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TWO (or more) FOR THE ROAD

I enjoy the extreme privilege of living within an hour’s drive of one of the most beautiful and pristine areas in the world – the Canadian Rockies. But those mountains have not always been as accessible to those of us living nearby as they are today. I remember as a child that a trip to the mountains could be an all-day journey, sometimes even with an overnight camp out, a situation dependent on the frailty of the family vehicle and/or the condition of the narrow, barely two-lane highway. But we didn’t get out much in those days and as kids who’d begun their lives in the forties and fifties, it was always super exciting when we were able to head west. When I look back on it all, it was almost a pioneering experience, as though we were settlers in a covered wagon striking out in quest of a new life. My parents packed everything they could – just in case. We were never told what the case might be, but in truth we kids didn’t have much to pack anyway so it was of little consequence to us. All we knew was that we were setting out on an adventure.

By the end of what seemed like an eternity and after ingesting most of the eatables and liquids provided, making the required pit stops, wrestling with one another for seat space, and intermittently asking the age old question “are we there yet”, we were more than ready to see the gates marking entrance to Banff National Park. Of course it was still some distance to the actual town site, and so we continued our chanting. The parents were probably just as happy to see the town as we were.

A few days ago Alice and I decided to drive to Banff and didn’t leave the city until well into the afternoon. And the journey took us little more than an hour on today’s much improved high-speed roadway. During the trip we were able to catch glimpses of several deer and mountain sheep and were home before nine o’clock, despite the dinner call along the way.

While in Banff we’d wandered the town, taken a few photos and then driven up to the world famous Banff Springs Hotel, a castle that has graced the mountain landscape for 130 years. We sat in the lounge, chatted to the charming young waiter and paid a staggering $15.00 each for cocktails. But then we looked out the window at the one-million-dollar view and declared to one another, “aren’t we just the luckiest people on earth that we can jump into the car at a moment’s notice, drive to see the world’s most spectacular scenery and afford to pay $30.00 for a couple of drinks.

Yes we are!

For my parents, Banff was a destination when they were courting. I have no idea how they were able to make the trip for the only conveyance they had was an old black bicycle my dad used to make deliveries for Bennett’s Grocery.

The two were avid photographers and had a passion for developing their own black and whites themselves. We still have albums full of multiple pictures of the same mountain, same stream and same bunch of friends. Why so many of the same thing one might ask. Well, here’s why. It’s because they developed several copies from the same negative over and over again until the pictures came out just right. But apparently, in the end none were ever discarded and even the most humble attempts found sanction in albums along with the more brilliant ones.

And the happy couple snapped a myriad of pictures of each other as well. There’s Phyllis, perched atop a large boulder near a gushing waterfall; she was a beautiful young woman, her beauty evermore enhanced by the look of love on her face. And there’s Bill, waving nervously from the deck of a crudely built log bridge spanning a mountain stream.

When not on a photo-op they would venture up to the Banff Springs and imagine they were actual paying guests there.  On one of those excursions they chanced to stroll around the grounds surrounding the hotel whereupon they were accosted by one of the hotel’s security team. My Dad was strolling with his sport’s jacket slung over his arm, exposing the suspenders he was wearing to hold up his pants. He was instructed to put on his jacket in order to cover up the offensive gear as it was not allowed for folks to be seen on the property in inappropriate dress. I was reminded of that story one day when as an actual paying guest at the hotel I observed a man walking the lobby wearing a wet swim suit and flip flops. (Note to self: Do not refer to those rubber sandals as thongs as we once did, for that brings up a whole other subject that we dare not open at the moment).

One of the highlights of my mother’s life was the week-end my husband and I were able to take her and Dad to stay at the Banff Springs. Mom was giddy and though she’d spent most of her life living in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, she said she never thought she’d ever be able to stay at that grand hotel.

But my favourite memory of the hotel is of a trip my husband and I took to Banff around 1974. We were not staying at the hotel but decided to take a walk around the grounds, the walk culminating in a stroll up the roadway at the side entrance. We hadn’t noticed anything unusual and were surprised to be greeted at the doorway by a piper decked out in full regalia, his red and black tartan a flap in the breeze. An attendant graciously held wide the heavy door for us. What service, we thought as we were piped in. What style. In the lobby we were greeted by a throng of cheering people at which time we realized we’d unwittingly ventured upon a reception for someone who was obviously more important than we. We turned to see Pierre Trudeau, his wife Margaret and their two small offspring, Alexandre, called Sacha, and Justin, now Canada’s Prime Minister, coming into the lobby. The famous family was hastily whisked away to a waiting elevator as we stood blank-faced and wondering what we could do to amuse the crowd. The cheering stopped once folks realized we had nothing much to offer, except perhaps the blank looks on our faces. We had no choice then but to retreat the way we’d come. The piper did not pipe us out.

But my question is this. How is it that a slim-built young man wearing suspenders to keep his pants from drooping to half-mast (a style preferred by some young men today), could not escape the notice of hotel authorities while a pair of tourists dressed for a hike in the wilderness were able to haplessly wander unrestricted into a reception for a famous public figure?

In the words of that other Alice whose adventures took her to her own wonderland, “it’s curiouser and curiouser”!

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Woo-Woo Dream Stuff And Miracles

 

 

Early Morning, September 16, 1993

The dream was vivid.

Coming straight from the west the monster filled the panoramic view of our large picture window.  It was a mammoth, swirling tornado headed towards the two homes on the farmstead.  Imminent chaos and certain destruction rapidly bearing down on us. There was just enough time for a warning call to my elderly parents in the old farmhouse before my family fled to the safety of our basement.

Mom answered.

“Mom get to the basement, NOW!  There’s a tornado! You must GO NOW!”

There was a pause on the line.

“MOM! GO NOW! imploring her to action.

In a deadpan tone, she replied, “I just can’t face the basement. It’s such a mess!”

Her response so completely lackluster and irrational I could feel the panic rising in me. There is no time for me to get to the farmhouse and escort her to safety.

“GET TO THE BASEMENT NOW!” I shouted, knowing if she doesn’t go I will not see her again.

“MOM!  MOM!”

The line goes dead.

I jerked, bolt awake, in a cold sweat.  Falling back into sweet slumber proved difficult.    I mulled the dream over and over concluding it must have been a combination of late night news stories and subconscious mumbo jumbo.

September 16, 1993, a memorable day because it’s my son’s twelfth birthday.  Tonight, we will go out for dinner to a favorite restaurant to celebrate.  A bright sunny morning, no threat of a storm, husband heads off to work, kids off to school and as for me, I am alone with housework staring me in the face.

Mom and Dad are not even home, I muse, mostly as a comfort to me. Together, with Auntie Helen, up from California, they are all traveling in the beloved motorhome on the northern portion of the west coast of British Colombia. Mom had a cold before they left but for people of 79 years of age, they were all in good health.  Many miles of motoring across a goodly part of North America has kept them spry, upbeat and happy in their later years.   This trip is to take them to the Queen Charlotte Islands, the beautiful, mystical land of the Haida Gawii.  I check their tentative schedule and see they are scheduled to cross on the ferry from Prince Rupert to the Queen Charlottes today.

I am interrupted by a phone call.

“Hello?”

“Alice?”

It was my dad. His voice broke as he tried to speak.

“Dad……” Dad?” What’s going on?”  Dad!?”

A different male voice comes on the line.

“Alice, this is Dr. (I don’t remember his name) emergency Doc, attending physician, Prince Rupert.   Your mom was admitted last night with congestive heart failure and the x-rays indicate spots on her lung – lung cancer.”

The details of his prognosis, grim.  His recommendation – call in the family to say goodbye as not much time left. He was compassionate but to the point, as he continues with instructions.

“She is being prepared for transport as we have arranged to send your mom home today via air ambulance.”   “She should be in Calgary by 2 this afternoon and then on route to the hospital.”

“Your father is having a rough time talking so here is Helen.” And with that, he passed me on to Auntie Helen for additional details.

Hubby and I arrive late afternoon at the hospital. Not knowing what to expect we were both silent, lost in our own thoughts as to how to react and keep Mom calm.  Directed to an Intensive Care Unit we were told to wait until she was stabilized.

“You can see her now.” The ICU nurse leads us to a room and pulls back the curtain.

There was Mom, in a blue hospital gown with IV in her hand. sitting upright in a hospital bed looking as healthy the day she left on her trip.  Bright-eyed, alert and looking surprisingly feisty,  even robust for a woman who had very little time left on this earth!   Overjoyed to see us Mom holds my hand in a tight grip while she expresses embarrassment for causing all this kerfuffle!

“After all,” she said “I feel pretty good now. I don’t know what on earth happened to me?”

Hubby and I glance at each other completely bewildered by her seemingly healthy state of being.  Did I hear Dr. Prince Rupert correctly?   Can this be the woman on death’s doorstep? Are we witnessing a miracle?

Mom begins to fill us in on as to why and how she is now in a hospital some 1,500 kilometers from where she was less than 24 hours ago and without her travel mates!

“We went to bed early last night as we wanted to be at the ferry first thing. I was tired because I drove most of the day.  Glad to crawl into bed,  but after I fell asleep for a few hours, woke up and just could not catch my breath.  It was getting worse and I was thinking, should we go across to the Charlottes?  If I am feeling this bad – might be silly, even risky? What if it gets worse on the ferry?  I really didn’t want to wake your dad because, well it would upset him, but all I could think of was…..” (insert eerie music here)

I can’t die – if I die now I’ll leave Alice that mess in the basement.“ I kept saying to myself over and over, the basement is such a mess I don’t even like going down there because it needs a good sort.  I couldn’t leave that to you to sort out.  I just couldn’t do that to you!

I am flabbergasted! Gob smacked! Blown away by the words I hear.

My dear mom goes on to say  “So, I decided to wake your dad and Auntie Hellen, told them I needed to go the hospital so Dad pulled up stakes and well, here I am. I can’t believe this is happening to me and all this fuss…..”

“By the way, how are your Dad and Helen getting back?”

I could not wait any longer. I told her my dream.

She was flabbergasted! Gobsmacked!  Blown away!

The mess in the basement.” the words echoing over and over.

This was not the first time we had experienced telepathy and it certainly would not be the last but will save that for another time.

In defense of Mom, her idea of a messy basement was NOT a “Hoarders” episode, but a collection of the many hobby bits stored in the finished basement, like the neatly packed seashells, the rocks to be polished, the juniper root wood to be carved, and the photos & slides of many trips to be sorted.  Her messes were her treasures from a full life.

Now here’s the other kicker to my Woo-Woo story.  Turns out her family doctor/specialist could not see what the B.C doctor saw on her x-ray when repeated in Calgary less than 24 hours later. No spots on the lung. All agreed she had suffered a congestive heart failure episode but no evidence of lung cancer. We were very grateful for the care and attention she received from doctor and nurses in Prince Rupert, the air ambulance team, and the Calgary doctors.  Mom was released from hospital within a week.  Never again was there any evidence of lung cancer.

As for Dad, Auntie Helen and the beloved motorhome, a herculean effort by great neighbors, friends, relatives, and good-hearted strangers brought all home for a happy reunion quickly and safely.

In the following weeks, the main topic over coffee always came back to the dream, not just the puzzling medical miracle but the dream miracle of our celestial connection that night.

In the dream did she here my plea?

“MOM! GO NOW!

And then the evidence of words shared, spoken to me by her in my dream state.

Messy, basement, I can’t go…. 

Our family concluded the events of September 16, 1993 gave us a reprieve from the monster tornado of imminent chaos and certain destruction…

Thank you Spirit for so many more years with Mom.

Love you Mom.  Feel you around me always.

Happy Mother’s day to you now and forever!

xxxooo

Hallie

Image by Ciker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

THE GIFT

I had planned to explore a very different subject this week, but once I saw the last blog posted by my writing partner, Alice, I changed my mind. Reading her bold and personal message has prompted me to share a few of my own views on the adoption process.

First let me say that anyone who has ever met Alice can in no way see her as anything but the lovely warm human being that she is. And I’m sure her adoptive parents were thrilled when she came into their lives – a tiny little red-headed bundle.

And I can say that I’ve been able to view the adoption process from more than one angle. As a young social worker I was basically able to witness the process from start to finish – from applications and home-studies, then to placements, follow-up visits and the final paperwork wherein child and parents were legally bonded.

But it was heart-wrenching to see things from the perspective of a scared and confused young surrendering birth-mother, to hear her story and watch her hands knead the blankets on her hospital cot while I explained the reality of her signature on the legal documents I presented to her. The experience was to me, as a young woman of nearly comparable age, most profound to say the least. Leaving a hospital ward and glancing back from the doorway, I would often see a young mom, head in hands, shedding tears of both relief and regret. And clutching the paperwork, I could barely make it back to my car before tears began to well in my own eyes.

On the other side of the coin, on the days I had to shop for a basic layette and then deliver it along with a healthy, squirming pink or blue bundle to a pair of anxious adoptive parents, there were also tears, tears at witnessing the look on the faces of people whose dreams had finally been fulfilled as they were able to welcome new family member.

A scenario similar to those of others was repeated a few years later in my own life, the day my husband and I were presented with our own little pink bundle at a meeting taking place in a government office in Edmonton. She was nearly a year old, had been in several foster homes and was probably as bewildered as we were. She looked at my husband and said, “Dada” whereupon she moved immediately to a very special place in his heart.

But as every parent knows, from the moment any child comes into his or her life, the arrival of the child is the easy part. To say our child was a difficult baby and toddler is to understate the actual. She was also a very challenging teenager and remains a source of worry to me even now as she approaches her one-half century mark.

As you may have observed from my previous blog posts, I like to write about everyday events and have tried to do so with a bit of humour, but let’s get real, there is very little humour in that midnight phone call from the ER and the sight the following day of a downed power pole on the boulevard. Or the concave indentation in the front of the Chevy Caprice. Thank heavens for those old boats we used to drive for I don’t think she would have survived the crash in one of today’s less forgiving vehicles. But in the end, the car was a write off – that and another a few years later.

I’ve been blessed with six beautiful grandchildren, three of whom have no biological connection to me whatsoever. The youngest of these began his life in an east African village and didn’t join the family until he was nearly three years old. The other evening I was standing with a group of folks at a dinner party and saw the curly-haired twelve-year-old cross the room, arms outstretched to me. His greeting was simple – “Hi Grandma,” he said with a hug, “how are you?”  It took my breath away. Nothing could have made me feel any better than those few words.

I am truly happy for those who’ve gone in search of birth-parents and have had a positive end result. But there are many others for whom the quest has proven to be much less than happy. In my experience, such searches have often had dire consequences for both the surrendering and the surrendered. To those who have not had the outcome they’d hoped for in their search I offer this – try to appreciate the gift of growing up in a home where your adoptive parents wanted to give you a good life. There is always a new tomorrow, new opportunities, new things to learn, new people to meet and new stories to be written.

I don’t know to whom the credit goes for this saying, but I think it’s an apt way to end this blog. I love these five little words,

                                    BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED

THE CRITIC & ME – JUST D.A.R.E

 

 

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger. Franklin P. Jones

I have a confession.  I suffer from a horrible mind critic.   The Critic has berated, insulted and even made my stomach flippity flop.  Critic seems to come out when I dare to try something new which just might move me in a new direction  Damn you, Critic!

Critic was implanted by many a well-meaning adult to keep a child safe. But in the mind of a child, the Critic gained power and was interpreted by the said child as the gospel truth.

I really don’t like to be embarrassed (who does?) but that one emotion fueled my mind Critic for years.   Perhaps the 5-year old’s humiliation of not coloring in the lines, picking colours that were unpleasing to the eye of a teacher or the ridicule by some classmates of the pale freckled skin, or the red hair or, here’s the big one, adopted and never having my cousins let me forget the circumstances of my birth.  Reminded over and over I was not really one of them.  A deep root that has strengthened Critic to Herculean portions.   I DON’T BELONG….

But, I do belong Critic!

I have let Critic stop me cold in my tracks on too many occasions, but a decision has been made.  You are on notice Critic.   “My name is Alice.   You killed my creativity.   Prepare to die! “ a favorite line from  Princess Bride.

I am in love with the idea of this blog Ms. Carol and I have concocted.  Two well-seasoned women expressing thoughts & opinions in hope to entertain, inform and share our common humanity as we progress in finding a place, now without partners, all while forging a new path, sharing insights with whoever stumbles upon this blog.    We write as creative expression, a vent, and an adventure to expand us.  Sounds like a blast – now Critic, shut up!

The plan is for each to be responsible to post on alternate weeks.  Friday posts and photo safaris to keep our content of interest.  Can I get Critic to shut the bleep up when it’s my turn?   No. Critic has enacted the full force of harping at me, “You, my dear have nothing of interest to say!”

“How dare you!  HOW DARE YOU! “ spews Critic. 

How dare?  Well, I am daring, Critic, and as I like to say, “Screw you and the horse you rode in on!”  I going to write for this blog.  I may be humiliated or I may be elated or whatever the hell happens I am going to D.A.R.E. for the life I want!

D.A.R.E is my new motto.

It stands for:

  • DECIDE what I will be daring enough to accomplish.   I am writing for this blog consistently.
  • ACT now.  I am publishing this writing.
  • RESULTS  I am getting results from my actions, like this piece of writing.
  • EVALUATE  How did it go?  Congrats, you DARED.  Now start all over again!

 

I DOUBLE DARE YOU. 

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T MEET ME AT THE MALL!

Anyone who knows me well knows I’d rather herd snakes than go shopping. And I detest snakes. But there are occasions when a trip to the shopping centre is mandatory. Times for instance when you find you’re once again to be the mother-of-the-bride.

Unfortunately that $250.00 suit purchased and worn just once to the niece’s nuptials will have to remain sheltered in its plastic overcoat until some other occasion. And there are two very good reasons why. The first reason is that all the relatives have seen me wearing said outfit. The second reason, and perhaps the most obvious, is because the post-Christmas exercise classes I’d planned to attend seemed to be scheduled at such inconvenient times, like during the day.  Or during the evening.

Nor can I wear the outfit I wore to the third daughter’s first wedding, the outfit I wore to the second daughter’s second wedding or the one I wore to the first daughter’s one and only wedding, for the reasons stated above.

I mention this only in preamble to a much greater issue – the state of the local mall. Whoever said “go to your happy place” was not referring to that sorry heap of cinder blocks.

Plans had been underway for major improvements to the place, a shopping staple in the neighbourhood for nigh onto thirty years now, but with the economic downturn those plans have been put on hold. And because merchants have begun to see business waning while shoppers anticipate a bigger and better shopping experience, many have given up and are beginning to surrender their spaces.

A walk through the mall is a depressing experience at best. Visitors observe shop after shop empty and shuttered, the result being that those shops struggling to survive have minimal draw. Like dominos they’ve begun to fall one by one. I venture that at least half of the spaces are sans tenant. Occasionally a brave new entrepreneur will take over a vacant space with hopeful expectation, but these enterprises are usually short-lived once owners discover how intermittent the walk-by traffic has become. There is a large anchor store at one end of the mall and it’s usually crazy busy on weekends, but there is little to urge shoppers to wander much beyond this establishment. One remaining shop in the forbidding hollow beyond the anchor store has had a closing out sale offering 70% off for close to three years now. Even Cher’s numerous final farewell tours didn’t last that long.

One could fire a canon down the dismal hallway between the remaining emporiums with little fear of human casualty.

But for me, the food court reigns supreme as the most pathetic of all the mall’s features. I will grant that it is fairly busy during the noon hour despite the closure of some of the kiosks, and this is largely due to the mall’s close proximity to the local high school. But for the rest of the day it’s a hangout for clusters of seniors, pecking at cups of tepid coffee while lamenting with one another, the unrelenting and seemingly everlasting winter we are experiencing. Full disclosure, I too am a senior – and single – and though at times I entertain the possibility I might tempt some lonely old grey-haired patron into buying me a cup of joe, my hermit gene kicks in immediately upon viewing the prospects hunched over laminate tables, scratching zealously at day-old crosswords. I pull myself together and beat a hasty retreat back to the crumb-laden laminate of my own kitchen. I’m just not ready for the social interaction offered by the food court’s geriatric day care. May I be forgiven for my perhaps unwarranted judgement?

As stated earlier, shopping at the anchor store on weekends holds little appeal for those of us who are able to shop on weekdays. And despite the fact that for some reason this store is still viable, the gloomy mood of the mall seems pervasive in staff here as well. Grim greeters avoid any eye-contact and stare mindlessly at other staff members with facial expressions that say “Don’t talk to me, my dog just died.” I return those expressions with one of my own, one that says “No, for the 100th time, I do not need yet another credit card. I’m just here for a personal care item because it’s too depressing to walk down the mall to the drug store.”

Shopping makes me crabby. And shopping at that particular mall merely ramps up my crabby to the nth degree.

But one day soon, like it or not, I will have to return to the mall to select yet another one-wear-only mother-of-the-bride outfit. And with that anticipation I am reminded that some of the grandchildren are nearing marriageable age. I still have a few years I say to myself and then I add, “Go to your happy place, go to your happy place, go to…”

Bill’s Life Lessons 101

 In my previous blogs I have taken to using short quotes as a bit of a punch line at the end of the piece. But this time I have decided to offer some of the pithy sayings I heard used over and over during my youth. Though they were not original to my Dad, Bill, they did nonetheless speak to the wisdom of this humble man who did not have the benefit of a lot of formal education. He was born during WWI, survived on the prairies during the depression years and served in the medical corps of the Air Force during WWII. So he had a lot of life experience before my brothers and I arrived on the scene.

As with most families during the fifties and sixties, we were able to enjoy family excursions once we could afford a car. Ours was not always the most reliable vehicle on the road but it did afford us some freedom to leave the city without relying on Greyhound. And on those trips, we as children had no idea of time or mileage. The boys and I could often be heard chanting, “Are we there yet?” Bill would always reply,

“It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”

That remark often preceded a camping trip, where for example, we had to endure a night freezing in the car, clothing and sleeping bags soaking wet courtesy of a flash flood that had run through the tent – a tent pitched in the dark at the bottom of a ravine. Obviously, those unenviable spots had remained vacant until our arrival, other more seasoned campers having found higher ground during the daylight. I think I was in my teens before I realized that motels were available to those other than truckers hauling semi-loads of goods through the Rockies.

But upon reflection, I can see where Bill was coming from with that remark. It had nothing to do with his navigational skills but rather it was his philosophy of living each moment as it came. We cannot go back and change anything in the past, and the future is not yet ours, but there is only ‘what there is’. Still, I wish that I could go back now and relive those moments with my parents and siblings. I value so much the simplicity of those days.

“I don’t agree with what he said, but I would fight to the death his right to say it.”

With that bit of sage advice, we might fast forward to the present day where political correctness prevails to the extreme. Bill was a devout Christian, a tireless church worker, and would never have denied his commitment to his faith in deference to today’s popular (read liberal) attitudes. Bill was the product of an immigrant family, a family who like many thousands of others built this great country. And if he was here today, he would be the first one to admit that the country has benefited by the diversity of the population. But he would also have been disturbed by the fact that we are trending dangerously towards an imbalance wherein the priorities of the minorities are taking precedence over those of the majority. Sixty–eight percent of people in this country profess a Christian faith, though church attendance does not reflect that statistic. Daily prayer in schools has been abandoned. I suggest that most of us would be okay with a general nod to a higher power, whatever that might be, within the collective. Well maybe not those who think they have just materialized here on this planet. We can assume some folks would fall into that category. But why all the fuss? And what would it hurt to spend a few quiet moments each day reflecting on something other than one’s own ego?

“When my ship comes in, I’ll be at the airport.”

While this comment was not too hard to understand given that Bill’s home was located several hundred miles from the nearest body of salt water, we can read between the lines and gain a little insight into a life that had its financial challenges. A discharge from the Air Force at the end of WWII led to a couple of government jobs and eventually a career with an oil company. But there were some lean times. And though he never used the old cliché, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, in his case his advancement was probably a lot about who he knew. I don’t think Bill had an enemy in the world and he would often advise us that you should never burn a bridge with your fellow man. Down the road you never knew when that person might come to have an impact on your life. I now realize what he meant, that one’s path does cross with that of others and there is a reason why we meet at those intersections. We are meant to meet certain individuals during our life and our interaction with them has a purpose. And speaking of purpose, this is what he had to say about that.

“Everyone has a purpose in life even if it’s only to serve as a horrible example.”

One doesn’t have to look too far to find countless examples to support this old bromide. History has provided stories of many such folk whose performances here on earth did not even rise to the level of mediocrity. I leave this subject to the imagination of the reader for each will have a personal inventory. Perhaps instead, we should all compile a list of those in our life whom we admire for setting good examples. Bill is at the top of my list.

In the sixty-one years I spent with Bill, I learned a lot from this patient and hard-working man. He died in his ninetieth year having spent just three weeks as a hospital patient during all those years. He instilled in my brothers and me a strong work ethic, the joy of family and the incalculable value of a sense of humour. Years ago when he and my mother moved to a new home, their next door neighbour stopped by to say hello. My brothers, who do bear a strong familial resemblance to one another, were there. Extending a hand to the neighbour Bill said, “Hi, I’m Larry and this is my son Darryl and my other son, Darryl. (Only those who recall the Bob Newhart years will understand this flash from the past). The neighbour looked from one to the other and then to Dad and asked, “Are they twins?”

So tams, toques and turbans off to you Bill, the most decent man I ever knew. You kept us all on the straight and narrow all those years, especially the neighbour who had fewer names to remember whenever any of Bill’s kin were about. I’m sure he pondered frequently my parent’s lack of imagination when doling out matching names for their children – Carol and her two brothers, Darryl and Darryl.

Thanks Bill.

 

 

 

MAYBE I SHOULD GET NETFLIX

So, I have just spent the past week trying to negotiate with my provider for better and more economical cable TV, internet and cell phone service. While I do not mean to disparage the efforts of the last representative I spoke with (for in the end she was the only one who took the time to help), there are still things that have not been resolved. And I don’t have it in me to sit on the phone for another two hours to go over every excruciating detail with yet another person. The happy electronic tones of press one, press two are still playing tennis in my head. Call me crazy, but I have trouble with a communication company that can’t seem to communicate.

My concerns about a system that has now become a necessary evil in our modern society are three-fold.

The first problem is the enormous hit to the pocketbook each month. Enough said.

The second problem is the availability of decent programming for people over thirty. And I am well over thirty. I am no prude, but I maintain that the use of gratuitous sex and violence just for the sake of filling air time does not entertainment make. Way back in the day, much was left to the viewer’s imagination, particularly in regard to sexual encounters. Things did not have to be spelled out in graphic detail. Most of us somehow figured it out in the front seat of a ’59 Chevy. My kids are reading this and in today’s abbreviated lingo are screaming OMG, Mom, TMI! Oops sorry, dears. I found you all under cabbage leaves. Yes I did!

People may have suspected by the goofy grin on Sammy’s face that he and Rita had been ‘doing it’, but there was a policy much like the one once boasted by the American military – don’t ask and don’t tell.

As for the violence, it was mostly confined to Saturday morning cartoon viewing. Unlike today’s victims, Wile E. Coyote always resurfaced after every encounter with the Road Runner, with his ears and limbs intact and ready to face another showdown with his resourceful and mischievous aforementioned nemesis. Most of us do not need the sight of body parts being jettisoned across the screen to convince us of someone’s untimely demise.

The third problem I have in dealing with service providers is that not only do the left and right hand have conflicting agendas; they do not even seem to be attached to the same body. While one representative declares vehemently that a certain facet of the service is available, the next will assert that it is not – has been discontinued – was never an option – may be initiated down the road. Do these people not work from the same handbook? Left handbook? Right handbook?

I checked the TV guide one evening to see if there was something moderately entertaining available. The same program, one featuring the above mentioned sex and violence, was showing on five channels. Okay then, maybe a reality show. Hoarding? No thanks. Those programs make me want to catalogue all the nuts and bolts in the garage and plunge myself into a vat of disinfectant. Human interest? What’s that? A program about people who have a fear of public washrooms? While I have great sympathy for those folks who may find themselves in serious distress after carelessly wandering away from their own facilities, I have to ask myself, “In what sphere does a program like that meet even the marginal standard for entertainment?” It merely calls to mind the need for that oh-so-fashionable-old-people’s lingerie.

How about a sitcom? There have been, and still are, a few good ones. And I’m all for clever dialogue that skirts the edge of raunchy or has a double meaning, but listening to bathroom humour and kid’s put-downs of adults while anticipating a canned laugh-track, makes me long for Leave it to Beaver. But just as an aside, who thought ‘Cleaver’ was a good name for this squeaky clean, all American family?

There are of course the cooking shows, though my interest in cooking at this stage of my life is minimal. Besides, on the odd occasions when I have tuned in to watch some of those battling chefs, I am somehow reminded of the Hatfields and McCoys. It didn’t take me long  to lose my appetite for both the candied tripe with cucumber sauce and the pepper spray of sniping remarks. Does anyone remember the Galloping Gourmet and his regular noshing?

And then there are the programs featuring the antics of celebrities – their angst, their latest romantic encounters, their success or failure in the trenches of rehab. For the most part, I have no idea who those folks are or why they are heir to such fame, but I am always sympathetic when at the supermarket I see by the tabloids that most are suffering from irreconcilable differences with their current partners. “Air miles?” I hear the clerk say while I ponder the plight of Curtis and Margo. “No.” I reply, “I only travel in my mind.” It’s always fun to watch the clerk’s reaction.

Every so often the providers give you a tease with a three-month trial of another option. And just when you think there might be something worth watching, it’s gone unless you want to pay an additional $5.99 a month. See problem number one. Guess it’s now back to re-run episodes of Petticoat Junction, which in hindsight were not that great the first time around. Laws a mercy!

So, after all the time spent last week there are still some wrinkles. I still have nine sports channels even though my athletic interest is confined to making it up the basement stairs with a basket of laundry. The promise of channels more in keeping with my interests are still in the wind but a ten dollar credit on one feature resulting in a seven dollar charge on another puts me in the positive by three bucks.  Should I pick up one of those tabloids?

So, in the end I guess I’ll have to learn not to sweat the small stuff, or as Eleanor Roosevelt so sagely put it – “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

 

 

 

 

There’s Something Happening Here

I have this earworm (music, lyric looping in your brain) playing in my head since the middle of November.  Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth” circa 1967. (click the link below to hear the song.)

For What It’s Worth

Usually an earworm is a voice from my inner spirit.  What do you want me to know earworm?  What’s your point?  Why are you repeating in my mind?

 “There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down”

I will admit I tried to ignored the US election.   Not my country,  I can’t vote and quite frankly, I tired of the pessimistic, nasty tone.   A total ostrich move on my part, but come November the earworm to that song was stuck.

The first chorus opened a vivid memory.

 “Stop children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

I was ten, 1967.  It seemed to be turbulent times thru the eyes of this child.  Newspaper stories of civil unrest, TV reporters ducking behind berms as the jungle reverberated with rapid gun fire, all a world away from my safe home. The constant images of the chaos, the disrespect, the inhuman human bashing, kicking and beating protesters of all colors as they were arrested for upsetting the establishment.   Such violent and vicious confrontations – a disconcerting, confusing contrast to the peaceful life I led in a tranquil rural community.

It was dark, probably winter, early morning, me, sitting in the back of the big school bus bouncing down a rutted gravel road when I first heard the strum, the beat, the lyric.   These words seared into my brain and yes, apparently my soul.

 “Stop children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

There’s battle lines being drawn


Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

It was a wakeup call for me – pay attention, things may not be as they appear.  Ask questions about why people are so upset and mean?  I thank God for good parents and good teachers who helped me learn HOW TO THINK about what I saw, read, heard on the news not WHAT TO THINK.   They helped by questioning where I got facts to support my views and asked what were the basis for my assumptions.  They listened (sometimes) patiently as I railed against this or that, called me out when facts or opinions were fuzzy, all in an effort to help me make sense of the world I saw thru the media, a world so different from my  experience .

Travel to 2017, some 50 years later….

It was the Sunday (two days after an inauguration of a President)   I was casually sipping coffee, two screening between my laptop and the TV.  Scrolling thru Facebook, half watching an American news show when I understood the repetitive message of that song.

“Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away”

I started to notice an unusual amount of outrageous FB posts were showing up on my news feed. The posts vastly outnumbered the cat pictures, the cute kids, and the funny memes. They had been replaced with articles of a more polarizing, misleading, outright fabrication from both the right, the left and some well off in “what the bleep” field. They ran from the totally absurd to a complete factual manipulation complete with opinion pieces penned by “anonymous authorities.”   How can you be anonymous and be an authority?

But the kicker, my heart’s call to action, the reason my earworm was morphing into a shouting fire-breathing dragon happened on the appearance of the fake Blonde Bomb – the appointed truth speaker, the power-hungry “con” shouting her way, the former campaign manager for “Lying Ted Cruz”.   She, Blonde Bomb, was now the appointed, the official, White House Liar for The Chief.

Blonde Bomb had the audacity to show up in my living room on a relaxed Sunday morning, with an agenda to overtake the media with her spin on the real truth.  She proceeded to spin, to tell her nation, my nation, the world, total lies!  The shrill sounds of  blatant media manipulation woke up that ten-year-old’s memory and she started screaming “LIAR, LIAR PANTS- ON- FIRE!

 “Stop children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

There’s battle lines being drawn


Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

Adulting my inner child I asked the question “Where can I as a citizen of the world use my energy to stop the obvious start of a regime of tyranny?”  I turned to my attention to FB. How do I stop the spread of these hurtful twists of truth?  By making a commitment to stop sharing, liking or posting anything without a fact check. The sharing of misinformation stops here, with me.  We, as a free, open society, must take responsibility and stop casually spreading falsehoods and half-truths because it fits with our political viewpoint.  How will anyone, any political party, any government ever solve problems if we are not hearing the facts?

Have I been guilty of this same thoughtless sharing, liking, behavior thru social media?    Yes, I’ve been duped.  But now  I refuse to become clickbait for a “like” here or a “share” there without questioning, where, what, why, who or how – is this factual or manipulated?  I want to call out the manipulators like a ten-year-old child, chanting, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire!”

My hope for the sake of democracy, in fact our humanity  is that we share the deep sense of responsibility to disseminate truthful, factual information.  W ,now more than ever, have the power to speak up in so many forms. We can take the time for forethought in discerning the truth from fiction.  I am acutely aware of that ten-year-old child who is  calling out clearly,  LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE (of course in the most grown up respectful way.)  Wink, wink!

 “There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down….” 

 

Below a link to youtube, 1967, song by Buffalo Springfield .

 

For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield

Please check out the following links to some sites for fact checking your  Facebook posts. 

www.snopes.com

www.politifact.com

www.factcheck.org

www.fullfact.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Gate

My good friend and I, having now found ourselves single and with time on our hands, have decided to… well – ‘blog’.

Fortunately the other half of this blogging sisterhood is much more skilled in the technical world than I am and has been able to set this all in motion. It is rumoured that in this age of compulsive communication, I am one of just a handful of people in the free-world whose cell phone has more dust on it than the relics in an Egyptian tomb. That I pay more than a few dollars a month to the phone company for a device that is also rapidly becoming a relic, is a source of confusion to my family.

But in an effort to drag myself into the new age, I got out my Funk and Wagnall’s to look up the word ‘blog’. Okay, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. I’m getting there.

‘Blog’ – a regularly updated website or web page typically run by an individual or small group in an informal or conversational manner. A truncation of the expression weblog.

Then I had to look up truncation.

I thought it sounded a little like writing letters to someone and never getting a reply. Who needs that aggravation anymore?  And whatever happened to what’s-his-name, anyway?

But I digress.

Becoming single and being thrust into a world seemingly designed for duos has been an eye-opener and something I had never thought about before it was a reality for me. The terms ‘double occupancy’ and ‘two-for-one’ glare out at me as I contemplate undertaking even everyday things. I find myself avoiding those things that I had once done routinely. Some days it is just an effort to shop and cook for one person. But if I’ve learned one thing these past months, it is this. Life is too short to lament what cannot be changed and though at times a big boohoo can feel really good in the moment, you soon realize that life can only go one of two ways. You can stay in that moment or you can move on. Your choice.

And so it was decided that we two single gals birth this blog. And think about it. In what other era could women sitting about in their nightwear provide amusement for others without leaving home?

Well, perhaps there have been others, but I’m dead sure they were not wearing a flannel nightie or an oversized T-shirt, a souvenir from a high school reunion repurposed as nightwear, while ‘working from home’.

And so, as it is our intention to amuse, I begin with a tale from my childhood. My parents, younger brother and I lived with my grandparents in an old house located on the edge of the downtown core. Next to our home was a smaller one that had a sign in the window advertising Invisible Mending. And while the young women who lived there may well have been proficient with a needle and thread, their own skimpy attire did not bear witness. They appeared to be in serious need of some haute couture. As a child I wondered; were all their street clothes languishing in the mending basket?

The young women would occasionally venture out onto the front porch, red-lipped, rouged and ready, cigarette smoke billowing from their noses. They became an everlasting source of fascination to a five-year-old who took every opportunity to observe those who wore only their night clothes in the day time. This observation was made despite the admonishment of my tea-sipping, liquor-has-never-touched-these-lips grandmother, to avoid the place. But how could I miss seeing it all? They were right there across the fence. And I could never understand why their ‘mother’ allowed them to wander outside without being properly dressed. We were never allowed to even come to the breakfast table unless we were fully dressed and with our hair tamed into some of sort of respectability.

And so with that snapshot from a time so long ago, we begin our blogging journey. We cannot promise to impart great wisdom but perhaps readers may glean a little entertainment from our musings. Time will tell.

But here is one final word to those, who like me, have put in more decades than we like to think about. It is my favourite quote from Ian Fleming: “Older women are best, because they always think they may be doing it for the last time.”