Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring is bustin' me all over...

But then once it turns warm there is everything to do at once in the flower beds. The foliage from last year has to be clipped off, the leaves that covered the bed all winter have to be raked every so gently off the tender green shoots which are emerging from their sleep. I've certainly been busy the last few days, as much as I can manage anyway. 

I've filled several lawn bags full of clippings and dead leaves. I finally got at least 3/4 of the old foliage on the flowers clipped off and most of the leaves raked out of the beds. 

I'm leaving the trimming of the shrubs to the landscapers. That's too much for me to tackle. But after I quit today, the guys who were cleaning the gravel from the parking lot came up the walk and haphazardly hit the flower beds and around the bases of the shrubs with their "Nuclear Powered" leaf and gravel blower and generally made a mess of things. There were places where they could have done some good, but they didn't touch those.  

Bergenia (elephant-eared saxifrage)
But on the highly positive side, the daffodils, narcissus, jonquils and tulips are blooming, and the Bergenia - (elephant-eared saxifrage) has three nice husky bud spikes, which will open up into buds like these blossoms from last year's display. So there's a nice mix of yellow and white (narcissus, daffs and jonquils) with pink and purple tulips and the deep pink Bergenia. 

The apple tree and May Day tree to the left of our balcony are just beginning to bloom. The Japanese plum tree just off our balcony is putting on burgundy leaves, which are almost more beautiful than the blossoms.  The colour from the bulbs and tree blossoms won't last long but there are lots of other perennials coming along. 
In the bed to the right of the entrance the crocus' have bloomed and gone, and the purple tulips are now blooming. The astilbes are up and six inches tall already. These bloom pink and white and they look airy as clouds when they bloom. The hostas at the front of that bed are sticking out of the ground like pointed green thumbs. The cranesbills hug the ground but have spread about 24" each, which is amazing, considering I only planted them last year.  

At the back of that bed the ligularia already has about two dozen saucer-sized leaves, deep-green on their top-sides and purple underneath. I put a large, sturdy tomato cage around it, because it's growing quickly  and it won't be long before it needs support. It will produce large sunflower-like flowers on five-foot high stems starting in late June, bringing a bright spot to that shady area. The purple veronica and the sage growing around it are a good foil, in both form and colour.  

Up in the sunshine in the front bed the poppies have come up looking a bit prehistoric they re so vigorous. The leaves are already  10-12" tall, very "toothy" and deliciously furry-looking. The Shasta daisies look like green bubbles emerging from the earth, the mints are crawling around in the beds at last three of my roses have survived and are putting on leaves.  

It's too early to see what else has survived our winter. We had such bitter cold, at the beginning of winter, then fluctuating warm and bitter with very little snow cover until well into March.  Everything is bone dry. I'm afraid to see what I might have lost. 

The irrigation system hasn't been turned on, and the ground is cracked open it's so dry. The maintenance  man turned on the outside tap for me so I could water and I gave the flower beds and trees within reach of the hose a good watering.  

Some I need to prune back some more old foliage and rake off the remaining dead leaves and we're planning on putting in edging around the beds so the grass quits creeping in. But my idea of adding good compost, covering it with landscaping fabric and cutting opening for the plants, then covering it all with bark has worked a treat. I pulled  only a couple of clumps of grass today, and not a single weed. Far cry from the years before, when I spent half my time in the garden fighting weeds. 

But afterwards I came in, gave the floor a quick vacuum, and  took a two hour nap. Boy was I whipped. I probably won't walk tomorrow. But working in the garden is like soul-food to me. I wasn't meant to live where I can't grow things.    

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I want happiness...

There's a story almost everyone has heard or read, but just in case you are one of those few who hasn't, I'll repeat it. It's a good story and bears repeating.

Two monks were traveling, carrying a message from their monastery in the mountains to one farther down in the hills. All morning long they trudged through heavy rain, each lost in contemplation. About noon they came to a place where the path crossed a stream, but the bridge had been washed away by a torrent of water rushing down the mountainside. A young woman stood by anxiously, clutching her cloak around her. 

"Kind sirs," she cried. "I cannot cross unaided. Please help me!" 

The elder monk nodded, crouched down so the young woman could climb on his back and once she was clinging to his neck he carefully felt his way through the stones and rushing water. Once he was on the other side he bent down, the young woman slid off, bowed and thanked him, and the three went their separate ways.

The two monks had walked for several miles further when suddenly the younger monk said angrily, "I can't believe you carried that woman across that water! You know we are strictly forbidden to touch women!" 

The elderly monk replied, "I put her down as soon as we crossed the water. I can't believe that two hours later you are still carrying her."  

Now, what brought this story to mind? There is someone who was a good friend for over ten years. Several years ago a third person told my friend that I'd said something very unkind about him. It was completely untrue - and yet when I told him that he chose to believe the other person, and even after several years he won't let it go. He still manages to slip sarcastic little jabs into the conversation about it every chance he gets, and he did it again today. 

So how do you handle this ongoing resentment from someone who was a trusted friend for years?  He won't talk about it with me so that we can resolve the problem, instead the passive aggressive sniping just goes on and on.  I know he's miserable but there's nothing I can do to help him. This last six or eight months I've just chosen to ignore his remarks, but that hasn't helped either. From my many years of friendship with him I know he is still bitter about perceived slights which occurred in his childhood, and this is a man in his 50s. He is hypersensitive and hypercritical, which isn't a good combination for a happy life. 

Of course we all wrestle with doing what we wish we hadn't done, once we think about it for half an hour or more. Funny how hindsight is a great importer of wisdom. And we all see what we dismiss as "quirks" in ourselves as character flaws in others. If we are constantly at odds with our fellow man the best antidote is to take responsibility for our own inner peace.  

While this doesn't apply to war zones and those living in extreme stress for most of us there are two opponents to inner peace;

1) Angry temper; my judgement that you have done something wrong, which makes me angry at you, and may lead me to strike out at you. 

2) Fearful temper; my judgement that I have done something wrong, which makes me feel fearful, guilty, embarrassed, resentful, i.e. angry with myself. I may try to hide my mistake, or blame it on someone else, because I can't bear the idea of being seen as wrong or guilty. 

The peace you gain by controlling your temper cannot be taken from you, it is within you. The best part of all this is that, those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Smokey gets a gold star but would rather have tuna!

Adorable and gorgeous george Mr. Smokey, laid-back lover of everyone who walks through the door, tipped the scales at 9.5 kilos (21 pounds) when we took the two fur babies to the vet for their annual vaccinations  at the end of March. His doom-de-doom doom was sealed. The vet put him on a diet.

Today was weigh in day, a week early, but the vet's office was anxious to see if he was sticking to his diet (more than likely more worried that I was sticking to plan than him).

This time he was the trip's screamer, but then Ian put him in the very back of the hatch, where he couldn't see his Mama. We pulled over half-way there and Ian moved the crate up so I could reach in and touch him, and he could see he wasn't being shanghied to serve in a pirate's crew and he settled down to a snarky sort of grumble.

I wasn't sure if he'd lost any weight or not, so I was very pleasantly surprised when the technician put him on the baby scale and announced he'd lost almost a full pound and was right on track. This is the equivalent of a 90 kilo (200 lb) man losing 4.8 kilos or 9 pounds. Well done Smokey!  

Hobbes, our Red Devil in a cat suit had his pink nose right out of joint yesterday after his Papa scolded him for climbing into the refrigerator. 

He is indomitable, until he isn't. His feelings get hurt, and then he slinks around like you've beaten him with a horsewhip.

We had visitors come for dinner last night. He usually loves people but last night he alternated between cowering behind the furniture, creeping out to sniff our guests and freaking out when they noticed him, or spoke to him. 

Silly boo. A good night's sleep and he was fine, but his widdle feelings were awful bad hurt when his Papa said kitties can't play in the fridge. He figures if it's here it belongs to him! 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Springtime and KIVA

It's that time of the month again, when you get that e-mail telling you how much you have accumulated in repayments on your KIVA loans. The figure varies from month to month, some months it may only be $10.00 or $12.00. This month it was $73.00 USD! So I went on a spree and made three new loans, which meant I loaned out $75.00 USD plus the $3.25 per loan donation to cover KIVA's office costs.

But I keep thinking what a world of good $25.00 can do. Here it buys a burger combo for each of us which we most certainly do not need. In Central or South America, Africa or Palestine, India or Indonesia it can mean the difference between a year of hunger or full tummies, blindness or sight, education for your children, a roof over your head or sleeping rough.

It's so very hard to choose. I wish I had a thousand dollars to loan. Right now there's a woman and a man who both need eye surgery to save the sight in their one remaining eye. There are families who need loans which they will use to provide clean water for their families, women trying to build simple homes to shelter their children, or who need to repair their tricycle delivery bikes. All we can do is help one or two a month, but for those we can help, our $25.00 is one cord in the lifeline they need. Now, let me introduce you to those we made loans to this month.

Our first loan goes to this Mexican lady. For obvious reasons her name and identity are not revealed but we'll call her Lupita. Lupita wears dentures, and recently they broke, leaving her without the ability to properly chew her food, affecting her speech and her appearance. Lupita is currently working, but she is the sole support for her household and money is very tight. It is impossible for her to get new dentures because she does not have the money to pay for them, which led her to the KIVA field partner Alvio to apply for a medical loan.

These loans allow KIVA borrowers to pay for medical treatment. Low-income families are often forced to sell family assets or resort to borrowing from loan sharks in order to pay for unexpected medical bills. By providing these families with accessible financing, Alivio enables patients to, over time, pay their hospital bills and doctor’s fees, as well as to buy any medical equipment needed for their recovery.

Our second loan goes to Marita, a married Bolivian woman with two daughters who are still living at home. She makes a living selling groceries and takes advantage of the fact that her husband is a chauffeur. When he travels she takes merchandise to trade with other businesses. Her husband does not earn a lot of money because he is only paid for each completed drive and sometimes he only gets two or three requests a month.

So she decided to help with the household costs by selling groceries and eventually added clothing to her inventory. But her business is not very big because she doesn't have much capital to buy stock to sell.

Recently, she was diagnosed with uterine tumors and she needs surgery. This is why she is asking for a loan-so she can cover her surgery costs and purchase the medicine she needs after the operation. One of her daughters is ill with asthma, a condition she has suffered with since she was a small child. The family's current monthly income cannot cover both medical expenses of mother and daughter.

Marita applied for a loan through KIVA's field partner in Bolivia CIDRE. CIDRE is a Bolivian microfinance institution with a strong social commitment to the community. It works to provide quality financial services to rural and suburban borrowers, focusing primarily on agricultural loans for dairy farmers and micro-enterprises.

CIDRE targets segments of the population that have not traditionally had access to credit, and invests in much-needed community development projects. CIDRE medical loans enables Kiva borrowers to pay for medical treatment. These borrowers face higher barriers to obtain loans due to their health conditions. To protect their privacy, the faces of borrowers from CIDRE may be obscured in photos. By funding CIDRE medical loans, you are helping provide critical medical needs.

And our third and final loan goes to Jose, a 35-year-old man who lives in Sacaba, Bolivia. He and his partner have a son of eight years and a daughter who is 10. Jose works at a salaried job in a ceramics factory, in the quality control department, work that he does on a consistent schedule from Monday to Friday. 

He is a good father, understanding, with a good attitude. He is patient, responsible and hard-working. His work is located in the rural village of Sacaba, known for its cuisine based in guinea pigs and famous for its many factories that make corn chicha (which is a product of fermented corn). The village is known jokingly as "Sacaba - where the chicha never runs out". It has a temperate climate with a temperature that varies during the day between 19-25 degrees centigrade. 

Jose has dark skin, dark eyes, wears glasses, has short, straight, black hair, is short, has a medium physique. His native language is Quechua which he speaks at home though he speaks Spanish at work. His partner works selling vegetables and his children are students. They live in their own house made of brick and cement with a roof of metal sheeting. The house has electricity, but to get water, they have to walk about 10 minutes to the river to collect water in buckets and put it in barrels for different uses. 

"In the three years since I built my house, we have not had clean water because the town's water service is new in the zone..." he says. The advantage of his work is that it leaves the weekends free to be with his family and the disadvantage is that the days are long. His dream is to have potable water in his house. He wants to install potable water in his kitchen, bathroom, and laundry area so that his family doesn't use the dirty water from the river. 

KIVA's field partner Emprender has been working in Bolivia since 1999. It is dedicated to becoming a key tool in the development of its clients and the improvement of their quality of life. Operating in three of Bolivia’s major cities – La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz – Emprender offers both urban and rural clients the opportunity to obtain financial products tailored to fit their needs and businesses. These products include housing loans, salary loans, “opportunity” (short-term) loans, and higher education loans. To better the quality of life for its clients and non-clients through non-financial services, Emprender offers free medical consultations and health classes given by trained doctors.

This loan will help fund a new product Emprender has launched to provide clean drinking water and sanitary facilities to Bolivian families. Emprender is partnering with Fundación SODIS, an NGO specializing in water and sanitation access, to make this possible. SODIS identifies households that need water tanks, running water toilets, ecological toilets, water filters and water connections in underserved areas, and supervises their installation. Emprender works with SODIS to help finance these the infrastructure improvements.
This is the first loan cycle with Emprender in the three years since Jose has started on the construction of his house. With this opportunity, Jose has asked for a loan to connect to the town's water system and install pipes to provide clean water in his kitchen, bathroom, and laundry area so that his family can stop using the dirty water from the river. 

Thank goodness we can share, for so many years we were unable to, as we didn't have the financial means to do so, and there was no Internet, and no KIVA to make it possible to share like this on a direct scale. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Ready, set, sew!

Or, think about sewing anyway. I did get to the store to buy the necessaries so I can begin. I needed a package of needles, some sharp scissors, a small ironing board I can just pop on the table to press seams, that sort of stuff. 

I dug around in the closet before I went shopping because I knew I had a box of fabric left from the days when I wielded a needle. And I found a partially-finished quilt top, just wall hanging size, but a project I'd dearly love to finish. 

There's a story behind it that's put me off finishing it for 22 years. Being a gardener I designed a wall hanging sized quilt I called "White garden by Moonlight". All the materials for the background squares are dark florals or leaves, and onto them I bonded flowers cut from silk, which I drew out on silk of white and various pastel colours which could be built up to create shading and layers of colour. I planned to embroider details on and over these flowers once the top was finished, adding stamens, and in some cases stems and leaves. One square holds the moon and a cloud, another a spider's web in silver thread touched by a fairy, whose wings will be added by embroidery.  I think the web needs repairing, don't you? 

The corner squares, yet to be added, are navy blue filled with tiny stars. And the borders between are a dark floral. I'll quilt the top, batting and backing together by hand, using an 10" embroidery hoop which I hold in my lap. Tonight I tossed the top over the back of Tony's recliner to take a picture, so it's rather lumpy and floppy, but you get the gist. The squares may not look square, but they are.   

I took the top with me when I flew to visit my family in 1993. I also stayed with a quilting friend  pen pal for a couple of days. We'd never actually met, but over the previous five years we'd exchanged hundreds of letters and spent hours on the phone (this was before the net). She was picking me up from the airport. I was staying two days with her, then my sister's family was driving the 200 miles to pick me up and take me the rest of the way to their home. 

The visit started wonderfully. We talked a mile a minute. I couldn't believe this woman had a 12 x 14 foot room with floor to ceiling shelves filled with quilting fabric, an eight foot long cutting table, two sewing machines and a quilting machine, and boxes of fabric under the table. She was quilt obsessed and turned out two or three quilts a week. She showed me the dazzling array of colours and patterns of the quilts she'd made in the past few months, and I felt quite bowled over. I couldn't make one of those in a year, let alone three in a week!

Soon she demanded to  see what I was working on. I was reluctant to show her, and had just started to explain what my idea was when she began to laugh. "This is all wrong," she laughed, and she pulled it out of my hands. "This is not a proper quilt! And it's not even square!" 

She zipped her roller cutter across and removed the bottom inch and a half  from the quilt, cutting right through the stems and leaves of the bottom rows of irises. 

"There!" She said, wadding the quilt top up and tossing it at me, "at least it's square now …" I was stunned. I'd spent weeks on that quilt, and she'd just ruined it in a five second zip of her cutter.  She said nothing but she must have seen the look on my face. She wheeled around and left the room, leaving me standing there on the verge of tears. 

The rest of our visit was strained and uncomfortable. We continued to keep in touch afterwards, but the friendship was never quite the same.  She's been gone for 10 years now. Sad really. I learned over the 15 years that I knew her that she was a bully with everyone, which eventually soured many of her friendships, her marriage and her relationship with her children as well. 

But I looked at that quilt top yesterday and thought, "I'm going to finish this. I'll find a way to compensate for the hacked off bottom. Why should I let a bad experience over 20 years in the past ruin the pleasure of finishing and enjoying that little quilt? It's time to set that memory free." 

So anyway, while I was needle shopping, because I really needed a new pair of pants that fit I also took a quick run through the pants dept, and found a rack of petite slacks in a nice soft fabric that doesn't look like it will be a cat hair magnet. Since I've lost weight I thought I'd try the 12 and I could turn around in them, so went and got a 10! Even they are a bit loose, but they didn't have an 8, so I'm happy to buy the 10. Ladies, that is down from a 14 to a 10! Happy dance anyone????    

Now I'm set to start sewing. Have to decide what to make first. 

Friday, April 03, 2015

Today I feel … rather well….

Gravity? No inconvenience at all!
Having just heard John Lithgow read the poem below to Bill Moyers I would love to link to the video but alas am prevented by Blogger's (aka Google) policy of not allowing you to embed any videos other than those on YouTube (also owned by Google). Profit is king apparently. I am deeply shocked, as I know you are. 

However I can share the poem itself which you must read aloud to yourself, and if your funny bone is not immediately thoroughly tickled dear reader then said funny bone is moribund  and needs to be taken to the doctor immediately for a medical tickling. How this tickle is achieved (whether by pharmacologic, surgical, or psychiatric means) I am not clear, but yours needs help. Obviously the accompanying picture has nothing at all to do with the post, but is of Hobbes and his Mama, clearly in a sort of euphoric cuddle.  He is a gravity-defying sort of cat. 

No Doctors Today, Thank You
~Ogden Nash
They tell me that euphoria is the feeling of feeling wonderful, well, today 
I feel euphorian,
Today I have the agility of a Greek god and the appetite of a Victorian.
Yes, today I may even go forth without my galoshes,
Today I am a swashbuckler, would anybody like me to buckle any swashes?
This is my euphorian day,
I will ring welkins* and before anybody answers 
I will run away.
I will tame me a caribou
And bedeck it with marabou.
I will pen me my memoirs.
Ah youth, youth! What euphorian days them was!
I wasn't much of a hand for the boudoirs,
I was generally to be found where the food was.
Does anybody want any flotsam?
I've gotsam.
Does anybody want any jetsam?
I can getsam.
I can play chopsticks on the Wurlitzer,
I can speak Portuguese like a Berlitzer.
I can don or doff my shoes without tying or untying the laces because 
I am wearing moccasins,
And I practically know the difference between serums and antitoccasins.
Kind people, don't think me purse-proud, don't set me down as vainglorious,
I'm just a little euphorious. 

*the heavens 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Forget the present

We had another sunny, beautiful day, but the wind was so strong the weather-man on our local TV news was advising that people stay indoors because of the risk of being hit by flying debris. There were pictures of 18-wheelers blown off the highway just north of town. 

And as typical when we have a strong Chinook I hardly left my chair all day. It was hard to move and my joints were unstable. Who would think that an ion so small that you can't even see it can inflict so much aggravation? The phone rang about 3:30. It took me so long to stand up and walk the 15 feet to it that whoever it was had hung up by the time I got there. 

I'm a bit cognitively zonked on days like this as well, but apparently not as badly as the weatherman who does the report on my Mac's dashboard weather app. It's now 2:00 am Wednesday, and the weather app is reporting that it's Tuesday, 19 degrees C (66.2 F) and snowing. Okay, maybe that's an April Fool's joke. 

On quite another subject, I've been trying, without success, to buy new clothes for months. I've lost 20 pounds and I look like I'm wearing my big sister's hand-me-downs and everything I own is worn out. I hate shopping for new clothes. I can never find anything that fits and the styles that are popular now do not suit women of a certain age (i.e. mine).  Skinny "boyfriend" jeans are not comfortable. I bought a pair, out of desperation. They fit in the store. I washed them, they didn't fit. I lost 10 more pounds and now they are too big. I only bought them because they were the only pants in the store that weren't low-riders. The T-shirt necklines are all half-way to my belly-button.  

I like soft clothes, no binding and no scratchy stuff. I want comfort, and a little class. And I hate going somewhere and seeing the exact same top I'm wearing on seven other women. So I've decided I'm going to make some clothes. I used to make most of my own clothes. I don't have a sewing machine any more, which is fine, because I prefer to sew by hand. I have to buy two things first, a new pair of scissors, and an ironing board. Maybe some tailors chalk and pins. And fabric. Won't get far without fabric. 

Things you make yourself last longer - I'm still wearing a Japanese hippari jacket I made in 1979, and a wrap I made in 1984. I never wear the wrap without getting a complement on it. I have a wardrobe in mind. I need to make up a few drawings and an acceptable colour/patterns range. That will depend somewhat on what's in the store when I get there. 

Sewing might be a challenge with the red devil cat around. I'll have to lock him up when I'm cutting a garment out. The rustle of a pattern would be too much temptation for him to resist.  But I'm getting a bit excited about it. I've never been a great seamstress, I am a better quilter than dressmaker, but I think I'll enjoy this. 

The wind has dropped, the pain meds have hit. I think I can slide into bed and have a snooze now.