Saturday 27 February 2016

an unabashed letter

 I looked up the word "unabashed" in my Funk and Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary that I chose as my prize for receiving the English proficiency award in my grade twelve year. That was when we still had grade thirteen in Ontario. I still believe we should have grade thirteen. It is an extra year in which to mature a little more and to figure out what you want to do next, or perhaps what you need to do next.

Regardless, I was using the word, "unabashed" correctly because I was not the least bit embarrassed to be writing a fan letter of sorts to one of my favourite authors, Louise Penny. I have mentioned her already in my blog when referring to The Long Way Home.

I just finished her latest crime mystery entitled, The Nature of the Beast. Again, it was set in the fictitious Eastern Townships village of Three Pines. How badly I want to go there (yes, I know...) to eat at the bistro and stay at the bed and breakfast, and walk through the fallen leaves to go and sit on the bench and catch a glimpse of Ruth and her duck. This latest book takes the reader on a journey which combines art forms and the dark underbelly of human nature. Penny always includes art, whether it be painting, sculpture, poetry, or drama in her books, perhaps as a way to ground the reader to something wonderful and creative while a character gets killed off or reveals a very human flaw.

I do not want to give away a plot line for anyone who hasn't read this yet, but wants to. If you've read any of Louise Penny's other books, I will tell you that you will love the character  of  Ruth even more after this.

So whether Penny reads or responds to my letter to her does not matter. I just felt that I had to let her know how much I have enjoyed and anticipated her books over the years. I truly don't  know  how  she is able to put together her amazing story lines or create her multidimensional  characters. It is in one part a gift, but, no doubt, it also comes from hard work, determination, and incredible skill.

Come have a seat in the "red room" as we call it and I'll  make you a cup of tea, or pour you a glass of wine, and begin with Still Life , her first book, and discover  why I am  unabashedly  a fan.

Monday 15 February 2016

frost on the window- school bus memories

I am writing this blog on a new devise that I bought because it was such a good price. I bought a Samsung galaxy tab 4 with a 7 inch screen.  Currently I am hating the fact that I can't actually  see  what  I  am typing because  it is hidden  by the keyboard when  I hold it horizontally. So I have to keep it vertical.
The  topic of today's blog is riding a bus to school. I grew up out in the country  which meant that I took  a bus to school and back every day. Because of where we lived, I always (except  for one year) had to walk down  the road to the intersection where  the bus would pick me up. In retrospect it wasn't  terribly  far  but when I was young I felt hard done by and wished to be  like other  kids who were picked up at the end  of their lanes.
Riding  a bus was a normal occurrence for me. There was the usual pecking order  of who got to sit in  the back seats. There was no such  thing  as a seating plan in those days. You sat according  to what grade you were in essentially (or how cool you were, which  I never  was) with  the  big kids at the back and the little kids at the front. If things got too loud, the bus driver  would hit the brakes, pull over, and  blast you with threats of kicking you off the bus and making you walk home. I don't  think  it  ever happened  but there was a healthy respect anyway. 
When I was quite young, before my parents  moved  to the house they built, my bus route included a road that was quite rough and had a few ridges in it (maybe  due to frost heaves or bad road  maintenance?) Our bus driver was a good natured sport who delighted us by hitting those bumps at a pretty good rate of speed. In fact, the kids would start getting ready by bouncing  up and down in their  seats and talking excitedly to each other about  "the bumps." When the driver  hit that sweet spot in the road, kids would fly up in the air and jolt back down, sometimes achieving  remarkable heights! We loved it. I have no doubt drivers would never take the chance of doing something  like  that  now, likely for fear of some irate parent phoning the bus company with a complaint of injury or lack of safety. I'm glad that  we weren't  wrapped in the protective "bubble wrap" that some youngsters experience today. We knew the consequences. If you didn't  want  to fly in the air and smash back into your seat, don't  start bouncing, sit closer to the front, and hang on tight.
When you spend  a daily portion of fourteen years  on  a  bus, you find ways to pass the time. There were no such  things as I pods or cell  phones  in the early 1970's with  which  to  pass the  time. So, you talked to your friends  and played  games  with  toys  you  brought  with  you  for that purpose  or if you didn't  get motion  sick, you read a book or drew pictures. Homework is tough on a bus due to the fact  that writing neatly  while rolling along  over gravel  roads  as well as stopping  and starting  all the time is almost impossible.
Winter time on a school bus presents its  own unique  experiences. First of all, you are already bundled up in multiple layers including snowpants, a hat, and miittens. Picture Randy from "A Christmas  Story" and you have the  idea. You might  be on the bus for five  minutes or forty-five  minutes depending  on where you live on the route. You can get pretty heated  up, especially if you  sit near the heater a few rows back. There would be gradual shedding  of layers as time went on so you didn't  end  up  with  a  sick headache.
On very cold days, with the sweaty little body heat combined with the frigid temperatures outside, you would be delighted to find beautiful  frost patterns on the windows, reminiscent  of feathers  or paisley.

These patterns  were not only beautiful  to look at, but they also provided  us with a canvas. We would  scratch off sections with our fingernails (and no doubt  ate  the resulting mini piles of "snow). We would write our initials  in the frost  or messages with "t i d", "t  i n d" beside  them,  which of course meant "true if destroyed" and "true if not destroyed". 
Another artistic  endeavor  on the  windows  was the creation of footprints in which you used the side  of  your  hand and then your  fingertips  to create a rather convincing  bare foot print.
A Google image of someone who obviously lacks the artistic abilities  we possessed  as children!
School bus floors were usually coated with a slurry of slush, mud, and bits of gravel, or even straw or manure depending on if you wore your boots in the barn or not. The bottoms of our  school  bags, snowpants, and even knees would become soaked with this mixture throughout  the  winter  months. I know my mother washed my snowpants on a regular basis.
Our own children also took the bus to school. Our sixteen year old son still does on the days when he doesn't have some commitment  before or after school. I suspect some of their experiences were similar to my own. Do you have any frosty  window or school bus memories of your own?

Tuesday 9 February 2016

maybe it's something else...

I have been very busy with work and life. On top of the normal obligations and responsibilities, I have been dealing with my body lately. It's no secret that I am 49, in my 50th year, and like many other women my age, am dealing with hormone decline. I have been attributing lots of things to my hormones (or declining hormones, or lack of hormones). I haven't had any specific blood tests done, but some things are just obvious.

I also mentioned in a previous post that I was going to try yoga. I have been to two sessions. The instructor is lovely. I find it very difficult because my body hurts so much to get into certain positions. My tailbone area and hips, as well as my shoulders, cause me so much pain that I have to adjust many positions. I look around me and nobody seems to be wincing the way I am, or having to unfold slowly and carefully after certain moves. I feel incredibly old.

Every night is a succession of shifting from one side to the other, usually very slowly, with my hands having to lift my hips and ease myself over. By early morning, I have a small pillow between my knees to take some of the pressure off my hips. As well, my shoulder joints are screaming at me and I am only able to place my arms in certain positions. All of this, I attributed to the onslaught of the next stage of my life.

I finally decided to go to my local chiropractor because I would really like to lie on my back again. It's the little things in life... She did tell my that things were out of place and "locked up" and I have had two treatments already. I have been doing stretches for weeks, with no relief. I shared with her that when I get up in the morning, I move like a 78 year old woman. Everything is stiff and sore and needs time to "warm up". She suggested that I get some blood work done and be tested for other things. I had another professional suggest I have my thyroid tested.

Finally, I looked up symptoms of thyroid problems, specifically hypo. And there I saw a list of things that describe me for the past year or so. Weight gain (I attributed that to hormones and just not eating as well as I should), hip and shoulder pain (I'm the poster girl for that), muscle weakness (again, just blamed that on not exercising as much as I should), exhaustion (work, age, life...), always feeling cold (that's been me my whole life apart from hot flashes which are no longer bothering me), and on and on...

So... I will be calling to make an appointment with my doctor (which could take two weeks to get in to see him) and I will ask for all the necessary tests. I am curious to find out the results. Have any of you experienced thyroid problems? Were they discovered right away? Did medication help? Thanks for any comments about this topic!

Monday 1 February 2016

Morning Drive

The sun was shining a bit this morning when I was driving to work. As you might know, I live in a very rural area, at the edge of a little village. My drive to work takes me through the countryside. I pulled over a few times this morning and used my not-cool phone (as my son seems to believe) to take some pictures. It's nothing special, but it is what I see almost everyday, unless I take a different route, but that route also takes me through the countryside.

What I wish I could have taken a picture of this morning would be the Amish children whipping along on their scooter bikes, girls skirts' flying, me thinking, "They must be cold!" I think the Amish culture does not support photographs being taken, so out of respect I will not. But these little gaffers are out there in all kinds of weather travelling quite a distance, too. They attend a "separate school" which only Amish children attend. When there isn't any snow on the ground, they are bare footed. (Is that the correct way to describe it?) They place one foot on a lower board of the scooter (it is made of metal), and then propel themselves forward by pushing rhythmically with the other leg. I've often mused whether that one leg ends up being big and muscular, and out of balance with the other. I have also seen them travelling at excessive speeds on roller blades! The road that they are on is paved, so roller blading is possible.

I also wish I could have photographed the field of sheep that I drive past in nicer weather. But right now I think they are sheltered in a barn and won't be out in the field for at least another couple of months.

There has been some rain and milder temperatures so some water is standing in the fields.
It's fairly flat in this area with woodlots in the distance.
There is a river that winds through here and the water is high right now.

A herd of Holsteins out in this "mild" weather.

A nice farm house, the property always kept neat as a pin.

farms in the distance
As I look at these pictures in the extra large size, I think to myself that this looks a bit desolate. Sometimes it feels like a frozen Arctic Tundra but not today.  Most farms are at least one hundred acres in size, if not more, so farms with their barns, houses, and other outbuildings are spread out quite a bit.

I was just happy that the sun was out and that it wasn't so cold that my nostrils stick together!