Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In the grey of a February day.....

 I may have hit my seasonal nadir. Hmmmm Feb. 23, 2021, a day after thinking day. Twenty years and a day, after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. How does one measure time? Certainly the highs and lows of the human experience come to mind. Do you..

1. Measure time, as a distance from birth - obviously your own, your siblings? your children? your parents, a favourite author, celebrity, friend?

2. Measure time, as relative to significant events - world wars, moon landings, pandemics, inventions and interventions.

3. Measure time, as data projections - the average life span for a woman is 82 years. My mother died at 83. My father died at 104 - defying all odds, but that in itself defined him.

4. Measure time as the objectives you have set for yourself and accomplished, or nor, as the case may be. I have set many goals for myself - travel, family, vocation, self-employment, creative pursuits. I'm probably 85%  realized in this measure. Does one every reach 100%? It may be a reason to keep moving forward.

5. Measure time as your contribution to the human condition. How many lives have you saved, enriched, fostered?

6. Measure time as your contribution to nature. How many endangered species have you preserved; how much have you reduced, recycled, reused, repurposed......this in itself is a life's work.

7. Measure time as the constant change of the seasons, the neighbourhood, the government....this is something that is on-going - change is the only constant. How do we become a meaningful part of the "constant?"

8. Measure time as diary or log entries. Do you record what is meaningful or not in the day-to day rhythms of life?

9. Measure your life in daily challenges. I try to do as many as I can...or remember to do. However, over the past week or so, I have undertaken the painting of my daughter's room. She has flown the coop and I have been left with the "poop" - so to speak. To save some money and to rise to a challenge, I have patched, sanded, primed and am about to paint ceilings, walls and woodwork of an average sized bedroom. This is a therapy I would never have imagined I needed. Say naught that the challenge not availeth!!

In the grey of a February day, there is something about the white of a primer that clears the mind, covers the scars and leads the way to a new and peaceful place to be.

Oh and did I mention, I have new windows.....there is something about windows that lets in, not only the light, but the life on even the greyest of February days!!

Monday, February 01, 2021

Up for the Challenge?

 I spend a good deal of time reading articles on self improvement. I'm sure I read them years ago, as well. Then it would have been to get a better job, perhaps, or to dress a little trendier, look a little smarter, keep a cleaner house, raise healthier children....the list goes on.

Now, I read posts to just keep me going, recharge what faculties I have left and maybe make a few more, if I try a lot harder. This is how I came to read a post that summarized a book on productive ageing. Mercifully the post condensed a lot of scientific data into 5 basic principles. You will add years and richness to your life, if you:

Friends from elementary school.

1. Keep up meaningful friendships. I'm a little weak in this area, but I will try to push myself even more to keep a close circle of friends.

2. Exercise. I walk and bike often. But I know I could do both, more often.

3. Sleep. Yes, having a good night's sleep is critical to repairing those bits of the body that may need some mending. I'm pretty close to having a routine to get back to sleep, if I wake up. I rarely have trouble getting to sleep.

Biking over the Golden Gate Bridge

4. Eat more berries. What could be simpler. Buy a box of blueberries and eat a bowl a day. I add them to muffins and pancakes, but I think I should get back to the steel cut oatmeal in the morning covered with berries.

5. Do something everyday that challenges you. I could do more of this and I am working on it. My writing partner and I will get back to giving each other word challenges for blog writing and I am working on some longer writing. I have decided to learn to play the piano properly - if there is an improper way to do anything, believe me, I will find it. 

Says it all !!

I have also been working on challenges with house cleaning and organizing. My garden is a challenge every year. This year I may add winter sowing. I still run a small distribution company, with its daily challenges. When the weather is better, we will look for new bike trails as challenges. However, I don't do these everyday. I need to start a daily challenge.

Here is a synopsis from another post on actually adding to your brain's grey matter, rather than watching it shrink.

1. Fast for 16 hours everyday or one day, once a week. I'm not sure I could do this.

2. Read novels. I do this, but I could read more.

3. Travel. I do, but I could do more (not during the pandemic). I could travel closer to home more often, rather than waiting for the one big trip.

Eros at Piccadilly Circus for anyone who loves to travel

4. Learn a new instrument. I have tried guitar, but I wasn't very good. I do play the piano a little, but this wouldn't be a new instrument. Maybe I'll just have to settle for learning a new or more complicated piece of music, more often.

I do follow a group on FB called "Growing Bolder" as opposed to "growing older." They are enablers. They are the ones who post about the 100 and somethings who run marathons. I should be so lucky - never say never.

I'll posts my challenges.

Collected Wisdom......

 .....or not as the case maybe. Yesterday I spent the day cooking. I actually like cooking. I do it in Winter and garden in Summer. 

I didn't really intend to spend the entire day cooking, but it is better than cleaning and way more satisfying. In fact this cooking marathon actually started on the previous day, when I went grocery shopping for the food, that the stores, who deliver groceries, always screw up. It was there that I saw a pork loin roast for a little over $7.00. Now it had a bone in, but it was a substantial size and I thought - for the price I couldn't go wrong. Well, of course, I have and could go wrong with anything in my hands or my head. Here's what happened:

1. I bought the roast and made roast pork with roast potatoes and French green beans which were on special for $2.50 for a week's worth!!

2. After dinner, half the meat was still on the bone. We had the roast again with gravy and fried potatoes for lunch the next day.

3. I balked at having it again for dinner, so I made chicken pot pie.

4. My husband cut the pork off the bone and I decided to use the bone in a soup stock with dried white beans. However, we still had the rest of the cooked pork to use up. Google gave me more recipes than I could read in one sitting so I chose two that sounded interesting and left the rest for another marathon. I did, however, smile at the pork tagine recipe - whatever were they thinking?

5. The bone yielded masses of meat and the dried beans grew to almost fill the pot. I now have pork and bean soup to last me until the Spring.

6. One of the "use up pork" recipes was easy - a lot like turkey "a la king" only with pork. The other one needed "black eyed peas." I thought, I'll just pick up a can at the grocery store. Not that easy. We are obviously too far north for canned black eyed peas. I was frantic. I checked my phone for substitutes, while a line formed behind me. I was now one of those irritating people who spend too long in one area of the store. I was blocking all purchases of both tinned and dried beans. Wait, what's this? - dried black eyed peas. Extra work, but why not?

7. Hence, I added to my cooking day, the preparation of black eyed peas. Did you know that two cups of dried peas, when soaked overnight, will fill a 2 quart pot to the brim - neither did I? I now have black eyed peas ready for half a dozen "use up left over pork meals." Fortunately you can freeze them.

There, I have now passed on what I have learned from trying to use up leftover pork loin. I'll not go into details about the muffins I made to use up the apple sauce, that was bought for the roast pork...sigh.

Sorry, no pictures. I was too busy cooking.

Have an awesome day!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Something there is that doesn't like a mask.......

 .....personally, I love masks, masques, disguise, pretence, theatre, Commedia Dell'arte. There is a certain intrigue about hiding, being secretive, pretending to be something you are not. Actors do this on a daily bases and call it entertainment. For them, it's a job - a very well paying job.

OK, this pandemic has brought the concept of a mask to an entirely different level. Wear a mask and live, maybe. Don't wear a mask and die, probably.

I think of all the people, who escaped from situations that were intolerable, by donning a disguise, pretending to be someone else, in order to survive. 

I think of people, who for years professed to be what they really weren't - gays, who married heterosexual partners. Men, who were really women and women who were really men. These disguises must have taken their toll on the personalities, closeted within.

Disguises are a means of escape, a means of protection, a means of subterfuge. One may hide behind the cover of a respectable identity, as a way of covering up an aberrant character trait. 

Unfortunately, too many examples come to mind of teachers, clergy, community workers, the list goes on, who have used their professional disguises to create opportunities to exercise these aberrant personality traits.

We are indeed a motley crew, hiding ourselves to gain the respect of others, who are also hiding themselves. Unfortunately, we have seen what giving vent to unmasked feelings can create - mayhem, anarchy, insurrection.

Hmmm, hand me my mask, my visor; give me my coat of many colours; do I have my makeup on? where's my script? do I enter stage left? Let's get this show on the road!!

The pictures? Masked identities?

Have an entertaining day!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Holy Ground

 I copied this from FaceBook and had to share. It speaks to my soul.

Hiking - "I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them."
- John Muir

I have to agree with John Muir, Nature is a sacred place. It's where we go to repair our collective spirits, get back to our roots (no pun intended) and put everything into perspective. I do, however, like the word "hike." It makes me feel, as though I've, at least, got some exercise. 

Just as an aside, "The Holy Ground" title of the post is a nod to another area that has been elevated in song, sea shanties mainly. It refers to the red light districts in port cities that house prostitutes. I don't saunter through these though, just sayin'.

The pictures? Places to saunter. They're not mountains, but they are closer to home. And in the Fall they are red leaf districts. :)

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Of Chickadees and suet balls, I sing.

Finally a bird came to my feeder - a Chickadee. I was overjoyed. This was the feeder closest to the house, with the smallest number of suet balls - three. The other feeder, I had hung in a nearby Apple tree. It held six suet balls and a lot of hope. Well, within a day or two, the squirrels discovered this larger feeder and decimated it. Never underestimate the power of a rodent. They'll rat you out every time.

The further feeder (Can I say that?) now lies helplessly on the ground - gone are its suet balls, dignity and what ever else a bird feeder may need - oh yes, birds. Well, it never had any to begin with, so with its purpose in life negated, it lies hopelessly in the snow, disembowelled of suet, seed and soul.

Back to the drawing board for winter garden entertainment. I've thought of shooting squirrels, but then I would have to buy a BB gun, buy BBs for it and yes, find a place to store it. I would have to hide it from my husband, who would use it to shoot the tires of cars that park in "our" parking spot on the street. God forbid he use it on the guy who comes up our mutual drive (a Toronto "thing") and empties our recycling bin for bottles and cans (a foraging "thing.") I should introduce him to my squirrels.

Well, that's all for today, folks. I have a dozen cellar stairs to scrub and a basement floor to clean, because a can of Dr Pepper (who buys Dr. Pepper these days?) rolled off a shelf and punctured a hole in its side. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Oh, yes, and then there is the book, I'm writing - may as well get it out of the bag, now. I'm at 25,000 words. Just another 50,000 to go. It's a page turner, I'm dying to see how it ends :)

Have a squirrel-less day!

Suet for the suetless...

There are times when a word or phrase hits me with nothing less than "stark reality." It might be the punch of an opening line from a good book or a squirm from the awkwardness of a phrase, that makes me wonder why anyone would string those particular words together and call it a sentence.

Well, it happened again the other day. I was online looking for bird feeders - I had a bathroom to clean and was in avoidance mode. My daughter had given me a wire globe for Christmas that could either be a feeder or a place to put out nesting materials - no string, just fluffy fibre. I decided that nesting season was about two months away and since I needed some lockdown entertainment, I would fill the gift with suet balls.

Off, now, to find a source of suet balls. Fortunately there are many and some come with inexpensive holders as well. It was in this search that I may have met my writing soulmate (or not) as the case may be. Some copywriter, stretched to the limits, writing about the advantages of this bird seed over that and vice versa, made one of those stark statements. Here it is:

If you are looking for a well-sized tub of suet, look no further.

I wondered about the possibility of using it as the opening line of a novel. Would it be set in farm country, sometime in the dirty thirties, where anything resembling food looked good? I can hear the snake oil salesman now extolling the virtues of suet balls, "I say, put the fat back into the land and thrive." Or perhaps the setting would be some urban tangle of alleys and refuse, sheltering souls desperate for a hit of anything. "Psst, wanna buy a suet ball?"

But I digress. I did buy some suet balls and another holder for them - I have two now - and set out to feed the birds, as follows:

Day 1 - no birds

Day 2 - no birds

Day 3 - still no birds

Day 4 - I went online to see where all the birds had gone. Well, I was told that a) there may be better feeding stations elsewhere in the neighbourhood, (hrmph) b) there may be better natural sources of food  (humph, hrmph) or c) there may be a predator in the area - eureka! I did see a hawk a day or so ago.

Day 5 - Sometime about mid-day close to two dozen Juncos invaded our Rudbeckia patch. Juncos are ground feeders, though, and not one of them looked up at the suet balls. 

A week has passed and I have not seen a house sparrow, a chick-a-dee, or any other suet loving bird - sigh! I did see a male and female cardinal briefly, but they are not known for liking suet and didn't even sniff at the feeders.

Well, with no other time wasters to divert me from the tasks at hand, I guess I should either clean the bathroom or write a book with a riveting opening sentence. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 14, 2020

To Whom This May Concern....

 ......I haven't posted in a while, I will post about this later, when it's all over...it's been a trying time. But there has been light in the tunnel, even though we haven't reached the end, as yet.

The other day I received my winter catalogue of gardening must haves from Veseys Seeds in PEI..OK, PE. We really have to pamper Canada Post.

Well, please tell me, who sends you mail with your hardiness zone, as a requisite part of your address. My Vesey catalogue arrived with my customer number, my hardiness zone and finally my name and address.

It spoke volumes - no pun intended. It made me think that we are first - OK, just a number. I think I got over this in first grade - but we are also part of a greater cosmos that is divided into zones - hardiness zones. For the gardener, this means your life will be much easier, if you plant the varieties that will flourish in your zone.

But I have to look beyond the 6A classification and read into it a life statement. We, like plants, are "hardy." We have our zones, which means we have been bred to endure a climate of certain "hardships" and still we thrive. We come back year after year, to face these challenges. The year 2020, has been a year of hardships for many....too many. But, we were bred for it. We shall survive.

Thank you, Vesey, for reminding me of my strengths, with the simple addition of my hardiness zone.

The pictures? The beauty of our endurance.

Have a powerful day.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

It will come to me......

 ......... I occasionally (very occasionally) read the personal essay in the Globe and Mail. I know all of them are worth reading, as they are all personal accounts of life experiences and all of them are beautifully written. Somehow, however, I just can't bring myself to read a post on a topic I'm not interested in (in which I have no interest).

Now, I did read the one written by a woman who reads all the obituaries daily. It was both humbling and hilarious. I'll never forget the line she quoted from one deceased woman: "If you are reading this, I'm passed my best before date."

I also read the essay from a person in Newfoundland, who wrote about a deceased aunt who made her presence felt, almost daily, in his life. I have borrowed his phrase "go figure" and use it often.

These are kindred souls - OK I'm a little off beat myself and yes, I do read the occasional (very occasional) obituary - "never cease to know for whom the bell tolls."

Today, however, I read a post from the most kindred of kindred souls. It was by a woman, who from the age of 16, has dreamed of owning a full set of the Oxford English Dictionary - all 20 volumes. She has, in fact, for the last 40 years gone to book sales, hunted or haunted used book stores, and literally (can I use this word here?) spent 3/4 of a lifetime searching for her dream. She did say that you could buy a full set new for about $1,200.00. I think I would spare the time and the mold and just save up to buy a brand new set!

She even had a mental picture of how she would display the books. They would be inside a glass topped coffee table, spines up so anyone could look up a word at anytime. Well, lo and behold didn't her partner of a few years actually have the coffee table built and the volumes purchased as a Christmas gift one year. This is true love from a kindred spirit.

Why do I feel so close to her? Well, many years ago, when my mother asked what sort of graduation gift I wanted, when I finished university, I said I wanted the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. I spared them the expense of the two volume one and suggested the single volume. Its spine still measures 3.5" across and cost nearly $100.00 then. (This measurement is an aside for all those who went through university, as I did, with a measuring tape. I read the books with the narrowest spines and skipped the rest. However I did read all the poetry and then some.)

I still remember salivating over the 20 or so volumes on the library shelf, wondering what treasures they held. In fact, once I even looked up a word I couldn't find in any of the shorter volumes - "suttles." It means scraps, as in scraps of cloth and is used more often by people living on the east coast of Canada. I was fascinated by the company "Suttles and Seawinds" (they're still around btw.) and wanted to know the exact meaning of the word. Their products are quilts and dresses made from beautifully coordinated scraps of fabric.

Life has a way of taking very divergent themes and bringing them together in one piece or is that pieces?

The title of the post? When you can't find a word you need in a conversation, may I suggest a dictionary or 20.

The pictures? My suttles, sewn or knit together.

Have a meaningful day!