Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween Costumes

Today Son Number Three dyed his hair (permanently) pink, put on a cow costume, and went to school as strawberry milk. As I type this, thirteen teenagers are eating candy in my basement, arrayed in a bewildering selection of unidentifiable costumes and sporting a rainbow of hair colours. When I was a little kid, we were either ballerinas, clowns, ghosts, or cowboys. I remember my little sister wearing a paper dog food bag like a dress, with a bone through her hair, and going food. But that was about as wild as it got.

Now the costumes are as unlimited as your imagination. Ninjas and pirates are passé. Now it's animé characters, video game characters, and downright witty inventions. A coworker covered herself in paint swatches and went as Fifty Shades of Gray. The fun thing is that most costumes I'm seeing this year are homemade, not off the rack, which is creative and took some thought and effort.

I'm not a great fan of Halloween, but I'm all for creativity and I like seeing hordes of teenagers enjoying themselves in wholesome ways. So every now and then I open the basement door and throw them food, and from the noise level it sounds like it's a successful party.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Lesson in Perspective

This past year seems to have been all about teaching me to be patient and let go of the need to be constantly busy and accomplishing things. The universe seems to be conspiring to teach me to just be in the moment. This past week is a prime example; never in all my life have I missed an entire week of work because I was sick. But I just can't seem to shake this horrible, uncontrollable, hacking cough and laryngitis. (Today, though, my voice is deep enough that I could sing "Old Man River.")

As luck would have it, the weather has been idyllic -- clear cold crisp sort of autumn days that ordinarily would spur me into action. I want to be out in that fresh air under that blue sky, digging in my garden or walking my dogs along the lake. I want to be finishing the list of a million things I need to get done before winter comes. Instead, I'm flopped on the couch with a three-inch thick book (mysteries, translated somewhat stumblingly from the Italian), surrounded by cough drops, hot mint tea, and rolls of tissue, and I have accomplished zilch. It is depressing, and humbling, and irritating. It would be better if the weather was sullen and rainy. I wouldn't feel I was missing so much. Here I am with a week off work and I can't DO anything. It's very frustrating.

Brio, poor chap, can tell I'm not well, and his distress mirrors my own. Every time I launch into another violent coughing jag, he presses against me and whines. He follows me to the bathroom door, wedges himself between me and the kitchen cupboards as I stand at the counter, stands sentinel when I'm in the shower. Whenever I sit down, he lies with his head in my lap and watches me worriedly. I try to reassure him with my hand on his head, and the warm little furry weight leaning against me is a comfort. That's love, right there, pouring out of those big brown eyes. Better medicine than any cough drop.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Putting the Yard to Bed. Wish I could go too!

Fighting a glorious cold this week, and laryngitis has taken my voice completely. The children rejoice that I can't yell at them, only whisper pointedly. But I can't take time off work because it's a frantic time and I have no back-up to cover me, and I can't take time off gardening, because it's the height of harvest and winter preparation. So I carry on (as my husband would say, oh, how I carry on!) and somehow it will all get done.

He and I had a conversation yesterday (albeit a whispered one) about how when women get sick, they seem to just keep going anyway, while men curl up in bed and succumb to it. Why is that? I know a lot of other people I've talked to have noticed the same thing. And at least the females in the group generally resent it. But I see it as a blessing. Someone has to keep going, to care for the children and keep food on the table. If I'm the one given endurance, I'm not going to complain about it. Maybe women are given better tolerance for pain, too, just due to our role as child-bearers. Who knows? I won't look the gift in the mouth, in any case.

So while my husband hacks and coughs on the couch, I'm out in the chill wind with shovel and yard bags (which keep wanting to take off on adventures down the street), doing the last few chores of the season. I love being out in stormy weather, with the clouds scudding fast overhead and the romping dogs churning around my feet, blending in with the fallen leaves. The gooseberries are plump and plentiful, but I fear they will freeze before they ripen. The little round pale-yellow flowers keep coming, though, without sign of frostbite. The lavender is still blooming, too. The radishes and Swiss chard are almost done, and there are a couple of dozen onions and green onions left to harvest, and then that's it. Ready to be weeded and mulched for the winter. I've cut down the peonies, planted the potted roses that have summered beside the front door, stored next year's seeds, and beheaded the catalpas. And I think I've given the lawn its last haircut of the season (I hope, because the mower is now buried in the back of the shed behind lawn chairs, tomato cages, and bean poles). The yard can rest soon...and maybe I can too.

My autumn-coloured dogs:

Scenes from the garden:

Friday, 24 October 2014

WWII - a Bit of History I hadn't Known

I read yesterday that during World War II, thousands of German soldiers were brought to Canada and sent to six POW camps up by Lake of the Woods (not far from where I was last week). I had known about this, but what I didn't know was what life was apparently like for the German soldiers emprisoned there. It appears they spent their days logging and chopping wood, canoeing, fishing and...get this...sometimes they borrowed the guards' guns to go hunting in the woods. Many of them ended up falling in love with Northern Ontario and stayed after the war, and they and their descendants settled in that area.

So I think Canadians have a long history of expecting to live in peace. Our guards and police aren't always armed, and our border is largely unpatrolled. I learned last week that people paddling canoes across Rainy River from the U.S. side are expected to just wave their passports in the direction of the guard, who apparently has camera surveillance but doesn't really require anyone to come see him/her directly. All very relaxed and polite and trusting. Canadians tend to be laid back and put their best face forward, and they expect other people to do the same. So it is all the more shocking when someone turns around and shoots us in the back.

In spite of recent events, I sincerely hope Canada can remain laid back and imperturbable. That's what I like about this people. Their humour, their charm, their down-to-earth way of looking at things, and how it takes a lot to rile them up. As Prime Minister Harper said, we can be vigilant and prudent, but we won't run scared. I might add, We won't run, period.

Next week marks my 25-year anniversary of immigrating to Canada. I have not ever regretted that choice.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Awful Events in Ottawa

I am alarmed at what happened today. I am saddened for the family of the reservist who was shot. But I am also saddened for the family of the shooter, who also lost a son today. I can't imagine their horror. I am even more alarmed at the spewing of hatred I'm seeing on Facebook. Meeting hate with hate is not the way to bring about a peaceful world. We are being perhaps too hasty jumping to conclusions about who and what the shooter was. We don't know if he was a terrorist or if he was mentally ill. We cannot judge the situation so soon with such little information. And if we run around getting militant about it, or start hiding our uniforms in public, or painting everyone with a "foreign" name with one brush, then the terrorists will have won regardless.

My two cents.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Getting back into the groove

I've been home now for, what, five days? And it feels like it's been ages already. Swamped at work, teaching on Sunday, getting the garlic planted, trying to dig the garden so I can mulch it for the winter, trimming roses...well, and I read three books in the last five days...but still, I can't believe only such a short time ago I was so far from home. It felt like another world, really, being on the road, just me and my husband, and carefree in a lovely setting. I find myself missing the fresh cold air coming off Rainy Lake. I miss the traffic-free streets of Fort Frances. I miss my cuddly grandkid and yacking with my son. I miss the freedom of hours to do nothing but walk along the river.

I know some people find it hard to fill their days when they stop working, but I don't think my eventual retirement will be a problem for me at all!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

There and Back Again

We just returned from a zippy trip to Fort Frances to visit Son Number One and his family. My heroic husband drove the whole 20-hour stretch in one go, both ways, so we could maximize the amount of time we could spend actually visiting. This is what it looked like going up:

Signs kept warning us of moose on the road, but we didn't see any. We passed a lot of lakes, with fun names like Fungus Lake and Rabbit Blanket Lake. We went through a town called, I kid you not, Tarbutt and Tarbutt Additional. Indeed. How it got that name, I have no idea. It sounds like a law firm. We ran into all kinds of thrilling names I couldn't pronounce, like Nicickousemenecaning and Mishkeegogamang, and Mitaanjigamiing. I mean really, what do you do when faced with that?

Halfway there, we passed through a little town called White River, which was the birthplace of the real Winnie the Pooh. So I can truly say I've been Beyond the White River!

Fort Frances was a pretty town, on a lovely river. Our hotel was right on the shore of Rainy Lake, and we saw deer one night on the lawn.

We took long walks with the granddaughter in the stroller and enjoyed a wonderful time with our family. We truly have much to be thankful for!

And this is what it looked like coming home again:

Though a lot of the time it looked like this:

Truly a spectacular trip!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Lunar Eclipse

I've been buried under a mountain of work and didn't hear there was going to be a lunar eclipse. So when I stepped out the door at 5:30 this morning and saw a nibble had been taken out of the moon, it was an exciting surprise. I'm fascinated by anything to do with space and astronomy. By the time Son #2 and I had walked down to the bus terminal, the moon was half gone, and by the time the bus reached the subway, only the thinnest of slivers was left. By the time the subway reached my office and I returned above ground, the sky was too light to see the moon. (Yes, the commute is that long.) But it was cool to think it was still going on above me, even if I could no longer see it.

The thing that struck me most was, while I was constantly craning out the bus window to watch this neat phenomenon, no one around me so much as gave it a glance. They either didn't notice or didn't care. I wanted to stop in the middle of the street and just stare. I wanted to throw my arms wide and declaim on the smallness of man and the amazingness of the universe. Our bustling and busy-ness seems insignificant in comparison.

These days we can predict eclipses and other astronomical events down to the hour or even the minute. We understand what causes them and we can measure and probe everything. But I think it's good to stop and just let nature dazzle you once in a while. We shouldn't lose our sense of wonder. Even if science can explain the things that used to astonish our ancestors, they're still wonderous.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A Perfect Day

Wild, blustery weather. A romp in the park with my dog in high winds under amazing clouds. Four hours of LDS Conference with messages full of comfort and hope broadcast from Salt Lake City. And two bushels of grapes steadily turning into juice in the steamy kitchen. What more do you need?

Friday, 3 October 2014

Over the Top - What do we really need, anyway?

Someone I know made an offer on a house in Toronto. Now this was a pretty large house in a good area, but it needed major updating, and there was knob-and-tube wiring and asbestos that would have to be dealt with, which are not inexpensive things. It had potential but it wasn't absolutely amazing, or even unique. Well, she didn't get the house. It had multiple buyers interested in it, and eventually went for $400,000 OVER the asking price. My jaw hit the floor when she told me.

I knew Toronto was expensive, but that is just plain ridiculous. Beyond the fact that someone could afford that, there's the fact that someone would be willing to pay that. I mean, I adore looking at real estate, and I have seen many, many houses I would love to buy. But even if I were fantastically rich, there's no way I'd sink that much money into my home. Even in my most dramatic daydreams, I'm nowhere near that end of the scale. When it comes right down to it, it's a shelter, with walls and a roof and drywall and hopefully heat and water. You need somewhere to sleep and eat and stay dry and warm. Really, you don't need much more than that. Our ancestors raised bundles of children in small, modest homes.  Some lived in soddies, some in log cabins. I've seen Italian women churn out fantastic, amazing meals, course after course, on a hotplate in a kitchen not much larger than an Easy-Bake oven. What percentage of our income are we willing to spend on just this one basic need?

There are so many other places to put our funds, so many other causes, and so many people around us who are in need. It doesn't hurt to check our priorities once in a while and justify our financial decisions to ourselves if to no one else. I would rather live in one of those Tiny homes with my belongings in a cardboard box than to live somewhere over-big and over-priced, or to spend that kind of money just for the sake of saying I live in that location. Nowadays you just can't justify extravagant living, not when you're thinking on a global scale.