Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

I’ve arrived safe and sound in Texas! My flights yesterday were seamless. It was the first time I’ve flown with United Airlines, and I have to say, their care and service was above and beyond. I need assistance in the airports. They are just too massive for me to manage on my own; so when I book a flight, whether I am alone, or with someone, I always request wheelchair assistance.

Yesterday at Toronto’s Pearson airport, one of the United agents intercepted me as I was headed toward the line-up. He took me over, seated me, checked me in, and called for the assistance. How wonderful to be treated so well. Everyone I encountered yesterday made the trip a very pleasant experience.

The first thing I noticed, of course, when I got my first up close look at San Antonio, was how lush and green everything is—and how warm and humid it is here. It really is like being in a different world. I left a land that was resplendent in autumn colors and falling leaves. It had been raining and the roads were littered with the usual fall debris. It was chilly enough to wear a jacket—one that was zipped up.

Here, it could very well be summer still. Oh, I am certain that the native Texan will be laughing at this, and will very likely be able to point out all the signs that tell them it is indeed fall.

But for this gallivanting Canadian, the illusion of summer is a welcome one.

Today is a day of journeying to the State’s capital, Austin. After six years of being published by Siren, I finally get to go there and tour the headquarters. I’m excited to do so. I’ve met my publisher many times, of course, and I cherish the opportunities I’ve had to spend time with her. After all, with her one word—“yes”—she changed my life.

Insofar as I can (because I am not perfect) I live my life with an attitude of gratitude. I believe in giving thanks on a daily basis, and in being mindful of the kindnesses extended to me. I believe in letting people know how grateful I am for them.

So I thought it only fitting that I give y’all (I’m in Texas, remember) something to be thankful for on this wonderful Wednesday. Today’s essay is short. Very short. In fact, it’s done.

  I’m sure, once I’ve racked up more Texas experiences, that I will make up for this brevity next week.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23, 2013

This past week, my beloved and I did something we haven’t done in more than a decade. We attended a concert. We went to see Brad Paisley, with his guests Lee Brice and Chris Young.

I purchased the tickets several months ago, on a whim. And the tickets I got were for seats on the floor, as opposed to arena seating.

First I need to tell you that I had a really good time. I have music by all three of those artists in my iTunes library. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go to this event; for me it was like getting to see three favorites for the price of one. All three performers put on a very good show. I was be-bopping and singing along with everyone else there. We were fairly close to the stage, I thought. Then, at one point, the stage hands pushed a button and the short catwalk became a long catwalk and Brad Paisley walked right down and was singing about ten feet away from where we were standing.

I knew, when I bought the tickets, that I would likely need to be on my feet for most of the three and a half hours the show was scheduled to take. As you know that isn’t something I commit to do lightly. Having such severe arthritis means that when I do things like this—stay on my feet for too long (not to mention standing on wood that is temporarily shielding ice)—that I am going to pay for it the next few days.

That is the reality of my life, and I accepted it as so long ago. When there is something I really want to do, then I do it and willingly accept the physical consequences and pay that price.

My beloved was not pleased, but only because he hates to see me in pain. I will admit, too, that I had thought the “jumbotrons” would be placed high enough that we could at least see them if we couldn’t see the stage. This was not the case. Neither were easily visible from our positions on the floor.

The evening started out good but quickly became stressful, until Mr. Ashbury understood that my pleasure in the outing could not be diminished by only seeing the stage part of the time, or having to be on my feet most of the time. There was in fact only one thing that was powerful enough to make the evening less. And once he got that and decided to have a good time too and not grumble at me about the seats we had, then it was a great night. Poor man. He really was just peeved on my behalf—even though I had warned him beforehand how the evening was going to go.

There is something to be said for the raw energy of a live performance. Not just the energy of the performers, but of the audience, too. I felt invigorated, not exhausted. What a gift that was!

I did promise my beloved that the next performance we attend at this venue will be in the arena seats, and not on the floor. I’m not the only person whose legs are no longer young.

At one point it appeared as if Carrie Underwood was standing on stage, while she sang a duet with Brad Paisley. It sure looked like she was there from where we were sitting. It was only the next day that I got a clue her appearance had been holographic.

Unknown to us at the time, our oldest grandson was in the audience with his girlfriend—right up at the edge of the V.I.P seating, very close to the stage. The next day he texted and wanted to know if it was really true that his grandparents had actually attended the same concert he had. So we chatted through text messaging as we sometimes do, and I asked him if Carrie Underwood had actually been there.

His answer made me feel much better. He said that everyone in their area had thought so, too, until there was a tiny technical problem with the hologram, right near the end.

It’s nice to know I’m not as far out in left field as I sometimes think I am.

Next week, these words will be coming to you from the great State of Texas. I’ll be leaving on Tuesday for a ten day stay. I’m very excited, as I get to see not only my wonderful publisher, but also some very good friends who are near and dear to my heart.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16, 2013

We have a large walnut tree at the front of our house. When we moved in, about 24 years ago, the tree wasn’t very large: a ‘seat’ formed by two big branches growing in a “Y” shape from the main trunk was almost exactly level with the railing along our front porch. The kids used to take turns sitting on that tree-chair.

Now, of course, that crotch is so high, you can’t reach it.

We used to say that the tree grew so well because we spent so much time out on that porch. We are conversationalists, my husband and I, and likely at any given moment to be talking about almost anything. Some botanists claim if you talk to plants and trees they like that and grow better. Our walnut sure did.

But it’s autumn now and this tree is the first to begin to lose its leaves. It is a long, drawn out process. As soon as the walnuts have formed, the leaves begin, one by one, to turn yellow and then drop. We have raked them all up, twice. There are still enough leaves left on the tree to incite another afternoon of raking.

Once that tree is bare, and the leaves from it raked for the final time, the maples across the street will begin to shed their leaves. Friends, I live in a place where the prevailing winds are not from the west—except, of course, when those darn maples are shedding.

We don’t rake the back yard. That piece of our property is terraced, but not evenly so. I haven’t walked up there myself for a long time, and neither has my husband. We have a neighborhood teenager who cuts the grass for us, so it’s basically not an eye sore. But it is a waste of land, because we don’t use it, and that’s a shame, but unavoidable.

My husband was busy this past long weekend, not only raking the leaves, but cleaning the plants out of the gardens that line our front walk. I was sad to see them go; it was the best year we’d ever had for our little walk-way garden. He did, however, promise me that if we purchased some more bulbs in the next couple of weeks, he would ensure they were planted.

That would be nice as I can’t tell you how many times over the last ten years I’ve bought boxes of spring flower bulbs only to have them languish, and then die.

Not being able to get out and do the gardening myself is something I dearly miss. There’s something to be said for being on your knees and having your hands in the soil. Unfortunately, my knees can no longer perform that function. So I content myself with planting my porch flower boxes than hang from the railing, and others that we have in the back yard, and then getting others to do the in-ground planting for me.

Our petunias, the ones we planted in the planters in the back yard, did wondrously well this past season. They absolutely exploded with blossoms and color. I took time nearly every day to just look at them. It’s good to have things in your life that serve no purpose other than just making you smile when you look at them.

We have a small hill of rocks in the back yard, too, in one corner, atop of which we’ve made a garden. The pile, shaped like a small volcano, stands about four feet high. Backed by fencing on both sides of the corner that stretches another four feet above it, the garden we made there has some of those “solar garden lights” which we have scattered elsewhere, too. This garden was also filled with petunias, Portulaca, and some shade impatiens. Unfortunately that garden didn’t fare as well as the others. It wasn’t the lack of sun, or a lack of water, or even a lack of weeding.

It was a lack of restraint on the part of Tuffy the scruffy puppy, who apparently has found his new favorite thing, and, consequently, his very own theme song: Dean Brody’s “Dirt”.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9, 2013

This coming weekend in Canada is the Thanksgiving Day weekend. Our celebration of the harvest is always the second Monday in October. We have Thanksgiving earlier than our neighbors to the south because our harvest is in earlier.

They don’t call us the great white north for nothing. By the time we reach the fourth Thursday in November—Thanksgiving in the U. S.—we are often up to our butts in that white cold slushy stuff, which I usually refer to as either pollen, or kaka.

I do recall as a kid in grade school—I’m thinking second and third grade—colouring artwork for the holiday that included pumpkins, turkeys and Pilgrims. Now, call me silly, but we Canadians didn’t have pilgrims in our historical record. They landed on Plymouth Rock, didn’t they? Well not actually on the rock, but in the harbor, which is in the United States.

But since we here in Canada co-opted your holiday, why not go all out and co-opt your imagery too?

We almost can’t help ourselves. By comparison our history seems so boring. We didn’t have a rebellion with tea tossed defiantly in the Boston harbor to begin our nation. The Dominion of Canada was created through a conference. Once confederation was agreed to, with an okey-dokey from Queen Victoria, the British North America Act, an act of the British parliament, was passed into law and signed in 1867. Before that our fledgling nation, the British Colonies, consisted of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Upper Canada and Lower Canada—with a group of powerful businessmen called the Family Compact thrown in as spice.

I have no idea if pilgrims are still the center of the school artwork in my country this time of year or not. I suppose it’s a moot point. I don’t know what symbolism we could incorporate that would be completely and uniquely Canadian for a holiday that, quite frankly, is not.

There are similarities between the US feast day and our own. But there are differences, too. We’re not as fervently patriotic with regard to Thanksgiving as our neighbors to the south are. We don’t have our own parades (we watch yours) or traditional football games (we watch yours). We don’t rush out and do any Christmas shopping right after (our black Friday is your black Friday), because we’re a month earlier than you with our Thanksgiving. We do have fall fairs, with candy apples, cotton candy and rides.

The similarities between Canadian and American Thanksgiving are many. Turkey is our most usual feast-day meal and yes, our dessert table features pumpkin pie. A lot of us even serve sweet potatoes as a side dish, too. My family called those candied yams when I was a kid but they weren’t yams, and our turnip isn’t turnip it’s rutabagas...I’m afraid it appears that Canadians aren’t very original, period.

Well, there is one thing that would seem to be original here, but again, it’s kind of problematic, too. We do have Canadian bacon, but I should probably point out that if you come up here and order Canadian bacon you’ll get a blank look. Bacon is bacon and what you call Canadian bacon is actually back bacon, and not very common here at all. If you order bacon with your eggs at any restaurant that I’ve ever been to, what you get is side bacon. And, of course, there is peameal bacon, but that isn’t really bacon, either. It’s lean, cured pork loin, edged with cornmeal.

Really, the most important aspect of this holiday, as with any other, is the fellowship it encourages. Thanksgiving, more than any of the holidays we keep each year, is centered around food and family and friends—and gratitude.

Since so few of us are farmers anymore, I suppose you could say that Thanksgiving isn’t so much a celebration of the harvest in modern times as it is a celebration of our relationships with and connections to each other.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 2, 2013

Life with Tuffy the scruffy puppy doesn’t allow for very many dull moments these days. He’s far more clever than I gave him credit for. He had me lulled into a false sense of complacency. After all, for most of the seven months since we’ve had him, he has slept a lot during the day—my prime working hours.

My daughter had told me that the smaller breed dogs don’t have the same stamina as larger ones do. I believed her because the evidence was right there before my eyes. That dog slept a good 18 out of 24 hours every day. His behavior was regular as clock-work.

The operative word in that last sentence: was.

Over the last few weeks it’s as if the aliens came down and exchanged my happy to be not-too-energetic puppy for a different dog entirely.

He used to let me sleep in each morning. My beloved gets up at 4 am, and leaves the house by 4:45. When he gets up, he also gets the puppy up, takes him outside, and then has “daddy puppy time” while he makes his lunch and gets ready for work. Then he puts the puppy back in bed with me, and leaves. Puppy used to go right back to sleep until I “awoke naturally” or to the alarm at 7:30 if I had the kids overnight, whichever the case may be.

But for the last few weeks, Tuffy the scruffy puppy believes it is his job to make sure that mommy wakes up and knows that daddy has left the building. Then, of course, since mommy is awake, maybe she would like to play?

I have been saying “no” a lot more lately. And I know he understands me. But rather than complying, he has a doggy grin on his face and I know that really, he is just mocking me. “No, mommy does not want to play. It’s not time to play. It’s time to sleep.”

Ah, but Tuffy does not want to sleep. And not only is he a cute, cuddly scruffy puppy. No, sir! He is the big, brave, bold guard dog! Daddy is gone, so it is his job to protect mommy by...barking at every leaf, squirrel, or car that passes by the house—which he can see from the bed, by looking out the window.

Another canine being walked by its owner is cause for DEFCON 3!

Usually, after a few minutes of this energetic, vociferous behavior I do get up—long enough to put Tuffy outside the bedroom, and close the door in his little furry face. I wish I could tell you that the door is substantial and blocks the sound of the energetically barking puppy.

You have no idea how very much I wish I could tell you that.

Only once over the last few weeks was I able to get back to sleep by placing my extra pillow over my head, thus covering my ears. It’s a feather pillow and does a passable job of noise cancellation.

Unless, of course, the noise in question is the sharp, shrill yip/bark of Tuffy the scruffy puppy.

Gone, too, are the fondly remembered mornings where the puppy is content with just a few minutes of play time. What happened to my stamina-challenged little mop head? Lately, Tuffy doesn’t seem to know the meaning of quit, or tired, or go rest or stop!

The other day, the groomer mentioned that at 9 months of age, Tuffy the scruffy puppy is a “teenager” puppy. That bit of information explained a lot, and gave me pause.

I had three children who all became “teenagers”—two of them at the same time. It wasn’t that many years ago, and I remember the trauma of that period of time with horror and gratitude that it came to an end.

I love that puppy and I have no choice, I know it. But dealing with a teenager? I really do not want to go there again.