Friday, March 29, 2013


"That was some building," my brother-in-law recollects with a wry smile, shaking his head in disbelief that he lived there.  "In the morning, you'd be frozen in to the blankets."  He's talking about the one-room country school where he was teaching circa 1950.   "That place had two stoves--an oil furnace I bought myself, right beside the bed.  Still, you couldn't change the sheets because they were frozen to the mattress.  The kitchen had a coal stove.  I'd stoke it about 12:30 a.m. when I went to bed, and the embers were still red when I got up.  Yet, the water in the pitcher on the other side of the stove was frozen."

My husband and I are lingering with him over coffee after taking him out for a birthday supper.  He's eighty-four now, and it must seem like another life ago to have slept in that school wearing long underwear, heavy pants, and a winter jacket  The memories are vivid, and we feel privileged to be sharing them.

We don't see him as often as we might.  He's a busy man, hunting, making sausage, baking bread.  His wife, Elmer's sister,  passed away four years ago.  With her gone, it's easy to get wrapped up in our own lives and neglect our extended family.  We have a responsibility, now, at our age, with our parents gone and Elmer's two sisters deceased as well, to maintain the ties that connected us for decades.

It's our turn.  Elmer places his insulated bag of hearty snacks and hot coffee beside his heated boots by the front door.  "You're going ice-fishing with Victor,"  I comment, noticing the bag of fish hooks and Elmer's layered look.  Nothing gets past me.

"We'll be back around 5:30.  Our reservation is for 6:30,"  he says.  I'm looking forward to the evening, and feeling a little guilty that we don't do it more often.  In the wake of Alannah's passing, we feel the responsibility even more acutely.  Cousins are leaving now, not parents, or aunts and uncles.  That truth is the subtext of our conversation with Elmer's cousin, who found us as we packed our music books after Good Friday service this afternoon.  She wanted to talk about Alannah.  Together we reminisced, and grieved, connected by our common family experience.  We talked a long time, not wanting to separate, as if parting would sever yet another link.

We need to preserve the bond that life has given us.  How doesn't matter--ice-fishing, birthday suppers, quiet conversations, email, Facebook messages, telephone calls.  The imperative remains, to check up on our present, tell and retell the stories of our past, and support each other in our future.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Reality bumped into me today.  I was striding ahead, looking nowhere in particular and everywhere at once, head full of projects on the go and ideas to pursue.  "Look around, Yvette," it said, as it crashed into me.  "This is the real world, and things happen."

We lost a loved one today.  Since I heard the news around noon, I've been remembering Alannah, who left us so unexpectedly and so soon.  Alannah was the family historian.  She collected family stories, photos, biographies, important dates, and painstakingly organized them for all to access.  We counted on her to remind us of birthdays and anniversaries, hellos and good-byes, and everything in between.  She dedicated herself to her family.   When I think of the potential of marriage, I think of her and Ross.

Recalling all the good times around their table, our table, and tables here and there, I remember silky chocolate cheesecake, pure white meringues, continuous conversation, interesting questions, challenging ideas, exciting plans, the simple joy of being  together.

True, saying good-bye is a part of life at any age.  As we grow older, however, the likelihood increases, and I am so much more aware of the fragility of life.  One of the challenges of aging is saying good-bye to people you love, and adjusting to the void their absence will leave in your life.

I can't imagine what her absence will mean to her family.  I know we will really miss her.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Conclave (2)

Habemus Papam
Post scriptum

Cardinal Electors,
all one hundred and fifteen of you,
in the recesses of the Vatican
or at home in your dioceses,
thank you for giving us a promising Pope,
one who prefers
cloth to ermine,
spontaneity to a script,
a bus to a limo,
brown sandals to red shoes,
people to the ivory tower,
his own voice to a secretary's,
presence to isolation,
a crowd to a balcony,
a prison to St. Peter's.
Twelve days in,
Hope flickers.
Thank you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I remember the shock when I first heard the words:  "The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word." (Isaiah 50: 4-7).  I was half-awake in a pew at morning mass, a self-imposed hit-and-miss routine intended to compensate for not being able to concentrate at Sunday liturgies because managing the music took all my byte-space.

I looked up.  Run that by me again?  The tongue of a teacher?  That's me.  I am a teacher.  So, what about the tongue of a teacher?  Sustain the weary with a word.  Sustain the weary?  If I am a teacher, I would know how to sustain the weary?  And if I know how to do something, I would have a responsibility to do it.  The words seared on my brain.  The rest of the mass was a blur.  I had never before considered my life's mission in those terms, sustaining the weary.

The implications of that line reoriented my thinking.  If my mission was to sustain the weary, then it wouldn't do to be weary myself.  How can the weary sustain the weary?  No, if I was to sustain the weary, I would have to let go of any weariness I might be feeling, and concentrate on brightening other people's lives.  At that moment, I decided not to allow any complications in my life to colour an entire day.

Today, Palm Sunday, hearing those words proclaimed again in the First Reading,  I was back in that moment, reliving the epiphany, wondering how I am doing with that mission.  Because not being weary is only the first leg of the journey.  The next part involves using words.

How could I use words to sustain the weary?  Right off, I could think of the obvious ways--greet people, notice things, take the time to chat, write letters, make phone calls.  There had to be more.  What would be the next level? Right about then, I happened on Peter Johnston's Choice Words.  This book sensitized me to the effects that even ordinary, innocuous conversation can have on people.  I could eliminate "but" from my vocabulary, he said, replacing it with "and."  That small change would make any feedback I gave students much more powerful.  Before, my left hand adding the "but" was taking away all the good from the positive comments the right hand was offering.

He had more to say.  You want to communicate your trust in people, he said; you want them to know you believe that they will do the right thing.  I thought I was doing that.  Maybe not always.  Was I unconsciously undermining my work?  Use the phrase, "It isn't like you to . . .", Johnston wrote.  Why not?  So I started saying to a student whose work was late, "It isn't like you to be neglectful of your work.  Could we talk about why it hasn't yet been handed in?"  That one simple phrase started so many surprising and meaningful conversations that deepened relationships and cultivated collaboration.

Recently, I happened on Inviting Students to Learn:  100 tips for talking effectively with your students, by Jenny Edwards.  Actually, the subtitle could be, 100 tips for talking effectively with anyone.  

Does that mean I am always successful at using words to sustain the weary?  I wish.  Sometimes, I get it right.  What's important is that I am at least conscious of what I am doing, or not doing, as the case may be.  With consciousness can come change, and I can get better.

As I age, I hope to refine those practices.  With serious aging, though, I've noticed (now, I mean pushing into the nineties and onward), losing filters and reverting to basic, raw habits can happen to some people.   That scares me.  I really would like to continue moving forward.

This blog, too, uses words--to chronicle events, share ideas, entertain viewpoints, tell stories, express hopes.  Maybe as well to sustain.  To sustain me, anyway.

Friday, March 22, 2013


8 am.  I am still cocooned under the covers, checking Twitter.  Sunlight is pouring through the garden doors, bejewelling the banks of snow on the deck.  As remarkable as the picture is, I would appreciate it more were it not the end of March.  My sensible ego is telling me to get up, get on with the day; there's lots to do.  Weekends evaporate.

Wait a minute--it's Friday, not Saturday.  One of my gifts to my "retired" self is a day at home to work other projects.

Later, I am enjoying banana muffins and tea with Elmer and a friend.  They talk music, as usual, and cars, and family.  Careless of the clock, I relish the conversation.  Elmer mentions playing at a dance tomorrow night.  What?  A dance on Sunday night?

Wait a minute--it's Friday, not Saturday.  This is my long weekend.

During the afternoon, I park myself at my desk to finish a section in my current project.  To stretch my legs, I head to the piano to prepare tomorrow's liturgy.  One part of my brain is thinking about choir practice tomorrow--should be getting that ready.

Wait a minute--it's Friday, not Saturday.  I can practice tomorrow as well, even if I am doing two liturgies this weekend.

All through the afternoon, I indulge my ADD.  I walk downtown for exercise and an errand, Google sites for inspiration for a costume party, rummage through my old clothes for possibilities, play a little piano, search for a music book I've put at such a good place I can't find it, chat with my daughter, laugh about our own private "normal."  Guilt attempts to invade my consciousness--not so much work on the project today as I had planned.  Music will usurp most of tomorrow.

Wait a minute--it's only Friday, not Saturday.  I have gained a whole day.

Fridays regularly confuse me like this now.  All through the day, a sense of urgency drifts over me like wisps of fog during an early morning drive, clouding my way, then lifting suddenly to clear the view, the result of a lifetime of clock-watching.

I'm getting used to my free Fridays.  They may lead to confusion for a while, but it's the good kind.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Keeping my focus is my consistent challenge as I get older.  Some days, I think I am developing ADD. Maybe it's been lying dormant all these years, coming to the surface as the host conditions optimize.  I begin to work, and think of a book I want to use for an upcoming presentation.  Better take it out now, or I'll forget.  Well, why not leaf through it, skim a few pages, search out the favorite passages.  Whoops--now I have an idea that I'd better write down, or it will be gone, too.  Never mind bringing up  my home page with all sorts of fascinating articles leading me ever further away from---oh, yes, the task at hand.

Which reminds me--I am having trouble maintaining my focus.  Right.  Almost all of my projects now require sitting for protracted periods, mostly in front of a computer.  I play with ideas all day long, and love it.  My body likes it less.  My shoulder complains, my back starts to chime in, the legs cramp up, and soon, it's a cacophony of protest that resolves itself into one word--Move!

So, every hour or so, I stop to move around.  Planned movement never occurred to me while I was in the classroom and moving every second of every day, rarely sitting down.  Now, however, movement must be timed and integrated into the day.  I am wearing a path in the rug between my office chair and the opposite wall in the corner of the office library where I work, stopping for sets of deep knee bends and heel-toe calf stretches.  Back and forth along that path, sometimes mulling over a thorny issue, sometimes planning part of a project, or, like today, reading a few pages of my current novel.  I take many opportunities to fetch documents from the photocopier.  Why go once, when several trips will do?  Tea adds ambiance, as well, and I have to walk to the kitchen for that.

At home, integrating movement is just as vital but demands less creativity.  After all, after an hour at the computer, I can reward myself with twenty minutes at the piano.  I can put in a load of laundry, then throw it in the dryer, and, finally, sort and fold when it's done.  In ten minutes, I can straighten out a drawer or chop vegetables  for the evening stir-fry.  Four or five times up and down the stairs does wonders for the concentration.

The consequences of moving, or not moving, are huge.  More movement, more calories used, more muscle tone, more brain activity, more ideas, more excitement, more concentration, more focus.  Yes!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


This weekend, I lived Saturday on Saturday, and Sunday on Sunday.  For that, I feel very proud of myself.

Well, Yvette, you might say, what's the big deal?   Doesn't everyone do that?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I didn't always.  I have lived Sunday on Saturday, or Friday on Thursday.  Worse yet, I have lived Thursday on Monday, Thursday needing planning, and Monday being merely the execution of a rehearsed and ordered model set in place days before and unfolding as it more or less should.  Multi-tasking, if you will, or making Wednesday's supper while preparing the evening meal.

So, what happened?  The story began in December, when I ordered tickets for Globe Theatre's Pride and Prejudice.   I love the story, having seen both the Ehle-Firth and Knightley-Macfayden versions several times.  My children once gave me tickets to a live production in Edmonton for my birthday.  Yes, weather in March is a crap-shoot, but why not take the chance?  I shocked the waiter at Beer Brothers, asking for a reservation in March.  He had to start a new book.  I even booked a hotel room, so we could make a weekend of it, and not have to drive home in the deep night.  I had a lot invested in this weekend.

Fast forward three months.  Why was I not surprised when the forecast predicted sun for Saturday, and 10 - 20 cm of snow for Sunday?  Subtext:  We would make it in to Regina for the performance; getting home might be a challenge.  When I was younger, I would have fretted about this.  I would have checked the weather several times each day, hoping the screen might read differently.  In doing that, I would have set myself up for losing not only Saturday, whether or not I was actually there, but also many hours of the days before.

I surprised myself.

Well cognizant of the potential challenges of getting home on Sunday, we drove into town on Saturday.  We stocked up on organic rice chips and unsulphured dried fruit from the organic supermarket.  We strolled through Chapters.  I took notes on titles I could afford to get from the library, mostly teen fiction to keep up with what kids are reading.   Paging through the table of contents of Jared Diamond's new book,  and walking around with Mitch Albom's The Timekeeper for a while, I finally settled on two must-haves, Room by Emma Donahue, and Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders.  I people watched at Starbucks over hot chocolate.

After checking in to the hotel near the theatre, we strolled to the mall.  I never go into the city without a list, and this was no exception.  I needed martini glasses and a superfine cheese grater for salad.  Done. Now, time for dinner, and then the theatre.  Just a delightful day.

I tasted the day, savoured every second, smelled the bouquet, and swirled each sip in my mouth like a good wine.

We left early in the morning, before too much of the snow would have accumulated.  The Department of Highways had been out already.  Visibility was decent.  Tiny snowdrifts were beginning to form on the shoulder, some oozing onto the road.  We had to slow down to navigate build-up on the curves and in sheltered areas.   A few kilometers out of the city, however, I knew we would make it home safely.  But then, I had the trump card--Elmer was driving.

We aren't foolhardy.  Had conditions been unsafe, or the highway closed, we were prepared to spend the day in the city.  I had brought my computer, and some work, and we had lots of books.  We could have spent the day in the library, or in a coffee shop, waiting out the storm, or visiting friends, even staying the night if we had to.  Monday could take of itself, too.

Eckhart Tolle would be proud.  I lived Saturday on Saturday and Sunday on Sunday.  I lived in the now.  Rather than giving in to what might happen and letting fear get the better of me, I accepted what came and dealt with the reality.  That is real growth for me, and the thought of it makes me smile.

Friday, March 15, 2013


"Good evening, Beer Brothers.  How can I make your day better?"

Now, didn't that phone greeting take me by surprise.  I chuckled.  Immediately, my mood lightened, and my voice reflected that spirit.  So, I answered the question.    Well, you can confirm my reservation for tomorrow evening.  The young lady on the other end was happy to do that.  I was pleased to hear her response--a win-win situation, a break in a snowy day, an upbeat day taken to another level.

The question stayed with me all day.  How can I make your day better?  I need to be asking myself that question all the time.   How can I bless the days of the people around me?

My husband does that.  He clears the driveway for the neighbours.  Yes, he will be happy to deliver Meals on Wheels every day for a week.  He ran the grocery store gauntlet to pick up milk and bananas, and set some cheese and crackers down on my desk while I'm working.  He takes care of clean-up after supper.

Did I make his day better?

Can I make blessing a conscious part of my day?

I know people whose life work is blessing others.  They visit the sick, they deliver homemade goodies to grieving families.  They organize benefits for suffering individuals.  They remember birthdays and anniversaries, the names of people's children, and what has been going on in their life lately.  Extraordinary.   Anonymous to the world, they spread joy wherever they go.

I'll be asking that question:  How can I make your day better?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Can a quotation change your life?  An epigram at the beginning of an obscure seventies movie entitled Son Rise did just that to me.  "To love is to be happy with."  Imagine the ramifications.

If you love someone, you accept that person unconditionally.  That means the odd habits, the characteristic expressions, the tics, the eccentricities, the whole package. The individual is not a work in progress, someone who has a good basic core that can be improved with just the right amount of judicious formation.  No, the person is perfect just as he or she is.  And, if the person does not change one whit during a lifetime, that is fine.

The theory is that unconditional acceptance is a prerequisite for change.  In the movie, a mother pulls her autistic son out of his world by entering it, whether that meant spinning plates with him, or shaking wrists, or bobbing heads.  Eventually, her perseverance and tenacity pay off, and she succeeds.  Acceptance was the key.  The movie shook my world to the core.  I was impelled to reflect on my own acceptance--or lack thereof--of my children.  Never mind the explicit indicators of non-acceptance, what implicit messages was I sending?  Consciousness helped me catch myself once in a while, to make incremental improvements along the way.

Eckhart Tolle takes the idea in a different direction.  In his view, acceptance is crucial for living in the present.  In each moment of life, he says, one of three things must be present:  energy, enthusiasm, and acceptance.  If we can't muster energy or enthusiasm for something, then we must be able to accept. This does not mean being resigned to our fate; it means understanding that, in this moment, that is our reality.  Coming to terms with that allows us to move forward without frustration or anger.

Today, I was listening to a podcast of Tapestry on CBC.  Mary Hynes was talking to author Adam Phillips about accepting our own lives and avoiding reflecting on the road not taken.  Phillips says we are given to thinking about what might have been, or what might be, had we made different decisions, or had different experiences.  Instead, he says, we can accept that our lives are full and rich just the way they are.  He was spelling out contentment, I think.

I didn't necessarily expect contentment in this new decade; why, I'm not sure.  Yet, it is happening.  I am so grateful for my life, my family, my children, my community, my colleagues, and the opportunity to use the composite of my experience and knowledge in new and exciting ways.

"To love is to be happy with"  means loving yourself, being happy with yourself, accepting yourself.  Contentment results, and change becomes possible.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


The conclave beginning on Tuesday has prompted me to reflect even more on my philosophical journey.  As a young person, I followed the rules, did what I was told, played it safe, respected Authority, believed.  Now, much older, not jaded or cynical but questioning, I am quite comfortable breaking the rules, going out on a limb, pushing ideas, taking risks, asking the tough questions, searching for answers.

So, Cardinal Electors, this is my plea.

Habemus Papam

Cardinal Electors,
All one hundred fifteen of you,
Congregated and cloistered in the Sistine Chapel,
Please, give us a real Pope,
Whose red shoes will gladly walk
Where some would rather not go,
From the labyrinth of sexual abuse,
The narrow alley of the dark ages,
The muddy trail of sexual orientation,
The cul-de sac of patriarchy,
The dead-end of pseudo-language,
Smokescreen for meaningful direction,
Onto the street of healthy sexuality,
The interchange of ongoing revelation,
The path of true acceptance,
The boulevard of equal participation,
The avenue of social justice,
The highway of relevance and new life.

Friday, March 8, 2013


5 a.m. on a postcard Saskatchewan summer morning.  Robins are sprinkling their song all over the yard.  The fragrance of the cedar and junipers perfumes the driveway.  The sun warms us as we place the last bags in the car, and belt ourselves in.  Calgary, here we come.

But wait . . . there's something on the windshield!  Unbuckling my seatbelt, I climb out to check.  Funny, I can't remember leaving anything on the hood while packing.  Not that not remembering means anything.

Looking more closely, I find four homemade bran muffins, a tiny jar of homemade chokecherry jam, two plastic plates and knives, napkins, and a note from Gloria.  "Have a great trip.  Enjoy these as you drive."

My heart feels warm, and it's not the sun any more.  That's the neighborhood we have lived in for almost 37 years.  Whether it's to the east or to the west,  or across the street, random acts of kindness abound.  Muffins for a trip, antipasto for Christmas, a photo of four-year-old Daniel with a robin on his arm, a heads-up that the car lights are still on.  We've been an exclusive club for a long time.  Brought together by chance, we have solidified friendships over beer the firepit,  beer on the patio,  wine around the dining room table, and block garage sales.  The crowing glory, though, is the annual block party, complete with Marv's baked beans, Cameron's curly fries, Gloria's potato salad, Ken and Darren's hamburgers and hotdogs barbecued to perfection, and my coconut cream pie, back by popular demand.

Today, invitations for coffee in the morning, and supper on the weekend.  I mean, we haven't visited now for a couple of weeks.  These are truly moments to remember.

How much longer do we have to enjoy each other on the block?  Our neighbor to the west has already moved to an apartment.  What about on the east side?  Gloria has been a surrogate mother to me and grandmother for the kids.  Before very long, we will be the seniors on the block.  Upholding the tradition will be our responsibility.  The bar has been set very high.  I want to be for any new neighbours the paragon of kindness and hospitality that our neighbours have been for us.  The torch will be ours to hold high.

Time to pay the kindness forward.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Spooning oatmeal, berries, currants,
eyelids sticky,
limbs stiff,
I reach for the ipad for my breakfast game of
mindless but not quite,
perfect for a cobwebby morning.

clears the brain like
my glass of berry juice does the palate,
gets the neurons synapsing
ready for the demands of the day.

I slurp the cereal and
touch the deck.
Black queen on red king
red eight on black nine
touch the deck again
back to the beginning
going nowhere.

Wait . . .

Was that a spade five?
Didn't I have a heart six?
Undo again.
Sure enough!
Spade five on heart six!

The world opens up.
Kings appear out of the background
Cards align

No, don't need that rush.

And, I think of teaching,
pulling teeth
increment by baby step,
almost missing the trump card.
Was that a heart five?
Undo a few moves, then
One move,
Then another, another,

In the excitement of success
will Autocomplete follow?
That rush is vital.

To think. almost missed
the game-changing card.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


My mother used to tell me that once a mother, always a mother.  Even when your children are in their fifties.   That was her explanation for the "You're not . . . " statement.  "You're not . . . going to stay up late preparing lessons,"  or, "You're not . . . going outside without your heavy coat on," or "You're not . . . making a round trip to Saskatoon in one day."

I, of course, would be different.  I would not hover over my adult children.  Well, today, I hovered.  Last night, I texted our daughter to arrange a time for a chat.  No reply.  Not too extraordinary--she has deadlines looming.  I texted again this morning.  No reply.  I called.  Answering machine.  Now, my anxiety level is rising.  A graphic artist, Dominique is working on a big animation project out of her home.  She could have fallen, lying there, unconscious . . . or worse.

Concentrating on my own project has become a challenge.  I leave a message on Facebook and Skype, I email, I call every fifteen minutes.  Between calls, I recite the  dozens of reasonable explanations:  she might have turned off the ringer, or her phone needs charging, or she left it in another room.   Practically slapping my fingers, I resist the temptation to text her partner for reassurance.  Eventually, it's supper time, and I can justify a call.  "She's right here," Andy says, in response to my call and my perfunctory acknowledgment of his cold.  Now, I can breathe.

She is so sweet, not patronizing, not resentful of my hovering, just understanding.  In September, she had a similar experience trying to get in touch with her brother.  I am so grateful.  In essence, she has mothered me, not only releasing me from my over-reaction but blessing me for it.

This, too, is delight.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Delight (2)

Seized Moment No. 3:  The Promenade Deck

The Promenade Deck and I became well acquainted on the cruise.  I wanted to spend as much time outside in the heat as possible so the heat would soak into my bones, melting them if it wanted, releasing it ever so slowly on our return to Saskatchewan, like asphalt on a cool summer evening.  That's where I exercised, an easy walk at first, out of deference to a recuperating lower back.

The Promenade Deck is its own community--the strollers, hand in hand, ambling along; the serious walkers, decked out (couldn't resist the pun!) in runners, caps, and T-shirts, making laps with a  determined step; the runners, checking traffic and announcing their presence; the readers ensconced comfortably on the chairs; the nappers, giving in to the warmth and the leisure.

From time to time, there are watchers, people hunched over the deck rail, staring out to sea, playing their own movies on the sky screen, dreaming of places and tales untold.  When they congregate, I pay attention--there's wildlife.  That was the case as I rounded the corner--a few people staring aft on the starboard side.  Oh, my--dolphins, four of them, leaping out of the water, so close to the ship I am afraid for their safety.  A few seconds, and they're gone, having delighted those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Missed Moment:  Redefined Luxury

We are living in luxury.  Really, living in Canada, luxury characterizes our daily life--shelter, food, safety, things we take for granted that 95% of people in the world don't have or struggle to maintain.  The cruise, though,  brings luxury to a whole different level.

We have a cabin steward, a waiter, a wine steward, who call us by name and cater to our every whim.  Every meal,  from the buffet to the dining room, is a masterpiece, that the staff serves up with a smile, even when they are dead tired after a long, taxing day.  Musicians, singers, dancers, magicians, entertain us; travel and shopping experts inform us; culinary staff tantalize us; our fellow passengers engage us in stimulating conversation.

It's our third cruise, and, sadly, we are getting used to this luxury.  Can't be.  The tuna needs a little more sauce, and the peach crisp some zing, like lemon or a liqueur.  Unpressed chair covers detract from the elegance of formal night.   The service is slow, and, oh, the towels are just not fluffy.

Luxury breeds discontent, I am afraid.  For appreciation and gratitude,  mix up some lack of expectation, and watch the awe explode.  How unfortunate that, able to bask in genuine luxury even briefly once in a while, we should allow a critical spirit to mask any of the daily delights of the holiday.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


After a three week silence, having settled back into the rhythm of work, I am trying to recapture the excitement of this blog.  We have been travelling--to California, and then to the Panama Canal.  Travelling light, I left the laptop at home, and made a conscious decision to disconnect while on the cruise.

The trip afforded so many magic moments, or moments with the potential for magic and awe passing in cognito for a multitude of reasons, giving lots of food for thought for the next while.

Seized Moment No. 1:  Yvette Drives to Calgary
We left from Calgary, delivering our VW Jetta to Daniel and Lindsay, meaning a two-car convoy.  I feel nervous about this, fearing a ten-hour white-knuckle drive, knowing I have never driven this distance alone, even in optimum conditions.   It's warm at 7 am as we pull out of the driveway, and, for half an hour, the road is clear.  Then--ice, and lots of it, which drifting snow is polishing.  The new Elantra is hugging the road, and I am able to maintain a speed that's comfortable for me and the cars behind me.  By Moose Jaw, the road clears.  Feeling more secure, and captivated by a  mellifluous voice interpreting Danielle Steele,  I enjoy the drive, and pull in to Calgary patting myself on the back.  I am delighted--getting older and doing things I have not done.

Seized Moment No. 2:  Original Joe's
Dan, Lindsay, Elmer and I step into the foyer at Original Joe's, still prattling and laughing.  It's Friday night, so, of course, there's a wait.  We expected it, settle in, and just keep chatting.  After a few minutes, the manager advises us, "You'll be seated in a few minutes."
"We have all the time in the world," I reply, clearly without thinking.  Oops!!  True, we are mellow, but  admitting that to the manager might not advance our cause.  Oh, well, too late--might as well laugh about it.
Our waitress incarnates beauty, sincerity, and affability.  Luscious long brown hair frames a twentyish intelligent face, and curls about her shoulders.  Kerry projects honesty energy and love of people.  Nothing put-on here.  With a smile and bright eyes, she offers to bring samples of raspberry and huckleberry beer to make decision-making a little easier.  Her genuine smile creates an instant rapport that permeates the entire meal.
After serving the beer and waiting for our comments, she tells us that the soup is tomato-red pepper.  "Really?  It's my favourite soup!"  I exclaim again, having only sipped a few swallows of the 9 oz glass of red wine I am indulging in.  Dan and Elmer order the ribs special, I have pulled pork, and Lindsay the salmon.  We continue to catch up, not having been together since August.  I am having so much fun.
A few minutes later, she returns.  Bad news.  There's only one rib special left.  So, who gets it.  Dan pulls the short straw, as he can come back whenever he likes, and Elmer will enjoy the ribs tonight.  It's not an issue.  We are enjoying being together, and the environment.    The food is great, and the atmosphere feeds our jovial mood.
"Will there be anything else?"  Kerry asks.
"No, thank you," Elmer replies, "we'll just have the bill when you're ready."
Before we can resume the conversation in earnest, the manager is at our table.
"How was your meal?"
We rave about the food and our experience.  "Just fine; very tasty."
"Great," he continues.  "We are taking care of the bill for you this evening."
Silence.  What?  We must have misunderstood.  Or he is joking.  So we try for clarification.
"You're teasing us, right?"   Apparently not.  He is serious.  Every Friday night, a staff member chooses a table to receive a complimentary meal.  Really.  I am dumbfounded then, and even now, recalling the experience as I write.
We leave a generous tip and profuse thanks.  Later, after I've posted to Facebook and Twitter, we wonder if maybe Daniel set this up with the management in order to pay the tab.  If he did, it's an Oscar-winning performance for both him and Lindsay.  "No," he says, replying to the direct question a few weeks later, "but I wish I'd thought of it."  No artifice again--just the same amazed look that it happened.
What a way to begin a holiday--with delight, with an unexpected moment that will live forever in the family annals.  Each time the story is told, the awe and magic will reappear.   Yes, this incident is unusual.  Why us?  Was our jovial, festive mood contagious?  Did the waiting and the menu change play a role?  Who knows?  The moment reminded me to be present for the magic and the awe that accompany me each day if I just take the time to track them.