Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer Busyness

Dale did a nice thing this morning. Because I hadn't posted for a week, he wrote to ask if all was well. He's done that before too. I like that.

So, after a busy morning I managed to find a few minutes to update y'all. I documented my busyness and brought you up to date on the hearing aid fiasco (see previous post), but my computer suddenly shut down —— no warning —— nothing saved. It's never done that before, and here's hoping that it will never do it again.

We're expecting company momentarily, so I won't post any details this time around, but at least you all know that Cuppa and I are still consuming our share of oxygen and hope that you're enjoying your summers too.

Friday, July 21, 2006


My Shattered Nerves: my FIL, bless his huge heart, used to say that. Shattered things are on my mind today. Here's the story.

We went to a park today, just to sit and read for a few hours. It was a pleasant thing to do ... until it was time to leave, that is.

You see, I had taken my iPod to stick in my ear while I read. To stick my iPod in my ear, I had to unstick my hearing aids. No, I'm not deaf, but I sure benefit from assistance, the way that most of us benefit from sight assistance. I wear them most of the time, you know? I don't love to wear them but wear them I do. They make my ears moisty and itchy, you see, but it's best if I wear them. I can hear most things at ordinary levels that way. I don't have to blast the tv and assault Cuppa's normal ears, and I don't have to keep asking people to repeat themselves. That's tiresome and aggravating for all. Yeah, it's best if I wear them.

But I can't wear them while I listen to my iPod, and if Cuppa needs to say something and I remove them for a moment, I can pick up those few words. So, I took them out and put them, the hearing aids, in my pocket. And I'll bet that you bright, sleuthish bloggers already have some sort of inkling of what's to come. Yes, I can hear you saying, "Oh no." Yes, I can hear you, even without my hearing aids in.

I moved about some while we were at the park for those several hours: got up some, went to the washroom, went to the car, lay on the blanket, returned to the chair ... and so on.

Time to go. Got the car packed and reached into my pocket for my hearing aids. Pulled out and inserted the left one and fumbled around for the right. It was not there. There had also been some coins and a tube of Blistex in my pocket. They were still there, but not the hearing aid. No, it was not in that pocket. It was not in any pocket, no matter how many times I dug, patted and prodded. Neither was it to be found in any article that we had packed, not in the roll-up chairs or the cooler or the blanket or the book bag or the food bag.

The ground-search commenced in earnest. We retraced steps. We got down on our hands and knees. We went back and forth and forth and back. Others, noticing our plight, helped, particularly one nice lady who hunted ever so concernedly and diligently. Thank you nice lady.

Eventually, and I do mean eventually, Cuppa found it after almost stepping on it. She might as well have stepped on it as a matter of fact. For somebody had. Me, no doubt. Shattered! More than a thousand dollars of hearing aid lying in shattered pieces.

The relatively worthless coins and the Blistex remained securely in my pocket while the hearing aid not only fell out but managed to also get trod upon. In the whole park, not a crowded park either, a foot found this tiny little hearing aid and crushed it to bits.

When we got home, our closest neighbours joyfully shared some good news with us. They had won a trip to Ireland. Yes indeed, they had won the draw from last weekend's Celtefest. They didn't go to the concert, and we did, but they won the trip.

I am happy for them. No, really. But sometimes things seem to conspire against me. Sometimes, I feel luckless.

I was going to end it there, on a note of self pity, but then I thought about it a bit more. Actually, it didn't require much thinking, for it was just there begging for me to see it.

Here it is: this neighbour is not well. He is almost confined to the house during the summer's heat and humidity. He finds it hard to breathe, you see. Not only is he asthmatic but he's diabetic and has a heart condition. He's only sixty-five, and he doesn't feel well much of the time. If he can manage to make it to Ireland, he may have to rent a scooter because you do walk a lot on trips and walking is problematic for this guy. No, I'd not want to trade places with him, not for a free trip to Ireland and not even for a working hearing aid or for the money it will cost to get it replaced.

So, I'll take my little life and be glad of it. I really will. But couldn't it have been the Blistex? Couldn't it?

Monday, July 17, 2006


It's very hot here today. Although the temperatures are only around 90°, the humidity is sky high, and it feels more like 100° — at least . I know that's not much for some of you, but it's a dang heap of hot for this wimpy northerner.

Nevertheless, we managed to go for a bike ride this morning. It was with a group. I guess we're the youngins because we kept leaving the others in the dust and having to stop and wait for them whereupon everybody had to have a nice, long chat when we all got together again — each and every time . The main problem for us was that it was hotter standing than pedalling, which at least provides a breeze. The wee nasties also swarmed us during these lengthy respites. We may not pedal with that group again. They're nice enough, but their bodies are in a different place. I don't hold it against them; I'm sure that Cuppa and I would have a pretty hard time keeping up with a group younger than us. It's just the way of it.

It was also hot at Celtefest yesterday, but we found a semi shady and somewhat breezy spot on a hillside and were in pretty fine fettle most of the time and most certainly by the time that early evening rolled around. At some point as I sat and listened to the music and watched the people coming and going, I thought, "This is better than Sarnia," which soon led to the realization that "This is where I live, and I'm home." Home: it's good to be here. I'm not sure whether I ever truly felt that way in my thirty-five years in Sarnia, but I already begin to feel that way here — at least in some ways.

I'm not sure how Heather stands it. She attends the Winnipeg Folk Festival for a whole weekend every year. We were only at Celtefest for about six hours, but by leaving time I was almost emotionally spent. The music was thrilling and there was so much of it that I almost couldn't take it anymore.

Perhaps I was tired because Saturday night after the concert that I mentioned in the previous blog hadn't been a good sleep: not at all. Some of the tunes kept playing and replaying in my brain: over and over, all night long. Last night there was some but not as much of that going on, but I had some pretty wild dreams to cope with. I guess the old fella got too excited by life.

I'm not terribly excited today, however. It's letdown time.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Night Out

Last night, with D1 and SIL in tow, we embarked on our latest outing in this unique area that is now home.

The Ottawa Valley, essentially the rural area to the north and west of the city of Ottawa (my description, not necessarily technically spot on), has long been a unique area with lots of fiddling and such. Since I have already written of attending a Celtic Jam or two, you know that we have begun to explore this connection. Actually, this isn't much of a stretch for me as I have quite taken to some of the celtic-flavoured music coming out of Canada's East Coast — The Rankins and Great Big Sea, among others.

To the point then: the little town to the north, Almonte, is holding its 10th annual Celtefest this weekend. The main event is today; it is being held in the open air and is free. Last night, however, there was a pay-up concert in The Old Town Hall by the headliners, The Elders. Oddly enough, they are from Kansas City. How a Celtic band forms in Kansas City and is then induced to travel to and perform at such a tiny and obscure venue is beyond me, but that's the reality of it.

(Pardon the interruption while I pet the cat who is in his tight, little spot beside my keyboard. He really appreciates these interruptions and thanks you for your patience.)

We found our way to The Old Town Hall and were quite shocked when we walked in. Tables were set out all through the room with chairs around them, more like a church social than a concert. I find such things quite charming: the old, rural ways butting up against modernity. By all means, I hope they hang onto their small-town charm for a long, long time.

The audience was quite old. Cuppa and I were surely below the median age, and Butterfly and Boy stood out as the youngins. Call it a Q-tip crowd if you will. You know: curly, white-haired ladies and friends. But the band was very modern. They were Celtic (sort of) but not the quaint and hauntingly pretty type of Celtic. No, they fall into the Celtic Rock sub-genre. They were loud and rollicking, no doubt the kind that expect the listeners to get up and free-dance in the aisles.

Of course, there was none of that, not even a lot of head-nodding or toe-tapping as far as I could tell. But I loved the juxtaposition of the old and the new and extend credit to the both the people and the musicians for living on the edges of their experiences. In the end, I think everybody had a good time. I know I did.

The music festival odyssey will continue in several weeks. The Riverside Jam will occur in our own community. Cuppa and I have, perhaps foolishly, volunteered to help supervise this event. This one is a country music format and quite a bit larger. People even bring their campers for the three-day festival. We'll see how that goes.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In The Pink

I can't quite figure this out.

Cuppa and I decided to spend a quiet hour in the park this afternoon. After making the requisite all-Canadian coffee stop, we sauntered over to a shady bench on the banks of the Mississippi River, the unmighty one. We rested at approximately the same bench where I photographed Cuppa seven posts ago. Although the day was hot, it was quite pleasant under the grand, old willow by the water's edge; the cooling breeze also served to ameliorate the heat.

A man greeted us as he walked by. Moments later, I noticed him, at least I thought it was him, on the bench about twenty feet to our right. He had his shirt off, or did he? It was hard to tell; perhaps he was wearing a pink muscle shirt. I didn't think so, but I kept glancing his way in hopes of figuring it out.

Before leaving, I accidentally-on-purpose meandered by his bench in order to get a better view. Sure enough, he was pink from the sun. Being a kindly and good-hearted chap, I drew this to his attention. In a concerned voice: "Hello there, you may not realize it, but you're very pink."

I am still processing his response: "It's okay, I'm used to the sun. I'm from Las Vegas." I say that I am still processing it because to my mind, pink is pink, sunburnt is sunburnt — wherever you hail from (or for purists — from wherever you hail).

However, I wasn't about to question the man's sanity, so we chatted amiably for a moment. I told that I had been somewhat proximate to Las Vegas when we visited Arizona not so very long ago. We talked about the weather down thataway and a little about our trip: where we went and what we saw. I inquired how it was that he was lazing by the banks of the Mississippi River so far from home. It turns out that he owns a cottage nearby. He likes it here; he finds it very peaceful and safe. Good old, relatively crime-free Canada, eh? Tell that to the average Joseph or Josephine in Toronto.

We wished each other well. I collected Cuppa, but as we ambled back to the car, I remained puzzled about why that sunburn didn't matter. I guess I'm just a dumb Canadian, but is a sunburn not a sunburn?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Only in Canada?

I'm not exactly angry, but it bothers me. Maybe I am disappointed. Disgusted might be too strong a word; peeved might be better. Oh, I don't really know how I feel about it.

Yesterday, I had to go to our local, little hospital for x-rays. We have heard good things about the hospital or at least about its emergency room. Apparently, the service is usually good or quick at least. In Ontario, if you don't have to wait for an interminable length of time in the ER, it's considered to be quite remarkable and worthy of praise.

So, I had high hopes for the place, but I'm afraid that I was rather disappointed. While they were efficient enough, they rendered no evidence of having twigged to the concept of patient as client (or customer).

I dealt with four different people in the twenty-five minutes that I spent there. I don't recall one greeting, one smile, one how are you. I was processed. That's what it was. I have been x-rayed before, you know, and to my recollection the technician has always shown some sort of interest in my condition. Not this one. The robot technician who x-rayed my foot yesterday wasn't curious at all. "Shoes and socks off. Up on the table." She positioned my feet took various pictures, told me to wait while they were developed — all, somewhat miraculously without ever looking at me. I was simply a foot, a body part.

Come to think of it, I don't think the lady who registered me and punched in my data bothered to look at me either, and I think the same thing applies to the x-ray secretary who told me to sit and wait. Giving credit where it's due, it now occurs to me that when I first went to the wrong window, the young lady who directed me to the appropriate wicket did look at me and there did seem to be some warmth in her eyes. I guess I should be grateful.

But I'm bloody peeved at the rest of these health care practitioners and, based on this experience, at the institution in general. Is a slight touch of humanity too much to ask for? I'm not asking for Wal-Mart phoniness necessarily, but if minimum-wage workers can affect friendliness, can't highly paid health care workers make a wee effort? They weren't exactly grouchy or miserable, just aloof and uncaring. At least that's what they seemed to me. Who can know their thoughts, however?

Maybe it's our health care system. I'm sure that it's a stressful job, and I'm sure that the financial constraints of our public health system aren't exactly jolly-making, but jeez louise. I'm not sure that the blame does lie with the system, however, because it doesn't seem to me that they were so stoically phlegmatic back in the Sarnia hospital. Maybe it was just one of those bad days, yesterday, or perhaps I simply chanced upon an unfortunate set of people. I don't know.

I wonder what it's like elsewhere. Maybe the more private-for-profit American system spawns better public relations? It's also extremely difficult for me to imagine that those chipper and garrulous Aussies could ever be so gloomy and taciturn; that beggars the imagination somehow. Only in Canada, you say? Pity.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Nursery Rhyme Couple

She likes her toast well done; a touch of burnt suits her fine. She has been known to let it cool before applying butter. I like mine golden, and I like to butter it while hot, so that the butter melts right in.

She prefers her bacon crisp — very crisp. I like mine to be taken from the pan just before it gets crisp. Cuppa will say, "Slice my apples thinly please, and just a little peanut butter will do." I slice mine thicker and dole out almost twice as much peanut butter for myself.

There exists a photo of Cuppa and AC leaving their wedding reception together, or not so together. AC, with suitcase and garment bag in hand, is heading towards the getaway car; Cuppa is blithely striding off in the other direction — to where she supposes the car should be. That's what I reckon anyway, but I confess to never having officially cleared up that point of confusion.

It goes on and on, this list of differences. Cuppa becomes mesmerized by the first thing she sees upon entering a store while Anvilcloud's penetrating gaze searches for the commodity that drew them into the store in the first place. That makes sense though, doesn't it? That's not just personal taste but an evolutionary inheritance. If we men were the hunters, we had to be focussed, couldn't be distracted from making the kill. I mean to say, if you're trying to find a moose to kill and eat, you can't be distracted by every plant and blade of grass on your way. You'll never track a moose that way. Likewise, if women were the gatherers, it follows that they would look all around evaluating the possibilities presented by every object that they scanned. (Before bloggers everywhere decide to flame me for such stereotyping, permit me to quickly add that I understand that there are wide behavioural variations between the two poles that I have just presented. I am almost positive that some women are fantastic hunters and that some men are superb gatherers. And in case you don't recognize it, that's my nod to political correctness. You're welcome.)

Trips and events bring out our differences rather grandly. For our recent Arizona adventure, it was I who made the travel arrangements, planned the itinerary, booked hotels and arranged the tours. I seem to be able to organize and plan trips. However, when we moved last year, Cuppa carried the lion's share (lioness's share?) of the load, for she has the ability to organize our home space much better than a dithering AC. I joke that she can pack two suitcases and sixteen bags (the bags are another story, however) faster (or more efficiently) than I can pack up my laptop and camera. When I say that's a joke, I really am joking because in point of fact it really isn't much of a joke. It's more truth than jest.

We don't seem to question who does what. It just seems to happen in the regular flow of our river.

Remember the nursery rhyme?

Jack Spratt could eat no fat,

His wife could eat no lean;

And so between the two of them,

They licked the platter clean.

Nursery rhymes tell truth, or at least this one does. Differences are good; they can be synergistic. A couple can be, should be stronger than the sum of its parts. You probably know that because you are no longer kids either. But some people don't know; they think that compatibility is all about sameness. In my experience that simply isn't true. It's beneficial to like some of the same things, and it is important to share many similar values, but it's fine to be different too and have lots of independent interests.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Of Cheetahs and Oxen

The years like great black oxen tread the world

And God, the herdsman, goads them on behind.


Time is an odd concept, or at least one that I cannot grasp very well. In a sense, perhaps a very big sense, it seems an abstract idea to me. Although I am told that in the world of physics and Einstein, time is a very real thing, it doesn't always seem very real to me. And I suppose that it also depends on who's doing the telling because I now recall having posted something like this before and someone (madcap mum perhaps?) took some issue with the previous viewpoint. Me? I'm much too simple, not to mention lazy, to resolve the science, and, frankly my dear, I don't ...

On one hand, time seems very real. I mean to say that we all reference weeks and years on an ongoing basis. Those units provide a frame of reference that we really can't do without. On the other hand, they exist almost solely for our own reference points. Not completely, I suppose, because I do understand where the measurements of days and years come from — the relationship between the earth and sun, of course. But now that I've breathed air on this planet for almost six decades, I realize that I don't have a true sense of time. In an instant of thought I am transported back to boyhood, and I relive an event and its concomitant emotions. It is current in my head, not forty or fifty years past.

In a sense, I have been breathing air for an eternity: my eternity. In my own interior sense of time, I have existed forever: my forever. In another sense, however, I feel as though I have lived for but an instant. I am naught but a flickering candle. Yes, time is totally paradoxical to me. As I am paradoxical to myself because I had no thought or intention of prattling on like that. No, I simply thought to tell you how busy I seem to get and how many days pass before I realize it.

In the past four days we have attended a wedding and a celtic jam, watched the Wimbledon finals and part of the World Cup championship, taken in the Scottish Tattoo in our local park, and driven into Ottawa to complete several chores. To me, that's more cheetah-like than oxen-like (see quote above), and I guess it's that sort of notion that led to my cryptic and confused ruminations of the preceding paragraphs. I quite get the very apt oxen metaphor, but ... but I won't repeat myself again ... not just yet anyway.

I had begun to change this blog template with the seasons, but I find that one-quarter (give or take) of summer has already cheetahed past, and I still have my spring template up. Or at least I did until just now. This one, featuring a photo from Monument Valley, Arizona is a bit of a rush job, and there may be things wrong with it. For example: in the past, I have used a lot of little formatting styles which I haven't yet bothered to update. So, if you peruse an old post, you might see some pretty odd colour combinations. Maybe I'll fix those; or maybe time will continue to cheetah, and I won't get around to it. Who knows?

This afternoon, I have an appointment with our family physician. She's still new to me and I to her, so I am not much looking forward to this visit. Maybe that's why I let time dangle a bit and demurred over setting up this appointment, but demur I did — should have made it weeks ago. Speaking of weeks ago, as the cheetah runs, we've not been on our bikes for over two weeks now, and it's been even longer since I last worked out, not that I do it all that strenuously, but you get the idea.

I should be able to draw some sort of fitting conclusion to this post, but, as must be apparent to all readers, I am somewhat fuzzy-headed this morning, and will have to just let it go for now. Sometimes, you have to cut your losses and end the blog. Perhaps that's something that I have learned with time.

Friday, July 07, 2006

With Highest Praise

That's what it means, summa cum laude. I didn't really know, so I just looked it up. It's one of those phrases that you hear forever and ever; you know it's good, but you never know exactly quite what it means. So, I googled it and found that it does mean with highest praise which is better than cum laude (with praise) and magna cum laude (with great praise).

The younger of my two daughters, Ladybug, opened her diploma when she was home last weekend. Although she hasn't lived with us for the best part of a decade now, we're still her official home address, and lots of correspondence comes here. That's why her diploma got mailed here. And that's why I know that it says summa cum laude. She likely wouldn't think to tell me otherwise. She hates to appear boastful, you know.

Aside: older daughter, Butterfly, and her husband were also present at the time of the opening of the huge envelope. Being French he had a heckuva time wrapping his head around the degree being called a Bachelor of Arts. How could she get a Bachelor of Arts when she was studying psychology? It just didn't compute; well, it doesn't really make a lot of sense when you think about it. It's just one of those things that you accept in life, and you move on from there.

Ladybug's friend, Powerpuff, the chatty and informative one of the pair, also informed us that Ladybug had made the Dean's Roll of Distinction; at least, I think that's what it was called. As I understand it, only those students who earn first class honours in each and every semester get their names on that prestigious list. That's what my daughter did: earned honours in every semester. I saw her transcript, and she only received one grade below A in four years, and that was a B+!

She started university once before but ended up staying at her co-op placement for a number of years while she sorted things through. She lived in Ottawa for a while and then in Calgary before quitting her job and spending almost nine months travelling in the Britain and Australia. After that she enrolled in University of Alberta, and from there transferred to McMaster in Hamilton. Along the way, she also picked up some stray credits at University of Calgary and Carleton University. Phew!

Ladybug us still sorting out her next moves, but, if she has her way, a post graduate degree or two lie in her path.

As you can tell, I'm a proud papa, but it's not only the level of achievement that I applaud. It's absolutely wonderful, but it's not the foremost thing for me. For me, the thing in life is to do your best in the path that you have chosen. Ladybug has demonstrated huge fortitude and tenacity in doing her very best and in getting to where she is today. She sets her aim high and is willing to work very hard to achieve what she wants, and she doesn't expect expect life to come to her gift wrapped.

And so, I use this little blog to heap a little more praise on one who has already been bestowed with highest praise.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

North American Birthdays

Good grief! I haven't even blogged about Canada Day yet (of course, I haven't blogged about anything lately), and here it is Independence Day down south. As you know, I recently spent time in Arizona, met several of you fellow bloggers, and felt quite at home. Some of you sure speak with funny accents, but Americans that I have met, both recently and formerly, are wonderful people. The description, salt of the Earth, comes to mind. Have a great day in Arizona, California, New Hampshire, Georgia, Washington, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, and the other states where my blogger friends reside; those remaining state names simply aren't springing into my dim consciousness right now.

Yesterday was Canada Day. (No it wasn't, but I'll leave it as written, just to show that started to write this several days ago. It comforts me somehow.) We celebrated our 139th birthday. Every little community does something. There were concerts and feasts and fireworks at our local park and at all sorts of venues across this vast land. We weren't at the park, however, choosing to celebrate with family and friends at D1's house. D2 and friend were in town and staying with them, so we weren't about to be anywhere else.

As the above picture shows (taken early when there were still relatively few present), many of us were decked out in red and white, and flags were flying everywhere (just not in the picture, so don't strain those eyes). The flags will come down soon, of course: most of them at least. We're very proud of our country, you know, but we don't carry on about it most of the time. It's just not the Canadian way. Eh?

Cuppa and I were the only oldsters in the crowd. Most of the couples were thirty something with a toddler in tow: only one in all cases. It's hard to afford either the funds or the time to raise more these days, I guess. Or maybe second children will make their appearance in due time. Cuppa and I waited six years between our two, for example.

The little folk showed tremendously divergent personalities. Just like the adults, there were loud ones and quiet ones, gregarious ones and shy ones, trusting ones and fearful ones. Then there was the pooch, Frodo, a Shepherd-Border Collie mix (photo below — with yours truly). What a neat dog! He was still there when we left near midnight. His folks tried to take him home when they put their little girl to bed, but he wasn't interested — wanted to mix. He wasn't hyper or demonstrably excited but very undoglike in choosing not to rest or sleep for all those hours.

We sat in the sun and later in the rain although we moved to the protection of a neighbour's gazebo when the rains began. It was quite the gazebo too, with deck flooring, carpeting, electricity, satellite tv, and high speed internet access. Cuppa and I stayed until after eleven o'clock, but, of course, the thirty-somethings partied on until the wee hours.

The next day (after I began to write this in the morning), Cuppa and I headed back to D1's where we had a grand family breakfast. In the afternoon, we drove down to Smiths Falls to visit the Hershey Chocolate Factory, and we had a bbq supper. D2 went back home the next day, but it was great for the little clan to get together one more time.

Today though, I think I'll continue to take life easy and resume watching The World Cup. Despite the fact that, as I opined earlier, I'd like to see a few more goals, I am quite enjoying the competition although with both England and Brazil out, I'm not sure for whom I will cheer. Then, we'll go line dancing tonight. Should be a good Independence Day here in Canada too. Eh?