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Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

Happy Canada Day! This is our second as Canadians and what a journey it has been. Did I realise what would be required before we made the decision to relocate? No, definitely not! Fortunately we ventured into this as a family armed with the excitement of the challenge, the expectation of the new and the required amount of bravery.

 

There were times when I just wanted to jump right back into a box and post myself back to South Africa. I won’t bore you with all the things that I missed about the familiar life that I had left behind in sunny Gauteng. I quickly learnt after having to relocate a second time from Toronto to Vancouver that it was time to look forward and not backwards! What surprised me was how different things worked here in British Columbia. It was like being in a different country! As with all things, patience is required and slowly you get into the rhythm of a new place and you pick up on the customs and nuances.

One of the things we needed to do was to get ourselves settled into a new abode.  La Ravine is a west coast house nestled in a forest with the Mission Creek running alongside it. We recently had an arborist visit our property to check out the health of our 60 aging trees. Can you imagine waking up one morning to find a giant Douglas fir lying across our kitchen table? After all the effort we have put into fixing up our ‘mouldy oldie’, it would be deemed a disaster! We realized early on that a having a house is one way of putting your roots down in a new country. It is somewhere for your family to come home to and to know they belong there and are loved. This was one thing that I could contribute to and I have spent many happy hours bashing, banging, painting and digging. My stamp is on this little piece of Canada!

Nature does not always appreciate our effort and it ‘fights’ back in many ways to reclaim its territory.  The forest drops branches and copious pine cones and leaves on our roof. Moss and algae live happily on our roof shingles and door frames. The river erodes away our riverine bank and the frequent Vancouver rains wash away our topsoil. We are conscious that we are definitely custodians of this little forest while nature allows us to be.

But for now we will rejoice in our home among the trees.

 

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Today is Mother’s Day and we celebrate it with mothers around the world. It is also the day that my youngest son packed up all his belongings and left home to forge his own path. It was time for him to make his own way and to live his life as he chooses. I have always known that this would happen. But did it have to come around so soon? This is still hard for me, as a mom, to face this reality.

David 3yr old Photo

For the last 37 years we have had our house filled with the sounds of children, then noisy teenagers and finally independent adults. There was never a dull moment with music blaring, meals to plan and the constant flow of visitors through our front door. Oh and I forgot to mention the piles of washing! I always thought that the crawling stage was fraught with grubby leggings but little did I know that muddy overalls and sports kit would follow.

What next, I ask myself?

I am really not sure. I know that I am fortunate to have a wide range of interests. My garden is my passion and reading and writing come a close second. I am grateful to have a close circle of friends. This includes my loyal South African friends who have walked this long road of immigration with me. So there is much to occupy me but still I know this will be a stage of transition. I am going to allow myself the time to gently pass through it. I count myself lucky to be only reaching this stage at the ripe age of 65!

I often wonder whether men need to reevaluate their purpose, as we do, when our role as mom has run its course. The memories of my past career, although immensely satisfying, will not carry me through my ‘golden years.’ Can I feed off the fact that I hopefully touched the lives of some of the children that passed through my classroom? How do we feel valuable to our families and society again? These are all the things that I will be deliberating over the next while.

Today I will celebrate and I will rejoice in the fact that I am a mom to 3 fine sons, their partners and 2 amazing grandchildren. The reality is that my role as a mom is now over. Don’t for a minute think that some of your hard learnt lessons and your wisdom might come in handy to the younger generation.  Oh no, it is seldom needed as it is all to be found on the internet! That lesson I have learnt. But I will continue to revel in the fact that I am a special ‘boy mom.’  I believe my boys chose me to play a part in shaping who they are today.

I could not be more proud.

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We have been stuck indoors for 3 weeks now and it feels like an eternity! Some days drag especially with inclement weather. We had some snow again today and I almost cried! Fortunately the sun has come out again and we can get outside and into the forest. There at least we don’t concern ourselves about the 2 metre rule as we seldom come across anyone else.

We humans have an amazing sense of survival and adaptation or so I am led to believe. We get through these long confined days and are slowly developing coping mechanisms. The forced stillness has also allowed us to hear our ‘little voice’ in our heads once again. We go inwards and ponder the things that are important to us…..our family, friends and keeping healthy. It has brought much joy to be connected to family and friends. Keeping healthy has required a bit of extra effort on my part. I have tried to devote some time to it each day.

One of my favourite activities is the recent virtual Pilates class that I join twice a week.  I used to be part of this group, with Nancy as our teacher, when we lived in Oakville. Through internet connectivity I can bend, breathe and contort all the way from the West Coast. It is almost as if I am transported back to the Pilates studio minus the chirps from my fellow participants.

Chester lending a supportive paw….

As the lady of the house I am obliged to keep the cupboards stocked and the fridge full. The men in the household are working from home. During these escapades I arm myself with my homemade mask, alias scarf, and my rubber gloves.

Did I ever imagine that grocery shopping would be the highlight of my day? I waft around and examine the different items on the shelves. I try not to allow my vivid imagination to envisage the dreaded lurgies which are out there too! As a senior, I hate to admit this fact, I am allowed priority shopping times which is an added perk.

So this is life for the next few weeks. Hopefully we can all find some joy and hopefully some humour during this closeted time.

Vacuuming with an added stretch put into the mix……

 

 

 

 

 

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The virus has arrived in Canada!

The reptilian side of our brain is triggered and fear and panic is evident. This is fueled by the bombardment on television with constant statistical updates.  While I realise the severity of the situation, I have decided to limit my intake in an effort to curb my primitive instincts. All safety measures have been put in place within our house. We seldom venture out, mostly to replenish our food stocks. Instead of worrying myself silly, I have decided to do what I can and then to just enjoy each day for what it is. In the ‘do what I can’ category I have offered my grocery shopping skills to elderly neighbours. So far no one has taken me up on it but at least the offer is out there.

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Get up and go outside, don’t let the old man in

“Mom, do you really think you should take that flight?”

My trip across to Toronto had been booked weeks before the world became exposed to this threat. I armed myself with all the necessary protection and climbed aboard. What can I say? This decision did not go down well with certain people but the family and I had a wonderful week. It was certainly different as we were confined to the apartment for most of the time. But we were able to cement our bonds as the Morkel tribe yet again and for that I am most grateful.

Toast each sundown with wine

What is important here? It might sound trite but to live each day to the full is vital. A closeted lifestyle is not conducive to a healthy mental state. We are all going to have to work at keeping connected and finding things to occupy ourselves in a confined space. Some of us have forgotten what makes our heart sing. It is time to explore our options. So in the ‘enjoy each day’ category I am determined to make the most of this change of lifestyle.

Our internet connectivity allowed me to explore some activities this week. I had high tea with a friend the other day complete with the china tea cups. My granddaughter and I also had a virtual video catch up. We were able to while away an hour as we played hide and seek and read stories to each other.

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My body is weathered and worn

I bare my virus battle scars proudly. My fingers are cracked from too much hand sanitizer and my cleaning spree. My hair is slowly revealing my true hair colour. Eek!

Can we not allow hairdressers to be classified as essential services?

 

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I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it.

 

This rendition sung by Colin Thackeray hit me hard!

As I listened and watched his delivery it evoked so many emotions. The regal red figure   stood there straight and proud, happy to display his vulnerability with honesty.  He wore his 89 years of age well and his few minutes on stage made us reflect on what is important in life! It also brought back wonderful memories of my dad who sang to us all the time. He also served proudly as a bomber pilot in the World War 2. I could imagine my dad singing this song to my mom who was the ‘wind beneath his wings.’ I miss them both and was reminded of the legacy they have left behind in their family.

Dad during World War 2

 

But I’ve got it all here in my heart

The last 18 months have been a test for us as some unpredictable factors affected the security of our life here in North Vancouver. We wondered if we should sell up and downsize. Forego the responsibilities of having a home with a garden……

I know this is JUST a garden but the thought of losing my forest garden filled me with utter despair. I love this piece of Canadian soil and have spent hours toiling in it and bringing it back to its former splendour. But the reality was that we might have to leave this all behind.

Was this a First World problem? I think not. When you leave your home country and move far away, your home becomes your security and your refuge as a family. My parents left the UK and settled in South Africa. We were very conscious of the fact that the move had been hard for them, especially for my dad. But he never let it get to him. This is when the GRIT kicks in. Thanks for the genes, mom and dad!

 

I can fly higher than an eagle.

Sh..t happens, and when it does you fight back and regroup as a family. I am so grateful for the family that we have and for the support and love they have shown us. Life just seems so worthwhile when I have ‘my tribe’ around me. Colin Thackeray showed us too how he appreciated his family. It has inspired him to keep up his enthusiasm for life. So much so that he competed and won the recent Britain’s Got Talent competition. How amazing is that? For those that watched the attached video, you will have noticed that along with family members in the audience, there were his two friends. They were also dressed up in their red regalia and were with him every inch of the way.

 

For you are the wings beneath my wings.

As you can see, Mr. Thackeray reminded me this morning of the people who have influenced who I am (mom and dad), those who love and support me (my family and friends) and those who form part of my tribe.

So as the sounds of music float through my kitchen I am reminded that…

You are the wind beneath my wings.

The Morkel family

 

 

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“Congratulations! You’ve reached the next step in the citizenship process.”

This was the email that suddenly appeared in my inbox late yesterday. It came from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. There was an initial rush of excitement. We were almost there. It meant there was just one more appointment with the authorities.

Within the next month we would be singing…..Oh Canada!

I slept badly which surprised me as I thought the news of the previous day would send me into a soporific dreamland. Somewhere through my wakeful periods and my jumbled dreams came these uncomfortable thoughts. They were thoughts of failure, abandonment and being disloyal. Was I being disloyal by taking on the citizenship and culture of another country? It seemed fortuitous but I then received a message from a dear friend to say she was standing outside what she thought was my family home in Stellenbosch. The tears just rolled down my cheeks. So many happy family memories and the faces of the people that I love filled my mind. I still love South Africa and the Western Cape and all that goes with that…..

Please don’t think that I need you to feel sorry for me, I certainly do not. This was all my own doing. But have you any idea how hard this is? I have knowingly left behind 60 years of all that is familiar, my history, my dear friends and estranged family members. Family often take strain with this whole process too as they feel that you have run from your responsibilities. But my responsibility had to be firstly to my immediate family. Fortunately I knew my parents understood that and they gave me their blessing.

I have allowed myself to be sad today. I mourn the life I once had in South Africa and the people that I love back there. When the time comes, I will sing the Canadian Anthem with pride but the gentle words of Nkosi Sikeleli will play a soft tune in the background of my mind.

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I never thought it would come to this! The art of serving up a culinary delight that you could feast your eyes on, is no more. No salivating over the presentation of a delicious plate of pasta dressed with olive oil and fresh basil. No, this is to be a thing of the past.

Do you recall the Science fiction thriller Soylent Green? It was produced in 1973 and it won 2 awards for its brilliance. While I am not partial to anything ‘Sciffie’ myself this movie however, had a profound effect on me. Way back then issues like the Greenhouse Effect, pollution, overpopulation and depleted resources were all part of this thought provoking movie. It was definitely a movie way ahead of its time. The one aspect that haunted me over the years was the substitute used for food. It was a tablet that had been produced from euthanised people!

What a frightening thought that the human race might have to resort to this!

A whole new experience….

I gingerly put my hand up to my mouth. Can I do this? ‘It’ had been disguised in a round ball filled with safe ingredients like oats, honey and coconut. But the ‘it’ bit was the worrying part of this suspicious wannabe truffle.

I had to remind myself of the many benefits of the ‘it’ ingredient in these deceitful little morsels. They have twice as much protein as beef (gram for gram), contain vitamin B12….which I am assured is excellent for my brain health. This is comforting as the threat of dementia looms…..a real concern as one starts to forget all the proper nouns in your vocabulary. ‘It’ also has plenty of calcium, far more than milk. That should please all the celiac sufferers out there.

So what is this magical food? I hesitate to tell you but here goes. It is none other than CRICKETS!

My skin crawled when I thought of dangling this six- legged creature into my mouth. I could hear the crunch of the exoskeleton and could feel the spikes on their back legs rough against my tongue. The idea of putting an insect into my mouth made me crawl!. As an ex Biology teacher I have spent hours studying and observing these little creatures. The last thing that I ever contemplated was popping one into my mouth! Oh how we need to adapt to change!

But all is not lost. This amazing new food source has produced a consumer friendly product. It is available in powder form and can be added into many different recipes to boost the protein content.

Imagine your favourite biscuit recipe with the added bonus of this extra nutrition. It certainly lessens the guilt. Greenies will also be pleased to know that using crickets as a source of protein is environmentally friendly.

Yes, crickets are easy to breed and are happiest in a confined space. Condo-like structures are used as breeding stations. These undemanding creepy crawlies also require less water and eat very little. It makes for a cost effective business venture as well as a highly nutritious food source.

All I am left to do is put past prejudices away and is to sneak some past my family and into the morning smoothie…….

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Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……

 

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I got these fresh eyes, never seen you before like this…..

It is January and a time for a few New Year’s resolutions or just plain turning over a new leaf. I have never been partial to drawing up a list and then going on a guilt trip when one falls by the wayside. So instead I hope to look at my life and the people and places in it with a pair of ‘fresh eyes.’ I am not even sure what it could entail although I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

One thing I hope to keep fresh in my heart is the gratitude I feel for my family. The Morkel clan are a strong group of individuals with definite opinions and ideas. One is reminded of this when they all come together over a holiday and we get to live under one roof. The family dynamic takes time to formulate as everyone has been living and running their lives independently. Then suddenly they are all back home and I have to remind myself that I have grown up children. I look around the table at our gorgeous brood…..and know that my job is done.

Time to look with fresh eyes......

Time to look with fresh eyes……

It’s like the first time when we open the door……

Those of you who follow my ramblings will have walked the road through our recent move to Vancouver and the rejuvenation process of a long in tooth 70’s style house.  Well this door is still open! The creative juices were fired into action when our new car began to slip down our steep driveway and into the garage! That was all we needed! We had only just replaced the two cars that had met their demise after their collision with a gigantic moose! The men rushed up to the road and came up with a plan. The wooden ‘chocks’ were brought out and our precious vehicle was propped up against them. Discussions ensued and plans of heated driveways, steel ramps and raised levels were bandied about. So there is sure to be a fresh look at how we access our house in the near future.

My God, you’re beautiful……..

We have a beautiful piece of riverine forest here in Vancouver but it comes with its responsibility and needs constant attention. There are branches that fall and leaves that block drain pipes. I would not have it any other way though…..As part of our revamp of the property, we called in the assistance of an arborist to assess our handsome trees. Regrettably we have to fell two old Hemlocks. They stood tall at the entrance to the house for the last 80 years. These stately gentlemen are diseased and threaten to fall on our newly renovated house. Can you imagine it? After all the toil of these last few months, I shudder at the thought. Hopefully we can honour them in some way. Possibly a useful bench made from their wood positioned in the place where their roots once grew. So I will be needing my fresh eyes and possibly a fresh back as I tame and enhance my forest garden.

Its human nature to miss what is under your nose……

The beauty of the Vancouver mountains still makes my heart leap. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and the Lions Peaks are all in my view as I drive back up from the North Shore. I see their rugged snow-capped peaks and I have to pinch myself. I actually do live here.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

Jack and Kate in our back garden enjoying the Vancouver snow.

 

 

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I got this feeling inside my bones……

Starting again is a great leveler. It takes courage to try something new whether it be a new career path or to move to a new country. But if you need to be brought down a peg or two, just move countries! All this newness makes you feel like a kid again. Whether it be in acquiring the rudimentary skills of making new friends of a different culture or learning to drive on the other side of the road. I still jump into the passenger side of the car and then creep out in case someone has spotted my idiotic act. It infuriates me that so much patterning has taken place in this brain of mine. Now I have to spend hours trying to reprogram this geriatric head!  So in order to survive I have had to learn to laugh. I laugh at myself and the mistakes I make.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired 'big boy'  rain gear.

Exploring our new terrain armed with the newly acquired ‘big boy’ rain gear.

It goes electric, wavey when I turn it on….

As part of the LETS MAKE IT NEW AGAIN campaign we decided to buy an old house and to blow new life into it. Would I do this again if I had the choice? Not easily…..but I have learnt some home truths about myself through this whole process. I have mastered the art of just GETTING ON WITH LIFE while the walls tumble and shake around me. I find a small unused space and just get on with ‘it.’  Bear in mind that at times there are at times 4 different workmen here all going for it in various corners of the house. Once settled into my little cocoon I am able to shut out the world, turn on my computer and just get on with my writing. I do have the odd day when I just feel crazy and cannot handle another buzz or clunk. I grab poor old Josh and go and pound the pavements. Thankfully there are not too many of those days.

The other art that I have mastered is the one where there is A LACK OF PRIVACY. I am gregarious by nature so I do enjoy having people around me. On one particular day last week I had found refuge from all the clanging and banging in my bedroom. It was cold as the central heating was also part of the upgrade and had not been hitched up yet. I tucked myself up under a throw with my long suffering canine companion. He is taking major strain with all this noise and sometimes just sits and whimpers. Softie that I am, I now have him sleeping at the foot of our bed and at times he lets out a yelp. Who knows what those dreams are about……a bear chase or possibly a pneumatic drill?   Anyway to get back to my solitary pursuit. I managed to bash away on my computer for a while. But it was too good to be true, my tranquillity was to be invaded. This was all in the name of the barn door installation and was to be placed between the master suite and the bathroom. I was excited by this as I could see some of my ideas being implemented. So much energy had been put into more of the manly interests like a workshop, heating and lighting. I did see the reasoning behind all these upgrades and I was not wildly enthused by it all. So the installation of the said door continued. Before too long the other members of the team arrived and I had 3 young men in my bedroom. They admired the new addition and chatted about the building plans for the coming weeks. Suddenly my eyes noticed my black feather boa that I had tossed across the mirror when I had unpacked yet another box that morning. I am not sure why but I felt a hint of embarrassment. I had used it for a fancy dress occasion a few months before. I then wondered what else might be lying around in my bathroom…. My laundry basket was overflowing as the washing machine had been disconnected to attach a few more pipes. What secrets were about to be revealed? They were all young enough to be my sons so I shrugged this one off quickly.

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My girlie laundry in the process of transition searching madly for her inner beauty!

I got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet…..

The most important art that I feel I am well on my way to mastering is the one of PATIENCE. I think the builders might differ on this one. There are days when they can sock it to me with all the sorry tales of delays and I am gracious and understanding. Then there are other days when the ‘ crazy’ just rears its head and I just can’t handle another mishap. Then the inner child escapes and I go off at a tangent. But all too soon we reach a compromise and things are brought on track again. Thanks go to Adrian, Nico and Angela. I think I will have to invent some award for this category as I feel I have earned my stripes!

I am practicing my happy dance………the end of this renovation is in sight.

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough....

Nothing like a cup of coffee and a croissant when the going gets tough….

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