Friday, December 26, 2008

After Christmas

Christmas is over for another year. Everything winds down quickly, for me anyway, after The Day. I was tempted to follow my daughter's Boxing Day tradition and wear my pajamas all day, but I needed to go out for a little while. I did wear my new cozy robe until about 11 a.m. and was deliciously lazy.

I may have a turkey hangover. Or it could be that I'm suffering from the now-I-have-to-get-back-to-work syndrome. Yes, that's likely it. You see, I have this new chair. I have 500 sheets of paper and I have envelopes too. I need to consolidate Jennie into one document, find out how long it is, and start revising again. But I also have a wonderful book I'm savouring - The Time Traveller's Wife. And just when I thought I'd have no more excuses, The Viking called a moment ago and he will be here tomorrow. My holiday is not over yet after all.

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Twas the Week before Christmas

Christmas is not quite here, but already the Viking Santa has brought presents. There's a dandy new humidifier that does a much better job than my wee vaporizer could and then there's The Chair. Not just any chair, but a black leather high-backed every-which-way adjustable swivel chair, with arms. "A chair fit for a writer," the Viking said. And it is.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Weird Start to December

I don't know about you, but I'll certainly remember this week. It sure was weird. Many of us, --well I was anyway-- were glued to the news as our Parliamentarians bashed each other, and the nation. I'm disappointed with almost every darn one of them, and with a lot of my fellow Canadians too. It's not over of course. My Christmas wish is for an end to the divisiveness that's still being actively promoted.

In other, and also weird news, the government in it's great wisdom (yes, that's sarcasm) has decided that I am not eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement because I took a one-time lump-sum amount out of my RRSP in 2007 . I declared the income on my tax return and income tax had been deducted at source. They have again added that amount into my 2008 income. I didn't get that money this year and I fail to see why it is counted as 2008 income. Isn't that penalizing me twice? I thought that was illegal but have been informed I should refer to Bill C-36, passed by guess whom in July 2008, which says the lump sum I received in 2007 must be included in my estimated income (for 2008). Yikes! Have I talked about this before, perhaps I'm becoming demented and can apply for help on those grounds? On the same day that the benevolent government rejected my appeal, they sent me the Bear's tax refunds for the last twelve years. The amount, which is greater than my entire income this year, included exactly $17.32 cents in interest. The money would probably have collected more if it had been kept in a mattress - at least it would have accumulated some lint.

This afternoon I might put up the Christmas tree or work on my novel, if I can manage to focus. Or I could look for a main dish recipe to feed six or maybe eight people. I'm having the family here for dinner, so Frank and Sam each count as two when portions are considered.

And this just in, as they say on the news, my downstairs neighbour called a minute ago and asked me if I wanted her ticket to the symphony tonight because she cannot go. I have the ticket now. It's the KW Symphony- Jazz meets Orchestra concert. That certainly perks up my Saturday. Hope yours contained a good surprise too.

Keep warm folks.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Circus - But Where's the Meat?

Have Roman times returned? I do wonder. We have the circus that is the current Parliament to amaze and horrify us - but where's the meat?

I am appalled at the current Federal government's lack of understanding and lack of action re the economic crisis. Why don't they understand what will happen to ordinary Canadians if the auto industry and the forest industry fall apart? Of what use is an economics degree, when theory is all you know? And why must Ontario, which for years was the economic engine of the country, become the major victim of decreased equalization payments. For "make no mistake," as a certain person was wont to say, those payments will not increase - which will equal a decrease. The current federal finance minister wreaked havoc in Ontario (when he was Provincial finance minister)and we are still living with the consequences. Ontarians who receive Ontario Works (which replaced Welfare) get a grand total of $560 per month and $349.00 of that is for housing. No wonder the poor buy bread and sometimes vegetables but cannot afford meat.

If a coalition government can be formed. I'm in favour of it. After all - it's unlikely to be worse and could quite possibly be better.

Now that that's off my chest, maybe I can stop reading the political blogs and get back to work.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Need a Christmas Present - Buy This book

Love Minus Zero, my friend Lori Hahnel's book is now available through Oberon Press. It can also be found through Chapters Indigo.

Here's a quote from the book jacket: "Love Minus Zero is a novel set in Calgary's 1979 punk scene. It deals with a teenager's obsession with music, a singer and her own band, ending with her growing disillusionment with the undergound scene to which she belongs. Lori Hahnel was herself a founding member of the Virgins, Calgary's first all-femal rock band, so the story is told with all the freshness and immediacy of first-hand experience."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day.

Some quotes from my grandfather's letters home. He joined the Canadian Epeditionary Forces 70th Battalion in 1915 and wrote home as often as he could. He went from the tiny village of Highgate Ontario to London Ontario where he enlisted and began training.

from England, summer 1916. "I have the best score of the Brigade 4 batts (target shooting) have got my chance to go to France and you can bet I'm going to take it. Will be home for Xmas and expect to have a good dinner."

Somewhere in France July 1916 "I read your letters by candle light. We work at night. It wouldn't be good for a persons health to do it in the daylight. It's great sport digging in the dark. You would think there was a thunderstorm all day.It don't bother us here though it's all going overhead."" 58th Batt

Somewhere in France 1916 "We are going back into the trenches tonight ... it's a job to write a letter with nothing to write about. You write often as you have news and I have none that I dare write."

Somewhere in France Aug 1916 "I was in a bombing post quite a ways in front of our front-line trench. Our Colonel has been granted the D.S.O. for work the Batt did on the 13th of June. Joe W. came out suffering shell shock his nerves are all gone so Watkins and I are alone now."

Somewhere in Belgium Aug 1916 "We have turned our Ross rifles in (the Ross rifle was badly made to put it politely) and been given Lee Enfields"

Somewhere in Belgium Aug 1916 ".. excuse this dirty paper .. everything is muddy and dirty. I was was just looking at my rifle. It's so muddy that the only way you could tell it is a rifle is by the shape of the chunk of dirt. One of my chums was killed last night .. a rifle grenade burst almost beside him and he was killed instantly. The place where we were working was a little hill and has caused some of the hardest fighting near here. "

Somewhere in France Sept 1916 "Say, if you have a few bugs or lice of any kind around, I wish you would send me some to fight with what we've got.

Liechester Engand 1916 "I came from the trenches on the 20th Sept with a bullet hole in the first finger of my left hand. It smashed the bone into pieces. We were on the Somme front then. .. We had left all our equipment behind us as we were making a charge near the village of Courcellete (near Porriers) Before that we had been in the Ypres salient. Joe W was killed on hill 60. The more a person sees of war the less he wants to. It's all right to fill up histories but this is not war its just murder. "

Rockhampton England 1916 "Well, Mother it's just six months almost to the hour since I got on the train in London Ontario to come to England.... I am a lot wiser than I was the night I came away with the 70th batt that will never see Canada again. I don't believe there were many who failed to do their duty when they were put to the test."

Somewhere in France Feb 1917 "I haven't had any pay for almost a month now and our rations aren't overly large. I am pretty near froze out so I will ring off for this time."

Somewhere in France Mar 1917 "I have been into the supports and living within easy shelling range for quite a while. Will likely be back to the real business in about 15 days. (After I get home) I won't be as particular what I eat ... after a person gets good and tired and soaking wet besides being awful hungry, almost anything tastes good."

Somewhere in France April 10 1917 "The last three or four days I have been going nearly night and day. ... We are taking bombs and ammunition up the line and at night we take up rations."

Several postcards from the front marked - I am well.

London Dec 1917 "We had just moved out of the line at Ypres where we made old Fritz more back quite a piece."

London Dec 1917, just before he was sent back to France "It seems awful to have to go back again but a person might just as well be over there as here."

France Feb 1918 "I have been back (in France) almost two months. I am still with the mule train but ... I have been off duty for the last two days. .. a little piece of shrapnel in my back."

Postcards from the front.

France July 1918 "There is more work here but not nearly so many trips up the line. There are always two men with every transport driver. If anything happens to the driver the other man has to take his place."

France Aug. 1918 "For the last two weeks I've been driving a team of mules that haul a machine gun. .. I haven't much news that I can tell out. You will know almost as much of what is going on as we do."

France Oct 1918 "I am alive and well and got through another big do safe."

France Oct 1918 "She's a great old war, but I wish she would soon quit."

November 21 1918 "Just a little letter to let you know I have outlived the war and am wishing I was back home ... it will be quite a while yet before that."

He finally arrived back in Canada in the spring of 1919.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

When November Arrives

I always feel blue in November. Maybe it's because of the short days, or the bare trees, or the memories of past Remembrance Days. Or, maybe it's because what I've managed to write so far this year seems stale and flat. There are good things though, so I'll mention them.

Today is the last day for fertilizer applications, etc. for my daughter's lawn care company and the weather throughout the season has been outstanding for lawns.

My friend, Lori Hahnel, has her book launch on November thirteenth followed by a three-city tour. And, a copy of her book should arrive in my mailbox before long.

The scale my daughter keeps on her treadmill tells me that I haven't gained any weight - or lost any either. That is satisfactory, but not exciting.

The Viking's vision problem is stable and he can continue to drive.

Frank and Sam still play with their Lego stuff when no one is watching. Don't tell.

Obama was elected.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Good Times With Gangsters

I received a last-minute invitation from my daughter and so, I went to a dinner theatre event yesterday evening. Big Al's Birthday Party was a comedy filled with puns, some funny, and some bad, but I had a good time. You see, there were some handsome young gangsters at my table. The event was a benefit for the Kidney Foundation and attendees were asked to dress in gangster fashion, or some resemblance thereof. because the silly play was about gangsters. Nutrilawn had sponsored two tables for staff and each staff person could bring a guest. I was pleased to be sitting with four of the lawn-care technicians. Three of them had taken the trouble to dress like gangsters from the forties, complete with hats, dark suits and splashy ties. Oh they were fine! James, one of the technicians, won the prize for best male costume. My leather gaucho hat and black outfit got a number of compliments and young woman in full flapper regalia won the prize for best female costume.

There was a silent auction too and I bid on something that no one else seemed interested in. As a result I purchased an interior and exterior car wash for a song. So, the Viking will soon be able to treat his green van to a fresh look.

Halloween evening is probably going to be dull in comparison, since children are not allowed to trick or treat at our building, but I won't mind, I'll still be smiling.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Memory Bank Is Overloaded, Or Should I Say Overdrawn?

Today, I received a kind notice from one of my bank credit cards. We are changing things, it said. We are increasing your security, oh and by the way,we are also increasing your fees. I'm not perturbed about fee increases because I always pay the total balance outstanding, so I pay no interest or fees. It's good to hear about increased security, I suppose, but they suggest I change my access number and Internet password every 90 days. Yikes! I will have to remain insecure, because I can't do that. My memory bank is already overloaded.

When I think of all the passwords and numbers I already have to remember, I shudder. It must be the same for lots of us. For instance, I have to remember the access numbers for my two bank cards and for one bank card that accesses one of The Bear's bank accounts. Then there are the Internet passwords and number codes for three different on-line bank accounts.

My Norton Internet computer security program keeps telling me I have passwords that could be too easy to crack even though they are made-up and make no sense. Who exactly would bother to try to do that?

And then there are numerous user names and passwords to remember for Internet boards and sites I belong to. Sometimes I don't visit a site for a while, then I have to search through my congested memory for the right access words.

Having to remember passwords and numbers and codes doesn't stop there. I need to enter a number code to access any telephone calls I've missed. My daughter's front door has coded access. And, if I want to get any information from the government, for instance, the status of my GIS appeal, I must recite my social security number. Thank goodness that number is engraved in my brain and pops up automatically.

Other numbers are not quite so easily remembered. I had to recall my home telephone number the other day, the gears in my head spun madly and the first number that came to mind was my old Toronto telephone number. I'm sure there was a slight smell of brain cells overheating before my current telephone number finally came to mind.

Maybe I should make a file with all that information in it. But then, I'd have to remember where I put the file and I already have a two-drawer filing cabinet full of stuff, a top-of-desk file, a to- be-filed pile, and, a large file box full of The Bear's financial stuff.

I think I'll have a cup of tea, instead.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Well - It could have been worse. maybe.

So, we have another minority Conservative government. The results do not reflect the will of the people but it is done. I'm glad the Conservatives did not get a majority and I certainly thank the voters of Quebec for that. I think Harper will not be able to do anything too outrageous because if all three opposition parties vote together they can prevent serious harm to our social programs and to health care. Still, I admit, I am sad. The Conservatives by won by the adroit manipulation of Canadians' fears and by the use of smear tactics. If only the Liberals and the New Democrats could unite, then the government would truly reflect what most Canadians want. Well, I can dream can't I?

In other, more positive news, my Viking does not have a cracked rib. It was a pulled muscle. The holiday weekend weather was very kind and the Viking's cooking was excellent. I'm also happy that my friend, the bear, is absorbed in the run-up to baseball's world series. It keeps him amused and occupied, most of the time.

It's time for me to stop grousing and get to work on Chapter 24. Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Leader's Debates. Some Brief Observations

I saw part of the French language debate on the CBC website. There was simultaneous translation. In my opinion Mr.Dion did very well, as did Ms. May, although her French is basic and Mr. Duceppe also made good points.

No doubt there was a bigger audience for the English language debate last night. I watched the whole thing and I thought the format was a big improvement over the lectern style used in previous years. Sometimes, though, the moderator should have been more stern with the participants.

Most people, I think, were surprised by how well Ms. May did. She stuck to the facts and kept presenting them, though she did take a dig at Mr. Harper, referring to him as a fraud. Mr. Dion was more low-key but came across as sincere, particularly when I spoke about 'my Canada' you could see that he means what he says and is passionate about it in a typically modest Canadian fashion. Also, I had no problem understanding his English and am beginning to resent all the attacks on it that people, particularly on the CBC website, make. Mr. Layton specialized in interrupting others, and I didn't think that was a good idea. His best line was the sweater remark. He certainly let us know that corporations would be taxed more and average people would be taxed less. Mr. Duceppe was at his best, engaging and straight-forward, too bad he's for Quebec sovereignty.

What can I say about Mr. Harper? He tried to act in a rather presidential manner, calm and patronizing. He didn't present a platform, and still has not done so. He prefers to attack others, and to tell us that everything is fine and dandy in the rose garden. There is something going on behind that facade of a face. He never looked anyone directly in the eye and his expression was a strange, closed grin. I thought he came across as entirely without passion, or compassion. Furthermore, underneath that eerie calmness, I suspect he is a very angry man who resents having to put up with the democratic process.

So, there you have it. One Canadian's opinion.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Haper Gives Me a Headache

To reverse Harper's attack ad aimed at Dion, one might ask, what kind of leader is Harper? Autocratic is the answer He keeps his troops well-muzzled and would like to do the same thing to the arts community. His attack on the arts and artists, was ably countered by Margaret Atwood and I think also that les Quebecois are less than pleased. But, of course, people in the arts are all feeding from the public trough and should keep quiet.

Harper is also the only party leader who has refused to respond to Make Poverty History. Probably because he's sure that a lot of the poor won't vote, so it doesn't matter.

Then there's the -- our economy is fine, oops, wait a minute, nope, we are in trouble and only I can save us. Actually, the only thing that might save us is to take a completely new approach, bite the bullet and move toward a green economy.

That's enough about politics so I'll move on to more enjoyable things.

The Word on the Street event took place yesterday and we had sunshine. There were not as many booths as in previous years and NONE of the political parties were there. I wanted to contribute to the save Al Purdy's house fund, but couldn't take advantage of the - contribute $25.00 and get a free book deal. I do have the address though and can send a smaller donation.

Purdy was an excellent, and accessible Canadian poet. The house was due to be sold because his widow couldn't maintain it. She proposed turning it into a writer's retreat if enough money can be raised. For more information see

I was happy to find Brucedale press was at Word on the Street again, they publish writers who live in the Bruce Peninsula area. New this year, The Book Band which represents four or five small press publishers in the part of Ontario.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fret Nots

I looked up the meaning of fret in my Canadian Oxford Dictionary and was pleased to discover that the fifth meaning applies to water - move in agitation or flow or rise in little waves. I like that and might use it in my fiction. But, at the moment, I'm working on not fretting, which the COD also describes as intermittent whimpering. I'd rather growl, or provoke laughter than whimper.

My adventures with Human Resources Development Canada and with Canada Post could make a good comedy sketch starring yours truly. I'm now a woman of reduced means, as they said in Victorian times, and I reapplied for the Guaranteed Income Supplement based on the severe drop in my 2008 income. An obliging HRDC staff person filled out the form. I did not understand the arcane formula used to decide what goes on the form but I signed it because it appeared to be correct. The form was sent to the HRDC gods in Chatham Ontario. After an ice age passed, they replied. They said no, but provided an avenue for appeal. I sent a registered letter stating relevant details to HRDC. Nothing happened. After a six week wait, I called HRDC and they informed me that no letter had arrived. I called Canada Post. They told me the letter went out on August 7th, and we don't know what happened to it after that. In three months, we might know, but until then - no luck for you. So, yesterday, I called HRDC again and they told me to go to the local office and resend the information. It took a mere two hours to get it done, again. After that experience, I feel that the $12..00 registered letter fee would have been better spent on some frivolous thing, like a four slice pizza. I also feel like a Monty Python character, perhaps the one in the dead parrot sketch. But I will not fret, that would be unbecoming for a person of my lowly status. Instead, I'm practicing my growl, in case I have do go through this for the third time.

I'm not going to fret much about the stock markets going haywire either. We are all involved in the U.S. economic mess because our government puts some of our money in the market and the Bank of Canada is helping prop up the perpetrators. I think I'll emulate Alfred E. Neuman "What, me Worry?" Nope, not me. I'll do what the rest of the low-income people do and squander my money on necessities and three lottery tickets a week instead of one, thereby vastly increasing my odds from one in a billion to perhaps one-and-a-half in a billion. We who inhabit the low income zone are a feckless lot and frequently give in to our need for possible immediate gratification.

I'm also not going to whimper about the fact that my daughter will turn 44 on Monday. I'll save my sniveling for when she turns 45 - then she'll be what people refer to as middle-aged and we can get together and grumble about it.

It's time to shop for a birthday card and a present for N. Something frivolous, of course.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

They're Off and Running - I am too.

The Canadian election campaign has officially started. Of course, it started ages ago, but never mind. All the horses are out of the gate and on the track now. We will likely see all the major party leaders visit this part of Ontario more than once. I note that Smilin' Jack has Calgary as his first stop. That should be tons of fun.

I hope the coverage of the campaign will be fair to all the parties, well, I can hope, And, I hope that the Liberals keep to the high road and don't fulfill Harper's predictions.

This week, I have a lot of different chores and appointments jammed into a few days, so I'll be running too.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pass the Hot Potatoes

Here an election, there an election, and in both places - there are hot potatoes. Canadians can look forward to, or dread, an election on October 14. That's not a surprise because the Conservatives have been campaigning madly for weeks, or is that months? I think the two hot potatoes are the environment and the economy. Harper, he of the rigid hair and attitude, will focus on the economy and will denigrate the Liberal's plans for the environment. It appears that Dion will continue to present the Green Shift as his major platform plank. I hope he can manage to convince voters of its validity and its sanity. If our environment becomes more and more toxic, the effects will be far worse than a dip in the national economy.

It could be argued that calling an election now is illegal, but it's unlikely that there will be much focus on that particular issue. The PM says that Parliament was not working, meanwhile his party generated a booklet that was all about how to obstruct the business of the house and stall committee work.

There is also the money-in money-out scandal and the Chuck Cadman problem.Of course, the Conservatives will do their best to ignore all this. They will likely to continue to refer to Dion as ineffective and to Harper as a 'strong leader'.

I believe we should be wary of that 'strong leader' rhetoric. Even Harper's method of increasing funding for the Armed Forces could be criticized, if Dion wanted to. Dion's partner/wife, Janine Krieber, is an renowned expert in anti-terrorism who teaches at RMC. She believes that Canada's military can do its best when thoroughly and expertly trained and prepared etc. Might - in other words - is not the definitive answer to terrorism. History proves that's true, but, alas history has been ignored by Harper, who prefers to theorize on the virtues of unrestrained capitalism.

Meanwhile, south of the border, there are also hot potatoes. The Republican presidential candidate has chosen a woman to run as the VP candidate. She is much younger than McCain and has far less experience. That could be a problem, but the bigger problem, which no one is addressing, is her belief system. One important example: abstinence is the only sex education that should be funded and taught. How unrealistic! As a mother, I sympathize with her and with her teenage daughter who is now pregnant. But, I am also concerned for the young man who is the father of the child. Yes, he should admit responsibility and do his best to provide for the child, but must he marry her? It would tidy up the situation, but what does he want to do? I suspect we'll never know. As a side note to all this, the rate of teenage pregnancies in the U.S., which had slowly fallen for several years, has now risen again. Does abstinence only sex-education have anything to do with this? I think it may. We are all fallible, and promises made in good faith are sometimes broken.

Mrs. Palin took on the 'old boys club' in Alaska, but now, she wants to become a member of the most powerful old boys club in the world. Irony abounds

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Defeat the Conservatives Before They Ruin Canada

The political junk mail from the Conservative party which arrives in my mail box on a daily basis has thoroughly pissed me off. I was already angry with Harper and his minions, but now the pot is really bubbling. Therefore I created a facebook group - Defeat the Conservatives Before They Ruin Canada. Maybe I'm returning to my radical, shit-disturbing roots. We'll see what happens. I know I will post a manifesto on the page. I know I'll ask friends to join the group. I'm not sure what else I'll do - yet, but I will take other actions.

In family news, my son-in-law's mother passed over to a better world. She was a very loving person and her children adored her. On a brighter note, I'm happy that I've been able to get some writing done, send a story out and postpone cleaning my apartment. And now, back to work.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'll Always Remember The First Time

I'll always remember the first time my grandsons attended a major live outdoor rock concert (without an adult family member), and I rather think they will too. The concert took place in Downsview Park on Friday afternoon and evening. On Saturday night there was a major propane explosion just south of the area.

The drive to Toronto took well over two hours, though there were no closed lanes, the problem was simply volume of traffic. Of course, the boys were anxious to arrive. Nancy dropped them off at the park entrance and, according to Frankie, they had to stand in line for two and a half hours before they could get admitted to the concert area. They had tickets - they also had sealed bottles of water and sealed snacks, and cell phones. The water and the snacks were confiscated and thrown on the ground. Frank said he saw hundreds of water bottles in the pile. Does the fact that the event was sponsored by a certain Energy Drink have anything to do with that? I suspect it does.

The boys had a great time. Frank was able to get into the mosh pit and he has the bruises to prove it. He almost caught a thrown drum stick too, but when he dived for it, it turned out to be a straw.

While the boys were in the midst of the throng of thousands, Nancy was cruising the Yorkdale Shopping Centre and I was at the Taste of The Danforth event. I met a friend there and we had a leisurely lunch and then checked out the street vendors. I took the subway back to Yorkdale and went on a search for a pay phone. It's harder than you might think to find one. There was a whole bank of them near the entrance and none were in service. I finally found one that worked and called Nancy on her cell phone. She was sitting in the car and described her location. It's a good thing she got out of the car and waved her arms, or I would never have spotted her.

We had dinner at the mall and checked on the boys again via cell phone. Then it was time to move the car to the Downsview subway station parking lot and wait. We could hear the thump of the band and I can vividly imagine how loud it was in the park. The boys had to walk from the park to the subway and they finally made it to the car just a little after midnight.

Frank told us that lots of people had weed and alcohol. I guess the security guards were not all that efficient. He also told us that the whole thing was like, like, awesome, eh, especially when Slipknot's drummer kept playing as his drum set turned upside down.

Someday the boys will be singing "wasn't that a time."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Naked Writer, The Form, And Earl

I have been reading, The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. The naked in my headline does not refer to a literal state of undress and although I often write in my pajamas, I haven't tried writing in the nude - yet. Instead, it refers to a writer's fear of revealing too much and suffering failure, censure or fill-in-your-worst-fear, as a consequence. The best fiction comes from peeling away the layers and getting as close as we can to the truth of the characters. Here's one quote I especially like -
"writers who hold their readers' attention are the ones who grab them by the lapel and say, 'You've got to listen to what I'm about to tell you.' It's hard to be that passionate. It means you must put your whole poke on the table."
And that, as they say - ain't easy because "the fear of revealing ourselves tends to be repressed." But, if we don't go into the dark places of the mind and soul and illuminate them, our writing will only feebly scratch at the surface.

I'm in one of those dark places at the moment, and maybe someday that will serve me in my writing, but right now I'm too pissed off to see that. In June, one of the staff at Service Canada assisted me with my application for the G.I.S. benefit. However, thanks to some sort of error, I've been judged ineligible. The income they say I'll get this year is almost twice what the true amount would be. So, I have to launch an appeal. I'll write all the information in a letter as well as filling out the parts of the form that I can decipher. Maybe that will work.

When I'm not doing the things I should be doing, I occasionally amuse myself by watching a certain reality television show. I could justify this to my friends who watch little or no television by saying I do it to learn about pop culture and the younger generation. That wouldn't be true though. I watch when I'm too whacked or too lazy to read or do anything productive. So, I've seen a couple of Canadian Idol episodes and I've become an Earl fan. He's unlikely to win because he's well, odd - and he doesn't look the part, but he's, like, totally real eh! It's likely that Mookie will win, but my heart is with big Earl, the goofy guy who's a true original.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Family Birthday Bashes and other Amusements

My youngest grandson chose to have a Harvey's hamburger for his birthday dinner. After we had dined we returned to the house for the birthday cake ritual. The lights are turned off, the birthday honoree is sent out of the room and when the candles on the cake have been lighted he returns as everyone sings Happy Birthday to him. The ice cream cake was delicious and S. who is now fourteen said more than three words, which is unusual, and allowed his grandparents to hug him. He received a new dirt bike a couple of days before his birthday because there is a BMX track near the family campsite. Grandparents, uncles and aunts, gave him cash and as I understand it he wants to buy a better MP3 player, or whatever it is that has now replaced that gadget.

I received a surprise belated birthday present in the mail (a gift certificate). It was especially heartening to receive it during the week when I had to have a mammogram and a bone scan. I really hate having a mammogram, not only because it's painful but also because of my family history. I'm glad to say that nothing abnormal was found. The bone scan revealed that one side of my neck has more than the normal amount of bone loss. There are no problems anywhere else and that's weird. Pass me the cheese, please and of course, the calcium supplement. (I'm somewhat lactose intolerant, but cheese has an enzyme in it which helps - too bad ice cream doesn't).

Friday, I went down to King St. to watch all the classic cars cruise by. I was a bit early and looked for a place to sit. There are benches along King but all of them had been staked out. However, one bench was occupied only by a large rather intimidating man who was sitting right in the middle of it. So, I asked if I could share the bench. He turned out to be extremely knowledgeable about the cars and quite chatty. Agreeable company, nostalgia and gasoline fumes. What else could a woman who grew up spending her after-school hours in the Greyhound bus garage want?

And, in other people's news, my friend Lori now has her own website. You can find it here

It's great!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

G 8's Policies Suck. Org

So, the fearless G 8 leaders met in Japan. They had a great honking banquet. They chastised an African despot. They ignored pleas for more aid. They asked for more oil production. And, apparently Bush called out - "Yo Harper."

Oh yeah, and they agreed that somehow carbon emissions should be cut in half by 2050. It all makes me want to scream bloody murder. And oh - Canada - how could we have elected a man who believes that the state of the economy is more important than our very lives. It isn't Dion who would screw us if we adopted some of his ideas. It's the sorry excuse for a man who currently occupies the Prime Minister's office.

Yo - Harper. Get out and talk to people. Oh, wait - minor gods don't do that. They're too afraid of what they might find out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Birthday Blog

It was one of those birthdays, you know the kind. The ones that mark a decade or a half-decade or, in my case, the arrival of a new status at a half-decade. I'm now officially a senior and will look forward to whatever perks go with the title. But, it's a weird feeling. On Tuesday, I was officially young, or at least not classed as old; now I'm in a new category. Perhaps the fact that my youngest grandson's voice dropped overnight and he now sounds like a man should have given me a clue, but it didn't.

When a male friend who is three months younger than me called to wish me a happy birthday and ask me how it felt to be officially old (he enjoyed saying that), I said, I didn't know yet. And that's still true today.

I spent the day itself doing whatever came to mind and ignoring my chores. I had a healthy breakfast, chocolate mousse cake for brunch and potato chips for supper. Because, well, because I felt like it. Maybe I needed a small rebellious moment. I also finished reading a mystery and fooled around on the internet.

There's birthday loot of course. I have a brand new pair of walking shoes thanks to the marvellous Viking and a framed photograph of the Port Elgin lighthouse from my daughter. Today is just a regular day so I suppose I shall have to return to the land of responsibiities. Maybe I'll do that after lunch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Madness in the Marketplace

My brain may only be firing on one cylinder at the moment. Perhaps that's why I fail to understand the cost of things.

My friend, the Bear, had a wheelchair that was chosen for him by the occupational therapist in Toronto. The chair also had a separate air cushion that fit on the seat. The wheelchair is a piece of crap but the cushion can protect my friend's bony rear end when he sits in the dining room. Because he is not using the wheelchair (and because it is a piece of crap) I called the company that had sent it and asked them to take it back. They suggested I rent it for $200 a month and I said no. However, the cushion has a mark on it and could not be returned. So, I asked the price - $541 dollars and that, my friends, is the Adaptive Devices Program price. A special deal indeed! I sent the company a cheque, but I also told them I hoped never to buy anything else from them, ever.

Not everything is as ridiculously expensive as that cushion. I cracked my small Melita coffee pot; the kind that can sit on a stove burner and has a removable cone on top. It's a simple thing. I boiled water and poured the water over the coffee filter and waited for the elixir. When the Viking was here on the weekend he noticed the cracked pot and said he would replace it. He tried, but they don't make basic things anymore. Instead, the inveterate shopper purchased a Black & Decker 12 cup automatic coffee-maker for me. When he delivered it, I wondered where I would put it, since I have so little counter space - but I was also concerned about the price. It cost $15.00. I'm afraid to ask how they do that.

I'm also afraid to look at current gas prices, though I don't drive. The Viking's old van, affectionately known as the green pig, is a very thirsty critter and so, we are unlikely to get out of town much this summer. All energy costs are bound to go up, but we have wise advisers to help us out. David Suzuki suggests we hang our clothes out to dry the old fashioned way. Well, yes, I would love to have a clothes line in the condo's back yard, but I fear the board will not agree.

Happily, sometimes people benefit from expensive purchases made by others. The Bear had an almost new $1800 double bed with an air bladder mattress in his apartment. It was totally unsuitable for his new abode. I didn't want it and it couldn't transport it. Fortunately, the bear's neighbour who assisted me during the final pitch-out day, knew of an older lady on the same floor who needed a bed. She's delighted to have it since she was sleeping on a very old futon, on the floor. And I'm glad to end this on a up-beat note.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Urban Archeologist Retires

Late yesterday afternoon, I handed in the keys to my friend's Toronto apartment. A neighbour of his had agreed to remove the few pieces of heavy furniture that remained. The neighbour had a small moving dolly which was helpful, because each piece had to be taken from the top floor apartment to the elevator, then carried up the stairs from the basement level to the street and then towed along the street to the garbage disposal area. The process was time consuming and grit producing, but fortunately, the neighbour didn't complain and of course I paid him for his help. The bear's fairly-new and expensive aeropaedic double bed is now stashed in the hallway but the neighbour has agreed that if one of the elderly people on the same floor does not want it (the solution I'd prefer), then he and a friend will make sure it goes to the garbage disposal area. They may sell it instead of giving it away, but if there is nothing I can do to prevent that scenario.

Locking the door of my friend's apartment for the last time was a relief, but it was also a time of sorrow because my friend, the bear, will never see the place again and because, long ago, we enjoyed many happy hours there.

Something had to be done to commemorate the end of an era and so last night, after a long hot shower, I had some chocolate and a glass of wine. Slainte!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reflections on Myanmar/Burma, China - and Tide Free

The events of the last few days have been extraordinary or, perhaps overwhelming would be a better word choice. A major typhoon struck Myanmar/Burma and a huge earthquake devastated parts of China.

It's difficult to comprehend. The number of lives lost boggles the imagination and the amount that I can give to help out is minuscule. Though I can't avoid the thought that if everyone responded much could be done.

I recall how the whole world pitched in after the tsunami hit Asia and wonder why these disasters have not yet received the same kind of response. Much is written about compassion fatigue, but is that really what's happening? Or, is the response less because the people affected live in countries whose governments we Westerners are less than pleased with?

For example: News coverage of the Myanmar/Burma disaster makes much mention of the regime's bad policies and yes, the facts should be reported, but I notice that media reports have suddenly began referring to the country as Burma again and I wonder who started that? It will not help improve relations with the junta and may make the rulers even more intractable. Isn't getting help to the people the most important thing? Oh, silly me, of course not. If the United States was not already over committed militarily and broke, and if Bush was not a lame duck president, the Americans could decide to help 'make' Myanmar a democracy.

Then there's China. Many parts of the disaster area are only now becoming accessible and the true extent of the devastation won't be known for quite some time. It looks like the government (such as it is) is doing the best it can and China has asked for help. Parts of China are controlled by war lords and not the central government. Regulations for building construction are few and likely were not enforced; and corruption is endemic. The Chinese government has persecuted people in Tibet. All these things are true. It's also true that China wields huge economic influence, unlike Myanmar, and whatever Western government's reservations are, they will no doubt pitch in with significant amounts of material aid.

A comment on nitty-gritty personal stuff before I return to the main subject, I have nearly reached the end of cleaning out the Bear's apartment. While I had promised myself and my daughter that I would not do any major cleaning, on every visit some clean-up was unavoidable because I couldn't move a step without being covered in dirt from the floor, from the furniture, from every object in the place (especially all the papers). There was a huge supply of paper towels, some half empty bottles of Lysol spray cleaner and a very dusty can of Endust which was unusable. There were also several pairs of rubber gloves and many J cloths and sponges. However; there were no other cleaning agents and I thought I'd have to buy something, until I discovered a half empty box of Tide Free laundry soap powder in one of the kitchen cupboards, along with about 30 light bulbs and 20 tins of salmon and some other unmentionable things. So, since it was available, I decided to use it on the tile wall and the cupboards in the kitchen and in the bathroom. It removed the heavy greasy dirt and left the tiles shining. Probably it's a mix of environmentally unfriendly chemicals. Mea culpa

I'll end this comment by returning to my concern for the people of Myanmar/ Burma and China and referring you to an excellent article in this month's Harper's magazine: Turning Away from Jesus: Gay Rights and the War for the Episcopal Church by Garret Keizer. It is connected because it is about how we see and respond to other people ; though the last words in the article are not his; they sum up my thoughts and they are the most important. "Feed my sheep."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Near the Top of the Hill, Maybe

For the first time, I think I can see the top of the hill which represents all my friend's needs and wants. I'll never be able to satisfy all his wants, but I'm close to meeting most of his current needs. That's progress. Old skills have come in handy. For example, I've hemmed five pairs of trousers this week. The results are far from professional, but they are good enough. I've coped with weird demands that don't make objective sense, but do make sense to my eccentric and sometimes confused friend. Doing so reminded me of when I ran the Adult Day Program. Sometimes it was easier to fulfill a strange request than to argue about it. It still is.

There's been little time for other things, but I managed to return my overdue library books and take out one forgettable paperback mystery novel. It was soothing to read at night because I knew the culprit would be caught and all would be resolved. Perhaps that's why many middle-aged and older people read mysteries; we crave resolution but we know that real life seldom if ever works that way.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fearless Cave Explorer Plumbs the Depths

The excavation continues. The Viking now refers to me as his dust bunny even though he hasn't seen me wearing the after effects of a cave episode.

However; other people have. On Wednesday, after a five hour shift in the dust palace, I decided to take a short break. I washed my face and hands and walked over to Church and Wellesley. The majority of the natty male people on the street looked askance at my dusty coat and jeans, while others made sure not to stare, lest I accost them for spare change. The proprietor of Baskin Robbins was pleased to serve me ice cream in a dish, and I watched other customers as I sat on a stool and consumed my treat. I noticed that there is a cool way to order ice cream and a non-cool way. You order your scoop of ice cream in a cup, not a cone, and don't refer to it as a dish. That tip is free - you too, can be cool, or bad, or, whatever the saying is today.

When I returned to the cave, it was time to take large garbage bags to the basement garage. The Bear's cave is on the top floor of a large old apartment building and the garbage chutes on each floor have an opening barely large enough for a pair of shoes to pass through, especially if said shoes are size 13. So, I took the elevator to the basement several times with large garbage bags, which I balanced on an old bundle buggy. On my second trip to the big bins, I encountered a garbage picker. He was going through a bag I had just thrown in. I'll admit, he was very polite and said he collected things for garage sales. It was tempting to invite him upstairs, but sanity prevailed and I didn't.

By Thursday evening I had 'had the biscuit' so, after sneaking back into my hotel and enjoying an extremely long hot shower, I treated myself to a salad, a club sandwich and a Rickart's Red in the hotel bar. The food was excellent and I watched some of the Masters Golf tournament while munching. The beer was also good, but, according to the bartender, next time, I should order a half-pint for a half-pint, because I couldn't finish my pint. Meanwhile, the two industrial salesmen at the table next to me both had three drinks, while talking on cell phones, talking to each other, and texting on their Blackberries. One thing is very clear, I do not have a future in sales.

The only other tip I can offer is of the Molly Maid type. I discovered that I could use the green stuff (it used to be called Dustbane and people used it on their garage floors ) and scatter it over places where the dust is the thickest, then very carefully sweep it into a pile. Dust still rose up to choke me, but it was not quite as deadly.

I'd better go and do my own cleaning because, I think I smell dust.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Big Move and the Urban Archeologist

On Monday, my friend the bear, moved from Toronto to Kitchener. I had hired a wheelchair van and we left Kitchener at 7 in the morning and hoped to be in Toronto by 9 or 9:30. Of course it rained and of course the traffic was horrendous. The van driver entertained me with the story of his travel to Alberta for Christmas and the many breakdowns of his motor home. It was 10:30 by the time we arrived at the hospital and just after 11:00 when we loaded the bear and his wheelchair, his walker and his suitcase into the van. We arrived at his new Kitchener living quarters at noon. I did not watch the van's speedometer while we were on the return trip. I did pray that we would not be stopped by the OPP as we sped along the 401.

It's weird to be completely in charge of another person's life and it leaves very little time for leading my own life, at least at present. I'm still winding my way through my friend's very tangled financial affairs. I wonder if the tendency to hoard things is more prevalent in men. Suggestions for things to tear up and throw out, if you haven't yet: ten-year-old paid utilities bills, Olympic lottery tickets from 1976, fifteen-year-old credit card statements, very old bank books from closed accounts, expired insurance policies, stacks of old telephone books, expired drivers licences etc And believe me, there is a hell of a lot of etc..

Other things to get rid of - stacks of very old newspapers, socks that do not match ( it seems to me I've mentioned socks before - I am still finding more of them) clothes that do not and will never fit, or be usable again. That's only a partial list of course and I will be excavating at my friend's apartment again next week. I might even find the floor soon. It's there somewhere under all the stuff; I just know it.

Meanwhile, there is hope for better things. The sun is shining, the weeds are green and my tax refund has arrived. It's not a huge refund, so I don't have to be too practical about how I spend some of it. Besides, I'm so immersed in taking care of the practicalities of my friend's life that I need to do something frivolous, though of course I'll save most of it. Perhaps I'll buy something soft and silky, or some new sheet music (if I ever get to to Music Plus), or a new CD. Before that though, I have to find disposable masks for my next trip.

This is the urban archaeologist, signing out for now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Snow Again Must Mean Travel, Again.

The snow is blowing past my windows so fast that it obscures my view. Maybe by tomorrow it will stop and the bus to Toronto will leave on time and arrive in the big smoke on time. I had considered leaving this afternoon but I continue to wait for people to call me back. My theme song of the moment is 'someday my call will come.' No prince required, when there's a Viking nearby.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mild Mannered Reporter Not Hornswoggled or Bamboozled.

This just in from your mild-mannered reporter on the banking front. Some folk who work in banks believe that seniors can be hornswoggled or bamboozled by the flummery of brightly coloured papers. However, this getting-older-by-the-minute scribe was not impressed by charts, tables, market predictions, or any other flim-flammery.

Did you know that you could invest money in a GIC based on bank values that is, according to the person who showed me the information, 'not based on the stock market?" What twaddle! Of course the GIC has to be based on the value of the banks' stock. and furthermore, according to the fine print, if the index declines in value you receive no return though of course your principal remains protected. How on earth does it qualify as a GIC? That could have been your intrepid reporter's question, and she will ask it as soon as she recovers.

In the meantime, she may investigate the value of sock companies' shares because there's always a market for socks in colder parts of the world.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tales from Behind the Snow Banks

It's official, Kitchener set a new record for snow. I don't know if it also set a record for accidents, but it would not surprise me if that was the case.

One has to edge out cautiously when accessing the road whether by car, or on foot. My daughter has had accidental guests three times in the last few days because she lives very close to a dangerous intersection. I almost escaped the after-effects of the storm. However, this morning while walking to the bank, I slipped and fell on my tush thanks to some black ice. Only my ego has been damaged, as far as I can tell. I have mended the damage by consuming a chocolate Easter egg. I recommend that solution

My daughter is also the only person I know who wants more snow to fall. I'm doing my best to help her out. I have not seen the long range weather forecast yet, but since I plan to go to Toronto on Tuesday, I'd bet on more snow that day. My record is consistent. It snows every time I get on the bus. So, put your money down now. The odds are excellent.

Friday, February 29, 2008

My Friend's Financial Career and other Rambling Thoughts

One of Stephen Leacock's best known stories is My Financial Career. It's about one ordinary man's encounter with the mysteries and hazards of banking. After my experiences of the last few days, I appreciate the story even more than I did when I first heard it on CBC radio.

I am acting on behalf of a sick friend and I have all the documentation the government says is sufficient. Nevertheless, almost every one of the big five banks wanted one of their own Power of Attorney forms signed and witnessed. Fortuately, I was able to prevail, thanks to my ability to conceal anxiety and present a stern school marm face. My passport has now been in more banks than countries. Also, I have so much paper that I will have to acquire another file box or three.

Now I understand why my friend had so many uncashed cheques in his apartment. It's a wonder he didn't keep them in a sock, like Leacock's protagonist did. My friend did the next best thing though, he put his money in accounts that earn almost no interest.

I've considered writing an article about how each bank has responded, complete with ratings, but I doubt any newspaper would want to publish it, because I would have to use a nom de plume. In any event, I have no time to write it because the next fearsome task looms.

Usually, I read for a while before I go to sleep but lately I've been conking out after three pages instead of twenty or thirty pages. I'm part way through Late Nights On Air by Elizabeth Hay and for me, one of the best things about the book is all the references to CBC radio - the old announcers and the programs I listened to when I was young. I need to finish the book before it is due back at the library because a neighbour took it out on her card and lent it to me after she read it. I might stay up late tonight and finish the book, since my weekend dance card is filled and next week I return to Toronto. But, before I do, maybe I'll buy more socks.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Joyful News

Let me get right to the good stuff.

My friend, Lori Hahnel, is currently making final minor revisions to her novel, Take Me Disappearing. It has been accepted by Oberon (subject to her revisions meeting their approval as I've no doubt they will) and it will be published this fall. That's right, amazingly enough, they will publish it this year. Usually literary novels take longer than that to go to press but not this time.

I am thrilled for her and plan to celebrate her success with a fine single malt scotch whenever I can make to to the LCBO. Heck! maybe I'll even go this afternoon, because if I don't get busy and celebrate, when will I have time?

But that story is for another blog.

This one is all about Lori.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sandwich, anyone?

Recently, a friend's blog gave her thoughts on being a member of the sandwich generation. Normally this saying refers to adult children who care for their aging parents and for their own children at the same time. There are different kinds of sandwiches though and I'm the middle part of one now and I will be for some time to come.

I don't have aging parents to care for - heck, I'm the aging parent, but I do have an older friend with no family and he needs all kinds of help. Meanwhile, my adult child could use some help too. The Viking doesn't require my help, he but enjoys our time together as much as I do, and now there's less time for us.

In addition to dealing with several banks and trying to sort out a financial muddle (I'd call it something else but I'm being polite here.); I am gathering information on retirement living options, looking for an acountant, and tomorrow, my bum will no doubt be warming a seat at Service Canada for hours since I must sort out a pension snafu.

This weekend, I'll be making my grandsons mind me or offering them bribes, whichever one I'm in the mood for, while their parents take a break. And next week I'll be in Toronto for four days.

The Viking said, you have an interesting life. Isn't - may you have an interesting life - a curse according to some eastern philosophy?

I'd like to settle down and put the final touches to a short story that's almost ready to go out. I'd like to, but instead I have to recheck and then add up columns of numbers and see if I can get the same result three times in a row. Not so simple when you're me and have a tendency to reverse digits.

It must be time for coffee, with a pickle on the side.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Robert Weaver Remembered

Robert Weaver nourished and championed many outstanding Canadian writers through his work with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also published anthologies and was responsible for the creation of the CBC literary awards. Because of Robert Weaver, the CBC was the first venue for the work of many fine Canadian writers back when the CBC believed that presenting the best work of Canadian writers would be appreciated by listeners throughout Canada. It was.

Thank you Mr. Weaver. May you romp in the Elysian fields forever.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Weather: External and Internal

We were only supposed to get a little snow today, but Mother Nature was not listening to the weather forecast on our local CTV channel. Instead, she decided to send a January-like amount of the white stuff and blow it in every direction.

The weather suits my mood as I feel like I'm being blown about too. My Toronto visit was exhausting and most likely I'll have to pay a return visit to my sick friend very soon since I am his only close friend and he has no immediate family. When I was working, I met quite a few reclusive seniors who had little or no contact with their families and I was able empathize with them and still be professional. It's much harder when the reclusive older person is someone I know very well. He is confused and frail now and may never be able to return to his home. Of course, he is only one of many older people who are in the same dreadful predicament. His situation reminds me to be grateful for having a loving family and cherished friends, and I am.

Speaking of cherished friends, my friend Lori Hahnel has had more success. One of her short stories, Leading Men (published in Prairie Fire) has been nominated for the Journey Prize, and another of her stories has been accepted by Room of One's Own. Said story was rejected many many times before ROM chose to accept it. Lori is on a streak, and long may it continue.

Now, if I could stop thinking about my sick friend, maybe I could rewrite something.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ten Degrees of Separation - One Thousand International Units of Frustration

Over the last few days, I've had the distinct impression that I am either a non-person, or a person who may commit a crime at any moment. I'm pretty sure I'm a person and I haven't committed any crimes, or at least none that I can recall. But at first people were distinctly unhelpful.

It all started when I became concerned because I couldn't contact a dear old friend. I tried and tried, since we had agreed I would visit him last Wednesday, but I couldn't get an answer. So, I went to Toronto and discovered that he had fallen and had been taken to hospital. I visited him there. I know that am his one and only contact and that he had given my name to his doctor and others (including the CCAC), I tried to get information on his status. I pestered the nurses and the hospital social worker for his unit. No one would tell me anything. Privacy laws protected him and that's fine, but I knew my name was down on the list somewhere, only no one would bother to look. I was in Toronto for two days and then had to return home and try connecting with the people in charge via long distance calls. Yes, now I am ranting, sorry about that.

After a lot of calls to Toronto, including several to the CCAC whose whole computer system was down for hours, I was finally able to confirm that I was listed as the 'consent' person. That allowed me to pry a little information from the nurse responsible for my friend's care. She tells me he is making some progress toward recovery and he wants to know where his shoes are. I can't help with that, and no one seems to know where his personal things have gone.

I guess more long distance calls will be in my future, and I know I'll be making sure my daughter is still aware of where to find my Will and my Power of Attorney. My friend has not made a Will or chosen a substitute decision maker and should he not recover his wits, there will be a huge mess. So, if anyone reading this has postponed making a Will, or enabling someone to act for you, should you not be able to make decisions, then - DO IT NOW