Tag Archives: retirement

Imprinted

Tracks in the freshly fallen snow on my yard were made with a variety of little feet. Some were from the little ones lining up at the school bus stop. Other tracks were recognizable as rabbit, squirrel,bird, dog and cat tracks.

At the farm, later in the day a slow moving possum made his own muddled way through the snow drift under the bird feeder. As the day wore on and I made an effort to go into town to do a little Christmas shopping I found the slush from the street and sidewalks treacherous to track through. Town was somewhat busier than usual but that didn’t mean the two main streets and sidewalks had been cleared properly.

Footprints from the ice melt salt used to make my sidewalk entrance safer caked onto the indoor entryway floor before footwear could be removed.

This all brought to mind the game my mom used to play with me on the farm. She called the game fox and goose because just the two of us played it together. It was an adaptation of an old country school game of tag correctly called Fox and Geese. We made tracks and chased each other trying to get to a special safety spot designated as the henhouse. Often I would just plunk myself in a drift and make snow angels or watch my mom run as fast as she could on her own round and round the zigzagged track. The game would have been normally played with a large group of kids all spaced out around a big circle trying to get to the centre henhouse for safety without being tagged by the fox. Mom didn’t worry about those details.

 Our version didn’t really make a great deal of sense to my three year old self but to this day,( well) over half a century later, I remember the glorious deep glittering snow drifted at the side of the faded red chicken house and my strong and pretty mom laughing and stomping a big path of tracks through the field like a child herself. Ordinarily, she didn’t have time to play. Her long day was filled with farm work , worry and taking care of the family. To see her at play, eyes shining, face rosy, running like the high school athlete she was in her glory days was significant to a little three year old, rare and memorable, like tracks in the snow.

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Second Cousin

When it was visiting hours it was the same as any other time except for that time when you brought the pretty pink geraniums in a white plastic pot. Speech denied itself except for a p…ppp…ppp…sound. You seemed to understand and nodded and it was enough to remind you  whenever the pink geraniums bloomed. Maybe you try to keep the slips of geraniums now over the winter but most likely you just buy some new plants in the spring.

When you were just a small child there were times for visiting together under the old maple tee  at the front of the farmhouse. There was time for a nice lunch of cold oatmeal cookies from the freezer, cucumber sandwiches and homemade lemonade made from the concentrate from the travelling salesman. Kittens from the barn with sweet wee faces and picky little sharp clinging claws on your school jacket were the most fun to play with after lunch was cleared away. You sometimes made up spoofy stories about elves in the bush or under the bridge by the school grounds.

You have the big dented kettle high up on your kitchen shelf to remind you. It was for all things and was kept boiling for washing up at the stone sink, making tea and sterilizing jars. Parsley tea wasn’t your favourite but now you seem to eat the raw parsley from your garden hoping it is medicinal and the right thing to do.

Age doesn’t matter when you play with a friend having a nice lunch under the old maple tree, cuddling a wee orange kitten. You did all the talking then, a little storyteller. Describing the stories and songs from school and tales about the other kids. You know, don’t you that when you brought the pretty pink geraniums and speech was denied, eyes watered with tears and held yours.

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Butter,Sugar and Flour

Today the biggest purchase was a tin of authentic Scottish shortbread. Yesterday, it was something home crafted which will remain a secret for the time being. Budget wise, shopping for Christmas takes some forethought and restraint. There is lots of stuff out there to buy and some of it quite useful and practical. The other commercial pile of goodies may be ok as well but after awhile it becomes obsolete and ends up in a garage sale, donated or tossed. However. let me really loose in a bookstore and watch the spending spree happen. Books are often my gift of choice and sometimes I think I choose the right ones for others but it is risky. In these cases, a gift certificate is ideal. A guilty pleasure, those books.

I’ve been shopping the outlying fringe of town something like a wily coyote. Anything deep in town, forget it. Parking and traffic hassles turn me off. Some excursions are as local as possible and I’m usually back safe and sound before dusk darkens the country roads leading home. Anyone wishing to do up the town and buy out the store has my support as well. I remember doing the same thing and I had my reasons why I did. Now, my efforts at Christmas shopping are much different. Giving is still important to me but it has taken on a different style, like Countryline instead of Townline.

Longing for the simple things, that is what catches my interest. Donating to my causes takes on more importance. Being confident about just slowing down ,avoiding the pressures of what might be expected of me and taking Christmas as it comes seems to be ok enough for me. Reflecting on what Christmas has meant to my family, neighbours and friends throughout the years seems to be my focus. Wondering about others, the unknown .Being grateful and hopeful.

Think of me with my still brightly lit outdoor tree and my tiny indoor tree decorated with simplicity. There are some assorted geegaws draped with recycled decorations on the porch. Some nativity ornaments are on top of the fireplace and a few other dodads are grouped for effect here and there throughout the house. Some little gifts ( still unwrapped, of course, that never changes!) accumulating on the corner bench in the entryway.  It is no show. It’s simple . Like the real Scotch shortbread my sister makes just like my mother and grandmother did but I on the other hand, buy.

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Significant Bother

When the dog is here for holidays with me I do very little except take care of her. She seems to be less demanding these days which is a good thing. In March she will be two years old. In dog years , a teenager.

I still have to plan my day around her but it seems less hectic. She eats twice a day ,sleeps in her crate for part of the day , enjoys our little walks to the side of the house, usually leaves my plants alone now, responds fairly well to direction, chews fewer shoes and has almost learned to give the old cat alone time. She would love a longer walk outside but I find she is too rambunctious for my liking and I find it difficult to hang on to her, so we cut the walks short.

Given a big bone to chew on fresh from the pet store she will be a good dog for hours and exhaust herself enjoying it with gnawing and snuffling it all over the house. Almost everything about her has improved with her developing maturity except for the night time sleeping arrangement.

At night, she whines and carries on like a frantic newborn if she is in her crate. She is not going to get bed cosy with me if I can help it so the alternative is to stay up with her and we each take a recliner. Well into the night we watch television and read. She finds it quite soothing to be read to and seems to prefer the classics.

 Side by side we get through the night. She gets her ears petted and back scratched and likes to look bleary eyed into my face several times during the night. Sometimes  I even cover her up with my extra sweater or a handy blanket. My night gets painfully cramped and cold on the recliner and my sense of day and night is blurred. However, it is quieter. There is no whining. Only loud snoring coming from the other recliner. It’s almost like….

She goes home tomorrow. Holidays are over.

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Fooling Them, Some of the Time….

Twice now I’ve been mistaken for my lovely niece, at least twenty-five years younger than myself. I know! Why would I even worry about that? It seems extremely odd though. Somehow, people I know very well and see often enough should not make these mistakes. We may have some similar family traits but my niece is a trim, slim dressy young woman and I am traditionally built… (ahem)… and wear black yoga pants daily ( they are slimming and oh, so comfortable.) We have the same hair colour, hazel eyes, fair complexion and sense of humour but that’s about it. Side by side, we look very much like ourselves (allowing for the fact I am very significantly older and very, very, very significantly plumper). Apart, we look very different, as we should. On both occasions, it was older fellows who made the error . I didn’t correct them. Would you?

Years ago, the mistaken identity thing happened to me but in reverse. I had recently moved back into the rural village close to our family roots. Very early one morning there was a light knock at the front door and I could see through the peephole that it was an elderly lady that I knew from the community when I was a young girl. Although I greeted her by name she in turn  handed me some wild weeds she had picked in the yard and called me by my aunt’s name, Dorothy. She told me she was glad I was back home again after all these years. My aunt had moved away years ago and had died far from home. I never knew her. Oddly enough, my aunt and I apparently were alike in many ways according to what my parents told me. When the old and very confused soul had welcomed me home as Dorothy I didn’t correct her. I watched her leave through the back garden, picking catnip mint….wandering barefoot despite her advanced age with her wispy long white hair, long cotton dress and singing mysteriously to herself. Literally stunned by this Ophelia-like encounter, it took me a few moments to figure out her visit. She had it almost right. I was back home again, single again…. with my young son. I guess I could have been Dorothy except for the age difference of fifty odd years.

As a university student in the 1970’s, when typists worked on faculty papers I was mistakenly presented in the coffee shop with a huge folder to be typed up for a professor . I was a first year student barely able to find my way around the huge campus and a vile typist of my own work.  A girl in the secretarial pool apparently had the same Farrah Fawcett hairdo and platform shoes that I had and the mistake was pointed out to the rather confused fellow wanting his dissertation typed as soon as possible. He seemed to think I was kidding because apparently one Farrah Fawcett hairdo looked like another.

Getting out of my car in the school parking lot where I worked (almost) my entire career as a Kindergarten teacher, I was approached by a harried looking woman bent on discussing her son’s progress. I had taught her two younger boys in Kindergarten but they were now in the junior grades. Bizarrely, she started in on how upset she was with her son’s progress so far and wanted to discuss it in detail with me. I told her to make an appointment with the teacher. Looking at me with intense stress she left in a huff. She hadn’t realized I wasn’t her older son’s teacher at all. She had mistaken me for the Grade Eight teacher. Granted we are both about the same age, fair, hazel eyes and traditionally built but…come on, how can you not know your own son’s teacher? The difference in nine grade levels should have been her first clue. ( I have to add the detail that this woman was a nurse at a mental hospital, so…..)

The best observation of all time wasn’t really a mistaken identity but rather a wonderful compliment, ( much like being confused with my lovely young niece!). In the middle of one of my more dramatic lessons , outfitted with an array of props ,puppets and costumes I was storytelling my Kindergarten teacher heart out. A student, four years of age asked me point blank at the end of my performance…”Are you a real grownup ?”  That was a wonderful moment in time, a treasured confused moment!

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Confession

It may strike some of you as odd that my printer is in a black shopping bag in the backseat of my car. It has been there now for over a month….uh, make that…two months. Thinking it was in need of repair I took it to my tech savy nephew to check over and advise me on it’s glitches. Although it was given a clean bill of health I just left it, abandoned and bagged. If I didn’t bring it into my study I couldn’t hardly use it, could I?

With no printer in the house my excuse for not working on my writing stockpile convinced me to just let it stay there for the time when it would be needed and work would then commence. It is not totally alone out there as I tend to keep things from garage sales and various projects awhile in my car until can deal with them.

With the chaos caused by my son’s belongings returning home for storage in the so called empty nest and then being claimed again in several carloads going in another direction I felt the need to sit in my  recliner, drink hot milky tea and eat fig newtons ( my favourite)  while reading Graham Greene, Mary Stewart, Katherine Webb and Laurie King . Visits from his bulldog also occupied my concentration and composure. Coping as best as I can with the commotion my printer and garage sale stuff faded into the background.

Any theories on this behaviour might reveal my underlying procrastination problems. Tomorrow, if not later tonight after I finish this blog , I will get the printer out of the car and place it on the desk beside the computer and hook it up like a normal person trying to develop a writing stockpile. I believe I have been cured or maybe I have just seen the light.

Once that simple act is done, the next step will be to use the new writing program purchased with my laptop…over two months ago. Ignoring the unfamiliar features and widgets on the program that intimidate me I will forge ahead and make use of the parts of it I understand. Most of the program is fluff stuff and I will never need it and despite my buyer’s remorse I will carry on with writing, filing, editing, saving and printing.

Time to make hay after the drought and being lost in the wilderness .

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Scaled Down

Days seemingly start to drift by very quickly this time of year. My lack of real work schedule makes my night owl sessions of reading, writing and watching late night costume dramas blend the hours of the day rather out of sync with the lives around me. My writing style is also different as evidenced by my last couple of poetry type excerpts. Relatives and friends are voicing some concern about my well being. Reassured that I am only being creative they seem to be relieved. There is a certain decorum to be kept in my writing voice, apparently. My new online readers seemed to enjoy my little spurt of eccentricity though so it may spurt again from time to time.

I’ve taken the following approach. Lay low and write. This keeps me off of committees and sometimes free of other responsibilities. Journaling about stream of consciousness helps. Reflecting through writing explains a goal process that is underway. Notes scribbled and assembled may sort themselves into an outline of sorts. Posting a blog or two from time to time is somehow a release and also a connection. I can feel the comfort of a returning thing, this writing voice, doing it’s scales and breathing exercises, finding it’s pitch once more.

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Night Movements

Immediately upon arriving I grab whatever has been left out handy to eat and drink as much as I can. Looking around, lights are on in every room but only the soft glowing ones in the silk leaves get my attention. There are no rules right now because she is happy to see us and wants to know about new buildings, beds, Kate and the elevator as well as the stairs. The attack that happened wasn’t my fault but made my eye twitch. I was grabbed by the neck anyway but she was my defender having seen the first strike against me. Once more, watching at the big window for night movements and listening to housekeeping duties, sleeping rough. Finally, our own time together and I can lean on her or move away whenever I like. The threat of attack remains down the hall perched in wicker and wool. She seems to prefer me but my stay is only overnight. Understanding is difficult and we leave again when the night is dark and the lights outside are turned on brightly to help us say goodbye.

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Walk On, Walk On

Weather cooler and  shod in proper footwear, edging slowly onto newly paved village lane and managing better than the first time out. Many quick hellos, a community breakfast on picnic tables trapping legs. Coffee in Styrofoam while exiting, an excuse to sit down. Squirrels thinking ,lost cause. Remainder a limping walk and visit with brindle coloured boxer pup, licking maple syrup from my hand. Second day out, slightly longer distance, meal included. Calendar circled, journal noted, goal forming.

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Brewed For Blackout

Anticipating the storms to arrive eventually , doors still closed to the heat, curtains backing out the glare  ,measures taken and fans directed. Cooled, refreshed , dressed to remain indoors in a waiting rest. Rumbling storms arrive and darken outlines of houses, trees and withered ferns. Too late to bring in cushions on the porch, so coffee brewed for blackout. Wind, rain, lightning, thunder combine repeatedly through the late day and create an exhausted night. Sirens heard with each new surge, subsiding before a chance to recover and no one knows what has gone so terribly wrong except the ones who have to go into the wild night. Cat behind curtain, frightened search for duvet ,instinctively moving. 

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