A Fine Balance

I was feeling kind of morose and sad this morning.   My favourite remedy for this mood is to head to the beach.  It’s certainly not a cure all but it’s a wonderful, peaceful place to just be and to reflect.

Before I left, I picked out a book to donate to the Beach Lending Library and I selected some bookmarks I had made from my photos to hand out and leave in the Library.  When I got to the beach, almost the first thing I saw was a beautiful heron, walking along the shore.  Behind it, far out, was a ship.  My first thought was damn it, where’s my camera!  I was feeling sorry for myself for missing what could have been awesome shots. I took a picture with my phone (which obviously didn’t turn out, and that’s ok – see below).IMG_0273

I left the book and a bookmark in the Library and decided to walk along the boardwalk a little more, still regretting that I didn’t have my camera.  I saw an elderly man with a huge pair of binoculars looking out to sea.  He had a little dog with a crocheted coat, sitting at his feet.  He saw me looking at his binoculars and he asked if I wanted to take a look.  I thanked him and watched the ship for a bit.  He said it was the Coast Guard.  I told him he had a cute dog, to which he replied ‘yeah, he’s my baby’.   He beamed when he explained that a neighbour lady had crocheted the coat and he thought the dog was very proud of it – now he runs up to people as if to say ‘see my new coat’.   We had a chuckle and I handed him one of my bookmarks that said ‘a true friend leaves paw prints on your heart’.  He said ‘wow, you made this?’; then he touched his heart and said ‘yes, that’s right, paw prints’.  I thanked him again and walked on.

It occurred to me that as much as I was upset about not having my camera, perhaps in the past I’ve missed some opportunities like this, because I was so ‘focused’ (pardon the pun) on getting the shot.  It really was wonderful to watch the heron, with just my eyes, walking gracefully down the shore.  I’ve had many conversations with lovely strangers when I did have my camera, but I could have had more.

It was a nice life lesson for me today – find the balance between your hobby and the moment.  From now on, when I don’t have my camera, I’ll try to just be appreciative of what I’m seeing, only with my eyes.  And, when I do have my camera, I’m going to put it down sometimes to see what I may be missing.




Our local paper randomly select people on the street to ask them their opinion on current topics.  Last week they chose the dear man and his dog that I had given a bookmark to and he had kindly shared his binoculars with me.  Was so nice to see them again.  The dog’s name is Benny!




The ‘hood

Almost every morning I set out for a walk.  Some days I only manage 2 – 3 miles, others it could be 5 – 6, depending on how I feel that day.  I have always enjoyed walking and in the past it has sure helped me keep semi-fit and lose weight. Now, as I’ve retired, I find another aspect of it ( the fitness/losing weight benefit doesn’t seem to be working!) – the great scenery, the beach, and getting to see/know the people in our ‘hood.

I have mentioned before how friendly people here in our little community.  Most everyone  I pass during my walk, greets me with a warm ‘good morning’, a comment on the weather or just a nice ‘hello’ and a smile.

Given these experiences, I was a little take aback when I met up with an elderly(ish) gentleman and his little orange dog walking toward me one day.  I gave him a bright smile and said ‘good morning’.  His response was barely audible and almost like a grumpy sigh (do I have to speak to this woman), ‘mornin’.  I thought he might be just having a bad or sad day.

It became apparent that him and his dog and I had the same morning routine.  I often meet him on my walk and his response was always the cranky sounding ‘mornin’.  I started to refer to him as  ‘cranky pants’ in my mind.   I grin to myself when I see him approach.  Poor guy obviously thinks – oh no, her again.  Some days when I’m not in such a great mood, I don’t even say anything to him and he doesn’t initiate a ‘mornin’ either.

I also tend to meet up with another gentlemen most mornings.  Without trying to make assumptions or judging (but I guess I am doing both), I would surmise he’s had a rough life.  I would also surmise that he is working really hard at turning his life around.  He has a sparkle in his eye and a big smile when he says ‘good mornin’.  I’ve seen him at the beach as well, looking out at the water with a reflective stance.

I was recently following a woman walking ahead of me for a few blocks.  She stopped and said that she knew there was someone behind her.  We walked together for the rest of the way home – she lives in the condo complex across from our house.  Irene barely took a breath; she talked nonstop for 3 blocks.  I heard of her ill health, her husband’s recent medical tests, their plans for the winter, where they’ve lived over the last 20 years.  When we stopped at the junction to our homes she said ‘thanks, I needed that’.  Not sure what she needed but I enjoyed her company.

I walk past a seniors complex every day.  It’s clear that the residents range from very functional to bed-ridden.  The path I take goes in front of some of the lower level windows.  Often I see a resident sitting in a wheelchair looking out.  In every window is a little personal keepsake – an ornament, stuffed animal, ceramic church.  There are afghans, pictures and pillows visible from their windows.  I get sad when I walk by because its clear that some of the residents are looking out, but they are not really seeing.  Or, if they are, they are wishing they were in another place.

Last week I heard a knock, knock from a second story window.  A lovely lady was standing there, waving at me.  I vigorously waved back with a big smile.  A few days later, I saw her again so I waved happily.  Oops, wrong room – the woman looked at me like ‘who the heck are you?’!!

It is comforting and refreshing to meet familiar faces living in this smaller community.  We all go about our own personal lives but we have that bit of commonality in our ‘hood and from what I can tell, we all like it here.





‘Whatcha up to today?’

On January 7th my post Gratitude included being thankful for the clerk in Shoppers asking me ‘whatcha up to today’.  The first time I met her was the week we had just arrived in Parksville and were living in a rented condo until the possession date of our house.  I was feeling a little out of sorts and certainly stressed.  Lots of life changes in that week.  Although I think Calgary is one of the friendliest big cities there is, I was yet to ever hear the same type of remark from a clerk I didn’t know.  I remember thinking in Oct. that it was so refreshing to have been greeted with what I assimilated a small town genuine gesture.

I told the clerk that we had just moved here so we had lots on the go.  She asked me where I was from and when I told her Calgary, she almost screamed ‘I used to live there and my ex mother-in-law still does’.  She went on for quite awhile about the different places she had lived and then, as she handed me my receipt, she said, meeting my eyes and with a big big  smile ‘Welcome – I know you’ll love it here’.

I walked away smiling too and thinking how refreshing.  Although I did catch a glimpse of the kind of annoyed faces of the people behind me in line.  Perhaps she’d spent a little too much time chatting!

I mentioned the experience to my hair stylist.  She knew exactly who the clerk was and had a similar interaction with her.

I had the pleasure of having her ring up my stuff a few times in the past 7 months since we’ve been here.  Her attitude has always been the same and her smile was always there, with everyone.  The last time I saw her at Shoppers she had dyed her hair shades of pink and purple.

Yesterday I was in one of the local liquor stores.  There were 2 cashiers on duty.  I noticed right away that the cashier with her back towards me had a completely shaved head.  As I was sliding my wine to the cashier in my line, the other cashier said to the lady behind me ‘I can help you over here’.  The lady said to her ‘didn’t you work at Shoppers?’.  I said ‘yes, I was thinking the same thing’.  The cashier looked at us, smiled and nodded.  I overheard the lady behind me say to the cashier ‘do you like your new hairdo?’.  The cashier said she didn’t know but that she would be having treatment so she thought she would get a head start on things, or something to that effect.

I watched her demeanour and it was calmer, quieter – I don’t think I was imagining that.  I felt so sad driving home.   I hope that she will be okay and that she has a good support system and that she knows how her lovely attitude in retail has, I’m sure, positively affected many of her customers.  It did me.







I have many memories of my Dad’s fondness of birds.  As mentioned in the Eulogy I wrote for his service, my dearest memory is of him cutting up worms on Mom’s breadboard for the baby robins in the nest on their veranda.  Needless to say, Mom was not impressed!

I remember him being so sad when he realized that a momma robin had abandoned one of her babies in the nest.  It didn’t know how to fly yet.  Dad fed him for a few days and then he felt it best to let nature take it’s course.  He gently lifted it out of the nest and put in in his garden.  He never saw it again.


When we were driving back to Calgary after his funeral we noticed a crow seemingly to be leading us on.  We had to go very slow as the roads were treacherous.  The crow would fly a few hundred feet, seem to wait for us to catch up on the side of the road, then fly ahead again.  Eventually, he just flew off.  In my grief, I thought perhaps maybe that crow represented Dad, letting us know he was still with us.  It brought me comfort.

Since retiring and moving to Parksville, my love for birds has increased.  I am constantly on the look-out for them and am amazed at the varieties we have here.  My brother has been equally taken with them for years.  When he worked he would tell me stories of all the different kinds he’d seen and fed in the fields.  He told me of a time when he saw a lone duck who looked exhausted, walking the prairie field.  There wasn’t any water anywhere so he managed to box him up and take him to the nearest pond.  The duck swam away happily.  Jim and I have great conversations about birds now and I’ve learned a lot about them from him.   We will always have that bond – no matter how long our time together on this earth is.









Grateful for the opportunity.

Today I was walking in the toy section of Fields looking for my next jigsaw puzzle (that could be another post!).  I overheard a mom guiding her little daughter through the aisle, pointing out some toys she may be interested in with the money she got from Grandma for her Birthday.  The mom even mentioned that it would be ok to get a toy that boys like, if she wanted.  The little girl was so sweet.  She was about 3 – little white dress on, bright pink runners and pink streaks in her hair as well.  Obviously the mom was a loving mom, explaining all the different toys and what she might like about each one.

I picked out my puzzle, did a bit more browsing around the store and then got in the line behind the mom and little girl.  While they were waiting for the people ahead of them to finish up, the mom explained to her daughter that they may not be able to afford the tea set chosen but she would see what the price was.  The cashier asked the mom if she just wanted to see how much the set was.  The mom nodded.  ‘$15.98’ the cashier announced.  The mom shook her head and said ok thanks, reaching for the set to put it back on the shelf.

I  said ‘I’ve got it’.  The mom’s face went red and said no, it’s ok.  I said ‘ it was her Birthday, right?  I’m happy to get it’.  The mom said over and over ‘are you sure?’.  I said yes.  She reached in her pocket and tried to give me a $5.00 bill (or maybe there were two fives).  I said no, it’s ok.  The mom kept repeating that she couldn’t believe it, tears running down her face.  I asked the little girl her name (couldn’t quite make it out).  Mom told her to say thank you and she did.

The cashier said ‘that was very nice of you but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve seen this happen in this wonderful community’.

We walked out of the store together.  She asked me my name and I asked her hers.  She said her daughter’s birthday was actually on Mother’s Day and that ‘you don’t know what this means to me, I’m going to pay it forward’.  We wished each other a good day and I walked back to my car.

This post isn’t intended to sound like I’m this wonderful person by buying a little girl a toy.  It’s meant to be about how good it feels to do it – I almost feel selfish about it.  While I know I made the mom and little girl happy, it did more than that for me.






What a cool day!

A friend from Qualicum Beach mentioned to me that we must go to Seedy Saturday. It’s a wonderful annual event for gardeners and we would enjoy it. Mark was keen as we had been talking about getting advice for our garden. I mentioned it to my Hair Stylist and she was all pumped about it saying ‘it’s what we do here Debbie; we grow things’.

I also mentioned it to my friend in Calgary, different response! ‘Seedy Saturday, is that like at the Cecil Hotel?’

Mark’s comment this morning was priceless: “that would be the day that I thought I would be getting up on a Saturday and the highlight of the day would be to go look at seeds!” I told him we better go early as it’s likely to be a popular event and very busy.  He smirked and said “Debbie, this is Parksville” (I corrected him and told him that it was actually in Qualicum Beach).

We drove to Qualicum and literally could not find a parking spot for blocks.  Crazy.  We walked into the Civic Centre, past the woman with the sign that said Save our Seaweed, gave our donation and wow, we faced wall to wall people – you could hardly move.  I must say it was like going back into the 60’s or 70’s.  I have never seen so many ‘wholesome’ people gathered in one spot since Enderby in that era. There were vendors from all over the island and surrounding islands – Denman, Gabriola, Salt Spring.   Everyone seemed to know what they were talking about and growing your own garden from seed seems to be a very serious business here.   Did you know you could grow Quinoa from seed?  I had just learned how to say it!

I bought myself some wildflower seeds, some sweet pea seeds, poppy seeds and 4 Dahlia tube (root thingys).  Got some great advice about certain plants in our garden, with not much of a ‘you didn’t know that?’ look!

We then went to the Farmer’s Market – no beef jerky there for Mark!!!  Walking back to the car, we smelled a big whiff of pot!  Perfect.  That’s what we needed to end the outing.  It was a glorious day and another affirmation that we have chosen the best community for us to retire.



Jan. 7, 2014

It is three months today that we moved into our new home and it’s just a week over three months since I retired. I know that we should all be grateful for everything we have and through my later, more mature years, I think I have been, but not like this. Wow! How blessed I am. Here is just a taste of some of the blessings in my present life that I have given thanks for these last three months, in no particular order or importance:

  • I am healthy (as far as I know)
  • I am loved
  • Mark and our families
  • I live in a beautiful home, community, island, province
  • I previously lived in a beautiful home, city, province
  • I worked for a great company that has allowed me this lifestyle at a relatively young age (not to mention the wonderful travel benefits)
  • I had the best sister anyone could ask for. This grief that I continue to feel is ok (other than wishing she had never been sick and was still here). It does make me realize how lucky I was to have had her for a sister. She gave me the best niece, nephews and brother in law anyone could ask for. She is not physically here but she lives on among us and I know she is happy we are close.
  • I can see the ocean every day, and I do
  • I love that the clerk in Shopper’s Drug Mart says to me ‘whatcha up to today?’
  • I now shop at Stedmans and Fields – hadn’t said those words for 40 years, til I moved here!
  • I now own a kettle – tea is good on a rainy day
  • We are golfing tomorrow. Are you kidding me? Jan. 9th in Canada??
  • I do my jigsaw puzzle at night, sometimes til midnight, drinking Chamomile tea
  • We have booked a Mediterranean cruise for June
  • We appear to have great neighbours. Look forward to getting to know them better
  • Everyone has a dog here. No matter where I walk or go, I see a dog. We’ll have another one day too.
  • Everyone you meet on walks, in stores, at the water says Hi or at least acknowledges you with a smile or nod.


To be continued……… 🙂




It’s our stuff!

I think the best part of moving is unpacking your stuff and figuring out what to do with it. It’s so nice to open a box and see one of your possessions and know exactly where it will be placed in your new home.   Our decorating style is pretty neutral with the odd complimentary accent piece and art.

Prior to moving in we decided that the 3rd bedroom would become a study or reading room. It houses our computer, a sofa bed, bookshelf and curio stand. We’ve ended up with quite a hodge podge of mementos, art and knick-knacks in this special room.

I suppose it would be a professional decorator’s nightmare. They wouldn’t know where to start to make everything ‘flow’ and there certainly isn’t a common theme. Besides books, the bookshelf has an Inuksuk, a panda bear plate, a ceramic penguin and a featured book of Van Gogh.

There are prints from Roy Vickers whom I’ve loved for a long time. He’s a West Coast artist that Lanie introduced me to. The print over the sofa is a Santa Fe type impression by Irene Klar, an artist from Edmonton.

But wait, in the curio cabinet is an Eskimo jade carving, polar bears, a penguin, elephants and a 70-year-old ceramic horse. I still have to figure out where to put the Bob Marley wooden mask!

As I said, a decorator would take off running. I think it’s ok though as everything means something to us and I think it all has a place there.  I think that is ‘theme’ or ‘flow’ enough.

I will apologize for any nightmares ahead of time to our overnight guests who use the sofa bed!



A nice bond

Coming home from Seattle on the Clipper we sat in front of two men whom I found to be loud and annoying. They were en-route to Victoria for a business meeting. It was obvious that the gent sitting at the window was higher in the company echelon (Mr. Boss). His coworker (Jan) was working really hard at impressing him.  We heard the complaints of the poor breakfast at the Clipper Cafe compared to the 5 Star hotel Mr. Boss was staying at (duh) and the fact that he was pretty angry this meeting was so early in Canada.  Mr. Boss called his assistant many times changing his flight plans for a future flight – twice forgetting her name.  Then the voice control emails began.  He commented to his travelling companion how inept these voice controls are but he continued to send them.

Jan pointed out some of the great scenery.  He told Mr. Boss that he and his wife had thought about buying on Whitby Island – it was very beautiful.  Mr. Boss said snottily “Oh really?  I do like Florida.  Are there golf courses there?”

Mr. Boss said he couldn’t believe the customs officer in SEA called Jan, Janice.  Jan reacted quite emotionally (and louder than usual): “that’s my name!!”  Mr. Boss said “really?”  “Yes, Janus is my name, J-A-N-U-S. It would be Janice if I was a female”  SILENCE.

More work related, professional conversation continued.  I actually felt sorry for Jan.  Mr. Boss was difficult and Jan was not making headway.  Then, the pivotal moment came.  Jan yawned and said “I’ve been awake since 3 a.m. when our dog jumped on our bed and puked.  Then he looked at us as if to say ‘what are we going to do today?’ haha”.  Mr. Boss instantly softened. “Really, you have a dog?  What kind?  I have two Whippets”.  Their strained working relationship barrier was eased. They’d found a common thread and a pretty great one, I thought! They talked about the ages of each dog, their habits, showed pictures on their phones, etc. Although I was not facing them, I know there were smiles on their faces. I quickly warmed up to these two guys.  They like dogs.

I love that no matter how pretentious, cranky, and arrogant people can be, talking about their pet completely changes their disposition in such a positive way. It also changes the way I view some people. I ended up thinking these guys were okay! I even partially forgave Jan’s final comment as we pulled into Victoria Harbour – “weird looking boat over there, must be bringing in beer, it’s Canada after all”.