Sweet November

There is no denying it. It is November, or as William Hartston of the London Express says, “Having settled in over the weekend, the month of November is now firmly with us….” In preparation for the rest of the month he provided ten not exactly “fun” facts about November. I find his first rather odd, and once you have read it, I am sure that you will agree with me that it is your least favourite and possibly most puzzling fact. Now that I have built it up, I am sure it will be a letdown, so here is his first fact about November:

“The Anglo-Saxons called November “Blotmonath” after the blood of slaughtered cattle.” This seems like a very random and distasteful fact—perhaps you have to be British to understand it. His second fact while not earth-shattering is interesting. He says that, “In any given year, November starts on the same day of the week as March and ends on the same day of the week as August.” I am too lazy to check out the accuracy of this, so I will just believe he knows what he is talking about.

Number 3 on his list is something we could all live quite happily without knowing, but nevertheless it gives us some sweet insight into another culture. Apparently, “according to data from Twitter, the Spanish are more likely to tweet “Te amo” (I love you) in November than any other month.” I understand this, as in our part of the world November is the beginning of the end of any hope of warm weather, so throwing a few “I love yous” around is sure to warm the cockles of the heart. Maybe this should become a Canadian tradition too.

He quotes Louisa May Alcott of “Little Women” fame for his fourth fact. Louisa was not a fan of November I take it. She said. “November is the most disagreeable month in the whole year.” At one time I may have agreed with her, but no more. To me November is the month that I plan for Christmas without stress—once December hits—it is deadline time. Shakespeare joins Alcott in enthusiasm for the month of November, as according to Harston “There is no mention of the month of November in any of Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets.”

I have not checked out this next one with our local police force but I hope it is not true. Harston says that “More domestic burglaries take place in November than any other month.” I have no real explanation for this one. This next “fact” is a bit obscure, but one that some of you may find entertaining and even understand. I am not part of your ranks, but if you see me around town and you understand it, I would be pleased to be enlightened. It is old weather lore and predicts that: “If there’s ice in November to bear a duck, There’ll be nothing after but sludge and muck.” Sounds a bit ominous to me.

Since I do not care that two American Presidents were born in November, I will still supply the information to those of you who may. Warren Harding born in 1865 and James Polk in 1795 were born in November. I will now tell you who I care was born in November: my niece Gilly, my grandniece Sophie, and my sister-in-law Starr. Happy Birthday to all of you btw. And do not be depressed about the next fact provided to us by Harston: “According to research by Clearblue pregnancy testing, “November is the least popular month for women to want to have babies in.” Gilly and Sophie and Starr, I am sure your moms were happy you were born in November.

Last, and least in my opinion of Harston’s ten facts is this: “November is the only month when more rain usually falls on London than Paris.” Elucidating though it may be, this fact is only handy for those of us in Canada who are thinking of visiting London, or for that matter Paris.

Personally I think the month of November is much maligned. I consider it my “hunkering down” month. The month (at our house) when we finally take the window air conditioner out. The month we turn the heat on without guilt. The month we can snuggle under blankets in the corner of the couch with a good book. The month when a warm fire is welcoming (unless you are like us and do not have a fireplace—then it is just alarming). So enjoy this month of November, despite what the Bard and Louisa may think.

Do you like November?

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Whistling with a shoe full of slush……………

        Postings have been uninspired of late–but here is my latest newspaper column:

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  ~ Doug Larson

          This week ushers in a much anticipated spring and hopefully rushes the winter that seems never-ending out the door. We have been promised temperatures in the 40’s (for those of you who are not of a certain age or have embraced centigrade—I guess we should be getting to around 7 or 8 degrees and maybe {cross your fingers} a balmy 10.) Sounds almost tropical compared to the temperatures we have been experiencing of late.

          Doug Larson, a Wisconsin columnist in the 50’s and 60’s, captures this spring perfectly—slush in our shoes is not going to stop us from clutching the promise of spring to our breast. We are ready to cast off our layers of clothing, our boots, our hats, our mitts and our long underwear and encase our feet in sandals, and our bodies in something other than wool and fake fur. I am ready to pack away my heavy boots and don running shoes for my daily walk (which of late has not been all that daily—I shun the cold and the wet and the slippery).

          This winter of my discontent has not been kind to my waistline—comforting and warming myself with food has led to a discomforting weight gain. As the sun warms the land, I plan on filling my plate with food of sustenance instead of consoling and pacifying carbs and sweets and fat.

          I met the poet, Christina Rossetti, in an English course or two. She had probably gone through a winter in the 19th century that is similar to the one we have been suffering in the 21st when she penned this poem:

“I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing robin, sing:
I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.”

          Her misgivings about spring are certainly easy to understand given the fact that winter does not seem to want to loosen its grasp. Perhaps though we will appreciate the warmth more when spring finally arrives, no longer curse the groundhog for his truth, and complain less when it gets hot (unlikely—I make no such vow).  Spring will kindle thankfulness for all that is green and bright and warm.

          I have already girded my loins (I seem to be channelling Shakespeare today) in defence of  the fact that spring may be somewhat shy at first—giving us glimpses of lovely days to come, then retiring to let us stew in the inevitable last days of cold. But I am a proud Canadian, and this winter has made me understand what those in the most of the rest of Canada already know—that hockey reigns supreme (yay Olympics and hometown girl Meghan) and a little cold will not kill us.

          My spring coloured wreath hanging on my front door is still waiting to no longer be a discordant note—it is hung to herald a reluctant spring, and no matter how long it takes—its pinks and greens will soon join the chorus of other spring colours and not stick out like a sore thumb in the white snow. It proclaims, announces and foreshadows things to come (yes I am using my thesaurus again).

          One of the best descriptions of spring I have read is the one I will leave you with. It is from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett:

          “Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

          “It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

What is your definition of spring?

Published in: on March 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm  Comments (8)  
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Out Damned Spot!

Delving into depths

Of despair; befriending angst ~

Shake off the devil.

Published in: on March 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm  Comments (18)  
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I Love Me a Good Quote

English: Royal Monogram of Queen Marie-Antoine...

English: Royal Monogram of Queen Marie-Antoinette of France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What is a quote? A quote…. is a cut, a section, a slice of someone else’s orange. You suck the slice, toss the rind, skate away…..To loot someone else’s life or sentences and make off with a point of view.” ~ Anne Carson, “Foam (Essay with Rhapsody)” (from Decreation)

I love quotes. I looted this one from David Kanigan, but in the true spirit of the quote, I only took the parts that I wanted to illuminate, and left out some of the original quote, hence the dot dot dots……..

You can take quotes out of context and use them for whatever purpose you choose. The Bible, Shakespeare, and Hemingway all come to mind (those three in the same sentence is almost barbaric…)

As a journalist of sorts, I report on all manner of things, and know very well how to make someone sound stupid and mean, or intelligent and trustworthy—yet I do not use my powers, at least not consciously.  I try to be objective—and have to admit that in being objective, sometimes I am not subjective enough. Sometimes people deserve to see their words highlighted so they can see how others see them, to see the effect their words have, to see that sometimes they assess a situation incorrectly, callously, with no compassion to their fellow man or woman.

I will never stop using quotes—but when I do use them, I keep in mind that I generally use words frozen out of their original context and moulded to meet my circumstances and put forth my perspective. What did Marie Antoinette really mean when she said “Let them eat cake”? In a cursory search of this phrase I found out that she never really said it. According to Wikipedia: “Let them eat cakes was said 100 years before her by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV. It was a callous and ignorant statement and she, Marie Antoinette, was neither.” This was from the 2002 writings of the Queen’s best-selling English language biographer, Lady Antonia Fraser.

Let that be a lesson to me. I will be careful not to “skate away” without forethought when I deign to quote other’s words in an attempt to “make off with a point of view”.

Do you ever think about the fact that in quoting someone, you are putting your mark on their words?

In Between

Tea Time

Tea Time (Photo credit: Maia C)

This is my newspaper column for the week:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lie our growth and our freedom.” ~ Victor Frankl

It is in that space, the one between something happening to us and taking action that we live and breathe and make choices. And it is those choices that form our lives. Yes, I am getting a bit philosophical here, or pseudo-philosophical as the only letters behind my name declare me as someone who is supposed to have read all of Shakespeare’s plays (hard to take part in a comparative studies class of Shakespeare if you have not read all of his works ~ I learned this the hard way). I am also supposed to be able to take a theory and turn it into something practical–and, oh yeah, back in the day, I could dolly a mean television camera.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. While we are trying to make the hard choices, the right choices, and live our life the best way we know how—a little respite from all the serious stuff is sorely needed. Today, while reading some posts from my blog friends (no they are not my imaginary friends—there are living breathing people I have just not met in person) I came across a list of “Ten Things That Might Improve Your Day” by a Scottish woman {tearoomdelights} who writes primarily about tea, but also about life.  Curious? Well, I am going to satisfy that curiosity right now. She had an explanatory paragraph to elucidate each of her thoughts, but I will take her headings and provide you with a few of my own scattered notions.

Ten Things That Might Improve Your Day:

1. a nice hot beverage—of course her first choice was tea, but I am a fan of hot chocolate when I need my day improved.

2. a fresh pair of socks – now I have to share a few of her thoughts on this one as I thought they were first, unusual; and second, ingenious. She says that putting on a new pair of socks halfway through the day will refresh you, and if you do not have another pair of clean socks, then take off the ones you are wearing, shake them out, and put them back on.

3. a small nap – we have all read that successful people take 20 minute naps in the afternoon. Sounds like a good excuse to me.

 4. a wee read – told you she was Scottish. This one appealed to me in particular. A wee read can take you out of this world into another one for a few moments—a good way to improve you day.

5. a bit of fresh air – we all know this one, but how many of us embark on a little journey outside for some bird song and a little breeze?

6. a hot water bottle – perhaps this can be used in Scotland year round—but this would be the ticket here for three-quarters of the year. Soothing.

7. a bit of comedy – there is a reason I am addicted to some sitcoms. Some are clever, slice of life, and need I say it—funny.

8. a moment of peace—this one is self-explanatory and oh so necessary.

9. a thoughtful gesture – think of someone besides yourself and make them happy; improve their day (okay this was really her thought—but it needed no tweaking).

And finally, one I find a little abstract but her reasoning behind it is solid:

10. A blob of sun cream or to Canadianize it: sunscreen. She says that putting on sun cream makes her feel like she is on vacation even when she is not. Can’t argue with that for improving my state of mind.

My number 11 would be pumpkins—I just love them—they seem friendly, and make me happy. I do not know why. They just do. I bought a magazine yesterday that had pumpkins and squash and all manner of autumn things on the cover—taking me on a trip to my favourite season while we are still enmeshed in summer. I am not wishing the summer away though—there are still lots of things to enjoy in the month of August, like the harvest of ripe tomatoes in our little backyard garden plot; being able to just leave the house without sweaters and hats and coats and boots and mittens; outdoor picnics; and walking barefoot in the sand ~ just to name a few. Happy August—take a few minutes to enjoy it!

What would your number 11 be?

Happy 4th of July to my American Friends and Neighbours

The friendship that Canada has with the United States is one that overcomes petty jealousies, comparisons, and squabbles. When someone says something is distinctly Canadian or very American they are reflecting the truth, but superficially.

Americans and Canadians are not the same. Yet in so many ways they are. I celebrate our friendship and the following quotes seem very àpropos to our relationship:

“Friendship is born of that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” ~ C. S. Lewis

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet.” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~ A.A. Milne

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.” ~ William Shakespeare

I live about 30 miles from the Windsor-Detroit border; I went to university with many Americans and count some of them as my best friends; I wish all of you a Happy 4th and let us celebrate our similarities and bask in our differences—that is what makes us both interesting!

Peace Arch Park - 26

(Photo credit: David Chilstrom)

~ Inspiration ~

Mark Twain

Mark Twain (Photo credit: iansand)

Inspiration from the blog world is easy to come by. Here are two I happened upon in the last few days:

Robert of 101 Books:

“Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” –Mark Twain

I am guilty, guilty, guilty of overusing very. I find it a very good word, which I like to use verily. I believe I will take Mr. Twain’s advice, if not literally, at least in my editing process.

Nancy at Life Takes Over said this in response to a comment I made on her blog.:

I read a poster this morning that said: “No one can go back and change a bad beginning; but anyone can start now and create a successful ending.”

I love that we all have the chance to make our endings our own~and we are not held captive by bad beginnings.

Do you have a word that you overuse; or do you believe that “All’s well that ends well”?

Name That Shakespeare Play!

Name That Shakespeare Play! (Photo credit: Tracy Lee)

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 12:51 am  Comments (50)  
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The Letter ~F~ Or If Hamlet Were Writing This: “To comment or not to comment~that is the question”

The third quarto of Hamlet (1605). A straight ...

The third quarto of Hamlet (1605). A straight reprint of the 2nd quarto (1604) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Failure to communicate appropriately is the topic of this little post today. I have found myself guilty of perpetrating this crime, and am looking for an antidote.

My question: Are you careful when you comment on other blogs?

I try to be careful, but every once in a while when I am in a bad mood—I get carried away and reveal more than I generally would, or heaven forbid—criticize someone. Then I feel bad. Really bad—because you cannot take your words back—they are out there.

I try to judge any comments I leave behind on someone’s blog or response to a comment on my blog using one criterion: if I received that comment how would I feel? But sometimes I fail to meet my own criteria, and leave a comment that could perhaps be misunderstood or that I would not want to receive.

I am really not the proverbial good sport—I try to be, but I am not. I am generally a pretty gentle soul, or at least that is how I present myself. But we all have our breaking points. Today I left a comment on someone’s blog whom I trust, and the criticism that I voiced was not toward her at all—my comment to her was complimentary, but then I complained about a comment I received recently that irked me.

I wrote an Addendum comment to her telling her that I think I do not take criticism well in the blog world because, on the whole, I receive such overwhelmingly warm and lovely responses, that something that even hints of criticism (and it really was only a gentle hint) gets my nose out of joint. I have since decided to “mature up” and not take myself so seriously. But I find that I am at my most vulnerable (and height of grumpiness) when other things are bothering me.

It is a bit of a conundrum—the antidote being: do not leave comments or responses when you are in  less than a jolly place. So when my universe is spinning a bit out of control, I am going to  put my tap happy fingers to another task for the moment, hold my tongue, and find my happy place before unleashing my reaction to the world.

Published in: on September 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm  Comments (64)  
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