Unthankful

English: A sand sculpture of the Dr. Seuss cha...

The Grinch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just to be contrary and to prove that it is not Thanksgiving here (Canada) tomorrow I thought I would write a post about all the things I am not thankful for. I am not often aggressively contrary –perhaps a little passive aggressive at times, but aren’t we all?

 No?

So it is just me—well, then—let me get on with my ungrateful list anyway:

1.  I washed one of my favourite sweaters with an errant Kleenex (actually it was a Scotties tissue) left in the pocket of my jeans. It is now covered in big white pills of tissue, strips of tissue, and especially wonderful—a million little itty bitty pieces of tissue. I try to forget that I really like this charcoal coloured V-neck and that it complemented about a million things in my wardrobe because I am really not up to harvesting all the bits, pieces and strips of tissue. I am very ungrateful for that stupid tissue.

2. I am quite unthankful for fact that I am not supposed to drink with the new medication I am on. I am not a big drinker (a bottle of wine lasts a week and a half at my house) but on occasion I do enjoy a tipple. Must admit I cheat a little, but with the permission of a pharmacist who says I can have half a glass of wine.

3. I am not grateful for all those people who got out there while the weather was still fine and put up their outside Christmas decorations and lights. Don’t they know that the whole spirit of the thing depends on frozen digits and runny noses?

4. I do not give thanks for the bad things that happen to me for the wisdom that they are supposed to impart. I can learn just as well from the good things.

5. I do not give thanks for socks with holes in the toes. Or the heels. But most especially for holes in the toes.

6. I am waiting for the infernal fashion of bare legs to be over. Who started this? Whoever it was—I am ungrateful for them.

7. I am really unhappy that a lot of the styles I wore three and a half decades ago are back in fashion—but I can no longer partake.

 Okay that is enough complaining—where is that half glass of wine I am allowed?

What are you ungrateful for? (American friends—you do not have to answer this.)

How To Lie With Statistics

A self taken shot of the Ambassador bridge on ...

Ambassador bridge on the Canadian/American border. Taken from the Canadian side of the border (Windsor) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I am beginning to sound like a broken record–but again I present to you my weekly newspaper column hot off the computer. If you are wondering, the Windsor I am talking about is in Ontario, Canada, right across the border from Detroit, Michigan. I live in a small town about 30 miles away or since I am Canadian, 50 kilometers away.  Toronto as most people now know, is under siege by Mayor Tom Ford, who refuses to give up the ghost.       

So who said: Laughter is the best medicine? Seems we do not know. One answer from Google was: “It is an old proverb”. Well, I could have told you that. So I continued my in-depth research and Ed from Yahoo Answers said: “The first one to coin this expression is unknown, but Harry Ward Beecher said “Mirth is God’s best medicine,” so the quote was probably “spun off that.” And you have to admit that some of the things God is given credit for creating are pretty funny (noses, ears that stick out {by the way thank you God for blessing me with just one ear that sticks out}, kangaroos, and mayors of big cities who refuse to take a hint.) My research ended there as there were over 200,000 answers and most of them were psychological in nature—and who wants to go there?

            Anyway, this whole laughter thing is just a prelude to my book review of the book “Stats Canada”, which sounds pretty dry at first glance—but wait—the subtitle says it all: “Satire on a National Scale”—so this is apparently not a dry document put out by the Feds, unless of course they are now hiring people with a sense of humour who are into counting the number of times the average Canadian says they are sorry. It is over 45,000 times a day in case you are interested. The real authors are a team of three and their names are Andrew Bondy, Ron Bostelaar, and Julie Davidovich. Bondy hales from Windsor and got a degree from my alma mater (U of Windsor – who says this institution of higher learning does not put out great humourists—Andy and I went there). Bostelaar admits to being from two towns in Ontario “that are not Toronto” and received the “lowest grades of his university career in statistics (hence this book); and Davidovich is proudly from Toronto but for some reason moved to Los Angeles as she “gravitates to smoggy atmospheres with dense, soupy air” because she “owns zero pairs of snow boots and would like to keep it that way.”

            So just being introduced to the authors paves the way for jocularity and hilarity and already we have not gotten as far as chapter one. (Yes, I wanted to use a word other than gotten, but it just seemed to fit.) The Introduction (which, just in case you were wondering is also not the first chapter) includes such interesting statistics as the fact that 30% of grade five students are not aware that New Brunswick is in Canada, which seemed to prove to the authors that the province is little more than a footnote; the statisticians only ordered pizza on Tuesdays; and only 15% of their findings came from Wikipedia. They also included this sentence: “Si vous êtes en mesure de lire ceci, s’il vous plait fermer le livre. Pas de Franchies authorises” which translated is anti-French so I will not translate as part of my last name is French, though I did not do the subject proud in high school (one teacher told me he would pass me if I promised not to take French in grade 13—I promised and then got pretty darn good marks in grade 13 once I dropped biology.)

            Anyway, back to the subject at hand—making fun of Canada and all things Canadian.  I am only allowing this book to do so because it is by two Canadians and an expatriate (who I believe only left because her calves were too big for boots). If anyone else makes fun of my home and native land, all bets and gloves are off.

            This being the last week of November, I felt that we all needed a few laughs, so this is my contribution to some pre-Christmas mirth and merriment. What follows are a few of the illustrious authors’ findings based on stats provided to remove you from eighteen dollars of your hard-earned money:

1. 79% of Canadians just mouth the words during the French part of the national anthem.

2. Some of the top Canadian pastimes include: cooking bacon; eating bacon; practicing loon calls; reading old copies of HELLO! Canada at the salon; not complaining; holding doors open; tobogganing (drunk); tobogganing (sober); waiting for tea to steep; being polite and courteous; counting Canadian Tire money; filling up the beer fridge; opening the cottage; picking fights with other parents in the stands during house league hockey games.

3. Canada’s highest rated TV show is “The Weather”.

4. Four out of five Canadians spend 7 hours a day commenting on the weather.

5. Toronto experiences an average of 28 smug alert days annually (Rob Ford has single-handedly brought that statistic down by at least 20.)

Topographic and bathymetric map of the Great Lakes

Map of the Great Lakes (Photo credit: NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

And last but not least:

6. 3 out of the 5 great lakes are just okay lakes.

*How To Lie With Statistics is the only book I remember reading at university and it was from a first year introductory psychology course. And I was there for six years! Explains a lot, I know.

Published in: on November 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm  Comments (43)  
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I Am Honoured to Don a Poppy

This is my weekly column. In Canada, Remembrance Day is on November 11th but because it is next Monday I had to write my Remembrance Day column this week:

         

        

English: A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn...

 A remembrance poppy from Canada, worn on the lapel of a men’s suit. In many Commonwealth countries, poppies are worn to commemorate soldiers who have died in war, with usage most common in the week leading up to Remembrance Day (and Anzac Day in Australia and New Zealand). The use of the poppy was inspired by the World War I poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I secure my red poppy to my sweater and proudly wear the symbol of Remembrance Day over my heart. I get the poppy from a friendly member of the Legion standing guard at the grocery store over his cache of poppies in a container that has seen better days.  I scramble around in my purse for some money to slip into the slot as the purveyor of poppies says, “Don’t worry if you don’t have any money” and then when I succeed in finding a dollar seventy-five, not enough in my mind, but enough for him to say “Would you like two?” And I gratefully accept two.

          So many of us do not carry money anymore, using plastic to pay for groceries and gas and other daily needs, but I am trying to remember to carry it for occasions such as these—for my red poppy around Remembrance Day, for a hot dog sponsored by a charity, for the offerings of the Girl or Boy Scouts, for the Salvation Army at Christmas. These people do not trade in plastic, they trade in real life loonies and toonies, and five and ten dollar bills, and dare I say it — the occasional twenty.

          I think of Remembrance Day as a sacred day, a day of honour, a day I want to give thanks for those who put their lives on the line. I am happy to live in our country of Canada, a country where freedom reigns even though we grouse over the way it is run. We have the freedom to grouse and that is something to celebrate. And this freedom is directly related to those who guard it.

          I am honoured to don a poppy. To wear it with pride. And to share my second one with a member of my family to wear proudly. I am also thrilled that when I went to buy my poppy I was told that the money was not necessary—for it was more important to the man who was offering them that they be worn, than they be paid for. But of course, the money for the poppies is necessary.  I went to the Canadian Legion website and found out why.

          According to the site, the Poppy “has stood as a visual symbol of our Remembrance Day since 1921”, but before that “its presence over the graves of soldiers, and in the fields of honour was noted as early as the 19th century” but the “reason for its adoption over 100 years later in Canada, was due to, in no small part, Lieutenant-Colonel  John McCrae and his now famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”….written in May 1915 “following the death of a fellow soldier.”

          Though there is an international connection, the site stresses that “it is today that the importance of the Poppy as the Flower of Remembrance in Canada is even more evident” and “these red flowers can be seen on the lapels and collars of so many, and this single act ensures that our memories of those who died in battle will remain strong.”

          So, where does the money go that we search our purses for and bring out our moth ridden wallets? “Donations received during the Poppy Campaign annually raise more than $14 million for the support of Veterans and their families.” According to the Legion site, “Poppy Funds are held in trust and the usage is clearly defined.”

          Veterans Affairs Canada once oversaw the production of the poppies, but once it became impractical for them to maintain the operation, the Legion volunteered to take on the responsibility, and the production of the poppies is Canadian based and under strict Legion control and oversight. The Lapel poppy first showed up in 1922 and “serves as a symbol of unity for those who recognize the sacrifices that were made for… freedom and….forges a bond between people of all ages, not only within Canada, but around the world.”

          The poppy has not been without controversy. In a 2010 article on the MSN News Canada Site, “Folo”, Corrine Milic poses this question: “Is there room for both flowers in Remembrance Day ceremonies? A red poppy to remember the sacrifices military men and women have made in the past and continue to make today. A white poppy to inspire a more peaceful future?”

          The words of my generation in the lyrics of “WAR” sung aggressively by Edwin Starr advocate another way to bring peace. He sang:
Chorus: (War) good God y’all, (What is it good for?)

Absolutely nothing,….. Say it again–                                               

(War, what is it good for?) Absolutely nothing….

Verse 4: Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s gotta be a better way
.”

            Until we find a better way, I say thank you to all those striving for peace and freedom. Join me on the 11th at the 11th hour of the 11th month to remember those who have tried and those who are trying to find “a better way.”

Wise Words from an Unlikely Source

SpongeBob SquarePants (character)

SpongeBob SquarePants (character) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my column for this week. Despite the fact that it is Thanksgiving Day in Canada, I still had my Monday morning deadline. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in Canada and Good Day to the rest of the world:

 

   “You never really know the true value of a moment, until it becomes a memory”. – SpongeBob

 

            Who knew that such wise words would come from a cartoon character—one that my youngest son, Tyler, tells me is “one of the most famous ever” and does his owners (Nickelodeon) proud in that it makes them millions. For those of you not familiar with SpongeBob Squarepants you obviously did not have kids of a certain age. He was popular at my house about twelve years ago—as he was my youngest son’s prelude to walking out the door to school.

            I know, I know, he probably should not have been watching television while having his breakfast, but that ship has sailed. I was once “one of those kind of moms”—the kind who would not let her kids play video games, the kind who made them healthy snacks, packed lunches that had no garbage so they could be part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” crowd at school, made sure they watched non-violent TV (though I don’t think SpongeBob was particularly violent), and dressed them preppy-like. I fell off the “crazy mom” wagon eventually, but according to my 22 year old son, not soon enough.

            Anyway, back to the premise of this column which are the wise words of that colourful talking sea sponge. I know that his creator penned the words, but how bad can a cartoon be if these are the types of little gems that drop from the character’s mouth? Are these not the kind of things we want our kids to be exposed to? Here is another exchange that while funny is also heart-warming: Patrick Star (Spongebob’s starfish friend) says: “Knowledge can never replace friendship. I prefer to be an idiot”. And SpongeBob’s response: “You’re not just an idiot Patrick, you’re also my pal.” While kids would think this was comical, they would also be getting a lovely, if droll message about friendship: you accept your friends despite their flaws.

            “You never really know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory” is on the surface a seemingly charming sentiment, but delving shallowly below that surface it really means that we tend not to enjoy the moment we are in. We savour our memories but should realize that the moment is just as enchanting when it happens as when we look back on it. I tend to forget this and live through the moments rather than in them.

            As I write this I am fondly remembering the Thanksgiving meal we had yesterday—but in order to make it possible a lot of work went into the process. As I am by no means a domestic goddess (which after speaking to a few people who have read this column, comes through loud and clear) I tried to enjoy the preparation of the meal instead of just the end result. I convinced myself (and it took some convincing) that all the fuss and bother, cooking and cleaning were worth it, because I was doing it for the people I love. And magically, it worked. The turkey was particularly succulent, the roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes were perfection themselves, the gravy was silky, and the dessert–wonderful pies (which I cannot take the accolades for) were made more magnificent by the purchase of salted caramel ice cream which complemented them exquisitely—and was my contribution.

            Why did I enjoy the meal so much? Not because I created it—but because the people I made it for were highly appreciative. They raved a little bit (knowing their sister, wife, and mom was not a natural cook), and I basked in the moment. I appreciate the memory today, but I really did know “the true value of the moment” while it was being lived.

           

English: A slice of homemade Thanksgiving pump...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And when I got up this morning—I lived in the moment again—I had pumpkin pie for breakfast!

Side notes: SpongeBob was created in 1999 by marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg and voiced by Tom Kenney.

Death to the Green-Eyed Monster

 

Drop jealousy and envy, for they make you ugly...

 (Photo credit: deeplifequotes)

For the rest of the month of August, I am going to take on Michelle’s daily prompts. No promises that it will be every day, but I am feeling uninspired of late, so her suggestions will be my fall back. Today she asked us to: “Write an anonymous letter to someone you’re jealous of”.

Dear No One:

I am not jealous of anyone. Seriously. Now to be honest, I would like to have what others have that I may not have right now, but I have a deeply held belief that I will achieve those things I have not yet achieved.

I will go to Paris and Tuscany and see the rest of Canada. I will get a book published (even if I have to do it myself). I will pay off my youngest son’s education loans. I will help my oldest son with a music studio. I will have the house of my dreams. I will have a butler, and a cook, and an upstairs maid, and a downstairs maid (okay I am getting carried away here—maybe the downstairs maid can do the upstairs too.) I have lots of things to achieve, so I best keep going……………..

Jealousy

Jealousy (Photo credit: williamshannon)

I have been jealous in the past, but have come to the realization that it is a false commodity. Jealousy is unrewarding, and let’s face—it makes you feel bad, both about yourself and the object of your jealousy.

Generally I have gotten what I want in this life. I have also gotten a few things I did not want. I am trying to get rid of those things. But until then, I am not going to be jealous of anyone……….

Sincerely, LouAnn

Do you agree that jealousy is a wasted emotion?

 

Published in: on August 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm  Comments (29)  
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July in the Bananabelt of Canada

English: Sun in Splendour

English: Sun in Splendour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

July Saturday

Hot, humid, sticky, sweaty

Evening brings relief

Published in: on July 6, 2013 at 9:59 am  Comments (32)  
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Hi Mom ~ Bliss is being Blessed with a great Mom

White flowers.

In Memory of my Mom: White flowers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelle says: Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. Wherever in the world you are, write your mother a letter.

Well, Michelle, it is Mother’s Day in Canada too—and I am going to take you up on your prompt—more for me than anything else.

Hi Mom!

Well, to start, I miss you. It has been 21 years now, and not a day goes by that I do not think of the creak in the stairs. An odd memory you might think—but it is one of my most vivid.

When I would come to visit you after I was  married, with toddler Adam firmly held by one hand, and baby Tyler balanced ever so precariously in my other arm, (precarious because he was always moving) I would knock on the front door after climbing the four steps to your covered front porch. Then, I would wait to hear the creak on the stairway which led from the upstairs of our house (it was still “our” house even though I did not live there anymore) to the main floor. That creak meant you were walking down the stairs and had hit the step that produced a loud raspy groan that announced any trip down (or up) the stairs (I remember avoiding it when I came in late as a kid and young adult). That squeak meant you were making your way from your sitting room upstairs (my old bedroom) to the front door to let me in—and I knew it was my invitation to just come in.

You would take Tyler from my arms and cuddle him with one arm, and hug Adam with the other. You were always, ALWAYS, glad to see us. You would shepherd us into the middle living room (an odd house—we had a front living room and middle living room that was once a dining room perhaps?) and offer us drinks and food and good conversation. And you would play with the boys—being a grandma was an interactive activity for you. I remember my grandmas were wonderful but they never, ever played with me or took me for walks or taught me things. You did all those things with your grandchildren.

You helped keep me sane as a young mom—and when you left this world for another, I was equipped to handle it.  Equipped but not happy to handle it without you—but as there was no choice I did the best I could.

Life has been good and bad, wonderful and awful over the last two decades. Lots has happened, but suffice to tell you the most important thing: the boys have grown up into fine young men (an odd clichéd thing to say—but true.)

This letter is more for me than you, because I think from where I imagine you to be, you are helping me out along the way and are aware of what is going on in my life and that of your other kids. You know our heartaches and our triumphs and I am sure you laugh and cry for us. I will always think of you as my personal cheerleader, someone who believed (and believes) in me and my brothers and sister. You are our guardian angel—we know that for sure.

There is no proper ending to a letter like this except: I love you mom ~ Lou

Published in: on May 12, 2013 at 2:21 pm  Comments (47)  
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Echoes of Bliss

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of R...

1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A poem is an echo,
asking a shadow to dance.”
-Carl Sandburg

A lovely way to define poetry, but what does it mean? Pretty words undefined by our  experiences are just pretty words.

For a long time I did not appreciate poetry—possibly due to a Canadian literature course I took at university that seemed to hone in on Canadian poetry that defined our great nation as a cold, forbidding, and sterile place—which was the exact opposite of my experience. Mind you, I live in an area (southwestern Ontario) where we brag about being the “southernmost” part of Canada, so we possibly experience much more moderate weather conditions than many of our northerly brothers and sisters.

I have found that there is certain poetry that “speaks” to me, and it is generally poetry that talks of everyday things in a way that makes me look differently at the world. Each of us sees the world with a unique vision, and these visions can expand our experience.

I now collect poetry, but the poetry I collect speaks of everyday things. It is not dark and dank and angst ridden. There is a poetry contest in Canada that asks us to write poems and enter them to win a good amount of money and publication. I have read some of the poetry that has won this contest in past years and it is generally not “happy” poetry about daffodils, or hanging out the wash, or planting tomatoes. It generally has a depth I cannot plumb. I guess I like poetry that is expressed simply with beautiful language.

In an attempt to write something I think would be considered for the contest—I went to my dark place and came up with the following:

Not Safe

The shadows are cast

Shutters open to reveal a life broken

Exposed.

Just outside the door a welcome mat beckons

But it lies

No one is welcome here

Pain, hurt, and agony

Make their home here.

A red couch long abandoned

Its pillows ripped and frayed and soiled

Pillows strewn on the floor

Pretty fringed cast offs

Carpet muddied and matted……………..

Then I stopped writing the poem. It is not me. As angst ridden as the next person, I could not sustain this attitude long enough to write 500 – 600 words. I kind of depressed myself. It is apparent to me that my dark side is not dark enough, or sustainable.

Daffodil & Summer-snowflake

Daffodil & Summer-snowflake (Photo credit: ericdege)

Granted, I may live in a world of denial at times, but I like pretty words and pretty worlds, and what I so painfully came up with in my lame attempt to be considered for a prize is not authentically me. So I will write about trees with lacy limbs, snowflakes melting on tongues, and baby chuckles—and leave the dark side to those who can do it justice.

If as Sandburg says: “A poem is an echo, asking a shadow to dance” then mine is a dance of hope whose shadows are shallow.

Bliss is realizing what is authentic, and what is not. What do you think?

Wishes Come True

Gift Card Holder Ornament

Gift Card Holder Ornament (Photo credit: ecokarenlee)

I told everyone in my family that if I did not get a gift card from Chapters for Christmas that there would be trouble. My husband took me seriously. Apparently he did not want trouble. On the Christmas tree was a pretty little card, and inside was the sacred gift card. I love going to Chapters (or any bookstore if truth be known). In fact I once owned a bookstore, but an unexpected but happy pregnancy, a second premature child (who is now a healthy 6’1″ college student), and a number of other factors led to its closure–but the point here is that I love books–buying them, borrowing them from the library, and most of all, reading them. I did not particularly care for selling them though.

Anyway, we got up early this Boxing Day morning and made our way into the city to the nearest Chapters, about 30 miles away. There was a winter storm brewing and threatening to blow its way here by noon, so I wanted to be back in my warm and cozy home before it got here. Target time to take off was 8:30; we made it out of the house by 9:00 a.m. Not bad in my books.

I used my card well and purchased “The End of Your Life Book Club” by Will Schwalbe and “The Mindful Writer” by Dinty W. Moore who promises that it is filled with “noble truths of the writing life.” Because they were hardcovers and 30% off, I shared the rest of my card with my family, buying a book about vintage guitars for my oldest son, and a motorcycle mag for my husband.

We got home just as the storm was starting–the wind is blowing right now and the snow is coming down a shade past gently and we are going to get four to eight inches. I know, I know this is Canada, so I guess we are getting between 8 and 10 centimetres–but I am still old school.

Hoping you all are having a relaxing day after all the excitement of Christmas, and are warm and cozy if it is cold out, and cool and happy if you live somewhere warm.

Christmas Cards ~ A Remnant of the Past?

Christmas card by Louis Prang

Christmas card by Louis Prang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A card in the mail was the equivalent of a gift from the sender….”  LizzieCracked from the blog, Running Naked With Scissors.

As of today, December 19, 2012, I have received seven Christmas cards, and I have sent seven. I miss waiting for the mail at Christmastime with the anticipation that I will receive what Lizzie calls “a gift from the sender”. Put in this perspective, I may just get my pen and Christmas cards out and “gift” a few more people with this little present of thoughtfulness.

It is too late to mail cards out but I can hand deliver some or put them in mailboxes and slip stealthily away, knowing this little gesture will bring a smile from someone remembered.

When did I get out of the habit of sending masses of Christmas cards, and receiving about the same number back? Did I get lazy? Maybe. Did I stop when I had kids? Yes, probably, but they should not be blamed for my lackadaisical attitude.

It is no longer all that inexpensive to send a card–in Canada I think a stamp is about .59 (I am not sure though, so what does that tell you?). It may be too late to totally revive the tradition this year, but I think I will start. I know how much I love getting  cards–I usually tape them to my front closet door in the shape of a Christmas tree. If I do not get enough cards this year to make a proper tree design I may just have to get into my stash of cards from days gone by. I think I have kept every card I have received in the last thirty years–they are tied together in separate bundles with the year they were received noted on the front with a Post-It.

So let this be my Christmas card to all of you. Though it was not addressed and stamped–my heartfelt wish is that you have a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday or Merry Happy (as I like to call it ~ terminology all of my own).

So have you continued the tradition of sending Christmas cards or have you eschewed it for other forms of good wishes?

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