A Star

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

I wrote this piece in July 2011. I find myself missing Andy Rooney every Sunday, so thought I would resurrect this tribute written right after he went to what many call “a better place”.

“A writer should be sitting over in the corner watching the dance and not be out there dancing.”~ Andy Rooney

It was a little bit freaky. I watched Andy Rooney’s last night on air about a month ago, and promptly went to my computer and wrote two things on a post-it note that stays in a little corner of the computer until you erase it. The first was “Writers never retire”; the second: “It is the writer’s job to tell the truth”. For some reason on Friday, I erased my post-it note as my computer was acting up. As my technical savvy is somewhat limited, I get rid of anything extraneous that may be causing the trouble.  I thought that having the post it note up might be a way gremlins were eating computer information.

I know that my methods of bringing my computer back into line make no sense whatsoever, but if you need your email up and running in order to send in words of wisdom such as these to your place of employment, you try anything. Now, I know I am not responsible for Andy Rooney’s death on Friday night—I know this, but I feel really bad that I erased his words.

Andy Rooney to me was a saviour. Not in the religious sense, but he saved the sometimes dour and stuffy and very serious journalistic endeavours of the program 60 Minutes from being a total downer. At least at the end of the program, he provided an almost always humorous breath of fresh air. I loved his quirky take on the world. And Andy never considered himself a television “star”—he was first, last, and in the middle, a writer.

He fulfilled the philosophy that Saturday Night Live comedian Gilda Radner once put forth that there is “always something.” From the clumsiness of vacuum cleaners, to the fact that designer jeans are merely a means of advertising on the posterior of Americans, he made lots of sense, albeit a little grumpily.  An article by Dennis McLellan of the Los Angeles Times cemented my admiration of the man. Of baseball, he said “My own time is passing fast enough without some national game to help it along.” I like playing baseball, (and when my kids played I liked watching them) but I went to a pro game in Detroit once, and I swear it went 105 inning. Seriously, as if nine were not enough!

The word curmudgeon has been pulled out from under the rug to describe this lovely, warm, if slightly irascible human being.  Mike Wallace said that he had not met a man he admired more and praised him by saying, “he’s got the guts to say what is on his mind”—a trait I admire greatly—even though it got him into trouble on occasion.

McLellan described Andy this way— “Wry. Curmudgeonly. Whimsical. An articulate Everyman. Unruffled yet quizzical. A crank. A complainer. The man of a thousand questions.”  He seems to not have been lazy and merely gone to a thesaurus for words to describe Andy, as nowhere would you find the words curmudgeon and whimsical as synonyms.  He was a man of many flavours, whom USA Today’s columnist Bob Minzesheimer quoted as saying “I’ve done a lot of complaining, (but) I can’t complain about my life.”

According to Minzesheimer, colleague Morley Safer described him as thus: “Underneath that gruff exterior was a prickly interior, and deeper down, was a sweet and gentle man (with) a delicious hatred for prejudice and hypocrisy.” Andy described himself as “average in so many ways that it eliminates any chance I ever had of being considered a brooding introspective intellectual.”  Personally I have a bone to pick with his self-description and revere him as an intellectual, if not the brooding kind. I saw through the façade, he was a sweet and gentle man, who preferred to be simply known as a “writer” and not a celebrity.

I shall be reinstating my computer’s post-it note. I am sorry I erased it.

Published in: on March 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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Fairy Dust and String Theory

List of The Big Bang Theory episodes (season 4)

List of The Big Bang Theory episodes (season 4) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Big Bang Theory is my new favourite television program.  I wish I could say it brought out my inner nerd, but I am not smart enough to be a nerd. Unlike many, I find the term “nerd” complimentary, but I always think of it in a scientific, mathematical context . I looked it up in my thesaurus and its synonyms are highly questionable: drip, bore, geek.  The Encarta dictionary calls it an offensive term and defines a nerd as a “single-minded enthusiast” who is “considered to be excessively interested in a subject or activity that is regarded as too technical or scientific.” (My argument—if we did not have people interested in the too technical or scientific, where would we be? We would still think the earth was flat, and the stars made up of fairy dust.)

I think the term nerd needs a “redo”, and the guys from The Big Bang Theory are just the guys to do it. Sure, they are overtly intelligent, some (Sheldon in particular) not socially attune, but I just love these guys. Is it an accident that the program is a particular favourite in Canada? I think not—we just love underdogs, and even though most of these guys have reached doctoral status and make fun of the guy who only has his Masters, they are entertainingly sweet (most of the the time).

I think many of us are jealous of nerds and the things that they understand easily that we don’t. I was a particularly poor student in both science and math, and regret it somewhat. Even at my age, I would like to return and redo my high school math, thinking that perhaps I am now mature enough to put in the time to actually learn the subject. I always found science interesting, and like to think that I did not apply myself—but maybe, just maybe, I am neither scientifically or mathematically inclined.  Shakespeare and I get along just fine, but Einstein and I are unfortunately not on the same page.

Recently in my hometown newspaper there were pictures of students who had achieved a 90 average or more. I looked at their shiny faces and wondered what it is they have that gives them the ability to achieve marks of such excellence—are they just naturally smart, do they work hard, are they motivated, or do they have wonderful teachers? I think it is probably a combination of all four. I am jealous (but in a good way) of these kids. What a great start in life they have already—how far they will go is up to them. But they have such a wonderful basis for a good life. Of course, success in life is not necessarily based on high marks, but I am sure that what it takes to achieve these marks will go a long way in helping them reach their eventual goals.

Published in: on March 27, 2012 at 3:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Company Coming

cleanliness is next to godliness

cleanliness is next to godliness (Photo credit: 2-Dog-Farm)

“We labour to make a house a home, then every time we’re expecting visitors, we rush to turn it back into a house.” ~Robert Brault

Spring cleaning. Now those are not words that trip off my lips often. Not even every spring. In a conversation with my sister recently, I said, “You have to make the trek from Ottawa down here soon, my house needs cleaning.” She knew what I meant. Not that she needs someone to visit for her to clean her house—I swear you could eat off the floors in her house—even when no one is coming to visit.  You cannot eat off the floors at my house—ever. Even the five second rule is a bit dicey most of the time. (You know the rule—if food falls on the floor you have about five seconds before really disgusting things happen to it—I think we have at the best of times, a two second rule at my house.)

It is not as if, in my heart of hearts, I am not a neat and clean person. It is just that my inner Martha Stewart is bogged down, or if truth be told, nonexistent. Jane Wells, author of the book “Definitely Not Martha Stewart” says that “deep in the heart of every woman lives a Martha Stewart. It doesn’t matter how liberated or non-traditional we are, the only difference in any of us are the circumstances of life that have nurtured or sublimated or completely eradicated our nesting instincts.” Okay, Jane seems to be a bit on the fence about Martha. I am not. I have no inner Martha Stewart, which is probably why she does not get on my nerves.  I love things to be neat, clean, and organized—I just do not care for the process it takes to get there.

My mom was big on spring cleaning. Wash down all the walls and the ceilings in every room in the house. No piece of furniture was unturned, undusted, unbuffed, or unpolished in the quest to clean the house when the first robin appeared. She took her talents for granted, and felt that there was no creativity in keeping a clean house—it was something everyone could do.

Cleaning takes hard work. Second, it takes hard work, and a plan of attack. Since my mother was already a fastidious housekeeper, it was not much of a job to do her spring cleaning, as on a daily basis, the house was dusted and vacuumed and the bathroom cleaned  (something I do on a weekly, nay–monthly basis). Her weekly cleaning jaunts were about what my spring cleaning is, when I choose to actually do it.  I learned from the best. It is not that I do not know how to clean—it is just I use these talents on a much more limited basis than my mom did—with, I might add, her approval.

She told me that keeping up with the Joneses in the house cleaning department was not something I needed to do—she did it because she said “it was expected”. Now, do not get me wrong, I do not live in filth, and when I am expecting company, I clean my little heart out. For me cleaning the house when company is coming is part of the respect I show for them. I am glad they are coming, and to show it, I clean up the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, plus a dust bunny or two, and the occasional tumbleweed.

I have been to homes where the housekeeping is somewhat relaxed, (as is mine generally) and I do not judge, as I figure the homeowner just has more important things to do, like curling up with a good book. In fact seeing how laidback others are about house cleaning has made me more relaxed in my own “getting ready for company” practices, which makes the whole process a little less harried (though admittedly, I do get a little unwound when doors I have deliberately  shut get opened and the flotsam and jetsam I have hidden from sight are revealed. The solution: get some locks.)

Easter is coming and so is company. I think I must be goal oriented and need an actual reason to clean up. As the author of  “Definitely Not Martha Stewart” observed: “If it weren’t for Christmas or company coming, some jobs would never get done.”

Some Never Evers

Read a tip in my daily newspaper today that I will never use. Ever.  Now they say you should never say never—but this one I am sure of. It was submitted by Maureen in the “Tip of the week” section of the paper by Reena Nerbas called Solutions & Substitutions.  Maureen suggests, not tongue in cheek that “If you want to cook several hotdogs over a bonfire, here’s a timesaver. Put the wieners on the tines of a metal rake and cook many at once.” Yeah, right.

Here is another hint I will never use. It is from the book “Haley’s Hints” which boasts “over 2000 of the most extraordinary money & time saving uses for ordinary household items….at your fingertips.” So, are you ready? On page 154 under a section called “Sewing and Notions” (I already know I am in the wrong section of the book when the word sewing is part of the title) it is suggested that you “Try leaving your hand-sewing in a decorative basket by the telephone or your favourite chair. You can have a chat with friends or watch television and get a few hems and buttons done as well.” I did sew a button on once, and there is proof. My husband (a lovely man with a strange sense of humour) took a picture of me. As if it was some rare occasion. Okay, it was a rare occasion, but I still did not appreciate the fact that he took the picture. Martha Stewart I am not. Enough said.

In this next section, I am going to share some tips that you may find handy, interesting, or make you pause and say in an incredulous fashion: “I didn’t know that”:

1. Cleaning marks on wallpaper is often easy if you rub the stain with rye bread (not whole wheat, not French bread, but rye bread—no

English: Loaf of dark rye bread

English: Loaf of dark rye bread (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

explanation is offered as to what magic agent rye bread has, but hey, Haley’s Hints was a Worldwide TV Series, so he must know something. I do understand why you wouldn’t use raisin bread, though.)

2. Fill a spray bottle with flat beer to use as a setting lotion. Since this hint was in the section for Hair Dos and Hair Don’ts, I am assuming that the flat beer is supposed to help keep your hair curled once you have curled it. I don’t know about you, but eau de brewery is not my fragrance of choice.

3. Here’s another one for tips I will never use. Ever. I am going to quote it verbatim because they seem serious—as hard as that is to believe. “Save your different coloured pantyhose and leotards and cut off the legs. Tie them to the size that fits your head to make great headbands. This gives lots of colour variety and lets you match them to your outfits.” Okay, am I the only one who finds wearing panty hose on my head a bit weird?– unless of course you are a frat guy  and prone to wearing underwear on your head (or so the legend goes).

4. Someone told me the other day that we are going to be inundated with mosquitoes this year—so in an effort to try and make this blog worthy of the space it is takes up I will provide you with a couple of hints that actually may be useful care of Mr. Haley:

(i) It is said mosquitoes dislike the smell of onions and oranges, so “rub over your exposed areas.”(I imagine this does not take into account nudists and their ‘exposed areas’).

(ii) To keep mosquitoes from breeding in your rain barrel, pour a little cooking oil on the surface.

Okay, I said the hints may be useful. If you left your rain barrow in the last century then maybe this book is ever so slightly out-dated.

My favourite tip?  Besides rubbing onions on exposed body parts to discourage mosquitoes, and beer battered hair, my favourite tip (that has held me in good stead for lo these many years) is to not store your onions and potatoes together. Unfortunately the reason why escapes me right now, so I will have to employ my executive assistant, Google. Excuse me, I will be back in a minute. (Seriously I timed it and it only took a minute.) You should not store onions and potatoes together as they both emit gases that cause them both to spoil. Well that makes sense—nothing like a good tip that makes sense, unlike the panty hose caper and barbeque rake.

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 6:28 pm  Comments (4)  
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A Day in the Life


Hoarders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From my weekly column:

The plan is to walk every morning; the plan is to have time set aside for writing and (somewhat begrudgingly) managing a home office; the plan is to keep my home if not in domestic bliss, at least not a candidate for the new program “Hoarders”; and the plan is to fix meals with an eye to nutrition.

That is the basic plan, with a few variables thrown in—editing a college essay or advising my college age son who lives two hours away on the mysteries of cooking (which though I have not in any way mastered, I have fairly successfully fed a family of four for over a quarter of a century). And to my credit and great relief no one has ever gotten ill from my cooking in the last thirty something years. There was that incident when I made lasagne from stratch in university for some friends—but I no longer speak of it.

I also provide an ear for my eldest son, and hand out unsolicited advice to both he and his brother—I figure some of it sticks even if it is unacknowledged. But as with all plans, my plans get usurped on a regular basis.

Take this morning. The plan really was to walk, and when I and my walking partner planned on going out it was raining gently. A few minutes later, the rain was not so gentle. I called her and told her that the way I gauged whether we should go out or not was to observe the big puddle in the middle of my road—if it was starting to look like a lake, or the splashing rain was a little too vigorous, then I figured we should probably be sensible and not make like ducks. She laughed at the way I made the decision, but agreed that it was even raining a little too hard for her. She is more athletic than I and much more intrepid.

Okay, the writing part is working out today, as I work pretty well when on deadline, and both this column and some council news need to be written up. So for the next several hours I will be sitting at my computer trying to conjure up a column that hopefully someone will enjoy. I do not conjure up council news though—that is serious reporting on issues from collapsed drains to sewer separation to deciding on what heritage building to designate and,…. well, you catch my drift.

Office management is the hardest part of my plan. I have worked in offices, but in those offices I have had bosses. In this office I am the boss and I am just a little bit too laid back. I would fire me in a minute if I could. I am trying to improve though, and to that end, I am reading Regina Leeds’ book “One Year to an Organized Work Life.” She has monthly chores all planned out, and I read some of them with delight and some with dread. The ones I read with dread are the ones I need to incorporate, like creating a filing system whereby I can actually find the things I file once I have filed them. I profess that I am someone who needs to have my work out in plain sight or I will just not find it. Leeds does not think that this is a viable solution or excuse.

March is the month that she chose to talk about going from “piles to files”, learning the secrets of a filing system, and then maintaining the filing system. She has some good ideas which depend on getting the right types of files, knowing the categories things should be filed under (which is my big problem) and then maintaining the filing system. I am at the “having just read the advice stage”, which verges on the “ready to run out and get some coloured dots stage”. The dots will delineate topic and urgency. A red dot on a file will mean it has something to do with income tax, a blue dot will denote an  insurance file, and the dreaded yellow is for caution: you better take care of this or Revenue Canada will put you in jail.

Keeping the house off the television program “Hoarders” is also part of ‘the’ plan. I would give myself a C most days on my housekeeping skills, but on a good day I can see a B- in my future. My cooking skills are a solid B, as long as you do not give me demerit points for convenience foods that come in really handy sometimes. I have friends who ask me in the morning what we are having for supper—and most of the time I have no idea. I think this lends a bit of serendipity to everyday life. Serendipity sometimes translates into a roasted chicken with all the fixings; serendipity also translates into warming up a pre-packaged lasagne dinner.

A day in the life would not be complete though without family and taking their needs into account. The stages of family life are as varied as the number of families that make up this world. With family, no amount of planning covers all the things that are expected of us, and I live by the words that are indelibly etched on my psyche: “(Wo)man plans, God laughs.”

Published in: on March 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm  Comments (2)  
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Update 3 – Some Successes

MSI laptop computer

MSI laptop computer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have decided that I should post my successes and not just make fun of my failures. Right now my laptop is no longer on the dining room table as it was in my first organizing -101 post; I have cleared away most of my old agendas from council meetings I attend for my job at the newspaper; the dining room table was used for an actual meal yesterday (a birthday celebration for my oldest son Adam, he turned 26); and I have started filing the myriad of papers that need filing.

My blue box is full; I put new ink in the printer; and right now I am trying to figure out why all the icons I have on my home page are humongous on my laptop – have an urgent email to my youngest son who is away at college–he should get back to me in a day or two. Actually he calls rather than emails, but that is okay too. By the way, our illustrious Governor General emailed his daughters everyday when they were in university, so I believe I have it on good authority that I am not a helicopter mom, just someone who likes to communicate with my child on a daily basis–and he gets to ignore it.

A few more notes from my notes from Regina Leeds’ book: “One Year to an Organized Work Life”. Since I took the time to take the notes, I thought I would share them–like my son who ignores my emails, you can ignore these offerings, or hug them to your soul–your choice:

Since I stopped at number 4, I will begin at 5:

5. Focus on the future not the past. (Pithy advice–I like this)

6. Have faith (she does not say have faith in yourself or in a higher being, but I guess either one is a good choice, and both a bonus.)

7. Set one goal at a time so you won’t get overwhelmed

Okay, I am going to set one goal at a time so I do not get overwhelmed–I am going to start making my bed everyday–and not just throw the covers and quilt up over the bed in my usual willy nilly slipshod fashion. Will let you know how it goes,…..

Oh, I talked to my computer savvy son, seems I just had to right click on the mouse and choose my icon size–if you are wondering I chose medium.

Published in: on March 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm  Comments (7)  
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Taking Up the Gauntlet

It has only been a little over three months since I have written for Organizing -101 so I thought I should take up the gauntlet and let you know what has transpired over the last little while.

I have cleaned up the initial mess in the dining room—some of it has been replaced with more files and things to be filed, some of it has been recycled, and… well, some of it has not yet been dealt with. But the good news is–I have found the top of my dining room table.

From the book, “One Year to an Organized Life” by Regina Leeds I have gleaned a few hints, a few bits of wisdom if you will, that may help guide me on my way to a somewhat organized life.  I took a few notes from her first chapter and thought I would share a few of them with you. They are supposed to give me “inner peace”.

Without further ado, here are the first four:

1. Make your bed every day. (Sounds easy, but for some, like me, who think that we are only going to get back in the bed at the end of the day, it seems like a waste of time. But I understand the wisdom—and if making my bed is going to give me inner peace then I will give it a whirl. Some of you reading this will be appalled to find out that some people do not make their bed every day—I am not one of those people, but maybe by the end of this exercise I will be.

2. Walk at least 5 minutes. (No problem—I have this under control.)

3. Find a routine.

4. Okay – they seem to get harder from here on in: Come up with a blueprint for Achieving your Goals by

(i) Figuring out what you want

(ii) Ascertaining steps to bring to fruition

(iii) Scheduling these steps in a logical way

And last but not least:

(iv) set a target date and a plan to reach the target date

Okay, I am going to work on the “make the bed every day” commandment for a while, and figure out what I want before I start ascertaining, scheduling, or finding a routine.

Bed Jump

Bed Jump (Photo credit: jamesjyu)

In the meantime, I will leave you with these words from Joseph Campbell:

“Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

My Passport is Ready


Provence (Photo credit: bkcasteel)

They say that if you do not have any dreams, then your dreams will not come true. I have not been much of a world traveller but I have high hopes and hopeful dreams that that will change. Someone sent me one of those questionnaires so popular in emails that ask you to read their responses to some questions, then erase them, put in your own responses, and send the email back. One of the questions on the latest one I received was to name four places you had travelled to. My responses: Lafayette Coney Island Hot Dog in Detroit, McDonald’s, Ottawa, and Florida. So, as you can see, I have lots of places left to visit.

My latest obsession is to visit France:  Provence in particular, with a few side trips to Paris and perhaps a jaunt to Italy to visit the Tuscany region. What has inspired this wanderlust? The movie “A Good Year”. I have now in my temporary possession (as they are all from the library) a number of books that will prepare me sufficiently for the launch of my world travels. The first is  “A Good Year”, which not so coincidentally is the book the movie of the same name is based on. It was written by that prolific writer of all (or at least some) things French, Peter Mayle.

I have also borrowed his book, “Encore Provence” which I assume is the sequel to “A Year in Provence”; “Provence A-Z” ; “French Lessons” and even a novel he wrote called “The Vintage Capers”, which is a mystery that finds its way to Provence. For a change of pace, I swapped authors and picked up a copy of “A Year in Merde” by Stephen Clarke. He brags in a blub on the cover of his offering that: “There are lots of French people who are not at all hypocritical, inefficient, treacherous, intolerant, adulterous or incredibly sexy…They just didn’t make it into my book.” Hmm, well we shall see what he has to say, though I am thinking his book will be a bit tongue in cheek.

I have started to dabble in Mayle’s books, and have found a particularly profound passage in “Encore Provence” which has made me all the more passionate about visiting the region. In a chapter called ‘Curious Reasons for Liking Provence’, Mayle provides one that is not, to my mind, curious at all. He says (on page 84 if you are interested in the specifics) that:

“Life has not accelerated, but still dawdles along keeping time with the Seasons. The markets still sell real food that has escaped the modern passion for sterilizing and shrink-wrapping. The countryside is still wild, and unscarred by golf courses, theme parks, or condominium colonies. It is still possible to listen to the silence. Unlike so many other beautiful parts of the world which progress and ease of access have made noisy, predictable, and bland, Provence has managed to retain its individual flavour and personality. This can be delightful or exasperating, like a difficult, cantankerous old friend. But that’s the way it is, with no excuses. Take it or leave it.”

“Encore Provence” was written in 1999. I would love to see and experience all the things Mayle writes about, and decide if, thirteen years later, Provence still holds the same charm. I am sure it does.

I told a friend of mine about my dreams to go to the south of France and she asked if I spoke French. Yes, I said, I can say my last name: Geauvreau. I was appallingly poor in the language in high school, but I put it down to my lack of study ethics when I was 14, 15 and 16—they (my study habits) improved later, but alas I did not have the foundations of French to call upon when I finally took my studies more seriously. My grade 12 French teacher passed me in French, making me promise not to take it in grade 13. I promised. But I will not let that little detail deter me. Probably because I was sorely lacking in a second language, I registered both of my sons in the French immersion course in public school. Though they laughed at my pronunciation of words when I helped them with their dictees, I believe I have achieved at least a junior kindergartener’s grasp of French, as long as the JK student is none too advanced.

So, until my travel dreams can be realized, I will do some research, and perhaps even borrow a friend’s French language tapes. She is going to a wedding in Paris in May. Ah, springtime in Paris.

Cover of "French Lessons: Adventures with...

Cover via Amazon