Alice doesn’t live here anymore….

It’s official.  Alice faces an eviction notice. Sometime in the next ten months Alice will be out of my life forever.  Recently she as caused me great pain and suffering. Her fickleness a robbed me of vitality . She has lulled me into a sense off fake hope, only to viciously turning me faster than Trump turned on his cronies.

Nevertheless,  I will be a little sad to see her go. She as been with me for many years, all my life in fact.  She supported me through childbirth,  bore the brunt of the burden on my Yukon adventure, and kept me company on a daily basis.  Before she turned nasty, she was there for me while I recently  finally grew into the person I always dreamed of being.

I didn’t think she paid much attention to me but obviously she was listening when,  I pronounced to the universe upon my retirement that I would try to “do it all” in the next 3 year, before my body gave out on me. Perhaps she was jealous and couldn’t stand to see my success. So, out of seer spite, over the last year, and true to my unfortunate prophecy,  she began to turn on me –  the nasty parasite. Her actions were insidious, building intensity slowly. I, like the proverbial frog in the frying pan, didn’t realize what she was doing until it was too late.  A little ache here, a sharp pain there, a grinding, popping noise everywhere – the symptoms soon grew in intensity. So much that a few months ago, she almost incapacitated me.

My harsh awakening came on while I was carrying out an otherwise mundane task one cool January day. Up until a few weeks before that date, I still dreamed of grand retirement adventures – hiking the West Coast Trail next summer, tackling the legendary El Camino trail with my sister, and of tackling the many mountain trails near our vacation property. No dream was too big for me – until Alice sought her revenge.

The need for Alice’s eviction smacked me in the face when I found myself in tears in the grocery aisle. I had to pick up  paper towels, but they were 5 rows away. I didn’t think I could walk that far, as I was debilitated by her pain. At that moment, I knew I had joined the legions of seniors who grasp desperately to their shopping carts for support the moment they enter a grocery store – who seek the parking spot closest to the door so they don’t have to walk so far. Who most certainly have no place on steep mountain trails.

Thus began my final journey to have Alice evicted – in other words, I knew I needed a new right hip. I decided to call my hip “Alice” so in a few months I can proudly declare “Alice doesn’t live here anymore”.

And it is now official. I am on the countdown. Sometimes in the next 10 months I will undergo a full hip replacement.  I know I will be fine once it is done, and my healing is complete.  But this disease has slowly robbed me of many retirement dreams. I waited too long to really run a marathon, too long to hike the West Coast Trail, too long to tackle many of the physical challenges I had dreamed of meeting.  I know I will have to find other dreams to replace these – and ultimately I will.  But in the meantime, I will allow myself a little time to mourn the change.  I have to face reality – that I am soon going to be 60 years old, and I have osteoarthritis  – a disease that will continue to slowly pick away at my physical vitality.  The dreams of my youth need to fade away and make room for dreams more suited to this new phase of life.

I’ve decided that a positive unanticipated outcome of our long healthcare waiting list is that it is giving me time to adapt to the change. I am having the proper mourning time to adjust to my new reality. I am slowly experiencing a gradual shift in outlook. I know I

Alice couldn’t stop me from taking part in the World Master Games in Auckland, 2017


will still find metaphorical mountains to climb and will be just fine. In the meantime, i am trying to stay as active and healthy as I can so I have the strength to face what comes – and the desire to find a new reality that will be just as fulfilling as the one I thought I would have.

So, sometime in the next 10 months – watch for the final eviction notice.  Stay tuned!


You gotta be tough to be a senior

Growing old is not for the wimpy, the weak, or whiny. Aging is tough.  It steals your dreams and ambitions and saps your energy. It is simply stinking hard work.

I don’t know how my mom has lived through it. She is 88 years young, and suffers from severe osteoarthritis. She’s had two new knees and a hip, and is way overdo for more.  But alas, a few years ago she aged out.  A victim of the system, she was passed off again and again, told to come back next year – that her pain was simply bursitis.  Never mind that the arthritis that was the root cause of it.  Month long waits for calls simply to make appointments seeped into more weeks, then months before even being called to get on the list for an appointment.  Slowly, painfully, the time leached into two years before she even was taken seriously for a replacement.  But by then it was too late. She was too old and too weak.  Those years of inactivity lead to extra weight, and more joint problems exasperated by the extra burden. Soon high blood pressure reared its ugly head and she was doomed to an endless cycle of “You’re not quite bad enough yet. Come back in 6 months and we’ll see if you are ready. Although the doctors never came out and said a flat out “no”, we all knew she was being passed over. That her quality of life was measured by standards of statistics and numbers – that younger patients would get priority in an over-stressed health care system inundated with again boomers and their parents.   Now,  well over 10 years later the new hip is now old, the other hip is totally shot, and the knees are due for updates.  She is left with increasing low back pain, a horrible lop-sided limp that creates even more imbalances and pain, and no hope for any real relief.

Yet every day she gets up, plans what she will make for dinner, does some cleaning around the house, and takes part in her many volunteer activities.  She still drives the ladies to the monthly CNIB meeting, making sure they all get at least one outing each month.  She takes part in CWL activities, making phone calls to organize things when she can’t actually do the physical work anymore. This year she sent out almost 100 Christmas cards.  She checks her Facebook regularly on her “gadget” – the Samsung tablet we bought her last year.  She still makes family dinners – and would not hesitate to prepare something for anyone who stopped by.   Each day the arthritis robs a little more of her body, but never her spirit.  I rarely hear her complain. When she does, I know she must be in agony, 0r she wouldn’t say a word.

I want to have her spirit, but not her arthritis, when I “grow old”.  But I don’t think I can grow old as gracefully as her.  I don’t think I will have the stamina to tolerate the pain, the hopelessness, and the slow, ebbing away of my body.  I already feel somewhat hopeless. I know I have to downsize my grand adventure dreams to smaller, simpler goals such as making sure I exercise every day so I can face a set of stairs without fear.  So much for hopes of long, glorious hikes in the mountains.  My goals will now be a casual, relatively painless walk around our property.

Perhaps this is the adventure of aging – learning to accept the outwardly small accomplishments that are actually extremely monumental.  Mom’s daily journey in life is far more brave than any extreme athlete who strives to climb to the top of a mountain peak, or the runner who just completed an ultra marathon.   I am starting to believe that making dinner for a large family, or completing daily household tasks, or some days, simply getting out of bed when you hurt so bad that all you want to do is stay asleep.  Or putting on a smile and not  whining all day long about every ache and pain.  Yep, I am starting to re-define strength, courage, and physical stamina.

Right now I say the words, but am not sure I have fully accepted this new reality. But I’m trying. Today, while taking part in my curling game I began to realize that I need to cherish each time I am able to slide down the ice, or throw a rock from the hack and come slightly close to making my shot.  Pretty soon the arthritic pain I feel from activity will become greater than the benefit I get from curling – or other sports.  So, I need to learn to take each stride for what its worth.  Let my body learn to remember the feeling of gliding across the ice, of being part of a team success – of just being active.  You never know when it will all evaporate.

Hurry Hard!
10865805_10152517351573045_3805404347596828530_oSo here’s to you, Mom.  You have taught me that growing old is not for the weak of heart.   May I have even a tenth of your strength and courage as I travel down the toughest adventure ever -growing old.


Who’s Getting Funded? – take 2

Even though I have been officially out of the adult literacy field for a few years, I still feel the frustration resulting from the avalanche of funding cuts in the past few years.  Thanks to Bridgette Hays for the following info:

[Something went wrong when I tried to post this] I recently was looking at the underspending by the federal government on literacy projects. This had me wondering what exactly was being funded. You…

Source: Who’s Getting Funded? – take 2

Rio Withdrawals

OK, I know it’s cheesey and politically incorrect “, but I am suffering from an Olympic-sized withdrawal from watching the Rio extravaganza.  Three weeks ago I promised myself I wouldn’t spend much time watching them; after all, our summer is so very short, why waste it sitting inside watching the elite group perform the impossible.  Besides, I should boycott watching them, after hearing all the controversy about Rio – corruption by the developers, unfair distribution of the Olympic costs and benefits, the deadly potential of the Zika virus, and the controversial ban of the Russian athletes.

I used to love watching the Olympics in the summer.  When I was much younger, it was one my late summer motivators to get up and go for a run, do a workout, go for a bike ride, or just move.  I remember spending many hours parked in front of the TV watching while I lumbered through my step-aerobics, or did a few extra steps on my non-electric treadmill. I was not delusional enough to believe that I was an athlete, but I did believe I could push myself to go just a little faster, further, stronger.

But this Olympics was going to be different.  I am no spring chicken anymore. Although usually I am very happy to see young people succeed, I have to admit that sometimes the jealousy virus attacks me. Sometimes watching young people reach their dreams depresses rather than motivates me.  On my down days, these people remind me of what will never be for me.  That I will never be able to even jog any more thanks to my new enemy Arthritis.  That I will most likely never have an opportunity to travel to these exciting places, and that I will never, ever, ever, ever, be young again.   I don’t dwell on these feelings, but sometimes they spread like a bad virus  oiling around and slowly sucking away the pleasure of a beautiful day. Yet somehow I found myself tuning into the opening ceremonies and watching with rapture as each new country marched into that huge stadium.   Before I knew it, my fingers were flying to google searching to find out exactly where island nations such as Vanauta or Tongo were located. Before I even knew it, I was hooked.  I have to admit sometimes I was envious of all these athletes – especially those who came from those amazing places I now know it’s pointless to even dream of visiting. The reality of being 55+ is that I can’t do it all; I can’t afford to see it all and do it all.  Sigh.  But I digress.

The Olympic virus had stung me and I was off to a two-week binge watch. The virus had won. Some evenings I wheedled my way downstairs to sit with my son and nudge him into watching some of the volleyball or swimming.  We chatted about the teams, and guessed the medal counts.  For the first time, because I so often ache from aging injuries, I looked at the athletes and started to realized how much they must really hurt after an event or during training.  And I worried a little about how quickly all that extreme participation will impact them when they are 55+.  Will they be suffering the slings and arrows of degeneration? Or will those superior efforts keep their bodies strong enough to fight against the ravages of age?

Other days I spent time by myself puttering around the house while the Olympics gushed out of each TV in the house. I channeled surfed to catch as many different versions as I could. I downloaded the apps and followed them faithfully, even though I was extremely annoyed by the awkward, non-user friendly CBC app that controlled most of the news. I followed the games on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram. I liked the Canadian athletes, the medal winners, the media, and more.  I even sometimes wrote posts and followed some of the specific athletes. I entered the goofy contests in the very rare chance I could win some Olympic swag ( Of course I didn’t win a thing!).  I even won my own silver medal in a dragonboat competition (Hooray).  I did it all.  And in my heart, I felt a part of Team Canada, even though my head tells me I am being silly. These athletes are strangers whom I will never meet, nor ever even come close to their world, nor they to mine.  Why should I feel like I know them, or even care?  But I do.

DASA Dragoons win silver at Calgary Dragonboat Festival – and cheer on Team Canada! Paddles Up Canada:)


Then suddenly it was Sunday and the virus was vanquished.  No more medal counts, no more motivational stories, no more heart-breaking 4th place finishes, or spectacular medal wins. Today feels so ordinary and bland without the Olympics.  It also seems like the death knoll for summer. The leaves have suddenly started to turn colour, the air quickly turns chilly at 8:30 at night, the air even feels different.  The summer binge, topped off by the Olympics is over.  My arthritis is back – and reminding me with a fury that I too am moving into autumn. All that is left is to mourn the loss, and wait for the sedate opportunities of fall to take over.



Persoid meteor showers from the comet swift tuttle

True love isn’t all romantic and full of showy gestures.  True love is the little things couples do for each other as they age.   It is the silent helping hand, non-judgmentally helping your partner step up for the chair when she is too stiff to do so.  The quiet act of cleaning the toilet after she has missed the rim late at night,  the partner who secretly takes the coffee cup our of the microwave when he has forgotten it for the hundredth time, or the taking the shampoo bottle out of the fridge when she accidentally stashed it when she was putting away the groceries, her mind too overwhelmed with combatting pain to get all the little details just right.  I picture my mom and dad as having this type of love, perfectly dealing with each other’s aging frustrations and imperfections.  No, they are not perfect.  Sometime they drive each other crazy.  They get mad, get frustrated, dislike what each other is doing , just like everybody else.

But I like to think of them as the kind of senior who tonight, this clear summer night when the meteor showers are at their best, and when one of them wakes up for the fist of many clomping trips to the bathroom, would gently help,each the into the backyard and simply look up,  look up until they spotted a falling star or two.  Then, slowly, carefully they would go back into the house and hobble off to bed, trying to fall back to sleep, t dream of what was, until once again, one of them stirs and carefully and painfully crawls out of bed, dragging arthritic limbs awake, and off to start another day.

Now that is real love at work.

A box full of memories

mom's jewellry box.pngThe old cliche “every picture tells a story” is so very true! While browsing Facebook tonight, I stumbled across this picture, and I was immediately transported back to my pre-teen self, sneaking a peak through my mom’s jewelry cream-coloured box.

This simple small box was a treasure trove for us.  My twin sister and I would often search through the contents to find just the right accessory to compliment our dress-up outfit for some silly little skit or project we were playing. I can’t quite find the right word to describe how I felt when I went searching through that magic box. The costume jewellery seemed so grown-up to us, so unreachable, so ethereal, so magical.  It was like I was touching something untouchable, even though we had mom’s permission to play with her stuff.  She had a fake tiara, some pearls, some multi-strands fake gemstone necklaces, and so much more. I don’t think any of it was very expensive or she would never have let her pack of daughters drag it all over the house – and sometimes the  expansive and wild farmyard.   But to me and my sisters they were priceless.  I can still see us dressing up  in her old cream-coloured wedding dress, her clear plastic high-heeled glamorous sandals, and her tiara.  The jewelry box was an essential adjunct to her old wooden trunk – it’s rounded lid providing entry to an endless supply of costumes used to feed our dreams.

My brother and I play with Christmas presents


I still have that same feeling when I go into my mom’s bedroom and see that worn-out box sitting right int he middle of her dresser. It’s a flash to my 8 year old-self, when mom was someone like an unknowable super woman. Someone grown-up, a little distant, but always present.  Adults to me were not meant to be known as friends. They were the grown-ups, the ones we were close to, but yet somehow removed.  Mom’s jewelry box seemed like an tentative entry into that foreign world.

My mom last year. Her jewelry box is still full of delicious baubles

One more rewind from the past

My son has been out of high school for 3 years already.  So why am I still feeling somewhat of the empty nest syndrome?  Sigh.  I guess sometimes all you can do is embrace the moment and cherish the memory. Doesn’t this sound cliche?  Nevertheless, I am trying hard to simply be grateful for having had the experiences of watching my kid grow up, rather than being sad about it being over.  So, one last blast from the past – so I can cherish the memory – then it’s time to move on and bust those empty nest cliches!

One of the few perks of being a mom who volunteered for everything, including even acting as  elected Trustee for a term – was that I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to give a speech at grad.  Here is it is!

Comments for Grad, 2012


Trustee Greetings


Good evening everyone. I am very honored to bring greetings on behalf of the Board of Trustees. I can assure you that all the board members, as well as everyone is the Holy Spirit School Division is proud of your accomplishments today. This day is why we all do what we do – supporting your education is important for everyone in the division, from the maintenance staff, the Admin Assistants, the Educational Assistants, the teachers, (not only here, but also at St. Pats) the school council members, the senior leadership team, the trustees – we all are part of the community that is so excited for you today – to see that you have reached the completion of one very important turning point, and are prepared to move on to the next “grand adventures” in your life. Well Done!!!


Now, as most of you know, I am very thrilled to be here for many other reasons. And Mackenzie, I’ll try not to embarrass you too much – I’ve known most of you since you were little, some since the day you were born – right Brett! I’ve lived vicariously through your journey to today, sharing the excitement you felt on the many field trips you took at St. Pats, the special days such as the Penny Carnival, the track meets, the talent shows, and so much more. I’ve driven you, or rode with you, to the Birds of Prey Centre, Safety City, the Edmonton Legislature, (and slept on the band room floor), tied your skates at the rink, helped coach some of you in volleyball, driven you in basketball. Not to mention those really, really, really tough sacrifices I had to make to chaperone you on your band trips to Vancouver Island, Ottawa, and Montreal, The school trip to Europe, volleyball trip to California, the outdoor ed great adventures with you (where I had the dubious honour of being the last one to dump Herbie out of a canoe!) Squared! – And more. Gosh, the tough job of being a parent-chaperon with this group! I will miss those days, and I think I have probably enjoyed them just as much if not more than most of you! But I have also learned from these experiences that this class is indeed a great bunch of kids, ready to take on the world.


We have – Taylor – the musician, Bryden – going to criminal justice, Amy and Louise – off to U of L, Becky – going to be a 4H ambassador, Neil, a thriving artist, Ryan, going to play volleyball at Camrose, Mackenzie – off to college to take engineering, Brett – going to be a lineman to take care of our power needs, My girls Kaycee Joe and Alex (daughters 2 squared) and so much more. I know you’ll hear more about their talents and futures later tonight.


Back when I graduated, the world seemed to be waiting for us. But our world was much more limited than yours. We knew we would become teachers, farmers, office administrators, oilpatch workers and so on. But we never dreamed we could become what you can become. 15 years ago we said that the average person changed careers 3 – 4 times in a lifetime. I’ve worked for the same company over 23 years. But the future won’t be the same for you. You might change jobs and even careers 8 times or more. What you might become when you “grow up” most likely doesn’t even exist yet. Change will come at you so quickly you may feel like you’re barely able to blink. I knew all my neighbours, and could almost tell you who lived in every house in Taber. But you – your neighbours could change every few months. As the saying goes – the only thing constant will be change.


So how will you cope? You will cope by using the skills you have learned to date. To be creative and critical thinkers. To be willing to learn new skills; to shift your thinking to meet the times. But you will also need to take with you the fundamental values you leave with here today. You will need good friends who can laugh with you, who can share a story or two, who will make you feel connected to your world. You will need your basic values of the “Catholic education” you received. You’ll need the support of mentors and colleagues who will help you, and be there to “get your back” – much as the many teachers, coaches and others who have given so much of their time to get you here today. You will also need to remember that you are no better than, or of  no less value than anyone else – to hold your head high and work hard at whatever you choose to do. And, hopefully you’ll turn to your families, who have shared your journey here. We look at you now and see a group of handsome and beautiful young men and women, about to embark upon the rest of their lives – you’ll find many roller coasters – life will sometimes be beautiful, and sometimes tough. But no matter where you go, and what you do, you will always know that you have left a mark here. We are proud of you for what you have accomplished, and excited about your future.

My advice for you – don’t blink. Today seemed like it would never get here for most of you, but for us, it has arrived in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, you too will be at your son or daughter’s graduation, wondering on earth this day came so quickly. And, forgive all us parents and family members who tonight might shed a tear or two, for to us, the words of Robert Munsch ring true:

“We love you forever, we like you for always, as long as we are living, our babies, you will be.”





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