Sunday, April 22, 2018


I'm basically a bore with breakfast.

But the following is a recipe I've used forever when I don't have time in the morning to make the oatmeal with seeds and nuts and homemade yogurt and berries on top and also cook my egg.

I make it ahead of time and it makes 4 breakfasts. I've eaten it cold or warmed up.

It sticks to the ribs really well.

1 cup uncooked grain - anything but wheat. Quinoa is delicious as is oatmeal.
2 cups berries or chopped mixed fruit of any kind.
1 cup skim milk or soya or yogurt or 1/2 cup ricotta or cottage cheese or almond milk.
6 medium eggs
1 tsp nutmeg and/or ginger to taste
1 long casserole dish greased well.

Beat eggs well with the milk or yogurt or ricotta.

Sprinkle grain on bottom of dish

Spread berries over top

Pour egg mixture over everything.

Bake at 375 for an hour or until firm. Cut into 4.

And yes, my change of habits and planning ahead with meals is going really well.

I realize, for the 100th time, that I am a person who can't be spontaneous with food.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Over the last couple of weeks, I've made some substantial changes to my food intake. I despise the word diet which has evolved into a word defining restriction with ephemeral weight loss the outcome.

I struggle with eating cold veggies - salads,etc. I don't know why that is. I was brought up in a reasonably healthy house, very healthy for its time and place, my mother had taken classes in nutrition and that was over 60 years ago, but I've always rebelled against salads. The cold mutinous lettuce in a bowl with tomatoes eyes and cucumber faces. Ironically, my children became salad lovers as a result of my repugnance.

I've struggled with weight much of my life and am familiar with every aspect of food addiction, anorexia, weight gains, substantial weight losses, yo-yo dieting, black beauties amphetamines, sketchy doctors with horse urine shots, medically supervised fasts, weight loss programmes with their business model based on failure, etc.

My recent restricted movement and physicality has forced me to go look at my food intake, to reevaluate my ingestion so to speak, as the weight has crept on since my diagnoses of PVD. I am a foodie, an overall addict of much and often, so I put on my big girl knickers, and toured some blogs who have taken the year of 2018 to focus on health and simplicity and planning. Thanks you guys, you are too numerous to mention but you all inspire me.

I bought ready made salads - I worked out the costs and with the disgraceful amount of veggies I throw out regularly, it is actually cheaper for me to buy a large salad, full of variety with free dressing on the side, that creates 4 meals for me for $10. For some reason I don't question, this is palatable. I also picked up some healthy pre-made meals. With an aging population here, these are becoming more readily available and I often find that one (recently a gorgeous turkey meat loaf with tiny potatoes and zucchini) does me for 2 dinners at a cost of $4.00 each. That plus salad is a great meal.

I also got myself back into a support group which helps me immeasurably in taking stock and working on the inner issues of "it's not what I'm eating, it's what's eating me". The "comfort eating" which is but a moment in time and results in enormous physical discomfort for me. My running and training days are over and I'm truly back to basics which can be a very good thing. For anybody. I (mostly) accept my new limits, my new state of having so many losses which linger in spite of stones thrown in water and candles lit and meditative practices.

I'm still easing into the persona of healthy, moderate eater but I'm getting there.

More on this as I forge this new pathway.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I love coffee. All kinds of coffee except weak and instant.

I had to leave my enormous machine behind in my house when I sold it. It was far too big for my apartment. I remember celebrating its purchase way back in the day. A machine that could brew coffee anyway you liked it. But after 10 years of daily use it owed me nothing. And it still works like a charm.

I bought a small coffee maker when I moved here and it is quite splendid. But I missed my espresso, my after dinner decaff espresso.

I went on the hunt for something tidy and beautiful and well, Italian.

And thanks to K-pods (a universal paean to bad coffee everywhere, not to mention the environmental impact) I found this fabulous little beauty for a song. Very few, I gather, want to go to the trouble of real brew anymore. The polished wood on the handle and lid is art in itself but the espresso this baby disgorges is absolute bliss.

Me is happy.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

For the Price of.....

For the price of a beer or a fancy latte

Or a bag of cheap cookies or a cafe au lait

Or a magazine rampant with pages of ads,

Or dollar store gizmos: the latest of fads.

The main one I place right by my side,

The second one goes to the hallway outside,

The third one sits in the wee room to stay

And I ponder the wealth of my lovely bouquet.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Simple Chairy Things.

A chair I'd ordered about 2 months ago, arrived today. I had liked the sales person at the store but the first alarm bell went off when she called me back the day following the order placement and said she had messed up on the price and the material was $200 more. I thought about it and phoned her back, realizing everyone makes mistakes and told her to go ahead with the order, I had liked the fabric and design.

I had asked specifically for no rockers on this reclining chair. I had test driven about 20 recliners at the store and I've always disliked rockers, they make me feel off balance and insecure. I do love recliners though and the last time I had one was in the marital home a long, long time ago. I've dreamed of one since but with specific requirements like I should be able to sit and knit in it and have it comfy enough for a nap with the feet up (and no rocking!). I could never quite afford such a creature and checking out second hand ones (I did look) never quite worked out due to smoking households or terrible colours or aforementioned rockers.

So mein very own chair was delivered first thing this morning and the fellahs set it up and whoa Nelly, this beautiful work of art and comfort had rockers. Shyte cubed sez I, and called the shop and found my saleswoman was off on leave of some kind. "You could keep it," was offered unhelpfully. I insisted the fellahs take it back and they supply me with the chair I wanted. There was no apology offered only another unhelpful remark of "this will take a lot more time."

In the way of things and special orders, you'd think this would be pretty straightforward, wouldn't you?

The fellahs muttered as they staggered back out with my chair: "Dealing with E-------(my original sales woman) is like talking to a wall."

I wish she's worn a sign telling me that.

No follow up from the store yet.

And this was not a cheap chair.

I'm oiling up my Toyota machine gun.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Mr. Frank and I got together one more time.

I let him carry the conversation.

Right off the bat: there will be no Mr. WWW or Mrs. Frank.

All the alarm bells went off, and thank heaven I am old enough and have learned enough to hang garlic around my neck and cross my fingers and mutter my internal witchly incantations.

To recite the whys would be extraordinarily boring.

You want to hear?

The women in his life just wanted his money.

Even the love (lust?) of his life, a much younger flight attendant, wanted him to buy her stuff. (What stuff, pray tell? Stuff that doesn't last like flowers and woman-stuff)

He's very bored, plays the stock market every day, tries to fill his nights with something, anything. Wouldn't mind tagging along for something, anything, as long as we shared costs. He's learned his lesson, you see. Be still my trembling heart.

Life was more interesting when there was sex involved but now there's precious little life left in Mr. Little Frank. Which pithily tells us everything we wanted didn't want to know about Lover Frank.

I nearly fell asleep.

He truly harshes my mellow.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Things I Don't Miss

Many talk of aging as something to be feared, the many losses: the loss of vitality. health, the so-called good old days, etc., but seriously, us oldies need to count all the things we don't miss, shall we?

(1)Menstruation, I menstruated for 40 years.

(2)Fear of pregnancy. My last scare? I was 52, thinking I was way beyond it. See 1.


(4)Getting up early, going to work and pretending I didn't have a hangover. See 3.



(7)Stilettos - seriously, what were we thinking?

(8)Make up - nothing like painting your face before throwing yourself out the door. Not.

(9)Hairdo maintenance - the cost alone, knowing presentability for the male gaze meant my employment or not.

(10)Performing femininity see 7,8,9

(11)A household to run plus two jobs to keep it all together. Single mom. 2 kids.

(12)Dating - see 10.

(13)Being always afraid of men when I was out alone running or coming home on a quiet street or late at night. And even of the male cops patrolling - with cause. Now I feel safe for the first time in a secure building with a well-lit parking lot, a resident administrator and emergency buttons.

(14)Being always broke, money never quite stretching to needs, never mind wants.

(15)Stress about all of the above.

I'm sure there are loads more.

I'd love to hear yours.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Well, blow me down!

I'm not easily surprised. At my age, 74, I've heard it all and continue to hear it all through young friends and new friends. Variations on the theme of relationships.

I haven't performed femininity in a long while. My hair is naturally an odd mix of brown, silver and grey, nondescript, although there are some that would disagree with you. I've let it grow long over the past twelve months, I didn't want to but before I sold my house I was budgeting carefully and if there's one thing I've learned over the years it is that if you pay peanuts for a haircut, monkeys are exactly what you're going to get. My lovely stylist Bernice was thus off my budget. She is excellent but expensive. I can afford her now, thanks to a small inheritance I finally received but haven't made the appointment yet. I don't wear makeup, I wear flat shoes and jeans mainly and manicures have never been on any priority list in my life.

I'm clean but I'm an unashamedly old woman. I'm a great story-teller and equally great listener (ask Johanna my new cleaning lady who has recounted the excruciating details of all her 11 surgeries to me) and when I'm with you I give you my full on attention and am never looking for somebody better in the room. But yes, I'm, I would think, beyond romance, beyond "dating" or "hooking up." That would be fine for you but me? I would have thought myself disinterested. I still admire engaging, intelligent men, the ones who are not afraid to show their inners. I've never been interested in the outers types. I've found those kinds of friends and relationships have fallen away, much to our mutual relief I would think. The inners have hung in there with me and I with them.

So imagine my surprise when another senior of my age, maybe a bit younger, started to hang out with me. Sitting by me. Talking away to me about Ireland and all his trips there. And then said to me, what do you like to do in your spare time?

My response was vague, I said it would take too long to recount my many interests.

"We should make the time," Frank* responded.

I met with a good friend of mine, Don* who knows Frank and I asked him in absolute disbelief to interpret Frank's conversation, like was Frank actually hitting on me? I'm that out of touch, you see.

Don laughed. "Of course he is!"

Long story short, I met with Frank for a coffee and we chatted, talking with him is very comfortable. In walks Ben, another friend of mine. Ben spots me and rushes over and hugs me and then pulls up a chair and sits down.

I can tell Frank is upset but we pull him into the conversation and he keeps checking his watch, not rudely, but not subtly either, as Ben and I get caught up, still pulling Frank in to the chat. Swedish death cleaning was one of the topics and Frank talked briefly about his time in Sweden which was a bit of a tangent but we adjusted our sails.

And then with a deep sigh he got up from the table, sighed again, looked at his watch and didn't look at us and said "I'll be off!" and off he went.

"My gawd," said Ben, astounded, "Is that guy jealous or wha'?"

*not their real names

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Finding My Beach

Since I moved to the city I've thought "I need a beach". I'm kind of fussy about making a beach mine. It always takes a while.

It has to be open to the wild Atlantic.

It has to have sand.

It has to have rocks.

It has to have perches.

And little recessed areas for a chair for the knitting or a book or a meditation.

And people and dogs and kids to observe.

I found it, 10 minutes from my apartment.


Sunday, April 01, 2018

Emerging into Easter

I think we all need this. To be under the weather with all that entails, low energy, hacking, spewing, wondering where the hell so much moisture comes from, swigging cough medicine, Kleenex boxes the main decor in every room and avoiding all human contact. Many books, bits of knitting, Netflix, piles of unwashed dishes, a table so disorganized as to constitute a safety hazard.

And then today. It's like a cocoon has gently split and I emerge and put on some music and take a shower and change the sheets and catch up on a bit of knitting and open my windows and realize after a few hours that hey, I haven't coughed once.

And life looks sunny once more and if I could find some human company, I won't quite seek it mind you, but hey if I ran across it I might actually socialize. But meanwhile it's a walk by the lake and a drool at the dog park.

And my favourite Easter hymn to soothe you. I would sing this back in the day in a choir in my home city.

Friday, March 30, 2018

At the Coffee Shop

Yesterday, I was sitting in a coffee shop people watching. Note taking. My best ideas come in coffee shops.

A couple, fifty-ish, well dressed in khaki, twinnish, empty pockets on their cargo pants,leather hiking boots,serious vests,marching purposefully in.

She held the table while he did the ordering. I was astonished when he brought back 1 XL coffee and 1 large Morning Glory muffin.
He then proceeded to empty half the coffee into a green reusable cup she hauled out from her Roots bag while she halved the muffin with a plastic knife. They then ate the shared repast.

I thought to myself: not in a million years would I do that. Never have I done that. How would you arrive at the stage in life where this would be de rigeur for outings? Does it imply an extraordinary intimacy? When would be the first time this happened? Did they do this for every meal, halving eggs and bacon, the BBQ, the sandwich? Do they have individual taste buds or have they just melded into one? How are they when invited to dinner parties? (Oh two plates, one dinner please!). They were remarkably trim and healthy looking. Didn't speak to each other all through the snack, and showed a complete lack of curiosity for anyone else in the cafe. Then again, am I the only one taking notes?

Another couple in the corner were obviously having an affair. He was feeding her bits of an outrageously pink pastry. Her dress was a matching pink with black slashes in the pattern, short and sparkly. Around 40. Black tights, black leather jacket, dyed black hair cut teenage style. asymmetrically. He was a rumpled mid-thirties, brown curly hair, looked in a hurry but kept reassuring her, between feedings, with his free hand on hers, pressing, begging. The wind had blown his comb-over off his small bald spot, but she was facing him so wouldn't have been privy to what I saw. At one point a tear leaked out of her eye, "I'll tell her, I will," he pleaded,a bit too loudly, "It's just not the right time with the baby coming."

Another couple, women, sat across from me. She was thin as a razor, her heavier friend brought the fixings, passing her a black coffee and setting a pastry and frozen concoction down for herself. She was the more animated, the friend nodding silently as she sipped her coffee. I only caught bits but it involved a husband at sea and a suspicion of an affair he was having with the ship's cook as she kept calling the house when he was on leave to tell him jokes. "Jokes?" said Razor,"Dirty jokes?" "The way he laughs, well, yeah." "I wouldn't like that." "Well, girl, I don't like it at all."

An ongoing joke in my family(Daughter and Grandgirl and I are such people watchers!) is we pretend we have highly personal printed questionnaires to pass out to strangers to avoid all this speculation and surmising. ("Let's get this over with, pass him the questionnaire!")

But that would spoil the fun of the passing parade.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Crossing the Rubicon

I really don't know how some surmount challenges more easily than others. I'm not that kind of person. At least I don't think I am. Others often tell me that I have surmounted many challenges in my life, that I'm tough, that I enjoy thinking through solutions to perceived barriers, that I like to solve puzzles.

I was feeling rather hopeless yesterday, all the more so because the weather was glorious and there were scads of people out around the lake that I overlook. A gorgeous spot with peeks at the ocean from the walkway around it. Sunlight sparkling on the water, the ducks doing that water-skiing thing, skimming over the water. Especially those dazzling males. Dear blog, I drove down to the parking lot nearest the doggie park and I sat and watched the dogs and I cried. Like a fool. I couldn't stop. Ansa and I had walked around that lake so many times and I'd bring her into the doggie park and she'd make a few ventures out to the other dogs, half-heartedly play-bow and then come back to me, content to sit and watch the other dogs. A Mummy's girl as other dog owners often commented, some quite enviously. The loss of her overwhelmed me for a while. I tried to bite it all down but that made it worse.

So today, I drove down there again, 11c (52F) out. Seriously, we've had this freakish warm winter, very little snow. And I took my stick and walked. And yes it hurt, it's supposed to, but I managed 1,500 steps. And I felt part of and not distant from all the activity around me. And there was so much: dogs, elders, babies, wheelchairs, everybody smiling and greeting and revelling in this glorious sunshine. And so very many dogs, one woman had 5, all beautifully trained. And I didn't cry once.

I still don't know what got me out there, to be part of this mobile human race, it was like, maybe being fanciful, the spirit of Ansa nudging me, pushing me. I was ready to give up on these legs. On myself. Overwhelmed doesn't quite capture it.

And Blog, it wasn't as bad as I thought. I stopped twice to give the legs a bit of a nap and then moved on. And I had the thought: I can increase this, not by much, not so I feel defeated and hopeless, but even an extra 50 steps a day?

Yeah, that's manageable.

How do you surmount perceived barriers or challenges?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cruelty, Savagery, Bullying, Delusion and Newspeak.

I have many USian friends. Gentle, kind, thoughtful and, well, sad and scared. I care about them. But I also see that protective bubble they wear: a nostalgic longing for the Kennedy or Lincoln or Obama USA. Without really parsing what those past USAs were. (Slavery? Slaughter of the Aboriginals?)

I, at this distance off at the edge of Canada, see 100 years of non-stop invasions of other countries, on some pretext or other. So many military installations in every corner of the universe as to be considered a form of ownership of the countries they inhabit. I, myself, live on a former US fortress which was abandoned some time in the fifties but was home to thousands of US military during WW2. All the battlements and armed gateways and arms manufacturing are long gone but the history remains. A reminder of the presence that transformed the landscape overlooking St. John's.

Now, it has all come down to this unstable moronic buffoon controlling the nuclear button to global annihilation. A man who is the butt of endless jokes. Endless jokes which gives everyone a quick mocking laugh but this does not alleviate the underlying fear which is ever present in all of us. That in a moment of rage, this bully can blow us all to smithereens. Who can incite hatred and othering for blacks and Muslims and people of colour in his own country.

He is the symbol of all that is corrupt in the country to the south of us today.

I'm grateful I still have the capacity to be appalled at each fresh murderous assault on schoolchildren by schoolchildren, at the massacres at concerts, at bombs, at the homegrown terrorism that seems to abide in every town, at toddlers shooting at mothers or siblings, men slaughtering their women partners.

But the fact that it is allowed to continue, day after day, year after year, chills my heart. So now we have the schoolchildren marching following the women marching, all marching like I remember Martin Luther King marching but the slaughter of the innocents continues, blacks, kids, gays, women in their homes.

It is a savage and cruel country indeed that can look into the eyes of these traumatized children and tell them nothing will change. And remind them that assault weapons are the right of every man, women and child to do with what they will.

It is a savage and cruel country that can look at millions and millions of their poorest and deny them life saving health care. Or plunge them into bankruptcy if they are middle-class and uninsured.

It is a savage and cruel country that can see seniors and elders eking out an existence in their cars with no home or health care, lucky to work part-time in a Walmart for sustenance.

It is a savage and cruel country that can drive by so many homeless who live in tents on the sides of the roads and under bridges.

It is mass delusion to call where they live the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It is newspeak to call invasions of sovereign countries "bringing democracy" or. sadly, "freedom".

For how can any country bring democracy anywhere when they don't have it themselves?

I leave on a note of hope from our cherished Leonard Cohen, RIP, written over 20 years ago.

Monday, March 19, 2018


(1)I'm down with something. A bad cold, not quite ready to call it flu. I am susceptible to bronchitis so am keeping a close eye and ear on this thing. I did have the pneumonia shot earlier but not the flu shot. It's not that effective anyway. I'm about 5 days in, sleeping a lot when I'm not hacking a lot. A nuisance more than anything else.

(2)I'm sad about many blog friends either resigning from blogland or disappearing without notice. Far too many this year so far. Some leave in high dudgeon over slights and insults, others are ill and just about break my heart. Others grieve over losses and can't find the energy or inclination to post.

(3)Daughter is leaving the country tomorrow for nigh on 5 weeks. I'll miss her like mad. This digital age is useful for ongoing connections but the daily and physical contact can't be beaten.

(4)Missed my bookclub meeting today due to (1) and feel sad about that as I had thoroughly enjoyed the book and had made extensive notes on it. Remarkable Creatures A remarkable book about the discovery of fossils by two women and guess who got all the credit? According to the book reports posted online, all members loved it and had a great discussion. I know I'm extremely fortunate in my book club, we really stick to book discussions and host authors also.

(5)I keep close tabs on a friend with what looks like early dementia but I am feeling the strain. If I remind her of important facts of her life, the next time we talk she informs me of these same facts as if they just happened, forgetting I reminded her. She lives at a distance so it is challenging and sad. I'm unsure how to proceed if at all. Worried too in case she hurts herself. I gently suggested independent senior living to her and spoke of the advantages of not running a house anymore and getting things taken care of. She clenched on to that idea fiercely and I was so relieved. She kept repeating it to me and then wrote it down. I imagine she is very frightened but not sharing that with me, and who's to blame her. Her mother had early onset Alzheimer's so the gene pool is not favorable towards her. I reinforced that she is in charge of how she proceeds now. And no one else.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Controversial Opinions.

I am occasionally surprised with how angrily some react to my Tweets or my Facebook posts. One this morning attacked my "smearing" of Stephen Hawking, RIP. I truly despise the abolition of reality checks when such heroes die. Stephen was a great, ground-breaking and incredible scientist but as a human being he fell far short of compassion and kindness. Especially to his wives and children.

I do not believe in whitewashing the dead. They are flawed like the rest of us. Sometimes more so. My opinions are my own, usually carefully thought out and based on my own reality, sometimes drawing on my own pain or enlightenment. But they are sincere and destined not to hurt as I "own" them. I try not to attack YOU, but to point you in the direction of my reality, my perception of events. And I truly respect yours. We learn so much from each other's journeys.

I find it hard to understand the removal of controversial or opposing comments from blogs. What are bloggers and commentators looking for? Constant approval? Adulation? Hits? Sycophantic spirits in the digital realm?

I have little time for ad hominem attacks - I've been a victim myself - but certainly time for genuine, critical, thoughtful thinking, even of a drastically opposing viewpoint - I will fight to the death for you to air whatever you feel.

I view my blog as a place for me to throw something out and then take time to savour the comments, much like a virtual dinner party. And believe me I've had dinner parties where a guest has displayed his hitherto masked racism or misogyny - but I do not eject him from my dinner table and banish him to the yard unfit for human company. For that is exactly the time to share our own beliefs without shaming or blaming but have a civilized conversation with indoor voices. Nothing vulgar, as my blog friend Nick would have it.

Careful consideration and respect for each other should be a given. And comments and opinions upheld and not censored unless personally attacking an individual rather than offering an opposing opinion.

Congenial and honest discourse.

Reasoned debate.

Or am I dreaming?

Monday, March 12, 2018


I have a friend who runs from pillar to post with money, always on the verge of bankruptcy, lurching from crisis to crisis. For years. I am extremely fond of her and I have always found that criticizing or being helpful without been asked is dynamite to meaningful relationships. So I listen for a while and ask if she has developed a method on improving on this and a rambling type of conversation ensues. Her sense of humour is immense and she could make a statue laugh.

Mark you, she has never asked for help in dealing with her money issues.

Her image to others is important, I think I am one of maybe 2 who know about her real financial situation which is heart breaking. Single mother, not a dime from deadbeat dad through the years, a gambling addiction she has licked with a likeness for weed and booze replacing it. She is my age now and has never gotten ahead even in good jobs with pensions. She cashed the balance of all such accounts out last year (she had me review the papers) due to "hardship" so now her hardship has returned and it's none of my business what she did with the money and she has never volunteered any information as to its disposal.

She got herself into an awful pickle at Xmas. She likes to impress her grandchildren with outrageous gifts ("they're all I have") and she runs around with them in her jalopy, picking them up and dropping them off and utilizing a lot of gas. She can't afford to get her car fixed so it roars off out of here with an ear-splitting decibel level like some mad teenager with a beater.

I, too, had many years of financial struggle, taking in boarders for years, taking in tourists, working two jobs, always behind the 8 ball financially. Always stressed about money.

My path could be Stella's*.

I feel mightily privileged that I have a bank account ergo with not too much in it, but enough to bury me, enough to buy me yarn, to give Grandgirl a small bonus now and again (she knows how impoverished I am)and to fund my car payments and my rent and my groceries and bi-weekly cleaning of my apartment. There won't be any travel in my future and I'm just fine with that. My joy is being in the here and now, cherishing those who are dear to me: my chosen tribe and Daughter and Grandgirl.

I don't imagine Stella is unusual at all. The crisis of single female elders is worldwide, some living in their cars or on the grace and favour of their children. She took out a payday loan** before Xmas, and, an intelligent woman, she did not realize what all the fine print said about fees and usurious interest rates and truly that one can never pay it off. These places are owned by Big Banks and the Canadian government refuses to regulate them. They prey on the hopeless and the poor and the old like Stella. She texted me during the week to tell me how hopeless she felt in the maws of this bloodsucking vulture. She didn't ask for help. Though my care-taking instinct kicked in, I suppressed it. She needs to figure it all out for herself.

And yes, I'm very aware that some lessons never get learned.

And lurching from crisis to crisis is just another addiction. An adrenaline high.

*not her real name
**In 2004, a Toronto Star investigation revealed payday loans carried annualized interest rates ranging from 390 to 891 per cent.

Friday, March 09, 2018


Or Mini-Meditations.

I do this regularly and almost subconsciously now. But it really helps me stay away from negative or worrisome thinking.

When I think: ooh I'm cold, I immediately think of when my chimney was no good for 3 months back in the old house and how every time I jacked the electric heat I'd worry about the ensuing power bills. And I smile. Gratefully.

I was moaning combing out my far too long hair this morning after showering, as it knotted and pulled and then thought: Others would kill for your hair, yes it's thinning, but imagine combing a sparseness, hairs you can literally count. Like so many I know. And I smile. Gratefully.

I was brooding over a friendship gone south (I thought) and feeling angry and upset and lost. And then I thought of all the happy, joyful times, and the kindnesses given and received during its long stretch and I smiled. Gratefully.

I had a long session with my young friend who is going through stuff no one should have to suffer. And I was raging for her and the ex-partner who treats her so badly and then I said: "You know I had a dreadful beginning to my sobriety, hell on wheels, everything went wrong that could. But you know what happened? I recognised it was my past catching up with me like a tsunami and now I also recognise that I had to go through all of that without picking up and my life never ever got that bad again because I learned some amazing lessons and made some marvellous life friends who support me through thick and thin, warts 'n all. And I promise you, it will never, ever be this bad again if you don't pick up." And she smiled. Shakily, gratefully.

I brood about Missing Daughter. Of course I do. I'm an expert brooder. I could give lessons. And then I focus on Daughter #1, present and accounted for. Who treats me so well and so honourably and respectfully. And I smile. Gratefully.

See what I mean?

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Beginning of a Marriage

I had quite a hunt for a cleaning lady. I've rarely been without one in all my adult life. I'd put a good cleaning lady before food and drink and gas in my car.

I never thought this one was going to fly. I'd interviewed a few who made enormous demands with regard to products, allergies, refusing to do stove or windows, etc. I should start at the beginning and tell you I am clueless about housekeeping and am delighted that I am now of the age where it's too late to learn. I've been fortunate in that I've had long term cleaners for the past 50 years who stick to me like glue and I to them. We develop a lovely understanding of each other. They appreciate my baffled limits and I accept their expertise unquestionably. We're all happy.

Then I heard of this lady who cleans for a gentleman in my building and charges a laughable fee. I interviewed her and she seemed amenable and didn't stagger off screaming into the sunset after seeing my place which I've kept hygienic but nowhere near a Betty Crocker level. She talked a lot. But passed the test of no demands on her simpleton employer.

Today she started and we had to sort out some stuff together. I figured I'd impress her by getting a steam moppy thingie for the floor that is plugged in. It took us a while but we figured it out together and dear goddess, she was delighted. As was I with the kitchen and bathroom floors, effortless mopping with steam with no nasty cleaning products.

The place is now spotless and she did windows and baseboards and stove, bless her.

She talks. A lot. But works hard in between.

And we bond over knitting.

She hugged me when she left and assured me that now she knows where everything is, she'll take good care of me and I'm never to worry about housework again.

I know.

I have horsehoes up my arse.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

So I gave a class.......

Looking for a paying gig, I'd put an ad in a free magazine. A fishing expedition really, to see if anyone out there would hire me. And meanwhile I'd done my morning meditation: welcoming work, good work, meaningful work.

And out of the blue I heard from a theatre contact. And I worked for them on grant applications which I really enjoyed and then they asked me to give a workshop on accounting software and demonstrate as to how it had all gone so horribly wrong for them. I'd done these before but hadn't enjoyed them for a variety of reasons.

But this environment was a Women's Centre, where women are respected and honoured. And right away, the atmosphere from the elevator person to the welcome to the set up to the participants was just so refreshing and something I'd not encountered before in a business environment. Respectful attention, respectful questions, I found a different part of myself, gentler. I used different words, checking: tell me if I'm going too quickly, tell me if I'm reviewing stuff you already know, oh my, it's such a pleasure having a class like this.

Marvelous snacks were spread out at "break".

I felt enormously validated. I'd had some trepidation prior to (hello, an old lady teaching the 30 somethings accounting software?). But that all dispersed just about immediately. It's surprising what a supportive environment is created when respect and caring are present and loudness and assertion and yes, ignorance, and dare I say men? are not present.

I just loved the whole experience. And at the end of it all I was asked if I'd like a retainer for consulting work and to please give some consideration to joining their board of directors at the annual meeting in June.

How life is full of surprises.

All we have to do, as one old shaman once told me, is "suit up and show up."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Joy of Snail Mail

I love snail mail, both receiving and sending.

So does Daughter. I see her regularly and we talk many times a week, but she sends nuggets in the mail to me. One of her own postcards, addresses blocked to protect privacy:



And then 2 days ago, a postcard from a friend, "a woman of affairs, Greta Garbo":

And this is a treasure, received a week ago, a handmade booklet from a writer friend, full of hand-drawn pictures and beautifully scripted writing honouring my late lamented companion dog Ansa. This is called "O My Dogling."

So yesterday, I went to the post office and mailed the following, with joy:

(1)Two handknitted dishcloths +card to the winner of my dishcloth draw, Pauline.
(2)A "Thank You" card to Kathleen, my writer friend for her dogling gift.
(3)A "Thank You" card to the municipal people I worked with who sent me a card containing a $100 credit card and a lovely note.
(4)A "Thank You" card with a payment and a wee bonus to my plumbing/well genius/expert water man/defrosting of pipes expert, Calvin, who disconnected and reconnected water in the ongoing saga of my house, now sold, and who voluntarily dropped around to it every day monitoring the situation in my absence.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Things don't dust themselves, who knew?

It's only when I'm taking things apart to make room for something more efficient, more aesthetic, more utilitarian, that I nearly fall over from the dust that collects behind the books, the files, the cords, whathaveyous.

I can't tell you how many times this has happened in my life. I can't say I get embarrassed, housekeeping has never been my strong suit, but I find myself surreptitiously hauling out a dust-cloth and shoving the dust around. In the old house, the fire was always the distributor of such largesse. Here in the apartment? I could say I burn incense and candles. The problem with my brain is I wonder where the hell this stuff comes from in the absence of fire ash and dog (she was handy also as a dust instigator).

Today I had kinda built-ins arrive from the furniture maker. His photos looked wondrous, his prices excellent but the end product?

Dear gawd, a bit of a shocker as to quality. I was disturbed a bit when he showed up missing some important teeth from his upper jawbone. We talked different languages starting immediately. I questioned the non-finishing of the pieces, it went like this:

"I was under the impression that you would furniture finish the two pieces."

"Ah, you'll have to give them a bit of a wipe to get the sawdust off."

"I don't mean that, if you look at the table here and the chairs, you'll know what I mean."

"No, I don't."

"A reflective finish, fine sanded like this table."

"You don't want that, it destroys the look of the wood."

"I don't think so."

"And I see you didn't use wood filler in the screws or the mistaken screw holes (there were several aborted attempts in drilling for screws) either."

"You might want to take things apart and move screws and you can't do that if they're glued."

"And the side of the desk is the wrong measurement. I scanned you my design."

"It looks fine, I offer a lifetime guarantee on my work."

"I wasn't expecting plywood as a desktop."

"Nice and light to move around."

"But it's permanent in the corner, no moving around."

"Ah, but you might want to move it around."

I gave up. Sometimes you just cut your losses, you know?

I don't want to see him again and frankly, I was a little scared to tangle with him. And I've sucked up my disappointment and adapted my office space and the desk fits nicely in the corner and the pullout keyboard drawer works well, it was his piece de resistance. He couldn't stop demonstrating it.

And oh, yes. Bonus: I dusted.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Dis 'n Dat

A lovely bunch of flowers from Daughter in a jug from my mother.

I'm starting this post, knowing I won't be completing it for a few days.

I entertained for the first time in my apartment. A brunch. With a brunch dish that I've made so many times I no longer need a recipe. It was fun making it. Daughter was here for the weekend and we made it together. It needs to sit overnight in the fridge for maximum fluff and effect.

I am very fortunate in that my interests and activism and support groups have me meeting the young. One of the guests on Saturday was the same age as my granddaughter and she was amazing, her breath of knowledge took my breath away. So well read and educated and on an artists' bursary programme here in Newfoundland. She had thought she was applying to Halifax and was shocked that "Atlantic Grants" included Newfoundland. But loving it here and surprised that our winter is so mild - it's the first time in anybody's recollection that boots have only been required once or twice this winter. Climate change having positive effects on this wild island, if we can call it positive. We bonded over textile work and she loved the prints of my work I have framed and hanging on the walls. The youth of today give me enormous hope. They clearly see where it all went so horribly wrong (capitalism and patriarchy run amok) with politicians and the 1% and their puppeteers valuing excessive stuff more than humanity. Most recent case in point being Florida and those young people massacred and their dreams trashed alongside their forever traumatized relatives and friends. No one ever recovers from these multiple massacres. An endless arsenal of machine guns de rigeur versus the lives of children.

I found a woodworker who is converting my designs into actuality. One is for a corner desk unit with an awkward shape to fit into the office corner of my bedroom. The other was for a mobile cart to match some bookshelves to hold my flat screen and the few precious DVDs I couldn't give away. His prices are a joke. Wait till you see. I will be supplying photos of the entire downsized place when complete. It is all coming together so nicely.

A follow-up to the theatre contract I received was more consulting which pleases me no end. Good to keep my hand in, particularly in the creative field. Other jobs came my way but I turned them down. I'm realizing my own limits, my energy is great in the morning but I can be unpredictably wiped in the afternoon which annoys me no end. I'm working on acceptance of this and planning accordingly. Sometimes.

I lost a 30 year friendship today. A good man who will be missed. A cancer that wouldn't leave him for the last few years. He had a cabin in Newfoundland and lived in Ontario and New Brunswick. He will be missed. The second loss this month. The real penalty of growing old, isn't it. The mixed blessing of survival.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Elder Musings

~~I am thrilled with a new project I was fortunate enough to get.

~~However, I am slower, do you guys of elder vintage find that tackling work that was formerly a kind of I-can-do-this-with-one-hand- tied-behind-my-back is now an-all-hands-on-deck situation? And speaking of all hands I find that a sporadic carpal tunnel problem I had returned and boy was it a challenge to heal, older tissues, repetitive strain injuries take triple the time to heal including an arm splint to bed, oh gawd was that awful. I digress, it is now healed with the odd twinge to remind me not to abuse it again.

~~I'm also aware that the the 30+age gap between my clients and myself has me faltering a lot with business language. It's not that I don't know it, it's that it is more difficult to retrieve out of my brain files, particularly in business conversations. This morning on a 3-way conference call I found myself fumbling mentally with what term I could use for my PC(personal computer rather than my smart phone), thinking: is PC still used? So I blurted "Main frame." Now there's a blast from the past. I've been 40 years using these suckers. They let it go, tho surely they must wonder what I meant or what decade of the ought-oughts I was in.

~~See what I mean?

~~My wee friend whom I've mentioned before (under 30) wants a coffee date late tonight and my mind immediately goes to bedtime interruptus now: my nightly routines of a bit of Netflix, my book, my games of online scrabble and I want to decline but hey, I know this stuff is good for me too. Break the old routines, get out there.

~~Daughter wants me to meet 2 of her friends and host them to brunch in my place next weekend and I'd thought: no more of these get-togethers when I moved here, just hermitize. And hermitizing has not been good as my inner slob takes over and things need to be put away rather than gaped at in puzzlement as to where to put them. There's very little excess, but photographs, binders of writing, old laptop, wools, crafting supplies, multiple unhung pictures, you get it. But I mulled and thought well: incentive. In the past friends and I always joked that the best housekeeping system is to entertain once a month and I've followed that for years and years now. So yes, I need to do this, there's nothing like new friends and seriously I'm quite proud that Daughter likes to air me and share me. The maternal age-gap has shrunk between us which is quite lovely. And rare. And I treasure it.

~~Impatience with myself - that internal voice. I must slow down as I drop things in my speedy old way of doing things. Spoons, pens, phone, blue tooth ear piece, papers and I find myself castigating myself. Slow down, honour the crone.

~~One thing at a time is important. I can't do everything in one day and mornings are the best. So I do one thing on the to do list every day, or more if I can manage it, and the current day's wee jobs too, but I list them all as I learned in that Living with Chronic Diseases Workshops so I know that I've accomplished something at the end of the day, even if it's self care.

PS Photo is not me, but hey, I can sometimes feel like that.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Dear Diary

Dear Diary:

I'm sure you're very bored with all this nonsense regarding my holdings of 7 acres and its numerous outbuildings, far too numerous to count, that is holding me and my future financial security hostage. I've practised much mindfulness and letting go and shifting importances. And it works, most of the time.

And that window thing? I started that again as we know D, that if the current permutation of this sale goes through I will have to supplement my sad pensions and OAS. So I restarted the window thing the other morning. I witness dawn every day. And right now it is magical as we know. No snow, glorious sun (casting climate change concerns away from me) so I threw out my arms as I used to do when 5 employees were depending on me for their livelihood and welcomed work, interesting work, a project, any non-physical work.

And lo and behold, D, there it was, a distant contact emailed me and asked if I was interested in cleaning up some theatre matters. A bit of a shambles on the books and with grant season coming up? Offered to pay me in advance too, the best kind of client. So yes, I'm started on that - it's all remote work too which is even better - and with many theatre companies in Newfoundland this could be a cottage industry, who knows. And D, did I mention comps? Free tickets for all performances.

So D tonight I'm walking along the gallery (to retrieve my (free) laundry) overlooking our gorgeous community room when the piano strains of The Parting Glass drifts upwards and I stop and lean over and start to sing the words, softly, and the pianist finishes and discussion ensued. My voice is sorta back after a long absence. She plays in a small band and was rehearsing. She's 80 I'd say. I mentioned I'd like to play, practice for a while, I played daily for my own pleasure for years but piano in absentia has been a hole since I moved to Newfoundland 14 years ago. So yes, I'm going to play again and, bonus D, I really liked her, I love seeing older-than-me folks thoroughly engaged with life.

Also I'm feeling better, don't know how this is. I still have 2 more tests to get by. But gift-horses and mouths come to mind D, so we'll just roll with that and play The Parting Glass, shall we?

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Garbage on a Finite Planet

My building doesn't have recycling.

I know. A bald statement of fact.

But seriously. Think about it. As I have.

Us residents? Well we range in age from 65-100+.

And there's also no garbage chute.

What we generate, rubbish wise, we have to cart forth to one of several commercial dumpsters scattered at the edges of many parking lots around our building which is a 2 storey sprawled hither and yon. A building from a former US army base plus its attendant buildings (school, hospital, houses, apartment buildings)was sprawled lavishly over many hills overlooking lake, harbour and nearby battlements in WW2.

For several decades now I've been used to recycling. Particularly in Toronto where even kitchen waste was separated along with glass, plastic, metal and paper.

I order online a lot, to prevent stress and strain from carting heavy and awkward cans and toilet paper and flour and oatmeal from parking lot to second floor apartment.

So my cardboard, packing material, boxes, empties, etc. all go to the dumpster, which in turn is emptied into landfills which makes me feel ill. It all feels so wrong.

Every week I generate a huge garbage bag, place it on a small luggage trolley, take it to my car and then drive the car around to one of the dumpsters and throw this bag into it. With effort. The lid is chained and heavy to lift. Not senior/disabled friendly by any means. Most older seniors here have home help. These helpers, mainly in their forties/fifties, cart their employers' garbage down and out.

I've asked management about this but receive a puzzled shrug. My lively friend on the first floor, my own age, has offered to take mine down if it's a problem for me but no, I don't want to burden her unnecessarily and it's not really about carting it down but the fact we don't have any recycling and no plans to implement it.

I can't to get used to it.

Living on an island as I do.


To be clear here: most of the island has recycling, including the small village where I lived. All of St. John's has recycling but not this apartment building. I'm not sure about others.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Bad Cess

I haven't posted in a while as I didn't want to jinx the sale of my house. But guess what, it was jinxed anyway so my juju didn't work now, did it.

The closing date was really early, January 31st but hey was I going to look a gift horse in the mouth? No siree Bob.

Anyway the Big Day came yesterday and two glitches, one of which was the well water not passing inspection, which was no surprise to me as the water had been shut off in the house for 3 months and only hooked up upon the offer of purchase so I don't imagine the inspector ran the water for too long. So now that process starts all over again. Another glitch was my former town clerk classifying my house as an "inn" which it wasn't and that caused legal repercussions. I was furious with him as I had gone to great lengths to explain to him how Airbnb operated and I was honest enough to pay municipal taxes on my earnings as an Airbnb host.

So jinxing be damned. Maybe I'll shine the light on this fresh challenge on my blog in hopes of this bad cess being turned around. I feel my life is on hold until all this is resolved and have felt this way for a while. I don't want to join the food vs heat brigade of which there are so many of us impoverished female single seniors. But I have utter sympathy for those, unlike myself, who don't have the luxury of waiting for a real estate sale. And seriously, I've thought of sponsoring a poor woman's heat in some meaningful and secret way if I have any funds at my disposal.

So yeah. Onward.

I'm not as stressed as I thought I might be, though a bit sleepless in St. John's last night.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Wee Giftie - The Winner!

So here it goes: the two dishcloths, 1 still on the needles, the bag full of "I'd like thats" and the moment of the draw.

And the winner is.....drum roll please!

Congratulations Pauline, please send your postal address to wisewebwomanatgmaildotcom and I will mail out to you this week along with one of my cards :)

Thank you all, my dear readers. You are truly special.

The Books of 2017

Late to the gate on this one. It was a year of illness, discombobulation and moving. All very stressful. But I managed 59 books of various interests and genres.

There were many goodies, some dreck, some re-reads, but over all some stellar reads. Now I must start on listing 2018 so far. You can click on the sidebar for updates.

Here's the list:

(1)Leaving Earth - Helen Humphries *****
(2)Commonwealth - Ann Patchett *****
(3)The Last Half of the Year - Paul Rowe *
(4)A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara *
(5)Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy - Anthology *****
(6)212 - Alafair Burke ****
(7)More than a Mountain - T.A. Loeffler **
(8)The Bridge Ladies - Betsy Lerner ****
(9)Vinegar Hill - Manette Ansay *****
(10)The Couple Next Door - Shari Lapena ****
(11)Picture Perfect - JOdi Picoult ** done with Jodi.
(12)Booked to Die - John Dunning ****
(13)Did you Ever Have a Family - Bill Clegg ****
(14)A Complicated Kindness - Miriam Toews {BC} 2nd time reading. Fabulouos book.*****
(15)The End of the Line - Clayton D. Cook ***
(16)The Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney *****
(17)The Bookman's Wake - John Dunning** (off him now)
(18)Things I overheard when talking to myself - Alan Alda***
(19)Unholy Orders - Michael Harris
(20)Saving Grace - Jane Green 0
(21)When the Moon is Low - Nadia Hashimi*****
(22)Red Bay Labrador - Tuck & Grenier *****
(23)Come Thou Tortoise - Jessica Grant ***** 3rd Re-read {BC}
(24)The Girls in the Garden - Lisa Jewel * {BC}
(24)The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Attwood *****(again)
(25)Racket - Anthology - Various *****
(26)The Condition - Jennifer Haigh*****
(27)The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway*****{BC}
(28)In the Cold Night Wind - Owen Hiscock**(terrible editing)
(29)Wolf - Mo Hayden*****
(30)The Humans - Matt Honig****
(31)The Necklace of Occasional Dreams - Kathleen Winter*****
(32)The Wonder - Emma Donoghue*****
(33)The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski (1/2 thru realized I'd read it before)***
(34)Poppet - Mo Hayden****
(35)Iron House - John Hart - Dropped at page 272, violence and predictability was too tiresome**
(36)Wild Life - Molly Gloss
(37)The Girl in the Red Coat - Kate Hamer*****
(38)The Labrador Fiasco - Margaret Attwood*****
(39) Song of the Humpback Whale - Jodi Picoult
(40)The Gate to Women's Country - Sheri S. Tepper
(41)Annie Freeman's Fabulous Travelling Funeral - Kris Radish *{BC}
(42)Behind Closed Doors - B.A. Paris*****
(43)Baker Towers - Jennifer Haigh*****
(44)Medicine Walk - Richard Wagamese*****
(45)The Day I died - Lore Rader-Day**
(45)Creaking in their Skins - Michael Winter **
(46)Swim Back to Me - Ann Packer*****
(47)Crying for the Moon - Mary Walsh*
(48)Don't Say we have Nothing - Madeleine Thien***{BC}
(49)Please Look After Mom - Kyung-Sook Shin****
(50)The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Attwood**
(51)First Snow, Last Light - Wayne Johnston*****
(52)Dear Everybody - Anne Budgell*****{BC}
(53)The Heart's Invisible Furies - John Boyne*****
(54)Songs Without Words - Anne Packer*****
(55)Salt to the Sea - Rita Sepetys****
(56)Away From Everywhere - Chad Pelley**{BC}
(57)It Never Made Sense - Ross Morton - a friend, not rating.
(58)The Art of Mending - Elizabeth Berg*****
(59)On Dublin Street - Samantha Young 0

TOTAL TO DATE: 59 {BC}=Book Club}
Ratings:0(awful) *(poor)**(fair)***(good)****(very good)*****(excellent)

Friday, January 12, 2018

A wee giftie

If you'd like a pair of my hand-knitted wee wash/dishcloths just send me an "I'd like that!" in the comments and I will have a draw in the next few days and send a pair to the winner. They can be used in the kitchen or the bathroom or the shower and as one of the old folks around here says: no matter how damp and how long you leave them, they never smell. And they wash beautifully. 100% cotton.

I've been around here a while and I love your comments, concern and faithful readership.

So this is just a small token of my appreciation.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Strange World of Predawn

I haven't done this in a while. Write in the pre-dawn hours.

There's a good reason.


Intermittent and weird.

Tests are being conducted. Daily it seems. Various hospitals, clinics.

I've become a medi-bore overnight. Not about the symptoms. No. They're brief and troubling. But all these blood tests, scans, etc. My life is filled with medi-treks every day this week. Which exhaust me. And then I'm flooded with relief once they're behind me. Like I'm joining the real world again. I do these treks alone, by choice. I don't know what it feels like to have a partner/loved one journeying beside. I don't think I'd like it. I pursue my own thoughts in these waiting rooms.

"Ah, The Galway Shawl" I said to a pacing man yesterday in the nuclear medicine clinic. He'd been whistling it under his breath. Waiting for someone, I speculated.

"I don't know what else to do," he whispered, walking slowly around the pod-like room.

On top of that a friend of over 30 years has been diagnosed with liver cancer so he just recovered from surgery on Tuesday and another acquaintance messaged all of us yesterday that he is refusing any further treatment for cancer and is going to die with dignity in the next few days. He's 63.

So a fresh batch of pain strikes me before 5 in the morning most mornings. And I get up and take some meds but they take a while to kick in.

They say it's a good time for writing. Blank slate of a brain. So here I go.

I trek off to the doctor later on this morning.

I hope we get to the bottom of this.

I was waiting in a coffee shop yesterday to sign some papers for my real estate agent and I deliberately sat across from a man who was knitting a hat very similar to one I just finished for a friend (see above). And I showed him a pic of it.

We chatted and he let me feel the hat he was working on(silk and merino) and then he let me feel his hand-knitted scarf (muskox from the North West Territories) and then he admired my Kipling knapsack so I offered him a feel of it (parachute material, very light, very old) and he searched on line for one like it as he loved it. And he told me of a sealskin mitten workshop happening at the end of the month, and I told him about my story shawls that I create and we had such a lovely time. And then my realtor arrived and I never even found out what my new friend's name was.

Or maybe it was just one of those jewels of a connection and should lie where it is, you know?

I mean it's kinda special when you get to feel a stranger's clothes and can ooh and aah together over the sensuous nature of beautiful material, right?

Where do you take it from there?

Thursday, January 04, 2018


From my mother I inherited thick hair and good skin.

I also inherited her love of music, live theatre and reading along with a passion for needlework: sewing, knitting, crochet and embroidery. She was skilled in all 4 of these disciplines, I in but 2 but she would tell you that I exceeded her ability in those two: knitting and sewing as I took them further into designing.

She was a woman of her time, born in rural Ireland in 1914, traumatized by the explosion of her village barracks ("it shook the ground I was playing on") in 1920 when she was 6 resulting in her becoming a life long Irish republican. She was self-educated and was managing a large grocery store when she married at 28, thus thwarting any further ambition of her own {"he wore me down"). It didn't kill her thirst for learning and she could converse readily on the novels of Charles Dickens. She took advanced cooking classes and singing lessons when she was in her forties.

She found it easy to make friendships, her outgoing personality and overall petite prettiness and "style" attracted even strangers drawn to share their confidences with her.

She knew quality from a mile away and would advocate owning only a little quality versus a lot of cheap trash. She loved roses and hydrangeas and field mushrooms and blackberries and the sea. No matter the temperature of the water, she'd take one sight of the sea and before we could blink, her ever-ready swimsuit was on her and she'd be diving in, breathless, waving her arms telling her shivering children: "it's lovely, you'll warm up in no time!"

She was a true gameball as we Irish say.

From my father I inherited bright blue eyes and one of those faces that shows visible displeasure when things are "not going our way."

I also inherited his love of words, new ones, old ones, complicated ones, words with multiple meanings and interpretations, words of obscure etymologies.

He gave me my first library card when I was 4 (he taught me to read) and our routine, every night after tea till I was at least 14, was that I'd sit on the arm of his easy chair and we'd complete the Evening Echo crossword together. I learned about newts and tors and bitterns. Later we played Scrabble and when we traveled together in later years we packed the Scrabble board for our after dinner game. Once, he bought a beautiful hand crafted turntable in a prison workshop in Maine which I still use for Scrabble.

He taught me knitting - he had 5 older sisters and had observed them. I remember his patience one time in a wool shop in Camden when I took hours poring over obscure old knitting patterns talking to him about Guernseys (ganseys) and Jersey fishermen sweaters and Aran patterns and Shetland wedding ring shawls and convent lacework.

I asked him once what he would have done with his life if he had the resources. He answered without hesitation: "I'd have created new varieties of roses."

I was gobsmacked.

And then I realized, for the very first time, how he and my mother were drawn to each other.