Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coaching Bowling

I took Zoe bowling on Saturday and was going to drop her off and shop while she bowled. But the person who was to be taking her, also coaches, and told me that I had to go in and coach as well as drive her there. I usually don’t respond when people boss me, but this was Richard ... so why not let him tell me what to do. I spent enough years telling him what to do.

I am always saying yes to something I don’t know much about. In the first case, I haven’t bowled for years. I did bowl at my friend’s parent’s bowling alley in junior high. But now I hardly know how to score . But I could see Richard was desperate for having the day off, so I told him I would take his place.

When I got to the Pacific Place Bowladrome, I asked for my first coaching lesson. I was told – cheer for anyone who makes a strike, give a high five to anyone who does a spare, and if every ball goes down the gutter, then find some way to give some positive reinforcement.

More rules followed.

Give the participants a call if they forget to go up to the alley when it is their turn. Get them down from the alley if they are up there when it is someone else’s turn.

Write the scores on their cards when each game ends.

That was the end of lesson one.
Watching the social culture between the bowlers became curious, since I was sitting there with not much else to do, but watch.

“Here is something I owe you,” said a a mentally challenged woman to Greg who was at my table. She put a can of pop in front of him.

“She’s my girl friend,” he whispered to one of the workers when they enquired about why he received that gift.

Bill has his own bowling ball and his own shoes. Half way through the morning his ball was missing. Apparently the bowlers put their personal bowling balls in with the regular balls, and then the balls goes up and down the alley. But he hadn’t seen his ball come through for a long time and he began to get nervous. Soon there were four people looking for that ball – a ball with a white stripe going through it. I am pretty removed from all of this, this being my first time as a bowling coach and all. And so I am curious as I see coaches going up and down the alleys, checking for lost bowling balls. I can’t tell one ball from another, but they assure me there is a difference that I will get to understand and they are all out helping Bill.

I watched a social butterfly flit from one team to another, being as coy as could be with some of the men she liked.

“I got this UPS hat at work,” one man told Joan. When she asked him how, he said he got it for going up the one way road, the right way. I asked Joan what that meant. She laughed and said, well, he works at UPS and some of the isles are one way. I guess he got it as a reward for “doing it right”.

Do you know what I was surprised at? When I went to give the first high five, I could feel my stomach knot up. “What am I thinking of. This man/child is going to hit my hand so hard that I will bend over with pain,” I thought. I had seen his bowling ball go down the alley and the sign said, 26 mph. But no. Gentle as a lamb, when it came to touching me. Just a bare brush of flesh between us.

When Wyona and I go to London Monday next, we are taking Zoe with us. I will spend some time every day taking her some place: Hyde Park, Sister Act, Regent’s Park, the London Zoo, the London Eye, ked, Clapham Court, a ride on the bus that circles London proper where we can see all of the great sites. She loves to sit right at the front of the top of the double decker bus. I hear her gasp as the bus driver goes too close to another bus, or just seemingly misses a pedestrian. I will do a lot of walking in the parks with her. That will be good for my health – the walking. I don't think we will be doing any bowling. We will save that for when we get home.

In English -- iron; in French -- fer

Dear Family,

We had a most miraculous and interesting day. The main event lasted only 40 minutes, which I think is a miracle in itself.

While getting ready for church this morning, I decided I needed to iron my shirt. A rare event, I must admit. I think the last time I ironed something might be over 5 years ago. Found my iron, plugged it in and pulled out my brand new ironing board. Left the iron on the washing machine and ran back upstairs to check on the kids who were having breakfast. Not five minutes later, I went back down stairs to iron my shirt.

When I opened the door to the laundry room, I was met by a terrible burning smell. The air was hazy but there was no frank smoke. I thought, "oh no, the iron has burned the washing machine." Ran around the corner and happily found nothing. Wasn't sure where the smell was coming from but thought I had better iron my shirt fast and unplug the iron.

As I was quickly ironing my shirt, I started to hear this loud crackling sound like there was a live wire in my basement. This was slightly concerning so I followed the sound and found that it was coming from the electrical box of our house. Now, quite alarmed and concerned, I turned off the power to the house. This caused much delight upstairs as I heard the kids excitedly consider the cause of the power outage. With some trepidation, I eventually turned back on the power. Not your typical occurrence! I was quite alarmed and not very keen to leave our house for church before I understood what was going on.

My brief 911 call was transferred to the fire department, who quickly arrived with two very large red fire trucks. I think the phone call and the fire department's arrival took less than 2-3 minutes, again much to my children's delight. Six fireman later, the men were tearing apart my home checking light fixtures, outlets, and eventually opening up the electrical box to examine it.

In classic franglais, we communicated about the problem. I was reminded and will likely never forget that the word for iron in french is fer. The amazing fireman eventually were able to reproduce the terrible smell and crackling sound emanating from our electrical box. Needless to say, the offending line, where I had plugged in the "fer" is now off and we are on the hunt for an electrician to rewire our 90 year old house.

Quite an exciting day. An electrical fire, contained inside our electrical box lasting a total of 40 minutes from start to end. I have a new love and respect for our fire department. However, I hope I don't need to call on them again anytime soon.

Grateful tonight for our safety and for this miraculously interesting day.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Artifacts for Display about a Life Well Lived

When Bonnie read the post about George Parkinson dying, and that his watch, his pen knife and the keys to his truck were on display, their family wondered what would be a good display of artifacts for their lives.

They came up with the following:

1. a container of mint glide floss.
2. a recording of my belly laugh (which would include a snort) on a speech generation device (SGR) that you could push to play back.
3. a soap stone carving a "Gavagai" to represent my love of studying language acquisition.
4. a can of diet coke.

1. a recycled paper folded into four so that a clean white square faces the outside of the pocket, with a pen hooked on to it.
2. his daytimer.
3. a collection of coins with his money ledger for his quarterly accounting.
4. his articles, books, and manuscripts, with the one about being a father on the top.

1. His "Life is Good" cap that has a train on it.
2. His drawings of the Olympic Torch runner in Sicamous and the one of him feeding Kiwi.
3. A recording of his laugh on a SGD that I could play back.
4. Two lego objects tied together with a string.
5. A set of his stories/writings from his powerpoint books he has created on the computer.
6. His stuffed cat called "Meow meow".

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chelsea gets another operation

Tomorow Chelsea will be operated on again. The soonest she will be out will be this coming Sunday. Teague is bringing the rest of the family back to Calgary from Medicine Hat on Friday.

There is some fine tuning that has to be done to the bolts that are holding the pin in Chelsea's back.


The OlympicTorch Comes to Salmon Arm

From Moiya:

It was thrilling to see the houseboats come up the channel with the torch lit for all to see.

I saw Bonnie Wyora down below standing where she could almost touch the torch bearer as he ran by. I've been sick and can't shout, but tried to and then I tried to whistle. She doesn't know my whistle yet. I finally saw them in the gymasium with the rest of the town who were there for free food.

We got little free paper flags and they had little bowls of stew, a bun, and a drink from McDonalds. I heard that all the restaurants in Sicamous got together to do the planning for it. A mammoth job it was to feed all of those people! I am sure that Bonnie can tell you how that was, as her family stayed for the food.

I was overcome with emotion as the torch went by. I ran down the street as fast as my legs would carry me, with the torch. The man running behind the torch, the man trying to control the crowd told us to stay behind him. My legs finally gave out and I walked at a fast pace. I didn't do the tread mill that day but I did get my exercise in.

I stood beside the display which had the medals there too. As I am quite sick, I finally took the medals and David and I went home. I left the rest of the display there and the Principal said he would take my things to his office.

Now David is back from town with the picture and he is going to hang it back up on the wall for me. Not too many people came and looked at the display. They were there for free food.David is back and he said that the principal said a lot of people were asking about it.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hello Dolly

Hello Dolly,

I taped Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly from the T.V. last month and sat one evening to watch Walter Matthau and Barbara Streisand give their memorable performances in that show.

Then this Tuesday, Wyona and I went to see the local production of Hello Dolly – this time with Lurene as part of the seven piece band that accompanied the work. The band began the evening with a set of Dixieland tunes – and then the official performance began.

Wyona and I switched back and forth between watching the performers, listening to the band back up the performers, and then waving back at Lurene as she and the rest of the orchestra came on the stage for the bows at the end of the performance.

Thanks, Lurene for the fun. Since the performance I have gone out to the internet to find some memorable quotes from the play. You proably know them all, having been at so many rehearsals:

Horace: Advice is cheap, Ms. Molloy. It's the things that come gift wrapped that count!

Horace: It takes a woman all powdered and pink to joyously clean out the drain in the sink!

Dolly Levi: Here, let me cut your wings!
Horace: I don't want my wings cut!
Dolly Levi: No man does, Horace, no man does.

Dolly Levi: Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow.

Barnaby Tucker: Holy cabooses!

Cornelius Hackl: We're gonna close the store.
Barnaby Tucker: Close the store?
Cornelius Hackl: We have to, 'cause some rotten cans of chicken mash are going to explode.
Barnaby Tucker: Holy cabooses, how do you know?
Cornelius Hackl: Because I'm gonna light some candles under them.

Dolly Levi: [singing] It takes a woman to quietly plan to take him and change him to her kind of man and to gently lead him where fortune can find him and not let him know that the power behind him was that dainty woman, that fragile woman, that sweetheart, that mistress, that wife.

Joe, Vandergelder's barber: You'll have to sit still, Mr Vandergelder. If I cut your throat it'll be practically unintentional.

Horace: I'm going to march in the 14th street parade with the only kind of people I can trust: 700 men.

Horace: Eighty percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in danger of contamination.


Given that I might be in the eighty percent of the people in the world who are fools, that might not be the best quote to end with ... but hey, some of us have to be there to make the others fear something ... if only contamination. And watching the local production was really fun, even if the memorable quotes are kind of goofy.


Preparing for an emergency

Dear Family,

Just thought I would forward this simple page about how a family can prepare for an emergency.,11664,8034-1,00.html

After the recent disaster in Haiti, I am reminded that disaster can strike any of us without warning. It is such a good idea to have a plan and a small supply of food and water on hand.

Seventy-two hours is the time it takes to mobilize emergency services.

Also of interest is the Canadian government's website about getting a 72 hour emergency plan.

Thinking of all of you.


The Funeral Service of George Parkinson 1921 – 2010

Doris, Howard, Leslie and Kevin stood at the casket as mourners filed by before the funeral began at 1 pm today. When I sat in the chapel waiting for the service to begin I saw a lovely line on the programme: “Interment to follow in the spring, after the roses have bloomed at the Stavely Cemetery.”

Doris Wood and Leslie Walker shared giving the eulogy and tribute to their father. I usually tell something about what I hear at a funeral, but today the words were so carefully chosen, so beautifully crafted, so lovingly presented that I got lost in the complexity and depth of the tribute his daughters made.

Take the lines, “Dolena and George did not always agree. She grew roses and he grew raspberries.”

Later I was watching pictures flash by on the screen in the cultural hall, and in one picture of the Parkinson back yard were George’s raspberry bushes, nearly six feet high. I looked down to the middle of the table I was sitting at. The centre pieces there were hand-painted, brown and white plaques with careful lettering:

grew roses
grew raspberries
Those were the plaques, one for every grandchild to take home – as well as exquisitely framed pen and ink sketches of George, stretched out, sitting on a couch for some. I saw someone, a man, a child on his hip, walk over and take the one he knew belonged to him. A piece of raffia was tied in a bow around each frame.

On the same table as the black and white sketches was displayed George’s watch, the keys to his house and truck and his red jackknife, the blades open, as though ready for use. Two uniforms, George’s Air Force uniform and his Ferry Command uniform, were by the table on easels, the lapels resplendent with war ribbons and metals,

A wreath with poppies was at the front of the chapel, as well as the Canadian flag, hanging on a stand that was leaning a little to the left. If you lived in our ward, you would have heard George and/or Frank Selman talk in church on every November 11 Sunday – not a job either relished but a talk that no one was better suited to give.

Doris described George’s childhood in Saskatchewan – his father was 70 when he married an English immigrant woman and five years later he died, leaving his widow a small five year old child to raise in the middle of the depression.

Leslie told about her dad and mother having her move in with them when she was a young divorcee with six small children. And Leslie told about George’s declining years after Delena was gone. Pulmonary disease meant he had to use an oxygen tank for the last six months. She talked about his hands, about the roughness of them, the oil in the cracks of the skin, the worn cuticles, the hard work they had done in his lifetime.

On the day he died, he read the Calgary Herald, looked for the crossword puzzle to do, took note that his horoscope told him to make important decisions about his family for if he did, nothing else he could do that day would matter, and then he died in the evening while watching the hockey game.

The mourners took the main pews: four children, 17 grandchildren and thirty-six great grandchildren, along with their spouses. After the grandchildren and great grandchildren sang a medley of songs, those who wanted to go to the play room were escorted there and then the eulogies began. I haven’t seen that done before. It made me think about what I would want at my own funeral and the only thing I could add to letting the children play is that perhaps there could be a set of side pews reserved so that those older grandchildren who like to play with their DS’s could both listen in and play their games at the same time.

As I am typing, I am trying to reach for more than the tone at the funeral and wondering which of the words I heard could encapsulate what I felt there today. My deeper thoughts might have begun when Leslie said, we are not rich people, but what we didn’t have in the way of money, we made up for in the happiness that we had when we would get together and have parties. Or perhaps it was when Leslie said that a house is four walls and a roof, but a home is a place where people are welcomed, find solace, safety and comfort, where there is happiness and hope, where there is always room for one more at a table even when it stretches the whole length of the front room.

When I think of George’s wife, Delena, I can remember going visiting teaching there with Erva Sherwood. That is when I heard Delena say that she had been worrying about who was going to sew up all of that material in Fabricland. I knew I couldn’t help her with that. Delena helped me -- taught me how to raise cream puffs to a new elegance by piping the dough through a tube, and how to decorate Valentine sugar cookies with the words “U R Mine” or “I luv U”.

Jim Sherwood said that George was so in love with Delena that when she died, that was the beginning of George’s decline. I don’t know whether that is true or not. I am sure Delena’s kitchen was the centre of the happiness in that home. But George was by her side. Those who knew him would wonder now how many roasts George really did carved to be taken to some other function, or be amazed at the technique with which he could take his knife to a turkey, or wonder if they could match his skill at moving boxes of decorations and desserts from one place to another.

I walked home from the church, wrapped in an ankle-length coat, seeing my breath in the air and the lacy hoar frost on the branches of the copses of trees on the church lawn and I was wondering if it is when the pink Alberta roses bloom in the spring, that George will be interred.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chelsea walks around the bed

Chelsea couldn't eat until gas had passed. When that miracle happened Saturday afternoon she got to eat ice chips. That was followed by apple juice after it was cleared with 3 different people: the nurse, the desk and the Dr.

Tonight she gets some broth.

Friday night she stood for the first time.

Saturday morning she had to walk around the bed to the door and then back to bed.

She is always saying to Cheri, "Mother, my back hurts." She didn't say anything about the pain before. She must be noticing the pin and 3 screws.

She likes lots of visitors, and she is comfortable if people come and she sleeps. She is going off of the morphine this afternoon and now more awake than Cheri has seen her.

For six months she can not lift more than 4 kilos. As well, no boat rides, no carrying her back pack.

Alicia likes to stay over at the hospital with her and when a visitor comes to the room, Alicia writes their name down in a guest book.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Teague's report on Chelsea's operation

We got there at 6:30 am and by 8 am they had taken vitals and put Chelsea in a hospital gown. They wheeled her away before 9 am and said they would put her under with a mask, so she wasn't awake for any of her injections.

At the hospital they have a family room where Cheri and I sat watching TV, waiting, scrapbooking. At 11:30 the nurse came in and said they had made the incision. She was right open and the team were making a decision as to whether they would put pins in or how they would correct the problem. We were expecting the nurse to come back soon and update us. She came in the afternoon, just to let us know things were going well, but it wasn't until after 6 pm that we got the page from the Dr.

He showed us the latest x-ray of Chelsea's back where the bottom of her spine is pointed towards her back. He said when they pushed the spine back into place it took a great deal of tension off of her spinal chord and that was the reason she always took short steps and had no flexibility. He said the spinal chord looked like a waterfall where it cascaded over the last bone.

Then they showed us the x-ray with the screws in. The screws and a rod. It is not very big. They packed bone inside of the apparatus. The Dr. told us the operation is successful and the spine is now back where it is supposed to be. The Dr. said she has a birth defect and the bones that are supposed to connect her spine to the last bone toward the pelvis, the ones that are supposed to be at the bottom of the spine, never grew.

If they had been there, they would have put so much stress on the spinal column that she would have been incontinent.

Three to seven days and she is out of the hospital. She can't eat anything yet. The Dr. says she must stay at the hospital and can't eat.

It is 9:30 am and Chelsea has called to see why anyone isn't visiting her. Cheri spent the night in the hospital with her. There is a bed in the room for Cheri. When we visited her last night, Chelsea was like a bug pinned to board, like the bugs mom used to have in south east Asia, Chelsea's eyes rolling in her head, giving us instructions. She knew we were there then, but probably has no memory now.

When I asked Chelsea if she wanted Cheri to read her a book, Chelsea said no, she wanted to sleep.

On other fronts, Cheri is going to feel vindicated, for Andrew tried to sleep with Nathan, but Nathan had to find a different bed last night. So ... still no solution to the problem of Cheri's back from sleeping with Andrew.

Last night, Andrew was trying to find Cheri -- upstairs and downstairs. While the two caregivers, Wyona and Teague slept, Charise and Nathan tried to move Andrew but anytime someone touches him he squeals like a pig. Andrew went upstairs and downstairs, trying to find the bed that Cheri was in. So Nathan hung out on the floor with Sabrina, Gabe and Zach and Andrew had his bed. Teague and Wyona slept through the night while Charise and Nathan orchestrated the night's sleep for Andrew.

Teague also wants everyone to remember that there are other incompetent baby sitters. Once Wyona and Arta were baby sitting and he came home and found Sabrina and Gabe sloshing in the toilet bowl. The kids were in their diapers, with their hands in the toilet. The grandmothers a were in Marcia's kitchen. So babysitting ... well, what does that really mean.

Everyone is staying at Grandma's house, including Gabe and Zach. So today was declared a school holiday by the parents. Chelsea is looking for visitors and has asked that they bring breakfast which at Wyona's is croissants with chicken. Of course, Chelsea can't eat until she has passed gas, so no croissants for her.

Apparently after the operation the medical team touched every part of her body to make sure all of the organs are working. They said they are mean and she can't eat anything until she passes gas and her stomach is growling.

The operation took nine hours. Wyona says Teague and Cheri looked as bad after the 9 hours as Chelsea did.

Thank to everyone for their phone calls and concern.

Wyona made four cheesecakes and is doing cheesecake popsicles if anyone wants to pop in at Chisholm.

If you visit go to the fourth level at the Children's Hospital. Anyone can go who would like to ... they welcome kids, wanting it to be comfortable for the kids who are in there and to get them feeling normal as soon as possible.

Teague and Cheri

The Tomorrow Project

The Tomorrow Project - Supported by Alberta Health Services-Alberta Cancer Board, the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer
Janary 21, 2010

“Any good plans for the day?” That is what the medical researcher said to me this morning at 8 am when I went to participate in a ten year old on-going study on cancer.

“Best thing I know about my day is that I am here for your project,” I replied.

They tested body mass index (BMI) by just having me step barefoot on a special scale. Apparently electronic waves go up and down your body, at different rates through muscles and fat. I must be special. I measured 30.7%, right in the middle of the healthy range for my age. How sweet is that.

My blood pressure was 131/70 – which I flaunted at the guys who live here, for Ed just had his blood pressure taken and it was much higher. “How do you stay so calm,” he asked.

“Having 8 children around for 25 years makes it easy to stay calm now. My standards are so low, given that the bottom line every day is to just answer the question ‘is everyone still alive at the end of the day’”. They laugh and think I am joking.

The new measure for the waist seems to be the perfect indicator for abdominal fat – how can it happen to me again! Everything perfect ... or at least in the right range.

I don’t know why they are measuring the stiffness index of the bone in the left heel, but I was happy to give the Achilles Express machine a chance. I watched the woman take blood. Six vials. The first one was to let them take a complete blood count of the research participants. The next five vials are going on ice so that they can look at them later as bookmarkers when they get more data from the participants. I asked the woman for a drink of water when she was through. Just a few ounces for that was a lot of blood to lose without getting some kind of liquid replacement for it.

I had filled out a long 20 page survey that another researcher was looking at while I was getting all of this testing done. One of the questions was how much moderate exercise (housework for example) do you do a day. I put down 8 hours and the woman wanted to know if that was per week or per day.

“Per day,” I told her. “I would have to be near dead to only do 8 hours a week.”

“Oh, I do sit down,” I went on. “I eat and do paper work for some of the other hours of the day and I am sitting down then.

She laughed and said, “I surmised that from your survey. Here, let me validate your parking ticket and warn you that you only have 10 minutes from when I validate it to make it out of the parking lot.”

Guess they don’t want anyone hanging around drinking coffee and relaxing before they head out for home. And speaking of drinking coffee, one of the questions was, How much caffeine have you had in the last 74 hours? I had to confess to one coke in that time – even if that is out of the ordinary for me. Wish I could have appeared perfect to her, but that coke I couldn't resist got in my way.

By 9 am that part of my day was done – and I have gone on to enjoy myself in other ways – true to form, massive cleaning in the house; then my internet going down and the roomers coming to help me get back onto the gateway. The guys who went to Cuba brought back 25 cigars and the Iranian was checking with me as to whether I can smoke, since he had just come inside the house with a half smoked cigar in his hand. I said no smoking –not even cigars for Mormons. The smoking must have been on my mind for one of the related questions the researcher asked me was ... do you chew betel nuts. I told her no, and I asked her if she knew the song from South Pacific that has the word betel nuts in it. She said no, so I sang a few lines from “Bloody Mary is the girl I love” for her. Just enough that I could get in the line “She was always chewin' betel nuts”. When I got home I googled betel nuts, so I would have a little more information for the next time I am asked if I chew betel nuts. I wanted to ask the woman back ... watever for? Why would I chew them?

And now I know.

I turned to David and said, “No drinking alcohol for Mormons either”. He laughed.

The Brazilian guy who drinks coffee added, “No simple South American pleasures like coffee for Mormons, either.”

“Bad for Mormons all of the way around,” I agreed. Still fighting to maintain something interesting about my faith I ended with, “Most of the simple pleasures of life denied us. Only one thing left. Multiple wives and that has to be in the eternities ... not here. Sucks to be Mormon all the way around.”

They laughed and offer me a puff on the cigar, but I have just participated in The Tomorrow Project about good health and turn them down.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chelsea's Operation

6:30 pm

Wyona called just now to say that Chelsea's operation lasted from 8 am to 6 pm. Three pins were put in her spine. She will be in the recovery room until 8:30 pm.

Cheri and Teague are coming home for a bite to eat before going back to the hospital.


The Olympic Torch is coming to Sicamous

The torch will arrive in Sicamous on January 26th. There has been extensive planning by this community of just over 3000 people. David has contributed a "lucky lanyard" that has an olympic looney in it for a raffle basket to raise money for the preschool. It should be an interesting prize for someone. I think the basket is primarily child size gloves with the olympic logo.

We will be missing "Sicamous Snow Days" this weekend because we committed to having a booth in Salmon Arm at the Literacy Fair. The booth is called "Make a Book". David and Joaquim built a pyramid out of lego for our theme of Egypt. Wishing we had some papyrus.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Olympic Torch

I was leaving my house, going to my car and could hear loudspeakers, men's and women's voices, saw a helicopter circling overhead, heard the loudspeakers again, and thought I was in a part of a Law and Order episode where some criminal was in a building and the police were on their megaphones. I wondered whatever was going on over at the university to cause such a commotion.

I drove down the street and by St. Pious Catholic Church saw a whole crowd of people on the streets, the flashing lights of a police car at the intersection and police on bicycles going up and down the street.

I changed my agenda and parked a block away to see that by the time I got there, the people on the streets had red flags and were waving them. Six recreational vehicles of different types passed by first, all painted with logos about the Olympics. Music and proud Canadians were in them, waving and smiling to those of us on the streets who waved back.

Within five minutes along came Susan Auch, 2-time Olympic medalist, dressed in a sparkling white track suit, jogging, proudly carrying the Olympic Torch high, smiling, waving to everyone on the street. The torch is stylized, white, a red gas flame about a foot high burning in the plus/minus zero weather.

A perfect day to remember how proud I am to be a Canadian.

Couldn't have been better unless "O Canada" would have been playing.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tarantino - blah!

Going backwards through yesterday I figured out why I had a big day. I waxed and polished hardwood floors upstairs to start the day – the old fashioned way ... with elbow grease. Richard came by and I told him I am thinking of doing some mudding and taping at Penbrooke and did he have any tips for me. He said if I were ready in one hour I could go with him and watch him doing a coat of mudding over the taping at a bathroom he is helping his friend with. I asked him if he could see why my router and modem are so slow. He asked me if I could give him some clean-up help in his house in exchange. I was laughing so hard about the job exchange. He even sat down to make a list on one page of his book, a new page called Jobs Arta Want Me To Do.

He called Shaw to get the deal going on the router. Just a 20 minutes wait, twice, for once he was on the road when they called back. Then he negotiated a deal and a new machine will arrive at my house in 3 to 5 days. Nice. I shortened my job list. He headed out to Costco. I tidied up on the jobs that were near completion for me.

By the time I got home from the mudding and taping I was looking at the clock and wondering how much of the time left in the day I could use up looking for a new coat for Trell. No hope in Brentwood for they have the smallest Marks Work Wearhouse in the world, the clerk told me. Go to Chinook or Sunridge he said. I headed up to Eddie Bauer at Market Mall, but was soon remembering that I don’t walk that Mall at all. Two trips from the north end to the south end and I still couldn’t find Eddie Bauer. Then another trip down the mall to find the information centre. I was trying to walk tall and remember that all of those steps counts as exercise for the day.

At 6 pm, I still had text books in my car to return to the University Bookstore – books for classes I am not taking. The woman wanted the credit card from me that I had used to buy the books. Seven credit cards later she and I were even. Why isn’t the card on top, if I used it last, I thought to myself.

The thrill of the day was entering the parking lot at the university. A week ago, I went to Parking Services to pick up a free parking pass – for retirees. For $30 I could also invest in a returnable unit that opens the Art Parkade entry automatically. The unit gets attached to the front window just behind the rear view mirror there. On my death, would someone please remember to take that back and get the refund?

Serendipity struck when I saw that it was 6:30 pm, time for the Cinemania to start at Science Theatre 140. I looked at the posters: Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds, neither of which I had seen, a double feature at 6:30 and 9 pm, a Quentin Tarantino night. Spending a relaxing evening at the movies and watching Tarantino is an oxymoron, but I took the task on. In the name of parody Tarantino moves through every set of politically incorrect traditions – putting them right in the viewer’s face. Painful.

The university sidewalks are well lit, but eerily empty at 11:45 pm. I was a little hungry for I had forgotten to eat but the food court was closed down. Also on my mind was my full complement of Tylenol, which was back at home – so I headed in that direction. The last movie hadn’t been well attended. And my training is to watch the credits rollright to the last screen; so I was the last one in the theatre. I was alone on the sidewalks, too, except for some revellers from the Den ahead of me, on their way back to residence. The weather was beautiful – the last day of the warm weather we are to have. Calgary isn’t going back to the deep-freeze, just into a good stretch of minus ten. I decided to enjoy the walk to the parkade in the dying throes of the last of good weather. And though it it not open yet, I stopped to admire the new Taylor Digital Library with its beautiful glass window facade.

Retirement is the best job in the world.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Planning a trip to Rome

I have never had the dream to go to Italy.



Western Europe?


It may be because I am not Catholic that I have never had the dream to go to Italy, for I just didn’t put it in my head that I might want to go see the Vatican someday.

Not to say, I don’t like Italian food. I have gone to lots of Calgary Restaurants – Lina’s for food that rivals anything Italian you can find in New York – or so says John Gilcrest.

I have gone from the low of the Spaghetti House to the high of the Italian Restaurant in 10th Street and Kensington where President Bush dined when he was in Calgary.

And I have eaten pizza from every franchise, as well as from the neighbourhood pizza joint on Crowchild.

Having Wyona call from London and say that she found a cheap flight and that we could fly to Rome and stay in a hotel for 7 days, could make such a dream enter my head. The dream has also been put in Moiya’s head.

Since Wyona’s call, I have been out on the internet, looking for sites like “The 10 best things to do in Rome”. I don’t want to get there and not know what I should be looking at.

Wyona has been to Italy twice: once in the ‘80’s and once in the ‘90’s. Memorable to her was the side trip to Vesuvius, she says.

Tonia was in Rome this trip. She says that a day trip to the Vatican is a must – with at least seven miles of hallways.

Still, I don’t know much about Rome. I am pretty sure that when I was in Las Vegas, I saw a replica of the statue of David, and learned in Las Vegas that the original Michelangelo statue is in Italy. Last year I was at the V & A and saw another replica of David, this time accompanied by a joke from the museum curator. He said that since the time of Queen Victoria until just recently, whenever one of the queens has visited the room with the statue in it, something modest has been put on David’s front to protect the queen’s eyes from full exposure to the statue. The commoners, apparently, need no such protection.

Now a google search has revealed to that the original statue is in Florence and we are headed to Rome. So I am left empty – knowing nothing about what I am going to see in Rome.

Off to Chapters or Coles to get me a guide book.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Carmen at the Odeon Cineplex

David Pilling, Kelvin and I just returned home from our seats at the Odeon Cineplex where we viewed the Met's HD production of Carmen. This review will tell you why we loved the show: The Star. The Met also reveals what it was thinking about when they did this new production of Carmen.

Janet and Glen were going to catch the show down in Kelowna. I hope they didn't miss it -- I was reading that Carmen is the fourth highest on the list of all-time favorite operas.

Our theatre was sold out fifteen minutes before the performance was to begin. The theatre manager loves his opera crowd. He was greeting people at the door of Theatre 6, and shaking hands with the patrons as they entered. I asked David what that was all about, telling him I felt more like I was at a wedding reception.

Later the theatre manager was making sure the patrons all had a copy of their "Live in HD: 2009-2000 Season at the Cineplex Theatres". He said he wouldn't miss a performance himself and watches from the projection room. He went up and down the isles shaking hands and talking to everyone. OK, so I have never seen a theatre manager working his crowd before.

I saw Judy, Steve Carter's friend, Judy as of retired policewoman fame from this summer at the lake. She gave me a big hug in the halls in the intermission as I was getting some exercise, and a kiss on the way out of the opera when it was finished -- said she is bringing her father to Victoria and will give you a ring, Steve and Rebecca.

David Pilling is not one to strike up a conversation with a stranger in a theatre, but the man next to him started the dialogue by offering to shield David from the masses sitting next to him who were not opera afficianados. A row and a half of his friends, children, grandchildren, all at the opera together. A fifteen year old, some 10 year olds and then someone from about every other decade.

He wanted to know why David comes to the opera? Does he play the piano? What kind of classical music does he like? What other operas has he seen. Not only is David is not only a person who would not strike up such a conversation, he is also one who doesn't carry on a conversation like that easily, but the man didn't seem to notice, and chattered away until the performance began.

Why does this always happen to David?

He is so shy that on the way home we picked up some baskets at Canadian Tire, and he suggested going through the self check-out so we wouldn't have to talk to the clerk. I hate the self-check out, but David was happy to do all of the hard work at it. Operating machines is better than talking to people.

At the intermission Renee Flemming interviewed the choreographer. And set behind the two of them were the 2 dancers who were about to do the pas de deux that was written especially fo Act III. I had no idea what a pas de deux was/is. I had to go to Wickipedia when I got home. "In ballet, a pas de deux [French, step/dance for two] is a duet in which ballet steps are performed together. It usually consists of an entrée, adagio, two variations [one for each dancer], and a coda."

I don't think I saw a classical perfect pas de deux, for I didn't see the 2 variations,one for each dancer, but what is a choreographer to do when the overture is so short.

A joy to see the dancers warm up as Fleming was talking to the dance master. I guess what I liked better is that the two of them were teaching the millions of viewers to enjoy what they were about to see on screen.

So -- my top picks of great moments in the opera:

1. Don Jose putting the silver ring back on Carmen's hand – first stabbing her to death, and then holding that dead body and trying to reconnect with her by putting his ring back on her finger. Tragic. So sad. So archetypal. I guess that is what the opera is about. To show us who we are and what we can do to each other when passion reigns over reason.

2. Carmen's dancing in the tavern, her exquisite face and acting -- all of that and then she can sing, too. If it is true as she says, that love is a gypsy, one would want to join the band after listening to her.

3. Exquisite melodies and harmonies in the duets and quartets.

Opera -- in a theatre near me. What a treat.

The next showing, the encore, is March 13, 2010. I highly recommend it. David would recommend not sitting by someone who wants to chat.


Bates Family Calendar

The ten reasons why we (Wyona, Greg and Tonia) LOVE the family calendar Charise made for the Bates':

10)  Each member of the family has the same number of pictures, carefully planned, counted and orchestrated.

9)  The flashes of Shuswap Lake behind people, around smiling faces, and highlighting the joy of the environment.

8)  The formality of October in comparison to the craziness of every other month. 

7)  The smiles, the smiles, the smiles, and puckery lips, pouty faces, looks of surprise and exposed tongues. 

6)  Family quotes and sassy sayings that highlight the humour that jumps out of our mouths.

5)  Audra reaching out to squeeze a bubble, in which is precariously floating the head of her aunt Lurene.

4)  Charise, pigtails, funny face, large eyes, see March.

3)  February - very sneaky

2)  Heads and bodies all around the calendar doing hilarious things such as floating above a donkey, stuck in a sunflower, hanging sideways off a tree, and resting on someone else's knee. 

1)  Originality, colour and hard work that created such a fantastic monthly reminder of family.  (Sniff!)

0)  Zoe Nicole Bates' birthday and St. Nicolas Day forming one grand holiday - Saint Zoe Nicole Day!

Fantastic work Charinse.  Thank you!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tiny House Plans (located in Victoria)

Happy Birthday, Grandfather Doral


Today was the day we celebrated my dad's birthday, though I can't remember with what? Maybe it was with the phrase, happy birthday dad, for I can't remember people and parties with the family. He did celebrate with all of his other friends who had birthdays in January, for mother would have a big party in those days where they celebrated all January birthdays. Of course other guests came -- you didn't have to have a birthday that month to be party of the party. I liked the aftermath of the party -- the next day there would be food left-overs for the merriment the night before.

I do remember ice cream, but he liked to have a 2 1/2 gallon tub of that in the freezer at all times, not just on his birthday.

If I am around someone under four years old today, I am going to play a game of "Sheep" with them in his honour.

If I am around someone under 10 years old a game of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will do, or perhaps Fizz-Fuzz.

Because it is his birthday, he has been on my mind today -- mostly with images of a tennis racket in his hand, a badminton racket, a silver dollar in his hand for the "quarter game" or a deck of cards, either for a game of Rook with us, or showing us some card trick.

Nice to have memories like that.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prorogation and the Chattering Masses

So... I am one of the law professors who has, for the past week, been involved in the signing of a letter on Steven Harper's prorogation. The letter was supposed to go out yesterday in the French and English presses, but somehow an earlier draft version got leaked out, so the story got published in OTHER venues about the letter, before the letter itself got out. :-)

Harper's government (via Tony Clement) has already dismissed us, saying the government does govern on behalf of the "chattering classes" (that means us, I suppose). I you want to follow the debate, you can find it at these links:



IN LE DEVOIR (in french, bien sur)



fun, fun, fun.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

450 Episodes of "The Simpson"

The Simpsons' 20th Anniversary Special - In 3D! On Ice!

That is the name of the special that airs tonight, celebrating 450 episodes of the Simpsons.

Last night Ceilidh, Meighan and I played Uno -- with Simpson's Uno cards, the deluxe edition, the rules of which are in the girl's heads though the paper copy is no longer in the card box. Dalton passed through the room occasionally to flesh out the rules for us, or to laugh when I had to pickup the discard pile of cards as punishment for not saying Uno fast enough.

On the faces of the cards, I can recognize Homer and Marge, Liza and Maggie ... and Bart, but no one else. So I have been out to Wikipedia today to get some background on other characters.

The girls knew Groundkeeper Willie and Otto by name, so at least I could start my research there.

Here's hoping that Simpson's fans will join me watching the special tonight -- TV's longest running series.

Twenty years of a series that has branded itself on America and I don't even know the names of all of the characters.

I will be there with my note pad because I want to have more to say about those playing cards the next time I babysit.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Last Word on Creme Brulee

January 6, 2010

At the Shuswap, our Christmas fridge cooled 5 kinds of milk and 2 kinds of cream.

Joaquim drinks lactose-free milk. Duncan needs rice milk. Alex needs goat’s milk. David needs drinks chocolate milk to mask the taste of his night medicine. David and the rest of us drink 2 % white milk s well.

Those of us who can drink any kind of milk, also like to drizzle whipping cream on our apple pie and use a splash of half and half cream in coffee.

As there get to be more and more of us, I envision at least one more fridge: one for milk, one for other beverages, and one for vegetables, -- real food, yummy vegetables.

The man from the goat milk farm called to answer a question Bonnie left on his answering machine over the holidays. Can crème brulee be made from goat’s milk? His answer is that he makes crème brulee and that the only change in the recipe he makes is to thicken it a bit more with corn starch or flour.

He recommends that we keep trying, that we will get it right, for he has been able to do it.

Yeah! Alex? Allergies do not mean deprivation. Are you in for another trial with it?

Now I am left with only one question. Before I go out and buy my own, does anyone have a propane torch that I could use to practice giving that last bit of heat to the sugar topping? I want to perfect my method before I start watching the Canadian Tire flyer to buy my own propane torch.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Winter Walk along Old Sicamous Road

Bonnie and I have been looking for a good place to take walks – our dream is to walk one hour in the morning and one hour in the late afternoon. The sunrise is later here at the Shuswap and the sunset earlier. By 4 pm it is dark, so it is hard to get in those 2 hours of walking in the daylight and have a nap in between, should the first tramp in the woods have been too vigorous.

I asked Glen the best place for a walk, a real walk. Bonnie and I could only stroll up Pilling Road to Bernie, for we had to watch for the difference between the gravelled places, the crusty ice which is also good to walk on and then places where ice would make having skates on preferable.

Glen said it would be possible to take a chain saw and clear a place across our land that would join up at the walking / biking trail that takes advantage of the Old Sicamous Road Trail.

“Then I am in for the day,” I said. “I will pull the branches out of the way, and Matiram Poon would love it too.”

“OK," he replied, "but first let us check out how the trail is." We drove to the old lookout point, parked the car and walked back, past the barrier to the place where you can pick up the trail from the road.

I walked this community maintained trail for the first time this summer. So did all of the children who were more than eight years old, some of them doing it twice. The walk turned into a science lesson today for I was with a B.C forester and a Nepalese Himalayan base camp doctor.

We looked at a specimen of a young cedar tree, we crushed its needles between our fingers, getting a sense of the smell of the tree as well the feeling of the needles. “Mmm, smells good for curry,” said Mati.

Glen pointed out the difference between the Hemlock and the Douglas fir.

“The needles of the fir twist around the branch, while the hemlock needles are flatter, more on the same plane,” he explained. “As well, look at the height of both trees. The Douglas fir reaches for the sun, and looses its lower branches. The hemlock grows under the forest canopy, keeps it branches. The hemlock treasures all of the light that comes to it."

"Smell the needles of the Douglas fir,” he continued.

“Mmm, would be good in curry,” said Mati, again.

I am not quick to differentiate the color and textures of the tree trunks, not good at identifying the tree by just seeing its bole.

“How could I tell this is a birch?,” I asked.

“The trunk is not white, until it gets more mature. Birch trees can grow out of the same root. They don’t need to grow from a seed, he continued. “Look at the difference in the tree boles,” he said, stroking the side of the tree. “See this burnished orange color here, and the deep ridges in the bark as opposed to the trunk of this tree here,” he said again, pointing to the hemlock.

The deciduous trees are bare now, their leaves on the ground. “I can’t tell if this is a western maple or alder by the trunk,” he continued. “But I know how to tell.’” He bent down to retrieve a leaf. “Look, this is no maple leaf so it must be an alder."

Water had puddled in the ruts of the trail.

“Where does this water come from,” I asked.

“If I had a shovel I would go up the hill and be digging to see,” said Glen. “The earth is made up of layers, sometimes as many as seven strata” and he continued, listing them for us. “The first is hummus created by the deadfall and the last, bedrook. Water seeps between some of these layers and you can see that when the original road went through here, a big cut was made in this hill. The water wouldn’t be here, if the layers were still in tact, but they are exposed now and somewhere between some of the layers there is a small amount of water seeping and it is puddling here.”

At one place on the walk there is a barrier of rocks, a double barrier, the boulders incased in large wire boxes so the lines of the barrier are clean and square. “New,” said Glen, “for the technology for this is only 20 years old.”

I wondered who had erreted the barrier.

“Maybe highways,” he mused as he looked way up the hill. “Maybe the CPR,” he continued as he looked down the hill. “There are some liability issues here, and I suspect that highways has done the barrier, for they are the ones who created the problem that could become a slide ... on that might end up on the tracks.

We veered off the path, swung around a tree and a few steps later were beside a large culvert that water was still running through.

“There must be an enormous amount of water going through here at spring runoff,” I said. “And how did you know this water was running underneath the path,” I continued.

“No,” said Glen, “to the question about a lot of water running here. Take a look around the upper couple of feet around the edges of the water here. If there was a lot of runoff you would see vestiges of it up high, but there is nothing here. As to the second question, I heard water running as we were walking along the path and slipped down here to see if the stream was moving well. If it wasn’t, I would have alerted someone in town. No, that is not my job to take a look at this, but since I am here, I wanted to check.”

When I took this in the summertime, I couldn’t see the camera that is taking pictures of the wild life along the trail. Glen saw the markings for the camera on a tree: one foot high arrows about 8 feet high, painted on the tree tunk. These are cameras to capture the movement of the wildlife along the trail.

The wax berry bushes are decorated, professionally it seems, with the small white clumps and single berries hanging on their grey branches. The wax berries hang in clusters everywhere: on the bluffs by the railroad track, fronting the ramp camp, along the roads.

The rose-hips twin the beauty of the wax berries, only using the colour red. Mati and I stopped to eat one – the flesh now soft, the pulpy red texture of the berry hanging onto our we cast off the seeds.

Glen left us to go check the water system. Mati and I continued along the beach, look at the small stream which have fanned out into huge patches of ice.


Wish you all could have been on the walk.

Maybe next winter.


Alex demonstrates Assassins II

The CBC Arts and Entertainment website said that Assassin’s Creed II is among the top 3 video games for 2009. I was showing the CBC website to Alex and he said he has the game so I sat down beside him to see what it is that makes this game one of the top selections of games to have this year.

I watched Alex virtually gallivant around Renaissance Italy, controlling the protagonist of the game, Ezio Auditore.

The assassin is bent on avenging the death of his family. There are stunning graphics of Florence, Tuscany and Venice with thousands of people who seem to be individually alive: a mason is repairing the wall of his shop, a peasant curses at you as you shove past him, there is a villa to run, new buildings to erect in town, and real Renaissance-era paintings to buy.

I may ask to borrow this game and take it with me when I move into an old folks home.

Looks like it would provide some interesting evenings of entertainment.


Pate Sable

January 2, 2010

Glen and I got together for a tart making party on Thursday, making an autumn tart, a lemon tart and a chocolate silk tart. We didn’t choose ordinary tarts, but pate sable, the French “sandy” pastry.

The recipe says that at the right temperature, this dough will roll out as smoothly as plasticine. Too warm it is like pushing a noodle uphill, too cold and it is too brittle to be malleable. We tried the second and third of the iterations, before perfecting the rolling of the crust.

The autumn tart contains apples from the trees at the lake – of course we couldn’t stop peeling them until we had enough to make two 12 inch tarts, not just one.

At the next tart making party we have 2 more scientific experiments to do. The first is to create a crust from chocolate crumbs that does not fall apart after being baked.

The second is to perfect the technique of carrying tart pans to the oven. So far it seems they have to be carried by using one’s hands on the side of the pan. To carry the tart pan to the oven with one’s hand on the bottom of the pan is to find the upper ring of the pan dangling on the elbow of your arm and the crust that has been carefully packed onto the fluted sides of the pan falling down around your feet scattered onto the floor around you.

This is a lesson that a person only has to learn once.



One Last Christmas Gift

January 2, 2010

I told Alex that since we would be together at the Shuswap for the week after Christmas, I would go to the kitchen and make him anything his heart desired. He didn’t have to think long to come up with his number one choice: crème brulee made with goat’s milk.

Now where did that request come from? I never choose crème brulee when I am at a dessert buffet, -- except for the times when I take a sample to check again and see why it is that others like why others like the queen of custards and I don’t.

I held off all week filling his request, since my kitchen equipment doesn’t include the blow-torch that is needed to melt the brown sugary topping into a golden caramel sauce, finishing off the dessert’s presentation.

Yesterday was my last opportunity to deliver on my promise with or without the blow torch so I got out the goat’s milk, eggs and sugar and began to whip up his request, using an internet recipe for crème brulee.

I slipped the final product under the broiler in the oven for that finishing touch to the sugar. I didn’t get five stars on the final product from Alex. Alex did acknowledged I had done my best and ate half of the 8 x 8 pan

Doral's old saying, if it is good it is better with cream, does not apply to goat's milk.


Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve at the Shuswap

December 31, 2009

We had Indian food on the last day of 2009: cauliflower subjee, dahl and the third dish is called rice and peas, but to get the idea of the taste you have to add in the idea of onions and cumin seeds fried in some butter before they are cooked with the rice and peas. Mmmm.

Ringing in the New Year was done in the traditional Catalin way: 12 grapes, one for every stroke of midnight, all to be eaten in the first 60 seconds of the new year, to get the maximum good luck that they will bring.

Different iterations of us watched two movies: Nothing but the Truth, a movie about U.S. national security, and Thirst, a Korean vampire film. Intermittently, Duncan and Alex played video games, ate popcorn and chips.

I made my first mistake of the New Year just before bed. While cleaning up after the party, I watered the first one of the seven geraniums that have just been brought in from the garage so that they can start getting maximum sunlight. Before going to bed Steve asked me if I had poured his drink down the sink. Truthfully I could say no.

Then he changed the question to, did you water your plants with my drink.

I am trained to leave half filled coffee cups alone, but I don’t yet have the talent to differentiate glasses of water that can be used on plants from Sprite with some Rye in it. This morning I am going to check my plants and make this into a scentific experiment: see if plants fed alcohol thrive or wither.

Glen, Janet and Laynie brought over a 12 inch lemon tart which was cut into 12 large pieces and we ate vanilla ice-cream on the side. Aunt Janet gave Alex and Duncan gingerbread men that come packaged with icing so that the boys could decorate their own cookies. Duncan especially enjoyed sucking the icing out of the plastic package after the decorating was done.

David Camps helped us all play a Dr. Seus “The Cat in the Hat / I Can Do That” with him, making sure that the cards to play the game were distributed to all and that the trick-a-ma-stick under which we were to crawl stayed standing. David is the only one who could really fit under it with instructions like, "Slide under the trick-a-ma-stick with a cake on your head."

Happy New Year from our house at the Shuswap to yours.