silly and serious

This is somewhat “columncentric” and local, but you might still enjoy…..

 

It is Monday morning and time for some silliness to start the week, although I am totally aware that you probably won’t be reading this until mid-week or later. There is always time for silliness. Yesterday I went to a Book Launch at the Woodbridge Farm Writers’ Retreat put on by Grant Munroe and friends and the bookstore, Biblioasis. This is not a news article, so I may be fleeting in my details as I want to get on to the main announcement.

The announcement is predicated by one of the authors/poets at the Launch, Marty Gervais, who is the Poet Laureate of Windsor. A multi-talented guy (I once stalked at the Windsor Bookfest to get him to sign a book of poetry I had purchased), Marty read us some poetry and then an excerpt from his upcoming book, “The Disappeared: Five Days Walking the Five Towns” (of what makes up Windsor now).  It will be published by Biblioasis and out in the fall—and that is just about all I will tell you now as the author, poet, professor, photographer, past newspaperman, and mentor of many has too many accomplishments to list in my precious little space).

What we are going to concentrate on in this column is that he is the Poet Laureate of Windsor. A distinguished title, and one that I will not take away from him (as if I could). But I have decided to be the Poet Laureate of Kingsville, until I am unseated by a proper poet. I told him this and we laughed and laughed. And laughed. But wouldn’t it be cool to have a Poet Laureate in Kingsville? I know that I am self-appointed, and there are many in the area who deserve the title and would not have the audacity to appoint themselves.

I read somewhere that “all poetry is political”. I am here to tell you that is not true—most of my poetry is written, what did my dear youngest son say, “like I was in grade 5”. I tend to write a lot of haiku (which I found out is both the singular and plural of the word by some haughty haiku observers I encountered on my blog—and deleted promptly) as it is a form that I find both attractive and short—though sometimes I do have trouble counting syllables.

Haiku for anyone who does not know (or really care) is a form of poetry which can be quite exacting—but all true haiku does not have to be. I follow the 5-7-5 syllable count because it is something my simple mind can handle—but rather than go into it, if you are interested, you can Google it and find out a myriad of information, most of which I tend to ignore. I also write longer poetry—but none of it is very deep—or if it is, I did not intend it to be.

Anyway—this is a rather long-winded way of telling you that I am the new, first, and only, self proclaimed Poet Laureate. Of Kingsville. If you are real poet and want to take my title away, I will not be offended. I will understand. It will be okay. I will, though, cry a little in my beer. Not my wine, because I do not want it to be sullied by my tears.

Now For the More Serious

I will probably report on this in a bit more detail, but as this is my column and thus opinion, I will merely mention that I had one of the best weekends ever—first at the writers’ workshop run by Governor General award-winning author, Diane Schoemperlen at the Retreat. She has become my new bff. At least in my mind. I loved the workshop based on her memoir “This Is Not my Life”, I love her writing, and she is just a wonderful person. (Am I gushing here?) I would like to point out that the best friend forever moniker is merely a figment of my imagination, but it makes me happy, so who is it hurting?

Second, on Sunday I went to the Lawn Party and Book Launch of Diane’s latest book, “First Things First” (published by Biblioasis). That is also where Marty gave his reading, as well as poet and author D.A. Lockhart. Lockhart was charming and talented, and after I save up my pennies I will be buying some of his works too. (Must win that lottery).

I am now in a very “cultured” mood. And I am so happy that this little town and environs of ours is taking reading, writing, art, and music so seriously now. There are all types of venues on tap for those of us who want to feed our creative selves, and I for one, am thrilled.

Published in: on June 22, 2017 at 7:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Summerphobia

 

“Find out what is wrong with you and fix it”. This is advice my husband is forever giving. It is advice he gives when someone complains about some malady or other and it is always medical in nature. It is, on the surface, good advice. It falls apart for a number of reasons: sometimes people just want to complain; sometimes you can’t fix it; and sometimes people just don’t want advice, no matter how practical and kind-hearted.

I have just found out what is wrong with me, and it is not easily “fixed”. It is called “summerphobia” and I learned about it just this morning from an article by Ellen Himelfarb in the daily newspaper—reprinted from the London Daily Telegraph. I knew though that I suffered from it, but I did not know that it had an “official name”.

Summerphobia, according to Himelfarb, is “a rare but potent form of anxiety that intensifies when social lives heat up and work conversations revolve around holiday plans or the “amazing” barbeque last weekend.” I define it a little more precisely. Summerphobia for me is a dislike of extreme heat and humidity, although I do suffer from the “instability” of summer, when all bets are off, and we are supposed to be carefree, and have fun without a set schedule.

Let us be real here for a minute though. Unless you are filthy rich, or a young kid, summers still need to be regimented to some extent. Most of us still have to work, though we may not feel like it when the sun is shining and the beach is beckoning. We have to put our “big pants” on and be adult about summer. I remember the summers before I started working (babysitting and detassling corn) when I was free to play and read (after I had finished my chores, which mostly involved cleaning my room and dusting). I spent an inordinate amount of time in the backyard in my tree, which once I had climbed, was my refuge for hours. The branches were substantial, and arranged in just the right way for me to stretch out on one branch, while my back was cradled by another.

Even back then I suffered from the effects of “summerphobia” which included time off from school and away from my friends. Himelfarb says that she too suffered from the malaise when she was a kid. She said that “as school ended…I braced myself for the exodus of certainty, routine and friends” and yearned for September and a return to normalcy.

On Facebook, I follow “I Love Autumn” and all their posts about the wonders of fall. It is not news to anyone who knows me that fall is my favorite time of year. I repost or “share” some of the pics and quotes about fall to the chagrin of a couple of my Facebook friends, who think I am just baiting them. And maybe I am. Just a little. But I really do love the fall—the cooler temps, the turning leaves, a return to routine, pumpkins, and yes, there is a bit of magic in the season. It doesn’t hurt that Christmas follows close on its heels.

But I am trying to learn to embrace summer. And when it is not too hot or too humid, it really is not a bad time of year. I am not a complete “summerphobic”. I took the quiz at the end of the article and because most of my answers were (b), I have, according to the results “nothing to worry about, but… could do with relaxing a bit.” And it left me with a bit of cheeky advice: “It’s just a bit of sun.” Those who chose (a) for their answers were prime candidates for summerphobia, but were comforted with the statement that “it’s more common than you think”. Those who answered (c) were summer lovers. Apparently, they buy disposable barbeques and are the first to throw around frisbees; they leave photos around of the beach resort they’ve booked; are overcome with fear of missing out (on fun); and despise the end of summer. They are only made fearful by the words “winter is coming”.

Summerphobia at its worst is the “fear of ambiguity, and the loss of clarity and security”. My advice: It’s just a bit of sun. Enjoy your picnics and barbeques, a little time off, not having to don outerwear, and remember “this too will pass”. And for those of you who love summer—well, you don’t need any advice—just keep that frisbee in the air.

Published in: on June 22, 2017 at 7:03 pm  Comments (1)  

A slothful thought

Saturday morning

Many possibilities

Think I will sleep in

Published in: on June 3, 2017 at 1:18 pm  Comments (4)  

You Don’t Need a Cape

 

I need some comfort in this world of chaos. So much is leaving us disgruntled, unhappy, and yes, scared. How do we go on living our lives when so much of the world is suffering—and sometimes we are suffering in our own worlds? At times like this we need to turn to unlikely sources of wisdom—those who are quiet and gentle, those we entrusted our children to. Mr. Rogers is who I am thinking of specifically, but some of the other heroes of my sons’ young lives were also laudable—Mr. Dress Up, the Sesame Street characters, Fred Penner, along with Sharon, Lois and Bram.

They were positive influences—they did not wear capes but imparted kindness, gentleness, and darn it, downright niceness. There have been many a news stories of late about a quote from Mr. Rogers that is helping many of us get through some of the world crises, the latest being the horrors that transpired in Manchester. It does not make us understand them any better, but it does give us hope.

It was some advice he received from his mom and it is simple, but it gets to the core of why we just do not all throw in the towel. He said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

What he said is so true. There are so many helpers in times of terror. People who forget about themselves and help others, sometimes putting themselves in peril. These are the people we should be remembering. And while we should never forget those who terrorize us, put us in danger, and spread fear, we must remember that for every one of those who do harm, there are millions of us who do not. Hard to remember this in times of peril—but important. Important because we cannot lose heart. For if we lose heart, and faith in our fellow human, we have lost everything.

I know that many times I attempt to make this column humorous, but this week my funny bone is sprained. I need comfort, and healing, and the knowledge that though the crazy leader of the North Koreans is at the helm of something terrible, though terrorists are plotting their next moves, and though we create our own little hells, there is hope. And I find that hope in the words of those much wiser than I.

Here are two more of Mr. Rogers’ Gentle Quotations put together by Chris Higgins on the website Mental Floss, gleaned from the book, “The World According to Mr. Rogers”:

On strength: “Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It’s something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength and other words–like aggression and even violence. Real strength is neither male nor female; but is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that any human being can possess.”

On great things: “A high school student wrote to ask, ‘What was the greatest event in American history?’ I can’t say. However, I suspect that like so many ‘great’ events, it was something very simple and very quiet with little or no fanfare (such as someone forgiving someone else for a deep hurt that eventually changed the course of history). The really important ‘great’ things are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always ‘in the wings.’ That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.”

Mr. Rogers was a gentle man. We need this quality and we should never downplay our gentleness. The first definition given by Merriam-Webster of gentle is “belonging to a family of high social station.” I would like to amend that definition. Gentle, when applied to any human being, is the highest station of all—and the status has nothing to do with wealth or relatives.

It is the gentle, the kind, the tender, the quiet, and the calm who shall lead them. You need no cape to be a hero. Look in the wings….

Published in: on May 31, 2017 at 1:58 pm  Comments (6)  

A Little Fennel Keeps Things Interesting

 

 

I must say I could not agree more with Vita Sackville-West’s quote about gardeners, and those (like me) who aspire to be gardeners. She said: “The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before.”

Vita, short for Victoria Mary was an English poet, novelist, and garden designer—thus I am assuming she knows (or knew since she died in 1962) whereof she speaks. In contrast, I am a gardener-wanna-be, but that is alright because my eldest son, Adam (yes, the rock god—and yes, he would kill me if he read this) and his girl friend have once again planted a sumptuous (as in opulent) garden in my backyard (which I am free to harvest when harvesting comes around.)

I helped choose some of the plants we are growing, but thus far have done little else than admire the beautiful garden they planted so precisely. Onions, five types of tomatoes, and fennel (yes, fennel) were my contribution to the garden which also features a large variety of hot peppers (and a few not so hot peppers for my not too spicy palate) peas, chives, and a variety of lettuce(s). There are also a few marigolds dispersed among the plants—my son is convinced that they help in pollination and keep our cat from using the garden as his personal litter box (it worked last year—on both counts!)

Adam has been in charge of our garden for probably the last seven years, and each year it gets better. Like Vita suggested in the quote above, he is always looking forward to doing something better than (he) has done before, and each year he hones his skills dramatically. Last year we had bumper crops of tomatoes and peppers, and he kept the garden weed free—which is quite a task in itself. I water the garden on occasion, admire it profusely, but other than that, it is his baby.

This is the first year we have had the garden planted early and we are quite proud of ourselves. I have even planted most of my flowers (having checked Accuweather and been assured there are no frosty nights in our future). I stick with tried and true plants (those I have not killed in the past) but have added a little ivy and other plants (that I do not know the name of) to fancy up my containers. Everything looks pretty darn good right now—let us hope I can stick to a watering regime in the heat of the summer so that I do not end up with dead flowers and brown leaves.

I did skip over the fact that we are growing fennel this year. This is our big adventure. You have to have something you are a little unsure of to keep things interesting. We are hoping that we did not plant it upside down (I am pretty sure we didn’t). I will also have to widen my cooking horizons to include this little gem in my repertoire, but I am sure I am up to the task. I have been talking to people about our experiment and have received a lot of advice on what to do with it—turns out it is quite a versatile veggie!

As per usual, I will end my yearly gardening column with a few quotes I found amusing about the topic du jour—hope you find one of two worth a smile:

“Early to Bed, Early to Rise, Work Like Hell and Fertilize.” (yep)

“The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat
and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold
drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.”
– Texas Bix Bender, Don’t Throw in the Trowel

Two by Doug: “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.”– Doug Larson
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if
green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” – Doug Larson

My favourite: “If life deals you lemons, make lemonade. If it deals you tomatoes, make Bloody Marys.”

And finally: “The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over
never weeded a garden.”

Published in: on May 26, 2017 at 7:54 pm  Comments (5)  

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week

This week too….

Live & Learn


Source: gifak-net

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Published in: on May 25, 2017 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Mother’s Day Though Most of This Is Only about Mother’s Day Peripherally

 

 

Cooking from scratch. Seems like a plausible statement. Something Julia Child, Martha Stewart and many of the chefs and cooks I watch on the Food Network would not find inconceivable. In fact, it is something that is lauded mightily among many of my friends, but I am generally not a “cook from scratch” kind of girl. Convenience is the name of my game, and the microwave my cohort in crime. Spending a lot of time in the kitchen is not something that appeals to me except on a rather limited basis. But today, today I am making bean soup—from scratch.

Or my kind of scratch. I boiled the ham bone leftover from a big Sunday meal and then cut off any remaining meat left on the bone. My cat, Kitty Bob, was beside me for most of this exercise—the smell of the meat and the hope that springs eternal in his kitty cat heart that he might be tossed a morsel or two kept him glued to my side. Once the meat was chopped up I added the navy beans, tomatoes, and taco seasoning with a bit of pepper to add to the culinary mash-up.

I can hear the purists out there groaning. They would have probably made their own diced tomatoes from fresh and used dried navy beans that they had processed themselves—and they certainly would not have added taco seasoning—particularly if it came from an El Paso package. I would be quick to note though, that the pepper was freshly ground. (Don’t I get kudos for that?) The fun part is coming up though—I get to use the immersion blender a friend gave me. Men are not the only ones who love tools!

I love eating food that people prepare themselves. I have friends and relatives who make pies without the help of Pillsbury. I know people who actually bake from scratch—something I have not done since the days of standing beside my mom and helping her bake decades upon decades ago. I talk to people who actually make coleslaw from cabbage, instead of buying it already shredded. I admire these people but not enough to emulate them.

Once in awhile, my husband will ask where a certain dish came from, and once in awhile I can say that I made it. Although I find opening packages and preheating the oven enough of a task some nights—I do, on occasion, like to mix things up, and surprise my family with some of that expertise I have gleaned from watching the Food Network, or reading cookbooks. I am guilty of never really following a recipe religiously (unless I am baking), but I do add a pinch of this and a soupcon of that.

Mother’s Day is this coming weekend and I remember fondly learning out to cook and bake at my mother’s side. I was a good sous chef—I could chop and sauté with the best of them; and mix the wet ingredients, then the dry, and incorporate the two for sweet delights, but I never really graduated to liking the process on my own.

Mom could whip up a meal out of vegetable soup and rice if need be, or serve a full course roast beef dinner with the requisite dessert without batting an eye. I have cooked big meals, but never gracefully. I am usually a hot mess if I have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and perhaps a bit on the grouchy side. I find a glass of wine calms my nerves though. I only think that I am a better cook then.

On another note:

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Here is a quote about moms that I think is perfect: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her.” Unattributed-found on pininterest.com.

Published in: on May 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm  Comments (3)  

Three Weddings and a Funeral

My weekly column in all its glory:

 

No, I did not really attend three weddings and a funeral over the Easter weekend, but it was a weekend of stark contrasts and surprising similarities. Saturday morning, I attended the funeral of an aunt who was in her 99th year; in the afternoon, I attended a baby shower. Grief in its many guises is a necessity of this life. Happiness at the hope of new birth is on the other end of the spectrum. But at both ceremonies, the emphasis was on the celebration of life–one just past, one future.

At the funeral, I was surrounded by cousins—first, second, and third—a son and daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge plays in my head. I am now grateful for family—it is something I so long took for granted. As my parents’ generation slowly bids us goodbye—we are left as the heads of the family—not a mantle I necessarily want, but one I am willing to don because I have to. I once thought that you “got over it” when someone you loved died. I now know that is not true. But you do get through it. That horrible first realization of loss does wane, but it never withers. And I think we are not meant to forget.

The baby shower was a wonderful celebration. Though it should not be important—the food was good—but it was wonder and magic that really reigned. So many gifts—so lovingly wrapped with such great forethought of the pleasure the recipient would take in unwrapping the gift to reveal another necessity or toy or book for the baby. And did I use the word “reveal”? There was a reveal of the baby’s gender—with both parents unwrapping the box slowly that contained the balloons that would tell them whether it was a boy or girl. It was fun to watch their reactions—before, during, and after. They wanted to know—but not too fast—and when the pink balloons rose out of the box they were thrilled (just as thrilled as they would have been if it had been a boy.)

Life is multi-tiered. The end of life for those of us who harken back to our simpler Sunday School days of certain religions, are satisfied that death is merely a doorway to a different life—one we can only imagine. It is not time for skepticism for some of us. I imagine my aunt, who was my mom’s sister, is now reunited with her sisters and brother and husband and parents in heaven. Do not mock my simplistic view—it may not hold me in good stead all the time, but for now it comforts me.

The start of a new life is a new beginning. Definitely new for the baby, but a new life for the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. They are welcoming someone new into the ever-widening arms of their family. With each new birth, there is hope and dreams and love. What could be more wonderful than that?

I have grown to appreciate funerals in whatever form they take. Small and personal. Medium and large with visitation. No service at all. A small graveside service. Or bigger celebrations of life. They are all valid. But what they all have in common is the remembrance of the loved one. Cherished memories are shared. And laughter. Yes, laughter. It seems so incongruent—but it is probably the biggest wish of the one who has just left this earth that we be happy. Not happy that they are gone, but happy that they were a part of our lives.

Over the weekend, I said goodbye to my aunt. I do not know what journey she will be on, but I comfort myself that in some form, she is still making that trek crossing into worlds unknown. I said hello to the prospect of a new baby girl, to be born in a few weeks to loving parents, and a community welcoming her to our world.

Contrasts. Similarities. Lives diverge–we interact, we love, we bear loss, we welcome new life. What we have to remember is that the big things in life are precipitated by the little things. And they are all important. The celebrations of life are what we look forward to—though the celebration of a life past is a lot harder than the celebration of a new life joining our ranks.

I comfort myself knowing no one can take away my memories—and I am happy that new ones are created everyday. Saturday was a day of goodbyes and hellos. I am glad I was able to partake and share in the celebrations of a life completed and a life just beginning.

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 2:46 pm  Comments (12)  

Happy Hygge

 

“You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

Happy Easter! Now let’s get HYGGE with it. Okay, first of all I do not know how to pronounce hygee. It is Danish. So, we can go Higgy, or Hige with a long i, (as in hide) or you can come up with your own way of dealing with it. The author of “The Little Book of HYGGE”, Meik Wiking suggests that it can also be pronounced hooga, hyyoogu, or heuuregh, but I find those only add to the confusion.  He does add this caveat though, and a good caveat it is. He believes that “it is not important how you choose to pronounce it or even spell Hygge”, it is important to follow the wisdom of one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Winnie the Pooh, who is reported to have said when asked to spell a certain emotion, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”

Hygge, according to Wiking is hard to define definitively. But he tries, even though he admits that “Explaining exactly what it is, that’s the tricky part.” It took him a whole book to define the word and give examples of what hygge is or feels like. I guess I can nutshell it by saying that it is the equivalent of our word happiness. Not happy, or at least not that defined by Merriam-Webster, as being favored by luck or fortune; but more active, or involving. Instead of just joy, joyful; instead of glad, gladness; instead of cheerful, cheerfulness.

But rather than anglicize the meaning, I will let Wiking provide you with his definitions—which are much more poetic than mine. He says that hygge has been called “everything from the ‘art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’, and the ‘absence of annoyance’ to the ‘pleasure of soothing things’. His personal favourite though is ‘cocoa by candlelight’.”  Hygge is “about… atmosphere… rather than about things.”

The author says that Hygge is: “about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.” He gave an example of spending a weekend with friends at an old cabin just before Christmas one year, on the shortest day of the year. The cabin was surrounded by a blanket of snow, he and his friends were tired from a day of hiking, and sitting in a semicircle around the fireplace, wearing “big jumpers and woollen socks”. He said the “only sounds you could hear were the stew boiling, the sparks from the fireplace, and someone having a sip of their mulled wine.” When one of his friends broke the silence, and asked “Could this be any more hygge?” another friend responded, “Yes…. if there was a storm raging outside.”

At this time of year, we do not really want that definition of hygge now that it is springtime. But the same feeling can be conjured during one of our famous rainstorms. It is still April after all—so before the weather turns warm for the season, we are in for some roller coaster weather. I love it when it is storming outside, and the wind rises, and I am cozy and dry and warm in my house.

High season for hygge is autumn and winter, but according to Wiking it can also be found during the warmer months—picnics being one of warm weather’s more hygge moments. A picnic by the sea, in the meadow, or a park are hygge inducing especially if enjoyed as a potluck with family and friends. Wiking believes that potluck picnics are the epitome of Hyggelig “because they are more egalitarian. They are about sharing food and sharing the responsibility and chores.”

The Danish are said to be the second happiest people (Norway being the first) in the world in 2017. Canada is not all that far behind them. So, it seems that we know a little bit about hygge-ness. According to Wiking, who is a member of the Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen, the root of happiness is satisfaction—the way we perceive our lives. He believes that hygee is “making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday” and says that Benjamin Franklin was onto something when he observed that: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur ever day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”

Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm  Comments (5)  

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

love the reflection….

Live & Learn


Notes:

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Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment