Thursday, December 30, 2010


Jo Anne, Kathy, Cathy

Look at that swanky new angel-hat Cathy is wearing!

The ladies arrived yesterday in the early afternoon, shared a late lunch with me, hung out in the living room for several hours and were back on the road by 5 o'clock.

The visit was short, but sweet. One thing about them driving all the way out here was that it made me feel like it really is a "holiday season."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Safely Through Whitehorse Rapids

The end of an arduous voyage during the Yukon gold rush

This photo is among my great-great Aunt Alma's collection, presumably from the time she was nursing up in the Yukon. People went north to make their fortunes, and often lost their lives on the way. It was a rough route whether by land or water and they were often woefully unprepared. This group no doubt had good reason to rejoice when they reached their destination.

In contrast two of my high school friends from the dormitory days of Luther College are making their leisurely way out from Regina this morning, only a two- or three-hour drive. The forecast was for snow and wind and cold(er) but so far the sky is clear and my fingers are crossed that the highway's not icy, so they'll be here safe and sound in time for lunch. I'm making one of my favourites, curried eggs with toast, and am searing pork chops to throw into a casserole dish with mushroom soup to bake for supper — easy, tasty, and out of the way so that I can relax and spend the day visiting.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slowly but Surely

Kitchen Before

Scott knocked out a wall so we'd have more space around the table, put in new windows and a new exterior door, chopped off a corner cupboard that jutted into the room, removed cupboard doors so the old wood could be painted (my aunt Rose did that), re-boarded the ceiling and painted it and the walls, and changed the light fixtures.

The windows face north so we needed to get as much light as possible.

Kitchen Now

It's a small kitchen but comfortable enough. Does the trick. There are still things to do, but none of them seem urgent although shelving without doors quickly becomes — well, late's face it: filthy — and so their open charm has worn off.

This afternoon Everett took curtain rods and curtains down from the other house; I hope to make use of some of them over here.

Reta, the plug-in has been wired for a few months so I've asked Scott several times to mount the under-the-cupboard CD-player you gave me. (Note to self: Must.Nag.Harder.) I think he said he needs some particular tool to do it with. As if I buy that one, Mr Has-Every-Tool-Known-to-Mankind.

More likely I'll just do it myself one of these days. But it will be all wrong and fall down. Kind of like when I hang pictures; they never end up where I intend, no matter how carefully I eyeball and measure. It's a crapshoot. He will be sorry!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Bean Dish

Cellphone tower? on the way from town

I’m at the computer, editing a biography of Marie Dressler, when the phone rings.
Crackle, crackle. It's Scott, on his cellphone a mile away.
“Can you bring me something to eat and drink? I’m on the hill.”
I pull cold chicken and a loaf of bread from the fridge and start cutting slices for sandwiches while Everett goes out to start the van for me. The phone rings again.
“Don’t bother cooking anything. I won’t be here long. Just bring the leftover bean dish and something to drink.”
I abandon the chicken and bread, throw the Tupperware bowl of bean dish and a tablespoon into a plastic bag, along with two alcohol-free beer and a bar of dark chocolate, and head out the door. It’s cold today but I’m dressed for it —overdressed, some may think— in my usual way, with ski pants. I’m toasty.
In a few minutes I’m on the hill, which actually isn’t a hill, but used to be before the municipality razed it flat while building up the correction line road. I drive toward the green tractor I see beyond the fence, where Scott is moving bales. He jumps out of it and into the van, tears the plastic lid from the bowl like a starving man and begins scooping bean dish into his mouth with the spoon.
I wonder aloud why he couldn’t take time to come home and eat, or even wait for me to heat something up before taking it to him; is there an emergency or what? He says, “It’ll be dark soon.” In moments he’s eaten half the bean dish, grabbed a can of beer and the chocolate bar, and is kissing me thank you before leaping out the door again.
Some people are highly dedicated to their work.

Bean Dish
Fry separately and drain:
¾ lb bacon
1 and ½ lb ground beef
 ½ to 1 cup chopped onion (optional)
1 can green lima beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can brown beans
½ c ketchup
3 heaping woodenspoonsful brown sugar (or less; to taste)

Warm and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or for hours, as you please. Delicious hot or, apparently, cold.
[Thank you for this recipe, Suzie; it’s been a family favourite for years now and always goes over well at a potluck.]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Old Age

Emil and his great-grandmother have a smoochfest

The boys and I went with Cameron late yesterday afternoon to take gifts to Grandma and have a visit with her in the nursing home. When we arrived the old folks who hadn't gone out for the day (they've moved her into the dementia ward now, which has more staff and fewer residents) were dozing in easy chairs in front of a rerun of Bonanza. We woke Grandma up and she recognized Cameron although didn't know who he was. If that makes sense.

She raked in a shitload of new tops and a couple pairs of slippers, and was quite pleased. Grandma has always loved her clothes and that is one thing that hasn't changed. We hung out in her room for an hour or so and then left when it was time for her to go to the dining room for supper.

I woke up in the middle of last night, remembered all the other residents sitting together at the lodge in the afternoon, and thought "Where are their families?" It looked like these old people were simply out of sight, out of mind, while the youngsters they raised and the grandchildren they spoiled were all off doing their own thing now and not giving a second thought to these people they owe their lives to.

Of course that's not the case and I was being harsh in the wee hours of the morning, when shadows and light can be stark and unexpected (I really hate the middle of the night sometimes; there is no sugarcoating anything, then). Many families had probably taken their elders out for the day or had already visited, or had other celebratory obligations or live too far away or were travelling, or have come to the realization that it just isn't such a big deal to their old folks so they might as well do their own thing ... Christmas is just another day, to these residents, and they prefer their settled routines and are more comfortable being left to them.

Also, it is not easy to see your loved one, or the others, living in an institutional environment. They may be happy enough and very well looked after and even treated with kind affection by the staff and other residents, as is the case at Kelvindell Lodge, but it still gives you a regretful pause when you go there. I felt like shedding a tear as we were leaving, even though I know there is no better place for Grandma right now and I'm grateful she's not further away.

You mourn the past that is long gone—the better times—and you dread what the future may bring.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Good Time Had By All

Christmas Eve at Karen's (brother Cameron, moi, and Karen)

That's Emil's hand on Karen's back. He's giving her a rub and hasn't strayed from her side all evening.

Scott and I are up drinking coffee this morning and he's making breakfast and talking to his cousin Alex over in England. Everett's hanging out by the tree and I guess if Emil ever gets up we'll open some gifts before driving to Kelvington to spend some time with Grandma.

The weather turned warm here, hovering just below freezing. You could walk down the street yesterday, which Everett and I did while he shopped, without mitts on. It's a beautiful day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Human Again

I'd like to say that my hair only looks like this after a day or two of lying in bed, but alas it looks like this most mornings.

Just had a day or two of hell, when my pills didn’t do the job and I’ve had neck pain and nausea. How do people with chronic illness stand it? I can see where one might choose to be put out of one’s misery, honestly, given the option of euthanasia. A person might choose it instead of toughing it out to better times. A person like me, with a low tolerance for pain and very little courage.

So again today I feel glad to be alive. For the past couple, particularly yesterday, I wasn’t sure it was worth it.

This morning I again woke up with my neck and stomach feeling crappy, thinking Fart-a, how can I handle another day of this shit? I can’t, I can’t! only this time I took a cup of coffee and went and sat by the window where I could watch the birds at the feeders (which seems to relax me profoundly), and voila, the neck thing went away and I started feeling myself again. I went into the bathroom and found myself singing (“a ha, I must be well!” I thought) and pulled a pound of bacon from the freezer and put it on to fry (interested in food and not just nauseated at the thought of it, yee ha!) and even massaged Scott’s very sore neck and shoulders, which I haven’t had the energy to do before this although he has been in a lot of discomfort. It’s a real workout to rub that boy’s back, let me tell you. I have to put all my weight behind my fists for him to feel I’m actually doing anything. I practically have to jump up and down. It takes some oomph. I am back! God it feels good to feel good.


If there are readers from Margo who haven't heard the horrible, sad news yet, we lost Duane Rothlander to a heart attack the other day. He was only 44 years old or thereabouts. His slightly older brother died of heart illness mere months ago. I can only imagine what this puts their family through; the world must seem a very unreliable and torturous place to them right now.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dribs and Drabs

Scott and his sister Tanya with her grandchildren

Scott's biggest smiles are seen when he's got a lapful of small children. He should put on a few pounds and get a job as a department-store Santa.


Watched Heaven on Earth last week, a Deepa Mehta film that turned my stomach. I cannot watch a program depicting physical abuse of women without feeling sick, and very angry, because I know this shit is still going on, and legally, all over the world. Scott too gets upset: “Guys like that should be taken out to a field and shot. Backwards bastards.” I agree. Intellectually I’m against capital punishment and will never support it, but emotionally I can be a redneck.


I’ve been thinking lately of the day we got the news that Mom had terminal cancer, how shocking and horrifying that was, how the phone call announcing it was short, and after a couple hours of weeping and trying to pull myself together and breaking out in hives I called back and asked to talk to Mom herself. And she said something like this:
“I don’t want you to be too freaked out. I have to die sometime, and this happens to be the when and the how for me. At least I’ve had the opportunity to watch my children grow up and to know my grandchildren, which is more than many have. I’ve had a very good life, I’ve been lucky. And now that I know my end date, I can spend the rest of my time making the best of it. It’s a natural thing, death. It will happen to you too, you know.

Life ends in death. That’s a fact. It’s a wonder we don’t walk around depressed all the time.


Remember Henry Winkler, a.ka. The Fonz in the series Happy Days? He gave a pretty good talk that a blogger posted about here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pizza Crusts

My boy finished high school, recently turned 18, and doesn't know what his next step will be. For now, he's home, feeling he's "not very mature yet" (his words, I understand) and wanting time to feel his way ahead. I'm all up behind that because, really, what is the rush? He's happy. I think this is the first time in years that he hasn't felt pressured by homework, and he's loving it.

It's not as if he lies about all day picking his nose, scratching his balls and playing videogames. He puts in four hours a day at whatever I assign. He's paying his room and board this way for now and, though I don't work him hard, I do work him. I haven't washed dishes more than once since the beginning of September. Tomorrow he'll probably clean the bathroom, since it's overdue and the young gal who agreed to do it for us every two weeks is stuck in town with a car that won't run and no money to fix it. Darn it. He'll hate that, but he'll do it. Not as well as Megan, but well enough. On Monday he made bagels. Sometimes I have to scrunch up my forehead for a while to think of jobs for him; that's what the list on the fridge is for, mind you. Yesterday in Kelvington I bought a couple frozen pizzas, as I usually do when they're on sale 2 for $10. I hate the damn things even if they do fill the hole; they taste like shit after you've eaten them too often and for too long. And I'm sure they're made of plastic.

Everett's pizza crusts are to die for, though, and healthy — 100% whole wheat. This morning a pizza crust marathon was my command, and he is hard at it, and loving it. He's listening to a favourite CBC radio show, WireTap, on his laptop, and laughing away as he mixes his dough on the kitchen table. It's taken me a few years to appreciate this program, but now we chuckle at it together all the time. I rant about how Jonathan should dump those so-called "friends," Gregor and Howard, and Everett thinks this is the funniest thing. "With friends like them, who needs enemies?" I always say.

He's just come into the office to inform me that, "You know I'm making all these crusts to freeze? Well I'm cooking one of them. We're going to eat one."
Oh yeah, I'm all over that.
He'll just put garlic powder and cheese on it, and oregano, and it will be our late lunch.

There was a documentary the other day about how kids don't leave home at 18 and stay away anymore, like they did (and couldn't do it fast enough, as I recall) when I was just finishing high school. They can't afford to now, apparently, due to the dearth of jobs and the cost of living. Me, I couldn't wait to have my own place and my own money and be in the city where I must have thought all the action was.

Everett is definitely not me.

He is not difficult to have around. In contrast, my parents were probably relieved to see me go.
Everett will do what he is asked, with very little fussing, if any. Me, at that age? Doubt it.

The bottom line is that I don't want to push him out of the nest. I want him to be ready to go on his own. He is not there yet. I'm okay with this; patience is the big lesson of my life; still learning it.

 I am glad he's here, and I trust that he will strike out when there is an adequate beckoning. Surely at some point he will run screaming from his mother's house. Don't they all?


Mmm... here we go ... midafternoon lunch ....

Check out this link on Everett's page; it's good for a few laughs. He wonders if the British would find the Canadian way of speaking as humorous as we find theirs.

Click here:

: .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Winter Scenes

Photos courtesy of Kurt E., who still has the old camera and seems to be enjoying it quite a bit.  Methinks he will never want to part with it. Click to enlarge, for a taste of winter without the biting cold. These were taken a few weeks ago; we now have at least a foot of snow on the ground.

Everett and I went to Kelvington this afternoon. He had a doctor's appointment and I had to drop off a gift for Grandma, to go under the Christmas tree at the nursing home. Their big party is next Wednesday.
Everett went in with me and we found Grandma sitting alone at a table in the dining room, where she  faced a wall (why does this seem to be the case in every seniors' place she lives in? I swear, all three since she moved from her home in Margo. I know there is no paradise, but this crappy lot sure seems to fall to her every time. Not that she cares).
I asked her if she recognized this strapping big fellow with me. She said "I know his face ...."
We didn't stay too long. The oldsters were gathering in the dining room to wait for a choir that was coming in to sing Christmas carols.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tree's Up

The angel Aunt Shirley made

Everett has put up the tree and decorated it, as he does each year in December.

When he was 10 and we had recently moved out here, he looked forward to unpacking our six-foot artificial tree before Christmas. But we weren't sure where it was, and Scott said he had a tree stored at his brother's and would bring it over. However, when he took it out of the box and put it together, it stood about three feet tall. Everett wept with disappointment, and we redoubled our search for the bigger tree. And found it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Apples of Me Eeee

Goofy Pair

Emil came out to spend Saturday night with us, and he and his brother came into the bedroom to see me for a few minutes on Sunday while I was propped up, reading. He likes the new house we moved him into, "It's nice and quiet," he tells us.

Still no closet doors hung. I'll remind Scott yet again to "get right on that." Maybe I should put it on my Christmas wish list? The one year I made a list of things I might like, he went out and bought everything on it. Man, I felt spoiled and lucky. But I don't dare do it again; I'd feel I was taking advantage.


"There are only 300 northern right whales left, and 99% of blue whales have been wiped out... I've just signed an urgent global petition supporting a new treaty to prevent mass extinction. The petition will be delivered Friday at UN talks in Japan -- check out the email below and sign on here."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From 51 to 200 in Three Seconds

On Friday I bent over to pet Ducky as I passed him in the kitchen, and my lower back “went out.” Well, it did something that felt like it cracked horizontally. I could barely straighten up, it was painful to walk to the bed, and not easy to lie down or get up again, either. How quickly we go from being lithe and flexible to being achey and moving like a 200-year-old.

 I wasn’t able to sit here at the desk, so Everett let me borrow his laptop and take it to bed with me. I spent much of the day tucked in under the quilts; it was a lovely way to spend time at the computer, actually, quite comfortable, although the laptop doesn’t have Microsoft Word so I couldn’t work. I caught up with all my favourite blogs instead. I made up for that today; worked this afternoon, and also did the usual extra hour that I put in every weekend so that I can take time off when it suits me, and be paid for it.

Back’s still a bit stiff but getting better. At least it doesn't hurt anymore.


Everett has posted a new video on his page. Click here to see it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My Friends Write, Too

Everett fills the feeders

 Two of my friends have sent new entries for their pages (links on the left, under "Lookee here") today. Please see Joanne's letter from Out Margo Way, and Julie's Pure Christmas:

Click here: Out Margo Way
Click here: Pure Christmas

Friday, December 10, 2010

Grandma is 94

Grandma on her 94th birthday

When I arrived at the nursing home to pick Grandma up, I learned that she had been moved from her room in the ladies' main ward to another room in the dementia ward. Apparently she has been even more confused than usual and the staff felt she needs more attention, which she will get in the "locked" ward, which is like a tiny community in itself.

I let myself through the doors and entered the nearby sitting room, where I found Grandma tucked into a loveseat holding hands with another little lady. They looked like two little girls; and the other lady said with dismay, "You aren't taking her away, are you?"

We went over to my niece Cara's a few blocks away and had tea and goodies with my sister Karen and my aunt Shirley, but I don't recall Grandma saying a word the whole time unless she was directly spoken to. Did she enjoy herself? It's hard to tell.

She has become slow-moving and less able to do things like put her coat on, zipper it up, even pull on her gloves. I dressed her like a child, and Everett led her with the walker she now uses. Getting her safely in and out of my van was a struggle, as even with the stool we carry to help Emil get in and out of the vehicle, Grandma doesn't move with confidence anymore. I could still boost her up, but in the confined space of the back seat it was difficult to help her manoeuvre into position to put her seatbelt on and I was afraid of hurting her. Everett, who has the long arm and the strength to do it better than I, could not fit his larger self in there comfortably enough to reach around her and help her slide all the way onto the seat. We managed, but Grandma was huffing and puffing by the time her seatbelt was securely fastened, and then again by the time we got her out again and back to her room. She was exhausted and I suggested she lie down for a nap after I took her jacket, gloves, hat and scarf off and put them away. I had to lift her legs onto the bed. 

I covered her up with a small quilt Mom made, which lies folded at the bottom of Grandma's bed. I told her that Emil has been asking to come and see her, so we'd try to get there this weekend. When I said Emil's name she perked up and asked, "Emil?" That is Grandpa's name also, and I bet she thought of him right away.

As I went out the door I called back, "Have a happy birthday," and she echoed as I made my way down the hallway, "Happy Birthday."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Sound of Music

Our little sweetheart snuggles in with Scott in the evenings

And here is a little something for Emma, whom I call our "triple threat" as she not only acts and sings but is a budding playwright as well, all at age 12 or so (I can never remember your age, my little dear!). For my friends who know her, Emma is Cathy R's daughter.

Click here to see a flash mob performance (to the tune of "Do-Re-Mi" from The Sound of Music) in a train station in Belgium.

Can anyone advise me whether there is something I can do so that certain embedded files don't bleed over into the right-hand column? Some do, some don't. The flash mob performance does, so I've removed the embedded file and replaced it with a link.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Local Ladies Enter Dragons' Den

Nine of Foam Lake, Saskatchewan’s ten “Breast Friends” are appearing on Dragons' Den tonight to pitch their latest business idea. The group of ladies has raised money for breast cancer research since 2004 when they self-published their first Breast of Friends cookbook. Foam Lake is about a half-hour's drive from here.

Here's an article from Saskatoon's Star-Phoenix:

From grassroots to incredible success, the Breast Friends never seem to lose momentum. Nor do they lose focus. They continue to work for the cancer cause -- raising more than $1 million for the fight against cancer via their fundraising cookbooks.

"Whenever we get tired and lose energy, there's always something that comes out of the woodwork and re-energizes us, and away we go," Patti Hack, one of the 10 "seasoned" members of the Breast Friends group, said in a telephone interview from her home in Foam Lake.

Breast Friends is comprised of Hack, Cecile Halyk, Linda Helgason, Darlene Cooper, Jacquie Klebeck, Jeannie Johnson, Val Helgason, Anne Reynolds, Nat Dunlop and Charlene Rokochy.

On Wednesday night, the group of volunteer women from Foam Lake will be featured on CBC TV's Dragon's Den. The show sees entrepreneurs pitch their products to a panel of Canadian business people in the hope that one of the "Dragons" will invest.

The Breast Friends auditioned for the show in Regina this summer, and headed to Toronto for the taping.

The group isn't allowed to reveal what kind of deal they're hoping to get from the investors prior to the show airing.

"But what I can tell you is that we don't fit the Dragon's Den," Hack said. "When people hear that we're on, they're always amazed."

That's because Breast Friends is non-profit.

Hack chuckled as she recalled a self-published author, who previously appeared on Dragon's Den, who was told that no self-published author ever sells more than 10,000 books, so his book would never be a success and that he should get off the stage.

"I remember watching that and smiling, because at that point we were way, way, way past 10,000 and we're self-published authors," she said.

While in Regina babysitting her grandchildren, Hack decided to audition for Dragon's Den. She pitched the group's business plan and talked about what Breast Friends has done for sales and donations.

"We honestly thought that would be it, but they phoned us and said 'Come and tape,' " Hack said.

Nine of the 10 group members were able to make it to the taping in Toronto.

"And we only found out three weeks ago that we're on."

In addition to television exposure, the Breast Friends group has moved onto the international stage.

"We've entered a world cookbook competition in Europe," Hack said, though there is no word yet on how they fared.

The group was also featured in the November issue of Gourmand Magazine, a cookbook magazine published in Spain and widely distributed throughout Europe. The magazine featured Breast Friends as an example of a new trend -- cookbooks that support charities.

All of the Breast Friends cookbooks are national bestsellers. For the Breast of Friends, For the Breasts and the Rest of Friends, and Breast Wishes each contain over 400 tried-and-true recipes, as well as pictures, cancer information, quotes and quips and a generous helping of stories. The group's most recent cookbook, Breast Wishes for Christmas, features about 225 of the group's favourite Christmas recipes, as well as holiday quotes and heartwarming stories.

"We hit the ground running and we have not taken a breath," Hack said.

Since they published their first cookbook for the cause, two of the Breast Friends have moved away from Foam Lake and six members of the group have retired, which has created some challenges, Hack said.

"But we still love it," she insisted. "I don't think we are at the end of the journey yet."

For more information about Breast Friends cookbooks, visit their website at or call 1-877-560-4547.
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Going Out

Darn, the sparkles never show up very well, but they are part of what makes snow so beautiful

Off to Kelvington to see Grandma today. It's her 94th birthday. Everett will come along; we'll pick Grandma up and take her over to my niece Cara's new home, where we'll meet my sister Karen and our aunt Shirley and have a cup of tea together. We'll keep it short and sweet, as Grandma tends to worry about getting back to her familiar surroundings and be confused.


I keep telling myself that I’m not going to come to the computer with my coffee when I first get up in the mornings, because I get tied here for too long. Instead I’m going to sit at the table or read a book. But I don’t. I keep coming here.

I also tell myself I’m going to do the advised thing and do the Tibetan Rites first thing and before eating breakfast. But that rarely happens, as the last thing I want to do when I first get up is exercise. I want to sit and sip my coffee and nothing much more.

Weekends are the only mornings I wake up, remember that I don’t have to work that day, and breathe a sigh of relief because there is no pressure at all. Except lately, now that we take laundry in and pick Emil up in town on Saturdays.


Time to get into the tub, wrap the prezzies, and then head out into the cold blue yonder.
Oh -- first, an email from Joanne has just come in. Will get that posted onto her blog page, Out Margo Way (see link on left).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sad Anniversary of the Polytechnique Massacre

"I realized many years later that in my life and actions, of course I was a feminist. I was a woman studying engineering and I held my head up." - Nathalie Provost, one of the women wounded in the shooting

Read We Are Not Feminists.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Carnage on the Roads

Click to enlarge
These are likely coyote tracks, which crisscross the ditches all along my afternoon walk.

The other night on my way home from town, a raccoon ran out from the ditch and dashed in front of the truck. I had no time to slow down before I saw it come out safely beyond the driver's side, but then it turned and ran right back and I heard the tire go over it. "Oh no, luvvie...." I groaned, but what could I do? I should stop and make sure it was dead, but how? I had nothing to beat it to death with (and honestly I don't know if I could make myself do it, especially if it requires more than one blow) and I know from experience that driving over the animal again does not necessarily kill it either (been there, tried that, as a young woman; still chagrins me to think of it). If it was wounded, I wouldn't be able to touch or move it; raccoons are dangerous. So ... I damn near cried, but not quite, and drove on home feeling knife-twisting regret. The next day Everett chauffeured me down there to have a look, but we didn't see anything along the road or nearby. I can hope that the tire only ran over the raccoon's foot and it limped away and is living happily ever after with just a little bruising.

And here's the worrisome thing: I was driving less than 60 kilometres per hour when the animal ran out. That's how fast it happens; you can't slow down quickly enough for them to get across, but on the rare occasion that you do -- well, I have been in a convoy of vehicles driving down the highway at THREE kilometers per hour with a small herd of deer on the road next to them, and one deer's hoof slipped and its leg went under the tire of the truck ahead of me and the deer bounced off and away into the bush with its broken leg dangling.

It is carnage out there, and not only for the animals. People are killed every year when their vehicles collide with wildlife like moose and deer.


Lazy morning. It’s not as if all my mornings aren’t “lazy” ones if I choose, but on Sundays I take time to read, and don't feel pressured to get work done first. Everett sometimes comes and sits in the chair behind me and we find things to laugh about. He pointed at the blog header and pronounced scornfully that "it's a bird, it's a plane" is a boring cliché and how lame am I, etc., to which I replied Yeah, so? (That is precisely why I used it, but I didn't bother explaining; he wouldn't get it. I chuckled at my teenager's contempt for my self-embraced uncoolness and then appreciatively altered the header as per his superior suggestion.)


Cameron phoned last night; he was relaxing at home in St Albert. We should be calling each other more often, I know; it’s important to keep in touch. Mom worried about him living alone and not feeling enough part of the family. She advised her daughters to make a point of greasing the communication lines. I think she advised Dad, too, as he has stirred himself to phone all his kids on a regular basis and to maintain his and Mom's social network among friends and other relatives since she died. He may not have felt like dialing our numbers sometimes, but he made himself do what he "ought," much as Dad has always done, now that I think about it. 

I'm glad he phones, as I think about doing it a lot more often than actually doing it. He's set a good example. Go, Dad!

Sounds like my brother the trucker (that brothertrucker) will try to get a load out this way around Xmastime, since Dad and Grace are in Palm Springs and Joan and her hubby and kids are spending Xmas up at the ski lodge. My boys are staying home this year and I won't go far either, except to see my good friend Mz Bell, who will be in Regina over the holiday week. Actually I could have a real friend fest if I get off my duff and drive those two hours; I hear my high school partner-in-crime Kim will be in the city at the same time and there is another old friend who lives there, with whom ties of friendship have only recently been renewed after decades without contact.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Got the Christmas Spirit Yet?

Photo courtesy of Kurt Ekstrom

Along with my amazement that there are still thinking persons who believe that women shouldn't have equal status and rights legally, economically and socially, or persons who believe women should have or already have equality but don't consider themselves "feminists" because the word has come to mean "man-haters" or "women who aren't loving, giving, family-supporting" or something, which is entirely ridiculous, it is also beyond me why there are so many Americans who don't want everybody in the country to have state-funded healthcare. I've heard the arguments against it, of course, and certainly I'm aware of the fearmongering the insurance companies are indulging in to scare the hell out of people, but I'm surprised that people buy it.

In Canada, and particularly here in Saskatchewan where it all began, we are proud of and grateful for our public healthcare system which, although like any system it has its flaws and needs to be improved, means that I can take Emil to the doctor for a checkup today without worrying about where I'll come up with the money to pay for his visit. It means that whatever he needs, if I can't afford it or can't afford the insurance or he can't, it will be provided — and that has always been the case, in all of his 22 years. I can only imagine the strain it would have put on our family if we had had to fight with insurance companies to pay for the most basic of his needs; we had enough to worry about, thank you very much.

That said, Tommy Douglas and his political party had a hell of a fight on their hands when they brought in universal healthcare all those years ago. Doctors fought it. There were strikes. There was hysteria! We were no brighter here in Canada than they are in the States, so we shouldn't be so smug I guess. It all seems so silly to us now... here. In the States, many people are still fighting universal healthcare tooth and nail. To most Canadians, that is bewildering.

Anyhoo, all this to let you know that I'm going to throw a few bucks southward to help out a mother who seems to have been left in a rough spot by the US for-profit-only healthcare system. Maybe you can afford to do the same and will find it in your heart to do so.

Mission accomplished! Rigel informs me that the money flowed in this afternoon. That was fast!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

To Hell with Stress

Interesting program about stress on the National Geographic channel tonight.

Twenty years ago a baboon tribe got into a dump and ate tuberculosis-infected meat, and many of them died. Researchers discovered that the ones that died were alpha males, which in baboons are usually more aggressive. Aggression apparently creates stress, and stressed bodies have weaker immune systems.

The tribe had previously been typical in that the females took a lot of “guff” from the dominant males, which would take out their bad moods on the females. After the tribe was decimated and a majority of the remaining members were non-aggressive males or females, new young males that joined the group would socialize within about six months, learning that the male aggression practised in other baboon groups was not acceptable here; that the behaviours demonstrated toward the females as well as other males were gentler and the aggressive behaviour wasn’t tolerated.

Twenty years later this particular group remains socially very different than other baboon groups.

The researchers note that our society admires those who live a high-stress life, multi-tasking, getting a lot done, working hard. They make a connection between living that way — constantly pressuring ourselves to achieve more — and the problem with obesity and related health problems. The research suggests that we need to learn to live a more balanced lifestyle, limiting the number of hours we work so that we can continue to be productive for the longer term and have fewer health challenges.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Where our road joins the correction line

I long for her so often, feel the urge to pick up the phone and call. It only lasts a few moments, and I go on about my day. It's a natural missing of someone so dear that I haven’t seen in five years and don’t expect to see in the next five either. I hate that part so much, it almost makes me grit my teeth.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Emil Has Been Relocated

Emil's move was quick and easy, with Scott and Everett hauling Grandma's *Ultramatic bed and mattress from our porch here, and then transferring Emil's chiffonier (a word Mom always used for a "dresser" or  "chest of drawers") from the old room to the new. In short order we had his clothes, CDs, books, bedding, ghetto blaster, pictures and toothbrush loaded up and into the entryway of the new house, where Emil was greeted with vocal enthusiasm by the other residents, which we found quite cute. They grabbed bags and boxes and helped lug them down to the new bedroom and then visited with us while we helped Emil unpack and got his bed made up. He didn't want us to leave when the time came, but it was close to their 5 o'clock suppertime and I felt we should get out of the way.

It's unusual for Emil to try to delay our farewells, but lately he's done it more often, probably because we're seeing so little of him during the week, if we see him at all, and then on weekends he only comes out Saturday afternoon and goes back the next day. It's not enough for him and frankly not for me either. Once he gets out here he's in no hurry to return to the group home. Maybe I'll have to start picking him up on Fridays after work instead of waiting till Saturday: give him two nights at home, and make him do some dishes while he's here so it's not all just easy street.

This Friday, Mallard Industries has their annual Christmas banquet and dance. It is probably the highlight of the year for the clients and residents, and Emil loves it. He doesn't invite Scott and me to attend with him, although most people do take some family members or friends along. I guess he's like most men his age; why would you want to drag your parents along to a party?

*If you know anyone local who wants an Ultramatic bed, put them in touch with me. This one has hardly been used and Emil won't be using the electronic functions either. It would be good to sell it to someone who actually needs a bed like this.


My friend Julie has posted a new entry, The Glow of the Hour, on her page in the column on the left. She's nervous about putting herself "out there," and she really has put herself out there in this letter with some very personal revelations. You might leave her a comment if you recognize bits of your own life in her story.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Moving Day

The other half of the back yard

On the radio this morning there is a panel discussion about euthanasia. Should we decriminalize it, or shouldn't we?
My mind is clear about the subject — I think it should be legal to choose euthanasia for oneself and to help someone who has chosen to die because they do not want to experience extreme physical pain any longer — it's a no-brainer, as far as I'm concerned — but I'm listening anyway because often during discussions of any topic someone puts forth a perspective I have never considered before. Even though it's unlikely my opinion will change, there is always the possibility and I like to leave a space for that. At the very least I might better understand where those who don't agree with me are coming from, rather than assuming they are heartless fools without empathy for the suffering of others. You know, the kind who think it's necessary to shoot a horse with a broken leg or put down a dog suffering with cancer, but if you're a human with a terminal disease and you're in agony, too bad for you.

Does this mean that if I hang out with people yelling at the TV during today's Grey Cup game, I might begin to take an interest in football myself? I might see something fascinating about kicking and throwing a pigskin ball back and forth, that I've never noticed before?  Hm. No. Can't see it. I'd rather watch a curling game. Must be simply that it's one I have played and understand, whereas football, no.

Today we'll move Emil over to Aylesbury House. He spent last night here and we'll go to town after brunch and pack him up. Our fingers are crossed that this residence will be happily longterm.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Dog's Life

The back yard

When the dogs bark in the daytime, I hurry to the window and look out. There's always a good reason for the fuss they make, much as you want to strangle them when it's in the middle of the night. This morning I was treated to the sight of a white-tailed deer's back end bouncing away, along the front of the trees and then through them to the open field on the other side.

The trail you see in the snow, through the garden to the bush, is the dogs' main path. They have their territory, their routine sentry duty, as they guard the property and warn other animals not to enter. We worry about little Ducky the chihuahua though. He'd be a bite-sized morsel for a coyote or a fox, and although he's usually in the house, has taken to running all the way out to the road, alone, to do his "business" when he goes out. Should a hungry wild beast ever be encountered out there, Ducky wouldn't be coming back. That would be a heartbreaker.

He loves to run around out in the field though, like a "real" dog, so the only comfort would be that he had the freedom to enjoy a dog's life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spider Senses Tingling

Scott makes flashing in the 25-below

Jesus Christ! A spider just dropped from the ceiling onto my keyboard and when I squeaked, it went under the keys! And there it remains. I’m a little nervous as I type, but have jar and cardboard ready to catch and release.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hum de Dum de Dum

Everett shaping bread dough

Note: one of the tricks to making 100% whole wheat bread that is not brick-squat and heavy is using water at this stage instead of flour on your work surface and hands.

Everett is happy in the kitchen now that he's got his laptop hooked up to high speed and can listen to podcasts of his favourite CBC radio programs, like Quirks and Quarks (science), Wire Tap, and others.

Kate in NY: for interest's sake following our discussion of fuel oil prices, Sian in the Orkney Islands gets her oil delivered by boat.

Reply to comment: Lorna, you mentioned supporting small business through what sounds like microfinancing. Is it Kiva you're working with?

If so, I'm involved with that one too. I'm a very small lender, but here's the profile of the business I chose to lend my $25 to:

He pays his loan back a few dollars at a time and I often think hell, it would be so easy for me to just give it to him. But the "hand up, not handout" plan is a good one. I'll definitely be re-lending that $25 when my borrower has paid it back, and putting more cash toward this particular cause at some point. It's a simple and inexpensive way for us "little" people over here to help other "little" people who have so much less than we do.


Emil and gang made it back to Wadena at 10 last night, having left the city at 5. What is a two- to three-hour trip for most of us takes longer because pit-stops require more time when you're transporting people with physical challenges. Apparently Emil was anxious to phone home and tell me all about his adventure but it was late, so I went to bed slightly worried that they'd had trouble on the road due to ice and blowing snow. Not that there was anything I could have done, if they had.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Sister in the Congo

After five months I had given up hope of hearing from the young woman in the Congo whom I sponsor through Women for Women. Naomi is the same age as Emil, is married with three young children and has a niece living with her family. This week I got a letter. She tells me that my monthly contribution has helped her start a business selling salted, dried fish and is supporting adult education in the community. Her handwritten letter is accompanied by a translation. She says “God bless you and provide you more than what you have in your life.”


Emil is having a busy week. Bowling in Foam Lake on Monday night. A group trip to Regina yesterday for an overnight with shopping and a movie before coming home today. Tomorrow night a dance in Humboldt. I’ll pick him up and bring him out here on Saturday unless we move him into Aylesbury House that day, in which case he’ll probably want to stay there and get his sea legs before the work routine starts again on Monday. 

Reply to comment:
Kate in NY, I don’t know why oil is so expensive here. Taxes? The government probably taxes the shit out of it, as it does with the gas we put into our vehicles.


Damn. I was speaking to a work contact in Regina about an hour ago, who said it is blizzarding in the city. The highway down there (the Number 1) is extremely treacherous in bad weather. I hope those in charge had the good sense to stay off the road. Recently we've had at least two tragic accidents in Saskatchewan due to poor visibility and less-than-ideal road conditions; one was caused by a 17-year-old who tried to pass another vehicle when she likely couldn't see oncoming traffic; she was killed, as were the two parents in the front seat of the vehicle she collided with. Their four children who were along made it out alive.

Northern Lights Over Norway

Aurora Borealis timelapse HD - Tromsø 2010 from Tor Even Mathisen on Vimeo.

Yes, this is really what the northern lights look like -- magical, beautiful, breathtaking. And you don't need the music to appreciate them ... the silence of a cold night is background enough to inspire awe of the heavens. At home here, the sight is often enhanced by the crying of coyotes in the fields nearby.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fluff and Stuff

On my way home, rising moon

Emil wasn't happy about it, but I insisted on driving him back to town late yesterday afternoon so I could be home before dark, which is now about 5 p.m.


Emil is chatting to me at the kitchen table and Everett, hearing, laughs and says “That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard Emil say about anyone— that they’re not a very good singer.”


Is anyone here a devoted reader of Canadian literature? If so you may be interested in this article and perhaps enough to register, sign in and leave a comment. Click here to read The Age of the Giller at Historica-Dominion's History Wire blog.


The voting has started for the Canadian Weblog Awards. There are 43 in contention. Go to this site for links so you can read them and vote for your favourites.


Reply to Comment (I answered in the comments but when I read blogs I rarely get back to see whether someone has replied, so here it is again):

Sharon said...    Lovely. But what is poutane?
Poutine (pronounced poo-TIN) is a Quebec dish: french fries covered with gravy and melted mozzarella cheese. At least, that's how we eat it here in Saskatchewan.


Today for work I was doing some research on filmmaker Peter Mettler, whose YouTube channel contains the following short:

Bali Dance


A flock of evening grosbeaks arrived at the feeders today and was having a hard time getting the seeds because the perches are small. So I went out to sprinkle seed on the ground and they flew off and didn’t come back. So disappointing. (Bird brains.)

Photo of evening grosbeak pulled off this site on the web.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why the Laundromat, you ask.

 I felt sorry for people I saw hauling their bags of dirty clothes to a laundromat, assuming they couldn't afford a washer and dryer. Now I realize there are a myriad of reasons why laundromats are a profitable business.

Here are ours:

1. GGFarm uses a lagoon for its water and sewage disposal. Everything goes from the house to a deep hole in the ground some distance away. In 2007, this entire area of Saskatchewan began to experience widespread flooding that hasn't been seen around here for more than 50 years. This summer we got record-breaking rainfall. As a result the groundwater level is extremely high and our lagoon is constantly overflowing. Scott has to pump the thing out every other day. It's a real pain in the ass. We intend to fill the lagoon in and install a septic tank to solve this problem, but because of the water level this year it hasn't been possible to dig a hole; it would fill with water before you finished digging. Also, we have a foot of snow on top of ground that hasn't frozen like it normally would have by now, so imagine bringing the heavy machinery in; it would make a hell of a mess. Short story long, if we start using a washing machine here, the lagoon will need to be pumped more often than it already is. My poor Scottie is already pulling his hair out, particularly now that it has gotten cold and he has to chop a hole in the ice to put the pump in and remove it so that it doesn't freeze in— ice that isn't thick enough for him to stand on, yet, in a deep watery hole with steep sides.

2. the well water contains so much iron and sulphur that we need to change the old water lines and install a water treatment system in order to protect the washing machine from ruination. Scott's been researching treatment systems, trying to decide what's best and where to get the best value for the dollar. At the moment there is water coming into our basement as there has been since spring (due to the level of groundwater and the lack of rebar put into the concrete when the house was built) and though he plans to break the concrete out and install rebar and then change the plumbing lines, he prefers the water to stop coming in first. Something like that. I hope he doesn't end up bald.

Whatever amount of money you throw at this water project, it still can't feasibly be done with the groundwater level as it is. We are between the proverbial rock and hard place.

Another reason people frequent laundromats: to wash things they don't want to fuck up their own washer and dryer with. Oily workclothes, etc.
Once something like crusty black ink burned onto Emil's duvet. Recently my black cords came out with a glued-on plastic lint; I threw the pants right back into the hamper but the plastic remains after another wash.


Mom's bosom buddy Joanne wrote us a letter today; see Out Margo Way in the column on the left.
On Everett's page he put up a short video from Rooster Teeth Productions.

Kate from NY said:
$1,000 for much do you get at one time? We've only got a 275 gallon tank and it runs about $400 per fill.
Kate, we have a 250-gallon tank and when empty it costs about $1200 to fill. Ours was down to a quarter or less and we had it filled to the top, and expect to use about one-and-a-half tanks over the winter if temperatures are typical. The house is less than 1000 square feet, has new windows all around and Scott reinsulated the attic and walls; before he did that and we got the new furnace in, we used about three times as much oil I believe. And that's when we weren't living here yet and kept the thermostat set around 50F.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Uneventful Saturday

In the cafe

So Everett and I are on our way into town at 3:30 to do laundry, pick Emil up, and get groceries. He's driving and I'm telling him it won't hurt to go a little faster, since the road's not icy. He speeds up to 60kph, and I realize I'm hungry and will have to grab a bite to eat before we come home. It's no wonder; even though I slept till 10 it's no excuse for only having a toasted bagel (home-made) and a small glass of orange juice all day, besides my morning coffee. Tsk. "I'll be lucky if I don't get a migraine," I said. "It's probably already too late."

The routine is that I drop Everett off to get the laundry into the washing machines while I go get Emil from the group home. He will be moving into another one on Nov 30 and not to worry, Dad, he is not angling to move home in the meantime. I didn't have to pass on your grandfatherly advice to stay put till then. He's prepared to wait, so that's good.

He and I went to the Wadena Café and ordered french fries for Everett and poutine for ourselves, and I walked across the street to tell Everett to come over. After he'd eaten he went back to the laundromat to transfer wet clothing to the dryers and play with his mobile videogame thingy and I went to the hardware store for bird seed. Good sale on: 25-pound bags of sunflower seeds, regularly $20, for less than $9 each. I bought four and should probably have sprung for more. One of the young fellows working there carried them all out for me, with a smile on his face; the Co-op stores around here treat their customers right. By the way, today it's 25 below.

The highlight of the afternoon for Emil is going to the grocery store, where he might run into someone he knows and be able to chat for a while. One of his favourite people to meet there was his aide at school a few years ago and now he finds her at the checkout counter sometimes. Bingo! Even if he saw no one else familiar, Donna alone would make his day. This afternoon he saw at least two other acquaintances and introduced himself to a man I've met before. What's your name? I heard that one, but after saying hello myself and advising Emil not to delay the guy too long, I pushed my cart on down the aisle and missed the rest of the quiz. How old are you? and Where do you live? Thank goodness people are so patient and friendly, that's all I can say. And if they aren't, they pretend very well.

And so we're home here, having been warned by Scott just before leaving town to take it slow because on his way back to GGFarm he'd had deer come at his vehicle from four different directions. We didn't see any. Everett hauled in the groceries and the four heavy jugs of drinking water and I threw together a double batch of bean dish. Emil will spend the night; we'll watch a movie, and with luck Everett will make popcorn. Everything feels right in my world with both boys here. And that migraine never materialized; even better.

This is not quite a typical Saturday. Normally Everett bakes his wonder cookies. Today for some reason he didn't. Tomorrow, I bet ....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Changes in the Landscape, Loud Noises, and Body Heat

Another of the roving photographer's pictures

This is the last of the grain elevators still standing in my home town, Margo. When I was growing up, there were three; the village was a busy little place then. Now that the other two elevators have been moved away to private farms, when the train goes by it sounds really loud from Grandma's house (now Aunt Shirley's) two blocks away. I never realized how much those three huge buildings blocked the noise.


People phone here at 7 a.m. quite often due to the nature of Scott's work in construction, and I don't really want to kill them though it might seem that way for a few moments. I fall back asleep quickly; no problem. But I wish I could figure out how to lower the volume on the phone so that my body doesn't lift six inches off the bed from the shock of the damn thing ringing out in the silent house.


The Co-op fuel truck is here delivering oil for the furnace. That'll be a thousand-dollar touch, easily. The dogs are worked up and barking, both inside and out. I have decided to train myself gradually to keep the indoor temperature lower; to be more environmentally responsible. Normally the thermostat is set to 72F and still, unless I am moving, I'm cold: I sit here at my desk with a blanket on my lap and several layers of clothing on my back and arms. Why not aim for 68F if I'm going to be all covered up anyway? This week I've kept the daytime temperature at 70F. Next week it will be 69. The week after, 68. I can't imagine going lower, but who knows. Faye L-bo keeps hers at 61 or something; don't ask me how, but obviously it is possible to do this and be comfortable. Maybe I'll get there myself someday. Meanwhile, two pairs of wool socks on my feet instead of the usual one do make a huge difference. Faye keeps a pair of wool slippers in her porch, which I put on the moment I take off my shoes or boots at her place; she usually turns the heat up before I go over, but the slippers help a lot too.

A stylish gal asked me the other night, when she noticed my wool socks, "Are you a cold person?" I answered yes because it's simpler than explaining my theory that my body temperature is abnormally high and thus the air feels cooler against my skin than it does to people with a lower body temperature, which is why I have to dress warmer than most.

Also, if there's a draft anywhere, I will feel it and shiver. A fan turned on in a room will drive me from it, even on a summer day, unless the temperature is particularly high.


See how grain elevators work: click here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More from the Roving Photographer

Main Street of Kuroki

Apparently this old grader is on display in Kuroki

Biggest tree in Wadena

I see you guys like Kurt's photos. I'll be sure to show him all your comments.

It's snowing heavily today. Scott and I headed for Wynyard at 9:30 this morning but turned back a couple miles south of Wadena due to the poor visibility. Didn't think it was worth the risk, nor did we feel too badly about having to postpone our dental checkups.

Before coming home we fuelled up the half-ton, bought a couple jugs of drinking water and some groceries (could be snowed in for a few days, best be prepared), dropped off a library book, got the mail and stopped at the credit union. The 2011 calendars are out, presumably with Scott's photo of the dilapidated house in the middle of a field that realistically should not still be standing, that he had called "Spirit of Endurance" and that the credit union had sent him a $50 cheque for because they were going to include it. So we were surprised to discover that the photo they used isn't that one, but instead a shot of the old hayrake that sits near the entryway to his family's farmyard. They used the correct caption but the wrong photo. Oh well. Considering the number of submissions they must have received, we are doing well to have one from our camera included, and it's a pretty nice calendar.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tracks on the Tracks

I lent Scott's cousin Kurt the old digital camera and told him to take some pictures when he's out and around. He dropped in last night to bring my library books out; we pick up each other's when possible to save the other a trip to town. We haven't figured out what animal was ambling along the train track; it obviously had excellent balance, anyway. A fox? Coyote? If you click on the picture you'll get a larger view.

Here are a few more of his photos:

Catholic church in Kuroki

Monday, November 15, 2010

What -- No Photo?

I can hardly believe this myself. I had a two-year-old here today and forgot to get my camera out. We could have had photos of curly cuddly sweetness! Alas, old Auntie Kathy hasn't got much of a memory anymore. Tsk.
I had forgotten how "busy" two-year-olds are, too. I was telling her mother that I don't remember having to worry too much about my boys getting into things when they were toddlers. A hem. Well of course not ... our house was childproofed then, 16 years ago.
And Cindy, you know that rubber plant Gwyn was reefing on? It looks like she straightened it out! It looks good!
It's past 11; I've been on the phone with my friend Luanne for an hour-and-a-half, and am going to climb into bed and read a while.
You could always look on the left at Everett's page, "Stupid Crap," where he recommends some silliness he's discovered on the web.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter Here to Stay

Through the living room window

It's lovely out there: still, trees covered in hoarfrost, quiet.
Or was. Scott's brought the little tractor up and is moving snow away from the house.


I decided to get out of the house.
Pretty foggy looking north from the end of our driveway.

But it made for a magical walk.
There were half a dozen cattle around our yard this summer. Today they got moved across the road.

The ditches are seriously full of water. I could probably ice-skate on them for a mile. Most summers these ditches are all grass.
Looking back down the driveway.


Here's how things looked a year ago: click here.