Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Father's Daughter

February Writing Retreat - A few of my favourite things
In February I joined four other women from our writing group for a weekend writing retreat at the Backeddy Resort in Egmont, BC.  Even though I was feeling very under the weather, I loved every moment of that weekend.  Here is the story that I wrote on Sunday morning just before we left. ~ Kathy


Life feels simple here.  Away from the responsibilities of home and career, it's all about me.  I wake without an alarm or an agenda.  I sit on this bed with pillows at my back, looking out the window at the marina and ocean.  I hear the gulls, the geese and a lone crow, while across the channel, the morning mist has come down to the waters edge.  Today we pack to go home.  Well, I'm already packed.

I am my father's daughter in many ways but not in stature.  Where he is tall and solid, I am short, chubby and strong like those on my mother's side of the family.  But oh my word, while you may not immediately peg us as father and daughter by our looks, when it comes to travel I am just like my dad.

We had to take a ferry to get here this weekend and even though I had a reservation, I found myself at the ferry terminal 90 minutes before the ferry was scheduled to sail; just like my dad.  "We don't want to miss the ferry", was the echo of his voice in my head.  And I was quite content to just sit there and wait with my music, book, tea and travel snack all within a comfortable arms reach.  I don't remember my dad traveling with music, book, tea and travel snack at the ready so I'll just name that as my contribution to the family's evolution.

I also come equipped with the "we need to get there" program running quite efficiently in my DNA. This drives me to get to my destination without stop or deviation from plan.  You want to stop and check out that cute little shop by the side of the road?  Yeah, you should really travel with my friends in the car behind me.  You want to see the trees pass by in a blur?  I'm your girl. 

This trip was going to be different though. I made the choice to stop to pick up some fruit, yogurt and milk after we got off the ferry.  Yup, I like to live on the wild side.

My traveling companions all stuffed into the car behind me decided that they would stop too.  I came out of the store with items in hand to a message saying that this wasn't the shop that they had in mind, that it was the next one up the highway.  Oh well, I had what I needed and with the "we need to get there" program kicking into high gear, up the highway I went.  As I came to the community where they had stopped, and I blame my mother's lineage for this, I had the thought that perhaps I should just swing off and see if their car was still in the parking lot. 

They were just getting out of the car.

Somehow I had managed to get off the ferry, get into the store that they saw me turn off the highway for, purchase my items, respond to their message and get back on the highway and into the next community at roughly the same time.  All without fracturing the speed laws too seriously in the process, I swear!  "Ferry traffic", I muttered to myself as I looked for a place to park.  "They must have got caught up in the ferry traffic."  Umm, nice try Kath.

In a shocking display of supportive behaviour, I actually got out of the car and joined them in their shopping expedition.  Well support and the fact that this was an opportunity to pick up the peanut butter that, in my rush to get back on the road, I forgot to pick up from the previous store.  I was going all out in the relaxed travel companion department this trip!  Until we returned to the cars; then it was "game on" as I made a beeline out of the parking lot and up the highway.

It was a lovely drive up; it really was.  The roads were dry and I love the way that the car handles on the twisty sections of the highway.  The drive itself was half the fun of the trip.

First light ~ The Backeddy Resort, Egmont BC

I share the joy of the outdoors and the ocean with my father and I have thought of him at various times throughout this weekend as I simply enjoyed being here. It rained a drenching, west coast rain most of the day yesterday and I didn't venture out with my camera, which is also a father-daughter shared love.  Yesterday though, I was mostly just me and I was enjoying the rustic beauty of this marine community on my own terms.  I was roughing it this weekend.  Me and the Keurig.

I confess.  I am a tea snob.  A high quality, china cup, loose-leaf, roiboos-loving tea snob.  But this weekend I was getting back to nature.  Getting back in touch with my roots.  Living on the edge.  Making tea in a Keurig machine. 

Go me!

This morning, well, this morning was a different matter.  I was back into the paternal travel DNA mode.  Up before the birds, my mind was already turning to the journey home but I became aware of something new emerging.  A choice; a yes/and moment.  Yes, I can take the time that I need to get my belongings organized and ready to go so that I'm not feeling rushed at the last minute AND I can relax and enjoy the remainder of my morning here. 

I don't have to rush out and pack the car in the dark before anyone else is even awake?  This might take some getting used to.

Instead I met a new little friend named Olive while taking pictures as it was beginning to get light out.  I chatted with Olive's human companion who had just come from the kitchen with a mug of steaming hot coffee as she prepared for her day of tree planting.  I compared weather notes with someone walking up from the dock.  I had a few hours to write and record my thoughts as they danced through my mind.  I was able to just stare out the window at the vista before me and daydream of a life where I could be here any time I wanted to be.  And I will share in the laughter and conversation between very dear friends over a leisurely breakfast before we set out on our drive home.

Know that you have taught your daughter well, Dad.  She will be heading down that highway to the ferry soon and while the trees will likely still pass by in a blur, she will do so with the awareness that the trees are there and that they witness her passing by in their majestic beauty and stillness.  She is still your daughter but she is adding her stamp to this life.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The iPhone App

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself and last week I had a moment when all I could do was giggle and shake my head at the way my mind works.

What you may not know about me is that I was an athlete in my younger days.  As a child, I loved the feeling of flying though the air with every good intention of landing on one skate with my arms gracefully stretched out, just like my figure skating heroines.  The fact that I, more often than not, perfected my imitation of a Zamboni as I slid across the ice after a spectacular wipe out, did nothing to diminish the pure joy of flying around the ice and practicing my jumps.

Somewhere along the way as the years passed and responsibilities increased, I lost touch with that athlete and over time slipped into a sedentary life style.  That said, every once in a while, “Kathy the Athlete” pops back into my world with stunning randomness and unpredictability, and guess who just happened to show up two weeks ago?

My church supports a local environmental stewardship organization which is holding their annual fundraising run at the end of September.  Two weeks ago our priest announced that our parish should submit a team and generate some support for this event.  With that proclamation, “The Holy Terrors” was conceived and how could a girl resist being on a team with a name like that?  If I’m being completely honest, also in the back of my mind is the fact that I named running 5km as one of my goals for 2013 and I’ve made it all the way to September (quite nicely, thank you very much!) by completely ignoring that goal made way back in January.  The Holy Terrors became my chance to get started.

One of the challenges that I face when “Kathy the Athlete” pops back into my world is that my brain still thinks of me as “Kathy the Athlete”.  The point of contention with this is that my brain and my body function on two completely different planes of reality.  I haven’t run in years.  I haven’t done much of anything in years.  No problem, right?

Week one goes by and nothing happens beyond a fleeting thought that I really need to start training.  Week two starts off with a lovely 6km stroll along the Chilliwack River; absolute misery!  My body immediately remembers why I don’t usually get beyond the first attempt or two at re-introducing physical activity into my life and I find myself looking around every bend on the trail wondering, “Are we there yet?”  This is going to be an absolute disaster.

Last summer I heard about the interval training program, “Couch to 5k”.  After a day or two of “Research C25K” lingering on my To Do list, I sourced out the program online.  “Ooooh and what is this?  A convenient app for my iPhone that will tell me when to jog and when to walk?  Hello!”

Ladies and gentlemen, an iPhone app monster has been born.

What health practitioners and my own personal knowledge about the fundamentals of a balanced, healthy life style couldn’t do, a simple little $1.99 iPhone app has.  You see, my mind absolutely cannot wait to have this application tell it how long and how far my body has travelled.  The joy of seeing my total mileage at the end of the session is more powerful than the discomfort of hauling this “sleek” little frame of mine around the neighbourhood.

Week three has started with me wrangling two different friends into a walk and a hike.  Oh and did I mention that I just happened to log our excursion and at it’s conclusion, babbled on at length about the number of miles we just walked, how long it took us and what our time per mile was?  All was well in my small, little world until one of my very dear friends asked, “How far did we just walk in kilometers?”

Never mind, Kathy.  I’m sure that there is an iPhone app for that.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Simply Packing

When I think of a retreat, I think of simplicity, peace and beauty.  My special weekend retreat had all of the perfect ingredients: a stunningly beautiful rural ocean-side location, a cozy and charming little room with a view of the marina as well as the peacefulness and simplicity of mindfully choosing exactly what I felt like doing - all weekend.  It was heaven.

Of course first I had to get there.

The pre-journey began with the building of excitement from participants posting on the retreat Facebook page. People were posting the number of sleeps until the weekend, new friendships were beginning to form from online introductions and banter back and forth between participants, retreat updates and schedule information were being shared and then it happened like a sudden clap of thunder.  Someone mentioned packing.

Now I must admit that I am a woman who likes to have options and have never been known for my light duty packing skills. In many ways, my packing skills follow the same lines as my photography skills; I have absolutely no problem taking sixty million pictures of the same little duck swimming in the same little lake because, hey, you can never have too many pictures of the same little duck swimming in the same little lake, right? I can still hear the voice of my dear ex-husband providing running commentary as he looked through the package of picture prints in the days before digital photography.  "Here is a duck on the lake”, he said.  “And here is another picture of the little duck on the little lake.  Oh and here is a picture of the same little duck on the same little lake, but from a different angle."  I did mention that he is my ex-husband, right?  But we were talking about packing.

About a week before the retreat I started making lists; on post it notes.  Why make a list on a single sheet of paper when you can have post it notes plastered all over the place? With each post-it my excitement began to build.  Then the packing question: did anyone else felt like they were over packing for a two day weekend retreat?  That simple little question stopped me in my tracks.  Over packing?  Is there such a thing?

Now remember that I said that when I think of a retreat, one of the things that I think about is simplicity. I must admit that I did give a fleeting thought to keeping my packing simple but soon realized that in Kathy terms that meant that I would bring the medium sized roller suitcase instead of the jumbo-tron version.  As I said online, happiness is packing the kitchen sink.

So having the perfect suitcase in mind, one night I set off into the furnace room to retrieve said suitcase.  That was when I realized that I have a problem.  My name is Kathy and I am a bagaholic.  I discovered bags stored within bags and then there were more bags stored within more bags.  Some people like shopping for shoes; apparently I collect bags just like I take pictures. I’m always in search of the perfect one.

When I finally unearthed the suitcase and made my way to the furnace room door, I had the presence of mind to quickly grab a bag; after all, I've lived with me for a long time now and know exactly who I’m dealing with.

Clothes washed and packed away in the suitcase, I was proud of the fact that the only "extras" that I was bringing was a sweater and a second pair of yoga pants.  I was doing well.  That was until I realized that I still needed to pack my accoutrements.  No problem, I just happen to have the perfect bag for those.

In went the hairdryer, curling iron, makeup bag, hair products, facial products, meditation quartz crystals, Kleenex and the kitchen sink.  I couldn't close the bag.  That is when I got ruthless and pulled the "can't live without" eye liner, mascara and lip gloss and about fifty other items out of the makeup bag and ditched that bag. Yup, I was making real "progress" here.  Never mind, Kathy, the big bag is going in the car and doesn't really need to close anyway.

What about all of the electronic gadgets that we were supposed to leave at home as we embraced mindful simplicity and went "offline" for the weekend?  I might want to write a blog post or read a book, and the craft project that just had to come along because I might suddenly develop a creative side to my being.  And oh the iPad has the backlight which I don't like for long bouts of reading so I should really take my e-reader.  And the big camera and ... and ... the list just goes on and on.

But wait, didn't the retreat information notes say that we needed a yoga mat, pillow and blanket for the yoga and meditation circles? Oh and snacks, someone mentioned snacks.  Snacks, electronics and other assorted items packed; I was finally ready to go.

The first thing that you must do when stuffing, I mean packing your car with all of your cherished and hand-selected retreat items is approach the car with caution.  You don’t want it to know that not only is it going to have to transport you to your destination hours away, it is going to have to transport all of your stuff hours away too.  I think that there is an art to packing a vehicle and fortunately I had learned well from watching my kindred spirit neighbours pack their compact car for their annual summer vacations.  The husband would roll is eyes as we neighbours would pull up our lawn chairs with assorted bevies to watch this revered annual event.  Watching how the ironing board was going to make it into their car was my own personal highlight each and every year. 
Note to self: pack the car in the middle of the night; you know what the neighbours are like.  Second note to self: leave the ironing board at home; you don’t like to iron anyway.

I’m happy to say that the little black car, packed bumper to bumper, made it to the retreat resort.  Upon arriving, a kind member of the crew asked me if I needed help unloading my car.  "Oh no thanks", I said. "I packed simply.”