Joy

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I met a wise woman this summer and she looked at me for a long moment. Silence hung between us as I waited for her to speak. I could tell she was thinking. It took a moment longer then she said, “Have you forgotten how to play? I think you need more joy in your life.”

Normally I get defensive, or maybe I used to get defensive. Maybe a bit of both because no one likes to hear how badly they are performing as a human. But in this case, I knew she was correct. I have spent lots of time recovering from different things.

  • Heartbreak
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Rejection

You get the point. Recovering takes time. It now called ‘Growth’, either way, you can forget what fun and joy look like while you are experiencing growth. I used to laugh way more than I do now. I wanted to do that more.

She asked me what did I like to do when I was young. What did I do for fun? I thought about this for a long time and then made a list.

  • Ride
  • Music
  • Read
  • Create
  • Dance

Ride:  I dissected my list. What was it about riding my bike I liked? Not the bike. But it was able to take me places farther than my feet could carry me in a day. I lived in Sherwood Park and would ride my bike into the city every weekend to explore the river valley and I would always buy a frozen lemonade.

Music: I was in high school and I directed a children’s choir for the church. It ws the only way you could get me to go to church, that and the chance to see that cute guy sitting with his family in the third row. I belonged to a jazz choir and was often singled out for my voice. I belonged to a basement band – the 80’s version of a garage band. We performed for ourselves and played a lot of Journey and Led Zeplin – weird mix but we found it challenging and fun. I expressed all my emotions through the piano. All of them. I loved growing up with a piano.

Read: Who wants to go to bed when you can visit New York or London or Australia? I wanted to read about girls like I was, smart, adventurous and always getting in and out of scrapes. Now I like to read about women like me, smart, adventurous and always getting into and out of scrapes.

Create: I drew a lot, I mean A LOT. My dad would often show my work to people and I was always asked to draw something for someone. I even toyed with the idea of becoming a cleanup artist for Disney. I could create amazing things out of lego and build a four-story mansion from two sticks, seven blankets and three cushions. If I needed a backdrop for my imagination, out came the paper and pencil.

Dance: I never took lessons. But turn on the record player and I was a prima ballerina or Broadway star. I had the BEST jazz hands since Gwen Verdon. I could Step in Time with Bert and Mary.

Interestingly enough, I continue to do all those things – although I haven’t built a fort since I was a teacher. I expect to have to teach my future grandbabies how to do that and I am up for the challenge. What I think I lost was the ability to be present while experiencing the things that I find fun. So I did a little experiment.

I made an effort to be in the moment, not check my phone for a text, not think about work or some argument I got into about politics, not worry about the next thing. Just simply be in the moment. I do this in meditation, so why couldn’t I do this in play? I read about art being a form of meditation and prayer, but people take prayer very seriously. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be serious? Maybe it was meant to be fun and engaging!

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The first thing I did was go exploring. I do this all the time as you the reader knows, but I did it without thinking about a blog post. Or a photo for my Instagram. I did it without thinking about any conversations I had. It was hard to change that mindset at first but I have now been meditating for 1,015 consecutive days. I have a pretty good handle on being in the moment during meditation and I knew I could apply it to playtime. I explored in the woods and in the city. I found cool and new things in all those places. I took photos because it brings me joy to compose a photo and look at it later. If a blog post or Instagram photo came out of it, fine, but that was not the intention.

Then next thing I did was sign up to join a choir. I had some issues with the choir director and looked at the time commitment and decided it sounded like work not fun. The piano is used exclusively by my daughter and I don’t really feel like learning all over again. But I do have the most amazing music collection. AND I know all the words to every song. Instead of playing podcasts in the car, I turned on music a few more times a week. I sang songs that made me feel. 

Read: I read about 50 books a year. Still doing it! But… I read about 25 books about marketing and leadership this year. Obviously, this was for work and not pleasure. I realized I hadn’t been reading for fun in a while. I went to the library and signed up for a card and learned how to use the apps to get ebooks and audiobooks. I downloaded Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – she is one of the most beautiful writers I have ever come across – and became OBSESSED with Albie and Franny. I still think of them even though I know they are fictional characters. I am now listening to The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant, it’s no Red Tent, but Linda Lavin is a delight to listen to. I have a couple of books I am reading one by Martha Beck, Elizabeth Gilbert and one by Rob Schwartz. Each book is in a different room in the house so when I have a moment, I crack it open. This afternoon I plan to get cozy with Martha and maybe finish the last half of the book.

I haven’t drawn or painted in a very long time, but I doodle during staff meetings. I write 6 out of seven days a week and I will still play lego – I have a box of women in science and Doctor Who lego that I like to play with when I sit at my desk. I have a nifty kaleidoscope that I look through and I often pull out my spirograph set. I create at work and right now I am in planning and creation mode so I have lots of opportunities to flex the creative gene.

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Dancing isn’t as prolific as when I was a child but I will shoulder dance or bop my head around to music. It feels good.

After being intentional with all the things I found fun as a child and still do today, something fairly amazing has begun to happen. I am happy more. Simple. I went to see Downton Abbey and was absolutely giddy. I cooked all day for a mock Thanksgiving dinner before my parents went back to Europe and I loved it. I explored the public art in my community and was thrilled there was so much of it!

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I think the moral of the joy story is to be present in what you do and joy will find you.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: South East Public Art

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One of my favourite things about Vancouver after the Ocean and the Mountains is the abundance of public art. You can find it on most street corners downtown and always in pubic parks. My favourite piece is the A-maze-ing Laughter found at English Bay. Visiting Vancouver turned me on to public art in a way I never noticed in Edmonton.

Some people I know usually talk about art in terms of its stupidity or waste of money. Someone always has an opinion on how to spend tax dollars better. I think public art is culturally important. It helps identifies us as a people who recognize the value arts brings into a community. No doubt art is subjective. You either love it or hate it but its intent is to make you feel and start a conversation.

In 1991, Edmonton passed a policy called Percent for Art. Currently, Edmonton allocates 1% of the qualifying construction budget of any publicly accessible municipal project (% project) for the procurement of art to be publicly displayed. The Edmonton Arts Council is the steward of this program. I never thought of Edmonton as a city invested in the arts, I looked at the public art in Edmonton as an element of design – not a city being deliberate in supporting the arts. Then I stumbled upon THIS WEBSITE. It is an online gallery of all the public art in Edmonton.

It was as if I woke up.

That meant the giant shoes at the Southgate LRT were deliberately put there as public art. The Talus Dome, arguably Edmonton’s most controversial art installation is also a part of this program.  “Before the Quesnell bridge was constructed, talus forms of earth occurred naturally along the river valley. The artwork reminds us of the landscape that has been altered by the bridge, a rigid, controlled construction that meets our need to traverse the obstacle of the river. It refers to the coexistence of the man-made and the natural.”  Okay – so there is significance to the sculpture. It was all coming together for me.

As I scrolled through the City of Edmonton Public Art Gallery, I decided to tour my ‘hood and check out the different pieces of public art. I am guilty of travelling to the river valley far too often to explore Edmonton and I never looked at my neighbourhood as a place to tour. I made a list of the public art pieces in my neighbourhood and spent an afternoon exploring. My East-West grid was 17 street – 91 street. My North-South grid was Whitemud Freeway to Ellerslie Road.

Landscape Series 1 by Erin Ross was my first stop. This installation is located at Mill Woods Park on the northside of the building by the football field. All prairie paintings that showcase Alberta skies.

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Next stop was Mill Woods Public Library for three separate installations.

Jordie Bonet’s Untitled. 10 panels each weighing over 2000lbs. Can you imagine the undertaking it took to install this piece? It was originally located at the Cenntenial Library before it became the Stanley Milner. This is located in the fiction section on the east side of the library.

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This next piece, Phantasien by Tim Edler and Jan Edler is inspired by The Neverending Story. It is a study room clad in mirror with coloured lights. Its kind of trippy and students were studying in it. But I can see the appeal of being in there. Art can be functional too.

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Upstairs in the Mill Woods Senior Centre is Milled Wood by Destiny Swiderski.

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After leaving the Library, I travelled a block away to the South Division Police Station to see the nine canvasses of Encompass by Allen Ball.

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Then off to Ivor Dent Sports Field to see Inspiral Arches from one of my favourite artists, Dylan Toymaker. If you have been to Victoria Oval or the Flying Canoe Festival and have seen the light installations, then you are already familiar with Toymaker’s work.

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It was time to go closer to home and visit the Meadows. The Meadows Recreation Centre and Public Library also has a couple installations. My favourite is Wheatfield with Crows by Konstantin Dimopoulos. I love how it sways in the breeze just like wheatfields.

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Inside the library was Sculpture in Landscapes by Cliff Eyland. Catalogue card-sized landscapes. This was a cool choice for the library.

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And finally, Parade 1 by Gabe Wong (Parade two is aquatic animals located at Lewis Transit Centre) located on the west side of the Meadows Transit Centre. The ladybug is my favourite.

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Wandering around my neighbourhood gave me a better appreciation for where I live and the fact that we have art accessible to everyone thrills me. I wonder who notices it? Let me know your favourite Edmonton Piece – maybe I will visit it next!

Edmonton Tourist: Thunder Lake Provincial Park

After working my summer away doing cool things. I took a much needed mental and physical break to do more cool things. This time of year I like to visit the west coast but I was there in the spring and honestly, I don’t have the vacation time or money to spend. I took my daughter to Disneyland for her 21st birthday this year. My children can convince me of anything but don’t tell them that. I am putty in their hands and they will always come first. Even now that they are adults, they are the most important thing to me. So, vacation dollars were wasted spent on her. That leaves me with enough spending cash to enjoy a staycation with a few little side trips. Honestly, Edmonton is just as interesting as hundreds of other cities I have visited, the only thing missing for me is the ocean. I still seek out water, it just doesn’t sound the same as my beloved Pacific Ocean.

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Day 3 of my staycation took me to Thunder Island Provincial Park. It is about a 100-minute drive northwest of Edmonton. This is another one of those places in Alberta that I had never been to. It amazes me that I have walked on Vimy Ridge, gazed up at the Sistine Chaple, explored the Seven Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, felt the spray of Niagra Falls, kayaked with orcas, hiked a rain forest, looked at a shrunken head and gazed upon the Book of Kells and stood at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity but I have not explored much of my home province. I am not sure what inspired me to explore Alberta Parks, but here we are.

I am having a hard time being alone with myself lately so I invited the hubs and my Chatterbox to join Captain and me on this day-trip north. I packed a lunch that included the hub’s favourite road trip cookie – the Fudgeo. The lunch is the classic hobo lunch my daughter(s) prefer while on a trip. It is an assortment of good cheese, Italian meats, crusty bread, balsamic and olive oil, veggie sticks and fruit. We threw in extra spicy Cheetos for funsies. I tossed in the trusted Bearclaw quilt that goes to all beaches with me and the 25-foot tether for Cap. There was a bear warning at this park – one was in the area so Cap needed to be close by…just in case.

We arrived at about 10:30-ish and headed straight for the day-use area. We had the vast parking lot to ourselves. We jumped out of the car at took in the view. This place was gorgeous. The leaves were beginning to turn and the air was crisp. Fall is definitely here.

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We walked along the beach for a bit and I imagine this place will be packed over the weekend.  For now, I was just enjoying the silence. Its something I had not experienced in a while. I thought it was quiet at Pigeon Lake but this was the kind of quiet that made you think you were the only person left on the planet. There were no car or boat sounds. No other human voices. Only the occasional bird. Even the trees were quiet, my daughter quipped, “they must be mad at each other”.

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We walked along the shore towards the pier, a small but reminiscent pier of my grandpa’s cabin at Isle Lake near Athabasca. It was solid but small and was yearning for a boat so we could go for a ride or head out to fish.

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As usual, my fraidy-cat dog walked on it and scared himself thinking he might get wet. He quickly scampered off so we decided to get on one of the trails to see what we could see.

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There was a look-out indicated on the map, so we planned to look for it. But the map wasn’t very useful. Eventually, we figured it out. First, we travelled along the shore.

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The water was smooth like glass. We saw beaver evidence and counted the loons on the lake – or ducks. They were so far out of my vision range, I couldn’t tell which they were. We watched a few bees gather pollen from the flowers. Thrive little bees, the world needs you!

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As we continued on our exploration, I pointed out asters and goldenrod, rosehips and dogwood, always reminding everyone they wouldn’t get scurvy being shipwrecked with me! Keeping Cap alive will also be important once we are shipwrecked because that boy is a hunter. He flushed out a grouse who flew into the tree to watch us. Cap was having a great time and I think he would have caught the bird had we let him go. With the bird in the tree, Cap was at the base just teasing it and laughing the whole time.

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We stood watching each other for a few minutes until the grouse had enough and flew off. Cap pulled Chatterbox into the brush but she slowed him down and we got him back on course.

We backtracked to the trailhead for the lookout which went straight up. You could tell we were out of the prairies and headed into the boreal region. More hills and forest than meadows and fields.

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When we reached the top, we discovered the ‘Lookout” was grown over and all you could see was choke cherries and hazelnut bushes.

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So much for seeing the lake from up high.

We walked along the road towards the beach to have our Hobo Lunch.

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Picnics are the best.

The drive home was quiet, mostly because I slept all the way. I think I am still recovering from my weekend at Pigeon Lake. Thunder Lake Provincial Park is gorgeous and I highly recommend packing up a picnic or your tent and go spend some time exploring this gem.

Write More

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I was listening to a podcast today on the healing power of journaling. I have to agree, there is something magical about engaging in a daily practice of writing. I am not talking about Dear Diary, The boy (YOU KNOW WHO!!!!) who sits in front of me in math class borrowed my pencil, I thought I would die. As a 13-year-old, this was important journaling. But as an adult, I find journaling to be very cathartic and informative in a different way.

I became a committed journaler the first time my heart was broken. I poured my anger, hopes and dreams onto pages and squirrelled them away, never to be seen by human eyes again. It was a way for me to let the flow of thoughts out of my head and onto a surface that I could read as an outsider. Sometimes those thoughts didn’t make sense, just random rambling feelings that needed to get out of my brain. More often than not, the words tumbled out and I would read them and be shocked about my thoughts of feelings. It was as if I wasn’t the author but had a young girl lived within who was writing profound thoughts. Reading it back helped me sort through thoughts and feelings in ways I didn’t know I needed.

There is something magical about flow. Cursive writing becomes butchered when I handwrite but is a very fluid way. The words become strung together and become a secret code that only I can read. This was helpful when my exhusband found my journals and was reading them. I worried about him ever finding the pages and then fearing his wrath. I vowed never to write anything down that you didn’t want anyone to read. Looking back I think I wanted him to read the entries. That is ultimately what helped with my transition. Words have a way of knowing what you need.

Editing your entries are unproductive. Write with a reckless abandon. You don’t have to know what you need to write about, it will just come. I find in these times I write what I need, not what I want. When I look over my thoughts, sometimes profound words of wisdom pop up and I highlight those words to be used in projects or write the words on my arms and legs for daily reminders that my soul knows me better than I know myself and it makes sense to listen to her. She has not steered me wrong yet. It is only when I listen to others that I get into trouble. Through journaling and meditation, I am learning to trust myself, my gut is never wrong. It leads me down roads that I have to travel. The reason may not be clear until later, but its always a good one.

As I have aged, I find I write more observation and how it makes me feel rather than judgements. I watch behaviour as if I am a therapist and then think about the why. I struggle with acceptance and values, morals and obligations. I just know what I want in my life and what I don’t. Journaling has taught me that. Through observation, I have also learned you are who you surround yourself with. I want to surround myself with nice people who treat vulnerable people with respect and protect them from harm. Simple, kind and honest people are who I seek out. Life is not that complicated.

I find I write more when I am sad or angry. When I am happy I am not that inspired and I will engage in photography instead. Photos capture my happy feelings in ways descriptive words cannot. But deep melancholy and soulful thoughts just flow from my pen when I am struggling with people and actions. I have written volumes of journal entries this year but I have also taken thousands of photos. Life is funny.

Writing it out helps you figure that out.

 

RAM

The Edmonton Tourist respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

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Who remembers visiting the Royal Museum of Alberta as a kid around Christmas and riding the moving sidewalk to get a glimpse of the Teddy Bears? That was one of my favourite memories around this time of year. My family would clamber into the vehicle and we would go to the museum, visit the poinsettia display at the Muttart, go say ‘hello’ to the donkey at City Hall and then spend the evening driving around the city looking at lights. This usually happened the Sunday before Christmas, but not always or it was spread out over the season.

The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) is back open and in its new location after a long hiatus of collection transfer to the new site downtown. It is a beautiful facility with lots of light and collections I have not seen before. I purchased a Mammoth Pass for $35.00 which I think is a steal. I can come and go, checking out the different galleries including the features that rotate on a regular basis. After spending the day on Monday, I realize you need at least two days to see the Human History gallery and the Natural History gallery. I spent 4 hours in Human History and didn’t read it all. I plan to take my time with RAM over the next few months and really explore it. My grandpa always read every single word in the museum and it was painful to go with him because I just wanted to see stuff, not learn about it. He never went through it fast enough.  I am ready to learn about the history now so I find myself reading more.

RAM has some random exhibits in the Human History Gallery that seem odd. Newfoundland junk food? A mechanical horse that I used to ride when we went to Safeway? Beekeeping and Edmonton Oilers history? There is a lot of my childhood in this museum. It was cool to take a trip down memory lane. These weren’t the only artifacts that were interesting.

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My ChatterBox attended with me and she laughed about my things being in a museum. She is now a second-year University student and studying the history of things and stuff. I have learned so much from her. We looked at the Indigenous displays including the Residential School display and this opened up a conversation. We sat down in front of the Metis exhibit and discussed what it meant for her family and how things have changed and what it must have been like for her grandfather attending Convent School, while it wasn’t a Residential School for him, we suspect it was part of the genocide movement to remove all cultural history of his Mother, Grandmother and his Aunt. My hubs said his dad never spoke of his cultural history so in that respect the Church was successful in eradicating a culture. The bottom line is we don’t know what her grandfather went through. He may have been fine but he may have suppressed it. We also talked about the importance of reconciliation.

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What I know is this, you cannot expect generations to assimilate into our white culture after the past they experienced. These children were removed from their parents. They did not grow up with their mom tucking them into bed and kissing them goodnight. This is Blood Tears by Alex Janvier 2001. One the back side of the canvas, he wrote his memories and feelings. It is raw and hard to take in. I was shaken.

Having spent 10 years at Blue Quills Residential School, Alex Janvier shared his experience on canvas. He shows us the things he saw, experienced, and felt. We see a dark figure, a cross, a leg, a fish, a scared figure with his hair cut off, and a jumble of colours. The yellow paint may signify hope, light, escape.

 

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When people say, ‘why can’t you get over it?’ all I can think is it is easy to say it, its difficult in practice. I don’t want anyone telling me when I should be ‘over’ the sexual abuse I experienced. They don’t know what I went through because it wasn’t their experience.  Feelings just are and how they are managed is different for everyone. If the First Nation’s leaders are asking for things so their people can move forward, I don’t think its unreasonable all things considered. Part of that is, stop idolizing racist men of the past. Acknowledge their role, provide a complete picture to understand the history. It can’t be easy walking past a statue that is revered knowing that person tried to eliminate you from history. It says people today still don’t care. I think people today don’t understand. Reconciliation is part of that conversation to understand. Canadians need to listen more and talk less. RAM provided the space for the conversation to start. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it a start? Yes. 

Check out RAM and get that conversation started.

 

 

100 years

It was a sunny fall morning in October 2010 when I arrived at the Charles DeGaulle airport. I had slept intermittently on my flight from Edmonton. We had a single stop in Toronto so I figured I could snuggle in an sleep the rest of the way to Paris. Seven hours seemed like a proper night sleep then I would be refreshed when my parents arrived to meet my family. Canada covers a very large land mass. I woke up 5 hours later only to be disappointed that we were only in Newfoundland. Still in Canada.

The sun was still in morning reverie while I waited with my family for my dad to zoom by in the caravan. My parents and my grandmother had been travelling in Europe to celebrate my dad’s retirement. We decided to join them for a week. This was my second trip to the continent but my children’s first trip.

We boarded the caravan and I snuggled into my seat around the table in the back. Mom caught us up on all the things they had seen and now they were trying to navigate out of Paris and head north to Belgium where we would spend our first night and get reacquainted with the culture. The vibration of the vehicle quickly hypnotized me and lulled me into a hard sleep for about an hour. I tried to stay away because jet lag is easier to overcome by going to bed when the rest of the time zone does.

I woke up and watched the French countryside zip past me. I heard the hubs say, “Oh hey, Vimy Ridge is over there.” My mom and I looked at each other when we realized dad wasn’t stopping. Mom and I spoke at the same time, “We need to go.” She called my dad to stop and he had to navigate a U-turn on a tiny French road.

We pulled into the parking lot and all funnelled out. I took in my surroundings. To my left was the Candian cemetery. Over 10,000 people were injured or killed in the battle of Vimy Ridge. 3598 soldiers died at Vimy but only 828 Canadians were buried there. To my right was hilly ground fenced off and a flock of sheep were grazing on it. Moving closer we saw a sign on the fence, ‘Danger! Unexploded shells are still in this area.’

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You could see how the shells and explosions had ripped apart the earth, leaving everything hilly and uneven. I felt for the sheep being used in this manner. We kept walking along the path.

Vimy Battle field

In a break in the trees, we could see the monument in the distance standing on the ridge. A Canadian flag waving in honour of the country that came to France to fight against the Kaiser, protect the French and fight for King and Country. Vimy Ridge

The path was red, it immediately reminded me of Prince Edward Island, and was lined with maple trees. It felt respectful of boys buried beneath the surface.

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We walked along the beautiful path. The quiet countryside was noticeable. There weren’t sounds of traffic or people, I didn’t hear planes overhead, I only could pick out the sounds of birds in the trees. I tied to envision the sounds of gunfire and artillery rounds, men screaming and people calling to each other, but all I could hear was the sound of birds.

As we approached the monument, I expected to see the 11,000 names engraved on the walls but I did not expect to be so moved by the sculptures that lined the stairs. These felt like angles weeping at what man had done.

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I stood at the top of the stairs and took in the monoliths.

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I didn’t know the artist until I came home to research, Walter Allward (1875-1955). I was afraid I would forget the feeling I had standing there. I did not. I can conger it up and immediately I am transported to that cool morning in the French countryside. I stood at the top of the steps and looked out over the ridge and the morning mist covered the valley. I turned to look the other direction and caught glimpses of trenches that snaked their way across the hill.

As I walked back to the caravan, I thought about the men in my family who fought in Europe, trained in Canada and guarded prisoners in Alberta. My family was touched by both wars. I thought about how the trauma of those times had a trickle-down effect on their families after the wars had long since ended.

Vimy remains the single most significant place I have witnessed. I hope all Canadians get a chance to discover it now that 100 years have passed. For more information please visit and support the Vimy Ridge Foundation.

 

 

 

The Dog-Days of summer in the YEG

It is late August and I look outside thinking, “Where did the summer go?” It’s not like I didn’t do anything. My summer was FULL as in ‘TO THE BRIM’ with fun things and not fun things.

I checked off more 18 in 18 things like visiting another small town. This time I went to Calmar. It is straight west of Leduc and I heard it had a fantastic bakery. The Calmar bakery has been a fixture in this town since 1949. Apparently, the donuts are worth the trip. I respectfully disagree, but the place smelled delicious! There are a few antique shops, a post office and a mural. The fire hydrants are cute. We spent 5 minutes walking the length of the main street and popped into 3 shops. 20 minutes later we were like, “What do you want to do now?” We were fairly close to the University Botanical Gardens so we went there on a rainy day. That made the day worthwhile. Then we stopped off at Bon Ton bakery for a rustic loaf of bread to eat with soup. Next time you find yourself in Calmar…keep driving.

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I saw the moon at the Muttart. The big giant indoor moon. It was amazing.

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I checked out Folk Fest during some of the smokiest days we have had, thanks BC fires. So we live in a dystopian future now. We are past the tipping point of climate change and blue skies have been non-existent here in the blue sky capital of Canada. Its been blazes hot and smoky or ice cold and rainy. Everyone is cranky and suffering from SAD Seasonal Affective Disorder because the sun has been a tiny orange disc in the sky.

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We went to Fort Edmonton to recognize Treaty Six Lands and participate in the events there. We learned more about my children’s Métis Heritage, scripts and attended a Pow Wow. This was likely the best day of the summer. The Pow Wow was powerful and moved me to tears. Fort Edmonton goes dark next year for refurbishment, so make sure you catch it this long weekend!

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I spent a day admiring murals that are popping up around my beautiful city! The new one by Holy Roller/El Cortez is a stunner. But what I didn’t know about was the Jill Stanton Piece on the Varscona Theatre. I think that one is my favourite piece.

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I tried out a new brunch place, Pip, for my birthday. It has a great vibe and Tommie our fab server gave me a heavy pour Mimosa to help me celebrate!

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I Fringed! Twice! Some of my best summer memories are Fringing. This year I went to the box office and said, ‘randomly give me something at 8 o’clock.’ We walked to the Garneau and saw Scratch, a long-form improv that was complicated but was neatly wrapped up in a bow during the final scene. It was brillant. These guys have been appearing at the fringe for 14 years. They are worth catching if you see them next year. Risk taking is the best part of fringing. The following day we caught Sad Ass Cabaret. It was SAD – like cry sad. But the narrator could have read me the phonebook and I would have bought a recording. His storytelling abilities were fabulous. I loved it. The music was meh. We bought street-art for a friend my daughter is visiting, we ate green onion cakes because that is a must-do at the fringe. I won a prize on a spin wheel and the dude tried to give it to my daughter instead of me. ‘Um, exCUSE ME???? I won the prize, she is just cute and didn’t do anything.’ An old dude felt the need to explain to me why he was dancing. – Dance on dude! It’s the fringe! Enjoy yourself! I saw a dude in a Sombrero, he may or may not have been a real Mexican but the drunk guy he gave his guitar to could play Nirvana, and that was cool.

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A woman my age or possibly older told me how much she loves my converse. They are my homage to Doctor Who. She seemed envious that I have the courage to wear a shoe that is intended for young people. Listen friend, wear the shoe, eat the green onion cake and always give zero fucks because it’s your life and only you can live it.

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When Fringe ends, it always feels like summer ends. Except for this year, my vacation starts September first, so my summer is not ending until September 15th. I promise not to waste the remaining days of summer.

 

 

18 for ’18: Rockin’ Robyn’s Diner

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My Papa Bear is 19 years older than me and he just had his 70th birthday. It was one of those moments where I realized I think of him as the young guy sitting beside me on Main Street in Disneyland waiting for the Electrical Light Parade. I was six so that would make him twenty five. I think of dad with dark brown hair, tall, fun, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I then see my dad and realize he is 70. it always knocks the air out of me.

My mom appreciates finer cuisine, so its fun to take her to high-end brunch places. We went to Café Linnea for her birthday. My dad however, loves a really great diner. Old school diners that are decked out in vintage items. I had heard great things about Rockin Robyn’s Diner and knew the wait could be long to eat there. If we went early, I didn’t think it would be too bad. I put it on my 18 in ’18 for two reasons:

  • She spells her name correctly with a Y
  • I heard she was an Alice in Wonderland fan. I am a Disney fan so I suspected we were kindred spirits.

We arrived at 9 (not early but whatever…) to a line up at the door. There were 4 parties ahead of us. We were given a pager and decided to wait outside. 20 minutes later, it was out turn.

We were seated at a table beside the large mural and Dad noted, “I have never been to a drive-in that had any of those fancy muscle cars. Never. Where did people think young guys got the money for something like that?” Good point dad. But the art on the walls was interesting. There was a juke box at the other end of the diner and it was playing 80’s rock. This reminded my daughter of a great story about The Salt and Pepper Diner. Give it a listen, I promise you won’t be disappointed. It’s hilarious.

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We looked over at the lunch counter and surmised they make a great milkshake because of the equipment sitting there. The decor was fun too, black and white checked tiles, Alice in Wonderland items, retro ceiling fans and red booths!

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We ordered coffee and checked out the menu, coffee was straight up and good, this isn’t a latte and cappuccino kind of place. The waitress was sassy and hilarious. I am pretty sure she is my spirit animal, or at the very least me in a parallel life. I asked her to marry me after some fantastic zingers she through at my dad. She was his kind of waitress too. Fun, efficient and the right amount of sass you expect at a diner.

There were five of us and we ordered Eggs Benedict, a stack of pancakes with eggs and sausage, waffles , and mom can’t be easy and order a menu item so she went with 3 sides. We waited ten minutes at most before massive portions arrived before us.

Every dish came with fresh fruit and eggs were made to order. The food was delicious and I immediately understood why this place was so popular. My dad raved about this place and loved every minute of it. Excellent  value all around!

After breakfast we went to the counter to pay and were given tiny little candies that said “Eat Me”. I was over the moon with the Alice in Wonderland reference. We were told there is a Alice in Wonderland Mother’s Day Tea Party that happens every year too. Mom and I will have to remember to check that out next year.

Now I think I want to give lunch a try or maybe a milkshake. If you haven’t been before, I recommend it. I think it’s the best diner fare in the city.

You can find it in west Edmonton at 16604 B- 109 Ave or give them a call 780-756-5656

 

 

18 for 18: Adult Night at the Muttart

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There is this new trend, or maybe it is just new to me, Adult Night. There was a time where I was looking for family things to do. Now that my kids are adults themselves, I find the less I am around children, the better it is for me to focus on different things. I get very distracted by children, especially clever and hilarious ones. So an evening without them in the room allows me to see beyond and allow the silence in my head to relax me.

I was looking for a new class or something I hadn’t done before and I came across a meditation class at Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory. I meditate as a daily practice and today marks my 440th consecutive day. I thought experiencing a different way to practice might be interesting. I like learning from other’s perspectives. This class was held on a scheduled Adult Night. Every Wednesday from 5-9 pm the Muttart Conservatory closes its doors to children. I added this to my 18 for 18 list early on, knowing I wanted to experience this. I am glad I made the list, I was tired and didn’t feel like going out but I made myself accountable to the list. So here I am.

I arrived at 5 and had decided to purchase an annual pass. I hadn’t been here since I was a child but had fond memories of going with my family at Christmas to see the Feature Pavilion. It changes with the seasons. An Adult pass is $45.00. Visit 4 times and its paid for. I anticipate visiting on Adult nights and want to go to the concert series this summer. So having an annual pass makes sense for me and ensures I return. I like to get value for my money.

I had time to visit a pavilion before the meditation class began. I decided to go clockwise and began with the Arid Pavillion.IMG_9038

I attended Catholic School as a kid and remember this pavilion from a field trip. The Crown of Thorns plant made quite an impression on me. But I couldn’t find it this visit. I was too busy watching my time so I didn’t miss the start of the meditation session.

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I arrived at 5:30 for the session to begin. The website information was different than the information the instructor gave. I was led to believe this was a 30 min session with 4 sessions that evening so people could come and go. It was one long session where people joined us. I wasn’t prepared for two hours of mindful meditation. Mostly because it involves the instructor talking. When I meditate, I want to sit in silence. However, she also led us on a meditation walk in the Temperate Pavillion. The sites and sounds were like an Edmonton Spring. We have had some extreme cold here this winter so this was a welcome visit.

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The method for the meditation walk was extremely slow. Slower than walking a Bride down the aisle, slower than walking in a crowd. It is akin to walking with a toddler who is just learning. Tiny even deliberate steps. I have severe arthritis in my knees and found this to be an effort to walk this slow, but it was calming and peaceful. It kept me mindful of my steps and breathing, which is the purpose of mindfulness. I can see me revisiting this method especially after a particularly stressful or busy day at work.

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We returned back to the classroom for what I call Savasana or corpse pose. I continued to sit in my chair because of my mobility issues but it was more my speed. The instructor read a short essay from a Buddhist monk that I found to be calming.

At 6:30 we were given a 30-minute break. Who needs a break from resting? I thought that was odd. But I decided to leave and not return for more mindfulness. I had already meditated for 2 hours that day. Time to experience life rather than contemplate it.

I went to Culina the restaurant in the Conservatory that receives rave reviews from Avenue. I think pretentious vegetarian food needs to be called out. The food was fine but I was disappointed. I ordered Shepherds Pie. I received a vegetable medley in gravy (?) topped with sweet potato. I prefer my Shepherds Pie to be traditional. If it isn’t, say so on the menu. The salad was too oily for someone who prefers dressing on the side. This place was full of ladies-who-lunch out for a women’s night because wine was $25 a bottle. I looked at the selection and passed. A single bottle is too much for a single person. Younger me would have felt out of place. While I was the only person dining alone, I wasn’t dressed trendy enough. Business casual was too casual. All I could think was, Avenue Magazine has a distinct set of followers of which I am not one of them. I tend to hang out with people who are comfortable in their own skin, not sitting somewhere hoping to be seen.

I sincerely doubt I will dine there again with so many other opportunities to try delicious cuisine in Edmonton.

After dinner, I turned right and went to the Tropical Pavillion.

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It was getting dark and the pavilion was lit up with soft lighting. Lovely but difficult for photography.

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The humidity was lovely. The room was filled with the sound of water and I thought birds, but I could be mistaken. I stopped to enjoy the orchid house.

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One of my favourite things about Muttart is the way they showcase artists. There was an exhibit in the centre with a No Photos signs. But I took my time to enjoy the installation. The very centre of the Conservatory is a glass fish installation – this was lovely from below.

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I finally made my way into the Feature Pavilion that changes with the seasons. Currently, it is set up for Chinese New Year. Early March it changes again.

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Red and yellow in a garden is one of my favourite combinations.

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It was beautiful. I sat and looked around for a while.

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I can see myself visiting Muttart Conservatory everytime they change the feature pavilion. My next visit will be mid-March. I’ll keep an eye out for classes and concerts but mostly, I want to come here and sit on a bench to read. That sounds like my idea of heaven.