Here we go again!

We were camping almost nine years ago when my doctor called to tell me that I had cancer. The news was completely unexpected and, in that moment, our lives changed forever. We were camping again this summer when hubby’s urologist called to tell him that he has two different kinds of prostate cancer, so here we go again!

A recent biopsy took 12 tissue samples from Richard’s prostate. Two of those, taken from one side of the heart shaped gland, showed a low-risk, non-aggressive cancer that is common in older men and usually requires nothing more than surveillance. Unfortunately, one sample from the other side proved to be a somewhat more aggressive form. According to the Gleason score, a scale used to evaluate the grade of prostate cancer cells, it’s a medium-grade cancer meaning that treatment ought to be considered.

There are several possible options. Surgical removal of the prostate, in spite of the fact that it has some negative effects, is thought to be the best choice for long-term survival, but the urologist warned us that the maximum age for a radical prostatectomy has always been a matter of debate and many specialists consider 70 to be the upper limit for performing this surgery. At 72, Richard is otherwise in excellent health and physical condition, so he has been referred to a specialist who does robotic prostate surgery, the most advanced treatment option available. We are praying that he’ll be approved and that the procedure will go ahead. If not, we’ll have to consider other options.

Over the past nine years, we have learned many things. The word cancer, itself, isn’t as scary as it once was. Though not to be taken lightly, it isn’t necessarily a death sentence either. We’ve learned to live life to the fullest and to consider every day a gift. We’ve learned the importance of living in and enjoying the moment. We’ve learned that a positive attitude makes the fight easier and adds to the quality of our days. We’ve learned not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. As Matthew 34:6 says, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” We’ve learned to focus on the things that are important in life and to let go of things that drain us for no good purpose. We’ve learned that there can be joy in the midst of challenging times. These are all lessons that we’ll take with us as we embark on this next journey.

Ultimately, we know that we have a God who walks this pathway with us and promises to take care of us. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

imagesAs always, the blog will be about more than cancer, but from time to time I will be using it to share progress reports. The only difference from the past will be that now I’ll be reporting on both of us!

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

IMG_4420

Prior to the recent influx of refugees from Ukraine, Canada was already home to 1.4 million people of Ukrainian descent, the world’s second largest Ukrainian diaspora after Russia. The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, an open-air museum located approximately 50 km east of Edmonton, Alberta uses costumed interpreters to recreate a pioneer settlement and commemorate the lives of Ukrainian Canadian settlers from the years 1899 to 1930.

Like everywhere else, it seems, the Village is short-staffed this summer, but there were still plenty of interactive activities for us to enjoy when we visited with two of our grandchildren earlier this week.

The one room schoolhouse was a favourite. The teacher gave sample lessons in arithmetic, spelling, and grammar. She also checked to make sure our fingernails were clean and suggested that some of us weren’t dressed appropriately for school!

Learning to do laundry the old-fashioned way was also fun for Harlow and Yari.

IMG_4399

At the Provincial Police Post, we put Yari in jail!

IMG_4403

IMG_4404

He also got to help the blacksmith.

IMG_4421

For lunch, we sampled a variety of authentic Ukrainian foods including pyrohy (perogies), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), sausage, borshch (beet soup), and somewhat less authentic, but absolutely delicious, pyrohy poutine!

It wasn’t until later when I looked at my pictures that I realized that I’d taken lots of photos of the kids and almost none of the village’s many buildings!

IMG_4425

In addition to houses, barns, schools, and various places of business that have been moved to the site from communities across central Alberta, there are three churches that are still active places of worship. As such, they aren’t open to the public.

IMG_4406

St. Nicholas Russo-Greek Orthodox Church was built in the rural community of Kiew, Alberta, by Ukrainian settlers from Galicia. The more elaborate St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church, shown in the first photo above, originally stood in Vegreville. Though we weren’t allowed to enter, we were able to view the very traditional interior, with it’s cross-shaped floor plan, from the open doorway. 

IMG_4423

Although the website suggests 2-3 hours to tour the village, we took significantly longer walking the dusty streets and pathways and exploring virtually every nook and cranny that was open to us. We finished our day with a ride around the village in a horse drawn wagon.

Made in Canada?

Logo by SamThose of us who live in small towns in particular are used to hearing the “shop local” mantra, but buying affordable domestically made clothing has never been more challenging. As of 2019, the majority of clothing purchased in Canada was imported from China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia, countries where workers’ rights are often limited or non-existent. Many proudly Canadian brands including Roots, Lululemon and Joe Fresh design their clothing in Canada, but the majority is actually produced elsewhere. The situation is similar for those of you who shop in the US.

As one who attempts to shop ethically, I was delighted to purchase three items recently that boast “Made in Canada” labels. Delighted, that is, until I discovered that even those labels can be deceptive. According to Canadian law, designers can legally use that term as long as the last substantial transformation of the garment occurs in Canada and a minimum of 51% of the cost of its creation is incurred in this country. Some items are partially assembled cheaply in Asian factories and then imported to Canada where finishing details and those all-important “Made in Canada” labels are added. Then, of course, there’s also the question of where the fabric and notions were produced, but that’s another rabbit trail that I haven’t managed to go down yet.

In spite of knowing that they may not have been 100% produced in Canada after all, I’m quite delighted with my recent purchases, two tops and a dress. One of the tops was thrifted which is, of course, an ethical way to shop regardless of where the item originated, but the other pieces were new.

IMG_4348 2

The dress was totally an impulse buy. It caught my eye as soon as I entered the store, but I didn’t really need another new summer dress. After all, I’d just bought this one a few weeks earlier and had only worn it a couple of times. I looked at everything else in the store, but my eye kept going back to the dress, so I finally decided that I had to try it on. I do my best to be a mindful shopper, but once in awhile an impulse buy just has to happen!

IMG_4359

The dress is as comfortable as a favourite t-shirt and as you can see, it’s easy to dress up or down. The lightweight polyester knit is machine washable and will hardly take up any space in a suitcase when we finally decide to fly again.

IMG_4366

The beautiful floral backdrop is our neighbour’s. She’s an amazing gardener and we thoroughly enjoy the results of her labour! Thank you, Connie!

A walk in God’s garden

Several of our planned hikes over the past two weeks were cut short or thwarted entirely by flooding due to unusually high water levels. In spite of that, we did manage to complete a few and one of them stands out as being the most amazing and unique.

An esker is a long, narrow ridge of winding hills composed of sand and gravel that was deposited thousands of years ago by a stream that ran underneath a glacier that once covered the land. One such ridge lies to the west of Laurier Lake and extends south into Borden Lake in Alberta’s Whitney Lakes Provincial Park. The 5.8-km out-and-back Borden Lake trail follows the top of the esker. 

IMG_4296

IMG_4299

IMG_4305

The trail is considered a moderately challenging one because the esker is far from flat. As we made our way up and down its rolling hills, we found ourselves surrounded by a myriad of wildflowers in bloom. I truly felt like I was walking in God’s garden! 

While I recognize some of the flowers like the wild rose, Alberta’s provincial flower, and the lone tiger lily, there were many others that I didn’t know by name.

We had the trail entirely to ourselves. There were no people for miles around. Thankfully, we didn’t see any bears either although there was some fairly fresh sign on the path and with bushes loaded with berries alongside the trail, they probably weren’t very far away. We kept our bear bell jingling and our bear spray close at hand just in case it was needed! We actually did see a young bear in the campground the following day, but thankfully, we were in the vehicle at the time and it was nowhere near our campsite. 

IMG_4312

As we continued hiking, Borden Lake soon came into view and if you look closely, you can see the esker jutting out into the water. The trail goes to the very end.

IMG_4318

IMG_4319

When we reached the end, hubby sat down to rest, but I took off my shoes and socks and waded right in! 

IMG_4322

The water was refreshing, but soon it was time to retrace our steps back through the garden and return to camp. 

The art of aging gracefully

Since I spent much of the past week camping and yesterday participating in a senior’s golf tournament, I don’t have a regular Fashion Friday post for today. Instead, I’m going to share some words of wisdom from Donna Ashworth’s book, To The Women: words to live by

Think about it, you have EARNED this face.
Every line, a laugh shared.
Every wrinkle, a year survived.
Every age spot, a day that the sun shone on you.
Some women believe that as they age, they LOSE their looks. Oh my friends how wrong this is.
A beautiful young women is a happy accident of nature but a beautiful older woman?
She is a work of art.
The Japanese have a practice whereby they fill any broken objects with gold, believing that something which is broken has earned its beauty and should be celebrated and decorated rather than discarded.
I feel this way about women.
It took a long time to find out who you really truly are. A long time. The acceptance that old age brings is freeing. It brings with it peace and happiness.
Everyone knows, happiness looks good on us all.
Your body has been changing since the day you were born and will continue till the day you depart. Ride with it, accept it, embrace it. Be amazed by it.
Allow your face to represent your life, your stories, your joys.
Why choose to be an older woman fervently chasing youth, when you could be that older women who knows what she is worth and has earned every minute of her hard-won self-acceptance.
The trick with ageing successfully my friend, is to pay as little attention to it as possible.

img_1445_3

I’ve shared this photo before, but it’s one of my favourites from our time in China. I thought she was beautiful when I first saw her and I still do. I wish I could have spoken to her but language was a barrier. I have no doubt, however, that the well-earned lines on her face tell a story… a story of hardship, a story of survival, but hopefully also a story with some happiness in it. As we age, may our faces also tell our stories with grace and self-acceptance.

 

Something new

Logo by SamHappy Canada Day! 🇨🇦

As we gradually emerge from the pandemic, I’ve finally been doing some shopping! Regardless of what the authorities tell us, I don’t believe that Covid is completely behind us yet, but we are moving forward with caution.

One of the first things that I needed to do was shop for new bras. I absolutely hate bra shopping! I always have, but while we were in the city for a church conference a couple of weeks ago, I managed to fit in a bit of shopping and I got the deed done. It was gruelling, but I came away with three new bras that fit me well. But enough about that!

IMG_4206 2

I also bought this, a simple cap sleeve crew neck t-shirt dress, something casual but a little bit dressy for summer. I often wear a medium, but in this case I chose a large because the medium was too clingy and showed off the jiggly bits that I’d rather keep hidden.

When I first saw it online, I thought the colour was a warm brown. The ad called it Marron which my Spanish lessons have taught me means brown, but it really isn’t. It’s somewhere between brown and maroon, a colour that I’m calling smoky rose because I have a lipstick by that name that’s almost exactly the same colour.

IMG_4228

I’ve always thought that it must be fun to be one of those people who name lipstick, nail polish, or paint colours! Pink is never just pink, it’s Blushed, Heartthrob, or Pink Giggles. Red might be Love is On or Cherries in the Snow and brown is Iced Mocha or Choco-Liscious. Some of them even sound good enough to eat! But enough of that. Back to shopping!

After a long awaited visit to my dental hygienist, I did a bit of browsing and discovered an independent boutique that I hadn’t visited before. It survived the pandemic, but like many others, business was clearly slow and the discount racks were full. This little top caught my eye and ended up coming home with me. The colours fit my wardrobe perfectly and the asymmetrical hemline adds interest. It will be a great  addition to my summer wardrobe and a good layering piece when the weather is cooler.

IMG_4198

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to be taking some time to recharge over the next few weeks, so Fashion Friday probably won’t appear as regularly as usual. It’s not going to disappear completely though, so stay tuned!

Taking time to recharge

Do-not-be-afraid-to-disappear-600x600

I ran across this recently and it resonated with me as it describes what I’m planning to do over the next little while. I won’t disappear completely, but I won’t be spending as much time as usual on social media and I probably won’t be blogging very regularly. Over the next 6 to 8 weeks I’ll be spending lots of time camping, hiking, and paddling quiet waters; time away from my keyboard and often far from internet connection.

Writing is who I am. It’s what I do. To me, it’s almost as important as breathing, but spending time in nature is one of the ways that I recharge my batteries and perhaps in the silence I’ll find some new things to write about.

If you subscribe to the blog, you’ll receive notification by email whenever I do post something new. If you’re not already a subscriber, simply enter your email address in the space to the right and click on “Sign me up!”

Perspectives on growing older

Earlier this month, Sue Burpee, writer of High Heels in the Wilderness, wrote a very thought provoking post about the feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction that she was experiencing as she contemplated the realities of getting older (she’s 66). It obviously resonated with many women as it generated a vast number of heartfelt comments. In fact, it struck such a chord with Frances, over at Materfamilias Writes, that she responded with this post on her blog. Again, the comment section exploded with women in their 60s, 70s, and beyond expressing feelings of worry and despair as they faced their own mortality. Many wrote of feeling that time was running out and one of Sue’s readers likened it to falling into an abyss. Some wrote of physical decline or the fear of losing their spouse. Others were already alone. Some mentioned lack of purpose, having nothing good to look forward to, or feeling invisible to those around them. There was also an acknowledgement by many that the pandemic had robbed them of valuable time that they’d never get back.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those two posts and the comments that they generated. I keep asking myself why I don’t share the feelings that so many women expressed so poignantly. I do lament time lost to the pandemic, but I’m just three months short of 70 and rather than feeling down about it, I’m excited! I’m already thinking about how I want to celebrate that milestone. But why? Why don’t I feel the way they do?

I think that there are three reasons.

The first was a major shift in perspective that happened almost ten years ago. I’ve written before about the fact that I spent the whole year that I was 59 fretting about turning 60. It sounded so old! How had I got there so quickly? Then came 60 and it wasn’t so bad after all, but before I turned 61, I was diagnosed with cancer and within a year, a second unrelated one. If you’ve been following my blog for very long, you know that the past decade has brought a number of other diagnoses as well as surgeries, treatments, and medications. Now, still with one incurable cancer, but stable and feeling 100%, I’ve learned that every day is a gift. Nine years ago, I had no reason to think that I would make it to 70. Now it feels like a victory!

The second reason that I feel optimistic about the future is the faith that sustained me through all the ups and downs of the past decade and for many years before that. I, who in my childhood and young adult years had an abnormal fear of death, of disappearing into nothingness and no longer existing, found peace with that when I finally cried out to God in desperation and asked Him to remove my fear. That was forty years ago and to this point, it has never returned. I don’t pretend to know what life beyond the grave will be like, but I firmly believe that it does go on and that those of us who have a personal relationship with the Creator will continue in His presence. That’s all I really need to know. That may sound naive or foolish to those who don’t share my faith, but that’s not surprising. Scripture says that that will be so. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

Perhaps the main reason that I’m not burdened by the dark thoughts and feelings that seem to plague so many of my fellow seniors is that my life has purpose. Hubby and I fairly recently gave up a volunteer position that was beginning to become too physically taxing, but as my father always said, there’s no end to the things that you can do in retirement as long as you don’t need to be paid. I’ve edited almost 750 Kiva loans since I took on that role early last year. When I was younger, I led a ladies Bible study for more than twenty years. I didn’t expect to find myself doing that again in my late 60s, but I just wrapped up my second year back in that role and I look forward to continuing in the fall. In addition, I have a leadership position with an online women’s ministry and I’ve just been accepted into another role that will put my writing skills to good use. Nine years ago when I was looking death in the face, I certainly didn’t anticipate new beginnings at age 70! Clearly God isn’t finished with me yet!

48332799_595882320848486_1466678194248613888_n

image

Personal style types

Logo by SamAfter thinking about personal style last week, I thought I’d explore the topic in a little more depth today by looking at some of the most common style types. Each one of us is unique and it’s unlikely that you will fit cleanly into any one of these styles. Instead, you might take inspiration from more than one of them and by combining traits that resonate with you, identify your own personal style.

Sporty  This is the woman who feels at home in athleisure wear. She wants clothing that is casual, comfortable, and allows ease of movement. She might be seen wearing yoga pants, joggers, or leggings with a t-shirt or a hoodie. Her shoes will be sneakers or flats and her accessories minimal. 

Casual.  Similar to her sporty sister, the casual woman likes simple lines and designs. She is focused on comfort and her look is easy-going and relaxed. She wears jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, and sneakers or flat boots with minimal accessories.

Classic  The Classic woman chooses tailored garments in quality fabrics and timeless styles. Her menswear inspired look is polished and put-together. Her wardrobe will include blazers and pencil skirts in neutral colours. Her accessories are simple and complement her outfits.

Dramatic  This is the elegant woman who invests in quality pieces for her wardrobe. Her look is striking and sophisticated. She wears bold makeup, eye catching shoes, and statement jewelry.

Preppy  Originally inspired by North American prep school uniforms, this look includes khakis and chinos, polo and button-down shirts, pleated skirts, blazers, vests, stripes, plaids, and all things nautical. Loafers are a popular shoe choice. Accessories are simple and often involve pearls.

Bohemian  The flamboyant Boho style has a 1960s and early 70s hippie aesthetic. It has a loose, laid back vibe that includes flowing maxi dresses and long skirts in natural fabrics, earth tones, and ethnic prints. Garments are often embellished with fringes, beads, or feathers. Accessories include large brimmed hats, slouchy handbags, oversized scarves, wide belts, long necklaces, big rings, and chunky bracelets. This is a style that often appeals to the artistic non-conformist.

Artistic  The Artistic or Creative woman is another innovative individual who doesn’t mind being a bit unconventional. She wears unique outfits in a variety of bright, bold colours and prints. She also likes to play with unusual shapes, silhouettes, and textures. She wears bold jewelry and statement footwear.

Romantic  This is the woman who chooses soft, flowy garments with pretty, feminine details including ruffles, bows, and lace. She wears muted or pastel colours and floral prints. She likes delicate, traditional accessories and ballet flats.

Minimalist  The title refers to a particular style, not the number of clothes in this woman’s closet. The Minimalist likes a paired down look with clean simple lines. She most often wears classic neutral colours and chooses simple, sparse accessories.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I wrote about Gentlewoman style in this post and the very trendy Coastal Grandmother style here. There are Grunge and Goth styles, but since they wouldn’t likely appeal to the demographic that usually reads this blog, I didn’t include them. Then there is the Eclectic woman. She loves to try new styles and combinations and mixes elements from many different styles to create one that is uniquely her own.

The photos that I’ve included are a very limited sampling of each style, but hopefully they are enough to give you an idea what each one looks like.

Do you see yourself somewhere in the list? As I mentioned in the introduction, you will likely fit into more than one category. For example, I see myself as a Casual/Classic dresser, but I occasionally incorporate elements from several other styles.

Thinking about personal style

Logo by SamHubby and I spent three days this week attending a conference as representatives of our local church. It was a full schedule of making connections, worshipping together, and attending sessions. There was no down time, no time for writing a blog post! We came home yesterday feeling both uplifted and exhausted! I sat down last night to write this morning’s Fashion Friday post and absolutely nothing came to mind! Nothing except the desire to soak in a hot bath and crawl into bed. All this to explain why today’s post is later than usual and why it might be a little thin in content!

We often tend to use the words fashion and style interchangeably, but there’s a difference between the two. Fashion is the clothes, accessories and shoes that are produced. They are what you see when you enter a store or shop online, but style is what you do with them, the way in which you wear those items.

433d67c8a179d2f32e67c87f8df403b4

Style is how we personalize what the fashion industry produces.

279263470_3265720087087580_3069265874297079993_n

One way to identify your personal style is to choose 3 to 5 adjectives to guide your fashion choices. Check here for an exercise that will help you do that. Pinterest is another excellent tool to help you identify or clarify your own style. This post will show you how that works.

68c1c89e8f2ddbbff03d37530bd1757b

Personal style shouldn’t be static. We all change as we go through different stages of life and our style needs to change with us. It’s important to evaluate and update our style from time to time so that our outfits express who we are today, not who we were sometime in the past.

What words would you use to describe your personal style? How has your style changed over the years?