Monday, December 29, 2008

Post-Christmas


This may have been the quietest Christmas we've had in a long time. We only had our immediate family for dinner and it was so much less stressful. The snow kept falling through most of Christmas week and except for a couple of forays to finish shopping, I remained ensconced in front of my fireplace.

Our older son and girlfriend came on Christmas eve and stayed until this a.m. (the 29th). Christmas day, we had gift opening with lots of pictures and laughs, brunch, some Scrabble playing, Rock Band 2, turkey dinner, more Scrabble playing and Rock Band (last year it was Guitar Hero), then more food and munchies. It was lots of fun. Mind you, I didn't play Rock Band, but it was sure fun watching others play it. Oh, and did I mention wine?

As usual, (among other things) first son got me books and second son got me CDs:

The books:



- A Good Catch - Sustainable Seafood Recipes from Canada's Top Chefs by Jill Lambert (foreward by David Suzuki); and

- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami and a lovely Gustav Klimt bookmark.

I'm starting Hard-Boiled Wonderland and look forward to trying some of the recipes from Lambert's book.

The CDs:

She & Him - Volume One



The Last Shadow Puppets



Trust J to find me some new and interesting music. I think it's his mission in life to make sure I don't get stuck in a nostalgic coma of sixties and seventies music.

I'm really loving She & Him and I like some tracks from The Last Shadow Puppets, but I need to give it another listen.

What I find amazing (and heart-warming) is that both sons know me so well.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Walk In Bonaire - Part 2


I took this picture because it reminded me of the courtyard at the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. It looks like a military garrison (complete with cannon in a corner), but is actually the entry to government buildings. There was a huge gate but nobody around, so I snuck around the corner and took a quick shot.



A small local craft market:





Lovely little house:



I could have spent hours here - cold drink in hand, maybe a book to read while lying in the hammock:



Heading back:




The big hole in this pier didn't seem to bother anyone.



Our ship in the background:



Home away from home:



We didn't have nearly enough time in Bonaire. I wouldn't mind taking a land-based vacation here. At any rate, land or sea next time, we'll definitely go snorkeling.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A walk in Bonaire - Part 1

To make it easier to load, I'm splitting up my pictorial (the lazy writer's travelogue) into separate posts.


As previously mentioned, I loved our little stop in Bonaire. We didn't have much time, so decided to spend it strolling along the waterfront area of Kralendijk, Bonaire's capital. I'm not much of a shopper, so avoided going into "town" and the shops.

For those unfamiliar, Bonaire is part of the Netherland Antilles and along with Curacao and Aruba form what is often referred to as the ABC Islands of the Lesser Antilles.

This is at the beginning of our walk:

In the distance you can see black smoke billowing off the water. More about that later.

Interesting buildings and architecture along the way:







I couldn't quite figure out if this was a bar or a closed restaurant:



The water was unbelievably clear (but what's with the black smoke?):


We saw lots of parrotfish that swam right up to the seawall:




Fisherman and his fish:




Fisherman of a different sort:




Remember the billowing smoke from the first picture? It turns out that it was a burning sailboat. This is all that was left by the time we walked over there:


We missed all the excitement. Apparently, several boats and a brigade from the nearby marina had tried to put out the fire, but they took too long to get there. All they could do was get the owner off and watch the whole thing go up in flames.


To be cont'd . . .


Oh the weather outside is frightful . . .


This just isn't right:




The snow accumulation where I live is already around 10cm and the wind chill last night was around -20C.

Winters in Vancouver are supposed to be mild, a balmy 6 to 10 Celsius (40s to 50s for those using Fahrenheit), occasionally dropping to zero. Instead, we've had a week of sub-zero temperatures and snow (which is still falling, by the way).

This has coincided with my return from sunnier climes and this ol' body is having trouble acclimating!

I know many of you on the east coast and in snow belts around the globe are wondering what I'm going on about, but you've got to take into account that the majority of drivers here don't bother to put on their snow tires until the first snow flies or slip-slide around with all-season radials until they figure the snow is going to stick around longer than a day. The reason being that many Vancouver winters consist of one 5cm snowfall followed by rain which effectively clears the roads within 24 to 48 hours.

Meanwhile, as the snow continues, I'm hunkering down in my woolies and leave you with this picture from my trip:



More pictures to come.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Alive and well

I feel a tad bit guilty saying this, but I am alive and well and cruising in the Caribbean.

Today, we were in Bonaire, a lovely, small gem of an island. Some might say it's boring (very little shopping, few shops and restaurants), but I loved it. The water is crystal clear, teeming with colourful fish and great coral reefs for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.

It's been a great trip and I hope to elaborate more when I get back. We've met some interesting people (lots of Brits and Europeans) and we're having a marvellous time. Most importantly, this brief respite has given us a bit of perspective re the economic melt-down (including our retirement) that is happening worldwide.

So, to those who have been concerned (Joy, Mary and others), I am sorry that I haven't posted - I will take twenty lashes of a wet noodle.

More when I get back (with pictures).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Freebies that aren't


'Tis the season for unsolicited gifts in the mail. In my neck of the woods, it starts after Halloween runs straight through Christmas.

I'm sure I'm not the only household that gets unsolicited freebies from charitable organizations. You know, stuff like Christmas cards, note cards, calendars, notepads, and enough address labels to plaster my entire house. Given that I hardly ever send anything by post anymore, the address labels are practically useless. Yet, over the last number of years, they keep coming and coming and coming. Sometimes they're from organizations that I already support and sometimes they're from organizations that I've never heard of.

Usually, there is a nice covering letter either thanking me for past contributions or encouraging me to support their much needed work or new project; they go on to say they've enclosed a "gift" for my invaluable support; and they all have one purpose - to prey on feelings of guilt (because my generation has been conditioned to believe we shouldn't get something for nothing). They are even thoughtful enough to include self-addressed envelopes and return cards with helpful boxes to tick off "suggested" support amounts.

Frankly, I don't respond well to this kind of coercion.

Years ago, when I first received these solicitations (and solicitations they are), I would feel guilty and write a cheque to pay for something I didn't want or need. Then I'd get even more letters and pleas for more donations. One day, I finally got fed up. Attempts to guilt me into making donations just made me angry.

For the charities I already support, I will continue to support with or without the freebies. I'd rather they save the money spent on postage and merchandise and put it to better use. As for organizations that I've never supported before, they will not gain my support by using these types of tactics.

This year, there seems to be a new gift idea - shopping bags. Maybe they figured out that people can only use so many address labels. This week, I've received two nylon tote-style shopping bags. I wonder how many more will come before Christmas.

I'm Hopeful


At some point someone will put up the worldwide numbers about who and how many people followed and watched the US election night results. I suspect the numbers will be unprecedented. What I do know is that on election night, Canadians were more than slightly interested in the outcome.

Almost everyone I know was either watching TV coverage or following the election results online. My son without a TV went to a neighborhood pub and watched in a party-like atmosphere and when the results came in, everyone cheered, clapped and stomped; here, at home, I watched with my husband; my younger son followed on the internet between working on a research paper; people at the NHL hockey game in town listened with earphones on their radios and when the results were shown on the Jumbotron over centre ice - the hockey fans stood and cheered. We watched John McCain concede defeat in a most gracious and conciliatory speech and we watched Barack Obama deliver an inspiring and hope-filled speech for Americans - a speech that touched and was just as meaningful to those of us outside the US. Later, both of my sons told me they had never heard anything as awe-inspiring and powerful in their lives. I haven't heard anything like it since JFK, RFK and Martin Luther King Jr.

It's only been two days after the US election and the euphoria is starting to wear off. Now, the real work starts.

I hope the people who cried and cheered during Obama's speech stop and ponder the content of his words and what he was asking of the American people. I hope they take on board the ideals he expressed. I hope they're patient with him and with each other. I hope there will be a change for the better because, like it or not, as the US goes, so goes much of the world.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Scrooge


We are not doing Halloween this year.

There, I've said it for all to see and now will have to follow through (I'm a brown-noser that way).

When our boys were young, Halloween was a big deal. There were Halloween parties at school, costume parties at the rec center and the annual neighborhood haunted house to visit. We'd put a flying witch on the door, carved pumpkins on the steps and ghosts in the front window. Costumes were different every year and usually made up from whatever was around (no pre-made store-bought stuff).

The number of trick or treaters has been slowly dwindling over the years. Twenty to thirty years ago, we'd get well over one hundred children coming to the door. Sometimes we'd run out of treats and have to recycle some of the candies from our boys when they got home. Ten years ago, we'd still get around eighty to one hundred. Last year, only twelve children came and half of them were neighbours and their friends from across the street. We ended up eating the leftover candies - not such a good thing for the waistline.

It's rather sad, but I understand why parents aren't taking or letting their children out for Halloween any more. In the last decade, there seem to be more reports of tainted treats, random attacks and vandalism (not in our neighborhood, mind you - except for teens smashing pumpkins at the end of the night) - enough to scare any parent of young children. I'm not sure these are so much real threats to the average neighborhood as they are sensationalized, isolated incidents. At any rate, the trend seems to be towards events at shopping centers and malls. Mom and dad dress the tykes up and take them to the nearest mall where the merchants hand out (supposedly) safe treats in a safe, fluorescent environment. Everyone stays clean, warm and dry. No more creepy shadows. No more spooky, strange houses. No more bumps in the night.

We've shelled out treats for Halloween ever since we moved into our first house almost thirty-five years ago. Well, no more. We can't compete with the malls and shopping centers and we don't need leftover candy.

So tonight, we're leaving the front porch light off, ordering take-out and watching the hockey game on TV.

Any ghosts or goblins that might happen to knock on our door will have to float on down the street because we're not answering.





Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another If the world could vote . . .


Here's another poll with very similar results to the one I previously posted, but with a larger number of respondents:

If The World Could Vote


I know the results are meaningless in regard to the actual outcome, but I think they show something meaningful in another sense.

I've been reading comments from (mostly) Americans in various forums and blogs that discount the results. The comments range from accusing respondents of wanting to elect a "terrorist" to destroy the U.S.; to "ulterior motives" because everyone hates Americans; to it's not their country so it's none of their business.

My opinion is that these and similar polls, blogs and articles are evidence of a general feeling of frustration - and okay, anger - by those outside the U.S. that Americans don't really care about what happens in the rest of the world unless it's of direct consequence to the U.S. The feeling is that the U.S. tends do anything it bloody hell wants, regardless of what others might say or the world context as long as it's in the best interest of the U.S.

I think these polls are an attempt for people outside the U.S to say, "Hey! Your decision on November 4 affects more than the citizens of your own country" and this is what we think!

So, maybe not such a meaningless poll. I guess it depends on how you read the results.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

If the World Could Vote in the US Election


I know it doesn't mean a darn thing, but I voted at The World For. It made me feel better - sort of.

If you want to cast your "mean nothing" vote, you can do it on this ballot:


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inspirational


If I had one wish for my life's journey it would be to inspire someone, anyone - whether my children or complete strangers - at least once in a lifetime.

I looked up the following poem by Walt Whitman after reading this post on Berry Blog (Charlie is a former teacher). I remember only two teachers in my life who inspired such depth of feeling.

O Captain My Captain

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead.


Oh, to be remembered like this.


New Look


I've finally changed to a 3-column layout.

I've been meaning to try it for some time, but the previous customizations seemed too time-consuming and I was too lazy. The other day, I found a quick, easy customization using Blogger's "Layout" functionality. The instructions are clear and simple, and for those of you who are intimidated by tech talk, you don't need to understand html.

If you've always wanted a 3-column blog, try it. It's at Three Column Blogger and has fixes for the more popular Blogger templates.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Completely frivolous and the not so


For a change of pace from all the election news I've been following and to indulge in my favourite pastime of procrastination, here's a Blogthings query (thanks to Joy from Babble On).

What's Your Name's Hidden Meaning?



What Ellen Means



You are friendly, charming, and warm. You get along with almost everyone.

You work hard not to rock the boat. Your easy going attitude brings people together.

At times, you can be a little flaky and irresponsible. But for the important things, you pull it together.

You are relaxed, chill, and very likely to go with the flow.

You are light hearted and accepting. You don't get worked up easily.

Well adjusted and incredibly happy, many people wonder what your secret to life is.

You are very intuitive and wise. You understand the world better than most people.

You also have a very active imagination. You often get carried away with your thoughts.

You are prone to a little paranoia and jealousy. You sometimes go overboard in interpreting signals.




... and the not so frivolous

Despite feeling tired of all the political commentary and election news, I am still following the U.S. election.

The Colin Powell endorsement of Barack Obama was certainly a day-brightener. His Meet the Press interview set out his reasoning in a clear, logical and classy way. If I were a U.S. citizen, I'd be voting Obama/Biden.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Even though I've been back for awhile, it's taken some time to get back to blogging. It seems like so much has happened both in the world and on the home front that I've been feeling overwhelmed. I even stopped reading my favourite blogs and forums. I forgot how blogging can be therapeutic at times like this.

So here are some odds 'n sods that have been on my mind lately.

I seldom post anything political on this blog, but came across the following video on Tamarika's blog, Mining Nuggets. It's a piece by Keith Olberman talking about Sarah Palin and pretty accurately encapsulates my thoughts and feelings about the Governor of Alaska:




I've been following both the Canadian and American election campaigns.

The Canadian election was called on September 7th and, thankfully, we get to vote next week on October 14th. We've had to put up with just over a month of political campaign rhetoric and we're already talking about voter fatigue.

Yet, I wonder if it's so much about voter fatigue due to the Canadian election as it is about having had to endure the seemingly never-ending U.S. election campaigns - from party politics to primaries to party conventions (and why do they have conventions anyway when the nominee has already been chosen?) to VP nominations to Presidential debates to VP debates, ad infinitum. How can the American public stand it?

Canadians really can't avoid any of it. We're constantly inundated by the media telling us about the latest Dem v. Rep polls, the mud-slinging, Sarah Palin's latest gaffs, McCain's age, Obama's supposed links to terrorists (thanks to Palin), etc. And to be truthful, even though we can't vote in the U.S., the choice Americans make at the polls affects us greatly. And so we watch and listen. With bated breath - long after we've voted and know the results in Canada - we await the U.S. outcome in November.

A few weeks prior to the free-fall that's overtaken the world economy, George Dubya said, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong. ... Job creation is strong. Real after-tax wages are on the rise. Inflation is low." I laughed then, thinking, what universe is he living in? I'm closer to crying now. Being self-employed, dh and I don't have company pensions or benefit packages. We must rely on our investments and self-contributed retirement savings plans that are, by and large, dictated by world stock markets. And we all know how well those are doing. At this rate, if we "ride it out" as the pundits say, retirement is fading further into the horizon, or on the bright side, looming - oh - another ten years away?

With all the doom and gloom, it's good to have Joy at Babble On around to discuss Dancing With The Stars and feed my addiction to all things dance-y. I've also started watching the first season of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Tonight is the first performance show for the top 20. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Q is for

Quietly contemplating

Quixotic causes

And the

Quintessence of life.


Or in short:
Quietly questioning.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Just one more thing . . . K. D. Lang

I had to add this video of K. D. Lang from her performance on the 2005 Juno Awards.

It's my favourite version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and makes me cry every time I see it.


Aloha

In 1 day, 6 hours, 35 minutes, 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, . . . seconds, I will be flying off to Hawaii (see this earlier post --> from February).

I meant to put up a Sunday Scribblings post about the continuing saga of Debra, but, alas, between procrastination and the inevitable bill-paying, mail-canceling, arranging for someone to take the hanging baskets lest they die a horrible parched and thirst-quenched death because they need daily watering (why does our friend always gives us hanging baskets right before we go away in the summer?), and packing, well, -- I didn't.

I will be gone for about a month. I don't anticipate being back here to post unless I get very inspired (maybe Debra is on a Hawaiian beach) and can drag myself off the beach and into a cyber cafe.

P is for Procrastination


I am the queen of procrastinators. I can procrastinate with the best of them. I could be a professional procrastinator.

From outward appearance, I don't look like a procrastinator. Most people think I am very organized, detail and goal-oriented – accomplishing what I plan - and a glutton for hard work. The thing is, I fool people.

Whereas it's true that I am organized, detail-oriented, et cetera, like the true procrastinator that I am, I leave everything to the last minute. My endless list-making - which makes me appear as though I'm doing something - is, in fact, one of the keys to my procrastination.

Here is my sad and sorry saga:

  • Open an Excel spreadsheet
  • Make a list of things to do (master list)
  • Make sub-lists that detail how I will accomplish the master list
  • Go online and research the things I need to do
  • Bookmark sites I think are useful
  • Take a few detours online via Wikipedia and embedded links from said sites
  • Make a list of the sites I have found online
  • Cut and paste relevant information onto new document, save and print for future reference
  • Re-check original lists and amend according to information found online
  • Print out above lists

You'll notice that I haven't actually accomplished anything at this point, but it looks like I've been very busy.

  • While on the computer anyway, play a game (or two or twenty) of Spider Solitaire; be ready to hit screensaver mode in case somebody happens to walk by and think I'm just goofing off.
  • Take a look at my favourite web forums
  • Check email
  • Take the above printed lists and, with highlighter pen in hand (I like the yellow, but sometimes use fluorescent pink for variety), underline things I want to do first. – i.e. prioritize the to-do lists.
At this point, I will finish one (maybe two) of the tasks.
  • Using pen and ruler, cross out task(s)
This helps me stay somewhat focused and gives me the illusion of accomplishment.
  • Go back onto computer and do same with computer copy (i.e. highlight and cross out)
  • Print another copy
  • Re-read the lists and amend as necessary
  • Repeat from "While on the computer anyway"

I repeat the above until two days before things MUST be done and I realize I've only accomplished about one-half of my to-do list (the master one). I then rush around like a mad-woman in order to finish the to-do items without once looking at the lists again because, by then, I have them embedded into the hard drive of my brain.


This is another Encylopedia of Me post.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

To play without the pain . . .


They seem to me amazingly carefree. They have saved up for this trip and they are damn well going to enjoy it, despite the arthritis of one, the swollen legs of the other. They're rambunctious, they're full of beans; they're tough as thirteen, they're innocent and dirty, they don't give a hoot. Responsibilities have fallen away from them, obligations, old hates and grievances; now for a short while they can play again like children, but this time without the pain.
- From Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye (1988)

I came across this passage while looking for another quote in Cat's Eye.

It embodies much of how I feel about getting older. I'm not sure exactly when the transition occurred; whether it was a definitive moment or a gradual loosening of binds, but the freedom to enjoy for the sake of enjoyment, to be who I am without worrying about how I look to others only came with my added years. It certainly wasn't evident in my youth.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Confessions of a dance junkie

I love watching So You Think You Can Dance. There. I've admitted it. I not only love watching it, I think I'm more than a tad addicted.

These past few weeks, I've planned my Wednesday and Thursday evenings around the airing of both the performance and results show. Not only do I watch the original broadcast, but I watch the numerous re-runs throughout the week. If that weren't enough, I go onto YouTube and search for videos of my favourite performances. Once I find them, I replay them over and over.

It's all rather pathetic, I know.

I've been watching So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD to the diehards) since the first season (it is now season four).

In past seasons, during the early rounds, I enjoyed watching the dancers adapting to different styles and choreographers; seeing who improved; who didn't. It would usually take me awhile to decide on any real favourites . However, this year, I picked out Katee Shean and Joshua Allen as my favourites from the first Top 20 show.

There are other very good dancers on the show, but what sets Katee and Joshua apart, for me (as Nigel would say), is their total commitment and passion to each and every piece of choreography they are given. They have this fearlessness and ferocity that the others don't quite have. That's not to say they have no fears -- because they do express trepidation of new pieces in their pre-dance interviews – but they seem able to put those fears aside and perform each new piece in a way that is thrilling to watch.

Well, I've gushed on long enough.

Here are a few of their dances:

Their first performance together – Top 20 (hip hop)


Top 14 performance (contemporary)


Top 12 performance (Bollywood)



The couples are split up when they get to the Top 10 (next week), so it will be interesting to see how they look with other partners.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Chance Encounter

(Continuation of a previous SS story).

Not your usual pick up, that's for sure. But who said Prince Charming had to come on a white horse? Besides, she'd always wanted a ride in a hot-air balloon.

As soon as the gate snapped closed, Debra had a brief moment of self-doubt as visions of a news broadcast flashed through her mind, Witnesses said it looked like a giant fireball as the balloon climbed into the sky and then plunged into the RV Park near the U.S. border.

"Oh, stop it! It's only a dream! Enjoy yourself!"

She had a habit of thinking the worst. It was a way to shield herself from the inevitable disappointments in life. Her life philosophy went like this: If she could think of the worst case scenario in any given situation and it didn't happen, then she was ahead of the game; wasn't she.

Debra could still hear the strains of "Someday My Prince Will Come", but it was morphing into something else. She couldn't quite put her finger on it. Oh well, it would come to her later.

She looked up to see the balloon billowing and filling above her head. There didn't seem to be any source to inflate it. Well, at least she didn't have to worry about exploding propane tanks. The basket lifted gently off the sand and rose up, up and away.

Up, Up and Away! That's what the other song was - the Fifth Dimension song. "This isn't a dream, it's a nightmare!"

Now, that she could name it, she couldn't get it out of her head:

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away

Debra hated the song. She'd always hated it. It was one of her mother's favourite songs; one that she'd play over and over, happily dancing and singing along. "Ha! Lot of good all that happiness did for her."

The syrupy, sweet lyrics made Debra want to gag. It was the antithesis of everything she'd come to know about life. Her life, at least. There is no nicer place, no silver sky, and certainly no "you and I".

How could she get this stupid thing down? And how could she stop the friggin' music?

As her head filled with colourful adjectives, she heard a whooshing sound. A cold wind ripped through the basket of the balloon, knocking her off-balance. The back of her head smacked against the edge of the basket and in the engulfing black fuzziness, she felt herself slide and roll onto the floor.

When Debra opened her eyes, she realized she was back on the beach. Same white blouse, white slacks, white pumps.

There was a figure silhouetted against the blue sky. She squinted to make out details.

"Charles? Is that you?"



For a Sunday Scribblings prompt.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Multigenerational home or boomerang kids - Perception is everything

Along the lines of rambling and thinking out loud (my disclaimer regarding any coherent conclusion to this post), I was reading Rhea's post on The Boomer Chronicles, Lets Ponder Adult Children Who Move Back Home, where she says:

I remember as a young adult going back home temporarily after I’d already gone away to college. It was murder for me. It sort of forced me back into ‘child’ mode.

Have any of your kids left home, then moved back in? Is it temporary situation, or is it permanent? Why did they move in — were they between jobs, just trying to save money, or to help you out around the house? Any tips on how to make this type of living situation work?

. . . and I couldn't help but wonder if this is a uniquely modern-day (i.e. 20th – 21st century) problem, if indeed it is a problem.

There was a time when the family home was the family home once and forevermore – until sold or lost through misfortune. Daughters would move out if they married to live with her husband and his family; sons would stay home and raise a family under the same roof as his parents. Only the more affluent could afford to set up a separate house on their own property. Meanwhile, the masses did the best they could by cramming into whatever space could accommodate at least three generations at a time. The situation of Charlie in Willie Wonka was more the norm than the exception.

And certainly, this concept of "family home" whereby several generations live under the same roof is still alive and well in other parts of the world - notably in certain Asian cultures such as India, Korea and Japan. To a large extent, these cultures, transplanted to the west, have brought these familial ties with them.

There are large immigrant Indian and Chinese populations where I live, and it is not at all unusual for multigenerational families, including extended families of siblings to live in the same home. Whereas the dominant western culture often looks on this as an aberration, it is an accepted norm, particularly amongst the Indo-Canadian community. I don't think it's a bad idea.

Granted, I grew up in a similar situation, so don't think it's at all abnormal. What I find abnormal is the shunting off of older parents to seniors' complexes and nursing homes.

While poking around the web, I found numerous articles regarding this growing trend of adult children returning to the family nest. It's become so prevalent that a new phrase has been coined for them: Boomerang Kids. There is even a Wikipedia article about them whereby they've been elevated to the status of an entire generation: The Boomerang Generation.

Personally, I don't like the term boomerang. It is used with more than a hint of sarcasm and disdain. Since boomerangs are intended to be thrown and are expected to come back, wouldn't the implication be that parents have thrown their children out expecting them to come home again?

But back to Rhea's questions and an underlying assumption that children moving back home will be problematic. Should it be?



To be continued after I ponder further re: sustainability of one family-one house, green issues, economic issues, responsibilities, pros & cons, independence (all parties), taking advantage of; being taken advantage of, benefits to parent, benefits to grandchildren, . . .


Saturday, June 28, 2008

What's so funny?


“Look at those bear feet! They’re bare!”

He's looking at me like I'm nuts. He doesn't get it. Not even a groan. He really doesn't get it. Maybe he'll never get it – my weird, off the wall, blurtings - what I think is funny.

But he's so nice! Nice guys don’t come around all that often; or if they do, the rest of the package ain’t so hot - the package with wife and two kids.

Let's see. He's kind. He's a gentleman. He's gainfully employed. He's single. But - and it's a big but - he has no sense of humour. At least not my kind of humour. I like to laugh. I need to laugh. What if we could never laugh together? What kind of relationship would that be?

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend my life thinking everything is full of yuks. I also happen to be a pretty big cry-baby. I cry over practically anything that moves me.

Now, that's another thing, he never knows what to do when I cry at a movie. He'll mumble an uncomfortable, are you okay, without looking me in the eye or ask in bewilderment, you think that's sad; what's sad about it? It doesn't seem to matter that I've told him it's just the way I am and there's nothing he can do, except maybe hand me a tissue.

No sense of humour. No empathy. This is doomed!

"Wait, that was a pun wasn't it? I get it. Bear feet. Bare feet. You're very funny, you know that?"



The First 50 Words of this began here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happiness is _ _ _

Over the past week, I've been thinking a lot about happiness, prompted by two of my regular cyber-haunts:

On Sunday Scribblings, the writing prompt, happy ending, provoked eighty-seven responses (at last count) -- some very touching and insightful, some questioning whether they even believed in happiness or happy endings.

On a discussion forum, someone posted an open-ended, "The meaning of happiness _______" fill-in-the blank question, giving rise to responses ranging from a simplistic "choose to be happy and you will be happy" to the very specific, "Freedom makes me happy".

This was my response:

Quote:
Noun: happiness
1. State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy;
2. Emotions experienced when in a state of well-being
The longer I hang around, the more often I see myself in the above definitions. It's not a constant state – more like fleeting moments that stretch, meld, dissipate, then reappear when I least expect.

I feel the need to explore this a bit further.

In general, I consider myself a happy person. I wake up in a good mood. I go to bed in a good mood (usually). I have my moments of raging anger and deep sadness, but I've learned how to let these moments ebb and wash away – the memories still there, but no longer all-encompassing.

When I was younger, I tended to hold onto these highs and lows like some sort of red badge, proclaiming, "See how angry (sad) I am!" writ large, capitalized and bolded. There was a certain degree of self-indulgence and melodrama involved.

No more. Life, clich├ęd as it sounds, is too damn short.

According to the above definition, joy and contentment are on the same continuum of happiness; different degrees of the same thing. I'm certainly not in a constant state of blissed-out happiness, but I do feel those moments of joy more frequently as I age. By and large, my happiness consists of contentment – a sighing, I'm glad to be here at this time and place, I belong here feeling.

I'm pretty sure these moments were always there. I just didn't pay attention when I was younger. I was too busy and fixated on my problems to notice when they occurred. I took them for granted, letting them slip by, barely acknowledged, as I rushed pell-mell into the next project, crisis or life-altering decision.

One moment I do wish I'd treasured more at the time, but now recall with fond nostalgia, is shortly after I met my future husband. We were attending university and near the end of spring term, we'd slip away (sometimes skipping classes) to a secluded Japanese garden on campus. The cherry trees would be in bloom and we'd find a sunny spot on the sloping grass that overlooked the pond. We'd lay there for hours talking and talking - about what, I can't remember because it didn't matter. We were happy just being together in that setting at that time. That was happiness.

On further thought, perhaps the ability to recall this memory means that my subconscious analyzed and recorded it as "happiness". It just didn't surface as such at the time. Or more correctly, maybe I didn't appreciate it as happiness. I suppose that's the thing about youth – you're too busy with all the clutter and drama to see the fleeting bright spots when they occur.

Why is it that life is appreciated so much more in retrospect? I guess it's the nature of the beast. I'm just glad I'm at this point in my life. I have my memories as well as an appreciation of the present.

Now where was I? Oh yes – happiness. What I don't think you can do is go seeking happiness. -- I tried to make this point elsewhere, but it fell on deaf ears. -- I think happiness is in the moment (see last two paragraphs). If you're in a great quest to find happiness, you'll miss the boat, so to speak.



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When a sweater isn't just a sweater


Linda: Why don't you just get rid of it.

Jack: What?

Linda: That (pointing at his old rugby sweater). You said you'd get rid of it. You were going to take it to the thrift shop.

Jack: I'm thinking about it.

Linda: What do you mean 'thinking about it'? Either you are or you aren't.

Jack: I like it. It's not like I wear it when we go out or anything. What's the big deal?

Linda: No big deal. It just bugs me when you say you're going to do something and then don't.

Jack: It's comfortable. It's good to have something around that's comfortable.

Linda: And what about the new one I bought for you?

Jack: That's different.

Linda: What's different about it?

Jack: It's not as comfortable.

Linda: What do you mean not comfortable?

Jack: I said "not as" comfortable. It's broken in – comfortable – I can relax in it. It's good for lounging around – when I can't find something to wear.

Linda: You could break in the new one. Don't you like it?

Jack: Of course I do. I love it. It's my favourite. Just because I still like the old one doesn't mean I don't like yours.

Linda: You could have fooled me!

Jack: You're making way too big a thing out of this! Will it make you happy if I get rid of it?

Linda: Yes.

Jack: Alright then. Tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow.


From Thirteen Prompts by Dan Wiencek:
Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man's friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deus Ex Machina


Debra liked the demented, the dark and the surreal. It reflected her personality. From a young age, she’d realized there was no such thing as happy endings. The pursuit of happiness was for the delusional.

To the world, she presented a hard, been knocked around, can take care of myself, so don’t fuck with me veneer. She didn’t believe in fairy tales -- unless they were told by Tim Burton. Yet, in the back of her mind, she harboured the faint hope that there might be a happy ever after for her. Of course, she never allowed anyone to see this hopefulness.

So, now, here she was lying on a white sand beach. She couldn’t remember how she got there.

She looked down at herself. She was dressed all in white; white slacks, white blouse, white pumps. She strained to remember something – anything. It was surreal; a scene from the Twilight Zone. Wasn’t there a scene like this in Contact where Jodie Foster’s character meets her dead father on a beach? Maybe she was dead. Maybe she was dreaming. That’s it – a dream – it must be a dream. Well, if that was the case, she’d just go with it.

Down the beach, she could see a dark shape against the whiteness of the sand. As there was nothing else around, she took a step towards it. In an instant, she found herself looking down at the body of a black Arabian, lying on its side – the same horse she’d sketched over and over in countless notebooks as a child; when she still had dreams of happiness; before her mom’s death; before the anger and constant black cloud.

A kaleidoscope of her life played back at her in the sheen of the Arabian’s coat; the self-destructive behaviour, the failed marriages, the sabotaged relationships, the sorry state of her self-imposed loneliness. Maybe she really was dead. But wasn't there anything good about her life?

A fluttering movement caught her attention. She turned around to see a multi-coloured hot air balloon. It hadn’t been there a moment ago. That’s the thing about death dreams, she thought – they don’t need to make sense.

Across the breeze, a pure light-as-air voice was singing, “Some day my prince will come . . .”

Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.


For Sunday Scribblings, "Happy Ending" and Dan Wiencek's 13 Writing Prompts

(This is probably one of the weirdest pieces I've done. All I had was Dan Wiencek's last sentence, the Sunday Scribbling’s prompt of “Happy Ending” and my own self-imposed word limit. I had no idea how I’d get there until I got there.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

All I Remember


All I remember is how I forgot

What he was wearing that night
In such a rush out the door.

No chance for my usual
'Bye-take-care-I-love-you wave.

So when they came to ask
I couldn't remember.



A Two for Tuesdays bonus prompt.
For MADD and Dry Grads everywhere.

Friday, June 06, 2008

My Nights

If left to my own devices – no job or early morning commitments – I'd be up most nights until dawn.

I'm a night person. I like the solitude. I like the stillness. I like the wrap-around black coziness and the inky-black eeriness; the disconnectedness that sometimes leads to hidden and surprising insights to my soul. Perhaps, these insights were there all along, submerged below the surface of my daytime consciousness – unable to break through because of the noise and clutter of everyday life. I don't know.

What I do know is that those niggling, back of the brain feelings ignored during the day because I'm too busy or too pre-occupied, break out full blown at night. The solution to problems, so unanswerable during the day, becomes obvious and self-evident at night. Thoughts and feelings, long ago forgotten become unforgotten.

At night, all things seem possible. The line between reality and dream; conscious and sub-conscious thin and fade in those late-night hours. At 4 a.m. there's a surreal feeling of floating in another dimension while the rest of the household is snug asleep in their beds.

Maybe, late at night, I enter a dream state and only think I'm awake – in reality, walking around zombie-like. It doesn't matter. I'm convinced my late nights keep me sane.


Another Sunday Scribblings post

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

O is for

Oriental, the opposite of occidental.

That’s what I was called when I was growing up (along with some other more colourful epithets) until Asian became the modifier du jour.

I’ve never really understood the vagaries and inconsistencies of modifying people by geography. Nowadays, the terms Asian or African, either in hyphenation or not, are used as all encompassing descriptors of people who may or may not have been born or even set foot on said continent. It supposedly indicates one's ancestral origins – no matter how many generations removed. Yet, we don’t call someone European unless they in fact are -- at the present, in this generation -- from Europe. e.g. Someone visiting from Europe or just landed from Italy – in which case we’re just as likely to call them Italian.

Let’s look at this scenario: Here is a diverse neighbourhood with a multitude of ethnicities. Most of the families have lived here for several generations. Why do we say that Mrs. Sandhu is South-Asian; I’m a garden variety Asian; Mr. Brown, next door, is African; yet Mrs. Smith is just Mrs. Smith, a Canadian (or American)? Even more incongruous is when we look at the two new families down the street. Both have recently arrived from the UK; one is called Asian, the other is a Brit. Why not European?

I’m also called Chinese-Canadian even though I’m a third generation Canadian. I often wonder when the hyphenation ends. How many generations before the nation of your birth takes precedence over the country of your ancestors?

It’s something to ponder

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Curve


Life

Here comes the ball
Whizzing down the lane
Straight as an arrow
To that sweet spot
Strike zone.

I've got it
Feeling good
I'm gonna knock it out of the park.
Oops,
Curve ball.
Strike one.

Here comes the ball
. . .


More Sunday Scribblings

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Quitting


"Quitter!"

"Who's a quitter?"

"You are."

"Just because I don't want to do something anymore doesn't mean I'm a quitter."

I don't quit. I give up. Sometimes that's what you have to do.

There are times in life when what you are pursuing just isn't worth the time, aggravation and effort anymore - perhaps the pursuit was the real endgame; when you've given it your all and there's no more to give, short of your life or your soul; when it's time to wave the white flag; when it's time to graciously step away and say, "Sorry folks, but I'm done". It's not a bad thing.

This is another one of those things I wish I'd known when I was younger, but then again, maybe it's something everyone needs to learn on their own.


For Sunday Scribblings

Monday, May 19, 2008

A booklover's dream - 1 million books


I came upon this Youtube video from a forum I frequent:



Love it when Lenore says their hours are "Every Saturday nine to five; anytime by chance; anytime by appointment."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Another meme


Imelda at Greenish Lady tagged me for this meme:

Rules:
The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about himself or herself. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Ten years ago:
Thank heavens, I still have my 1998 calendar because my memory for these things get a bit fuzzy. Here goes.

May 1998:

  • My husband had his one-year post-cancer surgery check-up. It was negative – much to our relief
  • I was running around participating in my older son's Dry Grad events and fundraisers; and driving my younger son to and from orthodontic appointments (x4)
  • I went to a performance of "Stars On Ice" starring:
    · Kurt Browning
    · Brian Orser
    · Steven Cousins
    · Ekaterina Gordeeva
    · Josee Chouinard
    · Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz
    · Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler
    · Elena Bechke & Denis Petrov
    · Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean
    (The previous couple of years I also saw Kristi Yamaguchi.)

    This might also have been the year my husband coerced our younger son to go with me (so he, himself, wouldn't have to attend).

    If so, J's most memorable words to me were, "There aren't any other guys here!"

    To which I replied, "Sure there are."

    "Yeah, but not my age!"

    Perceptive kid. The audience was made up of women, girls, husbands and boyfriends-in-tow. You could tell the latter because they were falling asleep by intermission.

  • The family took me for a lovely Mother's Day brunch at the Pan Pacific Hotel, where we were one of the families interviewed by a Vancouver TV station for the evening news, much to the embarrassment of my younger son (he needn't have worried because we didn't make the final edit)
  • I did my usual packing for dh's monthly business trip to Toronto

All rather humdrum stuff, but it reminds me how those school-age years whizzed by.

Five things on today's "to do" list:
  1. Laundry (it's always on my to do list)
  2. Lunch with hubby in Richmond
  3. Stop at Chapters (bookstore) to look for a newly published book that contains some of my family's history
  4. Go for walk along the waterfront in Steveston
  5. Watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (part of my Indy marathon in preparation of the new movie due out this week)

Things I'd do if I was a billionaire:
I would pay off my sister-in-law's mortgage and make sure all my American in-laws have adequate health insurance. I'd make a list of the charities I support and set up ongoing trust funds for them; find myself a secluded South Pacific island hide-away for reading, writing and relaxation; travel to as many places as possible; stop working because I have to and work only at those things I want to work at.

Three bad habits:
  1. Procrastination
  2. Procrastination
  3. Procrastination

Five places I've lived:
  1. Vancouver, BC, Canada: where I was born
  2. New Westminster, BC, Canada: The so-called the "Royal City" because it was named by Queen Victoria and was, at one time, under consideration to be the capital of British Columbia. (where I spent most of my childhood)
  3. Burnaby, BC (after I was married)
  4. Toronto, Ontario, Canada (where my first son was born)
  5. South Delta, BC (a municipality south of Vancouver where I currently live)

Five jobs I've had:
  1. Line worker on a conveyor belt, sorting vegetables in a canning factory
  2. Dishwasher, prep person, then waitress in Chinese restaurant
  3. Unit clerk on Gynaecology/Obstetrics ward
  4. Grad nurse on Orthopaedic ward and Extended Care Unit
  5. Community Health Care Nurse

Five people I'm tagging for this meme:
(oooh! Will they want to do it? Will they say "Oh No! Not another meme!"?)

Junebugg at Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
Joy at Joy's Updates - Straight from the Horse's Mouth
Donny at Rambleville (This is not the usual stuff on Donny's blog, so we shall see if he accepts)
Wenda at Daring to Write (She hasn't been blogging very much lately and I miss her writing. Maybe this will lure her out.)
Tamarika at Mining Nuggets (I've just started following Tamarika's blog and think she's had a varied and fascinating life. I want to know more)




Friday, May 16, 2008

Shadows


Shadows.
I'm not afraid
of dark and light
flickering on the walls
of black cats
and shadow people
poltergeists and ghosts
campfire, Halloween and Grimm's tales
unbidden from the mind and
things that go bump in the night.

I'm not afraid.
They disappear at first light

Don't they?

For First 50 Words

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Photographs and Memories


Mother's Day has passed and I've spent the last few days reading blogs and articles about mothers. It has put me in an introspective mood about my own mother.

Mother's Day is one of the few occasions I think about my mother. The other times are when something significant happens in my life - like the birth of my sons, the death of my father – or when someone comments on how much I look like her. This latter happens less often now as I get further past the age when she died. My grey hair and increasing wrinkles are gradually obscuring what was once clear and unmistakeable.

She died when I was about twenty months old. I say "about twenty months" because I've never received a straight answer from my relatives about the exact date. Her gravestone only states the year of her death. From overheard stories, I've gleaned she became ill around Christmas and died shortly after in the following year. Thus, my guess.

I have no memories of her. What I know about her is only what others have told me. She was lovely, nice, kind, liked dancing and music -- platitudes for a daughter. Maybe she was all of those things, but I'd like more.

The closest I've gotten to more than platitudes was an aunt who said that when my father and mother danced, it seemed like there was no one else around. I like to hold onto that picture. I envision Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Maybe that's where my love of old musicals and dancing comes from. Surely, I can dream.

My greatest regret about not knowing more about her is that I can't pass on more than a few photos of her to my sons. I regret that she never got to meet her grandsons. I think she'd like them.

I once tried to have a conversation with my father about her. I took him out for lunch at a quiet restaurant and thought we'd have a chance to speak more intimately. He would have none of it. He artfully dodged anything personal and insisted on talking about his mining investments. Maybe too many years had passed. After all, in the interim, he'd remarried and raised a new family.

I've come to accept this lack of knowing. I suppose it allows for some poetic license on my part.

Here she is on her wedding day.


Her name was Luna. She looks happy.

What are you doing?


“Nothing.”

“There’s no such thing as doing nothing.”

“I’m just reading.”

“There. You see? That’s not nothing. Reading is something.”

“Okay, okay. I’m not doing nothing. I’m doing something; and that something is reading. Happy now?”

“I only asked a simple question. Why can’t you just answer a simple question?”

Lately, all their arguments started like this.


For First 50 Words

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How "old" sneaks up on you


I was out walking with dh on one of our port stops last week. On vacation, we like to walk as much as possible and consider ourselves quite fit. We walk at a fairly good clip and tend to overtake and pass most saunterers.

This walk was along a popular scenic route in Victoria and several other couples were walking a few metres ahead of us. We were slowly gaining ground on them, when suddenly, one of the couples stopped abruptly in front of us, mid-intersection. We skittered quickly around them - a truck was coming - and we said "car coming" as we passed.

The stopped couple, meanwhile, was looking up at a tree; totally oblivious to the truck trying to turn the corner. Now, I must give credit to the truck driver who didn't honk or yell, but rolled forward slowly, waiting for them to get out of the way. They didn't.

Not until their companions yelled at them, did they look around and move out of the way.

My dh turned to me and said, "I hope we're not like that at their age" ("their age" meaning old I'm quite sure). To which I replied, "We ARE their age. Take another look." My guess is they were sixty-ish.

Funny how those years sneak by when you're not paying attention.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Telephones



I like to think I'm open to new ideas and the use of new technology. I hum along using current technology, perfectly happy and rather smug that I've mastered new gizmos and the concurrent jargon when, WHAM, it's obsolete.

The shift-over starts insidiously enough. A few brave souls try out the new technology. It's usually clunky, not that efficient and prone to problems. More people jump on the bandwagon and the technology improves. Then it's like a switch gets flipped. One minute everyone is using the old ABC, the next, they're using the new XYZ. Think about the switch-overs of vinyl LPs to cassette tapes; cassette tapes to CDs; typewriters to word processors; VHS tapes to CDs/DVDs; dot matrix printers to laser; rooftop TV antennas to cable. The list is endless.

I'm not exactly sure when everyone else changed from using rotary dial telephones to push button touchtone phones. I only know that our family must have been one of the last holdouts for rotary phones.

It's not that we didn't embrace the touchtone. It's just that, being frugal, we didn't see a need to replace the perfectly serviceable black rotary dial phone we had in the kitchen. It had made the trek with us from the last two homes we'd lived in and was a comfortable, solid as a rock appliance. When we moved into our current home in the late eighties, touchtone phones were provided by the phone company for two telephone jacks. The black rotary was an extra that we put in the kitchen. We never gave it another thought.

One day, our youngest son had a friend over to play. We had invited him to stay for dinner and he needed to call home and ask for permission. Fine. We directed him to our kitchen phone. He picked up the receiver -- then silence. He put the receiver back down. I thought perhaps he'd forgotten his phone number.

With an embarrassed look, he said, "I don't know how to USE this."

He had never seen a rotary dial phone, let alone used one before.

It had never occurred to me that there was an entire generation of children growing up with no clue what "dialing" a telephone number really means.

The following Christmas, Santa gave us a new push button touchtone telephone for the kitchen.


p.s. These days, I wonder how many young people can read an analog "face" dial watch or if they can only read digital time.

For Sunday Scribblings


Monday, May 05, 2008

"26 miles across the sea . . .

Santa Catalina is awaitin' for me"

I'm sitting in the lobby coffee bar. Classical music is playing in the background and I'm settling into this peaceful oasis, gazing out the windows, savouring a caramel macchiato.

But wait, two couples have converged and are sitting immediately behind me. They are starting a loud conversation - a very loud conversation. They are trying to explain the history of Avalon and Catalina Island to the barrista. I keep hearing snippets of conversation about Wrigley and Wrigley Stadium, dances and casinos. I'm having trouble concentrating. Aaaak. I cannot write.

Okay, I've now moved two decks up to a lounge with windows looking out to the Promenade. My fellow loungers (loungees) consist of readers and one couple who look like they're waiting for somebody. The man across from me has a leather-bound journal on the table in front of him and is reading a book by Michael Connelly. I can't quite make out the title, but he seems fairly engrossed int it.

We're anchored off the town of Avalon on Catalina Island. It's overcast and pretty cool (at 13 Celsius) with a brisk wind. The port time is quite short here and requires tendering (ship to shore transfer on small craft) and since we've been here several times, it didn't seem worthwhile to go ashore. We've decided to stay on board and relax.

Instead, we had a three mile walk/run on a mostly empty Promenade deck and a leisurely, healthy breakfast of oatmeal cereal, peaches and a poached egg. Of course this healthiness was probably undone by the caramel macchiato - although - on the plus-minus health scale, it should make me about even. Shouldn't it?

Another couple just sat down. They look like they've just come in from the tender ride from shore. They're still wearing their fleece hoodies and have order two Irish coffees. It's 11 a.m.

I'm relishing the feeling of unhurried calm. I love sitting back to people watch. The neverending parade of saunterers, determined rushers and meandering "I'm not sure where I'm going, but I don't care" strollers is fascinating. It allows my imagination to run rampant as I make up fictitious histories for each of them.

Tonight is Formal Night - a chance to get a bit more dressed up. Over the years, my formal night attire has been honed down to three outfits that I alternate between different cruises. It's become a no-brainer for me.

On the agenda this afternoon is a wine-tasting. A short nap afterwards sounds like a good idea. If so motivated, I might even finish my book (Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman) before dinner. It's a tough life, this cruising.

Tomorrow is San Francisco, my favourite west coast US city.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another tax year over - another ten years older.


It's May 1st and I've made it through another tax season.

Didn't I write a similar post last year? Like my grandfather, I'm repeating myself more and more - something I swore I'd never do - sometimes realizing it - just as often, not. I didn't take into account slower brain synapses and all the convoluted pathways (from all the deep thinking, no doubt) doubling back on themselves in endless automatic playback loops. I just made that up - but it sounds plausible, doesn't it? Anyways, I'll have to go back and check. I digress. Where was I?

Oh, right. Finished tax season. In the midst of it all, it seemed like we'd never see the end of it, but we always manage to get everything that needs to be done, done. Somehow.

At the moment, my brain is still decompressing. About forty-eight hours ago, my head felt about the size of a twenty pound Halloween pumpkin with accompanying demented, fixed, jack-o-lantern grin. I actually slept in to 7 a.m. this morning and will spend the rest of the day doing laundry and packing. We (me and dh) are taking what has become a yearly ritual to visit family in LA, then take a coastal cruise back to Vancouver.

I was just taking a quick look over at First 50 Words and the prompt based on Natalie Goldberg's Letter from Taos caught my eye. If I can get a good internet connection onboard the ship, I may try something like that here.

Now, I must put Jaws or maybe the last half of Lawrence of Arabia into the DVD player and finish my packing. We leave early tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is it April 30th yet?


I'm still here and barely keeping head above water. The legs are kicking, the arms are flailing. Just when the water reaches burbling nose level and threatens to overtake horizon of lower lids, a determined scissor kick thrusts me just high enough to breathe again.

One more week until tax season is over and I can really breathe a sigh of relief.

Every year it's the same. People wait until the last two weeks to bring in their stuff and we're inundated with a seemingly never-ending deluge of paper forms, receipts and what passes for the average person's attempt at shoebox accounting.

My biggest beef is with people who have so-called "easy" returns and think they can have them done right away. Even the easiest returns take time. It's the equivalent of hundreds of people showing up at a restaurant - all at the same time, all expecting to be seated and served right away because they just want a simple hamburger and fries. Can't be done.

Meanwhile, I take deep breaths and sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow in my head.

Monday, April 14, 2008

If my life were a dance - First 50 Words


If my life were a dance it would be a free-form interpretative dance; a go with the flow, make it up as you go kind of dance. It would be adaptational and look a little like Isadora Duncan meets Twyla Tharp and American Ballet Theatre.

See more from First 50 Words

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Fearless


Arms out
Joyous
Running
Balls to the wind.

Eyes wide
Heart-thumping
Leap
Into the black hole of unknowns.

Accepting
Expecting
Love
Pain
Loss
Sorrow
Knowing
Mortality hovers.

Running
Leaping
Regardless

Is fearless.




Another Sunday Scribblings prompt.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Somewhere Over The Rainbow


** I posted a slightly different version of this video yesterday.

For those of you who follow American Idol, you'll already know that Jason Castro, one of the contestants sang this version of Over the Rainbow on Tuesday night.

It's a version originally done by a beautiful and wonderful Hawaiian singer named Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole. He died in 1997 at the age of 38.

For those who have never heard the original version sung by Iz, please watch and listen:



. . . to remember him and because it's so beautiful.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Smile for the day

Found the following on Dancing For Beginners and just had to share:

Bathroom Sign

In the men's room at work, the Boss had placed a sign directly above the sink. It had a single word on it -- "Think!"

The next day, when he went to the men's room, he looked at the sign and right below, immediately above the soap dispenser, someone had carefully lettered another sign which read -- "Thoap!"

- author unknown

AND in the gents toilet at a small bistro:
"We aim to please you ... will you aim to please us?"



Just how old are you?

I get asked this question quite a lot. It often arises out of online conversations where the other party can't see what I look like. Not right away, of course, because that would be rude -- but usually after we've gotten to know each other in that uniquely cyberspace online disjointed read-discuss-comment sort of way. If I'm in a playful mood, I might answer, "Old enough to be your mother (or grandmother)". Most often, I'll just state my age (which is 58 years at this writing).

I've never understood the need to be coy about my age. I didn't mind turning thirty, forty or fifty; I know I won't mind turning sixty. I've harped on this before, but we are the age we are - no amount of lying or denial will change it.

Pretending we're not aging or old, only plays into the ageism already rampant in our youth-obsessed culture.

On the one hand, I am quite perplexed, if not downright annoyed, by people who won't divulge their age, but on the other hand I can understand why they won't.

It comes down to our youth-centric culture and the barrage of images telling us that everyone beautiful and worthwhile is, or looks, under thirty and that the other alternative is to be old and seen as elderly, senile, stupid and dependent. There seems to be this huge chasm between the young and vital and the old and doddering.

Youth-obsessed media wants us to believe the population looks like this:

The Young
(hip, beautiful, trendy and vital)

-----> The Invisible <-----
(most people)

The Elderly
(dependent, needy and useless)


We need to remind ourselves and others that this is not reality. We need to be happy at whatever age we're at - including not being afraid to state what that age is - and stop being invisible.


Here's something from a favourite blogger (elder or otherwise):
Ronni Bennett who was interviewed on Brian Lehrer Live - April 2, 2008.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Oprah and Other Randomness


It has occurred to me that I've been doing a lot of blogs involving writing prompts, games and wordplay lately and not too many about the personal goings-on in my life. Not sure why.

I've also noticed I get great ideas –- at least they seem like great ideas at the time -- when I'm in front of the mirror, brushing my teeth. Unfortunately, by the time I get to the rinse and spit stage, my mind has caromed off into another sphere and it's hard getting back to the original idea.

With that in mind, here are some random thoughts before they disappear into the black hole that constitutes my brain:

Race-relations haven't come as far as we think
My son's friend still gets asked, "and where are you from?' while working in a local pub. And they don't not mean "what city are you from", but what "foreign country" strictly because of her skin colour.

I was asked this same question on a regular basis thirty years ago! If I answered with a nearby city, the response would be, "No, really. Where are you originally from?" as if I were somehow lying and trying to fool them. The "where" question was frequently followed by the, "but you don't have an accent" comment. My answer, if I had been witty enough, should have been, "I would have one if I lived in China".


Oprah Book Club Stickers – a rant
I received a book order from an online bookseller today. One of the books was Ken Follett's, The Pillars of the Earth.

I knew it was a title from Oprah's Book Club; knew it would have her sticker on the cover; also expected it to be removable (a result of the furor caused by her permanently imprinted logos of a few years back). I don't have a problem with Oprah endorsing books or even her stickers, if that's what is needed to get people to read good books.

However, when I buy a brand new book chosen on the basis of the author and the book's own merit – independent of her endorsement, I do not wish to have her logo emblazoned on it. Years from now, I want to be able to pick up the book or give it to a friend on its own merits and not have her logo shouting at me from the cover. I'm funny that way.

The removable stickers were a good compromise between Oprah, the publishers, and readers. I've bought other books with her stickers and they were easily removed. Not today. What I failed to realize is that those other books had glossy covers, thus making the stickers easily peelable. The Pillars of the Earth trade paperback I got has a non-glossy matte finish that would not let go. It took me the better part of twenty minutes trying to peel the sticker and remove the adhesive.

Note to self: next time you buy an Oprah pick, make sure the sticker is on a glossy cover. End of rant.

Home
I never felt I had a home until I got married and moved into our first apartment. Prior to that, I always felt I was a guest in someone's home. I found it disconcerting to hear about people who "ran home" to parents and family when things got tough. I never felt I had a place to run home to. No easy outs - not necessarily a bad thing.


Goldfish
Irene, from a forum I visit, said it best:

Never invest in goldfish. Their ambivalence to life is notorious.
If only I'd known.

Everyone thinks (at least I did) that you get a goldfish, put it in a tank of water, feed it daily and everyone lives happily ever after.

Not so.

What I've learned from my son's goldfish:
You need to check water parameters (those being pH, ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, hardness), you need to filter the water, you need to aerate the water, you need to clean the algae out, you need to vacuum the crap out, you need to feed the goldie with a balanced diet, you need to keep the temperature stable, you need to provide a large enough tank for the size of the fish, you need to change the water and not stress them out ("stress" being everything from water temperature, to food, to handling, to new tankmates, to you name it). If you don't look after these things, they die. Even if you do all the preceding, they still have a propensity for dying. If you go online looking for information, you will be bombarded with contradicting "expert" advice which you follow - and still, they'll die.

If only I'd known.

Hans didn't make it, but thankfully, Jurgen is still with us (knock wood).



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Answers in Pictures


Here is something fun and entertaining to try. It's a blog idea I got from Joy's Updates. She got it from Chris who, in turn, got it from someone else.

It's called Answers in Pictures.

Here's how it works:
1. Go to www.photobucket.com
2. Answer the questions below
3. Type your answers into the Photobucket “search” box
4. Use only the first page of results to choose your picture
5. Insert the pictures and questions into your Blog

Here goes:

Who is your favourite band/artist?


What is your favourite movie? (I don't have one particular favourite. This is only one of many I like.)



What kind of pet do you have?
(I don't have a pet. Even non-answers came up with pictures!)



Where do you live?



Where do you work?



What do you look like?
(I kept getting "no matches" to my first few answers. Finally settled for this one.)



What kind of car do you drive? (I don't have a car, but I get to drive my husband's.)



What is your favourite TV show?



Describe yourself.



What is your name?



What is your favourite candy?



xxxxxx

Please post a link if you choose to do this. I'd love to see what your "answers" are.