Tuesday, September 10, 2019

On a bit of a Sara Kick

But then who wouldn't be after this? 

Sara Bareilles singing "She Used To Be Mine"

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Say What You Want to Say

I want to see you be brave...

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Venturing Forth for the Very 1st Time

We were in dire need of fresh fruit and veggies, cream for our morning coffee and that food from whence the gods doth flow - yes, I speak of Ben and Jerry’s ‘Cherry Garcia’ ice cream. I went grocery shopping this afternoon. 

Turner Valley has a ‘convenience’ store, but no grocery store so I ventured to Black Diamond, a tiresome 3 kms (1.8 miles) distant. This is about half as far as to my neighbourhood Walmart in Calgary, and at least ten times more pleasant. The two-lane highway between the two communities meanders between forest and bluff on the one side and the sparkling Sheep River on the other. Traffic is light and except for a short stretch of maybe 1/2 km the speed limit is 50 kmh (35 mph). 

As you approach Black Diamond there’s a horse barn and a very large house that looks like a horse barn with big windows and a front porch. Horses graze around both. 

The grocery store itself is wonderful, on several counts. First, there are ‘farmer’s market style’ counters of fresh fruits and veggies displayed outside the entrance, fresh fragrant peaches, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, melons, rainbow chard, green beans, fresh corn, beets, and too many others to list. Second, the store is small, so I don’t have to wear myself out traipsing around a football-field-sized store - yet they have a larger variety of products than the Walmart! Third, they have an in-house bakery! It smelled divine when I walked through the door. 

There were lots of women my age, which I consider a big plus. I saw a woman of my age wearing a great Tee which said, “Oh shit. Did I just roll my eyes out loud?”  I laughed my way around the store. I need one of those.  

When it came time to check out there was no lineup. In all from leaving our driveway to returning home, my grocery shopping took an hour. I’m going to love living here. 

Monday, August 05, 2019

He Screamed for Four Days

The screaming started when Ian put our striped red devil, aka Hobbes or Beelzehobbes, in his crate for the drive to our new home some 40 miles (63 km) distant. Smokey was his usual chill self, as long as he could see me he was okay, though he meowed a few times and panted now and again. Hobbes never shut up. The caterwauling, no pun intended, went on mile after ear-splitting mile. 

Tony tried to comfort him, but he would not be comforted. In his entire life, he’s been in the car to come home from the cattery and to go to the vet’s for an annual visit where the unspeakable handling by a stranger happens, also needles and a thermometer up the bum. You wouldn’t like it either. He’s always a bit huffy afterward. 

After an hour and 15 minutes, we finally pulled into the driveway of the house. First things first. We took the cats to the room which will ultimately become my studio, put out the litter box, food and water and opened the crate doors. Smokey came out immediately and began an investigation of the room. Hobbes retreated to the back of the crate and kept screaming. We closed the door to the room and went to help unload the things we’d brought, like our beds, dresser, chairs, the basic necessities of living day-to-day. 

Through it all the piercing screams continued. Checking, Hobbes was still cringing in his crate, sounding like some demented car alarm that would not shut off. Ian loosened the top of the crate and took it off. Hobbes looked around and seeing a corner behind the litter box, made for it, where he hid. And screamed. 

He didn’t want to be touched, or held, or talked to. He was completely terrified, poor baby. While he’s spunky and full of mischief when he feels safe he’s basically a timid cat who is easily frightened. Even normally, an unexpected noise will send him rocketing to hide under the bed. 

We moved on the afternoon of Wednesday the 31st. When he was still screaming and had not yet left the room where he was first placed by Saturday night, I made a decision. I take a mild muscle relaxant/tranquilizer when my back muscles throw a tantrum and won’t relax enough to let me lie down and sleep. I know that it’s safe for cats because one of our old cats took it for years. So I broke one of my 5 mg tablets in four quarters, crushed one of the quarters and added it to his evening meal of Fancy Feast. 

A Relaxed Beelzehobbes
He gobbled it up and 45 minutes later he strolled into the hall and began an inspection tour of his new home. He hasn’t screamed since. I feel terrible for letting him suffer such anxiety for so long. But he isn’t holding it against me. Our bedroom is large enough to place our twin XL beds next to each other, making a king-size bed. Lots of room in the bed to share with two very happy cats. 

Right now our decor is Early 21st Century cardboard box. We still have to shop for furniture. But all in good time. The place is lovely. Ian has repainted my studio and the kitchen cupboards and new hardware for the cupboards is on the way. One wall in our bedroom needs painting, the living room needs drapes, and there’s wallpaper to hang… so much to do. 

First on the to-do list is to recover from the move. I am well and truly knackered. Until then I’m enjoying the wind ruffling the leaves in the silver birch just outside the front window, the breeze coming in the windows, and the sun in the back garden.  Oh, and no more screaming cat. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Things are About to Change

They always are. 

In our case this change is a big one. We’re selling our small city condo and moving to a family-sized house in a small town an hour’s drive southeast of the city. 

There are boxes everywhere, a (very) few packed, but most still folded and leaned against the walls. Our possession date is the 26th of July which means packing and moving coincides with a bunch of medical and dental appointments. Since Tony can’t go out in the winter all of his appointments were scheduled for June, July and August, before the decision was made to buy now, while rates are low and the market has picked up in Calgary. 

Granted we didn’t anticipate that Tony’s eye exam would reveal that he has glaucoma and cataracts which required an Ophthalmologist’s referral and followup, and which will require surgery. His Audiologist’s appointment showed that he needs hearing aids, which we have put off until after the move because they will require repeated visits for fitting and adjustments. 

Where do I reach this company?
All this means I’m not getting in my obligatory rest days between going out and I’m knackered, so I’m mostly looking at boxes and thinking about packing, rather than packing. It’s the pits, but there you are. 

It doesn’t help that my dental checkup revealed that an old root canal has gone south and I have a roaring infection in my jaw, which may account for the way I’ve been feeling this last while (like an old dishrag hung on a barbed wire fence). There’s no pain but the infection has to be treated and then the tooth has to come out. There are no breaks to be caught here. 

However there’s much to be excited about in the new house. It’s your standard issue mid-century modern on the exterior, but it has been renovated beautifully inside, so that the living and dining rooms are one large open space, with maple hardwood floors laid on the bias, a free-standing rock fireplace, big windows, a large kitchen which we can adapt to my need to sit to prepare meals, three bedrooms and a bath on the main floor. The finished basement has another bedroom and bath, a utility room and laundry, a storage room and a large rec room.  

There’s also a huge fenced back garden where I can once again grow things, and a new deck right off the kitchen. We’ll be able to put up bird feeders and bird houses, grow the kinds of plants which attract butterflies and native bees, do all the things we weren’t allowed to do here.  

I’ll have a place to paint without the help of my two furry “apprentices” who spread paint on everything, knock over the water and grab the end of my brush. Former cat members of the family were never interested in art, but these two must be reincarnations of Cézanne and Matisse, because they are convinced they can improve on my every canvas. That may well be true, but I am like the proverbial two-year-old who wants to do everything herself, including mess up perfectly good canvases. 

And thank goodness, we will escape the marijuana bonfire that burns here night and day. It’s always been something of a problem but since marijuana was legalized last October it’s become intolerable. I have no objections to marijuana, but I am allergic to the smoke, and live with a perpetual migraine. 

The new house is on a large corner lot, the next door neighbour is some distance away, as both driveways and garages are between the houses. None of their windows face us, their door is opposite and there is a tall solid fence between. They would have to stand on a ladder and puff over the fence for us to smell weed from them. If they do that I’ll turn the hose on them. I’ve inhaled enough marijuana to last a lifetime. 

But for all my looking forward to living in the new house I cannot work up the bottle to pack or clean this little “lodge in a warren” as the Bard would have described it. What’s more I’m too tired to even worry about it. 


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Ordeal or Adventure?

I went to my neighbourhood Walmart yesterday. You know the one, I’ve written about it before. It’s small, it’s crowded, the aisles are so narrow two carts can barely pass. It’s a place that would curdle the cream in the coffee of the White supremacist. Maybe one face in eight is your identifiably “White” European. The majority of shoppers are Arab, East Indian, Latino, Asian or African, and many wear clothing which reflects their culture. 

People, complete strangers, stop and talk to each other in the aisles. The last time I went I fell into a 20 minute conversation in the cat food aisle with a man who cares for the feral cat population in his neighbourhood. He feeds them, provides clean, fresh water and warm housing, and keeps an eye on them. And one-by-one he has trapped them, and with a local cat rescue society, has had them neutered or spayed, vaccinated, treated for any medical problems, microchipped, accessed for suitability for adoption, and if they are too wild, they are returned to their feral colony. Bless him, he moves the old and infirm inside, where they aren’t exposed to our brutal winters. 

He told me of one 11-year-old he’s cared for since he was a kitten. He now suffers from kidney failure, has been moved inside and lives on their dining room table. “We never eat on it anyway,” he said. “I just did paperwork on it, and he feels safest there.” He was buying the same food we bought for Patches when his kidneys were failing. So this lovely man was buying the most expensive cat food for an old feral cat who won’t even tolerate being touched.      

In the dairy aisle someone might hold up a packet of paneer and ask a woman wearing a sari, “What’s this? How do you use it?”, and learn how to make spinach paneer.  Or the reverse, new immigrants are helped to find familiar products in unfamiliar packaging. The beauty of newborns of all colours and ethnicities are admired. The world comes to “my” Walmart and I love the place.  

So yesterday while I was buying cat food for my mob of two I had an unusual experience. A youngish woman, mid-late 30s, joined me in the aisle. I will call her Jix. I was straining to reach the flavour of food Smokey has decided he likes best. It was on the top shelf, which is just above my reach. Jix saw me struggling to reach the cans and asked how many I wanted. I told her I needed ten, which she pulled off the shelf and dropped into my cart. I thanked her, and joked that no matter what flavour I needed it always seemed to be on the top shelf. 

At this Jix went into a tirade about how much she hated this Walmart, saying it was an evil, foul, stinking hell-hole and she could barely bring herself to set foot in the door. And she had to take two buses to get here! And the people! They were horrible! Rude and nasty, she’d had so many terrible experiences with the awful people in this store you’d have to listen half a day to hear about them all. “I hate people!” she said, “After I leave this store I just want to go home, lock my door, draw the curtains and go to bed, I HATE people!” 

At this point a young woman clerk arrived with two very large boxes of cat litter in a cart. These were larger than any on the shelves, so presumably had been ordered on-line and held for her pickup.  The clerk smiled and called Jix by (her real) name and asked if she would need help putting them into her car. Jix replied angrily she was going home by cab, which was going to cost her $15 and the &%$ driver could ^%$#*&^ well put them into the cab. 

I asked, rather tentatively, which direction was “home” for her? I told her I had just started my shopping but I didn’t have a long list, and I’d be happy to take her home on my way. There are benches in the mezzanine outside the store, where she could have waited comfortably. 

“I don’t have the patience for that!” she replied. “I don’t want to be in this dump a minute longer than I have to be.” 

So I went on my way, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Stopped in the Micky D’s for a snack when my legs started shaking, took my meds and struck up a conversation with a group of three ladies about my age at the next table who were having an “organ recital” - you know, talking about their health problems among other things. I’d popped a wrist bone out of place during the night and was wearing a wrist brace, so questions were asked. 

When it came time to check out in the line next to me was a young mother with boys of seven, five and a newborn. I am a sucker for wee babies, so I had to have a good look at this lovely new human, who was being held by his grandmother. Although Mama was dressed like a modern Canadian business woman, Grandmama was wearing the black burka of her homeland. She spoke excellent English, so we were able to talk about the beauty of the new baby and the exhaustion that caring for a newborn brings. I wished them health and joy with their lovely family and pushed on with my cart. When I glanced back over my shoulder to give Grandmama a wave I was surprised to see she was wiping away tears. 

“My” Walmart, evil, foul, hell-hole? I think not.  And the people there? Horrible, rude, nasty? Not from my perspective.  But then I think of a quote I read, don’t know who it came from but it fits: 

 ATTITUDE: The difference between ordeal and adventure.


Friday, June 14, 2019

KIVA Loan 106

Though I haven’t posted about it in a good while, our KIVA loans continue.  While there is much in the world we can do nothing about, and many places where our “mite” would be meaningless, or sucked off into the pockets of dictators or greedy officials, at KIVA we know and choose the people we loan our money to, and each month we see their repayments. 

This month our loan goes to Jane, a married woman who lives in the Eldoret, Rift Valley, Kenya. She has three happy children. She describes herself as honest. 

Jane applied for a 40,000 KES ($400 US) loan through KIVA’s Kenyan partner, the SMEP Microfinance Bank. KIVA lenders, like ourselves, underwrite the loan with amounts of $25.00 US or more, plus a fee of $3.85 to support the cost of administering the loan, until the loan is guaranteed. Over time Jane will pay the loan back with interest, which covers SMEP Microfinance Bank’s costs of administering the loan. 

Microfinance Banks all over the world, including the USA, loan small amounts to those who live in poverty and cannot qualify for credit at major banks and lending institutions.  

Jane operates a small grocery where she sells fruits and vegetables. She has run this business for over six years. It’s located in a good area, and her primary customers are locals from Eldoret. 

She describes her biggest business challenge as inadequate working capital. She will use the 40,000 KES ($400 US) loan to buy more fruits and vegetables and pay her children’s school fees. It is very important to her that her children receive good educations. 

This is her second loan with SMEP Microfinance Bank. She managed to repay her previous loan successfully. She will use the anticipated profits from this loan to expand her business.

We enjoy working with KIVA, and encourage everyone to give it a try. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Words for Wednesday

There's a challenge called "Words for Wednesday" and obviously, since this is Friday I'm a couple of days late, but I'm a little slow on the uptake. Actually what I'm a little slow on is how to link into the host's page. I've looked at it for two days without finding a way to link from her site to my blog. So what I'm going to do is put a link to the website where I found the challenge, a wonderful blog I follow, the blog of a fellow Canuck called: The Other Side of Sixty 

The idea is that the host gives a list a words which you then must incorporate into a story. This week's word list is below, followed by my story.

ad hoc*

Preston slouched up the wet stairs of the community hall, holding Sadie’s hot casserole by the handles of its quilted carrier. Knocking against his bony knees. Opened the door, conscious of the torrent of heat and noise, a pulsating beat, voices and laughter that surged out into the night. Stood gawping at the crowd, no good in gatherings.

Sadie wrenched the casserole from his grasp. Snarled something. Brushed past him and into the hall. She hailed a neighbour, shed her bright scarf, slid her wet coat off. A shake of the coat and it and the scarf were thrust on a hanger and shoved between others on the crowded rack. 

“You part of night's entertainment, boy?” A laughing voice behind him on the stairs. He swivelled to see Uncle Billy and Aunt Ginger Swart at the foot of the stairs, and behind them others coming up the path. 

“Sorry!” he said, and because there was no going back now, he went forward through the open door. The din was even worse inside. On the stage at the one end of the hall a band played. Overweight men in pompadour haircuts wearing red satin trousers and shirts and sports coats covered in red sequins. They looked like an ad hoc meeting of  demons and indeed the sign propped on an easel to the side of the stage said “Satan’s Saturday Night Boys”. Their instruments were a drum set, an electric guitar, a steel guitar, and a trumpet. But the decibel level was so crushingly loud they could have been bashing 2x4s and paint cans together and no one would have been the wiser.  

Preston looked around for a familiar face, but saw none, until at the farthest end he spied a bench against the wall, and on it, a couple of the old fellas who came into the store from time to time. Neither of them kept any stock beyond a few chickens. But every two or three months they’d come into the store and buy a bag of cracked grain and a bag of grit for their laying hens. Each brought a dozen eggs, one of the same buff colour as the rose that twined around Preston's grandmother's door when he was a boy. The other brought Auracana eggs, naturally coloured aqua, robin's egg blue, jade, pale lilac, speckled brown, as festive as an Easter basket. He kept the Auracana eggs in his office refrigerator as long as he dared, his secret pleasure, cradled their smooth pigmented surfaces in his palm. 

Preston welcomed the old men's visits. Unlike the farmers who ordered 100 bags of grain by phone, came to town and left their trucks to be loaded while they went off to do other business, these 80 and 85-year-olds always had time to sit down, talk about the old days, and spin a yarn or two. For Preston yearned for the old days, when life was as simple as an aqua egg one could hold in one's palm. He’d disappear into his cluttered office to brew up a fresh pot of coffee and cut a slice of Sadie’s cake or pie to share, and stretch their visits to last as long as possible. 

He made his way through the crowd toward the end of the room with the bench. Stopped at the tables where the food was laid out, picked out a tray, got three coffees and three slices of pecan pie, napkins and cutlery.  Ignored Sadie's piercing look from where she was spooning out her casserole, lips pressed together, brows bunched together in the middle like a navel. Worked his way through the crowd until he reached the bench. The two old men scooted apart so he could sit between them. He handed the coffee and pie around.

“So,” he shouted above the pandemonium of Satan’s Saturday Night Boy’s, “How're you fellas tonight? Hens okay? Wife made an awful good Angel Food cake with eggs you fellas brought. Takes 13 eggs to make that cake, it's on the table there, white frosting, pink flowers. You otta get a slice of it before it's gone.”  Three heads close together... 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

When Death Comes

Mary Oliver

September 10, 1935 - January 17, 2019

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver ~

Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose work focused on spirituality, nature and New England, died Thursday in Florida. She was 83.
Oliver was born in Ohio in 1935. She published her first collection, "No Voyage and Other Poems," in 1963. Over 20 volumes of poetry would follow, including "American Primitive," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and "New and Selected Poems," which garnered the National Book Award in 1992.
Many of Oliver's poems are set in New England, where she spent much of her adult life. She moved to Florida in 2005 after the death of her partner, Molly Malone Cook.
In addition to nature, her poetry was infused with spirituality. In a 2012 interview with NPR, she said, "I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and ... almost involuntary in my life. And when I talk about prayer, I mean really ... what Rumi says in that wonderful line, 'there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.' I'm not theological, specifically, I might pick a flower for Shiva as well as say the hundredth [psalm]."