Category Archives: memories

The Kilbourne Vine Caper…

Note: Today would have been my mom’s 72nd birthday.  This was my second post, so there are a lot of people who haven’t seen it…I am rerunning it today in memory of my mom.

Mom and Dad didn’t follow the typical path of Midwestern young people of their time: graduate high school, get married, and start popping out kids…Dad did a Bachelor’s in Journalism, followed by a Master’s in Divinity, and dreamed of going “back to the land” (he was raised in rural Ohio).  Mom was a “townie” – an artist who also loved music.  They were becoming more and more disillusioned with Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the crime in our neighbourhood.  In the summer of ’69, Dad quit the church and he and Mom packed up our suburban house.  Off we went to Southern Ontario, Canada.  After renting a house for a year, we settled in an old farmhouse on 43 acres of land in Prince Edward County in 1970.

I remember having a vegetable garden for several years when we first moved to the County.  Mom and Dad bought a big chest freezer, and Mom worked hard freezing everything we managed to grow.

Mom never forgot a plant that grew near the house where we lived when I was born in Kilbourne, Ohio in 1961.  She didn’t know its proper name, but called it “Kilbourne Vine.”  It was pretty, and it grew wild – that’s probably one reason it appealed to her.

Fast forward to the early 1980’s…Mom, my brother and I were planning a trip to visit relatives in Ohio.  It was on that vacation that Mom decided to bring a piece of the past home with her: she wanted to plant some “Kilbourne Vine” in our yard in Ontario.

Having arrived at my Grandad’s house in Bellefontaine, we set out for Kilbourne one day.  We got there about lunchtime, and Mom guided us to our old house.  We waited in the car while she jumped out and rang the doorbell.  No one answered.  My brother and I were somewhat horrified at what happened next…my mom began pulling pieces of the “Kilbourne Vine” out of the yard!  We kept our ears open for the scream of sirens, as we imagined being arrested by the Kilbourne sheriff for pilfering plants without permission.  Mom came back to the car, showing us her prize in triumph.  We left in a hurry, hoping some nosy neighbor hadn’t alerted the authorities!

We made it back to Bellefontaine without incident…the next hurdle would be getting through Canada Customs.  Having made many trips back and forth to Ohio over the years, Mom knew that bringing plants into Canada was illegal, but she had a plan: “I’ll put it on the floor of the back seat in plain sight, and if they say anything, I’ll just say that I didn’t know you couldn’t import plants,” she said.  My mom the rebel!

My mom the rebel!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and pulled up to the Canada Customs booth in Windsor.  My brother was driving.  The Customs officer was female, in her early 20’s, and was looking at Jeff with love in her eyes…she asked three questions (none of which pertained to the plant on the floor), and we were through!

We arrived home, and Mom planted the vine in her flower garden.  It thrived in its new home.  Twenty years later, Mom took a piece of it with her when she sold our house and moved in with my brother and his family in Carleton Place, Ontario.

Mom died in September of 2007.  The urn with her ashes sits on a stone wall in Jeff’s back yard, with Kilbourne vine planted close by.

I have seeds from the Kilbourne vine…I will find a special place and plant it here, too, in Mom’s memory.

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Happy 25th to My Brown-Eyed Girl!

It was 25 years ago today, almost to the minute, that my water broke for the first time…what a strange feeling!  I was a couple months shy of my 25th birthday, and this kid was already 15 days late…I was ready to be done with being pregnant!  Most of my maternity clothes were winter ones, and Moncton, New Brunswick had been having a heat wave the previous two weeks…I only had two short-sleeved dresses that I could squeeze my swollen body into!  I mopped the mess up with a towel, and woke up Kaylee’s father to tell him the news.  Then we waited for something to happen.  And waited.  And waited…

Waiting for something to happen...

 

About lunch time, I walked down to the newspaper box around the corner and bought a paper, as per my usual routine.  I brought it home and read it.  Supper time came and went.  I consulted my labour coach, who suggested I call the hospital.  “Your water broke more than 12 hours ago?!!” asked the nurse in disbelief.  The memory is a little foggy, but I think she followed that with the politically correct version of “Get your ass in here!”

My labour coach, Mary Lyn, came and got us in her car…I brought along a beach towel to sit on to save her upholstery.  Once we’d arrived at the hospital, things went along pretty quickly…I was installed in the birthing room and an oxytocin drip was started intravenously to stimulate my labour.  My plan was to do everything naturally…we’d taken the Lamaze class, and I was not having an epidural!  I stuck to my stubborn plan throughout the four-and-a-half hours of hard, fast contractions…that’s what they called them in the class…sounds so much better than pain, doesn’t it?  My family doctor arrived at the critical moment, a surgical clip holding up his too-big scrub pants…the man probably weighed all of 125 lbs. soaking wet!  

Kaylee Marie was finally delivered at 11:32 p.m., all 9 lbs., 14 oz. of her.  She was 22 inches long, and had a mop of dark hair…her paternal grandmother’s Native Canadian heritage was evident in her colouring (eventually, Kaylee’s eyes would be brown).  I had planned to breastfeed the baby…she latched on immediately, and stayed there for the next 18 months, pausing only to sleep about 10 out of every 24 hours.  I perfected the art of dozing in our pink swivel rocker with a child attached…

Kaylee and I...two days old...

When she was 3 weeks old, I received a call from my doctor…there was a problem: Kaylee had a rare form of congenital hypothyroidism.  Luckily, they had been screening all babies born in New Brunswick for the condition for the previous ten years or so…if it hadn’t been discovered, Kaylee would have had a mental age of 4 for her entire life!  I remember taking her for her first blood tests at the hospital…I cried as much as she did when they poked a needle into my baby’s tiny heel, and filled little glass tubes with her precious blood!  The treatment for the condition was taking a synthetic thyroid hormone pill every day for the rest of Kaylee’s life.  Regular blood work every few months was also necessary to determine that the dosage was correct.  

Since Kaylee’s dad worked long hours at the radio station, I was her main caregiver…every day, we would go for a walk, often to the park nearby.  One beautiful summer day, I carried the stroller down the stairs (we lived in an upstairs apartment), and set it up outside.  I went back in to get Kaylee and the diaper bag.  Once I got the baby strapped in, I remembered that I’d left my purse sitting on the steps.  I tried to open the door…I had locked it…my keys were in my purse, inside the apartment…

There were no cell phones then, and I didn’t have any money with me.  I didn’t know my neighbours either, other than to nod as I went by…I saw one of those neighbours outside, and asked if I could use her phone to call Kaylee’s dad at work.  If you were paying attention, you might remember that I said he worked in radio…of course, he was on the air when I called.  I explained my predicament to the woman at the switchboard…she promised she would give him the message.  I don’t think I mentioned that we did not own a car, and the radio station was a half hour walk away…

I sat on our porch steps while I waited for what seemed like an eternity…there were definitely some tears shed (Kaylee cried a little bit too).  An hour-and-a-half later, we were no longer locked out of our apartment…I can’t remember if we ever went for our walk!

Kaylee got used to our walks…when she was about a year-and-a-half, I found her standing naked in our front hall, wearing only rubber boots and holding an open umbrella over her head.  “I’m ready to go for our walk now, Mom!” she announced.  After I took a picture (and put some clothes on her), we did go!

I used to buy Kaylee books all the time (this was long before I was in the book business!).  Her favourite was Peter Rabbitby Beatrix Potter…she had its text memorized and could “read” it along with me by the time she was 18 months old!  We were also frequent visitors at the library…she’s the only one of my kids who reads much now.

Peter Rabbit (photo from franshouseofdollsandtoys.com)

Kaylee did not inherit my love of bugs…she was three when she was freaking out about an insect flying around the bathroom.  I said, “Don’t worry…it’s just a fruit fly looking for an apple.”

Tearfully, she replied, “Well, give him one!”

Kaylee was in the first official kindergarten class in New Brunswick…she loved it, and her teacher, Mrs. S.  I went in every Friday afternoon after lunch to volunteer in her class…after an hour with 25 5-year-olds, I had a whole new respect for the job that teachers do!

When Kaylee started Grade 1, I put her in French Immersion, since we lived in a city where 1/3 of the people spoke French, in a province which was officially bilingual.  She was like a sponge, and was making fun of my limited French by the time she was 7!  “No, Mom…that’s not how you say it!”

When Kaylee was eight, her sister, Anna, was born…she was excited about being a big sister, but it wasn’t an easy transition for her.  She had been an only child for a long time!  I tell people that Kaylee was a “teenager” from the time she was eight…not easy for either one of us!

Kaylee, age 8...behind that innocent smile lurked the beginnings of a teenager...

Her father used to get free tickets to a lot of concerts, and when Kaylee was ten, we took her and Anna to see The Rankin Family…after the concert, we took them backstage to meet the band.  The Rankin girls made a big fuss over our kids…to this day, Kaylee and I still go to see them perform when they come to town.  Great Big Sea is another one of her favourite bands.

Kaylee inherited the bad knees that women in our family all have.  She was eleven when she was walking across our living room and fell down without warning.  A visit to the emergency room confirmed that her knee had collapsed, and that Kaylee had actually broken a one-centimetre piece off her kneecap when she fell.  They gave her a nice cast, and sent her home with crutches.  An appointment with the orthopedic surgeon was scheduled, and a few months later, he did arthroscopic surgery on both her knees to correct her “floating kneecaps.”  In Grade 7, I got a call from Kaylee’s middle school.  Her knee had collapsed again, and she had fallen down the stairs.  After another trip to the hospital, she came home with her leg encased in fibreglass…at least fibreglass was lighter than plaster!

Hope was born when Kaylee was 12…she loved her new little sister!  Kaylee was a big help with Hope when she was little…I will always be grateful to her for babysitting her two sisters while I was working (her father’s and my marriage had broken up by then)!       

Kaylee’s teenage years were not happy ones…we butted heads constantly, and she and Anna fought…a lot (I remember making frantic calls to her father in Ontario begging him to talk some sense into her!).  She was as stubborn as I am…the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!  For a while, Kaylee hosted an online radio show, and flirted with the idea of going into radio…her father worked hard to talk her out of that one! 

Kaylee as a teenager in the light of her computer screen...

Kaylee was about seventeen before she turned into a “human being” again.  She got her first job at Bulk Barn.  Working hard was good for her…she used to come home exhausted from cleaning all day, but she was happy to have her own money!

I was not happy when Kaylee decided at eighteen to get a tongue ring…luckily, her boyfriend at the time told her he didn’t like it, so she let it grow over.  I still love that boy…

That same year, Kaylee decided she wanted to move back to Moncton…she arranged to get an apartment with her best friend, and we packed up her stuff and took her up there.  Three weeks later, she called and told me that it wasn’t working out, and she moved back home again.

In December of 2006, she met Scott online on Plenty of Fish.  They were “an item” by January of 2007.  By then, Kaylee was working in a call centre uptown…she arranged to share an apartment with a friend she worked with, and moved out that spring.

Kaylee and Scott in their early dating days...

 That fall, my mother died…Kaylee was devastated…as the first grandchild, she and my mom had been close!  I didn’t have the money for plane fare to Ontario…it was Kaylee who bought two tickets for us with her credit card (I repaid her later), and helped me pack up my mother’s estate (along with my brother and sister-in-law).  When we returned, Kaylee got a small tattoo on her wrist in honour of her Gramma…

Kaylee and Gramma...Kaylee was about 5 in this picture...

Today, Kaylee and Scott are the parents of my 20-month-old granddaughter, Elise.  They have their own house about 25 minutes away, and come to see us every couple of weeks.  Kaylee is a great mom, and is perfectly happy staying home with the baby (I was itching to go back to work by the time my kids were 18 months).  She uses cloth diapers for Elise, and they’ve been teaching her sign language since she was an infant.  Kaylee has her own website promoting contests open to Canadians (she’s been entering, and winning, every contest she can find since she was in her late teens – she won a Vespa scooter a few years ago).  Kaylee loves 80’s music, and is vocal about human rights issues (homophobes had best be silent when Kaylee’s in the vicinity!).  She is also the Coupon Queen, hunting online for the best deals on groceries for her family.  Kaylee inherited my love of cooking and baking, and hates cleaning up as much as I do…luckily, Scott takes up the slack in that department!  Kaylee gets exasperated sometimes when I give her vague answers when she calls me to get my recipes!  She and Scott frequently entertain friends in their home.  Kaylee dabbles in photography and has thousands of photos and videos of Elise!

Kaylee with Elise...April, 2011

Kaylee and I are a lot closer now than we were when she was a teenager, although I often have to find out things through Facebook (like when she got pregnant, for example!).  I am proud of the young woman she’s become: smart, strong and loving!  Happy Birthday, Kaylee Marie!  I love you!

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My “Sympathetic Mentor”, Mr. Medlyn…

This typewriter is identical to the one we had at home...photo from 8pmdaily.com

I know that there is no other satisfaction which lights up one’s heart with as fierce a glow as that happiness of knowing one has written well. 

Arthur F. Medlyn

******

A couple of weeks ago while I was going through boxes searching for material to send to my friends Chase and Leanne for their new website, Stuff Kids Write, I stumbled on a forgotten file…it was my correspondence with the only bona fide writing teacher I ever had, Arthur F. Medlyn.

It was February, 1974, and I was 12-and-a-half.  I was reading an issue of Yankee magazine in which I found a small ad for a company called The Writing Well in Pittsfield, Massachusetts…the ad offered writing instruction, so I sent a letter inquiring about the service they provided.

The first response came within a week…I loved Mr. Medlyn from the time I read his first paragraph:

The straightforward character of your writing, its neat arrangement, especially the clean typewriting, and its modesty are becoming.  I’m sure you can write well!

Mr. Medlyn went on to explain that he had been a literary editor who had been writing for almost fifty years, and had first had poetry published while in his teens at Northfield Mt. Hermon School, a private high school founded by evangelist Dwight L. Moody.

My debt to him and to the school is great, and I’d like to repay it in part by providing for you, a young and talented person, the kind of training in writing well which would have done me good when I was young.  Together, we may apply the old school’s motto: “Learn as though your life on earth would endless be, Yet live as though tomorrow ushered in eternity!”

Mr. Medlyn’s standard fee for coaching was $50/month or $500/year in advance.  Knowing my tender age, he offered to give me a break:

Because you are young and full of heart, I’d like so much to help you that I’m willing to do it at less than cost (at least, at no cost for my time and effort); won’t you try my coaching service for $10.00 a month?

Mr. Medlyn asked me to send him a long detailed letter about myself and why I wanted to be a writer, two of my short pieces and $5.00 (the other $5.00 would be sent once we started working together).  He would discuss my background as related to a writing career, and offer his “One Man’s Opinion” (OMO) on the pieces I submitted.

Our main objective will be to create a body of meaningful literary work which the best publishers will be proud to publish.  They will do this because, through The Writing Well, your literary talent will have reached the kind of keen development which says, without another word, that you have written well.

Even at 12, I was my mother’s daughter…ever thrifty.  I sent Mr. Medlyn a letter expressing my interest in his offer, but asking if I was committed to studying with him for a certain amount of time.  I was worried about being locked into what I saw as a drain on my somewhat limited financial resources (my allowance was 15 cents a week, and my primary method of making extra money in the winter was babysitting for between 50 cents and $1 an hour).  His response was quick to dispel my fears:

My admiration for your sensible approach to the limited financial part of your writing efforts is boundless.  There is a danger here, however, in that you may very well find yourself so engrossed in the earning of money to support our pursuit together of your writing well that the pursuit may be lost in a flurry of dollars and cents.  If we are to write well, we must devote adequate, undisturbed time to the matter of writing…We mustn’t let financial considerations or other seemingly weighty obstructions stop us for a minute.

Mr. Medlyn’s new proposal suggested that I pay him $5.00 a month, and if I sold a piece during that month, that I would send him another $5.  Sold!

It was July (four days before my thirteenth birthday) before I got around to sending him the “long letter about myself” (I was a procrastinator even then).  I found my handwritten draft, which is the only letter of mine I have.  In it, I detailed my academic and family history (casually throwing in my distant relationship to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”), and talked about my interest in being a writer:

I prefer writing as a possible career because I believe that I have always had a natural talent for it.  It appeals to me because I like expressing myself on paper, and because I have an imagination that often runs away with me.

In one of three postscripts, I told Mr. Medlyn about the summer jobs I had lined up (babysitting and picking berries), what they paid, and how much money I had already saved: $23.65.

In his next letter, Mr. Medlyn sent a poem he’d written just for me (I added the stars to separate the stanzas):

TERCETS FOR WENDY

by Arthur F. Medlyn

The wind is telling me stories again

About the what and the why and the when

And the where and the many who‘s of men.

*****

But now there’s no lad fetching the cows

Who wisely says nothing but only bows

As he passes by.  And the faint echoes

*****

Left by the wind are a long-kept thought

Of the pasture’s lesson I once was taught

About the might-be and what could be wrought

*****

By the study of what and when and where

To carry the why once you knew who was there.

But now there’s a girl with an earnest air

*****

Who certainly must have heard that breeze

As it whisked by me on the pasture’s leas

And tickled my mind with a lasting tease

*****

To know the who and the what and the why,

The when and the where, so that it would be I

Who could make them real for her noblest try

*****

To tell to the world what that windy sprite

Tells all young writers: “With all your might

You must learn all you can, and then write, write, WRITE!”

Mr. Medlyn was determined to turn me into a poet…I’m afraid that I disappointed him…I sent him what were probably some awful poems, a short story, and a fairly decent haiku from a picture of a volcano:

A majestic hill

Superior to all things

Stands in high splendour.

He critiqued my work and assigned me some tercets, which I didn’t do…I told him I “lacked inspiration”, “was lazy”, and “was finding the rhyming part difficult”.  Mr. Medlyn brushed off my excuses:

A writer is supposed to be able to acquit himself with reasonable facility on any given occasion…even if he has a bad headache and his Walden hut has just fallen down over his ears.  All of us intelligent people are lazy, by definition.  We try to make our brains save our backs, and our heads save our heels.  Anything worth doing is not easy, else its value is nil. 

My last letter from Mr. Medlyn was dated January 11, 1975.  He advised that his business no longer existed, and that he was now “just plain Mr. Medlyn.”  I never did the poetry assignment or revised my short story, and that was the last time I had any contact with him.

*****

I Googled Mr. Medlyn this morning, and learned that he had died on November 1, 1992 at the age of 78.  It’s a shame that he never seemed to have achieved any major notoriety from his writing.

I didn’t become a poet, but I am a writer…I think my “sympathetic mentor” had a lot to do with it…thank you, Mr. Medlyn!

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Cousin George…Building a Door for Opportunity to Knock On…

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”  Milton Berle

My friend, Clay at EduClaytion, did an interesting post yesterday about creating opportunities for yourself.  It made me think of my ex-husband’s cousin, George Beckett, who I had the great pleasure of meeting some fifteen years ago.  Despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, George spent his life seeking opportunities and making the most of them.

George was born in 1922 in New Jerusalem, New Brunswick, the eldest son of eight children of Edwin and Mildred (Machum) Beckett.  The Becketts were farmers, and Edwin also owned a sawmill.  Little George wasn’t an ordinary boy…he was diagnosed in early childhood with osteogenesis imperfecta or “brittle bones disease.”

“My mother wouldn’t let me go to school with the other children, because she was afraid I would get hurt,” George explained.  “My sister was a year older than I was, and when she would bring her school books home, Mother would teach me what my sister was learning.”  It was from this homeschooling that George’s lifelong love affair with books and reading was born.  Schoolwork wasn’t the only thing George did at home…he was in charge of repairing the shoes and boots of his father’s workers.  He learned to play the mandolin, violin, banjo and harmonica.  George taught his siblings how to play the guitar.

By the time he was 21, George had suffered at least 200 fractures.  Growing up in a large family during the Depression meant that money was spent on food, not medical treatment…the fractures were largely untreated, and thus did not heal correctly.  This led to George’s growth being stunted…his stature wasn’t much more than four feet as an adult, and his frame was significantly twisted.  He built himself a wheeled cart that he used to get around.

About this time, George expressed the desire to learn a trade so that he wouldn’t be a burden on his parents.  He wrote a letter to Eaton’s and convinced them to send him a book on watch and clock repair.  George studied carefully, and was soon overwhelmed with repair work left for him by neighbours and friends!

George moved to a farm in Bloomfield, New Brunswick, in 1954.  George got tired of asking people to drive him around when he wanted to go somewhere.  He modified a piece of farm equipment into a custom-built car with hand controls, and drove it the 35 miles into Saint John and demanded the authorities give him a license.  They did.

George’s home in Bloomfield was a two-storey frame farmhouse…it was impossible for George to get upstairs in his wheelchair.  He designed an elevator, and had it installed in the house.

We visited George at that house in 1996.  The leprechaun-like man greeted us at the door in his electric wheelchair…I don’t know who was happier to see us…George or his big friendly dog!  George ushered us in, gave us a tour of his workshop, and seated us in the comfortable living room.  My father-in-law gathered all the latest gossip on the family since he’d last seen them (he lived in Kelowna, British Columbia at the time, and had come to visit us in Moncton).  I was impressed with the huge number of books that George had collected over the years (that was before I was in the book business).  He was especially fond of geography: “I’ve travelled the world by reading these books,” George told me.

Since I’d never met him before, George told me a little more of his story:  “I never depended on the government for anything…I’ve always supported myself!” he declared.  “I have a couple who stays with me and helps me look after the place.  Besides playing music and reading, I like to hunt…I get a deer every fall!  I’m also active in my church.”

After we chatted for a while, we all went to George’s sister’s house for supper…George drove his own car (modified with hand controls), the very same car that he used to pick up other seniors on Sunday morning to bring them to church.  Many of George’s siblings were there, teasing him just as brothers and sisters do…his constant smile was a testament to the love his family gave him!

Meeting George had a profound effect on me…it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you encounter a man like that!  He took lemons and made lemonade, and he wasn’t bitter, even after spending his whole life in constant pain!

George passed away on May 31, 2004.  I am one of many people who will never forget him!

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I’m Versatile Again This Week!

Yesterday, I opened my new friend Melissa‘s post over at Play 101…she had been given the Versatile Blogger Award, and had graciously passed it on to me and 14 other bloggers.  I encourage you to check out Melissa’s blog…she is a TV news reporter who writes both eloquently and sensibly about many different topics, including parenting her two young children.  She’s funny too!

Versatile Blogger Award

This is my third VB award, and one of several blogging awards that I’ve been given in the last couple of months.  The rules state that I must link to the person who gave me the award (done), list seven previously unknown facts about myself, and pass it on to 15 newfound blogging buddies.  I’m running out of people to pick on give the award to, so I’m going to tweak the last part a bit…I hope Melissa doesn’t mind!

Seven Things About Me I Don’t Think I’ve Told You (And You Might Not Want to Know)

1.  My feet are really big…I was wearing a size 7 by the time I was 11.  I am now a size 10.  I hope my feet stop growing soon!

2. I was my elementary school’s president in Grade 6 (I really wasn’t that popular…it was a three-room school with fewer than 100 students!).  My campaign slogan was: “Don’t Go Bananas Over Boys!”  Maybe I’ll let Hilary borrow that if she ever decides to take a run at the presidency!

3. I love feeling the bristles of somebody’s brush cut…I used to surprise the little boy sitting in front of me in Grade 2 by running my hand up the back of his head at random times.  I think he liked it…

4. My little brother and I were once interviewed by a newspaper reporter while our dog was delivering puppies in the same room (we used to do a community newsletter in our hamlet of 150 people – I was 13, and he was 10)!

5. Lilies are my favourite flowers.

6. I often have strange, inexplicable dreams: Last night, I dreamed that a former co-worker was playing the banjo (she doesn’t – I checked).  The night before, I dreamed that a guy I knew in high school was throwing me into the trunk of his car and kidnapping me (he’s a hairdresser who dabbles in photography, art and fashion design – very scary!).

7. I refuse to eat olives…they look like eyes, and don’t taste good to me at all!

Passing On the Award

Instead of just picking 15 people who have already been awarded multiple times, I’ve chosen some of my favourite posts to share with you…feel free to respond with some of your favourites too!  It’s all about sharing the love! 

1. 36 x 37: All Pipes Lead to the Ocean.  Maura has a devastating accident, and has to break the bad news to her sons.

2. Big Happy Nothing: May I Have Some Assertiveness Training, Please? Amiable Amiable and I have a lot in common…we’re part of the newly-formed Doormat Club!

3. BlurtI Am Not a Pharmacist, But I’m Willing to Try.  Omawarisan recounts how he deals with having a similar phone number to a drugstore. 

4. H is for Happiness: Phoenix.  Harsha remembers the Mumbai bombing in 2008. 

5. Lanny the Leopard: Guest Post (originally on Hippie Cahier).  A young man goes off to Boot Camp, as told by his faithful friend.

6. Ironic MomExplaining the 80s to Children.  Leanne tells her 6-year-old twins about a period of ancient history.

7. Jacquelin Cangro: Eighteen Minutes: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.  Jacquelin relates the tragic story of a workplace disaster that led to safer working conditions for all of us.

8. Life is a Spectrum: The Long Distance Runner. Four-year-old Billy runs a race, and teaches us all a very important lesson.

9. Mostly Bright Ideas: Ideas to Live Without.  Contrary to the title of his blog, Charles illuminates some really bad ideas.

10. Murrmurrs: What We Have Here is a Failure to Procreate.  Murr explains the decision she and her husband made not to have children.

11. Plane Janer’s Journey: Male Readers Beware…The Ladies are Going Bra Shopping.  Jane’s piece supports her theory that “it is harder to find a well-fitting, reasonably priced, attractive bra than it is to find a good man to marry.”

12. Simply Diane: In Celebration…Red Mary Janes With No Buckles.  Diane recounts the story of adopting her daughter.

13. Sunshine in London: Not Just Another Winter’s Tale.  Sunshine remembers her late father-in-law in this love-filled post.

14. The $#!& I Think About: The Secret Lives of Cats.  Have you ever wondered what cats really do when their owners aren’t around?  Be sure to read both parts of this hilarious series!

15. Todd Pack’s Messy Desk: Cool Hand, Luke. Todd has a frank discussion with his 5-year-old son.

This is but a tip of the iceberg in terms of the talented people who are part of my blogging community (I only have great writers on my blogroll – check out He Said, She Said and They Said)…I wish I had to time and space to highlight all of them! 

What posts have you read recently that made you laugh, made you cry, or made you think?

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They’re G-r-r-r-eat! Cereals of My Youth Remembered…

It seems that this week’s blog theme has been food…might as well continue the trend!

I was born in 1961, and grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons on our black and white TV.  We didn’t have cable either…on a good day, our “rabbit ears” would bring in 4 channels (yes, children, I said FOUR channels)!  We looked forward to the commercials as much as the cartoons…they would give us something to bug our parents to buy for us on the next shopping trip!  Sure, there were commercials for toys, but the cereal companies had the Saturday morning hours pretty well locked up…what were little Johnny and little Susie eating while they were watching cartoons?  Cereal, of course.

My parents had a pretty strict budget, which usually didn’t include the “good cereals” as my brother and I longingly referred to them (the more sugar and artificial colour they contained, the more we wanted them!).  Mom and Dad’s version of “good cereals” were Corn Flakes (yawn), Cheerios (boring), Raisin Bran (they got really soggy, really fast!), and Shredded Wheat (who decided that cereal with the texture of a steel wool pad was a good idea?…”Just put a little milk on it…the old farts won’t even notice!”). 

You can put all the strawberries on it that you want...it won't make the texture any better! (photo from art.com)

 

Other entries were Rice Krispies (never Cocoa Krispies!), Puffed ______ (fill in the blank with Rice or Wheat), Life (which was okay…it tasted all right and we liked the “Mikey” commercials!), and Shreddies (“Good, good whole wheat Shreddies” – sure…if you don’t forget about them while you’re busy watching the Road Runner!).  Did I also mention that we didn’t actually put real milk on our cereal?  We used powdered milk, the most vile of concoctions ever foisted upon poor people!

The cereals Mom and Dad bought never had anything good “Free Inside”…if you were lucky, there would be some pencil game on the outside of the package you could do if you managed to grab the box before it went into the trash.  Once in a while, they’d cave and get cereal with a toy inside (they’d have to buy two boxes, so we’d each get one)…here’s a picture of my brother, Jeff, with a balloon boat:

Jeff and his cereal balloon boat...lots more fun than the peas he was supposed to be finishing...

 

The other kind of cereal my parents almost never bought were the “little boxes”…those individual serving sizes of ten different kinds packaged together in a cardboard tray.  I always thought it was neat that you didn’t even need to pour them into a bowl…you could use the box as the bowl if you opened it right!  I think Mom and Dad were environmentally-aware even before it was trendy, much to my brother’s and my chagrin!  Lucky for us, our grandparents were not!  When we went to Grandma T.’s house, my Grandad always stocked the cupboard with all the cereals they flogged in the commercials (big and little boxes)!  We were in heaven!

These are cereal snack packs from the late 80's (photo by planet-Q on flickr.com)

Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Krispies, and Count Chocula would always turn the milk into chocolate milk, and Franken Berry turned the milk pink (Grandma also had strawberry Quik, which we used to make strawberry milk…yum!).  Cap’n Crunch was another favourite, especially the Peanut Butter Crunch…crunchy goodness!  We always picked the little marshmallow shapes out of the Lucky Charms, and ate them first!  In a pinch, we’d eat Alpha Bits, or Honeycomb, but their colour wasn’t that appealing to us!  I loved anything with the word “sugar” in the title…Sugar Pops, Sugar Crisp or Sugar Smacks would always disappear as fast as I could eat them!  Just try finding these now: Sugar Pops has been politically corrected to Corn PopsSugar Crisp is now Golden Crisp (I wonder if the Sugar Bear got to keep his name?); and Sugar Smacks is simply Smacks, which smacks of stupidity if you ask me!

Occasionally, they would advertise cereal in time slots other than Saturday mornings…I’d forgotten about Corn Flakes’ sponsorship of one of our favourite sitcoms, The Beverly Hillbillies…Click here to see the commercial : http://www.retrojunk.com/details_commercial/3344/           

Excuse me…I feel the urge for some ShreddiesHoney Shreddies, of course…they didn’t have those when I was growing up!  I wonder why they didn’t call them Sugar Shreddies…it has a nice ring to it!

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Rock It Science…Couch Curling for Dummies…

I admit it…I am what’s known as a “couch curler”…I have watched and enjoyed curling every winter for the last 30 years or so (I can’t play because of my bad knees).  It all started when I was about eighteen…I was just coming off my Wayne Gretzky crush, when I stumbled on a Junior Curling event on TV.  It was 1980, and skip John Kawaja from Northern Ontario won it all.  He was gorgeous (Wayne who?)!

John played Third for Ed Werenich's winning 1983 Brier Team...that's John second from the right...photo by Doug Shanks, Canadian Press

Having been made aware of my love for a sport that causes many Americans to scratch their heads and ask “What’s that?”, my friend Todd urged me to do a piece on curling: “Wendy…you really, really, really need to post something about the sport of curling.”  The Brier (the Canadian national men’s tournament – the Super Bowl of curling) was just played this past weekend, and I like my readers to be happy, so…here goes…I present “Couch Curling for Dummies”, a fun guide which will allow you to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of a sport that most people south of the 49th Parallel don’t know exists!

The Game Has Ends and is Called a Draw Even When the Score Isn’t Tied

A traditional curling match or draw has ten ends, which aren’t “endings”, but sections of the game, like innings in baseball or quarters in football (a match can be shorter than ten ends, if one team is getting their butts kicked and forfeits!).  Each team delivers eight stones for each end.  The ends themselves aren’t timed individually, but each team has 73 minutes to throw their stones during the regular game, and the option of taking two 60-second timeouts.  If extra ends are required, they get an extra 10 minutes and one timeout per end to play. 

The Team Has Ends

Each curling team or rink has afront end: the lead and the second.  The lead delivers his two stones, followed by the second, who throws his two.  These folks are the main sweepers for the team, usually the muscles of the outfit.  The team’s back end is where the brains are, the third (or mate, usually only in the platonic sense) and the skip.  The third plays after the second, and offers advice to the skip about team strategy.  The third also sweeps when the lead and the second throw their stones.  The skip is the boss, and is usually the best player on the team (he almost never sweeps, unless a stone needs “extra help” to get where they want it to go!).  He calls the shots…skips need to be both smart and good yellers (see “What the Skip Yells” below).  People who curl nearly always have day jobs…curling doesn’t pay the big bucks like hockey, and players usually travel on their own dime!  Curlers are people you’d run into when you’re getting groceries or picking up your kids at school.  I’ve never heard of a curler using “performance-enhancing” drugs.

The Game is Played on a Sheet With Houses and Hacks at Each End

The sheet is a carefully-prepared patch of ice about 150 feet long by 16.5 feet wide.  Small droplets of water are intentionally sprayed on the ice that cause irregularities on the surface (pebble), allowing the rocks to curl (travel in a curved fashion rather than a straight line).  At each end of the sheet, there are three concentric rings, a red one measuring 4′, surrounded by a white one measuring 8′, inside a blue one measuring 12’…these are the houses, or the targets that the players are shooting for.  In the middle of the house is the button, a one-foot circle which is the bullseye…stones of the same colour closest to the button at the conclusion of an end will score (see “How To Score Points”).  Twelve feet behind each button are the hacks, two rubber-lined holes 3″ from the centre line which give the thrower something to push against with his foot when delivering the throw (he would choose the appropriate hole based on which foot he pushes with).  There are also horizontal lines on the sheet: the near hog line is closest to the hack…the player must let go of his rock before the stone touches the near hog line, and the rock must cross the far hog line (without crossing the back line or touching the sides) to be in play.  The T-line goes through the middle of the house, and is the point where the front end has to stop sweeping once the rock touches it.  Only the skip can sweep the rock after it’s crossed the T-line, and this is also the only point at which the other team can sweep a rock. 

Curling sheet – CL: Centreline • HOL: Hogline • TL: Teeline • BL: Backline • HA: Hackline with Hacks • FGZ: Free Guard Zone (diagram from Wikipedia.org)

Everybody Has A Broom, Rocks, a Slider and a Gripper

Each team member carries a broom, which is really a long-handled brush used to balance when delivering a rock, clean the ice in front of a stone (sweeping lightly), and sweep a rock, which means really digging into the ice in front of a stone while it’s in motion to make it go faster and straighter (this is where the “muscle” comes in for the front end of the team).  The rocks are 38 to 44 lb. polished chunks of granite fitted with coloured handles, usually either red or yellow in tournament play.  A narrow 5″ ring on the bottom of the rock is the only part of the stone that actually touches the ice.  Sliders are slipped over the toe of one shoe of the curlers on their sliding foot so that they can glide easily down the ice when delivering their shots.  The other shoe is their gripper.  Some curlers use curling gloves to grip the rock or the broom more easily.  Players use stopwatches to track rock speed and make decisions about strategy.

Taking A Shot

To deliver a shot, a player crouches and places his gripper shoe in the hack with the stone in one hand (resting on the ice) and his broom in the other.  Aiming toward the skip who is holding his broom where he wants the stone at the other end of the sheet, the player rests his own broom on the ice for balance as he pulls the stone back, then lunges smoothly out from the hack pushing the stone ahead while the slider foot is moved in front of the gripper foot, which trails behind.

The Canadian team taking a shot at the 2006 Olympics (photo by Bjarte Hetland)

Once the rock comes out of the shooter’s hand, it’s up to the sweepers to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go…the skip tells them what to do.

Types of Shots

Making good shots in curling takes years and years of practice, as well as a steady hand.  Good sweepers help too.

A draw shot is one that is simply sent into play without knocking another stone out.  A freeze is where a stone is shot so that it lands as close as possible to another stone already in play, and makes it nearly impossible to take out.  The draw and the freeze are the precision shots, because they travel much more slowly than the takeout shots, and are harder to control. 

A takeout is one where the shooter is removing another stone in play by hitting it with his own: in a peel, the shooter hits the other stone hard enough that the shooter’s stone will also go out of play (if he wants to blank the end – see “How To Score Points”).  A raise is where the shooter uses the delivered stone to bump another one forward, and a raise takeout is a shot in which the delivered stone bumps a second stone which in turn knocks a third stone out of play (also called a runback).         

What the Skip Yells

1. “Hard” or “Hurry Hard“.  Tells the sweepers to sweep harder and faster.

2. “Offor “Whoa”.  Tells the sweepers to stop sweeping a rock, but not necessarily cleaning it.

3. “Right Off“.  Tells the sweepers not to sweep or clean a rock.

4. “Never“.  This lets the sweepers know that the rock needs to curl and that they should stay off of it.      

Note: These commands rarely work with children or if one is caught in a traffic jam.

How to Score Points – Slide Softly and Carry a Big Hammer

Points are scored after each end depending on how many rocks a team has closest to the button in the house without an opposing stone intermixed (one point for each rock)…with good players, it is rare to score more than 3 points in a given end (common scores are 1 or 2).  The rock closest to the button is called the shot rock, while the next closest one is second shot, and so on.  Only one team can score points in each end.

The team who delivers the last rock of the end is said to have the hammer – this is a huge advantage.  Who has the hammer in the first end is usually determined by a coin toss…after that, whoever didn’t score in the preceding end has the hammer in the next one.  If the end is blanked, the team who has the hammer keeps it for the next end.  If a team manages to score in an end where they don’t have the hammer, it’s called a steal (no one is penalized in this case).

After the Game

Once a draw is finished, the players generally shake hands, gather up their stuff, and get off the ice.  Later, they may stack the brooms, which means socializing with each other or their opponents, usually over a beer or two.  They might also trade curling pins which are often collected by players and spectators alike, and displayed on sweaters, vests and hats.

Pin collectors Roger and Bob compare notes at this year's Brier...photo by Morris Lamont, London Free Press

The next time you’ve got three hours to kill on a winter weekend, flip on a curling game on TSN, and curl up on the couch with some popcorn!  I’m looking forward to watching the PVR of The Brier tonight, even though I already know who won.  I’ll be yelling “Hurry hard!” at Glen Howard’s Ontario team!

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The Love Link…Happy 100th, Grandma T.!

Yesterday would have been my Grandma Thompson’s 100th birthday…I can’t think of a more appropriate day to do a tribute to her than the hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day!  I learned so much about life from both my Grandma and my mom (her daughter)!

Martha Alinette Taylor was the third child of five born to Lewis A. Taylor and Marie C. (Auer) Taylor.  She was born March 7, 1911 at home in Marysville, Ohio.  She was called “Martha” as a child, but preferred “Alinette” as an adult (“Alinette” was a combination of her grandmothers’ names: Alice and Annette).  When Grandma was about four, the family moved to her Grandma Taylor’s farm, about 8 miles from Marysville on the Beecher Side Road (her Grandma was Alice Beecher Taylor, a distant cousin of the “famous” Beechers).  The farm was quite a shock for Grandma’s mom (my Mamma), who had grown up with all the modern conveniences in town, and was not accustomed to houses with no running water, no electricity, no furnace, and no indoor plumbing!  The family shared the farmhouse with dozens of rats and mice too! 

Grandma’s dad started on the farm with hogs, but then switched to sheep farming.  He also raised Border Collies specifically to work livestock.  One of his dogs, Rex, was a regular performer at the Ohio State Fair, and got so famous that he was even used in a national film!  Sadly, Rex was killed by a car when he was only 5  years old. 

As a girl in high school, Grandma’s teachers always wanted her to become a teacher, but she had her heart set on office work: when her Dad cleaned out his desk, she’d go through the wastebasket and salvage papers she could play “office” with!  Grandma and her mom were always close…Grandma’s teenaged friends were shocked when she told them she’d ask her mother if they had questions about S-E-X…they wouldn’t think of posing the questions to their own mothers! 

After graduation from high school, Grandma was given two scholarships from local colleges, but her dad didn’t have the money for her to go, and Grandma wasn’t healthy enough to work part-time while she went to school.  She took part of a correspondence course in office work (typing and shorthand), before being offered a secretary/bookkeeper job with the Farm Bureau.  It was September, 1931…the salary was $40 a month.  Grandma took the position, and moved into a room near the office.  Her boss, a “Mr. Bear”, was initially not keen on her being hired, and co-workers told her he tried to get her to quit by piling on the work.  Grandma did it anyway.  She worked there for 3 and 1/2 years, and when she was gone, they hired TWO women to take her place!

When she wasn’t working, Grandma was a bit lonely…she’d heard that her old piano teacher, Jennie Sherwood, had opened a music school in her home nearby, and that Miss Sherwood was staging dramatic productions there.  Grandma took some drama lessons, and it was at one of the shows that she met my Grandad, Lewis C. Thompson…he was the good-looking stage manager!  The two were talking backstage, and Grandad was so absorbed, he missed his cue to open the curtain!  He didn’t ask her out that night, but Grandma noticed that the Floyd’s Dairy milk truck he drove seemed to go by her office a lot during the day…Grandad honked and waved every time.  It was two weeks before he asked her out…it wasn’t long before Grandma’s milkman was “her milkman”!  They used to put notes to each other in the empty milk bottles, and Grandma rigged her bedroom light with a string so that when Grandad went by at 4:30 a.m. and honked, she’s turn the light on and off in response.

Grandma and Grandad were married on September 21, 1934 in an evening ceremony at her family’s farm…it was an intimate affair…her parents couldn’t afford a big wedding!  The couple went on to have four daughters: Geraldine (Jerry) in 1935, Dorothy (Dottie – my mom) in 1939, Judy in 1942, and Connie in 1954 (she was a happy surprise!).  Both worked full-time for many years: Grandma became the accountant at Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine, and then the Comptroller at Carter Steel.  Grandad ran a filling station, drove a Columbus city bus, managed the Holland Theatre in Bellefontaine, and then worked in management for Super Food Services (a grocery wholesaler).

Grandad and Grandma in 1935...that baby bump is my Aunt Jerry!

In the early 1970’s, Grandma was forced to retire due to ill health: osteoarthritis was causing her spine to disintegrate, and she also had other health conditions.  Despite multiple hospitalizations and being in chronic pain, Grandma simply found something else to do.  She started to volunteer at her church visiting shut-ins.  After a year, she was asked to be chair of the “Love Link.”  In 1976, Grandma introduced a phone element to the program, calling shut-ins every couple of weeks just to let them know their church still cared about them.  By this time, she was doing her work from her “office,” a mattress on the floor of the living room where Grandma spent her days.  In addition to building a special typing table on wheels so Grandma could type lying down, Grandad rigged up a station wagon with a mattress in the back, and took Grandma to visit her shut-ins…she would lie on their couch and talk to them for a few minutes.  When she wasn’t “running the roads”, Grandma would recycle used greeting cards given to her by friends and family to make notes and cards for her people…she also made Christmas tags and post cards from used Christmas cards for sale at the church’s winter bazaar.  She gives my Grandad due credit in a piece she wrote encouraging fellow church members to “Get Involved”:
“All this is made possible by my wonderful husband who is chief cook, and bottle washer, besides running all my errands and chauffeuring, etc.”
When I was a young child, we would visit Grandma and Grandad on holidays, as we lived two hours away.  At Easter, Grandma would fill a decorated coffee can with candy for each grandchild…the cans had our names on them.  In 1969, our family moved to Canada, 550 miles away from Grandma’s, so our visits with them were reduced to two a year: summer holidays and at Christmas.  One Christmas tradition Grandma did in the 1970’s was called the Grab Bag. All her daughters had young families: after opening the gifts at Christmas time, the grandchildren would go to the Rumpus Room, where there was a big pile of brown paper bags in the middle of the floor.  We would take turns “grabbing” a bag for our family, until they were all gone (it was fair, because all the daughters had a girl and a boy!).  All through the year, Grandma would stock up on paper products, dime store items, and other small essentials that a family could use.  She’d save grocery bags, and before Christmas, pack the items in them and staple them shut (in later years, my cousin Barb and I sometimes got to help her…that was fun).

Grandma and Grandad...late 1970's

My Grandma was only about 4’11” tall due to her spinal disintegration, but she had a lot of energy in her small frame!  She was a big hugger, and loved all of her grandchildren dearly!  We were all devastated when we got the news that Grandma had suffered a heart attack and died on February 15, 1979.  My Grandad followed her a little over five years later, after succumbing to his second bout with cancer. 

My Grandma wasn’t a traditional woman by any means, but she was a wonderful example to all of us!

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Note: Much of the information for this post came from Grandma’s memoirs, which she wrote for her daughters a couple of years before she died.

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A Cutie, A Cake, Cars, Cousins and Confusion…

It’s been another busy week…welcome to another random chapter of my crazy existence!

1. A Cutie.  While digging through old photos looking for a picture of my paternal grandparents (I didn’t find it), I found this gem from early 1963.  That’s me a few months before I turned two (no cat’s eye glasses yet!).

Wendy as a toddler...Ohio, 1963...I still have those cheeks!

 2. A Cake.  We’re big fans of the Food Network and TLC at our house…we especially love watching cake shows like Cake Boss, and The Next Great Baker.  One of the cakes we see a lot is Red Velvet Cake…Hope wanted desperately to try it!  On Friday night, she went on the Internet, and printed out a recipe (Google it…I don’t know which one we used!).  The recipe called for two tablespoons of red food colouring…we didn’t have quite that much, but it still came out very nicely.  The cream cheese icing makes it though!  The only drawback is having to find space in the fridge for the cake.

Hope's and my Red Velvet Cake...

Doesn't it look delicious?

3. Cars.  I told you earlier about Jim’s issue last week with our Toyota Corolla.  Well, the news from the transmission place wasn’t good…with almost 300,000 kilometres on it, spending another $1500+ to repair the car wouldn’t be very smart.  We just forked over $1500 to fix our van.  So…we’ve got a “new to us” car, a 2005 Mazda 6.  Jim is very happy…he likes sporty cars (I’d be happier if it was automatic!).  When Kaylee and Scott found out we weren’t going to keep the Toyota, they offered to buy it.  Scott’s Acura Integra isn’t a very practical family car, and he’s capable of doing a lot of the work on the Toyota himself.  Jim sold it to him for the cost of the winter tires we just put on last fall.  Win-win for everybody!

Jim's New Baby...

4. Cousins.  I also found this picture of me and some of my cousins (ca. 1982) while looking through photos.

Left to right: Me (back in the days of the perm), my brother Jeff, Barb, Darin, Larry, and Sandy

These last two didn’t come along until later:

Caryn and Ron, ca. 1986

My mom was the second of four sisters…each sister had a girl and a boy.  My cousin, Barb, was nine months younger than I was…we used to spend hours playing in her toy-filled bedroom.  She had more Barbie dolls and clothing than I’d ever seen!  Barb’s younger brother, Darin, was nine months younger than my little brother, Jeff…Darin was into cars and trucks with sirens.  When we stayed at Barb and Darin’s house, I remember having chocolate ice cream for breakfast on more than one occasion…we loved going to visit them!  My cousin, Larry, was ten months older than I was…it was he that I had the famous Iced-Tea Chugging Contest with.  His sister, Sandy, was three years older than I was…she had a major crush on Bobby Sherman when we were teenagers.  We six cousins had a wonderful time playing water volleyball in my Aunt Judy‘s back yard swimming pool!

My cousins Caryn and Ron were considerably younger than we were (their mom is my mom’s youngest sister).  My Grandma had a bed on the living room floor where she spent her days…her spine had deteriorated due to osteoarthris.  I remember Caryn when she was three years old sitting beside Grandma…that little girl was the perkiest kid I’d ever run across…she was always talking!  The last time I saw Ron, he was about 15 months old…he was running around the pool wearing a dripping disposable diaper which had swollen to three times its original size with water, and was threatening to come off any minute!  It didn’t bother him a bit…he just kept going!  It still makes me giggle thinking about it!

Today, all my cousins (except Ron – he’s only 25) have kids of their own.  I’ve only met a couple of them, but have enjoyed getting to know “the second generation” on Facebook…very talented bunch!

My family is currently planning a family reunion, which I won’t be able to attend due to time and distance…I miss them all and wish I could be there!  I’m hoping they take lots of pictures!

5. Confusion.  We were eating supper on Sunday night when Anna asked, “Is the Super Bowl live?”  My children have led sheltered lives, at least when it comes to major league sports…

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Flax, Fishing, Flickr, Flatulence, and Frustrations…But the Alliteration Stops Here…

It’s been another “can’t get out of my own way” week…here are some of the highlights:

1. Flax.  Spurred by my friend Suzanne’s success with homemade bagels,  I decided to give them a try.  I make bread a lot, but have only tried to make bagels one other time (with disappointing results!).  I eat a bagel (with jam) every morning for breakfast…my favourite flavour is “Sunflower Flax,” so I looked for a recipe for Flax Bagels online (thank you, Kristin!).  The recipe I used recommended dividing the dough into small balls before forming the bagels by sticking your thumb through the ball and stretching the hole a bit.  The boiling time was also quite a bit longer than Suzanne recommended: 5 minutes (I compromised with about three minutes).  One thing I learned is that I should have loosened the bagels from the cookie sheet right after I took them out of the oven…as they cooled, the sugar water stuck them to the tray like glue (even though I oiled the pan first).  Here are six of my 18 “beauties”:

Flax Bagels...they tasted as good as they look!

2. Fishing.  One of Jim’s work colleagues invited him to visit his ice-fishing hut this past weekend (we wanted to go, but were too busy ferrying kids around – maybe next weekend!).  I’ve loved to fish since I was a kid in Rednersville in Prince Edward County, Ontario…the best part of fishing is digging for the worms!  My younger brother and I would buy fish hooks at our neighbourhood store (2 for 5 cents), and take our rods down to the Bay of Quinte.  Mostly, we caught sunfish, perch, and large and small-mouthed bass…we always threw them back (the only fish we ate then came in stick form, and the Bay was known for its mercury contamination).  One day, I caught a big catfish. Unfortunately, it had swallowed my hook…I tried and tried to get it out (I even went home and got Dad’s needle-nosed pliers!).  After an hour-and-a-half, I reluctantly cut the line, knowing that the fish would probably die…what a decision for an eleven-year-old!  I was a guilty mess for the rest of the day!

The last time I was fishing was about seven years ago, when Hope was five…we took the kids to a Fish Farm, where they had a pond stocked with speckled trout.  You could catch as many as three fish, and pay, based on the weight of what you caught.  Hope has a rather short attention span…she was done in about three minutes.  I took over her pole (Anna stuck with it!).  We got our three fish, and took them home.  Once they were cleaned and filleted (a part of fishing I refuse to do), I stuffed them with fresh mushrooms and baked them in the oven…yummy!

Jim and I got fishing licenses the first summer we lived at Hammond River, but never ended up going fishing…maybe this summer!

3. Flickr.  Anna got a spiffy new camera on the weekend, the Nikon D3100.  The plan is for her to start building her portfolio for her post-secondary education (she graduates in 2012).  She’s been borrowing Jim’s zoom lens and taking photos of our back porch wildlife.  Anna has a new account on Flickr if you want to see more (link also under “Photos” at right).

One of our kamikaze squirrels...someone should tell them that plastic isn't good to eat! (Photo by Anna Matheson)

 

4. Flatulence.  The other day, I was having a spirited conversation with a customer at the bookstore about the beauty of structural details in old buildings.  We were standing in front of the “Technical” section…I heard a series of small explosions as he stepped quickly away from me, excusing himself.  Whoo-eee!  I don’t know what the man had for breakfast, but my money’s on beans!  I bit my lip, trying hard not to laugh…it doesn’t take much to get me going…I wonder sometimes if I was a 10-year-old boy in another life!

5. Frustrations.  We had another snowstorm yesterday, which dropped another foot on us, and gave the kids another snow day, their fifth one this winter (it came at the end of the high schoolers’ exams, and two “turn-around” days, so the older kids had a whole week off!).  Since Jim had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, his boss suggested he work from home in the morning.  I decided to take a “snow day” too.  I stayed in my jammies all day, stepping away from the computer every once in a while to break up arguments in the family room (and load the dishwasher with millions of cups and bowls!). 

Jim left for the doctor’s office around two…the snow was a blizzard by then!  He texted me to let me know he’d made it to the office, and then called once he was finished with his appointment.  He advised that he was going to pick up a prescription and then return home.  My dad called at 4:00 from the bookstore to say that he was planning to close early and come home…he wanted to know how the driveway was.  I told him our plow guy hadn’t come yet, but he’d probably make it in if he hurried!  Fifteen minutes later, Jim called to tell me the transmission on the car had died a mile down the road…he was waiting for a tow truck, and directing people around the car, which was still in the roadway.  Luckily, our neighbour who lives in the house near where he broke down invited Jim in to get warm while he waited…he usually wears several layers of clothing (he once went to work with two pairs of pyjama pants under his jeans), but had left the house in a hurry in the afternoon (at least there was a toque and gloves in the car!).  He finally got home about 5:15…the tow truck driver had kindly dropped him off (for just over $140, it was the least he could do!).  So our Toyota is sitting at the transmission repair place in Saint John waiting for parts, in line behind several other vehicles whose parts were delayed by the snowstorm.  Did I mention we just had our van towed to the garage on Monday to have the problems with the power steering and the blower fixed (tally for that is over $1000 so far – they found some rusty lines)?  Thankfully, Jim’s parents will lend us a car until we have at least one of our vehicles back!

I got to bed late last night after a long distance phone call to a dear friend who’s going through a big crisis in her life.  Apparently, I neglected to set my alarm, and woke up an hour late this morning (and spent ten minutes looking for Anna’s cheerleading shorts, and then her coat).  I’m hoping people won’t notice that I haven’t had a shower…

At least I’m not farting…

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