A Place Where Time Stands Still

a place where time stands still

Is there a place in your life, or maybe an experience, that is so clear to you, that the thought of it, or the memory of it, is brilliantly vivid? Did you travel someplace in childhood that’s still a part of you today, or is there a person who was – or is – important to you and has impacted your life?

These questions popped into my head as I was paddle boarding on a beautiful lake deep in the mountains in Quebec. Whether it was this lake, or another, I’ve been traveling to the Laurentian region since I was born. With maybe the odd exception, I have spent time on a lake in this area every summer of my life.   

I looked around at the magnificent vista and said to myself, “this is a place where time stands still.” Does it? Or in my mind, have I created a story of what’s around me and hold it so sacred that time seemingly stands still?

Let me explain and give some context. As I write, I’m sitting on the deck of a house that’s been around for 75 years. Back in 1949, my husband’s grandfather purchased land, with a partner, and with very limited funds, started to build a small home on one of the plots. He hand-picked the spot, with 180 degree views of the lake and mountains.

Over the next few years the house was completed, and it was enjoyed across all seasons by the family. As the children married and had children, more people benefitted from this magical place. 75 years later, multiple generations return in the summer, to be together, to suck the goodness.

Whenever I am here, no matter what is happening in my life, or the world outside, I start to feel that this house, actually, this whole region, feels like it’s a place where time stands still. As I start to really think about it, I have always felt this way around here.

My extended family also had homes in other parts of the region, which is why I was fortunate to spend parts of the summer or winter around here. As a child, I remember a special smell that always hit me when I arrived at my grandparents’ country house in the little village of St. Adolphe. I associated it with wonderful memories (I only realized later, as an adult, that the smell was really just mustiness or mold, which would have been solved with a dehumidifier!).

Maybe it’s a certain kind of design, or decoration, that I see across the homes in this area. Or maybe the décor hasn’t changed in the 75 years some of these homes have existed. I often jest that my husband’s family home is a perfectly preserved retro home from 1952! To paraphrase from a family friend who wrote an article on the home in the National Post 15 years ago – when the home turned 60 – from a dark and cramped kitchen come gourmet meals – well, besides the new shiny fridge – the original kitchen is still there.

The floors creak, the mattresses are lumpy, and unless I turn on the dehumidifier, it’s musty…. I’ll just say it – it’s not exactly the most comfortable home. And yet, and yet, I don’t think anyone would want it any other way. Time stands still here, in our little bubble.

This is a concrete example where time stands still. But what about memories or experiences that have been placed in a vault in your head? Could it be that cute hotel by the beach you stayed at 30 years ago, and in your head – even if a city has grown up around it and it’s commercialized, it’s still a tiny shack by the water? Maybe it’s the elementary school you went to until grade 4. The chairs in the classroom still seem big in your head, and wow, the teachers were tall. The slide in the playground is long and scary, and it was so many steps to get to the second floor of the building!

Time can’t really stand still. But I love that I have a place – both in my head – and in real life – that when I’m here, I look around – and I swear, I feel like nothing has changed. And that brings me comfort. My children grow up. My jobs have changed, or my career has gone in a new direction. Politics and wars have overtaken our lives, and families have moved around the world. The people who built some of these homes, 75 years ago, are physically gone. But they are here with us every day.

When our family sold my grandparents’ country home, we took my grandfather’s canoe and moved it my husband’s home nearby. We now call this canoe, the Zaidy Lou, in honour of my grandfather. Every time I see this canoe, I half expect my grandfather to appear, asking me to join him on the lake.

When someone bites into a peach, I immediately conjure the memory of when my husband’s grandmother taught me how to pick a basket of peaches at the local Provigo grocery store in the village. I remember she said to me, “Alicia, they sell the peaches by the basket. Make sure you pick the best ones, even if you have to move peaches between baskets. And when you think the basket is full, put one extra peach on top!”

These memories, of my grandfather canoeing down his lake, or my grandmother-in-law teaching me how to buy peaches, or so clear in my head. They are a moment in time that are still very alive today.

Where does time stand still for you? Is there a place, a moment, or a person? I would love to hear your story.


Just in the Nick of Time


I snagged a great parking spot yesterday. Do you know that wonderful feeling when you enter a parking lot that looks full, you turn the corner, and there, in front of you is a fabulous parking spot? That was me yesterday. I drove into the parking lot at the absolute perfect time, just after someone had left but before another car pulled in 30 seconds after me.

I firmly believe that much is determined in my life, or life in general, by doing something just in the nick of time. This idea came to me last month, during my trip to Scotland. Over a period of about 5 days, David and I road tripped all over central and northern Scotland. We zig zagged and crisscrossed this beautiful country and drove some big distances. Even though we were on vacation and were relaxed, we had to always keep track of time to ensure we arrived at each location when it was open or not over crowded.

There was one day of our trip, as we traveled from the sweet village of Braemar, deep in the Highlands in the Cairngorms National Park, all the way down to Edinburgh. I had packed a lot into our itinerary that day and was nervous that my plans could fall apart and topple over like dominos if the timing wasn’t right.

We woke up early and enjoyed a tasty homemade breakfast of fruit, eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes at our bed and breakfast. We packed up the car and were on the road just after 9:00 am. This was day four of our trip, so by now we had figured out that roads don’t go straight in Scotland and that distances are much further than they look on a map. Put together windy twisty roads, driving on the other side of said roads, in a manual car and we definitely had some challenges. But with enough time, we knew it could all work.

We drove directly south from Braemar, through thick forests and mountains.  As the road continued to curve, we left forests and made our way through what I had always visualized was the true Scottish Highlands. We saw bare rocky mountainsides, with sheep grazing. The sun was shining and the sky was blue (okay not typical Scottish but it worked for me!). We even drove past a ski resort. I looked at my watch to check the time and told David to pull over so that I could take a photo of a chairlift, in the middle of Scotland.

Packing up early that morning in front of our B&B

I had to stop and take a photo.


I jumped back in the car and we made our way to Edradour, a small, unique single malt Scottish whiskey distillery. We parked and walked into the visitor’s centre to enquire about joining a tour. The lady at the info desk said, “You arrived at the perfect time. Our next tour starts in about 10 minutes.” We bought our tickets and had just enough time to make our way leisurely to the tour meeting point.

After our tour, led by a most entertaining, plump and friendly guide who is definitely a bit of a lush (and a sample or two of the product), we got back in our car and continued south. We were heading into an area in central Scotland with so many sights to see that I knew we had to choose carefully. By now it was about noon and I knew that many attractions closed between 4-6 pm.

Selfie with our whiskey before we left Edradour


We decided to make our way to Doune Castle, a fortress built in the 14th century by Robert Stuart, the Duke of Albany. I had read good reviews and also knew that Monty Python’s famous Holy Grail was filmed there. We entered the main courtyard just as a pair of “historic comedians” had begun a live action tale of the castle’s history. They were funny, witty and very entertaining. I learned a lot about 14th and 15th century Scotland and about the castle where I stood. We then toured the buildings and grounds and were back on our way again.

We took a moment to get a photo of David outside Doune Castle

These two were just hysterical and made our visit to Doune Castle very memorable.


Our next stop, only 15 minutes down the road, was Stirling Castle. This famous, and enormous fortress, was the home of Scottish royalty for much of the 15th and 16th centuries and has a major historical significance because of its location along the River Forth. I didn’t know exactly what time it closed or when the last guided tour would be and was nervous as we pulled up in a busy parking lot around 3:45 pm. We found our way through the maze of people and asked about guided tours at the info desk. The friendly lady at the counter smiled at me and said, “You arrived at the perfect time. Our final tour of the day begins at the well at 4:00 pm. You have just enough time to make it there.”

And so we did. Our colourful guide started the just as we walked up to the meeting point at 4:00 pm and gave us a thorough behind-the-scenes tour of this spectacular castle. And just as our tour was coming to an end, as we stood beside the medieval chapel, we heard bagpipes blaring as a wedding was set to begin. Our tour group looked like the local paparazzi as they pulled out their smartphones to record the event.

This is the entrance to Stirling Castle. Does your house look like that?

At this point it was 5:00 pm. We picked up a little snack and I felt great that we had toured three important places in central Scotland. We had more than enough time to make our way to Glasgow for the evening to have dinner with a new-found distant cousin. But David wasn’t ready for Glasgow. First, he wanted to drive over, just an 8 km drive, to the William Wallace Monument, to pick up a specific souvenir.

The Morning Star

I freaked out. I figured for sure it was already closed and we had visited this place a few days before when we first arrived. This monument is situated high up on the top of a hill that is accessed by foot or a rare shuttle bus that is inconsistent. David had seen his dream souvenir, an actual replica Morning Star, at the monument’s gift shop three days earlier and suddenly decided he had to have it. All my timing had gone well all day and it was about to fall apart.

I finally gave in and we drove the short distance to the monument’s base. I figured it would be closed and we could be on our way quickly. We arrived in the parking lot at about 5:45 pm and learned that it was open until 6:00. But there was no way we could hike back up to the monument in time. Oh, no problem, said the person at the info desk. She called the shuttle driver, and a moment later we had a private vehicle taking us up the mountain to the monument.

We got out of the vehicle at 5:55 pm and our driver said he’d be right back to bring us down the mountain. We walked into the gift shop and there it was, David’s Morning Star. Fifty Pounds later David had his precious souvenir, just as they were locking the doors. We walked outside and there was our driver, ready to take us back down. Talk about just in the nick of time.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner in Glasgow that night with our new-found Richler cousins, got a tour of the University of Glasgow then drove to the airport to return our car. Then we hopped on the last tram of the night to the city at 10:30 pm and pulled up to our hotel in Edinburgh around 11:00 pm.

A photo with my Richler cousins, Sam and Emma, in Glasgow

We were exhausted and fell over soon after into a deep sleep. David and I had traveled a huge distance that day, with an ambitious itinerary, and we did it. We did it all, because time was on our side. Whether it’s arriving at an attraction, joining a tour or snagging that special parking spot, doing it in the nick of time feels great.

Do you have Time Management Skills?

time management

It has been a very busy week, and I got the inspiration to write today’s blog post when I realized very late last night that I am not managing or balancing my time effectively at all (hence no blog post on Wednesday). With a husband, three children, a revolving door of houseguests and a freelance career I do not have enough hours in the day right now. Last week I asked, “Where did the Evening Go,” and this week I am asking another question about time management.

I remember when I got my first “real” job, when I was 24 years old and fresh out of graduate school. I was hired as a radio producer at an all-sports radio station. David and I had recently moved to Toronto from New York, secured a great condo in the heart of the city and by luck my job was a 2-minute walk from my front door.

I worked odd hours, with shifts often in the evenings and weekends or I filled in for the morning show or afternoon show. When I wasn’t at work, my free time was mine. Our apartment was easy to maintain and clean, grocery shopping and cooking were quick and easy and we had quite a bit of disposable income. I sometimes wondered what I would do with all my free time.

In the coming years, I secured increasingly senior jobs, bought a house and had children.  As my free time vanished and the extra cash in my bank account was depleted by my growing family I realized I had to learn some time management skills and find a way to balance my life.

Of course, life balance and time management are two different things, and today I will just focus on time. Oh time, something I just don’t have.

Who decided to put 24 hours in a day? And why only 7 days in a week? Would I manage my time better if I had, say, 26 hours every day and one extra day each week? Okay, I know I’m being silly and I am sure some rather intelligent and sophisticated people did scientific calculations to determine seconds, hours, minutes, days and weeks. Okay, so I can’t change that.

Should I sleep more? Or should I sleep less? Should I actually schedule every minute of my day so that I don’t spend too much time on any given task? Maybe I am spending too much time on some things, like grocery shopping and cooking, and not enough time doing other things, like playing with my children or (gasp!) exercising.

Because I am a freelancer now, or to make it more professional sounding, I am the sole proprietor of a business, I need to have a lot of self-discipline to ensure I secure work and then actually complete the work in a timely fashion. My hours are my own and my office is my house. And those work hours have to fit in and around my long list of other responsibilities. Some of those include caring for my children, chauffeuring my children to school, camp and activities, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. And sometimes, if I can manage it, I allow some time for myself. It all comes back to time management.

I am overwhelmed, as I believe are many other women who have a young family and a career. We represent a large percentage of the population, and no matter how proud we are of our children and how successful we are in our careers we have tremendous challenges when it comes to time management.

I welcome your comments your thoughts here, on Facebook or on Twitter. How do you manage your time? Let’s get the conversation started.