Friday, March 11, 2016

Trying to make a come back

I can't believe it has been nearly two years since my last post.   I guess it has been a very busy time with lots going on which has left me little time to reflect upon it here.  Perhaps after all my travel, being back home meant just living and enjoying each day and perhaps not feeling I had much to share.  I have also found Instagram and have been enjoying exploring that medium. But today is my day to wage a come back.  My hope is to get back to regular blogging.  I am also getting back to the studio, I have been off since December.  But Spring is in the air, my favourite time of year, and it is a great time for new beginnings and restarts.

I'm very excited to get back to the studio, I began experimenting with Porcelain a bit more before I packed up my studio in December, and I am looking forward to doing some new work.  I am also hoping to experiment with some new glazes and decorating.  I took a fantastic Fonts class with local artist Kathy Guthrie at Poppet Creative (where I will be doing some teaching) and I am planning on adding some script to some of my works.

Plus, I am just excited for Spring.  I love all the blossom lined streets and the promise of warm sunny days.  It's just such great time to get outside and explore our beautiful surroundings.

Friday, May 16, 2014

(Spoiler Alert)

It is funny, when I look back at my posts it seems I cry a lot.  I even have an unpublished post about my brother who passed away and how little things make me think of him and some of them make me cry.  I'd like a nice photo to go with it before I post it.  But then I worry, will people think all I do is cry.  Rest assured, I don't.  But I do cry a lot.  TV shows, movies, commercials, youtube videos, you name it.  My children find it comical how easily I cry.  I don't think I was like that when I was a child and I wonder when it all began.  When did I begin to cry at the drop of a hat.

Perhaps when I became a mother. I did find that all the fears I had for myself previously switched and became fears for my children.  (Again, not that I am spending all my days paralyzed by fear.)  And perhaps that is why advertising executives get paid the big bucks.  They know how to pull the heart strings and the simplest way is to play on the empathetic emotions of a mother.

Perhaps when life began to throw me curve balls.  As we get older, we have more experiences under our belts and not all of them are good.  I remember saying to a friend in University I had never been to a funeral, then I wound up going to 2 in the following month!

But all my tears are not tears of sadness.  Some are tears of joy, tears of laughter, tears when something is just so beautiful or moving that you just can't stop the flow.  Most of my tears are for when things just don't seem fair.

For the last few months, my girls and I have been working our way through 9 seasons of How I met Your Mother.  Last night we had the two final episodes to watch.  (If you are interested in this series and have not seen the ending, you might want to stop reading.)  Finally after years of bad dates and disastrous relationships, Ted meets the girl with the yellow umbrella, the mother.  She is perfect for him, she gets him and she immediately realizes how great Ted is.  Final episode rolls around and she dies!!!! Yes, she dies!  Well of course I began to cry, but I was also enraged, how could the writers do this.  It just seemed so unfair.  This character had waited so long to find 'the one' and then she dies.

I know that life can imitate art and vice versa, but this story line is all too familiar to me.  I know of real life stories where love took a long time to come and then death swoops in and the one person is left to grieve.  It is not fair.  Just not fair.  Sometime life can be so painful and confusing.  It is nice to take a break from reality, watch the Princess find Prince Charming and ride away into the sunset.  How many children want to hear that Frog got squished by a car, while Toad ran back to get the kite, not many!!

I guess the whole HIMYM thing just struck a chord with me, hit too close to home.  I watched my darling sister lose the love of her life to cancer and I can tell you, it wouldn't be a story line I would have gladly written into any script.

I don't need art imitating life.  Life can be messy enough on its own.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I still cry a lot...

Sometimes for myself, but mostly for others.

It has been one month now since our house flooded.  One crazy month.  After saving and salvaging what we could from the house, then sorting, cleaning and storing everything, we moved on to dealing with insurance and applying for disaster relief.

I have learned more than I really ever wanted to know about insurance.  Made a few mistakes along the way.  One big one, not enough photos of flooded items.  And I don't think I will every look at an insurance policy the same way again.  I also think I will look into storing documents differently.  You know those little booklets the insurance company sends you where you can itemize everything in your house, those are a good idea.  I will be using one in the future.  It is amazing how much you can forget, each day I remember something that is lost.  And it all adds up quickly.  In hindsight, we were very under insured.

I am also learning the importance of living with less.  We were lucky, the main floor of our house was spared.  People have generously offered us clothing and shoes for our children.  Our children lost very little.  When I went through their belongings I felt as though they could actually donate some of their things to others in need.

In the middle of this experience, I took an impromptu trip to Australia to see my sister Lucia.  Her husband is battling cancer and my other sister and I felt it was important to spend some time with them. This trip gave me a break from all flood stuff, and it gave me perspective.  When people tell you 'You were lucky, you got out safely and are all well', they are right.  I know it was of little consolation when all my belonging were swirling in a giant poopy mud puddle in my basement, but when I look at my husband and children, I am reminded of my great fortune.

When I hear the stories of High River, where home owners have not been allowed re-entry for 25 days, and the Siksika Nation and Hidden Valley, where whole homes were washed away.  Lifetimes of memories gone.  So many people homeless.  I remember the sense of anxiety I felt for two days waiting to get into my home, I can't imagine the anguish of waiting nearly a month, while black mould takes over, causing more devastation than the rising river and backing up sewers.  I realize we were lucky, it could have been much much worse.

This is when I cry.  I cry for these people who have lost everything. The people who 'You were lucky you got out safely and are all well' is still of little consolation.  I cry for the people who didn't have a garage ready to accept saved belongings, the people who didn't have family they could stay with during the evacuation, and after when their homes were destroyed.  I cry for the people who made valiant efforts to move their belongings up from the basement only to have their main floor flood.  I cry for the people who weren't able to salvage precious photos or jewellery.

I also cry when I am moved by the overwhelming goodness of the human spirit.  Of neighbours helping each others out, of strangers helping strangers, of friends helping friends.  I cry tears of joy when I am moved by the community spirt that has abound in this terrible situation.  And I am reminded, we lost some stuff, but we found a community and yes, we were lucky, we got out safely and we are all well.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rescue, Recover, Salvage

We were allowed a brief look at the house late Saturday night (June 22) once the water had receded.  My heart sank.  There was 3 feet of mud brown yucky water in my basement.  My bedroom door was swollen shut, and a layer of silt covered every surface where water had been.  It was a disaster.  I barely slept that night, the anxiety of what to expect was so great.

I drove my friends back to the airport.  A vacation they are sure to never forget, I am sure.  Though I am not sure how I would have got through the previous days with out the extra support they afforded me, we had made lists, discussed worst case scenarios, worked out plans of attack, as only one thinks they can when faced with this sort of situation.

We returned to the house midmorning on Sunday and my sister in law and a handful of neighbours had filled two trucks full of our belongings that were above water.  We set in and continued packing, a woman whom I had never met arrived at my door to ask how she could help.  Thinking she was with the others I asked her to help pack the kitchen.  Over the next couple of hours, I found out she wasn't with the earlier group of neighbours, but had a friend down the street who she had come to help.  When the friend had not arrived, she just looked for someone else to help, and that turned out to be us.  This was to be the atmosphere for the next few days.  Neighbours and community rallying to help each other out.  There were beverages being handed out, food trays passed around.  People covered in mud.

Once we emptied the top dry floors of the house we headed down, down to the muck filled basement.  A kind neighbour had pumped out the water so there was only about 20 cm still there.  I wandered with my steel toed rubber boots through the water, picking out things that could be salvaged.  These were then rinsed and packed for further cleaning.  The devastation on that level was intense, the smell horrible and the mud slippery.

In the master bedroom people uprighted chests of drawers, trying to salvage all that was in them.  Three good friends worked tirelessly sifting through the mud to find valuables, there were small mercies.  Items that when found would make me laugh or cry.  A picture of my brother and I when we were children was a rare treasure.  I cried with joy, I was so sad that I thought I had lost it and now here it was, muddy, but here.  Tamara, a true gem, went as far as borrowing a sieve from a neighbour to see if she could find my pearl earrings that I got as a wedding present and an Emma Glover ring that is precious to me.  She found one earring, an opal from my mother and the ring but sadly not the pearls.  These two finds we like striking it rich in the gold mines.

The feeling of community coming together was overwhelming.  Neighbours really rallied to help out.  I found out I was living among an amazing group of people.  These people spent every free moment helping others out.  There were pumps going and things being moved out as quickly as possible.  And that was even before the salvage began.

It was a day of small celebrations, lots of hard work, a feeling of community and a lot of laughter despite what we were going through.

I know that I will ever be able to truly thank all the people who helped, especially Jen, Tamara and Lynn.  Who not only did they spend the entire Sunday with us cleaning, but continued through out the week with all the other tasks that go with recovering from a flood.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A River Runs Through It

It has been a while since I have done a blog post, and a lot has been going on.  There is much back story to be told, but today I focus on one thing, the Calgary Flood of June 2013.

When we arrived  in Calgary in February we rented a house on the river, a truly spectacular spot.  It is spacious, huge bedrooms and an amazing huge back garden probably 20X20 metres in size.  Great for the children.  It is close to downtown, walking distance for Mark's work.  Bike paths surround.  And just two doors away from a lovely large dog park.

On Thursday June 20th, many of the surrounding neighbourhoods were being evacuated, we weren't as we were on the higher side of the river.  We decided to prepare for potential evacuation, we were told by neighbours that that was what had happened in 2005, the last big flood, but the house we were in and all the surrounding ones on our block had never flooded.  We packed a light bag with enough clothing for 72 hours.  Grabbed our laptop and the pets and headed for higher ground with relatives.

A good friend and her daughters had just arrived that day for a 3 day weekend with us.  We were so excited to see them.  I had our days planned out.  Early morning walks along the river with the dog, a trip up the Calgary Tower and two events planned for the weekend at the Glenbow Museum.  (I packed in my light bag an outfit for the evening event, I even dashed quickly back into the house to grab a scarf, to accessorize.)  Now we were 9 evacuees with a dog and cat on a rainy day in the high side of Calgary.  

It was late by the time we got to where we were staying so we fed the children and got them all off to bed.  We had little time for visiting as we were busy with these tasks.

At 4:20 am, I received a text message from a friend who lives a block from me.  She was still in her house and they had 3 feet of water in her basement.  I knew that my house was only slightly higher that hers so this was bad news.  We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best, we had moved things off the floor in the basement, we put it on shelves and on top of the dryer.

Text messages flooded in, we watched the news, the flooding was much bigger and disastrous than any one had imagined.  We watched in horror the footage, downtown Calgary was being turned into one massive river as the water from both the Elbow and Bow River converged in record heights.

Again, fingers crossed, perhaps we were high enough.  But then we contacted another neighbour from higher up the hill, he confirmed my fears, sewers had back up late Thursday evening and now our house was surrounded by water, a couple feet of it.  I knew this meant my basement was flooded, and likely all the items we moved to higher shelves would be floating around in the muck.  My master bedroom, with all my clothes and belongings was also likely swirling with water.

I spent the next 24 hours alternating emotions.  I cried, was angry, guilty, felt ashamed of my stupidity, regretful, you name it, but mostly I cried.  Well wishes came in, 'At least we were safe'.  Even this was hard to remember at times, but we were and I know that.  When I hugged Pippa before bed, that notion was reinforced, we were safe, and we well and all together.

It may not have been the weekend I had planned, but it was a new adventure.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Province of Wanderlust

I was born into a family of travellers, or more likely a travelling family.  My mother delights in telling the stories of her 8 pregnancies, each one ending in a different location to where it started, thus was the moving spirit of my family in their early years.  We changed schools and towns/cities so often when I was growing up, it was almost difficult to keep track.  Now adults, most of my siblings have chosen to stay put, some have lived in the same locations that they did when they were in their late teens.  The rest of the family moved on, and if they were old enough they stayed on their own.  But me, I have not stayed put, I was gifted with a healthy dose of wanderlust.  Not that I am not content, and nor do I feel I have never put down roots, I like to think I have, or at least planted seeds in the places I have gone.

It is funny, I look back fondly on the places I lived or travelled as a child, I remember places, stories and the images play in my head like a digital photo frame.  However the places I have visited as an adult have burrowed a space in my heart, etched their memory in my brain and refuse to just sit as fond memories.  Italy and Australia call to me, my memories are vivid; sounds, smells, tastes and friends.  These are things I just have a harder time moving to the shelf of distant memories.  Some mornings I wake up missing one place so much, and I don't know why.

I should note, I am very happy.  I was also blessed with the gift of Pollyannaism.  And this is why I like to think I have set down roots.  Like a talented camper who can set up camp easily and quickly, I set up 'home' quickly and easily.  I have been very fortunate to have made amazing friends where ever I have lived which can mean the difference to loving or hating the place where you are.  And I believe friends are what hold your heart in a place you have left behind.   And perhaps it manifests itself as the memories of sounds, tastes, smells, but I believe it is the friends who you hold dear, are what make it hard for you to fully move on from a place you have left behind.

The downside to all this travelling is having to leave good friends behind, no matter where you go.  I think we are lucky in this time of email and facetime and facebook and texting and the list goes on, we are able to keep in touch easily and quickly with friends the world over, but there is just something like sitting down over a glass or cup of something and just really enjoying each others company.  Though I miss the art, museums, food, architecture, coffee and warm sun in Australia and Italy, it is the friends I shared all of those wonderful things with, that I miss the most.

Now as embark on yet another move, I will be leaving behind another group of friends.  Friends so dear I think of them as my family by choice.  I know I will have mornings where I wake up missing Victoria, yearning for a Fernwood Coffee or a Mount Royal bagel, or a walk on Dallas Road and the friends with which I have shared these things.  But I know that I will be with some old friends and creating new friendships, and quickly and efficiently setting up 'home' for myself and my family, for this is the way I am.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Memories of Christmas Past

Christmas Tree at Piazzale Michelangelo, Firenze

I was just reading a lovely little blog by a young girl who is traveling in Italy with her family, and it reminded me of the wonderful holiday we spent there last year.  Italy really loves Christmas, the celebration is so wonderful, there are lights, people everywhere and just such a wonderful feeling at this time of year.  After reading Phoebe's post, I decided I would write down some of my favourite things about Christmas in Italy, many of the traditions that have followed us home to Canada.

I was always taken by the abundance of religious iconography around Italy, such as the roadside Madonnas, and at Christmas the main theme was the precepe, or nativity scene.  They were everywhere, some small, some large, some truly spectacular. Some of my favourites are posted here.  I loved how people would set them up on large tables in front of their houses, complete with star covered foil paper, and some were just tucked into a small window sill.

This was set up on the lawn at a house in our village.

This one in a nearby town was life sized stuffed figures.

The lovely coffee shop in Monte San Savino, made of marzipan and profiteroles.

This was on the windowsill of a house on a busy street in Arezzo.

One of very favourites was the one in an old Fiat 500.

This was a beautiful precepe at our good friends, she has carefully collected the figures over many years.  All made by the same craftsman.

This one in a church in Arezzo ran on a sound and light loop that lasted 10 minutes.  There was even flowing water.

In Tuscany they call Santa Claus, Babbo Natale (Father Christmas).  And it seems he is the same as what we have here, but for me, the big star of the holidays was Befana.  I wrote a post about her last year, but as she is pretty fresh in the minds of my children, I decided she could use another mention.  Befana actually doesn't show up until the Epiphany, she flies around Italy on her broom, (but she is not a Witch), taking candy to the good children and 'carbona' or coal to the naughty ones.

Last year we made a felted Befana and the lovely woman in the newsagent where we lived gave us a Befana stocking so we could hang it to be filled on the eve of the Epiphany.  When we went through town on the evening of January 5th, there was one of the village ladies dressed as an old woman, as Befana, riding through town in a cart pulled by a donkey.  The children loved it.  I had one of the children at the preschool even come in the following week with a big container of 'carbona'.  The 'carbona' seemed to be some sort of black honeycomb like candy, I regret now that I didn't try it while I had the chance, and as I had been good, the Befana only left candy for me;)

I am happy to be home and celebrating Christmas and the holidays with friends and family here.  I am happy to bring back some of the great traditions we learned, and I really do look back fondly on our holiday season last year, it was such a wonderful experience.  The lights were amazing.  Oh, and the most amazing Cannoli I have ever tasted.....