Olympics so much is that I do (or used to do) several winter sports -- alpine skiing, nordic skiing, and figure skating, and my daughter used to be a freestyle skier, and my son snowboards. Similarly, World Cup interests me because I played soccer on and off from childhood through until I was 55. I also coached soccer for a couple of years.

Helping my Son With a Move to a New Apartment
I was so motivated to watch World Cup this summer that I learned to use the TV remotes! Rob subscribed to on-demand programming for the sports channel so I could follow the World Cup matches. (Have I mentioned that he is a sweetie?) I even downloaded an app onto my iPad so that I could watch matches if I had to be away from the TV, which I was frequently as we travelled a lot last month.

A Visit to Victoria to See a Dear Friend
 One thing that I know for sure is that retirement hasn't turned me into a television aficionado. The photos throughout this post show some of the fun things that we did last month. We did lots of travelling and had some visitors. I think that not watching much TV has made my life more rich and interesting.

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!