Wednesday, 31 October 2018

An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

Early in October, the month of Thanksgiving, I listened to a program on CBC about keeping a Gratitude Journal. It suggested that, after three weeks of writing three daily gratitude items, your brain would be rewired, and you would be naturally more grateful. I thought I could use some brain rewiring, so I launched my Gratitude Journal.

There's an App for That!

The program recommended that you keep the journal on your phone--everybody is so attached to their phones, one would remember to update a digital Gratitude Journal. And there are free Gratitude Journal apps to download. Well, free certainly appealed to me, and, yes, I am always on my phone playing Words with Friends, so this would just be another daily routine. Easy. And a rewired brain to look forward to.


The Gratitude Journal theory advocates that you look for simple things to be grateful for, such as spotting a red cardinal in your lilac bush when you look out the window in the morning. Once you are attuned to doing that, you’ll find Gratitude Nuggets all over the place, all day long.

Red Cardinal in a Lilac Bush

At least on Thanksgiving Day, many of us pause and give thanks for the big things in our lives—our families, our health, our friends, that we live in Canada, but how often do we acknowledge the little things in our day? They might be sliding by without notice. For example, the first thing I wrote in my Gratitude Journal was that I made it to the bathroom in time. I’m sure you would agree that that is something to be grateful for!  

Item #1

The second day into my Gratitude Journal, the cryptoquote in The Daily Gleaner serendipitously spoke to my gratitude project with this quote by Tecumseh. And, by the way, I am always grateful for The Gleaner! Daily. 

Tecumseh's Gratitude Journal

On day three, I received an alert saying my online Gratitude Journal would only be free for 15 entries, after which I would have to pay $5.99. Instead of being annoyed at the sneaky charge, my partly rewired brain thought, “Well, I am grateful that it was free for a while.” See, it was working!
Only $5.99

Just in case you want to get started on your own GJ, here are some examples from mine that might give you some ideas:  
  • I didn’t back into the car behind me.
  • My flu shot was free.
  • I got across Smythe Street without having to wait.
  • I received six bags of rescue yarn from my cousin.
  • Stars in the skylight.
  • Burgundy leaves.
  • June brought me a coffee.
  • View from the 6th floor.
  • My heel stopped hurting. 

Stars in the Skylight

This exercise in gratitude made me think of how easy it would be to keep a Complaint Journal. Finding three things per day to complain about is not difficult--perhaps our brains are wired that way! It might take some work to undo that!

Which Is It?

If I was not rewiring my brain through "gratitude awareness", I might look out the window at the red cardinal in the lilac bush and think, “That lilac bush needs pruning and I can’t climb a ladder.” I would probably say, “Why did that damn car park so close behind me?” and “That flu shot hurt!” etc, etc. You get the point, but don’t go there! Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude and rewire your brain!!

...Until Next Time...

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Is it Love or Lactose Intolerance?

Is it Love or Lactose Intolerance? 

Six years into retirement, I finally tackled the Clean-Up the Boxes in the Basement Project. One good-sized cardboard carton was full of letters that I received from various friends and family members beginning when I left the family nest in 1975 to attend university. I come from a long line of Letter Hoarders and I’ve been dragging those letters around for 43 years. Why, you might ask. Good question.

Box of History

I sorted the letters into piles with the intention of returning them to the people who wrote them, so they could revisit themselves 43 years ago. They could do with them what they wanted—read them, share them, frame them, burn them.

Sorted Piles of Letters

When I delivered the little bundle of personal history to my sister, Kathy, we immediately tore into them and spent the evening reading them aloud. We had a rousing time, visiting our teen-aged selves. My 30-year-old daughter and my 63-year-old husband/room-mate were present for the entertainment. When we left after two hours Emma commented that she had not laughed so hard in a long time, maybe not in her whole life! What was so funny? Imagine Emma getting a glimpse of her mother at 18 and her aunt at 16. What a trip!
Emma at the Reading

Kathy’s “voice” was strong, distinctive and colourful. The topics were intriguing and adolescent. She was in grade 11 at the regional high school and had our brother “Gordo” as her math teacher. “Barb, he sings in math class. Today he was singing Rhinestone Cowboy, and I slid right under my desk and onto the floor.”

Like a Rhinestone Cowboy
Gettin' cards and letters from people I don't even know...

Of course the other students found out that Gordo and Kathy were siblings. Mr. Math Teacher gave it away one day when he said in frustration to his math-challenged sister, “I can’t believe we were borne from the same mother!” Soon after a male student pointed out the familial resemblance. “Barb, he said Gordo and I had the same beer bellies and the same sideburns!” 

Family Resemblance

The Rhinestone Cowboy was apparently oblivious to some of the shenanigans in his class. “Lennie sits behind me in Math class and he takes his pencil and plays with my ear.”

(Lennie and Kathy equals Math Problems)

But, according to the letters, it wasn’t Lennie who tickled her fancy. It was Jimmy. 
Burning Cheeks

Adolescent Angst

"When I think or write about him, my cheeks burn like when I eat cheese.Was it love or lactose intolerance? Who knows. Kathy had a violent side as well. In one letter, she expressed her anger toward some poor victim saying, I want to stick a knitting needle in one ear ‘til it comes out the other, crooked!” I like the knitting needle allusion.

Knitting Needle Weapon

Sixteen-year-old Kathy hated school, but she loved her dog, Toni. “When I get home from school I just take Toni and go to the haymow and look out the big window.” She was less fond of her dog, Flipper. “Flipper bit my hand again. He won’t last long.” A dog named Flipper. After a dolphin. No wonder he bit her hand.

Kathy and Toni in the Haymow??

Our grandfather lived with us at that time. He was notoriously tight with his money, like some of his descendants. Kathy writes in one letter, “Grampy was going to send you five dollars, but I told him you didn’t need it,” thus cheating me out of financial aid I really could have used!

Missed Bursary

And she took great delight in telling me that my old boyfriend was interested in her now. “He’s still mad at you because you didn’t sit beside him at the Sussex rink.”

Missed Opportunity

Her letters had definite themes other than school-hating, crushes and dogs. There was family and neighbourhood news including births, deaths, chainsaw accidents, pulp-dragging, squash-picking, new glasses, belts, diets and bad colds.
She would warn me of particularly startling news with, “Barb, sit down and plan to stay there quite a while.” Then she would share the awful news with me, such as the snowshoe confession. 

"Settle Down"

 As I mentioned, her voice was strong and the language colourful. Some words, which start with F, I cannot share with you here. I do have my standards. She called me a “nurd” in one letter and, in another letter, said she almost “peuked” after watching the movie Deliverance. (Honestly, that’s how puked should be spelled.) She described her exasperation with school saying she was going “Crackers, crackers.” She used the word “queer” frequently, meaning “odd.” This was 1975, after all.

Crackers, Crackers

She had numerous pen-names. Almost every letter had a different sign-off signature—Kathleen, Kate, Katie, Slopes, Reuben---to name a few. Never Kathy, which is what I have always called her.


Over the years, my mother, brother, aunts, uncle, cousins have carefully preserved and lovingly transcribed collections of letters from our ancestors. They have published them in coiled booklets and made copies available to family members at a reasonable price. 

Letters to and from the Sea

When I reminded Emma of those collections she said, “I’d pay at least a hundred dollars for the “The Kathy Chronicles." (I see a business opportunity here.)

The Kathy Chronicles

Letters are historical artifacts to Emma and her generation. Rarely do they receive a hand-written letter, and even more rarely do they send one. In 43 years will they be sitting around sharing texts, Instagrams, tweets? Maybe this blog??

Letters from Home

...Until Next Time...

Friday, 31 August 2018

Doshas and Dusters

Doshas and Dusters

I managed to spend six consecutive weeks at our camp this summer.  For the most part, I was alone, with weekend visits from my room-mate who is quick to say, “Some of us have to work for a living.” Well, not me!!

Tom, Working for a Living

At a family party, one of my cousins asked, “What do you do at your camp all summer, Barb?” 
Allow me to answer that question. There’s lots to do! The social life in Long Reach is vibrant. There was the Rhubarb Beer/Cider-Tasting Wharf Fundraiser at my Ancestral Home.


Long Reach Products

There was the day trip to Deer Island with two of my sisters, one of whom liked to stop and comment on every lobster trap, mailbox and half-ton we saw.

Deer Island Mailboxes

There were two family beach parties at Gail's beach, welcoming relatives from the Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and all corners of New Brunswick. 

Three Generation Beach Party-ers

There were six lunches at the Carter House with six different dates. 

Carter House Tea

There was the Pie Party at the Gorham Cottage to welcome baby Brooke to Long Reach.

Brooke and Andrea

Every Friday night, The Smokehouse at Fullerton's Market is open for supper and meeting up with the neighbours. Hard ice-cream and hot coffee are available everyday!

Smokehouse Suppers

On Saturday mornings, the Kingston Market is the place to be for shopping and socializing.  

Kingston Farmers' Market

And every other Sunday, you can attend church!
Long Reach United Church

Our Fourth Annual Menopause Camp, a fun-filled afternoon with eight local women of a certain age, was a great success. The agenda was jam-packed beginning with lunch prepared and served by our YOUNG Camp Counsellor, Ruthie. A yoga instructor by trade, she determined our Doshas—something everyone, menopausal or not, might benefit from. What’s a Dosha, you ask? Very briefly, the three doshas are biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. Vata is composed of space and air; Pitta of fire and water; Kapha of earth and water. Which one are you?

Menopause Camp, 2018

 We had a Menopausal Complaint Session balanced with a Menopausal Gratitude Session, followed by a Dear Abby Wisdom Exercise and some Menopausal Math. Menopausal Door Prizes included notepads, incontinence pads, hairnets, facecloths and cooling soap. Our Menopausal Soundtrack consisted of songs with the word “HOT” in them. The afternoon concluded with a Menopausal Dip at the wharf-- we kept our bathing suits on this year. We never got around to the Art Workshop led by Auntie DoodleBop, Artist-in-Residence, nor to the Toenail Polishing Event. There is so much to cover at Menopause Camp! (Applications are being received for next year. Some restrictions apply.)

Register Now!!

HOT on the heels of Menopause Camp, was the Third Annual Charlotte’s Tea, a fundraiser for Kingston Peninsula Heritage, named in honour of our mother. We included a singing component this year with our own Carolyn Murray’s original composition, There’s Nothing Like a Cup of Tea. Who knows, maybe next year, Charlotte’s Tea, The Musical!

The Charlotte's Tea Choir
Apron String Sextet

There was the First Annual Duster Party --dress code, duster and pearls. What's a duster?  "...a long, lightweight overgarment, worn especially in the early days of open automobiles to protect the clothing from dust." Need one?

Bring back the Duster!

We were fortunate to have Noel spend three weekends with us over the summer. Having him in our lives is so enriching, sharing experiences we might otherwise not pursue, such as The Busker Festival, The Huntsman Aquarium, The Kandy Shoppe, St. Andrews, New River Beach,  Smackdown WWE at Harbour Station, Sea Dog Cove and The John Deere Trail.

Noel at the Huntsman

Without Noel in our lives, our vocabulary would be bereft of jumpscare, legitness, and gainstin’. We probably wouldn’t bother with hotdogs, bonfires, smores, Yahtzee, remote control cars, mini-cereals and beach glass creations.

Beach Glass Creations 
by Noel, Barb and Tom

We might still kayak, pick apples and make applesauce, but it wouldn't be the same without him.

Rollin' on the River

With all that activity and social hubbub, I needed some quiet moments to recharge. There is no TV at the camp and Internet access is limited, so I spend a lot of alone time listening to books. I fell heir to four bags of rescue yarn which included 63 granny squares crying out to be put together. I assembled this afghan while listening to Hemingway's The Sun Also RisesOf course, that inspired a name for the finished product.   

The Sun Also Rises

And that’s how I spent my summer!

...Until Next Time...

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Looking for Longmire

Looking For Longmire

I became a fan of Longmire, the TV series about a modern-day sheriff in Wyoming, on my first trip to Denver to visit Emma. This year, as my roommate and I planned Our Summer Daughter Trip, I decided I wanted to go on a road trip to Wyoming to search for Walt Longmire. Never mind that the series is filmed in New Mexico, and the actor who plays Walt, Robert Taylor, is Australian. I can still have my fantasies. 

Walt and the Crew

Emma planned our three-day road trip to include a night in a dog-friendly log cabin Air B and B in Walden, Colorado. 

Emma in Walden Air B and B

Walden is small, quaint and western. We had lunch at the bowling alley and breakfast in a local café frequented by elderly motorcycle enthusiasts. Very satisfying in so many ways.

Breakfast at the Moose Creek Cafe

From Walden to Wyoming, we drove across plains where the deer and the antelope play, through a couple of wildfires and then descended the mountains via a twisty road with appropriate speed limits. We lunched in Cheyenne, a quintessential western city frequented by Walt Longmire on sheriff business. 

Downtown Cheyenne
(Walt's Boot?)

Downtown Cheyenne
Pioneer Women

Ranchwear at the Wrangler

Tryin' on the Ranchwear

Need any Cowboy Boots?

Or Cowboy Furniture?

Our second night was at Terry Bison Ranch, the second largest bison ranch in the USA. Nestled in an open range right beside a busy four-lane freeway, Terry Bison Ranch offered many activities—trail rides, ATV tours, train trips, bison-feeding. Its amenities included a homemade amusement park, a restaurant featuring the Longmire Burger, a petting menagerie of camels, pigs, horses, donkeys, peacocks, emus and bison, of course. The ranch covers 33,000 acres and extends into the state of Colorado.

Trail Rides

Bison-Feeding Train Trip

Homemade Amusement Ride

(Made from oil barrels)

Longmire Burger

Main Street, Terry Bison Ranch
Emma and Lucy

I know you are wondering what the difference is between a bison and a buffalo. According to our tour guide, a bison is 5% cow, and a buffalo is 100% buffalo. According to Google, these are the differences:

§  Have a large hump.
§  Do not have a hump.
§  Small, sharp horns.
§  Medium, sharp horns.
§  Thick fur and thick beard.
§  Light fur and no beard.
§  Native to North and South America and Europe.
§  Native to Africa.
§  Used for meat, clothing, weapons and shelter.
§  Used for meat.

We visited the grave of Tinker, a 2250-pound bison who had a cameo appearance in the movie Dances with Wolves.

Tiny Tinker

Emma and I met a Cowboy with a Story as we were walking Miss Lucy, Emma and Jarrett’s loving dog. The Cowboy escorted us through the ranch, past the cabins, past the travel trailers, past the scary woman with the scary rottweiler and the scared 4-year-old, to the dog park at the edge of the establishment. Mr. Cowboy was tall and lanky, wore cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and spoke with a definite drawl. He prefaced every answer to our inquiries with, “Yes Ma’am.” Although we spent an hour with him, we never got his name, so we christened him Chester in retrospect. 

Chester, Emma and Lucy at The Tradin' Post

Car Travel Games are inevitable on road trips. Emma is used to it from her childhood. Licence Plate, Horse, Name the 50 States and their Capitals, List all the States You Have Visited are some of our favourites. All sorts of fun! This was a bit of a test for Emma’s husband, Jarrett, I’m sure. Road Trip with the In-LawsThink about it.

Licence Plate

We even developed a new car game: A Song from Every State. Busted Flat in Baton Rouge: Colorado, Rocky Mountain High; North to Alaska; Destination, Bangor Maine; Sweet Home Alabama; T for Texas, T for Tennessee. This game has potential!

Emma and Daddy

Back in Denver, we enjoyed a variety of activities including
knitting at the local seniors’ centre, the Brazillian Steakhouse, Jamming on the Jetty and The 
Cherry Creek Arts Festival. 

Brazilian Steakhouse

Jamming on the Jetty

Cherry Creek Arts Festival

As usual, Emma and I indulged in several bad movies.

A Fork in the Road
An Hour Behind
Changing Hearts
A Frosty Affair
A Perfect Match
Happy Log

They were all deliciously bad, but I can't decide which was the worst--A Fork in the Road or Happy Log.

A Fork in the Road

Happy Log

And just to balance out trashy movie consumption, I finished two books. The Seagull by Ann Cleeves is a satisfying British mystery featuring beloved protagonist Vera Stanhope. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is based on a true story of child trafficking in the US in the late 1930s. Startling and compelling.



Our Summer Daughter Tour took us from Denver to Toronto on our 35th wedding anniversary. There we were, the four of us in Julia’s one-bedroom basement apartment for three hot days. We all survived!

Family in Toronto

The Toronto trip featured VIP passes to a Dave Matthews concert, compliments of Emma who has drag in the music industry. We watched the concert from the stage, had open access to the floating bar and were treated to an amazing catered feast with the crew and band. Unfortunately, Tom and I were so intent on getting to the roasted beet and goat cheese dumplings, we missed Dave Matthews in the line-up behind us. At least we didn’t run him down on our way to the carrot cake!

The Floating Bar:Anne, Emma, Tom

Dave Matthews

That trip has ended. Alas, Longmire is fiction, but the rest is real. 

...Until Next Time...