Friday, 28 December 2007

Post Christmas Inventory

Turkey carcass: one, dumped in the bush to give the coyotes and wolves a Christmas treat. (I couldn't face making soup this year!)
Turkey meat: three bags full. In spite of what the family lugged home Christmas Day. (JG ordered a 22 lb bird and got a 23.2 lb one. It did look impressive but, boy, was it heavy to lift.)
Gravy, dressing and cranberry: many plastic containers thereof.
Salads: some got eaten. There is a lot of coleslaw boxed up somewhere in there.
Whipped cream: ditto.

Dessert: After the family packed their spoils I still have: half a pumpkin pie; half a mince and pumpkin pie; half an apple pie; most of a chocolate torte cake; most of a fruitcake; two containers of Christmas cookies; three boxes of chocolates; assorted chocolate goodies including an untouched chocolate log; five calling birds, three French hens ……….no, wait, stop that!

I am holding a Dessert Party this evening. I have invited the neighbours. Got to get rid of some of this calorific pelf.

I won't get started on the cheese leftovers list -- we're eating that, too, by golly.

Just to mention -- Little Stuff's face when she hauled the stuffed moose out of its bag was priceless. She now has it at her house and her mother says she has rigged up a harness for it out of Christmas ribbon, to pull it with because it is too big for her to carry. But she assures her mother that it is a housebroken moose.

Little Stuff also got an Island Princess Barbie from Santa Claus. It has a turquoise dress with sparkles and a peacock fan. She and her mother bought one of these early in December to give to an 'Angel Tree' child and Little Stuff was enthralled with it. When she asked for it as her Santa gift, her mother was unable to find the identical doll but I was able to pick one up. I was assigned the task of making an additional outfit for this doll, and so I very carefully extracted her from her packaging. But when I picked her up, she started to sing, causing me to lift two feet off my sewing table chair. The wretched toy has a necklace that, when depressed, starts the 'Island' song in a shrill and garbled voice.

Needless to say, Christmas day was a bit noisy. Little Stuff would pop into the kitchen and depress the stud. Grandma would say 'Get that thing OUT of here!' Little Stuff, consumed with giggles, would then return to the living room and repeat the process, whereupon Daddy would say 'That's enough singing!' and she would swing back to the kitchen, depress the stud………………..! !!! Finally her other grandmother took pity on the cooks and distracted her.

The turkey was marvelous -- tender, moist and full of flavour. Big turkeys do cook better, says the voice of over forty years' experience. But even forty years of garnering leftover recipes is not enough.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Red Velvet Angel

Cripes, Here Comes Santa Claus

My link function seems to be down. Sorry!

The Elder Daughter called last night to tell me that Little Stuff's Christmas Concert is this afternoon. Little Stuff's class will be singing Chansons de Noel, she is requested to inform me, and teacher's instructions are that the children are to dress like princes and princesses. And would Grama and Grandpa like to come? Well, of course. But Grandpa left an hour ago for a meeting that will take all day. It is now 8:00 am, and as I look out the window, freezing rain is settling on everything like a silver scarf. However, if it stops I will attempt to make the hour drive, as the sight of Little Stuff in her Christmas red velvet dress with lace stockings, glittery shoes and a red velvet headband is one that I would be sad to miss. Even if she is overcome with stage fright, as well may happen.

For a wonderful description of a joyous Christmas concert child, take a look at Andrea's post about Frances' debut at A Garden of Nna Mmoy.

I have been reading a most riveting book, The Price of Motherhood. Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued. By Ann Crittenden. Crittenden is a journalist, former reporter for the New York Times, and, judging by this book, a most formidable researcher and analyst. The book was published in 2001 but I do believe most of the issues and data are very current for 2008. And the book has really shaken me, partly because I did not know how much worse off American women are than Canadian.

I know, because I deal with the effects, how debilitating low income motherhood is for both the mothers and the children. I wrote a bit about the effects in a November post titled 'Charity Begins at Home'. And I have long thought that working like mad to support food banks and remedial programs, to provide simple things like picture books and Christmas stockings and snowsuits as 'charity' is the least productive way to deal with this huge problem. Crittenden has a chapter of ideas on the subject, which I intend to get into later. I don't have the time to do it now because I have a house full of tasks to accomplish before Christmas, and I am almost time critical.

What? A woman with all her children grown and retired from her work years is time critical? Yes, indeed. I am cooking Christmas dinner for the whole crew, for one thing. This will give the ED one day off her incredible schedule of full time work combined with homemaking for her four year old and stepsons. Helpful as her partner is, her life is a series of compromises. The (single and childless) YD contemplated putting on Christmas dinner this year, but her travel schedule is extremely heavy and boiled down to a choice of either hosting or visiting her 91 year old grandmother for a pre Christmas visit. I also have some Board tasks over the next two days, the house to decorate, a Barbie doll dress to make (this deserves a post of its own!) other home made Christmas presents to finish (I procrastinate) and a pile of other self imposed but traditional Christmas stuff to do. Countdown, six days. One of which is today, and the rain seems to have stopped, so I am off to a concert, camera in hand.

Little Stuff told her mother that it was okay if I didn't come as long as her mother took lots of pictures. She is used to being put second, poor little mutt. The least I can do is get there myself.
Ho, ho, ho.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Ah, Winter!

Mid afternoon on Sunday
Monday morning

Here is a view of our laneway yesterday afternoon and another one I took this morning. I understand from the news that the 50 cm (over 1 ½ feet) of snow that fell on us yesterday originated in a storm mass in Texas. (Note to Julie -- next time you can keep it, okay? And I'll keep the 'arctic air mass coming down from Canada'.) Atlantic Canada is supposed to be getting it today, complete with freezing rain and wind gusts. It all fell as snow here -- the small grainy stuff that stiffens up quickly, for which I am sure the Innuit have a word. What our neighbourhood was calling it would probably be censored by Google.

Fortunately we are equipped for lots of snow. JG put the big auger on the tractor and was just starting to clear the yard when a neigbour pulled in with yet another, even bigger, tractor and punched a slot up our laneway. His son had been here earlier, having waded in to call home and say that he had stuck this big tractor by driving into a ditch he couldn't see. So I guess Dad took over. The family hires this big rig out to clear a lot of lanes in our neigbourhood and it takes a lot to get them stuck. I don't imagine Dad was in a good mood.

One of the YD's friends was wishing for snow last week to make the skiing better. He and Wendy went out Sunday to the Gatineau just as the worst of the snow dump hit Ottawa. The YD said that they broke trail for twelve kilometres, with the snow getting deeper and deeper, and then got stuck big time back in Ottawa trying to get into her driveway. There are lots and lots of storm stories.

Here's the problem, though. I have a shoulder high pile of snow all around the porch and steps. Where am I going to put the stuff the next time it snows? It's a long, long time until spring.
This should have been the Monday Mission. Sorry!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Wordy Wednesday -- Drat, and other expletives.

Okay, this is not my day. My links won't work. My computer has locked down completely. Twice. Bogger won't save template changes. Blogger saves template changes but stretches them. Blogger saves template changes in negative colour. Blogger keeps telling me to report these errors, but I have no idea --- NO idea, Blogger help -- as to how to report them.

I am not amused. This is not funny any more. My husband's underwear is all sitting in the washer and I do not dare leave the computer to go and put it in the dryer lest some other bloggy gremlin sneak in and fry something else while I am gone.

In fact, @#$%^&*****!!!

I am going to shut down and start all over again. After the underwear is dry. Too bad for the nice photo that was going to appear here today.

I should have labelled this post 'drinking', as in Blogger is driving me to.... At least the colour formatting is working.

Do other people have days like this, she whined?

Monday, 10 December 2007

Just Posts

For those of you who are not aware of what the Just Post logos in the margins signify, the fastest way to learn about them, and about the wonderful women who manage them, is to go to Under the Mad Hat, whose blog explains the concept and lists all the awardees, as well as linking to the other bloggers who began the operation with her.

I am really pleased (well, tickled pink would better describe it) to have received a nomination this month for this November post: Charity Begins at Home. Thanks for picking it up, and more thanks for tolerating the lack of precision in it.
The Just Posts have been around for a year now. I hope there is a celebration after Christmas chaos has rolled over us. I think the concept and the people behind it are wonderful.

Monday Mission -- Creating Christmas.

This week's Monday Mission was to get creative with photo-editing software (I use Corel's PhotoPaint). Since I love doing this stuff I tried to be extremely, wipe your eye, creative. (After all, I'm in the same cosmos with Julie the whiz photographer and other amazingly gifted folk.) I built a Christmas tree with the ornaments zooming forward. When I tried to load it, Blogger did not, to put it mildly, co-operate. Nope. It paused, hung and finally rejected my offering. Which caused my computer, in turn, to hang and have to be rebooted. I thought I was inside the size limit, but something didn't work. And so -- you will just have to use your imaginations.

In my household, we do not buy Christmas trees. We schlep out into the bush and cut one. Since in my household we long ago gave up trying to trim trees in situ ahead of time, this trip involves much arguing between JG and me about the size and branchiness of the tree. He likes tall. I like enough branches to hold my ornament collection. This year, he won.

The chosen tree was on the bank of one of the beaver ponds, and we have a lot of snow already. What shape and branchiness the uncut tree demonstrated was somewhat changed by being 1.) dragged through the snow and slush on the pond and 2.) loaded onto the back of the Kubota to be trundled home and 3.) the tip being inadvertently dragged behind all the way back. When we got it home both the top and the bottom had to be trimmed.

A little tinsel covers a multitude of sins.

I have a wonderful collection of angels for my tree, thoughtfully collected over many years. Some are gifts my peripatetic YD has brought back from foreign trips. This one is from Kosovo, I think.

This one is hand made, and very delicate. It works to hang it high on the tree on a branch that will not support the weight of a glass ball.

And this one was chosen by Little Stuff. The head is bisque. As you can see, all the angels are set off by red shiny balls and stars. I have two sets of lights, because I switched to the cool LED ones a year too soon and, since I did not like the blued white, bought gold. The next year the manufacturers came out with a good white. And so, one year there are white angels, red ornamants and white lights, and the next year there are gold ornaments and gold lights. Although I enjoy this, it does make for a storage problem. There are lots of plastic boxes in the basement shelves and I have to figure out which ones I need on any given year. Some year I may even label them, impossibly organized as that seems.

Edited to say: Good grief! I wish I knew the principles behind some of the positioning decisions this text editor makes. I have now simply stacked the thing; not good, but maybe better.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Monday Mission- School Note

It is one long long time since I have been in highschool. However, since then I have had a lot of experience with public school notes. Like this:

September 10th
Dear Mrs Smith,
Suzy is having a great deal of trouble getting her shoes on and off. Nor can she button her sweater. I would appreciate it if you would give her some instruction to remedy these matters as with twenty two children to manage, I cannot be responsible for dressing the children.
Miss Pedagogue, Suzy's Kindergarten Teacher

September 11th
Dear Miss Pedagogue,
I have laced Suzy's shoes with elastic.
Mary Smith, Suzy's mother.

October 1st
Dear Mrs Smith
We are finding that Suzy does not do well with the quiet time we give our students in mid afternoon. She will not lie quietly on her towel and does not seem to need the rest. We are therefore proposing to send her to the French class in the Kindergarten Primary room for those twenty minutes. I hope this meets with your approval.
Miss Pedagogue

Oct 2nd.
Dear Miss Pedagogue
This is fine with both Suzy's father and me. Suzy has not needed a nap for several years and has never shown signs that she should have one.
Mary Smith

Oct 21
Dear Mrs Smith
Could you please purchase a pair of plastic scissors for Suzy. We cannot trust her with the metal blunt ended ones that are all we have available. I am sorry about her braid.
Miss P Pedagogue.

Nov 3rd
Dear Miss Pedagogue
Would it be possible for me to have a schedule of when the children will be using poster paint so that I can send Suzy to school on those days dressed in her older clothes.
Thank You,
Mary Smith

Nov 15th
Dear Mrs Smith
Could you please speak to Suzy about rocking her chair when we are sitting at our desks? I do not seem to be having any effect on preventing this behaviour.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Miss Pedagogue

November 30
Dear Mrs Smith
We sincerely regret that Suzy should have become stuck in the snow bank at the back of the parking lot. We try to have the playground clear and to make sure all of our students stay away from the deeper snow but we obviously lost track of Suzy sometime during recess. We will try to ensure that this does not happen again.
Joseph Stuckley
Principal, Maple Lane School

Dec 1st
Dear Mr Stuckley
Do not worry about the snowbank incident. The highschool boys who pulled her out were very kind and I am sure that her boots will reappear this spring when the snow melts. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much Suzy is enjoying school.
Mary Smith

Time: Friday, Dec 13
To: Personnel, Teaching
From: J. Stuckley, Principal Maple Lane School
Re: Winter term replacement Junior Kindergarten Teacher
Patty P is hors de combat and is going to Florida to 'rest her nerves'. She refuses to come back to work.
For the love of Pete, send me a replacement who is young, agile and possessed of a strong nervous system.


Dec 15th
Dear Parents,
It is with great regret that we send you the news that our beloved Miss Pedagogue has decided to take an early retirement and will not be back after the Christmas Holiday. She has been finding it harder and harder to cope and while we will miss her, I am sure you will all join me in wishing her a swift recovery.
Joseph StuckleyPrincipal, Maple Lane School

She's not Picasso, but...

Because I loved to paint and draw as a child, I hoped that my kids would develop a like interest. But once they got beyond the crayon on the wall stage, they just weren't into it. Sewing, yes and knitting (sporadically), but not paper and paint. At an age when I was making murals and decorations for school dances, they were playing in the band and doing sports. Like most toddlers, Little Stuff amused herself with washable markers and madly colourful squiggles but her brothers and, indeed, that whole side of the family is also musical and sports minded.

Imagine my delight, then, when in the last few months Little Stuff has exited the squiggles stage and has taken to drawing as one of her main interests. She still didn't have a lot of control of the pen this summer but in the last three months she has begun to draw what I think are very good 'pictures' (as she calls them) for her age, which is 4 1/2. Here is her latest attempt.

The story that goes with the drawing is also pretty clever. "The prince is very sad because he doesn't have a nice coloured stripy dress like the queen so he is crying," explained Little Stuff. "Look grama, I can draw mitts now. See the yellow spots -- that's the holes in her ears for her earrings." When I asked what the blue person was I got told off. "grAma! That's her CAT!" And so it is. Whiskers and all.

What's the good of a blog if you can't be a boastful grandmother from time to time. So here I am hugging myself and hoping she will stay interested so that in this family of musicians and jocks I will have one soul mate.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Christmas Angels

Under the Mad Hat put up a post last week about what she was making for Christmas, and asked her readers to tell her what they were doing. Rather than load up her comments, I decided to talk about Christmas presents here.

We all know what Little Stuff is getting for Christmas -- a three foot long recumbent stuffed moose, courtesy of her grandfather's having gone a bit nuts at the Christmas Auction. What she's getting from me is a set of wooden alphabet letters that spell her name, on wheels and pulled by a small wooden engine. At present, the first coat of paint is on and I need to get them sanded down and the second coat applied. Then I will paint tiny flowers, butterflies and other colourful designs onto them. I have pewter paint for the wheels. And that's it for stuff I am making this year.

In other years my long suffering family has received paintings I made, dolls clothes (from baby dolls to Barbies), caftans, crewel wall hangings, ditsy Christmas ornaments, photo montages, and on and on. I love to make things. This year the gifts are somewhat utilitarian. (If my daughters are reading this, I urge them to stop. Now.) One of them needs new kitchen cutlery and the other, kitchen dishes. I am buying Canadian, which I always try to do. I also try to buy locally, if possible, from craftspeople in the area. One of my neighbours, for instance, makes spectacular turned wooden bowls. If I do gift baskets, it's all local and highly slanted toward maple sugar products or cheese.

But the shopping that I do for fun is for 'Christmas Tree Angels'. Local kids whose parents are having trouble putting a Christmas together for them are identified by a local organization* and their age, size and two wished for gifts written onto a paper angel. I collect one angel for each of my parents and two aunts whom I loved and who were very good to me. Then I assign an angel to each one and go off to look for what I think that each one of them would buy for the child.

This year my aunt who was an art teacher has been assigned a teenaged boy who 'loves to draw', and today I put together a kit of a portfolio drawing pad, a case of varied pencils and the bits and pieces my aunt taught me how to use -- kneaded eraser, conté crayon, that kind of thing. For my parents I chose a pair of sisters who need clothes and I bought them each a set of pajamas and lovely pink fuzzy dressing gowns. (I'm not sure my Dad is really into the pink fuzzy bit, but he can choose the toys to go with the clothes.) My other aunt's child is another little girl -- this aunt was a very dressy, well groomed woman and I think she would have enjoyed the incredible array of Barbie clothes.

I have never been comfortable with In Memoriam commemoration of the day of death, and so I came up with this way to remember my family with love and joy, and also to pass along a bit of the happiness they gave me for so many Christmases.

* This one is close to us, but the one I work from is actually at the Community Health Centre

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Auction Report

The Community Health Centre's Auction was Thursday which coincided, to the planning committee's dismay, with the first big winter storm. On Thursday morning we had SNOWFALL WARNING IN EFFECT plastered all over the Environment Canada forecast, and about 10cm on the ground by 9:00 am. School buses were cancelled. Snowtire installation became a top priority. Late morning we held an emergency consultation at the CHC and decided, after much gnashing of teeth, to go ahead with the event. Country people would not be daunted by a quite ordinary snowfall, we reasoned. But we were pretty nervous, especially when the snow turned to freezing rain in the afternoon and the wind came up.

However, we soldiered on, most of us in four wheel drive, collected all the auction donations and spent the afternoon laying out the tables, setting up the dessert station and worrying. It was also enormous fun to see everything we had to auction. The big items we had used on the publicity posters -- we had a Peterborough cedar boat, a time share, an antique clock, beautifully handcrafted bowls, artwork, and other very generous donations, a tandem truck load of gravel, for instance. (In the hinterland, this is big. Our household, for one, tractors that much gravel every year or so to patch the laneway, the apron in front of the barn and the worst potholes in the saw yard and landing.) But when the small stuff came out of the bags, it was fascinating. Pashimi scarves, beautiful Christmas decorations, lots of gift certificates (one for haircuts, of which more later) and not least, the gorgeous red purse from Damier Leather.

The hall looked spectacular. We were lucky enough to have a local pancake restaurant, Temples, (On the Fergusson Falls Road, for those of you in this area) donate the use of their building. It is brand new, post and beam construction, and really beautiful. A fire was burning in the big stone fireplace at the far end, the staff loaned us cream tablecloths and the whole room glowed.

We were due to start at 7:00 pm, but shortly after 6:00 pm the doors opened and people started arriving, wanting time to look the tables over. By 6:30 they were streaming in and I was torn between tears of thankful joy and terror lest we run out of dessert. One of the team offered to donate all of her already done Christmas baking (now that's organized!) and after frantic phoning I managed to get a driver to collect some pies I had forgotten to pick up earlier. (They fetched $16.00 each!) By 7:10 we had three workers on the dessert table serving, and there was barely room to move around in the hall.

The auction was a mix of live and silent bidding. Our auctioneer, Charlie Hollinger, is an elderly and highly skilled professional, now retired, who generously helped us. We planned three short sessions of live bidding and had twelve silent auction tables, which we closed serially throughout the evening. In this kind of silent auction, you announce the imminent closing and people rush around, trying to be the lowest closing bid. When the table with Danier's purse closed, there must have been half a dozen women hovering beside the bid sheet. Into this crowd sailed our mayor, a large and jovial man with a considerable fundament, who simply cut a swath through the ladies like a tanker among pleasure craft and got the winning bid.

Most couples had one bid number between them but I had picked up my own before the crowd arrived and JG got one of his own when he got in. Now JG can get a bit carried away at an auction, especially when people keep buying him glasses of wine. True to form he got the winning bid on a 3' long stuffed moose, which he plans to give to Little Stuff as her Christmas present. He also got the load of gravel, and numerous other items. We had a lot of gift certificates to auction, one of which was for haircuts from the barber who cuts JG's hair. I decided to bid on that. I checked back at intervals and found that someone had always bid after me. About the third time this happened, I took a close look at the handwriting -- JG was trained as a draftsman, and makes a very distinctive number 4 and 8. I rushed over and asked him what his bidding number was and, sure enough, I was bidding against him. He is going to have some pretty expensive haircuts.
It wasn't just JG and the mayor who were spending generously. By the time we closed, we knew we had done well and when the poor beleaguered staff got the money counted Friday morning, we had approximately $10,000, not counting straight donations, of which there were several. One of our new Board members phoned me Friday morning and said she was amazed at the warmth and generosity of this community and felt extremely lucky to be living here. And so do I.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Monday, 19 November 2007

Charity Begins At Home

Since I have been out of the house all day working on a charity auction, I have not got my Monday Mission post up. Sincere apologies, and here it is. No stats, no references (although I have them). Just banged up. More sincere apologies.

When I first thought of this topic, I intended to write a humourous post. Something about sending out letters with appeals to send me to camp or at least build me a hole to hide in when all the Christmas appeals start to pour into my mailbox. But I find that I don't want to be funny. The first waves of the tsunami have in fact landed in my mailbox, and I am being urged to buy a kid in Africa a goat or support health research or the city's Hospital Foundation (three different hospitals!). All of these are worthy. All are needed. But my local community is full of children who need help just as much.

These kids are in trouble right from the start. Their parents have only seasonal income if any and so use the food bank regularly; this means that the children's' food is starchy and lacking in protein and vitamins. The children aren't thin. They are pudgy and lethargic and have bad teeth, skin problems, poor eyesight among their problems. Unfortunately, far too many of them are bottle fed as their very young mothers don't care for the idea of breast feeding and have little support if they do attempt it.

Many of them live in isolation, on marginal farms or in the bush a long way from anywhere or anyone else. Because their parents are tired and very, very poor, most of them live in dirt and squalor, maybe in an old school bus or half finished, poorly insulated cabin. They don't go anywhere very often because their parents can't afford to buy gas or their decrepit vehicles are not running. Some of them have only one parent, a teenaged girl living with her mother and a succession of boyfriends -- hers and her mother's. There is sometimes domestic violence.

There are no books. If there are toys, they are cheap plastic and they break. What is always present is a television. And the television is on all the time. By the time these children are school age, some of them have up to a year of developmental delay and a significant further number of them have speech delays. Their teeth have caries. Some of them are wild -- 'behaviour problems'. Some of them are terrified of school and other children and adults. They are dirty and badly dressed and they don't smell very good, either.

In my local community are many caring, giving teachers who work their hearts out to give these kids a chance. Some of them have started a program called 'Grow With Books', which sends a book home to registered children every two months from birth to age five. It runs on fundraising. There's a program called 'Children's Resources on Wheels' which runs play programs and buses with toys and books that can be borrowed, among other things. It runs on a shoestring. There's a program called 'Healthy Young Families' which has a nurse practitioner, a social worker and other dedicated staff and starts with prenatal health and nutrition and works up to age six or so. It gets government funding, thank goodness! There are other good programs with wonderful people working their hearts out to provide assistance. A lot of them are partly supported by fundraising or Trillium grants.*

In the cities there are children as needy as these. The special problem here is getting the children to the programs and the programs to the children. In time. By the time they are school aged, the help is often remedial help. In a country as rich as Canada, that's sickening.

A part of the problem is that these children are off the radar and hard to reach. The Community Health Centre that I volunteer for is a major player in helping these children. As well as a primary care function, the CHC is mandated to do 'health promotion' and client support. Much as I grumble about the fundraising and running around, it's a worthwhile thing to do.

*For readers not from Ontario, the Trillium Foundation is a government run body that hands out funds raised by government run lotteries and government sponsored casinos.

Friday, 16 November 2007


A Simon and Garfunkel song has been playing nonstop in my befuddled brain for the last while -Oh Cecelia, I'm down on my knees I'm begging you please to come home.

Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia
Up in my bedroom(makin' love) I got up to wash my face,
When I come back to bed
Someone's taken my place.
The trouble is that not only is the damn thing on an endless loop, I'm also thinking about the words. Never do that. 'My bedroom'? Not 'theirs'? So then why does he ask her to 'come home'? I'm sure the answer has to do with metre, rhyme and stress, but it's bugging me.

After running around pretty well nonstop on the Health Centre's fundraiser business for the last few days, I had planned to take this morning off and do housework, etc. Especially etc. I had a cherry pie filling thickening on the stove when the phone started ringing -- press release deadline looming, EA's email fried, chair of fundraising committee needing an edit job, now-now. Well, I got the pie baked, but the first load of laundry is still in the washer and lunch time is rapidly approaching. Time to stop and give JG some food.

Speaking of food for JG, that's why the pie. Last Sunday week we held the Community Hall's fundraising Hunter's Dinner and I made fruit pies for it. Mostly the bakers donate meringue pies, but I stink at meringue, so I do two crust -- blueberry and cherry. Both of which JG adores. I went down to the Hall early to make salads and took the pies. By the time JG got there to eat, they were long gone. He has been plaintively demanding his own pie ever since. The one I made today is a bribe, because I have to be away all day tomorrow at a CHC event and most of the day Sunday working at the Hall. New version of Marie Antoinette's apocryphal utterance -- Let him eat pie!

The pie came out of the oven perfect -- the ones for the Hall all ran over. Rats!

All this driving around has started me off composing haiku in my head. The best versions never get written down. I have three different lines sloshing around in my head.

Stripped branches bending,
Dead leaves, sere grass, fine rain falling.
Snowless November.

I'm sure the other versions were better.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

And on the way I lost it!

Julie Pippert at Using My Words has put up this topic for the Wednesday Humpday Hmm. I've never tried a Hmm topic before, but this one reached out and grabbed me.

"It's made me think about loss, what we value, and potential gain. Let's write about that. Imagine losing all your material possessions (except the few you can carry)... Or, tell us a story about some sort of loss. If you can inspire through hope, and tell us about something you gained from it, and real value, please definitely do that."

So I am going to make a list of things I have lost, some material and some not. And then I am going to go through the list again and put in things I have gained and balance that against the losses. I don't know how this will work, but here goes.

When I was a girl, I thought I would be a painter -- an artist in oils. I loved to paint, I entered my paintings in shows and won awards and my aunt the art teacher raved about my work. I thought I was The Best! It took a summer at art school when I was seventeen, surrounded by people who could really do it, to convince me that I was at best a talented amateur. It was my first experience with really looking at myself and seeing what others might see. At the time it was devastating and left me dazed and lost, not knowing who or what I could become. I spent the next three years trying on different persona, floundering a lot of the time, and finally settling on a life choice that was the very opposite of my aunt's, much as I still loved her. And I never again thought I was The Best, at anything.

Looking back, I think I must have been a really repellent teenager, convinced I was a Gift to a Waiting World. Finding out I wasn't has made me tolerant, and able to look at other people and see what they are about and enjoy them for what they are. I have learned to look for and celebrate talent of all kinds in others and in myself, too. I've made myself into a tolerable graphics artist, a competent photographer and a life long student of art in all its forms, whether it's a glorious oil or a really clever advertisement or a beautifully made quilt. I love to sew and knit and to make my house a warm and welcoming home. Small talents, but I've used them for other people and for myself. I probably get more joy over Little Stuff's delight in her furry cat costume than I ever would have at winning a juried show.

As a young woman I was slim, athletic and strong. I swam, I did winter sports, taught myself to ski, did a lot of work in the outdoors, lifting and hauling in the sugar bush. Even into late middle age I did a lot of hard physical labour. My husband took early retirement and we built ourselves a retirement home. And I mean, we built it. I lugged floor joists and rafters, hauled knee wall forms up ladders, lifted and carried 12' sections of drywall. Well, now I am a senior citizen, with arthritic joints and am no longer either slim or athletic. My knees swell, I have no grip in my dominant hand and ladders are agony. I'm terrified of falling if I ski. I have lost, almost entirely, the confidence and the willingness to try things, lost the sense of myself as a useful worker. People offer to carry things for me, to pull me up steps. I'm not a helper any more, I thought; I'm someone to be helped.

Sure, when my body started to fail to obey me, it felt at first as if the walls were closing in. But being unable to slug stuff around the woodlot left me time to explore other activities. I've joined several organizations and groups that help other people, whether in co-ordinating group activities (a local syrup makers' association, for instance) or managing an organization that helps others (the board of a non profit seniors' residence). If I can't do the heavy lifting, I can make posters and phone calls and take minutes. I found out that I'm good at fundraising. I can wash dishes at the local hall dinner and put face paint on kids for the Santa Claus parade. And I'm not giving in, that's for sure. I can still use snowshoes. I can swim just fine and I find I can step dance. At half speed, but who cares! I can look after my granddaughter, even if I have to tell her to climb up herself because I can't lift her.

It didn't matter to me a lot, even as a teen and young woman, to be pretty and to be admired. But I did enjoy having beautiful, smooth skin. Not any more. I have wrinkles, skin tags, sags and the discoloured spots that age brings. I get rashes and itches and my skin is getting thinner and papery and sort of soft, like tissue paper. Yuck. And there is no lotion or potion that will change any of it much. I just have to put up with it and wonder how much worse it is going to get.

I suspect most of you know the poem 'When I am an old woman, I will wear purple.' My colour is red -- or pink. I really enjoyed Andrea's posts on colour in clothing, and some of the comments, because I've always loved colour but working in an office is not the place for yellow trousers and three coloured shoes. Thankfully, I don't have to worry any more. No more sensible business suits and blouses with little bows at the neck. I haven't had to put on tights for ten years. The YD buys me lovely Christmas clothes, to smarten me up I suspect, and they are much admired. I buy clothes for colour and texture and comfort, and I don't really care what anyone thinks of them, unless I have to go to parties of my husband's associates. For these I have a black dinner suit but I wear a silver turtle neck with it. And red shoes.

Through sixty five years of living, you lose a lot of things. I've lost my babies (they grew up!), homes I have loved, my parents and aunts. I've lost track of friends, lost jobs, lost skills I didn't practice. Pieces and bits fall out of my memory from time to time. I've lost confidence in some ways. I've also lost my cocky, insufferable teenaged self and the hard, unsympathetic woman I could have become. I hope I've lost the path to becoming a whiny, querulous old woman, although it is hard to think so, rereading three paragraphs of whining. Although I have lost some friends, I have made a lot of new ones. My babies have been replaced by wonderful women with whom I am well content and a cherished grandkid. I have a home that my husband designed just for us, and I love it. I'm certainly not lost for things to do and places to go! And if I have to lose, as they say, my marbles, I am going to have fun while it's happening.

Monday, 12 November 2007

The Power of One

Crossposted at BlogRhet

In early October I had an unfortunate experience at a local branch of Danier Leather. In the course of a blog post mainly about agism I described this incident, and in the Comments to the post several readers advised that I should write to the company to complain. This seemed like a good idea and so I wrote a letter to the local store and one to the president of the company (always go to the top). My commenters had asked me to let them know what was happening and I therefore posted a copy of the letter to the president as a follow up. The next morning I had an email in my inbox from the Call Centre Operations manager; it seems that the company does a frequent search of the Web for mentions of its name and that of its president (which is why I am not naming him here).

The email apologised for the incident, assured me that there would be follow-up and asked that I call the writer. When I did, we had a good conversation about what I had written and why, I apologised for posting the letter before snailmailing it and I was offered a gift as an apology. All very nice. What really intrigued me, however, was the speed of the response and the fact that the company was trolling the internet for references to its name. Some of my comment writers had included incidents of their own in which they had complained about service, with varying results. But I defy anyone to cite a faster response than the one I have just described.

All of which is a preface to the main theme of this post, which is the power of using the internet. It never occurred to me that the Danier Leather people would pick up a reference to themselves in a blog. Search engines are amazing tools. I know that some of you have visit counters of more or less sophistication, some of which track what search words were used to get the visitor to your site, some of which track where the visitor comes from, and much more. I just have a simple hit counter but I am contemplating an upgrade now. And so that is Question Number One -- do you have a sophisticated counter and if so, what does it tell you about your visitors and how do you make use of the information?

Question Number Two is this -- have you written a complaint about any company by name (as opposed to writing to the company) and if you have, what kind of response did you get? As I said earlier, I was absolutely amazed by the speed with which my complaint was picked up. As well, I was impressed with how seriously they took it. It makes me wonder if other big companies are internet savvy and have a protocol for responding to mentions of them. And if so, what kind of companies they are. Danier is a provider of luxury goods; would this make them more complaints sensitive than someone like Sears or Walmart?

Third and last, I find myself thinking hard about how this power could be harnessed and used to address some of the issues that BlogRhet contributors are concerned with. Things like lack of sensitivity in advertising or child unfriendly retail outlets (I know of a coffee shop that did not have a baby changing table in the washroom, for goodness sake) or staff. Things like lack of respect (basic good manners!) for the poor slobs who are spending the money. Julie Pippert did a good post on that one on her home site. I, for one, am completely sick of grocery checkout staff who chat with a co-worker while scanning and bagging my purchases. The local grocery where I shop has a complaints station and posts the complaint, plus answer, on the wall at the front of the store. There's no such facility in most of the big chains. But there is the internet, hmm?

If this kind of thing interests you, could you give some thought to the questions. If you have done post(s) about similar things, could you drop off a link, please. I'd really like to hear your ideas and if I get some good ones, do a follow up post on the topic.


Friday, 9 November 2007

I went to a line dancing class yesterday. The first time I have done that kind of thing in fifty years. No kidding. In high school I used to square dance and do 'country dances', which is essentially square dance in two long lines. Loved it. Unfortunately I married a man who can't do this kind of dancing and so I lost track of it. And I thought I had forgotten how until about half way through the class when I stopped stumbling over my own feet and knocking into the people beside me and my feet took off. In little bits, that is. I still lost track from time to time, but I have the basics of two dance lines and can do the first one with full speed music. And I loved it. It is so nice to realize that you still have a skill that you thought was long gone.

What is line dancing? This is -- although this is one pretty slick foursome.

What's with the class? Well, it goes back to government money. The Province of Ontario came up with some funds last year to get seniors to be more active. Our township got a chunk of it and commissioned a small study to see what seniors would like to do, if it were available.

In our township there are a lot of small community halls, each one supported by a small group of people who like this kind of activity. When the old small townships amalgamated into the big one we now have, all the little township halls became the property of the amalgamated township, but the local groups continued to run them. I am a committee member on one of them. Each hall committee gets $1000 per year to run its hall. This basically pays for the telephone and we raise money to keep the halls going by various means -- dinners, euchre parties, rentals for funerals and other celebrations. And we are all very keen on keeping OUR local hall going. So the halls were all asked to send a rep to work on the study and guess who got sucked in. Hi.

We ended up deciding that what was needed was a roving seniors' centre that went from hall to hall and provided exercise opportunities and socialization for seniors and the people who would bring them if they couldn't drive. And the survey of activities turned up with line dancing and shuffleboard as two of the recommendations. We also got a small further grant to put in a facilitator to get it up and going and she is a real darling. So, we have an experimental line dancing class to see how it will be received and I decided I had better go along and show the flag.

Glad I did, even if my knees are squeaking like rusty hinges today. It'll be a while before you see a video of me, however.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Wordless Wednesday

The Christmas dresses were being unpacked today.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Deer in Trouble

Lanark Highlands deer are dodging bullets this morning as the start of the hunting season began at dawn to-day. Local hunters began setting up in the bush well before dawn and soon after sunrise the crash of high powered rifles could be heard in several locations.

Little Buck, the G Acres resident deer, is sticking very close to the house this morning, as the G's have an understanding with the local hunt camp and no hunting is permitted in the vicinity of the house. Reached at his favourite feeding station, Little Buck was resigned. "I plan to stay within a few hundred feet of the house for the next two weeks," he said. "But it is going to be pretty tense."

As the orange coloured bodies whine by on their ATV's, it is not only Little Buck who is tense. All of the local deer are nervous and jumpy, liable to forsake their normal habit patterns and jump out onto the road at the least provocation. Over the next two weeks, a great deal of venison will be harvested for local tables, but the deer population is deeply upset.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Danier Leather -- The Follow Up

This morning the mailman delivered me a small express post parcel from Danier Leather. When I opened it, there was a gift card inside for $50.00. That is an impressive sum of money, by my standards, to be giving someone as an apology. I was expecting something in the range of a business card holder. Some years ago we were giving a dinner party and one of the bottles of wine we served turned out to have a pickled grasshopper in the bottom of it. We did not discover this, of course, until the bottle was empty. There were the predictable jokes about the great body of the wine, but JG was upset enough to contact the LCBO and the sales rep for the wine company. We got one (1) replacement bottle and one (1) bottle of the same plonk as an apology. Danier Leather is in a whole different league.

I am just about to dig out my box of cards, find a 'Thank You' one and handwrite a letter of thanks to the company. That is, after my eyes stop whirling.

Wait till the Fundraising Committee sees what we've got for the auction! My experience with charity auctions leads me to think that the best thing to do is to buy something with the card and auction it, as people won't bid much beyond the face value of a gift certificate, but they will push up the price up if something looks particularly succulent.

Is this the power of the internet, do you think, or would the incident have played out the same way if I had just snail mailed the letter and not blogged about it? Is the question worth a BlogRhet post for some discussion on this issue? I would love to know if other people have had that kind of response to posting a complaint.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Will I be there by Candlelight?

I have been obsessed by songs and poems about candles for the last little while. Please forgive me if some of these quotes are not accurate; I'm working from memory here.

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light
Like a little candle, burning in the night.
In this world of darkness, so let us shine -
You in your small corner and I in mine.

This was my mother and my aunt's favourite hymn. They had jokes about it. My aunt, who could draw amazingly well, once made a cartoon of herself as a candle in a corner. I had it for years, but I can no longer find it. Never mind. Their memories steadily shine away in my heart.

My candle burns at both ends.
It will not last the night.
But, ah my dear, and oh my dear,
It gives a lovely light.

I love candles; at Christmas I celebrate the solstice by lighting candles all over the house. Big fat cinnamon scented red ones, tall silver tapers, a row of tiny green evergreens, a creamy coloured angel with gilt wings, a square green one with holly painted on it. I hover in the living room with a candle snuffer in my hand, but I love every heated minute of it.

Night's candles are burnt out.

There's that still, deep blue or grey moment, every morning, just before the dawn, when everything is an outline. I often wake then, for the most mundane of reasons, and wish I had done so earlier, so that I could have taken a few minutes to look at the stars. We live in the deep country and our neighbours are few and thankfully don't have yard lights. At night I can go out onto the deck or kitchen porch and see a whole sky of blazing stars. Not so much candles as diamonds. A river of them. I don't know why that's such a memorable line of Shakespeare's, except that the scene is so famous.

Yes I answered you last night,
No this morning sir I say.
Colours seen by candlelight
Do not look the same by day.

Candle lit faces are softer, more relaxed. Is that the light, or the effect of the candles? Faces glow, eyes shine, smiles are more vivid. One of the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen was of a child, holding a fat tapered candle, with the light of the flame reflected in her eyes. I lived my childhood with my mother's light reflected on me. She loved the sun. I love stars. And candles.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Panning Elizabeth

The YD and I went to see Elizabeth, the Golden Age, this afternoon. I had read three reviews on the film, one of which was a rave and two were less than enthusiastic. After seeing the film, we are also less than enthusiastic. 'It's so disjointed,' muttered the YD as we left.

Indeed. In trying to hit on all the highlights of the middle years of ERI, the movie has made itself into a series of flashy episodes with no central thread. And the scriptwriters took some really weird liberties with history. (JG says that I know far too much about Elizabethan history and that someone who didn't might not be so underwhelmed.) But! Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh have become one person, flipping cloaks, exhibiting tobacco at court, committing piracy on the high seas and, finally, personally running a fire ship into the Armada, a feat which neither of them performed. I'll forgive them the Armada bit, although why a white horse got equal time and Sir Whatsis had to swim underwater for a long way in his boots, coat and stuffed puffy pants is beyond me.
They haven't aged Blanchett enough either. No one would want her to be less gorgeous, but she was 25 in 1558 and the Armada is shown as arriving in 1585. That's 28 years. 25 + 28 = 53. She should not be discussing with Walsingham the fact that the court physicians can swear that she is still able to bear children. Or she's lying. The real Elizabeth did that a lot. But the poor movie goer is confused.

I could go on, but I am probably boring the Americans to tears. (You should hear me about liberties taken with TLOTR!) In its favour, the film has gorgeous costumes, great special effects, amazing lighting and a wonderful performance from Blanchett. Even with nothing to work with, the woman is amazing. But why they had to bowdlerize her speech to the army at the time of the Armada is beyond me. As is why they chose to show a six year old Isabella of Spain a lot. Mary Queen of Scots is suitably hateful except for the Scottish accent. I can't believe they did that! Her first language was French and she didn't speak much Scots at all, as far as I know. (I am going on. Sorry!)

The YD was a bit put off by the music, also. Too much sound and fury in all the exciting moments. (Torture scenes, Mary's beheading, the storm that did for the Armada, etc.) The YD mentioned that the Tudors are all over the place right now, and she's right. The mini series running on Henry VIII is giving me even more historical heartburn. I'm driving my husband crazy with my whines about historical accuracy. Elizabeth - The Golden Age is worth going to see, though, if you like historical drama. Buy some popcorn and some earplugs and suspend disbelief.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

More about Danier

For anyone who has not been reading this thread, I posted a sad story about being ignored in a retail store here, the commenters urged me to write it up as a letter, which is here, and before I send it, the retailer, Danier Leather, found the posted copy and their representative sent me this email.

I talked to the writer of this email this afternoon, a conversation somewhat muddled on my end as I managed to fry my Blue Tooth connection half way through. Annette T was patient with me, however, and we managed to get a two way information exchange done. Although Annette had read the letter and the post it stemmed from, she had not picked up that the main threads of that post were discourtesy in retail personnel (Julie at Using My Words) and discrimination due to age, my ongoing preoccupation. Nor had she picked up on the cross links to BlogRhet threads; not surprising since I noticed that my BlogRhet logo does not link to the blog and that I had not explicitly tagged the BlogRhet threads. (I really didn't structure that post well. I'm an embarrassment to myself.) What I hope she took away is that I was as objective as I could be in recording the incident.

What she got across to me was that she is very good at her job, which is cleaning up after the snags that are bound to happen at a many outlet retail chain, and that she is prepared to take the time and effort to understand the background from which I wrote. I hope she enjoys BlogRhet! As it is her job to do, she ended up by offering me a gift to placate me. I wasn't going to accept it because the acknowledgement of the incident was what I was wanting, but then I thought of my latest effort at fundraising, which is an auction to be held in Christmas shopping season, and accepted. We're into the last $50,000.00 we need, by the way. What she cannot do, of course, is specifically sort out what actually happened -- that's the job of the manager of that outlet, poor thing.

It's quite possible that as a 'consciousness raising' effort, the post and letter have been a success.
It certainly has brought it home to me that I need to structure my posts better and make my points more clearly. The example I used just overwhelmed the main theme, not just in Annette T's mind but in the commenters' as well. Well and so. If the sales staff at Danier are going to get educated about ageism, the least I can do is learn from it also.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Danier Leather is Blog Savvy

Like, Whoosh!

When I got home from a day of meetings, I found the following email in reply to the one I posted yesterday. And the letters are still sitting in my car because I forgot I was out of stamps. Now I'm embarrassed -- I should have posted the letters in the mail before I posted the letter. On the other hand, this is certainly one quantum leap faster than snail mail. I intend to phone Ms Trocki in between tomorrow's meetings (fundraising is still taking over my life) and will report back. But certainly this is a pretty comprehensive and courteous reply to my specific concerns.

Dear Mary,

I am responding on behalf of Jeffrey
Wortsman. Our customer service department and Mr. Wortsman himself, regularly check blogs to anticipate any service issue and we came across yours. Although we have not received your letter, we would certainly like to assist you. I would like to begin by apologizing for the level of service you received from our Kanata location. This is not the way we strive to do business. We would also like to thank you for taking the time in giving your feedback, it is important for us to hear from our customers for our growth and improvement. I would love the opportunity to redeem our company in your eyes. At your convenience, please contact me at 1-877-9danier to discuss this further. The district manager for that location, as well as the VP of Store Operations are aware of what occurred and will follow up with the store staff through coaching and

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Kind regards,

Annette T
Call Centre
Operations, Manager
Danier Leather Inc.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Letter to Danier Leather

To the commenters on the 'Ouch that Hurt' post. Here it is and I am about to mail it.

Mr. Jeffrey Wortsman,
President and Chief Executive Officer
2650 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto ON Canada
M6N 1M2

Dear Mr Wortsman,

On October 5th, 2007, I visited your Kanata Centrum store and was very unhappy with the experience. Here is a description of what happened:

I wanted to buy to buy my husband a wallet as a birthday gift. I have shopped in your stores before; in fact, I have purchased, over several years, four coats and have never been unhappy with the service. I am a white haired senior citizen and on that day I was dressed (as I mostly always dress) in tidy but inexpensive clothes. I entered your store and found four staff members behind the counter, one serving a customer, two working at something and the fourth acting as greeter. She greeted me but did not follow up. I asked for the location of the wallets and one of the workers raised her head and pointed. I went and chose a wallet and returned to the counter to pay for it. I saw two cash registers, one in use. I stood there and no one looked at me. I walked up to the counter. No one seemed to notice.

The door of the store opened and a woman came in. The greeter said hello, the woman made a remark about the scent of leather and the greeter asked her if this was her first time in this store. When she said yes, the greeter walked past me and my wallet and offered to show her around the store. The clerk at the cash register was taking a long time, arranging a payment of some sort. The other two clerks did not raise their eyes from their binders. I waited. I started off interested in how long it would take for someone to notice me. After, maybe, five minutes, no one had. At that point I was so angry that I was afraid to say anything lest I lose it completely. I put the wallet down on the counter, slowly, stepped back, slowly, and walked out of the store. No one noticed.

You are quoted in a news article as saying : "We are taking the necessary steps to return the Company to profitability and are employing strategies that focus on our key customers." Senior citizens are very likely to have available cash to spend. And in the near future the number of senior citizens is going to increase dramatically. You would, in my opinion, be wise to advise your staff that conservatively dressed seniors might be key customers.

Yours truly,

Ouch, that hurt!

There's been a somewhat amusing discussion going on in the Ottawa paper lately. Seems that Reader's Digest did an article in which they set up phoney incidents in some of Canada's major cities to judge how courteous the city was. They ranked the cities, and Ottawa came in dead last. The Ottawa Citizen replicated the phoney incidents, and several articles and editorials on the subject have appeared, the latest in this morning's paper saying that Reader's Digest is unimportant. I found this funny because early this month I found the perfect candidate for the Rudest Retail Store. Serendipitiously (ew, is that a word?) Julie at Using My Words did a post on courtesy.

You want a perfect example of rudeness (and ageism, too!)? I've got it. I went into a leather goods retail outlet -- it's a chain with four stores in Ottawa -- to buy my husband a wallet as a birthday gift. I have shopped in this chain before; in fact, I've spent considerable money there. On this particular day I was dressed as I mostly always dress, in decent but not expensive clothes, but I am a very obviously a senior citizen and, er, a substantial one. I entered this particular outlet and found four clerks behind the counter, one serving a customer, two working at something and the fourth acting as greeter. Her eyes slid by me. I asked for the location of the wallets and one of the workers raised her head and pointed. I went and chose a wallet and returned to the counter to pay for it. There were two cash registers, one in use. I stood there and no one looked at me. I walked up to the counter. No one seemed to notice.

The door of the store opened and a woman came in, a slim, well dressed thirty something. The greeter said hello, the woman paused and the greeter asked her if this was her first time in this store. When she said yes, the greeter walked past me and my wallet and offered to show her around the store. The clerk at the cash register was taking a long time, arranging a deferred payment of some sort. The other two clerks did not raise their eyes from their binders. I waited. And waited. I started off interested in how long it would take for someone to notice me. After, maybe, five minutes, no one had. At that point I was so angry that I was afraid to say anything lest I lose it completely and become the gaga senior everyone dreads. I put the wallet down on the counter, slowly, stepped back, slowly, and walked out of the store. No one noticed.

My debacle took place over three weeks ago, but I was telling the story at dinner on Saturday and I realized that I am still angry. Very angry. I should write to the store manager, except I am pretty sure she was one of the people behind the counter. I should write to the company headquarters, I suppose. I haven't because, written down, it looks so petty and I don't want a 'Getoverit' response. I think what was so awful was that I felt invisible. Not worthy to be a customer in this expensive store. I would expect that all of the clerks work on commission, and the wallets are probably the least expensive items in the store. But someone should have told the staff that a customer buying a wallet might just return and buy something more expensive and, therefore, should be worth a minimum of notice and that senior citizens often have money to spend.

It's tempting to name the store here and tag the chain name. But that's petty, too, if I do it without having tried to inform the chain management first. I've always had empathy for the visibly different people who are discriminated against. The little kid who can't get served. The wheelchair bound person whom other people's eyes slide past. The people of colour who are judged by skin tone. The fragile old lady whose companion is asked questions when she, herself, can answer them. People whose accents cause rude requests for repeats. All those. I've frequently admired the calm and good humour with which such people respond to rudeness.

Now I am one of them. I am sure I could have used calm and good humour to salvage the situation. Instead I was so angry I cried. And I have stayed angry. And sad. And more tolerant of the focused fury with which some minority leaders demand attention to their perceived incidents of bigotry and bias.

And, in response to the Citizen's 'Fuggetaboutit' editorial, yes, it is all a matter of perspective.

The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes;
The butterfly upon the road
Preaches contentment to that toad.

Joining the Raging Grannies is starting to look like an option.

Friday, 19 October 2007

October Song

This is the first time in over a week that I have had a chance to write a post, and I can hear thunder in the distance, signaling that I may have to shut down the computer or that I may lose the satellite signal that connects me to my virtual world. Bummer. In the meantime, though, it's beautiful. We still have a lot of gold and bronze leaves on the trees and the rain and wind are knocking them off -- they're swirling past my window, high contrast against the grey/black storm cloud to the south. There's a soft sibilance as the rain hits them and tiny splatting noises as they hit the deck. And as a counterpoint to that, there's the sound of clucking and squawking as a flock of fifteen turkeys straggles past the open window, chattering among themselves. As I write this, the sky is getting brighter and the gold leaves are glowing. No more thunder; I may even get this done and up.

I have just been playing around with Facebook, a toy world which the YD seduced me into several weeks ago. It's a champion time waster at the moment, but it is allowing me to get my trip photographs up and indexed so that the friends we went with can see them. I had meant to do a travel post, but this is easier. I may still get the post done as well because I have some really good pictures. Or at least so says my BIL, who is an amazing photographer and whose opinion I value highly. Plus he's a tech whiz and I now know how to shrink my photos to easily loadable sizes without hauling them through a photo paint program. Well, I'll get it done if I can refrain from adding things like Visual Bookshelf to my Facebook page -- fun but a real time eater.

Do they give out championships for procrastination? Is there a twelve step program? Timewasters R Us? Although I don't count time looking out the window at the world as wasted, exactly, it isn't getting the laundry done. Nor the six or seven documents sitting on my desktop waiting to be edited. Nor the letter for the Hall Committee. Nor the fundraising phone calls. I've got a pile of sewing and mending including Little Stuff's Hallowe'en cat costume. If it would ever stop raining, there are flowerbeds to put to sleep, and a lot of tidying up around the house. Wednesday morning it did stop and we raked leaves. You would never know it. But here I am, eating cookies and typing and thinking about the old joke about work. 'I'm not afraid of work! I can sit right here beside it and do nothing.'

Posting, for me, is not work. It's my virtual window to the world and time spent looking through it is not wasted. How I love to read about what all of you are doing and thinking. Pause there while I took some photos of the leaves pattering down. The big sugar maple by the corner of the deck has a circle of gold below it and the wind is whisking more off all the time. And the sky is darkening again. More thunder. More rain now. There's a pair of soggy blue jays vacuuming up the corn that the turkeys left behind. And I have to stop for a minute and close the windows since it is really raining hard now. Wonderful. I get back and the satellite is now down.

Well that gives me time to download and edit the leaf pictures I just ran out in the rain to take so that I could illustrate this post. And to think about the flying feet of time, since I have just spent the morning writing this, playing with it and dealing with a series of phone calls. eheu! fugaces labuntur anni. Not to mention minutes, seconds and hours. I don't want to stop time. Nor even turn it back. But I would love to have more of it. Time to do things well, without scanting other things. Time to look out of the window without worrying about the unwashed clothes. Time to write really good posts about meaningful things, instead of babbling on. Well, this babble will have to do as the satellite is now back up and I have to get back to the real world. Always vowing to do better next time. To stop squandering the time I have. Hollow laughter. And that's not a noise the turkeys are making.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

More Book Stuff

In September Bub and Pie tagged me for a meme about books. Five questions about books, as a matter of fact. And then last week she produced a meme answer to a question created by Veronica Mitchell. The question:

Ten Literary Characters I Would Totally Make Out With If I Were Single and They Were Real But I’m Not, Single I Mean, I Am Real, But I’m Also Happily Married and Want to Stay That Way So Maybe We Should Forget This.

B and P's book posts are always memorable, but she has surpassed herself with the 'Snoggably Delicious post. After I managed to stop laughing, I just had to do it. And so I am combining the questions.

Here we go.

Total Number of Books
I had to do this calculation for another meme I did a while ago. A bit over 1000 and still accumulating, in spite of the number I give away, sell second hand and lose when the YD raids my bookshelves. Augmented by about three a week from the library, those I borrow from a neighbour with a similar obsession about Sci Fi and Fantasy and those I borrow from the YD (and, mostly, return.) Number read. All of them, many more than once. Lenses on my glasses? really thick.

Last Book Read
A library book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, The conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain. 432 pages, plus notes.

This is a somewhat overwritten and heavily layered treatise on left and right brain dichotomy and how it affects society. In spite of this rather turgid style, I found the thesis to be persuasive. Writing, he says, is left brained, linear and 'masculine' and societies that adopt it go through identifiable phases of austerity, misogyny and madness because they deny the right brained, intuitive and feminine parts of themselves. Our society, he says, has come through this and because of photography, typing and computer literacy is entering' a new Golden Age' with increased values of 'tolerance, caring and respect for nature' and for the rights of women. I love this prediction. The man is working on a macro time scale, however, and it is unlikely that I will be around long enough to see if he is right.

Last Book Bought
Teaching is a Learning Experience, A For Better or For Worse Collection by Lynn Johnston. This is a comic book.. Johnson has been putting out these collections for a long time and we addicts rush to buy each one as soon as it hits the shelves. If you don't know her work, I commend it to you. The best introduction is The Lives Behind the Lines. If you do know it, here's notice that the '07 collection is available.

Five Meaningful Books
1.) The King James Bible and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, 1939 version. The language in these books informed and intoxicated me from about the age of seven upwards. I loved the sonorous, rolling periods, the antique words and constructions and the sheer opulence of the language. I read through the whole thing the first time looking for the amazing stories, skipping what I did not understand or what bored me. Then I started over again. And again. When I discovered that Jane's father, in LMM's Jane of Lantern Hill, also reveled in the language and stories, I felt a strong sense of identification. Speaking of LMM, I would have to put in a nomination for beddable character for Kenneth Ford's father, Owen Ford, in Anne's House of Dreams. He's far more fleshed out than Kenneth.

2.) Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read The Hobbit first, and when I discovered TLOTR, in my first year at university, I was hooked. The language, the world he created, the depth and colour. I had been reading all the fantasy books I could get my hands on all through high school, but this was so much more.
Beddable character? How about Gandalf? How cool would that be! Or if you want a slightly more approachable version, Barbara Hambly's Antryg in the Windrose Chronicles or Ingold in the Darwath Trilogy.
3.) The Last Days of Pompeii. I tried to take this out of my school library when I was, maybe, eight. It was not on my grade's approved shelf and the librarian made me read her a page of it before I was allowed to take it home. This, of course, meant that reading the whole thing was a point of honour. And I discovered classical Rome. And historical fiction. And the rest, as they say, is history. My favourite historical fiction series is Dorothy Dunnett's Chess sextet. Francis Crawford has got to be one of the most toothsome males ever created. And highly skilled, as Dunnett makes quite clear.
4.) Charles Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. I read this when I was supposed to be revising Lucretius' De Rerum Natura for a final exam. A whole world of new things, places and ideas spread out before my enchanted eyes. I've never reread it, but I've been an avid consumer of natural history books ever since. And I failed the exam, needless to say. A snog connection? Lucretius and Darwin both strike me as having been dry old sticks and down on women. At a real stretch, however, I did a make up course in Latin which included Catullus. Milia basia, deinde centum? Hmm.
5.) Jane Austin. Persuasion is my favourite. There is not, for me, a beddable character in the lot, however, mostly because I don't think Austin took her imagination that far. Now if you consider Darcy after Elizabeth has been married to him for a while and has managed to loosen him up, I might be interested. If we weren't both married.

To catch my interest, a paper guy has to appear to know how to give a girl a good time. And not too overtly either. That's one of the best things about Lord Peter -- Sayers leaves the details to the reader. You can have Jondelar; he never varies his technique. In Bub And Pie's comments, Nikki mentions Jamie Fraser, which is a thought, but he is so married. It's not the good body thing that does it for me, either. I am struggling to remember the title of an historical fiction novel in which the heroine goes to bed with a man with a deformed spine, simply because he needs her so much, and is wonderfully well served. Sigh. Short term memory short circuit. It was set in Italy or Spain, I think? Ring a bell with anyone? Speaking of bells, I had an adolescent crush on Hemmingway's men, but I don't think I would be turned on now. The silent type could quickly pall. Which lets out Lawrence's Mellor, fascinating as I found it when the book was illicit. Illicit is a turn on. Anne Rice can sure do that. Better stop this!

I've been too disorganized to know who has done either of these memes. If you haven't, and like the idea, you're tagged. Please let me know, so that we can continue in this delightful vein.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Goodbye, goodbye to everything

Two of our neighbours died this week. One was a man of sixty-five, father of three, grandfather of seven; the other a woman two decades younger. Both were unassuming people, good members of the community, both in their own ways lovers of the countryside, the place in which they lived. Both were and are shining examples of courage and grace, in their quiet lives and in how they faced their deaths.

Liz had cancer. A woman who loved life, delighted in her animals, laughed a lot, she was tall, with a curious stalking grace and an infectious smile. She faced her diagnosis with determination and dignity, endured the treatments, went into remission and resumed her life. I chatted with her at a gas station in early summer and except for being very thin, she seemed fine, laughing with me about the weather, running in to pay for her gas with her heron gait. Today I read the obituary she wrote for herself, in the first person. It's just beautiful. It reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem in which the little boy says goodbye to the farm: it's sweet, moving and pure Liz.

George took a lot longer to die. Complications of diabetes first put him on dialysis, then necessitated a kidney transplant. Eyes crinkled with laughter, back straight, George kept on running his business, working in the sugar bush, giving of himself to the community, loving his life and his land and enjoying his friends. He lost a leg. He kept on hunting and working and being the centre of his big, busy family. He lost a second leg. He was making plans to rig up his four wheeler with hand controls when the kidney transplant failed. I think that he believed that his family had been through enough; he refused to go back on dialysis and he died quietly and with dignity last Saturday.

He had mentioned that it would be nice to have his funeral held outdoors in the midst of his beloved maple trees. So that is what his family did and the fact that it was cold and wet and miserable did not deter the many, many mourners, the honour guard of twenty fire fighters or his little grandkids. Several of his eulogists mentioned that George would have said that the trees needed the rain.

We sang 'Amazing Grace' at George's funeral. And the phrase has stayed in my mind. These gentle people died as they had lived, with such amazing grace.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Hi, Me.

I'm answering five questions from Julie Pippert at Using Your Words. Here are questions four and five as she gave them to me.

4. What do you appreciate about your relationship with your children and what do you wish you could change?

5. If you were to mentor a young woman (say college age or thereabouts) in what area would you mentor her and how would you guide her.

These two questions tie themselves together in my mind, as my children are two daughters, now forty and forty one, so I sailed with them through that age range. 'How did you mother' and 'how would you mentor' are pretty close to the same question although mentoring young women not your daughters is in many ways easier than dealing with your own. (Speaking from experience, here.) They're less likely to think you know nothing, for instance.

The thing I appreciate is that I do have a relationship with my daughters, a good one. The phone rings and a voice says 'Hi, it's me'. Although they are not and do not look a bit alike, their voices are very similar on the phone and so my stock answer is 'Hi, me.' And we laugh. It's a ritual. They might be phoning with an invitation to dinner or lunch, with a request for babysitting or a mock plea for help ('I need to sort out my closet. Come and help me?') Or just to chat or to talk something over. They enjoy family meals chez parents on occasions like Thanksgiving, they come out from the city for a day to walk or cross country ski or help their father in the woodlots. And I haven't had an argument with either of them for a very long time. We laugh together when we are together.

I'm almost fatuously proud of both of them. They're clever, athletic and well spoken. They have amazing careers. They're funny and thoughtful and good citizens. 'A credit to you' would have been the comment in former generations. But they've really done it themselves, capitalized on their opportunities, worked hard and intelligently. If I could change anything it would be the old 'mother instinct' thing -- I wish they didn't have to work so hard to succeed, take crap from time to time, have problems. I would remove the pea from under the pile of mattresses, bumps from the road, stress from their lives. Except that they seem to thrive on stress. I well remember my mother carrying on about how hard I worked at that age, how much I had to do, and I remember thinking she was making far too much of it. So I keep my mouth shut (or try to), even when they are up to their asses in alligators.

My mothering when my daughters were small consisted mainly of supplying them with opportunities to learn, both about themselves and about the world around them, providing them with clean clothes and snacks, taking them to hospital when they broke something, and keeping an eye on them. When they turned into teenagers I continued to do these things, sat through their drivers' tests and restrained myself from screaming or laughing at inappropriate moments of teenaged angst. I also delivered occasional lectures which were received about as you would expect. Although the YD, in particular, used to turn up when she was in her twenties from time to time and say things like 'Remember when you told me drunken women were repulsive? Well, you were right!' Validation. Hah! I lost my temper with them about the usual number of times, threatened them with hanging by their thumbs from the clothesline more than I should have, and loved them. A lot.

As for mentoring -- I always felt that you do that along with the mothering. Life skills 101. I told the girls many times that they needed to learn a skill with which they could support themselves (boys are always told that, aren't they?) so that they never would need to batten on to some man to look after them. I would give a young woman the same advice today, but with a different emphasis. Too many young women (and young men) find themselves, after they graduate, locked into a job that demands a huge investment of hours and effort and erodes their private and family life. I hate it that young women seem to have to put off having children until they are established in their careers. To fix that we need to change the whole corporate ethic in the 'developed' world. But in the meantime, girls, in particular, need to develop a range of skills and interests so that they can look after themselves (and more easily juggle career and family) without getting locked into either a high pressure office or a series of low paying jobs.

I hate to see 'college age' girls so preoccupied with a boy friend that they neglect the benefits of things on campus such as late night bull sessions, cultural events, volunteering opportunities or sports. And they should run like a rabbit if the boy friends want them to curtail their educational choices and activities. I also hate the sexual flaunting and risky promiscuity that are not new (I went to University in the sixties!) but seem to be more widely publicized if not practiced. I still think drunks are disgusting. My major mentoring advice would have to be that a young woman not let herself get talked into doing anything she really isn't sure she wants to do, whether it is a course choice, sex or a stunt on a motorcycle. To learn her strengths and apply them. To stop worrying about things she doesn't do quite as well. And to expect to have to be flexible.

I'm presently reading a book of essays by Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson, where she writes in an essay called 'Somebody's Baby'
Who really understands what it takes to raise kids? That is, until after the diaper changes, the sibling rivalries, the stitches, the tantrums, the first day of school, the overpriced-sneakers standoff, the fist date, the safe-sex lecture, and the senior prom have all been negotiated and put away in the scrapbook?
She's right on, but what I would add to that is that the scrapbook only contains material pertinent to the kids you have raised; it doesn't make you an expert on child raising. The best I can say is that I had really good material to work on and that I didn't screw up.