Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why You're Not Getting a Christmas Card this year

The perfect is the enemy of the good, that's why.

If I am to send out Christmas cards, they really need to be made by my hands, the address in calligraphy and each card including a unique, heartfelt greeting with best wishes for your health and happiness. My list has about 75 people on it, and that's just too, too much.

No, I don't make the paper; that would be silly.

The thing is, my embossing table is up high in a closet I haven't opened in a few months and I'm not sure where my calligraphy pen is or whether I have any ink appropriate for such a venture.

I refuse to spend a buck on a stamp to send a card printed in China, the envelope's label printed from my computer, the card containing nothing but my signature, so you're getting nothing.

Just like last year.

Which is weird, because I love, love, love receiving Christmas cards; any card, even if it was printed by children or political dissidents and signed with nothing but your illegible initials. Just as long as there's no image of Santa; I don't know why, but I hate that guy.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The 'Shoulds' as I Eat the Math

Let me start by saying I am offended by food banks. (Goodbye, liberal leftie friends who also graduated with an Arts degree, you need read no further.)

I simply don't think we should have food banks. There, I said it.

What we should have are: wages the poorest can live on and work with dignity. In cases of big trouble, we should have enough counseling and help so that people who were assaulted as children or screwed up in some other way, can hold down jobs and make their own way. If we as a society provide what people really need, food banks could close and the people who volunteer at them and donate to them could get on with whatever they really wanted to do instead.

For that matter, I don't think we should have shelters for women fleeing domestic assault and abuse, either. We should not need them, since people should not be using violence in their homes. But, some people do, so we have shelters, and the world is not the way it SHOULD be, so we have food banks, too.

In some cases, the people who use food banks have made very poor life choices; this is undoubtedly true. In some other cases, the people have made many right choices and things still didn't work out, so here we are.

This morning, a lovely woman who works at the offices at Simcoe County dropped off at my workplace a frighteningly small box of food, which I have agreed to live on, Monday to Friday, next week. It contains what you might think it contains: spaghetti, tuna, mac and cheese, that sort of thing.

Most of the 'food' is stuff which I would not ordinarily entertain in my kitchen. I was raised on a farm and learned to cook in my 4H clubs, so I was the guy in the dorm at university, baking bread in my toaster oven. I'm not entirely sure what Viennese sausages are, much less how one would eat them, and I make my soups starting with the bones of critters I've roasted, so the stuff in the tin will be weird. Looking at the label, it's also crazy salty. There's also peanut butter with icing sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredient list. Yikes.

But, this is the food that goes to the people who have no more choices left.

I have heard people in my family sneer about, 'those lazy scammers' at the food bank, getting free food and not working while they smoke or drink away their disability cheques. But, looking at this box of junky food, I somehow don't think anyone is trying to trick anyone else into giving them free canned green beans (gross!)

I will keep you updated on my progress, as soon as I talk to the organiser, to see just how many herbs I can slip in to these meals while maintaining my status as a member of the experiment.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Homey House

They say a house is just not a home without a dog, and I found out over the last year, that 'they' are right.

Our beloved Weimaraner, Emma left us in April of last year, after ten years of laughter and love and runs on the trails of Collingwood. Since that horrible day, our house is very quiet, very empty and frankly, very clean. As Emma slipped away, I swore I would not open myself up ever again to the kind of heartbreak that comes with losing a marvelous pet.

For the last 16 months, my sweetie and I have been doing a lot of traveling and had a lot of weekends away; we've been having a blast without worrying about finding a caregiver, or being home at any certain time.

Even so, one day in March, I started making inquiries, and two weeks ago, our puppy was born. She's one of ten, and we don't know which one will be ours. Last time, we let the puppy 'pick us', if that makes any sense and we're eager to loll on the floor in a puppy swarm, meeting the charmer we will spoil horribly for the next decade or so.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Humane Society does wonderful work and I have heard the people who recommend rescue, but we want the breed we want, with its quirks and quandaries, and this new puppy is from the same line as the dog that brought us ten years of joy and laughs. Plus, we want to bring up baby from the beginning.

Thanks to technology, I've seen her and her nine siblings as they opened their eyes, took their first steps and ate their first solid food. I have made anyone who comes near me peer at the online videos and make googling noises as we exclaim about the puppies' little bellies and gorgeous coats.

So, indulge me a little after the first of October, when little Petunia or Matilda or Gretchen or Gigi or whatever her name is going to be, comes to live with us.

I'm already in love and I haven't even met her yet.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Lonely Struggle

Barack Obama famously said of Donald Trump, "It's just not cool to not know stuff." but sometimes it's not all that cool when one does know stuff, either.

I am on a personal quest to have the place where Collingwood's young people jump down into the water, you know, the spot behind the grain terminals, called its proper name.

It's not a pier.

It's a quay, pronounced key. Piers are on stilts, quays are land formations, whether man-made or natural, altered to accommodate the docking of boats.

Seriously, Google it if you don't believe me.

Once you know it, you can't un-know it, but be aware, when you start telling people you're going to the quay to jump into the water to cool off on yet another blistering summer afternoon, they will cock their head like a dog when it hears music. "Huh? What's a key?" And then, like me, you will get to sound all pompous-like, explaining the difference between a quay, pier, wharf, and dock.

No matter what, you're going to sound like a know-it-all.

Maybe I'll just call it the harbour. Spelled with a U, dammit!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Kids These Days

I'm on the far side of 40 didn't get to have children of my own, so I should be sitting on my front porch, quietly breathing obscenities at the kids I'm pretty sure are playing Pokemon Go down the sidewalk, but instead, I'm being astounded at the amazing people my near and dear are bringing into this world.

Between now and Friday, I'm learning how Rugby 7s is played, since I'd like to look like less than a dotty old aunt when my lovely niece kicks some butt at the Ontario Summer Games with her team. This kid nearly made it onto the Ontario team, keeps a straight-A average, devours fiction and paints terrific little landscapes when she needs to chill out.

Last Friday, a knock on my door brought a surprise visit from a cousin who lives in Calgary and his two children, both of whom, even though they're 9 and 7, can tell complete and funny anecdotes about their lives, who sat patiently while the grownups talked and were generally a delight.

Saturday, I watched in awe as another niece's five children played in a creek at our family reunion, the older ones keeping an eagle eye on the baby twins as they toddled about, one of the little girls charming my Sweetie by jumping into his lap for a cuddle, after being astounded that she and he share a first name. The three older kids, all younger than seven, dutifully made the rounds saying goodbye to us old farts as they headed home, with a, 'it was nice seeing you" said with full eye contact and hugs.

Later in the day, the nine year old daughter of another friend astounded me with a delightful story told with a beginning, middle and end, a punchline and no 'um's or 'ah's. She was charming and articulate and pretty much adorable.

With 90 days left to the US election, I've been fretting about the future of North America and indeed, the world, but I somehow think, with the band of smart, merry and kind young folk I saw this weekend, we might be just fine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


If Orlando was ISIS, what was Newtown?

If Dallas was Black lives Matter, what was Colorado Springs?

Shooters are never clear about their motives, except in Umpqua, Charleston, Isla Vista and Montreal.

Since San Bernadino was Islam, what was Aurora?

So many places, all devastated. But what does it all have in common? "No one can think of a way to stop this trouble," I say sarcastically. It's must be a religion that's to blame. Definitely a culture.

And the suspects! We never know their motivation, unless they live, like Dylan Roof, James Holmes and Robert Dear,caught alive, not blown up or shot dead. Micah Johnson and Omar Mateen, not so much.

I say sarcastically, I just can't see any patterns here. Nope, none at all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Je Regrette Rien

About two months ago, one of my girlfriends told me the sad news that her mother had chosen to take no more treatment for the ovarian cancer she had been diagnosed with 18 months previously. Because of the wording she used, or perhaps because of the wine we were drinking, it took a few minutes for what she was saying to truly sink in. When it did, the purpose and finality of her mother's choice struck a chord. A loud chord in a melancholy minor key.

It was just a few days later, my own mother, who's hale and hearty and turning 74, was talking to some of her friends about her extensive travels ('everywhere they speak English, plus Scotland!'), and I chimed in that I'd love to take a "Jane Austen" trip someday, perhaps looking at the houses where the movies were shot, seeing where the author lived and wrote. I do love Austen's work and I read all six of her novels every few years.

Not two hours later, Mom called to tell me about a trip she had seen in the travel section of the newspaper. It was to England and Wales, including Bath, which is where Austen lived for three years, (two of them happy) and which was the setting of Northanger Abbey. My immediate reaction was to say no. It was too expensive, and my husband would not want to come along, plus I could tell it was going to be a "Q-tip bus ride": white-haired old ladies farting and shuffling along, plus from what I understand, a lot of being rushed from place to place. Even so, I told Sweetie about it as part of a conversation about mothers in general and the heartbreak our friends were facing. The next thing I knew, at Sweetie's insistence, I was writing a big fat cheque to my mom to cover my half of a week on a blue-hair bus trip.

It was a red-eye to the UK, and the trip was indeed set mostly on a bus: Windsor Castle to Stratford Upon Avon (literary? check.) to York, Liverpool, Llandudno, Conwy, Chester, Snowdonia National Park, Ludlow, some other places in the north of England and south of Wales, Bath and back to London. There was a castle or cathedral to look at every day,sometimes two. They call these trips ABCs: Another Bloody Castle, or Another Bloody Cathedral. There were indeed some old ladies with canes and complaints. My mom (apart from the snoring) was a marvelous traveling companion. She's funny, although I think she's going a little deaf. That, or she simply ignores a lot of what I say, which is equally possible. (Probable, actually...) She's also sometimes silly, but she's willing to walk 90 minutes to look at Buckingham Palace even though she's seen it before, and willing to be dragged through pubs as I taste the local beers, and willing to check out local grocery stores, because I find the little differences, fascinating.

I'm grateful to have traveled with my mother, and I will do it again, since the very night before we left, Sweetie and I went to a visitation with the family following the death of my friends' mom. Her shattered husband and daughters will never again get a chance to see the world through her eyes.