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My grandma’s favourite colour was yellow. (Being Canadian I spell both favourite and colour with “our”).

Her kitchen was yellow.

I loved her kitchen, despite not loving yellow.

She created good things in that kitchen.

The sun always seemed so bright in Grandma’s kitchen.

Perhaps it was the yellow walls. Perhaps it was the sunshine.   Perhaps, and this is what I suspect, it was Grandma.

When my grandpa was dying, over 40 years ago, he dreamed that he painted the outside of their farmhouse yellow. He inferred that he defied conventional wisdom because Grandma liked yellow. It was the perfect metaphor for his devotion, devotion that would otherwise remain unspoken in their Germanic, one-must-not-show-emotion home.

She told me that story several times, always with a catch in her voice, so I knew the impact it had on her.

As a child I had yellow hair. Perhaps that’s why Grandma cherished me so lavishly. (Or not!) I still have yellow hair thanks to Brian, with his roll of tin foil and a purple paste down at the Phoenician Salon.

My grandma had yellow flecks in her eyes. Officially, she called her eyes green, but they were actually yellow. That trait popped up in one of my daughters and one of my granddaughters; they have yellow undertones in their irises. The effect is that their eyes look like they’re the same colour as their strawberry blond hair. It’s weird. Beautiful, exotic, but strange.

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Mustard is yellow. It is my favourite condiment, in my opinion, a must-have for the complete enjoyment of a burger. Perhaps that’s where they got the name. I like the plain stuff. No Dijon, Honey or Horseradish; just plain mustard.

There are other good yellow foods. Nobody exposed me to squash as a child but my yellow-irised daughter shared the secret about the great flavour of butternut squash. I saute it in butter and maple syrup. Mmm!

I used to love Grandma’s pickled yellow beans.   Yellow beans are very tasty, fresh from the garden too. Canned yellow beans are gross; they certainly don’t deserve the title “vegetables”.

There is nothing more heavenly than a homemade lemon pie. Grandma used to make them.   A crust made of real lard, not hydrogenated vegetable oil, a sweet and sour sunshine filling, topped with a cloud of meringue, delicately kissed golden in the oven.   Mmm again!

When I was young I thought it was weird to declare yellow as one’s favourite colour. I preferred purple (my dad’s chosen hue, also unconventional) and blue. Even pink, red, and certain shades of green but not yellow!

I don’t know that I ever saw Grandma wearing yellow. It’s not a flattering colour for many people. Some shades of it make ME look green.

Grandpa always said Grandma looked best in white (good thing she was a nurse) and blue, but that was HIS favourite colour, so he was biased there, don’t you think?

Why would someone select a colour that one cannot wear?

I know blue makes my eyes look bluer than they are (actually they’re a blue-grey-green, depending on the weather and what I’m wearing). I guess I got some of Grandma’s yellow iris DNA too.

Most of the clothing in which I feel most comfortable is blue, like jeans and faded denim shirts, and the fabulous turquoise dress I got for $13 at a dress shop in Phoenix.

See. I know the fun of wearing MY favourite colour!

I wore yellow to Grandma’s funeral. In fact my declaration that I intended to do so inspired other family members to dig out or borrow or buy yellow articles of clothing to wear.

One of the most touching things my husband ever did was show up at my sister’s before Grandma’s funeral, wearing a crisp new yellow dress shirt. He proved he actually listens!

He looked great in that shirt with his dark hair and brown eyes, and miraculously it was exactly the same shade as my yellow jacket. We looked like we had actually coordinated our wardrobe. Quite the feat! Do you have any idea how many shades of yellow there are?

My brother in law’s tie was the same yellow as my sister’s blouse, both of which were totally different from and clashed with our yellow.

In the weeks after Grandma’s funeral I would find myself weeping, often while walking our Golden Retriever, Divot, (our yellow dog), in our local dog park.

One day I felt like I was tapped on the shoulder.

There before me was a meadow of mostly yellow wildflowers, waving at me. My eye was drawn to the buffalo beans. Grandma taught me the name of buffalo beans. As a child, I picked them in the meadow immediately behind her farmhouse.

And there were some Brown-eyed Susans and others whose names I don’t yet know.

The flowers danced while the breeze whispered in my ear, something I didn’t quite catch. It felt like “I’m okay”.   Or maybe, “I’m here”.   Or, “I was here; now it’s your turn!”

At the very least, the message that comforted me was that whenever I see a yellow wildflower I can think of Grandma. And I do.

I think of the many things she taught me.

I remember of the warmth of her unconditional love.

Before her decline in the last few years, we would compare stories about the wonder of being a grandma. I remember laughing with her about the cute things my grandkids would say. And she would repeat the cute things I said when I was her little Grandtoy.

Come to think of it, that was one of the “yellow” moments of my life.

Thanks, again, Grandma!

My Opinion of the Oil Sands

oilsandsOriginally published April 26, 2013

Last week I alluded to my Toastmasters speech project on the oil sands. A reader suggested I post it for all to see, so here it is.

Intro: Shelley Goldbeck, has been grilled by the press for her company’s involvement in oil sands projects.  She will now give a statement which will be followed by a short Q&A.

Mister Chair, Fellow Toastmasters, Honoured Guests:  I have three main points to make about the Alberta Oil Sands.

1.  I contend that the mainstream attitude about the Oil Sands is skewed. Rather than viewing the development of the oil sands as an environmental disaster, I suggest we define the Oil Sands as Mother Nature’s mistake, her oil spill, asleep at the wheel, so to speak.  Oops!

With this in mind, we are no longer “mining” the Oil Sands; we are simply cleaning up the environment, restoring the area to its “natural” state.  After all, it’s not natural to have oil-soaked sand.   Restore indigenous flora and fauna. Stop the seepage of oil into the Athabaska River and ultimately the Arctic Ocean.

In short, it is irresponsible not to mop up the mess!

We have the knowledge and the ability to mitigate the environmental impact of this major oil spill.  My company employs a number of professionals in a wide variety of sciences including soil, groundwater, air, noise, vegetation, fisheries, wildlife, archaeology, traditional knowledge, and more, all in an effort to reduce the impact of this natural disaster.

2. Oil is currency.  Like it or not, our economy is driven by oil.  Rather than turn our backs on this opportunity I suggest we make the most if it.  Let’s invest in research for alternatives now so when the faucet turns off we’re not caught with our pants down.  We need to invest more of our oil profits as opposed to the usual drunken sailor spending, typical of pirates… er …politicians.  Norway has a huge nest egg while our sorry Heritage Trust Fund has been raped and pillaged so often she is a mere shadow of what she could be.

3. The Oils Sands are often vilified because of their potential impact on Global Warming.  A few years ago my husband and I purchased a home in Arizona because global warming wasn’t coming to Calgary soon enough for us!

I recall learning in Grade Three Science that oil was formed by decaying tropical rain forests and inland seas that once covered what is now Alberta.

If that is true, who says the current climate of Alberta is normal?  I like to think we’ve been in a below average blip for millennia and we are gradually climbing back to a normal, more tropical climate. Plus today’s tropical rainforest is the oil of a million years from now, though likely by then oil will be obsolete, primitive, or frowned upon, like shooting up heroin in a church. Therefore we owe it to future generations to burn fossil fuels, warming the planet, nurturing tropical rainforests, to die and decay and be squeezed into oil in case they are no more advanced than we are.

Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you to support the efforts to clean up the gigantic oil spill we affectionately call the Oil Sands.  Whether it’s true or not there is no harm in assuming peak oil has come and gone; let’s not leave our grandchildren freezing in the dark.  Let’s think outside the oil barrel and develop alternatives with even a fraction of the proceeds and invest more of the profits for future generations. We have knowledge, skills and technologies to reduce our footprint; let’s use these to develop the Oil Sands sustainably.

At this time I invite you to ask questions.

1. Question: What do you think about the Oil Sands protests?

Hypocrisy should be one of the seven deadly sins!  Ha! But seriously, every single person protesting the oil sands uses petroleum products daily: in their food, clothing, housing, transportation, medicine, their X-boxes, iPods, iPads, and computers. The helicopters they fly over the oil spill are powered by petroleum and are largely manufactured using petroleum products, as are their cameras. For better or worse, every single thing we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is connected to oil.

I believe we need to find alternatives to this finite resource but abandoning it before developing alternatives to at least SOME of its uses is pure folly. We need to conserve. We must be mindful of the environment and harvest this resource, being careful to do as little harm as possible.

Vilifying Canada’s Oil Sands is not the answer.

2.  Question:  There have been news reports that Quebec is embarrassed by the Oil Sands, like the wayward sister who’s shacked up with a guy half her age.  What do you have to say about that?

Like other Canadians the residents of Quebec use petroleum products daily and enjoy many benefits because of Alberta oil, like the lowest university tuition in the country and virtually free daycare.  My daughter spent $40,000 in the last four years for child care so she could keep her job to feed her children. If she lived in Quebec she would have paid less than $9000.  To continue with your analogy, Quebec is essentially living off the avails of prostitution.

Thank you for your questions.