Memories

The summer of 2017 is passing by very quickly. One minute you are anticipating an event, and before you can blink, it is just a memory.

We celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary in the middle of July, and a week later, our daughter turned 50. We took her to High Tea at MacKenzie King’s Estate (he was Prime Minister during WWII), and then walked around the grounds enjoying the flowers and birds and the stone ruins, brought over here from many buildings in Europe which had been bombed.

Then, a few days ago, our whole family, eighteen of us,  got together for the first time in nine years. My husband and I, our 4 daughters, 4 sons-in-law, and 8 grandchildren! Our daughter who lives in Vancouver, was on her way back from a trip to Sweden, to visit her husband’s family.

Two of the sons-in-law had had birthdays in the previous week. Then there was our daughter’s 50th, and one of our grandsons had turned 18 a few days before. Lots to celebrate!

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At the top are our two oldest girls, followed by our two youngest. We had dinner together and our waiter kindly took the bottom photo.

Nine years is too long to go between these larger reunions. In 2008,  our girls were in their 30s and our grandchildren were aged 2 – 11. We were a sprightly 63 years old, but these people are keeping us young. In spirit if not in body!

No matter what the next nine years brings, I will treasure these moments in my heart forever!

Thanks for sharing in our celebrations. – Maureen

 

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A Tender Moment

One day in Montreal.

It’s funny how a specific moment can tug on our hearts decades later. This little story goes back to another time, another place, and another family.

More than 40 years ago, we moved from Ottawa, to Montreal. I was eight and a half months pregnant the day we moved in and gave birth to our fourth daughter two weeks later.

A few months later, a new family moved in next door. They were originally from the Philippines and their children were close in age to our own. When they moved in, they had five children, and she was pregnant with their sixth. She had a boy to bring their family’s total to four girls and two boys.

They were a lovely family, whose names all began with the letter “R”. Roberto, Regina, Raquel, Rowena, R…., and Raphael.

A couple of years later, their cousins from the Philippines moved in with them for a few months, until they found a home of their own. This family had six boys. They called themselves the MAPSERs, because their names started with those letters. So there were now five adults (including one Nanny) and twelve children living next door.

As far as we could tell, they all got along and there was never a moment when the kids disturbed the neighbourhood. A couple of days after the MAPSERs moved in, in the middle of May, we had several inches of snow, and those boys were all out playing in the snow in their SOCK FEET!

The youngest boy had a twisted foot, so he limped when he walked. From my kitchen window, I saw the twelve of them walking to the school bus every day. One day this little boy was having a difficult time because the school bus was coming and he had fallen behind.

His cousin, Regina, looked back and spotted him limping along. Without a word, she stopped, went back to him, crouched down, and waited patiently while he climbed on her back.

I think of all of them often. I think of the boy’s surgeries and hope that they were successful and that he now walks straight and sure-footed. I think of Regina, wordlessly offering her back to her little cousin. I pray God’s blessings on all of them.

A house full of adults and children.

A house full of love.

I was privileged to see a tiny example of this, one day in Montreal.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Have a wonderful day. – Maureen

 

HELLO! It’s Me Again

It was recently brought home to me that I haven’t posted for about a year. Well, I aim to rectify that, starting now.

I don’t know if any of you have experienced this phenomenon. While I was still regularly posting, I was asked by a well-known site, to contribute posts to their site, and I froze. It has taken me a long time to thaw out and that opportunity has probably dried up, but I think I can do this again. For me.

My art has been taking up a lot of my time and I have been really enjoying my acrylic paintings. I’ve done larger pieces and some very small ones. Even though I am a woman of “a certain age”, the creativity has been flowing. I did a couple of “clothesline” paintings that I really like. The first one brought back memories of my mother hanging clothes on the line, summer and winter.

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In the middle of January, she would bring in the laundry and stand it up on the kitchen floor. Then of course she had to iron everything, and with a family of eleven children, it was no small task. Mom used to say that the only time she got out of the house was to go to the clothesline!

The first clothesline painting gave rise to the idea for the second, which had to do with Canada’s 150th birthday, being celebrated this year. I have even had some interest in buying that particular one, although the sale hasn’t gone through yet.

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In any case, it’s not the selling that thrills me, although it would be nice, but it’s the actual creating the painting, from the initial idea, the first sketches, and the final product.

I’m not a great artist, not even close, but I can’t tell you how painting makes me feel. I just wish I had started earlier in life. My small house is full of paintings. The walls are bending under the weight of them.

Last week, we had our youngest grandchild for the day, and she and I painted together. We  had so much fun. It was a dream come true for me and she brought a very nice seascape home to show her family. Her brother wanted to buy it from her, but she wasn’t selling!

Our finished paintings. Which one was done by an 11-year-old, and which by a 72-year-old?

How are you creative?

Thanks for reading and have a good day.

Maureen

Getting to 30

In a few weeks I’ll be 70 years old.

My last post was called, “Being 20”.  It was 1965. I became a teacher that year, went to Alberta for my first teaching assignment, met my future husband, and became engaged before the end of the year.

  • 1966 – I got married, joined CUSO (a volunteer organization), and went to Zambia. I taught Math to High School students.
  • 1967 – I gave birth to my first daughter, Michelle. I wrote a Math text-book for adult literacy during my pregnancy.
  • 1968 – We returned to Canada and lived in Montreal where my husband was working. It was a case of reverse culture shock to be in Canada again.
  • 1969 – I gave birth to my second daughter, Lindiwe.
  • 1970 – I gave birth to my third daughter, Carla.
  • 1971 – We moved to Ottawa. I took my first art class, working on oils.
  • 1972 – Looked after babies. Cooked, cleaned, sewed, knitted, cooked, cleaned.
  • 1973 – More of the same.
  • 1974 – We moved back to Montreal. Two weeks later I gave birth to my fourth daughter, Monica.
  • 1975 – I turned 30.

This was, perhaps, my busiest decade. Five of those years were spent with another human being attached to my body in one way or another. Pregnant or breastfeeding. I loved (and still love) being a mother but that was difficult. However, it had always been my plan to have my children in my twenties and “bring them up” in my thirties and forties. And that’s what I did. Successfully.

Getting to 30 was not always an easy road. We had challenges along the way, but we persevered and with the help of God, we entered our thirties stronger and more committed to each other and our family than ever.

So, good times. Good times!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day. – Maureen

 

 

Being 20

In early February, 2015, I will be turning 70.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this milestone. I’m pretty sure 70 is not considered young or even middle-aged by anyone under, well, 70!

I’ve been living the senior, retired life for a few years now and it’s been pretty good. Free bus Wednesdays, discounts once a month at local drugstores (and you’ve got to believe we frequent pharmacies a lot these days), special status on VIA rail, and senior coffees at various cafes and bistros.

But my mind has been turning back to my childhood, my youth, and my middle years.

1965

I turned 20. I was finally out of my teen-aged years but not quite, according to the law of the land in those days, an adult.

  • I was in my fourth year at university, studying arts and education.
  • I still lived at home with most of my brothers and sisters, and I used to run up the hill every day in my effort to get to class on time. Successful most of the time.
  • On weekends and in the summer, I had to be home by 10:30, and I was!
  • In May, I graduated with an education degree.
  • I was hired, by letter, to teach elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, about 3,000 km (2,000 m) from my home in Nova Scotia.
  • I travelled by plane for the first time. Halifax – Edmonton.
  • I started teaching Grade 1.
  • I met my husband-to-be on September 19.
  • At Christmas time we drove from Edmonton to Fort Smith, NWT, to spend Christmas with John’s family.
  • On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) John and I decided to get married and go to Zambia, in Africa, to work as volunteers. (Our next anniversary will be our 49th.)

There were many changes in my life the year I was 20. I left home, travelled, and fell in love.

What could be more exciting than that?

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day.

– Maureen

Ten Things I Love About Vancouver

What a difference a day makes!

 

Left: Vancouver, Mar 22 Right: Ottawa, Mar 23

Left: Vancouver, Mar 22
Right: Ottawa, Mar 23

 

We have just returned from a delightful trip to Vancouver. We were there for a week and apart from the weather, there are a host of things I love about that city.

The evening we arrived, it was foggy and raining, but we went for a walk anyway. It was rain. Not snow!

  1. Queen Elizabeth Park. Our eldest daughter told us that we had to visit this park and I’m so glad she did. It is spectacularly beautiful. There were amazing views of the snow-capped mountains with the city laid out below.  The Spring flowers were blooming, ducks were swimming on the pond, and everywhere were paths and trails through the wooded areas.
    The view from one of the lookouts in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    The view from one of the lookouts in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    Rhododendrons in Queen Elizabeth Park.

    Rhododendrons in Queen Elizabeth Park.

  2. Simon Fraser University Campus. The university is set on top of Burnaby Mountain, and is designed with walking/cycling trails throughout. Paths flow into buildings which have large covered open areas. Our grandson, who is 9, knows the campus well, since he lives there, and was our guide for the week. When it isn’t foggy, the view from the mountain is stunning, and there are large windows everywhere to allow one to enjoy it.

    In front of Emil's school.

    In front of Emil’s school.

  3. Vancouver Public Library Downtown Branch. The building is difficult to explain. It is rectangular but surrounded by a free-standing round wall. There are glass sky-lights and it has a roof-top garden. It looks like the Colosseum in Rome.

    Near the library. A tree full of red umbrellas.

    Near the library. A tree full of red umbrellas.

  4. The Science Centre. This centre was made for kids and the day we went there I would say half the kids in Vancouver were enjoying all the interactive displays. We liked the geology section and the section on trees and plants.

    One of the Lego displays from the Science Centre.

    One of the Lego displays from the Science Centre.

  5. Metroland Centre. This is a very large shopping mall, which is apparently the second largest in Canada. It had every store you could imagine and we enjoyed a couple of hours going from store to store with Emil, our grandson, who bought himself a book on projects using the Rainbow Loom. It seems that craze is as popular in Vancouver as it is in Ottawa.
  6. The Sky Train/Buses. Every one of the bus drivers we had were friendly, welcoming, and smiling! No wonder. They live in Vancouver! They helped us find our way around and made suggestions about our route. The Sky Train is a raised rail system and apart from almost squishing me in its doors, was a great way to get around quickly and enjoy the mountain views.
  7. La Casa Gelato. This ice cream store has 218 flavours. 218! The wildest I saw was chili and bacon. I stuck to double chocolate but Emil had a combination of bubble gum and something pink! Shudder! We took our cones out to the adjacent patio and sat in the sun soaking up the feeling of spring.
  8. Hastings Skateboarding Park. This park is really an all-purpose park, located next to a public library and senior centre. The skateboarding facility is located at the other end of a large outdoor sports facility. There is a baseball field, tennis courts, soccer field, bocce ball area, children’s play area, a splash pool, and a walking/running track. We watched Emil perform on the skateboard and I am happy to say it wasn’t too scary.
  9.  The Mountains/Ocean Views. From the top of Burnaby Mountain, where we were staying, there was a view of the Fraser River Valley and on clear days we could see Mt. Baker in Washington State. I just couldn’t stop staring at the mountains. Beautiful. Magnificent. Stunning.

    Mountain view from our condo.

    Mountain view from our condo.

  10. Family. While in Vancouver I was able to see three of my brothers, one of whom I hadn’t seen for many years. We crossed the Fraser River on the new bridge which is very impressive. Emil was able to play with many cousins he didn’t know he had. Our daughter, Lindi, our son-in-law, Jim, and Emil, our precious grandson were very hospitable and fed us very well indeed. The condo where we stayed was immaculate and had everything we needed to make our stay enjoyable. Thanks Leena and Elyot.

    This is me with our Vancouver family.

    This is me with our Vancouver family.

Now we are back in Ottawa, a city I also love. But there are no flowers. No green grass. No robins. No mountains. No Emil. Just snow!

 

 

Need I say more?

Need I say more?

I hope you get a chance to visit Vancouver sometime. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day. – Maureen

 

 

Camp Grandma Day 5 – The Final Day

It is a gorgeous day here in Ottawa. The sun is shining and it looks like it is going to be a lovely day. The breeze is cool but refreshing.  Directly across the street is a beautiful church.  I am looking at the steeple framed by maple trees just starting to change colour and all of this contrasting beautifully with the cerulean blue sky.

I am looking out the living room window.  I can hear the tap, tap of hammers at a neighbour’s house and I can hear a small plane flying high overhead.  Once in a while a neighbour walks by pulling a wagon with a toddler inside and frequently the older residents come by for a chat about the weather or changes to the bus routes, coming up on September 4.

10:00 a.m. – The girls are up but are moving slowly today. They’ve eaten a good breakfast and are playing quietly.  I really don’t have any clue about what to do today.  We’ll probably go for a walk to get the paper, but after that, who knows?  Maybe an adventure awaits!

Noon – We are having lunch.  We made a pork roast this morning in the crock pot and it was delicious.  Just add a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and a package of onion soup mix.  Yummy.  Then Amelia helped me make jasmin rice which went well with the pork roast.

2 p.m. – They are playing on the pull-out couch pretending it is a houseboat.  On a nearby computer, they have put on a YouTube video of the ocean waves crashing on the shore.  Modern kids!!!  They sure know how to use technology to enhance their play time!

4:00 p.m. – We finished up the day by making chocolate cupcakes. As soon as they are cool enough we will ice them and enjoy a pre-dinner snack.  Maybe with a cup of tea!!!  The cupcakes are going fast!

6:00 p.m. – My son-in-law’s mother is retiring today so the whole family has gone to dinner with them.  They even brought some of the cupcakes with them.

7:00 p.m. – Monica, my other Ottawa daughter has come over for the evening.  My brother decided not to drive me home after all so I’ve had to scramble to book my train fare for tomorrow.  All done now, though.

9:00 p.m. – Michelle, Monica and I went out for a long walk and we ended the evening and the two and a half weeks with a great conversation about books.  Recommended were anything by Mary Jane Maffini, Elizabeth Haye, and the Dear Canada series of books.

11:00 p.m. – Looking forward to seeing my hubby tomorrow.  I wonder if he ate ANY veggies or fruit since I’ve been gone.

Camp Grandma was a success, and I have to say I learned a lot!

A Tale of Two Cultures

“Do they speak English there?”  It was the first question I asked when my fiance and I decided in 1966, to go to Zambia in Central Africa as volunteers with CUSO.  I figured if I spoke the language it would easy to integrate into my new life in Africa.  Little did I know.

A few days after we arrived in Lusaka I was given my assignment for the next two years.  I was to teach mathematics to high school students.  I always loved math in school but I hadn’t had a course since first year university.  Yikes!  I’d have to really brush up on my skills.  However, nothing could have prepared me for my first lesson, “rapid calculations in pounds, shillings, and pence”.  I don’t know what the students thought of me.  I kept asking how many pence were in a shilling and how many shillings were in a pound.  I’ll tell you that the calculations were anything but “rapid” that day.

At the high-school I learned that I was the “form mistress”.  ???  Hey,at 21 and married only a few days, I had never been the mistress of anyone or anything.  There were no “grades” or “years”, but Forms 1 through 5, and I was the mistress of Form One C! 

 After a couple of days we were going to have an assembly in the gym.  No problem.  What could be different about that?  All of the teachers filed in and took our seats on the stage facing the unnaturally quiet students, waiting for the arrival of the principal.  I thought it must some kind of joke played on unsuspecting new teachers but the arrival of the principal in cap and gown followed quickly by all of us standing to attention soon put me in the picture.  This was to be the way all of our weekly assemblies were conducted.  I was in a different country!

The next few days and weeks were full of misunderstandings.  I was told to go to the Building Society to deposit my pay check  ($84 Canadian/per month).  I would have thought it was a hardware store or a building supply company but it is a sort of credit union!  Mince was hamburg.  A biro was a ball-point pen.  To spend a penny was to go to the bathroom. Petrol (which was rationed to 10 gallons a month) was gas. We even had to remember to drive on the left side of the road.

About a year after we arrived, Zambia switched over to the metric system.  Now there would be Kwatcha and Ngwee, instead of pounds, shillings, and pence. For the general population, there was very little access to radio, the use of telephones was extremely limited , and of course, TV was almost non-existent. So the  government encouraged “each one teach one” to get the message out about the currency change. It actually worked out quite well and everything went smoothly.

I came to love and appreciate the African people. When we returned to Canada after two years, we had one large suitcase and a baby girl, our daughter Michelle who was born halfway through our sojourn there. But the memories of our time there will always be a part of me.

10 Things I Love About Montreal

I just visited Montreal for the gazillionth time and I still love so many things about that city.  Here are ten of them.  I could name at least a hundred.

  1. Three of my grandchildren live there.  They are almost 14, 12, and 10 years old.  They are great boys and their parents are amazing!
  2. There is always a party atmosphere and there is always some kind of celebration going on. When I visited on the weekend there was an Italian festival in Little Italy and my son-in-law, Vinny, took us to dinner there, at Pizza Napolitan.  We arrived at 6 pm and had to wait in line for about an hour and a half.  But it was fun!  The atmosphere both inside and outside the restaurant was amazing, with people speaking many different languages, kids running around and joking and laughing.  We didn’t leave there until 9 pm after the most delicious meal you could imagine.
  3. La Ronde is an amusement park on Ile Ste. Helene and has been operating since Expo 67 closed all those years ago.  We used to take our daughters there when we lived in Montreal in the 70s.  It is still a fabulous place to take a family for a day of fun.
  4. Mount Royal, or The Mountain as it is known , sits in the middle of the city and it has a park at the top, where people picnic, hike, and stroll around.  In the winter they skate on Beaver Lake.
  5. St. Joseph’s Oratory is a huge church, set on the side of Mount Royal.  It really is an experience to go there and you can see many devout people climbing all the steps to the top, some of them on their knees.
  6. The Metro!  Montreal’s subway system is one of the best in the world.  It is easy to get around the city and is bright and vibrant.
  7. Montreal has a whole underground city where you can get out of bed, go to work, do your shopping on the way home, go to a concert or movie or take in a hockey game, all without poking your head above ground, which you will certainly appreciate when it is -30 C in the winter.  There are kilometers of underground walkways many of which connect to stores, libraries, clinics, and shopping which are above ground.
  8. Old Montreal.  Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America and the Old Town is quaint and alive and has beautiful historic sites, wonderful French restaurants, and trendy night clubs.  One church I love to visit is over four hundred years old.  The statue on top of the church faces out to the water where voyageurs canoeing the St. Laurence River would be able to see it when they were returning from their fur trading expeditions.
  9. Place Jacques Cartier.  This is a square in the heart of Old Montreal, where there are historic buildings, street performers, and artists willing to paint your portrait or do a caricature.
  10. The two cultures, English and French, living together side by side.  Montreal is China Town, Little Italy, the West Island, The South Shore. 

I know I’ve just scratched the surface of this busy historic city.  But I love it.  What do you love about Montreal?

VIA Train Trip

Yesterday morning I took an unexpected trip to Montreal on the VIA train.  My daughter Monica had to go to visit a  friend and wanted me to drive with her from Ottawa to Montreal.

In Canada we have a very good passenger train system called VIA Rail and I am certainly a frequent traveller.  I have met many interesting people on the train and yesterday was no exception. I was alone in my seat on the Kingston to Ottawa part of the journey and Anne was sitting across the aisle from me.  By the time I got to Ottawa Anne and I were sitting side by side and I can honestly say the journey flew by.  We had so much in common, both native Nova Scotians, both married for more than 45 years to the same man, both very fond and doting grandmothers, both travelling to visit children and grandchildren all over the country, and both pretty good talkers.  :  )

I belong to a points program called VIA Preference, which allows free train travel when a certain number of points are accumulated.  I now have enough points for at least two or three free trips along the Windsdor/Quebec City corridor. 

Occasionally I have treated myself to travel on VIA One, a business class trip.  Meals are included in the price and are served on china plates with real silverware.  You are given a menu when you first get on the train, are offered a glass of red or white wine, and are given a choice of two dinner times.  The meals consist of three courses and are beautifully cooked and  served piping hot.  I’ve enjoyed salmon, roast beef, and chicken.  Mmmmmm!

Once in a while there is a little glitch in a trip.  One time in the winter while travelling from Montreal to Toronto, the train whistle got stuck ON, and I can tell you when we got home we were glad to get back to a very quiet house!  This past March on a trip from Toronto to Ottawa, the freight train in front of us lost a wheel!!!  What do they do in a situation like that?  Get a spare wheel out of the caboose, jack the train up, change it, and get on their way???  Well, it took two hours to clear the tracks and we got a discount off our next trip.

One time they ran out of TEA!!!!!   How did Maureen make it to Montreal without a cup of tea to sustain her?  Well, in this case, tragedy was averted when a fellow-passenger shared his thermos of tea with me!  God bless him!

There have been drunk passengers, crying babies,  loud teenagers, and even a very loud-snoring young man.  But at the same time, I have seen passengers helping an old woman get access to her bags, even carrying them for her.  There have been cases of offering to lend a passenger the use of a cell phone, friendly chatter, laughing, and once I even got help with accessing the internet on VIA’s free wifi service, from a nice young man.

I love travelling by train in Canada.  I wonder if it is as good in other countries.  Anyone know???