What a view!

My grandparents moved to Nepean in 1976, right around the time my sister Jen was born. The house was smaller than their old house, with less corners to explore, but we came to love it. We loved it, of course, for the family held within but also for the little things like the smell of cedar by the hedge, and playing dinky cars along the mortar on the stone fireplace, and the little toads that gathered near the leaky tap beside the kitchen door. Daddy Harold never fixed that tap in the 26 years they lived there because Nana loved the little toads just as much as we did. And we loved the tall fir tree beside the house.

Daddy Harold had two rules about the tree. We couldn’t get help up and we couldn’t drag anything over to get up. If we couldn’t get up on our own then we just weren’t old enough. My sisters are the ones who figured out a work around. We could climb the nearby fence and shimmy across a branch to the trunk and then climb. That opened up a fair bit of entertainment. Once we even climbed up the tree then across to the roof… but only once. The branches were too small and wobbly. Otherwise we’d just climb up for a bit then go back down. My sisters liked to go up and chat with each other on the branches but I liked to go up for the solitude. I’d feel the breeze against my cheeks and listen to the wind softly ruffle the fir needles. And, of course, each year it got a bit easier to climb as we got just that bit taller.

Nana and I blogEvery summer my grandparents would take each of us on our own for one week. It gave my parents a bit of a break and us a break too. I can’t remember how old I was this particular summer trip but I do remember it was a beautiful day. Nana settled down on one of those long, folding lawn chairs with a book and a wide brimmed hat while I made a beeline for the tree.

I didn’t have any plans for how far I’d climb, I was just enjoying the moment. I climbed past the roof of the house but that was no big deal or goal as they lived in a bungalow. Then I climbed a bit further and looked out through a gap in the branches.

“Nana!” I said excitedly. “I can see the pool!”

“That’s nice dear,” she said. Her head didn’t even move.

I kept climbing. The pool was, after all, only three blocks away. It wasn’t like I’d climbed that far. I got a bit higher and announced that I could see Ikea, which was in Nepean at the time and got the same remark. And onwards I went. I had to call a bit louder to say I could see the Rideau River… same with the Parliament buildings.

The trunk was quite a bit thinner by then and the branches were getting farther apart. Luckily I had really good upper body strength because I was reaching above my head and hauling myself up to the next branch. Then I reached another open space. Wow! Everything was so distant yet so detailed and there was a shimmer of water on the horizon.

“Nana! Nana! I can see the Gatineau River!!!”

“That’s nice dear,” came her exact same reply. I couldn’t see her at this point but I was reasonably sure she hadn’t looked up. That must have been one hell of a good book!

By now I was standing on my tiptoes to grasp the next branch. I knew that was risky but I was so close to reaching the top of the tree and there’s a lot more bragging power in saying I climbed to the top than there is to say I almost made it. The trunk and the branches were the same size and it moved slightly in the breeze. And then suddenly the next branch was the last.

The top of the tree was like a little nest, round and flat with branches cupped around it. I felt safe for the first time in about ten minutes, rocking gently and watching the world. The Gatineau glittered in the sunlight and, beyond it was a city. I named the only one I knew, other than Quebec, which I knew was too far away even at that age.

“Nana! Nana! Guess what? I can see Montreal!!!”

This time I could see her, still in the same position, “That’s nice d-” she stopped as her brain detangled from the novel and caught up with my words. “What did you say???”

She dropped the book and looked up… and up… and up. Her hat fell off as her head tilted.

“Kathleen Ellen Atkinson! You get down here right this instant!”

Going down was a hell of a lot harder than going up. It was scary enough to stand on my tiptoes and reach for a branch. It was ten times harder to let myself down from a branch then let go, trusting that I’d positioned myself well enough for the branch below. And doing that time and time again. I don’t particularly remember the views. I do, however, remember that trip down.

I finally made it to the ground, where my much shaken Nana was waiting for a hug.

“Don’t you ever climb that high again!” she scolded, and I didn’t. I don’t think I got much higher than roof height after that and that was just high enough for me.

Finding joy…

There is a country store both my Mom and I like to visit. It truly is a country store, surrounded by farms. They’re easily spotted by the white chicken pickup truck parked on a large mound, complete with a giant egg in the back. There’s an old tractor resting beside the gravel parking lot for the kids to play on and the porch always has decor for sale. Inside is utter chaos. The front contains shelves and bins of food topped by decor (and a cafe to the side) while the back contains so very much decor… and some bins of food and a clothing area. It is a veritable labyrinth filled with everything from cute magnets to wooden baskets. Amidst all this is always a lit birch tree. I am drawn to it every time we shop there then repelled by the seventy dollar price tag. Each time I tell myself “next visit” but that next visit with money and determination never occurs.

Then there’s Marshalls, a store both Colin and I love. They get so many beautiful items and, at Christmas, also have lit birch trees. I check the Boxing Day sales every year but haven’t had any luck. They sell out before I get there. I bought a small silver battery operated tree for my bedside table but that’s just not the same.

This year is different. Sadly Marshalls and Winners are closed due to lockdown; really sadly because I have gift cards for them. They don’t have an online store either. Amazon’s trees were okay but they didn’t qualify for free shipping (even over $35) and the shipping was $22. But Chapters… now that was a different story. Their tree was 33% off and the shipping was only $10. My finances could handle it, the bills were paid, so I clicked the order button and waited until today when it arrived.

my viewI can’t think of much else to get for this tiny apartment. My walls are decorated, I have my furniture, I have my tree ♥, and I’m good for decor. The tree was, as they put it, the icing on the cake. Now I get to focus on filling my life with the less tangible things. Writing in here, chatting with friends, reading, petting the cats, talking to family, cooking yummy food (really… I made the most delicious carrot orange ginger soup tonight and added fresh dill to it). That’s one of my, well I’d call it a resolution but it’s more of a suggestion to myself. It basically sums up to being patient with myself and treating myself with kindness and grace. I do that with everyone else so why don’t I do it with me?

The birch tree is one of those kindnesses. It’s been years coming and years postponed. It might just be a material thing but it’s something that brings me joy and leaves a smile on my face. And on a gloomy day in January, that’s worth a lot.

Best laid plans…

Anyone searching for Facebook Notes tips, they’re a few paragraphs down

tardis ornament bokehI woke this morning to a cat nibbling on my fingers. That’s not out of the ordinary, not with Lara in the apartment. She’s a lovely cat, just lacking a bit with social skills (with cats too). I wasn’t in a rush so I stayed in my cosy nightgown while I brushed my teeth and fed the cats and chatted with my Mom and made my breakfast. I’d just settled down at the computer when I decided to open my email and see if there was an update on my Amazon order. It wasn’t due until Tuesday but sometimes they come a bit early… like now when the package was two towns away… clicks refresh… and out for delivery.

This was 10am and I had plans to go shopping with a friend of mine in the late morning to early afternoon (we were kind of winging it). Obviously that needed to be delayed. But how long could it take? And so I waited… and waited… and waited… while my parcel information just sat there doing nothing.

At 3:30pm I’d long since changed my plans to shopping tomorrow instead and cancelled our afternoon walk. But I had three very ripe bananas in my fruit bowl and a good banana bread recipe in my Facebook notes. I got out one bowl and the loaf pan then decided to call up the recipe before going any further. Notes has gotten harder to find recently so I went to my profile page and down to my about section then started scrolling… and it wasn’t there. I checked again and again, still nothing. I searched all over my page on both my tablet and computer and it just. wasn’t. there. A Facebook search called up a group of people who like notes and some notes apps but not my specific notes. And I wanted those notes. My Nana’s buttercream frosting recipe was in there and she died in 2003 so it’s not like I can ask her to rewrite it. My favourite pancake recipe which the long forgotten site removed. My hot and sour soup recipe which was modified from a product recipe. They’re irreplaceable.

Finally I did a Google search and struck paydirt. After a few false starts I found this link which lets you click on “my notes”. I was overjoyed until I realized I could only read the first couple of lines; the “see more” link wasn’t working. There’s a save option but that really only worked two or three times. But if you click on “comment” it will open up the link so you can see the whole post.

My first attempt at saving was to directly copy and paste to OpenOffice. This led to a weirdly formatted document chock full of lines. So I opened WordPress and pasted in there, thus removing the formatting, then copied and pasted into Open Office. I had to add the correct formatting but at least it was legible.

It was over an hour later by the time I got all the recipes copied to my computer and I no longer wanted to bake anything. Actually I no longer wanted to even cook anything, which is why I had half an English muffin for dinner tonight. Mmm… dinner of champions!

And, while I was eating my dinner, I was messaging another friend and telling her that my package wasn’t here yet but they still had another hour left in their estimate. I flipped over to the parcel information just in time to see the page update to “delivered”. And there it was on my doormat, much too late for me to do anything today.

But tomorrow’s another day, the stores will still be there, the trail ready to be walked, the bananas waiting to be smushed. And maybe I’ll have helped someone retrieve their Facebook notes… helped save a memory. As for now, my tardis ornament is safely on the tree, I have a stack of scrapbooking pages waiting and new photo sleeves to place them in, and I’m all ready to relax.

Living in a Dollarama world…

Years ago, if someone asked me to think of a dollar store, my mind went to a dimly lit room with shelves stocked full of crap. Plastic dolls that vaguely resembled Barbie (if the lights were bad and you squinted enough). Ones with arms and legs that didn’t move and heads that popped off. Plastic wrapped note sets with pens that didn’t work and pads barely wide enough to write a single word. Plastic cars with wheels that fell off. And gaudy ceramic vases; I’m pretty sure the vases simply moved from one dollar store to the next as one store closed and another opened. I certainly never saw anyone buy one. Then I entered Dollarama.

I can’t remember why I was at that end of town. I just remember I had too much time to hang around the bus stop and not enough time to go anywhere… but there was a new dollar store right there. Right where Biway used to be. I walked in and WOW! It was bright and clean, an actual store instead of a hole in the wall. The first aisle held gift bags, nice ones at that, and real toys. I wandered up and down the aisles, keeping track of the time, and promising myself I’d go back. I definitely went back, I ended up working there.

Many years have passed since then. Dollarama’s spread a lot and improved even more. Of course their price has increased as well from a buck (or less) to $4 (or less) but I think the quality makes it worthwhile. I’ve found things that were regularly double, triple, or even quadruple the price in other stores. Same brand… same packaging. Recently Dollarama was selling RO tablet holders which were shaped like wooden bread boards. They retailed for $45, Dollarama sold them for $4. Sadly I never found any.

I raised my kids as a single Mom and never had much money. There were so many birthdays and holidays that simply wouldn’t have happened if Dollarama wasn’t there. But the events all happened with happy kids and fond memories. Dinkie cars, toy Spiderman, art sets, stuffed dolls, figurines, articulated wooden snakes… they were all loved and played with.

These days I’m in my empty nest but I’m also living off disability so money’s still tight. Luckily I found a Facebook group called Dollarama Hauls and Finds. The group is amazing. People post about the purchases they’ve made, items they’ve found, and what they’ve done with said purchases. Many include photos. My favourites are when someone goes around the store taking photos then shares forty pictures. It’s like window shopping without leaving my room.

new kitchen artI use the group to sort out what items I really want to buy, either for myself or to put away as a gift. It’s helped a lot because I know exactly where to look when I go shopping and there’s been a few items I would have missed if I hadn’t actively been searching there. The downside is there’s gorgeous items I’ve missed out on, like the aforementioned tablet holder, that I never would have known about otherwise. But I have found incredible things. Watercolour canvases, funky pop art, wooden word art, artificial succulents in clay pots, ships in glass bottles, Cuisinart wooden knife blocks… the list is extensive. My home would be almost barren if it wasn’t for Dollarama.

And tomorrow I’ll be off to another Dollarama because one thing the group has sucked me into is barnwood stickers. They are being stuck everywhere on any flat surface and I have an ugly front door to cover.

Falling into fall…

April was the longest year I’ve ever had. Then May and June gently entered and July and August whizzed by in the blink of an eye. Last month I found a lovely fall pillow at Shoppers Drug Mart (which I didn’t buy at the time then they ran out of stock and finally my Mom picked one up for me in a store three towns over). I also found a gorgeous glass pumpkin dappled with glittery bronze splatters at Winners and this time I bought it right away.

Between those two items I got right into a fall mood and, as soon as September arrived, I dug out my  Rubbermaid tote bin from the storage room in the basement and began swapping my regular decor for my fall decor. The twins were absolutely enthralled. As soon as the bin hit the table they were right up there with it. It became a cycle of them jumping up and me shooing them off only to have them jump right back up again.

My Mom bought me a set of copper butterfly lights which I taped onto the fireplace mantle. They ended up looking amazing with the fall decorations. I’m so happy with how everything turned out. I joined a Dollarama group on Facebook and I’ve seen a couple more items I’d love to have (like those stacked pumpkins and the knit pumpkins) but really I’m happy with what I have.

In some ways I love fall. It’s not too cold and it’s beautiful out, especially once the leaves start turning. Plus Thanksgiving is stuck right in the middle so there’s a good dose of family time. Then Hallowe’en tags along at the end and soon afterwards it’s time to start decorating for Christmas. What I don’t like is how it heralds in winter.

I am not a winter person. I don’t like the cold and I’m not overly fond of the sun setting at 4:30pm. And sidewalks become hard to navigate, especially with a bundle buggy or wagon. I took a wagonful of groceries home last March and it was a nightmare from start to finish. Especially when I got to the second last road to cross and realized the snow plow had gone by and plowed a knee high drift across the curb. I had three 32 tin boxes of cat food, three bags of kitty litter, and an 8kg bag of dry cat food in the wagon along with my food. It was by no means an easy wagon to lift.

But that is months away from now. The sky’s still sunny and the air is fresh and warm. Tomorrow I’m having a picnic with my parents and Colin and tonight I’m going to turn on my butterfly lights and sip a mug of hot apple cider. The best is yet to come.

fall decor

Pretty much all my decorations

fireplace mantle

Memory holes…

“I don’t think I signed a lease,” I informed one of my caseworkers.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “Everyone signed a lease.”
“Do you know for sure that I signed one?”
“Definitely,” came the reply. “I was there. You arrived with your Mom and your cats in cages then you put the cats in the bathroom and came downstairs and signed the lease.”

so much to unpack1That sounded like something I’d do. There was just one thing. I didn’t remember it at all. I don’t remember most of the day I moved. I don’t remember leaving my old apartment, what size the moving truck was, what the new apartment was like… it’s all a big blank. There’s only two things I vaguely remember; asking an unknown number of movers to leave the boxes in the middle of the room and coming back from somewhere with my Mom to find that my bed had arrived and the caseworkers had made it in brand new bedding. Those are also the only two pictures I took of the move.

I had a similar conversation with my friend S. We were walking back to our building after an evening walk and talking about adding each other on Facebook, even though she’s not on very often.

“I just want to give you a head’s up that I post a lot of LGBTQIA stuff on my page,” I warned. Which is kind of true. I haven’t been posting as much lately. Most goes onto my blog’s page.
“I literally do not know what that means,” she replied, “but I can guess. I know you’re into that, well, lesbian and gay stuff. You told me on our first walk.”
“I did?” I asked in bewilderment. I had no recollection of that conversation at all.
“I’m a panromantic asexual,” I continued, just in case that never got covered.
“I remember you saying that!” she said with a grin.
Welp I definitely had that conversation.

It is extremely disconcerting to forget something so deeply that no amount of prodding or reminders brings it back. It’s like a hole deep in my brain. I forget things so much already. I can be totally involved in a phone conversation, both listening and talking, and forget the whole thing as soon as I hang up. The same thing happens to my dreams; I wake up and they’re gone. I put everything down in my calendar and check it every single day (sometimes twice a day). And when I read a book, I read it twice. Simply because I discover all sorts of things I never noticed (or remembered) the first time around. All those things are annoyances. Forgetting beyond recovery is scary.

My family has a strong history of dementia, which is something I really hope to avoid, and my memory issues aren’t helping my worries. It doesn’t help that I’m currently without a family doctor. My old doctor retired and no one around here’s accepting new patients. Hopefully I’ll find one soon. Then I’ll have to write a list of concerns to tell them because otherwise I’ll forget.

No use crying over spilled salt…

I bought a bouquet of sunflowers last week and my twin cats immediately started acting like they were at an all you can eat buffet (don’t worry they’re completely safe for cats). I’ve been shooing cats off the table several times a day and I know they’re up there at night because there’s a layer of white fur across the table when I get up each morning. My “no getting on the table” has turned into “no getting on the table while I can see you”.

no more salt shaker

Who me?

I was sitting in my swing chair this morning when I heard Lara jump onto the table. I got up and went over to shoo her off, only to have her scurry around the table, mere centimetres ahead of me. I finally caught her then she slipped and kicked out, knocking over my salt shaker… which immediately tumbled to the floor and broke.

Of course cats and kids have one similarity. Immediately both Lara and her sister were in the salt and sniffing at broken ceramics. And, as with kids, there was no point in getting angry. So I signed with disappointment, moved them away from the sharp edges, and swept everything up.

It’s all a matter of patience. I’ll admit that I don’t always have an abundance of it, especially online. It’s something I’m working on. I can get quite sarcastic. When Colin was little he’d often ask, “Are you being scartastic Mommy?” and often I was. Both my kids are fluent in sarcasm now.

I’ve been doing well with patience in real life, it’s online that’s more difficult. I have a tendency to side with the underdog and when I see someone treating another person badly I step in and react. Of course the kind of person who attacks strangers isn’t the kind of person who backs down from an argument so then I’m embroiled in an online battle with someone I don’t even know. I envy the people who manage to waltz in, have their say, and head out without starting WW3. I don’t yet have that talent. Hopefully someday.

I have a high maintenance friend who is really teaching me patience. In some ways she’s amazing. She’s taken me grocery shopping and stopped off at stores so I could run in and pick up something. In other ways… not so much. Last week we went to a farmer’s stand. We pulled into the parking lot and she stopped while reaching for her mask.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “No one’s wearing a mask.”

I looked and, yep. There were two employees and two customers, all of whom were maskless and they were all within six feet of each other.

“I guess I don’t need mine then,” she continued as she got out of the van.

I got on my mask and hung back a bit while she got in that six foot radius with everyone else. The other two customers left and I went forward and checked the ingredients on a clamshell container of blueberry tarts. Sadly they had both milk and eggs so I put the container back and bought the aforementioned sunflowers instead.

We were driving away when she told me to use hand sanitizer. I was going to use hers since she’d gestured to it then remembered I had my own. Then I remembered she didn’t want me using it in her van because the case is glittery. I mentioned that to her and she said to use it anyway, don’t use her container.

She then proceeded to berate me for picking up the clamshell container of tarts. I didn’t know who else had touched it. What if someone had covid? Wasn’t I concerned at all about my health? I should have had the employee read the long list of ingredients out to me. Meanwhile she’d stood maskless within six feet of four other people, none of whom were wearing masks. There were so many sarcastic comments I could have made. I decided none of them were worth it. Light sarcasm, like the kind I used with my kids, is fine for family and close friends. But regular sarcasm? You better brace yourself for ending that relationship if you have one. It’s the bomb of arguments.

All sarcasm aside, in the end I realized I really don’t need a salt shaker. I don’t think I’ve ever used it. Not that Lara did me a favour, it was cute, but it wasn’t anywhere near the end of the world. And while I’m patient with my cats, and hopefully the people around me, I’ll keep on working with my patience online. It won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it.

 

patience

Half a century…

me and my cake croppedFifty years old. I’d counted ahead years ago and knew it was going to happen in 2020 but that seemed so far away… sometime in the distant future. It was so unreal, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. To be honest, I never thought I’d make it this long. And here I am, halfway to a hundred.

Fifty doesn’t feel like what I thought it would feel. I don’t feel that old. My shoulders hurt occasionally but that’s it for pain. I love to go for hikes. And if my local mall ever offered a slide as an option instead of stairs I’d be first in line.

But little things trip me up. I can’t believe 1990 is 30 years ago. How did it get so far away so fast? And I’m finding techy things more and more confusing, which feels weird as someone who once worked in technical support. I don’t own a television and have no clue how to operate modern remote controls. I don’t even know what half the buttons are on my microwave.

My birthday was yesterday and I had my parents, sister, and nephews over for dinner. We had curry, pizza, and vegan cheesecake then opened presents. It was a lot of fun and so nice to have everyone over. My place might not be large but it’s welcoming and I think that’s more important.

The presents are put away, the couple of cake slices are in the fridge along with the last serving of curry, and the wrappings are down the chute. My celebration is done for another year. Now it’s time to get on with life and living. I’ve got another fifty years to work on!

It’s time to be normal…

Me and my giant carrotIt seems like it’s something that works for the majority of the population so it’s time for me to step up and join in with normality. The first step is figuring out how.

What do normal people talk about? I’ve got the weather down pat. I mean that’s a necessity. But what about cats? Do they talk about their cats? How about their cats interests? It hardly seems worth it to talk about your cats if you neglect to discuss their likes and dislikes. You’re basically just saying their name. What about your favourite stuffies? Can you mention several stuffies or do you have to stick with just one? I don’t know how I can winnow it down to any less than three. And is Doctor Who a major topic of conversation? Does everyone have a favourite Doctor? I like 10 but I really like 11 and thirteen and nine and blargh! I really like them all! How do I pick one?

People talk so much about coffee and wine. Hopefully being normal doesn’t mean I have to like either of those. I really like hot chocolate (especially with vegan mini marshmallows on top) or slushies, particularly the red ones. It doesn’t matter which red, it’s either going to be strawberry or cherry and both are good. It’s probably not an adult drink. I guess daiquiris are slushies, just without a straw, but with rum… which would ruin the taste. I think I’ll stick with my slushie.

Then there’s clothes. What sort of garlands do people wear in their hair? Apparently none. And sequins? There’s a none there too. There’s got to at least be glittery shoes! And we’ve got another nope. I’m batting right out in the clothing department, very sparkly too I might add.

What do normal people do in their spare time?

*looks around cautiously*

Watching TV? I don’t own one. Hanging out with friends? I’ve got a couple. How do I collect more? Does it involve snares? How about gardening? Except I’m surprised I haven’t killed off my artificial plants yet. Do I spout off Doctor Who facts outside the grocery store until someone perks up and starts a conversation? Umm maybe that one’s not normal. Snail collecting? Someone throw me a clue here?

Maybe if there’s room enough for everyone, there’s room enough for me as myself. Maybe I don’t have to be normal. Maybe the normal people have it under control. Which is good because I don’t think I’d do very well at being normal. I do just fine at being me.

 

A change…

When I started this blog back in 2013, it was aimed squarely at Colin. In those days he wore bright colours, was quite flamboyant, and regularly said, “because I’m fab-u-lous!”, hence the name of the blog. It never was about me. It was never supposed to be about me.

But Colin grew older, the flamboyance faded away, as did the colourful clothes. He came out as trans for a year then went back into hiding again. And I crept out, writing posts about me. There’s only so many stories I can write about the back of Colin’s head while he plays video games.

Slowly he grew out of his teens and I tweaked the title a bit and then finally we moved apart. It took me some time until yesterday when I looked at the blog’s banner and realized it wasn’t right. Colin lives just over an hour from me. Any posts about him are going to be few and far between. Seven years later, this blog is mine now.

It’s an ill fit. When I get right down to it I don’t feel fabulous, I hate myself. That’s something I have to work on. But hopefully I’ll grow into the title. Hopefully someday I’ll be fabulous.

everything is different