Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cheese Sauce

This pot is a sign.

A sign of my adaptability.

A sign that even when I don't want to do something, I can do it if I try.

I am the maker of cheese sauce in this house. 

Broccoli does not get eaten without cheese sauce. Duh.

Whenever I make cheese sauce I make too much.

We put the extra sauce in a container in the fridge to grow moldy.  As one does.

This week our family unit is 2.  Plus 1 brown labrador.

Two humans to be fed.

And not just fed but two people figuring out how to be, how to be together, in this quiet house. 

The hilarious jokes about how much time and space we must have without the kids home (wink wink) failed to remember that we long ago figured out how to use the lock on our bedroom door (wink wink). And that even in a quite and spacious house we are still busy and tired most of the time.

It is easy to say I am not ready for this stage of my life - missing my girl for so many weeks now, hoping the boy kept his canoe upright in the white water today - but the truth is I was no more ready the day they wheeled me into the OR and said "we are going to deliver this baby now".  Or the day they waved goodbye to me at the Kindergarten door or when they caught the train downtown alone for the first time.

But here we are .  Me and Allan.  Figuring it out. 

Finding a different rhythm that doesn't have the complications and complexities of kids schedules and sports and youth and school.  

We have only ourselves to consider.  

And therein lies both delightful opportunity and some trepidation.  

We haven't had to bumble along as a couple for almost 20 years.  

And though it has just been for a few days I think we have enjoyed our time to chat and cook together and walk the dog, watch TV and do some gardening.   

We have pottered together and apart and been comfortable.  The usual stuff of studying and working out and cleaning the house goes on.  Just a bit more quietly.

We made lovely meals and set the table and prayed for our kids and friends and ate together.  

Sometimes there was silence.  Not awkward or uncomfortable.  Just quiet. 

And I figured out how to make cheese sauce that was just enough for two! 

Our nest isn't empty - we are right here - and our puppy is snoring on the couch (yes ON the couch) - and we are going to be just fine.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A fresh coat

We just spent a chunk of change on our house.  

Like a few thousand dollars.

And you wouldn't know it.

YOU wouldn't know it.

But we sure know it.

It was repainted.  

The same colours as before.

Before was 11 years ago. 

When we were young and foolish and painted it ourselves - it took weeks.

This time it was done in 2 days. 2 coats and and the trim.  

I'd like the change to be more obvious for the $$$ we spent. 

What I am excited about is how wonderfully fresh and clean and sealed the house is now - how safe and prepared for the storms of Winter.  How the peeling and faded parts only I noticed are now vibrant and covered and smart.

And all this sent me on a metaphorical meandering.....

Isn't this just how life can be sometimes?

Big things happen, change, shift us - and barely anyone notices. 

Hearts are squeezed, dented, expanded, re-shaped....

Minds grapple and take on new thoughts, open new thought pathways...

Bodies find new ways of being and doing....

Birth, death, love, illness, travel, world news .... we are challenged and changed .... and the world marches on seemingly oblivious.

We can feel so inwardly transformed, challenged, hurt, renewed - sometimes in deep ways, and there is no banner announcement - no WOW moment.  Those closest to us might notice a change, a shift, they may even say something about it.

But it doesn't mean, just because it's barely outwardly noticeable, that it isn't true and real and incredible.

The investment you made in the change, whether by your choice or through a process you chose or whether it was thrown at you, even blindsided you....  it is yours to hold and cherish, to proclaim if you want to and to announce if you need to. 

Your change deserves to be noticed - but it is no less change even if it is not.

I hope if you walk by my house you'll be amazed at how sharp it looks.  

But it's ok if you don't.

I am still delighted with the change.  

(ok please tell me you notice they painted the ugly white gutters the same colour as the house - which is genius  - and makes me way too happy!)

Monday, September 5, 2016


I often sign off cards or letters or emails as "The Byres Clan"... given our Scottish heritage and all. 

And I think it's clear I am happiest when my clan is all together.

After the clan our circle widens for more family and then the friends we see as family and then friends, colleagues etc.  

In the past week I found myself part of a some tribes or circles I hadn't really anticipated.

We loaded up the truck affectionately known as "Rolling Blue Thunder" and we rolled onto a ferry and over to Victoria to move Miss L into her first apartment. It's the ground floor suite of a house a 10 minutes walk from UVic and though it is older and has some "lovely" fixtures, it is perfectly perfect for her. 

We unpacked and started settling in, putting together all the furniture we had to take apart to move, squeezing in ALL the kitchen goods into a tiny kitchen, realising what we had forgotten to bring or purchase, making lists.

And then we headed out to get those things and to do a pantry stocking grocery shop (a more daunting and costly task than you might imagine!).  

And this is when I noticed people in my new tribe.  

As we wandered the aisles of a large store I noticed other grouping just like ours - parents and university student.  We were reaching for the same items and every now and then we caught each others eye and there was a knowing look and a nod.  "I see you, I get you...I also forgot to buy this child a garbage can / mirror / soy sauce..."  

I overheard snippets of conversations that were comfortingly similar to our own chats and we even saw the same families from Home Depot to Canadian Tire to Bed, Bath and Beyond....and Walmart.  Our shopping buggys looked like we were shopping from the same lists.  And we mostly were and the stores seemed to have anticipated our needs so well.  Funny that.

As I teared up in the frozen food section thinking about not cooking for this girl of mine, worrying that she will be well fed, wondering if she has enough of everything...I felt this new tribe of mine all around me and I felt the funny relief one feels when you know so many others are going through exactly what you are, and if they seem to be rocking it then you surely can too. And we all smile bravely.

So we soldiered on and we ended up with a very lovely, comfy and well put together apartment - much nicer than the one Allan and I first shared when we got married - that is for sure!  All our thrifty finds and upcycled goods looked polished and lovely and I think she will be very comfortable and hopefully very happy (and well fed) there. 

So we rolled on back to the ferry - some of our tribe still around us - some sad without that university student of theirs.  We convinced ours to come home for a few days as she had little left to do for the 5 days before classes start.  And 5 days until her internet is hooked up (an eternity!).  It didn't take much persuasion - I think a certain tall, blonde, Vancouver boy had something to do with that too.

And we have had a wonderful 3 days with our clan at home (or as "at home" as 2 teens ever are).

Tomorrow is my last first day as Mom of a school age child.  I'll join the tribe of parents demanding First Day photos and I'll wave from the front door as Mr D heads off to Grade 12.  My heart, like many in this tribe, will be a little achy.  But we got this...we can do this...we can be the village, the tribe, for one another.

So if you see someone in your tribe tomorrow - a smile will go a long way to helping us get through another day on this funny journey of life. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

If you must...

If you must get up before dawn, on the second last summer saturday, to deliver your boy and his buddies to the Camp boat...And say good bye to him AGAIN...

And you need to pick up the last furniture from the Cabin (just beyond Hope)

Then you may as well agree with your beloved fisher-husband to hit the fishing river for a spot of fishing on the way (seeing as you have only watched him fish 4 of the last 6 days)

And you may as well walk the river with him remembering to be quiet and not scare the fish lest you be blamed for their shyness and forever remembered as #noluckNicky

So you don your hastily purchased $15 sandals (as your beloved Teva's just broke after 25,000km or so ) and you head off up a crazy road and down a path with your honey.

But you should know that while the path looks beautiful it is a mosquito infested hell.  They will swarm you and bite you through anything - they will even try to bite your eye but your contact lens will save you - although your eye will feel itchy for the rest of your life.

You feel superior that you - not accomplished in all things wilderness -  will have thought to wear long sleeves in this mozzie gauntlet - until you realise that the millions you can see and slap are nothing compared to the one or two that get inside your long sleeves and wreak havoc. 

The slapping never ends...

You arrive at the river and immediately recall that you asked insufficient questions when the words "cross the river a few times" were uttered.  And you will find your feet in your new sandals will actually be hypothermic after just 10 steps in the river.  Also you may have forgotten that rivers flow and the current can be strong - most especially where it is deep..  You will be thankful your yoga pants convert to hot pants and even more grateful the mosquitos obviously ate everyone else as you and fisher-hubs are alone on the river to witness this fashion nightmare.

You will not drown.

You may as well collect rocks as you go - you may even have a brilliant idea of a little project to do with them.  But you should have thought about collecting on the way back not the way down - also a bigger backpack would have been helpful.  But hey - 10 pounds of stones = extra weight = extra calories burned!

You wonder at your Fisherman whipping that line about and setting it down in the fast moving water.  You concede maybe the mortgage you took on the gear was a good investment.  Especially the waders as his feet do not appear to be hypothermic.

And you see why this is his go to spot.  You get it in a new way.

Although you still don't really understand the appeal of searching for capricious fish in a freezing river in a bug infested forest (and let's not forget Yogi and his friends) So you take to looking for a heart shape rock among the bajillions of rocks - because it won't do to look bored (and really you aren't) or scared (which maybe you are a tiny bit). 

You do marvel at how beautiful the place is - the mountains soaring, the clear water.  All those trees.

You constantly scan the banks for bears who must surely enjoy the views too.

You see a plant growing, blooming, in among the rocks and you imagine there must be a lesson in that somewhere.

As the last crossing appears you draw the line and wave the Fisherman on while you lie on a sand bar - which you actually call a beach - which just goes to show how Canadian you really have become.

You almost have Nap 2016 on the beach except the sun is burning holes in you and there is something grunting and breaking branches in the trees and you realise you're a tad edgy here, alone, in the wilderness.  You nearly pee your pants when a duck plops into the water in front of you and you realise you nature deficit is maybe bigger than you thought.

You desperately try to remember what one is supposed to do if confronted with large wild animals and concede that no matter what you should do, you will likely run and scream.  And possibly die. Alone.  On a Canadian excuse for a beach.

But before your paranoia completely consumes you, you will feel mighty relieved when Fisher guy reappears and you start the long, rocky walk back up the river and then run the mozzie tunnel in a haze of Deep Woods Off  - to no avail.  

When you make it to the truck and dive in, you spend 15 minutes killing the 30,000 mosquitoes that got in with you and it looks like a CSI crime scene in the truck.  But it's your blood and you realise you are still alive so all is well.

And so your last fishing adventure of Summer 2016 will be over.  You have endured, you have explored, you have understood .... and you are grateful for the opportunity and time spent with your fisherman.

So to the cabin you will go to get the queen size bed - and a few other things - .  You will realise that wrapping a giant mattress in plastic to keep it dry was a good idea but one that makes carrying it and loading it a curse-inducing exercise.  And you will have a less fun adventure getting it all home as the mattress decided it wanted to be a kite all the way home.

And so if you must have done all these amazing and crazy things in just one day - then you will collapse on the couch with a beer and know it was an awesome day.

The end.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vacation for 2.5 Byres

We have had some pretty spectacular summer vacations over the last 2 decades.

My TimeHop app spends most of August reminding me of them.... just last year we were in Maui for goodness sake.

And by we I mean all 4 Byres plus sometimes others too.

So setting out on a our summer vacation 2016 felt very odd to me.

Firstly is was for 4 nights only.  We have very typically vacationed for 2 weeks at this time of year - BUT I'm not complaining  - after this summer 4 nights away seemed like a pretty huge victory.

Also it was pretty close to home - it needed to be en route to pick up Mr D in Kelowna so it had to be on either Hwy 5 or Hwy 3 or close.  It turns out this huge Province we live in is so beautiful and there are so many, many miles to explore and discover - we covered only a couple more valleys and lakes but our hearts were once again grateful for the wide open spaces and the breathtaking beauty so close to home.

And there were only 2.5 of us in the car.  Allan, me and Spanner.  This is new territory in itself.  Finding a place that allowed mr puppy face to come with us was a feat.  And then there were just 2 of us to plan for, pack for, cook for.   Our prescribed destinations leant itself to fishing - Allan's favourite pursuit and being remote and disconnected would force me to slow down a while too.

And so we rolled out with a surprising amount of gear - fishing and dog related mostly - and we arrived at our destination which was pretty close to what we expected , if a bit too close to the highway for my liking.  This time of year is tough for catching fish but not for spending hours on the water in beautiful spaces in their pursuit (although I won't deny I was pretty relieved when a trout or two finally took the fly!)

I spent quite a lot of time with Spanner walking and sitting watching lakes.  I also read three books and did some cooking in less than ideal conditions.  I love driving new roads and that was certainly satisfied although both a lake swim and a nap elluded me. 

To our relief we found we did have things to talk about even if, as it has been since 1997,  it so often revolves around our children.  But we also talked about our work and Al's studies and what the future may hold. 

It was good to have slow time, time to chat, time to explore remote places and wonder together at the beauty of it all.  

It was good.

And it was good to get our David today as heartsore as he was to leave camp - they were pretty sad to see him go too. 
We stopped on our way home at the Cabin to help my parents pack the last of the furniture and for them and David to say their final goodbye.  

And then we were home - David got a big surprise  - a project the 3 of us worked on while he was gone - more in another post - and we Byres4 sat down to sushi for dinner together.  

My heart is very happy.  

A blessed few days - a close to home, close to heart vacation.  

I'm holding out for more Byres4 vacations in tropical destinations but I am also content to know that Allan and I can move into a new phase of travel together when the time comes.

And - for the record - Possum is a lovely, if slightly eccentric, lady afterall. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Gathering - a verb

IThe last few weeks have been a season of gathering in my life.  

Gathering people, gathering things,  gathering moments....gathering myself.

Allan spent most of the summer gathering new knowledge and he did it with good grace and inspiring dedication.  On beautiful summer days he sat at his desk and read and wrote and now is reaping the reward of a few study free weeks with a couple more A+'s in the bag.  Before Year 2 starts but this time the end is in sight.

Lindsay has spent the weeks gathering things for her new suite in Victoria.  She became adept at finding bargains on free and bidding sites on FB and gathered many useful and lovely things as well as being gifted quite a lot!  She painted and refurbished items and then we had to take it all apart to get as much as possible in the truck to take a load to Victoria.  

Lindsay also gathered lots of new experiences as a Senior Leader at Summer Day Camps and many retail shifts (not all of them pleasant) and some new friends this summer.  One special new friend (but that is all I can say).

David gathered heaps of new friends, a great work ethic and servant heart at camp.  He grew up in himself and in his faith.  He also gathered a wicked tan and some muscles! I get to gather him up soon and bring him home for a scant 48 hours before he is off to serve at his beloved Anvil.  There he will gather another year and return to us a 17 year old ready for Grade 12.

I was delighted to gather up my parents at the airport earlier this week after their 10 flight epic adventure in Africa and England and Ireland where they gathered treasured time with friends as well as wonderful memories of amazing places.

Spanner has had me gathering up his hair by the handful..... he has been chilling at home a lot and taking long walks with us.  He loves the long trail at Iona beach where he is rewarded with some off leash ocean antics that are a joy to behold, followed by a bath at home which he tolerates.  And for days after I gather sand off my hardwood floors.

We have gathered with various groups of friends over the weeks, lovely to connect and catch up and share life together on long summer evenings.  Friends are such an incredible gift and my heart is ever so grateful for my friend-family. 

I have gathered many miles, some sunsets, a couple sunrises, a book or two, new places to eat, a home decor project or two, lots of time with my girl and Allan ...I even watched TV twice! The 2016 nap still alludes me but I am hopeful 4 days in a cabin at a fishing lake may facilitate that.

So I am gathering things for a quick getaway with Allan and Spanner enroute to get our David.  We'll be in a cabin by a lake - rented to us by a lady named Possum (it'll be fine - right?  right?) No matter what it'll be quiet and for that my weary self is most grateful.  

The summer will race to a close and soon the routines of Fall will return but my bucket will be full from the gatherings of memories from the Summer of 2016 stored up in my heart.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Love Story

It was Saturday afternoon, late-ish

I was covered in paint, sweary and sweaty... Tired.

My phone binged with a text.

It wasn't meant for my eyes but it gave me a clue.
I heard a muffled phone conversation as I rolled and rolled the paint. 

A few minutes later my sweetheart stood next to me, plans made for a dinner in the city at a hard to get in to French Restaurant.

A surprise (sort of ;) ) 

One hour to depaint myself in the shower and get as presentable as I get.

No time to read reviews, do my hair, fuss about clothes...

And a totally perfect evening unfolded .. Seats at the bar of a very Parisienne place, a glass of bubbly, pate, outstanding duck confit salad, creme brûlée.

Time together.

Time to chat.

An hour or two away from our world.

I felt like I had a vacation.

I felt loved.