IntrepidWoman's Journey

Posts Tagged ‘musings

Living in ‘the home’ has turned into a most interesting phase of my life. I have always lived in large, old houses with some seclusion involved and walked around picturing what they would look like if I could fix them up, which I could never afford to do. I spent a lot of years living an enjoyable fantasy.

For 3 months now I have lived in a nearly new and very compact condo with other ‘over 50s’ and find it fascinating.

My unit is probably the last one a body would pick for purchase because it is on the main level, near the front entrance with visitor parking right out front, near my patio with a small lawn area between. I do believe that is why the rent is lower than the average in here. It is a good revenue property and I love renting it. I am not paying the condo fee and taxes, etc. Watching people come and go and feeling like I’m in ‘Hotel Silver-Haired’ is just great right now for me.

I do have a concern however. I seem to be turning into my grandma. She was a dear lady who lived her later years in a lovely, older residential area of Calgary and she people-watched. I remember going for tea (6 bags in the pot; she was English), and she would tell us all about the neighbors. She knew their comings and goings and general habits, even though she had never met any of them. I used to wonder about that, but now I understand.

I am not here all that much with working full-time, but when I am home, it is easy, with my big windows, ahem, to watch the comings and goings and recognize the routines. There is the lady who walks at least once and often twice a day who completely covers up from the sun: broad-brimmed hat, dark glasses, long sleeves, long pants, and away she goes.

There is the gentleman who leaves at 6:30 in the morning and does not return until very late in the day. He always has a coffee in his hand and looks too old to be working full-time. He has a slight hunch and is quick to a brief conversation.

There is the man who paces the foyer and the hallways and is eager for a verbal interlude.

There are the card players who come out from all three buildings at the same time on the same evenings and head to the club house. They join together as they meet on the way down the communal road.

The odd things include the skateboarders who are young and ride through the complex, over the speed bumps after 11 pm, ignoring the signs, “Private Property” and don’t seem to know or care that they wake people up.

And lately, there has been a cat who comes into the complex area, which is unusual because it is totally pet free. You cannot even visit with a pet, as there are signs everywhere. He seems to enjoy running around the area after dark and perching on the edge of patios before disappearing into the night. He either can’t read or is a bit of a rebel.

But last night was really intriguing. I was unable to sleep, as sometimes happens, so at 1:15 a.m. I was at the computer, researching RVs (don’t ask), when a white half-ton parked right out front and two younger-than-fifty people came into my building. Did they ring to get in or have the special security key? Strange time to arrive for a visit.

An hour later, they were driving away with what looked like a recliner chair and some other items in the back. I only looked because it was stranger still to hear someone leaving in the middle of the night. This is a quiet place where the residents are in bed very early. Yikes! I have become my grandmother! At least now I understand her.

So my challenge to you, dear reader, is to complete the story.

“x and x arrived at the seniors’ condo, precisely at 1:15 a.m. Slamming the truck doors, they both walked to the entrance and . . . “


6 + 3 = 9. Today I had a perfect ninth birthday.

Combine a gentle, blue-eyed, blond almost five year old with an exuberant, 5 and a half year old whose hair and eyes are the color of dark chocolate, and sit them side by side in a worse-for-wear 2004 Cavalier to drive across Calgary to Tommy Ks, and everyone knows what you get – bathroom talk in the back seat. It starts with farts and goes downhill from there with giggles and ‘I can do better than that’ comments swinging back and forth.

The birthday girl in the front has the fleeting thought, “What WAS I thinking?” as she misses the turn off Deerfoot and has to backtrack to 130 Ave. (Jack is staying with her for a few days and she has picked up Michael so the boys can spend the afternoon together.)

Upon arrival, the who-can-ever-tell-them-apart cousins make a dash into a world of fun, and Nana makes a bee line for the soft chairs in the front row where parents and grandparents sit and keep a watchful eye on their youngsters as they work their way through the maze of kid-happy things to do.

‘It’s my birthday and I’ll do what I want to’, so Nana checks FB messages on her Ipod, checks her phone for text messages, pulls out a new book on ‘how to write a book’ by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum series – awesome), locates her lime-green Ipod Shuffle containing a zillion songs from a generation ago, plugs in and zones out.

Occasionally, she glance around to see where the ‘twins’ are before jotting down some notes, adjusting music volume and heading into the next chapter. The boys return periodically for cold drinks and snacks, then breathlessly run off again.

Nearly four hours later, the boys are sweat-soaked, worn out, and ready to go home. Again, Nana thinks, as she madly adjusts the air conditioning in the car, “What WAS I thinking?”

Bathroom talk picks up where it left off with the addition of a tickle or two and we head to Michael’s house to be greeted by three year old Laura. She runs up the steps, singing “Happy Birthday Nana!” and “It’s a secret. I can’t tell you! It is a ladybug cake!” as she gives Nana’s legs a bear hug. “Nice,” says mom, Carmen.

Dinner is a delight and the crowning glory is the ladybug cake with three candles, one representing each grandchild. The little ones sing in unison and with enthusiasm, and Nana tries hard to stop time forever at that moment when her throat closes up and she feels the swell of gratitude in her heart for such a blessed life.

Three grand puffs of air extinguish the candles and requests are made for “an eye”, “the icing side”, “a second piece”, etc.

Because cake is just an excuse to eat icing, it disappears within minutes and the kids are off to play for a while.

When it is time to go, Laura jumps behind Nana on the couch and wrapping herself around her neck, says, “I am a backpack!” as she hangs on for dear life.

Jack’s birthday is in 13 days so he gets presents from his cousins and we head back to Okotoks, kids blowing kisses and Nana honking the horn and annoying the neighbors. (You don’t turn 9 that often. Well, after 50 I guess you do, once every 10 years.)

Every year a birthday is different. Each unique celebration of another notch on the belt of life is a present to be unwrapped and savored.

Sometimes a birthday arrives during a fine time in life when all is well with nary a worry and other times, well, let’s just say ‘challenging’ is a polite description of those other times.

Either place is okay to be if it includes the gift of children. Michael, Jack and Laura are Nana’s gifts that ‘keep on giving’. They give joy and laughter and love beyond description.

To sum it up, when Jack asked for toast this morning and Nana said, “What should you say, Jack?” he replied, “Can I have toast PLEASE, Nana Banana?” He grinned from ear to ear and Nana laughed. Happy 9th birthday, if I do say so myself…

So, I’ve lived in the home (condo for over 50s) for over a month now, thinking I really had it figured out. Everyone’s lights are off by 9 pm and some start walking the neighborhood as early as 5 am. The road thru the 3 buildings is private, (says ‘no thru road’) and the speed bumps keep the senior lead foots from gunning it in and out.

People are friendly, and when I arrive home after a grueling day in the right-brained work-world, I am greeted in the hallways then I enter my oasis of serenity, fresh air and complete calm.

Yesterday I worked a 14 hour day and could hardly wait to get back to ‘the home’. After a hard night and several painkillers, I awoke at 5 am this morning, drank fresh coffee, then went back to sleep on the couch.

The cool air was waltzing in thru the screened windows and I fell sound asleep.

Then it happened. I started hearing the sound of clomping feet and they were getting closer and closer, louder and louder. It must have been a weird dream because Clydesdales did not frequent ‘the home’, so I willed myself to stay asleep. A few minutes later, I heard them again, getting closer and closer until they were right outside my window and then they faded out again. Okay. I didn’t care what it was. I was tired and I was not going to wake up and look out the window. On about the 4th time, I had to.

Wagons of people with balloons and cotton candy were touring past my windows every few minutes. Then I heard the sound of a fellow talking into a mic. Oh joy! There was a stampede breakfast, hoedown, cowpoke and hay-chewing event happening a block away by Safeway.

All the years I lived in Calgary I stayed away from the stampede. Never liked it, never set foot at it, but it found me here in the Ok corral, at the home, where I thought I was safe amongst the retired middle class.

It lasted all day. All Day. Those poor horses and two wagons kept coming past every few minutes for hours. The fellow on the mic was yee-hawing and I could only imagine the hat and boots and checkered shirt with snaps that he must have been wearing.

I had a miserable day. It was too hot to close the windows so I had to let the western ‘you-all’ invade my space all day. Finally, finally it ceased, only to be replaced by a second event at the George. My pub, my place for Caesars that I had always wanted to live within walking distance of was hosting another stampede event that started in the afternoon and went on to the evening. They had live music, cuuuuuntree music and mics and amps and …. They had it all.

By the time Michael and Laura arrived for their ‘two sleeps’ at Nana’s, the cow-roping and corn-chuckin was finally over.

The folks at the home sure loved it though. They were out there in herds with cowboy hats and cotton candy and were really enjoying the whole western action.

But for me, all I can say is humbug.

If this means I am going to be visited by the spirits of stampede past, present and future, I can only hope one of them is John Wayne ’cause I think I would not mind that too much.

All is quiet as I type this. The wee ones have finally settled and there is not a sound outside. Lights are out at the home and I am going to catch a few winks now and hope that the stampede spirit of the present does not arrive in a wagon pulled by Clydesdales. They leave such a mess…

Today I turned 8. When you pass fifty, you get to add the two numbers together. Eight has a nice sound, especially since my actual birth year was before the invention of colored televisions.

Best birthdays. Hmmm. How do you rate them? Most gifts? Best party? Longest celebration? Maybe. But really, which ones leave you with the warm fuzzies and stories to tell of love and laughter?

Today I turned 8. Michael, age 4 and Laura age 2, picked out a princess cake for me and it was chocolate with chocolate icing. They sang to me and Laura blew out the candles before the song was over. We all laughed. Michael blew out the candles on the second lighting.

The day started with my youngest son Dean phoning from Hong Kong and talking for over half an hour. He had to stay up very late (time change) to make this call.  Then son David called to wish me a great day. I had an appointment to see a specialist about my thyroid condition so had to take the day off work. (It is nice to not work on your 8th birthday.) After a two-hour appointment, I met son Jim for sushi. Later we picked up the kids from day care and Laura came running to greet me with a hug and a birthday card she had made for me. It had a photo of her on the front from when she fell asleep in the high chair at Eva’s house. Eva, her caregiver, is a lovely lady who thought this would be a nice thing to do today for Nana. For supper we had hot dogs on the grill, chocolate birthday cake and strawberries, white wine and Nana got gift cards from Itunes. Woo hoo!

Little ones excited about my birthday, sushi and a grilled hot dog, a princess on a chocolate cake – what more could an eight year old want on her birthday?  Lots and lots of birthday greetings from friends on Facebook. Perfect.

Absolutely the most perfect birthday, thank you.

Intrepid woman is not a princess and wears crocs instead of glass slippers (according to Michael) but feels like a princess today. Proof that you do not have to kiss a frog to become a princess.

Time marches on, with or without my approval. Ten days have gone by since my return from Agde and it seems more like a month. The good news, to me, is that I am a different person since returning and that has not gone away. The travel experience did change me and in my humble opinion, for the better.

Strangely, I feel less materialistic now. “Things” do not seem so important. I want to simplify even more than I did when I moved here last year. I feel surrounded by clutter and it uses up oxygen. I need a simpler, brighter space that includes an area to create.

It is hard to give notice to my landlords though. It will be difficult for them to find a new renter with the place currently for sale. They are a nice young couple and it is quiet out here on the ranch, but being in a basement without a lot of direct light is not working for me anymore. I liked it originally when I wanted/needed a safe haven to come home to, but now I want sunshine and large windows and fresh air.

My main dilemma is that nothing is happening with my church in the Pass. Real estate has come to a standstill there. I am looking at another winter of owning the building there and renting here.  I guess I will have to make it my winter project to paint some rooms there and work on the basement to improve the building.  It would be more preferable to get it sold and find a light, bright place to live in here, but I have no control over the when of this.

Ah, but there is a reason for everything and there is right timing for all things. One of my best lessons in life has been one of patience because it is all in the timing. The right people will come along to buy my building when my next place becomes available, and moving will be another tiring but exciting adventure. In the meantime, I will enjoy my trips to the Pass, my little getaway where I can soak up the sun, summer and winter, play my music at rock concert level and enjoy the always fresh mountain air. My art supplies are organized in a large tackle box to go back and forth when I have my days off to go there to play.

I received a ‘proof’ of the Okotoks fall community guide today and found several classes to sign up for, including learning French!

I also have an idea for a book using my door photos and I want to start creating some Christmas gifts. Life is good and my creative side is ready to play on a regular basis. I did not check work emails after hours even once during the last ten days and that felt so good! I work hard when at work, but work on not thinking about my job once I am on “Jan time” after 5. Each day it gets easier to do this.

In a few hours it will be my birthday, again.  They seem to be getting closer together! This year I am marking the day with an appointment at the Foothills Hospital in the morning to deal with the lumpies in my thyroid. I have requested hotdogs on the grill for supper at Carmen and Jim’s, and Michael is picking out a cake for me. Last year it was cupcakes shaped like a very green dinosaur and it was delightful. He was so excited to show it to me, so I cannot wait to share his and Laura’s enthusiasm when I arrive tomorrow evening.

I need to think of something to do in the afternoon – maybe the zoo or Heritage Park or . . .

I will give it some thought tomorrow when I get up. I had better get to bed now as I am going to be a whole year older in 15 minutes, which means I definitely need my beauty sleep tonight. In my dreams . . .

In twelve hours I will get ready for my first day back at work. My down time in the Pass has been peaceful and restful, but is now over. Tomorrow is Day One of my new Life Challenge – Keeping My Authentic Self.

I have been drawing and listening to music and looking at my France photos this afternoon. “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson” just started playing on the stereo – a glass of French wine to toast that, please!

Highlights of France for me:

* Eiffel Tower – a splendid monument to man’s creativity; it stands proudly above all others in the city of Paris.

* Musée d’Orsay  – where I bowed to the dancers of Degas. His work humbled me and quieted my spirit while it caused my heart to race. My best meal in France was in the restaurant at this museum with Lyndsey.

*Agde – a historical city of charm and gypsies and doors; a city of cafes, plays, music, art and markets.

* Three weeks with David, Lyndsey and wee Jack – irreplaceable and forever in my heart!

We choose our lives, but sometimes we lose perspective along the way when it becomes too busy with responsibilities and duties and “have to’s”. As the days rush by and turn into months, then years, it can all get away from us. How do we change this? How do we yell “Stop the world, I want to get off!” when we have created such an interwoven web?

I just did stop my world for three glorious weeks, and now that I have returned, I can see how easy it is to fall back into the whirling dervish I have created for myself. I need to work because I require a roof over my head, gas for my car and shoes for my feet. What I don’t need is to be caught up so much in my work that it becomes my life. Before my trip to France, I ate, slept and talked about my job 20 hours a day. I made excuses for not seeing friends and not taking time to read a book or just sit and breath in and out. I lost myself. This has been my pattern for a long time, rushing through life at break-neck speed, trying not to feel my inner emotions and ignoring my body’s desire for relaxation and down time. I would snatch a day, here or there, but always with guilt in my mind that there must be something I should be doing related to my job or other responsibilities.

I do love my job. It is a wonderous thing to be able to say that I get paid to do something that is fun and creative and connected to kids, art and history. Of all my careers through my life, and I have had many, working for the past 44 years, teaching and what I am doing now are the two most rewarding jobs I have ever had. I want to continue, but I want to have balance. Achieving that will be my great challenge and it must be tackled starting the day after tomorrow.

On Tuesday, I will return to a hundred emails, several programs have to be created, advertised and finalized as quickly as possible, a publication needs completion, and I will  find out what I have missed in the 3 weeks I was away. The difference from before my trip – I want to stop working at 5 o’clock on Tuesday and every day thereafter. I want to put all my thoughts and energies towards my wee grandchildren who I have not seen for nearly a month, get an outfit and a gift for a wedding next weekend and call several people to set up dinners and visits with over the next couple of weeks. I want to start a series of paintings based on the Doors of Agde. I want to walk everyday. How do I do all this when I work 9 to 5, five days a week?

One way is to remember Paris and Agde. When life starts to drown me I will look at my photos and take myself back to those magical places. Now that I have found my authentic self again, I do not want to lose me. The child in me who delights in taking photos of French doors, moving a fine tip pen over the surface of quality drawing paper and putting my feelings into words through the keyboard does not want to get lost again.

I want to have honest conversations with those I care about and really listen to what they are saying. I want to laugh a lot and hug a lot. I want to be that girl on the swing in the back yard in Marda Loop in Calgary who talked to God and felt her spirit rise above her and look down at herself and her world one afternoon. At this moment I can smell the apple blossoms on the big tree near the back door and feel the warm air on my legs and face as I swing higher and higher. There is no pressure. There is no guilt. There is no regret. There is just a young girl living in the pureness of the moment.

As an adult, I have felt that same pureness of the moment when involved in the creation of  a painting or working with clay, mache or stained glass. The right brain world where your creative centre lives, does not judge or over analyze or stress or think too much. It feels and explores, and when in that place, time is forgotten.

That will be my next trip. I am choosing to travel into that place where colors and textures and shapes work together to soothe the soul.

But right now, at this moment, I need a nap. It is all about priorities.

I am home. Laundry is done, unpacking is mostly done (throwing away BIG suitcase, will never travel like that again). I have had 8 hours sleep, my French coffee, two ibuprofen, and cut my hair very short. All this since arriving near midnight last night!

It is nice to have a dryer again for my clothes, feel the chill of Alberta weather and living in a basement suite, enjoy the quiet of being out-of-town on the ranch, sleeping in my own bed, drinking from my favorite mug, and looking around at my ‘stuff’.

But I miss France – the beauty of the buildings, heat and humidity, exuberant people, sleeping on the roof deck under the stars, the art, music and culture, walking the many narrow streets with camera in one hand and water container in other, eating at the outdoor cafes late in the evening, living and loving with Jack, Lyndsey and David.

It was the perfect holiday. I came home with a calmness in my soul and a determination to make some quality changes in my life. I came home content.

Paula said it exactly right: I found the authentic me again.

Wed. July 28th, 3:06 pm.

We leave at 11 a.m. tomorrow on a high-speed train for Geneva.

Today the temperature is well into the 30s and there is no cool breeze. It is very hot, but we are used to it now. I will never complain when it reaches 28 degrees in Alberta again. That will seem very moderate. Also, it is very humid here and that makes a huge difference. It is like the air kisses your skin and hair. You never feel like it is harsh or dry. It reminds me of Hawaii when I was 28. I stepped off the plane onto the runway and felt like the air was kissing my cheek. That was quite the trip. I went with my mom and two aunts and I was recently divorced. The boys stayed with their dad and my dad paid for me to go to Hawaii.

It was January. I wore a ski jacket to the airport and handed it over before boarding. Getting off the plane in Maui is something I will always remember. It was so hot and humid, a lot like France right now. Funny stories about that little trip – the three ladies shut down every day at noon to watch soap operas in the hotel for a few hours. Imagine being in Hawaii and sitting in a hotel room watching ‘soaps’! I read books in my room instead of going out on my own because I was very timid back then. Also, they would fight over the bill at every meal, to the point of actually tearing it as they pulled it away from each other. When I suggested we just each pay for our own as I found this public display a tad embarrassing, they looked at me in disbelief. Too funny. I can look back now and laugh. I thought they were all very ‘old’ at the time but they were actually right around fifty. I was just very young at 28. Here I am at 61 and I would not dream of watching a ‘soap’ in the middle of the day in Paris. Actually, I would not do it at home either, ha! ha!

The concert last night on the water was awesome. The entertainer was simply named ‘Dave’ and thousands came to hear him. He is well-known in France. There is entertainment here all summer, day and evening, including art, craft and drama programs in the parks for children. I could come here and teach programs as that is what I do in Okotoks  – hmm….

All the entertainment is at no cost to the visitors and is paid for by the town. It is well-organized and we have been most impressed by the smoothness of setting up, taking down, dealing with the crowds, etc.

The last two nights I have slept on the roof deck under the stars. Awesome! Once it gets cool during the night, I burrow a little deeper under the sheet, but love the break from the heat. The best part is waking up early with the sunrise. The sky is so bright blue that it is impossible to sleep. That way I can shower, dress and head out with my camera. What joy in that! I have over 160 photos of doors to bring back. I could never tire of taking photos here.

If my church ever sells and if I ever get to buy another place, I will most certainly decorate it in shabby French Provincial style. I love the tiles and metal work and bright colors, truly an artist’s inspiration.

This is likely my last post from Agde, sigh! It has been an awesome experience here and I have totally loved France. My wish is that I return home and do not go back to being the person I was before I left. My dreams are bigger now and my right brain is ready to get to work. I will have to find another place to live quite soon as I need some studio place. A basement suite is a place to retreat, not a place to create.

Total pictures taken to date – just over 2,000. I have lived in the moment and stopped to take pictures as well, the best of both scenarios.



I know the instant I am back home that this will all seem a dream, as if it never happened. That is always the result of being in another world and then returning to your real one. Ah, but we are all makers of our fate and I hope once home I do not lose the urge to stir mine up a little.

I took my “Doors” album down as I have an art idea for my photos and do not want anyone to borrow my photos on FB. On line it is open to all to help themselves, but I want to keep these.  I can’t wait to work with my photos when I get back home!

I have a friend who has travelled a lot over the last 20 plus years and her family feels she has not secured her future in her senior years. I believe she has. The memories will accompany her wherever she settles at this point in her life and the flavor of her past will remain vibrant. She has achieved the best education there is.

Personally, my four years at university do not compare at all to my 3 weeks in France, 2 weeks in China and 1 week a few years ago in Hong Kong. These trips have been my real education. They have helped me learn about myself and see that the world is not the Crowsnest Pass or Okotoks in Alberta. I feel very blessed to have been given these opportunities and it is because of my 3 sons that I have had this education. Funny, I raised them and stressed the importance of their education in their formative years and they have shown me the value of travel as my education near my senior years. Merci beaucoup Jim, David and Dean.

Historically Speaking

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