Wednesday, March 30, 2005


The media are referring to it as another ‘road block’ amidst the unfortunate circumstances that keep popping up and making the proposed wedding of Charles and Camilla a royal pain. I am referring to the pronouncement by Bishop Stancliffe that Charles should apologize for any hurt he has caused, particularly to Camilla’s ex. But I’m not sure if Mr. Parker-Bowles is hurting. Perhaps Camilla’s ex is more relieved than hurt.

Nevertheless, in principle, I guess the Bishop’s ruling is a worthy decision, but it leaves me wondering, ‘What about the rest of us? Those of us that are so hurt and disappointed with the degradation of our expectations for princes and rulers.’ Doesn’t the Bishop realize that while Mr. Parker-Bowles may be hurt, the rest of us are hurting even more?

As a Canadian, I am hurt. I know many British subjects are deeply hurt. Church members are hurt. There’s a throng of us that need reparation for our hurts. The Bishop wants Charles to make good any hurts, to restore goodwill and to pay serious attention to associations damaged by any misconduct. "Yahoo, Bishop Stancliffe. Yahoo, Charles. I’m over here. Patiently waiting for balm for my hurts."

Obviously I’ll be waiting a while, so in the meantime I might as well tell you that I am far more impatient with that foxy Camilla, then with Charles. Poor Charles. Obviously he was groomed to be a king and in this grooming it is quite likely the bulk of his studies focused on international diplomacy (and ‘fox-hunting?’ *sly wink* ) to such a degree that aspects of normal society and interpersonal relationships fell away by default. Then too, perhaps it is harder to be chaste, or easier to be chased, with a kilt on then with a pair of trousers. Only Camilla, the fox, and the bag-piper would know for sure.

But nevertheless, when it comes to personal matters, through no fault of his own, Charles is quite stupid, so I’m not sure he should be obliged to apologize to anyone. Like Hub wisely says, "We need to excuse the actions of those who don’t know any better, rather than react with dismay or anger." But the bottom line is it takes two to tango, so now I have to consider Camilla.

Here’s where I have a real problem. There are no valid excuses for Camilla’s acts of ‘treason’ and ‘heresy’ and ‘terrorism’. Yes, I said ‘treason’ and ‘heresy’ and ‘terrorism’. ‘Treason’ because while Princess Diana was in a husband-wife relationship with Charles, Camilla slept with Charles and in so doing violated her purported allegiance to the sovereign of the country – Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana and her children, and the rest of the Royals.

And ‘heresy’, because the illegitimacy of this act demonstrated that Camilla holds to beliefs that are contrary to the doctrines of the Church – i.e. adulterous behavior. And finally, ‘terrorism’ because this was indeed an act of subjugation. Through seduction, Camilla deliberately sought to bring Charles under her control and subjection. I don’t want Charles to necessarily abdicate the throne, but I do want a public broadcast of Camilla explaining that she is aware that she has engaged in these horrific acts and for this reason she feels compelled to relinquish the title and role of Queen of England.

Of course the foregoing arguments are weakly based on language and its interpretation rather than the deeper feelings and fallibility’s of our humanity. So okay, if you feel that way, lets scrap all the foregoing as ineffective arguments. Let’s simply discuss the undeniable truth about love. If we do that, I have to say ‘true love’ is more stringent that Camilla or Charles realize. It means sacrifice. It means denying one’s own personal desires to honor the dignity of the person (or country) they dearly love (as so bravely demonstrated years ago by Charles’s great uncle, the Duke of Windsor). This is love, true love, dedicated love, Romeo-and-Juliet love – forever love; the kind of love that withstands eternally. It is not the kind of love evident in the Charles and Camilla Harlequin saga.

Now I don’t know if Charles and Camilla will be required to take marriage counseling before they wed. I certainly hope they do. And furthermore, I hope their counselor is wise enough to explain to them the difference between ‘lust’ and ‘love’, the difference between ‘erasers’ and ‘rulers’, and the difference between ‘horse sense’ and ‘common sense’.

Monday, March 28, 2005


During the night I awoke with a start. My mind was full of remnants of a melodrama of activities that only a split second ago were absolutely crystal and lucid. But in waking, all these crisp episodes scrambled like cockroaches when a light is suddenly switched on. With incredible speed they dived into hiding places in the dark corners and fogged crevices of my mind. And as so often happens, I now found myself sitting upright, perched on the cusp between REM-sleep and the quietness of dawn.

I grabbed for pen and paper but already there was so little left to record. I wrote down all that I could manage to clutch, one little teeny wisp of something that I was a part of that was special, unique, and quite shocking. I was so frustrated that it had all scurried away so quickly. So disappointed that I had lost something so special, that I immediately flung the pen across the room and plunged back into my pillow to see if I could pick up the threads. I did go back to sleep but it was a sleep in a black void – no activity, no excitement.

And then this morning I saw that bit of notepaper on the floor and flipped it over to see what it said, or indeed if it said anything. I read a scrawl that looked so unlike my own writing that it was hard to believe that I was the one that wrote it. It said simply "Elephant – pachyderm."

I studied the note and rooted around in the dark recesses of my mind to try to find what it was that I had been dreaming. Something was so unique about my dream and uncommon that I was desperate to remember what was going on. It was there somewhere. I knew that because I could sense the details were as close to the surface of thought as water tension is to the surface of a body of water.

Now I swear I have never dreamed a dream where I was anything other than the woman I now am or the child I once was. Yes, in dreams I have been a woman passionately in love with some new hero. Or a young girl in grade school dealing with difficult situations. Or a teenager dressed in funny, rather than stylish clothes. Or a female being pursued by beasts or wild animals. Or a mature woman driving a car with failing brakes and a sputtering engine. But never, in all previous dreams have I been anything but myself – perhaps not in the current stage of life, but definitely a person of feminine gender with my real-life personality and physical attributes, somewhere along the spectrum between youth and maturity.

But now, despite the inability to remember my dream, I know I was not a female person – I was something else. At first I thought that perhaps I was a man. God forbid. I ran my hand over the dark fuzz on my top lip. Am I losing my estrogen at such a maddening pace? But somehow that didn’t seem to be it. What I do know is that I was a power to be reckoned with. Not lightning, nor thunder, nor fire, nor earth, but still very strong. But it is an allusion that eludes me. What was it?

I have only one tiny clue. A bit of scrawled writing. "Elephant – pachyderm." I look again at the paper. And that’s when it hits me. That is it. That is what I was – I was an elephant! And in my mind there opens a fleeting but foggy picture of myself, as a great handsome lumbering beast happily showing a group of laborers how smart I am, how strong, how intelligent. Engaged in moving huge monster timbers as deftly and delicately as a Pick-Up-Sticks champion gamer. Emotionally saturated with the delight of my purpose and the joy of absolute self-fulfillment.

"Is this possible?" I kept asking myself. "To be something other than me in my dreams?"

And then I think about other dreams and I have to conclude, "Why not?"

After all in other lucid dreams I have done some pretty uncanny stuff. I’ve swam across raging rivers (though I can’t swim a stroke) and I have flown about the skies or up and down long staircases (without benefit of parachute or wings). I have plunged into deep dark holes and fallen and fallen but yet never hit bottom. I have killed nasty beasts with my bare hands. I have reattached severed limbs on loved ones and performed other complicated medical procedures. I have done any number of courageous and incredible feats.

I have played concerts with instruments that I have never held in my hands or even ever seen in real life. I recall one dream (still with some awe and astonishment), where I read aloud from a great long scroll of foreign hieroglyphics without pause or difficulty to a large multitude of people. I remember reading it, I remember thinking how comfortable the words were, I remember how attentive the audience was, but I don’t remember a thing about the contents except that it had something to do with cats.

But even more amazing than that, in other dreams I have assembled and disassembled complex mechanical equipment (despite the fact that in real life, I don’t even know how to set my microwave or oven clock or how to program or use the VCR) and invented incredible machines that outstrip any that the most imaginative scie-fie buffs have ever remotely thought of. So it is possible. I could be something other than me in my dreams.

So now, if that is the case, why can’t I be fire, or water, earth, or the force of wind or an earthquake? Or why can’t I be lightning or thunder? Perhaps I just have to give my dream-identity permission to go that far. Perhaps it is like hypnosis. Those not wishing to be hypnotized cannot be hypnotized. There has to first be a willingness to depart from that which is familiar and comfortable. And like those who are willingly but unwittingly hypnotized, in my dreams I could become anything if I permit or allow myself to be.

Perhaps I could experience living the life of a mouse or a dust-mite or a flea. Do you realize that I could write books more popular than the best sellers if I could go into a colony of dust-mites, clone and profile their primitive personalities, and live in their space. Dr. Suzuki would quickly sink into oblivion. And from diminutive creatures to the extremes of the mightiest forces of our natural world, as thunder I might capture the essence of all the mysteries of life and as lightning I might find the path to follow to get there. The possibilities are endless.

But in the meantime, ‘Pffft’ to those with the one liners that are meant to empower women. Although I don’t recall the details of this dream, phrases (ie. I am worth it. I deserve it. Taking time for me. Inequity and equality, etc.) have suddenly become so ridiculously inadequate – so weak and mundane. In my dream I was given a brute strength that has empowered me in real life. It was this acquisition that made we aware, despite my inability to remember details of my dream, that something in the events of that dream wrought an undeniable change. And with that change, all my fears, anxieties, and insecurities have been eradicated.

And meanwhile, the curse of my existence, that chronic state of painful self-consciousness (inability to meet my own and others’ expectations) that has chewed away at my being for all time like an ulcerated canker sore, has been vanquished. It is gone. Obviously it must be or I wouldn’t risk appearing to be silly, foolish, or mentally deficient by sharing such strange and remarkable happenings with you.

I am no longer weak and scared. I am a power to be reckoned with. Now come over here and show me what mountain you want moved.

So now my question to you is, "In your dreams have you ever taken on another identity?"

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Despite the fact that the dictionary says that ‘opaque’ is murky or obscured and ‘transparent’ is lucid and clear, which to me is quite different, I have never seen such confusion over two simple little words. That’s understandable, I guess. After all I was confused about the difference when I was a child and to tell you the truth, I still am confused.

The confusion started when I was a youngster and I pointed out a frosted windowpane to my mother.

"What color is that?" I asked. My mother said it was ‘opaque’. So then I asked my father. He said it was ‘transparent’.

So maybe ‘opaque’ and ‘transparent’ are one and the same. Could that be? Anyway, a few years later my discussion with my eldest sister led to even further confusion. The discussion was about her latest fashion acquisition – a nylon blouse. That was way long ago. You probably won’t remember them but at one time, perhaps in the late fifties, they were all the rage. But my sister got one in the 60’s cause it always took 15 to 20 years for anything new to filter into our backwoods community. But eventually along came nylon blouses – sheer like nothing we had ever seen before. Sheer as cellophane. Bra and entire body showing through – big as life. A totally new and shocking fashion statement. (And if the kids in current space and time think that bare midriffs and belly-button rings are sexy and daring, those nylon blouses in that world of modesty and restraint were sexier by a mile) You could see everything there was to see through them.

So being a moderate and conservative family, I said to Sis, when she happily modeled her nylon blouse for me, "You know Dad’s not going to let you wear that. It’s transparent."
"No it isn’t," Sis retorted. "It’s opaque."

Looked pretty transparent to me. You see why I was confused about ‘opaque’ and ‘transparent’. But now as I grow older, the confusion only worsens. In today’s world the government has promised to be more ‘transparent’. With the abuse scandals, so has the Catholic Church, our health care system, our law enforcement officials, and government officials. Insofar as the church goes, a promise of transparency seems to have increased the secrecy about the state of the Pope’s health. Seems like we’re not getting many details. And I’m waiting to see how transparent the process will be when a new Pope is installed. Will the Vatican hunker down as usual with a smudge in a pot to let us know when a decision is made? (I don’t mean to be irreverent, but this has always struck me as such an odd kind of ritual).

And then there is law enforcement. Last time we got a new Chief, they promised to be more transparent, but the media is daily revealing something else that they meant to keep secretly tucked away. I swear since adding ‘transparency’ to their agenda, they are more secretive than ever. And the Health Care system has promised to be more transparent, as have also the pill manufacturers, but they are still trying to keep under wraps the side effects of Zoloff. No openness there, and still no full disclosure about the health risks accompanying pills like Vioox and Celebrex (and a lot of other drugs as well).

Our political leaders have also promised to be more transparent, but everything – the sponsorship scandal and everything else that we have questions about has just been smudged and blurred and smudged and blurred some more. So yes, there’s no shortages of promises of transparency, but when we try to see what’s up, we find, with this new transparency, we are onlookers in front of a heavily frosted pane of glass that allows no one to see in and no one to see out.

It is not only annoying; it is bloody confusing. I think for clarity in the matter, the Crayola people should put a new color in their coloring box. After all crayons are the symbols of the colors of our world. One new crayon that fudges and smudges every drawing, caricature or symbol that represents a suspect process. They could call this new color something sophisticated like ‘The New Transparency of 2005.’ At least it would create a symbolism for us, when we are busy with our coloring books, that could help clear up some of the confusion in the real world about ‘transparency’.

P.S. Don’t let government officials weave you a sexy transparent blouse – it will end up being a better cover up than a Hudson’s Bay blanket!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Canadians have long held that reputation that they never get really mad about anything. And if they do they just write someone a delicately worded letter of protest and never follow up on it. But, like Hub keeps saying, "Eventually, with all this stupidity, people will revolt." And I guess he’s right. I saw, or rather heard, the first signs of it yesterday. I am encouraged to know that finally, at long last, when a Canadian has had enough, he’s had enough, and he will stand up and be counted!

I laugh, I chuckle, and I commend that Canadian who stood up and finally said, "Enough, is enough." This brave Canadian was a caller that contacted the weather office of the local media and left a message for the meteorologists. I looked on the internet for his exact quote but was unable to find it. His voice was angry, very angry. Just about the angriest voice I have ever heard.

His complaint? He’s bloody sick of this f---ing snow. He’s had more than enough of it. He can’t get a damn thing done. He wants no more of it. It has to stop. All he does is shovel snow and everytime he looks out his window there is more f---ing snow.

So just to let you know. If you think Canadians are continuing to be apathetic, they are not. When enough is enough we will complain as loud and violently as any American. We are done with apathy, with letter-writing. No one can push us around anymore!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


In days of yore I used to write fabulous literary exposés describing boyfriends and why they were so overwhelmingly endearing, but I’m too old for that now. So I thought just for your amusement I would write an exposé on why I’m so in love with my Dough-Gee Dog although probably those old exposés I used to write would prove far more amusing.

Dough-Gee arrived with five other baby puppies in the middle of winter. Basset hounds are not meant to live outside with their short hair so there was nothing for it but to make Mama dog a nest in the corner of one bedroom. Just in time too, because within no more than an hour, she started having babies. The vet told me later that they were all born breach because she had held back too long. That was my fault as I hadn’t readied a nest for her. And she is the type of dog that she knew this episode would make a mess and she would have held back forever rather than create a mess!

Anyway I moved into that same bedroom with her to make sure none of the babies got lost or caught in the sleeping bag and to make sure they were all happy, healthy, and getting enough to eat. As soon as they began to creep out of their nest, I moved them to an outdoor doghouse with a heavy quilted curtain on the door, fresh straw, and an electric lamp that I felt was safe enough to prevent a fire. I checked the temp frequently and made sure the house stayed warm enough without getting too warm. I felt bad that the puppies and mother had to sleep with a light blazing in their eyes, but I knew of no other way to ensure they would be warm enough.

Their warm house was out in the yard but in addition to that I had a small well-insulated doghouse on the deck but it was too small for such a large family. But amazingly, as soon as those puppies could manage to pull themselves up the steps, they moved – right into the tiny little house on the deck. I think they just wanted some blessed sleep without a lamp blazing in their eyes.

By then they were eating mush out of a dish. They all had exotic names but Dough-Gee was the last to be named because he was always hanging out in some back corner trying to be as transparent as possible. So with my imagination at an end, there was nothing for it but to name him D.O.G. (pronounced as it is spelled, dee-oh-gee with a bit of a run-together slur).

Soon the six puppies were up for adoption and people were stopping by to see them. One was a beautiful calico color – a lovely glossy copper red, patches of white, and patches of black, and an exquisitely patterned face. I told Hub if I were to keep one of those puppies it would definitely be the calico puppy. So from then on when hopeful adoptees came to view the puppies, they were immediately told the calico puppy was not going anywhere.

Soon there were only three puppies left – the calico puppy, D.O.G., and another plain looking black dog very similar to D.O.G. but much better proportioned and certainly more handsome. But that day when some young people came to pick up the last two puppies (excluding the Calico Puppy), I went to the doghouse to bring all of the pups into the kitchen. As usual calico puppy came to the step immediately. And the other puppy soon followed. But no D.O.G.

I looked in the doghouse. He was there huddled up against the back wall when he heard so much talk and laughter. I reached in and pulled him out. I looked him straight in the eye to make sure it was him as he looked a lot like the other plain dog – mostly black with no special markings. And when I looked at his face at that close proximity, he looked straight back.

And I read a message in his eyes. "Please Roberta," he said, "I know I’m very plain. Nothing much to look at and I know I’m a bit weird with my five toes on one back foot, my big head, my overly long body, and my short crooked legs (and believe me they are crooked, the crooked-est you will ever see), but please let me stay. I promise I will forever be loyal to you, I’ll be the best dog I can, and I will never threaten to bite anyone ever." (this all flashed through my mind in that brief minute that it took me to pick up D.O.G. and bring him in for his adoptive master’s approval).

Now the five young people that had come to pick up two puppies, and ED, and myself sat in a ring on the kitchen floor with three puppies in the middle. Two showing off their stuff and the other looking as dejected and disinterested as he could possible look. All eyes were of course glued to Calico Puppy. I reached out to pick him up. He silently sneered, gave me a haughty look, and turned his back on me.

After the message I received in that quick look at D.O.G.’s face, I wanted to look in Calico Puppy’s eyes and see what message they conveyed. The message was cool and remote. "I am beautiful, gorgeous, and although I might be a dog, in my heart I expect to be treated like Queen of the Cats. I will allow you to hold me and pet me only when I feel like it."

ED noticed the affectionate looks of the young people when they saw calico pup, with his beautiful sleek body and glaringly beautiful patches of color. So she started to say, "Don’t even think about Calico Pup. That is Mom’s…"

"Sh," I said. "No it isn’t. This is mine. D.O.G. is mine." As I picked him up. And I swear he looked at me and grinned. That happy look when puppies part their jaws slightly and just let the tip of their tongues hang out.

ED was floored. I was a little surprised myself. Especially since I have vowed since I was a child to never keep a black dogs. I always thought they looked mean. And despite what effect it might have on the propective customers sitting with us in that circle, ED blurted out, "You can’t be serious. D.O.G.’s got no personality. In fact he’s really homely."

But I kept D.O.G. And Calico puppy went on his way to a new home. That was three years ago and not once, not even for one moment, have I ever regretted keeping him. He house trained in 2 days, he is the most amiable dog you could ever hope to meet. He loves children, senses that he must play very gentle with them. He is smart and lovable and grateful. Hub can take him places without a leash because he is loyal enough to stay right with him (as long as there isn’t some fool at hand that says ‘dear’ or ‘deer’) because his first response is to dash about wildly while communicating to Hub. "Where are they? Just show me. I’ll clear them out of here."

All this is D.O.G., despite the kids saying over and over "Pray tell, when I you going to start disciplining that spoiled dog." I’m afraid we haven’t. But D.O.G. is such a gentle soul, he would not offend for nothing.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


Everyone is talking about the Schiavo case. Whether this woman should be allowed to die after lingering so long in a vegetative state. We’ve heard these debates before and we will continue to hear them again. This debate will not end because there is no solution.

How can a solution be found when none of us have a point of reference in the matter? How can anyone provide an opinion on death vs life when none of us have ever encountered, read, studied, or explored the land of death and the inhabitants thereof? How can we discuss dying with dignity when we know nothing? When none of us are versed in the matter?

But what we do know from residing in the land of the Living is that at birth an infant’s needs are simple. All they want for quality of life is food, water, warmth, and comfort. This is as basic and simple as quality of life can get. And when facing death these again become the simplified needs of an individual. That much we do know so let’s provide that if we possibly can.

But insofar as the rest of it, knowing nothing, we need to allow people to captain their own fate, their own vessel, as we know nothing about the coastline, the rocks, or the destination. If that sounds like the right to die with dignity, in one sense it is, but not according to most interpretations.

Most of us believe that the right to die is directly related to an individual’s willingness to live or die and it is this belief that made some (who pretend they have points of reference where they have none) scab notions like the right to die and the merit of euthanasia. And although I, too, agree with the willingness or unwillingness belief, I must emphatically state that I do not agree with the proposed solutions – because, as I’ve already explained, I know nothing about death and neither do you.

Don’t tell me you haven’t heard the phrase again and again. "I don’t know why she/he died. I guess they just lost the will to live." You’ve heard that time and time again from relatives of the deceased, or doctors, or neighbours, or friends. So if that be true, there is a controlling factor on one’s right to live or die, a rather efficient controlling factor.

And if we are to honor this controlling factor, and at the same time, admit we know nothing about the state of death, then I think this is all we have from which to draw a solution. But we cannot honor that controlling factor if we are unwilling to relinquish this responsibility from ourselves. And we cannot honor this controlling factor if we insist on tainting an instinct that is so personal to each individual. Whether or not a person can state their willingness or unwillingness is of no matter.

Doctors and others will be the first to concur that this state of mind (willingness or unwillingness to die) continues to function in the walls of every hospital. But I think it will function even better when we become a society that believes it and depends upon it. When you are old or your health has deteriorated because of disease and you want to die, and know that in wanting to die, you will die more quickly, more easily, that you might otherwise, that becomes more likely to happen. Investigators have proved that with research on curses in primitive tribes. When a death curse is put on someone, and they believe it will work, researchers have found an amazingly large percentage of them died without evidence of any physical malady.

And to me, this is why it is so important that we never contaminate an individual’s own instinctive willingness to live or die with influences that suggest unreasonable hope or suggest immediate death. Intuition has a phenomenal strength in it but the plasma that attaches it is fragile and easily severed. Our intuition is as individual as we are. Strong if we let it be. Incredibly weak, when assaulted, because with such individualism, it is unwilling to gather a coalition to assist in a fight against outside forces.

Unfortunately contamination by experts who have no knowledge and no point of reference dictate beliefs and assumptions that chew away and tatter that fragile connection. Isn’t it truly amazing how sceptical we remain about intuition when it consistently advises us without fail? How often did your intuition tell you beforehand about the fraudulent salesman, the bad relationship, the biting dog, the disloyal boss, the disturbed child, the abusive mother, the everything that later down the road somewhere, turned out to be so correct. But still we cross-examine intuitive messages and ignore them because the message sent is contrary to expert or popular opinion.

We need a point of reference on death. But we don’t have one. So no matter how long we discuss these matters, no matter how many laws we draft, or slate, or pass, we are still going to get it all wrong.

And the reason I say this is because of a completely unrelated observation. One fall while babysitting a 3-year-old, the child was put down for a nap. And while he was sleeping there came the first winter snowfall. Mountains of fresh snow. So when the child awoke and looked out the window the world looked radically different.

"Oh, Roberta," he said to me, "look at all the cottage cheese!"

That was a reasonable conclusion because at his young age, he had no terms of reference. He did not remember snow from last year or the year before. He couldn’t remember having every visited a place with snow. This is a mundane situation but I think it demonstrates my point. That without any points of reference, do you see how wrong we might be?

But there is a place between Death and Life that people have journeyed back from. The unconscious or semi-conscious state. And those that have returned say this is a place of nothingness -- no fear, no pain, no threat. So in our willingness to comfort and care for others, can’t be just continue to do the basics of providing food and water and comfort for a person existing in this world until they return to us or leave? I can’t agree that in the Shiavo case, that food and water should be withheld. Because, though outwardly it is a dreadful state to be in, inwardly it is not. And because too many times physicians are wrong in their determination of whether or not a patient can recover.

Terri Schiavo, in her simplistic state may not find life as difficult as it is for her parents who are no doubt fatigued by their thousands of silent visitations. Of anxious thoughts about the right course of action. Of having to try to stare down their own mortality each time they enter her room. That might be the most painful aspect of all. My heart indeed goes out to them.

But if the doctors are right, that there is no brain activity, that means that Terri is in a state of nothingness. And if we accept there is no brain activity I think that amidst that sea of nothingness, an intuition is still present that commands a will to live. Dignity, I believe, is allowing that intuition to lead the way. That is the controlling factor and why should we jump in and pull the plug when we know nothing. With no terms of reference, all opinions are discounted.

Friday, March 18, 2005


I have noticed when GD (Granddaughter) visits, her favorite occupations are listening and dancing to videos and playing "The Sims" on the computer. I shake my head in dismay as I think with that biased view that we all seem to adopt as we grow older, that there is so much more to life than computer games and videos. This thought got me thinking about the more proper past times of my childhood. These are just some of the things that my friends and I did.

We went on bike rides. GD did that with a neighbour yesterday as well. We scoured the woods for mushrooms and wild berries. We played a variety of games. On rainy days we played ‘Jacks’. That game requires a great deal of skill which meant hours and hours of practicing slow ball bounces and quick hand grabs. We played marbles, horseshoes, and baseball. We played something called ‘7-Up’ with a rubber ball against the shed. It involved a series of body movements and synchronized ball bounces that makes me wonder now why this game is not part of the World Olympics. We played ‘Anti-I-Over’. A game where two teams gather on each side of the house or garage and throw the ball over the roof (and all too frequently through a window). If the player on the other side of the building caught the ball, he ran around the house and tagged someone on the opposing team and then they were out. But there were consequences to having this much fun. We all suffered serious losses of our allowance money to replace windowpanes.

We built exotic farms beside a sandy driveway with houses and outbuildings formed of damp sand. Nothing made roads as precise as an empty Prem or Spork can. With that kind of road-building equipment, our roads were pothole-free, all of equal width, and all had the correct engineering slope on those high-speed corners. We made fences out of tiny twigs, haystacks out of ferny plants. We planted gardens with miniature bluebells or violets. After heavy rains, we drove about the streets and called out crews to build bridges or dig dikes. We even made road signs for road construction or sharp turns (toothpicks supporting tiny paper flags).

It was a kind of ‘Sim City’ with all the sights and sounds of a busy metropolis. While my brother made awesome motor sounds interrupted by gear shifting revs in his D-8 Spork or Prem-Can-Bulldozer, I was driving my sleek wooden block, an imaginary Caddy convertible, down smooth roads past fields and flowers while playing country music on my car radio. I had to sing and mimic a radio DJ because I couldn’t roll my lips and tongue properly to make a motor sound without spitting all over the village. (Never could effectively make motor sounds, and still can’t. If you want any R’s rolled, don’t look my way.)

In the evenings we built huge bonfires. We cut up old tire tubes and made drums out of oil cans or metal pails and ties the rubber skins to the pails. We danced around our bonfires and played a pagan beat that was a perfect duplication of GD’s favorite video that she asked me to listen to yesterday. The words we sang were similar. Gutteral sounds that were loud but indestinguishable. Words and phrases that lacked any meaning. And we danced, as she does, with interpretive body movements.

Hey, I just realized life hasn’t changed that much after all. When I was a kid, even without modern technology, I pursued the same passions as GD. I played ‘Sims’ with the Sim family that lived in the sand by the driveway and I danced to music with the same sound and beat as the videos she listens to. So really, has a whole lot changed?

So now I’m interested to know if you played the games I played as a child. And if not, what games did you play?

Monday, March 14, 2005


When I wake up in the morning, I usually get up without delay. But this morning I awoke to a kind of muffled chittering sound. I thought at first it was the heat vent which often does that when it is not adjusted quite right. But when I realized the furnace wasn’t even running, I was really bewildered. And what was most amazing about the sound was I could only hear it when my head was under the blankets. It sounded like a conversation of some sort but too muffled to make out the words. But it sounded like "Two cheats due to win."

Unable to find the source of the sound, I climbed out of bed, gave up on the puzzle and went about my day. Monday is my day for stripping beds and laundering bedding so that was the first thing I did. I stripped the beds and put the bedding in the washer. Then off to the kitchen for toast and coffee. As I sat at the table sipping my coffee, the sun was too bright, too cheery, too inviting, so with coffee in hand I stepped out on the deck. What a beautiful day with its surplus of sunshine and only a few lazy scattered clouds floating in a awesomely beautiful blue sky. After a long winter, this is weather ready to be dedicated to something worthwhile with its special abilities to warm, dry, heal, and comfort. And yes, the wind is cool, but still it feels so good. As if breathing life and vitality into the day.

Right now the yard is wet. There are plenty of puddles, plenty of mud, but at the same time there is no snow. And without the snow I feel that if I am not out in this kind of weather sunning myself with the dogs, then something should be. And so I began to think. What can I position in a sunny spot that will truly benefit from this wonderful abundance of sunshine and delightfully fresh breeze?

I could think of nothing. I have sprouted some garlic bulbs but I’m quite sure they will not be happy to be out in this wind. Same with a few other plants that I have begging to be moved outside after being shut-in all winter. I came back in the house feeling like I had been given a special gift, a longed for gift, and now I had no practical use for it. To extract joy from this gift, it is critical for me to find a practical use for it. But the ground is still too frozen to dig in the dirt, too soggy to clean up dog poopies, too muddy to want to tramp around just for the sake of doing something outside.

So feeling somewhat disappointed, I returned to the house and went downstairs to move the laundry to the dryer. But as I piled those wet sheets and pillowcases in the basket, I heard that same chittering conversation I had heard in my bed earlier. Unintelligible, but now seeming to come from the laundry basket. Must be the wicker of the basket contracting and expanding due to the wet laundry, I reasoned, although that hardly made any sense to me.

And then it hit me. I could make practical use of this day. I was already about to heave the laundry into the dryer when instead I turned and heaved it back into the basket. Chitter, chitter, chitter. And again the pentameter, the rhythm, the fuzzy phonetics, and muffled enunciation have me thinking "Two cheats due to win." How stupid. I shook my head to clear such nonsense from my brain and turned back to the task at hand. With clothesbasket in hand, I bounded up the stairs, slipped on my rubbers, and headed for the clothesline. As I pinned those sheets to the line I felt the full joy of my day. As I removed items from the basket again that annoying chittering sound now fragmented and slower "due to win, cheats, due to win, win, win, cheats". The sound tapered off, at least I think it did, but I couldn’t be sure because as I hung each item on the line, two sheets flapped and snapped in the breeze in a voice that drowned out the other sound.

Carefully snipping those clothes to the line put me in a kind of reverie. . I grinned at the sound of two birds nearby that were definitely discussing housebuilding (I could just tell by the tone of their voices chirps). That led me to thinking about a long-ago-almost-forgotten nursery rhyme. Do you remember? The one about ‘the maid was in the garden, hanging out some clothes. Along came a blackbird and snipped off her nose’. I couldn’t help chuckling as I thought about how funny those birds would think that joke was if I could just communicate those words to them. It would definitely be the knee wing-slapper of the day. And then I thought about the special things about hanging laundry out in the air that our present generation will never know.

Have you had the experience of climbing into a bed made with bedding that was dried in the fresh air and sun? Nightmares never happen in a bed with air-dried bedding. It awakens romance, clears one’s mind, and strokes the flesh with a special tenderness of touch. In truth, all those manufacturers of softening sheets and potions are working at recreating that smell but they are as far off as violets are from sulphur gases.

Now I’ve heard some complain that clothes off the line are stiff, wrinkled, and scratchy. But that just isn’t true. Not as long as there is no soap residue in them, not as long as they are shaken good before hanging, not as long as there is a brisk cool wind like today, and not as long as there is the kind of gentle sun this day offered. My bedding came off the line white, bright, soft, smooth, and as fresh-smelling as any fragrant rose petal.

So for sake of those who may never know these wonders I want to tell you a few other things about the romance of clothes and clotheslines. You may never see it again but lucky was she who had a house equipped with a tiny narrow door just off the kitchen that one could open to access their clothesline. Here a double stranded line on a pulley magically rotated into the house for clipping laundry onto it and then with a twist of the wrist slipped out the door and high up in the sky to flip and billow blue-white towels and sheets in the wind. I think any thoroughly modern house should still have one of them.

And the really fascinating thing about drying laundry outside that few people know or even believe but I swear it is true is that prior to dryers, laundry was hung outside even in the coldest weather. But here there was a bit of a risk. If the clothes froze rock-hard, which they often did, they had to be removed cautiously from the line because they would break. Yes, I said break. These clothes were not carried to the house in the basket. They were embraced gently and carried in like firewood and stacked on the table. The corner of a sheet would easily break and separate if bent back when frozen stiff.

So some might ask, "Why hang clothes outside in that kind of weather?" Well, the truth is that once those clothes were frozen on the line for a period of time, they did dry somewhat. Not completely, but enough that they would dry at room temperature in a hour or two rather than the two days they had to hang in the kitchen or basement on a wooden clotheshorse sweating up the windows and making the house feel depressingly dank. And in the winter, that outdoor smell on those sheets was even sweeter, fresher, and more fragrant than it was in the summer.

But to return to my original thoughts, I now have fragrant sheets on my bed. And I think I have figured out what that annoying chittering sound was – it was those same sheets complaining about a return to a paradise that they have not known for too long. Reflecting now I understand what the chant was. It wasn’t "Two cheats due to win." It was…"Two sheets to the wind. Two sheets to the wind." Of course that is what they were saying. What else am I to think as the laundry basket is now silent and my bed is silent even under the covers. The sound has halted.

So now what do I want you to do with all this uncommon enlightenment? Well I do want you to do something, but if you live in an exhaust-fume-ridden environment or among industrial smoke-stacks, don’t even bother. Just get out some fortified home-made wine and drink yourself into a stupor. And then when you’re two sheets to the wind, just stagger off to bed. But if, on the other hand, you live in the country or the outer fringes of suburbia I want you to wet a pillowcase and hang it outside on a stick, a bush, or a rail. Get it out there by nine in the morning and leave it there until suppertime. Now tuck it under your cheek when you go to bed.

Inhale deeply. Do you feel the romance? The joy of living? The presence of sunshine and gardens and moonbeams? This is a magical therapy that can’t be found in lavender soap, cranberry candles, or any other clone of nature. Here is a magic that penetrates much deeper than the surface of your cheek. While stroking your flesh, and flooding your olfactory senses with a profuse fragrance, it seeps into your psyche and provides joy, hope, and an unexpected calmness – a sweet sense of all the many blessings of the day despite the harrowing pace of life.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


Hub has a question.

Two weeks ago he got a promotional package in the mail that included a free razor. He got ten shaves out of that free razor. That was pretty impressive. So a few days ago he went to town and bought three more razors – all exactly the same as the free one.

One shave is all he could manage to get out of each of the razors he purchased. It doesn't make sense, does it?

So I thought perhaps some of you have had similar experiences with promotional products and follow-up purchases? Maybe an explanation?


When one is sad, happiness cannot always be achieved by weeping. As I said in my previous blog, when I am sad there is little comfort at my age in having a good cry. But there is big comfort in other things. Chocolate, oh yes! There is big comfort in chocolate.

But with Hub being a diabetic I cannot buy chocolate bars every time I head into town. And if I do, and hide a stash, and he discovers it, which has happened a couple of times, he is mighty offended. He seems to be losing his trust in my forthrightness and honesty when it comes to snacks – particularly snacks with a high sugar content. In fact, just this morning he noticed an empty Cheezie Bag in the garbage.

His comment, "So what else are you buying and eating on the sly. I see you finished off a bag of Cheezies last night without even offering me any!"

The real truth was while I was searching for tobacco dust in the car (see previous post), I had taken an empty bag of cheezies and some other refuse from the inside pocket of the car door and tossed the stuff in the kitchen garbage. I was pleased this was the case because I refuse to lie to Hub. That kind of stuff can create major rifts in a relationship, but at the same time withholding non-pertinent information is okay. Isn’t it?

Anyway, I am happy and upbeat today because I have discovered a quick and easy fix for my moments of sadness. A quick fix that I want to share with you because it is so swift, so easy, and so-so good. I found it in a recipe book authored by Susan Blackman and Dawn Ius called "Golden Spoon". A recipe quicker and more simple than most cake mixes.

It's just this simple.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the following ingredients in a large bowl in the order given without stirring. 1 cup sugar (I used ¾ c.), 1 egg, ½ c. milk, ½ c. (soft) butter, ¼ teas. salt, 1 teas. soda, 1 teas. baking powder, 1 teas. vanilla, 1 ½ c. flour, ½ c. cocoa, ¾ c. boiling water. Mix well and pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch pan and bake for 35 minutes.

I popped some of that into my mouth when it came out of the oven, and ‘Voila’, I was a changed woman. So my question is, "How come the experts and the educated therapists don’t advocate this kind of fix for depression when it works so well?"

*little happy dance across the room, down the hall…snapping fingers, swaying bum, and flexing ‘back’…no not like flexing spine – like ‘flexing back’ into the kitchen for more*

Friday, March 11, 2005


Truth is stranger than fiction. So strange in fact, that if you told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it for a minute. But I am in this story, part of this story, so I know it is true.

Last week I came to a decision. It was time, I decided, for me to quit smoking once and for all. This is not my first attempt. This is one of many. But this time I am taking the whole business more seriously. The really dumb part of it is I still haven’t got to the point where I really want to quit. A point that is apparently critical to success, but at the same time, I enjoy smoking and if I wait until I want to quit, quitting is unlikely to happen in this lifetime. But, at the same time, I have noticed I am having more frequent episodes of apnea at night and I notice that I am much more short-winded than I should be for my age. So whether I want to quit or not, the time has come.

So here I am dumbly trying to quit something I haven’t yet learned to hate and despise. That’s about as dumb as my attendance at two stop-smoking seminars a few years back that were moderated by a woman that had smoked for a total of two weeks in her lifetime and the other by a man who had never smoked at all! What did they know about the addiction? About the struggle? About the urges? About the pain? Nothing. Bloody nothing. It goes without saying, those two sessions did something for these smug moderators’ egos, but they did nothing for my stop-smoking-endeavors.

So now two weeks ago when I ran out of smokes I decided that was enough. Not because smoking is bad but giving such an incredible amount of my income to government taxes is what I hate. So I decided it was time to put a stop to such a wasteful expense. So with my stash of smokes depleted, I roamed the house mourning the loss of that ritual that for more than 30 years has comforted me when I was sad, forgave me when I was bad, cheered me when I was mad, and celebrated with me, when I was glad.

Within five hours I found myself morose and anxious. An hour later I found myself emptying ash trays in all the vehicles into a can. Soon I was pulling butts apart and re-rolling them. Next day I resurrected a can of butts from the basement, ripped them apart, gathered up the powdery tobacco that was nothing but dust, sprayed it with a spritz of water and rolled it into smokes. And the next day I ripped those butts apart and re-rolled them mostly with just an ‘ash’ content.

Then this morning I had to ultimately face reality. No butts in the cars, the basement, the garage, or even the shed. No butts left. None. And then the need for a smoke hit me like a frigging freight train. I puffed on my nicotine inhaler to no avail. I raked my fingers through my hair and thought about how much I wanted to weep. (and how much I wanted to go to town and get some cigarettes). But I just refuse to give the government all that tax money!

I went out in the yard to pace about and think about my dilemma. I looked down and nestled in the soggy grass I saw a cigarette butt. Now I think it is a disgusting thing when people stub out cigarettes and toss them on my lawn. A habit that I’ve always considered totally rude and ignorant. But in a flash I was down on my knees combing the lawn for more soggy butts. I whispered a blessing for the ignorant kindly guest that had tossed them there.

So that find was recycled into a short fresh smoke. Now where do we go from here? Tonight I had another miserable attack. This time I went through all the coat pockets that I normally carry cigarettes in. I looked for the smallest flecks of tobacco. Nothing. Then I pulled out all my old purses and with a long handled artist brush I gently brushed any tobacco remnants from the pockets and linings of those old purses into a folded paper and poured the stuff into a cigarette tube. This smoke was a less-than-appetizing blend of pocket lint, peppermint dust, household dust, some pansy and poppy seeds, some tobacco dust, dead skin cells, dog milkbone debris, and kleenex lint. One of those self-righteous non-smokers in my neighbourhood often tells me he would sooner eat hard-boiled shit than smoke. I can’t imagine why. I know how to make a cigarette that tastes the same as hard-boiled shit. Remind me to offer him one next time he comes.

Now I’m not telling you this so I can whine and force you to feel sorry for me. I am telling you this so people will realize that addictions come in different sizes and at different levels. I recall now how unfairly judgmental I was when a friend of mine confessed to me the intimacies of her addiction. She was addicted to drinking coke and when her requirements reached more than eight cans a day, she decided it was time to quit. It was very difficult. She was as lost and miserable as I have been this week. And then she confessed to me what it had forced her to do – this addiction of hers. When she found an unopened tin of coke in a pile of rubbish by an old fence that had probably been there for more than two years, she opened it and drank it! It was Gawd-awful but she drank it anyway. These are addictions that cannot be overcome by attending seminars moderated by someone who has never been there.

Mostly my efforts this week have made me truly sad. I hate the feeling that so frequently hits me that makes me want to weep. My sister-in-law said to me the other day. "There are going to be days like that. So go ahead and weep. Weep if you have too." If it would comfort me, I would. But I have found that when you get older, weeping is no comfort. Not at all. By the time you are my age, you have been so hardened by difficulties and sad times, that you have totally lost your faith in the healing powers of a good cry. (*sniffle, sniffle*)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


You’ve heard it before. Grandpa or some old Uncle scowling at the dinner table and saying, "You’ve just never been hungry enough or you would eat it." As much of a cliché as that remark is, it is true.

When I was a kid, these were the rules.

No one was allowed to eat meat without an accompaniment of bread, potatoes, pasta, or rice.
No one was allowed to leave the table until they had cleaned up their plate.
No seconds were allowed until all first helpings were cleaned up.
No one was allowed to taste anything prior to it coming to the table; and
If anything served was new and you didn’t know if you would like it, you still had to try it. (a tablespoon of sauerkraut for you and you and you).

And everyone, even the little kids, were expected to do the math. Everyone was expected to be able to accurately calculate how much chicken or salad they could extract from the bowl or platter and still leave fair and equal portions for everyone else at the table. And everyone was expected to know prior to dinner exactly how much he/she could eat so that nothing would be wasted. Bread crusts had to be eaten if you expected to have dessert.

I fully understand why these were the rules. When I was a child living in a household with a limited budget and eleven hungry mouths to feed, food was a precious resource that could not be squandered. Rules like this had to exist in order that everyone could eat. But amazingly, without even realizing it, I insisted on these same rules for my children, and even more amazing these are still the rules that my children are passing on to their offspring. MD (middle daughter) just told me recently that none of the kids are allowed to eat meat without sandwiching it between bread or eating it with some other similar accompaniment.

But rules are different for different households and I realized that the day Hub and I invited a young man for a barbecue. Hub did up some really tasty rib steaks. When I delivered a platter six gigantic steaks to the table, the young man took 2 dinner-plate-size-steaks which of course completely filled his plate. Not a speck of space left for potatoes or salad or vegetables. I stared at him in disbelief. I was certain that even if he hadn’t eaten for a week, he would still be unable to eat all that steak. I felt I must speak up.

"Joey Boy," I said, "I want you to put one of those steaks back. It’s not that I care how many you eat. If you can eat two, eat two. And if you can eat three, eat three. And if you can eat more than that, Hub will cook more. But in the meantime, I want you to eat one at a time." He looked hurt, but he slid one of the steaks off of his plate and back onto the serving platter.
Now at twenty years of age, Joey Boy was such a pleasant and polite boy, I just couldn’t understand why he would have done such a thing. It seemed like a rather rude move to me.

When I brought it to his attention he was obviously embarrassed, but so was I for having to say anything about it. Later he confessed to me that ever since the beginning of time, his mother arranged each plate at the stove and then set them on the table. That was dinner. There were never any seconds.

So here was a young man who found it unusual to sit down to a meal with great groaning platters of food in the middle of the table and the freedom to help himself to as much as he liked. Here was a boy that couldn’t do the math because in the past he had never done the math. So when this kind of opportunity presented itself, he took full advantage of it.

I was sorry I had to bring it to his attention, but in the end, I was glad I did. Because after one steak, he was stuffed. He couldn’t eat another bite. And believe me, I would have been one cranky lady if I had been forced to chuck a premium dinner-plate-size-steak in the garbage that was virtually untouched. And of course that’s exactly what I would have been forced to do if I hadn’t spoken up.

And finally, the most important rule of all in this household and listen carefully cause this is ultra-important. If anything is really good, exceptionally good --- never express surprise. Because I am a good cook and surprise is therefore NOT a complement to a consistently good cook. But a mundane reaction is.

So now after this spiel, the question is…Do you have any weird dinnertime rules at your house?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Today I’m going to share a joke because with our rapidly changing attitude toward smoking, I’m afraid it might disappear from our history and heritage. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s too comical to just let it slip down the drain.

The story goes like this.

A fellow walked into a garage and asked for work. "I want a job," he said. "I’m smart. I can fix anything."

"Oh, can you?" said the boss. "So if I give you a job, how much would you expect to get paid?"
"Sixty minutes an hour," the fellow replied. "Is that too much?"

"No. That’s fair enough," said the boss, with a chuckle. "This might be your lucky day. We need a good mechanic. Do you have papers?"

"Sure do," the fellow replied. "Do you have tobacco?"

Monday, March 07, 2005

# 1 The End that Marks a New Beginning

I'm excited, aren't you? I have a new environment and a new page and a new look and I am ready to start a new epistle in about 180 episodes per year. Stand by to see what pans out.