March 15, 2023

When People Don't Like You

I try to get along with most people. I'm not an 'in your face' kind of person. I tend to hang back and feel my way into an acquaintance, to see if what I have to offer as a person will be accepted before I try to deepen any relationship. There was a time when I made friends quickly and easily. Those days seem to be over. In fact, over time I have begun to protect my energy more and more, and maybe other people around my age do the same. The relationships I have fostered over the years matter a great deal to me. I treasure the friends I have because I feel safe and welcome with them, and I hope they feel the same about me. 

A few times I have encountered people who simply do not like me. I accept that, but it is always interesting, not to mention humbling, to ponder why people may not like me. There have been people who have crossed my path whose energy seems to clash with mine, even though, like I said, I try to get along with most people. Years ago I was in a choir. I love to sing, and I enjoy the choral format. I get a thrill out of being part of a wall of voices creating a living work of art to present to an audience. When I was invited to join the choir by some friendly people of my acquaintance, I readily accepted. I attended the first few rehearsals and people around me seemed to be fairly friendly, the musical selections a good challenge for me, and I thought, 'this will be fun'. Despite my positive attitude toward the experience, almost immediately I felt a strange negativity directed towards me from the director. I am not even sure he realized what was happening. I've always been a sensitive being, and I know that what I am feeling with another person may not be felt (or acknowledged) by them, but I could not ignore the rays of hostile energy coming my way from the director. I felt completely unwelcome. Still, I persevered and spent a couple of seasons with the choir, even though I sometimes came home in tears. 

During my time working as a cook in a café a regular customer gave me a similar reaction as the choir director. For some reason, I just brought out something a bit nasty in her. She used to narrow her eyes when she saw me, although she would plaster a smile on her face when I served her food. I have no idea what I did to provoke her dislike, but again, our energies seemed to clash like Luke and Darth's lightsabers. One day I made a decision on how to handle this customer. I would be super duper extra nice to her. Amazingly, my strategy seemed to work. We carried on to have decent, if somewhat fake, exchanges. She was in the café daily, so I had to come up with something so I wouldn't dread her appearance. Recently, I ran into her at a garden center. She recognized me, but could not place me right away, and when I said I used to work at the café in question she nodded and then we talked about the beautiful white poinsettias she was buying. "It was good to see you" we both said as she left the garden center. 

My most recent mysterious, negative experience with a person was just a few weeks ago. A school that comes every year to the resort I live at was finally able to return now that Covid is more manageable. I had met this person, a man who works for the school and heads up the out-trips, and we seemed to have an amicable relationship. I was happy to see him again as he has always been really friendly towards my husband and we had even visited the school before Covid and been given a tour by him. This time, however, his reception of me was frosty. When I mentioned it to my husband he said, 'Nah, he's just got a lot on his mind'. I accepted that. The next time I saw the man in question I was cheering for him as he was about the cross the finish line in an annual cross-country ski race. Afterwards, he was again frosty and dismissive and only spoke to my husband. The last night the school was here, my husband asked me to come to the pub for the final gathering, which I did with a woman friend who works here. When the man in question came into the pub he greeted my husband and my friend and completely ignored me. This time, my husband noticed and felt as confused as I did. I concentrated on talking to another person near me, and then went home, relieved I no longer had to pretend everything was fine. 

A good friend of mine quit a co-ed sport she loved because she felt completely unwelcome by the male participants. At that time I was also in the choir so we could commiserate. Sexism may have played a role in both of these situations. My friend and I are not ones to shrink our personalities around men. 

When I was younger these unfortunate clashes with other humans would have eaten me up inside, but as I have grown and matured I realize they are simply a part of being in the world. While I am bothered whenever I have seemed to upset someone, I realize I cannot take full responsibility for their dislike of me if I have examined my behaviour and simply could not come up with any reason for their dislike. If their reason is simply because I am a (mostly) self-assured woman with a somewhat feminist bent, all the more reason to discount their attitude towards me.  'Ain't nobody got time for that!'

Until next time, 


February 25, 2023

Swimming Lessons

My mother was a strong swimmer. She had been a lifeguard when she was a teenager and insisted all her children take swimming lessons, especially since we lived in a town with a lake at its center.

I was the youngest of her children and a disappointment when it came to swimming lessons. I never passed a single session because I could neither float nor swim on my back. But, I could swim well enough to enjoy the refreshing water in our local outdoor pools and lakes in summer, and not drown. The swimming instructors kept putting me in the next levels simply because I was too old to swim with the little kids.

When I was in Grade Five, our town built an indoor swimming pool with a gym, sauna, and hot tub. The Nelson and District Aquatic Center soon became a major hang out spot for my friends and I. Two of my friends even went on to win gold in the Provincial Synchronized Swimming championships. Alas, not I. My skills never extended past the basics, but I did learn to love swimming for swimming’s sake.

Grade Seven was an awkward and trying year for me. I retreated to the aquatic center regularly for some ‘swim therapy’. I had at last learnt by then to swim on my back and I backstroked my way up and down the swimming lanes, counting ceiling tiles as I went. I knew how many tiles meant it was time to turn over and watch for the edge of the pool. I would swim, forty, fifty lengths on a Saturday afternoon, alternating between the breaststroke and backstroke, not fast, just smoothly, achieving a zen-like headspace that made my twelve-year-old troubles melt like lifesavers on the tongue.

I still enjoy a dip in the lake or pool these days, but I achieve my zen-like desired state through running. Again, not fast, but smoothly gaining ground with my rhythmic plodding. I often look back on my lane swimming days with fondness and empathy for my twelve year old self. I didn’t recognize those days as therapy at the time, but I now know how to name and describe the mental and physical health benefits of exercise.

 As the little fish Dory from the Disney film, Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming!” whether you take that literally or metaphorically.

'til next time, 


February 3, 2023

Some Thoughts on Beauty

I recently saw a video on Instagram of a young, posh-sounding British woman voicing her opinion on how Kate, Princess of Wales manages to look so good in all her photos and videos. The young woman explained that Kate keeps her chin level at all times and does not look up or down. "So that's the secret, girls. Let me know how you get on." she said, and then the video was over. I have been thinking a lot about our fixation with how people look for a while now, but this video kind of gelled my thinking about it. First of all, I thought, who needs to look as good as Kate does in the public eye? Very few people. Second, why can't she be depicted as a normal human with a variety of normal facial expressions and angles like the rest of us? Why is that not allowed? Thirdly, why does appearance matter so very much when there is so much more to a person? 

Princess Kate is a natural beauty. She will look good in photos, no matter what she does, but that is also her job, if you can call it that. She represents British fashion and Western ideals and she does the job impeccably. They don't call her 'Porcelain Kate' for nothing. It would be fun to see photos of her chewing her food or picking her nose on occasion, but that is not going to happen. She is too well trained, and photographers probably have a deal with the Crown not to publish any unflattering photos of her. I want to say to all the young women out there, trying to emulate Kate and other public figures because they believe somehow if they look like these people, they will become these people, you don't have to! As my dear friend says, 'Make your own fairy tale' - by living your precious life as it was meant to be. That is when the authentic beauty of you shines through. I know what I am talking about. I spent my teen years obsessed with fashion and my looks. My bedroom wall was a collage of Vogue magazine photos. I had a secret hankering to marry into royalty or fame. Supise, suprise, I married a normal guy and have a fairly normal life, and I am loved and happy. Who knew?

Most of us live very average lives without cameras pointed at us (unless we are obsessed with documenting ourselves constantly).  We get up in the morning, go to work or school, raise children and look after pets if we have them, drive here and there, cook dinner, get some exercise, go to bed. Unless we are paid models, we don't need to look gorgeous living our lives. We already are gorgeous for contributing what we are to the world and looking after things in our little corner. No one pays me to look great while I peel a butternut squash or sit typing at my laptop, so why would I worry about how I look all day, ever day? But that is what media tells us to worry about. We're flogged with anti-aging serums, diet hacks, wardrobe dos and don'ts. In response I want to shout, 'I'm not an actress! Looking perfect for a role is not in my job description!" I am not saying we should not look presentable. I personally draw the line at wearing pajamas in public and I wash my hair every day. If work requires a uniform or a dress code, we abide by it. Looking presentable and looking runway or film-ready are two very different things in my view. I do enjoy dressing up on occasion, putting on a little makeup and jewelry, taking some extra care with my hair, but those times are rare these days. A sweater and jeans is my standard winter outfit. When I do dress up, my husband usually says, "Oh! You look nice." I like maintaining a level of surprise in our marriage.  

The hilarious British actress, Miriam Margoyles, is not a standard Western beauty. I saw a program where she went to the U.S. and underwent a makeover. When the makeup artists and hairstylists showed Miriam her new look in the mirror she balked. "That's not ME! she cried. I liked myself before. You Americans focus way too much on appearances." I don't think Americans are the only ones, but Miriam has a point. Our society does focus and fixate on appearances far too much. I know many women and men who are not catalogue versions of beauty, but they are such wonderful, talented, intelligent, curious, and funny people that their own brand of beauty knocks my socks off. Miriam is one of those gems. I don't know her personally, of course, but I, and millions of others, admire her all the same. Would she have made it in Hollywood, though, where the standard for female beauty is more prescribed? I really do not know. 

Miriam captured eating ice cream. Relatable.

In an age when social media filters edit our 'imperfections' I see many young people calling foul. I find that so refreshing. I would like to see more young people rise up and debunk the myths around beauty.  More people of my age and generation, too, because we're worth it! (See what I did there?)

January 10, 2023

Kick at the Darkness 'til it Bleeds Daylight*

The other day I received a text from a good friend. She moved away last year and I miss her. In her text she told me that I have endured more than my share of adversity, and feeling the way I did that day, I shed a tear and agreed with her. On December 21st, near the end of a long cold snap, a pipe burst in the roof of our condominium building and caused the flooding of the four suites below, including ours. The flood is just the latest in a string of disasters affecting my husband's work life and our private life over the past few years. I'm not sure these calamities constitute more than my(our) fair share of problems, I know everyone has problems. We're all still dealing with the fallout from this Covid19 pandemic for starters, Ukraine and Russia are at war, my home province is still repairing the catastrophic damage from the atmospheric rivers in November, 2021 (I see you, Northern California!), Etc., etc., etc.

Last evening, as I was walking my usual route around the staff housing portion of the resort where I am  living with my husband while our apartment gets restored, it occurred to me that I was currently in a state of high alert waiting for the next bad thing to happen. My husband had driven to Vancouver early yesterday and was expected home around 8 pm - I realized I was bracing myself in case he got in an accident. I've been half expecting our resort accommodation to burn down because that would be just our luck, wouldn't it? I was nervous on our first day of skiing that I would fall and break something. None of these things have happened, but I am wondering when I will stop expecting them to. I'm usually a fairly positive person, but I am beginning to understand how a person becomes negative. I really, really don't want to become a negative, pessimistic person who worries all the time, so I have developed some coping mechanisms to get me through this seemingly endless period of adversity. Here they are:

1) I firmly believe that every tough experience we have is leading us to something better. Sometimes this 'something' is not evident for a long time, but more often than not, when I look back on an event or a trying time in my life, I see how, in the long run it was a good thing, even if it was really hard at the time. A 'When one door closes another opens' sort of thing. All my experiences, especially the bad ones, teach me something, even when I completely resent the teacher at the time.

2) I look for all the little graces in the middle of the chaos; i.e., my husband and son were with me when the condo flooded. I didn't have to deal with it on my own. When I had my head injury two and a half years ago, I had people to take care of me and a deck to sit out on and watch the season turn ever more golden in the yard. While three of my children did not make it here for Christmas, one did and we had a great time being sick together, haha. (No, seriously, it was lovely, and we had great video visits with the others. Thank you, technology.)

3) I find ways to get outside and feel small in nature. I have never known a day that was not made better by a walk in the woods or to a body of water. Sometimes a little perspective and exercise is all I need to get myself through the day. 

4) Hugs, and lots of them. And books. And murder mysteries on TV. And chocolate.

The other night, when I was walking in the dark, I came upon one of the street lights that are scattered around staff housing. Lacey snowflakes were falling ever so gently in the light cast from the lamp. I stopped to watch and remember, in the grand scheme of things, how lucky I really am. 

*'Kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight' is a line from Bruce Cockburn's song, Lovers in a Dangerous Time

October 24, 2022

Let's Talk about TV

I am the youngest of six children. My mother was, no doubt, a little weary by the time I came along. I remember that even though our family's TV received only two channels, CBC and CTV, I watched quite a bit of both channels. When I was small, nearly every morning I was not in school I spent on the living room sofa being gently entertained by Mr. Dressup, The Friendly Giant, and Sesame Street. Halfway through Sesame Street, one of our metal TV trays would be set up and my mother would deliver me lunch, usually a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of ketchup. Sometimes a bowl of soup, too. Lunch would be followed by quiet time on my bed with a book. I presume I was sent outside to play after that, because I remember being outside a lot, too. On school days I would often watch Happy Days with my elder siblings. Sunday evenings we all watched The Magical World of Disney and The Beachcombers. The Irish Rovers also, but I can't remember which night they were on.

 In the days before home video a movie might be shown on TV about three years after its release, and always with commercials. On the commercial breaks my mom would call out, "Okay, go get your pyjamas on!" and we would race to be back before the movie or TV show resumed. On the next break she would say, "Go brush your teeth and wash your face!" In summer, she would add "Go wash your feet!". The stakes were high during Primetime, especially with only one bathroom in the house. Every show not a rerun was like a live performance. None of your 'pauses' and 'plays' of today's streaming services and PVRs. My parents were big fans of The Smothers Brothers and Wayne and Shuster, but the humour often flew over my head. I tried so hard to get the jokes, and laughed along as if I did. We weren't allowed to watch soap operas in our house, but when I was sick and nothing was on, I was allowed to watch Coronation Street. It bored me to tears. I'm sure my mom knew it would, and that I would eventually turn it off and read. I remember her often reading while we watched TV, but like most moms she could keep an eye on everything even when she was reading. She was super critical of advertising and marketing. She would argue out loud against the claims of toothpaste and cigarette commercials, trying to detox our sponge-like little minds from the poisons of capitalism. I can still hear her voice even now when I encounter a commercial which makes elaborate claims over a product's efficacy or promotes the 'luxury lifestyle'.

I slept over at my friend Antonia's house nearly every Friday night when we were preteens. Her family had cable and thus Saturday morning cartoons. Wonderfriends and Scooby-Doo were my favourites. As I transitioned into the teenage years and started babysitting I took advantage of the bounty of Cable TV. Once the kids were in bed and my homework done, I sat glued to Knight Rider, Magnum PI, Rockford Files, and the 'must see TV' of NBC: The Cosby Show (I know, I know), Family Ties, and Fresh Prince of Belair were among my favourites. Some time when I was in high school reruns of those three sitcoms made their way over to CTV. When I didn't have extra-curricular activities after school, or planned hangouts with my friends, I would come home, make a big bowl of popcorn and unwind in front of our little black and white portable.

As VHS's became common my friends and I discovered Monty Python and movie nights which involved a trip to the video store and the choosing of one to three films to rent for the evening (but this is a post about television, not movies, so I will stick to that topic). My newly acquired brother-in-law introduced my family to some great British comedy shows on video, too, like Blackadder and Mr. Bean. As I developed academically I became interested in news stories. I followed Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, Election nights, and the Calgary Olympics, feeling a part of something great in my own country. Growing up in a small town nowhere near a big city, TV for me was a link to the big possibilities of life. I became a devotee of music shows like VideoHits and Good Rockin' Tonight 'with Terry David Mulligan' (That rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?), and the National Ballet's performances filmed for CBC.

When I was in college and still living at home, CBC borrowed a mystery series from the BBC called Inspector Morse. My parents soon became hooked on it. Up until that point my experience with murder mysteries was limited to plays like Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, which I absolutely loved, and some exposure to Sherlock Holmes stories. Inspector Morse was something new and different, each episode one and a half hours of puzzle solving poised against a backdrop of beautiful English countryside and the hallowed halls of Oxford University, accompanied by a gorgeous classical music soundtrack. Needless to say, I joined my parents for most episodes of the show and I have been a fan of the murder mystery genre ever since, although, in my opinion, Inspector Morse has not really stood the test of time. 

When I moved out, got married and had children of my own, watching TV was the main activity my brain-dead self engaged in once the kids were in bed. I loved shows chock-a-block with quirky characters and clever, snappy dialogue like Northern Exposure and Gilmore Girls. Period Dramas such as Jane Austen adaptations were also high on my list. As the kids got older we watched TV as a family, but please don't ask me for a detailed list of what we watched. That part of my life is a blur. America's Funniest Home Videos and Saturday Night Live were in there somewhere. My eldest horse-crazy daughter and I watched Heartland for a couple of seasons. We also rented a lot of movies and borrowed videos from our local library.

In the modern world of streaming services we have way too much choice of shows to watch on our televisions. My household has basic cable, Netflix, and Amazon Prime with Acorn added on. I could spend twenty-four hours per day watching TV and still not even put a tiny dent in all that is on offer - a far cry from my two-channel childhood. I probably still watch a bit too much TV, but honestly, I find it as I have always found it: relaxing and often transporting. When my husband is home he enjoys watching sports and 'surviving in the wilderness' shows like Mountain Men and Alone, which is generally when I read a book. He also likes mysteries a lot, so we watch those together when we can. Our neutral ground on days when we are tired, or when the weather is bad, is HGTV and the like. Boring, yet satisfying, predictable yet somehow addictive, renovation and house-hunting shows are the ultimate 'Veg TV'. (So are Hallmark movies, but that's a topic for another day.) 

I have always read a lot - my mother was a champion of reading - but I was, and always will be, like many of my Generation X, a TV kid, even if I never once set eyes on Captain Kangaroo.

October 2, 2022

Soup and Soft Landings

Earlier this never ending summer, when out for a walk, I received a text from a lovely friend. She asked me about the current forest fire raging in the provincial park where my husband works, and how he was dealing with the stress. I replied that my husband was pretty stressed and very, very busy. She asked if I have trouble keeping up to him, and I replied "I don't try. I provide soup and a soft landing." She replied, "We're good at that!!"  She was nursing an injured husband at the moment. As I continued with my walk, I smiled at the phrase that had popped into my head, "soup and a soft landing" and thought it would make a good title for a book. I don't have a book in me, so a blog post will have to suffice. 

Sometimes, when I am questioning my post-active-years-of-motherhood purpose here on earth, something happens to remind me of the benefit of simply being here for the people I love. Or even just for people in general. In August I worked at the local sunflower festival. I worked in the farm store, mainly just taking people's money and answering questions. Our visitors were from all over the world. I met folks from the Philippines, India, Ireland, France, Texas, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Ecuador, and beyond. Flower festivals seem to bring out 'the happy' in people, and many lovely little conversations and exchanges were enjoyed. I had a mask on (having had Covid in July, I was not eager to contract it or pass it on again), but I made sure to smile big with my eyes and my greetings. People really do respond when you take an interest in them as individuals and not just customers exchanging money for goods. Their faces tend to light up and they respond with a little joke or a kind word. Sometimes the reverse would happen. I would be focusing on tallying up their purchases and they would say something positive about the festival and tell me to have a great day. I distinctly remember one man about my age, maybe a bit older, who had brought his two kids to the festival from Vancouver. While his teenage daughter said she would take the little brother back out to the fields after they finished their ice cream, the man said he would seek refuge in the shaded seating area outside of the store. He then told me he was two years into cancer treatment and had learned the hard way about the effect of sun on the skin. The skin cancer had gone into his lymph nodes and into his brain, but he was fighting it successfully so far. I told him my brother-in-law had the same cancer over twenty-five years ago, and I had reason to believe the treatments were more effective now. I truly wished him well, and his eyes told the story of the pain and anguish he was enduring. "I have to carry on for the kids," he said. The love expressed between him and his children was beautiful and I wished him well from the bottom of my heart once again. I hope he went home with some beautiful images of flowers in his head and some comfort and hope from our exchange.

I've noticed as I get older that life becomes more and more about essentials: communications between people, intention, a really good meal enjoyed with a loved one, a perfect piece of fruit, trees, flowers, gratitude for what this body can still do despite injuries, a sense of more to life than meets the eye. I've realized that despite my hermit tendencies of the last few years (post burnout recovery to be honest) I really do love people, and I love to be there for people. Not all the time. Sometimes people really frustrate me. I found myself reacting a few times, just last week, to just such persons testing my patience (I'm talking to you, speeding Toyota truck driver). Overall, though, I hope to provide 'soup and a soft landing' to the people in my life and appreciate when they do the same for me. 

Although last night I made chili. Close enough. 

August 1, 2022

Embracing Life in the Slower Lane

As readers of this blog are well aware I grew up in a mountain town, a sporty town, an artsy town, a hippie town. While I related well to my hometown's mountain, artsy, and hippie aspects, I found the sporty one eluded me. Not that I wasn't fit, I really was. With the lifestyle my active family promoted I had no chance not to be fit. We were a hiking, huckleberry-picking-in-the-hot-sun, everyone-takes-swimming-lessons, walk everywhere family. My mother despised camping, preferring to spend a day out of doors then return to her own bathtub and bed. Thanks to my friend's mom who organized a week long camp through their church, I was able to attend summer camp two years in a row. We learned how to paddle a canoe, did nature themed art projects, played orienteering games with a map and compass, and sang riotous songs around the campfire each night, and I absolutely thrived. None of the activities intimidated me as school sports tended to. Oh, I could run and still do, but team sports? Anything requiring skilled eye/ball coordination and strategy? Nope. I was trained by the 1970's and 80's school system to revere sports and the people who were talented at them, always making me feel less than. I believed you were either good at sports or you weren't, and was confused that I could learn to steer a canoe but fail at volleyball. PE class, while not entirely humiliating - I could fake it 'till I sort of made it - felt like a waste of time. 

As I got older I began to align myself with the outdoorsy community. I spent a winter gaining my ski legs. I climbed some serious peaks in my area. I attended the Banff Film Festival and worked at a local outdoor sports store selling backpacks and canoes, offered the job by the owner because I was 'active'. I dated a ski instructor/mountain biker from a nearby mountain town. I read Outside Magazine when the store was quiet, reading about major feats in the outdoors by women much stronger than I. I found that my troubled back was not happy carrying heavy packs. I skied beyond my ability and ended up injuring my neck. I tried tree-planting and left after one day - it killed my achilles tendons. I felt unsatisfied by my outdoor athleticism. If I couldn't be like those women I read about or sold equipment to, what was the point of taking part in that world? I suffered from 'all or nothing' thinking. 

When I started falling in love with a super-jock I was unimpressed. Would I spend my life feeling inadequate because I couldn't do things at his level? He windsurfed and played beach volleyball and tennis, and was quite competitive. In winter he skied and played indoor volleyball in a Vancouver league. When he talked to me about all the wonderful, outdoorsy, sporty things we could do together, I looked him straight in the eye and said "What if I don't want to do all of those things? What will happen to us?" He paused and said, "but you love nature, don't you?" I replied, "yes, I really do, but I am not into conquering it, so if you want this to work you are going to have to lay off pushing me to do things I am uncomfortable doing." He still wanted to be with me (it must have been my sparkling personality and clever wit). He did not give up trying to get me to expand out of my comfort zone, though. I had to learn to trust him and we have had a rather wonderful life so far, filled with adventures that made me love the outdoors even more. My years of pushing myself to learn to ski, both cross-country and downhill, all the hiking I did as a child and teenager, and the canoeing at summer camp, prepared me for a life where I could, if not excel at any of those things, own enough skill to have fun doing them and become better at them as we exposed our children to the wonders of spending time in nature in all seasons. 

Today, our kids are grown and independent. I spend much time at the resort my husband manages. It comprises a ski hill, several beautiful lakes, and a vast network of cross-country ski and hiking trails. I walk, cross-country and downhill ski in winter. In summer I thoroughly enjoy a five kilometer run or hike around the main lake often followed by a swim.  I sit on our deck and enjoy the wildlife that visits our yard: deer, ground squirrels, grey jays, snowshoe hares, and the very occasional bear or lynx. On rare occasions my husband and I take a canoe out in the evening. Mostly we just go for evening walks or short hikes in the wildflower meadows when he is finished his work day. Nothing I do up here is major or epic. I simply enjoy the exercise in such a beautiful setting, and I am now at peace with that. Meanwhile, my husband is training to run a 60 km trail race. I will be proudly cheering him on from the sidelines.