Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chilling Mate, in Twillingate

 At 2 am, I’m my way ‘ome to Newfoundland with my eldest, her hubby and three grandbabes.  They usually go in the spring or fall, so I’m happy that they're going to get a taste of the summer activities. The Twillingate Fish, Fun, Folk Festival is on next week so we'll be having some fun. 

The next group arrives half way through my stay. For two of them, this is their fifth anniversary for a Salt Harbour summer get away. I’m not naming any names, Kat and Dibs, but each year, they proclaim loud and long to the new recruits: “Don’t think about sleeping”, they warn. “Don’t think about chilling on the porch.  Don’t think about lazing around. Don’t even dare think about having time to create stuff or read. It ain’t gonna happen .” In fact, they have dubbed their annual excursion to the Rock – “Vacation Boot Camp”.  They have the newbies terrified.

When people ask Brian what we do out there, he says, ‘There’s nothing to do, and you won’t get it done’. That’s fairly accurate. The days do tend to fill up with all kinds of things that weren’t planned. A day out there unfolds; it generally just ‘happens’, and it happens to be hold many unexpected adventures and much fun.

I seem to have a reputation of keeping everyone on the go to the point of them needing a vacation. But the truth is, those dear friends who are quick to stick that on me, are absolutely guilty of it themselves; I’m just their scapegoat. At this point, I just sit back and let them steer and my heavens – hang on!  It is definitely not me who is causing the exhaustion.

In fact, on our visit out there this spring, a friend dropped by to invite me out for an evening photo shoot.  I was sitting in the rocking chair, reading. SITTING. READING. She actually was a little shocked.  I told her to take note … take a picture even … and tell all those who don’t believe that I chill when I’m out there, that I DO. I do. It is not always ME who is setting the manic agenda.  In fact when I was out there, I read two books. I also spent hours in front of the window, working on a floor cloth.

I started it three years for one of our monthly creative nights.  I had roughed in our place out there and had it sitting on the floor in the livingroom when my grandbabes came by. Scotty came out to report: “Lauren is scribblin’ on your thing in there.” Sure enough, there was three year old Lauren, busy with a pen.  I said ‘Oh Lauren, that’s Nana’s picture that I’m working on.” She looked at me with a scowl,  threw both hands up in the air and retorted with great impatience and disgust: “How sood I know? It looks like a colour sing to me.”  (a colour thing, as in colouring book) That line has become a favourite response for myself and my friends … “How sood I know?”  It’s all in the tone.

She actually did a remarkable job staying in the lines for her age. I left her window just how it was – there was no way I would paint over it.  It’s a wonderful memory which brings a smile to my heart and carries a lesson. Each time I look at it, I see that precious, beautiful little three year old in all her innocence and wisdom. It was confirmation to me to remember to not leave my ‘sings’ out for little hands, and also to try and remember to look at 'sings’ through the eyes of a child. The perspective is often refreshingly simple.

After not being able to find the time in three years to get that mat finished – it is now. And I did it out there. Leisurely. I intend to point that out to my Boot Camp friends when they want to blame me for the fact that we have done thirteen different things on any given day and they have not had time to sit on the porch and work on creative projects, which they love to do. Excuse me … I finished a painting. And I read a book. TWO books.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Confessions of a Nail Biter

I blame my Aunt Jessie. Well, actually she wasn’t my real aunt. She was one of those people that your mother made you call Aunt because she was too close to call ‘Mrs ….’, and back in the 60’s, you sure wouldn’t have been calling any adult by their first name. At any rate, I have assigned to her, the blame that I am a nail biter.

I remember it, clear as a bell. I was five years old. My mother was expressing concern that I had started the horrendous habit of biting my nails. Aunt Jesse was the epitome of fashion and grace. My mother wore a house dress and apron and always looked like she was in the middle of doing laundry. Aunt Jessie wore high heels, had brilliant red nails and looked like she never had worked a day in her life. And she always smelled good. She said to me – and I quote:  “If you stop biting your nails, I’ll buy you nail polish.”  I did. She didn’t.

I know that I resumed biting them out of spite – I specifically remember that. I learned a very big lesson out of that betrayal, besides ‘don’t trust Aunt Jessie’; I learned that you never, ever, ever promise a child … or actually even just tell them, because technically she did not promise; that you will do something and not follow through. You might think that it’s not all that important – like a 19 cent bottle of nail polish - but chances are, a half century later that child who is now an old woman, is still going to hold it against you. AND you might be responsible for some sad, disturbing affliction that hounds them their entire life.

I’ve tried to grow my nails a number of times over the years. They are either soft or brittle; they tear or the layers separate and I get to picking at them and that’s the end of that.  The work that I do hasn’t helped.  I’m usually into paint and stain and glue and heavens knows what. My sister, who has always had beautiful nails (because Aunt Jessie didn’t mess with her head), once said to me when we were on our way to a big show that I was doing: “You’ve got to do something with your nails. You can NOT do a show with hands like that – they’re terrible!!”  I politely informed her: “These are the hands of a Working Woman.  These happen to BE my hands and no one has to look at them if it bothers them.”

Truth was though, I really was embarrassed by them. I made my sister promise that if ‘ something happened to me’, that she would buy some of those glue on plastic nails and take them to the funeral home and make them stick them on. Either that or mitts. I could just see it …me laying there & people saying ‘Oh, doesn’t she look lovely … but those HANDS!!!’  And I’d pop up and say “Blame Aunt Jessie.”

It troubled me so much that I did in fact start ‘doing something about it’ when I was destined to be Mother of the Bride for the first time.  I got those wonderful professional acrylic nails and for almost seven years, I went to the nail salon monthly. It just tickled me. I would catch a glimpse of my hands on the steering wheel and I’d be pleasantly surprised each time and think ‘Whose hands are those??!!’  A LADY’S hands!!  I was pleased as punch with them.

But, like all good things, it came to an end. Seven years is a heck of a long time to have plastic glued to your fingertips. As much as I enjoyed the experience, it was time consuming and expensive.  I figured that since I had not bitten or picked at my nails in such a long time, that I was free and clear of that nasty habit.

WrongL  Sure enough, my real nails were still soft – they’d grow a bit then bend and I’d start working away on a little crack and once again ... that was the end of that. Last year, for Ashley’s wedding, I actually went out and bought those do it yourself glue on babies because I couldn’t get into the whole acrylic thing all over again.  Trouble was, I got too busy and totally forgot to put them on – they’re still sitting up on my dresser.  I swear I heard people saying “Oh, doesn’t she look lovely … but look at those HANDS!!!”.  I grumbled, ‘Thanks a lot, Aunt Jessie L.’

So … and this is the point of this lengthy yattering … my nails started growing in Ireland. Ever since I’ve been home, they have continued. They’ve been wonderfully strong – actually, as strong as the acrylic ones. They didn’t bend, they didn’t get little cracks at the side, the cuticles have been good and I haven’t had anything to pick at. Now granted, I also have not been working with paint and stain and the like, but still – they are definitely different.  I seem to be still habouring deep resentment for Aunt Jessie, so I’ve been trying to think what else could have caused this wonderful phenomenon.  I have finally figured it out.

It was the Guinness. It’s gotta be. I am not a beer drinker – the only time I like a cold one is with chicken wings, which comes to about two a year. When I was in Ireland though, I made it my mission to have a Guinness each and every day, the intent being a daily pub experience as opposed the taste of the beer. It had to be Guinness – had to be authentically Irish. I wasn’t keen on the flavour to begin with, but it was one of those ‘when in Rome’ things, so I forced it down. Again and again.  I started with a half pint, got up to a full pint and one day in fact, I had TWO.  I swear, that must have done something for my nails because they’ve never been as healthy or strong.

But, the worrisome thing is that it’s been six weeks since I’ve returned from Ireland and the effects seem to be wearing off. I'm afraid that my nails might be going back to how they always have been – they’re bending a bit now and that’s got me concerned.  Fortunately though, my youngest works in a pub and she tells me that they do indeed have Guinness on draught – I don’t have to go all the way back to Ireland. I may just have to adopt a visit to her as part of a healthy nail regime. So there you go, Aunt Jessie … now you’ve turned me into a beer guzzler. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Christmas in July

Answering a comment on my previous post:  “What is it about Christmas in July that irirtates you so bad?”… well, since you asked … let me tell you J 

You really would think that someone who has a passion for All Things Christmas, and who in fact, tries to make a living creating the afore mentioned, would actually like to celebrate this ever enduring Season early, late and everything in between.  Oh so wrong. 

To me, Real Christmas is a FEELING. It is a Time. It is a little compartment tucked away in my memory and in my heart that I open like a treasure chest when the time is right.  In there I keep all those things that I cherish for reasons that are solely mine.  It is the tangible treasures that I have collected and bring out each year that also touch me for very specific and personal reasons.

Christmas is magic. Christmas is Reverence: for Jesus’ birth, for family, for friendships, for tradition.  You could say the same (other than the birth) about Christmas in July – it could certainly be memorable and filled with fun and fellowship, but that is generally for a day or a weekend. For me, Real Christmas is an entire Season that transforms streets,buildings and homes for weeks; it transforms people and attitudes. Christmas is giving, – time and love even more than things. Some complain that Christmas is commercialized. It is if you let it be. What you take from it and what you make from it, is your choice and in your control.

I am from Ontario. Christmas is cold.  It is sweaters and jackets, snow if we’re lucky, crackling fires and hot chocolate. It is fragrant evergreens and cinnamon when there isn’t much competition in the ‘smell’ department.  It is twinkling, happy lights on a long, long dark night. It is candle light.  It is familiar music that only sounds right in December.

Even the word Christmas warms me through to my soul.  It does not belong in the month where the sun is doing a fine job of that on its own.  July is summer. Summer = easy.  Summer = very little cooking unless it’s on a bbq and most definitely not baking. Summer is a wonderful Season – I love it. Christmas Is a wonderful Season – I love it.  I love them each so thoroughly that I don’t want to mess a single day diluting either one J Yes, now 'tis the Season to create and collect the heirlooms and treasures that will add to the charm. Christmas 'tis the Season to create the memories.  

Well Jill, are you sorry you asked?  LJ L

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mother's Day

'Christmas In July’ events ... I am not a fan. The concept irritates me. I must say though - I truly enjoyed the ‘Mother’s Day in July’ celebration that my girls planned.  It was a total surprise; the girls not taking any chances that I’d say ‘oh, that’s not necessary … don’t be spending your money’ and the host of other motherly reasons that I would have come up with.

I was in Ireland on Mother’s Day and left for Newfoundland immediately after that. I returned to the excitement of a new baby and then it was Father’s Day.  I know that my kids know that I am their Mother; we don’t need a special occasion to remind any of us of that. They are very good at making me feel honoured and valued every single day so I really wasn't missing anything at all.

It was supposed to be Girl’s Night Out, which we do on occasion – dinner, a movie and a sleepover.  When I arrived, they were already waiting in the van was waiting, and they wouldn’t tell me where we were going ... just that I wouldn't be needing my purse.

It turns out that they had made an appointment at a Clay CafĂ© where you paint your own … whatever you want. I picked a teapot and we decided to 'crazy quilt' it.  The unfortunate thing about not telling me that we had a time frame, is that I meandered my way into the evening which meant that we only had 40 minutes to try to create our masterpiece. It was like one of those frantic games where you pass the item around to the next person as quickly as you can, which was fun in itself. When we realized that there was no possibility of getting done in time, we relaxed and happily accepted the fact that we will just have to make time to go back and savour the experience.

Then they took me out for a wonderful dinner at a very classy restaurant and then we went to Alyssa’s lovely home to watch movies, eat more and spend the night.

It was such a beautiful evening.  They were busy fiddling around and getting Spencer fed and settled, so I went for a little stroll through the neighbourhood. I enjoy a 'walk and gawk' in town, looking at everyone's flowerbeds and landscaping.  I was just wandering down the street, when I saw Ashley approaching me. I thought she was coming to enjoy the pleasant evening stroll with me, but she was shaking her head. ‘Mom’, she said, ‘That’s going to be what gets you into a nursing home – wandering off like that … that’s how it starts.’ 

Yep, I am no longer the one keeping a watchful eye on my offspring; worrying about them off on their own in the world; no longer the one excited about planning the surprises for them – the roles are becoming reversed more and more often. But at this point, I get a chuckle out of it ... that might one day change too;)

How blessed I am to have three wonderful daughters that are close and close by ... I do not take that for granted for a single minute.  They are sweet and thoughtful, imaginative, creative and great fun. Any time we get to spend together is a celebration of Motherhood for me no matter what month it is.

Friday, July 9, 2010

This Old House

When I was 5 years old, my family moved into a brand new bungalow. At 21 years old, married already for a year, Brian and I built a brand new bungalow. Some might think that was nice ... one floor and no repairs.  But I always wanted to live in a big old two storey house with a spirit, a history and an attic. In 1988 when we got this place, I felt that my soul had finally caught up with where it was meant to be.

This is an old, old house; probably pretty close to its hundredth birthday.  The property itself was first acquired in 1842 by a fellow with the last name of Love.  A hundred and sixty years later and it’s still very much Loved.

This was the original log cabin with Mary Jane Mills and her son. She and John came to this farm in 1905 and likely built this house not long after this photo was taken. I can well imagine how excited she must have been on the day that she moved into this house. It was quite grand for its day: there was a dumbwaiter going from the kitchen to the basement, two stair cases, hardwood floors, red and green stained glass and was so spacious compared to the humble little cabin. I love to imagine her planning it and watching her dream come to life. For some reason, she always comes to mind when I'm cleaning the frosted glass window in the livingroom. I wonder how she chose it - the catalog or a travelling salesman I suppose, certainly not Home Depot.  How happy and excited they must have been waking up on their first morning in this house. 

And then the tragedy: the sorrow that these walls have contained. Both of their sons died; one was about 9, the other 13 – one from infection, the other from a burst appendix. This place would have gone from a home to just a house; seeming almost pointless without the children.  I doubt that she could have had the heart to love it any more.  

And so, whether to fill that void or simply for the practicality of having a boy to help with the farm work, Alexander came. His mother had died when he was seven and his father sent him here to be the hired hand. He was ten years old.  He lived here from 1924 until he went off to join the army in 1939.  He got married in 1941 and came back here and bought the farm in 1947.   Even after having been here for twenty two years, we are still often identified in the community with 'you're on the Binkle place'.

Alex dropped in occasionally over the years and we were so honoured that he did. I liked to hear his stories and picture another family loving and growing within these same walls. I was pleased to know that the Mills slept in the same bedroom that we chose for ours.  Alex's room was where our youngest two slept. What is now our downstairs bathroom was a stair case back then. He told how he’d hear ‘the boss’ getting up, and he’d jump out of bed and run down the back steps to be in the kitchen before him.  He told me where the couch sat and how John Mills would sleep there after dinner while Alex would rest on the floor, under the table; in the same exact spot our table is now. He described how he walked through the fields and woods behind us to get to school rather than going the long way on the road. He told about how his wife, Erma loved to play the piano – there were two here in fact, and the neighbours would come by to sing and play cards. I love to picture that.
Alex raised three daughters in this house; one was born the same year as I was.  I was delighted when they dropped by and gave me a glimpse of what it was like for them to grow up here.

I connected with them today at Alex’s funeral. He was 93 years old.  In the eulogy there was reference to his childhood and his many years on the farm.  THIS farm.  This house, this land, these trees.  In this very spot on the front porch where I am sitting right now, he sat - as a boy and as a man. He spent what should have been childhood days here and I think of his first night in this house. He would have had to have been so sad and frightened, losing his mother then having to leave his father and two brothers. And I think about Mary Jane ... did having a little boy about the age as the ones she lost, ease that sorrow or make her miss them more? Did they treat him like a son or a hired hand?  Was she sad when he left for the army at 22 years old?  I would think that they'd be very pleased when he came back here with his bride. And then here he was: raising his own children on the farm where fate brought him as a child.

It's that kind of thing that gives me pause when I wander around this old place on a sultry summer evening or when I'm cozied up with the wood stove roaring on a long winter's night. I think of the children: the Mills boys and Alex; his children and mine; and now our grandchildren and the children to come.  It's those kind of memories and visions that makes me love an old, old house, and in particular, this old house.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Working ... sort of.

They were discussing the proposal of a fall show at the Gallery meeting the other night. I made a comment that it was a fairly short window with it being summer and people not working much. They looked at me like I was nuts.  Someone commented that they got more done in summer than at any time.

Hmmmm.  Novel concept.  It turns out that what is Summer Mode to me actually may not be the norm after all. Who knew? I thought in this country, with summer weather so short lived, that pretty well everybody was on one big long holiday.  I belong to an on-line artist's group where they totally put me to shame with what they produce consistently all year round. I was writing it off to the fact that they are probably from states in the US where they take warm and beautiful weather for granted. I'm just in a different ballpark, swingin' to my own pitcher; and when the weather is nice, I am staying outside even if the rest of the team has gone home.

I guess it stems back from the days that the kids were home. I loved when school ended and we were able to stop making lunches, stay up late, get up later – throw all the routine to the wind and just enjoy what each day brought.   By September 1st, I was quite happy to get back into routine and have a semblance of order back in our lives. And get back to work. You're supposed to work in the fall. You're supposed to play in the summer.

The kids are long gone and my days are my own.  Work for me is actually play. So why have I kept with the mind set that one need not/should not ‘produce’ in the summer? It’s growing time, not harvesting time. But come to think of it, the seeds were technically supposed to be planted in spring. The farmers work like crazy in the summer - the crops start coming in early June. So there goes that excuse.  

So this week I have focused on trying to shift my mind set. I started creating a display Judy for our wearable art show in September. Yes, I know ... AHEAD OF TIME - another novel concept.  I was having so much fun that I made two. And then the next thing I knew, I had the seed planted for the show In October that I was thinking that I wouldn’t have time for.

Now, chances are that I may become side tracked. Someone might want me to go off on an adventure. Or the hammock may call me. And I do only have 12 days until I head off to the Rock. My best intentions may not actually come to fruition until harvest time anyway, but I am giving it a shot.

At this very moment I am keen. I am motivated!   I am working!!

I suspect, one day down the road, these things will end up in the dump. But just in case that someone like me comes across them - someone who can't leave well enough alone and tears everything apart to either see what's in it or to give it another life ... I put in a message in a bottle. I wonder, wonder, wonder if it will ever be discovered.


It doesn't take much to amuse the children in my life. Give them some water and a net from the dollar store and they're entertained for hours on end.  

That was the simple order of business for our sleepover in the cabin. And of course the prerequisite campfire, snacks and stories. But that goes without saying. 

The cabin is just a stone's throw from the house. It is the perfect place to camp for me. I don't have to do any thinking about what to take; I don't have to pack the car; I don't have to drive anywhere and I get a real bed. 

More than anything, the kids love 'Frogging'. I suspect that the frog that they catch is basically the same one, over and over. They are ever-so-gentle with him and make sure that he goes back in the same exact spot so he can find his family. Lauren caught her very first one, unassisted - so that was a big deal. Usually Scotty catches one, puts it in her net and goes to great extremes to convince her that it really was her skills that made it happen. 

I suppose that most campsites don't have four legged, long-earred supervisors like we do. We are technically invading their space but they are more than happy to share it with us. They are equally as fascinated with frogging and the campfire, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's the possibility of treats that keeps them hovering around us.

Yep ... doesn't take much to amuse any of us out here in Avonbank.