Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm Not a Pillar or a Cornerstone. Maybe I'm a Small Brick

When my dear partner died, I vowed not to rush into anything new until I felt ready. Lately, I've been considering what my future options might be now that I am alone, again. It's not that I lack choices. I have many, perhaps too many. There are writing projects waiting. My apartment could use some redecorating. The sheet music files our choir uses need my attention. There are a lot of 'volunteer opportunities' available for someone like me - an older woman who is not currently a care-giver, is spouse-less, and has no dependent relatives. I am a VIP (visitor in the parish) for members of the church I attend, but I hesitate to add more 'opportunities'.

I suspect I'm not designed to be a pillar of the church, or a pillar or cornerstone in the community. I know and respect the people who are. I don't know what they are made of, but it is something above and beyond my mortal capacity. A lot of pillars are women. Women who care for dying family members at home never get mentioned; but they are family cornerstones. Women who make 300 pies and sandwiches routinely for church or community events and who turn out week after week to do the work that keeps churches and charities running are pillars. Women who chair committees in their spare time between caring for aging parents, and ferrying teens and adult children without cars to appointments are cornerstones.

The girls of my generation, the baby-buster generation born slightly before and during World War II, had as role models the young women and mothers  who cared for family and community. They worked, if they needed to, or wanted to; and, if they were married, if their husbands agreed to it. In addition, they volunteered for many of the duties that keep society working as a matter of course. Also, because there was no other option, they looked after aged family members who needed care at home.  A number of these role models are still around, or have left us very recently.  Were they made of stronger material? Probably not. They did what they were sure they had to do. However;  it worries me when a pillar falls ill, or dies.

A slightly older woman friend, who is also a member of the baby-buster generation and who is very active in her church and community spoke to me recently about her desire to slow down and guilt she feels about that possibility. Who will do it, if I don't? That's the unasked question.  I don't have a glib answer.

Younger women today have a lot to do, and there are a zillion expectations placed on them. Have a fulfilling career!  Have a perfect family! Have a perfect life! Don't forget to look fabulous, always! No wonder being a pillar doesn't fit in. But,  maybe just doing one thing, adding one small brick and doing it consistently will be all that can be offered to the community and/or the church.  Maybe if enough of us do that one thing, and continue to do it the small bricks will keep the building standing.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

One August Afternoon in Kitchener - A Photo Essay

There is beauty in my neighbourhood in every season. These photos were all taken on August 5th, 2015, in the Civic Centre area of Kitchener, Ontario.

The Church of the Good Shepherd (Swedenborgian) is known locally for marrying many folk who
might not have the opportunity to wed in other churches.  This building was finished in 1935. The first Swedenborgian church in Kitchener, then known as Berlin, was built in 1833.
The Kitchener Fire Fighters' Memorial in Civic Centre Park. The internationally known sculptor is Timothy Schmaltz (
The Waterloo County Gaol  Garden is small but delightful and has a fountain. The stone walls are remnants of the original jail which was built in 1852.

Tall natural grasses in front of  the Region of Waterloo headquarters are part of the Naturescape Demonstarion Garden.

A flowered path along the side of St. Andrew's Presbyterian church leads to the contemplative space in the next photo
Tree-lined streets graceful homes,and shaded gardens.
The Hibner Park fountain is also a compass. It was built in 1939 and replaced an earlier fountain which had occupied the same site circa 1897.
Dogs, rabbits, a fox or two, and local people all enjoy this small semi-wild patch of land in the heart of the Civic Centre neighbourhood.
These photos help to explain my fondness for my adopted city. I've lived here for eleven years and hope to enjoy my surroundings for many more years.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thoughts About Canadian Veterans - Why I'm Bothered

Be forewarned; this is a rant.

I haven't posted here in a long time. During my blogging break, my friend, The Bear, died. There was a fair bit to do after that, including sorting through more of his personal papers. He had been just a little too young to enlist in World War II, but his older brothers had both served in the Canadian forces. One was killed overseas and one returned. The Bear said his mother's grief for the lost one never abated. I was thinking about them again this morning, and about all our  Canadian Veterans*, especially after hearing the latest federal budget news.

Before I talk about my budget concerns, I'd like to say: I wish our military could only be used for peace-keeping. In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to have a military; but that is not the world we live in. Like many Canadians, I have military connections. My grandfather was a World War I Veteran, my former husband is a World War II Veteran. For many years, I  worked with  Veterans at Sunnybrook Medical Sciences Centre and later, I worked for them in various social service capacities.

I care.

When I see Veterans being patronized by the Minister of Veterans' Affairs Canada - I see red, and it's not the red of the maple leaf. And I turn red - with shame. We have enough money to keep all the Veterans' Affairs offices open - in fact, we have enough money to add more offices. It could be done, but it won't be done while the Harpercons are in office. Of course online services should be increased, but they are not accessible to all Veterans. Of course there should be more trained professionals to work with the men and women who suffer from severe physical and mental stress due to previous combat or peace-keeping traumas.  But, that is not enough support. A lump-sum payment based on what Veterans refer to as the "meat chart" for body part injuries is also not enough support. The long-term costs of caring are not always predictable. What happens when the lump sum is used up? Go ahead and guess. We have homeless Veterans. We have Veterans who commit suicide. We have dead Veterans whose families do not have enough money to bury them. The federal government has added some money to the Last Post fund to help the families of indigent dead Veterans (a needs test must be passed).  Gee, I'm proud. But - what about the living Veterans?

Don't the men and women who served in the Canadian Armed Forces deserve better services and lasting first-quality care? The only ethical answer to that question is - yes.

* I have capitalized Veterans throughout this piece as a mark of respect. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Windsor Visit: Going Back in order to Go Ahead

I went to Windsor on Via rail on February 4th and returned on the 12th. It might not sound like the best time for a visit, but it was. The train cooperated and even the weather cooperated. My decision to go was partly based on the half-price train fare and a reasonably priced hotel room, but mostly it was a need that's been nagging me for quite some time.

When I walked down the main drag of my home town, I discovered that Lazare's furs has closed and Shanfields Meyers, home of every china pattern and tschotske known to mankind, is in the process of closing. Several bars and restaurants have died and left untidy remnants. Cheque cashing stores with tacky neon signs have proliferated. But, I know that Windsor has dealt with boom and bust cycles for decades. Although my first view was distressing, I soon discovered a lot of hopeful signals and hopeful people during my short stay.

I frequently asked people how the city was doing and everyone I spoke to had a positive attitude.  Some were only slightly positive but still, feeling like that in February must mean something good.

I visited the Art Gallery twice, once to see the exhibitions and once to attend three presentations about migrants. It's a lovely space  and has areas where you can sit and look out over the river when you need a break from taking in the art. And, right behind the gallery a new aquatic centre is being built. 

The waterfront is a place to walk, even in the winter, if the weather is good. There are no condos or hotels on the water side of Riverside Drive. There is a long uninterrupted stretch of parkland. I could hear the chimes of the carillon on Belle Island.

The casino and its hotel are highly visible from all parts of the downtown and I was in and out of the place about four times. It was not as busy as I had expected it to be even on the day when Tony Bennett would perform in the evening.  There are legal casinos in Michigan now and that change has caused more Americans to gamble, and probably gambol at home. Detroit's population has also dropped to about 750,000. I didn't make any bets or play any of the machines. That doesn't appeal to me but what people look like and do when they are betting interests me. Some folk assume some seriously weird position.

My dining experiences were quite varied. During my visit I was able to have lunch with my sister-in-law at Rino's Kitchen. It was good and not too expensive. I also tried the cafe at the casino and wouldn't recommend it. The Keg was much better and was part of the treat-myself deal. MacDonald's was next to the hotel. The Tunnel BBQ is still near the tunnel exit and the interior is exactly as it was.  They really should fix the floor behind the cake counter.

I had to visit the main library and it is quite near the hotel. When I walked in I could see a strange machine in separate area at the front of the building. At first I thought the library had rented the space to a business but that was not the case.  The Windsor Public Library has an Espresso book machine. Yes! The machine that prints and binds paperback books.  No one is allowed to jump up and down and shout hooray in the library but I almost did. 

My grandfather's letters (from The Great War) have been whispering to me from inside my piano bench. I explained  my idea to the library staff in charge of the machine and she said it is exactly the kind of book they hope the machine will be used for.  So now I have a non-fiction project. Maybe that also explains why my fiction brain has refused to cooperate no matter how I have tried.  I need to do this first, and then see what happens.

Until the next time.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Roast Beast and Quilts - Christmas Memories

Once upon a time but not that long ago, when my daughter was a child we enjoyed Christmas Day dinners with my mother. The table would be set with her rose-patterned Royal Albert bone china, cornflower crystal glasses and Rogers Brothers silverware. The meal was almost always roast 'beast' (eye of round) with mashed potatoes, mom's famous gravy, another vegetable or two or three, a salad that was mostly iceberg lettuce and strawberries with heavy cream to finish the feast. Of course cookies and chocolates and nuts were consumed, before and after the main event. We ate dinner sometime between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and then the gifts were opened. 

Because my mom's Christmas tree was small, artificial, and sat atop her cedar chest, she usually stashed any presents that wouldn't fit under the tree on the floor in a white laundry basket. Each year, there would be a quilt for me, one for my brother, and in later years, quilts for my daughter too. I miss my mother, always, but her quilts still comfort me. They represent the spirit of the holidays -  loving care.

Our holiday traditions have changed over the years, but we still enjoy the simple pleasures of sharing food, time together small gifts and loving care for one another.

May your holidays be joyful and your new year be happy and healthful.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What Is Around The Corner?

We are born with the urge  to learn, to explore, and to wonder. What is around the corner, what is under the bed, what is next in our lives? And -  if we are readers - what's next in the book?

Often I want more when I hear a  snippet of conversation; but, I never hear the outcome unless I make up my own version.  What other people may see and how they might interpret what they see is also a fascination.  Yesterday, I received a  payment from a writer I'm working with. She had given me a cheque and later decided she would make two payments at once, so she brought cash. I met her in my building's lobby. She gave me an envelope and I gave her the folded cheque.  If anyone was watching us (there's a lobby camera) our actions would be open to various interpretations.  We looked innocent but not all drug dealers look dangerous.

As for books, some are page turners but the ones I enjoy the most  pull me forward because I want to know more about the characters and not just their actions, but their thoughts.  When I read a certain type of mystery, I can skim through the gory parts looking for clues. When I read an Alice Munro story, I savour every word. When I read Anne Lamott, I cry then I laugh, sometimes over the course of three pages. It's her utter honesty that is so magnificent.

What's next in my life?  Surgery in a few days.  Afterward I'll be sticking close to home for a while. Maybe conversation will lead to a story.

What is around the corner for you?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer is Waving a Hot Goodbye

The Canadian National Exhibition opened last week. That's always a signal that summer is on her way out of town and out of country too. But before she goes, we'll get another blast of hot and sultry.

While that's happening, my family  is enjoying the Great Canadian Outdoors, eastern style. Frank, my eldest grandson, is camping on the lake near Port Burwell and Sam, my younger grandson, is on a five day river raft expedition down the Dumaine River in Quebec.   My daughter and I  enjoyed a campfire in  her back yard on Wednesday evening. I won't name the location in case the fire pit bylaw enforcers, whoever they are, find out about this nefarious activity.

Also, the Viking and I were able to escape from the city on the weekend. It was a perfect day for driving through the countryside.  On our return journey, we stopped in Stratford and strolled down the main street stepping into several shops along the way. I had to go into the bookstore of course. How could anyone not go into a book store called The Book Vault?  I was delighted when I found three books I couldn't resist. The Story of Yiddish by Neal Karlen, The Highly Selective dictionary for the Extraordinarily Literate, by Eugene Ehrlich, 

           [pssst I don't claim to be extraordinarily literate - perhaps the dictionary will help.]

and Colombo's All-Time Great Canadian Quotations, by John Robert Columbo.    All those books for $15.72, harmonized sales tax included. Obviously they did not sell at their original prices.

I had not read any poetry in quite a while but then on a brief visit to the library, Impact: the Titanic poems, by Billeh Nickerson jumped into my hand.  Powerful, moving, and yet spare, his poems capture the people, the ship, and  the sinking.  I had to read slowly with many breaks between the poems in order to appreciate all of them. 

At the moment, I have a paying assignment and it is a challenge.  There are certain hazards to proofreading and editing erotica.  You can guess what they may be.

Until the  next time.