Friday, August 30, 2013

Weathering the Storm

This summer has been an exceptionally dry one for the West Coast of British Columbia. July was a warm month of blue skies and while most days in August began with grey skies, the rains did not come. Yesterday, while I was walking with my cousin, the rain began and it felt almost tropical. Last night, I was awakened by flashes of lightening and claps of thunder which are unusual for our area.

It is very difficult to know what to wear these days because the air is warm and heavy with moisture. Tonight, I am going to listen to the Surfrajets play at the Shipyard Market and I will probably wear jeans and a teal green merino v-neck that I bought at Costco. The other band women are much younger than I am and their guys are new to performing so they are extremely enthusiastic. Monsieur, has been playing for 50 years so I've been to a few venues.

Right now, I am reading The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. A historical fiction novel of the 1920's actress, Louise Brooks, and the woman who accompanied her to New York City in 1922, The Chaperone is a pleasant summer book that I bought on the ferry.  Reading certain books can be an agreeable pastime but personally I am making few connections with the novel.

Labour Day marks Back to School time for most of my friends so I wish all returning educators a fulfilling school year with lots of eager students. It's always good to start on a positive note! I will be celebrating my third September of retirement over lunch in Steveston with a fellow retiree. Bon week-end!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The End of August Grey Skies

August is fast coming to an end! August days have started off mostly grey this year although we have not had much rain. Unfortunately, chez nous, the moods have matched the weather. My early morning walking partner has been unavailable due to family illness so I have missed our regular walks and chats and Monsieur, who is living on a different planet, is wandering around the apartment wearing headphones. I, who wake regularly with enthusiasm, feel as though I am on a ship somewhere stuck in the doldrums.

 Monsieur has been forced to give up his studio because of conflicts with the neighbour and hopefully that will sort itself out because two moody people in a dark east facing apartment is a recipe for unhappiness. This week, Monsieur will play at The Shipyards Night Market on Friday and at the last pool party of the season at our recreation complex.

Although I try very hard, I often feel excluded from Monsieur's musical life. Personally, I enjoy opera, musical theatre ,"soft rock" and whatever is available as I travel the world. I have never been a night club or rock concert woman. While I tend to be quietly spoken and introspective, right now, Monsieur keeps telling me how he enjoys so and so's "ribald sense of humour." I am who I am : a family-oriented, house-proud, church-going, francophile bluestocking. How's that for a label?

I am joining an online reading group this September and I am going to enrol in a photography course in order to learn about my new camera before embarking on Fall Foliage Rails and Sails trip. I leave at the end of September for a journey that will take me from Québec City to San Diego where I will rendezvous with Monsieur, drive to Tucson, and be home in time for Christmas. Needless to say, I have already started thinking about what I will pack. My bulging closet needs weeding once more and I'm hoping that this will make my packing easier.

Today, I have plans that will help to brighten the grey skies of August. This morning, I will go for my workout and this evening, I am going with some friends to watch The Musical Ride. By this evening, the grey skies will probably have lifted.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Misunderstanding and Weekend Activities

Family is a major part of my day to day life. It has its challenges and its joys which play an important role in my happiness and in my unhappiness. Someone said that "a mother can not be happier than her
least happy child." I'm not sure about that one but it is safe to say that when our children are not happy,  we feel care and concern about their circumstances.

Somehow last week I offended my daughter by saying that she managed her life without sharing a lot of details or asking for advice. What I meant was that she is an independent woman of 38 who lives her life privately without being a burden to anyone else.  I remember saying to a long ago Grade 1 teacher that what I would wish for my child was autonomy. That is not entitlement or omnipotence but the ability to make decisions and to accept the consequences of those decisions. My daughter is an individuated autonomous person, probably more so than I am.  I believe that my long ago wish has been fulfilled.

This week was Monsieur's 66th birthday. We celebrated by going to the sing-a-long Grease at the outside Theatre Under the Stars in Stanley Park. I love to go to TUTS and I thought about the last time that I went with my dad to see Oklahoma. Dad loved fish and chips or a burger and an old musical  in the open air. Monsieur was not as thrilled which was disappointing. It seems that these days nothing pleases him. I am trying to not take this personally.

Sunday was a glorious day for an old-fashioned church picnic. London Farm, near my home, is a heritage house with a large garden and farm. We sang old-fashioned hymns and had a potluck lunch and played games. There were people of all ages from newborn to 90 year-olds. I have found that there is a simple happiness to be found in community.

August is drawing to a close and I must say that I will be glad to see September. I love the autumn colours and this year I will be travelling to New England for a fall foliage tour and some other adventures on my bucket list.

September has always been the beginning of my year and with it comes new projects and plans. I might try to sketch a bit more, work on my stitchery or add a bit of running to supplement my twice weekly training sessions. What plans do you have for the autumn?

Friday, August 23, 2013


It's funny how one thought leads to another! I have discovered Cornflower Books this week and it feels as though I have unearthed a treasure chest of literary possibilities. I have already purchased Crusoe's
Daughter by Jane Gardam in order to participate in the September Book Club and I have added several titles to my reading wish list.

Another interesting connection I made was with the Inspector Montalban series by Andrea Camilleri. There was a very interesting BBC 4 interview with Camilleri who was in his his sixties when he created the Sicilian detective. I read the first five books when I spent a summer in the town of Oaxaca de Juarez. They have an impressive  lending library stocked by donations from the many expats who live there for all or part of the year.

I love the richness of Oaxaca which is the biologically and ethnically most diverse state in Mexico. Sixteen indigenous groups, the influence of the Spanish conquistadores and a lively artistic and literary expat community make this community high on my list of places to explore. There is an Ethnobotanical Garden that provides specimens of indigenous plants used by the people of Oaxaca over the centuries.
Oaxaca was renowned for the cochineal dye.
This July, the girl that my sister and I have sponsored for the last 4 years graduated from the indigenous teacher's programme. Maria will teach in a pueblo in the Sierra Madre mountains in the fall. Maria has worked very hard and was chosen to visit a university in Spain this spring. A great adventure for a girl from a mountain pueblo!

Pueblo home with turkeys

If you visit Oaxaca, you must spend a day at the archeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla which are even more accessible  than Chichén Itza.
It is funny how one thought leads to another! It does bear repeating. Can you guess how I originally chose the Inspector Montalban books in Oaxaca? It's because I had just visited Monte Albán. Isn't it wonderful how I can travel from Cornflower Books in Edinburgh to Oaxaca in Southern Mexico without leaving my desk? The mind is a wonderful thing!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Reading! Reading! Reading!

In the last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time in my reading world. It seems that  dealing with other people is just more than I can handle. My mother is building a new life without my dad and dealing with her own health and the loss of most of her friends. Monsieur, who suffers from a mood disorder, seems to have become obsessed with music and his iPhone. Fortunately or maybe not, my daughter manages her life in her own way seldom sharing details or asking for advice.

My reading world has always been a solace to me in times of unhappiness. Books have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. This year, I have been reading blogs as well. I am discovering that not only do I find travel, fashion and lifestyle connections but that there are so many other readers out there. Many readers with many book suggestions and reviews.

I started by visiting Materfamilias Reads because I follow her other blog Materfamilias Writes and have found that we share many similar experiences and feelings. I trust her book choices as I would a close personal friend. The magic of the blog world is that your blog "friends" have friends.

I enjoy reading The Hostess of the Humble Bungalow because she provides peaceful, usually upbeat snapshots of everyday life. She inspires me with her perseverance in creating a healthier, more beautiful world which she so generously shares with her readers. After visiting The Hostess, I was introduced to 
Sunday at Ciao Domenica.

Domenica, or Sunday, not only shares beautiful lifestyle and travel posts to fuel my reveries but she writes about The Bloomsbury group, some of my favourite authors. I have to stop here because the list grows longer and more diverse the further I go.

I worked with books, sharing stories and insights with adults and children for thirty years and I honestly miss it.  I was one of those fortunate people who was able to find a vocation about which I was passionate. I think that I may have found a way to partially fill the empty spot left by my retirement.

After all being said, I have resumed my physical training sessions, tried two new healthy recipes this week (thanks to The Hostess) and booked an evening at our Theater Under the Stars with Monsieur for the Sing-a-long Grease. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

By the way, Barbara Younger at Friend for the Ride wrote a very insightful 2-part post about older women and depression. I particularly like her Alice slowly opening the curtain analogy.  In our own time,we do peek out to see the garden and the sunshine and once more we do go out to play.  With a little help from our friends......

Monday, August 19, 2013


Last week, I read two novels, The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston and The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak. The protagonists in both books are orphans whose parents have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. I didn't choose the orphan theme but both books came to me with enthusiastic recommendations. I exchange books with others and am using Kobo Desktop to limit the size of my book piles.

Devlin Stead, the protagonist in Navigator lives in Newfoundland at the end of the 19th century. He is an outsider in his community, the child of abandonment and suicide. Devlin withstands the taunts of his classmates and the hushed tones of the townspeople by reading secret letters from an explorer who claims to be Devlin's biological father. As a young man, Devlin travels to New York to live with Dr. Cook, his correspondent and to join in the exploration of both the North Pole and of his own life. Much of the North Pole exploration theme is based on the real-life competition between Robert Peary and Frederick Cook to reach the North Pole. The Navigator of New York is full of twists and turns as Devlin discovers that much of life is not as it seems.

The Book Thief is the story of another orphan, Liesl Meminger, who is sent to live with Hans and Rosa on Himmel Street outside of Munich. The narrator of this novel is Death and ironically "himmel" means heaven. In 1938 Munich, Liesl, whose biological parents have been lost to the Nazi regime, is a terrified child finding a little comfort when Hans, her foster father, teaches her to read. Books are scarce in this poor household and Liesl steals her first book from a Nazi book burning. The Book Thief, which is actually a Young Adult book, provides a poignant view of life in wartime Germany. There is a movie of The Book Thief that will be released in the fall.

For me, reading is an important part of every day.  Books have both the power to transport me to a different place and time, and to provide me with opportunities for personal connection and introspection.

How do you choose your books? Do you have recommendations? Why do you read?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Blog Goes On

I have now been blogging for 7 months and I have a lot of questions. Some of them are technical and some content related. As fall approaches and I plan another trip, I am considering visiting my Apple store for some One-on-One. Yesterday, as an anniversary gift, Monsieur gave me an iPad mini so I do have some learning to do in the next 6 weeks.

Materfamilias used Blogsy with her iPad. Is there another App that anyone has used? I usually type on a Mac Air and have difficulty with really small keys. Is a bluetooth keyboard helpful?

I haven't mastered design on my blog yet. I would like to add gadgets to the empty right side. Visible Monday and Monsieur's band page to start In eBlogger, how do I do it? Should I just play with and revert if I don't like it?

As for statistics....How is it that one day there will be 33 people in China reading my blog? How do they find it and why do they choose it? What are vampire stats? This term shows up occasionally in my stats. Are they dead?

My content is eclectic because I am finding my way through my 7th decade: retirement, relationship, self-esteem, loss, travel, weight, style like just about every other woman of my age on the planet. Yesterday, I cried because it was my first anniversary card signed "Mum" without dad. Monsieur is playing my dad's old hospital today and he'll be playing one of my dad's favourite songs. Sadness arises and disappears often.

My mum maintains that she finds it difficult to share her personal struggles even with friends. I feel that it is our struggles that make us human. I am not some perfect person who leads an "enchanted" life and I feel that I learn from the experience and the input of others. This being said, I am not publishing a diary or my "true confessions." How do you find a balance between a lifestyle blog and a tell-all diary?

As a retired librarian, I am always sensitive to copyright. Which Internet pictures are legal to use? I usually publish only my own photos for copyright reasons. Legally, I can link to a page to show somebody else's work. How do you handle ethical use of others' work?

What about comments? I try to leave a comment on every post that I read.  Some are long and personal,
some are just an acknowledgement that I visited and was interested in the post. Is that the schoolteacher in me? Is there an etiquette?

In September, my new learning season begins so please let me know if you have any advice?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Discovering our Roots

Have you ever wondered about the people who came before you? As I get older, the stories of my long-gone grandparents and great-grandparents become more interesting to me. There seems to be an urge to find a connection with the past. What were my forebears like and what did they do?

My mother's father left his home on the island of Whalsay in the Shetland Islands in 1917. He worked on merchant ships until sometime around 1929.  Legend had it that he had left a sweetheart in New Zealand and had sailed through the newly constructed Panama Canal a couple of times.  He may have "jumped ship"in Montreal and made his way across Canada. My mother found a Nanaimo address inscribed in one of his books indicating that he must have spent some time on Vancouver Island before marrying my grandmother in Vancouver.

In 2010, a hamefarin was held in the Shetland Islands to invite home the descendants of the 8,000 Shetlanders who left the Islands. A book, A Kist of Emigrants, was published to commemorate the occasion.  I have borrowed the copy that my mum was sent for her 80th birthday. It was interesting to learn about the role that the Orkney and Shetland people played in the colonization of Vancouver Island.

I had a very dear friend who lived in Cedar-by-the-Sea just outside of Nanaimo on land that had been in her family for a couple of generations. Cedar, has a very unusual history. In the 1920's, an English mystic, Edward Arthur Wilson, took the name Brother XII and founded a community based on the teachings of the Theosophists. There was a revolt among the followers and Brother XII fled to Europe. I visited Cedar for many years and have always been aware of the unusual history of the place.

At the age of 35, my friend, who had just built a house on her family land, was diagnosed with cancer. I spent a lot of time visiting in Cedar during her illness and came to feel a bond of kinship. She died at the age of 41 and I lost touch with her husband and son. We had always joked a bit about being distantly related. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when, on the map of Nanaimo, a new street appears adjacent to the street named for her forebears. The street name is my mother's maiden name! Some of my kin must have had a connection with Cedar.

My grandfather died when I was 7 years old so obviously I was unable to ask many questions. I would have liked to have known more about his travels. I may have inherited the wanderlust. Have you ever felt an inexplicable connection with a place or a person? Do you believe that some of us are more closely related than we know? There are so many stories in this world and so many questions that will never be answered.

PS. I love the old Shetland words. A hamefarin is a homecoming. If you can be a wayfarer, why not a hamefarer? A kist is a Norse/Scots word to mean "a box or chest". When I visited Shetland after spending time in the Auvergne in France, the similarities of language intrigued me. My grandfather's sister showed me "the peerie fleury park" or the little park with flowers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Week-end Getaway

The Waterwheel Park is a great place to visit and to listen to music.

A logging centre of Vancouver Island
Every summer, I enjoy a visit to the small town of Chemainus, near Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. Chemainus was an important mill town during the 19th and early part of the 20th century. In the 1980's, when the lumber business fell into hard times, Chemainus recreated itself as an interesting centre of art and history.

In 1982, the idea for a downtown revitalization project involving large historical murals was conceived. What started with 5 murals showing the history of the North Cowichan area is now a collection of 50 large murals depicting logging, the railroad, and  the various groups of settlers who established the community. In 1983, the town of 4,000 inhabitants won the New York Downtown Revitalization Award. Yesterday, my sister and I travelled through the streets learning more about the area's history.
Mural to honour the various artists who contributed their talents.
Every year, I like to stay in the Scented Garden B and B which is within walking distance of  downtown, the beach and the Chemainus Theatre. The rooms are cozy, the breakfast is healthy and the hosts are friendly. This year, I stayed with my sister in the Island Thyme room which was very comfortable.
You can sit in the garden with a book.
I love to find entertainment in small towns. There's usually a lot of  accessible art and music. Saturday night, ma soeur and I went to listen to some music at the Willow Street Café. It was lots fun and the 7-9 showtime was just right for me. Sunday, we went to the Chemainus Theatre to see Singin' in the Rain. I love musical theatre and it amazes me that there are so many talented young people. The theatre operates throughout the year and I attend the annual summer musical production.

The pace of small town life soothes me and I feel that I can return home to better deal with some of the pressures of my daily life.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Classroom Management, Life Management 101

At the age of 37, when my first marriage had ended and my daughter was in junior high school, I had my first classroom teaching experience. I came to classroom teaching somewhat unwillingly because I greatly prefer interacting with students in small groups and I am not very good at controlling the behaviour of others. I have always wanted to learn new things and I have always believed that education offers people opportunities in life. But, those are my personal beliefs.

So, when I was confronted with a Grade 6/7 class, I did what I do best: I read from the list of available Ministry approved novels, chose two of them with ironically the theme of survival, designed activities and discussions that would correlate so that the two grades could share their literary experiences and put all of my plans on paper to share with my administrator. My administrator approved my lesson plans which I actually created as a map of our learning together and was ready to set out.

Then, I met the class! The other Grade 6/7 teacher had had many of these students for 2 years and it had been decided that they needed  to be "split-up".  Madame Soon-to-be-Disillusioned was in for a lesson in survival.  All people do not want to learn (especially 12-13year olds) and some people believe that giving the teacher a hard time is "all part of the adventure."  My beliefs and hard work seemed to be of no use at all in that classroom. Each day was a challenge for me that year. I actually went home and listened to the Peace Meditation at lunch. Fortunately, I survived and taught 22 more years.

However, it may be that I have some "learning differences." That is the approved way of saying that I don't always learn as well as I might. Right now, I am experiencing many of same issues in my personal life as I did in my long-ago Grade 6/7 class. I am experiencing Retirement 101 and I am floundering. My plans for retirement were for as much travel and intercultural experience as possible. If money were to become scarce, I would augment my pension by teaching English as an Additional Language as I am qualified to do. Monsieur more or less agreed but had not mapped out a journey of his own. We even took a readiness test for retirement. Like that long-ago starting teacher, I had a plan that looked good on paper.

HOWEVER.....However, is never a good sign. It means that things do not always go as planned. I loved living in Paris even more than I thought I would, I found the perfect apartment, and got First Class Honours in my course. My life was following my beliefs and my personal map. Monsieur, on the other hand, (used to further indicate a certain contrariness of life) decided that he did not like Paris or Europe as a matter of fact. He has chosen to follow his musical path.

In itself, the separating of our paths should not be a bad thing but I am very unhappy. The time that we share, to me, is time that we spend doing things that we both enjoy. Walks, picnics, theatre and music...
Unfortunately, I can no more control my husband than I could those 13 year olds. He is out almost every night of the week, is always late and once "fell asleep" at a gal's  apartment. I really do not know what to do!

Unfortunately, I still keep trying. I have invited the musical friends, even the "gal" for dinner and for post-show drinks. I have attended performances.... Yet, M. still leaves me, still stays out late, gets angry that I talk about my sadness. Furthermore, more bad news, Pinot Gris has become my new best friend.

If you were to design a genogram of my family, alcohol and insecurity are a common theme. We work hard and do our best but sometimes things just don't go as planned. I am "insulin impaired" which means that I should not drink, should exercise and watch my diet. I shall be working with my personal trainer, following a more consistent diet and trying to develop a day plan that will see me through until it is time to go again. Writing is therapeutic for me and perhaps there are others who will read this
and learn something. Or not!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Paris Rain Hat and Hat Attack

If it's just a little drizzle, curly women need  hat.
I just discovered Hat Attack and visited the Style Crone. I love hats since I have curly hair that just gets curlier in damp weather. I live on the West Coast of Canada so the maritime climate is pretty much a year-round occurrence. I bought my first rain hat in Victoria a few years ago and then, in Paris, I discovered a really fun line of hats and accessories called La Tribu des Oiseaux.

A  rain hat that folds up in your purse and fits easily in your suitcase is a good friend to the curly haired woman. You can also wear your hat when your hair just feels a bit frowzy. Some days are just like that with curly hair. It lives it's own life in it's own way. Anyway, if you visit the crone on the first of each month, you can see what others are wearing on their heads. Hats are a lot of fun.