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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

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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I close my eyes and I can see a world that’s waiting up for me that I call my own ……

The rain was endless and it filled our stream alongside the house. The deep vibration of the water pounded on the river rocks. I peered down into my garden and reflected on the hours of contentment my summer garden had provided. I reminded myself that I had to be patient as there was still a winter to endure. It was time to enjoy the Christmas lights that twinkled up from the garden. The tiny soft white bulbs softened the harshness of the bare plants and provided a contrast to the bright green cedar trees.  It is a source of such comfort to look down on that bit of sparkle when you are held up indoors for days on end. But this morning was different…..the rain had eventually stopped. It was time to get outside.

Our first snow…..

A vision of the one I see…..

The first stop was a morning latte and croissant at my favourite haunt. It is a cosy bakery and it is filled with Christmas ambiance.  This obviously has an effect on the patrons as a young boy leaned across at his dad and sang into his ear. “You better watch out, you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town.” The conversation then ensued between dad and son was what Santa might be delivering down the chimney that year. The debatable question was how ‘naughty or nice’ he had been throughout the year. This private exchange that I had eavesdropped on really brought home some of the magic of Christmas.

A touch of Christmas….

We can live in a world that we design……

It is the time when the ‘little girl’ in me is ever present. Memories of childhood African Christmases abound. Although so different in many ways, the spirit was the same. It was a time to rejoice in our family and friends. So many of those traditions have continued. Instead of bright African sun warming us as we gathered around our braai outside, we huddle around a crackling fire with the snow covered mountain tops in the distance. We still eat the turkey but instead of salads we have roasted sweet potato. This year the turkey will be cooked outside, very slowly on our barbeque. Some things don’t change! For my own sanity I try to spice things up in the culinary department. Only to be told by the family that they want the ‘tried and tested’ recipes. Not sure what that is supposed to tell me. It does not dampen the spirit…… I rush around and collect greenery from my garden and a nearby forest. Decorations are brought up from the storeroom and deliberated over for the right effect. The Christmas tree is up and the twins have added the finishing touches. It is time to reflect on the season.

The twins add their final touch to the tree.

But it feels like home…..

This year I have tried to be mindful and to keep things natural and simple. I am so grateful for the wealth of nature that surrounds me ……even though it is sodden with rain!  I find such joy in preparing my home for my family and friends. This lead up to Christmas and the anticipation of the whole family sleeping under our roof, keeps me inspired.

May your Christmas be filled with special moments with the people that you love.

 

 

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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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In the mirror of your eyes…….

My rugged African pot stood sheepishly at the foot of my driveway all decked out with its hessian bow. It had to endure the humiliation along with the many other corners of my house. There is much to celebrate….the Winter Solstice heralds the fact that our days will slowly become longer and our nights shorter. Then we have my favourite time of the year. Need I say, it is Christmas.  The wonder and joy of the season here in the northern hemisphere is magical.

A delicate twist to my African roots!

I can see it all so clearly…..

The steep pathway down to the house is lit up with fairy lights. They have a double function; both to illuminate the slippery staircase and to add a flickering twinkle to the arduous task of getting up and down to the house. Although when your arms are piled high with copious bags of groceries and replenishment stocks to the bar fridge, the lights are the last thing on your mind. But it is so worth the effort!

Like an image passing by……

The twins made a quick pre-Christmas visit to drop Leo off for a few weeks while their parents had a well-deserved family holiday. Leo is the much loved golden retriever. While the dogs got reacquainted, the twins helped decorate the Christmas tree.  There is much to be said for having your family traditions and I sat back and lapped up the scene. Deliberation reigned as the two placed the carefully chosen ornaments on the branches. There was much teetering on the chairs and discussion. Both of them are fiercely independent and I had to restrain myself from intervening in their creative activity. I watched and listened as the two repeated history.

Katy added her magical touch…

Christmas finally arrived and we all gathered together to celebrate. Stuffed turkey, glazed ham and red cabbage cooked in apple juice and topped with cranberries was on the menu. Dessert was a homemade salted caramel ice cream topped with meringues. These were made from scratch too. Thank goodness Christmas only comes once a year!

Christmas traditions with Jack …..tartan and pajamas.

Like reflections of your mind……

Besides all the preparation that goes along with Christmas, it is a time of remembrance and soul searching for me. I was continually reminded how my mom managed a house full at Christmas with such grace. There was always delicious food and all were welcome at our table. I missed them both and found myself reflecting back now that I am ‘the nanny’ and all the kids descend on our house at Christmas. There is much music, laughter and plenty of food.

So now we will go our separate ways…..

So another New Year is about to begin. We all need to go out and carry on with our lives. I will bathe in the love that I feel. This was brought home to me when my granddaughter said goodbye at the car. I was securing her seat belt and she tilted her little head forward and said: “Nanny I will dream about you.”

Best wishes for 2019 go to all of you and may you always have something to look forward to.

Christmas Cousins

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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 stood in the kitchen this morning and shouted at my new Echo Dot with a croaky morning voice. I needed to get the first sitting of breakfast going for my early morning skiers and my son who was returning back to work. Music and a bit of news in the morning really gets me going and this ‘little black apparatus’ was not about to oblige. I leaned and enunciated my words. This is often needed as my South African accent gets in the way of technology here in North America. I tried again and rolled out my best American accent that I could muster at 6am in the morning!

OK Google! Ok Google!

Why was this ….. machine not responding? Then I realised that I had my commands mixed up. Jeff Bezos of Amazon would not have been pleased with me as I was confusing my software system service providers.

Alexa, give me the latest news report?

“Here is the latest weather and news report for the Lonsdale area.”

Yes, it worked! I could now go into mommy mode whilst turning out a fine spread for my early risers.

Early morning skiers….

As with many of you, we have had all our children and grandchildren home over the holidays. Technology and getting mom and dad up to speed with the latest technology is all part of this visit. The furnace programme has been updated and reset, the fireplace switch is now remote and Alexa is installed in the kitchen. So I have the world at my finger tips and Big Brother is surely watching me! Ha! Ha! Who knows what he will learn?

Part of the technology update included hitting the Black Friday sales and renewing our ancient and faulty kitchen appliances. I decided to sell the old ones rather than let them end up in a landfill. They appeared on Craigslist for a bargain price and were all sold within days. What can I say? I have hidden talents! Was it the artistic photos of their gleaming stainless steel finish or the persuasive wording of the advert? Who knows? But at least they would whirr away in someone else’s kitchen for a while longer.

A sad farewell to our old fridge….

Along with the selling and buying of the appliances came the dilemma of getting them up and down our 3 flights of stairs to our house in the forest. The microwave, dishwasher and oven were all relatively light so that was easy. But when the new fridge arrived, the delivery guys took one look at the narrow and steep access and refused to help us. We had a problem that had to be solved. I had a house full and no fridge. But it was easier than I could have imagined.

We have a saying in South Africa: ‘n Boer maak ‘n plan. This translated means a farmer always makes a plan. In true form my son pulled his truck up next to the garage in front of the slope down to the house. They tied a sturdy rope onto the truck and around the new fridge. He pulled on his rugby boots for grip and they were all set. They slowly lowered the fridge down along the slope. I stood and watched and tried to contain my laughter and feelings of trepidation. What if this new fridge slipped and careered off into the river?

The rope is attached and away we go….

It did not……she stands proud in her new appointed place in my kitchen. The beers are cold and the steak is thawed and on the barbeque.  Soft sounds filtrate from the kitchen as Alexa serenades us with her latest playlist.

A very happy 2018!

But is was not all about technology, there was old fashioned fun too!

For the last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning. T.S. Eliot.

 

 

 

 

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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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All the walls would fall around me…..

 

One thing about living in a ‘cardboard,’ alias drywall, house is that sound travels! The drills drone, power tools whine and hammers bash. There is no relief in the never ending cacophony that resounds from the depths of our cabin in the woods. All in the name of RENOVATION. I thought that years of listening to the ‘white noise’ of my classes of children would have conditioned me to this rumble. But it is not the case! My nerves cry out but it falls on deaf ears…..

 

Our cabin in the forest....

Our cabin in the forest….

 La Ravine, as she has been aptly named, teeters on the edge of the Mission Creek ravine. She is perched elegantly on safe ground above the white water and is serenaded by the swirl of the waves that plummet down the rocks. This sound has become our indicator of the upcoming weather for the day. The density of the crash of water is indicative of whether we wear the light and pretty weather resistant raincoat or if it is time to pull out the big guns. The papa bear of raincoats is hardly glamourous but it does the trick! Donned in my sensible waterproof shoes, I am bound to add just a dash of colour with the swirl of an infinity scarf.   Oh my…this Vancouver, is wet, wet and more wet!

These never ending worries, pulling on my sleeves.

But back to the renovation……I think you all know that all our efforts are going into getting ourselves a place to call home again. I thought the first move was hard enough but little did I realise that I would have to do it all over again. What a sucker for punishment! The test has been the lack of order and stability in my life. Unpacked boxes still abound! But I do have the excitement of the unpredictable. The question being…..do I actually need this excitement in my life?

Today it is a bulldozer ,tomorrow who knows....

Today it is a bulldozer, tomorrow who knows….

 Is it furnace fitting or is this the day that the bulldozer will be taking out half the garden? I never know how it will pan out. These workmen beaver away with intent and I marvel at their progress. Thank goodness for the capable hands of Matt, Adrian and Nico. They are out there and certainly don’t shy away from the Vancouver drizzle! I wander around and record the transformation through photographs. These get fed to the family who want to be kept abreast with the progress.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it....chimney sweep's assistant today.

My portfolio has some interesting aspects to it….chimney sweep’s assistant today.

It’s gonna be okay!

So I am having excellent training at just living in the present. I don’t think further than tomorrow and I have got really adept at improvising. Whether it be for a make shift curtain or a quick bed for a guest.

Yes, the Morkel guest lodge is open for visitors as long as the patrons don’t mind a rather eclectic stay.

Our brave visitors.....Jon and Sarah.

Our brave visitors…..Jon and Sarah.

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We built our own house, own house
With our hands over our hearts.

Decisions are never easy to make especially when you are prone to deliberation. Buying a house is one of those big ones. It must be right up there on the scale of decision making challenges. It is not only the financial outlay that makes this a tough one, it affects the way  you choose to live and it reflects your personality. Strangely enough, it one decision that we make easily within the budgetary constraints. I either like a house or not. Distance dictated that the Vancouver house was going to be an exercise in online shopping as I was still located in Toronto.

My better half had diligently found over 300 ‘suitable’ houses in the North Vancouver area. He visited many of them and even put in an offer on one. But we lost it due to an over zealous bidder. We were so disappointed! Then one day while I was searching on line, I happened to stumble across a house nestled in its very own mini forest.  The added feature was that it had its very own creek too. I just knew that this was the one!

Our forest along with a treehouse...

Our forest along with a tree house…

The Vancouver market is crazy and houses sell in a matter of days with multiple offers. Therefore a decision had to be made promptly. I poured over photographs and zoomed over the roof of the house courtesy of drone produced aerial footage. This magical little instrument revealed the beauty of the trees that give this property its charm and privacy. Any urban sounds are drowned out by the fast flowing Mission Creek. The decision was made…….it was the easiest online purchase I had ever made.

But in case you think this tale has the makings of a bedtime story, there are challenges to be had. The big one is access to the property. The house is positioned well below the level of the road and the only access is a rather steep and lengthy staircase.

Once the euphoric online acquisition had been made, the inevitable buyer’s remorse set in. How were we going to manoeuvre all our worldly goods down that steep staircase and into the house? I could see myself somersaulting down the staircase with a large sofa hurtling behind me!
Sleepless nights were the order of my day and afterwards I gave a couple of lofty solutions to our problem ….one being to construct a wooden bridge from the garage across to the house. I had idyllic visions of me trotting across with my shopping packets swaying next to my sides. My tree walk would both be a practical solution as well as food for my soul. This did not go down well….

So the engineers and creative brains in our household are working on it. I am keeping my somewhat lofty solutions to myself. There are many ideas being banded about and much discussion has ensued. I trust that they are bound to come up with a  practical plan.

I think I will turn my attention to dreaming about how I am going to make this feel like our home

Wake up to the sun
Clouds always come undone
You give the light I need
Like water to a seed

The twins check on our shower.....

The twins check on our shower…..

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Like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion…..
My hand works skilfully up and down the clear window pane. A stray hair blows across my face and I stop and gaze out towards the river. It lies dormant with its thick ice cap and dainty snow crystals that cling to the surrounding trees. As with all tasks that are repetitive, it helps to keep in the rhythm. Up and down the soft cloth soothes…..it will be the last time. I reach down low to the small finger prints of the twins. I falter and then continue with my stroke. One swish and the sticky marks have been erased. It has begun. I have begun the process of cleaning, sorting, throwing out and the packing of boxes.
My power is turned on……

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week.....

A rekkie in Vancouver this last week…..

The Groot Trek Mark 2 will be a mere 3500 km from Toronto to Vancouver. We rush around and get our house ready for the inevitable Show Day. We replace light bulbs, make lists and run backwards and forwards to donate accumulated ‘things’ to the thrift store. Personal items like our cherished family photographs are all safely packed away. The house needs to appear to prospective buyers like a blank canvas. What a hard task that is! It is as if Maison de Morkel never existed. In our hearts it still does and I remind myself that it is healthy to visit all this sentimentally. The downsizing has begun…..
This is my fight song…….
“I can do this.” I tell myself as I round the corner on my way back from the lake. It is strange……the other day I was priding myself on my exceptional navigational skills. I know all the short cuts and seldom get lost. The monotone voice of my SATNAV used to be my constant companion but her job is in definite jeopardy. I finally have a sense of belonging here in Oakville. It has taken almost 5 years for that wonderful state of ‘I belong here’ to kick in. But as life has it, one must never get too comfortable or feel just a tad complacent. Immigration has certainly taught me to accept change and CHANGE I must….. It does not help to fight this new state but rather to channel my energy into preparing for our new life in Vancouver.
Starting right now I will be strong….
We leave behind our 2 sons and our dear friends. My heart feels heavy at the mere thought of it. One gets used to keeping your family close when you do this ‘country hop.’ It is going to seem strange not to have them popping in for a chat, dad’s steak or mom’s pasta. We are so grateful to the friends and neighbours who have been there for us. They have shared all our trials and tribulations. It is a bitter sweet move as the rest of our family awaits our arrival on the other side. I see 2 little faces running up our driveway.
No doubt Jack and Kate will make new finger prints on our Vancouver abode.

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Christmas with the family in Toronto 2015.

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