Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Homey House

They say a house is just not a home without a dog, and I found out over the last year, that 'they' are right.

Our beloved Weimaraner, Emma left us in April of last year, after ten years of laughter and love and runs on the trails of Collingwood. Since that horrible day, our house is very quiet, very empty and frankly, very clean. As Emma slipped away, I swore I would not open myself up ever again to the kind of heartbreak that comes with losing a marvelous pet.

For the last 16 months, my sweetie and I have been doing a lot of traveling and had a lot of weekends away; we've been having a blast without worrying about finding a caregiver, or being home at any certain time.

Even so, one day in March, I started making inquiries, and two weeks ago, our puppy was born. She's one of ten, and we don't know which one will be ours. Last time, we let the puppy 'pick us', if that makes any sense and we're eager to loll on the floor in a puppy swarm, meeting the charmer we will spoil horribly for the next decade or so.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Humane Society does wonderful work and I have heard the people who recommend rescue, but we want the breed we want, with its quirks and quandaries, and this new puppy is from the same line as the dog that brought us ten years of joy and laughs. Plus, we want to bring up baby from the beginning.

Thanks to technology, I've seen her and her nine siblings as they opened their eyes, took their first steps and ate their first solid food. I have made anyone who comes near me peer at the online videos and make googling noises as we exclaim about the puppies' little bellies and gorgeous coats.

So, indulge me a little after the first of October, when little Petunia or Matilda or Gretchen or Gigi or whatever her name is going to be, comes to live with us.

I'm already in love and I haven't even met her yet.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Lonely Struggle

Barack Obama famously said of Donald Trump, "It's just not cool to not know stuff." but sometimes it's not all that cool when one does know stuff, either.

I am on a personal quest to have the place where Collingwood's young people jump down into the water, you know, the spot behind the grain terminals, called its proper name.

It's not a pier.

It's a quay, pronounced key. Piers are on stilts, quays are land formations, whether man-made or natural, altered to accommodate the docking of boats.

Seriously, Google it if you don't believe me.

Once you know it, you can't un-know it, but be aware, when you start telling people you're going to the quay to jump into the water to cool off on yet another blistering summer afternoon, they will cock their head like a dog when it hears music. "Huh? What's a key?" And then, like me, you will get to sound all pompous-like, explaining the difference between a quay, pier, wharf, and dock.

No matter what, you're going to sound like a know-it-all.

Maybe I'll just call it the harbour. Spelled with a U, dammit!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Kids These Days

I'm on the far side of 40 didn't get to have children of my own, so I should be sitting on my front porch, quietly breathing obscenities at the kids I'm pretty sure are playing Pokemon Go down the sidewalk, but instead, I'm being astounded at the amazing people my near and dear are bringing into this world.

Between now and Friday, I'm learning how Rugby 7s is played, since I'd like to look like less than a dotty old aunt when my lovely niece kicks some butt at the Ontario Summer Games with her team. This kid nearly made it onto the Ontario team, keeps a straight-A average, devours fiction and paints terrific little landscapes when she needs to chill out.

Last Friday, a knock on my door brought a surprise visit from a cousin who lives in Calgary and his two children, both of whom, even though they're 9 and 7, can tell complete and funny anecdotes about their lives, who sat patiently while the grownups talked and were generally a delight.

Saturday, I watched in awe as another niece's five children played in a creek at our family reunion, the older ones keeping an eagle eye on the baby twins as they toddled about, one of the little girls charming my Sweetie by jumping into his lap for a cuddle, after being astounded that she and he share a first name. The three older kids, all younger than seven, dutifully made the rounds saying goodbye to us old farts as they headed home, with a, 'it was nice seeing you" said with full eye contact and hugs.

Later in the day, the nine year old daughter of another friend astounded me with a delightful story told with a beginning, middle and end, a punchline and no 'um's or 'ah's. She was charming and articulate and pretty much adorable.

With 90 days left to the US election, I've been fretting about the future of North America and indeed, the world, but I somehow think, with the band of smart, merry and kind young folk I saw this weekend, we might be just fine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


If Orlando was ISIS, what was Newtown?

If Dallas was Black lives Matter, what was Colorado Springs?

Shooters are never clear about their motives, except in Umpqua, Charleston, Isla Vista and Montreal.

Since San Bernadino was Islam, what was Aurora?

So many places, all devastated. But what does it all have in common? "No one can think of a way to stop this trouble," I say sarcastically. It's must be a religion that's to blame. Definitely a culture.

And the suspects! We never know their motivation, unless they live, like Dylan Roof, James Holmes and Robert Dear,caught alive, not blown up or shot dead. Micah Johnson and Omar Mateen, not so much.

I say sarcastically, I just can't see any patterns here. Nope, none at all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Je Regrette Rien

About two months ago, one of my girlfriends told me the sad news that her mother had chosen to take no more treatment for the ovarian cancer she had been diagnosed with 18 months previously. Because of the wording she used, or perhaps because of the wine we were drinking, it took a few minutes for what she was saying to truly sink in. When it did, the purpose and finality of her mother's choice struck a chord. A loud chord in a melancholy minor key.

It was just a few days later, my own mother, who's hale and hearty and turning 74, was talking to some of her friends about her extensive travels ('everywhere they speak English, plus Scotland!'), and I chimed in that I'd love to take a "Jane Austen" trip someday, perhaps looking at the houses where the movies were shot, seeing where the author lived and wrote. I do love Austen's work and I read all six of her novels every few years.

Not two hours later, Mom called to tell me about a trip she had seen in the travel section of the newspaper. It was to England and Wales, including Bath, which is where Austen lived for three years, (two of them happy) and which was the setting of Northanger Abbey. My immediate reaction was to say no. It was too expensive, and my husband would not want to come along, plus I could tell it was going to be a "Q-tip bus ride": white-haired old ladies farting and shuffling along, plus from what I understand, a lot of being rushed from place to place. Even so, I told Sweetie about it as part of a conversation about mothers in general and the heartbreak our friends were facing. The next thing I knew, at Sweetie's insistence, I was writing a big fat cheque to my mom to cover my half of a week on a blue-hair bus trip.

It was a red-eye to the UK, and the trip was indeed set mostly on a bus: Windsor Castle to Stratford Upon Avon (literary? check.) to York, Liverpool, Llandudno, Conwy, Chester, Snowdonia National Park, Ludlow, some other places in the north of England and south of Wales, Bath and back to London. There was a castle or cathedral to look at every day,sometimes two. They call these trips ABCs: Another Bloody Castle, or Another Bloody Cathedral. There were indeed some old ladies with canes and complaints. My mom (apart from the snoring) was a marvelous traveling companion. She's funny, although I think she's going a little deaf. That, or she simply ignores a lot of what I say, which is equally possible. (Probable, actually...) She's also sometimes silly, but she's willing to walk 90 minutes to look at Buckingham Palace even though she's seen it before, and willing to be dragged through pubs as I taste the local beers, and willing to check out local grocery stores, because I find the little differences, fascinating.

I'm grateful to have traveled with my mother, and I will do it again, since the very night before we left, Sweetie and I went to a visitation with the family following the death of my friends' mom. Her shattered husband and daughters will never again get a chance to see the world through her eyes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Honesty in Accounting

The stories about the latest crisis unfolding on a native reserve far, far away are front and centre in the newspapers again, and I have been involved in some kitchen table conversations with various friends who have a lot of opinions about what has happened and what hasn't, in places like Attawapiskat.

Some of what I have been hearing in recent days is tinged with racism, and some of it is just simply misinformed. I confess to a lot of ignorance on these issues, too, so I went looking at the money part of the equation, leaving aside the questions that arise from the legacy of residential schools.

There are widely varied public reports of how much federal money actually flows to Attawapiskat each year, but from what I can gather, is it's somewhere about 100 million dollars a year. That's 100 million dollars annually to cover all the housing, all the health care, including mental health services, all the education, all the roads, water and sewer services, any firefighters, plus salaries for the people who provide all of the above to the about 2000 people who live there.

Let's compare, shall we? The budget for the municipality where I live was 66.8 million dollars this year for road and sidewalk plowing, asphalt, recreation facilities, salt, firefighters, salaries and services, but not for education or health care for the 18-thousand people who live in Collingwood.

My local hospital's budget is around 300 million from the province, but that figure doesn't include doctors' pay. I have no idea what is spent on the twice-a-year doctor appointments my husband and I average. There are also at least five mental-health counsellors working full time in a facility near the hospital; is there a way to know what it costs to house them, in addition to their pay?

The province pays for the nurses who work at the hospice. The province also subsidizes a lot of daycare spaces, while the feds are increasing the payment to parents this coming July to somewhere around 5K per kid per year, depending on your income.

The county spends another 300 million or so on things like welfare and operating the social housing units in our town, picking up trash, recycling and compost, and let's not forget the county-run old age home and the county-designated roads, which require plows and salt.

Do you know how much is shelled out on your kids' schools, including the salaries of teachers, support workers and janitors? How about the buses? I'd love to have a dollar figure per kid across Ontario, but I bet it's somewhere around 150k per child, and let's not forget the millions that flow to colleges and universities before you pay the tuition.

If only we could compare the raw dollars and then consider how much more it costs to do things up north before suggesting that the reserves are wasteful or corrupt or stupid.

It's possible some of the millions going to places like Attawapiskat is indeed wasted, but I'd wager if it were all added up, the number of dollars spent per person down here is much, much higher than what is spent on our fellow Canadian citizens on reserve.

Furthermore, after the report that came to Collingwood's town council recently about a dire lack of available information about the sale of half of COLLUS a few years ago, no one in this town should have even one word to say about a lack of reporting or mismanaged record-keeping elsewhere.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

You're colouring? I'm judging.

I cannot understand this adult colouring book phenomenon. If you're not familiar with it, then, good for you; I suspect you're leading an interesting, fulfilling life.

In case you missed it, there's a big movement of (nearly all) women who, yes, colour. Yup, the verb. They colour inside the lines of pre-printed books, on paper, with crayons and pencil crayons. Most of the images I have seen are of fairies and flowers. I suspect there is likely a surfeit of unicorns. They colour in the pictures, just like they did when they were seven, although I hope with a bit more skill. It's a real thing. It's asinine.

The other day, I overheard two women talking about their colouring efforts and showing off their respective works, gushing over how marvelously relaxing it was and how there were times they just didn't want to engage their brains, and how colouring provided a creative outlet they just couldn't get anywhere else.

"Yes," I thought to myself, "God forbid you engage your brain. Or learn something, or be moved by actual art or create something lasting or useful, or feel anything but relaxation."

Well, actually, I didn't say that to myself. I said it out loud and the two women spent quite some time failing to convince me of the merits of their efforts, with several citations of relaxation as their prime motivator for taking up a child's activity. One of the two says she actually hurt herself while colouring, which tells me more about her physical fitness than anything else.

I. just. can't. even.

I am truly at a loss for words to describe my thorough disgust at this trend. I usually don't care what other people get up to in their spare time, but I'm practically apoplectic about this.

Is it the clear waste of paper and effort and brain power that annoys me so deeply?
Is it the breezy anti-intellectualism?
Is it my Scottish background and the horror I feel encountering a belief that relaxation should be the default aim in life?

I really can't say, but I will sort out my feelings after I read something challenging and take some exercise; perhaps I will ponder it more while working on my latest quilt or making a from-scratch dinner for my sweetheart.

If I have time, that is.