Home Alone…

I don’t know about you, but I need, no I crave alone time. It seems that the busier life gets and the more I am around people, the greater the need for some serious quiet time. Until a few days ago I did not have a day to myself since last December; that was eight months ago.

When I find myself getting edgy, annoyed, reclusive and tired I know its time for a little self imposed retreat. But how do you get a retreat when you don’t live alone? Do you go away somewhere? Do you hide in your office for three days? That’s not much fun.

There was a great need for me to be alone for a few days at home, not having to talk, answer the phone, go out or make plans. I felt that if I didn’t get that time I would explode. Thank God I have a husband who, even though he does not have this need, he understands.

So three days ago Dave left to spend a few days with family while I stayed home alone. The calendar was cleared, there were no appointments, engagements, obligations or plans of any sort.

The first day I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t make the bed, didn’t get dressed, washed or any of the usual routines. I sat on the couch and knit. Then I made a shake and prepared some food for one. I read, wrote, and binge watched a series on the benefits of a ketogenic diet. For the longest time I listened to the birds singing, dogs barking in the distance and the sound of the fridge cutting in. Before calling it a night, I got dressed and went out for a long walk.

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On day two I did more of the same and finished an article I was writing for a local newspaper. Yes, someone thought enough of my writing to ask me to submit a monthly article for the Valley Harvester. It was wonderful to have a long quiet time to gather thoughts and put them to paper.

In the afternoon a friend dropped over for an order of my Lavender Body Butter and we chatted for a few minutes. And in the evening I did go out with friends to a local restaurant, had a few laughs, and a great meal with wonderful company. My normal self would have just declined the invitation because Dave was out of town, but I decided that I could handle this outing, and was glad I did.

I think I was starting to relax and decompress.

Day three saw me picking blueberries that have ripened on my jealously guarded bushes in the front yard and trimming a row of lavender bushes in preparation for a small autumn flowering. I got into a book I was reading in the afternoon and then promptly fell asleep on the couch- an unusual occurrence for me. I thought that by now I would be feeling lonely but I was doing just fine and totally enjoying the lack of scheduling and planning.

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Later on I worked on a few lavender crafts for the upcoming Fall shows. I have a big one in September- the Windfall Fine Art and Handicraft Market in Antigonish, NS. It seemed that I was just meandering from one activity to another in total bliss.

Today is my last day alone and I find myself sitting on the couch coloring- – yes, coloring! The few days alone have done their work; I am relaxed, mentally clearer and ready for Dave’s return.

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Have you ever done a little retreat like that? Or not like that? What do you do when life gets too busy?

 

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A Busy Lavender Week

With all the lavender harvesting, drying and wreath making going on around here, things are in full swing for what’s coming up next: my first juried craft show! Up to this point I have only participated in craft shows at schools and community centers, but this year I have decided to do something different.

The Windfall Fine Art and Handcraft Market takes place in Antigonish NS in September at the Keating Center on St FX campus. It is a juried show, which means that you apply to have a spot and then your work is judged on its merit, originality and suitability for the show. I applied and was accepted! Yay me!

So now I have to make sure I have enough merchandise to sell at this well advertised two day show. I have been making my products in larger quantities than before for the past few weeks and I’ll give you a sneak peek at a couple of my most popular items.

I make this whipped Lavender Body Butter that is becoming more and more popular each year. Most of my customers are looking for natural products and this really fits the bill without additives or chemicals. It contains shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil and lavender essential oil. That’s it. I as well as several of my customers use this body butter as a facial foundation cream. It takes a few minutes for the skin to absorb; its well worth the wait because you’re using pure food grade cream. After several months of use, people agree that their complexion has never been smoother and more nourished.

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Filling jars with body butter in my kitchen.

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An afternoon’s work ready to be capped and boxed.

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All set to go!

One other item I have been making the past week is wreaths. They have to be made while the lavender is fresh and then it dries right on the wreath. Dried lavender is too fragile for all the manipulation required for wreath making. People ask me all the time if the dried lavender smells good and I have to tell them that no, it has no smell. In order to have that wonderful lavender scent, the flower has to be squeezed or crushed, releasing the essential oil that is contained therein. You can’t really do that with a dried lavender wreath or bouquet because you would destroy it. So these things are purely ornamental.

The wreaths you see here are still in the process of drying. Once they are completely dry I will embellish them with dried miniature roses and some grasses.

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First the fresh lavender is put into little bundles.

 

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Then it is wired onto a grapevine wreath form.

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Et voila! One finished wreath.

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Here are some of the wreaths, almost dry now, and soon will be ready to embellish with dried mini roses and some grasses.

There are several other items in the works: lavender and wheat eye pillows, sachets, tub tea and a few more. I’ll keep you posted.

What a busy week it’s been!

After the Pruning Comes the Harvest

People around here who know me know that I love lavender. It all started in 2009 when I went out looking for my first job in 20 years and ended up working at a lavender farm in St Eustache, Quebec. It was a rough time in my life, post-divorce, and I couldn’t imagine anything better than working with lavender to calm me down. I loved my job so much that when I moved to Nova Scotia the next year, having a lavender farm of my own was the logical next step.

Well, it is actually a lavender hobby farm, as there are about 80 mature plants that cover the front lawn. These plants have gone through maturing and pruning over the past seven years, just as I have- – and we both have grown stronger as a result.

Growing lavender has been a calming, maturing, learning, patience-practicing and beautiful part of my life and I am grateful. After the rough winter of 2015 when it just did not stop snowing, the plants took a beating. Did you know that the biggest enemy of growing lavender is having its roots sit in water? That’s what happened after that winter. So last year I noticed a lot of old wood and dead branches on many of the plants and decided to give them a ruthless pruning.

As Spring came on this year I was anxious to see what would result from that pruning…and I wasn’t disappointed.

Here are a few pics taken this past week as I harvested the lavender for some special projects coming up.

I will share them with you in the coming weeks!

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Ahh…lavender!

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Oh Yeah!

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Lavender tied in bundles and ready to dry.

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Lavender drying in the basement, with fans working overtime to circulate the air.

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Happy Canada Day!

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Cutting, bundling, tying…

Joyful Connections

Our time in Hilton Head is winding down…in one week Dave and I will begin the three-day journey back to Nova Scotia. The hope is that by the time we get home, winter in the Valley will be but a cold, frozen memory.

I am so grateful for the time Dave and I are able to have in the South these past three winters. The sunshine has been wonderful for brightening the spirit and feeling healthy. In fact, for several years before we started going south for a few months I suffered greatly from SAD—seasonal affective disorder, although for a long time I just thought I was depressed. I guess it wasn’t normal to stand in front of the living room window in January and cry for the greyness of my world. In the South, even when it is cold outside, usually the sun is shining and that’s all that matters to me.

This is the first winter in three that I have not been sick; two years ago I suffered from shingles during my time here, and last year I arrived with Bells palsy, so when I say I’m grateful, I really am.

I’m grateful for the increased health I’ve experienced in the past six months! I still have my moments of insomnia and low energy, but overall things are much better.

I have said that I believe JOY and happiness in life comes from connection and relationship, not from possessions, outings and workplace successes. What’s the point of having all those things if you don’t have someone to share it all with, someone who really cares? I’ve missed my friends, my groups and my church while basking in the sunshine and getting healthy. My Knitting Ninnies have had to move on without me; things have been happening in my church that I am disconnected from, and my friends have been busy doing their own thing.

How I have missed them all!

But there have been joyful connections here in Hilton Head. Dave and I have had a surprising connection with a couple of beautiful souls from France. Jan (pronounced ‘yawn’) and Ada (pronounced ‘ah-dah’) hold court at a coffee shop we call the ‘office’ from 11 to 12 every day, drinking their espresso from tiny cups that were bought just for them. A few times a week we join them and several other displaced Northerners. Can you believe Jan is 90 and Ada is 88? They remind me of my parents! They are well read, quick witted and about as opinionated as anyone else, and we have some good conversations at the office most days. They walk on the beach as well.

In fact, the first year Dave and I were in Hilton Head, we saw an older man walking on the beach. He wore a fur vest and leather pants (it was a cold winter, even down here), and his hair was longish and combed straight back. I said to Dave that he looked like he was French. Sure enough, when we met Jan at the coffee shop, he turned out to be that same man and he is indeed from France!

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For the first couple of years Ada used to laugh at me for all my thrift shopping, until one day in January I showed up at the office wearing a beautiful blouse. She loved it and when I told her I got it at a thrift shop she said, “The only problem with that blouse is that it should be me wearing it.” I showed her where and how to shop at the Bargain Box, the best thrift shop on the island. Now she sports a few beautiful blouses of her own.

Jan and Ada bring joy to my life every day! My prayer is that they will be able to come back next year.

 

Emptying The Cup, Just a Little

I have come to an important realization this week. With my focus on JOY and getting more of it into my life, I’ve noticed that the times I am the happiest are when I am in connection with other people.

Phone calls and laughing over a coffee or a glass of wine with a friend or family member have been balm to my soul. Add to that, deep conversation into the evening and feeling understood come close to the top of the list.

But the connection that goes deepest is the one I have with God and my world; knowing that in spite of it all, God knows me and loves me just the way I am, and He knows what is best for me.

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Over the past six months I have belonged to an online fitness group led by none other than Bill Phillips. It has been wonderful to be taught via live video every day by a man I believe to be on the cutting edge of fitness and nutrition. There were about two hundred of us in the group from all over the world. Daily we posted sweaty selfies, accountability, and photos of our food. We encouraged each other, corrected each other and cheered each other on.

I became popular.

It was great! I am so grateful for that time and the goals I accomplished. I learned to feel good about myself; I lost some weight and gained muscle as well as more energy. Most importantly, the illnesses that had plagued me for the past two years disappeared. I was pretty happy about all that.

I became more popular.

But then something happened. I realized that I was spending more and more tme on facebook watching live videos, doing the workouts and interacting with the group. I noticed that I was less present in my here-and-now world and more present with my new online friends. I noticed an emptiness creep into my life and when I finally pinpointed it, I disconnected from the online group.

I was not popular anymore.

Lest you think this was easy, let me tell you, it was akin to getting out of the religious cult I was in for twenty one years, although on a much smaller basis.

All of a sudden there is a big void in my life that I feel I have to fill.

But do I have to fill it?

Can I just be happy to let God direct my next steps? Can I be still and just let it happen?

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I think I can, and I will do it. I will rest in the peace and joy that, when the time for the right thing comes into my life, I will be ready and waiting.

Remember, you can’t fill a cup that is already filled with good things but maybe not the best things for you. Sometimes you have to empty the cup a little in order to be filled with other, more meaningful things.

So now I am waiting.

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Life Has to End, Love Doesn’t

My uncle died suddenly on Saturday. He was not just any uncle; he was my last uncle. When my mother died a little over two years ago, Uncle Eddie was the last living of her family, the last of the Martha Boulos (my sitty, my grandmother) family of St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The house on 90 LeMarchant Road in St John’s is where they all grew up, Uncle Eddie, my mother and all nine siblings. The house is still there and it is still majestic and beautiful.

You know, we take things and people for granted, thinking they will always be there, and when they are not, there is a hole left in the fabric of the family. Uncle Eddie was there for many important seasons of my life and I will miss him. When I almost flunked out of university and wanted to just go get a job, Uncle Eddie did not let up on all the reasons why I should stay in school and finish what I had started. I listened.

I remember the day Uncle Eddie taught my sisters and me how to make baklava in my mother’s kitchen. He was in his element as we all stood around while he did the demonstration. It was the best time and I still make baklava a couple of times a year just like he showed us.

I remember going to his house in Mississauga and him putting on the loudest Lebanese music imaginable. He was kind of deaf; actually I think he was selectively deaf because sometimes I would say something in a low voice to Nazha and he would hear it; and just a few minutes later I would say something in a normal tone of voice and he would keep saying, “I can’t hear you.” And so I would repeat louder and louder, never really getting it that he was teasing me.

My uncle was there when Dave and I got married in 2009; it was a difficult trip for him, but he came anyway to take part in the celebration. I am so grateful for that.

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Mom and Uncle Eddie at my wedding.

He was there for two weeks in Corner Brook while my mother spent her last days in the hospital. He and my aunt Nazha walked every day from the hotel to the hospital to spend time with his last living sibling.

And then when I was going through a difficult time shortly after my mother’s death, I spent a week in Toronto with Uncle Eddie and Aunt Nazha, a time of love and healing. I’ll never forget their kindness.

I am eternally grateful for all the time I had with Eddie and I am happy that he is now out of pain. I’m sure that he’s in heaven right now dancing a happy dance with my mom and the rest of the family. That thought makes me smile.

You will live on in us Eddie. Rest in peace.

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Taken from The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Do you have someone in your life like Uncle Eddie? Make sure you tell him that you love and appreciate him before its too late. Life is short, shorter than you think.

EnJOYing Peaceful Calm

Often Joy comes from just being present in the moment. Instead of ‘searching’ for joy, trying to figure out what it is, and how it differs from happiness, this morning I just decided to let it happen. I brought my camera for our early walk on the beach and decided to take a couple of photos of things that brought me joy and made me feel at one with God and my world.

Down there on the beach there is no traffic, no noise other than the surf, and no reason to fret. We walked about four miles with the sun on our backs and just enJOYing the peaceful calm of it all.

And along the way I did take a couple of pics that brought a smile to my soul.

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