Friday, 31 October 2008
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
Friday, 24 October 2008
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.
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.
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
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
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
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.
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
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.
But I'll probably do it again.
Thanks for putting up with me,
Saturday, 11 October 2008
Umperson Road, YD
Dalhousie Lake, and the nameless lake on the Snow Road
I don't have a clue where we were, here.
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.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
The fall colours are in full glory in Eastern Ontario. And the YD is not here to see them. So, these shots are being posted for her and in return for a word picture of Pike's Peak silhouetted against an evening sky. I hope to have some better lit shots tomorrow. Today, evey time I would go out with the camera the sun would duck behind a cloud and stay there, snickering, until I went back to the laundry.
The link here will take you to What works for Us, a site I found through Painted Maypole's post with the hawk pictures. There's some amazing photography to look at if you follow the links.
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
And so he formulated a plan, based on the presence in piles around the garage of clean and rounded rocks we winnowed out from the gravel when we built the garage pad. Large, heavy round rocks, glacial inclusions in the pit run gravel. We would lay down chicken wire, he planned, to deter the chipmunks from digging winter dens*. On top of the wire we would lay gardener's blackcloth, thus choking off the weeds. On top of the blackcloth we would place the clean and beautiful rounded rocks in their various colours and then we would scatter screened gravel among the rocks and the result would be neat and tidy. Right.
JG pulled the weeds over several days and between rainstorms, muttering to himself. Luckily I was busy and could not help. He also trimmed back the lilac to a mere wisp of its former self. I was recruited to help with the chicken wire, the laying of which is a two person job unless you wish to drive yourself crazy. It comes in rolls. It needs to be cut to length, straightened and set firmly in place. On a slope. Where the ends stick up and catch the next strip as you try to get it straight. After you lay the blackcloth on top of the chicken wire, the result is a slippery surface where the rocks need to be carfully positioned so that they will not roll.
We have a Kabota utility ATV. We filled the back of it with the rocks from the piles around the garage site. Several times. Lug rocks from pile. Place in Kabota. When the holdall bed is filled, drive the Kabota to the side of the house, unload and place the rocks. Repeat. We soon ran out of rocks. Undaunted, JG ferried us off into the bush and we raided the rock piles that the pioneer ancestors had made when they tried to farm the place. Climb rock pile. Throw down rocks. Pick up and heave rocks into Kabota bed. Drive rocks to the barn apron and unload them onto plastic sheets. Pressure wash rocks. Since you ask, this step removes moss and dirt and makes them as clean and colourful as the ones from the gravel. Reload rocks into Kabota. Drive to the side of the house. Unload rocks and place them artistically. Change some around to increase artistic effect. Repeat.
After several days of this, we had covered the blackcloth with rocks. JG decided that screening the gravel we had (crushed stone) would not look right. So he foraged off to town with the big trailer and got a load of pea gravel. The bulk of this was shovelled onto the rocks and worked in with the hose, a final finish being given to the whole by using a trowel and pail full of pea gravel to fill in any missed cracks. This is the result. I must admit it looks splendid, but Oh, My Aching Back.
*In fact, they have done so in other years and have been live trapped and disposed of. Do not tell Little Stuff this; when she is here on a visit, she and Grandpa drive the dispossesed chipmunks far off into the bush and let them go. Judging by the numbers we have of the little pests, they get back before LS and Grandpa do.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
A few days ago I found myself answering a questionnaire that asked, essentially, 'why did you have children?' And I was brought up short, fingers poised, mouth falling open, because I could not come up with a cogent answer to this question. I am still thinking about it this morning. Why did I?
I had birth control. It was 1965 and, distrusting the then almost untried birth control pill, I was using a diaphram. A diaphram is not a method that is conducive to spontaneity, and one night I got involved and forgot to put it in. Result, the elder daughter. That's the simple answer.
That's not the whole answer, however. I was using birth control because my husband was in grad. school and we had decided to wait to have our family until he was finished. Jumping the gun like that was bad for me because it meant that I wouldn't stay in my teaching job long enough to get my permanent teaching certificate (it was simply assumed by the school board I worked for that if you got pregnant you resigned. Period.) After an initial reaction that could be described as mild annoyance, I felt pleased about oncoming parenthood. It was what I had signed up for, after all. You got married, you had a family, you acquired a house with a yard, your husband got a job that funded all of this. After the kid(s) had grown enough you might resume your job, perhaps part time, but it was a job and not a career. Your career choice was wife/mother. Being pregnant confirmed your status as a full adult.
I was not a baby lover. I had done the usual stint as a teenager of babysitting (and toddler and child sitting) and had been bored silly by the little darlings. I spent a few mornings looking after a breast fed baby about six months old and handled him with much the same nervous respect as I would have done a loaded gun. I had spent a weekend looking after a ten day old cousin and his three year old brother and did not remember that experience with fondness. When my mother and grandmother went gooey and cooey over a new baby, I would stand back and wonder what the fuss was about. Unless they were old enough to have a conversation with, kids were not my thing.
So why would I want to be saddled with my own? Good question. As I try to reconstruct that long ago self, the best answer that I can come up with is that I thought it was inevitable. My husband wanted children. Our parents expected grandchildren. My friends all planned to be parents. Society granted mothers a status that single women or childless married women lacked. For anyone who has grown up with the wider expectations and less homogenous society of the seventies and later, it must be very hard to realise just how rigid a social structure I had been raised in and how little I questioned it, even while I watched my mother and my aunts beating their wings against the bars of their respective cages. But that's another post.
In preparation for the arrival of the baby, we moved from our flat in the heart of a wonderful small town to a suburb where we could afford a house with a yard. I had no car and the bus service was poor. When elder daugher arrived, I did not feel the instant attachment that my reading had described. I was issued a fair skinned, diaper rash prone ectomorph who, born at 7 lb, 8 oz, weighed in at a month old at 8 lb. I had little to no knowledge about breast feeding and not much more about the sleep and wake patterns of newborns. I fretted and worried and wept. Fortunately, the ED was about as fragile as a faceted diamond and we both survived the newborn period. When she started to smile at me, I fell in love.
The one thing I was sure of was that I did not want my precious blossom to be an only child. And so, when she was five months old I weaned her to a bottle and got pregnant again on the first try.
Ten months later I found myself trapped in my suburb with two infants, one precociously mobile, and with access to a car only if I packed them both up early in the morning and drove my husband to his university. In the meantime husband had switched his sights from a Master's degree to a doctorate (with my encouragement, I should add, in fairness) and we were in for several more years of penniless grad student existence. The YD was even more precociously mobile, and my days were a blur of feeding, chasing and cleaning up after both hurtling toddlers and the dog we acquired to make the menage complete. My brain turned to mush and my marriage just about tanked.
And then, one wonderful day, I started to be able to have conversations with the terrible two. They grew fascinating personalities. They slept all night, every night. I have the most precious memories. Walking into the kitchen to find the ED spinning her sister in my big spaghetti kettle. 'What are you doing?' I said, bemusedly. 'I be cookin' Wen'y', the little person answered.
Every sleepless night, every miserable dragging day of post partum depression, every frantic search of my dog eared copy of Doctor Spock, all worth it. All repayed a million times, in the years since. I still regard other people's noisy infants with a somewhat wary eye. I still far prefer to deal with kids old enough to communicate, thank you. I've gone on to have not just one but several careers. If you ask me who I am, though, I would answer a wife/mother. Without regret.
If you were asked why you had children, if you wanted them, what would you answer? Would it be an easy answer, or a struggle like this one?
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Kitchen Exercise Routine
Next in our Harried Housewife series of exercise routines, we come to those that can safely and easily be performed in the kitchen in the course of the daily schedule. Simple and effective, they provide opportunities for toning, stretching and manual dexterity, can be done in sets or alone, and have all been tested by our resident expert, Mary G.
1.) The Salad Bowl Stretch
Standing on your tiptoes, extend the arm and each as high as you can over your head, hook the edge of the bowl with your right forefinger and pull sharply. As the bowl falls toward you, grasp it with your left hand and lower it gently to the counter. If more than one bowl is needed, change to a left, right combination. Do not let the bowl strike you on the forehead or forearm and remember to keep your spine straight. If you cannot reach the bowl with your hand, a set of kitchen tongs may be employed to extend your reach. Try not to scratch the bowl.
2.) The Freezer Stuff
Bending at the waist and keeping the knees flexed, grasp the item you need with your right hand, using the left to keep the other items on the shelf from falling out. The forearm may also be employed if more than one item starts to fall. For items on the top shelves, exercise caution to prevent being struck in the chest by frozen fish or ice cube trays. Now squat, keeping the back straight and pick up the items you failed to catch. Bend again at the waist and stuff each item back into the shelf. Close door. Repeat as many times as necessary to find what you need to cook.
3.) The Drawer Pull.
Stand bent slightly at the waist and use your right hand to pull out the drawer. As in the exercise above, use the left hand to keep the contents of the drawer from falling to the floor. Again, descend to a squat and pick up the items you failed to catch. Remember to let go of the drawer before you do this, or you may pull entire drawer out onto your head. Be especially careful of the screw driver and pliers as you catch; they are sharp and heavy. An exercise involving filling in cuts in the vinyl flooring is to be found in Appendix A, under Advanced Techniques.
4.) The Floor Swab
Review this exercise from Chapter 2, Bathroom Bending. Be sure to start in front of the freezer door, avoiding ice flakes and pools of melted ice as you move.
Next week we will learn a series of Laundry Room exercises, starting with the Laundry Basket Long Jump (as it will be necessary to employ this to get into the Laundry Room).
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
I still, after almost twenty five years, have an clear, etched in memory of taking the YD to her University for the first time. Gritting my teeth as she drove, too fast, into the city, and navigated, with my scarcely voiced directions, into the parking lot of her residence. Watching her unload with unholy rapidity and, knowing that she really wanted me gone, insisting on taking one load up to her room so that I could at least see it. On my way home, alone, I drove out of the city torn between tears and laughter, remembering my own much earlier manouvres to get my parents to Just Leave but feeling as if I had left my heart behind me.
Since then I have said goodbye to both my daughters many times, as they left for graduate school, jobs in different cities, jobs overseas. I have been very lucky, really, as her sister, the ED, finally settled in a city only an hour away, has a permanent job there, is raising a family there, giving me good access to her and to Little Stuff and her brothers. The YD has her permanent residence there, also, but her job entails working out of the country for several years at a time.
This morning, after a frantic effort to pack up her life, she launched off again, car stuffed with immediate necessities, including the white water canoe tied to the roof, for her next out of the country stint. And once again I am torn between laughter and tears. Laughter because there are wonderful cast off clothes in my closet, the usual orphaned plants on my porch, strange pots of stuff from her frig and cupboards in my kitchen and bits of unfinished business scattered around for me to clear up. Tears, I am not sure why. She always comes back, after all.
I guess I will never, really, be comfortable with my empty nest, even one festooned with shed feathers and a bit or two of discarded shell. I'm a failure at letting go.