Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Squeaky Shoes

I had a breakfast meeting today after a late Board meeting last night ( for those of you loyal enough to have been reading this blog for years you will know that  I am notorious for scheduling snafoos - like THIS one).

I found myself surprisingly early for the meeting and decided to use the 30 minutes to get some steps in.

I found the walking oval in our central city park quiet and dark and full of puddles but, as is ever the case, intrepid walkers and runners are always out there.

And so I grabbed the old pair of runners in my car and joined the track. (possibly without considering how I'd be arriving at my meeting with soaking wet pants from the knee down).

I guess as much as steps I was also craving just a few minutes of peace and quiet to steady myself ahead of another long day (the middle of 3 long days/evening - see aforementioned scheduling challenges).

I walked out my prayers and thoughts.

There were distractions aplenty.

Mr squeaky shoes up ahead - my first thought was "Great...just great"  but I decided to use his squeaky cadence to sync my own pace.

The construction site next door was starting up and soon the hammering and other building noises "Great...just great" until I decided to look at what was being built and then when I one day stand on those stairs, in the completed building, I can say I saw it being built.

The Tai Chi ladies who were surprisingly grunty today and whose slow movements almost mesmerized me to the point of slowing my own pace.

The ladies in the stands meditating on mats with their music playing on a portable radio - chants and bells.

The conversations of those walking behind me in other languages defying my over-hearing tendencies.

The regular rhythm of a lady running in jeggings and a sweater with a sparkly cat on it, breathing hard, making little puffs of air.

Fire trucks with sirens and light, the ever busying streets, as the sky lightened with every lap.

But I found that the peace and quiet I needed filled my lungs and heart and mind with every cool breath of air I took and the lesson was not lost on me.

Peace is what you are gifted in spite of your circumstances (and squeaky shoes)

Peace is a choice in spite of the surroundings (and squeaky shoes)

Peace can be practiced (even when there are squeaky shoes).

I walked into the dawn and the sky tinted pink behind grey clouds.

It was a good way to start this day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Relentless "Hello"


The world is a big and often scary place.  

And for some people like me the weight of that can feel crushing at times.  

I am a taker-on-er.  

I hear it and I see it and I allow my heart and mind to take it in.  Some things stick around in my head and heart too long, or with too much intensity.

I have trouble letting it go or dismissing it. 

Which is why I pray a lot in the long dark awake hours of the night.

But I find the best way to sort out my heart and mind is to DO something.

Finding the "right" thing to DO can be hard and paralyzing in itself.

Writing a cheque only goes so far for my heart.   I'm not looking to assuage guilt or silence the questions on my mind - I am looking to face them with authenticity and grace and energy.

I don't have all the answers - I am still working it out for myself....some things have worked and other have not .... I think the point is that I am still wrestling with my role, my personal response in the face of the suffering of others.

The one thing that surprisingly takes a lot of effort and also has some pretty great results is my relatively recent decision to relentlessly say "Hello" to every person I pass while out walking.

Seeing as walking is also often my internal processing time and I am often deep in my own thoughts - it is super easy to keep my head down, eyes averted and just keep walking.

But that keeps me separate and disconnected. 

So in spite of feeling a bit shy (yes me) and a bit odd at times, I now keep my head up and I look directly at those I walk by or pass and I say a cheery "Hello"....and keep walking.  

So many times people look surprised and then they greet me back by a smile, a nod, a wave and often their own "Hello" as we pass. 

I see that sometimes I startle them out of their own reverie and sometimes I meet searching eyes looking to connect. 

Very few people make no response.  I see some regulars starting to anticipate my "Hello" now.

And it doesn't matter who it is - a plugged in teenager, a old chinese man who lives on our block, other walkers, children on bikes, shoppers... I WILL say "Hello" to everyone.

"Hello" and a smile is a bridge - a universal connector and I always feel better when I finish my walk and know I saw my neighbours, my fellow humans
on this journey, and left them with a "Hello".  

An acknowledgment that they exist and are noticed.

Obviously I am not walking in Aleppo or Haiti or Uganda.... I am walking where I am right now where there is relative poverty, ageism, racism, rampant individualism.... hurting hearts are no respecter of geography, ethnicity, age. 

Loneliness is a universal experience.

And "Hello" is free.  It takes zero expertise.  

It surely does not solve any of the worlds big problems and far more may be required of me but insofar as change starts with me .... I choose to be relentless in saying "Hello" believing that it just may lead to more than that with someone, sometime.

So in case you missed it at the top.... "Hello!"

Saturday, October 1, 2016


My little island home - Richmond is home to a huge harvest!  One I have never actually seen midst harvest.

For a week or so I have had it on my mind to google when the harvest is and where to see it.

But life...

And today I had a long TO DO list.

First up was ordering the anti-biotic free happy happy turkey for Thanksgiving so I headed towards the farm store.  I wondered if I might spot a field being harvested, even wondered if I could afford the time to search for one on my way to the City. 

And the, just before the turkey farm, VOILA, cranberry harvest underway.

I was more than delighted and I spent quite a while watching the process and watching the farm kids play in the water and millions of cranberry's.  

I let our Community of Richmond FB know where to find this and was delighted that almost 100 people were interested and many caught the harvest themselves today.  

It was super cool to watch and I am so happy I finally saw it!

A Cranberry Bog before it is flooded
The field is flooded and the cranberries float up and are "captured" by booms

Workers in waders drag the berries toward the intake which washes them and puts them in the containers

Farm kids having some harvest fun


Here's the official story!

Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., a Grower-Owned cooperative officially kicked off the iconic cranberry harvest this week in British Columbia. Over the next six to eight weeks more than 80 farm families will harvest about one million barrels of cranberries, up slightly over last year's crop of about 990,000 barrels. A barrel is the standard measure for cranberries and is equal to 100lbs or 45Kg. Most of the province's cranberries go into Ocean Spray® products, which are sold in more than 100 countries.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cheese Sauce

This pot is a sign.

A sign of my adaptability.

A sign that even when I don't want to do something, I can do it if I try.

I am the maker of cheese sauce in this house. 

Broccoli does not get eaten without cheese sauce. Duh.

Whenever I make cheese sauce I make too much.

We put the extra sauce in a container in the fridge to grow moldy.  As one does.

This week our family unit is 2.  Plus 1 brown labrador.

Two humans to be fed.

And not just fed but two people figuring out how to be, how to be together, in this quiet house. 

The hilarious jokes about how much time and space we must have without the kids home (wink wink) failed to remember that we long ago figured out how to use the lock on our bedroom door (wink wink). And that even in a quite and spacious house we are still busy and tired most of the time.

It is easy to say I am not ready for this stage of my life - missing my girl for so many weeks now, hoping the boy kept his canoe upright in the white water today - but the truth is I was no more ready the day they wheeled me into the OR and said "we are going to deliver this baby now".  Or the day they waved goodbye to me at the Kindergarten door or when they caught the train downtown alone for the first time.

But here we are .  Me and Allan.  Figuring it out. 

Finding a different rhythm that doesn't have the complications and complexities of kids schedules and sports and youth and school.  

We have only ourselves to consider.  

And therein lies both delightful opportunity and some trepidation.  

We haven't had to bumble along as a couple for almost 20 years.  

And though it has just been for a few days I think we have enjoyed our time to chat and cook together and walk the dog, watch TV and do some gardening.   

We have pottered together and apart and been comfortable.  The usual stuff of studying and working out and cleaning the house goes on.  Just a bit more quietly.

We made lovely meals and set the table and prayed for our kids and friends and ate together.  

Sometimes there was silence.  Not awkward or uncomfortable.  Just quiet. 

And I figured out how to make cheese sauce that was just enough for two! 

Our nest isn't empty - we are right here - and our puppy is snoring on the couch (yes ON the couch) - and we are going to be just fine.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A fresh coat

We just spent a chunk of change on our house.  

Like a few thousand dollars.

And you wouldn't know it.

YOU wouldn't know it.

But we sure know it.

It was repainted.  

The same colours as before.

Before was 11 years ago. 

When we were young and foolish and painted it ourselves - it took weeks.

This time it was done in 2 days. 2 coats and and the trim.  

I'd like the change to be more obvious for the $$$ we spent. 

What I am excited about is how wonderfully fresh and clean and sealed the house is now - how safe and prepared for the storms of Winter.  How the peeling and faded parts only I noticed are now vibrant and covered and smart.

And all this sent me on a metaphorical meandering.....

Isn't this just how life can be sometimes?

Big things happen, change, shift us - and barely anyone notices. 

Hearts are squeezed, dented, expanded, re-shaped....

Minds grapple and take on new thoughts, open new thought pathways...

Bodies find new ways of being and doing....

Birth, death, love, illness, travel, world news .... we are challenged and changed .... and the world marches on seemingly oblivious.

We can feel so inwardly transformed, challenged, hurt, renewed - sometimes in deep ways, and there is no banner announcement - no WOW moment.  Those closest to us might notice a change, a shift, they may even say something about it.

But it doesn't mean, just because it's barely outwardly noticeable, that it isn't true and real and incredible.

The investment you made in the change, whether by your choice or through a process you chose or whether it was thrown at you, even blindsided you....  it is yours to hold and cherish, to proclaim if you want to and to announce if you need to. 

Your change deserves to be noticed - but it is no less change even if it is not.

I hope if you walk by my house you'll be amazed at how sharp it looks.  

But it's ok if you don't.

I am still delighted with the change.  

(ok please tell me you notice they painted the ugly white gutters the same colour as the house - which is genius  - and makes me way too happy!)

Monday, September 5, 2016


I often sign off cards or letters or emails as "The Byres Clan"... given our Scottish heritage and all. 

And I think it's clear I am happiest when my clan is all together.

After the clan our circle widens for more family and then the friends we see as family and then friends, colleagues etc.  

In the past week I found myself part of a some tribes or circles I hadn't really anticipated.

We loaded up the truck affectionately known as "Rolling Blue Thunder" and we rolled onto a ferry and over to Victoria to move Miss L into her first apartment. It's the ground floor suite of a house a 10 minutes walk from UVic and though it is older and has some "lovely" fixtures, it is perfectly perfect for her. 

We unpacked and started settling in, putting together all the furniture we had to take apart to move, squeezing in ALL the kitchen goods into a tiny kitchen, realising what we had forgotten to bring or purchase, making lists.

And then we headed out to get those things and to do a pantry stocking grocery shop (a more daunting and costly task than you might imagine!).  

And this is when I noticed people in my new tribe.  

As we wandered the aisles of a large store I noticed other grouping just like ours - parents and university student.  We were reaching for the same items and every now and then we caught each others eye and there was a knowing look and a nod.  "I see you, I get you...I also forgot to buy this child a garbage can / mirror / soy sauce..."  

I overheard snippets of conversations that were comfortingly similar to our own chats and we even saw the same families from Home Depot to Canadian Tire to Bed, Bath and Beyond....and Walmart.  Our shopping buggys looked like we were shopping from the same lists.  And we mostly were and the stores seemed to have anticipated our needs so well.  Funny that.

As I teared up in the frozen food section thinking about not cooking for this girl of mine, worrying that she will be well fed, wondering if she has enough of everything...I felt this new tribe of mine all around me and I felt the funny relief one feels when you know so many others are going through exactly what you are, and if they seem to be rocking it then you surely can too. And we all smile bravely.

So we soldiered on and we ended up with a very lovely, comfy and well put together apartment - much nicer than the one Allan and I first shared when we got married - that is for sure!  All our thrifty finds and upcycled goods looked polished and lovely and I think she will be very comfortable and hopefully very happy (and well fed) there. 

So we rolled on back to the ferry - some of our tribe still around us - some sad without that university student of theirs.  We convinced ours to come home for a few days as she had little left to do for the 5 days before classes start.  And 5 days until her internet is hooked up (an eternity!).  It didn't take much persuasion - I think a certain tall, blonde, Vancouver boy had something to do with that too.

And we have had a wonderful 3 days with our clan at home (or as "at home" as 2 teens ever are).

Tomorrow is my last first day as Mom of a school age child.  I'll join the tribe of parents demanding First Day photos and I'll wave from the front door as Mr D heads off to Grade 12.  My heart, like many in this tribe, will be a little achy.  But we got this...we can do this...we can be the village, the tribe, for one another.

So if you see someone in your tribe tomorrow - a smile will go a long way to helping us get through another day on this funny journey of life. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

If you must...

If you must get up before dawn, on the second last summer saturday, to deliver your boy and his buddies to the Camp boat...And say good bye to him AGAIN...

And you need to pick up the last furniture from the Cabin (just beyond Hope)

Then you may as well agree with your beloved fisher-husband to hit the fishing river for a spot of fishing on the way (seeing as you have only watched him fish 4 of the last 6 days)

And you may as well walk the river with him remembering to be quiet and not scare the fish lest you be blamed for their shyness and forever remembered as #noluckNicky

So you don your hastily purchased $15 sandals (as your beloved Teva's just broke after 25,000km or so ) and you head off up a crazy road and down a path with your honey.

But you should know that while the path looks beautiful it is a mosquito infested hell.  They will swarm you and bite you through anything - they will even try to bite your eye but your contact lens will save you - although your eye will feel itchy for the rest of your life.

You feel superior that you - not accomplished in all things wilderness -  will have thought to wear long sleeves in this mozzie gauntlet - until you realise that the millions you can see and slap are nothing compared to the one or two that get inside your long sleeves and wreak havoc. 

The slapping never ends...

You arrive at the river and immediately recall that you asked insufficient questions when the words "cross the river a few times" were uttered.  And you will find your feet in your new sandals will actually be hypothermic after just 10 steps in the river.  Also you may have forgotten that rivers flow and the current can be strong - most especially where it is deep..  You will be thankful your yoga pants convert to hot pants and even more grateful the mosquitos obviously ate everyone else as you and fisher-hubs are alone on the river to witness this fashion nightmare.

You will not drown.

You may as well collect rocks as you go - you may even have a brilliant idea of a little project to do with them.  But you should have thought about collecting on the way back not the way down - also a bigger backpack would have been helpful.  But hey - 10 pounds of stones = extra weight = extra calories burned!

You wonder at your Fisherman whipping that line about and setting it down in the fast moving water.  You concede maybe the mortgage you took on the gear was a good investment.  Especially the waders as his feet do not appear to be hypothermic.

And you see why this is his go to spot.  You get it in a new way.

Although you still don't really understand the appeal of searching for capricious fish in a freezing river in a bug infested forest (and let's not forget Yogi and his friends) So you take to looking for a heart shape rock among the bajillions of rocks - because it won't do to look bored (and really you aren't) or scared (which maybe you are a tiny bit). 

You do marvel at how beautiful the place is - the mountains soaring, the clear water.  All those trees.

You constantly scan the banks for bears who must surely enjoy the views too.

You see a plant growing, blooming, in among the rocks and you imagine there must be a lesson in that somewhere.

As the last crossing appears you draw the line and wave the Fisherman on while you lie on a sand bar - which you actually call a beach - which just goes to show how Canadian you really have become.

You almost have Nap 2016 on the beach except the sun is burning holes in you and there is something grunting and breaking branches in the trees and you realise you're a tad edgy here, alone, in the wilderness.  You nearly pee your pants when a duck plops into the water in front of you and you realise you nature deficit is maybe bigger than you thought.

You desperately try to remember what one is supposed to do if confronted with large wild animals and concede that no matter what you should do, you will likely run and scream.  And possibly die. Alone.  On a Canadian excuse for a beach.

But before your paranoia completely consumes you, you will feel mighty relieved when Fisher guy reappears and you start the long, rocky walk back up the river and then run the mozzie tunnel in a haze of Deep Woods Off  - to no avail.  

When you make it to the truck and dive in, you spend 15 minutes killing the 30,000 mosquitoes that got in with you and it looks like a CSI crime scene in the truck.  But it's your blood and you realise you are still alive so all is well.

And so your last fishing adventure of Summer 2016 will be over.  You have endured, you have explored, you have understood .... and you are grateful for the opportunity and time spent with your fisherman.

So to the cabin you will go to get the queen size bed - and a few other things - .  You will realise that wrapping a giant mattress in plastic to keep it dry was a good idea but one that makes carrying it and loading it a curse-inducing exercise.  And you will have a less fun adventure getting it all home as the mattress decided it wanted to be a kite all the way home.

And so if you must have done all these amazing and crazy things in just one day - then you will collapse on the couch with a beer and know it was an awesome day.

The end.