Thursday, 31 October 2013

My son is a cow

My fifteen-year-old went off to school today dressed as a cow. I have never really understood Halloween (I mean, every other day of the year, you tell your children not to take candy from strangers, but this night it's okay). I remember feeling quite self conscious as a kid trick-or-treating, as if I were panhandling for sweets. It's not my favourite holiday, and watching my neighbours really decorating their yards is sort of baffling to me. (Where do they store all of these ghouls and skeletons the rest of the year?)

Having said that, I do have some favourite costumes I've seen and/or made over the years:
  • one year I shaved my boys' heads and wrapped them in saffron-coloured fabric and they went out as Buddhist monks (everyone thought they were Hari-Krishnas)
  • once my son wore a lawn bag like a dress, with shoulder straps, stuck fake autumn leaves around the top edge of it, and went as yard waste
  • once my sister did the same with a large dog food bag, with her face painted brown and a rubber bone in her hair, and went as dog food
  • someone I know stuck paint swatches all over herself and went as Fifty Shades of Gray
  • I remember sewing a hula-hoop into the hem of a red silk dress and going as a Southern Belle
  • once my older sister was supposed to go to a party dressed as her favourite literary character. She was very pregnant at the time, so she put a big scarlet A on her chest and went as Hester Prynne
In the paper yesterday there was an op ed piece from a woman, a stay-at-home mom, who declared she was going to be a "mummy" for Halloween. That's my favourite thing to be too.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Joyful Weekend

I was going to sit down and write about my brother's wedding, which I attended this past Saturday in Washington DC, but it turns out I'm too full of happiness to even write about it. I can't capture the joyfulness of it all, and anything I write will be woefully inadequate. Looking back on it, it seems we packed a week's worth of emotion into one day. All the details have blended into one warm, glowing blur. But the highlights that stand out for me were these:
  • the feeling of recognition as the Larsens walked into the lobby, even though I'd never met them
  • the peaceful smile on my brother's face
  • Carol's big brother telling her she looked beautiful (how often do you hear that between siblings?)
  • the hugs and the laughter and the tears  
  • the fun of sharing a bedroom with my niece and my sisters, like slipping back into childhood
  • the nine-year-old nephew who felt perfectly comfortable tagging along with new in-laws he'd only just met
  • we siblings spontaneously bursting into the same song without planning it, right on cue
  • the instant feeling that Carol's sisters were my sisters, even though I may never see them again
  • the sunlight gilding the temple spires
  • the perfect flawless blue sky
  • the darkness of Brian's suit against the white swirl of Carol's wedding gown as she and Brian waltzed in the middle of Dennys restaurant while the cook staff took photos with their cellphones. Dennys will never be the same again!
I have never attended a more perfect, beautiful event or felt more surrounded by love. Now I honestly know what it's like to experience pure joy.


Thursday, 24 October 2013


A while ago I posted a photo of Son Number Two as he "shipped out"...

And here is a photo of him today as he appears on Facebook...
I'm seeing a trend...

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A letter from my veterinarian

We received a nice letter from our veterinarian upon the passing of our pet chameleon. The intention was sweet, but we were reduced to tears of laughter by it. It was obviously meant to be sent in any situation where a pet has died, and it contained a lovely poem about running in the sun and catching balls in a kinder place with a good Master... and we suddenly had visions of our "tai chi" slow-motion chameleon running in the inch a minute...and catching a ball that would have squashed her one-ounce body flat... Anyway, it was much appreciated, but absolutely hilarious.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Gene Simmons turned out to be a girl

Lest anyone slap me with a libel suit, I hasten to remind my readers that Gene Simmons is the name my son gave his chameleon, on account of the long tongue. In any case, Mr. Simmons turned out to be a female. For the past few weeks she had been growing more lethargic, spending a lot of time on the bottom of the cage and hiding under foliage, and finally not moving at all. Even when my husband picked her up, she wouldn't try to climb his shirt as usual. She was also growing chubby.

He took her to the vet, who took an x-ray and told him that unfortunately young Mr. Simmons had started producing eggs before her body was really ready to. They were forming in such quantity that they were sucking up all the calcium she got, and her body wasn't expelling them, so they were just building up inside her abdomen. "Egg bound" I think is the term, though I had only heard that used with respect to chickens.

In the end, the vet confessed she didn't know what to do except try surgery, which she had seen on video but never done. Visions of this tiny little body hooked to an IV. How does one judge the amount of anaesthesia for a creature that weighs an ounce? It was too horrible to contemplate. So in the end, they decided to put her down. It wasn't fair to prolong her pain, and her condition would have led to death eventually anyway. It's still sad.

The cage at home stared reproachfully at us, still looking full with foliage and crickets. As we stood looking thoughtfully at it, my husband asked, "Do we still have the bird cage in the basement?"

"No, but we have two hamster cages and the fish tanks."

A pause.

Not yet. I don't think we will replace Mr. Simmons right away. The cage will wait quietly until it's the right time. She was an interesting little being, who intrigued and charmed us. In the end all we could do for her was give her a dignified passing, to be witnesses to her tiny existence. To thank her for sharing a small moment with us.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

What do you know! First Aid Class came in handy!

I actually got to use some of what I learned in my St. John's Ambulance First Aid course I took last month. I was lying on the couch, feeling yucky (I took today off work) when suddenly the front door closed and the dogs began barking their heads off. I went downstairs to find a little old man standing in my entry. I'd never seen him before.

He apologized for barging in and explained that he needed help. After a little questioning, I learned he had passed out and fallen, and he'd realized he needed help, so he had come into the nearest house to find it. He was 90 years old, named John, and lived alone around the corner and down the street from my house. He seemed a bit disoriented and shaky, and I asked him if he was diabetic. He was.

So I laid him on the floor with a blanket and pillow, keeping him on his side, and I gave him a fruit cup to sip. I called 911 and hurried back to sit beside him and keep him from trying to get to his feet and go home. He seemed sleepy, so I kept him talking. He had a daughter but didn't know where she was. He had lived in his house since 1977 and had to replace the aluminum wiring with copper. His family was from the Kitchener-Waterloo area. He'd always been in good health and took care of himself, and he didn't remember hitting his head or anything when he fell. He knew his last name but was hesitant when spelling it. He thanked me for helping him and I told him that's what neighbours were for. I was just glad he had sought help.

My husband came home while we were sitting there. He took it in stride, as if he came home to find a man stretched out on his floor every day of the week. He said hello and he was sorry they hadn't met under better circumstances. The little old man looked up at him from the floor and said very solemnly, "Good evening." I almost laughed.

Then the paramedics arrived and did everything I expected them to do. John told them he'd been trying to walk to the hospital (about a forty-minute walk away). He knew the address of the hospital but didn't know the day or month. The paramedics seemed to think he might have had a stroke. I went outside to speak to one of them, explaining what I knew of him, his name and age, that I'd given him some fruit juice, that he'd replaced his aluminum wiring with copper. (Well, okay, they probably didn't need to know that. But somehow it felt important to tell them at the time! I mean, it did demonstrate some lucidity and ability to carry on a conversation - on my part or on John's, I don't know which!)

They hauled him away with lights flashing. As the door closed, I told him again I was glad he had come to our house. And I likely won't know how things turn out, because, after all, his health information is not my business and no one is going to update me, no matter that he himself brought me into his story by walking in my front door. But I sincerely hope he's all right. I hope I won't see a house around the corner and down the street go up for sale in the next little while. If I do, I will know how the story ended. Ninety years or not, somehow it doesn't seem like long enough.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving in Canada, and I feel to make a list of just some of the things I'm thankful for.
  • sunshine
  • the smell of homemade bread baking
  • the sound of my husband putting dinner in the oven
  • ovens
  • the feeling of Brio's soft head under my hand as I sit watching TV
  • the ability to see
  • the ability to read
  • good books to read
  • a day off work
  • a job to take a day off from
  • my kids
  • my grandkids
  • my siblings and parents
  • the fact that my siblings' spouses feel like my siblings
  • music
  • the friends that music has brought me
  • automatic washing machines
  • finely sharpened gardening tools
  • the man who comes around in a truck twice a summer to sharpen the tools
  • Skype
  • my charmed childhood
  • moonlight
  • sleeping in
  • having a day to wake up to
  • the ability to walk
  • a beautiful world to walk in
  • friends to walk with

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Praying in the Weeds

I was telling someone about the trouble I'm having with my knees, and she asked if I knelt a lot. My first thought was "Well, I pray quite a bit..." and then thought, "Duh! I'm a gardener! I'm always kneeling to weed."

Which got me to thinking about the similarities between weeding and praying. Both involve efforts to eradicate the prickly or the ugly from our lives. Both involve seeking forgiveness for small omissions and damage done through ignorance or carelessness, for not mulching properly, for harsh words spoken, for last year's mistakes not pulled out before they went to seed. Some things -- harsh words, scattered dandelion fluff -- can't be regathered or retracted. But there is always the promise to do better next time.

In both praying and weeding, the point is to dig deep, turn up the surface to find the unpleasant secrets underneath, to eliminate the harmful, and to compost the bad things in life into something beautiful and useful. To reach out both hands to grapple with nature, with my nature. To connect with the universe, with something bigger and wiser than I am. To learn to trust the Master of the garden. In both prayer and the garden, I seek to touch love, to find nourishment. To find hope.

A glimpse of warm sun
alleviates my dark and
rain for a moment.

A glimpse of God's son,
and I step boldly forward,
embracing storm clouds.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Catching Up

Here it is, well into October already! Time flies when you're...well, doing anything, really. It used to seem like summer spread out long and lazy like an endless flow of golden syrup. Now it's over in the blink of an eye. I've always liked that quote from Thoreau, roughly recalled: "Lo, it is morning, and lo, it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished."

I have been accomplishing things, though. Just this weekend I've made grape juice (37 litres). I've planted a jillion seeds in tiny pots, getting ready to move my gardening indoors for the winter. I've reconnected with a friend and we went to the farmer's market together, where I bought garlic to plant in the garden. I went to the greenhouse to get some triple mix. I ran to the bank. I've helped overhaul our house (new bamboo flooring put in upstairs - turning out lovely - but now reorganizing furniture and STUFF). I read for a while and watched two movies. Walked the dog and played fetch with Brio for - not kidding - four hours. Made bread this morning. Also watching an 8-hour church conference on the Internet this weekend... It all adds up to some busy hours! And that's just in one weekend. But even though it's busy, it's still a peaceful pleasure, and I dread going to work in Toronto tomorrow morning!