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When life gives you lemons

When life gives you lemons

I haven’t been a regular here for a time. A funeral in August, another in September. Both unexpected. But then, thankfully, we rarely do expect them.

I grew up in a farming community in Southwestern Ontario. Now I live in Calgary, two thousand miles away.

2015-10-09 map to London

I am blessed with lots of family that still live in the area. And then there are all the friends.

My late brother and late father had lots of friends. They show up and offer sympathy and support. They write interesting anecdotes on the funeral home’s Condolences Page. They send emails. They send flowers and donate to favourite charities.

In a very short period of time, family and friends and funeral directors help us to put together a Celebration of Life. Eulogies are written. People speak about our loved ones and surprise us with stories we’ve never heard.

The waitress in the small town gives me breakfast on the house. Someone else buys dinner for me and all my sisters.

Family shows up from everywhere. It turns into a photo op. My family does an annual family reunion but funerals are another kind of family reunion. Some of our best photo album pictures come from funerals. After all, when you are from a huge family, it’s hard to get everyone together. So we take those pictures and keep those memories.

It is a time for goodbyes, and reconnections.

After it’s all over, the sadness lingers and spikes, sometimes when we least expect it. But I have been to enough funerals in my life to know that the sharp feelings will lessen. The ache will pass. Life will go on. I know it will take time to say goodbye but life is for the living.


Thanksgiving is celebrated on next Monday in Canada. Many people have the turkey dinner on Sunday and then just kick back on the holiday Monday.

I have much to be thankful for and I am going to focus on the good things. In fact, I am challenging myself to write a Gratitude blog for the next few days.

Today, I am grateful for the sunshine, the coloured leaves of autumn, and the love of family and friends.

When life gives you lemons, add sweet tea.

When life gives you lemons, add sweet tea.

Lemons from Bigstockphoto.com #101320991 and 44177782



dayliliesI grew up on a mixed farm in Southwestern Ontario.

My dad rotated crops of corn, wheat, beans and occasionally sunflowers. My mother grew a garden of carrots, asparagus, string beans, leaf lettuce and a few tomato plants. There was a flower garden right in front of the living room windows with lots of petunias and morning glories. Mom used to put strings in front of the windows and “train” the morning glories to climb.

One year I saw her sprinkle morning glory seeds at the base of an upright juniper beside the lane. The morning glories topped the trees by the end of the season.

Everything grows well in the rich soil of Southwestern Ontario. Across the road, a few yards away from our lane, there was a ditch filled with orange daylilies. They are not technically wildflowers, but somehow they got started there. Since they are very hardy, they don’t need a lot of care. They manage to survive the intense heat of the summer even if there is little rain. They’re not fussy about the soil and the bugs don’t seem to bother them. And they bloom from early spring until the frost comes in the fall.

Notice that is one word. Daylilies.

The scientific name for these flowers is Hemerocallis. This comes from the Greek words hemera (day) and kallos (beauty). An appropriate name, since these perennials only bloom for a day, opening in the early morning sun and withering by nightfall.

Although they look like lilies, they are not of the lily family. True lilies grow from bulbs and daylilies have tuberous rootstocks. And, of course, the cut blooms of real lilies can last a week or more.

As children, we would pick bunches of daylilies and bring them home where they sat in mason jars and wilted by nightfall. Still, we kept picking them and our mother kept putting them in jars.
mason jarsAlso across the road, and down about a quarter mile, was another farm where the bachelor Gordon lived. He was a soldier from WWII who had taken up farming, and like many farmers, he supplemented his income by working at the steel factory in the city about 30 miles away. He didn’t have a phone so if the factory needed to get a message to him, they phoned our farm and one of my brothers or sisters delivered the message.

Every Christmas, the factory gave him a huge turkey. Since he lived alone, he gave the turkey to my mother and she cooked it and invited him to dinner.

Gordon also had a pear tree—a single pear tree that stood in the middle of a field. He must have liked that pear tree because he drove his tractor around it as he worked the land. Each October, that tree produced the most beautiful yellow pears I have ever seen. We would go across the road and bring back bushel baskets of the pears. We ate a lot of them and my mother canned some.
yellow pearsI was back in the area this summer, and I drove past the old farm. The pear tree is gone. Maybe because the new owner didn’t like the inefficiency of driving around that single tree. Or maybe the tree died.

But in the ditch, although not as abundant as I remember, the daylilies are still there.
Daylilies from MorgueFile
Mason jars from Bigstockphoto #9102760
Pears from Bigstockphoto#98820719
Daylilies from Bigstockphoto #95722331

Valentine’s Day Memories

Valentine’s Day Memories

I grew up in rural southwestern Ontario. Until the end of Grade 5, I went to school at Puddleford, otherwise known as S.S. #14 Howard—a one-room elementary school which taught all eight grades.

In early February, the Valentine’s Box sat on the teacher’s desk. The teacher covered a large cardboard box with red construction paper and decorated it with paper doily “lace” hearts. There was a slot on top to drop in the Valentines.

Tradition dictated that you give everyone a Valentine so no one was left out. Since the enrollment was only ever about 20 students, it did not mean a lot of Valentines were needed.

pink scissorsEvery February my mother bought a “book” of Valentines and my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time cutting out the little cards. The book came with pages of envelopes that also needed to be cut out along the dotted lines, folded, and glued with mucilage. mucilage glue bottle

We signed the cards, put them in the sometimes unevenly made envelopes, addressed them and brought them to school. Everyone stuffed their Valentines in the box. A couple of the older children sorted and distributed the cards.

That afternoon we brought home the Valentines we’d received and counted how many were the same. There were a lot of duplicates since most of the Valentine books had been bought at the one general store in the nearby town.

Did you remember Valentine books in grade school? Were you able to make envelopes with nice square corners? Do you know what mucilage is?

Heart from bigstockphoto.com #39232588
Scissors from bigstockphoto.com #47364538
Mucilage from old craft box

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

In the time I went to school, I don’t remember ever having a teacher use this writing prompt. That may have been because I grew up in an agricultural community in Southwestern Ontario.

Corn tassel

Corn tassel

Summers meant hoeing beans, picking cucumbers, picking tomatoes and/or detasseling corn.

It was hard work and no one wanted to relive the experience in a school essay. When you lived on a farm, you worked on a farm.

Sometimes there were swimming lessons at the little pool in town, but I usually only got there for the July lessons. By August, there was too much work to do. As a result, I never moved pass Advanced Beginner. Although, I did have a pretty good dog paddle.

When I was twenty-four, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA and finally passed my Advanced Beginner and now I love to swim.

This summer, I was in the little town of Deep River, Ontario. One of my best summer vacation memories is jumping off the boat into the warm deep water of the Ottawa River on a hot sunny day.

Oiseau Rock

That’s me on the far right, swimming with Makita, Liz and Ryan in the Ottawa River by Oiseau Rock.

Other than my trip to Ontario, I didn’t do a lot of summer vacation stuff because I was focused on the WIP. The Working Title is HIGHBURY and it’s almost finished. Almost. I am smoothing out the last two scenes and tying up loose threads. Along the way with this book, I discovered it was actually the Second book of a series. Once I am completely finished with it, I will begin the First book of the series. Nothing like starting in the middle.

Guardians of the GalaxyI missed most of the summer movie fare, but I did see Guardians of the Galaxy. If you like the Marvel movies (The Avengers, Ironman) you will probably enjoy this one. I did. As usual, Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance. What a guy.

We had one BBQ in the backyard this summer with a few friends sitting around the fire. I will make sure to have at least one more BBQ in the warm days of Indian Summer.

And I only went hiking once, to Johnston Canyon, so I must make time to do at least Larch Valley this fall.

2014-09-02-yoga-FreeDigitalPhotosdotnetThis summer, I signed up for an eleven-week session of drop-in Yoga. The Summer Sizzler. Turns out I love Yoga and I managed to get to 28 classes. I’ll go back to swimming at the Y this fall, but I want to do more Yoga.

Did you swim in any rivers, lakes or oceans this summer? Did you see any blockbuster summer movies? Did you take up any new sports or activities? How did you spend your Summer Vacation?

beach chairs from Bigstockphoto.com #5904213
corn tassel from Wikipedia
Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster from Internet Movie Database imdb.com
yoga from FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Even though the days are growing shorter, I love the autumn.

I grew up in southwestern Ontario, and the autumns there are long, perfect seasons. But in Alberta, in Calgary, at 3900 feet, the autumn comes and goes before you know it. I remember when I first moved here, and discovered that you needed to scrape the frost off your windshield in the early mornings of September.

We’ve been lucky this year. Usually, we’ve had at least one snowfall by now, but so far, the autumn is behaving. We have had frost. Some mornings the birdbath is frozen, but it melts again by midday. Of course, with that first frost, it means that all the bugs are gone so it’s very pleasant to be sitting outside.

I know some people absolutely love the summer and all that HEAT but I’ve never liked sweltering so I prefer the autumn temperatures. And I love the leaves.

Even though Calgary doesn’t get the colours that southwestern Ontario does with its sugar maples, we still do have some colour. Like the dogwoods. And the mountain ash.




mountain ash

Technically, autumn is from September 21 to December 21, but I read (I can’t remember where) that some ancient peoples thought of autumn as two separate seasons. The first part could have been called Autumn – with all its reds and golds. The second part would have a different name. Maybe as different as the words Autumn and Fall. Fall, with its bare branches and iciness. This time after leaves, and before snow.  It’s almost as if the word Autumn suggests that colourful calm time after the busyness of summer. And Fall suggests a less pretty time, almost a lonely time.

So I suppose I should clarify. I love the beginning of this season. The part with all those beautiful leaves still up in the trees and lightly dusting lawns. By the time those branches are bare, I’m ready to string some fairy lights.

How about you? Do you love the Autumn? Or do you dread the approach of Winter?