Thursday, 8 June 2023


 Warning: long, discursive and a bit weird.

synonyms for housewife: homemaker, family manager, home economist, home engineer, lady of the house, mistress of the house, wife and mother.

You know, the world would probably not run without housewives. (And the occasional house husband, of course.) A woman with top intelligence and drive can manage a fulfilling and successful career and wife/motherhood. But most women do not have the opportunities, the work ethic or a very helpful spouse, all of which are what makes the career path possible. Yes, I hear you muttering, there are a lot of single women out there managing work and children. Yes. There are. The point is, though, that it can be very, very hard. Ask a childless, unmarried career woman how easy it is to have a dinner party solo, just in passing. She could certainly use a helper, a gofer, someone to shop, clean, manage the laundry, run errands, garden, all that. A helpmeet. Synonym for wife. To have the time and resources necessary to climb most work ladders, a person needs that support. That wife. Politicians almost have to have one – preferably blonde, sweet, the mother of two and a half adorable children, and ready at any time to pose with said children and the photogenic dog.  Most successful people have one. Having the support leads to success.

I am defining ‘success’ in saying all this. A successful career, as opposed to a ‘job’, or a succession of jobs, is specific, in this context. It is the path of choice for the woman in it, and a path that leads upward to recognition and reward, to responsibility and promotion. A successful career satisfies the person in it and the person gives satisfaction. Sure, a lot of men do not have successful careers, for various reasons.  But my point is that many more women than men end up dead-ended, struggling, underpaid and unappreciated. If, instead of a struggling worker, the woman is a housewife, all of these things are also very likely to be true. Yes, there are housewives by choice. If they have not been persuaded by custom or family pressure, good for them.  Those few, those happy few. As they say. The rest of womankind is, um, held cheap.

Is it fixable, do you think?  There is one road, a path that runs through education combined with both the ability to profit by the education and the opportunity to use it. For this to work, the education has to be relevant and suited to the individual. The things taught have to be related enough to the work world, to confer value and impart both knowledge and desire to know and do. I have worked in the peripheries of the education industry all my life and I do not have a high opinion of a lot of the curriculum, which tends to lag reality, or some of the teachers, who tend to live in yesterday instead of tomorrow. Somewhere in there it would also be really good if the student learns to think, just a little; but I have digressed. 

One thing that cannot be changed is that it is the women who gestates and produces the children. And, after the pregnancy, a lot of the caring for the newborn falls to the mother, especially if the child is nursed rather than bottle fed. Although it is tiring for both parents, raising the children falls mostly to the mother, in our society. The same thing is true of housework and, just generally, gatekeeping. In a two-person household, these tasks tend to fall on the wife of the house. She may hear ‘How can I help?’, but lifting the burden requires looking at its shape and weight and figuring out how to share, truly share it, without being told to do each individual task. The gatekeeper, the scheduler, has the responsibility and must make the time to do the planning, telling, reminding, list making, locating and researching. True even if there is an empty nest – guess who ends up disposing of the egg shells. 

Ah, I now hear you saying. You just need to simplify. Then the burden is less. I hear that in a lot of ways from a lot of sources and I think it is just plain wrong. Simple solutions to complex problems do not exist. Sorry. Whether you are the leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition or married to a worrier, you are, please believe me, wrong. “You don’t need to iron my handkerchiefs” says the helpful spouse. Well, no. But rough-folded handkerchiefs do not fit into the drawer properly; they take up twice the space of ironed ones. To simplify, one could use paper tissues. At, sadly, a cost both to the weekly grocery bill and the environment, not to mention the task of making sure that a tissue does not go into the wash in a pocket. Paper tissues are make using bleach, oh dear, but the cloth handkerchiefs require bleach, or at least saline solution, if the user has a cold or a nosebleed. And around we go. Simple? Nah. 

Disclosure time: I am a housewife. I have been a housewife, more often than not, for sixty years and counting. Yes, I have studied, worked, volunteered, all things I did in addition to my day job. Um, perhaps I should describe it as my day-and-night job, because housewifing is not something that you
can quit at 5:00 PM, hang up your tools and go out for a drink. Especially not if you are a mother; disclosure requires me to add here that my househusband was a willing and creative babysitter in the evenings and certainly made being a mother an easier job because of that. I do not, am not, able to judge if I have been a successful housewife, though, because what is the standard for success? Sixty years of marriage to the same man? Two successful children raised, launched and applauded? A grandchild well on the way to at least a chance at a satisfying life?  Am I, then, a success judged by my past ability to do my job? I repeat, I have no idea. Am I satisfied with myself? Well, no. 

It was the road I chose, but the road not taken haunts me.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Long Light

We are almost to the equinox, and that means that the sun is higher and sets later.  At this time of year, if we have the right snow conditions, there is what I call ‘long light’; long clear shadows are cast across the snow by the setting sun. We had those conditions today and I grabbed my big Nikon and tried to record them. It has not worked well – the photos are dull compared to the visuals in my memory. I am going to post them anyway – a pale ghost of what I wanted. The turkeys in shot 3 did not intend to photobomb – they come by every afternoon as JG puts out a snack for them and the deer.

As for the ‘long light’, the quote is from a poem by Tennyson. It is a fine and opulent stanza, typical of him. Rather like getting a bouquet of flowers with roses and chrysanthemums and carnations all bunched together. Beautiful in its own way.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

A mixed bag from the Old Bag

I actually wrote a letter several weeks ago. The kind you put in an envelope with a stamp on it. I thought that the YD might enjoy getting such a thing as a change from emails and WhatsApp and Facetime, much as I appreciate these things and much as she employs them with great éclat. (Spellcheck just refused to give me that last word. It is, oh horror, French! And I am too lazy to go looking for the accent aigue. Hah! Got it.) I mailed it shortly after it was written, February 6th as I recall, and she acknowledged receipt yesterday, February 26th. Not a good venue for urgent communication. The term ‘snail mail’ comes to mind. 

 I first started using email when the ED (E is for Elder, sorry) was in Great Britain, either as a grad student or newly married. She and her spouse set it up for me, I think as a birthday gift. Later, when her marriage broke down, the email was a lifeline between us, for me anyway, as I heard from her pretty well every day and knew that she was surviving and managing and at least a bit okay. This drama took place before the cell phone era arrived out here. I had a ‘bag’ phone in the car to use in mobile emergencies, but it only was viable in Canada. When we had the big ice storm in ’98, the landlines went down for lack of power. No internet either, of course. I was frantically worried about the daughter and tried to phone from the car phone. Bell Canada held me up for most of a day and I had to prepay a preposterous sum to get overseas coverage, but I did manage it and we got through to the ED, who had flown back to the UK during a lull in the ice storm, and she was okay. After eleven (as I recall) days, we got the power back and email back and I got back in touch with my world.


I was thinking about that phone when I wrote the quick post about the car phone conversation that is the one below this one. ‘Plus ca change’, and all that. Spellcheck blue lines again. Hah! I got ‘ca’ but without the cedilla, but am called out for the placement of ‘plus’ which Spellcheck thinks is English. I am now going to go back and put that in single quotation marks and see if the blue underline disappears. Nope. Still there. Spellcheck, or whatever the correction program in Word is now called, is anally retentive sometimes. “After an introductory word or phrase, a comma is best”, it pontificates. Now that the computer geeks are bringing AI along, I look forward to having an AI doing the spelling and grammar review. That should be instructive. 

And here is a just-for-fun instructive aside. French has much nicer words for the various kinds of quotation marks than we do in English. I love ‘accolades’, and ‘crotchets’, both of which are also words in English. Here are the terms for your reading pleasure.

 « » guillemets (m)         quotation marks, inverted commas
 ( ) parenthèses (f)           parentheses
 [ ] crochets (droits) (m) (square) brackets 
{ } accolades (f)             curly brackets, braces 

For my pleasure, I have just read a post in a blog I follow that has a couple of paragraphs of pure gold – an analysis of some of the author’s writing skills. In another blog I read regularly, the writer is a really skilled photographer and frequently posts about how he sets up and why and how he edits. I learn something almost every time. There is also a blogger in PEI whose posts are full of information about the coast, the birds and the laneways of that lovely island. And then there is me. I try all of these themes from time to time but …. JOATS do most things, but none of them all that well. 

There is very little in here that is even brass, let alone gold. But sometimes, just sometimes, the words flow, pour off the ends of my tapping fingers and arrange themselves gloriously on the page. Sometimes. (I just substituted a word in that penultimate sentence and will probably reread it a multitude of times before I finally post it. I did much the same process with the letter to the YD.) And, my goodness!, how I do love my parentheses. Yeah, okay, brackets. 

There are a lot of functions up there in the drop-down menus. One of which is, it appears, translation. The sentence below is provided by Microsoft Translator and says, essentially, that I could translate if I knew how.

 اگر میں چاہوں تو اس کا عربی سے اردو میں سینتیس زبانوں میں سے کسی ایک میں ترجمہ کر سکتا تھا۔ یا مجھے لگتا ہے کہ یہ دستیاب ہے. کاش میں جانتا تھا کہ یہ کیسے کرنا ہے. And now I do. There are approximately three dozen language options, from Arabic to Urdu, the last of which is the one I chose. The things we can do! 

 Anything, it appears, except stop the carnage around the world that is taking innocent lives daily, in various horrible wars and accidents. I had to stop there and go out and watch the snow fall and calm down. When I think about what is happening in so many places in the world today, my reaction is rage. Pure, unadulterated rage. It should be stopped, it must be stopped. Why cannot it be, simply, stopped. I will stop here. More snow fall needed.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Car Phones

This is just a quickie post to share one of the funnier moments that modern technology allows. 

 JG came home from shopping in our local town yesterday quite bemused as well as amused. I appears that he was chatting with his daughter on his (hands free) mobile as he drove along the highway coming home. The daughter was also on her mobile in her car and, get this, driving the Autobahn in Germany. JG said that the connection was crystal clear (we are only a little over 100 years from ‘crystal’ wireless sets). 

Every time I think about this, I giggle a bit. How technology changes and changes us. My grandmother saw the change from horse and buggy to automobile. She lived in one of, I think, nine households on a party telephone line that crackled and hissed. She did not drive a car nor expect to do so. In my residence at university there was one telephone in a common room on each floor. I thought it the height of decadence that my daughters had their own phones in their residence rooms. Not so, and the height of decadence has become my grandkid chatting with her parents on her mobile as she walks the streets around her university. And now this. 

 The daughter in question just got her new car, and says it talks to her. It wants her to have two hands on the wheel and stay in the centre of her lane. And tells her so, or at least will do so until she figures out how to turn this fine feature off. She says it sounds like her father. I wish I had my grandmother here to tell about this. Can’t you just picture her incredulous face?

Friday, 3 February 2023

Anyone for a Mackinaw?


A loading of icy rain.

It is cold out there. When I was out on our porch for my post-prandial cigarette (Yeah, I know) it was -26°C, translating to -11°F and it is supposed to get even colder later on. I zipped up the coat I wear out there and covered my head. I was, however, still in my Birkenstock sandals and I may have to change them for fuzzy slippers at bedtime, the next scheduled trip into the Vortex. (Or whatever) I was, as I zipped, reminded of a silly song I learned around a campfire in my misspent youth, about a logger. One verse goes, as I recall, ‘At forty degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest.’ It does not say which zero in the song, but when I was that young it was Fahrenheit. Okay, can’t spell that. And since I have to go and find the spelling, (I forgot the first ‘h’) I will find a link to the logger song, just for your enjoyment.

Here is the reference for the Frozen Logger. I had no idea so many people have ‘covered’ it. Here below are the frankly idiotic but fun lyrics in entirety and, of course, I did not remember the line I wanted correctly. Only the AC can do that, with hymns anyway, eh? And why, just in passing, can I not reduce the line values here to save space? Argh. I have edited punctuation and changed a few words for rhythm in this version. There are many.

As I stepped out one morning into a small cafe

A 40 year old waitress to me these words did say...

 "I see, sir, you’re a logger, and not just a common bum

'Cause nobody but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb.

My lover was a logger, there's none like him today.

If you'd pour whiskey on it, he'd eat a bale of hay.

My lover came to see me, ’twas on one freezing day.

He threw his arms around me and broke three vertebrae.

I saw my lover leaving, trudging through the snow

Up going gaily homeward at 48 below.

                                      I learned this one differently, as:

'My lover he did kiss me, so hard he broke my jaw.

I could not speak to tell him he forgot his Mackinaw. '

The weather tried to freeze him, it tried its level best;

At a thousand degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest’

It froze clear through to China, it froze to the stars above

At a million degrees below zero, it froze my logger love.

And so I lost my lover, and to this cafe I come

And here I wait 'til someone stirs his coffee with his thumb."

 This is a fine cartoon rendering. 

  It has been a warm if snowy January. We had a thaw that was well above freezing and the rain fell, mostly, as rain. No ice storm, although we are celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of our big one, about which you can read (if you must) here. Look at it, I should correct myself. The above is a video. This one should be print.

There were lots of photos, but I can’t resist adding at least one of my own, heading off this less than coherent offering of a post. I will not add a shot of the thermometer. Lots of us are doing that.

The aftermath of the 1998 ice storm.

Friday, 30 December 2022

Life in the Confused Lane


The ‘template’ I open in Word to write posts gives me the Calibri font at 11 points. I do not like it. And so I usually type two letters, wipe them and change to Times New Roman at 12 points, a look that I like, at a guess, because it is so familiar. I think of it as easier to read, but, in fact, I am not sure that is accurate. I just like it. (Having just typed and formatted this, I am now wondering how Blogger will display it.) Edited to add that Blogger did not display it at all, and I have reformatted inside the posting page as well as I can. Blogger does not offer Calibri, I find, and I defaulted to Arial to show the difference. It did not work well, sadly.

 The way this blog looks is important to me, to an extent. I will change my header away from a Christmas theme over the next few days, providing I find time to do it. I did get the laundry mostly under control today, and so there may be time. But I need to get the English tutors up and running too, and that means a lot of time on the phone. Next week is my crazy week, the first of the month, because I have a discussion group that meets on the first Monday and a Book Club that meets on the first Thursday. Add the lessons I am teaching and at least one other meeting, and I am going to be going from home to Perth and back like a yoyo next week.

Meanwhile I am plotting to force one of my students out of charming and lazy mode and into real learning, move another one up a level whether it is a priority or not (time is ticking) and catch up on the two that I am confident have good tutors and are doing okay. But I need to check. And the time thing is real. Our group is committed to supporting these families for a year and we are already a third of the way through it. I do so want, while it is available for them to learn without cost, good English fluency. It may not be entirely possible, but I want to give it my best try. They are lovely young people and deserve our help.

 Also meanwhile, the YD is back in Brussels and as of today, so is her stuff. Or, most of it at least. We have been receiving an hilarious series of Whatsapp comments as the shipment arrived at her house and was unpacked. There is one big item that did not make it, and her North American small appliances did arrive, all useless without a translator of the power supply (I can’t remember what that is called). The last post she made was from a hardware store where she described herself as trying to explain in French what gismo she needed to put her table together, without knowing the name of said gismo, and then realized she had brought one with her to show. I trust she is now asleep in her own bed and bedding, cats purring and a weekend of organizing it all in store.

 When I think that all I have to organize is the laundry, my blog header and my English tutors, I realize that I am blessed. Plus, it is above freezing here and the laneway ice is melting. Um, having said that, I realize that I have all the Christmas stuff in the house to take down, pack up and store. Never mind the Christmas header for the blog. It will have to line up behind figuring out how to make my student stop telling me that we will meet ‘on the library’, getting the tree needles out of the stairwell and deciding what of my Christmas décor to keep and what to give away. I promise myself every year that I will do this last chore, and last year I actually did reduce the storage boxes by one. Maybe this is the year I can reduce by a second one. Stay tuned for the next exiting episode of Life with Me.

Monday, 26 December 2022

The Aftermath

 After my complaining, Santa ought to have brought me coal instead of gorgeous jewellery and two books, one of which I have been wanting for a long while and the other looking really interesting. I had a serene and leisurely Christmas while the YD cooked, sliced, poked, diced and cleaned, most of the day, and the ED and family picked up, helped to clean up, stripped the turkey carcass, packed up and did all of the running around associated with Hosting the Feast. All I did was set the table, as pictured, and make the gravy (and I got help with that!). It was a real treat. 

This is, of course, pre food, when the table cloth disappears under a multiple dish layer.

Note that the counters below are not only empty but clean! The bag contains the last of the detritus, on its way to storage in the basement freezer. The refrigerator contains enough leftovers to see us through a major weather event. There is also enough chocolate, from Belgium and locally sourced, to ruin any diet. 

Thank you, wonderful daughters.