The Uninvited Guest

A few months back, I had this idea that I would chronicle one person’s attempt to navigate life in a historical pandemic. I guess the novelty wore off somewhere around May.

I’m tired of it. Everyone is tired of it.

COVID-19 is still very much here. It’s like an obnoxious and uninvited guest that showed up for the party. His loud and off-colour comments make everyone uncomfortable. He double-dips his chips, puts his slobbery fingers all over the silverware, and makes such a mess in the bathroom, nobody wants to use it. He makes people want to sneak off to other rooms to avoid him. If he manages to corner anyone, they stand as far away as they can to avoid his horrific breath.

You spend the first part of the evening hoping. Maybe, he’ll leave soon and the party can continue on just like I planned. I’ll just make the best of it. Everything will be back to normal in no time.

I remember having that thought back in March when this all started. I figured that by September, this difficult chapter would be over and life would be returning to normal. I know a lot of people felt the same way.

But that’s not how this is working at all. It’s not going to be a few months. It could be years.

Knowing that the end is nowhere in sight, I have been venturing out for occasional runs for supplies, masked up and hands drying out with sanitizer use. For the most part, I have been staying home. Lots of walks, YouTube and Zoom exercise, home-cooked meals, outdoor movies with family, porch visits, and writing in huge quantities. The patio at Pinecroft (where the above picture was taken) has been a lovely treat from time to time. The tables are spread far apart under the trees and the servers are in face shields. Going out for lunch was once a treat that I took for granted. There is much in ordinary life that I will never take for granted again.

A vaccine could start righting this listing ship, but that doesn’t happen overnight. And so, the challenge now is to make a new normal around the virus so that life can somehow go on. Because it has to.

It’s a strange and surreal life, though. In all the small ways and all the big ones:

A life where I can smile at a stranger, and then realize she can’t see my smile because there is a mask over it.

A life where I spend three minutes at the grocery store struggling to open a plastic produce bag (when I forgot my reusable ones) because I can’t lick my finger.

A life when I go to the beach at sunset for a walk and go back home because it’s absolutely stuffed with people.

A life where my parents have often been reduced to voices on the other end of the phone.

A life where I am sad for every restaurant trying to stay open because cold weather is coming and their makeshift patios will have to close, and there are a lot of people who aren’t willing to go inside to eat.

A life where many are still too leery to book a massage or a pedicure.

A life where I have missed several crucial checks important for my health.

A life where a government is willing to open schools without the appropriate safety protocols–about which they have been ironically preaching on a daily basis since March.

A life where university students begin their next chapters in front of a computer instead of in a lecture hall, or isolating in a dorm room instead of meeting people and having new experiences.

A life where a family member lies in her last days of life in a hospice and most of her relatives can’t come to hold her hand or say good-bye.

The uninvited guest is still here. We are at the ends of our collective ropes, but it doesn’t change the reality. We don’t get to call the game. It will continue on its own terms until it is played out, whether we like it or not. The uninvited guest will not leave until he wants to. And so, we will have to live around his unwanted presence, putting on our hot masks and following him around with our bottles of spray bleach and sanitizers.

We will get there. If we do it together, it will be sooner rather than later.

If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

On and On

May 20, 2020

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Photo Credit to Natalie Temple, who shared this picture of her amazing (and sadly, empty) classroom.

 

Yesterday, the Ontario government made the decision to keep schools in the province closed for the remainder of the school year.

Undoubtedly, this decision will bring stress and strain to many families–some who have been going to work since the beginning of the pandemic as essential workers, others who are returning to their jobs as restrictions slowly begin loosening, and others who are continuing to try to work at home with their progeny underfoot.

As I read through social media comments though, I am not seeing too many disgruntled comments. What I am seeing is not anger, but sadness–not with the government’s decision, but with the general situation that seems to go on and on without an expiry date in sight. Many people are developing a whole new mindset about the state of “normal.” Now that we don’t have it, we just want it back. There is absolutely nothing more wonderful than “normal.” Normal is the dream.

Now that the sun has finally arrived, I have been venturing out to open-air garden nurseries for plants. My only forays out into the world lately have been for walks and hikes. I did not go into a grocery store, a drug store, a bank, an office–for two months. So the shock of the spaced lines on floors, the plexi-glass barriers in front of cashiers, and everyone looking like bandits with masks over their faces is very fresh and new to me. Even with a few things open (with caution), it is looking and feeling far from normal out there.  And the schools being closed for so long seems to me like the epitome of “not normal.” Nothing says something is horribly wrong more than the locked doors of hundreds of schools.

My opinion is that the government has made the right decision about keeping the schools closed. It seems reckless to reopen now, with so little of the school year left. This way, the province has another three full months to see what recovery is going to look like. And we keep our kids out of harm’s way.

Some countries and areas have reopened or are beginning to reopen schools again, with enormous modifications to routines and classrooms.  Staggered schedules, greatly reduced numbers of students, recesses cancelled, lines on the playground and inside the school to remind kids to maintain distance are all examples of these safety measures.

Even with safety measures in place (in schools and other institutions and businesses), experts are saying that hurrying things along can pretty much guarantee resurgences. The virus doesn’t care about our timetable or our economies. It has its own timetable and no regard for economies–and no amount of wishing or ignoring can change that reality. I understand that people are struggling because of COVID-19 and the logistics of work and family and mental health just don’t work inside the context of a pandemic. But we either follow the protocols or we take risks with our very lives as well as the lives of others. People are dead because of this. 325 thousand people worldwide have lost their lives. What’s worse–utter chaos and gross inconvenience? Or planning a virtual funeral for someone you love? Both options are dreadful, but one is certainly more dreadful than the other.

The safety measures that need to be in place for kids returning to school one day are going to be necessary. But it makes my heart ache to think of the younger kids who are unable to understand the complexities of this situation. They will be so excited to get back to routines and friends and the fun of learning–but when they walk into their schools with all those frightening modifications and restrictions, I think many will be traumatized. Older kids who can reason this out could adapt for the most part. But  speaking from the point of view of a former Kindergarten teacher, how do you keep a class of little kids apart? You can’t keep young children away from one another any more than you can separate drops of water in a pail. Small children are wired to hug, tumble, share, chase, huddle, and sneeze with abandon.

Children don’t appear to be as vulnerable to the virus as older people, but they can certainly carry it home to parents and grandparents.

We have come this far. We need to keep going, as tired and as discouraged as we are.

 

 

 

If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

 

Mother’s Day in 2020

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I am siting here, remembering Mother’s Days past when I would visit with Mom in her garden. At this time of year, her huge magnolia tree was always in full bloom. Clusters of tulips, daffodils and narcissus would be open and all manner of pretty purple ground cover would be spreading out across the beds. The perennials were greening up and growing, planted with intent and precision to provide some kind of bloom in the garden all spring and summer. Mom spent untold hours digging, transplanting and pruning. The result was a burgeoning English-style garden, complete with a magical path weaving through.

Every time I went over there, I got a garden tour because things were always changing.  When I think of the times I’ve spent chatting with my mother, my memory always offers her garden at sunset as the backdrop.  We would sit with our wine glasses on her wisteria-draped back deck watching as the setting sun edged the garden with gold. In June, as darkness settled in, there would be fireflies flickering in the leaves and flowers.  Utterly magical!

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Mom and Dad moved to an apartment last fall. The house and yard were getting to be too much and they made the wise decision to sell. Mom has pots of pansies on her balcony now and is making the best of it.

This spring has been cloudy, cold and miserable. Yesterday, we had ice and snow and bitterly cold winds–doubly discouraging as we all deal simultaneously with the challenges and stresses of this virus. Had this happened in another warmer spring, I might have been able to sit a safe distance away from Mom in her garden on Mother’s Day.  Things being as they are, we had to have a very quick visit in the windy parking lot of her apartment building.

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But you know, I’ve seen a lot of posts today on social media about people missing their moms on Mother’s Day. And it doesn’t escape me that I am so very lucky to still have both my parents. Healthy, safe and happy. I can’t hug them, but I can talk to them. Mom’s beautiful dream garden is a memory now, but I’m going to be grateful for our few minutes in the windy apartment building parking lot and hope for better Mother’s Days and Father’s Days ahead.

My Mother’s Day has been great. I have two of my children and a son-in-law isolating here with me, so I was able to spend time with them. I got breakfast in bed and a walk where mittens weren’t required. An incredibly gorgeous arrangement of flowers arrived from all of my kids. My oldest daughter and my son-in-law came for a porch visit. My husband gave me a rose bush for my own garden. And a dinner that I didn’t have to cook will soon arrive.

A happy Mother’s Day to everyone who is trying to mother others through this time. It’s important work! Let’s all take such good care of ourselves, count our blessings, and hope for better days ahead.

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If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

Crossed-Out Days

Dartmoor Crossing, UK | Horse Riding Holidays

May 6, 2020

In a parallel universe, I would be packing for England right now.  I would be looking forward to two weeks in Exeter with my daughter and son-in-law. We hadn’t nailed down all the options, but we were talking about the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London with all things Harry Potter, a trip to Bath to see the Roman ruins, a possible stop at Highclere Castle to see how the Crawleys and their staff are getting on, exploring all the old castles we could find (and there are plenty to be found around there), wandering around Dartmoor for wild pony sightings, and a possible ferry adventure into the channel to see Guernsey Island. (My kids’ great-grandfather on the Austin side was born there). My oldest daughter and her husband had planned their trip to intersect ours at the end, so we’d all spend a few days adventuring together.

 

Downton Abbey': Book a room in Highclere Castle through Airbnb

Exeter is apparently a beautiful spot, steeped with history (right back to the Romans) and full of waterways, bridges, old churches and the like. My daughter’s row house rental is really old–fireplaces in every room kind of old–with a tiny “garden” at the back. I was excited to live there for a little stretch–taking my morning walks through different streets, checking out markets and gardens. Even more than sight-seeing, I was pumped to experience legendary English spring…the lushly green English gardens, bursting with colour long before the ones in Canada, the trees exploding with blossoms.

Habitually Chic® » Spring in England

Of course, none of that will happen now. My daughter and son-in-law aren’t in their cute English row house. They are here in OUR house, watching Netflix, dodging people on walks, and sterilizing all the groceries. We have some blooming happening in Ontario, but it’s been a cold and dreary spring. And not a wild pony in sight.

And so instead of packing, the theme for this week has been how to get refunds on flights. Most flights to England have been cancelled, but ours was one of the few that wasn’t. Luckily, we had cancellation insurance. A hunk of the money will be refunded and hopefully we can recover the remainder, too.

I am fully cognizant of the fact that there are worse things than trips being cancelled in the face of this virus. It’s just a little sad to see those England days in my useless 2020 planner crossed out…as well as all the other crossed out occasions of the last few months. It’s okay to be sad about that, as long as I can remember to balance out the sadness with gratitude….gratitude that we are all safe at home, gratitude for the bright yellow of daffodils and forsythia, gratitude for food in the fridge and for tasks enough make me tired at night. Time for reading, writing, exercising, phone chats, yoga. Gratitude that instead of being in England, my daughter and son-in-law are out of one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

England isn’t going anywhere, and spring will come again.

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If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

Book Club Via Phone

The High Road: Terry Fallis: 8601400616284: Amazon.com: Books

April 27, 2020

A number of years ago, I learned that an old friend’s mother had lost her sight. I had always admired Barbara’s kind, humorous and inquisitive spirit and wanted to offer her some kind of support as I had recently retired and had the time. She loved books and continued after the loss of her sight to be an active member of her book club, so I invited myself to her house to read to her.

With support, Barbara managed to stay in her house for a substantial amount of time after losing her vision. She always had an incredibly positive outlook, even in the face of the enormous challenge of blindness. I would cozy up in a comfy chair across from her in her living room. We would chat, I’d read her the obituaries in the newspaper (she wanted to make sure she was still alive) and then we would read. I loved being there in the peaceful clutter of her cute little Cape Cod and I loved hearing the stories of her childhood and her years as a nurse and her memories of her husband and children.

After a frightening fall down her basement steps, Barbara decided that it was time to move to a retirement home. She’s quite content there and feels wonderfully safe. She has her cozy room with a few special belongings that came along with her. The last time I was there, I did a picture tour with her. She has several photographs displayed in her room and wanted to be reminded of who was in them. I walked around the room, picking up each picture and attempting to describe the people and the backdrops behind them. She had so much fun piecing together the clues and telling me the backgrounds and stories of the people I was looking at. I had just as much fun listening to her stories. Barbara has a way of pulling you back into the history of her life. Instead of looking at pictures, I was standing there in some older time, seeing her dad’s old truck and the house they lived in at the time of his tragically early death.

Now that we are in the midst of this pandemic, I can’t go over to visit her. Fortunately, the virus didn’t hit this area too hard, and the numbers are declining. There has been no outbreak in Barbara’s retirement home. Of course, it is essential that it stays that way. No outside visitors are allowed in. It makes for long days, but Barbara doesn’t complain. She’s grateful that she can still enjoy some human companionship in the common area and dining room with the other residents.

And we can still read! I just find a time when her phone isn’t busy and call through. We have our little catch-up and then I read a chapter of our book over speaker phone. Barbara asked me to read “The High Road” by Terry Fallis. This is not the kind of book I would have ever chosen to read myself, but that is the joy of book club. It opens up other options and subjects and perspectives that might otherwise never have been considered. The novel is centered around Canadian politics (which would have been a hard NO for me if I’d come across it on my own) and is absolutely engaging and hilarious. I often have to pause during reading while Barbara and I both erupt into laughter.

Although it looks different, my time with Barbara has not been sacrificed to COVID-19. In all honesty, the sound of her calm and reassuring voice and her gentle chuckles significantly lowers any anxiety or overwhelm I might be experiencing. She thinks I’m doing her a favour, but truth be told, it’s Barbara who is helping me.

 

 

If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

 

 

 

Zoom-Zoom

 

My good friend is a private piano teacher and her husband is a contractor. So you can well imagine the challenges they have faced since businesses and venues have shut down and everyone has been told to isolate.

The two of us have a tradition going where at the end of the waning year, we pick a one-word theme for the coming one. Kind of a touchstone to guide us and keep us grounded when things get frantic or a little out of control. I was reading back in my journal today and was reminded that her word for 2020 is “persistence.” How prophetic and relevant that turned out to be for her.

This woman–the same person who does not have any social media platforms, will only read books made out of paper, and who only caved to having a cell phone a couple years ago–was determined that her teaching was not going to be derailed over this virus. A week later, and she had the app “Zoom” loaded onto an iPad and most of her students set up to receive their lessons remotely. It’s not just a matter of meeting students online–this kind of teaching involves a great deal of prep work and follow-up and is very labour-intensive.

Persistence, indeed! A few weeks ago, my dear pal wasn’t even interested in knowing what an app was!

Now, on to my “word.” After a very hectic 2019, including two daughters getting married within four months of each other, I chose “calm” for 2020.

When I read that over in my journal today, I smiled for a split second. Unless you’re Bill Gates, no one could have dreamed of the year that 2020 has turned out to be.

Reflecting back over the past four months, I can see that I have made reasonable attempts at calm. Meditation has been something I’ve returned to sporadically, although it hasn’t become the habit I’ve wanted it to be. I made sure I did some painting at least once a week. I left an anxiety-ridden manuscript that was almost finished to write something a little simpler and happier. And I signed up for yoga sessions offered at Wildflowers Farm.

There is nothing  more calming and focused than the practice of yoga, where the whole world shrinks for an hour and the borders of that world are the lines of your yoga mat rolled out on the floor. Breathe in, breathe out, mindlessly following the path of the teacher’s voice into flowing movement, stretch and rest. Just being present in your body, and everything else neatly set aside just for a little while. More than anything else over the years, yoga has been the gently bobbing raft upon which I have found a true calm.

I have been doing some yoga practices with the help of YouTube. It’s not the same as a collection of people gathered in a communal space and moving and breathing together. I don’t have a connection or a rapport with a random YouTube yoga teacher. Nothing can replace a live class. (Human connection is a gift that I won’t take for granted again). But in these present circumstances, it’s important to try alternatives, even if it’s not what I’m used to. My yoga teacher, who has never used Zoom before either, was open and brave enough to meet the challenge of offering her students an experimental Zoom class last night. It was no small endeavour for her. She lives in the country and wifi is patchy. She had to learn how to use the app and how to set up a meeting and how to invite her students to it. She didn’t have the right mic (it’s on order). There were all kinds of obstacles, but she persevered. I rolled out my mat in my cramped little space and let her familiar voice take me through a short, gentle practice. No, it wasn’t the same–but it was lovely, nevertheless, without it being “the same.” I found the calm I needed there. Mission accomplished.

On a side note, if we can continue to support businesses and services in these modified ways (even if it’s not in the ways we are used to), we can help to ensure that those businesses and services will still be there when the pandemic is over.

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If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

Just a Typical Saturday Night

It was time to party at our house tonight…we had guys meeting for beers, another group getting together to play a game, and one of us went to a concert.

All without a single person leaving the house.

Technology is a marvel, especially during this trying time where everyone is self-isolating.

The beer drinkers popped caps and had a chat and some laughs over Zoom for a few hours. The gamers went into a bedroom and played a game with their friends using their phones and the computer. (We did something similar last night with my oldest daughter and her husband who are isolating at their house–an activity that involved instructions to draw something with your finger on the iPhone screen, followed by the other participants trying to label it with the correct title. The whole thing was mirrored onto the television screen. Don’t ask me how…but it was a ton of laughs!)

I was the concert-goer. I watched “One World: Together at Home,” a concert organized to bring unity and connection while we all struggle through COVID-19. Several world-class performers (like Lady Gaga, Elton John, Keith Urban) taped or broadcast a song choice from their own homes. Some of the songs were solos; others involved a meeting of band mates onscreen. Sound quality wasn’t always the greatest in the absence of sound crews and accompaniment. But the Stones performed incredibly well on a split screen from their perspective houses, playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Those dudes are old–but they still sound great. Elton John played and sang “I’m Still Standing” outside in his yard, with his sons’ basketballs lying in the background. He must have claimed the kids’ space for his temporary stage. Between performances, the commitment and heroism of front line workers was honoured. Talk show hosts and prominent doctors offered words of encouragement. The concert ended with the perfect song choice: “The Prayer,” performed by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, with support from Lady Gaga and John Legend, accompanied brilliantly by Lang Lang on the grand piano.

I pray you’ll be our eyes,
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise,
In times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer,
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place,
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

 

One World: Together at Home – Everything you need to know

If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

Seed Library

Choosing a Coreopsis for Your Garden

Coreopsis

How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Hyssop

Hyssop

Baby Breath | Baby breath tattoo, Flower aesthetic, Babys breath

Babies’ Breath

Amazon.com: Outsidepride Four O'Clock Flower Seed Plant Mix - 1/4 ...

Four O’Clocks

 

April 16, 2020

Most foods are not scarce in this area of the world–but it takes some forethought and planning to get groceries into our houses. I have been trying to plan meals a week ahead, making on-going lists, waiting for on-line pick-up slots, and calling in orders by phone. When the food gets to the house, there is a whole safe practices routine that it has to process through before it gets put away. The days of falling into a booth in a restaurant when you don’t feel like cooking seem like a distant dream! Even takeout is a bit of a challenge, with all the wiping of containers and washing of hands before and after eating. I am so grateful for the many people who go to work to ensure that we can all eat.

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Yeast has become almost impossible to find these days. With the state of the world being what it is, many people seem to be rediscovering their pioneer roots. Everyone seems to be baking bread. And even though the snow still insists on falling on this cold and dreary April 16th, some of our thoughts are turning towards our gardens and growing our own food. (We pre-ordered our nine bags of Triple Mix and had someone load them into the trunk today).

Many libraries have adopted the lovely practice of “Seed Libraries.” My oldest daughter works for a county library and she alerted me to the fact that my local library had posted an array of free seeds on Facebook, first come, first served. So I made a call. I had no idea what “Coreopsis” was, but when I did a Google image search, I knew it would be lovely in my garden. They also had Babies’ Breath, Four O’Clocks, and Hyssop. Most of the vegetable seeds were taken, but their fresh crop of seeds will be arriving later in the spring. We can’t plant for a month, anyway.  Just thinking about enjoying the blooming in the yard as I have breakfast on the deck lifts my spirits incredibly.

If you are into gardening these days, keep your eye on your local library’s website and you might be able to score some free seeds!

Libraries are closed across the province. The books I have signed out are mine for the coming weeks, as they don’t want any returns right now. (Can you just imagine the process of cleaning and wiping down all those books that will be coming back after this?) Even though libraries are closed, they are still finding ways to service the community. The Seed Library is an example of that. Many librarians working from home can hook clientele up with online books–they have huge catalogues of titles with free access that people can read on their devices. Another super cool thing I became aware of is that medical manufacturers have been calling on libraries for use of their 3-D printers. My daughter was rounding up materials for the printers so that mask parts could be made. So many countries were unprepared for a pandemic and PPE has been in dangerously short supply. But it is heartening to see companies donating items from their own stockpiles, retooling to make equipment, and finding ways to connect to community partners to address this crisis. It seems to me that here in Canada, there is definitely a feeling of “we are all in this together.” Not everyone in the world gets to feel that way.

 

On a completely unrelated subject, I made cherry cheesecake for dessert tonight.

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If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

De-Fragging

April 15, 2020

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We had to get our car to Fingal to get the winter tires off and the regular tires put on. The irony is, of course, that it is snowing. There’s a little puff of snow on every one of the new buds in the red maple outside my window. And my daffodils that just opened are bending their heads in sorrow. Wouldn’t you think that we could at least have decent weather as we bear through this pandemic? But, no…the universe makes no allowances. People still get diagnosed with cancer. People still need to go to chemo appointments. Houses still catch fire. All the beaches in the area flood.

Of course, the good stuff continues on, too. Babies are born. Anniversaries are celebrated. Someone gets hired for his dream job.

It doesn’t serve well to get too discouraged these days.

Garages are still open as essential services. We called into the office when we arrived for the tire switch. The bay door opened and we drove in while the guys stood back. Leaving the money on the dash, we went outside while the tires were changed. When it was done, someone came outside to let us know, and we cautiously maintained our distance as we got back in and drove off.

That was weird.

Being in such close quarters all the time (and with so many other people), the walls start to close in. I’ve always been kind of fussy about my surroundings, but now that we are in the house all the time, messes start to become particularly annoying. I have tried to squelch my disapproval because now is not the time to whine and complain…and in the grand scheme, who really should be caring that much about messes? Perspective!

However, my daughter stood in the kitchen yesterday surveying the lay of the land and suddenly proclaimed, “It is waaaaay too cluttered in here!”

I was quick to agree with her. The place was in desperate need of a “de-fragging.” (This was a term the girls used back in the day when their grandparents’ house was in need of some de-cluttering. I think we used to de-frag computers to clear up space. Is that still a thing?)

So, we all have gifts. I can write, I can paint a bit and I can sing and make music. Interior design is definitely NOT one of my talents. Fortunately for me, my daughter has the gift. And so she had free reign. All I had to do was order some throw pillows from Wayfair and find space in my writing room for my electronic keyboard so it would no longer be lurking in the dining area. I spent all morning going through the chaos and dust of my writing room, reorganizing drawers, sorting for garbage and donations, and clearing shelves. When I went down for the keyboard, the downstairs was an oasis of clear spaces and carefully chosen and arranged items. Even the bulkhead above the cupboards (which tends to be a gathering spot for the dozens of items I can’t fit into the cupboards) was pleasantly bare.

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And so now I have an organized creative space, everything accessible and in order. I can play the keyboard without bothering anyone. My paints and brushes have their own drawer and other art supplies are within reach. My desk is clean and I have my view of the back yard, which is unfortunately still filling with snow.

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A few sprigs of lavender in a cool old piece of pottery, a picture of the three girls on a camping trip many years ago and a photograph of a wet rose from my mom’s garden bring some colour to the room.

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My oldest daughter, the Queen of Thrift, found this original landscape for a few bucks on one of her forages (it’s worth more than a few bucks!) This is the perfect spot for it until she wants it back. The fresh tulips were an Instacart purchase. This makes me want to be one of those people who always has fresh flowers in the house.

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A funky arrangement of some of my paintings changes up the piano. I used to have a bunch of photographs and candles up there.

Some of these paintings I had designated as re-do’s. When I’m unhappy with how a painting has turned out, I wait for it to dry and then paint over it again. Funny how another person’s eyes can snag on something. Most of these were leaning up against a wall in my writing room gathering dust.

It feels great to get organized. It feels better in my brain.

 

If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!

 

 

 

Pandemic Easter

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Easter has come and gone. This particular one isn’t going to fade into obscurity like all the other Easters. This one will always be remembered as the “Pandemic Easter.”

On a bike ride last Saturday, I saw a big sign on a porch in my subdivision: “HAPPY 6th BIRTHDAY AVERY” surrounded by several fluttering balloons. This wasn’t an advertisement for the traditional birthday party where kids toting gifts get dropped off for collective shrieking, games and a sugar high. This was a little girl who couldn’t have her friends over for a birthday party, an event that kids look forward to with as much anticipation as a visit from Santa. Avery’s celebration was limited to her own family, maybe a pizza or a bag of McDonald’s was delivered to her porch, followed by a cake with only a few voices to sing “Happy Birthday.”

My sister-in-law had a Pandemic birthday. last week Soon, it will be my oldest daughter’s Pandemic birthday, followed by Pandemic Mother’s Day…who knows when this will end? When the air starts to clear, the threat of COVID-19 will linger on. It’ll be months until there is a vaccine and almost certainly, there will be other waves of resurgence coming that will force us to modify our lives again.

The four-day Easter weekend is usually a weekend where my daughter who lives in Ottawa comes home and we have all four of the kids (and partners) here for dinner. We always have my parents over. The Austins often find a day to get together over that weekend. This year, we were supposed to go to my brother and sister-in-law’s new condo for dinner and a tour. But of course, none of that happened.

The cooking, however, went on as usual. I am often cooking, but with five adults in this house, the cooking has become an even bigger focus. I’ve had to learn to look ahead for a week or even more since online ordering is so backed up. The other day, I sat at the computer with my finger ready to pounce on a timed slot before someone else got to it. I used to do that for concert tickets before they sold out! Now, there’s a sign of the times.

For Easter dinner, we had turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, marshmallow salad and carrot cake–everything scrounged from the bottoms of freezers and the backs of cupboards. Since online grocery orders are so backed up, we had to make do with what we had. I thought I would have to settle for roasted chicken, but my husband found two turkey rolls from my brother and sister-in-law’s farm in the freezer. I was sure we were out of turkey, so that was an Easter miracle. These turkey rolls are fantastic–raised locally and processed in a way where a machine sucks out all the bones and leaves the meat in a roll–super easy to cook and no carving to do. Incredibly, I discovered a can of cranberry sauce in the cupboard and half a bag of coloured marshmallows for the marshmallow salad my kids always insist on for holiday meals. I had all the fruit I needed for that, even a little container of sour cream. I put a stuffing together out of bread and mushrooms and apples and the spices I had on hand. I had just enough potatoes for a meal. We had carrots and pineapple and even walnuts on hand for the cake. I made a trip out to the farm to collect my own eggs. A neighbour gave us a giant rutabaga which my husband chopped and roasted with spices. A friend had dropped off three beautiful sweet potatoes. And so a nice meal came together without a piled up grocery cart or a dash out to pick up this or that.

I had some Swiss Chalet take-out containers saved. I got food ready for my parents and we drove that over to their building. We put the food on the trunk of the car and they came down to pick it up. A quick “Happy Easter!” and waves through the car window before they went back inside. My daughter and her husband drove over to pick up their meals up off the porch, along with an extra one for a special friend of theirs.

And that is the story of how it’s a pandemic, yet I somehow still ended up cooking a meal for 10 people!

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If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!