Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Private in the 'Great War'

My grandfather, John Wesley Abray, served in World War One. He was one of the many thousands of Canadians who volunteered to enlist and became members of the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Forces). He joined in 1915 and I have copy of his Attestation Paper issued by the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. At that time, he was 20 years old, single, listed his occupation as well driller, and lived in the village of Highgate Ontario. He answered the question "Do you understand the nature and terms of your engagement?" with yes.

John had absolutely no idea what that yes meant.

When he swore his Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty, King George the Fifth and His Heirs and Successors, he also swore to obey all orders of all the Generals and Officers set over him. The document notes that he was 5' 5" tall had a 37 inch chest, a fair complexion, grey eyes, and fair hair. His religion is listed as either Methodist or Congregationalist - the typed-in X straddles the line. The Certificate of Medical Examination says "He can see at the required distance [not listed] with either eye, his heart and lungs are healthy he has the free use of his joints and limbs and declares that he is not subject to fits of any description." A very cursory exam to be sure, but troops from the colonies were badly needed.

Like many men who grew up in rural areas, my grandfather had skills that would prove to be useful during the war. He was already very good shot and belonged to a local rifle club. He was familiar with horses and mules and he was good at fixing machinery and drawing maps. He could also cook and sew, if necessary.

He received his training in London Ontario and then his Battalion was shipped overseas. A lot of the letters that he sent home gave his location as simply "somewhere in France." The field postcards said almost nothing. Letters home were regularly opened and censored, but one letter John sent to his father escaped that fate. In it, he explains that he was at the Ypres Salient and after that he was at the Somme front. A lot of his friends were killed or maimed, or lost their minds.

John had been one of the soldiers who delivered supplies and ammunition to the front every night, after that he had been the driver of a machine gun carriage and later still he had been posted in the advance trenches [too close to the German line to be hit - he wrote].

Eventually, he was wounded but not too seriously according to his letters. He was sent England to recover and when he was well he was sent back to France and then to Belgium. He was wounded again and returned to England. He finally arrived back in Canada in 1919.

He never forgot how very lucky he was to come home. He married his girl, Vera. She had waited faithfully for him to return. Eventually they settled in Windsor. I'm blessed to have lived with my grandparents from the age of seven until I was almost twenty. Although my grandfather died in 1963, I'll always honour his memory.

Who will you honour on November 11, 2011?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Approacheth. Do You Need "Spackle" to Sparkle?

The last day of October has multiple meanings for me. It's All Hallows Eve, or Hallow e'en and it's the anniversary of the day I married my former and only husband. There was not a lot of demand for the use of the church that afternoon in 1963, and we did not have a Hallow e'en themed reception or Rocky Horror Picture Show type costumes. Instead, there was cake and tea as befitted a family with Methodist roots and, at that time, a lot of older teetotal relatives.

In fact, there was a fair bit of family frowning about Hallow e'en customs. When I was a child and my great-grandmother lived with us, she terrorized the neighbourhood children by inviting them in and then sternly demanding that they perform a trick before they could leave. Quite a few of the children left without doing anything, and so they collected no candy. I guess that saved some money. And thrift is a virtue, or so I'm told. I truly do not recall ever dressing up and going trick or treating, door to door.

When my daughter was old enough to be out for Hallow e'en she quite enjoyed the experience, or so she led me to believe and when she had children, they also participated in the ritual until they were in their teens. I tend to think that trick or treating should be restricted to children twelve and under, but perhaps that is just my crotchety protestant background getting in the way of what might be appropriate for this generation.

Hallow e'en is definitely a time when people can go all out with their make-up and costumes, the more outrageous, or sexy or scary, the better and that is my segue to - Do You Need Spackle to Sparkle. Yesterday at the supermarket checkout counter, I was possessed by one of those small urges that lead to small regrets later. I bought a copy of Good Housekeeping magazine. I still don't know why I did it and must beg to be excused for such uncharacteristic behaviour. As many of you no doubt know, such magazines can often be perused in under ten minutes. There was one legitimate article about Gabby Giffords (the congress woman). Then there was this faux article - Is Your Makeup Aging You? Hmm, well, all I use is lipstick, occasionally, and blusher, once in a great while, but maybe it could learn something. I did. I learned that there is a face moisturizer or "a hydrating primer ... Laura Geller Spackle Under Make-Up Primer... original or luminescent." I had to reread the promo to make sure I wasn't learning about crack filler and wall paint. If you are going to paint your face for a Hallow e'en party the luminescent base would be appropriate ($27.50).

I plan to stay home and read a book on Hallow e'en night. What are you doing?

Friday, October 14, 2011

If I Could

I wonder what would happen if I could give Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, and Paul Krugman, American economist and previous Nobel Prize winner, a magic potion which they could distribute to international corporate CEO's, international bankers, and political leaders. The potion would be designed to open the minds of those who imbibed it.

And so ... Bankers would discover that reasonable regulation, as proposed by Mr. Carney, would not ruin them. Political leaders would discover that too much austerity, at the wrong time, leads only to more and more austerity, and less and less ability to improve the world economies, as Paul Krugman has shown (NY Times, and books ) and read his Op Ed on Rabbit Hole Economics . What would CEO's discover? Perhaps they might find out that they are frail and human. Although, the jury may still be out on that one.

If I could, I would have Dick Cheney and George Bush drink a potion that would give them the same sensations that being water boarded caused in the prisoners they agreed could be tortured. Do you suppose that would change their tiny minds?

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Dress Code for People with Dementias? The R Word

On Tuesday, I escorted The Bear to his new quarters. He is now in a secure (locked) unit in the same retirement home. It's not long-term care but it is a safer environment for him. Everything happened very quickly and fortunately I was able to keep him occupied while his furniture was relocated. I persuaded him to visit the roof-top patio on the second floor. He had always wanted to see "where the eagles are" - decorative posts that look somewhat like birds when you view them from the courtyard. Anyone can take the elevator up to the secure area, but you need to know the secret code in order to return to the main floor.

I have only a small amount of guilt about not telling him in advance that he would be moving to a new room. Bears, particularly grumpy old bears, hate change of any kind. To avoid a tantrum, I made sure the room looks as much like his old room as possible. And so far, that seems to have worked.

I was able to have lunch with him and check out the other people who live in the secure unit. I noticed that several of the ladies, yes I must refer to them as ladies, looked at me askance and frowned at The Bear. He was wearing a vee neck tee shirt with a polo shirt over it and, um "leisure pants" aka pajama bottoms and slippers; and I was in jeans, We did not fit in with the rest of the crowd [ I should note here that the base cost for living on this unit is almost $3900 per month and that does not include drugs, incontinence products, and other things ], perhaps that explains the toniness of attire I observed. The Bear will continue to wear pajama bottoms because he likes them and can mostly remember how to put them on and they allow air to circulate. Ahem. That is important when a fella can't remember when to whiz.

Moving on to a completely different subject. The world is in a recession. But ssssh, no one is supposed to use the evil R word. Signs are everywhere but never mind - the VSP's "Very Serious People" as Paul Krugman, (read his column in the NY Times) refers to them will fix everything by imposing more austerity. Yup, that is the answer folks. But don't tax the very rich - in fact give them more breaks - and they'll be gracious unto y'all. Wanna bet on that one?

Until the next time.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I've Been Promoted or Perhaps, Demoted

Life has been a bit more stressful lately and so I haven't updated my blog for a while. As some of you may recall, my friend, The Bear, lives in a retirement home on the assisted care unit. Three and a half years ago when The Bear was in hospital and extremely ill, I agreed to become his Power of Attorney for finances and for health care. When it was time for him to leave the hospital he was not able to live on his own, so I relocated him to the retirement home where he is now. He adjusted to his new home and did well in spite of his gradual memory loss and his chronic illnesses. But then, about three months ago his memory loss began to accelerate and his physical problems increased too.

He needs more nursing care now, the kind of care that is provided in a Nursing Home, and he is not able/competent to decide where he would get the best care. I was sure of this, but it has been difficult to get the powers that be to agree with me. However, on Thursday when his ability to make decisions was reassessed by a nurse who had never met him before; he was finally declared not competent. Up until Thursday - if by some weird fluke a nursing home bed had become available (He was on the waiting list but not as a priority.) - he could have refused to go. I agree that a person who is competent and fully aware of the consequences of their decision should have the right to refuse care, but The Bear is not "all there" any more.

I suppose it's rude to say he's not "all there." Maybe his memories and his logic are in there somewhere, but he can't access them anymore. His condition does sometimes give rise to unintentional humour though. When I saw him on Thursday he asked me which organization I belonged to. When I said - none - he became agitated and insisted that I must be one of those "You know - Ladies of the afternoon."

I was perplexed. At first I thought he referred to "Ladies of the Evening". I've never been one and now I'm too old to join their society. After a few more questions, I was able to determine that he thought I was a Catholic religious lady - a nun in civvies.

So, depending on how you view it, I've either been promoted to sanctity or demoted to just another religious lady.

I've been informed that the wait-time for a Nursing Home bed for The Bear could be less than six months, or it could be more than a year. In the meantime, I'll keep visiting him on a regular basis. I have no idea who he might think I am next week.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, My Canada. What Will you Be?

Canada is .... fill in the blank. Canada is not easily defined, like a teenager about to become an adult we are stilll growing and changing and perhaps that is what makes our country unique

Canada is ... a linking of disparate cultures. A refusal to melt, but sometimes, a willingness to bend toward one another.

Canada is ... a country whose citizens worship many different gods, or none.

Canada is ... a country working towards tolerance Canadians want to believe that our country is ... accepting, open and peaceful . That is the story we tell ourselves. We can make it a reality. It's up to all of us.

Happy Canada Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blink, Blink, Blink. Books. What's My Job Now?

After my cataracts were slurped away and the shiny new lenses were put in, it took me quite a while to recover to the point where I could focus on print for more than a few minutes. Now fortunately, my visual acuity has improved and I finally have new glasses and a new view on the world. I see my wrinkles more clearly now so I have decided to let the bathroom mirror remain hazy. I also see more dust and may have to close the blinds more often. I blink more now too - I was always a good blinker - so perhaps if I blink and bob my head at the same time I can make the dust bunnies disappear.

When I couldn't read, I spent more time listening to CBC radio One and also paid more regular visits to Tim Hortons. I can see the results of that too, and a future sans pastries has commenced.

It's lovely to be able to read again and I have to take a moment to recommend the BOY, by Betty Jane Hegerat, published by Oolichan Books, Fernie British Columbia, 2011. Hegerat weaves non-fiction and fiction together in a unique way as she writes about two boys, one her fictional creation, and the other, the convicted killer of his entire family (based on the murders of the Cook family in 1959). It made me think about all the influences that shape us during our growing-up years. It also made me ponder how quick we are to judge people who don't fit. If I were giving out stars, it would receive five out of five. It's well-written, thought provoking and riveting. That's a rare combination, I'd say.

I also read Never Say Die, The Myth and Marketing of The New Old Age by Susan Jacoby, Pantheon Books New York, 2011. Because gerontology is one of my interests, and because I'm one of the young old, I occasionally read this kind of work. Jacoby debunks the myth that old age can be defied, or should be deified, and will make every American who reads this book worry about what they are likely to face when they enter their late 80's early 90's and are frail. The American health care system, or lack thereof, will face a crisis of funding. Oh, the wealthy will be able to afford the latest and greatest in new body parts and treatments, but the oldest, poorest and sickest people (almost all of them will be women) will suffer.

Canada will also have problems (who elected those damned Conservatives), however, at the moment we have a one-payer system which is more efficient - and could be still more efficient, if certain measures were instituted. The book also led me to consider "the ethics of longevity" which she examines in the tenth chapter.

The third book I want to mention came out last year. Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America; by Matt Taibbi, published by Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2010. Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine. When he began to look at the causes of the huge financial crisis/market crash of 2008, he was stunned to discover how it had happened and how easily it can and probably will happen again. This book was not an easy read, not just because there is a lot of technical information (I had to read some sections twice) but also because of the information that illustrates how the amoral "grifters" transferred so much wealth to themselves at the expense of ordinary folk and will continue to do so. The writer uses very frank language in places so if you dislike colourful swearing, be warned. Be warned also that if you are thinking of investing in the stock market, don't put anything in that you can't afford to lose. Actually, unfortunately, we are all indirectly invested in the stock market thanks to governments, etc. but we can't do anything about the indirect stuff. Sorry. It's a book that will give you a slow burn.

And finally, an observation.

"What's my job now?" My friend, The Bear, who suffers from memory loss and confusion asked me that the other day.

He will be 83 next month and resides in an assisted living facility. I thought about that for a minute and then I said "Your job now is just to be you. That's all."

"Oh, yeah, I can do that," he said.

What's your job?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Five Weeks Until Decision Day

Canadians will go to the polls to elect a federal government on May 2nd. Five weeks is a very short campaign time, especially when compared to the American system. Although, it could be argued that the Conservatives, who formed the now defeated government have been campaigning for at least the last six months. Evidently, the Conservatives, under Harper's banner (and often beneath his feet) will say they are the only ones who can be trusted to guide the economy and will also continue to say that we should all fear "the coalition." As for the Liberals, their approach will be to try to regain their traditional voters, and new ones too of course, by offering new programs (in a new budget) and by pledging there will not be a "coalition". The Liberals would not rule out working with other parties, and, I can assure you, that if they had to, the Conservatives would do the same thing. I have only a couple of points to make, so bear with me. Point Number One: In critical ways, the Conservatives did NOT "guide" the economy. We were saved from the most disastrous financial fallout by more cautious banking system rules (which the Conservatives wanted to change) and partly by sheer luck. The money that was poured out by the government after it denied the situation for months, may have made some difference, but there are economists who think it made only a very minor impact. Point Number Two: "The coalition." In theory, a formal coalition of Harper's Conservatives and the Layton's New Democrats is a possibility. In practice, I don't think it could work. Harper wouldn't bend far enough to the left to suit Layton. The Liberals and the New Democrats could form a coalition but Ignatieff assures us there will be no coalition. And furthermore, the Bloc Quebecois could not be a formal part of any coalition. I don't know which party will win. My biggest concern is that Harper is a stubborn ideologue. We have had pushy Prime Ministers before but no other Prime Minister has channeled so much power and control through the PMO (Prime Minister's Office). That is too unparliamentary to suit me. And when I add in the fact that the Conservatives were found to be - in contempt of parliament- and the leader of the Conservatives stated that "The Canadian public don't care about these manoeuvres in parliament," well, frankly, I become angry. I'm sure I'm not the only one who cares about how parliamentary democracy should work. Do you care? Til next time. (the para breaks have disappeared - sorry - it seems to be a Google problem)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eyes Front! Part Two - And Other Things

The surgery to remove the cataract in my left eye took place on March 2, and so far, the results seem good. It can take up to a month or more after surgery to know just how good. For the first three or four days, the world was quite blurry when viewed through the new lens but things have improved.

I still don't understand why one has to be at the hospital three hours beforehand, but my mission was to obey orders. Eventually; that is, after waiting around in one spot, and then in another spot, a small intravenous gadget was inserted in my left hand and it contained a "relaxing" medication. Then, I had the opportunity to sit around some more and listen to other people's comments about the surgeon and what he was about to do to me. Thank goodness, the comments were positive.The surgery took place on time, almost to the minute. When he started I felt a strong sensation of pressure on my eye but no sharp pain and the sensation did not last long. The whole procedure didn't take more than 15 minutes. That was great because the physical positioning of my head was, well, weird. I was relieved when at last I was allowed to sit up again.

The Viking was waiting for me and I was extremely glad to see him. I'll admit I used the pain killers I'd been given that night. And, I wore my Johnny Depp disguise to bed (an eye patch). Somehow, it just didn't look glamorous on me. And I wasn't thrilled when the top of my hand turned dark brown either. The bruise has disappeared now.

Next week, on April 1, I'll have surgery on my right eye. I'm looking forward to the end result, but not to the first few days after the event. I know my "good' eye will be very blurry for a while. So, I won't be reading the newspaper, or watching TV. It will be radio time at the old hacienda.

Speaking of radio and with reference to the huge events that have occurred in the last several days. I found that CBC radio had the most up-to-date news when the disastrous events in Japan occurred. It's almost impossible to grasp the depth of the calamity and the suffering, Thousands of people have died, thousands more have lost everything, and no one knows yet what the cumulative effects of radiation released from the damaged nuclear facilities will be. Everyone should be thanking the workers who risked/are risking their lives as they attempt to prevent the release of more radiation and stop a potential core melt down. And, Canadians should be thankful that CANDU reactors are designed differently.

CBC radio has also reported extensively on the crisis in Lybia. It's impossible to know what will happen next in that situation. Perhaps the attempt to protect civilians will be successful, but that is by no means certain. I was surprised that the UN participants came to any sort of agreement. That might mean some leaders are learning that this is now an interdependent world.

Til next time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eyes Front! Part One

On Wednesday March 2nd, I'll have my first cataract surgery. The operation takes only about 10 to 15 minutes. If you live to be over 60, or in some cases, even 40, you too can have this experience. It's the most common eye problem. Fortunately, thanks to new surgical techniques the success rate is very high. A small incision is made, then ultrasound is used to break up the cloudy lens. It is then sucked out and a new clear lens is inserted. And voila - the world becomes clearer and brighter, though in my case, not any closer.

My left eye is a "lazy eye." I've always hated that term. It implies that the eye could do better but won't. That's not the case of course. Amblyopia, the official medical name for the condition, must be treated in early childhood. Mine was not and so my eye turns inward at times and doesn't work well with the other eye. It is also has low vision and is misaligned.

So, I chose to have that eye operated on first. I collected all my prescription eye drops on Wednesday. There are three kinds and a detailed list of instructions. My surgeon has done a lot of this work and his office gave me a four colour page in large print that makes it easy to see what to use and when. There are also 10 Tylenol 2's. Wheee! Even one of those gives me very wild dreams, but I have no objection to that. I do object to receiving the meds in a child-proof bottle because I'll have a heck of a time opening it, if I need to.

I'm glad my surgeon is experienced and familiar with all the latest technology. He's not green and he's not grey so he's just right, I hope.

I've read a fair bit about what one is supposed to do and not do after the surgery, but have yet to receive the surgeon's instructions. Apparently, I'll get those immediately after the surgery. And I'll be seeing him the next day, although I don't have an appointment time yet.

I'm trying hard not to think too much about the fact they won't be using a general anesthetic. I'd rather be asleep, but will have to be awake but "relaxed." I haven't been told what they'll give me to achieve a relaxed state. I vote for a heavy duty drug.

After the surgery, I'm supposed to have someone with me until the next morning. The Viking has volunteered.

I suspect I'll have to limit my computer use for a while but don't know for sure.

I'll post Part Two sometime after the first surgery. I'm looking forward to a more vivid spring.

Til next time.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Suddenly ...

I've never started a story with suddenly or with any other adverb as far as I can recall but I think it's an appropriate title for this post.

January, which seemed such a slow month while I was experiencing it is suddenly over and that means I have only a couple of months left to get stories sent out to journals again. I've received a couple of "good" rejections in the last little while. You know, the type of thing where the editor, or someone on staff, writes a kind personal comment but still says no thanks. So, do I revise yet again? Likely I do. As another writer said and this isn't an exact quote, when you get to the twentieth revision it's hard to tell if you are making good changes or bad ones. That's when the work gets harder. And since I'm an expert procrastinator (need lessons? send me a message). I have foot-dragged most of the time in January and need to buckle down. I'll be fastening those buckles as soon as I finish this post.

Also, suddenly, well suddenly as far as I'm concerned, I'm told I have another vision problem. Fortunately, it can be remedied and replacing my dirty windshields, cloudy lenses, is routine. No doubt the changes did not happen overnight, but I didn't realize my vision had decreased because I compensate for the losses. Since I've always had vision problems I should have expected that with age more would crop up, or is that down? In any event, I'll spend most of my on-screen time working on my stories so, likely I won't update my blog as often.

Have you had any good experiences that happened suddenly?

Til next time

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fun Times at Falcata Times

I could have called this post 'One Good Turn Deserves Another,' but a boring header might not have tempted you to read what follows and I do appreciate having a few readers drop in now and then. So, here's the reason for the title.

Falcata Times, "The Site for News, Author Interviews, Reviews for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, YA, Horror, Crime and many other genres" is well worth visiting on a regular basis. I find the interviews with writers most interesting. "Drosdelnoch," Gareth Wilson, elicits fascinating responses to his perceptive questions. He's also very knowledgeable about the kinds of books he reviews. He has reviewed a lot of them and he doesn't hesitate to tell his readers what he thinks, whether it's good or bad. There is also a sister blog site, Tatty's Treasure Chest, where Young Adult and Children's books are reviewed.

It was my pleasure to write a little something for Falcata Times. It's a light-hearted piece titled In Praise of The Personal Essay, and you can find it here

On a different but also pleasurable subject, The Viking and I have seen a few of the movies that will be Oscar contenders and here are my views. The King's Speech is absolutely bloomin' marvellous and if it doesn't win something big, I'll be very disappointed. True Grit was a B plus movie. Inception annoyed me, a lot. There was way too much violence, the beginning was deliberately confusing and I thought the movie as a whole was not nearly imaginative enough. The subconscious is a vast terrain but, in this movie almost all it contains is violence of one kind or another. Now that is boring.

It's cold and grey and wet outside. That might mean it's time to get back to work on my fiction.

'Til next time.