Sunday, December 27, 2015

Just the kind of thing I like.

An interesting Christmas, this year -- my once-weekly job evolved into a bit more than intended and on top of extra classes to teach, as Thursday is my usual timeslot in the yarn shop, I had the unpleasant novelty of working Christmas Eve.

Everything turned out well, though, and we had a very merry Christmas day. My daughters cobbled together their money and bought me an impressively large gift card for Kobo, so I did some Boxing Day shopping and am now neck-deep in "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand", which I'm finding both enormously touching and killingly funny.

The Major found much to admire in America but also felt that the nation was still in its infancy, its birth predating Queen Victoria's reign by a mere sixty years or so. Generous to a fault -- he still remembered the tins of chocolate powder and waxy crayons handed out in his school even several years after the war -- America wielded her huge power in the world with a brash confidence that reminded him of a toddler who has got hold of a hammer.
It's full of wry, quotable sentences filched from the musings of its title character, whom I very much wish I could meet in real life, but am keenly aware that I wouldn't measure up to his notions of good manners.

Today I have the rare pleasure of being home alone. My husband has taken the kids to Nanaimo to shop, giving me a good few hours of lounging on the sofa with a chocolate in one hand and my e-reader in the other. I even have my glasses off, a technique I've developed in order to stay relaxed in a living room slightly too messy for true comfort.

My warmest, albeit late, wishes to you for a Merry Christmas. Don't forget -- we're only on the third day of twelve, so keep the Yuletide spirit going with a well-placed glass of champagne, some seasonal music, and pajamas at all hours.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Revivification Cordial

Piper's been gone a's so surreal strange weird sad. I miss him a lot.

One day I received a letter from the vet, in a card of condolence. She wrote,

Wow, that was a tough one. 

But we have a saying, "Better a few weeks early than one minute too late", and I think that applies to your situation with Piper.

I'm grateful for her words -- not that I wasn't sure we were doing the right thing, but it was a relief to hear her say it.

And now, of course, I'm terribly sick and have been in bed for three days. The stress got to me.

I've been throwing back gallons of my magic potion and it's making me feel loads better. I've been knitting a lot, too, which is marvellously buoyant to the spirits.

Maybe I'll take some photos and put up a new post next week. Wonders, they never cease.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

five years and two days and one lesson

Grief is like

Grief is like...

I'm staring out the window. I'm half done the thought before I even realize I had started thinking.

There's no manipulating it.

There's no rewriting it or changing its nature or...

I'm looking down at my empty hands. The house is quiet.

There's no changing its nature or...

Both doors are open. Front and back.

We don't have a fence in the front. We haven't had the door open; standing open, thoughtlessly open, for seven years.

But it stands open now.

There is no changing its nature or cutting it short.

I was distantly surprised today when I felt, in a shock of painful, visceral recall - an ear-piercing moment of echoing, microphonic feedback from a past life - the need to hurt myself.

There is no escaping it.

There is no changing its nature or cutting it short. 

In fact, here is the truth.

Grief is like nothing.

Grief is itself.

Grief is itself, and only itself. It doesn't have a simile because it is the metaphor. And you cannot change it and you cannot move it and you cannot escape it, or negotiate or plead or remonstrate with it.

You can only feel it. You can only sit with it and in it and through it. You can only let it be in you and around and through and over you.

It is the sole defining process of our lives, the learning process, the growing process.

You are inside it, and filled with it, and whether your eyes are closed or open, you cannot see or find or imagine a way out. You can only wait.

And you must wait.

So I will wait.

Piper, I will miss you until I see you again.

Monday, May 04, 2015

At the Water's Edge

Today I finished "At the Water's Edge". Sara Gruen, the author, also wrote "Water for Elephants", which I read not too long ago.

In this novel, set in early 1945, the main character is an American woman visiting Scotland with her husband and his best friend. Back in Philadelphia, they are socialites with more money than direction or purpose, and their trip to Scotland in the middle of World War II is more of a frolic than anything else.

They are after a sighting -- and hopefully photographic proof -- of the Loch Ness monster. This fact, coupled with their truly awe-inspiring rudeness toward everyday, working-class people, alienates the sympathy of the local populace with surprising speed.

Mild hijinks ensue and our heroine, frequently abandoned at the inn while the men go adventuring for days at a time, winds up interested in, attracted to, and understanding of the hardworking locals.

I have to admit, here, that I didn't feel captivated by this book. The conflicts seemed overly contrived, and because the villain spent so much time off-stage, I didn't feel very invested in or concerned about the threat to our heroine. I never really believed she was in any danger -- certainly none that a bit of stiff upper lip couldn't prevent.

With all its faults I preferred "Water for Elephants" to this one. Still - I'm glad I read it and it was a nice way to pass a few hours over the last week or so.

Up next -- Kazuo Ishiguro does it again!

Friday, March 20, 2015

I'd Like to Think

This has been a tough winter. I (and the whole family) have been slogging through the mire, metaphorically. After months of this, I find it's a bit hard to carry on.

My niece, 14, was diagnosed two weeks ago with Crohn's Disease after an emergency admission to Children's Hospital. Her life just changed, and not in a "You won the lottery!" way. She had just been accepted to the International Baccalaureate Program, but maintaining honours will be difficult -- may well be impossible -- with active Crohn's and the school hours she will inevitably miss. And then there's the malnourishment...and the anemia...and the pain.

I know there are drugs (big, mean, serious drugs: she's on the same immunosuppressants that my husband takes for his kidney transplant) and I have heard the happy sunshiney people blithely sing out that their friend with Crohn's has been in remission for years, but.

There are a number of people, let's just say, who haven't.

Piper, my dog, who just turned 7 in February, spent four horrible nights suffering from grand mal seizures. On the fourth day, he couldn't even lift his head off the floor. After a battery of tests and hours spent examining him and observing him, the vet was stumped. And we were so exhausted and stressed out, all we could do was cry (me) and worry (Mr HSB). I phoned my homeopath and he told me to give Piper a remedy, which I already had in the house. He revived within about 30 seconds, and has been almost normal since.

But he's not himself (does it make sense when I say he seems very sad?), and we think something is seriously wrong. The vet says she's ruled out everything below the neck: the next step is taking him to Vancouver to get an MRI on his head. Thousands, my friends. And that's before he has a single pill, chemo treatment, or surgery. Not happening.

So we wait and hope we still get to keep him for a while.

Then, head lice. And I don't really want to talk about that. Suffice it to say, that particular child is never coming over to our house again, and the laundry machines have aged years in two weeks, and I now have a pixie cut again after 9 months of growing out.

There's more, but I'll spare you.

I don't like these times, and not only for the obvious reason that it's painful and difficult. I don't like them because I feel embarrassed about being that person who is always going through something. It's almost like it's my fault or there's some kind of drama that I should be able to control.

On the up-side.

School is going well, comparatively, though with all the bad juju going around, we haven't had much time or energy to cover lots of ground.

And I started a new job. (!) It's just one day a week, and that day is only five hours, but the kids can come with me if they want to and I just love it.

I'm working at the local yarn shop.

Getting paid in yarn is wonderful. I know my husband would rather there be money involved, and that's an option in the future, but at the moment the arrangement is just what I need. If I were being paid, I'd be putting it all straight onto the (gigantic, fearsome) Visa balance, or making another payment on Avery's new  braces, or the vet, or summer tires for the Mazda, or the complete brake job for the Civic, or riding lessons, or, or, or.....  But the one place that money wouldn't go, is toward a luxury like yarn. So right now, Thursday from 11 to 4 makes me happy.

My daughter is turning 11 next week and we have a whole plan for her birthday week. We're going to make sugar cookies (flower shapes, I'll post a picture), go to Cinderella, spend an afternoon at the barn doing PPG (in slow motion), paint with an artist friend of mine, go shopping in the next town, and have dinner out. I might try to fit in a drop-in clay class so she can have some more time on the pottery wheel -- she loves that.

Spring is here, so I'm looking outside. I don't know whether there will be a lot of visible progress made this year (I had wanted to get to a couple of mowing paths and maybe plant a hedge), but we can at least go outside and pull a rake around, right?

Any minute now it's bound to turn a corner, and good things will start happening. That's what spring is about.

I hope.

I hope.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Cup of Kindness

In September 2010 my best friend Sandy died. It was a hard year, watching cancer progress and my friend suffer, and her family suffer.

Christmas didn't feel much like Christmas that year. At least -- it didn't feel like I was used to it feeling. The magic seemed to have lost its power. I worried about it but told myself, 'Never mind, it will be back. Next year it'll be just the way it was before.'

New Year's, the last night of 2010, was unnerving. I wasn't prepared for the grief I felt. In my heart I stood before the doorway draped with holly, mistletoe, rosemary and snowdrop, and realized it was time to step through and leave Sandy behind.

I saw the last page of the chapter and the blankness on the other side, inviting me to turn the page and begin the next part of the story, and thought I'm not ready; I want a re-read.

New Year's Eve 2014. Here is the close of a chapter of painful loss and painful growth. Our lives have changed this year -- my daughter was forced to face the reality that a part of her life that she loved, the world of horses, in which she excelled and in which we all took a lot of pride, was actually a destructive force for her spirit. She brought it to a nearly complete end.

My other daughter has spent this year grieving as her older sister grew up and away -- suddenly the 30-month gap mattered in a way it never had before. It's rare now to hear them playing together: more common for the older one to be texting her friends trying to find someone else to hang out with. So the younger sister has been struggling with that feeling of being not enough for the most important person in her life.

And, of course, as the year turns over tonight, we will be leaving my father-in-law David in the past.

There are awful things about being immersed in the moment of grief; the days and months surrounding it are full of hurt and painful introspection. For a while we're in that Between state, out of the main current of the world turning over our private sorrow, reliving all the past happy times, and all the more recent suffering and uncertainty. It can be terrible.

But it can also be satisfying -- meeting our own deep need to come to terms with sadness and loss. As much as it hurts, it feels right. And the memory of the loved one we have lost is keen and fresh, and still very much part of the present.

At first Dad is right in front of you, wherever you look. The last email you got from him was just a few weeks ago. There he is, in the photos you've been meaning to edit from the family reunion. I remember finding books Sandy had lent me, in a pile waiting to be returned to her. It's almost as if your loved one has become a cloud that you move through wherever you go -- a cloud both of presence and absence.

The time goes by until one day, in order to see them properly, you find you have to turn your head.

Now that Dad's last year is ending completely, we'll have to turn all the way around, our backs to the future, and look behind us.

Tonight I'll light candles and think of Dad, and my children's waning childhood, and all my many private sadnesses. I'll write a list or two and dwell for a little while on what I hope will happen in 2015. I'll pray for all the people I love.

As you carry both your happy things and sad things through the doorway into 2015, I hope that you'll be able to put down what you need to. Set some extra weight on the ground and leave it here where it belongs, in the old year. I hope that you've had laughter and tears in 2014 and that both have served you well.

We've wandered many a weary foot. So here's a hand, my trusted friend, for the sake of times gone by.

Be well, and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dress Shop of Dreams

The Dress Shop of Dreams: A Novel

Christmas is here, with all its spice and sleepiness. For the first time in months, I spent a few hours today reading a book: Dress Shop of Dreams, by Meena van Praag. It was a great way to pass the afternoon. It's a lovely thing like a slice of what they call 'plain cake'; simple yet sumptuous.

Dress Shop of Dreams is a sweet story about a few people who are turning in the wrong directions and need to be put right. The book has romance, clever plot turns, a little suspense, a good dose of emotion, and just a whiff of sorcery.

The dress shop really is magical, and that element of fancy, of fantasy, made the book such a pleasure to read.

Amazon tells me that Meena van Praag has written a few other books and, having enjoyed this one very much, I'll be reading the rest this year.

Thanks, Meena, for this little swirl of magic at Christmas time!