Sunday, 29 November 2009

The blogger Regrets - Monday Mission

Painted Maypole's task for this Monday's Mission is to write a letter of regret.  I was rooting around among my regrets (thankfully few) when the lyric to Miss Otis popped into my head.

The blogger regrets, she's unable to post today, madam,
The blogger regrets, she's unable to post today.
She is sorry to be delayed,
But last evening her family all got the flu, madam,
The blogger regrets, she's unable to post today.

When she woke up and found that her loved ones were puking ill, madam,
She got out the mop and the Motrin and moaned at the loss of the day,
And from then till the sun went down,
She ran in circles so round, madam,
The blogger regrets, she's unable to post today.

When the kids fell asleep at last and the house was quiet, madam,
She was so strung up that she didn't know what to say,
And the moment before she slept,
The dog made an unspeakable mess, madam......
The blogger regrets, she's unable to post today.

The blogger reports, she's unable to post today!

Edited to add: this is not my family, thank goodness.  But if I have read this over and over in other blogs this last month.  The H1N1 perfect storm.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Dressing for Success

This evening I am going to a cocktail party. I have not been to one for, I think, twenty years. So nervous did the invitation make me (it said 'business dress' but who believes that) that I went out last week and bought a dress. And stockings. The last time I wore a dress was to my father's funeral in 1997. I am now the possessor of a little black dress, with a full skirt, 3/4 sleeves and the latest draped triangular neckline. It needs a necklace with a drop ornament in current style, but what it is going to get is a couple of gold chains so that I can wear my very expensive drop-dead smart gold earrings with it. I also had to buy something called a 'body shaper' to wear under it. I have to tell you that I am not going to be able to eat much, provided that food is also a part of this mad celebration.

We are going to the party because it is a fund-raiser for a local charity that does a lot of good in slightly unusual places. But the closer we get to the witching hour, the more I am thinking that I should have donated the price of the dress to the charity and stayed home.

For one thing, I don't drink much -- a glass of white wine is my usual limit -- and I think I was maybe, twenty-one, the last time someone persuaded me to actually drink a cocktail. For another, I hate the kind of inane conversation that people shout at one another at these functions. (I do end up at 'cocktail hours' before formal dinners so I know whereof I speak.) For a third, standing around in dress shoes for several hours is not something I enjoy. ('Like, ouch', as the grandson would say.) I will have to put on make-up and this means I have to make my eyebrows behave. Ouch, again, as I ply my tweezers. It might be nice to be a man; all JG has to do is make sure I have ironed his best white shirt. Oh, and clean his shoes.

We are meeting some friends there, and the woman of the couple hates meeting and mingling even more than I do and doesn't drink alcohol at all. I figure the two of us are going to steal a couple of plates of goodies and go and hide in a corner and scoff the lot. No dinner is offered at this event, which runs from 5:30 pm until 8:00 pm. You may find us all in Timmy's at 8:30 eating a belated supper.

The one bright spot in all of this is that JG does like the dress. I was really spooked when I brought it home because he usually does not like my taste in clothes. Quilted jackets, a stand-by of mine, he refers to as 'bed jackets'. My adored YD has given me several smart jackets and he thinks they are all too short - they expose my considerable rear. 'Your jacket needs to be fingertip length', says the bane of my existence. A few years ago he persuaded me to buy a dinner suit, with the right length jacket. I have worn it to every formal function we've attended for the last few years and I am totally bored with it. At least The Dress will be a change and I can also wear it to the Robbie Burns dinner we attend every year, with a tartan scarf. I am looking forward to that dinner -- it is usually lavish and good food is always fun.

I hope the nibblies will be plentiful and interesting tonight, even if I am confined to the modern equivalent of a corset. I hope I will be able to breathe. I promise you a report on all this, provided I survive, but I now have to go and do something about my hair. He's cleaning his own shoes, I assure you.

Got to tell you I don't look like the photo.

10:30 pm.

There and back again.

I got a lot of compliments on the dress, mostly with a soupcon of surprise mixed in.  So, I guess I clean up okay.  Jeanie and I found a corner by the cheese table that was relatively mellow and traffic free although we did miss most of the young waitpersons with trays of good stuff.  The cheese was amazing, though.  Local, most of it, and really, really good.  Am contemplating a size larger on the corset.

I got to see the new hotel where the party was held and it is truly lovely; a boutique hotel and the Christmas tree, about 15' of silver and red balls and silver ribbon, was spectacular.  Thanks, YD, for the shoes - my feet held up well - but JG says I have to have black ones.  And he is going to buy me a necklace, he says.  A few years from now, I will probably be tired of the dress, but in the meantime, I won one.

And they had mini cheesecakes with berries for dessert.  Life does not get much better than that.

And JG dug out a pair of new shoes, so he didn't even have to do the shoe cleaning bit.  Life is unfair.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Where I Live - Monday Mission

Whumping across the landscape, our
Helicopter circles the house where we live.
Enjoying the ride, I
Rapidly click the camera
Edging forward, pressing against the window

It's a lovely, lovely day -

Limpid sun, windless, a fine haze on the horizon.
I take more photos as we swing around,
Viewfinder almost useless as the sun flashes on the window
Enveloping the scene in golden rays.I live in the green and beige house at the edge of the little clearing.

This has been a Monday Mission in the form of an acrostic. To find other participants in the MM, please go to the site of our moderator, the amazing Painted Maypole. And we'd love it if you would play along.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Monday Mission - Verse or worse.

The sun is shining here today,
It lifts my flagging spirit high.
Without the sun, my day is gray.

But on this fine November day
My words and fingers seem to fly.
The sun is shining here today

And so my today my life is gay.
To write some poetry I'll try.
The sun is shining here today.

The Monday Mission game I'll play
For good rhymes with my friends to vie.
The sun is shining here today

It seems to make things go my way
While smiling down from the blue sky.
Without the sun, the day is gray.

My friends are like a warm sun ray
They daily lift my spirits high.
The sun is shining here today.
Both sun and friends relieve the gray.

This is somewhat of a cheat on the verse form Villanelle.
The first and third line of the opening verse are supposed to be repeated verbatim at set intervals throughout the poem and again as the last two lines. But when did I ever do a Monday Mission without cheating just a bit.

But what it is trying to say is that you lot of Monday Missioners are a great group and make my life better. Earlier this week Kaye gave me an award, and I am really thrilled. Thank you, Kaye, but I think you give me just as much or more as I have ever given you.

You all do. And so I am passing it along to all of you.

The link is now up at Painted Maypole and there are some great and greatly funny poems to be found there. I personally give thanks for Maypole who keeps this thing going.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

A Voice from the Back of the Queue

As a healthy person over sixty five, I am at the lowest priority for an H!N1 flu shot in the ranking identified by Canada's Medical Officers of Health. A few days ago I read an op ed piece in our local paper honouring the veterans of WWII and the Korean war, and complaining that these seniors, who have deserved praise and service from their countrymen, are, many of them, also assigned to the end of the line. They deserve better of us and since, as frail seniors, they are more likely to die from flu if they contract it, the writer argued that they should receive the vaccine at the same priority as our serving soldiers. It was a nice thought, but I don't agree with it.

The H1N1 virus is doing some strange things. For most people, it acts like a normal flu but every once and a while it attacks so strongly that it kills adolescents and young people in a very short length of time. My daughter and her partner are mourning the death of a colleague on Wednesday, a fit and healthy man of thirty-eight who will be a great loss to his community and his young family. It is quite clear that no one can really predict whom this flu will hit and how hard.

The dead man's wife is a doctor; I am quite sure that she did all the right things to get him help when he became seriously ill but all of our very competent medical knowledge was not enough to save him. At almost the same time a friend of mine, of about my age, was admitted to hospital with serious heart arrhythmia. She was fitted with a pace -maker and is home again and feeling well. The young (to me, anyway) professor's death hit the front page of the paper; my friend's quick rescue and recovery is not news at all. I think that because we expect so much from our health care providers, and they so often deliver flawlessly, we are seriously frightened when they do not have instant and positive answers to a problem.

And so, we second guess them. Veterans should have the flu shot early and if they don't get it, cries of ageism are heard. People get frightened and are ill informed. They jump the queues and cause serious damage to the plan for vaccine delivery. They get angry. The press has lovely dramatic stories to tell and thus fan the flames. People make money standing in for others in the waiting lines. People behave badly, in short.

I have no problem with the priorities that have been established for delivery of the H1N1 shots. And I am saying that from the very end of the line. If it is a choice between immunizing me or immunizing my children and grandchildren, I am quite content to let them go first whether I have partial immunity from the 1957 version or whether I do not. From my limited perspective I can speculate that it might have been better to give the shot to children and young people in schools and universities, and to their teachers, at a higher priority, in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus through these dense populations and then home to their families. The argument has been that it is a hugely complicated and potentially unfair logistical problem to get the clinics to schools; if so, it is a problem that should be explored and a plan developed for future use. Equally, the problem of stopping people from ignoring the priority instructions and arriving at the clinics, thus clogging the system, should be solved.

But in the meantime, you will not find me in a H1N1 shot line-up until I am called and told that my turn has come. And I am perfectly happy to take my chances.

Even though the skin on my hands is all crackly from using hand sanitizer so much.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada - on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month time is supposed to stand still for a minute or two minutes while we remember our soldiers, alive and dead.

There is a lot to remember these days. Both my father and my father in law fought in the second World War; both came home alive and more or less well but many, so many, did not. There were so many servicemen from that conflict that there are still, although most of them are now in their eighties or better, many of them to march slowly past the cenotaph or sit in wheelchairs and watch the youngsters parade. The Korean war vets are somewhat younger and most of those who stayed involved with the military after their term was up will still be marching with tummies sucked in and regimental badges on their tams. Canada has very few Vietnamese veterans - that conflict seems to us to be reserved to the Americans to mourn. But for our size, Canada has a lot of veterans.

As well, for many years Canada has sent young people off on 'peace-keeping missions'. We have been proud as a country to offer highly trained and skilled military people to work for the United Nations or NATO, enforcing cease fires or containing - or trying to contain - disasters. Some of them have been wounded or killed; all of them have been exposed to danger and uncertainty.

For the last few years we have young men and women to honour and commemorate who are fighting an active war; they seem like kids to me, these veterans of Afghanistan. I could have grandchildren among them, although, thankfully, I do not. Canada has sent them off to a foreign land to fight an invisible enemy for a cause not well defined and they have done remarkable things. And died well. I wish I could think that the war against fundamentalist rule was being won but I can see little evidence of that. I was glad when we sent fighting forces because I thought that at least women might be freer under a secular state, but the present government seems bound and bent to uphold some of the worst excesses of the Taliban regime and enjoy continuing graft and corrupt practices. It is not the fault of our soldiers over there but I think they must feel as if they are pushing the proverbial rock up the proverbial slope and too many of them are being wounded and killed.

And so I shall use my time of silence tomorrow to think of these young people living in danger and vulnerable to a hidden enemy. All of them, the living, the wounded and the dead. The lucky ones will be the ones who can come home whole in body and whole in mind. They deserve all that we can give them, of respect, of resources to help them recover, and in sorrow, our profound thanks.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Menu - Monday Mission

Painted Maypole hosts, plans and manages, the Monday Mission challenges. She's a real trooper; in more ways than one. To see who is playing this week, hop over to her blog and follow the links. This week's challenge was to do a menu. I, erm, twisted it a bit.

Here, then, is what I dream of finding among my texting software's drop down menus. The Ultimate Edit Menu.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cliffs of Fall

I am feeling trapped in, this last few days. The return to standard time brings the dank November dark an hour earlier, pushing me into the warmth of the house with its foggy fingers. The air is cold with the damp and, as I write, the first snow is falling in wet fat flakes and clinging to everything. It will melt, but it is a harbinger of things to come, nasty things like icy slippery roads and icy slippery steps that challenge my driving skills and my arthritic joints. As well, it is hunting season and the woods and fields are dotted with figures in 'hunter's red' ( a nasty shade of glowing orange) shooting at and spooking the deer. We all have to drive with extreme caution because you never know when one of the wretched beasts will materialize on the road in front of you. It makes me think twice about leaping into the car and zooming off in any direction, especially after (the very early) dark.

I am also feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of meetings I have scheduled this month. Meetings I cannot miss, having taken on the job of chair of the board. Meetings that I have to drive on the dangerous roads in the dark to attend. I can do it. I do do it. But more and more as I grow older, the effort is greater. I can see the time coming when my own fears may become disabling, a prison that I will build myself.

Confined in the Tower of London, Richard Lovelace wrote the famous lines:

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
A fine philosophy, that. But recite those lines to a young mother, tending toddlers in a home far from any public transport, short of money, and you will provoke her, at best, to derisive laughter. The expectations of our community can confine us in the adamant constraints of others' ideas of how we should live and what we should be. Poverty builds walls of cold iron around us, walls with very few, very narrow exits. However, for many of us it is more our minds than our circumstances that trap us into prisons more grim than a stone walled cell. Our expectations of ourselves can become the most stringent prison of all. Depression, illness, fear and grief are the cold, weeping stones that form these prisons and sometimes there is no door, no window, not even an oubliette, to bring us hope and news of the world.
There's a debate going on in Canada just now, in the intervals of the latest chatter about H1N1 anyway, about euthanasia. A bill allowing some types of assisted suicide is being debated in the House of Commons. It's not a simple question. The medical association in Quebec wants some guidelines to help them deal with uncontrollable pain in terminal patients. The various associations of disabled people want the value of their lives acknowledged and protected. The non-religious majority (52% of Canadians, the last poll I saw) want freedom to choose a dignified end. Courageous souls with debilitating diseases are requesting legal suicide options. I am certainly not alone in worrying about the effect an open-ended legalizing of suicide would have on the many people whose minds, not innocent or quiet, cause them constant pain.
It's not a simple question. The young man, paralysed from an accident, can fight his way through the pain and become a contributing member of society. The depressed new mother who throws herself in front of a train could have been helped, cured perhaps. Even Tracy Latimer might have been helped although I understand, I think, why her father killed her. There are no lines to divide physical and emotional pain and not all pain can be 'managed'.
Here's my personal dilemma. I smoke. I do so knowing that, although I have not so far cost the state any money from smoking-related illness, sooner or later I may develop lung cancer or have a debilitating stroke that will reduce me to a vegetable to be a burden on my family and a huge cost to the taxpayer in medical care. Would it not be both fair and simple to issue me a lethal dose of something when the disease in my lungs is drowning me or to use on my mindless, stubbornly breathing hulk? Would not that be more dignified, less costly in both emotional and monetary terms? A release from the prison my stubbornness has built for me?
Or, I could just go and drive down the county road too fast, hoping that the deer I hit would be big enough to kill both of us.