Monday, 30 July 2007

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go...

I'm off tomorrow to join the elder daughter and family, and spend three weeks child minding while they work. In a glorious and remote location with beaches. Whee. I am told I will have access to a computer some of the time and so I will be able to keep up with you all, I hope. That is, I am going if I can explain to the baggage checkers at the airport why I have a suitcase full of marbles, beads, paints, a pint sized plush bear that growls, a nylon tent fly with rope, very few clothes and 12 paperback novels.
You think they'll let me fly?

Friday, 27 July 2007

We're a Lot Alike

There's a meme going around that asks for a list of ten ways that you and your child are alike. It's a fun read. I'm going to twist it a bit, though.

Yesterday JG and I took our younger daughter out for her first ride in our new fishing boat, a 19 footer with a fairly powerful four stroke engine, huge for a family that started out with a canoe, progressed to a skiff with two oars and thence to a 12' aluminum boat with a 12 hp motor. We've moved to the bigger boat so that we can handle the Rideau Canal system, most often the series of the three Rideau lakes which are big enough that a strong breeze puts up quite a chop, enough to have made us very nervous in the smaller craft.

Anyway, yesterday was sunny and hot and the YD had a day off so we launched ourselves off into lower Rideau with the plan of putting up to Westport for lunch, having a swim and getting YD back to the dock in time for her to make the city for a late dinner party. The YD and I were dressed in bathing suits, slathering each other in sunscreen, and her father was in long pants, sleeved shirt and one patch of zinc cream on his nose. It was gorgeous on the water -- one of the hazy summer days that memory insists entire summers were made of, long ago. But there was a good stiff breeze up and enough chop that we couldn't spot any loons.

The YD has only been upstream on the Rideau Lakes once, so she was bowled over by the opulence of the cottages and homes that line the shore pretty well everywhere except the Provincial Park at Murphy's Point. Some of the buildings are manicured mansions, with rock gardens, pots of flowers on the docks and two or three expensive power boats and Seadoos moored at massively hardened shoreline walls. Others are almost hidden in trees and look more like old fashioned summer places; the YD did a running evaluation of the ones she liked. Even the islands have cottages and those are the ones I covet. First point of difference with the YD who believes that the motor noises of passing boats would drive her demented. But there are a lot we would both love to have. Except for the fishermen, we had the lake pretty well to ourselves and could dawdle along looking everything over.

It always puzzles me that there are not more sail boats -- we see a fair number of them moored but on a perfect sailing day we only saw two out taking advantage of it. There were some power boats pulling inflatable rafts with squealing kiddies in them, however. This seems to be the latest fad and to have replaced the water skiers almost entirely. No jet boats, thanks be. When the YD and I both said that we could not see the fun in the wretched things, JG answered that it's a guy thing. Power! Speed! Noise! As for us, we ride in the motor boat because JG loves it and the best thing about this new one is that it has the quietest motor I have ever known.

When we got to the lock at the Narrows, we lucked into perfect timing as the downstream gate was just opening. The YD hopped out and volunteered to help the lockmaster wind the gate shut, then trotted up to help lift the sluices at the upper end. After that she read all the information boards and chatted to the lock staff, returning just in time to cast off and exit the lock. I am a talk-to-people person, but the YD is even more open. I used to call her 'little friend to all the world' as a small child. She meets everyone with the cheerful assumption that they will respond in kind to a friendly approach and they almost always do. Her blue eyes sparkle, she has an infectious smile and obviously really wants to know the answer to all the questions she eagerly asks. She also speaks her mind -- life has worn me into a more tactful approach, but I often will find myself agreeing with her. We exited to grins and waves and expressions of thanks.

JG was tasked to find us a swimming spot after lunch: deep and in a rocky bay was the YD's stipulation. He tried to locate a lee shore, but his pick ended up in pretty choppy water and the depth finder showed 180', too deep for our anchor rope. So I rolled off and the YD dived off and JG circled while we swam. It was wonderful to be in the water but it was a bit of a problem to swim in it. This was my first swim off this boat as I was not sure I could manage the step and platform re-entry and wanted a helper for my first try. We ended up chasing the boat a bit to get back to it, and I was pretty glad to get my hands on the platform. Getting up was a bit dicey, with my sadly unbendable arthritic knee, but I managed and the YD did a second dive (managing to soak her father in the process) and a second climb back in to assess the difficulty and coach me a bit more. Then we sat and dripped happily for a bit until JG decided that it was time for the YD to drive.

This was hilarious. There were a good number of big boats out by this time so there were a lot of wakes and, with the wind, there were cross waves and it was not the easiest steering job. Whenever we hit a higher than usual line of wash, the YD would wail as she tried to maneuver us through, the wail rising in pitch as we thumped down too hard. Each boat that appeared in front of us elicited a harried series of 'What do I do now's from the YD as she tried to judge her course to pass them. The shrieks and queries were accompanied by an increasingly big grin as her mastery of the task increased. I sat back and loved every minute of this, as the wails and worries expressed exactly how I feel when I have to drive, except that I would be thinking them and not saying them out loud quite as much.

'Dad, he's headed right AT us! What do I do now?'
'Just alter a little to the right, and he should do the same,' says Dad very calmly. 'He's still a long way away.'
'Eep', says daughter, knuckles white on the wheel.

Well worth the price of admission.

We got her back to the dock at exactly the time stipulated, but she waited to see JG drive the boat up onto the trailer, which he did in style with her watching, of course.

I think she had fun, but I know I did.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Eight Things Meme

Momnos (Mom - Not Otherwise Specified) just did the eight things meme and left it open for anyone who hadn't done it. I must be one of the few.

So, first the housekeeping. The rules of this meme are:1. Let others know who tagged you.2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

1.) I'm walking around on ground glass crumbs today. I have a nice home office out of which I run a part time graphics business and on the wall, until today, hung a beautiful picture my daughter gave me that was mounted expensively behind no glare glass. A big picture. This morning it fell off the wall. I crab walked around and picked up the big pieces, causing my back to tie itself into a knot in the process, vacuumed, revacuumed and came back to my computer. After all this, the first time I stepped onto the tiles in the hall, my moccasins made scraping noises. I will have to revacuum again and then wet mop as this is where the four year old Little Stuff hangs out when she stays with us. I am not happy.

2.) I do a lot of graphics stuff as a volunteer and today I should be doing posters and a press release for a raffle. Since the husband is away, I spent the morning blogging instead. Minus glass shard time, see above. My husband does not know I have a blog, although he knows I am doing something for more time than he wants me to spend at the computer. If I told him, he would be very caustic about it and I am not ready to put up with this, just yet. I'm not sure whether this is a 'discretion is the better part of valour' decision or just plain cowardice. JG being caustic is not a one off item.

3.) I love science fiction and fantasy. JG thinks it is a waste of time and tells me so. Often. Also sods law is often in operation because I do read worthy tomes but the one he asks me about usually has a dragon in it somewhere. I can get through a book a day and haunt my local libraries, buy books on-line and hang out in used bookstores, looking for the good stuff. Next to sci fi I love historical fiction. And next to that, juicy and salacious biography as long as Kitty Kelly didn't write it. And I hate, hate (hate!) to throw out books.

4.) I talk too much. If you were to meet me in person, within a very short time I would be chatting away, making jokes and telling you things about myself and my family. If you share an elevator with me, I will strike up a conversation if you so much as look at me and grunt. But what I talk about is all silly, surface stuff. You would have to know me a long time before you found out what I really think about much of anything serious. Point one about the glass is a pretty good example of the persiflage with which I inundate all and sundry. Strangely enough, if they can break in long enough, people tend to tell me secret things about themselves and talk about things that trouble them.

5.) Country music, yes. Also folk music. And some classical music -- Handel, for instance. I despised the Beatles whose early career took place while I was a young mother, didn't think much of Elvis (yeah, I'm that old!) and don't have any tolerance for singers whose words I can't interpret. The folk music thing was really big while JG and I were undergraduates and I learned the words to a great many obscure songs: the Eddystone Light, for instance. Tom Lehrer. I have the kind of trick memory that retains verse, lyrics and aphorisms. Don't ask me about the car keys, my passport or my daughters' phone numbers. And I can't sing. This is really sad as the rest of my family can, and they suffer while I murder Christmas carols, but they need me to get past the second verse of anything. It's nice to be needed.

6.) I'm on my third wedding ring. Same husband, but three rings. The first one got too small, so I stored it in my jewellery case with my mother's. They both got stolen. I have seldom felt more violated. JG bought me a bigger ring, with carving on it, for our 25th anniversary. I had to have that one cut off when I sprained my finger and so I got the jeweller to put a hinge and click clasp on it. Last year I was digging out shoots and weeding and somewhere in the yard it unclicked and I lost it. I am now wearing JG's, since he doesn't, but I had to have it enlarged to get it on. Arthritis.

7.) The only sport I'm any good at is swimming. I love to swim. I love the feel of the water gliding along my body, the buoyancy, the layers of different temperature. I love swimming in the ocean best, lakes in summer next and pools least. Chlorine, yuck. I love scuba diving where you seem to fly over an alien world, free from gravity and sound, living in an extra dimension. I love watching surf roll onto a rocky shore, smelling the scent of salt water and feeling the pound of the waves as they break. I love body-surfing when the water takes you and hurls you forward in a burst of foam and cold. I love water. Sometimes I wish I had gills.

8.) I'm a procrastinator. Big time. I started doing the weekly laundry at 7:30 this morning and right now there is a huge basket waiting to go out onto the line and if I don't get it out there soon it won't dry. The reason it all has to go out together is hummingbirds. They love to sit on the clothesline, and where they sits, they poops. So the clothes have to be out for as short a time as possible. But they need to go out. Right. Now.

They're out. I'm posting and I'm out of here. Oh, if there is anyone left who hasn't done this thing, Tag!, you're it.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Grama is Rockin'

Early in July, Bon from Crib Chronicles, wrote this:

my online girlfriend, Ms. Redneck Mommy - i know, i know, she’s everybody’s online girlfriend, she’s an incorrigible flirt - flicked her sticky fingers wand and dropped a Rockin’ Girl Blogger award upon me. which, um, rocks, even though any non-hand-drawn picture of me would point out how the word “girl” becomes more of a stretch all the time. but i like my pretty new button, however i have to squeeze to get it over my hips, and have decided to continue stretching its use of the word “girl” by passing it along to a fine blogger who happens to be technically even further from girlhood than myself, but who rocks most indubitably. Mary, come on down. glad you’re out here adding your voice to the chorus.

This was absolutely lovely of Bon. Even though my grandkids would choke laughing. So I said to myself, "Wha??????" and went to look for the origins of this. Here is where it started.

Roberta Ferguson at Blogging Made Devilishly Simple said: Yeah, why not get out there and start a trend of sorts? I was happy to find that I was a SOB (successful outstanding blogger) from Liz Strauss and it’s little pieces of recognition like that, that sometimes keeps us going.
I’m starting something today, right here, right now. You get to be in on it. It’ll be fun and it will build us a community of one sort: girl bloggers. Or, better yet, “Rockin’ Girl Blogge
rs”. How do you like that? This one-time deal comes with a nifty badge as well: Know anyone that deserves this nifty award? Let’s make a ginormous list of rockin’ girl bloggers. I am going to tag some of the rockin’ girl bloggers that I read regularly. From there, they can tag some more rockin’ girl bloggers, and so forth. So, if you’re a girl or woman and you blog and you have to rock, then you’re in.

At BlogRhet, the topic under discussion is inclusiveness. There have also been some serious debates about tagging. (The one I'm citing here took place on Chani's blog, 'Thailand Gal', on June 3rd. I'm having trouble getting her blog to load so I am giving the site as well as trying to link to it. There are several conversations post June 3rd that are also relevant.)

The Rockin' Girl initiative really intrigues me, because I'm on the pro side of the tagging conversation. I think tagging can be a tool for including people if it is used correctly. I'm not being very correct about it, I confess, because Bon's tag to me was done in the first week of July and I am just now picking it up. I would love to know how far the 'Rockin' Girl' badge has spread and when, but don't have the time to follow all the links to find out.

If you have seen the button or been given it, could you please let me know when and where. In the meantime, I will keep on rockin' and I do not mean in my rocking chair with my knitting.

Thanks, Bon.

And, of course, I am supposed to pass it on. The trouble is, I want to see where it has got to without adding to it myself. So I'm going to hold on that for now. Anyway, everyone I read deserves one!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Good-bye Groundhog

I have a high tolerance for the killing of little furry animals. And I know I need to explain this to many people, some of whom have been writing to our local city paper lately fulminating about the shooting of garbage bears by an octogenarian country lady.

First off, garbage bears. Why shoot garbage bears? Because these are bears that have lost their sensible avoidance of humans and are therefore unpredictable and dangerous. We live in black bear country. In the almost twenty years when we spent weekends here and the twelve years we have been full time residents, we have seen bears perhaps as few as ten times. I used to pick berries from a fairly distant patch with my (then) very young daughters and our dog, and would frequently see the raspberry canes coming upright from having a bear leave them as we arrived. We see bear scat, footprints and claw markings (one on the cabin wall), but we rarely see the animals themselves and if we do, it is a fleeting glimpse as they quickly move elsewhere. We have had one garbage bear which, when we were alerted by the thumping of the garbage pail and went to see what was going on, walked toward us. We yelled, it left briefly and returned to the compost bin. JG took a shot at it (compost bin has bullet hole to substantiate this) and it left for good. We now lock the garbage bin in a metal sided shed and do not compost berry material. Black bears are big enough to kill a person. And the habituated ones may try.

We also target groundhogs and other sweet furry beasties. It's this way. We live way out in the 'bush' (Canadian for second growth forest). Of the 300 acres we tend, 295 are managed forest or beaver flood, and any animal that wishes to is welcome to den in them. Of the five remaining homestead acres, we regard only the immediate vicinity of the house as off limits. We even tolerate chipmunks in the mowed part of the field and lawn. Groundhogs are welcome to dig in the untended areas and live in the rock piles. However, in the last month we have had to eliminate a chipmunk family that persisted in digging up the tile bed of our septic system (after the application of moth balls and ammonia) and a groundhog that insisted in reopening a hole directly under the supports of the stairs leading to the kitchen door. We use live traps when we can, and more than a few chipmunks have been transported for wrongful digging, but find they are not too effective with groundhogs. We had to use a spring trap on the stubborn idiot who was undermining the stairs. This requires waiting for the trap to spring and shooting the perp to put it out of its misery. Imagine if that hit the newspaper!

I guess you could argue that the groundhogs et al were here first and we are encroaching on their territory. True. But overall, I think we are kind to our first citizens and we do a lot to improve their habitat. The deer love the trail system we have developed and are equally pleased with the tasty hostas and other imported delicacies I have planted. Robins revel in the big patch of mowed field. Red squirrels and chipmunks get lots of nourishment from the bird feeders and we don't hassle them if they confine themselves to gleaning what the birds have dropped. The odd squirrel that figures out how to get into the bird feeders is shot and provides a tasty snack for the fisher that we see occasionally. I would say that we usually coexist. Maybe the kitchen stair groundhog was making a First Citizen protest. If so, he would have been wiser to file suit in court.

These are animals, after all. Most of us use animal products which involve the death of the animal. We don't see the slaughter and most of us don't think about it very much. Those people who do worry about it (and they had better be vegetarian and wearing synthetics) tend, in my opinion, to go a bit overboard. ( Also take a look at this link -- hunters going overboard!) Especially if the animal in question is a cute baby harp seal or a laboratory dog or monkey. Have you ever heard of anyone mourning the demise of lab rats? Or trying to close down a pig raising barn? If polar bears become extinct it is not going to be due to the controlled hunt that brings the Inuit badly needed cash; it will be because we are all, to some extent, carbon criminals. I eat meat and wear animal products. And I trap groundhogs. Guilty as charged.

While we're talking about encroachment on other people's property, let's take a look at the urban raccoon. Here is an opportunist animal that makes garbage bears look like rank amateurs. These wily beasts have perfectly adapted to living in cities and are happily increasing their urban populations every year. And this is a real problem in Quebec at the moment because raccoons are rabies carriers. The rural population of raccoons along the Quebec/Ontario/New York State border has a lot of raccoon rabies. The Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario and its equivalent in Quebec have been trying to eradicate this population humanely by dropping bait containing a rabies immunization drug and by trapping and relocating the animals near an infested area. But the infested areas are increasing and soon will be close enough to Montreal that crossover may occur and the urban raccoons become infected. If this happens, it is going to be a big problem for the residents of Montreal. The animals may stop being furry little charmers and become targets for destruction. If you have to choose between killing a raccoon and having your child in danger, I know what I would do.

I hate killing things myself. I ran over a porcupine with my car once, and was really shaky after I made sure it was dead. I love watching little lambs jumping around but I also love lamb chops. I feel sorry for a crowded boxcar of pigs headed for slaughter but I eat lots of sausage. I wonder how defensive I sound to other people about this subject. It's a sort of mental dichotomy, I think, that is due to being far enough away from hunger and subsistence farming to have the luxury of not being 'in at the kill'. Could I kill an animal if my family needed food? Yes, I think so. I hope I never have to find out. In the meantime, I don't have much patience with people who get overly sentimental about animals.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Water Everywhere

It's raining again. Ten minutes ago I was sitting out on the screened porch watching the cloud shadows chase across the back field. Noticing yet another big black mass moving up from the west. Feeling the gust of wind come around from behind me -- the cool, brusque push of wind that precedes the rain. This pattern of sun, rain and sun again has persisted all day. And yesterday. And the day before that. With interludes of electrical storms. The farmers struggling to get the late hay baled must be apoplectic. Anyone who has booked this week off as vacation is probably fed up and growing moss between their toes. Or last week. Our July weather this year has followed this pattern almost every day.

We did get out in the boat for half a day, yesterday, before the cloudless sky began to fill with far from innocent looking clouds and we had to trailer the boat fast and head for home. It was gusty on the lakes and so we anchored in the lee of a small island to eat our lunch. Almost immediately an osprey swooped just over our heads and when we looked up we saw another one. They are beautiful soaring birds, about the size of a raven, and they fish. We watched one of them swoop over to the island and realized that there was a nest on one of the bigger trees -- a live tree and not the tallest one, which ospreys usually prefer.

We were also amused by a swim-by parade of Canada geese, a long one composed of adults and almost adult sized juveniles, that headed out into the main channel and, paddling with amazing speed, crossed the fairway among the passing boats. Earlier this week we saw a pair of loons with two very small chicks bobbing between them and another family with two or three bigger juvenile birds. They are also a big bird, when you see them close by, as we often do. They are usually quite calm about passing boat traffic and will only dive away if something passes really close to them. Last fall we saw big flocks of them congregated in the upper part of the lake where the water is shallower, as many as twenty birds in one group. I was not aware they did this.

For me, this is the joy of boating. We putt along quite slowly, field glasses at the ready, on weekdays or before the cottage season is in full swing and after most people have left. In spite of the lake shores being almost entirely built up with cottages, there is a lot of bird life and more than occasional glimpses of the local wildlife. Mind you some of the local wildlife of another sort can be out roaring around in circles towing screaming kids on inflatables, or jumping wakes with their Seadoos. Not enough to spoil things, though. And we pass placid fishermen (I refuse to use the politically correct 'fisher' - yuck!) rocking quietly in the shallows or trolling gently. The fishing is quite good, and my family loves to fish.

In fact, here are three generations of my family fishing -- there's none of me, or it would be four.

My mother

Elder Daughter

Little Stuff

I'm not really into fishing. I have served my time taking sunfish off hooks and returning them to the water, threading worms onto hooks, cooking fish brought home by the successful, cleaning up. I even have several videos of me, swimming with and feeding fish. But if I get to sit down beside water, what I want in my hand is a camera or a paintbrush or binoculars. If I have a camera, I take bird pictures. And more bird pictures. I am about to put the white heron back onto the top picture. If I have a paintbrush I make yet another attempt to capture what the water looks like: the result is never to my satisfaction, but I can't resist another try. The binoculars are often a prelude to activities one and two.

I love water. Only, a large dollop of it has just fallen on my sheets, which I optimistically hung on the line a couple of hours ago. I'm not so sure I love that.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Two Score Years Ago

July 11th, 1967

My baby is having a mid life crisis. On Wednesday she will have her fortieth birthday, and in spite of the fact that she is having three cakes, she is not one bit happy about hitting the milestone. Neither was her father when he hit it, although he now says that fifty was even worse. Given that his sister and brother put fifty pink flamingos on the lawn, maybe he was right.

I have never been quite that hung up about my age, although I did take note of my sixty-fifth alright. (Not enough note; I forgot to sign up at the pharmacy for my paid-for drugs. Big oops.) Or I thought I wasn't. The other day JG referred to himself and me as 'a pair of old fogeys' and I found myself taking offence. As a matter of fact, I snarled. JG put both his hands behind him and backed away slowly. Well, no. He did apologize, though.

I surprised myself a little, because, as I said, I am not usually sensitive about my age. I wear my hair in its natural white with brown bits here and there. (I stopped dying it when I was in Africa for some months and the sun turned the hair colour I used to a sort of dirty ochre. Yick!) I am glad to be reminded that I qualify for the seniors' discount when I forget to ask for it. I cheerfully buy and wear 'grandma' clothes. But somehow 'fogey' hit me hard.

I suspect each of us has a limit. A limit of age when we have to recognize that we are no longer young. A limit on labels, epithets, pejoratives. A limit on our tolerance for undeserved criticism, on how much condescension to allow before it turns to abuse, a line beyond which we will not be pushed. I've never been particularly body conscious or self conscious (with the exception of part of high school, perhaps, like most of us). But my husband can push my buttons, oh boy!

A 'fogey' (fogy) is defined, generally as an excessively old fashioned and conservative person, usually combined with 'old' and synonymous with 'dull'. I just looked it up in the OED, Webster and Wictionary. And I have no idea why that got to me. Except that in general, being told I am dull is something that gets to me, except from teenaged offspring (who are obviously going through a phase, hmm?). I recall being told once to keep my mouth shut when the daughters were home from university on a visit and let them talk because they wouldn't want to hear what I had to say. That's over twenty years ago but I still remember it and it still hurts.

I find it sort of funny that the YD is hitting a milestone I hit a quarter century ago and she thinks she is getting old. Nope. Forty is not old. I took up sailboarding and scuba diving when I was in my forties. I went back to school and competed with kids the age of my kids and did rather well. I started a new career. The fact is that I did all of those things because I had got fired from a job that I really wanted to keep. It took me a year to dig myself out of the hole that dismissal dropped me into, but I did crawl out and I have probably had more fun and grown a lot more than I would have if it had not happened.

I adore the YD, I really do. And I expect the second half of her life to be just as adventurous as the first. Happy Birthday tomorrow, love.

Help for Broken Hearts

Please go to Mama Luxe's page for a happy story about her little girl and some information about heart defects and their repair.

Monday, 9 July 2007

A Dollar (or two) of One's Own

Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own' actually says that 'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction' (chapter 1). Most of the discussion I have read around that focuses on the personal freedom needed to create art. The phrase 'a room of one's own' has become a touchstone for that freedom. It's a pity that the quote often leaves out the 'must have money' because I think the money piece is more important. Especially for a woman with a husband or partner.

In the 1960's, when I was first married, my otherwise conventional father gave me far from conventional advice. He believed and preached that a married woman should have her own money -- her own bank account and her own credit rating. As a lawyer he had seen too many messy divorces, he said, and this was the wisdom he had carried away from that experience.

From what I have experienced and what I have read, I draw the conclusion that managing money is one of the more contentious issues inside many marriages and partnerships. If both partners are earning, the issues would include who pays for what, what amount should be put aside and how 'discretionary' income should be spent. If one partner (usually the woman) is not earning (staying home to raise the kids), the earning partner's ideas of where the money should go will often dominate. And the SAHM may find herself without much financial power. This was very often the case in my generation, but I don't think things have changed radically. As late as last week I read an article about the financial management of divorce that stated that a woman in a 'traditional' marriage might not have a credit rating of her own.

I'm not into the 'stay home' versus 'working mommy' debate here. I'm on a different topic. Both paths have merit. I've done both. But when I was a SAHM, I usually did some kind of work out of the home, just so that I could have a bit of discretionary income, some money of my own, if only to buy my bread earning husband a birthday gift or pay for some activity for the daughters that he did not think was important. And I always had a bank account; when credit cards came on the scene, I had one in my own name. And when I went to work full time, we had household money, his money and her money. This arrangement did not prevent all conflicts over spending, but it did make them less than deadly.

Lately I have watched the traditional marriage of a good friend crash and burn on the stony flatlands of financial incompatibility. Money is power, and the power struggle here was based on entitlement. I'm reading a book about the British aristocracy in which the point is made that a misplaced sense of entitlement has been the bane of more than one landed family. I've been watching a power struggle in my own family around the issue of a child's access to the household funds. I recall telling my daughters, when they were in their teens, that the ability to earn money enough to make them independent was of paramount importance. That without that power they would be handicapped all their lives.

If you have the money of your own, you can go out and rent the room. No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, no sugar daddy, no real way out of the trap of being paid for, rather than being paid. For some of us, I think, a paycheque is a validation. A recognition of identity and worth. For many of us, of course, it is a sheer necessity, putting food in little mouths and shoes on little feet, paying for a roof over the cradle. Money is power. Without it, a woman can become a kind of perpetual child, unable to set her own priorities or enforce her wishes. If there's no 'mad money', you can't leave the party and take a taxi home. It's no wonder that some of the Islamic cultures don't want women in the working world.

Why am I going on about this? Well, because of the possibility of earning money through blogging, whether this involves putting advertisements on your blog page, writing on set themes for payment or getting franchised. I'm all for it. It's validation in the one case and freedom in the other. No one kvetches about the fact that Dickens wrote his novels in installments for payment or that Rockwell did magazine illustrations. 'Commercial art' is art!

From the haven of a pensioned retirement, I can afford to do this for pleasure and, besides, I'm html challenged. You won't see ads on my site. But I'm happy to read them. Or reviews of products. Or contest entries. I'll go and vote if you need a vote. Payment power. It's real.

Friday, 6 July 2007

A Library Love Affair

Sort of.

This is getting ridiculous. I have managed to get two posts up in the last two weeks. And I don't have small kids home for the summer. And I don't work 'outside the home' as they say. Not for pay, anyway. So what the [censored] has been going on?

A lot of nothing. Plus, I have a post that won't work. And I keep going back to it like a tongue to a tooth with a chip out of it. And, yeah, I had one of those too, necessitating a day in the city. And visitors. And more visitors. And the younger daughter loaned me a new book in a series we both read. Eight hundred pages, and I stayed up until some insane hour finishing it. 'Kushiel's Justice' by Jacqueline Carey. It's a strange sort of alternate world drama and both the YD and I are hopelessly addicted to it. I am also reading something Worthy, just as an antidote, but it's not half as much fun.

There should be a Fiction Reader's Anonymous for addicts like me. All my life I have read voraciously, and often not too wisely, anything with print on it that comes my way. I love fiction the most, however. One of the schools I went to as a small girl had a library that we were allowed to check books out of. I trudged home three times a week with the maximum allowed number. Mostly story books. I read my way through the shelves for my grade level and started to inch upward. From time to time the librarian would look at me severely and make me read a page of something I had chosen before she would let me take it out, but mostly she just let me alone, bless her. In addition to these books, my parents took me regularly to the Carnegie Library downtown, and I again took out the maximum number of books allowed.

When I started to high school, the library was guarded by a miserable little dried up prune of a woman who would not let me take very many books out, but there was a branch library close to the school and somehow I persuaded the librarian there to give me an adult card. I also worked there shelving books, enabling me to find lots of fascinating stuff. And I discovered pulp science fiction; I needed the job to finance my Amazing Stories habit.

At university, the course I was taking allowed me to have a stacks pass. I also worked as a shelver and finder for students not deemed worthy of the honour. This enabled me to hide any book I particularly wanted in the depths of the Latin translations or early Canadian poets, so that I got first crack at assigned topics. I also signed up for the town library since Douglas Memorial Library on campus did not cater to my fantasy and historical fiction habit. There I discovered Tolkein, read 'The Fellowship of the Ring' and waited most of the second term for some evil critter to turn the second volume back in so that I could read the next two books in order. I think the scum stole the book because it never did come back and I finally succumbed and read 'The Return of the King' out of order and failed my Philosophy exam in the process.

After I was married and working I joined a library everywhere we lived, prioritizing it over joining the church or finding a doctor. I used to take the baby in a backpack until the day when she stood up in the backpack, reached for the books and managed to drop a large tome on my head. After that both daughters stayed home with their dad for a while until they were old enough to be trusted with books not their own. Then we all went to the library. I still remember with laughter one trip when the YD was just learning to read. We all got home with our pile of books and sat down to gloat over them. YD trotted over to her dad, lugging her choice.
'Daddy, read to me?'
'No, honey, I'm busy reading.'
'Mommy, read to me?'
'No, I want to look at my own books.'
'Sister, read to me?'
'No, I'm reading my own book'.
Big sigh.
'Well,' she said, ' I will just have to read to mine own self.' And she plunked down on the floor and did so.

One of the biggest days of my life was the day I finally had enough disposable income that I could buy (and keep!) books that I wanted when they first came out. Without waiting for the paperback. Without going on the library waiting list.

I now have a room full of books, and another roomfull in boxes waiting for the shelves to be made on which they will sit in glory.

I have a good start on my very own library.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Hanging Out

Thursday was a blanket day. That is what my mother would have called it. A sunny day with low humidity and a good breeze, not too windy, and warm. When I was a girl and such a day would manifest itself in late spring, I would be sent to haul the woolen blankets downstairs to the washer and we would peg them out on the clothesline where they would flap away and dry all fluffy and sweet smelling.

It amused me a great deal to find, in a glossy magazine, instructions on how to acquire and use a clothesline and how environmentally meritorious such an act would be, with specific instructions on how to hang things out, in detail. It amused me because, unreconstructed dinosaur that I am, I have been hanging my laundry out for the last 40+ years. 'Tops by the bottoms, bottoms by the tops' my mother would chant as we plunked the wicker clothes basket down between us and she strung the lines from the garage to the pole. This was Windsor in the '50s, and if you left the clotheslines up all week they would be blackened by smoke from the coal fired generators upwind in Michigan. And as soon as the white wash load was dry, it came down and into the kitchen where it was dampened and rolled, and on Tuesday night, while listening to the ball game on the radio, my mother would iron it. Or I would, except for my father's white shirts which I was not allowed to do until I was 14 or so.

I hang out all of the big pieces I wash. Socks and underwear and some permanent press things go into the drier, but the rest goes out to the clothesline. Summer and winter. (If you use surgical gloves, in really cold temperatures, the springs of the clothespins will not freeze to your fingers.) In the winter, the towels and shirts often are still half frozen when I take them down and so I put them on a line in the basement to air dry and the whole basement smells wonderful. In the summer I have to get the dried items back inside as soon as possible because both hummingbirds and mourning doves love to sit on my clothesline and while hummingbird poop can be spot cleaned (you never heard that here!) the clothes with dove chalk on them have to be rewashed. In spite of these drawbacks, I still put the clothes out both because they smell better and because the shirts are easier to iron.

It was lovely to be told I am helping the environment.

When you line dry your clothes, you have to be aware of the weather. You track percentages of rain and when the front is expected to arrive. You have to have enough socks and underwear for everyone to be able to last from washday to washday. You have to put up with your husband and kids complaining that what they want to wear is not clean and back in the closet yet. 'It's been rainy for the last two days,' you explain more than once. 'Wear something else'. I guess you have to be a bit stubborn. And you have to have the time to hang out and take in, and the space to put the clothesline. There's still a suburb in Ottawa, I believe, where clotheslines are forbidden by municipal regulation. They're unsightly, you see.

In the days before clothes driers, laundry hanging was part of everyone's life and, believe it or not, a subject of competition and stress. A woman whose white sheets were not pristine white would lose homemaker points. My grandmother lived on a farm where the houses of two of my grandfather's brothers were visible on either side. Who could get the wash out first became a seriously competitive exercise. My grandfather would come in from milking and announce that Mabel had her sheets out and my grandmother would snarl. The family joke was that Mabel put her sheets out dry just to one up my grandmother. My husband's grandmother had a running war with a neighbour who had a degree in home economics and insisted that Granny was hanging her shirts wrong. 'The interfering old thing', Granny snarled. The woman in question was at least a decade younger than Granny, but the insult was at least some relief to her feelings. Granny was from an era when you were Trained At Home for household tasks and homemaking was a vocation.

It's not, for me, but you will see me stamping out in my boots and parka with a basket of steaming sheets until arthritis shuts me down, keeping a weather eye on the clouds and thinking evil thoughts about doves and BB guns. And blanket days are perfect for airing duvets.