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.

CLASS: Urgent
TO: S Claus
DATE: Dec. 23rd
RE: Your Plans for Tomorrow Night
Could you please delay your departure to, maybe, December 28th?
I'm NOT ready.
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...
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.


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?