Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Resolution in 2009

The failure of our civilization to deal with the well being of a good part of our citizens is not political. It’s something which can, in fact needs to be, talked about by every citizen in an apolitical manner because it concerns every single one of us.
-John Ralston Saul


A lot of what I have been doing this fall when I have not been blogging is work for the non profit organization of which I am chair of the Board. This board, recruited from a cross section of the population of our county, runs a Community Health Centre and three satellite CHC's in a neighbouring county, a Mental Health Support Group, a collection of programs for families with children (aged prenatal to six) at risk, and another collection called Lanark Community Programs that provides services for children with physical and mental challenges, as well as directing provincial government support to their families below the poverty line. This fall we held a workshop on poverty as it affects our community. The quote above is one of a series we used in the workshop; I have committed to make the series into posters to boost awareness of poverty in our staff and clients.

One of the things we do is promote good health. This means working on the things that help people get and stay healthy, rather than relying on treating the sick. The 'determinants' of good health include food security, a healthy environment, a stable community and much more. Our community here includes many, many working poor and the levels of unemployment and poverty are, given the present economic climate, growing rapidly as local industries shut down. The call on our local food bank is increasing at a terrifying rate; the price of heating oil is high and that causes terrible hardship in our climate where you cannot be without heat in winter. The lack of proper clothing for the cold or appropriate clothes for school is a huge difficulty for children. Something as simple as not using sunscreen because it is too expensive can lead to damage that will last a lifetime. Just as pernicious is a lack of hope.

My resolution for 2009 is to be aware, to look for, problems in my community and try to help. I ask all of you who read this to join in. I ask you to look for evidence of suffering and hardship and to do what you reasonably can to amend the problems you see. Something as simple as donating your children's outgrown clothing and toys to an organization that deals with families at risk could make a real difference in a child's life. Look close to home; is the woman ahead of you in the grocery line putting things back because she hasn't enough money? Look farther afield; is your province or state cutting back on funding for something like teachers' aides or seniors' support? Often a letter writing campaign can rearrange priorities at the funding source.

I'm lucky to have the time and the financial security to do a fair amount of work pro bono in my community. I couldn't have done so when my children were small and we needed my income. But awareness and mindfulness can be done in small increments of time and support does not need to be monetary. I know I am preaching to a lot of the already converted here. So many of you are already aware and working in many areas. But I hope you will, with me, continue to be mindful. I think we have tough times ahead and the tough will need to get going.

Best wishes to you all for 2009.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas Vignettes

>She walks in line into the auditorium, gold skirt swishing, gold bow bobbing, turns and faces a sea of faces, parents and grandparents sitting, standing, kneeling, cameras in hand. Her eyes search the crowd, her little face is solemn, anxious. Her grandmother waves, waves again. Suddenly the eyes light up, the mouth smiles, the hand raises in a small return salute. She's spotted her family; now she can sing.

Outside the weather is miserable, foggy, wet, cold. The roads are slippery; the family members arriving for Christmas Eve festivities are late and later. Inside the tree is glowing, on the porch a bright white spiral tree, carefully fastened to the decking boards by Grandpa, shines against the black wet night. And there are the car headlights, turning down the laneway. They are here, they are safe. Christmas can begin.

A teenager tears through a pile of bags and boxes, all gifts of clothing to a boy whose wrists and ankles are showing below the hem of every garment he owns. The father, who chose the clothing, looks anxious. 'Hey, I really like it,' says the teen, unfeigned sincerity in the comment. Smiles, a subtle relaxation of the whole room.

'Mommy! Look. I got my own camera. It's a real camera. It's PINK!' Later Grama and Little Stuff huddle over the camera, exploring the knobs and buttons, trying things. Soon the camera will contain photos of noses and single eyes, Christmas tree ornaments and teenaged faces with bemused grins, a tilted festive table, some feet, some floorboards and half of Grama's face, eyes dark-pupiled from repeated flashes. Utter bliss.

Ten people fit around a green draped table, a table so loaded with dishes and platters that traffic directions are needed to pass the food around. Wine is a red glow in the new goblets. The platter of perfectly roasted turkey, anxiously assembled in the kitchen, steams with delicious scent. One of the guests is a graduate student from Japan and his face is bemused as he deftly fields bowls of glowing orange carrots, crisp baked potatoes, green Brussels sprouts, yellow beans, pitchers of gravy, bowls of garnished sour cream, of aspic, of jewel red cranberries. Later he comments that at home there is no such 'big food' celebration; it is observed that he has done justice to the feast and taken seconds of everything on offer. Then comes the cheese course, then a choice of pie and other sweets. Undaunted he samples the pumpkin and mince, a family tradition. And sticks, with the last bit of crust uneaten.

The floor is scattered with scraps of tissue paper and ribbon bows. The gift bags and boxes are empty and stacked in a pile ready to be stored until next year. Limp stockings hang abandoned on the stereo drawer knobs. The silent tree glows alone in the otherwise dark room, it's water dispenser giving an occasional soft glug. In every bed turkey stuffed revellers are sleeping, safe, warm, beloved. Christmas is over.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Monday Mission - Okay, I know it's Tuesday.

Memo
CLASS: Urgent
TO: S Claus
FROM: MG
DATE: Dec. 23rd
RE: Your Plans for Tomorrow Night
____________________________________________
Could you please delay your departure to, maybe, December 28th?
I'm NOT ready.
Please!
Yes, I know people are expecting you on the 24th at midnight, but you're magic, right? You could fix that in the twinkling of an eye.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Monday Mission - Grocery Store Medley

There goes Shopping Mom, there goes Shopping Mom,
Down the grocery store aisle,
She's got a list two pages long
The cart's piled up a mile!
Cans are rattlin', people scatterin'
The lady's on the run.
Get out of her way, there's hell to pay
'Cause the shopping's not yet done!
~
Baby cries, she can't feed him,
Children whine, though she's bribed 'em.
The omens are clear that the time has drawn near
To screw the list and get the monsters home...
Um,
To check out now and take the poor things home.
~
Now the kids are fast asleep,
She's on her second rye,
But Shopping Mom still has a list
Of things she has to buy.
So she writes to Santa Claus
Tells him of her plight
Could he finish off her list
And bring it round that night.
~
'I'll believe in you', she wrote,
'If you believe in me.'
'Santa, Sweetie,
Just drop it down my chimney tonight.'
~
There's a blip on the radar at NORAD
And it's not even Christmas Eve,
The guys on the radar at NORAD
Are seeing what they don't believe.

There's a sleigh and eight reindeer at Best Buy
And some elves with a grocery list.
They're packing up sacks of food and stuff
It's a sight not to be missed.

Down the road to Mom's they go
And unload all the food.
Mom's hung over but happy now
And she's really in the Christmas mood.

With no apologies at all to the demented and evil creators of 'Here Comes Santa Claus', 'Winter Wonderland', 'Jolly Old St Nicholas', 'Santa Baby', and 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'. (I figure you might need the references.)

You have got to go and look at Ewe Are Here's take on the MM.
She's done much the same kind of Christmas muzac I did and it is totally hilarious.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Monday Mission

The Monday Mission this week was to write a poem. I suggested this to Painted Maypole who hosts the Missions. The suggestion may have been a big mistake. I decided to try a sonnet and I got the first two quatrains but the third is, I think, both limping and limp. Oh well. It's a lot of fun to try this stuff, even if your best effort is composed in your head while navigating snowy roads and fades from memory before you can write it down.

Festival

The winter world is dark, serene and cold.

Soft flakes of snow form clinging blankets, white

on tree and bush that sleeping birds enfold.

A silent owl drifts ghostlike through the night.


The quiet night is bathed in blue star shine,

But at the house the windows gleam with gold,

From lamp and fire and candle. Food and wine,

music and laughter, all the home can hold.


Crystal sparkles on a red draped table,

Roasting turkey scents the lambent air,

The girl child's dressed in velvet, gold and sable.

Lamplight gilds her mother's auburn hair.


A festival of light and warmth and fun.

A solstice party marks the turning sun.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Grumpy Seasonal Thoughts.


As of this morning, the progress I have made clearing my office looks like this. It's not as awful as it looks because the big cardboard box is full of discarded duplicate minutes and other useless bumf. And the row of gift bags will disappear on Tuesday. But the pile of Christmas cards that need to be written is a tad depressing.
I have made up a new category of Christmas pain-in-the-posteriors. Have you ever met a Grunch? This is a person, usually one of your near and dear ones, who asks you what you want for Christmas and, when you tell him, explains to you why this is not a good choice and goes and gets you something else. Possibly something similar. Possibly something that will be Good For You to have.
I have two Christmas parties to attend this week. Both held by organizations of which my husband is a member. At each of these parties the wives will foregather in one location and the husbands in another and talk shop. I am considering coming down with something contagious.
And Merry Shopping Week to you, too.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Destroyed by the Detail

Yesterday I had an early medical appointment in the city and so I decided to make a day of it and do a whole lot of Christmas shopping. I put on my city boots (dress boots with a modest heel) and took two huge plastic bags to carry the shopping, my pile of Angel Tree cards, my very long grocery list, ............some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five pound note. (Stike that last and substitute credit and debit card.) I left the house at what was for me a very early hour, driving my husband's truck.
Some of this was a great mistake.
I had to park at the mall at a distance from the door because I am not good at parking the truck. I trotted around the mall (three stories and about a mile long in each storey, or so it felt) gathering up gifts and filling up my bags. After a while I began to hurt. My back spasmed and my game knee was giving me fits. Hauling a couple of increasingly heavy bags while wearing heels was not a smart move. Not at all. I limped slowly out to the truck and dumped the bags and that gave me some relief, but the back and the feet and the knee were not letting up much. I decided to abandon the mall and go to Walmart, figuring that there would be less walking and that the stuff I had left on the list would be available there in one spot and I could lean on a cart.
I forgot how big Walmart is. I finally got the list done, comforted my afflicted body with a truly horrible hamburger and some coffee and limped back to the truck and off to the grocery store, also a big box, and got a huge load of groceries. Then I drove home, with my legs at the awkward angle they have to be in to drive the truck, humped all this Stuff into the house, staggered around getting supper, ate and collapsed with two extra strength pain pills and the first decent cup of coffee I had had all day.
This morning I am still hurting. I will never, never wear those boots shopping again. However, I have a lovely pile of loot. Pity I can't post the way it smells; there is cinnamon and cranberry soap in there.

Now. I am getting off the computer and I am going to Clean My Office. And I am not getting back on until I have done it. In the interests of self discipling, I am now posting the 'Before' shots. No more internet until I have 'After' shots. I may be gone for a while, she said, shuddering. The computer age was supposed to be paperless, wasn't it?

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Monday Mission - The Adventures of Spiderhand

I always forget to credit Painted Maypole who organizes, creates challenges and runs the check in list for the Monday Missions, on top of everything else she does. Amazing woman! To see the other MM's, go over to her blog and follow the links.

Spiderhand and his sinister sidekick, Manus Arthriticus (aka BAD spider), burst on a waiting world in August of 3007, springing to life and to action,their objective a rescue of the whining four year old Little Stuff from Terrible Boredom. Since that time they have appeared many times and had many adventures.

On a sort of sunny day in November, Little Stuff and her entourage arrived Chez Grama and Grandpa G at lunch time. She found Spiderhand and his twin making lunch in the kitchen, captives of Slavedriver Grama, alternately forced to chop and carry, dive into in soapy water or rub themselves roughly dry on a grubby towel.

'Any questions, spider?" said Little Stuff.

'Help' they cried. 'Grama is making us work again!'

They thrust plates and knives and napkins and mustard and the bread plate and milk glasses and lots of other stuff at Little Stuff and she gamely lugged it all into the dining room and set up the table.

Grama was chopping peppers. 'I can do that,' said Little Stuff. 'My Daddy lets me use a knife.'

Little Stuff made a fine job of the peppers, while the spiders hovered nervously above the chopping board, twitching a little.

Then it was lunch time. After lunch the spiders conned Little Stuff into carrying a lot of the dishes and mustard and glasses and stuff back to the kitchen. Evil Grama forced the spiders to load the dishwasher.

Then it was time to play.

'Spiderhand needs to be dressed up,' said Grama. 'Then we will take his picture.'

Little Stuff got out her art supplies and coloured industriously. She made Spiderhand a beautiful red mouth, green hair, red earrings and three colours of shoes. Spiderhand felt very proud. Evil spider tried to take pictures of this but he didn't do too well. Little Stuff took over the photography and took a fine shot of Spiderhand and they all admired it.

Then Little Stuff set up the table for a birthday party for Pretty Barbie. Another doll was invited and so was Roo* and both spiders. The table looked lovely with tea and cupcakes and a Dora cake and some wine glasses and place mats with stars and butterfly and grasshopper stickers on them.

Evil spider got some stars for his face.

Little Stuff poured the tea. And everyone had a drink. Lurp, lurp, lurp.

Roo demanded a lot of sugar in his tea and shoved his nose right into his cup to lick up the last drop. That was very bad manners. And he got his nose stuck in the cup, too and the spiders had to pull him out. Then he banged his cup on the table and shouted 'MORE TEA!' in a very loud voice. Barbie sat very straight and looked pained.

Little Stuff explained that he had to say 'Can I have some more tea, please' but Roo had a hard time saying it right.

'Can I tea some more please, have?' he said.

'No, no, Roo.'

'Have I can tea more some please!' he shouted.

Patiently Little Stuff corrected him again.

With both spiders helping, he finally got some more tea, but with very little sugar. All the guests had a cupcake and two servings of Birthday Cake. Little Stuff had some Ritz crackers. She gave a piece to Spiderhand but he didn't like it much so he gave it to Grama.

Spiderhand also had a lovely glittery grasshopper sticker, but it was too flat to eat.

They had a very good time except that Roo dropped his cake into Spiderhand's cup and when he dumped it out again it got onto Spiderhand's beautiful pink shoe.

Little Stuff's mother and father and grandfather were stacking furnace wood outside the back door. When Little Stuff wanted to watch her Barbie Swan Lake video, Grandpa had to come inside and turn it on because the spiders had forgotten how and Grama couldn't find her notes on how to do it. Grandpa promised to make her another set.

'Don't lose it this time, Grama!' said Little Stuff.

The spiders were very very glad that all of the furnace wood was stacked. Manus Arthriticus, especially, didn't like stacking furnace wood because it was so heavy. Now it was all done!

Everyone had a snack. Little Stuff's parents had shrimp and Little Stuff had grapes and one of Grandpa's Halloween candy bars with the 'No Nuts' logo on it which Evil Spider found in Grandpa's bedside table.

Then it was time for Little Stuff to go home and the spiders waved goodbye from the porch. And then they cleaned up the tea party.

Now they are dancing on Grama's keyboard, tired but content.


* Apologies to the Milne Estate.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Winter is icumen in

We woke up this morning to six inches of wet, perfect for snowman, snow. It's beautiful, even if large chunks did fall on my head and slither down my neck when I walked out the laneway to get the paper.
This shot is taken out the bedroom window looking along the edge of the back field and showing Little Stuff's swing.
This shows the laneway going toward the barn with a corner of the old cabin visible through the trees.

The apple tree under the kitchen window. You can just see the birdfeeder on the left. The birds love this tree because the branches are dense and they can sneak up on the feeder from it.

Shot from the kitchen porch.

Three of these shots are simply cropped and pasted in. In the fourth I did some revision -- balanced the tone using one of the utilities in Corel PhotoPaint. It looks a lot more dramatic that way but I am never sure I am not cheating when I do this kind of thing. It's a funny divide. If I had taken the time to reset the camera white values, this is pretty close to what I would have got and that seems perfectly legitimate. As does using polarizing filters or double exposing. But once I have the image, I always need to say so if I have done any editing.
Why is this, I wonder. I would not have to confess if I had edited something I wrote -- I just assume that editing is a necessary part of writing. (And I cringe when I read anything I have not edited.) If I am painting I retouch without thinking about it. Weird. I guess I am a living fossil or something.
Just in passing, I took these shots about an hour ago and if I did the same thing now I would get an almost perfect whiteout because the temperature has gone above freezing and fog has rolled in. Bummer!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Words, Glorious Words

As a fan of both Jabberwocky and Mondegreens, I love silly words. Lately I seem to have hit a goldmine of amusing combinations coming up in verification boxes. Here are some of them that I have collected this week.

focko
bohmedis
ospolit
woofsk
unpro
insei
conciphe
napo
binks

Don't you think that they look naked? Don't you think they need definitions to give them some gravitas? Rather than hogging all the fun, (although I can't resist tagging woofsk as the utterance of a Russian dog) I am posting the list and offering you a chance to define a brand new word. Why should computer nerds and teenagers have all the fun?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Wood 'n It Be Loverly


JG got the furnace going last night and I am finally thawing out. I've been freezing my bumpf off for the last week and complaining all over Facebook. You see, we have a big, open concept bungalow with a great room. This room has a 15' ceiling and a wall of windows. In the spring and the fall we heat with two wood stoves, one in the great room and one in the TV and computer room below it and use an updraught ceiling fan to move the warm air around. This works well when the sun warms the front of the house up in the middle of the day. But. Once the temperature drops below freezing, the middle of the house where the chimney wall is located stays warm but the peripheries are cold. Very cold if the wind is blowing. Well, it is the middle of November and we have snow and the wind is blowing and I have been cold for the last week.

So, why didn't I just complain to the man and say 'Put the [censored] furnace on, already'? Well, because. I have a love/hate relationship with the furnace. It is a forced air, wood burning unit and I can hardly lift the chunks of wood that work best in it, let alone place them 'gently' on the coals so that the fire brick doesn't crack. I hate stacking the furnace wood too. The stoves, on the other hand, take small enough pieces that I can work with them fairly easily. But because the wood is finer, the stoves have to be tended much more frequently than the furnace and if I am working in the office on the computer I am warm, with two printers and the hard drive running, and tend to forget to load them often enough.

JG loves wood. He loves cutting down ugly trees, hauling the logs out of the bush with the winch, stacking them with a special clamp he has made for the hydraulic lift on the tractor, cutting them to size with one of his six chainsaws, splitting, stacking, moving, restacking, leaving to dry, moving, restacking. Well, I am not so sure he loves the moving bit. He tries to co-opt the family when he can. He and two equally nutty friends have a massive cull of the bush in the fall -- they cut, he hauls and stacks the logs. A huge pile of drying split wood fills his heart with joy. I, on the other hand, put on a wrist brace and trudge off to stack furnace wood with no pleasure at all. Luckily what the friends want is stove wood and so I don't have to do more that a few bush cords of furnace size.

We have three hundred acres of scrub bush, less the two acres open around the house and the beaver ponds. It is run as what Ontario calls a 'managed forest plan'. This works out to getting a tax break if there is a plan in place to improve and maintain the forest. Key to this is doing 'improvement' cuts; identifying trees that are not thriving, cutting them to open up the forest canopy and using the wood. The wood and lumber (JG also has a sawmill) that we sell off the place is 'Certified' -- if you are interested in sustainability, look for an FSC stamp on wood products that you buy. As well as managing the trees, we also maintain trails, wildlife habitat, we plant valuable species like oak or butternut, we keep an inventory of plants, especially species at risk, and remove invasive species like garlic mustard. JG, who is an engineer by trade, has taught himself to do all this.

His remedy for being cold is to forge off into the bush and work to keep warm. Mine, to put on a sweater and add wood to the fire. By the time we let the furnace go out my wrists will have strengthened enough to make stacking furnace wood less of a problem. And if we leave it too long, it will be May and I will be sweating buckets and whining on Facebook about the heat.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Monday Mission - Screenporch Symphony

Today's assignment was to do CD liner notes. Pages 1 through 6 follow.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Luxury -- a good book and dark chocolate.


I love to read. Whenever I can spare the time and frequently when I can't you will find me with my nose buried in a book. I read in the bathtub, in the intervals of getting meals, whenever I'm stuck in a lineup. I read last thing at night or I can't go to sleep. I borrow novels from the library at the rate of about three a week or borrow from friends and family or purchase secondhand or new, especially if the book is by an author I value. Being able to buy books when I want to is the greatest joy of a securely funded retirement.

Some books by authors I esteem I read again and again. I am on my second set of Jane Austen, for instance, having worn out the paperback versions I first bought. And my second set of Tolkein. I have hardcover copies of most of Nevil Shute that I inherited from my father. I think Shute's fiction is much discounted today, with the possible exception of On The Beach, but several of his other books are just excellent, if dated. Mary Stewart. Tad Williams. And others, that I am getting to.

I read historical fiction for choice or science fiction/fantasy. I want a plot that will hold my attention, characters that I believe in and, most of all, good writing. Well, I'll make exceptions if the first two conditions are met -- I own and reread Jean Auel, for instance, and Mercedes Lackey, both of whom are authors whose editors ought to be smacked across the knuckles. Mind you, you could say the same thing about Dickens, in my opinion. I read poetry and plays as well, but this post is about novels.

There are novels that I own in paperback that are no longer on the library shelves, although that is where I first found them. Novels that are wonderfully written and emotionally compelling. The author in this category that springs first to my mind is Elizabeth Goudge, who wrote both contemporary and historical fiction. My rapidly disintegrating copies of her work are stored in boxes in our sleeping cabin at the moment and I would love to replace them. Look for City of Bells, which I think is her best historical novel, and if you see any of her children's stories, grab them for your daughters. I gather that a lot of her work is still in print.

Another excellent author who still enjoys a loyal following is Georgette Heyer. Her detective fiction has dated, but her historical fiction, based in Regency England, is still available in paperback. The best of her work, for me, is An Infamous Army, a fictional account of the battle of Waterloo that is meticulously researched, and A Civil Contract. I am contemplating replacing my tattered copies of these, too.

I do own in hardcover all of Dorothy Dunnett's historical novels. She has two series, one about Scotland in Henry VIII's time (although the six books in the series range through France, the German states, Russia and Constantinople) and the second based in Holland a century earlier, although these books also cover a lot of geography. Again, the research is amazing. There is one stand alone novel, about MacBeth, called King Hereafter, which is maybe the best novel I have ever read.

And the last one I am going to talk about today, who is still writing and deserves every fan she can get is Barbara . Hambly. She writes science fiction/fantasy, books that are both funny and dramatic and whose casts of characters come alive and stay with you. Her latest two books are historical fiction set in the USA. But her best work for me is a six book series of historical detective fiction set in New Orleans in the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Her protagonist is a man called Benjamin January who is a Free Man of Colour (that's the title of the first book in the series) and the books explore the conditions of slavery and the place of African Americans in New Orleans society in depth and with compassion and outstanding intelligence. At the same time they are top notch detective stories. And Ben is real, I swear he is.

That's got to be enough of that! But if you need something to read, take a look at Hambly. I'm off to see if I can sneak a piece of my husband's mega chocolate bar.

Escaping the Job Jar


I have just spent an exhillarating half hour crawling around on the floor of my office, lying on my back under the bench where my scanner and printers live, tracking phone wire around through holes in the desktop and unwinding cords. Three fine results of this activity are; the floor has been dusted, mostly with my hair, I have jacked in a new phone to replace the unit that died and I have rationalized the cord snarl a little bit. I do have one cord that does not attach to anything and I have not got a clue what it is for. Sigh.

Down in the laundry room is a pile of trousers, his and hers, that require either shortening or rehemming. Also four big tablecloths that need ironing, a drawer full of stuff that needs mending, some of which has been there since this time last year, and a couple of painting projects. I need to vacuum, clean a bathroom and a kitchen, scrub squashed flies off the kitchen window. I have been planning to do a post on books I love for days and the pile is sitting beside the computer now.

However, I have one flower bed left to rake and mulch. There is blue sky out there and the temperature is mild for mid November. I have done some housework, after all, haven't I? Where are my gloves and knee pads?

Escaping! Now!

Back soon.


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sixth of the Sixth


Motherbumper handed out a general tag for this meme. Pick the sixth picture on your computer out of the sixth folder. Post and explain. Tag five people.
My 66 is not actually my shot. My daughter took it -- she lives in the city and therefore gets cardinals overwintering. This poor guy was obviously bummed by all the snow. Canadian winter after all. He shoulda migrated.
Tagged:
just making it up as i go,
Painted Maypole -- but not until you have time, okay?
alejna at Collecting Tokens - you have to see the video's she's got up!
Mary Murtz at The Eleventh -- after the peanut butter is licked off your fingers.
and you!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Monday Mission -- A letter for Remembrance Day






Dear Dad,

It's eleven years since you slipped quietly away from us, dying as you had lived with a characteristic lack of fuss. Eleven is the remembrance number -- it will soon now be the eleventh hour of the eleventh month -- and I find myself thinking about you so often, mostly remembering you with a smile but sometimes regretting the things I did not say to you while you were here with me. Regretting the things I did not thank you for doing and being. Remembering all the gifts you gave me.

I know I never thanked you for the five years of your life you gave to defending your country. I know that you joined the Navy in the fall of 1939 and fought in the Battle of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean. You endured convoy duty in the North Atlantic when the submarine threat was at its highest and served in the Mediterranean. I know that you came home in 1946 exhausted both mentally and physically and that the effects of your service were with you for the rest of your life.

Knowing all this and also knowing that you found it almost impossible to talk about any of it, I never brought up the subject of your war with you. I never told you that I admired you so much for giving that service to your country because you thought it was your duty to do so. To protect your home, your family, your country.

Thank you for teaching me, by your example, about duty. For teaching me that it is right and necessary to do the jobs life gives us with as much competence and dedication as we can bring to them. For showing me that honesty, respect for law and your community, generosity and integrity are the building blocks of living well, of being a good citizen, a good person. I'm not sure I ever said to you that I knew you were all those things or that I knew you consciously tried to build a better, safer world for me and for your grandchildren. I never said that I could see some, at least, of what it cost you.

I wish I could talk to you to-day. Discuss the news, the election of the first African American president. How that would please you. I wish you could see what your granddaughters have become and that they have inherited your diligence, your intelligence and your commitment to family, friends and country.

You can sleep well.


Friday, 7 November 2008

Crunch!


I live way out in the country, at the end of a gravel road. To get anywhere, I have to travel what are called in Eastern Ontario the 'county roads', roads that are paved, but are narrow two lane strips with ditches and uncut verges. From the weeds and small trees, which are a uniform brown/grey at dusk, deer appear at unpredictable times and often at great speed. It is deer hunting season, which spooks the poor things and makes them even more unpredictable. And so, as I was driving home at dusk last night, proceeding at a moderate speed and scanning the sides of the road as well as I could, a deer materialized directly in front of me, and I hit it with a sickening thud.

The deer and I both kept going. It disappeared into the bush by the roadside and I kept driving as I was climbing a hill with a narrow shoulder. I pulled off into a parking spot by a bank of mail boxes, as the panic light came on on the dashboard and steam started to escape from under the hood. Luckily a neighbour saw me do it and she picked me up and drove me the 5 kilometres home. JG and I went back to the site where there was no sign at all of the deer and only my licence plate and a trail of antifreeze fluid to mark the spot.

This morning we did the usual things; report to the OPP, call the insurance company, call a tow truck and repair place. They know us at the repair shop. This is the third time we have turned in a car for repair after a deer collision. Once, the deer died instantly after my husband's truck crunched it. The other times the deer disappeared at top speed. I hate that; there is no easy way you can track the animal through the almost impenetrable scrub bush where we live, and no way at all to do it after dark. And given the state of my car's front end, the deer has to be injured. I can only hope that one of the multitude of hunters stalking deer in our neighbourhood will find it and put it out of its misery.

I hate this! I hate thinking of an injured animal, an injury I have caused, suffering and probably dying. I feel stupid and inept and angry with myself, even though there was really no way I could have been more careful than I was. My Jeep will cost a lot of money to repair, even with insurance, and I am probably going to be car-less for a week to ten days, and thus dependent on my husband and neighbours for transportation. Which is a big nuisance, to say the least.

When we first bought the land here, in the mid seventies, there were very few deer around. Slowly the population has increased and now they are abundant. Even though a lot of deer hunting licences are now available and a lot of people hunt, the area is probably carrying more deer than it can easily support. Farmers complain of deer depredation on their crops. There are deer to be seen all along the roads. And in the fall, in rutting and hunting season, there are frequent accidents on the roads. Pretty well everyone I know has a deer collision story. Part of the price of rural living, I guess. A least it wasn't a moose, or I wouldn't be writing this. We have them, too, and skunks and porcupines.

If I were God, I would redesign deer with flashing red noses, Rudolph style, fluorescing zebra stripes and an aversion to roadside ditches.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Yes He Did

Baggy eyed from staying up too late, I dealt with my email this morning and decided to indulge myself with a tour around my favourite blogs before attempting to write anything myself. And the first thing I found was this post by Bon which captured so beautifully a lot of what I felt last night. Andrea captured, in her usual incisive way, some of my concerns as well as the pleasure so many of us felt. Sarah talked about Obama's speech and how it and the victory resonate with her and captured the moment so very, very well.

Ewe are Here, who is an absentee American, has posted some very telling comments about American politics and what Obama will be facing in Congress. I, too, recall how Carter's promise was lost in the morass of Washington's political games. There's a happy little word dance from Alejna, posted last night just after the 'call'. There's an heartfelt statement from Painted Maypole on how she felt the tug of history being made. Breed 'em and Weep's post is an euphoric chant.

I am sure that I have missed many other great posts in honour of the occasion. Or Honor, for our American friends. Lawyer Mamma was working the polls and I just caught up with her blog. She has a super map, if you're a who voted how junkie. There are some superbly thoughtful comments on the blogs I have listed, as well.

What is left for me to say? Yes, I also listened to Obama's acceptance speech with tears running down my face, relishing the occasion, simply admiring the man's gifts. As he spoke the cameras panned over faces in the audience, rapt, uplifted, thoughtful or wreathed in grins a yard wide. Faces not grouped by age or colour, faces simply American. United in accomplishment; united in purpose for the future.

On November 22nd, 1963 I was in a train station when the announcement came over the Tannoy that JFK had been shot. That was my generation's seminal moment. I was twenty one. There was no person there whose face did not show horror and sorrow. We had all felt secure, prosperous, hopeful, in spite of the temporary terror of the missile showdown two years earlier. We felt that the world was on the right track and that righteousness was in charge. A few days later I watched on television as the cameras panned over the crowds keeping vigil as the funeral cortege passed by and took note of faces made similar by a great grief. And it happened again, Robert Kennedy, and again, to Martin Luther King, Jr. I think the outrage of the assassinations helped to fuel the civil rights upheavals that followed.

From those days to this has been a long journey. I'm a long way from the young woman I was, a young woman whose world seemed so ugly. I really like the idea that somewhere in that crowd there is a young woman of twenty one whose values have been affirmed and whose world will, please God, now be on the right track with a righteous man in charge.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Monday Mission - Sister, can you spare a time?

I wanted to put a background of baggy eyes on this graphic, but I did not have the time.

Not a very good effort. Sorry about that.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Introducing ...Madame Butterfly

This costume came into being because Little Stuff saw a photo of her mother, some thirty years and more ago, with butterfly wings and wanted a pair of her very own.


Her grandfather thinks it is a good thing that it was not a windy night.

I am delighted because this very shy child was pleased enough with how she looked that she would to go up to the doors by herself and thank people who complimented her on her costume.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Till I can see so wide...

"You don't need to push me on the swing anymore Grama. I can get up by myself."

It took her a while to gather momentum, but up she went. By herself.

Spread your wings, little bird, and fly. Fly high.




Friday, 24 October 2008

Scrooge has nothing on me


We get a weekly free paper delivered to our mailbox. I sat down after supper with it and started to page through the inserts and advertisements. Almost the first thing I found was a Christmas catalogue.

I am sure that with a little searching I could find many eloquent bloggers posting either in sorrow or in anger about the iniquity of starting Christmas in October. I may do the search, just to find some kindred spirits.

But what is really obnoxious about this catalogue is the range of absolutely, completely useless things it is promoting for the Christmas season. Oh, I don't mean the tree ornaments or lovely silky red bows, or the candles or the festive red tablecloths. Christmas would not be the same without those. But dip dishes with spreader knives formed into little reindeer heads? Bobble headed Christmas figures that spout jerky pop Christmas songs? Another catalogue that came through the door the other day has Christmas loo paper with tiny Santa heads on it. To wipe your bum with? Really?

There is another section in this catalogue displaying gifts for your loved ones. At a conservative estimate, ninety percent of the objects portrayed are something anyone could easily do without. The children's toys are Disney and dismal, the electronics over-elaborate and expensive, the kitchen section filled with large appliances that would overload the counter and whose function is easily replicated with a frying pan, a paring knife and a little patience. I'm not sure why I am going on about this as I am sure the same or a similar catalogue is in your mailbox too.

When these Christmas catalogues start fluttering in the door like dead leaves, I have a really reprehensible desire to make a large bonfire of them and dance around it, shaking my pitchfork. I don't do it, because burning coloured pages is bad for the environment. Or, we all know what people used to use the old department store catalogues for, after the newer one arrived. I'm tempted to emulate the practice. But my septic system would probably clog. And so I will make my usual bundle of magazines and trundle them off to the recycle bin at the dump. And hope that the predicted recession will mean that fewer of the obnoxious things get printed.

Grumble, grouch.

Living in the Country

This is a black cherry (native wild northern cherry) in bloom last May. The tree grows along the fence line just opposite my kitchen porch. This year it had the heaviest crop of blossom I have seen for twenty years.
I planned to take a matching photo of the fruit when it matured. We had a rainy summer and the crop was heavy; unfortunately, just as the fruit matured (to a beautiful reddish black), the weather was lousy, overcast and dark. One morning the sun finally came out and I grabbed my camera, only to find that the sun was slanting the wrong way, putting a shimmering haze of mist between the lens and the tree. The air was filled with the noise of wings, flutters and chirps. An invisible flock of robins was gorging on the cherries. By the time the sun rolled around to a better position, all the fruit was gone and so were the robins. But it sure was fun to listen to them.
PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Wordless Wednesday


October 31st, 1976 (approximately)

Not in the picture -- Little Stuff finding this photograph in an album in September.




October 21st, 2008

Not in the photo -- Grandpa with wires in the barn, bending and fastening.
Also not in the photo, Grama with old white sheets, paintbrush, glue, needle and thread, etc.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Monday Mission

A Tale of Two Elections

In North America there are two countries, one of great expanse with lots of rocks and trees and a fringe of people huddled along the border between it and the other a country that also a has a huge expanse but is far more peopled.

In both of these countries, democracies of variant type, there are elections this autumn. In the country to the south, this election takes months and months and months to prepare, to select candidates and to, finally, choose them, candidates for both houses of the legislature and, most engrossing, candidates for the office of president of the republic. In the other, a parliamentary monarchy, the election is held at the decision of the governing party and, accordingly, there usually are a lot more elections, even though they don't take as long.

The election in the northern country took place on Tuesday last. The governing party, having passed legislation setting a four year term for the parliament, dissolved it a year before the four years had passed (thus making a monkey of itself just for starters). Received opinion is that this was done because the country was prosperous, there were no real issues that had the electorate annoyed with its government and that, therefore, the government could make gains and have a stronger mandate. Looking ahead to a cloudy future, the governing party set as short a length of time for the campaign as is legal, ran advertisements displaying its leader in a Mr. Roger's Neighborhood sweater, did not present a 'platform', or anything very new and different, and hoped that the voters would maybe not notice the election much at all and just vote them back in. With a majority.

Boy, were they surprised when the economy of their neighbour went all wobbly, pulling their own economy after it. Luckily this happened too close to voting day to make much of a difference, but it did mean that those people who bothered to vote (about 50% of those eligible) were a bit undecided and the results, when tallied, produced a new parliament not much different from the last.

The same economic woes did not do much to divert the southern neighbour's election from its long and tortuous path. It did, perhaps, change the colour of the last scheduled televised debate a bit, but otherwise the two parties and their candidates kept on the same Pilgrim's progress that they had been treading for the last weary months. These two unfortunate people, you see, are programmed like Barbie dolls, and when you press their buttons, they say the same thing, over and over and over. This is called 'staying on message', I believe, and while it is a cut above saying nothing and looking cuddly (which most of the northern country's candidates did beautifully in two official languages), it gets a little wearing after while.

At least, in this southern country, people pay attention to their election. In fact, people in the northern country pay far more attention to their neigbours' election than they do to their own. Perhaps the low turnout cited above can be ascribed to the fact that there are still sixteen days or so to go before voting day and, given that most of the television watched by the huddled northern fringe is coming across the border, the poor sods in Canada never noticed their own election and are waiting for November.

I think that the upcoming American election probably is more important for Canada than our own. Which is a sad, sad thought.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A few bricks short of a load.

Two blog posts came up on my 'following' list this afternoon that at first reading seemed very different. One is a heartfelt but semi tongue-in-cheek complaint by a mother about whining kids. The other is a sad and serious report by a daughter of her mother's misery and helplessness following a severe stroke. I thought about them most of the afternoon as I slogged along making a brick border around a flower bed. And the two voices met in my mind and became one voice, the voice of a woman trying her best for dependants under her care. I heard in that voice that the task of making those dependants happy is thankless, unending, almost impossible. Yet most of us, at some time in our lives, identify it as something that has to be done and that we have to do.

I've been there. Whining kids? For sure. As much as we try to laugh it off, that whine is something we have to deal with. I think that the whine is innate in small mammals; puppies for example, as well as human children. It's a sound that does not carry well, making it safer to use when there are predators around. It gets attention, that's for sure. Because it is innate, training the offspring out of it takes a lot of time and effort And telling the child to defer or change tone does not work because her woes are immediate and serious, trivial as they seem to adults. A small child lives in the moment and one Brussels sprout on the plate is an overwhelming tragedy.

Adults who have suffered damage to the brain, whether it comes through a stroke or dementia or trauma, returns to that same state where small things become mountains of misery and everything, once again, is immediate and tragic. Like the children, they have no sense of proportion. Like the children, they turn to what they see as a source of relief. But there is no relief and so the misery they feel gets directed onto the caregiver. I've also been such a caregiver, putting every skill and every effort into trying to alleviate that pain.

That pain is the pain of the caregiver as well as that of those in her care. When the child is tired and stressed by a big family party, removing the offending vegetable will not solve the problem. Something else will soon become a tragedy. All the patience and vigilance in the world will not prevent the next whine. Nor, when your loved one has suffered an irrevocable decline in health, can you restore the health and the adult competence that would allow the sufferer, and you, some peace of mind.

We all feel guilt over this. If I were only a better, more patient, mother/daughter/sister/wife, we say to ourselves. If I had more strength, if I didn't let it bother me. It's exhausting, this task of mothering, caring, tending. None of us can step back, either, and let it go, because they need us. They need us.

I've been in both these wonderful bloggers' shoes. If my experience is worth anything at all, it taught me that I didn't have to be perfect. It turned out that it was okay to be a good enough mother, a daughter who did her share but left some things for others to do. If I kept my own sense of proportion I could, and can, live with that and be at peace with myself.

I haven't said this as well as I had hoped to, but I am going to post it in the hopes that it is good enough.

And tomorrow I will go out and redo the bricks around the flower bed in a more frugal pattern because I ran out of bricks before I finished.

Dead Cat Bounce

...and other Stock Market stuff I never wanted to know about.

I've been brooding for some time now about the miserable economic mess that we have got ourselves into. The stock market in free fall is only one piece of it, albeit a big piece for people watching their investments and retirement income shrivel. A lot of people are losing their homes, their jobs, their dreams. Even affluent retirees such as my husband are depressed and a little bit scared.

I've just ploughed through a long article in MacLeans about the 'economic crisis' and am planning on tackling the Economist, maybe tomorrow when I feel stronger and more intelligent. I read two daily papers, daily. I listen to pundits. I still don't understand it. But I'm not sure anyone does, no matter what their credentials. So, here is my two cents' worth. Which, tomorrow, will probably only be worth 1.3 cents.

Although I guess it is fair to say that the trigger for this mess has been the mortgage bubble in the United States, I think that Canada and Europe, the 'developed' world, is all at fault. The reason? The acceptance of a world based on easy credit. 'No money down.' 'Do not pay until 2010'. With this acceptance, also, the belief that it is okay, more, that it is safe, to live up to the eyeballs in debt.

I was raised by parents who had been young adults in the Depression years of 1929 to 1939. Their education, expectations and plans had been disrupted by the hit their families' incomes took when the wheels came off the bus. And they never forgot it. It shaped their world view. They did not buy on credit. Never. Ever. In their view, you saved until you could pay cash for whatever you needed and did without until the cash was available. Savings went into the bank, into land or, more dangerously, into very, very safe investments.

People who had been young adults in the war years, however, found, in the post war boom, a new level of prosperity and desire for things. They wanted houses of their own. They wanted cars, televisions, cottages. They were earning good salaries, the future of their employment seemed secure and so they took out a mortgage, a car loan, a second mortgage. And it all worked out, for most of them, and the children they were bringing up in this new affluence grew up in a world of new clothes, bigger TV's, transistor radios, bicycles, vacations to the beach, a fur coat for mother. Stuff advertised on TV. It was normal; these things were expected, not treats. I am talking, of course, about the 'Boomer' generation.

As the Boomers grew up in their turn, in spite of the occasional wobble in the economy, things stayed good. And along came credit cards. And car dealerships and electronics stores that offered long payment periods. And banks that allowed second mortgages. And advertising for all of this grew more and more strident. It was everywhere. An economy based on a need for growth to keep it stable, fuelled by 'You deserve it' advertising. When inflation got too high, when the credit card was maxed out, it was corrected, consolidation loaned, tamed down. Governments borrowed at high interest to keep the spiral spiralling.

Next came computers, and the Boomers discovered that they could be their own stockbrokers. Everyone and her aunt got into it with RRSP's and self directed retirement plans and mutual funds. Even the pop when the dot.com bubble burst did not deter people. The meltdown after 9/11 did not deter people either. Recovery had happened before; therefore, it would happen again. I think a whole lot of people with a little knowledge got into energy stocks. And a whole lot of people (I heard one expert describing the American blacks as especially vulnerable to the sub prime mortgage offer) overextended themselves for a big house and a new car and as many toys and treats as they could swing. Which they could not, if the economy dipped in the slightest, manage to hold onto.

Canada has not been quite as wild as the US and as some of the European Union countries. We have had solid, stodgy bank rules and a Finance Minister for many years who, in tandem with a sensible Prime Minister, held the reins tight and used surpluses to pay down debt. But even with that, the coming recession is going to hit here. When you sleep next to an elephant, if it turns over you are going to lose your blankets.

I've never studies economics at all. I don't know the terminology and the theories and the history, except from the viewpoint of a housewife. If I can see how we got into this mess, why aren't the experts, seemingly, seeing it. I was really discouraged listening to Obama and McCain dodge the very reasonable questions related to finance that they were asked in tonight's debate. Mr McCain, the economy is not basically sound. Mr. Obama, you say it is going to be tough -- can you put a little detail in there.

I am hanging on to my piece of the blanket, but the elephant is pretty restless tonight.

As for a 'dead cat bounce', it's a one day upward swing in the market following a lot of down days and followed, as it was today, by a return to going down. Something I never wanted to know.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Monday Mission

Dear Maypole et al.,

Sorry. I'm late. Very sorry. Apologies. You see, there were friends here yesterday morning and after we fed them lunch we had to go in to the city to see a friend of JG's who is sick and then go to a combination Thanksgiving/Birthday dinner, chez the ED, oh, and I had to make a cake for the birthday young man in there, a cake on which I spelled Birthday as Birtday, being in a hurry and I did wonder why the word fit onto the cake better than usual, and we got back late and this morning JG needed me to help with yard work and then I had to make a salad because we went for another Thanksgiving dinner chez Sugarlady at noon and I and ate so much that I was not thinking too well this aftenoon, plus I had to vacuum the dead bugs out of the screen porch and so I have only got to this now.

Can I still turn it in? Will that be okay. Oh, you've heard all this before? Yes, right. You would think I would be better at this sort of apology because I have spent my life making them. I never leave enough time. I should have enough time, but I don't organize it well. And three pieces of dessert is not conducive to either creative letter writing or accurate fly vacuuming.

Really sorry.

But I'll probably do it again.

Thanks for putting up with me,

Mary G

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Throughout the Autumn Lands

Yesterday afternoon I took a drive with a good friend and neighbour whom I will call the 'Sugarlady' and with her small grandson who was out of school recovering from a virus. My friend has lived here all her life and knows all the back roads, twisty trails ('no winter maintenance beyond this point') and highpoints. Her camera was not working and so my job was to leap out of the van with my digital at all the best places and take shots for both of us. Grandson got into the act as well and pointed out beautiful views, usually when we were on a trail so narrow there was no place to stop. Anyway, here are some of the choices we made. Sugarlady particularly wanted reflections, and so there are quite a few.

Umperson Road, YD

Dalhousie Lake, and the nameless lake on the Snow Road



I don't have a clue where we were, here.
Beaver Pond
Lodore Road




Above Patterson Lake. I think.

I got so thoroughly lost, what with the many access roads we were on, that I am going to have to get Sugarlady to label most of these.
These are some of about 60 shots we took in two hours. And I defy even Colorado to produce a better day than this one.