On Mother’s Day, life lessons from my mother-in-law

Mother’s Day, 2017. Considering that I had more time with my mother-in-law (38 years) than with my Mom (28 years, until her untimely death), it seems fitting that, along with my own mother, I think of our family’s Mum/Grandma/Great Grandma on Mother’s Day weekend. To be honest, what made me think of her last night was the wooden spoon I use for stir-frying. I pulled it out of the drawer, took a look at the worn-down, stained, even scorched spoon and thought of her. It looked just like her spoons, not to mention many of the other items in her very well-used kitchen.

As I age – rapidly, it feels like – I am reminded more and more of Mum. The way I wear the same few clothes over and over again remind me of Mum. The way I wear the same shoes year after year, rather than getting new ones (except for sneakers, of course!), remind me of Mum. The way I don’t want to throw away my (very) old pots just because they’re discoloured remind me of Mum. The way I find myself stuffing a Kleenex in my sleeve (despite questioning remarks from the males in my family) remind me of Mum. The interesting thing is that we (my husband and I) always noticed these practices of Mum, and we always spoke of them affectionately but with a slight shake of our heads. But now that I have reached the stage of life that the media likes to call “senior”, I not only get it, I find myself following the same path. Continue reading

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Quilting projects: creativity is all about trial and error

“The best laid plans”.  “Learn from your mistakes.”  “It’s all about serendipity.”  All of these phrases play into any creative activity, whether it’s writing poems or a piece of music, painting, woodworking, or, indeed, making quilts. You start with a relatively strong sense of confidence in your concept. You can’t wait to get started. You know there will be twists and turns along the path to completion – well, actually, you usually forget that until it happens yet again, but the happy reality is that overcoming unanticipated stumbling blocks as you work through your project usually increases the creative quality of the final product.  It’s part of the journey.

All that having been said, I still wasn’t prepared for how big the twists and turns would be that I had set for myself when I started a new quilting project recently. Lots of lessons learned. The overriding take-away is that a “random” pattern can’t truly be random in order to end up” looking random”. In other words, I should have had a much more thorough plan in place when I started. And the superior plan should have had a clear expectation for how patterned fabric could be incorporated to best effect. I’m still not sure how I’d do this, but since I’m making similar quilts for two small grandsons, I’ll soon have a chance to approach the planning phase differently for the second one!

I’ve never followed quilt designs too faithfully, but the designs I’ve followed previously have always had clear geometric shapes and structures, and I’d always used fabrics where no pattern on one fabric overwhelmed other fabrics. Unfortunately, this project didn’t really follow either of these paths. Continue reading

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Cuba: More than just sun and beaches, there’s the lure of Havana

We finally made Cuba our destination of choice for our March Break getaway week in 2009. We were definitely playing catch-up with vast numbers of Canadians and Europeans who had been availing themselves of a burgeoning tourist industry in Cuba since about 1995. Of the 3 million tourists who visited Cuba in 2015, nearly 40% of them were Canadians. With lots of reasonably priced packages, direct charter flights even from small towns like ours, and a relatively short flight from eastern Canada, it’s a very inviting proposition. Add in pretty well guaranteed warmth and sun in the middle of winter, plus familiar all-inclusive resorts, and it’s easy to seal the deal.

In addition to leisurely beach activities (or more adventurous ones such as organized cycling trips across the island), a holiday in Cuba offers the opportunity to spend time in Havana, which is a special treat. We were lucky to have had the option of a package tour leaving directly from our small airport which included three nights at a hotel in central Havana and four nights at a beach resort in Varadero. It was a terrific combination for us, although for people who are focused on the beach, day trips are easily available from the resorts. Continue reading

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The word is out: Trump’s rhetoric is eroding America’s moral authority

According to opinion pieces in CNN, the New York Times, and elsewhere recently, America’s moral authority in the world is being compromised by the intemperate language often used by their new president towards its allies and his own citizens. An easy response might be, “Duh. Ya think?!”

There are two underlying assumptions implicit in the phrase “eroding America’s moral authority”. One is that America does have moral authority in the world; the other is that it is simply eroding as opposed to being fully eroded. As I attempted to do in a previous post regarding the phrase “leader of the free world”, I’ll try to unpack this notion of America’s moral authority and where it currently stands, if it stands at all.

What is moral authority? It has many definitions, but of primary importance is that decisions and actions are made based on principles of truth and justice. There is an expectation that moral authority comes from an individual or institution that is respected for being of strong moral fibre and solid knowledge, and for striving for good outcomes for the “right” reasons, not just for self-interest. Continue reading

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Costa Rica: why it rates a top spot in the World Happiness Rankings

As I reported in a recent blog post, we spent our March Break week this year in Costa Rica. Along with its remarkable biodiversity and the resulting opportunities it presents its to visitors to observe an abundance of animals, birds, and plant life in very different habitats, Costa Rica also provides an example of how “developed” countries as well as “developing” countries might do things differently, to the benefit of all their citizens.

Before our trip I had known that Costa Rica was considered to be a bastion of stability in a region not known for stability. But I didn’t know why. It turns out that this country of 5 million people has had a history of enlightened leadership in progressive social development and environmental protectionism for a long time. The Spanish who colonized most of Central and South America apparently decided that this part of their potential claim had little value (no gold) and so left them pretty much to their own devices. And, similarly to the Acadian society in eastern Canada when left to their own devices by France (until the British came along and cast them out), a democracy grew that was remarkably egalitarian for the times and the region.

Things I did not know: Continue reading

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Seeing Both Sides

This is only my second reblog in 5 years, but I couldn’t resist. This piece is written by a blogging friend on the Isle of Jersey, Roy McCarthy, who has written a number of novels. I love the closer in this short story. You’ll see why! Thanks, Roy.

Back On The Rock

It had been years now since he’d said a sweet word to her, or given her a cuddle, much less bought her flowers on her birthday. Barely a ‘hello’ as he came home from the office at the end of each day. Still, she believed it was her place, her duty to look after him – cook his meals, iron his shirts, keep a clean and tidy house.

‘There must be more,’ she often thought as they sat in silence each evening, watching television. He would frown in disapproval on the rare occasion that she’d go and see her friends, perhaps attend an evening lecture or even a performance of the local amateur dramatics society. He himself never went anywhere other than to and from work. Wouldn’t dream of accompanying her anywhere.

Loneliness

Yet he wasn’t cruel, didn’t mistreat her. Separation had never entered her head. But one evening, not feeling…

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Costa Rica: There’s more to sun destinations than just sun and beaches, there’s nature

The #1 reason three generations of our family spent March Break in Costa Rica this year was because our grandchildren wanted to see monkeys in their natural habitat. They wanted to swim for sure – almost all day every day – and they were more than happy to spend a week without jackets, hoods, boots, mitts, and tuques, but the monkeys were the big draw. It’s hard to disappoint on that front when you spend any time in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a nature lover’s delight. Its biodiversity is extraordinary; it is among the most biodiverse countries in the world and, given its relatively small size (similar in size to the state of West Virginia), it is considered to be the most densely biodiverse country in the world. It has tropical rain forests, cloud forests, mangrove forests, coastlines on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and also tropical dryland (aka deciduous) forests, which was the one Costa Rican ecosystem we hadn’t known about and the one we ended up staying in and exploring. Continue reading

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