Edmonton Tourist: Little Libraries

My daughter planned an adventure outing for Mother’s Day. She gave me rules and then told me nothing.

“You need to choose five books to leave your collection. Be ready at 10:00 a.m.”

Okay – I can do that, thinking we must be going to a used bookstore or flea market. She did say it was neither of those and then my curiosity piqued. I chose my books and was in the car by 10:00 a.m. She was driving. I was given a clue: You have never been here before and dad says you will love it.

First stop was Starbucks. She bough me a skinny vanilla latte. It tastes better when your kids buy it for you. Then she drove in the direction of the French Quarter.

We crossed the bridge on 82 Avenue that crosses Mill Creek Pool and we turned left. I asked for the address so I could help navigate.

“There isn’t one, you just get to know the general area and then you see it.”

Weird, but okay. Then she pulled over and parked. “Do you know yet?”

I hadn’t the foggiest idea what was happening. She reached into our collective book bag and pulled two books. She opened the car door and waited for me to get out. We walked about 25 steps before we stopped in front of a Little Free Library. She confessed to feeling nervous because it felt like snooping in someone’s home uninvited.

I opened to door and we we began looking through the books – well first I was excited so I immediately placed my book on the shelf. We found nothing that interested us so we decided to go to the next one.

I had a million questions.

  • How did you find a list of little libraries?
  • What gave you the idea?
  • Had you ever used one before?
  • How many are there in Edmonton?

She watched a youtube video of a fellow who decided to visit little libraries in his town. This reminded her of stuff I like to do in Edmonton. Why had it never occurred to me? I love books, I love exploring my city. I love everything about this project.

The website she found is LittleFreeLibrary.org. It says Welcome to the world’s largest book-sharing movement! The site provides maps to all the registered free libraries in the world. She entered our city and boom:

Look at all those libraries in Edmonton! She picked five in a neighbour that has big trees and no one we know. My girl had never used one before but thought I had. I knew of a few but only stumbled upon them randomly and I never had a book with me.

The next one was a couple of blocks away so we went there next.

The owners of this little library were in their yard so it felt weird but we still opened it and found a couple of great books, left two and walked back to our car.

Each library had something we were interested in or had a book that was on our Edmonton Public Library waitlist or was a favourite we had always wanted in our collection. We hit the jackpot.

The last library was filled with Agatha Christie’s and Harlequin Romances. My girl took one of each because she collects Agatha and she had never read a Harlequin. Honestly – everyone needs to read one once in the summer. It’s a right of passage. She took two and left 13 Reason’s Why and Eat this not that.

We finished the day happy and satisfied. I decided then and there that this was going to be my Dad’s father’s day girt – don’t tell. I finally get what my parents mean by ‘don’t buy me any gifts’. They mean “spend time with me”. This was one of those memories I will never forget and I hope she takes me again next year. I want to build one now.

Stay healthy friends!

Healing

I have talked about the toll the pandemic has had on me. It is mostly fine but this third wave in Alberta is horrifying. Our numbers per 100,000 are the highest in the world. I am grateful I have received my first vaccine dose. The hubs and parents have theirs, my children are scheduled. It is a relief. Almost 2 million (out of four million) Albertans have received their first dose yet the numbers climb because of “freedom” fighters who host rallies and rodeos, or attend massive church services. I can’t begin to understand the way people think.

My family is filled with nurses, academic doctors and scientists. I have grown up knowing knowledge of sciences are not ‘beliefs’ but facts. Science is constantly trying to prove itself wrong – that’s how we know what the facts are. Facts keep showing up. So what I am going to tell you may seem at odds with practical science.

To heal from this chaos, I have a daily meditation practice. Twice a day I sit in silence and meditate. It has been life changing. Recently I hit the 1600 consecutive day mark. For anyone keeping track, that is four and a half years of daily practice never missing once. I am also a reiki and crystal practitioner. I often practice on myself but lately it has become too much so I called my personal practitioner and mentor for a session.

To get the full benefit from a reiki session, I meditate and set an intention to allow my practitioner into my energy space several days before. The day of my session she sits with a grid and energetically connects with me. (I know this sounds like woo woo to many of you – but that’s how I feel about church – its weird to me and I don’t get it – but I respect that it works for you.) She intuitively chooses crystals that connect with me. This is the grid she built:

Fluorite and amethyst were the main focus with hematite aligning everything together. When I decided to call her, I had connected with my crystals as well. I began meditating with fluorite and amethyst completely unaware she had also chosen these for me. Its not a coincidence, its what always happens when we connect energetically.

My session was via zoom because she has moved to a different part of the province and you know – there is a pandemic happening. A reiki session is similar to a massage. In this case there is no touching – obviously – when I practice I can do either touch or not – sitters preference -but touch is far more effective for me. We went through a visualization that made me cry. Then a healing process. I yawn a lot during a session as my body adjusts to the flow of energy. I also get incredibly thirsty for days afterwards and sleep deeply.

A few days post session garbage starts to purge from my system. I often get colds or something else releases. I don’t ever feel sick – my body is releasing garbage that no longer serves me. Sometimes I purge people. They just don’t fit with me and I release the connection. We then fade away from each other without any drama. This time I got a big stye in my right eye. I haven’t been anywhere to catch anything. In fact, that has been the greatest thing about the pandemic – I am never sick. Garbage is oozing out of my eye. It’s fine, not painful, just super ugly and a sticky. I am keeping it clean, using warm compresses and flushing it out as recommended. If it doesn’t heal on its own I will go see my doc on Tuesday. But its already better.

I have watched reiki sessions and witnessed people coughing up flehm or even vomiting. But other sessions have no purges and healing happens to a joint or muscle – depending on what the treatment was. My session was healing on a molecular level. It was deep and I experienced warmth. I was quite flushed when we finished.

I was also calm and felt peaceful. I could have slept for hours and if it was closer to bedtime, I would have done just that.

During this session there was a specific intention and focus. I didn’t even know I needed it until it arrived. We worked through it and now I am excited to see how it ends. I suppose I will know come June. I guess I am sharing all this because everyone heals differently. Some people need to talk, others sleep, some people go to the woods – my point is everyone finds a way to heal that works for them. Reiki and crystals are mine.

Stay healthy friends.

Question 18 of 52

How do you know when you’ve succeeded at something?

I used to think success equated money. I wasn’t very successful. I never made buckets of money because my focus was service. To be in service of others. Someone told me – I think it was my dad because it sounds like him, If you have to work anyways – it might as well be to further humanity. So I did. Except for that one time I hated my job. I work for a place that was about furthering their bank accounts on the backs of their employees and keeping them impoverished. I learned a lot there and took those skills elsewhere.

Now I get a feeling. I know that sounds hippy woo woo but its true. It is a happy and uplifting feeling that makes me smile. That is how I know I succeeded at something. Its as simple as that. When I focus on service to others I get that feeling. When I focus on pleasing others to further their goals, I get depressed.

Am I successful?

Yes.

Bake Club: Speculoos Babka

The last time I was in the United States back in 2019, I visited Trader Joe’s. This is now the only reason I want to visit. I kid… I also really miss In and Out Burgers. Anyway, back to TJs, they carry this magical spread called Cookie Butter. It is not found here in Edmonton, or wasn’t recently until Freson Bros came to town. The hubs and I were exploring this new Edmonton grocery store that commits to supporting local and the carry other items that aren’t easily found in Canada – like fresh fruit in January. The baking section is on another level. Missing an ingredient? It is there. I swear. (Let’s pause this part of the story).

At Christmas, you may recall, I received Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She has a recipe for Speculoos Babka. I looked through the ingredients and thought – there is no way I can make that until I am back at Trader Joes. Queue the sad music.

Fast forward to Freson Bros.

The hubs and I we wandering the aisle and I saw this:

Creamy Cookie Butter Case - WHOLESALE | Shop Biscoff

If you aren’t sure what Biscoff is, think back to your last plane trip and the package of cookies they give is Biscoff. It is my favourite cookie.

When I saw this on the shelf next to the Nutella I nearly lost my mind. As a bonus part to the day, lower down the shelf was a full package of BISCOFF COOKIES! (they are delicious but taste better at altitude like tomato juice does. Its a thing.

I remembered the speculoos recipe and knew this jar was coming home with me.

Out came the cook book and I went to work making the sweet dough. It is the same sweet dough recipe she uses for her cinnamon buns but your favourite sweet bread dough recipe will work here too.

I cut it in two and rolled into a rectangle measuring 10″ x 18″. I mixed 1 cup of cookie butter with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix it well and spread it over the prepared dough.

Then roll it as you would for a cinnamon roll or traditional babka. Now there is no slicing of the dough log in this recipe. Just twist it like this.

Place it into a greased bread tin and repeat with the other dough. Let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.

It calls for a crumble topping. 1 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tsp of cinnamon, half cup of light brown sugar, 12 tbsps. of melted butter. Mix together and you will notice it isn’t a usual crumb topping – its more like cookie dough. break it up into crumbs and sprinkle over the risen babkas.

Bake at 350F for about 65 minute – use an instant read thermometer to test. It should read an internal temperature of 185F.

It was so delicious. I highly recommend this one. I would also consider this as a cinnamon roll and forget the topping. It doesn’t need it because it is delicious on its own. If you give it a try, let me know how it went!

Stay healthy friends!

Question 17 of 52

Why is it important to have high self esteem?

I think self-love is the most under-rated quality that you can possess. My ex never thought it was a good idea to have self-esteem. It made you arrogant and egotistical. I disagree. People who exhibit those qualities behave that way to build themselves up. They need constant validation. Loving yourself is the best gift you can give yourself. When you love yourself your well is full. Then you can give more of yourself.

I began looking myself in the mirror and said nice things to me. Sounds bonkers, I know, but hearing yourself speak truths is uplifting. I do this before bed so its the last thing I hear while I sleep in a effort to raise my vibration. Everything I say to me begins with ‘I am…’ It is very similar to saying a sankalpa during meditation except you say it so you can hear, not just think it.

I read once your soul doesn’t know the difference and will believe everything you tell it. Give yourself some loving kindness and try this before bed for a 21 days. Look yourself in the eye and repeat these:

  • I am kind
  • I am smart
  • I am beautiful
  • I am happy
  • I love you

I promise you will sleep better and little by little you will notice a difference in your relationships, your work and your general happiness. It takes time to undo the words and beliefs other people told you that you are. Remember, you are what you say you are. No one gets to decide that.

I also started throwing in I am wealthy because … the Universe is always listening.

Stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Miquelon Lake Provincial Park

Miquelon lake is the provincial park of my childhood. Dad would take us here during summer break as long as we did our chores before hand. It was only a 40 minute drive from our house in Sherwood Park so it was an easy destination that gave all the beachy vibes of a destination vacation. That’s a lie. There are no palm trees or crystal clear blue water. It is a swamp in the middle of the prairies, but that’s not to say the place isn’t lovely – its beautiful for what it is. Miquelon Lake is not trying to be a lake in Ontario or an ocean beach. It is a lake on the prairies.

I have cabin fever an many of you do too because this place was packed. Filled with loud music, people singing off key, people yelling and the smell of hot dogs in the air. It wasn’t the tranquil respite I was hoping for.

I hadn’t been here since my niece went missing on the beach. Spoiler alert: we found her 20 terrifying minutes later playing in the trees close by. Before that, I would bring my kids here just like my dad did years before. Its a good place to build sandcastles. Back in the day you were allowed to swim in the water but in recent years the lake has been receding and is now leaching salt. Chalk it up to climate change. I suppose it won’t be the place I take my grandkids to swim and that’s a shame.

In elementary school, we would come on overnight campouts. I learned orienteering here in the woods, and was taught about the different ecosystems. I studied beavers and their lodges, watched loons and blue herons. It was the wilderness in my backyard.

It still is those things but its also a picnic destination. Captain and I went for walk along the beach and it is quite a distance now from the parking lot. Where the water began in the 70’s is now beach grass and sand extends past where I learned to swim.

We headed north into the group picnic sites and walked along some trails before heading back to the car. I couldn’t hear nature, just loud music. I might be that old man who yells at people “Get off my lawn!”. The park is still lovely. There are plenty of picnic spots. The campground was full for a weekend in April which is unusual but 19C is an invitation to enjoy the beginning of summer here in the Edmonton area so who can blame them? I too was searching for nature now that spring is here.

I don’t think I will come back for a long time. I will leave it for families who are picnicking and playing frisbee. Maybe when my grandkids come on the scene we will come for a picnic and a hike in the woods or bring the telescope because this place is a protected night sky reserve.

My next destination will be definitely be the road less traveled.

Question 16 of 52

Image result for lemon

What is self esteem?

It is the measure of self-worth or personal value.

Back in University I took several mandatory courses on self-esteem. My prof. was Eva Roche. I learned a lot from her. One class she invited all of us (40 ish?) to her home for breakfast. Her house was perched on Strathearn Drive overlooking the valley and downtown Edmonton. She shared this home with Senator Doug Roche. It was a strange but lovely bohemian home with the living quarters upstairs to take advantage of the views. All the walls were lined with book cases filled with books from floor to ceiling, except the living room. It had two chairs in front of a large picture window and a sofa with a soft yellow throw. I have no idea why I remember this home in such vivid detail, but I do.

Eva asked us to bring a lemon. There was food laid out on the long farmer’s table. We only had to bring a lemon. So I did. We ate, toured her home, visited with each other and finally she asked us to join her in the library. It was the largest room about 15′ x 15 ‘ square but there were no chairs in this room. We stood around the perimeter and she asked us to place the lemon on the floor. We were to think of the lemon as ourselves and place it where we felt we fit within the group. I was asked to go first. I placed it left of the centre. I didn’t not see myself as the centre of the group.

What followed shocked me. People were placing the lemons around me so by the end I was in the centre. I always felt invisible. I never was the centre of attention but I always had a kind word for people. I also would notice when someone was felling left out or alone, I would approach them so they would feel connection. The feed back I received was I was confident, compassionate and kind. True, I did see myself like that. I wasn’t the most popular but I was the reliable, kind person of the group. The most interesting part of this social experiment was the most popular person was on the outside. She didn’t feel connected. She arranged all the fun stuff to do and people loved having this social director of the group, but she never felt connected. Never being a popular person, I never thought about how it must feel. She did all those things to gain a connection and she never felt worthy of it. This shocked me to my core. After that day, I made more of an effort to connect with her. We finished out the program as best pals until she moved back to Nova Scotia.

My self-esteem took a hit living with a man who mentality and emotionally abused me. He would say things like ‘your mother doesn’t love you.’ or ‘if it wasn’t for me, you would have no one.’ He separated me from my friends and family. I was alone and disconnected. I broke up with him once, only to be sucked back in by his ability to manipulate my family. One day he said, I don’t want to have children with you because you would insist on giving them self-esteem. He spat it out as if it was a bad thing. I looked at him and it was if a glass wall shattered. I saw the sad boy on the outside wanting to connect with someone. Making me like him was his way of connecting. That was the day I began plotting my exit. I tried a few times to leave but escape is hard when you can’t articulate to friends and family why you need to leave. I didn’t fully understand myself until years later after endless journal entries and visits to my therapist.

It took a long time to get back to understanding my self-worth and personal value. I can still see people who are looking to connect. I sometimes try to connect but I get easily pulled into their emotional turmoil so I have set strong boundaries. It took years to get here, so I am cautious who I let into my circle because I want to avoid being sucked under again. But mostly it feels good to be comfortable in my own skin.

Stay healthy friends!

Big Emotions

I see a light at the end of the tunnel. My first vaccine shot happened on Thursday and I felt euphoric. Then I went home and back to work. Whomp whomp….

This past year I have felt some really big emotions and I don’t have anywhere to put them. The world is on fire and I have to pretend it is normal as I proceed with fulfilling my regular duties. Only nothing is normal and stuff feels meaningless. All of this has heightened my stress levels. I often feel like a caged animal who is afraid to leave the safety of the cage.

My meditation practice is suffering, my sleep is suffering, my body is suffering and my outlets are limiting. I realize you are all feeling the same as me in varying degrees because as much as we are similar we are also unique. Staying positive and hopeful is becoming increasingly difficult. Its been 13 months, I suppose the big emotions are normal. The mundane life I am leading is just that… mundane. I don’t find purpose or passion in anything I do lately. In an attempt to rectify that, I took myself for a walk in the woods.

Normally a walk in nature is the first thing that cures what ails me. With my trusty pal by my side, I normally come back refreshed. Except that didn’t happen either. I find it increasingly hard to find a spot that is devoid of people. WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DISTANCING! I took myself to Miquelon Provincial Park thinking the river valley would be packed on a warm spring day (19C!). I wanted it quiet. I wanted to sit and hear birds, wind through the tall grass, leaves crunching beneath the feel of animals and all I heard was loud music, bad singing and shouting people. It was the farthest thing from restful. I wanted a peaceful respite from covid life.

The 40 minute drive there and back was nice. I quietly contemplated life and where I see myself in two months and even a year from from now. My answer was – not this. I have been here before. Not this is the basis for I want that. But first you have to know what you don’t want to get what you do want.

So what do I want?

  • I want my second dose at the 6 week mark – not four months down the road.
  • I want to sit in nature and hear nature.
  • I want to work on one project and give it all the love it deserves.
  • I want freedom to be spontaneous.
  • I want my values to align with everything I do
  • I want people to understand that kindness will get you everything you need.
  • I want everyone to value honesty
  • I want a life where I don’t need a vacation to escape from it.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am looking forward to the end. How about you?