Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Magic Laundry Basket

This afternoon the sun came out after a brief rain shower.  After the grey skies of the past few days, caused by all the forest fire smoke, the blue sky and sun energized me to get off the couch and go to the mall to purchase a new laundry basket.  The old one split as I was taking it downstairs the other day with a full load of laundry inside it.  I lost my balance trying to hang onto everything and nearly fell down the stairs.  Thanking God I didn't fall and break more bones.  

I should have gone straight to WallyWorld and purchased the basket as there is nothing in that store to tempt me into extra buying.  However, since the mall is closer I went there instead.  Having had a fairly large lunch I knew I needed exercise so I walked all around the mall before I went into Canadian Tire and bought the basket.  

Lo and behold, when I got the basket back to the car it was filled with small bags of new clothes from some of the ladies' wear retailers in the mall!!!  My o my....a magic laundry basket!  How delightful...AND all the clothes were clearance priced so they didn't need to feel guilty about coming home with me and having my husband notice them inside the basket when I tried to sneak it past him as he was watching a favourite movie ("Reds 2") on tv.

I have decided that a magic laundry basket is a wonderful addition to my home.  Yah!!  You too can find a magic laundry basket at Canadian Tire for $3.99, BUT it is only magic if that Canadian Tire is attached to a shopping mall. 

Trust me, I know...........

Well....Staying Out of It Lasted All of Three Hours.....

My parents called today.  They have worked and reworked their finances and have come up with an affordable plan to move to the seniors' facility of their choice.  

We got my very logical and experienced husband to get on the line as well and my parents walked us through their research and their conclusions.  Based on whatever happens with their tour of the place in 2 weeks time and on the answers to their many questions, it may actually be possible for them after all.  Thank you Jesus!!!

I demanded to speak to my mother alone and grilled her and grilled her some more about her feelings.  Other than the cooking/baking she is not really ready to give up, she had no other objections. So, I took some time to explain to her that I would be happy to come to Calgary and teach her how to bake cookies and muffins, scones and small fruit loaves in her toaster oven that she will be allowed to have in the facility if she does move.  That excited her and she said that would take care of the last of her own objections about moving.  I also asked if she didn't think Dad would flourish far better being surrounded by other people and new friends, instead of laying around in their present condo alone most of the time, depressed and miserable.  She admitted that yes it would be good for him and also that they would both enjoy the many entertainments provided in the social room.  Hallelujah!!!

Then I talked to Dad alone and asked him if he could cope better with mom continuing to take buses around the city on her own if he was surrounded by the folks in the facility instead of at home alone worrying about her safety.  He said it would be a huge load off his mind.

Okay then....IF they can get what they need from the sale of their condo then I will do all I can to support them in this move.  That is my prayer...price and timing of sale for their condo in a depressed market.  We sold our house years ago in the worst real estate market in about 30 years in our area and still ended up with exactly the dollar amount we needed and the sale went through at the exact last possible second to make our next move work out.  I can only pray Mom and Dad will also do well enough to make their dreams of moving come true.

I feel so much better. Thank you guys too for praying for my family.

What Does An Only Child Do??

My parents have hit "ludicrous speed" in their quest to explore seniors' living possibilities.  Dad is determined he is going to "look after your mother" before he dies by trying valiantly to move them into a progressive care seniors' facility they can't really afford and that my mother, should dad actually die first, will be forced out of once his government pensions cease to come in.  

Mom cannot stand up to him, to make her own needs known. She never has been able to.  She is not ready to go to any sort of place where she can no longer cook and enjoy her favourite baking hobby.  She is aware of the horrendous drop in condo prices and how little they will be able to get for their place if they put it up for sale on the current real estate market.  She is aware that if he does die before her she will not be able to stay in the place he has chosen for her to be looked after in.  He is also technically aware of this fact and yet is no longer able, mentally, to grasp what he would be doing to her future.....or, knowing dad, maybe he can and is trying to punish her should she outlive him.  With dad it is pretty difficult to know when his mind is clear but nasty and when he is not with it enough to be completely rational.

In the meantime I am caught in the middle...each one pleading a separate case and expecting me to be an advocate for that case with the other one.  I, whose input and assistance has never been wanted nor accepted, is now expected to solve their present life crisis.

I do not know what to do, what to say to either of them.  So I have chosen to step out of the equation for now.  They go for a tour of their preferred and unaffordable facility in the middle of September and so we shall see what happens as a result of that visit.

There is certainly no reason to assume she is going to outlive him and that is what I can't get through to either of them.  The stress in her life is going to do her in before his heart problems finish his earthly life, but not one thought for the future is being spent on this possible scenario.

Well, that is my rant, my venting for today.  I feel better just writing it all down to peruse at my own leisure.  

As with everything else, I will commit the situation to daily prayer and see what God does with it.  So far in life most everything has ended up working out for the best interests of both my parents once the dust has settled on their every stressful situation.  I have to assume that will be the result this time as well.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Whew! HOT!!

I admit to truly enjoying the return to super hot weather the past couple of days.  Today we were back in the +30C range once again and o my, how lovely it was.  It is still rather warm this late in the evening, 10pm, so the windows are open, the fans running for the night and the white noise from the fan will be just enough to take the edge off the rock music pounding in the park.

All the campers are safely home, raving about what a wonderful time they had, even though it was such a short trip.  My husband and his friend from here have decided they are going to fly to the mountains and back from now on. That long drive back here is so brutally boring and monotonous, they both feel they just can't face it again next year.  Flying to the mountains and back plus the costs associated with the camping are not that much more than a week long canoe trip in the north country by the time the added costs of rentals and extra food are added in.

For myself, I had the most lovely afternoon tea time with my new friend.   Hopefully we can get together again sometime.  Her husband likes the same Indian restaurant that my husband enjoys so there is hope of us going out for dinner some time once the three of them get readusted to their return to work this coming week.  All three of them so enjoy their jobs and I admit I am envious. I can't think of one job I have ever had that I enjoyed enough to want to continue to do it for any length of time.  Isn't that pathetic?  I can't believe how much I enjoy being at home, doing home body stuff, taking care of my husband's health issues.  Somewhere along the line I got caught up in some kind of "space/time continuum" and returned to the 1950's as far as my interests and lifestyle.  

Two more days with my husband.  YIPPEE!!  Monday night we will celebrate the end of our holiday time together with our weekly Monday night date, but will go somewhere extra special.  Tomorrow I have no idea what we will do.  Maybe we will go to our friends' church....if we wake up in time....if we are feeling up to it....if we decide we really want to go....if....if....if.....

Happy Sunday in two more hours everyone.

Men in Tents

The men will be home closer to dinner tonight than we thought.  I am glad they had a good trip despite forest fire smoke and some rain, but I can't help hoping they won't get home so early that I can't get together with one of the other wives for our planned tea time later this afternoon. haha  I think we can have our tea and I can get back with at least a half hour to spare...I hope. haha  Making new friends here is high on my priority list and this gal is working full time and then some.  If we don't get together today I don't know when there will be another chance.  I need to make as many new friends here in the city as possible before the snow and ice settle in and getting around anywhere becomes more difficult.  There is something about winter that zaps peoples' motivation to go anywhere they don't absolutely need to go, so it can be a much lonelier time of year.

So, here's to a happy tea time and a safe arrival home for our guys.

Dickensian Description

From Charles Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit":

"It was a small tyranny for a respectable wind to go wreaking its vengeance on such poor creatures as the fallen leaves, but this wind happening to come up with a great heap of them just after venting its humour on the insulted Dragon, did so disperse and scatter them that they fled away, pell mell, some here, some there, rolling over each other, whirling round and round upon their thin edges, taking frantic flights into the air, and playing all manner of extraordinary gambols in the extremity of their distress.  Nor was this enough for its malicious fury:  for not content with driving them abroad, it charged small parties of them and hunted them into the wheel wright's saw-pit, and below the planks and timbers in the yard and, scattering the sawdust in the air, it looked for them underneath, and when it did meet with any, whew! how it drove them on and followed at their heels!  The scared leaves only flew the faster for all this, and a giddy chase it was:  for they got into unfrequented places, where there was no outlet, and where their pursuer kept them eddying round and round at his pleasure; and they crept under the eaves of hosues, and clung tightly to the sides of hay-ricks, like bats; and tore in at open chamber windows, and cowered close to hedges; and in short went anywhere for safety.  But the oddest feat they achieved was, to take advantage of the sudden opening of Mr. Pecksniff's front-door, to dash wildly into his passage; whither the wind following close upon them, and finding the back-door open, incontinently blew out the lighted candle held by Miss Peckshiff, and slammed the front-door against Mr. Pecksniff who was at that moment entering, with such violence, that in the twinkling of an eye he lay on his back at the bottom of the steps.  Being by this time weary of such trifling performances, the boisterous rover hurried away rejoicing, roaring over moor and meadlow, hill and flat, until it got out to sea, where it met with other winds similarly disposed, and made a night of it."

This is what I have been missing from modern novels:  intricately written descriptions of the simplest of natural events and laced with good humour.  Thank you Mr. Dickens!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Last of the Summer Rock Concerts in the Park....From My Mouth to God's Ears!

I can tell it is the weekend because of the pounding drums and bleating guitars drifting in from the park across the road.  It is a huge park and likely the rock band that is playing this weekend is as far from our home as you can get, but the winds carry the sound over here.  Hopefully this is the final weekend without sleep before my husband returns to work on Tuesday.  Maybe I will luck out tomorrow night and the horrendous cover of stinky forest fire smoke will shut down the bands...oooh, that sounds so mean, but I am soooo tired.  Don't want to begrudge other people their fun.

I admit I am slightly crabby after staying up until 2am watching the rather lighthearted 2004 movie version of Thackeray's "Vanity Fair", starring a very young looking Reese Witherspoon. It isn't a great movie, but I so enjoyed relaxing after my day in Moose Jaw and somehow the fact that this version, filled with tv advertisments, is over 3 hours in length escaped me.  The city cement pouring crew showed up outside my bedroom window just after 6am, so I can't be accused of sleeping in after my late night.

Today was a good day despite the lack of sleep, but my plans for the day ended up changing drastically.  My first email of this morning ended with my assertion that, "I AM going to clean this house today. I AM I AM I AM!"  Yeah....not so much.........

I decided to go to the grocery store soon after it opened at 8am in order to avoid the weekend crowds and the empty shelves that often occur on Fridays.   After I paid my bill at the store I realized I had no money in my purse leftover other than the loony I used to release a grocery cart from its chains.  So, instead of going straight home I drove across the city to my bank to get some cash: another half hour or more delay on starting the clean up at home.

As I unpacked the mountain of  fresh produce I purchased today in order to take full advantage of some PC bonus point offers, I discovered a small disaster in the vegetable bin in the 'fridge.  Stuffed into the back of the large bin was a torn plastic bag with 3 moldy, weeping, seeping old carrots inside.  The liquid they generated had leaked out of the bag and was ahered in a sticky, slimy mass all over the bottom of the bin, stuck to other vegetables....oooh, it was just awful. Out of the 'fridge came the bin. Out of the bin came all the vegetables that were stored in there. I rewashed all the veggies, then sterilized the bin after washing it thoroughly.  I repacked the produce in the bin along with the new purchases, but when I went to put it back into its place in the bottom of the fridge, I noticed something sticky on the bottom of the refrigerator where the bin rests.  O dear....something on a 'fridge shelf had tipped over a couple of days ago and I had righted it as soon as I discovered it, but I hadn't realized it had dripped part of its contents down the back wall of the refrigerator and under the veggie bin.  Rats!  Down onto my hands and aching, protesting knees I went to scrub everything out.  Of course, after discovering sticky drips there, I had to take everything out of the refrigerator and wipe the entire interior down just in case there were spills elsewhere I hadn't noticed.  The inside didn't actually need much cleaning, as it turned out, but at least now it is done.  I was now about 90 minutes behind on my original cleaning schedule.

As I tried to cram the bin back into its space in the 'fridge, I realized  how overly zealous I had been in purchasing so many fresh veggies, because there were too many to fit in there.  Our refrigerator is rather small and there was no room to put any of the leftover produce onto the shelves, so...what to do???  I pulled out the vegetables that had been in the 'fridge the longest and decided if I diced them they would be a delicious addition to spaghetti sauce.  So then I ended up spending the better part of an hour making sauce, slicing and dicing tomatoes, garlic, cauliflower, 3 different colours of peppers, zucchini, onions, for what seemed like forever.  Oh, and among the veggies that I thought should be used right away were 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, so I washed them and boiled them up for later use.  Oh, and then there was the package of large pork chops I had planned to cook for dinner tonight...well...why not just cook them up as well.  Then, as it was nearly lunch time, I used up the remains of a head of lettuce, a somewhat elderly tomato and the tag end of a cucumber to make a salad to go with my lunch.  Hmmmm....what to have with the salad?  I decided that it would be easier on the rest of the contents of the refrigerator if I removed the remains of a cooked chicken, chopped it up and made a rather thick sandwich.  Yum!  AND it freed up space in the 'fridge for a few cans of carbonated water.

By the time I did all this, ate my lunch, washed and dried all the dishes, pots and pans from my cooking venture and cleaned up the kitchen floor of the pepper seeds, garlic ends and minute cauliflower florets that flew around the place as a result of my frantic preparation, it was after 1pm.  

Yes, I still had all afternoon to clean the place, but I was so tired I couldn't face it.  My "I AM I AM I AM" turned into "I AM'T I AM'T I AM'T!!"  In my defense, had I cleaned it on Wednesday right after my husband left the effort would have been worth it for a few sanitary days alone.  However, since at some late hour tomorrow evening (all ready!!?!!) my husband will be coming home, dragging his filthy camp gear all over the place until it can be cleaned and put away the next day, I decided there was no point in over taxing myself by cleaning and then being frustrated only 24 hours later by seeing all my hard work ruined within a few short minutes.  How's that for giving myself an excuse to be lazy just because of being tired?? I also happily remembered my husband telling me, just before he boarded the plane, not to worry about housework but to have fun with my friends instead.  There....what more reason did I need to forget about doing any more work, right??  

I spent the rest of the afternoon resting, reading, and opening yet another present received this week from a friend: beautiful wool winter hats she knit for us to wear.  Why am I being so blessed this week with wonderful, loving gifts?  I am not complaining, I am reveling in the joy of receiving.

I did get some tidying up done this evening so the place will not be a total wreck when my husband gets back. Yay me! hohoho!!  

Any thoughts though that I was tempted to have about getting up early tomorrow morning and getting everything spic and span around here has been scuttled by the knowledge I won't be able to get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning when the rockers are silenced and by the fact that I now have an invitation to go out for tea tomorrow.....there, having fun with my friends as my husband asked me to do.  I am a most obedient wife.......


Crazy, Lazy Hazy Days of Summer

Despite the sun going down later in the evenings now and that dusky hue to the mid day air, summer returned today.  It was hot, the air was still and the sun shone brilliantly.  It was a perfect day for a short road trip to Moose Jaw.

I had a great time over lunch with one friend and a great afternoon and dinner with another set of friends.  I was able to take in the second hand book sale put on by the local Humane Society.  The entire day was pleasant and it was capped off by discovering a telephone message from my husband letting me know all the campers are safe and having a fabulous time. 

After I listened to the message and checked what time it had come in, I had a short fit of the giggles. It was left on my phone between 11:30am and noon and the first part of the message was that the men had just finished their breakfast and were planning a short afternoon hike.  Yup, it is definitely The Old Guys camping trip. hahaha  For my husband, mountain climbing and even day hiking has meant a 4am rise, a quick breakfast of energy bars and cold left over tea and a summit by early afternoon.  Not this trip!!! hahaha  I continue to be grateful for the decision to leave the canoes behind.  If this group can't finish eating breakfast until nearly lunchtime then this trip is for resting, not climbing.  See how the mighty have.....AGED!!  I find it hysterical.

Adding to the hysteria is a photo one of the guys sent to his wife this evening.  It is my husband and another fellow standing on a small rockpile, several THOUSAND feet below the summit of the mountain it is attached to, hands on hips, legs apart, chests thrust out as if they had just reached the top of Mount Everest.  In reality they are likely thrilled beyond measure to have managed to get up just ever so slightly above the treeline!!!!  O how I laughed when I saw it.  

They are also surrounded by smoke from the Washington State fires, as we are here in Saskatchewan.  We have done well here, until this evening we have had only a slight haze and on odor, but tonight the smoke arrived with a vengeance.  By the time I left Moose Jaw, just before 7:30pm, the sun was blood red and the sky as dark as it generally would be about 90 minutes later.  As I drove back into the city I was most grateful I left well before the usual time of sundown because the smoke in the air was darkening the sky so much earlier.  I don't see well in twilight conditions and don't want to be driving at that time of night.  I just barely made it home as my night vision was becoming a problem.  Whew!!

Started my day off with a very cheery and encouraging call from an Ontario gal, so that set the tone for my day.  Tonight I had an equally cheery chat with my parents.  BUT I can hear the longing in my mother's voice to be able to afford to move to a seniors' centre like their other friends have done.  They thought they had figured out their finances over the past weekend and had come up with a way to afford the move....then they both remembered an expense they had completely forgotten about and the balloon was burst.  Sigh....after feeling higher than kites over the weekend with what they thought they had discovered, they had a difficult crash landing when reality hit.  My dad's forced retirement at the age of 43 destroyed his pension and they have to live pretty frugally.  My mom never had benefits at any of her the early days of her career even the big oil company she was employed by did not give women benefits.

One good thing came of their admitting to me what happened: we were finally able to have the discussion about them getting their names onto some waiting lists of places more affordable to them.  They are going to set up some tours over the next couple of months.  Thank you Lord!  If Dad doesn't get himself into one of these places WITH mom very soon, his physical health will not permit him to be accepted into them and he will end up in a nursing home, alone, without the intermediate step of seniors' living.  It seems that so many things that have been avoided by them for the past five years are finally making their way into the mindset and being acted upon.  I just pray it isn't too late.  Neither of them seems able to grasp that at some point there is a huge chance they will not be living together in the same place...sigh....getting old sucks!

In spite of the rather depressing news about their need to remain in their condo independently for longer than they wanted to, it was still a good, productive conversation.  It was good to talk to them and to hear their restored hope that perhaps, even though the first place they thought they could afford would not be possible, they are willing and even eager to keep looking. 

My son just sold a small painting!  Another possible sale arose for a second canvas. The beginning of the end of the last few months of famine conditions???  Let us hope!

Another good day today! Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Update on Prayer Request

I just received an update about Dave and Sandy, written by their son.  Please continue to pray:

Dad is being released tomorrow morning. My sister will be watching him for the first week or so to get him settled.
Mom. Sweet, beautiful mom. I have received many questions regarding her, and the only answer, is that there is no answer. She is in an indefinite coma. We truly do not know any more than that. These types of injuries are the most complex you can sustain, and we know so little about them. This will be a long healing process, and as such, Dad will need much support from all of you.
The last thing mom texted me was 'At the end of the day, what matters most is our character and integrity.' Pray. Believe. Hope. Speak nothing but life into her. She deserves nothing less than all our best.

What Is Wrong With Me????

My husband made his flight just fine this morning, no glitches of any kind and is now safely at his campsite in the Rockies with his friends.  The weather is perfect there and here, apart from a bit of haze from the Washington State forest fires that has drifted into our western provinces.  It is comfortably warm and very little wind to deal with. As long as there are no bears bothering the campers all should be well for the next few days.

My quarterly lab work went fine this morning.  I remembered to drink some water and do some exercises before I went so that my veins would be easier to find and it worked just great.

I reneged on my afternoon at the pool because of a badly infected spider bite, but I got some help with that and it will be fine in a few days.  Instead I ended up on the phone for a good old "chin wag" (thank you granny Lawson for that horrible expression I have never been able to forget...sigh...) with a dear friend that I would have missed out on if I had been in the pool.

So, overall the day was good, but I have found that my "first day" response to my husband's travel based absences is falling into a pattern of sloth and too many naps on the couch.  

I've mentioned before in this blog that lately, instead of my old pattern of leaping into the housework the second the door closes on my husband and then enjoying the fruits of my labours the whole time he is gone, I can't dredge up the energy to do much more than throw a small meal together and wash the dishes afterward.  Napping seems to have taken over at least some of that work time on the first days that he is gone.  Today, it happened again.  

Dealing with the spider bite and talking to my friend only took up about 90 minutes of my afternoon. The rest of the time I was sitting on the sofa dozing through some inane tv programmes, barely taking time to prepare a decent lunch or dinner for myself, thrilled that there was so much food in the 'fridge that was all ready cooked.  My disappointment about not getting to the pool lasted only as long as it took to fall asleep in an upright position on the living room couch.  

I managed to force myself to do MOST of my after dinner exercises this evening, but I really, truly, just want to crawl into bed and this incredibly late hour of 8pm!!!  

My husband's new job has me very stressed out.  I admit to struggling to deal with the effect his job has on my own life.  Just looking at his schedule each week is stressful enough, but knowing that by the end of the week a lot of the schedule will have been completely changed to accommodate problem situations and other events that arise spontaneously and need immediate attention, that the changes will either scuttle our plans for his days off, or my intended use for our vehicle, or both, leaves me feeling in a constant state of limbo.  I am not sure sometimes what or how to plan for myself or for us together, or exactly how to roll with some of the changes that occur very quickly.  I am not sure how much joy or passion I should invest in any personal plans we have made for his days off because the schedule we set up in advance is so rarely how things turn out.  I was hoping I would not have to return to my former State of Numb after we moved here, but maybe I will have to for awhile until I adjust. 

In other words, he has a stressful job that he is handling amazingly well, but I am the one who can't relax.  

I need to get a grip.  

I need to turn on my problem solving abilities once again.  I have always been so good at it, but I think subconsciously, I had it in the back of my mind that life would be a bit more stable here than it has been in the past. There was a lot of stability in our last parish and that was a very positive aspect of that place and that job.  In some ways it is here and I appreciate those things, but I need to get back into making every Plan A with an alternate Plan B and Plan C for those shocking upsets in scheduling that can occur.  It has been a few years now since I have been in this situation of not being able to count on any plans from one day to the next.

So, starting next week when my husband returns to work, I have to give up any attempts to let life continue to slide into chaos based on unrealistic hopes and expectations.  I need to get over the incredible stresses, both good and bad, that have come with this change of job and finding myself once again in a rental accommodation and get back to utilizing the gifts I have for dealing with the unexpected.

Not for me the life of stability...surely I should have that figured out by now!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

By the Way....

....did I mention that my new headphones are a charming, cheery, challenging, CHERRY RED??

Well, they are..........yummy!

Some Days Just Bless My Soul Even More Than Usual

Today has been one of those extra special days where all the world seems right and cheerful and wonderful.  It is a total "Pollyanna" day for me.

This morning I enjoyed my half hour walk to the Cornwall Centre to get my hair cut.  With blue skies, a slight breeze and reasonable temperatures outside, I was able to take my time, walking through a park and under huge old trees along the route.

The haircut turned out well and then I spent 90 minutes window shopping...yup, did find a pair of pants I have been looking at for awhile on sale for 40% off, so.....will be a good addition to my winter wardrobe.  The clothing stock in the stores right now is in that liminal stage between summer sale stock and the first of the fall and winter arrivals.  So far nothing in the new stock has really caught my eye, but then I doubt I need anything new.  All the clothes I purchased last winter should fit well and be new enough to enjoy for another winter or two or three.  Classic, traditional styles are rarely so out of style that they look goofy after a couple of years of wearing them.  This is a winter for saving money now, not spending it.

My husband walked down in time to meet me for lunch at Zam Zam Wraps.  He enjoyed a small bowl of their fabulously delicious lentil soup and a medium sized falafal wrap.  Good grief...if that was only the medium sized wrap how humongous are the large ones????  He so enjoyed his lunch and we topped off our meals (my usual sodium fest of a chicken shwarma salad) with 3 or 4 teeny cookies they make that are so low in sugar and so very tasty.  A small tray of a dozen is five dollars and they look like doll house sized cookies. O are they ever good!  A rare treat for me.

After lunch my husband noticed we had been sitting beside an electronics store and absolutely insisted I purchase a set of headphones for my electric keyboard.  The old ones finally packed it in around the time we moved.  He found some excellent ones on sale, an inexpensive adaptor to fit my board and so I came home buoyed up knowing I can play now to my heart's content while he is away and I won't bother the neighbours.

The most wonderful EXTRA treat was awaiting me when I arrived home.  There between the doors was a large parcel for me from my husband's sister:  a complete book of piano music for all the BEATLES' songs!!  YIPPEE!!!  What a huge treat, a pleasure to enjoy for months to come.  When we visited her in Edmonton a couple of weeks ago I was looking at hers, playing some of the songs and I mentioned I need to get off my lazy duff and order in some new books to play from.  She obviously heard me and has now surprised me with this amazing gift. WOW!!  I am so excited.......hehe, ya' think??

My husband is just checking into his flight that leaves tomorrow.  It is wonderful to be able to save time by checking in online.  I am so glad now he didn't have to leave today for a long drive.  He is feeling so much more rested today, so much more able to truly enjoy the campout and his buddies.  We have been in touch with the fellow who had the dates mixed up and he has decided he and his wife will take advantage of it to go away together for a few days.  That will be so lovely as she has just left her job and wants to do some planning for the future.  I am delighted for them.

Don't know what is going to happen for the rest of this day, but so far it has been beyond fun.  I admit I have enjoyed having my husband here for an extra day and a half this week.  I always miss him so badly when he returns to work after holidays.  Even this little townhouse seems empty when he is gone again.

Hope every one of you is having a good day/week like I am having.  Now, with all the plans I have made for myself for the rest of the week I HAVE to work in some housekeeping....aiiii yiiiii....the place is a mess. O well....summer will soon end and there will more time free to clean house than I even want to have free.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Last MInute Changes in Plans....aka Scrambling!!

So, today did not go as planned...and subsequently  neither will the rest of this week, particularly for my dear husband!  

About 1pm I was overcome by a strong sense of urgency that my husband should call his friend in Moose Jaw where he was to be staying tonight, to confirm that he was still expected.  O me, o my...what a firestorm that call set off.

Our dear friend has had about the most incredibly stressful life over the past couple of years that we have ever seen since we ourselves were in that position with our former business.  The upshot of today is that, incredibly, he has been under the impression that the camping trip was to be NEXT week.  The poor man!  There is no way he is free to go this week.  I can only imagine how upset he is with himself, but we understand it because in times past we have made similar stress based mistakes.  In the end it will all be for the best, of that we are certain based on past experiences of our own with the Lord and with loss of capacity for remembering details when under long term stress.  

For my husband things have worked out fine.  He admitted he is too tired to face such a long round trip drive and still enjoy the camp.  Our forgetful friend also did not need such a strenuous drive, in our opinion and I am glad for both of them they don't have to face it.  After some phone calls and replanning my husband was able to book himself a flight to Calgary Wednesday morning.   His friend from Olds will pick him up and they will drive out to the camp, stopping in Canmore to rebuy the groceries my husband is responsible for, for the group meals, but that he can't carry on the airplane.  That is fine with me as what he has all ready purchased will be enjoyed here at home and cut down on my grocery bill in September. haha

With one less fellow along, the others decided to leave the canoes out of the equation. They all had to admit that none of them feel sufficiently fit right now to be out battling the mountain lake winds since summer has held its unexpected stresses for all of them.  The Regina friend who is meeting them at the camp after being in Edmonton will now be able to drive my husband home after the camp.  It means my husband only has to face the long drive going one way and his friend will not have to drive back here all alone for that many hours. For the remaining campers it is all working out after all.

However, we are praying for our friend that will now be left behind.  May the Lord grant him some other unexpected, relaxing, pleasure next week on his week off.  May he forgive himself for for getting mixed up.  May he be able to join in next summer once again with the group for a good long canoe trip in the Churchill river system once again as it recovers from this year's forest fires.

All things really do work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called to His service and we pray our friend can see the outworking of that next week, so too this week's campers as they travel and enjoy the mountains in the great outdoors.

As for me, I still have our car to drive and don't have to change any of my own plans.  How cool is that?? One less stress today here. haha

Autumn Is In The Air

I first noticed it at 3pm yesterday when my husband and I walked over to the grocery store for his camp groceries.  Today I noticed it again, that subtle change in air quality and hue.  The blue of the sky has lightened just a bit, almost imperceptibly, yet it is lighter...the lighter blue that signals the onset of autumn.  The angle of the sun is noticeably lower over the past couple of days. The leaves on the trees are still green, but not the vibrant green of spring and summer.  The flowers in the pots and beds around town are starting to look a tad bedraggled. The breeze isn't chilly, yet it does have a slight edge to it that has been absent since the first week of May.  Although it is warmer today than it has been since the middle of last week, even the warmth isn't AS warm feeling as it was before the big heat wave struck earlier this month.  

The swimming pool visit on Wednesday afternoon is going to be a sad farewell to summer for me.  It will likely be the last visit to that happy place before it is time to drain the pool and put away the noodles and floats until next summer.

This morning I looked at the photos online of the snow that came down in parts of Alberta early last weekend and it depressed me terribly.  As much as I love seeing the first snow of each winter season, the subsequent five months are ones of dread and dismay.

I find the change of seasons from summer to fall and from winter to spring very difficult to cope with: the first because it seems to come on so quickly and the second because it doesn't seem to come on quickly enough.

Rather than depress myself further I am going to now pick up my calendar of planned events and force myself to focus on all the great things and people I get to enjoy over this coming week. 

It is also time to get some music out of the closet and do some sight singing in preparation for an audition with a local community choir that has its first rehearsal on September 13th.  If I don't pass the audition it will be devastating for me, but I have to admit my voice is kind of out of shape and I haven't had to sightread much over the past 5 or 6 years.  The devastation will be born from embarrassment as I will than HAVE to admit I am now actually a "former" musician!

Okay, onward and upward to happy thoughts for the rest of the week.  Please pray for safety and fun and relaxation for my husband and his friends for their campout in Alberta this week. Thank you!  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

An Evening's Exploration

It seems lately that we have had to do a fair amount of our exploration of this city in the sunset of the evening.

Tonight we had to drive out to the nearly farthest north west corner of the city to pick up one of my husband's backpacks, loaned out to another member of July's camp staff.  We had only once before been in the general area, at least 6 months ago and in the dead of winter daytime to view a rental unit.  

Forgetting that it is now getting dark by 8:30pm, we arranged for a pick up just before 9pm.  Fortunately we received stellar instructions on finding the correct street and house, but o my....peering through the twilight at neon painted street signs before it is quite dark enough to reflect the names is an exercise in frustration for us and likely a danger to the drivers around us as we squint and peer and slow down and speed up and scoot over to make turns at the last possible second....o my....

Let's face it, our eyes are as old as the rest of us and our progressive lenses do not always work as well as they should, particularly with the added stress of wondering how angry we are making the drivers behind us!!

I have noticed that with age, even "only" middle age, the lack of confidence in ourselves to trust what we think we are seeing has set in with a vengeance.  Aiiii yiiiii.....and to think as we get older it is only likely to get worse!!

Well, we found the house without incident, picked up the pack, had a short visit with the staffer who was using it and returned home with no problems, but with a lot of gratitude for a safe drive.

The earlier, still sun lit, part of the evening also went well because my husband decided to surprise me with a date night, since we will miss our usual Monday date.  We went to Bombay House again.  I think it is as much my favourite spot as the Caraway Grill...the tables are less jammed together and the food is different but just as delicious.  I ordered the butter chicken  platter, not expecting much food for the grand price of only $15.95.  O wow, was I WRONG or was I WRONG????  It was a huge meal!

I love the Indian style platter dishes, the way each item is completely separate from the others.  On my platter there was enough rice to feed 4 or 5 diabetics, several potato/pea pakoras, lentil curry, 3 small pieces of chicken tandoori, salad and the most spicy and delicious butter chicken I have ever eaten.  (usually I end up having butter chicken at Indian buffets and it is insipid, tasteless stuff...this however was hot and spicy and delicious)  All this was accompanied by a large naan bread!  I didn't overdo the carb intake but still, I definitely ate too much.  I came out of the restaurant feeling like a massive exercise regime was in order and that is what I did as soon as I got home.  Huff......puff.....aaaaahhhh.......a good thing since I ended up sitting on my posterior in the car not that much later for the packpack retrieval expedition.

What a nice evening, from start to finish.  Now my husband is watching a science fiction movie he taped, "Predestination", (seems an apt title for a Christian minister, does it not, teehee), and I am blogging and preparing to start reading my Dickens novel.

Tomorrow will be the last day of packing up before an evening departure for the camping trip and I can review my now busy schedule for the week.  A friend MAY be coming in from Moose Jaw tomorrow sometime and if so it will be fun to see her as well.

Really looking forward to my week and to my husband returning all happy and relaxed after a week with his buddies in the bush.

Time For a More Classic Read

As summer draws to a close I have decided it is time to set the fluffy summer novels aside and read something more classic.  The sun is lower in the sky, the air has that "approaching autumn" visible yellowing by mid afternoon, the breeze is slightly cooler and my husband is packing up for his end of summer campout.

I have chosen Charles Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit".  It has been so many decades since I first read it that it will be like a brand new novel for me.  It is one of  Dickens' less popular, less well beloved novels, but it is interesting to least it was for the first read.  Looking forward to immersing myself in a classic novel and I have always enjoyed Dickens.

The book will be my condolence to myself over the end of a great summer.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Soggy/Sunny Saturday!

We woke up this morning to a teeming downpour of rain.  At some point during the night it started and it didn't end until mid-afternoon.  I am delighted to report that the sealant my husband filled the cracks with in the basement walls worked so very well.  The water didn't come in at all along those cracks.  It did find one more small crack we hadn't noticed before and about two or three tablespoons of water came in there...just enough to dampen a facecloth we had on the floor underneath.  Tomorrow my husband will ream out that crack and fill it as well.  It appears those are the only cracks in our foundation so once this small one is done we should be quite safe from any more serious leaking. YAY!! I talked to the management today and soon the staff will be here with the big lift crane to clean out the eavestroughing where the water dumps down directly into the foundation.

After a very late breakfast we drove to Moose Jaw for a most celebratory funeral.  It was for the father of good friends of ours, a wonderful man who lived to sing and to be a doctor overseas and in small western Canadian communities.  The funeral was full of wonderful music, comedic and serious tributes, excellent praise given to God for this man's life and then a most delicious feast afterward for the family and friends of the deceased.  It was a joyous occasion amidst the grieving.  It was a long funeral, but so well done it didn't matter.  We could have happily continued to sit in the funeral home for another half hour listening to stories about this remarkable man and his equally remarkable family. The stories of God's provision for him throughout his life were encouraging to people like my husband and myself who have had also to depend on God for help in our lives over the past few years.  Jehovah Jireh reigns!

There were a number of my husband's former seminary professors at the funeral today. He had such fun visiting with them.  I got to speak to some of the women I met there and that was such fun, comparing notes from the past 9 years, how old we have all become and how much longer it is taking us to do anything any more.  We poked and prodded and checked out our old lady fashions and hairstyles, our orthopedic shoes and wrinkle reducing make up on our faces. hahaha It was really a hoot.  We exchanged the latest news on our kids and grandkids and mostly we laughed, then laughed some more.

The drive there was horrendous.  The winds were so strong and the rain so thick it was difficult to stay in my driving lane.  There was no way I could even drive the speed limit or we would have either hydroplaned ourselves into the ditch or bucked the wind to the tune of way too much fuel consumption. Having to pass a few semis so  we could get out of the spray behind their trucks was an exercise of faith.  Between the spray from their tires and the all ready heavy, blowing rain it was impossible to see anything up beside them but the yellow line denoting the edge of my lane along the median.  Yuck!  Other than ice, this is my most unfavourite kind of road condition.  So grateful we made it there safely. Coming home the wind was behind us, the pavement dry and the sun was shining merrily.  O happy day!  That tailwind home made up for the gas consumption on the way there, so total consumption was about the same for that trip as it usually is in perfect conditions.

My husband has been feeling punky for the past 24 hours...slightly upset stomach, an almost headache and general malaise.  Yesterday while he was sorting 3 boxes of old papers and such he had the wrong glasses on. Every time he looked up from the papers to take a gander elsewhere it bothered his eyes but he didn't realize he was making himself ill until later in the day.  By dinner he was terribly woozy and I made him a soft boiled egg and slice of toast.  He couldn't face a full meal.  How he got through today so well when he was still feeling so poorly....well, he has learned because of his CFS how to fake feeling fine for a few hours when he is in the presence of others.  On the way home again he gave into the lousy feelings and has been slumped on the couch watching football and nature documentaries ever since we got back.  How I hope he will feel better by tomorrow as he needs to shop for his camp groceries and haul out his gear for Monday's packing up.  Poor guy.....I think, personally, that he also has had more stress than he wants to admit about the last bits of sorting out and reorganizing because he sees he will barely be done before his holidays are over and won't even have started on the basement project.  He was stressed with the planning and coordinating of the camp next week.  Fortunately, one of the fellows in Alberta turned out to be unexpectedly available and he has been a great help getting food and canoes organized. My husband didn't want another soft boiled egg for dinner tonight. He admitted he has been craving KFC chicken, so off I went to get him a two piece meal.  It must be a couple of years since he has eaten that kind of "fast food" but we have both discovered there is something in the sodium laden grease fest that settles our tummies.  Wierd but true...when I had an ulcer about thirty years ago that was literally all I could eat for days at a time.  His tummy has certainly settled down tonight after that meal.

I received some super fantastic news today at the funeral.  One of the family members is going on the camp out next week and we found out he and his wife now have two vehicles.  He is planning to take one of theirs to the camp so that I can have our car here.  I WILL NOT BE CAR-LESS after all next week!!!  YIPPEE!!!  Thank you Lord!!!!  I can hardly believe it.  It is going to make a few things much easier.  I will be able to get to some fasting bloodwork labs without having to either walk or bus early in the morning on an empty stomach, with a purse full of breakfast to eat on the way home!  Double Yay!!  I will be able to get to my friend's place for an afternoon swim without her having to come and pick me up and drive me home. Triple Yay!!!  I have options to go window shopping in the area of town I haven't explored yet. I can drive to Moose Jaw to visit friends.  I can still check out bus routes but at my leisure, not out of instant necessity.  Quadruple, quintuple YAY!!!!!

Tomorrow is the day for buying camp groceries, maybe after a last sleep in.  We should be going to church but I suspect my husband will not be feeling well enough. If he sleeps in I am not going to wake him.  We can do night prayers together before bed tonight and go to church next Sunday somewhere before he returns to his own congregation the following week.  I am very very grateful he took his full year's holidays at one time, the whole month of August.  Although he has not been well the last couple of days, that often happens during his week at home mid-holiday and once he has done his camp he will be refreshed and restored, ready to tackle his job and ministry once again.

August has been a blessed month this year.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Happiness From My Friends and Family Today

What a nice day today, filled with all kinds of good news!

My parents were so cheery on the phone today. Mom had the first part of her annual physical earlier this week and things are looking good for the age of nearly 88 she is still completely independent and energetic, hopping on buses around her city to grocery shop, do banking and get out for some air and a cup of coffee.  Dad had the best news in months about his glaucoma.  The pressure in both eyes has stabilized, so his eyedrops are working now, long may it continue.

A friend took me out for lunch today after a doctor's appointment. She was seeing her surgeon after an operation last week that has left her feeling great and looking terrific.

Friends from Ontario were blessed this morning with unexpected news of a job offering only days after being turned down for a similar position, plus this offer included a choice of locations from which to work!

Crowdfunding has gone successfully for Sandy and Dave after their accident. They are now back in Canada in Canadian hospitals and are slowly but surely beginning a long period of recovery.  The American doctors took such excellent care of them and got the initial plastic surgeries and other operations taken care of while waiting for them to be strong enough to travel back northward.  They have a wonderfully supportive family and many good friends.

The young son of good friends is being baptized this weekend out at a camp several miles from his home.  The family will be able to set up their trailer and spend the whole weekend relaxing and preparing for the baptism.  The young man also received his drivers' license recently and so life is going pretty well for him right now.

My husband's brother-in-law passed his check flight in BC today and is flying his plane solo for the first time since his eye problems began over a year ago.  We are so excited for him and praying for good weather tomorrow in Alberta so he can complete his flight home to Edmonton from Salmon Arm.

So far the sealant my husband put on the cracks in the basement walls is holding.  We had not only rain this afternoon, but earlier in the morning the maintenance staff had the sprinklers going, so water was pouring into the corner of the foundation where my husband built up the soil and where he completed the main patching work inside. No water seeped into the basement. We are now scheduled for about two full days of rain so we will see if this sealant has at least slowed the flow.

Our son contacted us to tell us how happy he is to be back in his arts community on the west coast....for now....he has a new friend and we are wondering if she will become a closer friend than she is right now....IF he stays in Canada....if....if......not likely.....

Today, all the news has been very good. May that continue to be the case for many days to come for all our family and friends!!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

MY Holidays Are Coming To An End....Waaaaaahhhh!!!

It is that time of the summer....the end of my holidays with my husband.  Only a few more days before he departs to spend his last week of holidays camping and canoeing with his buddies.  At last the plans have come together for them and I am excited that my husband has this chance to enjoy his friends and his favourite mountains and lakes.

This time my week alone may be somewhat less fun than others.  This time he has to drive our vehicle, so I will be stuck in the city on my own, unable to drive out of town to visit good friends I have seen too little of this busy summer.  

As far as what is going on here in the city I will be fine.  There are a few people here now that I am comfortable calling and asking to get together for tea or a meal, or even asking for a ride somewhere.  

I have decided as well that it will be a good week to finally ride all the buses that stop near our home, find out where they all go and how to connect from them to transfer buses, so I can learn before the snow flies how to get out and about with no vehicle of my own.  It is all good.

A friend from Calgary is coming for 2 days in September.  It is a fast trip but her flight times are perfect for us to pick her up from and take her back to the airport. Although her hotel is far from us, it is a very direct and easy route from our house to drive her there and back.  Really glad she is coming.  She tried to visit last year but we couldn't coordinate our free times with hers.  

        BREAK      >>><<<<>>>><<<       BREAK

Just outside helping the next door neighbour corral her dog.  haha Monte is a short haired terrier who rarely ever runs off, but when he does he goes like the wind and comes home only when he is darned good and ready. Fortunately he was ready fairly quickly today.  There is a lot of road construction equipment on both sides of our building and he is frightened of vehicles, so he was convinced to return only a few minutes after he ran off.  We took a few minutes to enjoy the lady's 10 month old son's fun as he sat in the tickly grass and pulled up bits of it to examine.  Such a cute age.  My neighbour's maternity leave is up and she will return soon to work. My goodness it is going to be so quiet next door when she is gone.  Monte will be devastated to be alone all day.  

Lovely day today here.  We had a bit of rain and chill this morning, but now in the late afternoon the sun is shining and it is toasty warm without being too hot.  It is a perfect late summer day.  My husband is applying the next coat of cement to the basement walls.  It must be working because today not a drop came into the basement during the rain.  YAY!!!  Now we can relax about living here if we don't have to worry about all the storage in the basement being ruined by water.

This morning we laid around and watched tv: "The Judge" with Robert Downy Jr. and Robert Duvall.  What an intensely acted movie.  It was really really really good.  It has been awhile since we have watched a movie that held our attention as well as this one did.  So glad we found it as the last few we have tried to watch have been total bombs.  Other years we have watched a number of morning movies while on holidays at home but this year my husband has spent his mornings working on the home projects he has been behind on.  Maybe we can watch another one tomorrow morning as it will be our last chance this summer.

So, a good day all around.  Good phone chats with friends, some entertainment, some housework, an afternoon nap, good neighbourhood interaction, great weather, intense afternoon exercise...yeah, a good day.  AND the evening still stretches out before us.....   

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Cell Phones and Other Fun

Yesterday morning our phone rang.  Since I hadn't remembered to bring it upstairs after doing some laundry in the basement we didn't get to it in time to answer.  We checked the call display and saw the number of our former church warden who had taken us to lunch on Monday.

We tried calling her back but there was no answer.  Then a "Message Waiting" display popped up on our phone.  The message went kind of like this: rustle, rustle, clank, rustle, shuffle, wheeze, clank, bop, bop, rustle, shuffle, crackle, crackle, rustle, shuffle......and so on, you get the idea.  This filled the entire space reserved for messages on our system.  

As we listened to the message we began to realize what had happened.  We tried calling our friend again and discovered we were correct: as she was walking along, her cell phone bumped against something in her purse that activated it and caused it to dial one of the numbers in her phone number menu; in this case, ours!  hahaha

So now we know what the inside of our friend's purse sound like! hahaha

I had a great walk after lunch yesterday, nearly two hours and the only time I was standing still was in front of an ATM to pay some bills.  

Mid afternoon my husband asked me if I would like to come for a drive to some lumber yards and home improvement stores.  I know, I know, it doesn't sound like much fun for me, but I love going with him to these places and learning what all the odd looking new tools, latest gadgets and buckets of "who knows what?" are all about.  He selected some cement sealant for our basement leakage problem and then we went on a really good spree of outdoor sports store supplies looking at styles and prices on life jackets for his canoe trips.

My husband has been  bit discouraged and angry that he has had to put so much money and labour into making this rental unit liveable, to prevent water in the basement that could so easily and inexpensively be kept out of all the basements if Boardwalk management gave a hot darn about proper maintenance of their units here in the swamplands.  However, he enjoyed the project and is happy that it will contribute to us being able to stay here much longer than our first year...assuming the rent doesn't go up during this Bust Times market.  

Don't get me wrong...Boardwalk has been excellent in responding to our requests for assistance in cleaning and maintenance here, they just don't seem to grasp how easily and cheaply many of their seepage problems could be resolved.  The lack of knowledge and interest in aquiring it, just seem to be the norm for much of the local rental market.  Every province has its foibles when it comes to housing. And of course for property management companies the bottom line is profit...that is just reality.

Hopefully now our leaking basement will be completely stoppered.  If not it won't be for lack of effort on my husband's part!!

After running up and down 2 flights of stairs doing the laundry in around our other activities yesterday, the long walk and shopping trip, I was tired after supper.  A sudden burst of energy hit me at about 9pm so I got some more chores accomplished.  The good day of exercise caused me to have a wonderful sleep in this morning despite all the construction noises going on on both sides of the building.  I feel great today and hope to be just as active as yesterday.  A prolongued period of holiday inspired sloth doesn't really accomplish anything positive in my life.

Having said that, it is time to shower and get ready for the day.  My husband is moving all his computers around in the new configuration he came up with for his home office.  Once that is done, either today or tomorrow, I can head down to the basement with him and begin reorganizing the move in mess down there that remains.  Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, after all this work and getting properly organized so long after we moved in, we will not have to move again at the end of our lease next winter!!!

I know I can't face another move so soon...and yet I have this odd feeling.......please Lord, let it just be some kind of old age related paranoia....please......

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Unexpectedly Discerning

I was talking to a friend yesterday who asked me a question.  The response to my answer was, "It's about time." was in regard to a formerly ongoing situation in my life that I had no idea this person truly understood.  The person was part of a large group I used to be involved with and realized that I felt incredibly lonely even in their midst, always on the outside looking in, pushed away even at times when it would have seemed more prudent for the group at large to include me.  This person was part of that group and I knew that at least we connected well, the two of us and that was wonderful.

I had no idea though that the person could see so clearly what else was going on.  After our talk I felt affirmed as an individual.  I felt gratified that someone else in the group could see what was going on and understood how I felt at the time.  I felt such joy that the person is so excited that I am now part of another large group, but who include me, welcome my involvement and are reaching out to me on a social level. The person I was talking to is genuinely happy for this change in my life.

Just about the time you think no one saw or understood an unhappy situation in your life, or tried "behind your back" to help the situation resolve more positively in your favour, you discover someone did try to do those very things.

I haven't been able to sleep tonight because I am replaying our conversation over in my head and feeling so good....far too elated to sleep. There is something about feeling that you are understood that brings joy.

Yesterday was a wonderful day in many ways, lots of good family and friend connections, but the icing on the cake was the conversation with this dear, discerning person.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Oooh Goody....Visiting!!

Seriously, if you haven't read through the previous post on art, PLEASE give it a will be doing a huge favour to every artist you know if you take the time and think about it...seriously!

It has been a good day...filling my cupboards and refrigerator with groceries, getting some walking done, paying bills at the ATM, SLEEPING IN, watching my husband get started on restringing cords for the computers and phone so he can complete his moving in project the way he wants and then setting up 2 wonderful visits for tomorrow: lunch with one of his wardens from our last parish at a very nice restaurant and afternoon tea with a cousin and her mom.  Oooh, I like the way the last week of our shared holiday time is turning out.  I am sorry that the visitor from our last parish is going to see our place at the full extent of its dusty, lint covered splendor, but there you have it...can't be helped.  It is too late in the day for me to start cleaning now and besides, doesn't pride go before a fall??  Seems to me I have heard that somewhere...hohoho!

A Must Read For All Of Us Who Have Opinions About Art...All Art!

The Paradox of Active Surrender: Jeanette Winterson on How Learning to Understand Art Transforms Us

“True art, when it happens to us, challenges the ‘I’ that we are.”
I recently attended an event at which a celebrated public radio personality attempted to interview a celebrated artist. “Attempted,” because he clearly did not understand her work and the spirit from which it sprang. His attitude of not-getting-it wasn’t a storytelling device — the kind where an interviewer feigns amicable ignorance in order to include the audience in the finding out — but a petulant child’s fit. The fact that he is brilliant at his own work perhaps only confounded his frustration with not being able to understand her art, to connect with it. The event was painful to watch because the first task of a great interviewer is humility — sublimating his ego in the service of letting his subject shine; the second and more arduous task is understanding, which takes a deliberate investment of time, intention, and effort. It was painful to watch, but also shrouded in soft pity — endearing, because he was merely seeking to connect with her work and needed a sherpa in understanding it. His chief fault wasn’t so much doing it in public, without having first made those necessary investments, but in presuming that it was the artist’s duty to be that sherpa herself. (The artist, I should add, handled the situation with remarkable patience and poise.)
The task of the audience in witnessing such tragicomedy is not to judge but to seek to understand — not to add to the effrontery by flagellating the interviewer’s laziness of understanding with the audience’s own in turn, but to see what went awry and glean from that a larger insight about that delicate dance of giving and receiving, of mutual connection and comprehension, that is art.
That is why the incident reminded me of a beautiful essay by Jeanette Wintersontitled “Art Objects,” found in her magnificent 1996 collection Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (public library), in which she illuminates with exquisite precision the many layers of misunderstanding that happened here, which also happen so frequently when someone issues a dismissive or critical denunciation of art from a deep place of I just don’t get it.
Winterson begins by recounting her own awakening to art after years of feeling no interest in the visual arts. “My lack of interest was the result of the kind of ignorance I despair of in others,” she confesses with hindsight’s lucidity. As she finds herself in Amsterdam, she also finds herself a stranger in a strange land in another way. Suddenly beholding that dormant power of art, she writes:
I had fallen in love and I had no language. I was dog-dumb. The usual response of “This painting has nothing to say to me” had become “I have nothing to say to this painting.” And I desperately wanted to speak. Long looking at paintings is equivalent to being dropped into a foreign city, where gradually, out of desire and despair, a few key words, then a little syntax make a clearing in the silence. Art, all art, not just painting, is a foreign city, and we deceive ourselves when we think it familiar. No-one is surprised to find that a foreign city follows its own customs and speaks its own language. Only a boor would ignore both and blame his defaulting on the place. Every day this happens to the artist and the art. 
We have to recognize that the language of art, all art, is not our mother-tongue.
Winterson begins longing for a guide, “someone astute and erudite,” “a person dead or alive” with whom to “think things over,” and is gripped with the way in which understanding art doesn’t obey any of our familiar problem-solving methods. (Art, after all, is not a problem to be solved but an experience to be allowed.) She writes:
Art is odd, and the common method of trying to fit it into the scheme of things, either by taming it or baiting it, cannot succeed. Who at the zoo has any sense of the lion?
With that, Winterson considers the heart of that active surrender that art requires of us:
I do not believe that art (all art) and beauty are ever separate, nor do I believe that either art or beauty are optional in a sane society. That puts me on the side of what Harold Bloom calls “the ecstasy of the privileged moment.” Art, all art, as insight, as rapture, as transformation, as joy. Unlike Harold Bloom, I really believe that human beings can be taught to love what they do not love already and that the privileged moment exists for all of us, if we let it. Letting art is the paradox of active surrender. I have to work for art if I want art to work on me.
She finds her sherpa in the celebrated art critic Roger Fry and his “life-delighting, art-delighting approach, unashamed of emotion, unashamed of beauty” — a mind so singular that he became the subject of Virginia Woolf’s only biography. Fry, Winterson felt, allowed her to approach a work of art “without unfelt reverence or unfit complacency.”
Slowly, subtly, as she educated herself in the language of art, Winterson began to feel her way of seeing evolve. She echoes Tolstoy’s notion that art thrives on “emotional infectiousness” and writes:
What has changed is my capacity of feeling. Art opens the heart.
But art, Winterson observes, also takes time (that unfortunate interview increasingly gave the sense that time was the missing ingredient of understanding) and commitment. Among the essential obstacles that must be overcome before we can begin to appreciate art, she argues, is the experience of increasing discomfort. Noting that “ordinary life passes in a near blur” — which cognitive science has demonstrated convincingly — she asks:
When was the last time you looked at anything, solely, and concentratedly, and for its own sake? … We find we are not very good at looking.
We are also bedeviled by increasing irritation, which Winterson captures with wonderful humor: “Why doesn’t the picture do something? Why is it hanging there staring at me? What is this picture for? Pictures should give pleasure but this picture is making me very cross. Why should I admire it? Quite clearly it doesn’t admire me.”This notion of admiration reflected back, in fact, is entwined with the way in which our ego — like, perhaps, the anecdotal interviewer’s ego — is often what stands between us and the active surrender to art. Winterson writes:
Admire me is the sub-text of so much of our looking; the demand put on art that it should reflect the reality of the viewer. The true painting, in its stubborn independence, cannot do this, except coincidentally. Its reality is imaginative not mundane.
When the thick curtain of protection is taken away; protection of prejudice, protection of authority, protection of trivia, even the most familiar of paintings can begin to work its power. There are very few people who could manage an hour alone with the Mona Lisa.
But our poor art-lover in his aesthetic laboratory has not succeeded in freeing himself from the protection of assumption. What he has found is that the painting objects to his lack of concentration; his failure to meet intensity with intensity. He still has not discovered anything about the painting but the painting has discovered a lot about him. He is inadequate and the painting has told him so.
It is often said that art — some art, or much of art, or much of some of art — is an “acquired taste.” But Winterson’s central point is that art — all of art — is an acquired ability:
If I can be persuaded to make the experiment again (and again and again), something very different might occur after the first shock of finding out that I do not know how to look at pictures, let alone how to like them.
Art has deep and difficult eyes and for many the gaze is too insistent. Better to pretend that art is dumb, or at least has nothing to say that makes sense to us. If art, all art, is concerned with truth, then a society in denial will not find much use for it… We avoid painful encounters with art by trivializing it, or by familiarizing it.
In one of her most potent asides, Winterson laments our cultural mythology of art and money — that toxic notion that “art suffers the moment other people start paying for it,” that making money and making art are mutually exclusive — and returns to the wildness of art:
We are an odd people: We make it as difficult as possible for our artists to work honestly while they are alive; either we refuse them money or we ruin them with money; either we flatter them with unhelpful praise or wound them with unhelpful blame, and when they are too old, or too dead, or too beyond dispute to hinder any more, we canonize them, so that what was wild is tamed, what was objecting, becomes Authority. Canonizing pictures is one way of killing them. When the sense of familiarity becomes too great, history, popularity, association, all crowd in between the viewer and the picture and block it out. Not only pictures suffer like this, all the arts suffer like this.
Echoing Pete Seeger’s assertion that all artists are “links in a chain,” Winterson considers the ongoing dialogue between past and present, those infinite circles of influence of which all art is woven:
The calling of the artist, in any medium, is to make it new. I do not mean that in new work the past is repudiated; quite the opposite, the past is reclaimed. It is not lost to authority, it is not absorbed at a level of familiarity. It is re-stated and re-instated in its original vigor. Leonardo is present in Cézanne, Michelangelo flows through Picasso and on into Hockney. This is not ancestor worship, it is the lineage of art. It is not so much influence as it is connection…
The true artist is connected. The true artist studies the past, not as a copyist or a pasticheur will study the past, those people are interested only in the final product, the art object, signed sealed and delivered to a public drugged on reproduction. The true artist is interested in the art object as an art process, the thing in being, the being of the thing, the struggle, the excitement, the energy, that have found expression in a particular way. The true artist is after the problem. The false artist wants it solved (by somebody else). If the true artist is connected, then he or she has much to give us because it is connection that we seek. Connection to the past, to one another, to the physical world… A picture, a book, a piece of music, can remind me of feelings, thinkings, I did not even know I had forgot.
Echoing Oscar Wilde’s memorable notion that art requires of us a “temperament of receptivity,” Winterson writes:
Whether art tunnels deep under consciousness or whether it causes out of its own invention, reciprocal inventions that we then call memory, I do not know. I do know that the process of art is a series of jolts, or perhaps I mean volts, for art is an extraordinarily faithful transmitter. Our job is to keep our receiving equipment in good working order.
With this, Winterson arrives at the crux of our difficulty with understanding art and our tendency to mistake our misunderstanding for a failure of the art, to presume that our problem with understanding it is the artist’s problem — the heart of what went awry in that unfortunate interview. Winterson writes:
There are no Commandments in art and no easy axioms for art appreciation. “Do I like this?” is the question anyone should ask themselves at the moment of confrontation with the picture. But if “yes,” why “yes”? and if “no,” why “no”? The obvious direct emotional response is never simple, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the “yes” or “no” has nothing at all to do with the picture in its own right.
“I don’t understand this poem”
“I never listen to classical music”
“I don’t like this picture”
are common enough statements but not ones that tell us anything about books, painting, or music. They are statements that tell us something about the speaker. That should be obvious, but in fact, such statements are offered as criticisms of art, as evidence against, not least because the ignorant, the lazy, or the plain confused are not likely to want to admit themselves as such. We hear a lot about the arrogance of the artist but nothing about the arrogance of the audience. The audience, who have not done the work, who have not taken any risks, whose life and livelihood are not bound up at every moment with what they are making, who have given no thought to the medium or the method, will glance up, flick through, chatter over the opening chords, then snap their fingers and walk away like some monstrous Roman tyrant.
Winterson adds a reflection on the elements of subjectivity and our duty in factoring it in:
An examination of our own feelings will have to give way to an examination of the piece of work. This is fair to the work and it will help to clarify the nature of our own feelings; to reveal prejudice, opinion, anxiety, even the mood of the day. It is right to trust our feelings but right to test them too. If they are what we say they are, they will stand the test, if not, we will at least be less insincere.
What art does, Winterson suggests, is pierce our deepest sense of identity, that illusory solid self that keeps us separate from the universe:
When you say “This work has nothing to do with me.” When you say “This work is boring/pointless/silly/obscure/élitist etc.,” you might be right, because you are looking at a fad, or you might be wrong because the work falls so outside of the safety of your own experience that in order to keep your own world intact, you must deny the other world of the painting. This denial of imaginative experience happens at a deeper level than our affirmation of our daily world. Every day, in countless ways, you and I convince ourselves about ourselves. True art, when it happens to us, challenges the “I” that we are.
A love-parallel would be just; falling in love challenges the reality to which we lay claim, part of the pleasure of love and part of its terror, is the world turned upside down. We want and we don’t want, the cutting edge, the upset, the new views. Mostly we work hard at taming our emotional environment just as we work hard at taming our aesthetic environment. We already have tamed our physical environment. And are we happy with all this tameness? Are you?
The solid presence of art demands from us significant effort, an effort anathema to popular culture. Effort of time, effort of money, effort of study, effort of humility, effort of imagination have each been packed by the artist into the art.
And this, I suppose was the effrontery of the interviewer: his public admission of not having made the effort — of not having cared to make it. Winterson touches on what the deeper reason might be:
I worry that to ask for effort is to imply élitism, and the charge against art, that it is élitist, is too often the accuser’s defense against his or her own bafflement.
In a remark particularly ironic in this context, she adds:
The only way to develop a palate is to develop a palate.
The fashion for dismissing a thing out of ignorance is vicious. In fact, it is not essential to like a thing in order to recognize its worth, but to reach that point of self-awareness and sophistication takes years of perseverance.
The problem, she points out, isn’t one of personal failure but of cultural bias:
I am sure that if as a society we took art seriously, not as mere decoration or entertainment, but as a living spirit, we should very soon learn what is art and what is not art.
If we sharpened our sensibilities, it is not that we would all agree on everything, or that we would suddenly feel the same things in front of the same pictures (or when reading the same book), but rather that our debates and deliberations would come out of genuine aesthetic considerations and not politics, prejudice and fashion… And our hearts? Art is aerobic.
Winterson turns to what happens in that magical moment when a work of art is beheld with understanding, with active surrender, and enveloped by receptivity:
There is a constant exchange of emotion between us, between the three of us; the artist I need never meet, the painting in its own right, and me, the one who loves it and can no longer live independent of it. The triangle of exchange alters, is fluid, is subtle, is profound and is one of those unverifiable facts that anyone who cares for painting soon discovers… The totality of the picture comments on the totality of what I am.
As she considers how art makes visible “those necessary invisibles of faith and optimism, humor and generosity,” “the sublimity of mankind,” she peers into the depths of its essence:
We know that the universe is infinite, expanding and strangely complete, that it lacks nothing we need, but in spite of that knowledge, the tragic paradigm of human life is lack, loss, finality, a primitive doomsaying that has not been repealed by technology or medical science. The arts stand in the way of this doomsaying. Art objects. The nouns become an active force not a collector’s item. Art objects. 
The cave wall paintings at Lascaux, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the huge truth of a Picasso, the quieter truth of Vanessa Bell, are part of the art that objects to the lie against life, against the spirit, that it is pointless and mean. The message colored through time is not lack, but abundance. Not silence but many voices. Art, all art, is the communication cord that cannot be snapped by indifference or disaster. Against the daily death it does not die.
Art is not a little bit of evolution that late-twentieth-century city dwellers can safely do without. Strictly, art does not belong to our evolutionary pattern at all. It has no biological necessity. Time taken up with it was time lost to hunting, gathering, mating, exploring, building, surviving, thriving. Odd then, that when routine physical threats to ourselves and our kind are no longer a reality, we say we have no time for art. If we say that art, all art is no longer relevant to our lives, then we might at least risk the question “What has happened to our lives?” The usual question, “What has happened to art?” is too easy an escape route.
Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery is a transcendent read in its totality — Winterson goes on to examine such subjects as imagination and reality, the ecstasy of words, and the semiotics of sex. Complement it with her provocative reflections on adoption and belonging and time, language, and how art sanctifies the human spirit.