Thursday, 31 January 2013

A good cup of coffee


I love the smell of the first brew in the morning, and I love drinking that first cup, in bed, while catching up on the news, weather, e-mails, etc.
Coffee conjures up good memories; first of all the full bean boiling in a heavy kettle on the wood stove, then the white corning ware pot, with the three blue flowers painted on its side, percolating on the stove top, and lastly, a highly technical coffee maker with water level adjustments and a red light to warn you to wait and a green one to go ahead.

  I learned to enjoy drinking it as a young child, I actually do not remember NOT drinking coffee. The best coffee was shared in the middle of a wheat field; cold coffee out of a mason jar passed around between  Dad, a hired man, Mom, and at least 2 of us kids. It was harvest time, and Mom had prepared a feast which we delivered in a sturdy cardboard box along with a worn out blanket which served as the table cloth. It was spread out in a mostly unseemly manner amongst the  dirt, dust, stubble  & bugs. There was that holy moment when Dad would pull up with the combine, all rumble and chaff, and turn off the engine. Silence absolute. We would see him grin through dirt and grime, lean over to pick up the jar of coffee, unscrew the lid, and take a good swallow. There was always talk of the weather, of how long the rains would hold off; was there water in those clouds? How many bushels of wheat per acre this year? The rubbing of wheat  between hands, blowing off the chaff, and then chewing to test whether or not there was moisture in the kernels, because moisture meant eventual mould, and mould meant a low grade, or a useless crop. There was a lot at stake here, a lot hung in the balance.
I wonder now how Dad gave himself permission to stop and enjoy a good cup of coffee, to lie on the open field with a full stomach, and rest, before he resuscitated the old field beast.

Monday, 28 January 2013

No laughing matter

Our wedding rehearsal was 41 years ago tonight, in a small, now defunct, church in the country, 15 miles away from the nearest town, and 2 miles from my farm home. It was minus 40 degrees outside, and inside we were praying and holding our breaths that the Air Canada strike would be called off so that Tom's family could arrive in time for the ceremony the following day. Out of town guests had been farmed out in various homes, and, along with the wedding attendants arrived at the church for the rehearsal. Of course we were all a little giddy &  anxious and the minister needed to take some leadership with the rambunctious group. He raised his voice, changed his tone and stated "this is no laughing matter here".
  Marriage is no laughing matter although we have done our fair share. My memory of the actual wedding day is rather vague, and if truth be told, I knew little of marriage and possibly even less of my groom. Our marriage counselling consisted of a prayer for us and a big pat on the back for our life together. We had cobbled together a ceremony  via air mail letters, each question requiring a wait of a least 30 days for a response. My Mom sewed up a simple but beautiful white velvet gown, and together with the church ladies made a meal that resembled all other wedding meals; potatoe salad, jello salad, cold cuts and sliced cheddar cheese. The wedding cake was a splendid work of art; a three tiered wonder that survived the elements and was cut up and shared amongst the guests.
  Here we are, 41 years later; and I must pay tribute to a man who promised to love me till death do us part. In sickness or in health he said, in rich times or poor. So help him God. He now wakes up to a woman that is barely recognisable from the one to whom he spoke his vows. That alone is no laughing matter, or, is it?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

It's all in the presentation. Show & tell.

Teachers of wee ones still have 'show and tell' in the classrooms ; one of the few things that has not gone out with the peanut butter sandwiches and no touch rules.
Wouldn't you just love to be the teacher who gets in on all the family secrets and stories?
Amelia spilled a little secret to her dance instructor yesterday, a personal achievement of hers that heralds the advent of striking pampers off the shopping list. Can you imagine the importance of this achievement in her mind, big enough to share in the learning circle, and more importantly, a safe place to be proud of it. Can you imagine an instructor big enough to celebrate this with her and to invite other children to applaud? A place of no judgement, no criticsm and where others are truly happy for you, with no thread of envy.

So when does this precious stage of innocent showing and telling end? When there is a snicker in the group? When there is an awkward silence? When someone makes fun of it or you and you shut down &  close the lid on sharing?
Where do we  go with the things that make us proud? Proud of our achievements, a homemade project completed, a well done exam, a sculpture, a photograph, a poem, our spouse, a  progress of miniscule size or  a success story. Or, conversely, where do we go to share our pain, absolute sadness, or disappoinments?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Ripe old age and growing pains

Our oldest grand son is suffering from growing pains, the bone deep thrumming of cells pushing ahead to produce the final product. His feet and hands are ready; large, long, and prepared in advance for the growth spurts. It is a beautiful thing to watch; the 'dirty stach', the voice lowered to that of a man, the new emotions that challenge those of his parents and siblings, and thoughts and queries that sit on the cusp of boyhood and adulthood. While nursing his aching legs with a hot water bottle after  a soccer game he announced "I want to wake up tomorrow and be 6 foot 4".

Does anyone ever wish they could wake up in the morning and be 100 years old?

We were invited to attend an open house to celebrate J.G.'s 100th. birthday on Saturday. He said he was proud to have reached 100 and was thankful that dementia had not 'set in'. [Is dementia like a bowl of jello? does it 'set in' while no one is watching?] The secret to this,  he said, is  to 'keep your mind active and  your body  moving'. Then someone made a comment that he had reached a 'ripe old age'. Well, think about that for minute....ripe has many meanings and connotations, the one being "most suitable or right for a particular purpose". And another "fully developed and ready to be used".

Friday, 18 January 2013

Cracklings and texting

leap oWhen I was young, and if I was lucky, very lucky, I would wake up to the smell of frying cracklings. If I did wake up to the smell of frying lard and bacon 'butchering left overs', it meant two things; it was winter and it was Saturday. Weekday mornings left no time to savour this treat, and Sunday was no time to go to church smelling of fat or burping up during the service. So the rare Saturday that our dreams would be wakened by the sounds of cracklings being simmered in bits of raw potatoe and onion, we knew it was going to be a great day indeed. One by one my 4 siblings and I crawled out of our shared beds and flew down the wooden painted near vertical staircase to land on our assigned seat at table. I say assigned; my parents solution to the constant bickering about whom we did not want to sit beside at that particular meal. My brother, the youngest, was seated in a particularly ugly wooden  high chair to Mothers right. At any given time and with out warning, he would slither out via the seat or cause immediate verbal shouts from all 5 of us as he stood up and leaned backwards. Or, he could thwart all conversation by bang banging the wooden tray. This would result in well intentioned  attention and chaos. I sat to my Dad's right, a position I likely used as leverage in the 'deserving category'. To my right was my 'next in line' sister Doris, a shy and reticent sister who unlike her outward nature, had the gift of swiftly twisting the skin directly behind my knee. Obviously this must have been a result of my mentioning something derogatory about her or a snigger of a secret we had shared in the bed the night before. It may have been the mere mention of a boys name that would trigger this assault to my knees behind, but it was deadly and would stop me cold in the middle of a word. I would then know to either segue into a quickly thought of new topic, or, drop the matter entirely. The last sibling to hit the landing at the bottom of the stairs was immediately attacked for being tardy and making us starve as we waited. This guilt could be used as leverage against this person for the duration if the day. At some point it would become tiresome and one parent when firmly state that "enough is enough". But we nurtured the crime as long as possible.
We arrived at the table in our still bed warm homemade flannelet pyjamas and ogled Mom as she conquered the final steps of the fry. Once Dad had given thanks for "the hands that prepared it and for a God who loved us', she would take the fire hot cast iron pan and dump the grits into a stainless steel sieve. Then, with the back of a wooden spoon or bottom of a fat mug, she would fervently squish out the last possible drop of fat, rendering it healthy and fit to be eaten. They were presented in the middle size bowl that came in a set of three colors; red, yellow and greenish. The colors well worn and faded held foods fit for queens. Next to the bowl came a platter of 'Friday baked white buns' and an array of jams that together with the bun, off set the grease of the cracklings. These breakfasts were slow meals, you could swing your slippered feet under your vinyl chair until your stomach felt 'a bit off' from too much food.
Fast forward to the last 6 weeks, where the Saturday morning breakfasts were not cracklings and white buns, but pancakes with white sauce and syrups, fresh fruit and cheese.
Should you ask me what one of the highlights of the visit was for me, I would have to say table times. Chaos, tipped over chairs, sibling yelps of 'ouch' [who is doing the pinching], the youngest assigning herself to the seat next to her Dad, 'accidental' belching, long legs under the table folding and unfolding themselves, the Mom saying 'all I want is one nice quiet meal with NO fighting', the conversations gliding from abortions to adoptions, career options, which teacher looks like she/he is ready to croak, friend dilemmas, and who is the favorite in the family. There is only one  rule that this family has that my parents did not have to contend with; NO TEXTING at the table, no electronic gadgets of any kind allowed. No debate. No contest.
I can move my chair back just a wee bit now, and be rather chuffed [pleased and proud] about the family, all of them, the 3 in the west and 6 in the east. I observe the parents teaching and modelling life, doing their utmost to prepare their children to be socially accepted, globally aware, respectful, loving, caring, wise, affectionate, and, and.....individuals. I love all the laughter. I love it that their laughter is not squelched. It makes me laugh as well. It makes me feel like I clicked the 'refresh' button.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Twirling thoughts

This is our youngest twirler, a princess who loves nothing more than to hear the swish of her skirt, to watch it brush the floor with a flourish of life. I love nothing more than to see her face while she twirls, she has no awareness of anything but her swirling skirt, which makes a pink sparkling hue settle in my brain and spread over my heart. It is simply PURE divine joy for her and for me. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Another crack at life

Yesterday I said 'I wish I was younger".  The response from the person in the room was immediate; why would I say that. Well, here's the thing. There is a buzz term that has attached itself to this generation, namely. "live in the here and now". So a statement that is any other, likely sounds like I am an ingratiate. In reality, living in the past can be a grounding experience as long as one does not sit there indefinitely. Living in the future is essential in order to be as prepared as one can be for what is forth coming. It can also be pleasurable to think about some of your past, and dream and make plans for the future.
"I wish I was younger" was a response to 6 weeks of observing 4 grand children, 3 of which are starting the discussions of post secondary education, careers and life style choices. There seem to be limitless options although each of them are dependent on so many factors; finances, location, academics and interests to name a few. These discussions allowed me to reflect on my own decisions and what led to them. First of all, options. There seemed to be three in my memory, which of course could not be so. But I clearly remember three; [1].flight attendant [I had height and weight in my favour for the requirements [sad but true]. My parents frowned on this option and mentioned that it would be too easy to 'lose my faith' in this career. [2]. Police officer, oh, how many hours did I spend reading mystery novels and imaging myself as a private detective. Here again my parents stepped in and vetoed the idea, leaving me with the fact that should I choose this option, I would be out on my own without a blessing. That was a terrifying thought, so I honourably dropped the option. [3]. Nursing.I seldom entertained this one as even being an option because the mere thought of handling bodily functions left me weak kneed. I was traumatised by accidentally seeing my grandmother nude in the tub, so how could I manage the next step in actually taking care of it.
  Upon meeting and gaining a new friend, who was passionate about a nursing career, I moved into her jet stream and followed suit. All giggly and warm fuzzed, we registered and were accepted into the same school of nursing and moved into the same residence, a huge 7 story Catholic affair complete with crucifixes and statues of could I go wrong.

  So, here I am, wishing to be young again, and what would that accomplish? First of all, if that was a possibility, I would surely be the same person with the same personality attached to it; a low risk taker, a spectator more easily than a participant, and more content than malcontent. If I had gone to flight school, I would have been pining for home during every shift, tired of the same complaints and taking care of the needs of others in a smaller than deemed acceptable space, plus cleaning a toilet every few half hours. Than there is the police force;  my heart is softer than my voice, so, did my parents know my spirit would be damaged and my nights filled with terror? and the nursing quotient, was my career path not suitable for my personality? listening patiently to the endless stories and learning to revere the elderly rather than they becoming an irritant? how often did I not perceive the emergency nurses as being 'the real nurses', the ones who were organised and intense. But in fact, I would have been pushing up against technicalities instead of hanging in with the elderly for the long haul; advocating and supporting in a world of vulnerability and weakness.
  So, yes, there are many more options, but really, the core of myself is the same in the next life, not so??

Due to a clerical error

There are certain things in life that are predictable such as taxes, night, day, death, and up until this generation, a retirement cheque at age 65. In years past this check was anxiously awaited in the month following your 65th. birthday and most had planned a ceremony or ritual around its arrival; photos of the check, and a purchase usually related to wanton pleasure. So it was in 2012 with my hubby Thomas whose birthday lands in the middle of the month [November]. Paperwork to prepare Ottawa for that milestone was filled out and submitted well in advance as recommended. The only difference  between this paperwork and that of our parents , was that unless requested otherwise it would be automatically deposited into our account.
 After having worked with geriatrics most of my life, I knew the arrival date for these checks fell on the 28th. of each month or a day earlier if that date fell on a week-end or if the month happened to be December, when the government gifted their recipients with an early check in order to accommodate the season. We were in the Maritimes for the month of December and well into January, and so were a bit tardy in checking our 'on line' bank account. The 22nd. of December came and went, as did all of the days leading up to Christmas, and then New Years. No deposits were recorded so after the first few days of 2012, Thomas called the appropriate office in Victoria. After a lengthy 'hold' and a breathy 'this cannot be' and 'you must have forgotten to mail in your forms', the cleric did a little research and responded "well, there seems to be a clerical error". The plan proposed was to mail the check as soon as could be possible and to expect the funds to be deposited with in 2-3 business days.

 There really is NO point in agitating over how there could have been a clerical error, but here is MY point. I felt sorry for Thomas, that after putting in a full weeks of work since he was 19 years old he couldn't celebrate the initial deposit of his first OAP and instead had to sleuth out the absence of it.

  And here is a question, since the OAP was deposited in 2013 instead of 2012, how will the taxes be affected?

Truth be told, I will not lose any sleep over that question.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Hummus Hut

Hlynn @ the Happy Hummus Hut served us up some delicious hummus dip and rice paper wraps.

Brine Street

After a quick excursion to peruse the art of Desiree' Baker I took a pic of this quaint home close to Brine Street..