Tuesday, 15 October 2019

An Uninspired Post

I made a meatloaf for supper tonight. I once probably had a recipe for this dish … I would bet it was from my mother-in-law. She was a Cook. She could bake anything and have it turn out looking professional. She clipped lots of recipes out of the paper and magazines and tried them out. She could put on a company dinner for a dozen or more people without turning a hair. Our younger daughter takes after her. Skipped a generation, as they say. Aforesaid YD is probably wiping brow as she reads this and rejoicing that she is living on the other side of the world. She did not and does not like meatloaf.

Anyway, what I do is throw ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs and whatever is handy into a bowl, mix it and throw it in the oven for an hour or so. Very forgiving dish. Never twice quite the same. As I glopped the mixture around, I found myself thinking about how many times I had made this dish. Say at least once a month in cold weather – ten times a year. Times the 56 (fifty-six!) years I have been married and responsible for putting supper on the table. That is one hell of a lot of meatloaf. That is one hell of a lot of years of putting supper on the table, for that matter.

It would be easier on me and on my long-suffering husband if I liked to cook. He likes to eat, my husband, and supper is one of the high points of his day. It has to be a set meal with meat and vegetables and salad or greens and a starch, although I have beaten him back to the point where Friday is hamburger day on a regular basis. He also cooks, or, rather, barbeques and so he will often be responsible for the meat portion of the meal. But the planning is my job. I find it a boring one and I do not clip recipes out and try out something new unless pushed to it. Even though I have been given an electric pot and a sous-vide cooker on various occasions. Oh, and a wok. Twice. I am not inspired.

To live is to have to do at least some housework, hmm? Even if you are living on the street with your possessions in a grocery cart, you still have to pick up your bedding and put it in the cart every morning. Most of us do much, much more. There are dust bunnies to be hauled out from under the furniture, fingerprints to remove from vertical surfaces, horizontal surfaces to polish, and all this after you tidy up and put away the huge number of things that get put on them. We all own too much stuff. And we wear too much stuff. I have just finished putting away the summer weight clothes and getting out the winter weight ones and within a few weeks will have to repeat this for winter coats and boots. And all this is just inside. JG spent the afternoon removing leaves from his lawn after first servicing the leaf-removing machine. And this morning he was cleaning furnace pipes.

If I sound cranky about all this, it is not without foundation. I feel cranky. I want to be Lady Mary from Downton Abbey and not, not, complain that I have nothing to do. I would like a maid to keep my clothes in order, a cook and a housekeeper, and maybe even a footman to iron my newspaper. What a strange and wonderful world that was, both for the people above stairs and the minions below. JG and I are re-watching the TV series with a view to remembering who and what it is all about before going to see the film. We enjoyed it the first time and are enjoying it again as we find we have forgotten a lot of the plot and some of the characters.

Easier to deal with than the plot and characters of the election, at that. I still have no idea how I am going to vote. I have never missed voting in an election since I was eligible to do so and am not going to break that streak, but wow, what a lack of viable choice. Well, at least I am not an American. JG is at present watching one of the Democratic debates. He is a braver person than I.
So are you, if you have managed to get this far. There are not even any photos to break up the text. Next time I will post about my flowering cacti, with illustrations, and so you have that to look forward to seeing.

And tomorrow it is back to left-over turkey.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Assessing Mr. Dress-up

It has been more than a little surprising for me to watch the continuing fuss being made over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appearances in black (and brown) face make-up. Although the community I grew up in and the schools I attended were all “integrated”, I have always been aware that prejudice against Canadians with dark skins exists and is difficult for them. To put it mildly. I have seen and felt that prejudice in action. However, I have also always believed that in Canada there is redress for those whose lives are impacted by such prejudice. There are laws forbidding it.  There is good will and friendship. If I had thought about it, I would have said that appearing as a ‘genie’ at a costume party would not be particularly offensive to anyone. And I would have cited the Liberal party as providing leadership in fighting prejudice.

So, what is with Justin and the multiple appearances in offensive costume?   Why, it appears to me as being the principle question, was this not addressed when he first appeared on the scene as a leadership candidate? I suspect there are two aspects to the omission, if omission it was. One is that the people vetting Trudeau were, like me, smug members of the Anglo-Saxon majority and dismissive of ‘youthful’ peccadillos. Again, as I have been, lacking in awareness of what a big deal anything that looks like political incorrectness has become. And, most important, Trudeau junior just had too many attractive qualities that would allow the Liberal party to do well at election time. The same qualities, in some cases, that lured him into putting the make-up on.

The man has charisma, good looks, polished delivery of platitudes that he obviously seems to believe and a distinguished background as the son of a very clever politician. We watched him grow up. We were moved by his eulogy of his father. He fit into the political world quickly and well. His good looks and athleticism were a fine show of what a Canadian could be, we thought. He is a winner, we all thought. Does it matter that he does not have a resume of increasingly responsible positions in management and government to offer as evidence of his ability to lead? Men with those qualities had not proved out, recently, to be election winners. And in order to govern, hey, first you have to win.

My father’s family was large L Liberal. I grew up both liberal and Liberal. I was proud to be a member of the party that could offer Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau as leaders, backed by talented if unruly cabinets.  But along the way, the large L fell out of my value system. I thought Chretien did a good job, mostly, but his resume was pretty thin. At least, as a career politician, he had held and done well in responsible cabinet posts. So had Paul Martin Jr done well in Finance, but it turned out that he did not have the ability to lead. And it has just gone downhill ever since. We seem to be unable to produce people who have the qualities to do the job and also want the job.

I have heard from more than one source that none of the leaders of the parties in contention in this federal election are appealing candidates. The Conservative Party leader is a colourless man whose speaking style does not inspire. Nor does his party’s platform. The NDP is weak and the Green Party insular; both of them lack any experience in their senior ranks of actual governing and their talking points reflect this. The other choice is Mr. Charm. Mr. Sunny Ways. Mr. Dress-up. He is certainly not colourless. He talks a fine line. In the last election he pulled his party with him to a credible win. It will be interesting to see if he can get past this set of blunders and present himself and his party as a credible choice.

Me, I don’t want to vote for any of them. I will have to look only at the local candidates. And maybe hold my nose.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Don't trip on the eggshells.

It is back to school week, and Facebook is covered with shots of first day outfits and scholars. Posts are appearing from the mothers of kids who have launched, from kindergarten to college/university. At both these ends of the range, the youngest scholar leaves behind an empty space … either a half day with no children at home or a home with no children in residence. An empty nest. But not forgotten. You think and worry and hope – eggshells in the nest.

I have experienced both these vacancies. I still remember launching the YD both into junior kindergarten (she was determined to walk to the school BY HERSELF, Mommy) and driving away from her first-year university residence after she had almost literally shoved me into the car and sent me on my way. The similar launches of older siblings are not quite the same as those moments. The empty house echoes, what to do next becomes a decision rather than a response and you find yourself shopping, cooking and doing the other household chores differently, to name a few changes. And you wait. You wait for the door to slam, the phone to ring, the mailman’s thump (yes, remember snail mail), the in-box to ding. Sometimes the response is not good when it comes, but usually all the worrying you have done was to no purpose and the launch successful. And then you watch them soar, caught between pride and loneliness.

Both of the classic launches are a long way behind me and since then there have been more departures of adult children to jobs in different countries, on different continents, to a different (married, perhaps) life. In all cases, for me, I have been left with some echoes, lots of left -over packing material and, frequently, the contents of a frig, house plants too big to move, or winter gear (not needed in Africa). Once I was left with a house to sell. From time to time I have had a grandchild or dog and cat to mother while their real mothers did something else. And, always, they come back. Not to stay, except for a short time, but for long enough to tell stories of their adventures.

I am an old lady – watching the fledglings flap away happened long ago. But watching the next generation fly is very much with me. And the grandchild is a constant source of wonder and pride. Her wings are growing. Soon she will launch herself. I hope to be there to see it, as my parents and in-laws were there to watch our daughters and savour every moment, good and bad.

Yes, they may land with a thump on their beak the odd time, be forced down into thorny branches, be battered by storm and rain, take the wrong direction for a while. There is no such thing as a perfect life or even perfect safety. Mostly they will manage. Often they will overcome.

 So, mother of a freshman newly installed in a dorm with in-bed computer access, mother of a grade seven dressed in high style for her first day in middle-school, mother of a Grade 3 who got a fine teacher, mother of whomever, relax. You may have egg shells at present, but soon you will hear the whoosh of wings and the stories will start. And you will be proud of their grace and strength both when you welcome them and when they swoop off again.

I have certainly squeezed every nuance possible out of this metaphor. I can almost hear my mother telling me so. Eggshells are fine things on their own.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Meme lifted wholesale from Nance. Thank you!

Today, Mary G Is:

Wearing: a pair of trousers that she bought in Zimbabwe in 1992. "Where did you get those pants*?" queried the Grandkid yesterday (when I also had them on). When I told her, she said "I thought so." The look on her face was hilarious.

Reading: Rereading, in fact. Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series. If she does not get books five and six done soon, I will die without finding out the denouement. Cripes. First argument I have ever seen that makes living into extreme old age palatable.

Working On: Six months worth of backed up sorting, ironing and mending. I blame the knee surgery, but in truth it might have been piled up like that anyway.

Hearing:  Still procrastinating on making an appointment with a hearing aid provider.

Making For Dinner: Leftovers. We had Sunday dinner with the family on Saturday.  Pretty classy leftovers including jumbo shrimp and a fascinating Japanese cheesecake.

Thinking About: The YD who is working her tail off at her job. Not about to ease up anytime soon, either, as I understand it. However, she could take five minutes and send me an update email.

Planning: Spring cleaning. May get this done by Christmas.

* The pants are beige background with burnt umber patches and green animal outlines superimposed. And baggy. Very baggy.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Knee Capped

Here follows another of Mary's medical posts. If you are getting tired of them, imagine how I feel.

This time I had knee replacement surgery. For some years my right leg has been so twisted and the knee what my surgeon described as 'bone on bone' that I have been much restricted in taking to the bush. Last spring I signed up for knee surgery to see if I could not only get the knee fixed, but also help the spasms in my lower back brought on, in part, by my walking like a duck.

This spring I finally got on the list and trudged in to the hospital in late March to get my knew knee. {Sorry!) What they do is chop out the old one. put in a nice new metal three piece and sew you up again.

Then you get to stay over in the hospital a day while you get some weight-bearing back and limp off home, where you should have pre-equipped yourself with a walker, elastic support stockings and someone to look after you. You have a fine seam, in my case stapled shut, on your knee, considerable bruising, and the elastic stockings quickly cause all the top layer of skin from your ankle up to turn into confetti. Also, it hurts. (Please feel free to imagine the word "ouch" frequently interspersed in this post). Oh yes,you also have pages of exercises that you are supposed to do many times each day, including lying with your leg propped on four or five pillows.

In my case, my husband cooks, cleans and critiques with great skill. He had a knee replacement himself quite some time ago, but avers that he can't remember much about it. I have a reclining chair with electric controls, a good iPad and neighbours who bring bags of magazines. All set.

I quickly found that the walker was a [censored] pain to use. If I wanted to carry anything, I had to push it ahead of me with one hand. Not too useful. So I moved to a cane and that worked pretty well. It even allowed me to get organized enough to bring my poor husband his morning coffee in bed, provided I used a cup with a cover. The support stockings are a pain. They hurt going on, they hurt coming off and you have to wash the damn things out all the time. The exercise sheet was more than daunting. Like, owie. However, bags of frozen peas and flexible ice packs are very, very useful.

After two weeks you trek back to the hospital, (in our case over washed out gravel roads that bounce the knee around severely) and they get the staples out, check for infection and give you more pages of exercises. Note, if you are contemplating having this surgery, that three weeks of pain, and pain killers that don't work as well as you want them to, are standard. Plus, none of your trousers will fit over the bandages. Get a very soft track suit.

What I did not think about ahead of time, but should have, is that if it is your right knee, you are not allowed to drive for six (6!) weeks. So your someone to look after you has to drive you to all your physiotherapy appointments, doctors' appointments and anywhere else you need to go. Roads getting more and more washed out. [Insert ouch]

Did I mention cabin fever in there anywhere.

Anyway, I am now past the five week mark, have ditched the stockings and the cane except for walking outside, am cleared onto the exercise bike and am looking forward to getting my wheels back and getting on with my life. Or, perhaps, I should say getting back to my life. If it were not for my best coffee friend, I would probably be writing this from a locked ward.

And yesterday my therapist told me that I was walking straight all wrong, backwards in fact, and gave me another sheet of exercises. [Insert curse word of your choice].

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The Perfect Comeback.

I have a very bad habit of going over unfortunate events in my mind after they have happened. And I often find that the perfect response will occur to me long after the time to have made it has passed. As happened yesterday.

I have a car where the hatchback is moved up and down by a push button, rather than having to be lifted or lowered by hand. As I was opening it in the grocery store parking lot yesterday, an elderly and somewhat untidy man was walking by.

 "Wouldn't you like it if your husband had a button like that?" he said, jovially.

I was rendered speechless. There is nothing, NOTHING, about me that ought to render me vulnerable to even mild misogynist jokes. I am an old and somewhat untidy lady. wearing a shapeless coat and with short white hair. What is with the 'all women want sex' message to someone like me? I just stared at the poor idiot and he trotted on, chuckling.

About half way home (half an hour drive), it came to me. What I should have said.

"This  button also shuts it up. If you have a similar button, allow me to use it."

Oh well.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Trouble with Trees

 The trouble with trees is that they break off, fall over in a high wind or otherwise mess up your home or road or power line. Oh, and they shed huge quantities of leaves and crud in the fall, pollen in the spring and nasty bugs on webs in the summer. Their root systems head unerringly for your drains or lift your walkways. Wayward branches tap on your window in the middle of the night or fall off the tree onto your head. (This actually happened to me.) Tree trunks provide a home for various nasty creepy-crawlies and if there is decay, woodpeckers go after the bugs until your head pounds too. Why, she asked rhetorically, would anyone want a tree?

Why would anyone not want a tree. They provide shade. They adorn landscapes with brilliant colours in the fall. The wind makes music soughing through the branches. Draped with snow, dotted with tiny spring buds or naked against a pewter sky, trees are always beautiful.

When we built our forever house in the woods, we chose a site on slanted ground at the edge of an old orchard.  When it was a working orchard, there was a rail fence surrounding these trees and after the orchard was abandoned in about 1905, young deciduous and evergreen trees grew up around the fence. Bears, raccoons and other hungry wildlife destroyed most of the apple trees over time, but one still remains and, when we built, we left a line of the volunteer trees on the south-west side of the house.

One, especially, an oak sapling, became a favourite as it grew from a single whip into a shapely shade tree. There were also both red and sugar maples, a birch and one majestic pine.
The oak sapling can be seen in front of the back end
of the floor joist I am carrying.

Grown into a shapely oak.

The full line of trees, sugar maple on the left, oak busily growing, red maples.

The pine, the birch and the oak are still with us, but all of the maples are now down. First the sugar maple died, probably from having its roots, clinging to shallow soil above bedrock, pounded during the building process. Two more red maples followed it into firewood, leaving a great growing space for the oak and remaining red maple. But, in a wind storm this summer, a large branch of the red maple broke and fell onto the roof. And it was determined that the tree must be cut down to prevent the rest of it from destroying the living room’s big glass windows.

JG invited a neighbour to help and they put a cable around the tree, tied to the tractor, so that the tree would, they hoped, fall exactly between the oak and the birch, damaging neither. This worked pretty well although we did lose a couple of branches off the oak. The tree was cut up, the log hauled away to become firewood (we heat with a wood furnace) and the debris raked and taken away. And there is now a big gap in our shade line.

The gap is not entirely bad. We had been so surrounded by trees that the sunset and night sky were barely visible and now I can see both coloured cloud at sunset and stars at night. JG put up a rattan blind to give my favourite porch chair afternoon shade. And the oak has room to grow into a mighty tree.