Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My Life Can Be Measured in.......

Well definitely: my life can be measured in knitting needles. Since I was 7. My father taught me to knit. He had five older sisters and observed them. He never touched the knitting needles as he taught me, he sat behind my chair and put my hands on the needles and directed them into casting on and plain and purling. I made messy scarves and doll clothes for a few years and at the age of 11 my mother brought me to Skibbereen (we stayed in Sherkin in the summer), took me to a wool-shop and allowed me to choose any colour of wool but only from the big basket that had the big "Sale" sign on it. It was either orange, white or this outrageous shade of green in the basket. I chose the green.

On the strand I worked hard at this jumper sweater pattern in DK wool. At the end of the summer I had this ginormous sweater. This was a good thing, my mother said, as it would warm up anyone coming out of the water from swimming. The freezing Atlantic made one's extremities a horrible mix of white and purple, and this mad jumper would fit anyone no matter the size. And it did. The warmup jumper, they called it. I have a picture somewhere and must find it. You could sit inside it on the sand and it covered you from forehead to toes, like a tent as you shivered your way back to pink only to plunge back into the water again.

I moved on. To making my own patterns and knitting up cardigans, jumpers, even a coat, in intricate aran patterns. In those days I didn't photograph my work, it wasn't considered an art form then but a necessity.

I knit many, many sofa blankets (afghans) as gifts.

One of my greatest joys for a while has been designing one specifically for a loved one, incorporating their lives into it.

This is one I'm working on at the moment for my Grandgirl. You can already see our story in it.

The tree of life with intermingled branches, the diamond for health and happiness linked to the cables for her mother and me, my house, the ferry, a lighthouse, the sea, and the last block I am working on has her love of books and music and coffee.

I have ripped the project out twice previously as I wasn't happy with the framing and gauge of each scene. Now I am thrilled with it.

These are her favourite colours.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Joy. A Commoner's Perspective. 1.

For DS

From last year.
And there you

Once again
You fly me glitter
From your

Of our


My eyes
An eternal
Second of

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


I ran into an old friend yesterday. I hadn't seen him in a while and he asked me how I was doing. I said it had been a rough time and he asked me why and I gave him the briefest of versions of the past year in my life and it was the oddest thing. Without a pause or reflective comment or even sympathy, he launched into this long narrative of how he was so much worse off. Ten minutes later I broke away from him. I felt like I'd been slapped.

I had a session with my counsellor an hour later - previously scheduled - and told him what had happened. I recognised that I needed to be even more careful with whom I share anything with for I can feel far worse afterwards. That crying in the wilderness thing.

My counsellor had me focus on the gifts that have sprung from my losses. And there were many. Not least of which is reevaluating my life now in light of these. He also had me talk about Missing Daughter and revisit that with the heart numbing thought that I am "dead" to her and may remain so. It's a fresh way of looking at this and I am grateful for that.

Healing is the underlying scaffolding of all of this. I keep thinking I'm ready to brace myself against the real world and then find I'm not. I'm unable to live superficially, it's a gift given to many but alas, I didn't make that particular cut. Many, many times I wished I was light and fluffy and could fiddle-dee-dee life's trials, both yours and mine. Or stay mum and wait for them to pass or even bury them.

The last few days have been rough, that Black Dog thing. I know there's an end in sight, I wish I knew when. Change is always nerve-wracking and emotional, even the changes wrought by intensive counselling sessions with the healing acceptance of the losses of former confidantes combined with the rejection of those I hold most dear.

No one gets a free pass, particularly as we age. It comes down to the tools we have to just deal.

I am grateful for those.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


I've never seen this written about.

How do you mentally visualize the calendar year?

In a long straight line with little flags for the season and/or birthdays and/or festivals?

Like a circle ending at New Year's?

I see it as an ovoid.

Something like this:

But unfortunately (for me)backwards as my Imbolc is on the left and down around to Samhain on the upper right before the year ends.

Today is the vernal equinox where day and night times are exactly the same length.

And Ostara - upon which the tradition of Easter is based - orginated with the goddesses. Like most festivals on the religious calendars, prominent female personae were erased or placed in secondary roles.

I remember seeing fertility goddesses in the stone carvings of ancient Irish churches. I imagine they were carved to appease the goddess worshipping "pagans" in an attempt to convert them to Christianity.

What an enormous body of knowledge and rituals and healing we have lost.

Mother Earth is not pleased.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Story

I must say I was glad of the distraction yesterday. The Old Black Dog is pacing. I say old as I feel he ages along beside me. Damned unpredictable though. I never know whether he and I are due for a long vacation together or a picnic or a weekend. He's almost a physical presence.

The distraction came in the form of a death notice. A life lived for 90 years. Memories came rushing back. They were an odd couple, Violet (call me Vi)and Richard. She was about 10 years older than him and fought it every day. A lot of energy into hair dying and styling and the shortest of skirts and the heaviest of makeup, the woiks, even first thing in the morning. I remember her startling eye-shadow which leaped from her face and the makeup caked in the wrinkles around her mouth. A chain smoker.

That era, we were all in our twenties, early thirties, Vi must have been in her forties, was full of weekends away, balls, heavy duty drinking in officers' messes, Scottish dancing, tartans and fun too. One word comes to mind when I think of Richard. Dignity. He was one of the most dignified men I've ever met. Ramrod straight, the removed look of an intellectual, and beautifully dressed, everything seemed to match. He was partial to bowties. I shared the odd in depth conversation with him. Vi was one of those women who swooped everywhere with a remarkable insensitivity to private conversations. Her voice was loud, her laughter raucous and she loved showing off her wild knickers in the ladies' room.

I'd wonder whatever they saw in each other.

My marriage broke up and I was very surprised when Vi and Richard kept in touch with me. Very few couples of that period in my life did as their loyalty was leaning more towards my now exed husband as it was his military affiliation and not mine.

On visits to their home with my younger daughter, while Vi cooked Richard would take YD and me to his den. He had a huge collection of model soldiers, laid out for the Battle of Waterloo on a vast model battlefield. Nearby, on an easel was a nearly finished rendition of an English cottage in beautiful needlepoint. I had assumed it was Vi's but was soon enlightened that in fact it was Richard's. When I expressed interest, he showed me some cushions and fire-screens he had completed, all meticulously executed in stunning colours.

Richard had been in the RAF in London, he told me, Vi was a telephone operator at HQ when they met. Vi was originally from Malta, had raised her brothers and sisters when her mother died in childbirth and her father took off. When she emigrated to England she had abandoned her Maltese origins and anglicised her name.

Richard was a voracious reader and could converse on any topic. Vi had to knock before entering his den, his one quiet space she told me, rolling her eyes and assuring me "she could be quiet too, but life was too short." Whatever that meant.

I've never forgotten their kindness to me when it seemed like many had turned their backs. It was a very difficult time in my life and their friendship was a comfort.

There were certainly sparks between Richard and me, no denying that. But I've never betrayed a friendship by poaching a partner. One of my rules of self-conduct.

Vi died about 10 years ago and Richard moved to his daughter's in Florida.

On reflection, I understand them a lot more now. Vi was haunted by her age and had her own battles every day. Richard was allowed his quiet space of reflection, mock battles, books and needlepoint.

And I rather think that crazy underwear tells another side of the story.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Once the initial excitement is over, change, even planned change, exhausts me. My brain doesn't function properly, you should see me struggling with a knitting pattern I'm designing, or trying to make a municipal decision today.

I filled out the application for my new life, pretty please. It helps, the instructions said, if I can lay claim to a veteran in the family. I decided against hauling out my grandfather's (old)IRA fight for Irish freedom. Instead I focussed on his estranged son's (still alive - 90++) long international career in the RAF and my occasional participation and partying at local Canadian legions.

My resident friend called and said it was the best time to apply as residents were dropping like flies in the last few days, old age, transfers to extended care homes and one marriage.

Much as I hate jumping on another's misfortune, I had to laugh at the droll way she said it.

So I got my act together and signed and mailed off. Thank you for your service to the enemy, Uncle Michael.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

First Step

I met with a dear friend for lunch yesterday to discuss all these crossroad changes I've been mulling. We're roughly the same age and have each other's backs from time to time as needed.

If I needed validation, I had to look no further. Her face lit up, she got completely excited and she burst out: "Oh my gawd, I can just see you here, oh my gawd, your wings can spread so wide here!"

It was flattering, sure. But she was also very down-to-earth in sharing her knowledge and expertise in the building she's in. I've been to her place for dinner but never "did the 5 star tour" and that's on the agenda soon. Meanwhile she's got the inside scoop on applications and references. It's an absolutely ideal spot for aging in place with support, minimum as it is, for tasks like twice weekly grocery shopping in a mini-van around the city for those who don't drive or have surrendered their licences. Free laundry facilities, a communal garden for planting, a covered patio area with BBQs and other etceteras to make life interesting. Many of the residents still work (she does) and community involvement is left with the individual tenant.

I am quite excited about this which tells me a lot. It may take months and months to activate the second step as there may be a waiting list, she's very well connected with the board of directors so private information will be delivered to me also.

I'll track the whole process here as I know a lot of my readers are on cusps of transition too, whether internal only or ready to make a bigger leap.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Helpers

I hate drama. But sometimes I can't avoid it. And boy did I have drama last week with smoke pouring from every orifice in my stove and chimney. I shut 'er all down and jacked up house heat - well as jacked up as I can afford it as it costs a fortune out here on the Edge. Sweaters and thick socks are a blessing.

I had paid a guy, the guy who handled my chimney liner post chimney fire last year, a regular chimney contractor, to clean out the works the week before as it was all behaving rather badly, but everything to do with the fire was twice as bad after he left along with a fresh bonus of soot pouring down the freshly painted walls.

I texted him and he ignored me for a day and then said he might be in the neighbourhood in a few days and he'd check...

At that point my instincts kicked in and I just knew I could never have him back into my house again.

I posted my dilemma on Facebook, raising my SOS flag which always works out here and the following day Leo and his brother showed up with a borrowed ladder and long sticks. To cut to the chase after they had finished, this is the letter I sent off to the contractor:


I've had the work you did for me both in installing the chimney and in your recent “cleaning” of it checked out.

I have ascertained:

You failed to measure and install the chimney properly in that the stove pipe is far too short to meet the chimney or the top of the stove safely.

You used the wrong size screws on the chimney cap which needed replacing.

You failed to seat the lower stove pipe on the stove properly.

You failed to screw in the lower pipe to the stove itself.

You failed to fit the upper part of the stove-pipe into the chimney.

The stove had to be put on lifts to raise it as your measurements were 2” off.

In your so-called “cleaning” of a few weeks ago, you failed to re-install the cap of the chimney properly.

You also did not clean the chimney properly, there was a huge wedge of creosote still stuck in the lower part of the chimney which blocked it and smoke poured all through my house.

And underneath the top of the stove you had failed to remove any of the creosote lodged there.

In fact there was another whole bag of creosote taken out of the chimney and stove-pipes today.

I was told that you were criminally negligent in the work you had performed for me because of the smoke leaks coming into the house in which I could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

My walls and furniture are blackened and need repainting/cleaning because of your shoddy and appalling workmanship.

My power bills doubled while the stove was unusable.

Being an elderly senior on a fixed income I am shocked at your misrepresentation of yourself as a “professional” while taking such advantage of me.

I request that you refund me the total of $520 I have paid you for the original shoddy and incompetent installation ($400) and the subsequent non-cleaning ($120).

I heard back from him immediately wherein he apologised, agreed to his incompetence and shoddy workmanship and stated he would return all my money once he had been paid for a job he was currently on.

I'm not holding my breath. As I very nearly lost it forever.

But my Helpers?

They wouldn't take a penny for all the work they did and their assessment and correction of the problems.

And that's what I'm thinking about as I write this.

The Helpers.

Saturday, March 05, 2016


Many questions.

Few answers.

Processing thoughts, some conflicting or rubbing off each other in sparks.


How do you make major decisions in your life?


Evaluation - pro and contra columns?

Talk to loved ones that you trust?

Throw it out there to the universe (something like I'm doing right now!)

Yeah, I am at a crossroads.

Sometimes we just run into ourselves head on.

Time is far more precious to me than it ever was.

And there's not enough of the tempus thing. It fugits through my fingers.

All week I was running, 5 days of it. Meetings, training, seminars. Non-stop it seemed.

This old house has lost its magic, it needs too much attention from me along with Elder Dog, Ansa. I need most of my attention for me now.

And I'm fresh out, overnight it seems, of the magic-steam of helping others.

Nervously, I ran the insides of my brain under Daughter's gaze yesterday. And she validated everything I was saying. She'd been reluctant to broach Crossroads with me. Relief was enormous. For both of us.

There is no one else, apart from My Dear Dead Ones, that I would trust with offering me support or advice or compassion or wisdom.

Like I said: Crossroads.



Wednesday, March 02, 2016


"What a gift it is," he says, "When all that is required is a shift in lifestyle, paying more attention to the details of day to day life with the promise being that life will get better."

I explained to my counsellor about my specialist's findings. How alarming. How demolishing.

I reflected on my three dear, dead friends. I feel he knows them intimately now. Along with my family of origin.

What an opportunity it would have been for them to change direction, make some slight adjustments to the sails and tack into a different direction on the great ocean of life. But alas their deaths had no such advance warning.

My gift indeed.

"Who do you talk to? Intimately I mean?" he asks me.

"You," I said after a minute, "Only you, there is no one else. Truly."

"But there is room for others, is there not?"

"I suppose. But shared history, depth, no way that can be replaced."

"I agree. But your spirit needs nurturing and maybe this freedom is giving you another gift in that you honour the memories of these beloved friends by opening up the space left inside you and use your last few precious years to explore your own creativity further."