What Affects Your Life the Most?

I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon these past nine years living in Nova Scotia. The other day Dave and I were having our morning coffee and he was once again talking about the weather. Whether its going to be sunny, cold, rainy, stormy, windy, humid or overcast the discussion is always about the weather.

For example, I will say, “Let’s go for a walk.”

And he answers, “What’s the temperature?”

And so ensues a search through the Weather Channel to see whether or not we should go for a walk.

“Why not just look out the window?” I say.

Well, it’s more complicated than that. There are all these other nuances about sunglasses or not, long or short pants, hoodie or t shirt, whether its going to rain in the next forty minutes, and on it goes.

I remarked that when I lived in Quebec there were never such discussions.

However…

Life on the outskirts of Montreal had us listening to the traffic report and planning our outings around ‘l’heure du point’, also known as the rush hour. Everything we did had to take the traffic, road construction and road conditions into consideration. We didn’t worry about the weather because the roads would always be ploughed and clean.

Not so in the Maritimes. Sometimes you can wait a long time before the road workers are out after a snowstorm.

So I came to an interesting conclusion:

People who live in the Maritimes talk about the weather all the time because that’s what affects their life the most.

However, people who live in cities talk mostly about the traffic because that’s what affects their lives the most.

 

 

 

Where Are My Glasses?

How’s your eyesight? Are you still wishing for longer arms to read the nutrition information on that box of cereal? Or have you graduated to drug store reading glasses?

I have done the latter for many years now. I have a complete wardrobe of glasses in different colors and styles that go with just about every outfit imaginable. My friend Bob gets a kick out of seeing what I’m going to wear next- purple glasses to go with my purple t-shirt, pink to go with my pink dress, and on it goes. Glasses had become a fashion statement as well as a necessary appendage.

I have kept reading glasses in the car, by the phone, in the bathroom, on my night table, in my purse, on my desk and anywhere else in the house where I might need to use my eyes. And then there is a collection of glasses-in-waiting in my desk drawer, in different strengths for different uses. There is even a pair with built in lighting  which I sometimes use for knitting or threading a sewing needle.

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After playing around with reading glasses for the past 10+ years, I finally got tired of constantly showing up in photos with glasses on my head and the never ending putting them on and taking them off depending on my activity. Once I went to the grocery store to buy some tomato sauce and reached on top of my head for the glasses- Oh no!! They weren’t there. So I had to ask a clerk to come read the labels for me. A good thing she wasn’t busy-

A couple of weeks ago I went for an eye exam. Previous exams had the optometrist telling me that drug store glasses were fine, but this time I found out that not only did I need reading glasses but also something for distance. We went through choosing frames while she told me how progressive lenses work and also that it would take some time to get used to them. I chose a nice purple and black frame that suited my face and my passion (lavender).

The great day came when my glasses were ready and I went to get them. They felt good, looked good and I didn’t have to take them off until bedtime. Imagine, no more off and on all day long.

“Just put them on when you get up, and take them off at bedtime.”

That was yesterday.

This morning I was in the bathroom fixing my hair (while wearing my new glasses) when I noticed my reflection looked different.

Oh my God! Now I was seeing myself as others always see me for the first time and it wasn’t pretty. I thought I had, at 64, pretty good skin tone and not too much in the wrinkle department.

Big surprise for me. I was seeing my real face for the first time in many years. And so now I realize that I not only am 64; I also look 64. I had to be sure. I took off the glasses and saw my usual self. I put them back on and saw my real self.

Hello real self! Let’s be best friends.

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What’s the “Baptist Wall” in Your Life?

 

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A few years ago I was visiting an old beau in North Carolina. We were not far from Raleigh when I saw an ABC liquor store on the side of the road, all by itself. It was odd because the store was a one-storey structure, with a long wall protruding from its right side. There was room for two or three cars to park behind this wall and a door on the side so that people could park and enter the liquor store without being seen from the street. How strange, I thought, and how incredibly clandestine.

I asked my friend what on earth was the purpose of making a liquor store like that. He said, “Oh, that’s what people around here call a Baptist Wall”. He explained to me that there in the extreme Bible Belt of the United States, many religious denominations prohibited their citizens from indulging in alcohol. So these walls were built to prevent people on the street from seeing who was entering the liquor store. It showed the hypocrisy of a denomination whose members publicly opposed alcohol consumption but privately indulged.

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I laughed at his explanation because this Canadian couldn’t imagine why anyone would need to be secretive about trips to the liquor store. But in the South, especially in North Carolina, the first state to enact Prohibition, it was a fact from the past. Imagine, I thought, people had to hide behind a wall to do something they wouldn’t dare in the open. And while we were talking, a woman in a nice looking car drove up behind the wall and entered the liquor store from the side. WOW!

Since that time I’ve asked many people if they had ever heard of a Baptist Wall, and to date, no one has. I’ve searched the internet but there is no sign of it there, except for on a forum someone was explaining what a Baptist wall is. Perhaps the ‘powers that be’ have removed all evidence of it online. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it.

That got me to thinking about Baptist Walls and secrets. How sometimes we are one way in public and a completely different persona when at home where no one sees us. Have you ever heard someone say, “If you really knew me, you probably wouldn’t like me.”

Do you have a Baptist Wall in your life? What are you hiding from your friends and family? Sometimes we hide who we really are because we think people wouldn’t like us if they knew certain things about us. I’ve found the opposite to be true. When people have learned some things about me, it has opened conversation about problems in their own life. Sometimes letting yourself be vulnerable makes you more real to the people around you.

Why not just be yourself? After all, as the saying goes, ‘Everyone else is taken.’

 

 

The Deadly Stress

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There’s never a dull moment, never a down time in my life, it seems. We have been in Hilton Head, SC for about five weeks now, and as it often happens, my health takes a nosedive as soon as I stop to rest.

After a month of December with stressful events at my church I was left quite drained and unmotivated, depressed actually. I did manage to get my mojo going again a couple of days before all the family arrived for Christmas celebrations, and then I sped into high gear.

I don’t know why I still think I have to be supermom, the Christmas fairy and Martha Stewart all rolled into one, but that’s what I attempt when my grown children come home for Christmas. The food traditions, the stocking traditions, the drawing on the revered tablecloth, I did it all and barely lived to tell the tale. This, coupled with four 2 ½ hour round  trips back and forth from the airport in some intense weather, all on the heels of December’s earlier events became more than I could handle. I mean, I handled it on the outside and thought I was doing pretty well. But inside I was not handling it. Don’t get me wrong- I loved every moment with my family. I think I just need to tone things down a bit and be easier on myself.

I am 64, not 44 or 34, but I keep thinking I can do everything I always did. Was I in for a rude awakening!

We took the last bunch to the airport on December 29th and then rushed home to shut down the house, pack the suitcases and car, clean out the fridge, clean the bathrooms, change beds and in general, get ready to drive three days to Hilton Head Island for three months. At 5AM on December 30 we left, in sub zero temperatures.

Once we arrived and settled in to the condo that has become our second home, bought the first grocery order and let everyone know we had arrived safely, the two of us collapsed. And about a week later I got sick.

What do you know; I had these suspiciously familiar symptoms with accompanying rash that a trip to the doctor confirmed as shingles…again. I had shingles three years ago as a result of intense stress in my life, and I swore that it would never happen again.

Well it did.

Compounding the distress was another rash all over my body that was not shingles. Two trips to the doctor never did give me an explanation of what it was. Probably more evidence of my body just telling me to rest and stop taking on things that I’m not able to handle any more, and to stop taking myself so seriously. A series of Prednisone and cortisone cream helped to finally get things under control after several days.

This latest illness is a warning but also a signpost for me to take stock of my life and what’s left of it.

So when people ask me if Dave and I are enjoying our ‘vacation’ in South Carolina, I have to qualify that it is not a ‘vacation’. We are living in SC for three months. And then I have to say that I have been sick once again, kicking myself in the a$$ once again for letting it happen. I am finally learning that I have to pull back and say ‘no’ to things that drag me down, stress me and make me sick.

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A Busy Writing Crafting Autumn

Have you noticed that I haven’t written anything here for the past couple of months? I’ve been busy writing, but not here. The Valley Harvester, a small local paper that is a part of the Halifax Chronicle Herald has asked me to write an article every month for them. Since they have the rights to the articles that I send them, I cannot post them here. But I can give you a link to them. Here are a couple:

http://thechronicleherald.ca/valleyharvester/1502106-put-yourself-in-another’s-shoes

 

http://thechronicleherald.ca/valleyharvester/1494383-the-joy-of-living-through-facebook

It has been interesting writing about something and then actually seeing it in the newspaper, with my name attached! You could say it makes me more aware of the wider audience than here in the blog, and so I’m editing more and trying harder.

Imagine my surprise when I started getting emails from friends in Newfoundland congratulating me on getting published in The Evening Telegram in St. John’s and The Western Star in Corner Brook! Apparently that’s what they meant when they said they have the ‘rights’ to my articles- they can be picked up by an affiliate newspaper. A humbling but exciting experience to be sure.

But I miss writing here!

Also I have been taking a writing course the past couple of months, Jeff Brown’s Writing Your Way Home, and I’ve been doing a lot more writing for it. It’s mostly been learning to find my ‘writer’s voice’ and to get more into the nitty gritty of my sometimes messy life. It has actually changed the way I see myself as a writer, which is not a bad thing.

In the meantime I have been doing the usual Autumn craft shows with my lavender wares front and center. I did a great show in Antigonish in September, a two day juried show. After much fear and trepidation, I showed up and had the best show of my life! I will go back next year, if they will have me. It was called Windfall Fine Art and Handcraft Market, and was well organized, well publicized and well attended. People loved my lavender things, but in particular the Lavender Body Butter and Lavender and Wheat Eye Pillows.

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Then I’ve had a couple more shows in October and November, one left in December and that will be it for another year. I have to say, it’s been rewarding as people call for repeat orders of body butter and I’m quickly selling out.

I hope you’re having a great fall!

Christine

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!