Monday, December 31, 2012

Rock-polisher Resolutions for the New Year

I always make New Year's resolutions, even if some of them I don't get around to until September or even later.

Perhaps this is due to my innate optimism, which keeps bubbling up inside me despite all the concrete evidence that I should be pessimistic about the state of the world and myself.

Someone who lives in cohousing, though is pretty much guaranteed to be an optimist and a person with a rather irrational but firm belief in self-improvement - another aspect of the rock-polisher effect.

So, here goes, my New Year's resolutions for myself and my life at Pacific Gardens.

1.  I will try to be more patient. (Last year, I did manage to achieve this with my relatives; the big test this year is whether I will be able to do this with my Pacific Gardens family.)

2.  I will do more of what makes me happy. ( Singing does this, and this year I am going to join a third choir, one that sings for people in hospices.)

3.  I will try not to interrupt and spend more time listening to what others say instead of thinking about what brilliant comments I can make as soon as that other person stops talking!

4.  I will try to relax more and visit with friends and family more often. (This is an annual resolution that I am getting better at, but not enough.)

5.  I will try to let go of and stop obsessing about what I cannot change. (Argggghhhh!)

6.  I will try to be more accepting of the changes to my body and my physical limitations as I age. (This is definitely difficult for someone who believes in self-improvement - sometimes slowing the decline is the best you can do!)

7.  I will spend more time outdoors and less time hunched over a computer. (Oh no...does that mean I have to give up Facebook?)

8.  I will get to bed earlier.  (So much to read, so little time!)

9.  I will learn how to do something new. (Could this be the year I try my hand at gardening?!)

10.  I will stop doing activities out of a sense of duty and start doing them out of a sense of joy.

These 10 are a good start for someone dedicated to self-improvement. And since it's still fairly early in the evening - at least for me - I may even fulfil resolution #8 tonight.

Not a bad beginning to 2013 for this rock-polisher!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Elderberries party hearty!

Last week Roz held a fabulous party for us older folk - or elderberries as she calls us - at Pacific Gardens.  She said the reason was she wanted to clean out  her fridge, but I know better - she just likes to party!

True, there was a slightly more serious reason.  Some of us are on the cusp of elderberryness, and wanted to glean some wisdom from those in our community who have had more practice.

The food was wonderful.  My favourite was the roasted root vegetables and the delicious rhubarb custard crumble - yum!  Roz also followed the Pacific Gardens recycling mantra when she made some hot mulled wine with leftover vino from another party.

The best part was the conversation.  We went around the table and told tales of our Christmases past, and they were both heart-warming and funny - mostly funny.

Susana told us how she nearly blew up her family's kitchen in an attempt to cook her father's favourite English dessert in a pressure cooker. The star-shaped pattern left by the exploded contents remained on the kitchen ceiling for years.

Michele recalled how the sisters at her convent got rather tipsy munching quantities of bourbon balls, while Clare described one holiday celebration where the main entertainment was making a nativity scene out of day-glo playdough - and then baking it in the oven!

Others remembered their childhood excitement waiting for the arrival of mandarin oranges that came by ship from Japan, or enjoying a Christmas dinner of succulent duck with red cabbage and apricot stuffing.

It was a great evening.  We left slightly older, perhaps a little bit wiser, and definitely much merrier.  Thank you Roz!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gift of Community

Just before we moved here, my husband’s boss back in Alberta told him that his sister-in-law had recently moved to a city South of where we are now and that she was depressed and lonely as she didn’t know anyone there.

We felt confident that our experience would be different as we wouldn’t have to work so hard to develop a social network out here, but would instead, be moving right into one. And I am ecstatic to say that we presumed correctly.

Anytime to you live so closely to other people there are challenges. There are weeks that make you wish you had more space from your neighbours and friends. But, I now see that Community is very much a reflection of me. When I am depressed and feel isolated, I withdraw and isolate myself. And when I am happy and outgoing, people seem to be that way too.

Sure, there are times when I put myself out there and feel little acceptance or encouragement. But there are times when I  organize something and it leaves me feeling a lot happier and the whole community feels friendlier.

My Ping Pong tourney was quite successful. We amassed a fair amount of  participants and reawakened a love for the activity in many of the residents here. I tried to go out and play a bit today and the table was always occupied!

And there are times when I am sick and someone comes by with some soup. Or when someone has a bumper crop of tomatoes and comes to share some with me. Or a friend brought by a bunch of bananas because she had gotten a good deal on them.

I have been working on a little secret project for our Christmas Pot Luck meal. Being pleased with it, I went down the hall to share it with my co-conspirator. She wasn’t home (or didn’t hear me knock) so I went a few doors down for a visit with a  friend instead. We both talked about how wonderful this place is. About how the atrium helps us feel like we are getting “out.” Even without having to put shoes on. And the comfort in knowing your neighbours.

And I appreciate the workout room that keeps that giant home gym out of my living space. And that my husband’s tools are in the wood shop. So, if he wants to build something, he has a nice, cozy, contained place to do it.

There is also the freecycle which has been really great for parents who use it as a means for “swapping” clothes. Just as it snowed here I realized I couldn’t find Anna’s mittens. And later that afternoon? I checked the freecycle and found blue mittens just her size. It saved me having to go and buy her some.

The yard is fantastic here. And people love to garden here in the summer. The kids love the covered atrium when it is rainy, snowy or just plain cold. And the conversation lounge is great for a cozy movie night or a conversation and some wine with a friend.

It’s amazing how much love comes back when you start putting it out there.
Community…I heart you.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Solstice Community Style.

It was fabulous to see the community gather for Solstice. Being so far away from family, it means a lot to me to have people to share this time with.

Some gathered to do some caroling. Some gathered to chat and some gathered to battle for the title of PG Ultimate Table Tennis Champion.

After a little misadventure, our ping-pong table was crippled and lopsided. But Kaj was kind enough to work tirelessly to get this dead beetle back on its feet just in time for the tourney. And since this was the table's first Community tournament, we had to have a ribbon cutting. And who better to cut the ribbon than Kaj?

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Many people showed up to take a stab at the title!  Everyone, even the children, had a chance to play.

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Our local Tennis pro played six or seven matches undefeated and won the whole tourney.


Kara made a labyrinth for us all.

She made it out of branches and candles and it was dimly illuminated. A wonderful way to recognize the Solstice.  It was in the dark which made it hard to take a photo of it.

This shot shows the mood a bit better.

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And this shot shows the labyrinth a bit better.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Letter to Santa

I was all set to write another entry in my blog on Friday when I heard what had happened to the children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I was too shocked and saddened to write anything.  The events in that stricken community reminded me of what had happened at Dunblane Primary 16 years ago when I was living in Scotland.

Then, as now, a gunman had entered the school, killing 16 five-and-six year-olds and their teacher, for reasons not yet known.  Then, as now, we saw footage of grieving families and haggard police on the nightly news.

It was a heart-breaking, painful time in the little town's history, one those who lived through it will never forget. But there was a positive outcome of that tragic event.

Two women in Dunblane started the Snowdrop Campaign - so-called because only snowdrops were growing at the time of that March massacre - to ban handguns.

Within six weeks they had gathered 750,000 signatures on a petition, and within a year-and-a-half, had achieved their aim. Last year the UK, population 60 million,  had eight deaths from handguns; the US, with 300 million people, had 10,000.

This morning I read in the newspaper that today, December 17th, is the last day to get letters to Santa in time for Christmas. All day I have been thinking of what I would write if Santa could grant me my wish.

What I want is a world where children can grow up in a world of peace and joy, like the Christmas carols say, and not be threatened or harmed by those who have hate in their hearts.

I want a world where children can learn and play in their communities safely and securely, knowing that they are loved and protected.

I want for every child what we have here at Pacific Gardens.


Friday, December 7, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O #$%^&* Christmas Tree

As you can tell from the photos Myriam posted last week, we have some very talented Christmas tree decorators at Pacific Gardens, both adults and children.

This is a good thing, especially for people like me. Each year I strive to make my little tree look good, and each year it ends up looking like it was decorated after I drank too much rum eggnog.

Last year I thought I almost had it perfected.  I had two functioning strands of Christmas lights that I spent hours carefully winding around the branches of my somewhat scraggly artificial tree.

Alas, this year, one of them was kaput, and so I had to unwind and untangle it, which I did, using some very un-Christmasy language.  If Santa were listening, there would definitely be no presents for me!

Of course, after removing those lights, all the branches were askew, the ornaments hung lopsidedly, and the remaining lights were on one side. My little tree looked forlorn and unkempt.

And then I went into the dining hall for our weekly potluck.   Two beautiful, tall Christmas trees, with bright angels on top, and strands of lights looped around them in perfect symmetry.

And with at least a hundred ornaments on them, in gold, red, green and silver, more angels, a teddy bear, a heart, ornaments made of felt and paper by the children - what a wonderful sight!

And here's a lesson in community for me.  Maybe I'd be better off next year joining in the Christmas decorating fun at Pacific Gardens than trying to do my own tree.

That way I'll be sure to get presents from Santa!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good friends. Good tea. Good life.

In life there are always going to be those special people that just get you and you get them. Like a magic that makes hours seem like minutes.  Where conversation is honest and honours the other person. People who don't judge but accept. Who give and share without the expectation of receiving in return.

Today I got to spend an evening with one of those people. I was able to share some tea, some Josh Groban and some hand-crafting with a friend in the Community Dinning Hall. All the while enjoying beautiful Christmas carols and snacking on little gingerbread men cookies and grapes.

And as it can be in Community, we had five people stop in for small chats throughout our visit.

These are things I am grateful for. Good friends. Good tea. Good life.


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Monday, December 3, 2012

A little sparkle...

So, It was that time for PG to get a little festive.

I lead the children's activities. We glittered up pine cones and made small snowflakes for the children's tree. Then Gloria made about a hundred cookies and the kids decorated them. They stayed out with the veggies, popcorn, tea and hot chocolate for the showings of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Grinch. And then the kids took the left overs door to door to hand them out to our neighbours.

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This is the adult tree with paper snowflakes.

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And this is the kids' tree:

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 In true PG style the baking, hot chocolate, decorating, cleaning etc. was all a team effort.

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That being said, after all of that chaos, I am feeling a bit burnt out. Maybe it would be nice to split up the decorating and the crafts and make two special and fun days instead of fitting it all into one.

But kicking back and watching a funny movie was just the thing I needed. Thank you!