Saturday, December 22, 2007

Two more sleeps 'til Christmas

Menu Choices
Well, I'm ditching the Kahlua Mousse idea for dessert. It's delicious, but too much work. I'm going with simple and easy.

While leafing through my old binder of recipes, I came across a dessert from one of my aunts that I haven't used in years. It's refreshing and light-tasting -- good following a heavy meal -- and very easy to make:


2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups light cream
1 T Almond extract (vanilla, if you don't like almond)
4 cups diced, prepared mixed fruits (or canned, well-drained)

Soften gelatin in cold water. Add hot milk and sugar. Stir until gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved. Add cream and flavouring. Pour into pan to depth of about 3/4". Refrigerate until set. Cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Gently mix with fruit.

Add a few maraschino cherries and it looks quite festive.

As for the sweet potatoes versus yams decision, I've decided to go with a Sweet Potato Casserole with chopped walnuts and crushed pineapple.


. . . is always such a big part of Christmas. This can be both good and bad. I used to get quite frantic over the preparations, making list after list of things to do, what to buy, and worry that I'd forget something. I enjoyed myself, but in a high octane, adrenaline-fueled rush sort of way. It was always a relief when everything was done, the guests gone and I could put up my feet. Over the years, I've mellowed out quite a bit. I still make lists and do the same things, but I'm much more relaxed and able to enjoy each moment with a bit more clarity.

I'm looking forward to picking up my son at the airport tonight. He's promised lots of pictures and stories, so I anticipate a late, late night.

If I don't get back here to post before Christmas, here's wishing everyone a wonderful, happy and safe holiday season.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice - four more days to Christmas

The decorations are up, presents bought, and all I need are a few stocking stuffers. Things seem remarkably quiet for this time of year.

Number one son and his s.o. have asked for my help in cooking their first roast turkey. They're providing the turkey at her family's gathering on Christmas eve. Then they will come to our house on Christmas day for another turkey dinner. In the past, I've tried to suggest a change in menu (duck, anyone?), but no one will hear of it. I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to do the turkey and just need to show up and eat!

Number two son is currently in New York City with his girlfriend, visiting some of her relatives. They're trying to cram in as many art galleries, museums, tourist must-sees and shopping as they possibly can. He called last night to say they're having a wonderful time. They'd just gotten back from the musical, Wicked and he loved it. He was a bit skeptical going into Wicked (he wanted to see Spamalot) but said he was pleasantly surprised.

They'll be coming back on December 23, just in time for Christmas. Actually, their plane is scheduled to arrive early a.m. on Christmas eve, so it's cutting things a bit too close for my comfort. We're just hoping the weather will hold and they don't get stuck in a storm back east. Luckily, they have a direct flight from NYC to Vancouver, so as long as they get out of JFK, they should be fine.

Here they are when they left on the 16th:

Hopefully, the smiles will be just as big when they get back.

Meanwhile, I've been left in charge of the care and feeding of his two goldfish. Not an onerous task, I know, but I've been admonished not to overfeed them. Their names are Hans and Jurgen (named after German philosopher-sociologists, don't ask) with rather unique personalities - at least for fish. Hans has a swim bladder problem which occasionally causes him to swim and bob around lopsided until he's fed some peas, of all things. I check them first thing every morning in fear I'll find one floating belly-up and I'll need to blame a non-existent cat for his demise. So far, so good.

Today, I need to finalize my Christmas dinner menu and shop for ingredients. I don't want to be stuck in the crush of Christmas eve shoppers. I can't quite decide between my own Kahlua mousse or a store-bought mango mousse cake for dessert; and between a sweet potato casserole with walnuts or yams and pineapple (for some reason, another one of my family must-haves is a sweet potato or yam dish).

Anyways, here I go for one last foray into the crowds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I give up. No more image in header.

Blogger problems - a rant

Aaaargh! I still cannot get my header image to look the way I want it to look.

I like to use the Minima Stretch template because it allows both posts and photos to "stretch" larger or smaller to fit whatever width of the window (i.e you don't get the right side of the page cut-off and have to use a scroll bar along the bottom of the page to view the rest of it). Just a personal preference of mine. Since the problem with the header images, I thought I'd make it easier by just changing to a template that was easier to fix. The header looked fine, but then I found that with a different (fixed width) template the wider photos I have on individual posts got cropped off. So,I've gone back to the original template and come up with a work-around that I'm not entirely happy with, but will have to suffice for now.

I know I complained about this the other day, but it really bugs me.

After reading the help discussion forums, it seems Blogger made a change in the way images load to custom headers. It has caused a lot of folks to have problems with their previously functioning header banners. It's another case of Blogger messing around with stuff that isn't broken and not caring about what the actual users of the service think. Just take a look at one of the many recent threads about the header issue and you'll see the frustration of other Blogger users.

This all just pushes me a little further along the road to switching platforms.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

C* is for Curious

I've always been a curious person. I cannot get enough information, trivia or details. I cannot stand not knowing about something once it enters my consciousness.

Ask me something I'm not familiar with and I'm compelled to look it up. The problem is that it doesn't stop there. Once I find what I'm looking for, it inevitably sets off a chain reaction sending me further into cyberspace, ricocheting from one idea, word or concept to the next, sometimes for hours.

I never end up anywhere close to where I started. Sometimes, I can't even remember what got me going unless I look back at my browsing history.

Who was it that said curiosity killed the cat?

Maybe one day I'll be found dead in front of my computer; hands still on the keyboard; typing one last query into the Google search bar . . . .

Not such a bad way to go.

*Another Encyclopedia of Me blog.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Blog - Top Ten + 1

Sorry to those on feeds for so many edits. :(

I've recently been going through my old blog posts and trying to update their tags and labels. It's been a rather onerous task.

When I started blogging in November 2005, I had no idea what or how tags and labels worked, so I didn't label anything. Big mistake. I ended up with a long list of post titles, some of which were less than enlightening (what the heck did I talk about in Odds 'n Sods on a Sunday?). Thus, in order to gain some semblance of order to my posts, I decided that it's worth the effort to label them properly. This has meant going back and actually re-reading what I've written over the last two years.

It's been a bit of an eye-opener. I barely remember some of the posts, yet others are as fresh in my memory as if I wrote them yesterday. I'm not done yet, but a few posts jumped out at me more than others. I've come to realize that the totality of all my posts really does capture who I am as a person.

Naturally, I like some posts better than others and some are near and dear to me for personal reasons. I've decided to list my top ten blog posts (at least for now). I think it also shows my evolution as a blogger. When I get a chance, I think I'll add them to my sidebar. They'll probably tell you much more about me than any "About" page.

So, in chronological order, the top ten about who I am:

I couldn't resist sneaking in an extra post. Guess which one. :-)

Blog and Template changes

I have spent the better part of this evening trying to add an image to my blog header. It should have been easy. But it wasn't.

I wanted to use the same picture that I used on Word Press. On WP it was very easy and it even had a built-in crop feature, so I didn't have to re-size the image before uploading it.

I followed Blogger's edit feature, which seemed simple enough, but it wouldn't center the image properly. After I tried everything I could think of, I looked at Blogger's "Help" section. Well, it appears that I'm not the only person with this problem. They've been trying to fix the situation for a few days now and while their so-called fix helped some, it made the situation worse for others. Take a look at the help group discussion titled My Headers are messed up!

I took the advice of one of the people in the discussion thread and changed the html on my template so it looks better, but it still isn't quite right. I'll take another look at it tomorrow and see if it's worth keeping.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Would you stop the aging process?

Rhea at The Boomer Chronicles posted this question on her site the other day:

If you could pause the aging process, at what age would you choose to do it?

Rhea's response was:
I always liked 24, but now that I’m older, I would be happy to be around 34. I am blessed with good health and a sturdy body, so it’s not about that. I don’t really know WHAT it’s about. I just like the sound of 30s.

The comments that followed were interesting. I was surprised at how many people wanted to be twenty or thirty-something again. Only a few said they wouldn't want to be younger.

I'm pretty sure I don't want to go back to a younger age.

The only possible reason I might want to halt aging would be for the physical benefits -- because I sure wouldn't want to revisit my younger years mentally or psychologically.

It's tempting to dream of the physical benefits of a younger, fitter and, hopefully, healthier body and, at times, I think it would be nice to have young knees, a healthy back, and not have to worry about a family history of high blood pressure.

Yet, there's something to be said for gradually slowing down with your body; the opportunity to feel more relaxed and less compelled to do, do, do things unless you really want to do them.

I've never been one that needed to be the first down the ski hill or be competitive in team sports. As long as I gave it my all, it was enough. It's no different now. Slowing down, just seems like a natural thing to do.

For me, it's not so much about my age as it is about my health. If I can remain relatively healthy, I'm okay with the inevitable aging.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Change of venue

I've been considering migrating this blog from Blogger to another platform. This is, in part, prompted by Blogger/Google's recent change in their comments link and trackback system.

I'm considering Wordpress, Movable Type and Typepad.

My main criteria:

- Easy to import my current blogs to the new site
- Flexibility and ease of use
- Free or inexpensive

My thoughts so far:

I set up a new site on Wordpress and imported my x365 project over to see how it works. The import process was quite painless and I like the look of their templates.

I also like the look of Typepad, but don't know too much about it.

I think Movable Type is more than I need.

I'd be happy to hear any opinions regarding the above platforms and any advice or suggestions. Or should I just stick it out with Blogger?

Monday, December 10, 2007

B is for Broken *

When I was about six years old, I had a walking doll.

She looked a little like this:

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Walking dolls were all the rage in the 50s and mine had been given to me as a Christmas present. She was about twenty inches high and was the most beautiful doll I'd ever owned.

One summer afternoon, when we'd run out of things to do and boredom was setting in, my cousin, Bobby, decided that it would be interesting to try and open up the doll and see what was inside. I thought it would be interesting too, but didn't think it was such a good idea.

Cousin Bobby persisted. He assured me that it would be okay. It would be like an operation and we'd be able to put her back together again. He "promised". What did I know? He was a whopping two months older than me and always took charge about these things. Against my better judgment, I agreed.

We found a pair of my grandmother's sewing scissors and Bobby set to work. With the pointy-end of the scissors, he poked a hole through the rubbery skin. Then snip, snip, snip through her chest. She was full of white cottony stuffing. Next, he twisted off her head. Well, that was interesting. It was mostly hollow but we could see how her eyes rolled up and down inside the sockets.

We were giggling and probably making quite a racket when my grandmother came up behind us. She looked at the doll, took away the scissors and told us to clean up the mess, then walked away. That's when I took a good look at what we'd done. Legs, arms and head had been twisted off and bits of stuffing lay amid the doll clothes that we'd been so careful to remove.

There was no way we'd ever put that doll back together. She was utterly broken and I was heartbroken. For days afterward, tears welled up in my eyes every time I thought about it. It was Bobby's idea, but my own decision to go along with him.

Bobby got a spanking over this episode, but no one spoke to me again about what we'd done. I was never reprimanded or punished. I think the family knew our destruction of the doll was punishment enough.

* Another Encylopedia of Me blog.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me

Lately, I've come across several Encyclopedia of Me blogs. Some of them have been around for awhile and a good number have been abandoned. Still, I'm always looking for ideas to prompt my writing and this one seems to have merit.

As far as I can tell, it originated with a meme dreamed up by Bella Dia in this post and she, in turn, got the idea from the book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, titled Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

The instructions are simple: Write a post per day (or thereabouts) for one month using the alphabet from A to Z as the prompt. It can be about anything to do with your life - past or current. It can be short, long, serious or whimsical. Pretty much anything goes.

Since there seem to be several variations of the original (just do a Google search and you'll find lots), I've also decided to do my own take on it. Instead of one letter per day for a month (and because I think this should be a pleasure, not a chore), I've decided not to have any time constraints -- just A to Z posts whenever the fancy strikes. It may take me a month. It may take me a year. I'll have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Here's my first:

A is for Artistic
When I was young, my relatives thought I was artistic. They gave me gifts of pens and crayons, drawing books and sketch pads, how-to draw anatomy and learn-to-paint books. I don't know where this perception came from because I never felt particularly artistic. Perhaps, my mother was artistic. She died when I was a toddler and I don't have any memory of her. So maybe the family was projecting their image of her onto me.

At any rate, when I was in school, certain teachers persisted in this same notion. I still didn't get it. I didn't have the drive to spend endless hours sketching and painting like my friend Kathy. Now, Kathy was talented. She drew constantly. Her books and papers were filled with doodles and wonderful landscapes. She used every available piece of paper, including the margins of notebooks. You can imagine my shock when one of our teachers chose me along with Kathy to decorate and paint the classroom windows one Christmas. I felt like a fraud beside a real artist.

Around the same time, I realized that being smart – as in intelligent - was more highly valued in my family and at school than being artistic. I tried my best to prove that I was more "smart" than artistic. This tactic, more or less worked. I left behind my art supplies and went on to university and took mostly sciences. I occasionally took out my sketch book and made half-hearted attempts at drawing. Nothing was ever quite good enough for my liking. More often than not, pages were torn out and thrown in the wastebasket. I was my own worse critic and could never get past the self-editing (I now realize this had a lot to do with my inner competitive nature - but more about that another time).

Later, I married and had children. Lo and behold. D, my first-born, from the age he could hold a crayon in his little fingers, loved to draw and colour. When he learned how to draw a car, he drew pages and pages and pages of cars of every size, shape and colour imaginable. When he learned to draw people (well, cartoon people), he doodled caricatures and cartoons everywhere. When he was given colouring books by well-meaning friends and family, he always came up with atypical colours (what, you've never seen a tree with purple leaves?), and more often than not, coloured and drew extra "stuff" outside the lines. Clearly, he was more artistic than I ever was. I let him and his imagination be.

When he got to elementary school, his teachers noticed his artistic abilities and his artwork was often posted on the walls and bulletin boards. In about grade 6 or 7, he was asked to paint a winter scene on the classroom window. No other instructions, just a winter scene. Because he was a huge hockey fan, he decided to paint a hockey scene. Hockey is a winter sport, right? Well, it turns out he painted a scene of a hockey fight – complete with a bloody-nosed, bruised and cut combatant. The picture was deemed inappropriate and his teacher and principal told him so. He was forced to wash off the offending painting and not allowed to do another.

D was mad. He couldn't understand why his teacher hadn't been more specific in his instructions and/or at least give him another chance. If he had wanted a picture of children frolicking in the snow, why didn't he just say so.

Now, D was and still remains a strong-willed and independent free spirit. He's not one to go down without a fight. In this case, he couldn't really do much about the windows. The teacher had made up his mind and that was that (although D confided in me that he was tempted to erase all the windows in the class when no one was around). I asked him if I could speak to the teacher about it. He flatly said, no because he'd already tried and it wouldn't help.

Then, for the remainder of the year, he mounted his own silent protest. In some ways, I think it was a subconscious reaction. He doodled and sketched in the margins of all his school notebooks, assignments, and even test papers, if he had extra time. And guess what he drew? He sketched cartoons and caricatures of people fighting – the bloodier and gorier the better.

His teacher was not pleased. The teacher spoke to him about it. We spoke to him about it. He was given detentions. He didn't care. He thought he'd been treated unfairly, and felt this was his only way to express his displeasure.

Eventually, he got over it, but sometimes I blanch to think what some child psychologist might have thought about those bloody pictures.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Odds 'n Sods on a Frosty Friday Morning

She's back!!
Wooohooo! I just had to say it. Ronni Bennett is back today at Time Goes By.

This morning, I clicked on TGB to read more comments about her departure. The last few mornings on TGB, there has been only a brief post about the latest story at the Elder Story Telling Place. Today, there was an actual TGB post. At first, I thought it might be a guest blogger. But no, the first few lines sounded like Ronni. I quickly scrolled down to the by-line and there it was, "posted by Ronni Bennett". She's written a lovely, heartfelt post about her feelings and decisions over the last few days.

I was always hopeful she'd be back in some form or other, but wasn't sure when or where. I'm so very glad she's back now. We can never have too many voices speaking out about injustices and the important human issues we face today. The comments on her blog this week, show just how far-reaching one voice can be.

Christmas Shopping
Well, I've put off thinking about it for as long as I can. The calendar tells me that I have just over two weeks to get ready for Christmas.

Since it's my day off and I have access to wheels today, I'm heading out for my first round of shopping. If all goes well, I'll get most of it done today. Experience has taught me that I'll either whiz through and accomplish a lot, or I'll come home tired and defeated. I may need to make the the liquor store my last stop of the day. Come to think of it, wine works as both celebration and remedy, doesn't it?

College Newsletter
My annual nursing class newsletter arrived by email yesterday and I'm glad I made the time to submit something this year (I talked about it in a previous post). I've only skimmed it, so far. I look forward to sitting down with a glass of wine and reading it at leisure. This year, twenty-seven have submitted updates. Not bad for a class of only thirty-odd.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ronni: In appreciation . . .

It's been a couple of days now and I'm slowly coming to terms with Ronni Bennett's decision to shut down her blog, Time Goes By. It was a shock to me and many of her devoted readers. The last time I looked, there were over 100 comments to her "resignation" post.

And 'shock' is the right word. I couldn't believe it. Even as I read Ronni's entire post explaining her reasons, I couldn't quite wrap my brain around the idea that she wouldn't be posting at TGB anymore. I guess I had come to expect that she would always be there, expressing my precise thoughts and feelings about aging, health care and other important societal issues much more coherently than I ever could.

When I started blogging two years ago, her site and voice was one of the first that made me sit up and shout, "Yes!!" Finally, here was someone willing to write about a segment of the population that society wants to ignore.

She taught me a lot. I thought I was pretty unbiased and unprejudiced in my view of aging. Yet in reading TGB, I found I was as guilty as the next person in the use of lazy language to describe elders. Ronni showed how our use of language can and does perpetuate stereotypes of old people and I'm doing my best to break old habits. She's written about practically every aspect of aging, from health care to housing to finances; and railed against society's fixation and obsession with youth.

She wrote with conviction, clarity and passion with just the right touch of humour and the occasional caustic bite.

On a personal note - and she probably won't even remember this - she helped a novice blogger learn the hows and whys of blogrolls and atom feeds.

I began writing this post with the title "Say It Isn't So", somehow thinking that it was all a bad dream and Ronni didn't really shut down TGB. Now that I've had some time to think about it more rationally, I realize that she has more than enough reasons to retire her blog now, and that it's only selfishness on my part to expect her to continue. I really do understand why she feels like closing the doors.

So this post has become "In Appreciation . . ." for Ronni's four plus years of blogging, her dedication to causes and issues that need addressing, her mentorship of countless fledging bloggers, and her brilliant writing.

I'll miss Time Goes By, but I think we'll still hear from Ronni Bennett. She'll be fighting the good fight somewhere else, hopefully back in the blogosphere where we'll read her again.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Photographs and Memories

Vancouver 2nd Beach July 1915

I found this old black and white photo in a bag of old pictures that an aunt gave me many years ago. I remember briefly flipping through them at the time and thinking I should find out more about them. I put them away in a drawer and only recently took another look.

Most of the pictures didn't have any identifying information. They were snapshots of a time and place vaguely familiar, yet mysterious at the same time. I'm sorry I didn't sit down with my aunt (who died several years ago) and go through them one by one.

However, this particular picture had an inscription on the back:

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You can see where the original writing has faded and someone has written over it in a darker ink. The closer I looked at this picture, the more I recognized the girl in the picture as one of my aunts (not the one who gave me the photos).

I thought of her back in 1915 and imagined her on a family outing to Second Beach. I wondered what she did dressed in her sailor outfit and broad-brimmed hat. I wondered if they picnicked or went swimming. It's still a popular beach in Stanley Park and I remember taking my own sons to that same beach when they were young.

What prompted me to take a closer look at those old photos and post this one here was a story on the Elder Storytelling Place titled Photographic Remains by Susan Gulliford. She laments the trend of throwing out old family photos and thinks it's like dumping one's family history. I agree. I think there's something to be said for remembering where we came from and the journey we and our families took to get where we are today.

So, in that regard I'm slowly scanning and copying those old photos to disk. It's a long and laborious process, but I think, worth it. I'm also going to take them around to the few older relatives still alive who may remember the people, time and circumstances of the pictures before it's too late - and they remain nothing more than a curiosity of times past.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: A Rome Walk

or "Are you sure we turn here?"

There's something exciting about not quite knowing where you're going. For the sake of this prompt, I'm talking about walks, but it could apply to life in general. This prompt has also given me the opportunity to revisit my trip to Rome taken almost exactly one year ago.

It's not that I don't know where I'm going, it's just that I'm not quite sure how to get there.

I'd spent months prior to our trip armed with a multitude of maps and guides and had a pretty good mental map of central Rome. Or so I thought. Funny how places aren't quite the same when you actually get there.

We were leaving Castel Sant'Angelo where we'd spent the last two hours combing the dark and slightly creepy stone corridors and surveying the expanse of Rome from the parapets.

It was nearing twilight and we wanted to see the Trevi Fountain before searching out a place for dinner. So, out we head into darkening Rome.

I'm positive we need to go over the bridge and head left and forward (I'm not good about the North-South thing, so my directions are relative to the last place I happen to be). It's a pedestrian bridge and is lined on either side by statues of angels.

At the other end, we turn left and start walking. But it gets more deserted and darker. We decide to head down a busier looking side street, still going in the same general direction.

Now, the thing about Rome – and most old world – streets is that they don't run in straight lines or even in a logical grid as we're accustomed to in North America. Streets in Rome are what we might consider alleyways or back lanes. We take a couple more streets in the same direction. That's when, A says, "Are you sure we turn here?" You see, he never looks at a map and assumes I know where I'm going. I experience a momentary jolt of panic before I think, how bad could it be? We're wandering the streets of Rome with thousands of other people doing exactly the same thing. It seems everyone walks in Rome – locals and tourists alike. I decide to relax, smile and keep walking.

We weave our way in and out of piazzas, past shops, and restaurants opening for the dinner crowd. Eventually, we hear the sound of voices, rushing water and a glow of lights around a nearby corner.

We turn and there it is – the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain

See? I knew where I was going all the time.

More Sunday Scribblings : Walk

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another blogthing

Whenever I want to pass some time in idle silliness, I can always count on Blogthings.

Still, it's reassuring to know my Bachelor of Science in Nursing hasn't been wasted!

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!

Tuesday is Book Meme Day

I've seen this book meme (with slight variations) floating around for quite some time and always wanted to try it. Since it seems it's a "no blog idea" day, today is as good a time as any to give it a go. Please feel free to join in.

I'm always curious to find out what others are reading, so if you want to add a few words (as I am) about the book, please do.

And also because I'm nosy, I'd like to tag:

Wenda at Daring to Write
Joy at Joys News
Donny at Rambleville
Junebugg at Wasted Days Wasted Nights


  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fourth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.
  6. State the book title and author.

So, here's mine:
Support for such a "minimal state" came from a variety of viewpoints that otherwise made strange bedfellows: anarchists, libertarians, neotraditional capitalists, certain greens, and so on. To the most extreme of these antistatists, writing up any government at all was a kind of defeat, and they conceived of their role in the congress as making the new government as small as possible.

Sax heard about this argument in one of the nightly calls from Nadia and Art, and he was as willing to think about it seriously as he was anything else.

- from Blue Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson

This is a book I finished reading a few weeks ago. It was still lying on my desk unshelved (have I mentioned I'm a terrible housekeeper?). It's the third book of Robinson's "Mars Trilogy".

The Mars Trilogy is a science fiction epic that I began reading several years ago. I liked the first two books, Red Mars and Green Mars, but for some reason didn't get around to the final one until now.

Robinson writes what is classified as "hard" science fiction. Not hard meaning difficult - though some might think so – but meaning book details are based on facts and real science as much as possible; as opposed to soft science fiction where almost anything goes, the only limit being the author's imagination.

As you can tell from the sentences I quoted, it's not all about science. Because it deals with terraforming and the settlement of colonies on Mars, there is a good deal of sociological discussion. I found this as intriguing as the science aspects of the book. Also because it covers quite a long time period, the characters are quite well-fleshed and I found myself increasingly invested in some of them. It's not for everyone, but nerdy-gal that I am, I found it both fascinating and fun.

For anyone interested, I found this link to a review on War of the Worlds: Mars Trilogy Review

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Keeping In Touch With Old Friends

I just remembered I'm supposed to send in the update for my annual nursing class newsletter by this Saturday. We cleverly (or not so) named it the NUSletter (for Nursing Undergrad Society).

If I remember correctly – and I may be completely wrong -- the idea was borne out of one of our last class get-togethers when we were waxing nostalgic and wondering if we'd ever see each other again. We decided a yearly newsletter would be a terrific idea -- we could all send brief letters telling our classmates what we'd been up to for the year. We chose October 31 (Halloween) as the yearly submission date, figuring it was an easy date to remember. One of our most dedicated and organized classmates (Sue) volunteered to be the recipient and compiler. We got her address, dutifully gave her our addresses and promised to update her with address changes. So it began.

Back in the early seventies, we sent typewritten (preferably) letters to Sue. She then took all the letters and re-typed them into one document, made copies and mailed them out to everyone. The logisitics were worked out as we went along - self-addressed envelopes, donations for postage and stationery. Thinking back on it, it was an enormous amount of work and I think Sue was the only one who could have pulled it off.

It wasn't until years later, when most people had computers and email accounts, that the procedure was streamlined (a bit). With the advent of email, those of us with computers sent Sue our yearly news in text or Word documents. She then cut and pasted most of the newsletter from whatever people sent her. It made for interesting reading because almost everyone used different fonts, type-sizes and formatting.

Over the years, people moved, had children, changed jobs, moved again. We lost track of a few from the group – some quite early on. Some members drifted in and out, submitting something one year, then not the next. I'm guilty of the latter. Some years, I'd send a letter, others I didn't. There didn't seem enough of interest to write about. At least nothing I thought to be read-worthy. How many times can you say, D is in grade 4 now (grade 5, grade 6, grade 7, etc.) and listing activities and job changes without it sounding like some of those dreaded Christmas form letters? But maybe it didn't really matter because I enjoyed reading news from others, no matter how much the same from year to year.

The date for submissions gradually drifted later into the year. It's no longer Halloween and I'm not sure why. Yet, through it all, there has been a core group that always submits something and it's been wonderful following the progression of their lives. Some are retired, others contemplating retirement. In the early years, the news was about young children and parenthood, now it's more about new grandchildren.

But back to this year's newsletter. One of our classmates (Bev) thought it might be easier and more efficient to keep in touch via a private FaceBook group. I think it's a great idea. Bev set up a group, sent out emails to everyone on our mailing list and invited everyone to join. Alas, only a handful have joined. Apparently, many aren't familiar with FaceBook and/or have trouble with the interface. There wasn't enough time to get everyone comfortably onto the site before this year's deadline.

So for this year, at least, we're doing it the old way: attach Word documents to emails for Sue to compile and for her to send back as an attachment. And yes, Sue is still doing the same job. It's hard to believe it's been going on for thirty-odd years.

Well, it's time for me to get busy and write my letter. I look forward to receiving everyone else's news.

The real me

Today, I've done something I've been reluctant (scared) to do since I started blogging. It may not seem like much to most of you, but for me, it's a biggie. I've posted a photo of myself in my Blogger profile.

I've always had a certain paranoia and self-consciousness about revealing too much about myself online. Slowly, but surely, I've been getting over it by writing on this blog.

As I surfed around the blogosphere and got to read and know other bloggers through their writing - some of which was highly personal and intimate - I felt better about revealing more about my real life. I'll never be a tell-all type of blogger, but I'm not quite so paranoid anymore.

Another fear I've had is one of showing pictures of myself to others. As a child I always thought I was ugly and hated to see photos of myself. My cousins were always prettier and cuter. I was the ugly duckling. I've been stuck in that mindset ever since. I've decided it's time to get over it.

So, inspired by numerous bloggers who have their pictures front and centre on their blogs, I've taken the leap to put up my photo. And since November 19th was my two year anniversary on the Pomegranate Tiger - which I completely forgot - what better way to celebrate than to finally post a picture.

Now, just in case I later chicken out and remove the pic from my profile, I'll imbed it in this post so it won't just disappear. It's cropped from a group photo taken very recently in October 2007.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Websurfing finds

On my Sunday hopscotch through the blogosphere, I stumbled upon some new gems and rediscovered a couple that had been languishing unread amongst my soon-to-be-pruned bookmarks. I thought I'd share them with you.

Older, but no wiser
I haven't visited this blog for ages, but now remember why I bookmarked it. I'm accustomed to reading personal and introspective blogs from women, but Andy's was the first I found from a middle-aged man. He has been blogging since 2003.

Serendipity Luminescent
Interesting photos from an old acquaintance I met on a forum years ago. It's so long since I checked his blog that this one (Serendipity) is a re-direct from the original which he stopped in June 2006.

Elizabeth Perry is an artist and author living in Pittsburgh, PA. and Woolgathering is where she posts her daily sketchbook and notes. It's a glimpse into daily life through the eyes of an artist. She also does a fair number of watercolours –one of my favourite mediums. This one is going onto my bloglist.

She also links to some of her other projects, the most interesting being:

Museum Drawing Project of which she explains:
From October 1, 2006, through June 30, 2007, my plan was to visit the public spaces of the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, every day the museums were open. I drew something in a small sketchbook in response to each day's experience, and posted that drawing here, with short written reflection or response. Anyone was welcome to visit and comment. I was particularly interested in exploring what happens when my work moves from private (small sketchbook) to public (website) as it is experienced by an audience both in public (museum spaces) and in private (computer screen).

A Walk In My Shoes
Darlene posts beautiful, sometimes whimsical photos accompanied by poems, observations and commentary about life.

National Blog Posting Month (or NaBloPoMo)
Taken from the idea behind NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the goal of NaBloPoMo is to post daily on your blog through the month of November. Yep, all thirty days. I'm too late for this year, but if I can remember, I may try this in 2008.

Gipsy Life
I found Gipsy Life from a link on Out of the Cube
and what caught my eye on first scanning was a mention of Vancouver. On further exploration, I found out she has applied for immigration to Canada to fulfill her long time dream of living in Vancouver. Beyond that, she is a wonderful writer. Her honesty, clarity and ability to share her hopes, dreams and fears is rather breathtaking.

And lastly,

Out of the Cube
I can't remember how I stumbled onto this site by Verna Wilder. All I recall is that I read her post, It's A Choice and felt it embodied so much of my own life philosophy that I bookmarked her site. (BTW, I found both Gipsy Life and Woolgathering through links on Out of the Cube.)

Hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Paradigm Shift of Aging

When and how so swift?
Once revered, loved and respected
Valued and embraced for their wisdom
An integral part of life.

Now denied, ignored, and ridiculed
Pushed away, out of sight, out of mind
To segregated communities
Or warehouses for the unabled.

Stories once told and passed among family
Now only heard by segregated others
Or strangers in white.

The elders are the same
It's we who've changed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why This Youth Obsession?

Crabby Old lady (aka Ronni Bennett) recently posted an article on TGB where she takes Oprah Winfrey to task for the implicit promotion of youth-obsession and age-denial on her eponymous show.

Crabby says,

“That Oprah incessantly harps on youth and beauty is even more unforgivable in light of her enormous cultural clout. Imagine how elders’ lives could be changed, how age discrimination could be reduced or even eliminated, how elders would gain in respect of society if Oprah would get over her obsession with youth and accept aging as the normal and remarkable stage of life it is.”

I’m so glad Crabby wrote this because it’s bothered me for years that Oprah’s vision of women has so much to do with their outward appearance. It’s been niggling away at my brain ever since I saw one of Oprah’s "makeover" shows.

She arranged makeovers of a number of women, including older women (older meaning fifty-ish, so not very old) by colouring their hair (gotta get rid of those pesky grey strands) and dressing them “younger” and “thinner”. There was also some feel-good talk about wanting the women's inner beauty reflected in their outward appearance and that they deserved and owed it to themselves to look better.

Yeah, yeah, I get the whole thing about self-esteem. If you don't feel good about yourself, then you won't have confidence, and if you don't have confidence, then you can't fulfill your potential of all that you can be, . . . . yada, yada, yada. That's not the part I disliked.

It was the insidious and unrelenting message that looking younger equals looking better that really bugged me. The oohs and aahs after the makeovers were invariably about how much younger and/or thinner the women looked. Rather superficial of Oprah for someone who allegedly has loftier ideals.

I have no problem with helping people update wardrobes, improving makeup application and looking their best. Everyone wants to feel attractive. But does looking attractive always mean looking younger? Give me a break! What about a white-haired octogenarian with deep wrinkles and weathered skin? It shows a life fully lived and far more attractive – to me – than a fifty year old with paralyzed face muscles and skin so tight that it looks like a mask. Our definition of beauty has become so skewed and narrow that it would be laughable if it weren't so pathetic.

We are the age we are. To borrow from the military, just be the best you can be whatever your age. My grandmother died at ninety-seven and I thought she looked fabulous – just not young.

People need to get over their continuous obsessing about looking and being younger. It drives perfectly sane women into doing insane things to their bodies. Women are injecting, scraping, peeling, lifting, sucking and enhancing at a younger and younger age. It’s not unusual for women in their twenties to start botox injections. If it continues at this rate, women will spend the last fifty years of their lives trying futilely to run backwards on the treadmill that is time.

I’m curious to see what the current crop of botoxing, nip-tuckers will look like in twenty years. If Joan Rivers is any indication, they’ll be caricatures of their twenty to thirty-something selves – but with oh, so smooth, skin. Is this to be the norm?

It’s like the scenario of a science-fiction movie. There is no such thing as growing old: You’re born. You start preservation and rejuvenation treatments. You die when the silicone and plastic won’t hold together anymore.

I’m an aging boomer who has no illusions about lasting forever or looking twenty or thirty again. Nor, for that matter, do I want to. I like the spirit behind the Diane Keaton ad where she says she wants to age “authentically”. Me too. No nip-tucks or botox for this gal.

As for Oprah’s part in all this youth-obsession, I tend to agree with one of the comments on Ronni’s blog. Oprah is as much a victim of our youth and beauty-obsessed culture as anyone else. No more, no less. But I echo Cranky Old Lady’s sentiment, it would be nice if she grew up and got over it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Power Outage

EDIT: Last night, in my haste to post this, I omitted a part of the cut and paste. Here is the newly edited version with the missing part in Italics.

This morning around 9:15, I was happily making my way through some favourite blogs and checking out some new ones. I had just gotten a great idea and about to start a new blog, when – poof! The power went out.

I wasn't too surprised because we'd been having a windstorm overnight and it was still pretty gusty this morning. Our neighbourhood always seems to get hit with outages – something to do with where we are in the electrical grid – but it's usually restored pretty quickly. If not within minutes, then within a few hours at most.

I wasn't concerned so much as a little miffed that I had put off making myself a cup of coffee in favour of logging onto the computer first.

After about an hour still with no power, DH and I decided that we might as well go out for breakfast. We arrived at our usual breakfast place (from past experience, we knew they had their own backup generator). There was a long line. We, obviously, weren't the only ones without power. Impatient guy that he is, DH didn't want to wait. We walked across the parking lot to another little place that serves great breakfasts. They were closed. So . . ., we decided to go a little further afield to yet another place – and another line-up.

This time we waited and were seated in about fifteen minutes. Well, this wasn't so bad, we thought. Within minutes, the hostess came by and served us coffee. Then we waited; and waited; and waited some more. We noticed that of ten tables around us, only two had food on their table. Apparently, a lot of people were without power, needing food, and the restaurant kitchen was sorely understaffed. I guess it didn't help that it was a holiday and most people were at home.

Anyways, it took 90 minutes for us to get our breakfast. By the time we left the restaurant it was after noon and there was still a long line up waiting to be seated.

When we got home, the power was still out. But, ever the optimist, I was sure we'd have power well before dinner time. Meanwhile, DH decided to go into town and do some work at the office. I stayed home. No computer, no TV – no problem. I took the opportunity to do some reading.

I'm in the habit of reading several books at a time and the ones I currently had on the go were in that "almost finished" last third to last quarter stage. What better time to try and finish?

I finished one. What a feeling of accomplishment! The light was getting a bit dim, so I pulled the drapes wide open. I went onto the second book which I didn't expect to finish because there were over two hundred pages left.

. . .

As I turned the last page, I was squinting and tilting the book to catch the last bit of light from the window. Still no power.

By then, I'd resigned myself to not having electricity to make dinner. I called DH at the office and he agreed to pick up some take-out on his way home.

We ate our Chinese take-out by candlelight, bundled in extra sweaters. The radio update said that power was out to over 100,000 homes and that it might take another two days to restore power to everyone. Oh well.

It was only 6:30 pm.

I lit the fireplace and pulled out the rest of the candles, spare flashlights and our crank-up emergency radio. We hunkered down for a long cold night.

DH sat by the fireplace to listen to his IPOD and after a few minutes of trying to read with him singing along to heaven knows what (you know how eerie it is when people sing along to music you can't hear?), I decided to move upstairs. I set up a couple of candles, only to quit after a few pages. I have no idea how Laura Ingalls (Little House On The Prairie) managed to read AND write by candlelight.

I finally ended up listening to my old walkman with headphones, dozing on and off, and hearing the same new report about the power outage. Around nine, I decided, to heck with this, I might as well get ready for bed.

Just as I was settling into bed, flashlight on shoulder to do a crossword puzzle, the power came back on. It was just after 9:30 pm. The power had been out for twelve hours. It had seemed like days. I now realize how electricity dependent I am.

At any rate, I've immediately turned on the computer and started blogging about it (besides which, I can't remember my great blog idea from this morning).

I'm either just very keen to vent and share my experiences or really need to get a life.

Goodnight, all.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Left / Right

Left Brain
According to his list, Lou had precisely four chores to accomplish before noon:

  1. Go to the bank, deposit a refund cheque and take out exactly $155.

  2. Drop off his grey suit at the drycleaners and make sure it would be ready for pick up by Tuesday, 5 pm;

  3. Go to the liquor store and purchase an Australian shiraz he'd read about in Gismondi's column last week.

  4. Go to Granville Island Public Market and pick up fixings for dinner:
    - French baguette at his favourite bakery
    - Fresh salad greens and cherry tomatoes (at one of two possible grocers, depending on how fresh things looked)
    - Balsamic vinegar
    - (2) ¾ inch thick New York strip loins from his favourite butcher
    - (6) Chocolate truffles

He systematically ticked off each item as he accomplished them, carefully following the order on the list so he wouldn't have to back-track. This was very important to Lou. He hated back-tracking and always planned his car routes ahead of time to save both time and gas.

He even planned the order of shopping at the public market so that he would only have to make one looping jaunt through the colourful stalls, ending with the Chocolatier for the truffles. This served two purposes: one, they wouldn't get crushed and melted; two, the chocolate shop was near the exit door closest to the parking lot. He couldn't see the point of spending hours aimlessly browsing. In and out. That was his motto.

As planned, he was home by 11:55 a.m.

He had a lovely evening planned with Regina. He'd told her to come at 7:30. They'd relax, have a glass of wine and appetizers while he was grilling the steaks and be sitting down for dinner by 8. That would leave plenty of time to finish and still get to the late movie.

Everything would go like clockwork. A perfect evening.

Right Brain
Saturdays. Regina loved Saturdays -- no alarm clocks; sleeping in, padding around barefoot and in pjs 'til noon. If only everyday were a Saturday.

Except today, she had a few things to do before going to Lou's for dinner. What were they again?

She let a kaleidoscope of images flash through her brain.

Oh, right! She had it now: Pick up the poster she'd had framed (the store had called her three times already saying it was ready – the last time asking if she'd rather have it delivered); return the three overdue library books (she'd gotten several email reminders and the fine was now up to around twenty bucks, but she could only find two books); and call Lydia to wish her a belated happy birthday.

No problem. She didn't have to be at Lou's until 7:30. Or was it 8? Never mind. It was supposed to be a casual dinner, then out for a movie. A few minutes either way wouldn't matter.

. . .

She got to the framing store around one-ish. The clerk was busy, so she did a bit of browsing while she waited for him. She ended up buying another poster and a couple of antique-looking frames that were on sale. She could use them as gifts or keep them for herself. She'd decide later.

Around the corner, she stopped at her favourite coffee shop. It was a small independent. Not too many of them around these days -- she liked the idea of supporting the little guy. Besides, it was homey and warm, full of friendly faces and people who took the time to say hello and ask about her day – so unlike the brand name store across the street full of upwardly mobile and trendy hipsters.

Next stop, the library. Rats! She'd forgotten the books. She really did need to return them today, so she made a u-turn mid-block and headed home.

She entered her apartment just as the answering machine was kicking in. It was Lydia. She picked up just in the nick of time as Lydia was saying, "So, give me a call when you have . . ."

What good luck. They had a nice, gossipy, catch-up-on-everything kind of talk before Regina said, "Well, I really have to go or I'll be late for dinner with Lou" which started another long explanation and discussion about Lou, whom she'd never mentioned to Lydia before. (How had she forgotten?)

At 5:30, she was racing up the stairs of the library. They closed at six. The clerk at the return counter gave her a hard time about the missing third book. He insisted that she'd "lost" it, so would have to pay the full cost of replacement – sixty-five dollars. After much pleading and speaking to his supervisor, they finally relented and gave her until Monday closing to find the missing book.

By the time she got home, it was almost 6:45. She'd never be able to shower, blow dry her long hair, do her nails, dress and be cross-town at Lou's by 8.

She'd better call and let him know she'd be a little late.

More Sunday Scribblings

Friday, November 09, 2007

Musical Theatre (or for the Americans out there, "theater")

I was reading Here In The Hills' blog celebrating her 400th post and listening to the embedded YouTube clips of Audra McDonald.

(For those of you who don't know, Audra McDonald is a wonderful actress/singer and multiple Tony Award winner. If I had to name anyone that I felt was born for Broadway musical theatre, she'd be near - if not at - the top of the list.)

Anyways, watching Ms McDonald and listening to the Gershwin and Stephen Sondheim songs reminded me how much I love musical theatre. It combines all things theatrical that I love -- dancing, singing, and acting – and when done right, wraps them into a larger than life spectacle that lingers long after the final curtain.

My love of musicals started way back in childhood when, as an unsupervised eight year old, I'd watch late-night Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. I dreamed of being a dancer.

Later, in high school, I lived with relatives who bought cast albums of all the Broadway hit musicals of the time. I knew the lyrics to Annie Get Your Gun and Carousel and West Side Story and My Fair Lady and Sound of Music. I joined the school choir from elementary school through to high school graduation. I sang in my head, I sang in the bathroom, I sang under the covers in my bed (I was a strange and nerdy kid). I was in the chorus of our high school musicals. I dreamed of being a Broadway actress.

Alas, I had a fair to middling voice at best; suitable for large choirs or school choruses, but not Broadway. I went on to other dreams and life has unfolded as it was meant (i.e. no one has to hear me sing in public).

But through the years, I've remained a fan of musical theatre and so I thank Naomi at Here In The Hills for the reminder and for the Audra McDonald clips.

Now, it's time to go dust off some scratchy old LPs and listen to Camelot and Fiddler On The Roof.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thoughts on Aging

I've been catching up on various blogs and, as usual, left Ronni Bennett's to the end because I know she'll have lots for me to think about. She didn't disappoint.

Her recent blogs titled When the Future is Shorter Than the Past and On Fear of Aging and Death made me stop and question my own feelings about aging. Please bear with me as I let these thoughts rumble around.

Ronni talks about observing a certain "disengagement" in older people as they approach death; and about her coming to terms with not being able to do everything she had thought was important in her younger years.

She says,

"But halfway through my seventh decade, I can already detect a less urgent desire to know these things. Not much yet, but noticeable particularly as that impossible to-do list for my elder years recedes in importance."

Hmmm. Disengagement. Ronni is one of the last people in the world that I'd consider disengaged. Yet if she notices it within herself, then it must be so. Perhaps it's a matter of degree and perspective. For who can really know what we feel except ourselves.

I've never been particularly afraid of aging or death. Or so I thought. The fact that my grandparents, aunts and uncles lived into their late eighties and nineties was always comforting. However, I've recently come to realize that this has been selective remembrance on my part.

In fact, only the paternal side of my family has been blessed with longevity. My mother's family has a history of all kinds of chronic ailments and early death (including my own mother at thirty-something, and my maternal grandmother at sixty-something). In a few years, I will have outlived them both. I suppose I can be forgiven this lapse of memory given that I've had little contact with my mother's family and don't think about them very often.

Nonetheless, there is no denying that I pushed this little tidbit of my family history from consciousness. Maybe I'm not as accepting of death and aging as I thought.

The title "When the Future is Shorter Than the Past" gave me a bit of a jolt. It occurred to me that perhaps I take after the maternal side of my family and not my father's side at all. Maybe the end – barring accidents and catastrophic world events -- is not in another twenty or thirty years, but only ten or fifteen?

Am I okay with that? Not really. I still have too many things I'd like to see and do; too many things to learn. That's why I'm trying to stay as fit and healthy as I can for as long as I can. I'm not ready for disengagement.

Maybe disengagement is a gradual process. I know I don't get bothered by the same things as in my youth. But I've always thought of it as re-prioritizing. Then again, maybe I'll feel differently in my seventies and eighties.

This all needs further cogitation.

. . .

(This has been quite a ramble.)

Friday, November 02, 2007

I've been away again.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with an acquaintance about vacations and travel. She's about my age and was a prominent neonatologist until she had to retire because of health and mobility problems. Over the years, she made a good income and some very good investments. She's trying to do some traveling now, but it's not easy. To quote her, "When I was younger, I was healthy and able to travel, but too busy working and making money. Now, I have the time and the money, but don't have the health." This is a recurring theme that I hear from others. It's motivation to keep active and going as long as I can. I'm determined to travel as often and as to as many places as this ole body and my bank account can take. You just never know what's around the corner.

As usual I spent a lot of time observing the passing parade and striking up conversations with almost anyone and everyone with the time and inclination.

From my notes of Odds 'n Ends:

· I hate hearing the term "cranky old people" used -- not as a description of certain people who happen to be old (which is such a relative term anyway) and cranky, but as an all-one-word, "crankyoldpeople" –- as if all old people are cranky. It's just another stereotype of elders; along with senile, slow, and useless.

Not all old people are cranky, nor are all cranky people old. The elders who are truly cranky were more than likely also cranky young adults, cranky teens and cranky children. It's not as if they woke up one day at the age of fifty and decided to be a crankyoldperson.

· Some people like to complain. Not only do they like to complain, they relish in it. Their mission in life is to find every negative thing in life and share it with everyone and anyone within earshot. They complain about the weather (okay, everyone complains about the weather), then they move onto the neighbours, their kids, their parents, the restaurant, the décor, the food, the service, taxes, Hilary Clinton, . . . ad nauseam.

Whenever I hear such overall negativity, my eyes glaze over and the credibility of their complaints drops to nil.

· Parents of well-behaved children are not given enough credit for doing a good job because they're overshadowed by those with out of control brats.

Brats may be an exaggeration, but you know the ones: They run roughshod over public and private property, spill, drop and leave food bits and garbage in their wake; scream and yell as if no one else is around; take things without permission; run into people without apology; and treat others and the environment around them with total disrespect. All the while, their parents are sipping a latte and reading a magazine, totally oblivious (or ignoring) the mayhem. It's the lack of parenting that's the problem more than the kids themselves.

So, kudos to the good parents out there who've done the hard and loving job of active parenting and whose children are a pleasure to be around.

· Pet peeve: People who use their cell phones in the middle of busy public places and carry on LOUD conversations so that everyone knows they are Very Important People. VIPs are so important that they can't walk ten feet to find a quiet corner or phone kiosk with sound baffling.

· Why - are the number of pieces of luggage people insist on traveling with inversely proportionate to their ability to carry it.

A couple traveling with two toddlers by the hand will have a stroller, diaper bag, backpack, shoulder tote, purse, and four full-sized suitcases; whereas an able-bodied twenty year old will have one over-the-shoulder duffle.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Absenteeism, pixels and nipples

I've been absent.

For those of you who've stopped by and seen the same boot camp post for the last month, I apologise. It's not that I haven't thought of posting, just that I didn't. No excuses. No rationale. I just didn't. Unfortunately, I'll be away (or scarce) in the next month as well.

But before I go, some thoughts that rumbled through my brain this week:

What's with the pixelated nipples?
I was channel-surfing one night and came across a new reality slash documentary show about a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon on an American TV network station. He seems to specialize in breast augmentation. Fine.

The part I saw showed a woman who wanted breasts as large as her friend (who'd already had breast augmentation). To demonstrate the type of breasts she wanted, they got the friend to take off her shirt and show her boobs. Fine. So they show her in all her topless glory of 40++ DDDDs (not really sure about the size, but they were huge!).

Then, the powers that be pixelate out her nipples. What the …..!!?

It's okay to show huge breasts as long as you don't show the nipples? Shades of the Super Bowl and Janet Jackson. Here's a show that glorifies the objectification of women as mere breasts, but you can't show their nipples. There's something wrong with this picture. Maybe showing nipples would imply what breasts are actually meant for – breastfeeding! So instead of showing breasts in their natural state, network TV would rather objectify them by blurring the nipples out of existence. Hmmmm.

And in an odd serendipitous coincidence, I channel-surfed onto a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) documentary about nude peace demonstrations:

The first part showed a protest in Vancouver, BC. It was a large group of protestors – some walking, some on bikes. They were accompanied by police to clear the way as they made their way through city streets. It was a festival-like atmosphere. Various protestors were interviewed on-camera in full frontal nudity. Voyeurs with cameras were politely asked to move on.

Cut to a similar protest in the US. The protestors were followed by police who ordered people to put pants on. The small group of protestors were yelled at and told they were disgusting and perverted.

Maybe this helps explain the pixelated nipples on American TV.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Boot Camp – a few last words

So I finished Survivor Boot Camp last Friday. It's taken me a few days to mull it over and get my thoughts together about the whole experience.

First of all, I didn't miss a single session. Twenty days. No mean feat for someone who likes to go to bed late and truly hates getting up early. At the beginning, I didn't know if I'd make it. The by-product is that I now consider getting up at 7 a.m. sleeping in.

I'm stronger, leaner, and fitter than I've been in years. By the final Fit Test day, I improved in all areas and even managed to lose a few pounds and several inches from my jigglier parts. My snug pants aren't as snug and, by gum, I think I even look taller!

I'm still not the svelte thing I was in my thirties, but that's okay. I'm impressed with the fact that I kept up to the thirty-somethings – well, all except for the running – and in the strength areas, surpassed some of them.

At times, it was painful – especially those first two weeks – as my body adapted to the increased physical activity. At times, it was a struggle just to get up and out of bed. Yet, the pain and struggle isn't what I remember most.

I remember having a great time. I remember the other participants and the sense of camaraderie. In particular, I remember Gail, a 67 year-old who was in her fourth boot camp and could run at the front of the pack with the young'uns. She was upbeat, fun; never, ever complained; and was my inspiration and role model. She's not going back for a 5th boot camp – but only because she wants to take Flamenco Dance class instead. She kept telling me that it would get easier. And it did.

I'm glad I made the commitment and saw it through. It was the jumpstart I needed to renew a more active lifestyle – something I'd let slide with too many hours in front of a computer and the TV.

I made such good progress in four weeks, that I signed up for another four week session just to see how much further I can progress. This time, there are enough registrants for a 50+ group. The over-fifty group is only three days a week, so I'm attending a regular group the other two days. I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like to be in a group with people my own age. The trainers for both these groups are different from last time, so that will be another new experience.

I'm pretty sure that's as many sessions as I'll attend. But you never know. I think it becomes a little addictive.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Guest blogging

When I first ventured into the blogosphere, almost two years ago, one of the first blogs that really captured my attention was Ronni Bennett's, Time Goes By. I've been an avid reader ever since.

Recently, she invited me (along with others) to write a guest blog while she was on vacation, I was thrilled and very flattered.

My contribution is on her blog today and you can find it here.

If you're not familiar with Ronni's site, please take a look around and have a good read. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let It Go 101

One of the benefits of maturing is learning how to handle disagreements without getting fuming mad. It's not that I don't get annoyed or angry; it's that I can let it go much easier.

There were times, not so long ago, that if I disagreed with someone and knew in my heart of hearts that they were wrong, I was convinced it was my duty; nay, my moral obligation to show them the error of their ways. In retrospect, I don't think it had much to do with proving them wrong. It was more about proving that I was right.

I still remember a discussion - slash – argument with a good friend in college. It was about – are you ready for this? – how winds are named (e.g. westerly, southerly, etc.). My friend said winds were named for the direction in which they blew. In other words, she said a wind blowing from the east towards the west would be called a Westerly.

I knew she was wrong because I distinctly remembered my Geography 12 teacher drilling it into us that winds are named by the direction "from" which they blew. Hence, a Westerly was blowing from the west. I could not convince my friend that she was wrong. It drove me nuts!

We both got upset about it (silly, I know) and stomped off, never to mention it again. How I wish we had laptops and Google back then. For years, I wondered if she ever got it straight and said to herself, "Aha, Ell was right all along!" I doubt it.

It wasn't so much that I wanted to prove her wrong, but for her to bow down to my superior knowledge and admit that I was right. It was about ego. It was about showing, proof positive, that I was smart and, by golly, smarter than her. I needed to get over myself.

As it happens, if you're even moderately honest with yourself and live long enough, you realize that you're not as smart as you originally thought in those heady days of youth. I won't go into details, but I'm sure some of you can relate; I was brought down a notch or two in my life.

Life lesson: There's always someone else smarter than you.

So, having gotten over myself, I learned to let things be.

Once I figured out that it's wasn't necessary to win every argument and have everyone agree with me, life got a lot easier and less aggravating.

I will still argue my point as logically, persuasively and passionately as possible, but once it's out there, I've either convinced the other person; or not. If they want to carry on a civilized discussion, fine. If it's just devolving into an argument for argument's sake, then it's pointless.

One day I'm going to ask my college friend if she remembers our conversation about wind directions. She'll probably look at me as if I've lost my mind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Are you a good cook?

Every so often I like to play around with Blogthings. I came across this one about cooking.

I love food and come from a family of very good cooks. I learned most of what I know through osmosis - hanging around watching and helping my grandmother and aunts cook.

We (the womenfolk) had great cooking marathons for special occasions. My aunts and female cousins, led by my grandmother, would cram into the kitchen and cook from morning 'til night to make pastries, dumplings and other goodies for Christmas, New Years (twice, because we celebrated both western and Chinese), Easter, important birthdays - really any time the extended family expected to gather.

It was for socializing as much as it was for cooking. I miss those days. Now, most of the aunts have died, grandma is gone, and the cousins are scattered all over. The closest thing to this type of gathering is when I do Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and my family gathers around the kitchen while I cook. It's not the same.

When it comes to everyday cooking, I'm sometimes inspired, quite often lazy. I seldom follow recipes exactly and my idea of planning a meal is sticking my head in the fridge to see what's available, then winging it. I was curious to see what Blogthings would say.

My Blogthings result:

You Are an Excellent Cook

You're a top cook, but you weren't born that way. It's taken a lot of practice, a lot of experimenting, and a lot of learning.
It's likely that you have what it takes to be a top chef, should you have the desire...

I don't think I agree with the chef thing. I'd much rather dine at a fine restaurant than cook in one.

If you'd like to try this Blogthing, click on the "Are You A Good Cook? line above.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Boot Camp - Wk 3

It's hard to believe there's only one week left.

The past week has seen things ratcheted up another notch of intensity.

Instead of doing two sets of twenty reps, we're doing two or three sets of thirty reps; instead of two minutes at each station for circuit training, we're doing three minutes at each station. It may not seem like much, but let me tell you, that extra minute of push-ups, squats, and lunges make your muscles scream, "Please, STOP!".

I've found that I can handle most of the endurance and strength things pretty well. That's probably because I'm a stubborn ol' bird and refuse to give in.

The jumping, running and impact activities are another matter. My knees really don't like all the jarring, so I've modified some of the exercises and have resigned myself to being slow and steady. I have no intention trying to keep up with the young'uns. They have resilient bodies that recover in half the time that mine does. We have a few in the group who are still in that age and stage where they brag/complain about partying and drinking the night before and having "such a hangover". Yet they still look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to me. The one thing I keep telling myself is that they may be faster, but I doubt they're as determined.

I was talking to our trainer one morning and she told me she noticed a big difference in the attitude and commitment between the older and younger participants. She noted that older members just get on with it and tend not to complain, whereas the young ones whine and complain almost the entire time. The younger participants are also more prone to "cheat" by shortcutting the number of warm-up laps (I noticed this myself), stopping because they're too tired, etc. Whereas the older participants do everything they're asked to the best of their ability. She asked me why I thought it was so.

The only answer I could think of was that, by my age, there wasn't any point in complaining. I was there of my own free will, so I may as well get the most out of it while I was there. Besides, I think my generation was indoctrinated with the "if you cheat, you're only cheating yourself" philosophy. I don't even know if they say that anymore.

To summarize: Despite aches and pains again this week, my legs feel much stronger and it's not quite as much of a struggle during my runs. I haven't lost any weight, but various body parts, though still jiggly, are definitely firmer.

I'm even - dare I say it - contemplating signing up for another session.

Impervious - Another Lydia story

I'm resurrecting another Lydia story (with a few minor tweaks) that was originally posted on First Drafts in February 2006. That site is no longer active, so I decided it might be a good idea to keep my posted writing in one place. I've previously explained how bad I am at keeping my computer files in any semblance of order. I'm hoping Blogger, with its label system, will help.

This piece is from the prompt, "Impervious".

Lydia was sitting at her computer. Nothing. She’d done a couple of writing exercises to warm up, but couldn’t produce anything else. At least nothing she wanted to keep.

She kept gazing out the window. The clear blue sky was inviting. She checked the weather channel - minus two Celsius – not bad. Better to be outside getting some much-needed exercise than staring blankly at the computer monitor. It was still early, not yet noon. There was time to take a short drive up the mountain and hike one of the short trails off Mt Seymour Parkway and be back well before Dr. Phil.

She put on her boots and ski jacket, looped a scarf around her neck and stuffed a pair of gloves in her pocket. She probably didn’t need the scarf, but you never know. Better safe than sorry, her grandmother always said.

In fifteen minutes, she was pulling over to park at one of the mid-mountain lots. It was a glorious day. She stepped over the roadside cement barrier to enter the trailhead. The snow was well-trampled with occasional dirt patches breaking through the most travelled parts of the trail.

Lydia knew exactly where she wanted to go. She headed for a jagged ridge just beyond the second bend in the trail. Following the ridge about thirty metres to the left, she came to a slight outcropping of rock that overlooked the water below and gave a panoramic view of the city across the inlet - the perfect spot for meditation and inspiration. She found her usual spot on a broad, flat boulder. - It had made her laugh the first time she saw it. The indentations on the surface mimicked the curves of her butt, literally begging her to sit. It had become her special seat. She eased herself onto the rock, bracing for the momentary icy-cold dampness through the fabric of her jeans.

This is exactly what I need, she thought, a chance to get away and clear my mind. Fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes later – she wasn’t quite sure – she heard a rustling below her. Strange. It’s usually silent in the winter. It’s too early for animals and there isn’t a trail down there, so it couldn’t be people. She heard it again. Curiosity got the better of her and she just had to look. Standing at the edge of the ridge, she peered over and thought she saw movement - something round and dark. Could somebody have gotten lost and fallen off the trail?

“Halloo! Is somebody down there?” No answer. But there was the rustling again. She eased her left foot over the edge to get a better angle. Yes, she was sure there was something moving. Grabbing hold of a branch from a nearby bush with her right hand, she slid her left foot a little further down the slope. - That’s when the branch snapped. - The sudden movement dislodged the loosely packed snow from under her boot and she found herself with legs splayed, half-straddling the lip of the snow-covered ridge and slipping downhill.

“Great.” She leaned towards her uphill leg, grabbing handfuls of snow and dirt, hoping to get a solid grip. It didn’t help. Instead, she felt herself sliding further downhill in a split-legged position until her right heel finally let go of the remaining lip of the ridge and she rolled, bumped and skidded down the slope, eventually coming to a thaawhumping stop and blackness.

By the time she woke, Lydia was too numb to feel anything. She was impervious to the cold. Lying in a snow bank will do that to you. How did she get here? Right, the rustling sound. She looked up to get her bearings.

Movement caught the corner of her eye. She turned her now stiffening neck and saw a dark green garbage bag. It was snagged on a bush and ballooning out with trapped air, bobbing back and forth against the loose branches of a bush.

At least, she thought, now I have something to write about.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another Violation

Joared's blog, Violation, brought back vivid memories of our own house break-in. I recall almost every detail.

Our sons were still in elementary school and the family had been away for a few days of skiing before Christmas. We came home in the evening and noticed the blinds in our bedroom were slightly pulled back. Hadn't we closed them? We entered the house and noticed the kitchen window was ajar. This should have sent us straight to the telephone to call the police. But for some reason -- perhaps denial -- we stupidly proceeded upstairs to the bedrooms. All the bedrooms had been ransacked, the drawers opened and the contents dumped onto the floor. All the boys' CDs and videos had been taken as well as their sports and movie collectibles.

We eventually called the police and, as in Joared's case, they figured the culprits were probably pretty young and inexperienced (they had found my jewellery, but took the cheap costume pieces - presumably because they were more glittery - and left a much more expensive pearl necklace and plain bracelet).

The worst part was that the thieves had taken all the family Christmas presents from under the tree. A few of the gifts had been painstakingly wrapped and decorated by my youngest. The look on his face when he realized his presents to me and his father were gone was heart-wrenching. That was probably the hardest to take. We kept telling him it was okay, that it didn't matter if he didn't have something for us. But we could tell, he wasn't buying it. It was too late to replace anything. Luckily, there were still a few presents from Santa, hidden in the back of my closet, that they hadn't found. We made the best of it, but it was a hard lesson for my heretofore sheltered sons that there are nasty people in the world who don't give a darn about others.

I think the incredible violation you feel after a break-in is only understood by those who have gone through the same thing. The thought that strangers have been in your home, touched your personal belongs, including your underwear is both creepy and unnerving. This feeling of violation is followed by a sense of outrage. How dare anyone take things that aren't theirs! How dare anyone ruin a child's Christmas! How dare they . . . !

I wondered what kind of kids these thieves were; wondered how they'd been raised; wondered about their parents; wondered if they were kids from the same community.

Most of all, I wanted them caught. I wanted them to know that what they did affect real people. I wanted them to know that their actions had consequences. I wanted someone to shake some sense of decency and moral obligation into them. And in the end, I held the notion that they could be changed into decent human beings who would care about fellow human beings.

I still think that way. Some people say it's naïve. I call it hopeful. That's me - a glass half full kind of gal.

Nowadays, I often think about young people I've met and passed along the way, particularly those who had difficult lives; were abused; were abusive; had unwanted pregnancies; got in trouble with the law; or had severe psychiatric problems. I wonder if they've been able to find the strength and support to make something more of their lives. I hope so.

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's Monday and B.C. Day

Today is B.C. Day, a statutory holiday in British Columbia, so it feels like a Sunday to me; the only difference being that I started the day with Boot Camp. Once I got that out of the way, I fell into my usual Sunday morning routine of surfing through old and new blogs.

I found a goldmine of new and interesting blogs through Imagine What I'm Leaving Out and kenju's post about her Creative Bloggers Award.

From that one post, I found:

Kay's Thinking Cap

which led me to:

Joy of Six

The View From Where I Sit

and Along the Way

which led me to

Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

I've bookmarked them all and will be returning for more.

Then it was back to my own blog to read a comment left by Junebugg of Wasted Days Wasted Nights whom I added to my blogroll a couple of weeks ago.

And now, here I am to pass along my finds - though I suspect many of you have already discovered the above blogs because I see lots of familiar names amongst the various blogrolls. It reinforces my view that blogs really do encourage a sense of community.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Besides boot camp . . .

I'm doing other things besides boot camp. Really, I am.

Number One Son and his girlfriend are moving into a new apartment and they've co-opted me into helping them paint it this week. I'm the resident interior paint expert, having painted just about every room in every place (5) we've lived in over the past thirty-odd years.

The apartment is quite spacious for an older one-bedroom – about 760 square feet - with lots of windows and hardwood floors. The previous tenant, however, was a bit of a slob and left things in a pretty grungy state. I told NOS I'd help paint, but THEY had to deal with the cleaning! And they did, too.

The first job was the bedroom which had been painted a deep dark BLOOD RED (if I knew how to make "blood red" appear to be dripping, I would). I'm not sure what state of mind the previous renter was in when he painted it this colour, but I probably don't want to know. It was like entering a dark and dismal gothic cave.

After priming and two coats of paint, it's now a light and airy green called "Yellow Pear". We can't believe the difference. It makes the room look much larger.

The rest of the apartment had been painted in a patchwork of different colours: olive green, dark brown and taupe. It's now being painted a nice unifying light colour called Cuban Sand.

As of today, only the dining area, hallway and kitchen are left to be painted.

It's been rather fun. I got to be a fly on the wall watching the dynamics of NOS's relationship with his significant other in a way I don't normally see in regular social situations. It made me smile.