Thursday, July 30, 2015


My friend D**** and I email each other many times a day. As thoughts strike us. She likes my cursing. I curse out what ails her and the sometimes appalling treatment by the medical people at the hospital, her occasional depressive thoughts, life. You know. It all helps. She's told to "Be brave" a lot. Have you ever heard of anything more unhelpful when you are scared to death of tumours lumping out the hidden organs of your body and half your bowel is lodged somewhere in the trash outside the hospital labs?

So I tell her to ask these medical morons to please change places with her - they can lie down in her bed and she can yell at them to be brave after she's sliced them open. I said that to a team of them once, when my surgical wound opened up and started bleeding all over the hospital floor and I was screaming and they said it to me. It shut them up.

For what is bravery? Those poor teenage soldiers in both "world" wars smiling while they were used as cannon fodder and slaughtered?

Chin barely quivering while biopsies confirm your worst fears?

Whimpering quietly under the covers when the pain meds fail to ease your suffering?

As far as I'm concerned not groaning/moaning/screaming/yelling in pain is just protecting the delicate sensibilities of those around us, right? It's a very good thing to let that pain out. Why bottle it up for the ulcers to play with?

I was sharing with some friends over dinner last night the fact that I am now terrified of walking in case the sudden paralysis in my legs stops me cold in my tracks, as has happened in the past, and heaven forbid I should burden someone with having to come and get me.

And we all had a good laugh, like gawd forbid we should be a nuisance to anyone even though we're crumpled on a heap on the road, breathing our last.

It must be Irish. Or something.

Let me die bravely, right here on main street.

Sorry for your trouble for having to shovel me off to the side.

D**** and I had a good laugh over that one.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

I Take Notes

I take notes on books I read. I wish I had done so even as a child. But. Notes trigger ideas in me, validate feelings often unexpressed or ephemeral. Answer the whys. Illuminate the squelched thoughts. Give me hope, yank me from despair.

For example:

I love this thought from P170 of The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout:

"And she learned - freshly, searchingly - of the privacy of sorrow. It was as though she had been escorted through a door into some large and private club that she had not even known existed. Women who miscarried."

Anyone who has miscarried (myself, my daughter, some friends)finds this reflection resonates. Deeply and profoundly.

It's a private club. Lifetime membership.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Crazy Knit Lady

Equivalent to "Cat Lady". No, no cats. Not now. And in the past never in extremis. Two was the maximum ever along with two dogs and two birds and two fish. Kids. What can I say. Now no cats. But knitting, yeah.

You see before you a yogurt maker I got for a dollar yonks ago. It was missing two jars, I had to use two jam jars for a while. It never had a cover. But a dollar. Hey.

Then Daughter found 3 jars at a flea market for 50cents each. You'll note yogurt maker is nudging its way to a deluxe model now. No more jelly jars, All jars (and a spare) are now milk white glass.

But I got tired of wrapping it in towels while it did its biz, you know?

And I had leftover wool. And knitting in the morning has become a sort of meditation for me after breakfast. I am hoping my BP will improve, as in slide downwards, as I'm getting a bit tired of my weekly dates with my doctor. Not my type.

So tada! behold the yogurt sweater!

I am hoping Ramana will see this as he makes his own yogurt too and as far as we are concerned we are the only two in the whole universe who do so.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Terminal Technology

So. I write to my friend who is, to all intents and purposes, terminal. In the hospital. With bags and tubes and discomfort and pain and anger and frustration and fear.

These are her wishes. This is her e-mail from last night exactly as written:

Not a great day

Cleaning draining

Dr visits

Intravenus injections daily now - no oral

Learned how to check blood

Endericonolist testing gor cancer now

Sugars still up but coming down

No visitors please right now

No calls

Cannot answer easily

Easier to communicate by email

I am not going anywhere

This is my reply:

I hope today is less painful for you.

I hope your spirit can take little journeys inside you to better places.

I remember an A-Frame near Tweed where we had such a happy weekend sitting by the water. I was knitting. You were cross stitching. And we talked and talked.

I still have your needlework (in a frame) hanging on my wall.


I thought to send a shared memory every day. I think that would help me if I were her.

Who's to tell? Who's to know?

I know I wouldn't want anyone around me. Email is good. Very, very good. The right distance.

And PS - this blog is anonymous, otherwise I would never breech her confidence.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Rose Gardens

OK. Stand up those amongst us who were promised one?

Not me.

Certainly not me.

And not those I care about, for sure.

Such sad news today. From my former life in Ontario: One old friend died on the weekend, he visited me here in Newfoundland a few years back. Another old friend was taken to hospital by ambulance in the last few days and she is riddled with The Lad*. She was terrified of doctors and now it's all too late, it seems. Another is in palliative/hospice care with a few days left.

I write all this down so I can look at the reality of it. My back (due to that awful fall I had) is acting up and causing me some grief and I could list a few other "what-ails-me"s for you but I won't as it all seems trivial and there's nothing more boring than a blow-by-blow of someone's health challenges.

Especially when those she cares about are in various stages of terminal illness and she's not.

But then again, we're all terminal. Savour the days, my friends. We never know when our numbers are called.

*Anyone ever heard this terminology used for cancer? We used it in Ireland back in the day. Maybe still, who knows?

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Rearview Mirror

This kitchen towel and dishcloths are on their way to a special friend right now.

I heard an expression a long time ago which helps me today.

"It's OK to glance in the rearview mirror once in a while but don't stare or you'll miss the view in front of you."

Something like that.

And you know what?

It's a wonderful piece of advice.

Plus: running out of time - at my age, you just don't know how much of it is left.

So no staring back anymore.

I stay where my hands are and dream up new dreams, plan for the future, have a happy in every day (or two or three) and practice mindfulness and kindfulness a couple of times during the 24.

And tired. I try not to get tired. It does nasty things to my brain.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015


There's something about good friends who come to stay.

Hard to define.

I've lost a fair whack of them in the last few years, so the remaining are very precious indeed.

So last night, just the sitting and chatting and sharing the "all-of-its" is better than a week at a spa with therapists hand and foot 24/7.

Ya know?

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Thursday, July 16, 2015


....view last night from my front deck....

Antidote to what, you might ask? Well, life.

A friend has been making these posts about "What makes me happy today." So I thought to adapt it and use it myself. Focus on the good stuff. I felt the stress pile up again, too much on the platter at the moment. Too much bursting of bubbles too. I feel I was living in one for a while and now it's smashed wide open and I see my delusion, my tolerance and excuse making for some pretty nasty behaviour exhibited towards me. And while there's freedom in that awakening, there's also grieving. We only truly grieve broken dreams, I believe. I don't like waking up to reality but once I'm through a few days of it there's a wonderful freedom in the untethering of expectations.

So here's my happies for today:

I was gifted with a whole evening to myself. A meeting was cancelled as we didn't have a quorum.

I found a pot of thyme. You need to know how much I adore thyme and can never, ever find it in Newfoundland. I found a wee pot today. It is sitting in my kitchen window as if we have sun.

I planned out the menus for friends who are arriving to stay for a while. I love planning menus and looking at well used recipes. One of the friends can't tolerate garlic or onions so I enjoyed the challenge of leaving my very favourite ingredients out of things and substituting (lime anyone?)

I hung some pictures, I don't know why I haven't hung them here before as they all have meaning.

And while I was hanging them, I thought: why aren't you hanging your own pictures? So I'll get a few blown up and framed. That will make me even happier, seeing my own work on my walls.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015


I have this thing. I just wonder if anyone else does it. I'll mishear or misunderstand something and my version becomes my favourite and if you happen to say the word or the phrase I secretly convert it to my chosen meaning.


My first awareness of this came about when my mother was reading out loud from a letter she'd received from my godmother, her sister, who lived in London, England. I would have been about eight.

Mum read that my aunt and her family were having their annual "hols" in Weston-Super-Mare that summer.
I was green with envy. I thought: what an adventure, riding out to the west on great big horses.

"Why can't we do that?" I asked her.

"Because we're in Ireland and they're in England!" my mother probably explained.

"But there are lots of big horses here too, we don't have to go to England!"

At this point I was ignored I would think, I was one of those kids who would try the patience of anyone within earshot, always asking question after question.

But the visions in my head of Auntie Norah, Uncle Michael and their two small daughters galloping off to the magical west on their super mares never left me.

Even today, every time I see or hear Weston-Super-Mare I can still picture the four of them, hair flying, laughing joyfully, cantering over hill and dale chasing after Roy Rogers and Trigger - for that was the only west I knew then.

The Wild West.

Oh, and happy trails to you!

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Friday, July 10, 2015


I've been 10 years blogging. Close to a million page views. Wow, it's been some ride alright. It keeps the writing sharpened, gives the venting a release, provides an outlet for the sometimes down days and a shared exuberance on the up days.

I couldn't have done it without so many of you out there, the comments, the private emails, the sometimes face to face meetings which are always joyful, the shared meals, the laughter. The support. The loyalty. The heartbreak when some of you (thankfully few) died.

Even gifts in the mail. Those too. Some of you came to my play. That took my breath away. Some of us talk on the old fashioned phone. Imagine. All of you would be friends in real life too.

The blog world is something particularly unique for us elders who get to share the fears and challenges of aging. And the unknowns too when parents are long dead and family is distant so there are no lanterns to light the way or offer a word of support through the rough, solitary times. I've found so much solid information on "all that ails us" but also the incredible joys of rediscovering selves that had vanished somewhere in youth with increased responsibilities and emerge again when families - and even grandchildren - are raised.

I thank you all out there, too many to name or link to (I'd be sure to forget someone!)

Write on. Read on.

Me, I'm so grateful I'm in the age of the internet. The era of communication across the planet. I have blog friends in so many countries.

Thank you.


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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Blog Jam

I took this shot on the ferry travelling from Fogo Island to Farewell. I love the colours and what appears to be quite a disorderly jumble on deck - an order not visible to me, obviously.

Our wee trip was amazing. Not least of which were three visits to the Fogo Island Inn where we mingled and conversed with guests from around the world. We had decided on treating ourselves to breakfast there (room prices average $1,000 a night). We had budgeted $50 for breakfast and were pleasantly surprised it was only $27.00 each. Surroundings defy description as does the interior. We were invited back for a "session" after dinner and met some very interesting San Franciscans and Australians and a writer for Architectural Digest.

It was a wonderful few days, we both needed the break from routine, and me from all the painting havoc around my house.

I'm back into the grindstone now. The painting is magnificent, I can't get over the "new look" in my house but everything else is in turmoil around the pristine walls, doors and ceilings.

On top of all that I have to prepare for two performances as seanchai - one on this Sunday, the other in August.

And guests, did I mention guests? Guests.

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Last Night

Her Feet

I remember kissing them
So tiny, soft, boneless
Toenails smaller than a wish.

Thinking then
They would
Dance and run
On golden sands
And splash sparkles
Around her of blue
Atlantic rainbows

It was last night
I saw them in
Oyster pink leather
Worn, used, middle-aged


I remembered kissing them
So tiny, soft, boneless
Toenails smaller than a wish.

July 5, 2015

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Canada Day

Canada Day in Newfoundland is crazy fun. Parties in every village along the shore, everyone wears red and white (including yours truly) and the musicians and dancers come out in full force. It is marvellous fun. You have to pace yourself as attending EVERY party along the way is de rigeur for many. All surfaces are adorned: face paint, balloons and hats and Canadian flags everywhere.

I took many pictures as it was a spectacularly sunny day. The one above is another clothesline shot. I took a similar ones years ago and it was a best-seller as a card and featured in both large and small calendars. There were clothesline full of clothes along my meandering route. A bit of a wind happening so the drying was excellent. And you haven't lived unless your sheets are run through with ocean breezes.

A friend sent me the video below, our national anthem interpreted by whales. And yes the whales are on their way. We get thousands every year.

Enjoy. It makes me cry. But in a good way.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Artsy & Antsy

I finished my latest large project. A gift that will outlive me. Most artsy stuff does though. I was pleased to see a nephew post a project of mine from quite a while back - still in excellent condition draping a couch. I love it when men appreciate knitting. I remember sitting in a pub on Sherkin Island, knitting away and it was all the men who came over and petted my work and talked of their grannies and the dying art of needlework. My father taught me when I was knee high. He had five older knitting sisters and as my mother was ankle deep in toddlers he was given the job. He was always embarrassed when I referred to it. Even though knitting is all about mathematics. Seriously. Always counting and calculating, needle size, weight of wool, amount of wool, circular vs straight needles, how much to increase for twisting and cabling the work, how much to decrease for borders.

The painting of house interior is getting there. Johnny my painter is a genius. And lordy so reasonable. I am thoroughly exhausted from moving, trashing, reconfiguring, dragging. My hoarding floodlit. My garage is taking a beating. I aspire to Zen. It will happen. or close to it anyway.

Meanwhile I'm going to vanish to Fogo Island for an R&R. I went there last with Grandgirl and we adored it. It does seem like everywhere I love is only accessible by ferry.

Here is a wee film of it. It is an extraordinary place and houses one of the four corners of the flat earth.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015


And yes, that lovely old window you see overlooks the ocean.

It's all very well to cruise around and plot colours and pick out lovely paints, make decisions on matte or semi or gloss but HELL. My painter is wonderful, one of those self-deprecating geniuses. And so far 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and 1 upper inner hallway are completed. By completed I mean: primer, ceilings, wainscoting and trim have all been meticulously applied, but to do all that he had to move stuff around. And hereby the chaos. He had a personal commitment for the weekend so wrapped up here Friday afternoon. He'll be back again on Monday morning first thing, to correct any small defects I might spot (none that I see) and then he'll tackle the upper outer hall and the lower main hall ceilings, on down to the living room and my office and back hall.

You might think I have a vast mansion of a place with all these halls but you'd be mistaken. The reason for the halls was to conserve heating in the winter in the good old days (and even now the freezing new days). So my little rabbit warren of a house has 4 halls and 5 tiny bedrooms with NO closets.

I sometimes wondered why I invested time and money into this place. And then I see the freshly painted rooms and I think - this is lovely, so badly needed and maybe, just maybe, these freshly decorated walls will extend beyond my lifespan and I won't have to do them again.

Meanwhile, I will trudge upstairs once again and survey the enormous amount of bits and pieces, scattered everywhere and question my own sanity: do I truly need all this stuff? And get ruthless, absolutely ruthless. Hear me, universe?

And this coming from a woman who discarded/recycled/donated 10 items per day for the last 50 odd days?

And felt so effing virtuous.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Experience and Opinions

I have this married couple pair of doctors as my physicians. I have nothing but good things to say about them. All my experiences have been positive. They have always seen me on time, faxed prescriptions to the pharmacy who deliver them to me on an immediate basis. Call me at home to give me health updates as needed. Work with me on my drug requirements, respect my refusal to take certain drugs (statins) and are super encouraging, down to giving me night splints for my arthritis to avoid morning pain.

We've chatted on personal terms too - particularly on emigrant experiences which we share.

So I was at this dinner party a couple of nights ago and words were tossed around about this couple. All negative - by at least six others. How "arrogant" how "defensive" how "shoddy" were their personas as physicians. And the waiting times were appalling and how dare they only see ten patients a day and then, by gum, they were never there on time in the morning and always left early.

I had to double check we were talking the same doctors. And yes, we were. Now I can be Super Critic when asked, especially when it comes to medical people or customer service, etc. You can imagine the startled looks I got when I extolled the virtues of these doctors. I must have seen them maybe 10 times in the past couple months. And now I'm on weekly appointments to discuss my diabetes treatment and readings and also my blood pressure and readings and methodologies for coping with stress, regaining my physical competence and so on.

Mouths around the table fell open. No one else had a positive experience to report even at Health Committee meetings which these doctors attended. They were "abrupt" and "patronizing".

I saw one of the doctors today on my regular weekly appointment (no wait-time) and she was charming and helpful and so very kind and attentive.

I find it extraordinary that I'm just a solitary voice of approval amidst so much antagonism and disappointment. Usually it's the other way round.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I have this new painter. Highly recommended. He's working on the inside of the house. The outside was done last year and I've squeezed out a few dollars for the inside this year. gone are the days when I'd do it all myself but younger and more agile than me have fallen off ladders or slipped a disk, or....but I just may tackle the craft room. There's something awfully satisfying about slapping on paint and fine tuning the trim, you know?

Well this painter, we're filing down the stairs and he says:

"Oh, I'm illiterate, missus."

"Oh," sez I, "How do you manage painting, the colours 'n all?"

"You'll have to put the cans into each room for me."

"How can you tell the different whites, like primer, trim, ceiling?"

"If you put a big letter on each, like P for primer, it'll be proper ting."

He's around 60+. We haven't got into the educational ins and outs of this but I imagine he fell through the cracks many years ago.

What I admired most was the practical way he stated this fact about his illiteracy.

And also when I suggested drop cloths, he said he never saw the need for them, he knew what he was doing and didn't splash around, no drips in his work, ask anybody. Pride, missus.

OK then.

I've had one awful experience with an inside painter.

Let's hope this one restores my faith.

PS - posted later - here was the followup post to my "Bristled" post above - this one is "Banjaxed" - have a larf.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Health Update

Photo taken yesterday - double click for maximum effect

Thanks for all the emails and comments on my The Call post.

Following many months of inactivity due to my accident which left me for far too long partially incapacitated followed by a dismal reaction to blood pressure medication, I am left with a body that is not performing very well at the moment.

Funny how we take our good health for granted until we are stopped in our tracks and left to evaluate, (quietly and silently in my case) as to what is going on.

Results of tests: Type 2 diabetes. Some kidney distress (excessive protein), poor blood results (too much of the 'bad' cholesterol) and the usual age-related challenges.

I haven't ingested refined sugar in over 3 years. Up to December I was capable of a 16k road-race, well a trek, not a "race" as we know a race. Then my body and mind crumbled and stumbled into 2015. I had a massive amount of stress too which didn't help, I still do. I've been meditating and doing some breathing exercises and practicing love and forgiveness. And yes, it's working.

So, bringing the blood sugar down to below 10 is the immediate goal. Followed by building up, slowly, my former physical condition - not superb but efficient.

And compared with many, this is all a walk in the park, right?

And I am so aware of this.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Fresh Eye

For this reader, it is sometimes important to re-read books that I originally read forty years ago. That is the case with my current read: "Death Comes for the Archbishop" by Willa Cather, written in 1926.

It basically tells the story of two Catholic priests converting the "natives" and "aboriginals" to Catholicism in New Mexico and Texas in the 1850s. The descriptions of landscape and culture are superb.

But it is the recounting of the white man's ways that take my breath away, particularly in the light of today where we are somewhat more aware of what we do and the evidence of our never-ending destruction of land, sea and water is far more deleterious than it ever was back then.

" was the white man's way to assert himself in any landscape, to change it, make it over a little (at least to leave some mark or memorial of his sojourn), it was the Indian's way to pass through a country without disturbing anything; to pass and leave no trace, like fish through water, or birds through the air."

Also, our sense of "decoration" compare unfavourably to aboriginals wherein they contented themselves with decorating only their bodies:

"....upon their blankets and belts and ceremonial robes they lavished this skill and pains. But their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European's desire to 'master' nature to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect."

I wish I had taken notes back then on books I read as I've done for the last five-six years. But again, with two small children and a full time job, I'm consistently amazed at how much I did read back then.

A journey of self-education, never regretted.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Better than.....

Sometimes we wait too long. I was at a 90th birthday party yesterday and whispered to my daughter "This is much better than a funeral, yeah?" and we both cracked up. Because it was. Ms E the celebrant - who looks like she has another 90 in her - was enjoying herself. Celebrating the slide show tribute, the multiple generations of her descendants, this fourth generation has produced girls for the first time, prior to then it was boyz and more boyz. She had six of her own who went on to produce countless more.

So I went on to ponder on "better thans".

This new technique to be used when I have stress or negative projections. Today is like, 9C, seriously. So I lit the fire. And thought: "This is better than snow and ice, remember your bad fall? Isn't this cosy?" And it is. I'm not reflecting on climate change and this weird chill and growing temperature challenges and...for also, "this is better than the stifling humid heat of Toronto where I lived for years and years."

As I knitted for an hour in the morning (goddess, how relaxing that is!) I thought to myself: "I'm doing way better with the arthritis - I thought my hands would be crippled with it when my thumbs started to ache so badly in the mornings."

And thanks to blogger That British Woman and the inspiring photos of Ernestine I plan my menus for a week and post them up in the kitchen. Better than sporadic or repetitive meals. And healthier in variety.

Daughter, the former prof, has found immense pleasure and fulfilment in being a part-time crab fisher. I celebrate her joy and happiness - so much better than the life she had before, her connection with the sea is profound and her capacity for hard physical labour, in spite of her health challenges, lightens my spirit. Better than the bubble of underlying anxiety for her I carried in the past.

So there ya go - do you have "better thans" in your day?

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