Friday, December 26, 2014

New Boxing Day Tradition??

I can only hope. A local theatre that shows the "Live in HD" performances, lots of indie films, and some live acts showed "The Sound of Music" this afternoon as a sing-along. It was a fundraiser for a local charity, and for your $10 you got a fun bag with some props in it, an introduction explaining the items in the Fun Bag and when they were to be used, as well as coaching on what to say when certain characters came on the screen or certain actions (like saluting Captain Von Trapp or the hand gestures needed for Do Re Mi).

It was loads of fun, and nearly all of us there were first-timers. I do hope they decide to do it every year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Greetings

No matter what we celebrate this time of year, I wish it to be a happy occasion for us all.

Merry Christmas
                                        Cool Yule
                                                               Happy Hanukkah
                                                                                                   Festivus for the rest of us

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

I skipped hockey this afternoon because I wanted to see the documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, and it was showing only for one show in the middle of my hockey time.

I remember his tv show, and I had a bit of a crush on him. In later years, when I saw clips of his guitar playing, I was amazed. When I heard he was doing a good-bye tour after publicly disclosing that he had Alzheimer's, I had mixed feelings about trying to attend a concert. I've seen most of the performers live I've really wanted to see; he and Gordon Lightfoot were two I had somehow missed and would have been glad to drive a distance to see, but I didn't want to see him on a bad day and ending up not being able to perform, so I didn't pursue any of the closer options, which were still several hours or more away.

The documentary is an honest look at some of the things he's dealing with and his loved ones are dealing with as well as snippets from his good-bye tour. It was hard to watch at times, and I know I wasn't the only one in the small audience who teared up when he couldn't remember the names of his children or that he'd been at the Grammys where he got a lifetime achievement award. He remembered being there, and remembered what he sang, but had no idea why he was there.

The doctors talked a bit about the deterioration in his brain, and they marvelled at how the musical part of him kept going. That, for a time, it seemed to improve other parts of his brain, too. But, as we know the tide does eventually turn. The doctors were still surprised that the music stayed.

Now, i'm not a virtuoso by any stretch, but I am musically inclined. I can tell you songs come back to me that I haven't heard in 50 years, and I know all the words. They are in some deep recess, perhaps right next to my soul, and I don't need to think about it, they're just there. Same thing when I play my fife. Sometimes i'll be playing, and a tune I haven't thought about for ages just springs forth. My fingers retain the muscle memory, and I play it. I have to wonder if that's similar to what was happening with him. How even if the words don't come back, the tune does.

At the end of the documentary the audience was extremely quiet and sorrowful. I gather that most of us were Glen Campbell fans at least some point in our lives, and the documentary didn't sugarcoat this man's struggle. I was feeling rather forlorn and thought of people I knew with dementia.

I hadn't been home long when the phone rang. A dear friend called just to say hi and let me know she'd been thinking of me. I'd been thinking of her earlier in the day, too, and it was wonderful to chat. Being busy, while the truth, is still a poor excuse. We need to stay in touch with those we love while we can do so, and while each of us can be present in the moment.

I don't usually write film reviews, and this was a hard watch, but worth it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


The weather is dismal grey this week, and it's got me to pondering about things. One of the things that keeps coming into mind is actually a person and his behavior. A friend and I who met one another while sailing have often remarked how some people are very different on land from how they are at sea, and we wondered why that was. The only thing I could come up with was that when we were sailing with these folks, they were on vacation so maybe felt less stress or that not having the same routine that they have on land makes a difference.

As I've shared before, I joined facebook only with the greatest reluctance when a fife and drum friend urged a bunch of us to join, so we could stay in touch. I've accepted friend requests from others I know outside the f&d world, such as some of my sailing acquaintances and friends.

Apparently, there are some people whose personalities change not only when the go from sea to land, but also when they get on facebook.

This sailing acquaintance I've known for years is intelligent, witty, kind, considerate, and enjoys discussion. The few times I've met him on land, he has been pretty much the same. We get along wonderfully well, and he feels like a brother to me and I a sister to him.

Yet, on facebook, he's argumentative, narrow-minded, and bullish. For every post where he wants to present himself as a kind-hearted, loving liberal, I can show three where he's putting a group down because they don't ascribe to his philosophy.

I do think facebook provides a platform for many to get on their soapboxes, beat their chests, and rant and rave like lunatics. What stymies me is how these people change so much from people I know in real life.

I've attempted to ask this man about this different side he shows the fb world, but to date, he seems more interested in getting in the snarky reply or something he perceives as witty.

The power outage we had in the beginning of November with a longer Internet outage reminded me that there's a world full of people right here in my own community who might be cool to know. It also reminded me that living in a small community does not provide lots of space for anonymity. I'd like to think if I were acting like a jerk, someone would be kind enough to let me know.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November came and a lion!

It's not only March that can come in like a lion; we had a rather wild start to November.

It all started out innocently enough, the weather forecast was for about two inches of snow. Well, 2 inches or 5 cm for those who think in metric, isn't a lot to worry about in a place that routinely sees 100 inches/ 254 cm over a winter.

Yet despite all the high-tech instruments, the satellite photos, and what have you, the "about 2 inches" turned instead to "a foot or more" (12 inches/ 30.5 cm), and was I think the heaviest snow I have ever shovelled. A shovelful weighed about 45 lbs (20.4 kg). I know, because the kitty litter comes in
40 lb bags (18.2 kg) and the shovelful felt a tad heavier than that.

It was heavy, heavy snow, and as it fell thickly, it was accompanied by high winds. Not just gusts, which were higher still, but the average wind was 50 mph (80 km/h) for much of the time. My piano teacher told me he had to pick up his son, and while driving in a blizzard isn't his favourite thing to do, he has done it any number of times since he's lived most of his life in snowy places. But this was the worst ever drive he had because it wasn't just blinding snow that was unbelievably heavy. The high winds plus heavy snow snapped a lot of trees like twigs, so as he drove, he saw debris fly past as well as snow. Huge limbs airborne like feathers. He likened it to being in the Wizard of Oz when you see all sorts of things flying in the air.

I was home during the storm and looked out to see every branch of the huge white lilac on the ground. It was hard to know if all the branches were broken or just weighted down with the heavy snow. I went out to shake off the snow that I could, and maybe drag a few of the broken limbs away. As I was out there, with snow at least 6 inches (15 cm) by that point and showing no signs of stopping, I was surprised to find about half the branches weren't broken, merely weighted down. I dragged some of the big broken ones over to a spot between the lilac and the large hemlocks or cedars that are behind the barn, where they wouldn't be in the way once the snow was done. I wasn't out there long, maybe 25 minutes, and during that time, I heard four distinct cracks and saw huge limbs or whole trees fall in the back yard. The time between the crack and the fall was no more than five seconds, and most were within three seconds. Crack! and then a quiet whoosh.

I felt a lurch within my stomach, walked away from the lilac, to the front yard, past the barn, and to look at the boat in the side yard. So far, so good.

I then felt very unsafe and a quiet, persistent urging to go back inside and wait out the storm.

After I was back inside, the power went out. I watched a man in a Jeep Cherokee get stuck in my driveway when he wanted to turn around. He got the car out only after some coaxing by gunning the gas and letting off it to jar the car forward, and once out on the roadway, he fishtailed down to the stop sign. He wasn't driving fast at all, and I called the hockey coordinator to let her know I wasn't going to be at the rink to play later that afternoon. She said she'd already sent an email to everyone and posted on facebook. But, as I had no power, I didn't see either message.

Before daylight completely waned, I started up the coal stove, glad that I had dry firewood in the house, waiting to be used. I had thought to turn up the house heat once I saw that we were in for more snow than what was forecasted, so the house was a bit warmer than what it would have normally been, but not as hot as it would have been, had I thought to turn the heat up earlier.

I had a lantern with an emergency candle ready, I wound up all the wind-up flashlights (torches) and lanterns. I found the wind-up radio and had that ready.

When gathering things, I noticed the tree on the corner by the barn side waving strangely. The last crack i'd heard must have meant one of its branches had fallen. I went back downstairs and looked out back. I had been back inside the house for a little less than an hour and saw that one of the huge hemlocks/cedars had fallen on top of the broken lilac branches I had piled together. I was glad to have listened to that quiet, persistent urging to go back inside.

Himself was away, and I felt alone and forlorn. Glad that I'd come back in, and then overwhelmed by that sense of it could have been me as I looked again at the huge hemlock on the lilac branch pile. I looked around for the cats, and went into my office where the coal stove was.

Both were stretched out in front of the fire, luxuriating in the heat. Perfectly content and peaceful, and it did my heart good to see that. They were dry. Safe. Warm. And I looked around to see that I was, too. I had plenty of food on hand for them and me. I had two alcohol stoves that i'd gotten for the boat that I could use for cooking if the coal stove didn't answer. I'm on public water, so I could get water without worry, and if needed, I could draw water from the old hand-dug well to flush toilets.

And so I settled in, and found myself wanting to go to bed about 7:30 pm. It was dark as pitch outside, and there wasn't much to do. I listened to the wind-up radio and realized I wasn't sure what radio station would have emergency announcements. I listened to the end of a Bible study program as I moved the dial. The woman was an enigmatic speaker and she was summarizing her talk. I paused to listen and she prayed for anyone listening who needed help just then, who felt alone or frightened, who was in the midst of a storm. I smiled as I was alone and in the midst of a storm, but looking at the contented kitties, I wasn't frightened. I ended up listening to a French station in Montreal for awhile and then made my way to bed.

The next morning dawned sunny and bright. Trees were down everywhere, some snapped off, some simply weighed down by the heavy snow. The hemlocks or cedars bowed and some were on the clothesline. One of the supports had leaned forward but didn't break off. A few more of the lilac limbs broke during the night and I went outside to do what I could for cleanup. I walked in the front yard, in front of the barn over to the far side, and there I saw a huge tree had fallen. Well, a part of it anyhow. It was my neighbour's tree, one that was crotched with two main supports and a third, like an upside down stool. The third leg, which was closest to my house, had shorn off, and the wind carried it just enough so that when it came down, it hit the bow pulpit of the boat. I blinked a few times to absorb the sight. That's why I saw the branch waving in that funny way the day before. And this third of the tree fell where I had been when I walked over to check on the boat.

There was still no power and thankfully, I had charged up my cell phone. My landline was still working, so I called my boss to let her know that I was still without power and no business phone line (digital) or Internet. I called my ISP and they had no estimated time of when things would be back up and running.

The next few days were a blur. My power came back on late in the second day. I had taken a heavy contractor's bag, filled it with snow, and put it in the half-filled freezer to save the food in there. I waited over 24 hours before opening the fridge door to get a couple eggs to cook. On Wednesday, my boss wanted me to see if I could get a signal someplace, and I was able to get one at my local library. Power lines running across the road beside the library were typically not noticeable, as they were high in the air, but on that Wednesday, they were about a yard/metre off the ground, with brightly coloured streamers on them to warn would-be motorists to steer clear.

I downloaded my work emails, answered those that needed answering and had enough work to keep me busy the next day, even if I didn't get back online.

My drive to the library and home was a short one, but the devastation was apparent. Some of the larger trees had been cleared away from the main roads, but in some cases, only those parts that blocked the roadway had been cut. Huge, majestic trees that offered tons of shade in summer were lying on the ground, leaves still green. A road was closed because of downed power lines, and I saw a telephone pole lying diagonally across the road.

My neighbours were unbelievably kind and helpful. I wanted to get the tree off the boat, yet I knew the way it was positioned would mean i'd need to spend many hours with a chainsaw over my head, and that didn't feel safe to me. Plan B was to use my Pocket Boy® a wonderfully sharp saw that folded like a knife and cut away the branches on the boat and deal with the rest after most of the snow had melted, as the weather was to warm up.

And so it was, I was out there sawing, wearing my head and face gear i'd needed for my chainsaw class, when my former plowman's wife drove past. She had one of her sons and his friend with her, and they offered to help. If I had a chainsaw....

I did and told them it'd been a while since it had been started. The friend was 6'4" and could easily cut the branch I desperately wanted to cut off but felt unsafe doing it by myself having to stand on a 2×10 board across two saw horses so I could reach it properly with the chainsaw. So, my Plan B was to go out with Pocket Boy and cut away what I could in smaller bites.

I congratulated myself taking loads of pics with the digital camera that I could send to the insurance company, and Tall Friend started the chain saw on the tenth pull, and in three minutes had sawn the large branch and Son pulled it off the boat. They were tall enough to do so.

Plowman's wife offered to let them do more, but I didn't want to be a bother, so thanked her and told her I basically just wanted the tree off the boat. Everything else was okay as was.

Plowman stopped by later, and he burns a lot of wood in his outside boiler. We chatted a bit, he told me he'd sold his plow truck in the summer and Adam was taking over for him. Adam had shown up at my house with a backhoe to move snow around a couple times when it looked as though there wasn't going to be enough room to push the snow aside before we were done with snow for the year. I asked Plowman if he wanted the wood from the tree. If so, he was welcome to it, I needed to get some work stuff done, but planned on having a date with my chainsaw that Saturday to cut up what I could.

Plowman thanked me, showed up on Thursday and cut up not just that tree but the large hemlock/cedar that fell in the back, and a few other smaller trees, too.

Kind neighbour Bob from up the street told me to use his trailer to take my brush to the dump. To use it for several days until I could get the cleanup done. I had loaded it up one day and ran out of time to take it to the dump. Next day, I had an errand and figured on the way back from my errand, i'd hitch the trailer to the truck and take it to the dump. When I got home, the trailer was gone.

I called Kind Neighbour Bob's house. His wife answered. Bob had gone to the dump, saw the trailer all full and waiting, so he hitched it to his car and ran it over. He stopped by on his way back, dropped it off by the large pile of brush still waiting to be taken, and went on home. He hadn't stopped in to say hi, as he didn't think I was back from my errand yet.

People who've lived here their whole lives thus far say they can't remember a storm like this one. But they won't forget it, that's for sure.

Most places have been more or less cleaned up, and the day before Thanksgiving, we got another big snow. It wasn't quite as heavy, but I went to shake it off the trees as they were still a bit bent from the earlier storm. A few places lost power, but thankfully, I wasn't one of them.

Himself was here, the coal stove was merrily burning, and we spent Thanksgiving cooking and shovelling out. Friday, we went snowshoeing.

I made a success/failure/serendipity/lessons learned list after that first storm. I'm glad to say there were more successes than failures and little moments of serendipity that were a wonderful balm. Such as the hot water heater having heated the water to as hot as it gets before the power went out, so that for the two days I was without power, the hot water was at least warmish. That I had succumbed to the siren song of Oreo cookies and had bought a bag just beforehand.

Successes included having enough stores on hand so I could stay off the roads, and I could offer a place for people to stay if things got too cold at their place.

Lessons learned included that although I had the alcohol stoves, I had yet to use them, so that was a failure, yes, but my plan going forward is to have a "prep weekend" where one weekend a month, I focus on some emergency tool and really learn how to use it. Like the alcohol stove. Or, to find out which stations carry emergency information, and can I get those on the wind-up radio.

The storm shook many people to their cores, and it was a reminder to me how complacent I've become. I can't be forever vigilant because that'll burn me out in the long run, but I can pay a bit more attention to what I have on hand, make sure I know how to use it, and to practice.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Incommunicado, but not by choice

I've not fallen off the face of the earth, I simply couldn't get into my blog to write anything.

Now that i'm finally able to get back in, i'm inundated with work things and have little time to write.


I've also a mountain of blog reading to catch up on.

Short version chez moi has been two big snowstorms in November, one at the beginning of the month, which knocked out the electrics and Interwebz for up to a week (although my electricity was restored after two days), and one at the end, in time for Thanksgiving. We went snowshoeing the day after and had fun. Also a reminder of how out of shape we were.

And here we are on the first day of the last month of the year. The wreath is up on the front door, we're down to the last five inches/ ~12.5 cm of snow, and the sun is shining!