I consider myself to be a positive person, a glass half full kind of gal. I make every attempt to try to look at things from a positive perspective, to not spend too much energy immersed in a negative mindset.
I have so much to be grateful for.
But I must admit, I am struggling with positivity these days, and I know I am not alone in feeling that way.
I miss my life. The one I have spent years building and fostering.
Although I certainly appreciate and in fact crave, a little bit of alone time for myself, I am a social bird by nature.
I love nothing more than to get together with friends & family, to share a meal, to celebrate a milestone or simply bask in the joy of being together.
I love to travel, to visit destinations both near & far, to learn & expand my knowledge of customs & culture.
I love to go to concerts & to live theatre, to feel the energy a performance of such magnitude gifts us.
I love to make spur of the moment decisions, whether it’s to head to a friends cottage for the weekend or randomly make last minute plans to meet for dinner.
I have dug down deep to remain positive throughout the craziness of this past year. I try to find gratitude for everything that is right in my life. But in more recent days, it feels really hard.
There are some parts of the world where life seems to have resumed to a more natural flow but here, in most parts of Canada, we are still struggling. Now in the midst of our 3rd wave and I can’t even tell you how many days of lockdown, the positivity well is feeling a bit dry.
I fear the toll all of this is taking on us, not only personally, but as a society.
Fear not, for I shall rally in positivity once again. I think I just needed to write this all down, to get it off my chest & to share, for if you are feeling like I am, I want you to know, you are not alone in your sadness and your grief. I am standing right there beside you.
I dream of the day when we can return to the ease of everyday life that we all cherish so much.
Until then, allow me to share a smile, a silly little picture that made me laugh out loud when it came across my Facebook feed this past week after we received an unexpected snowfall. As if lockdown isn’t bad enough! I suspect there are many of us feeling the sentiment of this little bird!
Take good care of yourselves my dear friends & family.
This past week I said goodbye to my Mom. It seems no matter how prepared we think we are for such a loss, the magnitude of emotions that ensue, still catches us off guard.
Forgive me, in advance, for this lengthy post, but in the absence of being able to have a proper celebration of life because of Covid 19, I felt compelled to share some thoughts about Mom as I would have done, had we all been able to gather together.
So I ask you to indulge me, whether you knew my mom or not, while I make an attempt to put into words, a snapshot of her life.
Anyone who knows me, is very aware of the challenging journey I have been on with Mom for the past number of years. When her dementia settled in, bit by bit, it slowly chipped away at the person we all knew & loved.
Although dementia is part of her life story, it is not representative of who Mom was as a person, nor is it my focus today.
Mom was best known for her smile, her effervescent personality, her caring disposition, her love of being social and of course, her infamous shopping sprees.
Born in 1934, Mom was the second daughter to Jack & Hilda Carnegie; a baby sister to Nancy. It wasn’t too long into mom’s life before she was dubbed the social one, an attribute that would remain a part of her for the better part of her life. She was a happy child, always busy and making friends wherever she went.
She was somewhat of a tomboy at an early age, loving to fish and get dirty, relishing their family times at the cottage, living a carefree life in all that such a property gifts to a child. She talked about those carefree days with such fondness and I only wish I had taken the time to learn more about them.
Growing up in the small town of Omemee, Mom attended high school in Lindsay where she met a wonderful group of friends, many of whom she remained in contact with for years and years. She also met my father during that time, who commuted from the nearby town of Bobcaygeon. After attending secretarial college in Peterborough, she & Dad married & moved to Oshawa to begin their life together.
For the first few years of their marriage, they rented the upper floor of a house owned by their dear friends, Kay & Fred Fox, eventually purchasing their first home just around the corner on Masson Street. Auntie Kay & Uncle Fred remained constant in Mom’s life, sharing many years of friendship & fun together.
In 1959, Mom gave birth to her 1st child, Stephen, beginning the journey of being a mother. She used to tell me that Steve had his days & nights mixed up, sleeping most of the day and awake most of the night, but eventually they managed to sort him out. He challenged her in many ways, as children do, but I shall not divulge his secrets here, well, except for the time she came out to find him at the wheel of the car, rolling backwards out of our driveway, across to the neighbours driveway, now rolling back to ours, laughing his head off and looking very proud of himself. He was 2 at the time. Admittedly, I may have been partly to blame for her distraction in not keeping an eye on him.
In 1961, I was born, apparently challenging Mom’s maternal skills to the limit. She shared with me many times, that I cried constantly day & night and that it was a miracle I was still alive. Stories of being left out in the carriage on the front porch of Masson Street screaming my head off, only to have the neighbours call to say, “do you know your baby is screaming?” I was eventually moved to the basement in the carriage beside the furnace, so as not to disturb the neighbours and the hopes of being far enough away so she didn’t have to listen to me cry. When the doctor suggested she just let me cry until I fell asleep, she said I’d cry until I threw up. Not an ideal baby but I did manage to improve as a human as time went on.
Thinking their family was complete (and I am sure not wanting a repeat of me), it came as a complete shock when Mom discovered she was expecting a 3rd child. David was born in 1966 and she shared that when she brought him home, he slept through the night that first night. She was pretty sure this was because she spent so many hours of her 3rd pregnancy fearful of another me. David was her easiest baby although he made up for that during his teen years. Again, not my stories to tell.🤐
At some point in those earlier days of marriage, Mom joined Sweet Adelines, a singing group that would not only bring her the joy of music, but a connection to lifelong friends. These friendships were invaluable to her and often the respite she so needed when life presented its various challenges. Mom, Anna-Jane, Barb & Laverne decided to form a quartet, and although singing is what brought them together, deep rooted friendship is what kept them together for their lifetime. I recall, as a child, laying in my bed upstairs, listening to them “practicing” down in the family room. You would hear the sound of the pitch pipe, followed by a few bars of the song, and then nothing but fits of laughter. She treasured each & every friendship she made through Sweet Adeline’s. For those still with us and for those that have gone before Mom, know that your friendship meant so much in Mom’s life.
After 22 years, the breakdown of my parents marriage was no longer salvageable and they divorced; I believe I was 15 at the time and I think this was the first time as a young adult I gave thought to what a strong person my mother was. Divorce was practically unheard of in those days, in many cases, people just adopted a hunker down & bear it kind of attitude. But not our mother.
Mom would spend the next 3 years raising 2 teens & a preteen pretty much on her own, no easy feat I am certain. When I look back on those years with Mom, I can honestly say, at least as her daughter, I have no recollection of feeling the way many teenage daughters feel about their mother at that time. She was fun and hardworking, she was there for me in every sense a mom can be. There was no subject that was taboo and friends of mine were often shocked that I shared all I did with my Mom. That is not to say she knew every single bit of trouble I may have gotten into, some stories are best saved for sharing as adults, but I suspect that the relationship shared with my mom at that time, set a tone for how deeply our relationship would grow over the years. I knew I could talk to her about anything, even if she didn’t see things my way. She listened, she gave advice where she thought it was needed, but at the same time she gave me the space to fail & to grow.
In Mom’s early 40’s, through a strange but beautiful love story, she would meet the love of her life, my stepfather Bill. Their story deserves to be written here in full at another time but here is the short, condensed version. Through the reconnection of a long lost childhood friend who came from England to Canada as a child during the war, mutual lives intertwined. Fate would intervene for the reunion of this friend, sending Bill to Canada to visit, splitting his time between staying with my aunt’s family & ours. Not long after he arrived, Mom later shared they felt an instant connection to one another.
When Bill returned to England, he & Mom wrote back & forth for several months, and eventually he suggested perhaps she would like to come to England for a visit, a way to get to know one another better, just the two of them, and to explore the potential of a relationship. She accepted his invitation.
I often think about her taking that leap of faith. Sitting her children down to explain feelings she thought she had for a man she had only known for a period of about 4 weeks, a man who lived almost 6000 km away, a man she somehow understood she was destined to meet.
For 3 years, they travelled back & forth across the pond and talked about how they would move forward in their life together. Standing firm about not wanting to uproot us kids, Bill left his homeland, his business and life as he knew it, moving to Canada to join my Mom and her 3 teenagers without hesitation. They married within a month of his arrival, mostly due to immigration rules at that time. It’s a strange feeling, watching your Mom become a newlywed. I don’t recall ever seeing her happier than when she & Bill married.
He was the yin to her yang. Mom loved to entertain but didn’t fancy cooking, Bill was only too happy to do the cooking while Mom entertained their guests. Bill found teenagers perplexing, Mom seemed to have that all figured out for the most part. Mom loved to head out on a shopping day with her girlfriends, Bill was quite content puttering in the basement on his own. Mom loved to decorate, Bill was happy to indulge her or build whatever she wanted. Mom was a spender, Bill was a saver. Mom could be impulsive, Bill reined her impulsivity in and patiently thought things through. Mom loved to provide respite or company to anyone she cared about, Bill was only too happy to oblige the never ending open door policy that was their home. Their love & commitment to one another kept them head over heels in love for the 24 years they were together. I am forever grateful she followed her heart & instincts in knowing this was a man who was meant to be in her life.
In 1985, Mom became a grandmother with our firstborn, Jason. As fate would have it, karma came back to bite me in the butt, gifting me a baby who, like his mother, would challenge any maternal skills I might have had. Born in the summer, thankfully because Mom worked for the school board, she was able to assist, completely understanding what I was going through. When Brian was working, she faithfully arrived every single morning for weeks, taking Jason for a walk to give me a bit of respite & time to have a shower. His crying did not faze her, she was all too familiar with this gig and knew it was only a matter of time before that phase passed, leaving us with a wee bit more wisdom as parents.
Two years later, our daughter Katheryn was born, my mother’s namesake. She was so delighted to have a granddaughter. Remember her shopping addiction? Rarely did I need to purchase clothing for our children when they were babies, for Grandma delighted in keeping them well outfitted. I recall her & my Aunt going out to visit my cousin in San Francisco where she went on a crazy shopping spree. When it came time for her departure, she described the 3 of them all laying on top of her suitcase, collapsing in fits of laughter, trying to stuff everything in, all the while concerned whether she would manage to get past security. She did, many times, outfitting the kids for months to come.
I could spend days writing about stories that involve Mom & her grandchildren, stories that will forever be tucked in my children’s hearts, but in the interest of time, let me just say that there is nothing she loved more than being a grandmother. She was so proud of the incredible, kind human beings they have become and I know she felt so privileged to have been such a large part of their lives.
In their early retirement years, Mom & Bill purchased a property in Florida, another somewhat impulse decisIon on mom’s part, but a decision they would both never regret making. As Mom emptied the stores of Clearwater & the surrounding area of the state of Florida, Bill happily fished off the local pier & prepared dinner for when she & often a pack of girlfriends, returned home. Their days down south were some of their happiest, filled with meeting new friends, and entertaining ones that came to visit. Shuffleboard, game nights, putting together a “Canadian” pub production, and just general all round shenanigans were right up Mom’s alley and Bill was always in if she was.
In the fall of 1998, my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, and in spite of receiving treatment, he passed away just over a year later. Mom was absolutely devastated, her whole world shifted & quite honestly, I am not sure she ever fully recovered from that loss.
Mom moved 4 times in the span of less than 2 years after Bill’s death. A very dear friend of mine once said to me that it was as if Mom felt if she just kept moving, she wouldn’t be able to stand still long enough to allow the grief to settle in. I suspect she was right.
But, as time passed, another gentleman would try his best to woo her. Eventually, Hank was successful in his pursuit and for the next 8 years, she & Hank were together, enjoying each other’s company and falling in love once again. Despite several proposals from Hank, Mom never agreed to marry again. I just don’t think her heart would allow her to. To Hank’s credit, he was with my Mom during a time when her dementia really began to take hold and he stood by her in spite of how difficult that could be. I am so grateful to him for being in her life, gifting her his love & commitment when she needed it most
After Hanks death, we spiralled into what I call, the nasty years. Although I was fully aware of Mom’s decline in her cognitive ability, for the very first time, I had a front row seat to her progressing dementia. There was no longer a partner to shield me from the day to day challenges that come with this insidious disease. I am ashamed to say that I found myself not liking my Mom a whole lot during this time. Where some people soften as dementia progresses, Mom did the opposite. It was like her brain unleashed a whole bunch of anger and rage and belligerence and discontent. She was challenging and difficult but at the same time, she was suffering.
For the next 9 or so years, we were set on a path as mother & daughter to do the very best we could to navigate the disease eating at Mom’s brain and to facilitate a life that would keep her safe. I won’t dwell on all of that time, for it does not represent who Mom was for the better part of her life, but it is important to recognize that it is part of her story. In the end, through many highs & lows, dementia taught me to dig very deep into myself, to find a patience & a compassion I didn’t even know existed.
There are countless stories to tell of Mom’s life, of friends & family, of adventures & getaways, of silliness & frivolity, all overflowing with a sense of fun and of course love. I treasure every memory she created both for me & the people in her life she held so close to her heart. I encourage you to share your stories with your families & friends, leaving behind a treasure trove of tales that will be remembered by those who remain, or those who may come in the future.
When I received the call that Mom was failing, she & I spent her last 4 days of life together. We spent countless hours in a funny kind of staring contest. I reminded her over & over who I was & how far I had come from being that horrible crying baby she once knew. She may have cracked a smile at that comment. At times I sang old Sweet Adeline songs to her, at times I sat recalling the stories of her life, at times I simply held her. I share this with you because, in those most difficult of days, something magical happened. As I sat gazing into my mothers beautiful blue-grey eyes, at some point, the nasty years all but vanished and the memories of the woman I have so dearly loved, all came flooding back to me. I absolutely believe she somehow sensed I was there, smiling back at me with those beautiful eyes, letting me know how very grateful she was to have me there at her side.
Mom, I am so grateful to have had you as my mother, my teacher, my protector & my friend. You taught me to be brave, especially when things get tough, you taught me to always be my own person, to love my family with every fiber of my being, to be the kind of friend who shows up always, and to rise in the face of even the most difficult of circumstances. You will forever be in my heart, guiding me with your love.
I can’t imagine life without you in it, but knowing that Bill is most likely arm wrestling Hank out of the way to get to you, wherever you are, brings me comfort in knowing that you are together once again.
Like so many Canadians, I used to grumble my way through the winter months. I no longer do that, in fact, I actually now look forward to our winter season.
Much of my “winter attitude “ changed in my early 30’s when a group of my girlfriends decided we should take ski lessons. What a hoot!
Looking back, I give credit to those ski lessons for teaching me that, in order to truly enjoy our Canadian winters, it is necessary to invest in some proper winter attire. Denim jeans & a light jacket just don’t cut it in sub zero temperatures!
There is truly nothing more beautiful than a sunny winter day with freshly fallen snow.
This past weekend, we were gifted one of those days. When I woke up & looked out the window, Mother Nature had created an absolutely gorgeous canvas overnight, and she was begging me to come out & play.
I could not refuse her urging.
Although skiing isn’t currently an option here in Ontario, due to our lockdown status, getting outside & enjoying the fresh air certainly is!
And so I met up with a couple of friends to hike a nearby trail, an activity still considered doable and safe.
Breathing in the sunshine and fresh air was exactly what I needed, as was the company of good friends. A reminder of how very vital it is to continue to connect with the people in our lives who matter most.
As we hiked deeper into the trail, Mother Nature reminded us at pretty much every turn, that there is still so much beauty in the world to behold.
After completing our hike, we grabbed a few blankets from our cars, a nice bottle of raspberry cider I had brought along, and sat for a wee bit discussing life and the importance of enjoying these simple moments together.
No matter where you happen to live on this planet, I encourage you to get outside, even if it means you have to add a few extra layers. The reward in doing so far outweighs the effort it sometimes takes to drag our butts out there.
This space has been pretty quiet these days, in fact so much so that it would not surprise me if there is anyone even still interested in reading this post. Are those crickets I am hearing?
Contrary to what you might be thinking, based on the title of this post, I am not offering a review of the famous 1966 spaghetti western. To be honest, I am not even certain I have ever watched the film🤔. Insert looks of utter disbelief from middle aged men everywhere!
It was just a title that came to mind when giving thought to how I should sum up 2020.
The good, the bad & the ugly; 2020 in a nutshell.
From a writing perspective, it seemed necessary to somehow reflect on the shitshow this past year as it finally comes to a close.
2020 began like most other years. When a new calendar year flips over, we are often filled with a renewed sense of change or purpose, we set intentions & we make plans. 2020 was no different at the beginning but none of us could have predicted what the rest of the year would entail. Hindsight is 2020! Sorry, you had to have known that one was coming!
It wasn’t long into the new year before we were all left scratching our heads wondering what the hell was going on. I suspect there are many still scratching.
We were introduced to a virus by the name of Corona, sadly not even remotely related to the fresh cold beer with a lime stuck in the opening that shares its name. Rather, we began to learn of a deadly virus which became known to us as Covid 19; a virus creating a pandemic that would bring our global world to its knees.
Whether you believe in science or whether you are a conspiracy theorist, there is one thing most of us can all agree upon, life as we have always known it, came to a complete grinding halt.
Disclaimer – although everyone is entitled to their own opinion, this space is my sacred space so I won’t entertain your bullshit conspiracy theories here.
With that being said, because I am, for the most part, a glass half full kind of gal, let’s just get the bad & the ugly parts over with so that I can make an attempt to end on a somewhat positive note. In fact, I am feeling like such a rebel, let’s just throw caution to the wind & reverse the title entirely! It is 2020 after all.
The ugly is pretty self evident. A deadly virus causing in excess of 1.7 million tragic deaths across the globe (at the time of me writing this post). Leaving in it’s path, unfathomable loss of life and utterly exhausted frontline healthcare providers in all parts of our world, working tirelessly to do their very best to care for those with Covid 19. (These providers fall into the category way beyond good) The more surprising ugly for me, has been the human response from some, in the midst of this pandemic. The nay sayers, the judging, the complete disregard to follow safety measures to those who continue to provide services to the public. It’s astounding to me. I could go on about ugly but my glass would then be half empty & I think you catch my drift.
The bad is also not too difficult to see. The devastating impact on our current & future economies, many businesses at a complete loss as to how to keep going & manage to survive the pandemic. No travel, no socializing, no hugging (that’s been a real challenge for me), no toilet paper, and the baddest of the bad, not being able to see our families & friends.
Words like lockdown, quarantine & bubbles have taken on a whole new meaning. Here in Ontario, Canada, we now live is zones described as yellow, orange, red or grey, each of which dictate what we can or cannot do. There is a whole lot of territorial rage when grey & red zones cross into yellow & orange; this falls into both the bad & the ugly category.
When we exit our homes & prepare to enter public spaces with our masks in place, we resemble someone looking like we are getting set to rob a bank. The upside of masks is it does save on the use of lipstick. See? Glass half full.
Hugging has become absolute taboo. HUGGING!!! I truly struggle with this one for it goes against every fibre of my being. Remember this post?
But, in spite of all of the stress, the loss, the loneliness, the boredom and some days, the utter feeling of helplessness, in the spirit of remaining hopeful, I offer you a tiny slice of the good.
The good, in any of this mess, can be a little more challenging to find when we are feeling so lost & overwhelmed. It can take a tremendous amount of effort to seek it out but I promise you it is there. In an attempt to preserve my own sanity, I share my good quest findings in the hopes it might inspire you to do the same.
First & foremost, 2020 has taught me the value of family & good friends. To be honest, this has always been a first for me but this past year has only reaffirmed just how important the people who fall into this category are to me. You know who you are.😘 Your support, your calls, your visits and your hugs ( yes, if I am being truthful, I may have secretly squeezed in a few here & there) have kept me sane. Some might argue the sanity point but I am probably going to be arrested for hugging so my sanity will only decline anyway.
2020 has also reinforced the value of time. Precious time spent with our loved ones, whether they be young, old or somewhere in between. Time has always been such an absolute gift and one I will swear I will never take for granted for as long as I have on this earth.
Lastly, I want to give a shout out to every single person who has offered not only me, but to humans in general, a sense of grace & kindness & patience through this pandemic. You far outshine any bad or ugly in my books and I am so grateful you are in this world to show us the good side of being human.
May 2021 bring us all a more peaceful new year and a renewed perspective in searching for the good in all of us.
Sending you hugs as always and if you are still taking the time to read & visit this space, I am so grateful for your company. 🤗
If you’re still reading, I invite you to take a moment to have a listen to this beautiful piece sung by One Voice children’s choir. It’s been circling social media for some time but if you ever want a good reason to fight this damn pandemic, just have a look & a listen to these beautiful young faces & voices. It’s their future we are fighting for. You can listen here.
In recent days, I have taken on a new role. Quite by accident really, but nonetheless I have joined the special task force unit known (only to me) as the Mask Police. 😷
Allow me to explain.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past 7 or 8 months, you might not be aware that across the globe, we have been grappling with a little thing called a pandemic, namely Covid 19.
While the rest of us muster on facing the challenges to varying degrees of living with Covid hanging, quite literally in the air, there are countless experts working tirelessly trying to figure out the best way in which we can come out of this pandemic with the least amount of casualties.
Of course there are also groups of nitwits people who feel this is all just a hoax, claiming some sort of conspiracy theory to explain what is going on in the world today.🤔
Forgive me if I have offended you, but when it comes to dealing with a pandemic, I choose to side with science. I will defer to the experts who have dedicated their lives both through education and hands on service, in an effort to figure these kinds of very complex things out.
So how, you might ask, did I become part of the special task force known as the Mask Police?
According to the doctors of science, along with a number of experts in this field, it has been suggested that, in addition to ensuring proper washing of our hands, there are two main ports of entry/exit on the human body which case concern with respect to both protecting ourselves from getting the virus, as well as spreading the virus to other humans. They are the nose and the mouth.
For anyone who doesn’t have a calculator handy and might need one, that equates to two.
Not One. Two.
Nose (1) + Mouth (1) = 2
Now I personally don’t think that really sounds all that complicated, or as the experts might say, “it’s not rocket science”. But apparently for some, it really is.
Which is where the special task force comes in.
For weeks I have witnessed people wearing masks ineffectively . For weeks I have remained silent. But in recent days, with numbers on the rise once again, I have joined the special task force unit of Mask Police.
I have become that person.
See the two areas of concern? Count them with me. One. Two.
I respectfully wear my mask correctly covering the two areas of concern when I am supposed to, so when I see you wearing your mask under your nose, I am going to remind you it is only effective when we wear our masks correctly.
If you give me that look of, “I don’t understand,” I am happy to show you as I point to my mouth & my nose. I invite you to count them with me.
This photo demonstrates that neither points of entry/exit are covered. Big thumbs down!
When I see you in an aisle of a public store sipping on your take-out coffee with your mask down around your chin, I am going to give you the stink eye politely suggest that your mask is not effective down around your chin.
Count the problem areas with me.
Like so many of you, I too, am suffering from COVID fatigue. I don’t like wearing a mask anymore than you do!
But here’s the thing. If we don’t comply with the rules, this rotten virus is just going to hang around & it will be a very long time before we are able to share smiles with one another and breathe the virus free air together.
Our friends in the area of science are working day & night trying to develop a safe vaccine so that the rest of us can finally rip off our masks or dangle it from our ear or wear it as a scarf around our neck without the worry of infecting or being infected from another human being.
Easy Peasy. One. Two.
However, for the foreseeable future, until that happens, just wear the damn mask properly! Two spots people! Just two!
I shall continue to walk the beat of the special task force unit of Mask Police. I invite you to join me in politely pointing it out for those who can not count to two.
The privilege to live in the country I call home has never been lost on me, but in the midst of a pandemic, I have never felt more grateful to reside in my beloved Canada. 🇨🇦
It’s a genetic crapshoot when it comes to the place & people we are born into. Living in Canada, for me, often feels like I won the lottery.
Over the past 4 or 5 months, we have all watched as countries across our globe have struggled with the impacts of Covid-19.
Some more successful than others in their strategies, some tragically suffering unbelievable loss of life.
Here in Canada, I feel that our various levels of government, regardless of what political party they stand for, have worked tirelessly & collectively together, to the best of their ability, to ensure Canadians are safe & well.
Is it perfect? Of course not. But when I read & hear how other countries are faring through all of this chaos, once again, I find myself counting my blessings to live where I do.
And so, as Canada celebrates its 153rd birthday today, I encourage my fellow Canadians to take a moment to reflect on all this beautiful country offers us.
I have had the pleasure of seeing & experiencing much of our country, although I still have a few provinces to tick off my list. I think that may become my priority over the next little while!
This Canada Day, we may not be able to participate in the same kind of celebration we have had in the past, but we can & should stand proud & acknowledge the bounty of gifts this beautiful nation of ours offers us.
How incredibly lucky we are to call Canada home.
I leave you with a wonderful video I shared in a previous post. When the Canada Tourism Commission challenged Canadians in 2012 to capture their beloved country on film, they received 65 hours of video & 7000 submissions. Below is the 2 minute final cut, a snapshot of our home & native land. Happy Birthday Canada! 😘🇨🇦🎉
Near or far, may we never stop exploring! Stay safe & well my friends.
You can read more of my thoughts on being Canadian here & here.
There are so many things to do & see in the Cotswolds but with only 6 days to explore this area, we needed to be selective about where we would spend our time.
One of the things we have found to be very helpful when staying at a property, is to have a look at their guestbook. Often, prior guests make wonderful recommendations of what to do & see in the area, what to maybe avoid & great places to eat!
Each morning we set off, venturing to one or more villages & towns. Such interesting names they hold like Moreton-in-the-Marsh, Chipping Camden, Upper & Lower Slaughter, Stolt-on-the-Wolt, Burton-on-the-Water, just to name a few.
Although Blockley (location of our rental property) is not indicated on this map, it gives a good visual of the overall area. As a point of reference, Blockley is located between Moreton & Chipping Campden. You can read more about it here.
Stopping for a visit to Broadway Tower, we discovered it held a bit of a colourful history. Originally built for Lady Conventry between 1798-1799, its purpose seemed to be mostly one of amusement. The story goes that Lady Coventry was curious as to whether her Cotswold estate was visible from her home located 35km away. A beacon was lit to confirm that she could. Imagine doing all of that work and she had not!
It then went on to house a printing press for a number of years, acquired by Sir Thomas Philipps in 1827, followed by it being rented as a country retreat to members of the arts community, most notably William & Jane Morris, who were known for the beautiful textiles. There is quite a display of the Morris textiles in the towers, most of which have stood the test of time and would still be very fashionable in today’s decor.
In 1943, a bomber crashed during a training mission, which now holds a memorial site for the 5 crew members killed.
In the 1950’s it was used to monitor nuclear fallout in England, with a bunker being built 50 yards away from the tower. It was manned continuously from 1961 & designated as a master post until 1991.
The Tower sits on a 50 acre estate and is now a popular destination for walkers as well as a tourist site. On a clear day, it is said that you can see as far as the Welsh Mountains. Unfortunately it was quite cloudy the day we visited but worth the stop nonetheless!
Me approaching Broadway Tower
After touring the tower, we drove into the town of Broadway to stop for lunch & a little browse in some of the shops. We found a great little fish & chip place just in time; we had barely sat down when it began to pour rain. Enjoying a lovely glass of wine over lunch, our waitress informed us we could purchase the wine on site so of course we took her up on it. We bought 5 bottles, much to her surprise! 🍷😂
Another lovely village we visited was Bibury, known for its picturesque Arlington Row cottages. Built in the 14th century originally as a monastic wool store, they were converted to weavers’ cottages in the 17th century and are now leased to tenants. You can rent cottage #9 if you are interested but I should warn you, there appears to be a steady stream of tourists wanting to photograph this beautiful row of houses so I am not sure your stay there would be very tranquil!
Such beautiful gardens
Working our way back for a stop in Bourton-on-the-Water, we drove through Upper & Lower Slaughter, both very small & picturesque. As we continued along, we came across this brilliantly coloured field of rapeseed. Stop the car! It was definitely worthy of a stop for a photo!
So vibrant against the blue sky
Arriving in Bourton-on-the-Water, we managed to secure a parking spot pretty quickly, which was a score considering how busy this little town is. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of the Cotswolds with its lovely waterway & series of bridges, although very scenic, it is one of the most popular destinations in the area for tourists which means lots & lots of people! We thoroughly enjoyed meandering in & out of the shops picking up a few things, but admittedly were quite happy to return to the quiet village of Blockley at the end of our day.
If you look closely, you can see the amount of pedestrians about, most likely 98% tourists!
A fun find for me in Bourton-on-the-Water, reminding me of our friend Margaret, suggesting people think if they put on green wellies & acquire a dog, they are from the country!
Little Forge welcoming us back
Such a wonderful day but so happy to settle back in to our perfect little cottage!
Next week I will share the last of our time in the Cotswolds, visiting Bleinheim Castle & Stratford-upon-Avon.
About this time last year, I was in England with my travel gals, in celebration of a significant birthday. We have had the incredible opportunity to do a fair amount of traveling together over the last 14 years, something I am so grateful for, particularly now with our current state of affairs.
One of the key things travel has taught me is that no matter where we are from or what culture we practice, for the most part, we are all just people sharing very similar desires in life. The desire to live in a safe & peaceful environment & the ability to provide for our families and those we love. It’s pretty simple really!
I live in hope that we shall once again have the good fortune to travel to far away places together, for there are so many yet to discover.
Until that times comes, I thought I would satisfy (or feed) my wanderlust by sharing some of the places I have visited and have yet to write about.
I invite you to join me in taking a journey to beautiful places we have had the opportunity to visit, whether they be near or far. Feel free to join in, using the tag Armchair Travels & sharing a link in the comments section.
Together, may we share & remember what travel means to us.
England you say?
Because this trip was in celebration of one of the girls turning 60, her desire was to mark this milestone somewhere near the sea. With a limited number of days we could travel due to other commitments, we needed to look at a reasonable timeline allotted for flying in order to maximize time spent at our destination of choice. After considering a few options, we decided upon England, developing an itinerary that initially took us to the Cotswolds, then heading south down to Cornwall along the sea & eventually back to London for a few days.
Interestingly, I found when I told people we had chosen to travel to England, I was often met with the comment, “England? Really!”
I suppose compared to some of the previous destinations we have had the opportunity to explore, jolly old England may have seemed a little less exotic to some, but do not let that dissuade you from visiting this beautiful part of our planet.
The Cotswolds – Arriving in Blockley
The first leg of our adventure took us to the Cotswolds, located in south central England. Known for its beautiful rolling hills, quaint little market towns & charming English cottages, the most challenging decision was in deciding which stunning little village to stay in.
We settled on the small village of Blockley, an easy commute to the various towns we hoped to explore and a little off the beaten path, which is typically our preference.
After arriving at Heathrow in London, we picked up our vehicle, set the GPS & all took a deep breath before venturing out on the wrong side of the road!
After a couple of missed attempts at getting out of the airport on the main roadways, circling a few roundabouts more than once, we finally managed to get on the motorway and safely made our way from London to Little Forge in Blockley. We couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful property to stay in.
Front entrance to Little Forge
Beautiful patio out back of Little Forge overlooking field of sheep
Blockley was once known for its wool industry, converting to silk production in & around 1860. Although silk has not been produced here in some time, it hosts a lovely collection of buildings reflecting that era.
Now a much quieter village, it is known more for its beautiful landscape & easy access to country paths for lovely walks.
After getting all settled in, we ventured out for a wee walk to stretch our legs, get our bearings & grab a few groceries.
The streets of Blockley
A meandering road in Blockley
Just behind the property we rented, there is a beautiful mill stream that winds all through the bottom of the valley. Between the sound of the water & the sheep in the farmers field behind the property, it certainly provided a lovely way to be lulled to sleep each night.
The mill stream behind Little Forge
Looking back at Little Forge from the mill stream
If you are looking for spectacular night life, you won’t find it here, although there are a couple of local pubs. However, if you are looking for a lovely tranquil village with quiet pathways & picturesque vistas for your eyes to take in, there are so many options here!
Meeting the sheep in the farm field behind our property.
A staircase to ?
Looking back over the village
Such an inviting entrance, don’t you think?
One of the buildings that stands out in this beautiful village is the Church of St. Peter & St. Paul. While out on one of our walks, we could hear music coming from within, so being the inquisitive souls we are, we popped our heads in to have a listen.
We were greeted by a very friendly chap, explaining they were rehearsing for an upcoming local concert later that week & suggested we might like to join them. The highlight was a performance from the Blockley Blokes Men’s Choir.
We did end up attending as we love to immerse ourselves in the local culture as much as we can & had a delightful time! A local gathering, some music & a glass of wine? What’s not to love!
Fun fact about this church- a number of episodes of the loved British series, Father Brown, were taped here.
The Church of St. Peter & St. Paul, built around 1180
Lastly, when I reflect on our time in Blockley, I shall always think of Margaret, a local resident we met.
We stopped to compliment Margaret on her beautiful tulips & ended up sitting & chatting with her for over an hour one day. A resident of Blockley for 57 years, we learned that this crackerjack of a woman was 88 & still working 4 hours a day for her son, declaring herself the oldest secretary on the planet.
She shared with us how much the area has changed over the years. Once a very busy hub, Blockley, she said, is much quieter these days, with a number of people only living there part time and in many circumstances, using their residence as a vacation property.
To that end, she suggested, with some annoyance, that they come there thinking if they put on a pair of green wellies & acquire a dog, they somehow think they are from the country.
We laughed ourselves silly over the next number of days when spying quite a few people walking their dog in their green wellies.
I think Margaret may have had a point! She was such a hoot! I hope she is well & safe.💕
Us with Margaret
I hope you enjoyed a virtual visit to Blockley. Next week I hope to introduce you to some of the other beautiful villages we ventured to! I hope you’ll join me.
As we work our way through another week of staying at home & continuing to practice physical distancing, many of us are experiencing a wee bit of angst and most likely, boredom.
We may be feeling the need to get out, to see & hug our family & friends, to return to a sense of normal.
I get it! I feel you.
But here’s the thing.
In a nutshell, my current day to day struggle consists of not being able to physically see & hug my loved ones, not being able to go to a job I love and coming up with creative ways to exercise and fill my day while honouring rules of physical distancing.
Imagine, if you can, how it would feel to be a front line healthcare worker. The stress, the worry, the utter exhaustion. My struggles, although very real to me, pale in comparison.
My daughter & “T”
Allow me to introduce “T”.
A best friend to my daughter from a very young age, I have had the privilege of knowing this beautiful soul for many, many years. She is like another daughter to me.
”T” is an ICU nurse in one of our local hospitals, a job that doesn’t get more front line in the face of this monster virus. In fact both she & her husband work in healthcare; they have 2 precious daughters at home.
When she recently posted a picture of herself & a colleague at work, it got me thinking about the reasons we need to stay home. When I asked for permission to share the picture, explaining I was thinking of writing a post about the importance of staying home, I was given the go ahead without hesitation. “Anything to get the word out”.
I asked T if she could provide me with some thoughts and insight into what she & her colleagues are experiencing. With her permission, I would like to share some of them with all of you.
Some of her words have been reconfigured with a combination of my own. I ask you to read them. All of them. They are important to understand.
My first thought is how I can definitely see when people are staying at home, you can begin to wonder, is this really necessary? On my days off, to some degree, I feel it too. Is it really a big deal to go out? Is this virus really serious? While life inside the confines of our house can feel eerily “normal”, we wonder if it is normal everywhere else.
It is not normal everywhere else, especially when I return to the reality at work. I now leave my house much earlier for my shift, as all staff must enter through one entrance at the hospital, where we are screened to be cleared for work. If you fail screening, you are sent home to wait for a call from occupational health for next steps. If you pass screening, you are issued a surgical mask and allowed to enter. In spite of our pleas to be provided hospital scrubs, we continue to wear our own. We were sent an email on how to properly wash our scrubs. At the end of our shift, we are responsible for bagging our scrubs in a plastic bag, at which point we take them home to be laundered. Prior to being laundered, they must stay in the garage for several days. Silver Lining from T (my words) – I did discover I have a sanitize feature on my washing machine!😁
Every time I go back to work, I feel a little more shocked with how many patients are sick. Not just old people. Young people. I have never cared for so many people my own age (33) before in ICU.
The surgical mask that is given to us at the entrance is ours for the shift. We wear it at all times except on break. The straps that sit behind our ears have rubbed most people’s skin raw. Colleagues have found wearing a headband or surgical cap with buttons on it allows us to place the ear loop over the button, to help prevent skin breakdown.
T & her colleague
I had asked T why she was wearing two masks in this picture.
In the ICU, when caring for covid patients, they are usually on a ventilator. Ventilators can cause the covid droplets to aerosolize which means we wear special N95 masks. We are critically low on them. Because of the critical shortage, we are now being told we have to conserve these special masks as much as possible. That means we now put one on and use it for the whole shift, a practice that would have been a huge no-no a few weeks ago. In order to try to keep our mask safe, we put a second surgical mask with a face shield over our N95 when caring for a patient. The surgical mask is removed and placed in the garbage when leaving a patients’ room and we keep the N95 mask on. N95s are not comfortable to wear for long periods of time. They itch, are very hot and the straps dig into your face. They are fit to each individual and we are retested every 2 years to ensure proper fit. Although a number of wonderful local community members & businesses have donated their supply, we still fear running out.**
Last Friday, our manager came around at the end of our shift, to explain why we may not be getting anymore masks, thus implementing a new process of saving our N95s at the end of our shift. This was devastating news, leaving many of us in tears. We are now required to place our N95 in an autoclave bag, in the hopes that they can figure out how to sanitize them for reuse. We have no plans to reuse masks yet. They are trying to be proactive just in case. So we label the mask with our name, our department and date, so if they can clean it, our own mask will come back to us for reuse. Again, not at all proper protocol. (my words)
The hospital has enacted an emergency order, where they can recall staff from other areas with critical care experience. Nurses who have left for other areas of the hospital are back to try to ensure we have enough nurses to handle the needs in ICU.
In my own personal life, I am experiencing a lot of anxiety. Having never been an anxious person, it has been truly eye opening to live life with constant anxiety. I have a greater understanding now for people who suffer from anxiety and how awful it is on every aspect of your life.
Being a two healthcare worker household has been a huge source of anxiety. I wish one of us had a job where we could work from home so one of us could stay with the girls. Thankfully, our daycare provider, who is a family member, has agreed to continue to take the girls. Friends of mine who also have two healthcare worker families have adopted various strategies to try to make this work. Some are working opposite shifts to their spouse, some have sent their children to live with other family members so they aren’t risking infecting their children or other family.
Other ways it is impacting work. We are no longer allowing visitors, which is a huge change as we have always had a very open visitors policy. As a nurse, it is breaking my heart. I try to give phone updates as often as I can to family members, we have been attempting to use patient’s phones to FaceTime with their loved ones if possible. When someone is dying, it is absolutely crushing to not let families come to be with their loved one. We sit at our patients bedside holding hands, ensuring they are not alone.
When I finish my shift at the end of the day, I usually drive the long way home to give myself time to process the day. I often cry. Sometimes I am just too tired for tears. I don’t listen to the radio much as I can’t bear to hear another news update. I don’t need to hear the news, I am living the news. I need silence.
The calm of home is my refuge. The normalcy of my girls wanting hugs, kisses and stories is welcome. But as soon as I am home, I worry about my colleagues. I think about the patients and wonder if they are doing any better.
Mostly, on the days I am off, I try to be thankful. I try to enjoy my kids as much as possible, even when they’re driving me crazy because we’ve all been cooped up.
But I’m scared. I’m scared of how bad this could get if people don’t stay home. I’m scared of running out of essential protective equipment. I’m scared of my colleagues getting sick or me or my husband. I’m scared if my colleagues get sick, who will take care of the other sick people.
So my friends, if you were wondering why it is necessary to stay home, if you are feeling a little bored or impatient, I hope reading the thoughts of one remarkable ICU nurse has helped to put things into perspective. It certainly did mine.
T, I hope you know how much I love you, how very proud I am of you for all that you are doing to care for those who are battling the impacts of this virus. In spite of all of the challenges you are facing, you and your colleagues return to the front line day after day, working in very stressful circumstances with minimum supplies. We will forever be in your debt for the exceptional care you provide day in, day out.
Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to share your thoughts & for giving me permission to share them with others.
Please Stay Home people!
**3M is the primary manufacturer of the N95 masks. The White House administration was attempting to prevent 3M from shipping supplies to Canada and other countries it currently has supply agreements with. 3M has thus far stood up to the White House, suggesting this is not an ethical approach, and has appeared to reach an agreement to continue providing masks. Stay tuned to see how that plays out. Sourced from CTV News