At Peace on Christmas Eve – 2013

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring –

Forgive but do not forget. Forgiving changes the perspectives. Forgetting loses the lesson
– Paulo Coelho –

In Hidden Valley – A Remembrance Poem

In Hidden Valley the sunflowers grew
Between the poplars, fresh with dew.
They marked our divots; and in the sky
The crows, still cawing as they fly,
Break the calm that lies below.

We are the scattered. Short days ago
We laughed, played late, watched bonfires glow.
Then the river rose and now our homes lie
Silent in Hidden Valley.

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Dedicated to the 305 Hidden Valley families who lost their homes in the flood of 2013. For further information about this disaster, go to the website Hidden Valley, Alberta.

Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by the Canadian WWI soldier, John McCrae

Cats and Pumpkins at Halloween – 2012

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, “Tonight is Halloween!”
– Dexter Kozen –

At night, if I don’t rein in my imagination, the walk from the road to The Red House is spooky. It is a long winding driveway, lined with tall dark spruce trees and just beyond are thick woods where all the wild animals lie in wait. When I was a kid, I would not have ventured up this driveway on Halloween – unless I knew with absolute certainty that the treats at the door were worth being that scared. It is a forbidding stroll at night.

We haven’t had a trick or treater at our door for a long time. There used to be a few children on our rural road, but they have long since grown up. I still decorate for Halloween anyhow and we still buy a few treats just in case. And I will likely walk down to the end of our driveway and back, just to get the adrenalin going. Nothing like a wee bit of fear to take me back to the Halloweens of my youth!

We recently spent a few days with dear friends who have a new kitten. (There is no better kitten than one that belongs to someone else – all the benefits, and no responsibility.)

Word association: ask your mind to remember kitten – cat – Halloween – pumpkin.

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When we weren’t playing with the kitten, or wandering around the farm, or talking or laughing or watching the first season of ‘Castle’ on DVD, we carved Halloween pumpkins. This was my pumpkin. Can you figure out what it is? It would be best if you told your brain it isn’t a face with one big round eye. If you fixate on that idea, you will never see anything else. Really.

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Here are our pumpkins at night. The one on the far left is mine from the photo above. Now can you see what it is?

The one on the right is our hosts. He did the carving with various size drill bits – trust a man to come up with a way to use a power tool.

The pumpkin in the centre is what happened when I took up the drill and three sizes of bits – and no plan at all. Don’t try to see anything in this pumpkin – it is simply the result of not knowing when to quit.

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.
– Linus Van Pelt in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” – by Charles Schulz –

So starts my other post about Halloween. It was called Pumpkin Face.  You wouldn’t know it from the quotation, but in this post I talk about how Halloween has fallen victim to political correctness and a process similar to homoginization. There is also a photo of the pumpkin my grand daughter carved – the face is one Charlie Brown could relate to.

Last, but not least: I used the WordPress Theme called ‘Monster’ for a few days during Halloween. This is what it looked like:

Give Me the Good Old Parking Meter, Please!

You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said ‘Parking Fine.’
– Tommy Cooper –

Parking Meters used to look a bit like Jelly Bean Machines.

I’ve become the family chauffeur since The Car Guy had his motorcycle accident.  I don’t mind driving, though it would be much more pleasant if all those drivers who never do a shoulder check would stop trying to occupy my car’s geographic location. Arriving safely at our destination, and finding a parking spot is always a relief.

The true challenge comes when it is time to pay for the parking. Gone are the days when I handed my ticket and money to a kindly attendant in a little booth at the exit or plugged my coins into a friendly machine that looked like it could dispense jelly beans. No, today I am faced with the pure evil of electronic ticket machines. They are the silent but efficient guardians of the place where I will abandon my vehicle in order to sit in a Doctor’s office for eternity plus a 3 minute consult.

There is no universal parking ticket machine. Each parking lot is the proud owner of a machine that was designed by someone who failed ‘your grandma might park here some day 101′. This means that each machine is unique in: the order in which you insert your ticket and credit card; the direction you insert said cards; the location where the pertinent buttons are; and the cryptic little symbols that replace a language I might understand. After three less than successful attempts to master three machines in three different lots, I figured out that the easiest way to pay the machine is to turn to the person directly behind me in line and say, “This will be much faster for both of us if you just show me how to pay this &%@#$ ticket.”

There was a time, not so many years ago, that I could board a plane in the Middle East – three layovers and 30 some hours  later, I’d be back at my Canadian home. All by myself, I could buy tickets, change planes, ride trains, even stay in a hotel.  Now I can barely negotiate a trip to the city if it means I have to park somewhere. How pathetic.

If your access to health care involves your leaving work and driving somewhere and parking and waiting for a long time, that’s not going to promote healthiness.
– Larry Page –

Hands – Both Human and Card

The Older Teacher:

You have 14 points showing. What do you want to do?
The Younger Student: Go Fish?

Card games, or any game really, are wonderful tools for teaching children how to do something and how to lose.  Where else can a person learn how to push the envelope without being fearful of the consequences? How else can a child learn that winning isn’t what life is all about – being in the game is what is really important!

One of the world’s most popular entertainments is a deck of cards, which contains thirteen each of four suits, highlighted by kings, queens and jacks, who are possibly the queen’s younger, more attractive boyfriends.
– Lemony Snicket –

The guy who invented poker was bright, but the guy who invented the chip was a genius.
-Julius “Big Julie” Weintraub –

One of the world’s most tiresome questions is what object one would bring to a desert island, because people always answer “a deck of cards” or “Anna Karenina” when the obvious answer is ‘a well equipped boat and a crew to sail me off the island and back home where I can play all the card games and read all the Russian novels I want.’
– Lemony Snicket –

Besides lovemaking and singing in the shower, there aren’t many human activities where there is a greater difference between a person’s self-delusional ability and actual ability than in poker.
– Steve Badget

Visiting Cards – Yesterday and Today

All visiting cards are engraved on white unglazed bristol board, which may be of medium thickness or thin, as one fancies.
Etiquette absolutely demands that one leave a card within a few days after taking a first meal in a lady’s house; or if one has for the first time been invited to lunch or dine with strangers, it is inexcusably rude not to leave a card upon them, whether one accepted the invitation or not.
– Emily Post (1872 or 1873 to1960). Etiquette. 1922 –

antique Copp's Fine LinenThese were my grandmother’s visiting cards. Emily Post would have approved.

Fast forward eighty years or so, and internet visitors can leave Visiting Cards too. These ‘cards’ are computer generated graphics and they are generally called Avatars or Gravatars (Globally Recognized Avatar). You don’t have to be a blogger to have a Gravatar. Anyone can associate one to the email address they use when they leave comments on blogs.

Many people use their photograph for their Gravatar. There are good reasons to do this, particularly if you want to build a brand based on your persona. I sometimes chose to use a graphic rather than a photo. I thought this image captured me, but in an exaggerated way – the grey hair is too curly and I would certainly never sit in my comfy chair with a whole box of chocolates at my fingertips. I keep the box in the closet, and I get out of my chair and go get each and every chocolate, one at a time. (This would be a wonderful way to burn calories if the closet was several miles up the road.)

I also encourage all women to abandon hair dye and “Go Grey, Girl!”  (Just think of all the chocolates you can buy with the money you save.)

I’ve seen a few photos of Emily Post, but I can’t determine if she ever let her hair go grey. In her day, was it as appropriate for women to go grey as it was for men? Was grey hair a sign of maturity and stability for both sexes? Why isn’t it that way now?

Case of the Disappearing Leg – Reality Sometimes Hurts

I don’t think I will become a fan of America’s Funniest Home Videos. I only watched the first few minutes of one of the shows and thought, what is so funny about incidents and accidents where someone gets their feelings or their body hurt? What kind of person would take videos of those types of things and then send them off to a TV show? For that matter, why do people watch this kind of thing and then laugh?

Of course, I’m feeling a bit touchy about an incident that might have been funny if Charlie Chaplin had done it for a movie, but wasn’t so funny when it happened to me. Let me set up the scenario for you – we have a set of stairs at the back of our property. Two risers and a landing. They go nowhere, but the landing is a wonderful place to stand when I want a panoramic view of sunrises or sunsets. Yesterday morning’s sunrise was not one that held promise, but I had seen The Fox trying to rustle up breakfast in the field and when the fox finally settled down in a depression just beyond our fence, I thought I could sneak down to the viewing platform to get a better look at it.

The fox was not inclined to oblige me and departed very quickly. I decided to take a photo of something anyhow, so I climbed up the stairs onto the landing. I took one quick photo, then turned to take a picture in the opposite direction.

The broken board that allowed the deck to swallow my leg.

That is when one of the deck boards gave way. My right leg went with it, stopping only when the bulk of the upper part of my thigh matched the width of the gap in the decking. Twenty two inches of my leg  disappeared from view.

I sat there in stunned silence for a few seconds, then started to take inventory. My leg hurt in two places. My left hip and right shoulder were hurting too. The camera was still in my right hand, and both were resting on the deck. My hand felt okay, but I didn’t know if the thump had damaged the camera.

With a bit of effort I retrieved my leg and limped down the stairs, then back into the house to survey the damage. I’m a Hurtin’ Albertan!

Later in the day I  looked at my sunrise photo. It was as uninspired as I predicted. So I loaded it into Photoshop Elements and played with the Lighting Levels. Once the sky and cloud colours matched the colours of the bruise on the back of my thigh, I was satisfied.

Alberta

Peace and Quiet at the End of the Cabin Season

It is a Tuesday in mid October. All the families and their children have gone back to the city.

Mosquito season is over. Not a single breath of wind disturbs the leaves that will soon blanket the woods and meadows.

fall leaves

The only human stirring along the edge of the little lake is me!  I capture the Peace and Tranquility with my camera, then, I do what the Grandchildren would expect me to do. I throw rocks in the water.

Very Short Christmas ‘To Do’ List – 2011

It will come as a shock to no one that cancer isn’t something you put on your “LIST OF THINGS TO DO TODAY”.
– Erma Bombeck, Chapter 13, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to go to Boise – Children Surviving Cancer-

Early December, 1992. The diagnosis was acute lym­phoblastic leukemia. Our youngest child, a teenager who had been feeling ill for only a few weeks, was suddenly a cancer patient.

My Christmas “To Do” list was pretty short that year – put up our Christmas Tree at home and a little tree at the hospital. I suppose I cooked a turkey on Christmas Day, but I don’t really remember. I wrote my annual Christmas Letter, but it was very short. It started out with, “Then, life took one of those turns that you never really expect…”

Christmas happened any how. The rest of the family stepped in and upheld the traditions they felt were important. Friends and family visited and brought baking (which was a special treat because it is well known that I only know how to make two kinds of cookies.)

I only remember shopping for one gift that year. Our very sick child wanted me to get a tie for her dad. Not just any tie – a tie that would make him smile every time he knotted it around his neck. That was a big order, because The Car Guy felt that ties were really just a fancy type of noose, and he detested them… Fortunately, the Disney Company came to my rescue with a festive little number full of holiday cheer!

Much has changed since the Christmas of 1992. All our kids, including our sick teenager, grew up and married. Grand children were born (though not to our Cancer patient, unfortunately). But one thing has stayed the same – my ‘To Do’ list is very short. I decorate, I listen to carols. I feed the gang dinner on Boxing Day. I don’t bake. My gift giving list is pared to the bone, because to be honest, most of the people we know have just about everything they could possibly need!

Christmas, for us, is about peace and goodwill, visiting friends and family, laughing and crying because it is the month of December. Christmas is a feeling, not a present, and that is just part of what makes it priceless…

An adult friend asked Christina what she would like for her eighth birthday. The small child, diagnosed with neuroblastoma, rubbed her hand over her bald head, then rested her face in her hands and said, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything.  (Christina, age 12, Alpena, Michigan)
– Erma Bombeck, Chapter 2, I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to go to Boise – Children Surviving Cancer –

While I am thankful to the medical community for the successful treatment of our child, it is Erma Bombeck who was my guide through the months of treatment. Everyone should buy and read her book about Children Surviving Cancer. (The proceeds from the sale of this book go to various Cancer Societies.) Only Erma could write Cancer Stories that  make you smile…