Sunday, May 31, 2015

Hey, Hey, Hydrangias

One of the must-see attractions for anyone visiting or living in Edmonton, Alberta, is the Muttart Conservatory.  Four glass pyramids in the river valley house amazing displays of plants from around the world.

Photo and following text is copied from the Muttart Conservatory website

The Muttart Conservatory is unique at first sight. This innovative botanical garden sets the pace for plant science in western Canada and defines Edmonton’s skyline with striking glass pyramids rising from river valley.
Inside the pyramids, three biomes are in the Conservatory’s year-round displays. A fourth pyramid houses creative feature displays, changing up to eight times a year. As an accredited museum, the Muttart Conservatory preserves and grows one of Canada’s largest botanical collections, and shares knowledge and enthusiasm with visitors.
About a month ago my friend Mickey and I visited the Muttart again.  The fourth pyramid was featuring a Love in Paris theme and was filled with hundreds of hydrangeas of every color.  Lloyd and I planted our first hydrangea in our back yard last summer and we loved it.  I'd like to get another one this year.
Here are some of the beauties we saw at the Muttart:

I just had my iPhone with me so the pictures aren't as good as if I had my Canon camera, but you can get a sense of the beauty of the flowers and displays.
Of course we had to visit the other pyramids specializing in tropical, arid, and temperate flora.  I will let you guess which one each pictures belong to. (I just say that because I can't remember!)
This is Mickey.  She remembered to bring her
serious camera.

A very strange tree in the tropical biome.

I wish I knew what this beauty is

There's koi in the pond in this one.

In the main foyer there's a beautiful glass hanging reminiscent of
Dale Chihuly's work.  I should have made note of the artist's name.

A close-up shows that it's an underwater scene
with sea life 'floating' around the center figure.
Very beautiful.
 So, the next time you're in Edmonton, be sure to spend an afternoon at the Muttart Conservatory. No matter what season, it's always full of beautiful plants and flowers and well worth the time spent.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Mum

Today, May 28, is my mother's 94th birthday.  I've just come home from Winnipeg where I visited her, along with my sister and her family.

Mum, several birthdays ago

Ninety-four years is a long time to live, but not so unusual in Mum's family where they routinely live to well in their 90s.  Both of Mum's parents lived to be almost 95 with their minds and personalities intact.  Something seemed to go wrong with Mum's generation though.  Mum and four of her siblings have been striken with Alzheimer's Disease, the other four having predeceased her at an earlier age.

It seems like a cruel fate to live to a great old age without any memories of what has gone before and with no knowledge of loved ones, friends and home.  It has been about six years since Mum has recognized my sister and me and our families.  It makes us sad.  We care for her and visit her and talk to her though because we still remember her and the special person she used to be.  Occasionally she makes eye contact and seems to smile at something we say.  Those occasions are treasured.

A visit with three of my daughters, three years ago

Wendy and I wheeled her out to the courtyard garden of the nursing home where she lives...she always loved to be outside where she could hear the birds (she used to talk back to them in her younger days) and see the beautiful works of nature.  On this occasion we sat on a bench in the shade with her facing us in her wheelchair.  She would glance up at us occasionally and finally I took her hand and said, "Mum, you recognize me don't you?  I'm Pat the Brat".  She looked up at me and smiled.  I like to think that for a brief instant she did recognize me.  It made my day. Its a hard thing to have been forgotten by someone as important to you as your mother.  It is up to us now to keep her memories alive.

Mum and Pat the Brat

Mum was born at home in a little country village in Nova Scotia, the fifth of fourteen children - seven boys and seven girls.  As the second daughter in the family she was given responsibilities as she grew up and helped her mother with the new babies and keeping the house clean.  She used to tell us that she and her siblings didn't know there was a depression on during those hard years.  She and her sibling used to hunt and fish and set traplines during the winter.  Gardening was essential as was picking berries for canning...something she taught us to do as we grew up.  Hers was a happy family.
She still enjoyed fishing

Mum (on the right holding the cat) with her mother
and five of her younger siblings
During the Second World War she worked at the offices of the Ministry of War Transport in Halifax, doing her part in the war effort.

The working girl

When the war was over she met my Dad, who had served overseas in the Canadian Army with several of Mum's brothers, cousins and an uncle.  They were married in 1946, and it wasn't long before Wendy and I were born, less than a year apart.  The family was made complete by the adoption of our beloved brother, Ken, in 1951.

August 10, 1046

Being in the Army, and later with the Post Office, Dad was transferred around every two or three years.  This was exciting stuff for Mum having been born and raised in one little village, but I never heard her complain and she always made a comfortable home for her family. It instilled a love of travelling in her and she was able to later travel to England, Scotland and the Netherlands, as well as the US.  The most memorable of Dad's postings was when his regiment was sent to Germany in 1960 and wives and children went along with them.

We travelled to and from Germany by sea

Mum and Dad retired home in Nova Scotia where once again they were surrounded by their siblings and their families.  Mum developed several hobbies during those years...sewing, quilting, liquid embroidering, and crafts of just about every kind, and her lucky children and grandchildren were the recipients of many of her projects.

Mum playing with my two oldest babies and Lad, the dog. She made
a tent out of blankets for them to play in.

Her life was not without sadness, but her optimistic nature always helped her rise above it and move on.  In 1991 my brother Ken was killed in a mining accident.  He was 39 years old.  Then two years later Dad suffered a massive heart attack and passed away.  She lived alone in their home until she was no longer able to be on her own due to the onset of Alzheimer's.  She has lived under Wendy's care in Winnipeg since 2006.

Mum was a happy person, loved by all, energetic and fun loving.  And she always had a cat!  Dad claimed not to like cats but he saw to it that she was never without one.  They were a great pair - a wonderful example to their children of how good a marriage can be.

So, Happy Birthday Mum.  I hope on some level you understand how much love your life has been filled with and how important you have been to so many people.  Until we meet again.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Cat At Last

This is Mickey.

Isn't she lovely.

We first met her seven years ago when Sara brought home a kitten for her children, who I was looking after while she worked.

For some reason the kids, the oldest barely five, decided to name her Mickey, just like Grammie's best friend.

She took a close interest in the activities of the young children in her family.

At a young age she suffered the indignities of the "Cone of shame" as she recovered from her spay surgery.

Over the years as she grew up and her personality developed, Mickey became a neighbourhood legend.  It started with her catching moths and butterflies in the back yard, and rapidly progressed to mice, birds, baby rabbits and even a sizable bat.  She would bring these treasures to Sara and expect her to be grateful for the gifts.  I watched her one afternoon as she patiently tried to teach their other cat, Percy, to hunt, having provided a live mouse for him to practice on.  She was amazingly patient and clever but unfortunately Percy just didn't have the hunter instinct and Mickey finally gave up on him.

She showed Percy that the mouse was hiding in the wheel well
of the plastic truck

but when Percy still couldn't get the job done, Mickey
did it herself

Even non cat lovers like Lloyd finally admitted that Mickey was special, and developed a lot of respect for this independent amazing cat, who had the run of the neighbourhood and would stay out overnight in the dead of winter only to show up a couple of days later, wondering why her people were so worried.

Cold!  Pffft!  It's only -30.

Circumstances changed, as they have a way of doing, and Mickey was left alone so much that Lloyd took pity on her and asked Sara if we could adopt her and bring her to Lethbridge with us.  Once permission was granted we wasted no time bringing her home.  She was an excellent traveller, only meowing a few times as she lay in the cat carrier on the back seat of the car through the five hour drive to her new home.

Not knowing how she would react to her new home, we decided to not let her out for a few days so she would get used to the house and being here with us.  On her third day with us we let her out in the backyard.  She spent fifteen minutes or so exploring and then came back inside.  Feeling confident she was used to the new house, on the fourth day we let her out again and she promptly disappeared.  We searched for her, talked to the neighbours about her, put lost cat notices in mailboxes, on the internet and in the local paper, but to no avail.  Finally, on the fourth rainy night that she had been missing, at 3:30 in the morning, Lloyd heard her meowing outside the window.  We couldn't believe she actually found her way home, cold and wet but none the worse for wear.

Lloyd and Mickey - who's the boss?

After a couple of days, we let her out again and have been doing so ever since and she seems content to stay close to home.  I'm waiting patiently for my first 'gift' from her.

She's a good cat.  I'm glad she's living with us now.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Golfer's Dream

My husband loves to golf.  That is one of the reasons we spend as much of the winter as possible in Arizona.  Round about 1995 my sister's husband introduced him to the game.  Twenty years later he's still swinging away, having got  many of his friends and family involved as well.

Randy and Lloyd

He loves the game - the feel of a good swing, the crack of the club head hitting the ball, the chance to be out in the sun (and sometimes cold and rain) for four or five hours at a time, and the challenge of getting the little white ball into the little hole so far away from the tee.

Lloyd trying to avoid the water and sand hazards

And he's pretty good at it.  He learned quickly and gradually improved his game, peaking at very respectable scores, shooting scores that included pars, birdies and even an eagle or two.  Gradually, as age crept up along with its companion, diminished health,  Lloyd's sons and friends began closing the gap between their scores, even beating him occasionally.  But he loves the game so much he is always pleased  to rejoice in the successes of his golfing buddies.

Some family golfers in Arizona this winter

He has organized two annual tournaments, The Coquihalla Challenge, usually held in Alberta or British Columbia, and The Desert Classic, which the guys hold in Arizona every winter, complete with a trophy for each tournament which has the names and years of each winning pair engraved on them.

He was especially excited last fall when our oldest son, Rob, got that pinnacle of golfing glory, a hole-in-one!  An occurance so rare outside of professional golfing that many long-time golfers haven't even been in the presence of a hole-in-one being sunk.  We were so proud that at last someone in the family achieved this goal.

Rob, teeing off

And then it happened.  Lloyd was out golfing in Arizona in February this year with Randy, the brother-in-law who introduced him to the game, and a couple of other golfers when, with one mighty swing of his club from the tee box, the ball flew, dropped, bounced and ended up in the hole.  The mighty Hole-In-One!  His excitement knew no bounds!!!  He could stop now and be happy.  His goal has been accomplished.  But he won't, of course.

Lloyd, with his hole-in-one ball, watched by
his mentor, Randy.

What a great golfing winter it was for a great golfer.  Ya did good Lloyd!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What a Year So Far.

My blogging has been sporadic, to say the least.  It's been such a busy year so far.  We spent three months in Arizona, with company coming and going steadily.  I didn't have a lot of time to document everything we did. Lots of fun though.

We got home to Lethbridge on April 16, and on April 17 we were on our way to Edmonton because our middle daughter, Sara, was having a baby six weeks early because of her hypertension.  I was to help out at home with her four children while she and Mike spent the next two weeks at the hospital night and day with little Bruce Wayne Lush.  For obvious reasons, we call him BatBaby.  (Bruce Wayne...Batman...)

Anyway,  Bruce was delivered by C-Section and weighed 5 lb, 6 oz...just a little guy.  The first time we saw him he was all hooked up to tubes, respirator, iv, etc. and looked like a little alien baby.  The nice thing is that as soon as he was born Sara's high blood pressure went back to normal and her gestational diabetes disappeared!

Sara finally meets Baby Bruce
Our first view of our 22nd grandchild.

The dedicated Dad.  Mike spent many hours over the
next couple weeks sitting and sleeping in that chair.

It was so nice to be able to sit there and hold him, but we
were all impatient to have the little guy home.

After two weeks they were finally allowed to bring Bruce home and work him into their daily routine. I stayed for an additional week and came home again when Sara felt ready to cope on her own.

A very exciting arrival of the newest addition to our family.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

South Mountain Park

Thanks to a good friend, Lloyd and I have discovered a new fun place to visit in the Valley of the Sun here in Arizona.  I'm amazed we didn't know about it sooner.  The Phoenix area is surrounded by old mountains...totally different from the ones we're most familiar with in Alberta, but beautiful regardless.  South Mountain Park provides a view of the entire valley, after a twisty turny road to the top.  It is so amazing that we went back twice in the past month...once with our daughter and grandsons, and again yesterday with my friend, Mickey.

The Ranger Station

Lloyd, Micah, Jenny and Nathan on the foot trail

The road up the mountain is twisty, turny, steep and narrow making driving a bit of a challenge, but we finally made it to the summit.  There's a nice little park up there and a wonderfully cool stone structure called Dobbins Lookout.  Apparently it is a favorite point for taking pictures.

Phoenix, in the distance, down the mountain and far away, as seen from
an opening in Dobbins Lookout.

Mickey, with Phoenix over her right shoulder.

Looks like I'm standing on top of the world.

Micah making his way down to the shelter at Dobbins Lookout.  The
valley was spread out as far as you could see from up there.

Jenny, Me, Micah and Nate in the lookout.

At the foot of the mountain there's an old deserted trading post called Scorpion Gulch...a very interesting spot to explore.

Jenny, Micah and Nate at Scorpion Gulch.  Micah was disappointed
he didn't see any scorpions on his first trip to Arizona

An ancient cactus towers over the buildings, and the boys.

A better view of the trading post and adjacent building.

It looks like it might have served as an inn at one time.


We watched as a trail ride set out from the neighbouring ranch.  I
heard a mother saying as they set out, "Dianne you have to relax."
I don't blame the poor girl for being a bit tense.  Hope they had fun.
If you ever come to Arizona, this is a must-see.  Picture don't do it justice.