Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Mother-In-Law

Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 95th birthday. Sadly, she passed away a few days before her 89th birthday. Today when I opened my Facebook site, there were five or six status threads about this feisty, much loved woman, some posted by her children and others by some of her grandchildren. Each status thread had many comments, anecdotes, and memories of her over the years. It was great to read them and participate on the threads, honouring her in such an unplanned, spontaneous way.

Thelma Mae Bruce was born on January 27, 1915 in Taxis River, New Brunswick.

She was the eldest of 10 children and because of her mother’s failing health, she was instrumental in raising her siblings, quitting school at an early age to do so. She married Ralph MacKenzie just before World War 2 and raised their son, Bert, alone for the 5 years Ralph served in the Canadian army overseas. After the war they added three more children to the family, Cheryl, Joyce and my Lloyd.

Joyce, Bert, Lloyd, Cheryl, Thelma

I’m not going to go into the details of her long life here – I’d probably get some of the details wrong anyway. I just want to show some photos that indicate who she was and why she was loved so much.

4 generations - Grandson Rob, Son Lloyd, Father Berton, Thelma

She was a country girl with simple tastes and expectations. Her greatest joy was found in her children and grandchildren. She loved to feed people – she and Ralph owned and operated a very successful restaurant for a number of years and she was famous for her meat and potatoes meals and pies. She seldom sat down with the family to eat. To this day among family members the term “doing a Thelma” refers to any woman who hovers around the dinner table, making sure everyone has lots to eat and dishing out seconds whether they’re wanted or not, usually eating standing up behind the seated group so she could keep an eye of everything.

Cheryl, me, Ralph, Joyce and Thelma

Her family was her life. She raised and nurtured her siblings, children and grandchildren.

Sharing her birthday with grandchildren Jake and Rachel in 1983

Ralph and Thelma with our first 4 kids
Rob, Jenny, Amy and Sara

Family Reunion in 1978
Lloyd and me, Alan and Cheryl, Ralph and Thelma, Joyce and Larry

This embarassing picture shows Thelma beating me in the annual
family reunion foot race. She had more energy than anyone else I knew.

Thelma with her four children,

She and Ralph enjoyed a peaceful life after their children had grown and left home, until he died of a stroke in 1981. She continued to live on her own but moved closer to her daughter Joyce and spent her remaining years being a super grandmother to Joyce's three kids.

Thelma and Ralph.

She had to endure the worst pain a parent can experience when her oldest son Bert died of cancer in 1999. She never quite recovered from that pain. Her health began to deteriorate quickly after that, her diabetes worsened, her eyesight and hearing dimmed, until she passed peacefully surrounded by family. She'll never been forgotten.

This picture was taken just a few months before she passed away.

As mothers-in-law go, she was the best. I’m pretty sure she liked me, as long as I kept her baby boy happy. She never interfered or tried to offer advice. I don’t think she ever called me a “horse’s ass” which was her term of choice for anyone who she felt was doing anything stupid. She just loved us all, and smiled and fed us instead of telling us so. I am eternally indebtedly to her for the wonderful grandmother she was to our kids and to providing me with the love of my life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back At It

Finally this weekend I've been able to get back to scrapbooking. Since attending the Scrapbook convention in AZ in October I haven't had a chance to get my stuff out and settle into some good sessions with paper, glue, embellishments, ribbon, buttons, bling....all those things that give me a creative lift.

A couple weeks ago I bought a scrapbooking program for my Mac laptop, just so I could do some sort of scrapbooking. It was fun and easy to use and in the space of three days while relaxing in Arizona, I had completed a digital scrapbook of 20 pages for Jenn, Jonah and Sam. Sometimes it can take me three days to complete one traditional scrapbook page! It was fun and exciting to use the drag and drop templates in the program, but I think I prefer traditional best. There's just something intrinsically satisfying about playing with all the different papers and embellishments that makes me happy.

Here are three 2-page layouts I started at the Oct. convention and finished this week. Each individual page is 12" x 12".

Autumn Leaves, starring grandchildren Layla and Baron Bourne

Our Tropical Paradise - our Arizona back yard

Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge, with Kenny and Alex MacKenzie, and Emily, Lloyd and Pat

These next layouts are some of the 8.5 x 11 digital ones I made for Jenny

These are some cards I made today.

This is the inside of the card. The front has a cut out window that allows the greeting to show through.

This is the front.

The picture of the 'queen' in this card is actually on the inside of the card, with a cut out window covered with a transparency on the front - made from a kit.

This is the inside.

So that's what I've been doing this weekend. Feels good to be back at it again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

January Blues

So...2010 is off to a bad start...blogwise. Here it is January 22 and I've only done 5 blog entries this year. Not that I have a host of fans waiting with bated breath for my next entry, but I'm starting to feel guilty about disappointing my most faithful reader. I know he's tired of opening this blog up and seeing some odd looking cacti instead of some funny story of his kids and/or grandkids.

Truth is, I just don't feel that I have anything interesting to say these days. I've returned from the land of eternal sunshine

to the land of cold and snow. The contrast is...what....invigorating???

January in the north is a sick month. I heard on the tv last week that January 16 is officially the most depressing day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Whatever the reason, Lloyd and I had briefly (I hope) succummed to the season's hype. He's going into his second week of intense vertigo, managing only about 4 hrs of sleep a night, broken every 45 minutes or so by attacks of mind-numbing vertigo...and sciatica. I have had a recurrence of iritis which sent me to my opthmalogist for the first time since 2004, and she put me on steroids to reduce the inflamation, eye drops to reduce the pressure caused by the steroids, and is booking me into laser eye surgery for an iridotomy to keep my narrow-angle glaucoma from developing into close-angle glaucoma. The iridotomy consists of drilling laser holes into my iris. What fun. This should be happening in the next week or two. I'll be glad when January's over. And I'm going to be missing a trip to Winnipeg to attend my niece's wedding reception. Sorry Meredith and Angelo.

It hasn't been all bad though. The Arizona trip was lovely, even if it was in the presence of kids and grandkids instead of soulmate/husband. Lloyd and I did manage to have a lovely, peaceful three day weekend together when I got home. And today I finally get to go out on what used to be an every Friday lunch fun time with Mickey.

So...that's my update for today. It's my whine of the month. After all, life isn't always sunshine and light. I'll keep the next entries more upbeat. Don't give up on me yet.

If winter is here, can spring be far behind???

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

One In Every Crowd

I love saguaro cactus, the State Tree of Arizona....tall stately sentinels of the desert.

I've taken pictures of lots of them, but today I found one that was tall but different - not so stately - the bad boy of the family.

What's with this guy anyway. Did his arms get tired of standing up for so long - after all, the poor old guy was 100 years old before he grew one of those arms. Maybe he was standing on his head when his arms sprouted and they think they're in the right position. Who knows.

Sooner or later he'll end up the way all his upright brothers and sisters - a dry skeleton in the desert, after a long life as the symbol of the southwest desert.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gold in the Hills

We took a drive today to the eastern end of the Valley of the Sun and visited Apache Junction and the beautiful Superstition Mountains where the gold mining ghost town of Goldfields is located. It was a very busy day with murder and mayhem, adventuring and gold mining, and hangings, which I'll talk about another time.
Superstitious Mountain with Cholla cactus in the foreground

The highlight of the trip for me was our tour of the Goldfield gold mine. Our guide was very knowledgable, funny and a real character. We were all (even Elly) supplied with billy clubs which we were told were to chase away the bats (there wasn't a bat in sight though as far as I could tell)

Charlie and Max at the entry to the mine

Charlie was very nervous about going down into the mine but we convinced her that they would't let anyone go there if it wasn't safe.

Inside the lantern lit tunnel. That little Vulcan-like boy was part of our group.

This huge boulder had broken through the roof of the shaft.

Our guide explained that one of those carts he's standing beside carried a ton of ore up to the surface.

He took guesses as to what this contraption is - most people said it was a stove. Actually this solid metal structure is the mine toilet!. Some lucky person called the honeydipper had the job of sifting through the contents at the end of the shift to see if anyone was trying to smuggle pieces of gold out for himself. They'd have to pay me more than $2.00 a day for that job!!

When we resurfaced from the mine, the kids went panning for gold and actually found enough gold and garnets to fill 1-inch long vials.

Here's Quincey, Max and Elly - Max is using tweezers to pick out his treasure from the bottom of the pan.

And that was our gold mining adventure - one of several we had today. All in all, a very good day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Swim Time

We finally got the water temperature up above 85 degrees - clear up to 90! so there was nothing to do but jump in and have fun.

Elly enjoyed the pool much more this year than last year and was able to play independently on the wide submerged steps. There was one incident where she walked off the edge and floundered, but Charlie and I managed to save her. She was right back in again a few minutes later. Thank goodness the kids wear their life jackets.

Charlie is our little bathing beauty, enjoying lounging on the air mattress floatie.

Here's some fun action videos.

Max's upright swimming style:

And Elly's bubble blowing

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We Got Trees

We got trees...and not just any trees...lovely tropical trees...six Queen palms, one Pineapple palm, and one Mediterranean palm...all looking so lush and lovely at our Arizona home. We've ordered two more to be delivered next week to round out the yard.

These are the six Queens along our back fence...three short and three tall.

The gap in the middle where the shadow of our house forms a triangle is hiding our lime tree, which will be transplanted to the side of the house and another tall Queen palm planted in its place.

This is our Mediterranean palm, located inside the pool area by the deep end.

The beautiful Pineapple palm sits close to the corner of the front of our lawn. It looks a lot like the pineapple cactus (not it's real name) plants in front.

Charlie and the Pineapple palm.

We're really pleased with the new trees. They provide back yard privacy and a tropial look to our pool area. Can hardly wait for the two remaining trees next week. We're also considering getting a saguaro cactus for the back yard.

This is so different from landscaping in northern Alberta. Fun times.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Experience in Flying

We travelled by air today for the first time since the Christmas terrorist attempt. It was an interesting experience.

We were at the airport a full two hours before our flight was due to leave. Usually this guarantees us a quick processing through the check in counter. Not so today. The line-ups were long and slow moving. An airline employee regularly patrolled the lineup telling people that they were not allowed any carry-on luggage except for small purses and/or computer case. That sent lots of people into a tizzy, not wanting to part with their small carry-on size luggage and checking it. (The following pictures were taken with my Blackberry because my camera was in my checked luggage).

Elly had the princess seat on top of our stack of three large suitcases.

Meanwhile, Max and Charlie entertained themselves with games on their new ipod clutches - a very wise investment by Santa.

When we finally got our luggage checked and boarding passes approved, we were told we'd have to turn off our cell phones before heading through security. Fine, but they didn't tell us we could turn them on again once we were in the boarding area. Many of us did anyway.

Going through security was an adventure. Shoes and jackets off, of course, and scanned. Since we weren't allowed carry-on luggage you'd think it'd be a quick process to get through security. Not so. They hand checked every purse that went through - they opened and inspected my daily doses of vitamins and supplements, and opened up each compartment in my purse and wallet. Nothing went untouched. That wasn't too bad if you don't mind a bit of invasion of privacy. And I can understand the extra vigilance (can you say paranoia) in light of the latest terrorist threat. But did they really need to wake up the little 2-year old Elly, lift her out of her stroller and pat her down??? Really??? Every single passenger was treated to a pat down. I wish I had the nerve to take pictures of it. I went through ahead of Sara, Quincey and the kids and had a ringside seat to the kids being checked. It was so cute. The security guards were very nice to the kids, joking with them and making them laugh, all the while making sure they weren't smuggling contraband on their small persons. Luckily, they thought it was an adventure too.

We'll be going through the same process nine days from now, but at least we'll be prepared for it. My advice to you is, if you're excessively ticklish or modest, try taking a train or driving to your next vacation destination.

And that's how I see it.