Monday, December 31, 2012

2012

It's been a good year for me personally, overall. Himself is watching a movie whilst i type this blog post. The kitties are happy. Jim has discovered that 20 inches (50cm) of snow with shovelled paths makes for marvellous oustide bird watching. Jo is glad that he allows her a bit of alone time. Phoebe is glad to be getting lots of pats on the heads and rubs.

We have looked at what we hope to accomplish in 2013 and are discussing the steps to undertake those things.

FIL has left the planet, although i'm not sad for him, and while his kids miss him, i don't think they're sad for him, either. He was ready to go. He didn't leave much of an estate so there wasn't tons of paperwork required. It has spurred Himself and me to look at our paperwork quagmire and see how we can simplify things a bit.

I started blogging and have read some wonderful blogs this year. I have enjoyed it very much and look forward to my nearly daily blog reading. Since i spend so much time on a computer for work, when i have some time off, as i've had this week, i do try to go for computer-free days. It's a welcome break.

I live in a place that feels like home and feeds my soul. Right now it's very cold (10°F/-12°C), but today was wonderfully sunny, and before it clouds too much tonight, the moon's light makes the nighttime's snowy landscape come alive.

I got Himself a pair of snowshoes for Christmas, and we tried them out yesterday (i'd bought myself a pair a few years back) walking the back part of the yard. We also wore them whilst clearing the snow off the boat cover.

We also went to a local place where they make their own sauerkraut and import some European foods. Himself got some Stilton, which made him very happy. My tastebuds have never grown up in the stinky cheese department, so he can munch on that whilst i eat a few cornichons. We also got some lovely smoked pork chops and sauerkraut for New Year's Day. In his family as well as mine, it was customary to have pork and sauerkraut on the first day of the new year; it was supposed to bring health and prosperity. My mother, who never really made me eat anything i didn't like always turned a deaf ear to my dislike of sauerkraut. I'd dutifully eat one forkful on New Year's Day. I like it now and don't quite know when it happened. I think it was when i made some for Himself and decided i'd have just the pork and the dutiful forkful of kraut, when my tastebuds decided it wasn't so bad. In fact, it was Quite All Right. Funny how that happens.

We had talked of going out to a nearby First Night Celebration, but frankly, i'm waning. Staying inside a warm cozy house, toasting the New Year with a glass of bubbly we have on hand sounds infinitely more appealing that standing around outside, even though the bonfire on the beach sounds appealing.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Boxing Day explained. And Hull Cheese

I have a word-a-day calendar for 2012, where each day it presents a forgotten English word and either a story about the word or about the day in the year. This was the one for Boxing day, aka St Stephen's Day, aka the day after Christmas, aka the start of Kwanzaa.

******************************************************************************

Hull cheese
A strong ale for which the town of Hull was at one time famous. To "eat Hull cheese" was to get incontinently drunk. —Trench Johnson's Phrases and Names: Their Origins and Meanings, 1906


London Boxing Day

William Tayler wrote in his Diary of William Tayler, Footman (1837):  "This [date] is what is called here Boxing Day. It's the day people go from house to house gathering their Christmas boxes. We had numbers here today—sweeps, beadles, lamplighters, waterman, dustmen, scavengers, postmen, and waits—these are a set of men that go about the streets playing musick in the night after people are in bed and asleep. Some people are very fond of hearing them, but for my part I don't admire being roused from a sound sleep by a whole band of musick. All these people expect to have a shilling or half a crown each. Miss P gave me half a sovereign for a Chirstmas box and Mr. S gave me half a crown. I might get fuddled [drunk] two or three times a day as all the trades people that serve this house are pressing with their glass of something to drink their health this Christmas time."

This British custom of presenting Christmas boxes, still practiced today, came from a time when alms boxes were placed in churches on Christmas and distributed the next day.
*********************************************************************************

I've heard many explanations as to why it's called Boxing Day, but i'd never heard the explanation of the alms boxes. And, having lived in a place which for my lifetime thus far has decimalized currency, i had to refresh myself on what a shilling, half a crown, and half a sovereign were.

For those who forgot or for those who never learned, before decimalization in 1971, Britain had pounds (£), shillings (s), and pence (d).

12 pennies made 1 shilling
20 shillings made 1 pound
21 shillings made 1 guinea

So a half sovereign was a half a pound or 10 shillings.
Half a crown was 2s 6d; therefore a crown was worth 5 shillings (remember 6d is half a shilling--good old base 12).

It doesn't sound like much in today's money, half a pound or a quarter pound (we'd think of that as 50p or 25p); yet, in watching A Christmas Carol the other day (the Alistair Sim version), the charwoman is shocked when Scrooge wants to raise her wages to 10s a week (up from the 2s she had been receiving).

I don't know how much money footmen made, but to think that i'd get a raise from my employer equal to 5 times what i'm currently making, or a present equal to
5 times what i'd been making as most generous indeed!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Blessed is the season...

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."
-author unknown


Many celebrations this time of year speak of light in the dark.

Chez nous, that would mean lighting bayberry candles on this evening and letting them burn all the way down.

Merry Christmas!

From all of us, including the more photogenic in our group



Phoebe




JoJo




 and Jim

Friday, December 21, 2012

This is the way the world ends

I'm glad i got the chance to see this fine group, Artisan, perform in a house concert in 2003. Lovely people and so very talented.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rant

I just need to rant a little bit. In my job, we work with many different clients. Some of them want us to use their templates, style guides, and procedures. Okay. Others are okay if we use our own. Also okay.

What drives me mad is when the client wants us to use their template, and it's shite. Well, in some cases it's not shite, it's just not well designed. And then the client rants if we try to improve it. And then rants if we don't. And people on my internal team rant if i mention that the template lacks, but the same ones who say how much time i have to work on the project with the template don't allow for the actual time it takes me to fix the bloody thing so it doesn't get corrupted or look like someone who didn't give a rat's ass was doing the work.

Now, if this particular client template, which has been the impetus for the current rant, were from a client that was a small start-up or an 8-year-old just learning how to use the software, i wouldn't say too much. In fact, in the former case, i've been known to have a chat with the client directly and offer to use our template which is similar but a bit more user friendly. Most are relieved and some have openly said they knew their template was crap. Could i tweak things a bit so it looks more like what they want, but not so they have to pay more money? Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes no because it really does depend on the amount of work involved. I don't work with children, so have not yet had to contend with the 8-year-old, although the way some folks whinge, you wouldn't know they weren't kids, except their voices have changed.

No, this particular client is a huge company, one that probably spends more in paper clips than i get paid in a year. Don't you think that such a large place would have a better than crappy template?

sigh.

I have decided i'm going to conclude my work day, shut down the computer, and commence to decorating the Christmas tree. All the cats have sniffed at it, JoJo was happy to sit under it today but gave me a look as if to say, "Where's the tree skirt?"

Phoebe right now is happy cleaning herself before the wood stove, and Jim is outside. So far he hasn't tried climbing the tree. Once it's adorned with the lights and shiny, hanging objects, though, we'll see what happens. I think this year i shall use all nonbreakable ornaments. Just in case.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Night Chit Chat, 09 December 2012

Carla says this can be a photo or saying.

 
‎"The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” —Corrie Ten Boom

Reading
Mostly work stuff and finishing up the Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr Natasha Campbell–McBride. At some point i need to return to reading for fun.

Watching
I watched "La tête en fraiche" or the English title, "My Afternoons with Margueritte." Excellent film. I'd like to read the book on which it's based.

Listening to
The heater kick on.

Cooking/Baking
I made some pumpkin squares for my knitting group. They were yummy. My neighbours up the street gave an invite for supper. Yummy beef roast, latkes, and green salad. Mmmmmm.

Happy you accomplished this week
Cleared out the second bay in the garage so i can make room for the new-to-me truck. Thankfully it was really sunny and warmer than usual today, so i was able to move stuff without too much trouble. Going to have a friend help me with adjusting the open switch on the garage door, though, so i know the opening will be high enough for the truck. I don't have the confidence to take it on myself. It needs but a small tweak, lesss than an inch for the truck to clear.

I also had a great idea about storing the mast where it's out of the way but still inside the barn. Just have to figure out how to make the idea become real.
 
Got through most of my to do list today. I listed everything i thought needed doing and figured i'd be good if i got halfway through.

Looking forward to next week
Picking up the wreaths tomorrow and the Christmas tree. It'll be fun to watch Jim with the tree.

*Bonus Question*
What type of cell phone do you have? Do you have all the bells & whistles or just basics?
I have the basic phone. I can make and receive phone calls and texts. The end. it's a pay as you go plan, and i can roll over minutes i don't use. I have lots of minutes. There are a number of places around me that are dead zones, and really, the easiest way to call me is on my landline, since i work from home. I don't like texting, but there are times where friends are sailing and they can text me more easily than can call. I guess the texts take less whatever it is, because the calls will get dropped, but the texts go through.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Joe

I was working aboard a schooner in 2000 when i met Joe. I had sailed on the schooner several times as a passenger, and when a chance came to fill in as messmate the latter part of the 2000 sailing season, i took it.

I have often wondered if Joe were related to Rodney Dangerfield because they share that same self-deprecating Eeyore sort of outlook. He enjoys a good joke, even if it occursat his expense, and is happiest at the helm on the schooner, on SFB's ketch, on another sailing friend's boat, or on mine. He can look at a boat on the water and tell you what kind it is, a history about the designer, and will give his assessment of whether it's one he'd like or not. Most of our sailing together has been on the schooner, and she is dearly loved. Fits like an old shoe, yet he's been captivated for awhile by trimarans. When we were anchored at a schooner gathering, a tri anchored nearby, its captain eager to gawk at so many windjammers in one spot. Joe and the mate took the yawl over to the tri so he could see it at very close range, and was thrilled to pieces when the tri's captain invited him aboard. The owner was looking to sell the tri after this world voyage, and yes for $8 million, Joe could live his dream. Not having that sort of money in his back pocket, he reluctantly said no, but was beaming when he returned, positively gushing about all the amenities she had on board.

His wife, like SFB's has had her fill of sailing, but we have always felt we knew their wives from what each has said about them. I got the sense the feeling is mutual because when i met both their wives, we fell to talking to one another right away, and i was sorry neither wants to come along for our sailing adventures.

I've sailed with Joe numerous times since that week-long trip in 2000, and nearly each time we play a little cribbage or backgammon, where i'm either terribly lucky or unlucky. SFB will pull out his guitar, and a group of us warble a lot of old songs. SFB has a notebook with the chords and words for the songs. I often sit next to him so i can read the words and sing along. Joe refuses to look at the words but will hum if he can't quite remember what they are and sing loud and strong for the parts he does.

He and Joe took quite a few sailing trips on SFB's boat, and a few times, they helped others sail their boats, and in some of those latter situations, had stories to tell. The one that always brings a smile to my face is the one where Joe mentions being so happy to get off the boat they had agreed to help sail that he kissed the dock as soon as he alit from the gunwhale.

After SFB sold his boat, he and Joe have sailed on the schooner mostly, and quite a few times, we were together for downrigging, the last day of the sailing season when everything comes off the boat and gets put away for the winter or gets worked on between downrigging and outrigging the following spring.

Once i moved to my current location, i could see both Joe and SFB more often as neither live that far away. Geographically speaking, i'm between the two, and the first few times we met on land, it felt funny. When Cappy got married, we all gawked as we looked at each other and our other shipmates all dressed up.

I didn't go on the last long trip in September this year, so didn't take part in all the zaniness, but saw them off at the beginning of their trip and was at the dock to welcome them back ashore. Joe and i discussed my boat a bit, and he and SFB helped me with my inflatable dinghy that decided to spring another leak. Or maybe it was a leak i hadn't mended properly. Yes, well, that would be something to consider over winter. Try mending it again or suck it up and buy a fibreglass one?

With the advent of social media, we could be friends on facebook and trade photos or statuses. Joe's wife, SFB's wife, and i play word games, and i have encouraged them to come sailing with us, but each holds fast to her "I've had enough sailing" rule. After each trip, before facebook but after the Internet became the norm, we'd email photos or links to photos of our trips, send along funny jokes, or newsy emails.

About three months ago, Joe emailed a bunch of us because he was planning a surprise party for his wife, who was turning 65 this year, and the party was going to be in mid-November. They were going to have it at a favourite Chinese restaurant of theirs. Their wedding anniversary fell about a week before--42 years. And so, most of us were able to attend the party, and even though i followed the google map directions precisely, we did have to ask another human how to get where we wanted to go. We got there with just enough time to slip into the room with the others, slip out of our coats and say hello to a few people before Joe and his wife arrived. She was simply stunned, and both wore huge smiles all evening.

It was great to see them. Himself had found a few things that he thought she'd like, even though Joe had said no gifts, just please come and celebrate with us. I had found a funny card i thought she'd like, and Himself found an Andy Warhol card he knew she'd love, since she's an artist. Which she did.

Lots of laughter and hugs all around.

Joe let us know via facebook that he needed to go into the hospital. Platelet count was low, needed a tranfusion. Doctors determined they needed to remove his spleen. So, he'd be talking to us in a few days. We all wished him well. His wife mentioned that they had to move him to critical care after the surgery. Um, okay, well he did just have surgery, better safe than sorry, and all that.

Last night i thought of Joe as i was dozing off to sleep, and said a prayer. It's just something i do when someone floats into my mind like that.

This morning, i found out that Joe died last night. Heart attack, apparently. All day, i've been trying to process this, and between crying jags, i go about my work day and can't quite believe it. The sun shone brilliantly during its short nine-hour stint as we barrel towards the Solstice, but there was a big gaping hole in my heart surrounded by a dark space, as there was in the hearts of my friends who have sailed with this man, listened to his corny jokes, weren't fooled for a moment when he tried to be curmudgeonly, and somehow think as i do, that he's going to pop in at any moment and say he was back.

I called SFB as soon as i heard. He thanked me for calling and we were on the phone less than five minutes. I cried after that, and i'm sure he did, too. Cappy posted a status, so many people could find out who had sailed with Joe and who perhaps hadn't met his wife or son. At lunchtime, i called another sailing friend to let her know, because although i knew she had a facebook account, i wasn't sure that she checked it all that often. I just thought of someone else who needs to know any may not have been told, so i'll make another of those sad calls.

Godspeed and fair winds, Joe. I hope to see you on Fiddler's Green.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

RIP, Dave Brubeck



I must say, i always felt cool when i listened to Dave Brubeck. I'm glad so much of his music was recorded, so we can listen again and again.

Take five, Dave. And thanks.





Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanks, Zig Ziglar

"Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you."
—Zig Ziglar



RIP, Mr Z, and thanks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

knitting angst

In yet another of those cart before the horse moments in my life, i decided that i wanted to knit a gansey sweater. Gansey, guernsey, or jersey as they've been called were knitted sweaters or jumpers which fishermen wore. The yarn was multi-ply, either 4- or 5-ply and quite thin in diameter. The needles used to knit these sweaters were also small in diameter (size 2 US/11 or 12 English/2.75 or 3 mm) with a tension or gauge of 9 or 10 stitches to the inch (~2.5 cm). Given the 4- or 5-ply woollen yarn used, and the small stitches, they were an incredibly warm, tightly knit garment.

Buoyed by the success of my mittens that i can now say actually look like a pair and not mismatched ones that share the same colourway, and knitting a few hats that actually fit the heads of real humans (there were a few false starts, but that did not deter me from making something that actually could be worn), i somehow figured that i could now step up to a big-time garment.

I've pored over a few books containing gansey patterns, and there's a wonderful website i found, http://www.ganseys.com/, where they have lots of helpful info. I also tried knitting the sampler gansey in Beth Brown-Reinsel's book, Knitting Ganseys, thinking that i could learn the basic technique on the sampler that can fit a teddy bear, then move on to one for me.

I had high, high hopes, so high in fact my put the cart before the horse moment was to order the yarn i wanted for my sweater. It's beautiful yarn, and my plan was to have it be my winter project.

And so, in the halcyon days of summer, as i was working the sampler tra-la-la, i was fine until about Row 21, where i got good and stuck on the chart. For the nonknitter, charts lay out the pattern on graph paper, and there's sometimes a key, which can be helpful. In the books i've been using as models for the one i want to make, a filled in or dark circle means a knit stitch and a white or unfilled one means purl. There's also an oblong circle that's not really a squiggle that means a cable, but i thought it best to keep to just knitting and purling.

For people like Himself who are right brained, these charts are wonderful. They show at a glance an approximation of the pattern. I say approximation because graph paper presents the pattern as square, and in real life knitting will be more rectangular as stitches tend to work wider than they do tall--or maybe it's the other way round--at any rate, it's more rectangular.

Now, i understand all that, and i have thus explained it to you, gentle readers. But when i look at those charts, i see dots upon dots, and my mind simply swirls. I have ripped out that sampler gansey at least four times after Row 21 because i cannot seem to count the white or dark dots or oblong circles for cables correctly and either lose a stitch or pick something up along the way. After the last frustating attempt, i decided to make something i knew i could work all right, and before i knew it, i had two pairs of mittens done.

Emboldened by my success, i returned to the land of the charted gansey, and got stuck fast. The sampler, while charming, is a bit busier than the pattern i'd like to make for myself, and finally, that little voice inside of me that's always right said, "Megan, why don't you simply work the pattern you'd like to make? Just try it out with some scrap yarn, see if you can do it, and see if you'll like it when you see it in real life."

I thought this a most sensible suggestion and have been doing just that. I started with scrap yarn that was a bit larger in diameter than my gansey yarn. I cast on 24 stitches and ran through some of the patterns. I used  US 2/UK 11 or 12/ 2.75 or 3mm double pointed needles (UK knitters call these 'cable needles' or so says a book i read), which was a first for me using such skinny ones and knitted 10 rows or so of each of the patterns a) i thought i could do and b) i thought i could do without losing my mind either from frustration or boredom. While they were all right, there was one more i wanted to try, but i ran out of that bit of scrap yarn, and looked through my stash for something else that would be suitable.

Knitters have a yarn stash the way quilters do bits of fabric. It just sort of happens somehow.

At any rate, i found a yarn that was a bit smaller in diameter and closer in diameter size to the 'real' yarn i want to use but not waste on putzing around with different patterns, and decided i'd look at the chart for it once again. Yep, same dot swirling sort of is-it-a-migraine-or-was-there-dope-in-those-brownies sensation, so i decided to give in to my left brain, and i wrote out the pattern in a way that made sense to me, namely, Row 1, K2 P2, K2 P2, K4 P1, etc. This pattern has four rows before it repeats--rows 1 and 2 are the same as each other then 3 and 4 are the same as each other, back to 1 and 2. Repeat this sequence any number of times depending upon the size of the panel you wish to create.

You see, so many of these patterns weren't written down but handed down from one to another. Some of these authors have looked at the extant sweaters and have painstakingly counted the stitches and then give us the pattern of what they found. Some say things such as, "I saw this on a fisherman and then knitted up a sample."

I must say, i stand in awe of those people. I can usually tell you if it's knitted or purled, i might even be correct on whether it's wool or a blend, but to look at something and go home and create it without a pattern? Um no, that's in an echelon of knitting where i doubt i'll ever be a member.

And i found that it was these sorts of thoughts that were choking me and my feeble attempts. I decided i needed to follow my gansey path in baby steps, so baby step one after writing out what the chart told me to do was to do just the chart: 39 stitches, and 40 rows. Period. If it created the look i liked, fine, then i could say, yes, this is going into my sweater.

See, the sampler book also shows you how to design your own. And when i saw a picture of a lone lifeboat survivor in his gansey, i realised that was the pattern i wanted, only i haven't found directions for that specific one, only one that's similar. And the bloody chart. That's why i had to find other samples to work that were also similar and ones that i could understand in case i couldn't resolve this chart thing.

Using this thinner yarn with the small needles, i cast on the 39 stitches. Jim, who had been quietly watching me found the ball of yarn too tempting, and had to help me. After he realised i really meant it when i said he wasn't helping in the least, he consoled himself by curling up on my lap and poking only now and again at the needles.

That was last night.

Tonight at my knitting group, i ripped it all out and had to start over. I also lost a dpn, somewhere, most likely in the couch when Jim tried to help me put the knitting away.

sigh.

I have two skeins of yarn wound into easy-to-use balls thanks to a friend's swift and ball winder, and shall start another pair of mittens. For a present and sanity.

The gansey project is an extremely high bar for me, and i want to get it right.

Yes, yes perhaps starting with an easier sweater would make more sense, or one for an infant as it could be done a bit sooner, but i'm not known for taking the easy way when i can find the most labourious, painful way right next to it.

We have long winters here, so there is hope that i can get the project on the needles, and get it finished before i'm an old woman. And, make it a size that will fit me all right even if lose or gain ten pounds.

************an update***************
When i saw the link to Gansey nation on this entry wasn't working and fixed it, i took some time looking around there once again, and i found the pattern of the Whitby life boat man! I don't know how i didn't see it before; perhaps i wasn't ready to find it until now. I am a very happy girl at the moment, and if you'd like to see the look of a finished sample of the pattern, click here. I hope mine can look as lovely.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Truck envy

I still think of my car as "my new car," although it wasn't new when i bought it, but it was new to me. And, i've only recently concluded that it's not new to me anymore.  When i consider buying a vehicle i try to see what i think we'll need for the next
10 years or 100,000 miles or so. And so it was with a start when i realized that i bought my car 9.5 years ago, and yes, i need to consider getting something else.
 
I can still keep my car, as i don't drive a lot of miles these days, and she's wonderfully fuel efficient. But not great in snow, and we get enough snow here
(100 inches/250cm per year) that i need to consider having a better way of navigating snowy roads. Himself is gone often enough that i can't always rely on his all wheel drive vehicle if i need to get someplace, and we have the boat now, too, which we didn't have a decade ago.

Himself's vehicle could most likely tow the boat, but he doesn't think so and doesn't want to try. I needn't rehash the futile conversations we've had about that; i'll say only that i'm still not any more convinced he is right, and he's not any more convinced that i am right, and moreover, is most emphatically unwilling to test the theory to see who is correct.

A few months back, i started noticing trucks. We had a small pickup truck many years ago, and it was quite handy. It had an extended cab, so if you had a bunch of groceries and a passenger, you could put the groceries behind the front seats. There was a small jump seat in the back (think of the little pull down seats flight attendants sit on for landing), and of course, the bed was handy for hauling all kinds of stuff.
 
At first i just noticed the trucks but after Hurricane Sandy and the Nor'easter that blew through here about 10 days later, it went from just looking to downright truck envy. So, as i do whenever i think we may need to consider a new or new-to-us vehicle, i make a list of what we need to have, what we'd love to have, and where we'll compromise.

The list looks something like this:
  1. something that can tow the boat (4 WD most heartily recommended);
  2. something that can haul the kayaks and/or dinghy along with the boat;
  3. something a bit better in snow than my car (4 WD a logical choice);
  4. something that can plough the driveway (currently a neighbour does this with the plough on his truck if i haven't gone out with the snowblower. I can do a whole blog entry all about planning for snow and how to position it so you have space to dump the ploughed stuff come late winter and in fact tried to write one, but it was too boring--not that this is exactly edge-of-your-seat sort of stuff).

The first three are what i'd consider needs for the next vehicle, and the 4th a really nice option.

And so, i found a few used trucks for sale, and some came with ploughs. I started looking and grew disheartened. Used trucks that have ploughs were used for ploughing. Ahem. And a lot of them may have had still somewhat shiny outsides but underneath showed a goodly amount of corrosion and rust. The price point i thought reasonable is barely getting me into the wheel house. And pointing me to most of the rust buckets. There are those people who want a truck because they think guys should drive trucks and they do very little hauling or ploughing, or they've got kids or hunting or fishing buddies, so they opt for the crew cabs where a few homeless guys would have enough room to be very comfy, and the bed is a good deal shorter to make room for the passengers. As 99% of my driving is me alone, that's a bit of overkill.

Speaking of killing, i'm small enough so that most of the larger trucks require me to pull the seat very close to the steering wheel so i can reach the pedals. If the airbag needs to deploy, i'll most likely die. Some have the option (more money of course) where you say how big the driver is, but most larger trucks assume people are at least four inches (8 or 9 cm) taller than i am, and carrying a bit more heft. Death by a safety device. Hmm, not exactly appealing.

When we first met, Himself and i both drove standard transmissions. I'm still in the standard school, but Himself has gone over to the dark side and really loves having an automatic transmission. Very few US trucks offer standard transmissions, and for every 100 trucks you see at a car dealer, you'll be lucky to find one with a clutch. I think a standard transmission offers more control, although there are those who argue that when you're towing and more importantly launching a boat into or pulling it out of the water, automatic is much, much easier.

The little truck we had all those years ago was a standard. It had a V6 so enough to tow stuff if we needed to do so. And i thought about looking at little trucks once again. Only they really don't make little trucks anymore. Ford stopped making the Ranger. I saw a used one (automatic transmission) that fetched a price about a thousand less than a brand new smaller truck.

I've always bought used vehicles and have had a lot of success with them. And this Ranger was more than several thousand above my threshhold price, but i began to reconsider. If i were willing to bump up my price by five or six thousand, how many more options would i have.

Turns out, the answer is many, many more. As in, do i want new or used. The Internet being the handy research tool that it can be, i researched trucks with all sorts of options. I test drove a few, and have a few more models i can test drive, but the conclusions i have so far are these:

  • If i insist on a standard transmission, then i'm looking at foreign trucks, and not many of those are offering lots to choose from. Guess most Americans really don't want a clutch or aren't willing to say it's a deal breaker for them.
  • If i insist on wanting a smaller truck, then i have more new options with foreign trucks.
  • The airbags on most smaller trucks won't kill me if they need to be employed.
  • A smaller truck will most likely fit in the garage. (The barn has been converted to a garage, but the doors hang a tad low in part to allow for the beams and automatic garage door opener. The beams are a structual necessity, the automatic garage door opener a very nice feature. If  i lose the latter, i can gain a few more inches clearance.)
  • A smaller truck is more fuel efficient.
  • Most used smaller trucks have not had a rough life as a work truck, so the corrosion/rust factor tends to be less.
Many smaller trucks have gotten much larger over the last few years, so they look more like a mid-sized truck. My research also shows that most can tow some weight, but there are two standouts in the small truck crowd that can pull over 6000 lbs
(3 tonnes or 2728 kg) and only one has a manual transmission option, and it's one of the models i test drove. It drove very much like Himself's little truck of yore, so i know both of us will be able to drive it all right.

The crew cab's description states it can fit 5 passengers, and while it can, I'm sure taller people would still find it cramped in the back, and i'd rather have the extra room in the truck bed, so the extended cab with the jump seats in the back will probably be more useful, as we can use the space behind there for groceries or what have you. If we have passengers who want to go boating with us, Himself's car can accommodate 4 adults quite easily.

If we wanted it all, we could consider a crew cab with an extended bed. But i believe that's overkill. I much prefer to get something that will beautifully fulfill our needs 90 or 95% of the time than to have something that'll be perfect for those two occasions in ten years that may occur and go unused the rest of the time. Unless those two occasions mean saving someone's life, but hell, we're talking a seat upon which to sit for a ten minute car ride.

Since i'll be the one chiefly driving the truck, i've gone alone to look at what's available. The salesman who had the cream puff Ranger who told me that since they aren't making them anymore, all Rangers command a premium, and really nice ones even more so, lost me when i mentioned that i was considering getting a plough for the truck.

"What do you do now?"

"Usually my neighbour ploughs me out for a very low price."

"Cheaper to stay with your neighbour doing the ploughing," and he gave a knowing nod.

It stuck in my craw when he said that--actually it was the nod that got stuck--and wasn't until later that i figured out why. He was right about the Rangers, as every one i've seen for sale is within a thousand or two of something i could get new, even ones that look "rode hard and put away wet" as the saying goes. And, even in a very snowy winter, i'd still be ahead of the game money-wise having my neighbour plough for me or sticking with the snowblower. But it'd be nice to have the option of ploughing out myself, or if i got caught somewhere and thought to have the plough on the truck before heading out, i could plough my way home safely. And the light went on, then. I couldn't see this salesman telling a guy to stick with his neighbour doing the ploughing. What i could see was him having a convo about ploughs in general and which ones might be a great fit for a small truck. That nod was the nod i've gotten many times during my life--that "there's a good little girl, run along now" nod that automatically deducts points from your IQ or at the least doesn't take you seriously. At least the salesman who tried selling me the rustbucket with a plough showed me how to operate it, and he opened with "I don't think you'll want to test drive the truck with the plough on it, so we'll take it off," and proceeded to talk through the steps he took to do that.

I had a talk with my mechanic about three weeks back to let him know i was thinking of buying a truck. I told him the four items on my needs/very nice to have list, and he told me some pitfalls in some truck models. Since then, i'm leaning more towards the foreign one with the manual tranny, so i need to have another chat with him and get his view on the matter. With year-end clearance sales, i'm thinking i'll be able to find something new that will be more than i wanted to pay initially, but may save me $$ down the road with fewer repairs.

I went through similar angst when i got my dream car nearly 10 years ago. It took me awhile to find anyplace that had them, and then, as daft as it might sound, not only did i want a stickshift, i wanted the car to be blue. I did find one dealership that had three of the model cars i wanted; two were silver, one was blue. Both silver ones were automatic transmissions, and the blue was a stick. The silver ones were new; the blue one was two years old. The price difference wasn't all that great, and i'm sure there are some who would have argued the newer ones were better. But i've been happy as a clam in my little blue space car.

For the truck? If i do decide to go with new, i'm thinking red.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving--in Cyberia?

In the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, and yes, we'll be having turkey this week, which shall make all the cats happy. Himself, too, as he's an adoring fan. When it's just the two of us for The Meal (accompanied by the felines) i don't go to great lengths to make myriad side dishes. Usually mashed potates, candied sweet potatoes, a couple of veggies, cranberry sauce, and a cranberry-apple pie. I also stuff the bird, so there's stuffing, and i make gravy.

This will be Jim's first Thanksgiving, and the first time he'll see a cooked turkey. He likes chicken, which he made known to me the last time i was cutting some up for stirfry. He circled round my feet, and looked expectantly. I didn't take the bait, so he started to claw and climb up my leg. I went to shoo him away, my hand was full of raw chicken smell and with a little bit of the raw meat on my fingers. He licked every finger and removed every morsel of chicken meat. Mission accomplished.

The Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in mid-October, which makes a lot more sense to me, as that's when the bulk of the harvesting is occurring/has just occurred. On the other hand, November can be somewhat dreary, so having a feast day some time during the month is welcome.

So, since i've got off all next week, because yes, i took some vacation, i'll have time for cooking and cleaning. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than proposing one in Cyberia? I'd love to see roasted chestnuts on the menu (Cro), or some sausages to add to the stuffing from Nos. 12 and 21 (John), or rashers from a certain midlife farmwife (Donna), and it'd be great to have the Canadian take so we can compare notes (Carla, Witch, and Gill, even though you've been a more recent transplant to Canada). I'd expect nothing but stellar conversation and wit from a master stonecutter who lives in a compact but adorable city apartment (Tom), and i'd love to hear more about the history of a particular township (Joanne). I know this list isn't complete--the more, the merrier.

And, of course, with a cyber celebration, the cyber tables groan with food that contain no calories and no allergens. Let the feasting and lively conversation begin!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Updates

Sometimes, perhaps it's best we don't always hear how things turned out. We can wonder, hope, and dream, but if the story has an unhappy ending or has entered a very sad chapter, do we really want to know? I've been pondering that since hearing an update this morning on facebook.

Facebook can be very useful in keeping in touch with people. Yes, it can also be a timewaster, as i've mentioned before, but i found it a very useful tool during Hurricane Sandy, for instance, where people could provide updates or friends of theirs could say, "So and so doesn't have power just now, but is otherwise all right." I've also found that for things like reunions, it's incredibly handy.

I've a high school reunion coming up next year, and the wonderful co-ordinator who shouldered the last one is doing this one as well. She's expanded it to include the class year immediately ahead of us and the one the year before that, which was my brother's class. I'm especially happy about the latter, as we moved away after my brother graduated high school, and i ended up graduating someplace else, which never felt like home. I looked through my yearbook from that year and made a mental note of those i hoped would attend, as it'd be nice to catch up with them. I haven't seen a lot of those kids in my brother's class since their graduation, although a few contacted me when Bill died to say how sorry they were. But, his funeral was nearer his home and out-of-state, around the holidays, and during winter, so travelling for the service was a bit challenging.

The reunion co-ordinator is happy to include anyone who went through our school system, even if they moved away before graduation, which is why i'm included on the guest list. Given that i attended kindergarten with some of these folks and knew them up until i moved away, i feel much more kinship with this school than the one from which i graduated.

On a facebook thread, I heard bad news about a boy in my brother's class, and the man who was telling it clearly held him contemptible. A number of us who were shocked to hear this expressed our sorrow, and the messenger was very quick to judge and condemn him, and chide us for seeming to take this slimeball's side. I responded that the messenger was enough younger that he only knew the man from this incident he reported. Those of us who were older could remember when this man was a schoolboy, and if like me, had lost touch with many classmates, had a hard time piecing together that boy they knew in high school with the "slimeball" now presented to us.

For this reunion, the co-ordinator is using facebook as a way of updating people about the event. The date has been changed once, and the location moved to one that could accommodate more people. Now, we need to see if Hurricane Sandy has rendered our venue unuseable, and if so, what other options will be available.

A few new people have responded to the reunion request, one of them being a man who was a year ahead of me in school. He was one of five brothers who lived very near another family with five boys. I briefly dated one of the older boys in this latter family, but before i dated Michael, i'd had a mad crush on P in the other family. P was in my brother's class, and for much of my sophomore (Grade 10) year, my heart seemingly skipped a beat whenever i saw him. I was invisible to him, of course, being younger, and my brother and he, although in one class together, were worlds apart socially. P naturally grouped me with my brother, thus showed no interest.

Yes, i must confess, i wondered if he and his goodlooking friend Art would be at the reunion. Art melted many hearts and was more gregarious than P. Both could be termed as bad boys, i suppose, although Art could charm his way out of just about anything and was quite popular.

And so, my heart raced just a little when i saw P's brother add to the reunion discussion. He'd love to attend, was sick the last time we had one and will try to help in contacting others as he didn't move far from our hometown. The co-ordinator asked for P's email address so that she could invite him as well, and in a succinct sentence, his brother said that wasn't possible as they'd completely lost touch with him because of life decisions P had made. He alluded to what they were, which i won't repeat out of respect to the family, but it made my blood run cold. The five brothers had been rather close, and i'm sure this was heartbreaking for them.

I wondered what events in his life made him choose the path he now walks and realized that if it makes me sad to hear where he is now, perhaps it's best i don't know all the details.

So, there'll be two who though they may walk among us, are lost to us and won't attend. There are a few who have since died, although given the amount of partying that went on, i'm frankly surprised more of us aren't pushing up daisies.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans

Last night after a dear friend who'd been visiting for the weekend returned home, i thought about some of the veterans i've known. Two memories rushed to mind.

I was active in fife and drum for a goodly part of my teenaged years, and one evening after a Christmas parade, three other f&d folks and i piled into a car and headed over to the VFW for a few beers--i was legal by a few months, as the drinking age was 18. Two of the three--R and C-- had served in Vietnam; the third had been too young by a year or so to be called up. I had a few beers, but the rest had many more. R and C both looked at each other and started describing some of what they'd seen. To each other, and each was nodding in his turn. R was part of the Tet Offensive; C had been a machine gunner on a helicopter.

It seemed all of us there were invisible to these two as they traded horrific details, and i was paralyzed as they spoke. An unspoken moment passed between them, and R as if awoken from a trance, glanced over at me. It appeared as though a screen drew up over his and C's faces and he said quietly, "We went so you wouldn't have to. Don't ever ask us about it, because we'll never tell."

A few months later, at many college friends' urgings, i went with them to watch the film The Deer Hunter. I walked out of it after about half an hour, and cried all the way home.

Several years later, i was in my own apartment and earning just enough for my keep. I didn't have a car so walked everywhere, including to and from work. An acquaintance who was fast becoming a friend gave me a lift home sometimes if he happened to be there when i was done my shift. On this particular evening, he drove me home, and i invited him in for a cup of coffee. He agreed, and we sat talking. He suddenly grew quiet and seemed miles away. In an instant, i knew he was having a flashback. "Get down, everybody get down!" he yelled, and he threw himself onto my living room floor. I knew he hadn't dropped any acid in the 60's, but he did go to Vietnam.

I prayed silently, asking what could i do? He was 6'2" (~1.9m) and about a buck eighty-five (13 stone 3 lbs/84kg), i was almost 5'2" (1.58m) and about 108 lbs
(7 stone 10 lbs/49kg). He was trembling, and i lay on top of him, covering his body with mine as best i could. I placed my hands on either side of his broad shoulders and said with a calm, quiet voice in his ear, "I've got you covered. I will keep you safe."

It felt as if i were lying atop an earthquake. I don't know how long we lay prone like that, i'd squeeze his shoulders and repeat like a mantra that i had him covered and would keep him safe. When he stopped his violent trembling, i slid off alongside of him, he took me in his arms and sobbed.

That awkward space appeared next, where i handed him a box of tissues, he had an embarrassed look on his face, grudgingly took one, and i thanked him for the lift home.

He straightened his shoulders, told me you're welcome, cleared his throat, and left.

We never talked about it again, and it was years later that i'd learn the term PTSD-post traumatic stress disorder. Whatever it was called, it scared the hell out of me.

I have a hard time with veterans day and memorial day parades. I see the military personnel, the "lucky ones" who survived and made it back with that haunted, hunted look that's often mostly hidden but just under the surface.

"Thank you" seems wildly insufficient, but it's all i have.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Flanders Fields



In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

—John McCrae, May 1915

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chestnuts

I was going to write a bit about readying myself for winter, checking the larder and all that, but Cro beat me to it, and his pantry shelves look so tidy. Next, i was thinking of single friends and how they are sometimes viewed like lepers but John wrote about that.

Great minds, eh? Okay, now that i've returned from that momentary self delusion...

Hurricane Sandy went a bit south of us so while we had some rain, high wind gusts, some limbs fall from trees, and a complete tree or two, as well as power outages, there was really little indication here that this was the largest storm ever recorded. We don't often lose power, but the lights can flicker now and again in high winds, and as we are on the coast, high winds are not uncommon.

We were more concerned about the Nor'easter which arrived here last night, bringing snow, and i must say, i wasn't quite ready for it. I usually find the first snow of the season delicious. I welcome the brisk, crisp air, the chance to snuggle under sweaters, and the usual search through the closet for boots and a pair of matching mittens or gloves. But it caught me mentally unprepared this year, and i felt rather gloomy yesterday when i saw that my larder wasn't as stocked as i like it to be by first snow, the second raking of leaves in the front yard didn't happen, and i nearly missed the postwoman's arrival. I was walking towards the letterbox to put letters in for her to take, as she pulled up. Letters. It's been a long time since i sent a proper letter. No, they were cheques, as i really don't like electronic banking.

Over my lunch break yesterday, i went to the grocery store to stock up on some things, and silently clucked when i returned knowing i wouldn't have time to do the last bit of raking before dark as i needed to get back to work. At least i had gotten the first raking done, and that's what got me to thinking about chestnuts.

The trees in our front yard are for the most part old oaks and maples. The garden patch, which the previous owners had sectioned off with green wire fencing, houses a few rhubarb plants, two grape bushes, and cranberry plants (those being planted by me last year). The card that came with the cranberry plants said to mulch around them with leaves over winter. The mature trees in the front make it quite easy for me to do this, and so last year, i raked when half the leaves were off the tree to cover the cranberry plants (they were too small for me to qualify as bushes), and what i didn't use there i used in the asparagus bed on the other side of the yard.

The second raking was good for mulching around some roses, and any leaves i had left went to a leaf pile behind the barn.

This year, newly out of my walking cast, Himself away, and Hurricane Sandy approaching, i thought it best to do another two-part raking, even if it did feel a bit like Sisyphus. I knew what areas i wanted to mulch and was raking leaves for that rather than for cosmetic purposes. Many had already blown down, more than i would need, and i didn't relish having to cart the extra to the other side of the yard behind the barn. Once raked into a pile, i couldn't just leave the pile there.

I was reading through the classified ads of our local weekly paper, and saw an advert asking for leaves. The ad read that the person would cart them away for free if they were in bags or piles. I started raking and called after a bit. If he'd already had enough takers and wasn't interested in my leaves, i didn't need to rake any more for my mulching needs. He answered, was happy to take my leaves and would arrive next day, late morning.

Overnight, of course, more leaves fell, and i hustled outside to add the newly fallen to the piles all over the front yard. I then started to weed the section of the asparagus bed i hadn't gotten to before covering it with leaves. He arrived as i was weeding, and i went over to shake his hand.

"Are you here to help?" he asked.

I liked how he got right to the point, told him i'd be glad to, and we loaded up the piles by raking them onto large tarps he had brought then lifting the tarps into the back of his truck. He wanted the leaves for mulch in his orchard. Oak leaves took a long time to break down, so he loved those for the orchard. He preferred maple for the gardens, since maple leaves broke down faster. His truck had a few bumper stickers on them, one which read, "Dirt Worshipper and Tree Hugger." So his comment about which leaves were best for which purposes didn't surprise me at all.

We collected the piles closest to the road first, and they were nearly all oak leaves. Between the garden patch the previous owners fenced in and the open side yard, there's a thicket of trees--a large evergreen, some straggly maples, and one notched tree that reminded me of ash, although the leaves were a bit different. Always meant to look up what kind of leaf it was but never seemed to get around to it. As we worked our way towards the pile in this open side yard, he grabbed one of the small, yellow, oval leaves.

"This is elm!" he exclaimed. "Where's the elm tree?"

Elm? I knew there was a huge elm by the town office, and as a child i remember the lovely shade they provided on many streets in my hometown, but then Dutch Elm Disease struck. I wasn't very old when that happened, and as i thought on that, i pointed to the tree i thought was ash. A scant handful of leaves still clung tiredly to one of its branches.

"Oh, i thought that was an ash tree when i looked at it," he said. I nodded, mumbled that i had, too, and felt very happy inside. No wonder the leaves didn't look familar to me. I hadn't seen them in nearly 45 years and couldn't remember them clearly enough from childhood to know what they were. I mentioned planting a ginko seedling at my last location. A friend saud that i wouldn't be alive to see it grow to any great height. While i knew that was true, i told him it gave me hope that future generations might.

We talked about his orchard--he's got pears, peaches, a few apples. And chestnuts. By this point, the truck was nearly filled with leaves, and the few piles that were left would be no problem for me to add to my mulch spots. He pointed to the bumper sticker on his car: TACF, the American Chestnut Foundation. He also pointed to his cap, which sported the same logo. He's a high ranking member in the organisation, and through back breeding, they're growing Restoration® chestnut trees.

Chestnut trees were a US staple in eastern forests until about 1950 when an Asian fungus wiped out most of them. The TACF is cross-breeding Chinese chestnut trees, which are resistant to the fungus with surviving US chestnut trees, and when those trees reach a certain age, they take the most desirable ones and cross-breed again with US chestnut trees. Lather, rinse, repeat. The goal is to breed a tree that retains many of the American chestnut characteristics but one that is resistant to the fungus. The Restoration® chestnut trees are 94% American. They use US chestnut trees from the same state where the orchards will be planted, so when they are ready to offer the seedlings to the public, the US chestnut part of the tree will be very similar to surviving chestnut trees in that same geographic area.

In order to have an orchard of them, one needs about 3/4 acre, which would use up most of our open land, so i couldn't offer to be a spot for an orchard. If i want to be a member and pay a higher than regular membership price, i can get two trees. Or more, if wish to pay a good deal more.

The literature he handed me (only after asking if i'd be interested in seeing it) mentioned how chestnuts provide food for all types of wildlife here: wild turkeys, white tailed deer, black bears. I've seen all three in my back yard--even without chestnut trees. It would take several years before the trees would bear fruit. I dug in my asparagus and cranberries last year knowing it would take a few seasons before i could have anything to harvest. Why not add chestnuts to the list?

And so he drove away with a truck full of leaves, leaving me to smile at the elm that somehow avoided a plague that wiped out most of its kin and wondering where the chestnuts ought to go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Question 1: citizen initiative


Do you want to allow the state to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples?
 
The ballot measure states:

"This citizen-initiated legislation would remove the existing prohibition on same-sex marriage...and allow the state to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples. The legislation also provides that the marriage of a same-sex couple that is licenced and certified under the laws of another state would be recognized as valid for all purposes under the laws of this state.

"No member of the clergy is required under this legislation to perform any marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs, and no place of worship is required to host a marriage in violation of the beliefs of that religious organization. The legislation also expressly provides that the refusals to peform or to host a marriage shall not be the basis upon which to file a lawsuit against, or to find liable, a member of the clergy or place of worship for refusing to perform or to host a marriage.

"If approved, this citizen-initiated legislation would take effect 30 days after the Governor proclaims the official results of the election."

A "YES" vote is to enact the legislation.
A"NO" vote opposes the legislation.

*******************************************************************************
The people said it with votes.

The answer is YES.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Referenda

Besides the vote for president on Tuesday, we have a number of local races and quite a few referenda. Most are bond questions, and frankly, i don't like the way most are worded. They are all for different capital improvements throughout our state, but they're glommed together. One is asking if it's all right if we have a 30 million dollar bond for, and here it provides a laundry list of items with attached dollar amounts. Some of the items seem worthy of consideration but some do not. In some cases, i like the items but think the wrong amount of money is being apportioned. However we can vote either for or against. So i am mulling over which i think may be worthy enough of a yes or which i feel are most pressing for a yes.

Question 1 is the referendum that's getting most of the press, with blue signs telling all who can read to vote NO and orange sides telling all who can read to vote YES. It's a referendum that appeared on the ballot before and was narrowly voted down. It pertains to gay marriage, and a yes vote says you are in favour of allowing persons of the same sex who consider themselves a couple the option of becoming married and having the same rights and obligations of those couples where one's a male and one's a female. Voting no means you are not in favour.

At the last local election or maybe the one before that, after i was done voting, a woman asked if i'd sign a petition for this question to appear on the ballot for this election. There are a certain number of signatures which must be collected before an item can appear on the ballot. She went onto explain that it was narrowly defeated the last time it was put to the vote, and i asked when that was. It was after we had bought the house here, but were still residents at the last location, so we hadn't voted in any of the elections here. I asked her if it was the same one they had on the ballot before, and that they thought perhaps public opinion may have changed?

She replied no, the wording had changed somewhat. Unlike the earlier time, this one gives clergy the right of refusing to marry gay couples--the first one did not. I told her i could see why it hadn't passed the first time, then. I could think of one church i attended where they'd NEVER consent to something like that, and i attended another church where they'd rush to be the FIRST ones to have gay weddings.

Like it or not, marriage is a civil union in this country, which may or may not have a religious ceremony. For those not wishing any religious trappings, they can simply go to a local office, get a licence and have a justice of the peace do the honours. Takes about 10 minutes. You need the licence in order to have the marriage "count." You needn't see any clergy, and even if you went through a wedding ceremony in the largest house of worship possible, it doesn't count without the licence.

I think Question 1 will pass this time around. One of my former bosses is gay, is madly in love with her partner and would love to get married. They live in a state that doesn't allow gay marriage. Fortunately, both of their families understand the depth of this couple's commitments and feelings, so if one is deathly ill, the other will have the first sayso about what needs to be done, and not like those horrific stories one reads about where estranged family members show up and completely cut out the partner from any of the decisions. As if they simply didn't exist, the love wasn't real, not looking, not looking, not looking.

About 1990, i was attending a church that had a Lenten study group that met, not surprisingly, during Lent, where we discussed all sorts of topics. One of topics was on gay people in the church,. How did we feel about that? I said that i only cared about someone's sexual orientation if i were interested in sleeping with them--or rather lying awake with them--and otherwise couldn't be bothered. I didn't agree with people who grouped homosexuals and perverts together. Pervs could be homosexual or heterosexual.

A few people cleared their throats, and the rector then asked me about gays in ecclesiastical roles--would i mind having a gay priest lead the service. No, i wouldn't mind, i told him. I didn't say anything else but immediately recalled a wonderful gay, Catholic priest i had met in college. He gave heartfelt sermons, and his services were always packed with students from all over the college campus. Many of us weren't Catholic, but we liked him. He didn't care we weren't Catholic, he wanted to help us to know God.

The rector then asked if there were people who wouldn't mind if someone were gay, but who wouldn't want to know because it would make them uncomfortable in some way. I clearly saw some people look shocked as they realized they fell into that camp. He went on saying that as we are all doing our best to serve God, shouldn't we allow those who feel called by God to serve? Why should we say no to someone, based on sexual orientation.

"You mean the way women were told 'no' for centuries because they didn't have the proper plumbing? And how, in many places, it still matters?" i asked.

The rector nodded, and then as our usual practice, we had to divide up into small groups and discuss the matter. Several people purposely stayed away from me, and the rector did not assign me to their group. An older woman i knew from church was in my group. She was clearly agitated by the topic. "Why should it matter and do we as a parish have to know? Is this some sort of question that the search committee would put forth to a potential priest in our parish? Or to a person just visiting our church and perhaps wanting to be a member?"

I was struck with the urgency in her voice, and as she spoke, i realized her voice was tinged with fear. Why? i asked silently to myself, and i looked at her as she was speaking. Then it dawned on me. She's gay. And closeted. And content to stay that way. Well, she'd have to be, wouldn't she? She was a teacher for years. And prevailing attitudes lumping together gays and perverts....

It made me angry. Here was a lovely, kind person, who always exhibited wonderful patience with learners of all ages, skills, races, and creeds. And i wondered how many other gay people might feel threatened as she did, if they were outed. I wanted to try and turn the conversation more towards supporting those people who wanted to let the world know, rather than force those who'd rather stay quiet to speak up. I just don't do subtle well, and when she was done speaking i found myself saying, "I don't think the rector meant that every person would have to broadcast his or her sexual orientation. I think he wanted us to talk more about what about those who DID want others to know about themselves. Would we be so uncomfortable with that that we'd not want these people in the same building or worship service with us, or would we say they can pray with us in church but not lead us in service. I don't think i have anything else to add to what i said initially when we were still in the large group. The only time it matters to me is if i want to have sex with someone, and since i'm married, that'd be a different situation, eh?"

There were smiles in our group, and the discussion did return more to the scenario the rector had described. The older woman mostly listened after that and looked a bit shaken. I felt bad for her because i knew the matter was close to her heart, and yet she didn't want to give herself away. As we were wrapping things up, she said that she didn't think people ought to be forced to tell, and here she looked directly at me. "I'm only going to ask if i'm trolling for sex, and then i have to hope that it doesn't get back to Himself."

I lost touch with that older woman after i stopped attending that church, and i don't even know if she's still living. I have thought about her from time to time, and wonder if she'd think she'd be more accepted now, or would she be more comfortable now letting people know she was gay. Would she be glad to know i now live in a place that wants to put to vote the opportunity for a gay couple to have the same legal rights as a heterosexual couple? Would a friend of ours, who is also closeted?

I doubt either would tell me, although i'm sure both know that my feelings for them wouldn't change. If either had a great love in their lives, i'd be glad to meet them. And if they wanted to have that piece of paper making their partnership legally binding, i'd love to celebrate that with them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sea Fever

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

— John Masefield, 1901
 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Willow Manor Ball

We had to scurry around and batten all the hatches in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy's arrival, so i didn't think we'd make it to the ball at all!

However, we are here with bells (and masks) on. Plan on spinning around the dance floor a few times since i am out of my walking cast, although i did have to compromise and wear sensible shoes.



My date was a bit hesitant at first about attending, but i assured him that all of us will be masked, so he needn't worry. Here he is, putting on his dress mask. He felt that since this is a dressy affair, he should wear that rather than his usual workaday one.


I'm so glad the weather hasn't dampened anyone's spirits! The music is just lovely, and thanks, Willow Manor for hosting such a lovely, lovely event.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Embarrassing moments

Maria over at Just Eat Your Cupcake shared an embarrassing moment that happened to her, and as i read this particular blog entry, i remembered two that happened to me and one that involved someone else.

The first one i thought of happened when i was living in France for a year, participating in a study abroad program. It was soon after i have arrived in France, and the weather was still warm. I was wearing a tan cotton dress with black and white piping that i had recently bought. I was in class, and we were taking a test. I finished the test, and went to hand in my paper.  My professor nodded at me when i handed in my paper, and when i turned around to go back to my desk, the professor said,

"Pardonnez-moi, mais vous avez une tache."

I racked my brain for what the word tache meant. I could only think of the German word Tache, which meant pocket, and why would he say to me, "Excuse me, but you have a pocket?" I happen to notice another student, David whathisname looked embarrassed when our eyes met, and i wondered why.

The professor realized i didn't understand, and he repeated the word again slowly, as you would to a small child. "Tache. Vous avez une tache."

Nope, still didn't register, so he resigned himself to say, "En anglais, je pense que le mot est 'spot.'"

Oh, so i had a spot. Well figures, i had on a new garment, and leave it to me to spill something on it. I thanked him and as i could leave since i was finished with the test, i stopped in the ladies room to attend to my tache.

The mirrors were small, so i couldn't really see anything, and decided to use the loo when i was there. Once in the stall, i found the tache all right. My period had started with no warning whatsoever, and yes, since i was wearing a cotton dress, can we just say that i displayed cotton's absorbency on the light colored dress most vividly. Frantically searching through my pocketbook, i discovered i didn't have any feminine supplies with me. I made do with the small squares of toilet paper, took off my dress and stood at the small basin furiously washing out the stain. It lifted out easily enough, thank goodness, but now i had to put the sodden mess back on and take a metro ride to pick up some feminine supplies (which were on my shopping list to get since my supplies were dwindling and clearly all the way dwindled in my purse) and then take another metro home. The day had threatened rain, so i thankfully had my raincoat with me, which i put on and didn't dare remove for the rest of this story, even though the sun had returned.

I got to the store all right, found the saninaps i needed, and they had only very large packages. That was fine, i was pretty sure i'd have need of all of them before i was slated to return home. I went to pay, and the cashier informed me that she didn't have any bags big enough for them, sorry. I was appalled as i was used to having anything pertaining to feminine supplies being placed in a bag. I had already paid, and at least the large package had handles at the top, so it would be easy to carry, so i nodded, took my package, and fled the store.

On the metro ride home, a good looking man wordlessly flirted with me. It did my heart good, and i nearly forgot my soggy dress and how idiotic i must have looked wearing my raincoat in brillant sunshine. I was also glad i had the sense to turn the front of the package towards me so i didn't have to advertise the product. My stop was before the good looking man's. He flashed a great smile at me as i descended from the car, and i smiled shyly back. I walked from my metro stop back to my place as quickly as i could and once i got home, i looked down at the package. Yes, i had succeeded in keeping the name hidden, but i hadn't looked carefully on the back of the package, where they had a picture seemingly larger than life about how to use these saninaps, since they were beltless. Huge picture of panties and how to peel and place the pad. And i had flirted with a great looking guy all the while holding this for all to see! Good Lord, no wonder why he was smiling so broadly! I never saw him again, which was probably just as well.

The second moment happened 10 years or so later. I was working at a neighborhood bank then, and the borough where the bank was located did not have mail delivery. Everyone had to have a post office box, and one of my jobs was to get the mail every day. I went to the ladies' room before heading over to the post office. We had a lobby full of people, and i wanted to hurry. I was wearing a flowered suitdress with white pantyhose. I had quickly pulled up the pantyhose after using the loo, washed my hands, and hurriedly walked into the lobby to make my way to the front door. The UPS delivery truck was outside, and our usual UPS driver was making a delivery. I had turned when somoene said hello to me, and when i turned back, the UPS driver's face was scarlet. I immediately thought of David whathisname, but i knew this couldn't be tache related. The usually chatty driver pointed at me and stammered, "You--your--you," and our assistant manager cackled.

"Megan, your dress!" she said, and i slowly craned my neck to see what she was talking about. In my haste, i had neatly tucked the back of my skirt inside my pantyhose. Ahem. With a lobby full of people who had now witnessed this and unlike cute metro guy whom i never saw again, these people were friends and neighbors. People i saw every week. I calmly stood there and pulled my skirt out of its pantyhose trap. I didn't see the sense in returning to the ladies' room to rearrange it. I thanked Lisa, the assistant manager who was convulsing with quiet laughter. I turned and thanked the UPS guy who was frozen. I quietly walked out the front door and when i got to the post office, i just howled. It was so embarrassing. But so funny. And it was on our security tapes. One for the ages.

The UPS man did not have direct eye contact with me for a long while afterwards. Since that day, i've never hurried out of a loo stall without first checking the pantyhose situation. EVER.

The third event happened several years after the bad tuck incident. Our office building, which housed several businesses, had to evacuate because of a bomb scare. We had had a rash of these, and soon after this particular day, the school kids who were calling these in were caught.

Anyhow, we all trooped outside, and i was once again amazed to see the number of people working in that building. We could only go back in after the firetrucks arrived and fire fighters had searched the building. It was early in the autumn with a bit of a chill, so i was glad i had thought to grab my coat on the way out. The fire fighters came out of the building and gave the all clear for us to go back inside. People i didn't know from another business on the same floor as our company merged with my coworkers and me as we filed through the doors. I was looking down at the ground and noticed the person in front of me was wearing white slacks. I thought of a number of people who would tsk-tsk about wearing white after Labor Day (early September holiday), although really if one wanted to consider white slacks and shorts as summer wear, i held the personal belief that one could wear them until the start of autumn and be all right. And in places that had mild weather into November, why shouldn't someone wear them? The slacks had a nice cut, and as i was admiring the line up the leg, i happened to notice a small spot of blood on the backside. I wanted to let this poor woman know right away, as it wasn't a huge spot and not all that noticeable, but still, should be taken care of sooner rather than later. I looked up, ready to tap her shoulder, when i saw that it wasn't a woman, but a man.

And here, i confess, dear blog readers, all three of you—well, maybe eleven if those of you who kindly follow do indeed read each entry—that i stopped midway to tap completion. I had no problem letting a woman know, but a man? I chickened out and said nothing. I kept thinking that when he got home or next used a washroom and saw things for himself, he'd most likely hope nobody saw anything. And i fervently hoped that was the case. I knew I wasn't going to say anything.

I have come to laugh about the tache incident, and as previously stated, i was laughing almost immediately afterwards about the pantyhose tuck, but this third event still leaves me ashamed that i couldn't bring myself to let this man know. And until this blog entry, i really haven't mentioned it to anyone. Embarrassing moments can be bad enough without an audience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

For John

I just came across this picture and thought of you, Mr Gray.


Is this something Badger would get up to?

Monday, October 22, 2012

For Hippo

I didn't have my camera with me to take a picture of the Mercedes i actually saw, Tom, but this is pretty close.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

After a blistering work schedule, where we had a deadline and tons of changes at the last minute, i finally have a moment to catch my breath. Which actually meant that i spent most of this grey, rainy day not doing much of anything.

The walking cast is once again, a thing in the past. The orthopaedist looked at new X-rays on Wednesday, and she liked how well i was healing and how much hard bone was in place. It's not all the way there yet, but enough so that i'm back to wearing a pair of shoes. She cautioned that i need to wear ones that give me a lot of support. I nodded, and am being a model patient in that regard. It gives me all the more impetus to pare down the dress shoes i have in my closet.

I've spent the last two days trying to reacclimate to life without the boot. I still go down steps in a very wooden fashion, as if i were still wearing it, and i had to regain my balance and force myself to distribute my weight evenly rather than having the right leg bear more of the weight. I stepped on the scale and haven't lost or gained any weight, but i've lost a 1/4 inch in my left thigh and left calf. Prior to this my right and left legs were the same size. The doc did say to "ease back into [my] usual activities," which is prudent, of course, but i'm not very good at easing. I'm much more of an analogue girl, so i've given myself the rest of the week to get used to walking around, do normal things and see how the foot feels.

Walking on uneven ground is still a bit tricky and causes some wincing on my part, but i'm stepping carefully and doing stretches.

If the weather is clear tomorrow, i hope to mow the back yard and to finish decommissioning the boat. I've got a number of winter projects for the boat and want to see if there are one or two i can get done before winter truly arrives.

The past few weeks have been a blur with my work schedule, and i feel a bit rumpled up in my mind. Having a day or two where i can putter about the house and yard not only will put things to rights, but make me feel a bit more sane.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy birthday, Mom.

I've been out of sorts all week, well, carryover from last week what with Freaky Friday and all, plus still hobbling with the walking cast and spent the earlier part of the week fighting off some cold/flu bug. Add to that working a few late nights plus short nights of sleep, and menses—well, no wonder why i'm cranky.

Last night, i met up with my knitting group. We usually we meet on Mondays, but M, a former member who moved away, was going to be in town on Tuesday and staying through Saturday, so we changed our meeting night to Wednesday so we could see M and catch up. I parked in the driveway since i have to take off the walking cast to drive and put it back on when i arrive at my destination. I don't have to worry about passing motorists if i park in the driveway, rather than on the street, which is where i typically park for knitting night. M had parked behind me in the driveway and joked that i was stuck waiting for her to leave until i could be sprung free. She meant no harm in it, but i felt a wave of exhaustion hit me a half hour before she was ready to go, and i couldn't wait to get home and crawl into bed.

It's funny how much energy healing takes, and when i got home, Jim ran outside. I don't like him outside after dark, and he thinks it's a game if i try and go after him. He came back in soon enough, but it just felt like one more thing, and after he came in, i burst into tears.

Just one of those moments where i wanted something in my life to be easy and felt nothing was. Before i could complete that thought, i chided myself for being so forlorn. WHAT was the matter with me? And then i realized that the 11th was my mother's birthday, and why i can't say, but i felt more sad than usual that she's not on the planet. I remembered my freshman year in college, when i was glad to be back in New England. My dad had been transferred several years before, and the plan was that my mom and we kids would stay in the old location until my brother and i finished high school, then my mom would move to the transferred location. But, the drive back and forth for long weekends and school vacations took a toll on Dad, and so we moved after my brother finished high school, and i had two years left. All of us hated the transferred location. No autumn to speak of, among other things. The leaves simply grew tired of hanging on the branches and fell without any colourful fanfare. And so it was my freshman year, that i picked up some of the falling leaves, stuffed them in two envelopes and mailed them to my mother. A taste of New England, as it were.

I could never really draw--even stick people are daunting to me, but i tried my best to draw a leaf on one envelope, and it looked bad enough that i didn't try on the other. I had tried drawing a maple leaf, but it looked more like a pot leaf. Yeah, well, i wasn't sending my mom dope, so no worries. She only got one of the envelopes, and it was the one without my feeble leaf attempt.

That following spring i wanted to send her a single rose on Mother's Day, accompanied by a poem i wrote for her. The florist i called wouldn't deliver just a single rose, and i didn't have enough money to send a proper bouquet, although i did tell the florist how much i could spend. He laughed at the paltry amount, so i told my mom my plan and sent her the poem. I promised myself i'd be sure to set aside enough money the following year so when Mother's Day rolled around, i could do something nice for her.

But she died about three months before the next year's Mother's Day, and i was in France.

There's been so much in my life that's happened that i would love to have shared with her. She knew i got accepted into a study abroad programme but lived only a few weeks after i received the confirmation letter. I know she would have welcomed the letters i wrote to those back home. She never saw me graduate college, nor did she get to meet Himself, and neither of my parents lived to see us walk down the aisle.

I am so glad she didn't dawdle while she was here on the planet with me but tried her best to see to it that my toolbox would have the tools i'd need to build a successful life. And that i knew how to use those tools. I am now older than she was when she died, yet i don't feel older when i think of her. I see elderly women now who are from my mother's generation, and i wonder what my mother would have been like as an octogenarian.

I've had enough time to get plenty used to the idea that she's not here, and for the most part, i've simply gone on to live my life, but there are those days where i miss her very deeply, as deeply as any child would its mother, while the adult me is suspended and can do nothing to help. Yesterday and today both were simply yet another one of those times where there was pervading sadness. Where i'd give just about anything to be able to pick up the phone and say, "Happy birthday, Mom." Or send some flowers. Or autumn leaves.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Freaky Friday

It's been a hectic few weeks, and my Friday was the sort that makes for good blog reading, i suppose, but i'd just as soon not relive it all again. My workday felt a cross between a live-action Dilbert comic and the movie Brasil peppered with moments of Waiting for Godot and Groundhog Day.

I wanted to get the last bit of work done when Jim decided he needed to use a litterbox and chose the  makeshift one i have in my office. Its base is the top of an office box that once contained reams of office paper. I slipped a plastic liner around it and just this week thought i ought to use something a bit more permanent. So, a new litterbox was on my shopping list, and i was deliberating whether i ought to do the shopping after my work day on Friday night or just wait until the weekend.

Jim decided it for me because earlier when he had used the makeshift box, he took the overhanging part of the plastic liner and pulled it across the top of the litter. When he went to use the box again, he peed between the plastic and box. I do have the whole thing sitting on a black, plastic tray, so it was all contained, but still, there i was furiously typing away to meet deadline when the distinct sound of urination followed by the strong smell of cat urine filled the air. By the time i turned my head, Jim was more than halfway done, so there was little to do but let him finish and do my bit of shopping the second i got done with work.

I did a bit of muscial litterboxes before going shopping, as i wanted to get another covered one and thought it'd work best putting it in the guest room, and moving the one in the guest room, a small, open one, into my office since Jim seems to be the only one who uses the litter setup in my office.

Jo was outside, and Jim and Phoebe were in, so i washed the litterboxes and changed the litter while i was at it, discovering that i needed more litter so used up what was there and added that item to my list. I washed the black trays as well, which i use as bases for two of the boxes, as i saw that some urine had found its way onto the tray from the smaller box. I scrubbed, rinsed, dried, set things up, and carried out the bag with the soiled litter and makeshift litterbox with me after locking the door and having list in hand. The bag went into the bin, and i got in the car and used some hand sanitizer before setting off. 

It was supper time and i figured it would be best if i got a bite to eat before tackling the shopping. I stopped at a chain diner type place and liked a sandwich they'd had on their menu for years. A couple was ahead of me waiting for a table, and it was clear they were in the early part of their relationship. They couldn't keep their hands off each other, and she kept cradling his buttocks with her hands as they talked with the hostess. No, they'd prefer a booth, if one were available. Bloody hell, you'd prefer a room more like, i thought as i stood there realizing that my leg was now starting to throb because i hadn't elevated it as much doing my work day as i probably should have, so it was complaining. I wanted to sit down, but even if i did, there wasn't any place i could elevate my leg easily, and i was wearing a skirt, as that's easier with the walking cast. The woman happened to look at me when she groped her boyfriend's backside for the third time, and i saw a lot of mileage in her face. I don't think she's always travelled easy paths, her hair looked bleached one too many times, and her jeans were bordering on too tight to walk easily.

I chided myself for being so judgemental. I was just cross at having one of those days where nothing seemed to go right, and well, if she's finally found someone she finds wonderful, bully for her.

No, there were no booths available, so they made do with a table.

The hostess saw me next, and sat me at a combination booth/table where one of the seats was like a booth and the other a chair. I was grateful that she sat me there as i could easily prop my leg up on the chair opposite me and had a bit of room to flop.

My waitress was young and had been sat a large party only a few minutes before. I quickly found out that one of them worked at a school district and she had some sort of grievance because they hadn't honoured the time she was supposed to have for vacation. Another person at their table was hard of hearing and the person sitting next to him was trying to have another conversation so the speaker was nearly yelling.

The menu was a new menu, and the sandwich i wanted wasn't listed. The waitress had never heard of it, and she suggested a workaround, which i agreed to try. She brought me my salad promptly, and after i finished, i needed to use the restroom. The grievance lady was now just wrapping up her story, the other conversation with the deaf/hard of hearing person had concluded, and as i rose, i caught of whiff of cat urine. It was only then i realized i had seen a wet spot on my skirt when i rinsed off the black trays after scrubbing them. Only, that wet spot must have dripped on there before... before... Oh, God, i was hoping no one else smelled it, but it was a bit late in the game to say anything, so i went in hoping i could clean up and get on with things.

The set up they had in the restroom was only with hand dryers, so there was no paper towelling i could use, and i had taken off my sweater because it was warm in the restaurant and had left it at my table. And, as i discovered when i looked down, the wet spot had since dried or been blotted by my sweater, so i wasn't exactly sure where the spot was. Or even if my skirt still smelled like it, or if it was all in my sweater now.

I returned to my table to find my sweater in the same place i'd left it, but everything else had been removed save the placemat. Salad dish, silverware, napkin, beverage all gone. The busboy must have thought i had left but then saw my sweater so stopped clearing things away. The large table was being served and half of the people were complaining about their order. Condiments added that weren't requested or left off when they should have been on.

My sandwich arrived looking very different from what i had described as what i had wanted, and what the waitress thought this would be, but i was really hungry and wanted to remain as low profile as the cat pee would allow me. Which i felt sure everyone on the planet could smell except me, now that i was desensitized.

A party had been sat right next to my table, and when i sat down, the smell of mothballs wafted over from them. Oh, good, that could cancel out any cat pee odor. Children at another table kept kicking their shoes off and even though their parents said it was time to go, the parents stood talking to another couple seated at a nearby table for the better part of 20 minutes.

If Rod Serling had suddenly appeared, it would've felt quite normal. Or at least have confirmed that i had indeed entered the Twilight Zone.

After paying my dinner check, i made my way to the big box store for the kitty litter and cat pan as my preferred local place was closed. I used the motorized cart thinking it best for my leg, only i hadn't figured on the aisles being not quite wide enough for me and a regular cart meeting up. I'm sure on paper, it's large enough, only just, and that's if both hug the edge as they pass. But there had to be some specially priced items in a cardboard tower in the aisle and the guy pushing the cart was a large man and clearly used to walking in the middle so as to avoid knocking anything over. I knew i'd laugh about it later, only just at that moment, it wasn't funny. I expected a Greek chorus to arrive any moment to sing about the fandango the large man and the cat pee lady in the motorized cart were undertaking.

Then i looked at the contents in my cart's basket. Kitty litter, tinned cat food, a litter pan, kitten kibble, and two bags of cat treats. Bloody hell, no wonder why i smelled like cat pee. I'm sure they all thought i was a loony and one of those crazy cat ladies.

Once outside, i transferred my items to a regular cart and pushed it to my car. I drove home as quickly as i could, grimacing as i depressed the clutch. Oh, the things we take for granted, like unfractured fifth metatarsals, clothes that don't smell like urine, and popular sandwiches offered for years on a menu.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzlG28B-R8Y