…and that’s what Christmas is all about…

It’s a campground in the little town of Vanderhoof, BC, on the bank of the Nechako River, a world renowned bird sanctuary and home to some great hiking and biking trails. But today, in the bitter chill of a Northern December day, it’s a series of stages where the greatest story ever told is unfolding as we walk, shivering, down the winding path . . .

Isaiah the Prophet

Very long ago, the prophet Isaiah tells the oppressed and despairing people of Israel of a coming savior…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, God with us. A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. And when it comes, his reign of peace will never end. Don’t despair, it will come!

Hail Mary

700 years later, the angel Gabriel visits a young Hebrew virgin, Mary, with the amazing news … the child you bear will be the son of the most high God, that he will free the people from their sins. And Mary believes and accepts her mission…Let it be as you have said!

The Journey to Bethlehem

And in those days a decree went out from the oppressive foreign rulers, that everyone should be taxed. And Joseph went up from Galilee to the town of Bethlehem, to be taxed with his promised wife Mary, who was already very pregnant.

No Room at the Inn

But when they reached Bethlehem, there was no room for them at the inn! The stables were all that was left for them. And so …

Manger Scene

Mary gave birth to her first-born child, the long-promised messiah, in a stable and laid him in a manger.

Shepherds, abiding in the fields...Sheep

And on the night of his birth, the angels visited humble shepherds in the field : Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, GOODWILL TO ALL PEOPLE! And the shepherds said: Let’s hurry to Bethlehem and see this miracle!

3 Mennonite Wise Guys
The 3 Mennonite-Wise-Guys were my favourite. I hope the original Magi had that much fun!

Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the East and we understand the significance of this miracle for the whole world.” And when they had seen the child, they worshiped Him and brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And as the journey and the story ended, I was shivering with cold and so grateful for the free TimHorton’s hot chocolate and the warm fire at the end of the trail. But I was left with something more significant. I was touched by the amazing cooperative effort of all the churches of the town, coming together on this very cold day, to perform this play for us, without compensation, with joy, with humility, in a spirit of cooperation. And I believe, with all my heart, that The One at the centre of it all, would approve!

Happy Christmas!

The Cross

Thirty Days Hath November…

…and I have used them all up without finishing the novel I was supposed to write as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). In fact, I wrote the first 494 words and that’s it. Then I spent the rest of the month working on the cellar restoration and being too exhausted to write.

The cellar is a story in itself. When we bought the house, we knew there was a bit of work to do down there, but we designated 3-4 weeks, start to finish. Ha! Four months later and it’s still not finished. The proverbial ‘can of worms’ has been opened and we could not close it up without addressing each and every part of it. We’re nearing the finish line, though, and it’s going to be awesome when it’s done. Sometime in December. Sigh…

Where am I going with all this? Nowhere. It’s just the last day of November and I felt the need to write and publish something, anything, even if it was just a blog spot about not writing. And now I’ve done that, so, back to the cellar…

November View
The view from our deck in November.

 

Thirty days hath November,
April, June, and September;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

 

#SweetEsther

Redneck Weekend

Picture it, a cold rainy Saturday in November (just two days ago, actually.) Two exhausted middle-aged people wake up late in the morning and frantically start packing up to drive to ‘the city’ (Prince George, BC) for a John Mellencamp concert. They need this little break desperately after months of grueling work on the old house they bought in a small northern town this summer. So they’ve booked a room for the night near the venue and they look forward to just kicking back, a little romance (they’ve splurged on a nice bottle of wine), a relaxing dinner out and a rockin’ time at the concert. This will be so much better than aching bodies from the cellar reconstruction, so much better than bickering with each other and worrying about the unmanageable amount of work still to do before the snow flies.

They’ve set up a dehumidifier in the cellar and determined that it can run for 24 hours before the 5 gallon bucket it’s draining into will overflow. They jump in the car – bicker bicker bicker – in the pouring rain and drive about 15 minutes out of town before someone says do you have the tickets?  and someone else says Oh crap! Drive back to town in awkward silence to get the tickets.

At least they’re not bickering!

It takes about an hour to drive from Vanderhoof to Prince George. This is when it will start to be fun, they think as they arrive at their motel to check in. Until the desk clerk informs them that their reservation is for tomorrow night. What?

Are you going to the hockey game? asks a couple waiting in the lobby.  –  No, we’re going to the John Mellencamp concert, they reply.  –  Hockey tonight, the couple says, The concert is tomorrow.

They awkwardly step aside to discuss their options:

Let’s just stay an extra night!

We can’t.

Why not?

We have a bucket in the cellar that will overflow in 24 hours.

Crap!!

They go to Costco and get that shopping out of the way at least and eat hotdogs for dinner. They drive home in the dark, in a rainstorm, with nearly zero visibility. It takes more than an hour. Everyone is exhausted/headachy, a whole day lost that they could have been working on the house. The bucket still has another 48 hours without fear of overflowing.  Crap!!!

They sleep. They wake, they head back to the city. About 15 minutes out of town they realize they still have no heat in the car. And the temperature gauge is behaving weirdly; the radiator is leaking. So, back home and they pile their bags into the truck.

The Beast
I call it “The Beast”. But this old boy proved this weekend, when the sissy little Mazda city car can’t make it, he can still get-er-done!

The 26 year old beater of a truck they just bought last month and have never driven more than 3 miles from home in good weather. (This is not good weather; the bright sunshine has now turned to wet snow.) The truck looks really rough, it guzzles gas and it smells kind of weird, and the windshield wipers only work sporadically, but it has heat. And once you get used to the sticky clutch, it almost never stalls in intersections!

 

Around 4:30 they roll up to the motel and check in (on the right day, this time). It’s a nice room, clean and warm. But no one is saying “this is where it starts to be fun” anymore. Moxie’s is just about a block away and they walk over for dinner – good table, cheerful service, delicious food. It’s snowing harder when they stroll back to the room, but they aren’t worried. They put on some awesome jazz music, uncork that lovely bottle of wine, and  . . . an hour later, they call a taxi to get to the venue on time, not that anyone is worrying about time anymore.  A cab costs less than paying for parking, and that beautiful wet snow just keeps coming down.

JM Concert

The concert is amazing! John Mellencamp is in great form on his ‘Sad Clowns and Hillbillies’ tour – he still does all his old songs SO perfectly and his newest songs are interspersed and they are GOOD! (Love that bluesy sound. Mellencamp’s voice was made for it!) The band …. the band is awesome! Could this be any better? (Well, a couple screens so you could see closeups of JM now and then, would have been nice. Just sayin’.) But it’s a fantastic evening and they buy a CD and step outside, deciding unanimously that it’s best to skip the taxi line-up and just walk back to the motel.

It’s a winter wonderland. And no one cares that their footwear was not suited to walking in snow. No one cares that all four shoes are soaked inside and out, that they will spend the night drying on the radiator. They even pause at Denny’s, wet feet and all, for tea and pecan pie. Monday morning they will stop at Marks and buy real winter boots, they will stop at Starbucks and get some real yummy lattes, they will drive home in the sunshine on clear roads with beautiful snow laden trees all around.

It’s easier to smile now. It’s so easy to speak gently, to hold hands, to believe that it’s all going to be alright. Because it is. That’s what they’re learning here – In the end, it’s all alright. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.

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The End!

 

Photo Credits: Randy Forgo (except ‘The Beast’, that’s one’s mine…and it shows!)

#SweetEsther

Hello, November!

Nov 1 snowIt’s the first of November. And it’s snowing. Beautiful, blustery snow day! A good day to write a catch-up post, since I’ve not been blogging much lately.

Yesterday was Halloween and the rain stopped in the morning, and the sun came out, and it was a perfect crisp evening for trick-or-treaters and for watching fireworks from our deck. Which we did. Twice.

One of our neighbours set off fireworks in his backyard earlier in the evening – have you ever been this close to fireworks going off? It’s nuts. And awesome. But don’t do it, kids, it’s dangerous and almost certainly contravenes town bylaws … still, pretty awesome!

We actually got trick-or-treaters this year. Not the hoards that we saw a little deeper into town, where the streets are better lit, but we had some. We already made plans for ways to decorate tastefully next year to attract more kids. It’s like a bird feeder, only with fun-sized candy bars. When I was a kid, Halloween was a simple home-made affair. Costumes were things like hobos and gypsies, witches and ghosts, things you could do by rummaging through your parents closet. There was a woman in our neighbourhood who was famous for her homemade popcorn balls every Halloween. It’s too commercialized now, for my taste.

5 minute pumpkin
If you wait until October 31 to shop for a pumpkin in Vanderhoof, you won’t find one. They’ve all gone to the pumpkin walk the day before! But Randy posted a fb ad and came up with this little guy at the last minute – he carved it in 5 minutes. I love it!  – photo credit: Randy Forgo.

In between handing out candy to trick-or-treaters and watching the fireworks from our deck, we hustled down to the Pumpkin Walk. I went to the first Pumpkin Walk 18 years ago, when it was a very wonderfully simple, homey things. It’s huge now, loud and flashy, crowded and commercialized. Quite amazing for a town of this size to pull off, quite frankly, and very well done. But I personally was happy to get back to my quiet deck to sip hot spiced apple cider with my hubby and my sister and watch the official town fireworks and do some star gazing (we can see SO many stars up here, even the milky way, right above our house!) Far from the madding crowds!

I sound like a cranky old goat! “back in my day, we didn’t have these fancy store bought costumes . . . too loud! . . . uphill both ways! . . . ”  It may be because I spent a good portion of October in relative isolation, frantically writing stories for three important short story competitions all ending…well…yesterday. I made the deadline for 2 of the 3. Yah! This month I have committed to NaNoWriMo, which should have me in possession of a finished rough draft novel by the end of November. Let’s hope I don’t end up completely de-socialized, complaining about Christmas carols (never gonna’ happen!)

SweetEsther tucked in for a long winter nap. Sweet dreams of adventures that await us in the spring!

#SweetEsther

This Day In History …

Or more accurately, today we make history! October 17, 2018, recreational marijuana is now legal in Canada. Wherever you stand on the issue, I’m just pointing out the fact. And then I’m saying that I think this is an appropriate move in the right direction. But that’s all I’m saying (On that subject. For now!)

Today is also one year since we lost Gord Downie, a Canadian treasure. Not just an amazing talent, but a truly remarkable human who took every opportunity to throw his full weight behind issues of social justice that he believed in. He brought considerable attention to the travesty of residential schools in Canada. We need to make right with the survivors of that horror, we need to take a very close look and see how something this awful could come about, and then we need to make sure that something like this can never happen again to anyone in our great country.  Because I think we can be a truly great country if we commit ourselves to being great for each and every citizen. That’s my opinion and this is my blog, so I get to spout it. You can disagree with me (or agree!) in the comments. But let’s be polite – this is Canada, after all!

(I have a great Tragically Hip story of my own, but I wrote it and lost it … I’ll rewrite as a post some time!)

Less earth moving, but still important to me on this day, we gave SweetEsther a good and thorough scrub and once-over, winterized and parked her for the winter. As we scrubbed away the bug guts, wildfire ash, and tar splatters of the summer, we talked about what we could do over the winter. And the consensus is that we need to work hard now on the house renos, get those finished early enough so we can spend the spring getting the Westy pimped out for Summer 2019. We have parts waiting for installation, and plans to work on the lighting, upholstery and replace tables, engine rebuild (hopefully!) But all of that will have to wait until the snow falls and subsequently melts … until then, we plan and dream. And reno. And explore life in a small northern town. All part of the adventure!

Washing SE
SweetEsther gets a final scrub of the season. We’re already plotting what upgrades we want to do before hitting the road next spring!

#SweetEsther

Happy Thanksgiving

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The view from my kitchen window.

Here in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. I like that. Because we are North-ish, and if we waited until the end of November as the US does, most of us would be in winter mode already, under snow – the harvest would be long past and no beautiful fall foliage. Plus, it’s good to have a whole 7 weeks between turkey day and the Christmas feast (I need that recovery time!)

We just enjoyed a fantastic turkey dinner with two of my sisters and their families. Held some babies, chatted and laughed with nieces & nephews, sister’s & brothers-in-law. Stopped for a quick visit with Mom, then home to light the pellet stove, pour a glass of wine and cuddle up with my sweet husband to watch a little SNL and “Anne”  before bed.

It’s all good. And no matter how much I have whined recently, I am so very aware of how much I have to be thankful for: this adventure with Randy (both the SweetEsther-trek this summer and our move up North); this time with my mother; spending Thanksgiving with my sisters again after so many years … I’m even thankful for the people I miss because they are far away from me since the move, the times we did spend together are now precious memories. The list goes on and on in my head, but I won’t bore you with it … You’re welcome.

Tomorrow I will get up and get back to work and there will be very real frustrations and I will undoubtedly whine some more because, let’s face it, that’s sort of what I do. But I am aware of these wonderful gifts in my life, and though I don’t deserve them any more than anyone else, still they have come to me! I  have much to be grateful for and though I know I don’t say it often enough, I am indeed very thankful.

#SweetEsther

What are you feeling thankful for? (Assuming that you are!) I’d love to hear about it … (scroll down to leave a comment.)

Just Roll With It

Tonight Randy & I went to spend some time with my 87 year old mother at the care home where she lives. It was just after dinner when we arrived, many of the residents were still straggling at the tables, but Mom was in her room, sitting in her rocking chair. . . frantically chowing down on a huge bag of caramel popcorn that was also strewn in a trail from the door. . .

As we entered the room, she held up her hand and said, “I don’t want to get you involved in this!” The scene was almost funny.

Almost.

My mother has Alzheimer’s and acute hearing loss, so from her perspective, she had been at the dinner table when one of the ‘waitresses’ had asked her a question that she couldn’t hear. She had said ‘pardon me?’ (completely normal to this point) but it just never got loud enough for Mom to understand, which is very embarrassing for her (very hard for her to hear in a large, crowded room.) That’s when it got crazy. Because in Mom’s recollection of events, someone was suddenly on her, reprimanding her like a child for  swearing and sending her to her room without her dinner! She was hungry. She was humiliated. She sat in her room swearing and horking down the afore mentioned huge bag of caramel popcorn.

Here’s the thing with my mother in her current stage of dementia, she swears. Like a sailor! It’s almost surreal sometimes. But here’s what I have observed about her swearing, it is always a defiant reaction to fear. Because she can’t remember. She can’t remember selling her house and choosing to live at The Manor. She can’t remember who’s dead and who’s still alive. Some days she can’t remember her own children. And in the midst of all that, she lives in a world of isolation because of her hearing loss and she can’t even pick up the phone to call someone when crap like this happens to her, she is utterly powerless. To use a word my mother has adopted recently, that’s just too fucking scary!

‘I’m sorry this is happening to you,’ is a phrase I have adopted from The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes says something like that to the bicycle zombie in the park in the first episode and I have always felt the impact of those simple empathetic words. Tonight it was Randy who said those words to Mom, because whatever did or didn’t go down in that dining room, this most certainly was happening to her and it was horrible, and there was nothing else to say without invalidating her experience or her feelings. Then I started humming an old Scottish hymn, as loudly as I could so she could hear me, and she calms a bit. “She’s singing?” Randy says. Her voice is very soft and I have to listen hard. “Yes, she’s singing.” – She’s singing all the German swear words she knows to the tune of According To Thy Gracious Word! – I nearly split a seam trying to hold in my laughter. I decided to go with what was working, so we sang hymns, and golden oldies, and pop songs; me singing the lyrics as I remembered them, Randy making up hilarious words of his own at times, and Mom singing happily in her alternate language of choice (or not choice. I don’t believe she has any conscious control over this anymore). We must have sounded insane, but whatever! She felt safe and the swear words slowly dissipated and she was just my sweet little mother again.

We had some coffee with too much cream, we worked on the puzzle, she asked about our house renos, even. Smiles. We left her with hugs and ‘love you’s, sitting contentedly in her rocking chair.

Some people may find all of this terribly offensive. Some people may judge. But me? I’m just very blessed to have been here, to share the scary and the ugly and the hilarious and the precious tonight. I’m just grateful that I was able to roll with it!

#SweetEsther

blessed be the tie that binds