A Good Home

Life’s Like That

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Life’s like that.

Luckily, most of those things have been good. Even the amaryllis bulbs I forgot in the cold room are now blooming, 6 months after their intended bloom date at Christmas.

But let’s just get the bad thing out of the way then move on, shall we? Renewing my insurance policy, I learned that my rate would be almost double again (translation: several thousand dollars more a year starting shortly), because of the injuries from the car accident well over a decade ago.

The great irony is that the other insurance company has yet to compensate me for those injuries, pain and a huge loss of income caused by the accident.

But here’s the good news, the kind I add to the list of blessings to thank God for:

First, we are enjoying a period where my immediate family members are fairly healthy. With four generations, that’s not to be taken for granted.

Speaking of 4 generations, my mother-in-law came to spend a couple days with us – a rare treat since the Covid pandemic started. At my request, she showed me how she makes Jamaican Ackee and Codfish. It tasted way better than my version – of course!

My husband – who likely got his talent from her – is the chef in the family. So there he was, complaining (though secretly pleased) that we were crowding him in his kitchen, because everyone decided to help to make supper. Even The GrandToddler, on the floor with her dad, made a dish with eggplant slices and “sprinkles” – her word for seasoning.

Co-author Lauren and I took part in an authors festival and met such lovely children, parents, educators and librarians. Conversations were interesting and fun too.

Our friends invited us along to the annual Port Hope Garden Tour, which was a pleasure. We saw only a few of the gardens because of my limpy right leg, but what a thrill it was to see other people’s gardens!

Early June is also a great time in my own garden. As you may notice, we have only perennials because I’m too lazy to plant annuals or dig many weeds. Planting them close together also blocks out weeds – either that, or they’re hidden from my view!

PORT HOPE PHOTOS BY HAMLIN GRANGE

And as I write, a rose-breasted grosbeak is trying to get in through my closed window – s/he is pecking at it, mouth open, as if trying to speak. (They see their reflection and think it’s another bird invading their territory, the experts say.)

I like these birds. They make such a beautiful sound. Unfortunately, it flew away when I grabbed my camera.

Wherever you are, I wish you good health and peace.

Cynthia.

A Good Home

Does a Bear Poo in the Woods?

As you know, I try to hold on to a shred or two of dignity. I’m not claiming it works all the time, but my self-image is of a woman with a fair amount of well-behavedness.

But as you may recall, I also have a grandtoddler. And therein lies an ever developing tale, as I am reminded – daily – of the ways in which children develop, and what is required of parents and grandparents.

Why did no-one remind me of the small undignified acts required of a good grandmother? Take the matter of poo-ing.

A very private matter, as you well know. Most people pretend we don’t do it, and they definitely don’t talk about it. So pooing is not the kind of thing one invites others to partake in.

Unless you’re a toddler.

I have lost count of the many times in recent weeks I have been invited to “poo” alongside The GrandToddler. Worse, sometimes I have to pretend that I am actually doing so.

The first time she asked, I sat on the floor beside her, at a complete loss. But you should have seen the sweet, innocent little face, looking up to mine as if this was the most natural thing to ask her grandmother.

So what was I to do?

Feeling embarrassed, my first efforts didn’t impress her at all. In fact, each time, she regarded me as if to say: “Is this the best you can do?” I could see she was running out of patience.

Nothing worked till I came up with an exaggerated version of a bear lumbering toward her then stopping suddenly to stoop and poo in the woods.

That did it. She laughed, happy as all get-out.

But you see my dilemma. Today it’s the pooing thing. Tomorrow? Who knows?

As you can guess (indignities aside), I am fully enjoying the experience of grandparenting. I understand that besotted look on other grandparents’ faces, the giggles that sometimes burst out as they describe the little ones’ antics.

But no-one warned me about the pooing part. What else are my parent and grandparent friends hiding from me, I wonder?

A Good Home

The Unpredictable Jelly

The thing about making jelly is

It’s a risky thing.

The experience is unpredictable.

Blog Photo - Jelly Currants in Pot

One minute you have a spoon in your hand

Stirring the sticky liquid in the pot

Staring at the smooth surface

Wondering when it will gel

**

Without warning, you find yourself 

Thinking about your worries

Worrying about your thoughts

Forgetting the jelly

Blog Photo - Jelly in Pot

Frothing to the rim of the pot

Gathering strength and density

Liquid thoughts like a substance

Which may or may not gel

**

Next, you’re in a meditation room

Listening to a voice say:

Don’t analyze your thoughts

Let them go. Let them pass

Blog Photo - Jelly Jar Double Mint

Thoughts are thoughts, not facts

Do not stop to judge them

Or be worried by them

Let them float out of your mind

 **

If your back or arm aches

Or someone has hurt you

Don’t dwell on those thoughts

Let them pass, and float away

 **

I return to the liquid on the stove

Just before the jelly boils over

Because making jelly requires this much:

My total attention.

Blog Photo - Jelly pouring into jars

Making jelly is a meditation

On the liquid in the pot, swirling

As my thoughts darken and thicken

And bubble and froth their way to the top

 **

Did I say thoughts? I meant jelly

But maybe I meant thoughts

Thoughts are not facts! the jelly says

Let them go while you stay here

Blog Photo - Jelly Jars many

Watch me boil and swirl and stir, and boil

And swirl and swell, making bubbles.

You are here, the jelly says

So be here. Be present with me

**

So you stir and watch and wait

For that final moment

When the liquid becomes

That thick,  sweet, slow-moving gel.

Blog - Red Current Jelly in Jars

The thing about making jelly is

It’s a strange thing

The journey is unpredictable.

*

PHOTOS BY HAMLIN GRANGE

A Good Home

Hide and Seek & Other Things

My sister said: “You tun drunkard!” Which is Jamaican for: “You’ve turned into a drunkard”.

All because, over the first four weeks of Russia’s war on Ukraine, I drank a total of 9 bottles of beer. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but for me, it’s a lot – and my sister knows it.

Which is why, despite what’s happening in the world, I am trying to keep my gaze downward these days. At the small green shoots that will become blooming tulips, daffodils and crocuses later this month.

At the trout in the stream, preparing to spawn.

At my sweet grandtoddler, who is a daily marvel.

It’s been so long since my daughters were toddlers that I’d forgotten the many daily developments of two year-olds: the language and math skills that expand day to day; the flashes of humour and mischief; the endless fascination with hide-and-seek.

She used to hide while we, pretending to not know where she was, would call out all the many places we were searching for her.

“She’s not behind the door!”

“She’s not under the chair!”

“I wonder where she could be?”

And she, unable to stop herself, would giggle and call back, loudly: “No!”

Recently, the pattern changed. She loves hiding under the large dining tables at her home and ours; sooner or later, parents and grandparents are invited to hide with her there.

It led us to ask her: “But if we’re all hiding here, who’s going to find us?”

“Hmmm…” she replied, considering the problem.

She crept from under the table – to pretend to look for us, we thought. But no. Instead, she ran through the house, giggling, pausing in the dining room each time only to make sure we were still there, crouched under the table.

GrandToddler loves to run and dance, especially to Bob Marley music, (though now she has added Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to her preferred playlist). She calls our names one by one, commands us: “Come!” We all have to dance and run behind her. Her parents are new homeowners and there’s no furniture in the living room, which makes it an ideal spot for dancing and running.

These are moments of pure joy – moments in which, like her, we live in the absolute present.

The thing with having children or grandchildren, of course, is that one minute you’re feeling pure delight at what they do, and the next you find yourself worrying about things you can’t control. You want them to never be in the danger. You want the world they inherit to be a good place. You find yourself praying more than usual.

Someone once defined the difference between liberals and conservatives this way: Liberals want to make the world a better place for both our loved ones and others; they want to fix what’s wrong with the world. Conservatives accept the world as it is and try to make the best lives for themselves and the people who matter to them within it.

I can’t help but think of all the conservatives and liberals I know who put their families first, but simply cannot accept the world as it is today.

Why is one country allowed to hold the world hostage? Why are the oligarchs of the world (not only Russian ones) allowed to have seemingly unchecked power? Why do some western societies still have monarchs? Why on earth did it take so long to get an African-American woman on the supreme court? And when do we start taking overdue action to stop the damage to the world’s environment and climate?

Luckily, I don’t stress about all these things at once – it would be too much, and all the beer in the world wouldn’t help. Plus, I need to pay attention to a fast-moving two year-old.

So I take care of my family and do what I can to contribute to the causes I support. And I think about the good in the world – especially in my small world of friends, faith community, and family. Like the giggle of a two year-old dancing and running with her family, it helps to calms an anxious mind.