Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Sorting, with Showers. . .

 If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen the photo above, so please pardon the repetition -- I've added a couple here, though, that I won't be posting there. The clever street murals recently replaced the graphics on construction hoardings enclosing the expansion/renovation of a coffee-shop that's part of a well-known globalised chain whose beginnings were in Seattle.  I loved these rainy portraits even more before I knew that (there are so many great independent coffee stores around, or if not independent, at least part of more local chains). But if you're going to be a Big International Chain pushing your way into every gentrifying corner of every city in the world, you win some points by adding Graphic/Decorative Art to the street scene.
 On another note:  I'm aware that I'm falling short here lately. Content is less substantive than I would like it to be.  There are a number of reasons for this, not least among them a number of family commitments -- and this will not lessen in the immediate future while our crew from Rome is here for a month --  I want as many minutes with them as they can spare.

As well, I've committed myself to a personal writing project, something I began a half year into retirement, thinking I'd finally found time for it. Then I abandoned it last February as we prepared to put our house on the market, left it locked away in a file in the CPU of my desktop computer.  Pater spent a few hours two weeks ago getting that CPU set up with keyboard and monitor (there were a few recovery issues!), and with some encouragement from Julia Cameron (in The Artist's Way), I'm managing to ignore all the inner voices that tell me why it's not worth the time. Fifteen minutes here, half an hour there, I've been adding paragraphs some days, barely sentences others, and then deleting whole pages on discouraging others. It's at a very early draft stage, but I'm pleased to find that I'm incrementally, if slowly, adding words onto the page/screen. . .

In fact, I took the photos above on Friday morning en route to a local Bakery/CafĂ©, laptop in my backpack, with the intention of writing there for an hour or so. I've always been very skeptical of this approach, despite the countless examples of writers who've had great success scribbling important works this way. Surely, if I can't buckle down and get the words down at home, where I can arrange my writing station to my satisfaction, how will I be more likely to do it in an environment with more distractions, where I have so much less control.

But in my "morning pages," I'd decided that I might formalise my commitment to this writing project by pencilling in one or two weekly "away" appointments for it. Further, I thought I'd try to make those writing dates enticing by choosing appealing locations -- and if the spots were a kilometre or so from home, I'd have just enough walking time for an effective mental transition. I'm happy to report that one cranberry scone and two decaf Americanos later, after an hour and a half at a small wooden table in a window bay, I had added over a thousand words. First-draft words. Words which will have to be replaced or deleted or massaged or moved, yes, but a big satisfying swack of  words.

Words which arrived despite -- or because of? -- the occupants of the five other small tables in the fairly cosy space changing regularly. A family group (A young-ish Grandma and Grandpa with their two beautiful adult daughters and their equally beautiful and not-too-boisterous grandchildren) pulled three tables together, but only lasted about ten minutes (after the ten of getting their coffees, their scones, their cinnamon buns, their teas, their juices, taking the coats off and slinging them onto chairbacks, sitting this child next to her favourite cousin) before they had to leave -- presumably for a park which might be more amenable to the children's activity levels.

Yes, I noticed all this activity, but I found it surprisingly soothing. I'd look up at a beautifully open little face, surrounded by an aura of golden curls, and then catch the eye of the little one's grandmother, and smile, but then lower my eyes back to my screen. I suspect the complete lack of obligation to anyone at the table allowed me to refresh my mental screen at the most superficial level without disrupting my concentration. . . .

A late-thirties professional woman had her work spread across a table in the corner when I arrived, but must have left while I was engaged in determining the logical sequence of several paragraphs. I might have been considering the connotations of a particular word when I didn't notice another woman, this one in her fifties, slide a four-year-old grandson into a chair across the table, but there they were, when I looked up a bit later. And so on, through the ninety minutes, musical chairs being played all around me, and occasionally the whole place would be nearly empty and the barista would take a break to clear tables and sweep the floor.

A thousand words later, as I said, I "saved" the file, shut down my laptop, and declared the experiment a success. I've "booked" another "appointment" for myself this week. No idea what shape my pages will take eventually (okay, that's a lie, arising out of fear -- I might have an idea or two, but I'm afraid to set myself up for failure or ridicule or disappointment by exposing those ideas right now. Working on that). But I'm encouraged enough that I'm going to keep adding pages for now and see what shape they might suggest.

As I do this, however, I'm also trying to figure out how the blog will fit in. On Friday, those thousand words followed the seven hundred or so of my "morning pages." As you might imagine, I was unable to muster words for a blogpost after that much writing. Even just those three free-writing, start-the-day pages, at anywhere from 500-750 words, while valuable for generating ideas and for helping me discern my needs and desires, undeniably pull time and writing energy that would normally find its way to this screen.

I'd like to find a way to balance both writing goals, but I'm not sure how that will look eventually, and quite honestly, I intend to be a bit selfish in the short term. Much as I love this blogging community, I want to give my writing self a fair shot at exploring other possibilities. I hope you'll keep visiting as I sort this all out -- after all, you've been part of my life for almost ten years now!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Word-Less Wednesday, What I Wore

 I'm hoarding many of my words to myself at the moment, writing them in the three handwritten "morning pages" Julia Cameron recommends in her book The Artist's Way. I'm not managing to do these daily, nor am I sure I want to commit to that regularity (I'm so very prone to falling into obligation, so often self-imposed).
So a What I Wore post for a Word-less Wednesday seems in order. There are some hints that spring is on its way (forsythia singing yellow from my terrace garden -- thank you, former owners, what a gift), although the weather forecast shows rain, showers, and rain for the next week. Both the hints of spring and its reluctance to materialise in the form of sunshine prompted my recent purchase of this (J. Crew) colourfully printed lightweight merino sweater, a very cheering transitional piece. I wore it with these (Aritzia) pants I think of as dressy gymwear. They're made of a beautiful Japanese synthetic fabric, have an elasticised waist that isn't an old-lady elasticised waist -- and they have pockets! I know! Worn above with the Vince sneakers I live in these days, but which are, sadly, showing signs of thinning and softening through the soles. The problem with sneakers, of course, is that the soles can't be refurbished the way a leather sole can. I'm keeping an eye out for a replacement.

As I said, it's still too cool and damp to be heading out without a coat or jacket, but I'm a bit weary of my neutrals at the moment --  leopard might be neutral-coloured, and some of us consider it so classic as to count as a new neutral anyway, but it lends the punch of energy I'm wanting right now (This one's eight years old, made in Canada by a Canadian company, Louben). The bag is the one I deliberated over purchasing, as described in this post -- It's been earning its keep ever since.

In case you're curious, I wore this outfit to meet a new friend (made through this blog, actually) for lunch downtown. Did a spot of retail before and after -- and found a Mother-of-the-Bride dress for the upcoming small, intimate wedding ceremony and family celebration of my Daughter-who-lives-in-Rome and the Wonderful Guy Who Will Soon Officially Be Our Son-in-Law as well as in Love. I'll be sure to show you the dress eventually -- it's perfect for a simple, casual wedding, and one that I'll be able to wear often afterwards (black but softened by a spring-flowers print, Equipment, silk)

I'll also note that the curls featured above are shaggier than the ones I'm wearing today. In case you're curious about my current cut and the state of my grey, I posted a few photos on Instagram after my salon visit yesterday. Feels like a sign of settling in here that I've now got a stylist just two blocks from home, and that I've already had two appointments there. (If you're curious about my experience going grey, I pulled together some posts on this last May)

I'm off now to spend some of those hoarded words on a private writing project I've begun working on. But if you care to direct some of your words into a comment here, you know I'm always happy to know you're reading. Maybe you can tell me whether you've added any colour or print to your wardrobe to hurry spring up a bit. I know, we may have covered some of that territory back here, but that was back when we were just trying to pull some spring into our winter -- now that Spring's actually here, is there more impatience reflected in your outfits, or happy celebration, or more despair that it seems it will never arrive?...  (all this applies to the Northern Hemisphere, of course -- you'll be moving from Summer to Fall in the Southern Half of the world, and I'm curious about those sartorial changes as well)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Calling All Gardeners. . . Do You Know This Pretty?

On Instagram the other day, I posted this close-up and another photo of the entire shrub it grows on. As I said in that post, I came home and researched this gloriously fragrant shrub whose cream-and-banana flowers grow so beautifully on its bare branches.

I thought that some of the gardeners out there might want to know a bit more about this shrub, which my cursory research identified as Edgeworthia crysantha (apparently the E. papyrifera is a bit smaller, and is less hardy -- a commenter on the horticultural blogpost I'm linking to says that E. papyrifera is more elegant, more daphne-like, but like some daphnes, more susceptible to weather -- and also much slower-growing).

I'm very tempted to investigate whether I could grow one of these in a container on my terrace garden, but I'm checked by the reality that the six inches of water in our fountain basin was frozen solid for the better part of two weeks this winter. Apparently, the shrub can manage some frost, particularly if it's in a sheltered location, but its hardiness is limited -- we do have one such sheltered spot, but the wisteria is there right now, and I won't be shifting that any time soon. (That said, the two specimens I spotted the other day on my run were on a city-planted sidewalk boulevard, in a border that must have experienced similar temps to my terrace this winter, albeit perhaps in a more moderate microclimate?)

For those of you, though, who are looking for an elegant shrub with gorgeous winter fragrance and, apparently, year-round interest (wonderful peeling bark, used for paper-making, and hence one of its common names, Paper-Bush), here are two articles/blogposts I found very useful:  this one at Carolyn's Shade Gardens and this How-to-grow article by Matthew Wilson in the (UK) Telegraph.

And do let me know if you've met this shrub in your horti wanderings, or, even better, if you have one growing in your own garden. And if my sighting and subsequent bit of research-sharing should inspire you to grab a shovel and plant one from a local nursery, be sure to tell me, please! I might not have my own big yard to garden any longer, but I'll happily enjoy yours vicariously ;-)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Five Things Friday

 1. Sometimes it's the little things.  Simple daily pleasures.
 In this case, a beautifully wrapped soap brought back from Florence to be used for daily showers. The same soap that was a lovely amenity in the Casa Howard we stayed in, in fact all three of the Casa Howards I've stayed in now, two in Rome, one in Florence. We bought the soap in the magnificent Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella in Florence, so it also holds a trace of that splendid building for me. . .
Even the empty box becomes another small pleasure, releasing the rich fragrance when I open it to search for a button or a spool of thread I'm now storing in it. And with every shower I'm transported to a white-tiled bathroom in an extravagantly decorated room on Rome's Via Sistina. . .

2. My sister-in-law linked to this Kale and Sweet Potato Brown Rice Bowl recipe the other day, and I jumped on it right away. It was so healthy, yummy, and relatively quick to make that I'm thinking I'll double the recipe next time. So good was it, in fact, that when I came home for lunch today looking forward to the leftovers, I found they'd already been nabbed by Pater who didn't look nearly sheepish enough as he scarfed down the remains of the bowl....

3.  I keep thinking about the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition I took a quick tour through a few weeks ago -- a prime benefit of having a gallery membership is the ability to pop in for half an hour, even just fifteen minutes, if I'm downtown with a bit of time to spare. I don't feel as if I need to stay longer to justify the price of admission, and I get to layer my experiences of an artist's work over a number of visits rather than trying to take it all in at once.
The current show of Coast Salish artist Susan Point's work, an exhibition called Spindle Whorl after Point's lifelong fascination with the carved spindles of her culture's very long history, is a perfect example.
 This single piece would be reason enough to travel back to the VAG several times, to glory in the contemporary rendition of an ancient idea, an idea made manifest in material and practical ways, art serving daily life. Colours, shapes, pattern repetitions, an overall sense of integration, of a holistic approach to the natural world. . .

And, as I say, this is only one piece, in one room. . . there is so much else in this stunning exhibition. If you're in Vancouver, and you're not a gallery member, plan at least an hour -- better still, plan two, with lunch at the Cafeteria upstairs as a midway break. . .

4. The gallery visit I've suggested above would be a perfect Artist's Play Date, as recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way.  I can't find the post in which a reader's comment suggested this book to me, but if that was you (Carol?), thanks so much. I've been skimming my way through it, trying to get a sense of it before committing myself to the twelve-week program Cameron sets out. But I have begun to carve out some time for the "morning pages" she stresses as centrally important to discovering or recovering one's creativity.  That may mean changes ahead. . .

5.  This guy, almost Two, and the Choo-choo Train he drew. . . and the way he told me where the Pencil Sharpener was, even though the poor chap had to repeat "Pencil Sharpener" several times before I could understand his "accent." He kept telling me it was "not in dere" as I rifled through the crayon bin looking for it, and then pointing up to the shelf it was tucked away on. And he was very patient while he waited for me to catch on. . .  Heart-melt. A clichĂ©, I know, but still. . .
That's all for now, although I could easily add Five More Things . . . about our spring travel plans, for example, or a visit from a certain beloved set of ex-pats that begins next week. . . But I think that's enough about me. Your turn, now, what are you up to? Perhaps you could add one or two or three things to our Friday catalogue. . . . 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How to Grandma -- You Do You. . .

Little Girl's Mama and Papa (that's what she's always called them, my DIL's heritage being Italian, although the world around LG has her saying Mommy and Daddy more and more often) got home safely yesterday after some twelve hours in the air, and after a much less arduous journey, we're back in our own digs as well. I'd intended to get to yoga class this morning, but I've decided that sitting still might be just as good for body and soul (especially since I have a physio appointment this afternoon so the sitting time is limited). Our Rome crew arrive next week, for a month-long stay, and even before that, most days on the calendar seem to have something happening. I've got to get much better about finding and guarding the quiet corners for myself....

As soon as I finish writing this, I'm heading back to last post to respond to comments there, but there's something I want to say here first, knowing not everyone reads all the comments. It seems important to counter any representation I might be making that giving over so much time and energy to helping out with grandchildren is either a) Something all grandparents love to do and can do easily; or b) Something all grandparents should do. 

I'm going to follow up with this, probably via your guidance, your comments, over the next little while, because I suspect that when I post cheerful chatter about the many hours we spend with our youngest generation, it has the potential to stir up anxieties, resentments, guilt, sadness, just as so many of those other representations women have struggled over. Combine those gendered domestic expectations or projections with all the ageist assumptions we encounter at this stage of our lives -- and put those together with the inevitable family politics that trouble us as our children become parents, our lives become complicated wonderfully with their spouses and their in-laws and the different ways they want to raise our grandkids....Combine all of that and there's some explosive potential.

It's a minefield, in other words, and I've heard from friends whose adult children are openly resentful of their mothers (and yes, primarily it's Mom who gets resented -- and in my experience and from what I hear from others, Dad who's most likely to get lauded when he does help out. Which, in our case, is very often) if Mom Senior has work commitments that preclude her baby-sitting for that dentist appointment next week or if she's simply not sure she can manage a Three-Year-Old on her own so that the younger parents can finally get away for a weekend. One couple I heard of recently turned down a great last-career-step opportunity for one spouse because they were sure their son would resent them moving to another city for two years while the grandchildren were so young -- despite the couple's plan (and financial ability) to travel back regularly to see the little ones.

Right now, our kids are very respectful of our time, and they're always very clear that they're asking for a big favour and that there's room to say "Sorry, not this time," with no hard feelings. And right now, we're very fortunate that we're quite fit for our age, and that both of us enjoy spending time with the youngsters -- if I had to do all the b-sitting on my own, I'd be far less enthusiastic and far more tired. Because we were young when we started our family, we're relatively young grandparents (although none of ours were younger than 30 when they had children, so we didn't earn our new names until our mid/late-50s), and there's no question that's a factor in our willingness and ability to spend time with the grandkids. So far, time spent with them feels like a choice, not an obligation, but I wonder how I'd react should that change, if we started to feel a frostiness if we said "No" too often. 

And, of course, something else that my cheerful chatter about my grandkids reinforces is that grandparental relationships are happy ones when we all know that the generations can bump up against one another in much less enjoyable ways. We've had tiny tastes of that, occasionally, in our family through the years (back through earlier generations, but also, if I'm honest, since we became Nana and Granddad). It's always been my hope, writing here on this blog, that I can add one more honest representation of what it is to be Woman, Now, Here. But I never want that representation -- as honest as I can, and am willing to, make it -- to obscure other women's realities. 

So let's keep the discussion open, the conversation going, and know that I never intend to suggest that there's any way "to grandma" correctly. Diversity is Us, right?

And beyond the whole question of how "to grandma" correctly -- I hope that those of you who are not grandmas yet, and those of you who never will be, can tolerate these posts about something that's a very important part of my life without feeling any suggestion that Women Our Age should be grandmas. 'cause I don't think that at all!

Now I'm going back to respond to comments from last post -- and meanwhile, you can be commenting on this one. I'm just hoping it's coherent after my Toddler-Chasing Week. . . .

Monday, March 13, 2017

Adjustments -- Clocks and Toddlers and Nanas Heading Home. . .

My son and daughter-in-law are on their long flight home as I write, as their daughter sleeps an artificial hour longer this morning thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Sadly, the little chat she and I had at 4:54 a.m. (3:54 according to my body clock which is still back in Saturday's winter time) left me unable to catch any more zzzzz's, so I'm trying to find the charm in a quiet hour with a cup of tea.

It's been a good week with her -- two or three days might have been easier on our schedules, but I think it took that long for the three of us to settle into some mutually satisfactory routines and behaviour patterns. Between our travels last fall and our respective Fairly Big Moves and the reality that we live in two different cities, separated by a reasonably substantial body of water and at least three hours' travel time, we haven't spent nearly as much time together as we'd like, so we appreciate the opportunity to get to know her better -- and we especially appreciate the trust conferred on us. It's a big deal to leave your Two for a week, and we were given all kinds of latitude in how to manage most daily activities.

But a week is close to long enough, and I'm ready to get back to that rhythm I'm still trying to establish in my new home, in my (relatively new) retired life. Granddad/Pater will drop her off at daycare this morning, and we'll pack our cases into the trunk of the car, do a bit of cleaning here so the travellers' newfound mellow isn't immediately destroyed by unmade beds and dirty toilets, and get the torch ready to hand back to the principal runners. . . .

I did manage to accomplish a few things this past week beyond the Toddler-Wrangling -- booked a flight and a hotel for later this spring, for example. I'll tell you more, soon, about how we chose our destination and how we're sorting out the itinerary for getting there. I'll tell you, that is, as soon as I get back home and catch up on my sleep -- Toddlers can really wear out a Nana!

So how are you adjusting to Daylight Savings Time? Spring Springs Forward is apparently associated with more accidents, and I believe it! I will enjoy the light lasting longer after dinner, yes, but it always takes me a while to adjust to that stolen/shifted hour. . . Of course, many of you still have that adjustment ahead of you, later in the month, and some of you live in places that enjoy clocks which don't have to be changed twice a year. . . Which are you, and what's your position on the matter? Enquiring minds need to know ;-)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Another Day Begun -- with a Memory-Filled Cuppa (and a Two)

The Little Girl is stirring in her room, and/but I'm determined to have a cup of tea all to myself before I say Good Morning. She and I had a good-enough visit at 4 a.m., so I'll leave the cheery greeting to her Granddad, and steal a few more minutes to myself. Other than the wee-hours waking and a shocking abundance of energy, she's a remarkably cheery and adaptable Two, and between the two of us and Daycare, we're having a good week.  I won't pretend it's not tiring and rather all-consuming, but we're both happy to have her to ourselves and get to know her better (she lives in a different city than we do, so we don't have the easy opportunities for visiting that we do with three of our Littles). Something I could never have done pre-Retirement (and I can see that for some, that's a good reason to keep on going to the office! ;-)

The Fine Bone China mug, pictured above, makes me smile when I reach into the cupboard in my son's new home (a charming post-war, with a large backyard just begging to be brought back to order, and apparently well-loved by the local deer -- we hosted two yesterday afternoon). I bought two of these for him almost fifteen years ago. His sisters had all moved out of the nest, and his dad was working in another city during the week, so he and I had what I remember as some very special times. I would generally bring him a cup of tea to wake him for school in the morning -- and he could cajole me into making his favourite breakfast sandwich a bit later -- but he'd also often return the favour if he was up first (generally, I think, with a conviction that if he brought me the tea, I'd be awake to make his breakfast).

As I said, the mug is one of a pair. One was unofficially assigned to his buddy A., who stayed over on our little island fairly often. It used to amuse me to see these two young men sitting at the table with their botanic-design, Fine Bone China mugs in the morning, tea grannies the both of them.

And it charms me no end to be in his kitchen now, to spoon out the loose tea that he's bought specially for our visit, a smoky variety because he knows we like that, to brew up a satisfying cuppa, pour it into a mug with a bit of history, and defiantly, slowly sip the last of its bright, aromatic heat as a high-pitched voice chatters away to her Granddad in another room.

But even a stubborn Nana has to admit defeat eventually. Bottoms-up, and the mug is empty. Someone and her Bunny have come in to tell me a story. You and I can chat soon, okay?
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