Summer Breeze

 

“My life, I realize suddenly is July. Childhood is June, and old age is August, but here it is, July, and my life this year, is July inside of July.”~ Rick Bass, writer and lecturer, winner of O. Henry Award

The beginning of the second half of the year, July heralds a new beginning—one in this part of southwestern Ontario that is usually hot and humid—but like tropical plants we can flourish. I need a new attitude about July and Rick Bass has provided the seeds for that new attitude. If you think of July as your life with June as childhood and August as old age, then despairing at its uncomfortable heat is not an option.

Wilting under the hot sun’s rays and writhing in the humidity is not a good way to spend your life. So, if July is our life, then we best embrace it while we can. We should pretend we are Aztecs and praise the sun for all its glory and life-giving sustainability.

One of my favourite songs of all time is Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze”. It captures summer in just a few words and July is encapsulated in one perfect line. Here are a few stanzas of this summer song—feel free to sing along:

See the curtains hangin’ in the window
In the evenin’ on a Friday night
Little light is shinin’ through the window
Lets me know everything’s alright

Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine in my mind…

See the paper layin’ on the sidewalk
A little music from the house next door
So I walked on up to the doorstep
Through the screen and across the floor

Sweet days of summer, the jasmines in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune,…

Written by Regine Schmidt, Summer Breeze has so many of the trappings of summer wrapped up neatly in its verses. You can almost hear the screen door banging shut and smell the sweetness of the jasmine.

The perfect July brings back memories of childhood, when all that was expected of that first month out of school was bike rides and picnics and reading under the leafy poplar trees in my backyard. There was always a family reunion planned that we looked forward to at Lakeside Park in my hometown of Kingsville, outings to Point Pelee National Park, and an occasional trip to a town about 15 miles away for Kentucky Fried Chicken. My world was smaller then, but it did not feel small. Every day I would ride my bike around the neighbourhood or to the store down the road for an orange (it was always orange) Popsicle.

We had a brick backyard barbeque that was the centre of many a family gathering with homemade burgers, hotdogs cooked on sticks, roasted marshmallows (I liked mine burned), and juicy watermelons, which were not seedless then, so we could have seed spitting contests and no one would care because we were outside. Pickup baseball games in our big backyard were common, sheets blowing in the wind on our clothesline were a feature of Monday morning summer days, and watching my dad and his friends play horseshoes in the horseshoe pit are just a few of my fond July memories.

I also remember the days when I was a kid and could not wait for the temperature to hit the 90’s and loved the few days when it would hit around 100 degrees. The hotter the better then—and bragging rights went to those who could withstand the heat without finding shelter under a tree or near a fan. I would like to return to the days when I enjoyed July and it was not a trial to be endured, but a month to be savoured.

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Published in: on June 30, 2014 at 11:57 am  Comments (32)  

Surprise!

I am not doing too badly with my new gluten-free diet–though I have decided to cut myself a bit of slack and not worry when I inadvertently eat something that has gluten. Saying that–did you know that licorice has wheat flour in it? I didn’t until I had enjoyed six of the little devils (the nibs not the whole long string thing) and decided to look on the package. Right under the words sucrose-fructose (I know, I know–sugar is no better for me than gluten) were the words wheat flour.

I did not spit the offending cherry flavoured nuggets out, but neither did I take another handful. Alas and alack.

I have received a lot of good advice and cheering on from you my blogger friends–so if anyone wants to read some great thoughts on the subject–just read my post from the other day Am I Crazy? There are a lot of wonderful comments.

And changing the subject here–I have a new blog just about writing–if you are interested, go to

writers experience everything twice.

Okay, enough self promotion for one day–but if you want to share your gluten-free advice feel free.

Published in: on June 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm  Comments (17)  

Am I Crazy?

I am not sure about a decision I have just made. I have decided to go gluten free to see if it makes a difference in my life. I have aches and pains that someone my age (in my estimation) should not have. My younger sister swears by her gluten-freeness. And since I think she knows a thing or two, I am going to give it a try—but not without a little bit of whining.

Okay, be prepared—here is my whining:

There is no one on this green earth who loves bread (the staff of life) more than I do. I love bread and all its incarnations. I love all the things that are derived from wheat flour. I am going to miss them. I tried some gluten-free bread today—and toasted it for a BLT—and it was not bad. I tried some gluten-free crackers, and they were not to my taste. Maybe I will get used to them.
I made my son a grilled cheese sandwich from some nice soft white bread (with fibre). It was so lovely and soft—I could imagine it slathered with butter and just melting in my mouth. I have never looked at sandwich bread with such envy before.

Why—you ask?
My legs feel like lead when I get up in the morning. I can barely bend my knees and I stump around for a while trying to get my legs to work. My sister says it may be inflammation caused by gluten and that she suffered the same way until she gave it up. She is helping me out with advice and recipes. Apparently there are levels of gluten intolerance—celiac disease being the worst and then several levels of sensitivity to it. I am almost hoping my experiment fails so I can eat bread—but if I get the bounce back in my step it will be worth it. Maybe I have just a slight sensitivity so I may be able to eat some bread—I guess only time will tell.

Studies
There are studies and then there are studies. Some of the latest say that we need a certain amount of gluten; others poo poo this as just another craze; and still others tout it as the best thing since (gluten free) sliced bread. So, obviously the jury is out.

Will I Survive?
I am not sure. If you have any words of encouragement I would appreciate it. Some of my Facebook friends have come through with good advice—but I could use more voices—and if you are a dissenting voice—that is okay too.

Diary
I am going to keep a diary of my progress. Two days so far—though I made a mistake yesterday and had half a beer.

Positive Outlook
Today I emailed my sister and told her that I was going to try and look at this new “diet” as not about what I have to give up, but what I can eat. I am not sure I have convinced myself of this yet—but hey, whatever works.

So, help me on this road which sounds unpaved and bumpy with any advice you may have. And keep the French bread away from me!

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm  Comments (47)  

Announcement

I have a new site you might be interested in. It is: writers experience everything twice.

Join me there — it will have mostly writerly content and reviews of books on writing and maybe some wild and crazy creative dabbling.

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 2:08 pm  Comments (15)  

Summer Nights

Charmed by a cool breeze
She pulled her sweater tightly
Around her tanned arms.

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm  Comments (12)  
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June Bugs

Tragically caught
Gossamer wings akimbo
Trapped in a cobweb

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm  Comments (4)  
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Eh Canada!

Those siblings, July 1st and July 4th,  Canada Day and Independence Day are coming up–and because I work for a weekly I celebrate things a bit ahead of time in my column. So Happy Canada Day and July 4th!

What better way to celebrate our national heritage and bring to the fore our pride and allegiance and stand on guardedness than profuse usage of the interjection “eh”? I think the title of our national anthem should be changed to Eh Canada, as it embodies us so much better than O, which merely hails our great country as something to be praised and honoured but does not pay particular tribute to it. “Eh” acknowledges our Canadianess and accords accolades to our uniqueness.

Wikipedia partially defines “eh” as “ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest….and agreement of a subject”, and I think we can all agree that Canada is pretty great. Eh Canada would draw attention to the fact that we are all in this together and we have a consuming interest in our home and native land. By nature, Canadians are generally agreeable, polite and proud of our heritage—past and present.

Sometimes I will rattle off my heritage to my youngest son—English, French, Scottish, Irish, with a bit of Pennsylvania Dutch thrown into the mix and he will look at me somewhat bemusedly and declare, “I am a Canadian”. And he is right—we were both born here and though we have a lot of ancestral baggage—we are Canadian “through and through”.

As a proud Canadian, I do use “eh” on a regular basis. It is second nature. The way I usually use it is to find concurrence with my opinion, as in “Those flowers are pretty, eh?” I am not looking for discord when I use it, and that is another reason why we should change O Canada to Eh Canada—as in “isn’t Canada great?” or “Aren’t you glad you are Canadian?

The Urban Dictionary defines “eh” as the equivalent to the American “huh?” or “right”. A friend of mine (yes, you Dave) was wearing a T-shirt last week which put “eh” in its rightful place. A large “Eh” was emblazoned on his T-shirt, and underneath it was the statement: “so much more polite than huh.” And I think that is what largely defines us, at least when we put on our party faces. Admit it, sometimes we are not as polite as we are made out to be, but when you look at the whole picture, and compare us to most of the others tromping around on this earth, at least we keep our impoliteness under wraps, and put our best faces forward.

One of the best things I like about “eh” is that it makes us less stuffy while still drawing attention to the subject at hand. At times we are mocked for using “eh”, but it is generally in good humour and as a strong and happy and patriotic Canadian, I can take it. I find that I can go days without using the lovely interpolation (yes I looked up interjection in my thesaurus and came up with this) and then it is sprinkled in almost everything I say. I guess some days I am just looking for a little understanding and concurrence—and what is being a Canadian if not understanding and agreeable (for the most part)?

Wikipedia, with its wisdom, coyness and wittiness says that “eh” is part our national identity and that sometimes our Canadian national teams are referred to as “the Eh team”. The “people’s dictionary” also cites this as a classic joke:—“How did they name Canada? The letters were thrown in a bag, and the first one to be picked was a “C eh?” then “N eh?” and finally “D eh?”. If a classic joke is one that is common or standard or typical, then I have been hiding under my bed a bit too much, as I had never heard it—but hey, it is Wikipedia—sometimes they are a little long on explanation, and maybe a little short on accuracy.

So, next Tuesday in honour of our July 1st. Canada Day, throw around our little Canadian word “eh” with abandon and maybe hum a little “Eh Canada” while you are at it.
How do you celebrate Canada Day or July 4th?

 

Published in: on June 24, 2014 at 11:45 am  Comments (29)  
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Forever Young

My nephew Eliot put this on Facebook today and I thought I would share it–the words are incredible:

 

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Bob Dylan (rumoured to be written to his kids)

Published in: on June 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm  Comments (13)  
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Later

Opportunities ~
Lost, some forever, but others
Realized later

Published in: on June 18, 2014 at 8:59 am  Comments (13)  

The Merry Month of June

“Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.” – Al Bernstein

June is a month imbued with memories and memories in the making. If I were the month of June I would be stressed out—so much is expected of it and 30 days does not seem long enough to hold all of the expectations. It is the month when summer starts officially—in fact this year it raises its sunny head on Saturday at 6:51 a.m. I know this because I read the comics every day, and in the strip Mutts, Mooch the cat is told this fact by his dog friend. (Over the years I have gleaned much wisdom from comic strips—it is an education in itself). It is also the beginning of the summer wedding season; the month of graduations; the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation for many a student.

I graduated from public school, high school twice (grades 12 and 13) and from university. I do not remember a thing that was said at any of these graduations. I do not remember what any of the speakers told us and barely remember the essence of the valedictorians’ speeches. Mostly I just listened to hear if my name would be mentioned, and since I was not a memorable student, it never was.

I have quoted Anna Quindlen’s commencement speech (A Short Guide to a Happy Life) a few times because I think she had some wise words to impart, and I liked what she said, but I wonder how many of those who heard it really went away with anything of import. I ask this because I read an article in the Weekend National Post by Benjamin Errett in a column called “The Week in Wit”. His article, cheekily called “Good Luck With Life” addressed “the futility of the modern address to the graduates.”

Errett’s advice to anyone picking up an honorary doctorate is to “just collect it” and not give a commencement speech because (a) they are silly; and (b) no one wants your advice. He does not stop there, and I think he has a point. He is not addressing public or high school graduates, just university, so if you are giving a commencement speech to those under the age of twenty, I guess you have his blessing. Here is his reasoning for not speaking to university graduates:

“….commencement speeches are silly. No one wants your advice. Your audience will have spent the last four years acquiring and honing their skills, at least in theory. (I like that he adds this line: at least in theory). They will have learned from the best minds in the world, at least in theory (again with the theory…) and if they don’t know much in practice, they at least do in theory. (!!) So the idea that you will impart an hour’s worth of wisdom on How to Live to a bunch of cynical adults sweating under mortarboards (and if I remember correctly a very heavy purple gown with a stole that kept slipping on a day that was over 90 degrees F) is a bit out-dated, to say nothing of the fact that you made your name in a world that looks nothing like the one they face.”

I remember little from the day I graduated from university other than the fact that I wish I had worn something really light under my gown and not the little suit vest and skirt and long sleeved blouse I had donned. It was hot and I could not wait for my name to be called so I could venture across the dais to grasp my hard-won diploma in my sweaty hand. It turned out that the diploma was really just a rolled up piece of paper tied with a ribbon. The “real” diploma arrived weeks later in the mail. I do not remember a word that was said that afternoon. Not one word. Admittedly, it was eons ago, but I believe that as I was enjoying my graduation dinner with friends and family at a favourite upscale restaurant of my choice, I did not remember a word then either.

Errett’s advice to those who ignore his initial advice not to make a commencement speech is this: “…if you have to talk, be funny.” This is the best advice ever. I remember if not the words – the essence of the valedictorian’s speech from my grade 12 graduation, and while she was sincere and probably said all the right things, she added a dollop of humour—and it was the humour that I remember—not the ‘go forth be successful’ message.

Published in: on June 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm  Comments (21)  
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