Sunday, December 31, 2017

Found a Peanut

I have the place in the family that is usually reserved for dogs. You know the old trope about people hitting one another, until the lowest person on the totem can only kick  the dog? Well that is the spot reserved for me by Hebe.

Here is my side of the story.

Her snow coat knocked a large toy out of a basket. I was nearby and I got the aftermath of her sudden resentment. “Why did you do that. I am so mad at you. Your are the worst grandmother ever.”

Earlier in the morning, I heard her tell Catherine, “You are the worst mother ever, and I am going to kick grandmother”. I hold the sacred place for others. But for her, I am the place to vent when the world goes wrong. She is mad at her mother? She threatens to kick me.

This morning I woke up, wondering what I could do to rope her in, as it were. Make some kind of loving impact. What I was doing wasn’t working. While she was eating breakfast and I was doing dishes, I was hearing again that I am the worst grandmother ever. (Lest my reader worry, I am laughing so hard inside when she is doing this, for she is telling me exactly what is going on in her mind, which may or may not look like my reality.)

I told her she is correct, the I am a dumb grandmother, -- except that a few of my grandchildren really like me. She was silent for a moment. Probably dumbfounded. I went on, “Duncan really likes going to shows with me. Alex always says ‘Hi Grandmother’. Ceilidh has her folks go home to St. Albert and she stays alone at the lake with me for 10 days. Ceilidh and I spend all of our time wrapping wire around beautiful rocks to make them into jewellery.” I was laying on love with all of my might and then to make a mighty switch I thought I would see if she would let me sing to her.

Catherine was in the room at the same time, looking for crystalized ginger for the Triple Ginger Cookies I am going to make. All she could find was a box full of Chinese treats – hot peanuts, marinated plums (mostly pits and wrinkled skin), and outdated vacuum packed jumbo nuts. I was pulling them out of the garbage and testing them, as fast as she could put them in. (They were in plastic packages.) Catherine was warning me that I might get poisoned. At the same time, I was fascinated by the new flavours and began to sing, “Found a peanut …”

Hebe was captivated by every verse that kept mounting, all the way to died anyway, went to heaven, wouldn’t take me, and went the other way ….

Then I had to ask Catherine if Hebe knew the difference between heaven and hell. But that is not really what I wanted to know. What was really interesting me was if I could keep her enthralled for some length of time and if so, how long. And I was also testing to see if I could keep her from saying “You are the worst grandmother ever, I hate you and I am going to kiil you.”

I know how to translate those words. They mean, oh I am surprised that you are in my space, and further to your presence, you are also speaking and so bothering the lovely silence I am enjoying, and I can get rid of you if I say something that will surprise and shock all of the people around me. I love translating that for her. Catherine is a master at reframing what Hebe says so that it sounds meaningful to people around her.

But Hebe doesn’t always like having her words changed. One time she got mad, gave us a tirade, and at the end of it looked her mother right in the eye and said, “And no translating.” I loved that. I can’t help laughing. Belly laughs. Like Hebe’s bad words, my laughs are out before I know it. Catherine has told me not to laugh for it raises the level of Hebe’s ire.

Anyone with suggestions for stopping automatic belly laughs?


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

White Sock Decorations

Years ago Catherine saw some home-made decorations she loved.

They were small white children’s socks into which were dropped the pictures of children in the household.

Catherine made them for different years and those are the decorations she really treasures when she puts them on the tree.

Since I would be here for Christmas, she asked Rebecca if she would go downtown and find some more socks so that I could be added to the tree.

Rebecca and Thomas agreed to go to the Bay and when they got there, Rebecca decided to speak to the clerk with her best French.

“Avey-vous des chausettes pour des enfants blanc?”

The clerk gave her a blank stare.

Rebecca tried again, “Avey-vous des chausettes pour des enfants blanc?”

Again the blank stare.

Thomas was gasping by this time. 

He poked Rebecca and said, “You have said it wrong. You want to ask for white baby socks, not socks for white babies.”

These  will always be our favourite Christmas decorations.


Walking in Monreal

... Montreal's Coference Centre

once Mary gets off of the Metro she is so
hot she has to take off her coat, even if it
is -20 outside.
I haven't walked, seriously walked, for a couple of days now.  

Catherine and Mary offered to walk me through the indoor malls that are connected to the subway today.

I knew I needed to go and they knew that I needed a bit of a push out the door.

Naomi came along, just in case our walking might take us into stores where she could shop.

As well, I needed to go back to the movie theatre, having left my toque there while watching Star Wars, Episode VII, the Last Jedi last night.  Twelve of us were involved in the excursion -- all of us onto the subway, up three long fights of escalators in the theatre, through the popcorn concession and into the seats we had purchased online.  Eric was able to come with us.  He can control his motion sickness if he gets a seat in the very back of the theatre, and takes a Gravol.  

But today's trip to the theatre was to look through their Lost and Found.  

"I would like to say that we donate all of these items to the homeless shelter, what is not picked up.  But I have to say, we just throw it away," said the attendant helping us.  

Catherine and I sorted through 6 large boxes of lost items.  I found myself picking out the best of the scarves and folding them.  Just an impulse I can't control.

Not finding my toque, the attendant told us to go into the theatre and look for it there.  "Just be discreet if the movie is rolling," he said.  We went right to the spot where we had sat, and there was the toque.

Just loved it, though getting there had cost us the return price of four tickets on the subway -- enough to have purchased an even better toque.


The Third Annual Jarvis Home Party

 ... a tree filled with home-made
decorations from years past ...
Eric and Catherine invited as many people as will fit into their house, to a party on December 23rd.

Divide and conquer is the strategy.

The parents stay upstairs.

The children go downstairs to play with lego and Thomas the Train toys.

Other children watch a movie – Polar Express this year. “We have already seen this movie,” said one little family. “Then you can play with toys.” “No. We watched it in French. Now we want to watch it in English.”

Catherine had small plastic cups for the children to fill with candy: skittles, smarties, sour soothers, red liquorice, and jelly strips. “Candy is good for you?”, one little boy asked. “Of course. Now fill up and watch the movie.”

Thomas and I were on duty. The door between the upstairs and downstairs had to be kept closed so that the noise from upstairs didn’t bother us downstairs. Occasionally some little boy would go right up to the movie screen and get nose to nose with it so that the other children couldn’t see the frame.

Some of them needed water – since continuous fill-ups on the candy cups created a deep thirst in some. It was a sugar extravaganza. Hebe was downstairs with us, keeping her eye on her electronic screen and at the same time watching along with the movie. At one point I heard her say, “What does transform mean?” for she had heard it on the movie. Before I could get my answer ready one of the other kids watching had delivered the answer to her.

Upstairs there was a talk and then a dessert table. If the kids wanted dessert, they had to go upstairs and stay upstairs until it was finished. Then they could come back downstairs. I didn’t want to mix the sugar upstairs with the sugar downstairs.

A lovely time was had by all. Well, mostly by all. One woman noticed that her slippers were missing. Then she saw them on the feet of another woman. “That woman is going to take my slippers home. I am going to stop her."

I didn’t think this was going to go over well. Catherine intervened, explaining to the owner of the slippers, “I think we have a cultural difference here. In that woman’s culture, having slippers at your door for the guests is what is expected. She thinks I have provided those slippers for my guests. She is not going to take them home.”

Catherine was right. The slippers were left behind.



Friday, December 22, 2017

10 for $1.00

I listened carefully to Catie. She has been asking to go to Tim Hortons every day for a week now. If she asks subtlety or explicitly, she can’t get anyone in the house to stop in there with her. Not that people aren't working towards Xmas. Ten timbits for $1. That is what is being offered there. The small print is, “with a beverage”. She explained that the beverages come at $1.59, $1.79 and $1.99. We tried to figure out the best deal: 2 small drinks and 2 cartons of TimBits, or the two large drinks ….

Catherine said that she would join us at Tims if we would go shopping with her. Grocery shopping, her last go at it until after Christmas. This was serious checking off the grocery list work for the two of them. I used the time to walk the emptier isles at the grocery store and put in some steps.

The 10 timbits for $1 did not disappoint us. As we sat for a moment, drinking the hot chocolate and getting ready to take the cartons of “holes” home we tried to think of the best part of our day. For Catie it was a visit with a woman who has hired her to do some work which involves scalpels, pig skin and salmon oil pills, plus reading a medical text. Hard to believe how that could make it a really good day, but it does for Catie.

Catherine had received a thank-you note from the emergency department of a hospital. She referred a patient from the walk-in clinic on to them and they put in a stent, saving his life. So there is one man who is like me – amazed at every breath he breathes.

My best part of the day was having Catherine come out of the plumbers. We had driven to the far east of the island to find a part for the tub. While she was there she saw a set of measuring spoons, reduced from $40 to $20. She told the woman she would take them. Since they were discontinued, the clerk couldn’t find them in the computer and wouldn’t sell them to her. Catherine came to the car, shaking her head and saying, “It is a store. The product was on the counter. They wouldn’t sell it to me. I thought they were in business to sell their product. I am too busy today to argue with them.” She shook her head again.

Life is a lot of fun.


A & W - our trip

As of two days ago, Catie still had an A&W stocking stuffer coupon to use from last year’s Christmas.

She was going out to use it.

Before she left the house, we were discussing fast food places – who uses them, when, where and why.

I told her I have trouble doing what my friends do – going to a fast food joint, taking my computer and hanging out for the afternoon. She agreed with me. It is always take-out for her. So we did an experiment. We both took a book, walked to our local A&W, order a hamburger, fries and root beer in the classic mugs which are chilled to -15 degrees.

I think Catie and I are basically people watchers. We ate and listened in to the conversations at the tables around us. When those people had taken their leave, when our burgers were finished, and when we could see we still have a whole afternoon left ahead of us, we pulled out reading material – a new novel for her, Mormon Feminisim: Essential Writings for me. We gave ourselves a time limit of absolute attention to our books and we tried to relax.

Hard for a couple of people who are work oriented.

Fun though!


Let It Snow

Hebe is in white in the middle
"Let it Snow Dance Show" is the name of Hebe’s concert at school.

Catherine told me to get there early to have a good seat.

I was ½ an hour early and four rows back, which I consider to be a good seat.

The programme began with someone telling us some history about the two school who would be performing. A signer was there translating with her hands for us.

I was struck by the name of one of the donors toward the programme: “Thanks to the Altman-Nakashima family who supports us in the name of their son Justin who loved coming to school”.

This cannot be said of Hebe.  The part about loving school.  Every morning she is in trauma going out the door. Someone may laugh at her hat. She didn’t do enough homework. What if the boy next to her comments on her glasses. Why can’t she change schools? Would being in a different family help? Who cut the grapes and added them to her fruit salad for that has ruined her day and she can’t go to school because of it.

This is the same school that made some other little boy’s day.
LtoR back row: person in yellow, Hebe with special arm move

She has been talking about this performance for days, working on it, worrying that one of the other little boys in the class will not do his part correctly and so ruin the whole day.

There were 19 numbers, all about snow. Penguins, ice sculptures, a toy train (each wheelchair was decorated as though it were a different train of the car).

Hebe’s class did “The Whos of Whoville”.

She didn’t want to wear the fringed psychedelic hat of the other “whos” in the class, so her hair was done up Princess Leia style with some pom poms added.

The miracle of the show was that everyone got to dance. At some time or another each performer came to the front of the stage for their 5 seconds of fame while the whole auditorium wildly clapped for each – which mean about 1 ½ hours of happy frenzy.

Some parents were cheering wildly, others were sobbing. I was doing both.


Holiday Inn - fun, fun, fun

Holiday Inn
Broadway Special in HD
The Latin Quarter is where the theatre is situated that broadcast the Broadway Special of Holiday Inn

Actually there are a number of theatres there -- Eric told me, Montreal's equivalent of Broadway or West End.

We got off the metro at UQAM where I was told that UQAM is not a French word -- it stands for University of Quebec at Montreal. 

We walked past the provincial library, another surprise to me.

There  weren't just the 7 of us going to the theatre, but our neighbour hood children, Lulu and Tobani, joined us.

There were only 7 other people in the theatre.

I added some cans of pop to my treat back which was already full from a trip down the candy isle at the dollar store.  I even found a chocolate bar named Grouchy, for anyone who wasn't enjoying the family outing.

Hebe got a running commentary from her mom to keep the story straight.  And the night before, Catherine and Hebe had gone out to utube to see some of the dance numbers, plus a tour of backstage to see where the props were kept in such a small theatre.

We heard 20 of Irving Berlin's songs.  That was a gift.

The three that were familiar to the kids were "I'm Dreaming of White Christmas", "Blue Skies", and "Happy Holidays", though most of us could only sing happy holidays over and over when we tried to remember that song.

I came out of the theatre thinking I could tap dance.
This was already broadcast on PBS.  We aren't a PBS household so we enjoyed the show on the big screen with drinks, popcorn, candy and lots of room, though we all choose to sit in the same row.

The Guardian gave a luke warm review.

But we had fun!


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Who are you most like?

I have the mother-in-law suite here.
This is the early morning view from my window.
Half snow in our yard.
Half mansion across the street.
Eric asked me at the dinner table, “Who are you most like? Your mother or your father?”

He told me before dinner that he was going to try to get me to tell stories of my childhood.

The form of his question actually stumped me.

Most people tell me that I am like my mother. I have some of her outward trappings, but I think that on the inside I am a female replica of my father.  When people's beliefs defy reason I can feel a churning inside that I think belongs to Doral.

I dodged the question.

I told Eric that I was most like my daughter, Catherine, for I see her do things, and I think to myself – that is so me! For example, her taking the 5 or 6 extra coupons to get cheaper gas and running them back in the line to people who were getting gas behind her. Eric laughed and said, “Well, you have me there. That is something I wouldn’t think to do.”

I was left after dinner, still thinking about my parents.

Now that I am older, I think about they way they went out together, not just at Christmas, but every time they went out together. I have no memory of them going to a movie. Nor out to eat together.

Eric laughed and asked me if I wasn't sure that they just slipped off to be together someone.  I don't think they did.

But "dropping in on people"?  That is just what they did. Wyora usually baked something during the day and after the family was fed, off they would go at night to visit someone in the ward – someone who was inactive, someone who was grieving, a family in distress, a family new to the ward, or leaving the ward, someone with a new baby or recovering from an operation, someone who was old, or someone young and on their own.

Wyora had a gift in her hand, something from her heart. Doral had the words that took them over the doorstep and into the centre of conversations in their homes that were fun. More than fun – joyful. Meaningful.  Words that people would remember for years. Words that would come back to him in phone calls, or cards, or letters.

Now I don’t presume to be like either my mother or father, any more than genetics have determined. 

But the question, who are you most like?, might mean, who are you just a little bit like.

I do have my father’s curiosity about what makes people’s lives peculiar to them.

And I have a bit of my mother’s joy in giving.


Decorating the Tree

Photo by Richard: Sunrise, while looking for deer
The Christmas tree is lopsided.

And this is after the woman at the tree lot took her chain saw and straightened the trunk for us.

I do remember leaning over and saying to one of the girls, “Take note. Every woman should be able to operate a chain saw.”

The problem is not with the tree.

It is the plastic base that holds the tree. Although it was guaranteed for a lifetime it is now broken and there is not much use in decorating the tree until Catherine can make the tree perpendicular to the floor, so that it doesn’t lilt. Last night we went to Home Depot to buy a new Christmas tree base: $70.

“A lot for a tree base,” said Catherine as she was going through the check-out. “I will give you a deal,” said the clerk, taking Catherine’s charge card out of the reader and putting it back in, “20% off” .

“My first Christmas gift of the season,” said Catherine gratefully.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Bringing Home the Tree

... hot chocolate at the end of the night ...
... actually practising up for Christmas morning when it is on the menu ...
We had an intense planning meeting on Sunday, figuring out how to maximize the time left between now and Christmas.

Bringing home the tree was at the top of the list of important things to do and tonight Thomas drove us to the parking lot where the traditional tree has been selected over the years.  Driving with a new driver can be the thrill of the season all on its own.  And increase that exponentially by the number of people in the car who already have their permanent licences.

Half of the family wanted a tall, fat, bushy tree – one that would fill the vestibule.

Catherine wanted a tall skinny tree, one that would leave lots of room for us room where we can sit or play with games.

Eric and I sided with Catherine – a tall skinny tree.

Hebe might have thrown the casting vote, but she was still mad at me and elected to stay in the van.

Sometimes a family trip that is meant for happiness only works for 6 out of 7 people.

She wasn't having any happiness.

Rebecca playing "country roads take me home ... "

If you have sent us a Xmas Card 
it is up on that rope on the far wall.

No one is going to receive a card from this household.

We are so far behind on our lists of things to do that
I think we should just forget Xmas and go straight to Easter.
I had chased her with some snow previous to her getting mad.

Not to leave others out, I had made direct hits with the snow on Thomas and Eric as well.

But Hebe was mad and going to leave home when I threw some powder in her direction.

She marched off down the block.

I had to run ahead of her and throw snow that would direct her back to her mother, and thus into the car for what hopefully would still be a happy bringing-home-the-Christmas-tree excursion.

Hebe doesn’t recognize that with my age comes a generally slower pace and that it wouldn’t be hard to stay out of my way with just the smallest spurt of energy.

... wrapping the Xmas tree for transportation home ...
I spent the afternoon making pizza crust that had spices incorporated into the dough.

And then I made Grandmother Jarvis’s famous lemon square, so really, how could anyone be mad at me.

I did tell Hebe that the way I made the lemon square was way better than the way her other Grandmother makes it for her, even if it was her recipe.

Mine is filled with more love, I told her.

No wonder Hebe was mad at me.
... the snow begins to settle on Catie's hair ...

It was a lovely warm night and the snow was softly falling.

Strains of “Tannebaum” were being hummed in the car.

At the same time, Catherine was singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.

The only words that I could remember were “I’m Getting Nuttin’ for Christmas”.

I couldn’t remember all of the words and so have come home to the Internet to refresh my mind on the lyrics.

If I can just get Hebe to join in with “somebody snitched on me”, I will think tomorrow will be a success.

She did let me stroke her little hand tonight.

She was really tired and had lost most of her gumption.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter Coat

A few years ago Charise gave me a white hooded coat which I have worn everywhere.

I would not have purchased this coat.

I have worries about spills and stains.

It is a no brainer that white is not a practical colour.

But it was a gift and soon I was wearing it everywhere, and washing it when needed.

This is the coat I brought with me to Montreal, minus the hood. 

I was only staying three weeks. Catherine and Eric have made the welcome so warm, I have been here half of October and won’t return until January 9th. I need that hood.

I am outside often, walking Hebe home from school or going in and out of the subway 2 to 6 times a day. Hanging onto the banisters as I climb double flights of stairs, leaning my arms on well used chairs, brushing against the turnstile, leaning aginst the Opus card on the electrical reader, having the hem of my coat drag on the floor (as I sit on the chairs of the bus), all of this is as I am showing its toll. Still, I have no idea why dirt has climbed from the ring around my coat sleeve, up the inner seam of the coat and to the armhole seam.

Last night I was applying Naptha (the purest of soaps) to the long zipper and both sides of the coat, wondering if my knuckles could take the rubs that my mother used to do on a washboard.

This morning the coat looks as white as fallen snow and more clothing is in the wash, though a new crisis has arisen.

Eric and Catherine are on cleaning duty at the church. Catie, Rebecca and Thomas have gone to help someone paint their house. Hebe and I are alone. Alone and now the electricity has gone out. There was enough noise about it upstairs that I thought someone else had come home. But no. Hebe was working out her consternation at having the Gods of Electrical Power trump her happiness on the computer. She listened to me explain why I am powerless to get the electricity back.

Having her at the screen this morning was a joy for she was asking how to spell words that come up in games. I am going to make flash cards for those words – the words that lead to happiness when there is power. And these will be words she really needs to know (pirate and formal – she also needs to know what the word means, which is even more to the good).

Being home alone with her is fun. She is so mad about the power being out that I have once again become the dumbest grandmother. Hebe has closed the baby gate and shut the door to the basement to keep me contained in this lovely suite downstairs. When I went upstairs to check on her and found that out, I was laughing so hard that I had to lean against the wall. Closing a baby gate to control grandmother!

I am going to respect her boundaries.

Please, please, next time let me stay home from cleaning the church again and watch Hebe.


The PC Deal

At the grocery store, every time a customer buys over $250 worth of groceries they get a receipt -- 12 cents off per litre with a gas fill up. It is easy to run up a grocery bill over $250 with a family of 7.

And still come home and think you haven’t bought much to eat.

In fact Catherine doesn’t drive her car enough to make the fill ups equal the number of receipts she has beside her in the driver’s seat.

 I asked what she does with all of them.

She said that when she fills up her car, she takes her extra receipts and runs backward in the car line up, giving them to people who have lined up behind her.

That made me laugh very hard.

So me.


Kitchen Aid - an early gift

... a gift just for me ...
Catherine asked me what I wanted for Christmas.

I told her I wanted a heavy duty mix master, one that I could leave at her place and use when I visit her.

She let me pick it out. It is a Professional Series 5 Kitchen Aid. Making bread is going to be easier now.

I have only done dry runs with the machine, unpacking it, figuring out how to attach the beaters and how to move the bowl up and down.

I am making a list now of what I can make in the mix master. I want to get the price down to $1 per use before I leave here next month. I don’t really think I can make 300 items in the next 21 days, but at least I have set a goal.

Having the electricity black-out really hurt on Saturday. At least our family wasn’t cooking one of the turkeys for the ward party. Hebe’s two brothers came over to the house to hang out with Hebe on Saturday afternoon and then they went with us to join the festivities at the church. When they arrived at the house, one of them pulled out the pinball machine. The other took the Thomas the Train set and built tracks and bridges all over the large entrance and tracks that circled into the front room.

Then the daylight faded and the house was in the dark as we waited to go over to the church. Eric hadn’t been around all day to watch the boys at play. When he came in from work the house was dark and he tried to walk through those two rooms which were now booby-trapped with toys. I have to give Eric credit. He did not curse when he stepped on the wooden train tracks. I cannot remember what it was he said except I remember thinking, oh, so those are the words people use when they are stumbling and surprised.

 I wish I had that control.


Christmas Music Surrounds Us

 ... title page of Handel's
autographed score ...
From Rebecca:

 I put on the Messiah this morning, thinking, “hmm… what are my favourite 3 or 4 pieces here?” since I have asked that question of others.

I had only got through the overture, and into the first few refrains of “Comfort ye”, and the tears were sliding down my cheeks.

I had the flashback I often have to sitting at church in the Bow Valley Chapel (on our usual front pew location) beside Arta (I am sure I was not yet 10) and listening to someone do a song from the Messiah.

I could see tears slipping down her cheeks, and couldn’t figure out why: the song was not all that impressive to me….

Makes total sense now.

Never sure what part of it is in the words, or the music, or the past, or experiences of life, or of memories of singing with others, or all the various efforts to somehow capture the feeling of the ineffable, or thinking about the processes of composition, of all the hard work of “making” things in the world, or of performing them?


Friday, December 15, 2017

On Making Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Rebecca Jarvis wanted to take home made chocolate chip cookies to her volleyball party.

She laid down for a nap this afternoon and when she woke up, she thought it was already the day after the party.

 She self-corrected on that notion and came downstairs to make the cookies, but leaving the cooking close -- a couple of hours before her event was to begin.

Everything was going well. Well, perhaps maybe not that well. Catherine’s plastic 3-cup measuring cup has gone through the dishwasher so many times that the detergent has eaten away the red measuring lines on the cup. That is problematic for a new cook in the kitchen

And when measuring ½ a cup in a one cup metal container Rebecca and I had to figure out which ½ of the cup was the one we would really want to take.  I thought what we really wanted was just a 1/2 cup measuring unit, but there was not one to be found.

We couldn't get this outside fast enough!
At any rate, the butter and brown sugar got creamed, the flour and chocolate chips were added to the batter and we got the parchment paper on the cookie trays.

As she was working, Thomas came into the kitchen to make macaroni.

Catie arrived next to warm up last night’s birthday dinner. 

Catherine hadn’t eaten all day and she put her Arctic char in the microwave.

Five adults now squeezed in the same kitchen, all on different food-making agendas.

Catherine was doing double duty with Hebe, giving her a bath and at the same time noticing that the water in the bathroom was backing up.

 So she began to take out the drain and try to get the water running again, to no avail.

 It was just one of those days when unplanned for events started piling up.

I am still soaking the plate in our
favourite cleaner, trying to save
it, but I think it is headed for 
the recycling garbage.
Rebecca and I were working on a tight schedule.

We baked the chocolate chip cookies and then put them outside to cool, one of us standing guard at the window so that the squirrels didn’t take them away, and the other one of us timing the batches of cookies still in the oven.

 I was multi-tasking kitchen clean up as well, doing dishes at the same time and I wondered what the putrid burning smell was. I checked the cookies in the oven and all looked well. I wondered if the stove top had been turned on accidentally and nothing seemed to be wrong there. When Rebecca came back into the room I confirmed with her that something smelled like it was on fire. That is the moment when we noticed that instead of pressing the button on the microwave to start the timer, that the cook cycle was on instead.

When we opened the microwave, the top of the plastic food cover was melted and the size of the hole was about fist size. We could not tell what was on the plate under it, except that it was a blackened mess.

“Oh no, my mother’s Arctic char,” gasped Rebecca. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. And she hasn’t eaten all day.”

--now a flat plane of black bubbles ---
At the same moment, Eric called from work, for he was the recipient of the left-over food from an office party and needed a ride home.

As well, he was motion sick and hardly able to complete the day on his feet. The two of them decided to drop off the food at another Christmas party where he was to be Santa Claus but which he could now not attend because of the video he had watched had made him so sick he had to head for bed.

And when he came in the house to go to bed, the smell of the Arctic char, which I shall now call Arctic char-char, was not the most welcoming experience for him.  Nor for the rest of us.  Catherine and I took turns trying to return the house to a fresh air experience.

It is late evening now.

Just another happy Friday night for us at the Jarvis house, although the evening is not over.  Catherine has gone out to shop for Draino, though her own plumber told her not to waste her money on that product -- just use plunger power.

So far, that hasn't worked.



Gibby's Front Gates in Old Montreal
When the valet brought our car to us at the end of the evening,
it was strange to wonder how many horses and carriages had
pulled away from this spot hundreds of years ago.
Eric, Catherine, Catie and I stepped back in time when we entered Gibbys, housed in a magnificent 200-year-old building / stable in Old Montreal.

This was Catie's 18th birthday choice, a charming restaurant that boasts historic stone walls, original beamed ceilings, and a cozy fireplace.

A big yes to excellent food, superb service and a warm atmosphere.

The food was served on pewter dishes or on simple white dishes that were monogrammed with Gibby's logo, the stable gates.

The only down-side of any restaurant experience is the level of the noise.  Yet we leaned in towards each other and carried on a lively conversation of our own.

I told Catie that I could predict ahead of time that her dad would order a drink.  His was cranberry mixed with gingerale, which I could not have predicted.

... before the customers arrive ...
And Catie's drink covered all the pink hues, beginning at the bottom with a dark rose colour and then the colours rising to the top until there was just a gentle pink.  Beautiful.

A good time was had by all.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Extinguishing Angel - an afterward

I had to do it to myself -- I just had to see The Exterminating Angel.

The New Yorker gives a small review, a review so dense that I had to read it out loud.
Luis Buñuel’s absurdist 1962 film “The Exterminating Angel” skewers the comforts and complacency of the leisure class by forcing a group of guests to endure a never-ending dinner party that slowly drives them mad. Thomas Adès, in his gripping operatic adaptation, turns Buñuel’s quiet, Surrealist satire into a psychological horror show. The music is filled with sinister foreboding, brutalist percussive noise, jagged vocal lines, and fleeting wisps of romance, and Tom Cairns’s production fences in the well-heeled guests with a cold, monumental threshold that’s far removed from Buñuel’s luxurious yet cozy interiors. The singers work together like a crack theatrical ensemble, and Adès conducts the orchestra in a blistering performance.
I had such a good time watching the show.

 A scene from Thomas Adès’s “The Exterminating Angel,”
based on the 1962 Luis Buñuel film,at the Metropolitan Opera.
Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
I had prepared myself with lots of reviews, but probably not enough of them.

I was telling Eric about what made me laugh in the opera because previous to my seeing it, he had sent me a link to "The Hotel California" and told me that he thought the show was probably a cross between that song and Waiting for Godot.

Eric got the opera without seeing the show.

My biggest laugh came in the script where someone asked why the standards we desire (like having a table formally set with silverware) have dropped.

And the answer to the failed standard was something like, oh, the United States is setting the standard for us now.

Now that is a pretty funny line in an opera.

I would  have prepared 19 other questions and answers if I could have found anyone who wanted to take a quiz after the show for $$$$.

I did get to the theatre a bit early -- maybe 20 minutes.  One man was sitting at the very back and called to me, "I guess it is just you and me today".  I said, "We could go out and have coffee together for the next 10 minutes, but we can just chat here as well".  He told me how wonderful The Met Live performances are but that he usually just goes to New York to see the productions.  He has only seen about three of them in the cinema.  We chatted back and forth until other patrons began to arrive.

The seats were reserved -- I had to pick the exact spot where I wanted to sit.

Because the theatre was empty people were sitting in any spot.

Then someone on my row who had reserved that seat online came and asked them to move.  "Does it really matter when there are so many seats."

"This is the spot I paid for."

"Moving is such an effort when it doesn't really matter," replied the woman in a white puffed coat, stretching her arm out, while pointing to other seats.  The patron who had reserved the seat just stood her ground quietly.

Meanwhile a woman in an ankle length black opera coat was climbing over patrons, one by one, to find her seat.

I thought a Buñuelian absurdist event was shaping up before the movie even started.


Merry Christmas from Wyona

... the upside down tree ...
... white with black decorations ...
... a miracle to get a tree up so early ...
Thank you for the lovely party this afternoon and tonight.

Nothing like a child's birthday party.

The chili, cake and hot dogs plus the pre dinner snacks were exquisite.

 Greg said when he got home that he just loves watching those little kids. When they were upstairs they were delightful.

I don't know what happened downstairs and I did not check. They are so happy to see each other, so kind to each other, no-one that I saw even cried, not one child crying. I must commend you parents, the cousin generation, and how sweet, yet rambunctious at times, your children are. They are so much fun to watch and trying to interact with them is also a hoot. There were eleven children there and I think the same number of adults.

Any child who came near me I think I tried to tease them.

Maybe that is why they never bother me.

It was nice to have Matt and David at the party as well. And another funny thing, no-one cried when they had to leave.

Only Tim cried at the state of his basement but how fun it was!

Happy Holidays to all of you!

One year we will do Christmas at the lake.


I love shopping

Catherine snapped this picture when the subway train was heading in to our station.

I love shopping.  And we had done a lot of it:  2 pair of new shoes, and new keys. This moment was the end of it.

But I had another round at the stores today.

I don't need to buy anything.  I did get 3 scarves into my cart and 2 leather wallets that were 75% off.  I wish I could have gone through the check-out with all of that.

Even with any of it would have been good.

I  had the happiness of finding the items, of trying them on, and of believing that they would make a difference in my life when I wore them.

Then they went back on the shelves.

Catherine let me come to her clinic this morning.

I was trying to walk into the clinic for exercise.  The bonus was that she gave me my flu shot, something that has been hard to arrange.

The weather was cold.  When I tried to walk home my glasses were so foggy I couldn't really see where my feet were going.  I decided getting on the Metro was a good alternative and went to the shopping centre at McGill to finish walking.  I retraced my steps when it was time to go home, and I came out at Peel Metro Station which really made me laugh.  I didn't find my first metro station, but I was close.


On Turning Eighteen

Catie's Wish:3 Tiers of Cakes
Yule Log, Tuxedo Cake, Strawberry Cheese Cake
Nothing more could have been tucked into Catie’s birthday. 

She had been looking for new red shoes, doing on-line shopping, if not ordering, at least seeing what was available.

All of us had seen the red shoe with the ruffle at the heel, since Catie had shown it around the family, wondering if it was too much.

Catherine knew the birthday count down was on and that getting those shoes was not at the top of her list.
Street Music
Pick up a hammer, play the notes
represented here on metal bars

The three of us took the trip to the Alexis Nihon mall where Catie bought a beautiful tan suede high heel, but the perfect red shoe was not there in her size.

So off we went to the McGill Mall – a place where I might get lost and never be found again.

But Catherine didn’t let me wander since getting to the evening event meant not looking left or right.

So on the eve of Catie’s birthday we went to the Stake Christmas Music Festival.

We were not there on time for the pre-concert practise with the choir.
At the Carol Festival Concert

This was just one of those days when it was hard to get everyone in the car at the same time, and when exits from the freeway were closed, and when the streets were just packed with cars going who knows where.

Eric and I found a place where we disagree.

He said, better late than never. I told him, I was raised with “better never, than late”.

He laughed as he often does.

I think it is the laugh of recognition of differences, him believing in better late than never, and me believing in never, than late.

Catie packed her French horn along on her back.  She is only 3 times at tall as that horn.

Catie and her teacher played a duet: "Hark How the Bells".

The next day Catie played in her piano teacher’s Christmas Concert. 
The 18th birthday wish
Red Shoes

She played J.S. Bach’s "Three-part Invention in E-Major" and L. van Beethoven’s "Sonata in C-Major", one movement. 

Catherine said that she has never heard a concert where the students were so musical.

I absolutely agreed with her.

The sound in the hall was so good.
A Christmas Miracle
... we came across a Christmas tree 
decorated in red shoes...

Catie pointed out that it was because of the bevelled walls of the auditorium.

And further to that, the grand piano sounded so good.

On our way to the concert we got lost, even using the GPS. 

The address was 305, Mont-Royal Est, but Catherine didn’t type in the “Est”, so after we had paid for parking and discovered the mistake, we hopped back in the car.

But not before Eric had done his act of compassion.

A woman stopped him on the street and asked for money for food.
a Hanoukkah gingerbread house
... in Montreal Costco ...

He told her he would buy her a meal at the corner A & W and he motioned for the three of us to just continue on to the concert without him, that he would catch up.

When he met up with us he said told us that the A&W wouldn’t let him buy her a meal.

They brought out the manager who shook his hands at the customer to shoo her away. He told Eric that she is a regular beggar, and he didn’t want to have her in his establishment.  The manager would not let Eric buy her food.

And that was the unexpected part of Catie’s birthday.


Monday, December 11, 2017

More on Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent
On Rebecca's suggestion, I took the chance to see the film, Loving Vincent.  

I was really looking at the Cineplex Forum Website for the time of the Met production of The Extinguishing Angel when I saw that there were 3 performances of Loving Vincent, and one of them at a time when Catie and I could attend.

Having a house that is a ten minute walk from the Metro is a bonus in Montreal.  In less than 1/2 an hour we can be to the theatre, have our tickets purchased and be sitting in our seats.

I spent the evening googling Vincent van Gogh, his life, his painting and I also went looking for more about the making of this movie. 

The whole Jarvis family visited Auvers sur Oise this summer, so Catie was more familiar with the landscape than I.

If  you  are interested in six minutes about this film, click on this utube short.

Rebecca reminded me that in Paris we saw an exhibition that was built around Van Gogh's madness.  

When I was in Amsterdam with Zoe we spent a whole day in the Van Gogh Museum.

Still, I haven't seen enough.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sweet Singing in the Choir

Our choir director’s name is Olivia Hutchinson. As Catherine says of her, “Olivia, I would sing for you anytime, anyplace, anywhere”.

The performance music is in black binders which we pick up. She sings our notes before the pianist has turned the page to the next song.

She tells us to try singing as though we were speaking as Nemo does in Finding Dory and then she makes us practise this – no music, only words until we have the long drawn out sound on the vowels. 

Then she tells us to sing O Holy Night as though we were Nemo and we come to the words, “Fall on your your knees. The whole choir stops singing in amazement at the sound we have just made. 

“Don’t be too proud of yourselves,” she cautions. “We have more lines of music to sing and shouldn’t stop here.”

The piece de resistance comes at the end of choir practise. Anyone who still has a voice and desire walks through softly falling snow to the Villa Maria Metro stop (this is a block away from the church). We gather in a flat space behind the escalators and sing Christmas carols. The high ceilings and the huge space in the cavernous metro rotunda makes our voices sound much better than they are.

Little families are there -- now on their way home from church.  Last week Catherine brought Christmas hats for the small ones to wear. This week I noticed children who were old enough just held their choir parent’s hands and sung along.

Last week, metro patrons came over to give us money.

“No. We have no way to accept money. Donate it to a good cause of your choice.”

Today there was loud clapping.

Some people perch on a window ledge. Others gaze out the window as though they are unaware of the sound they are hearing. An old man lay on a metro bench, his knees tucked up so that he would fit on the concrete slab, a duffle bag under his head for a pillow. His eyes stayed closed as we sang.

Olivia, I would sing for you anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

And especially in the metro.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Loving Vincent ... a movie not to miss

Surrounding myself with Vincent for the week...
I headed off tonight to see "Loving Vincent" at the University Theatre.   Wow.

It is a feature length film, something of a 'mystery', as a young man attempts (a year after Van Gogh's death) to deliver a letter written by the artist to his brother Theo.

It is animated, done totally in the style of Van Gogh, using 65,000 hand-painted oil paintings

Here is the trailer.

Here is a newspaper article with a bit more detail on the film.

It was exquisite.  It was like occupying the world of Van Gogh's paintings (i think they said there are something like 180 of his originals that show up in the film.  The film is populated by characters from his paintings.   Years back, in one of my fits of pedagogical weirdness, I had been channelling arta by putting prints up on the walls and then trying to bribe the kids into learning the names.   Van Gogh had been up there.   And so it felt so INTIMATE watching the movie (like it was full of scenes and people I already knew).

The movie is so beautiful, though I also came home feeling so sad.   So... i pulled the Van Gogh prints off the shelf, and put them back up on the walls for the rest of the week.

I might see if I can catch the last showing again tomorrow.

If you get a chance to see this film, TAKE IT!

More Greetings from Salmon Arm

From Bonnie Johnson

Things are busy and wonderful here in Salmon Arm.

Diabetes Awareness Day Poster
Marla, David, and I had lunch at the Blue Canoe on Diabetes awareness day. David had learned about it at school and had reminded me to wear blue.

Noella and Marla had a cookie making day and then gifts were dropped at the doors of friends on the First of December.

Noella and I both like drawing, so we have a club that is just the two of us. We are starting to work our way through Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers in our free time. Thanks to Richard, Miranda, Michael, Alice, and Betty for introducing me to Rosie Revere, Engineer - the children's story book.


Family Connections through Tabletop Games

From Bonnie Johnson:

My car only has room for one passenger today. 

Last night we loaded every table top game in our home into the car and took them to the Health Unit for the ASD Parent Support Group meeting.

On the white board I wrote:

" Family Connections through Tabletop Games"

Underneath I wrote a few definitions.

Family: A family is who they say they are. (Lorraine Wright and Maureen Leahey, 2009).

Tabletop Games: "Tabletop games are games that are normally played on a table or other flat surface, such as boardgames, card games, dice games, miniatures wargames or tile-based games." (Wikipedia, Dec 7, 2017).

There were 12 people who attended, with one group being a three generation family presence (4 yr old girl, mother, grand mother).

We played in various small groups a total of 5 games in one hour.

Just under half of us self-identify as having ASD.

There were many smiles, lots of learning, and an abundance of love in that room.

Some one asked David how we came to have over 70 games in our possession.

He recalled, it all began when my Great Aunt Janet and my Great Uncle Glen were cleaning out their attic. It was like a garage sale, but they let us take any of their games away for free.

Bonnie adds: If you study the photos, you just might see "Pilling" written on some of them. We consider ourselves just the careful caretakers of these games until their children or grandchildren want them back.


Greetings from Salmon Arm

From Bonnie

Things are busy and wonderful here in Salmon Arm.

Marla, David, and I had lunch at the Blue Canoe on Diabetes awareness day. David had learned about it at school and had reminded me to wear blue.

Noella and Marla had a cookie making day and then gifts were dropped at the doors of friends on the First of December.

Noella and I both like drawing, so we have a club that is just the two of us.

We are starting to work our way through Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers in our free time.

Thanks to Richard, Miranda, Michael, Alice, and Betty for introducing me to Rosie Revere, Engineer - the children's story book.


RX - aqua size, a prescription for good health

Friday is acqua size at the Outrement swimming pool. Choose either the warm pool where the exercise is easier or choose the cold pool where heart rates can go up to its maximum number of beats for good health. Catherine and I are the last ones in the pool. Read, we are always 10 minutes late.

Today we were 20 minutes late and Catherine asked, "Is the exercise really worth it when we are this late?"

I can be on time.

Catherine can be on time.

What holds us up is that along the way to swim we have to drop Hebe off at school. She is not anxious to go. Catherine has to dress her in the morning, give her breakfast, and then Hebe goes back to lay on her bed. When it is time to go out the door, Catherine has to put on Hebe's boots, find her gloves, pull her monster hat down over her ears, zipper up her ski jacket and then listen to her say, "How dare you forget my homework."

And then we have family prayer. Of the 7 of us there, three are prostrate (still lying in bed) and 3 are on their knees (Eric, Catherine and me). Hebe gets to say the prayer. She leans against her mother and repeats the words told to her, with a few additions.

One of them is about the brains of her grandmother (still the stupidest woman ever and she adds something about her father, too, so I do not feel singled out). I am glad I am leaning on a bed with my forearms, since my whole body is shaking with such laughter.  I am careful not to let one sound bite come out of my mouth.  But I can't get  up,  until I can control the shaking of my body.  Someone asks me if I am alright.

Hebe, Catherine and I finally get in the car.

All the way to school Hebe is saying, "I am not going to school today."

When we get to school she lags behind her mother as they walk past the automatic double doors and into the rotunda of the school.  We are so late that the woman who is there to check off the names of the children in each classroom is not in the hall anymore.

Catherine and I watch Hebe's back as she slowly walks straight ahead and into her classroom.

A lonely looking little figure.  Her snow pants which were over her arm are now dragging on the floor and the weight of her back back is almost overwhelming to her shoulders.


 Swim class.

 The best day ever.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Young Marx - reviewed by Catie

{Incised in gold letters in the granite:}
Workers of all lands unite. 
Karl Marx. {On an old white marble stone:} 
Jenny von Westphalan, the beloved wife of Karl Marx, 
born 12th February 1814, died 2nd December 1881. 
And Karl Marx, born May 5th 1818, 
died March 14th 1883. 
And Harry Longuet, their grandson, born July 4th ...
Grandmother and I hit the show with lots of contraband (candy from the Dollarama and Rootbeer and giant chocolate bars with hazelnuts from Catherine's storage unit).

We have a new view of Marx and Engles.

Engles played a big part in supporting Marx.

And even though Engles said he was not an analyst, he had a whole monologue on the word "brutalized" which he said Marx could never use again when speaking of himself.

Now Engles let us see behind the scenes in the Manchester districts that we don't hear about: 10 families living in a small area, one bathroom, and children play in excrement.

The artistic director, Nicholas Hytner told us that some of the most crazy and usual things we would see in the play were true.  There was a duel for Marx's wife Jenny who went off with another communist for a night.

The two men decided to have a duel.  The editor of the newspaper showed up to tell Marx information, people leading the battle said to get out of the way and the editor was the one who got shot. 

Apparently Marx started a fight in the London reading room of the National Library.  Marx met Darwin there in the library and in this play gave Darwin the idea of using the phrase "The Origin of the Species".  This might not be true, but it made the audience laugh.

Marx had boils on his butt which he lanced himself for his wife wouldn't help him.  He showed the audience how he did that with a mirror.

Marx spent a lot of time hiding in the closet, mostly from creditors.

He hid in the chimney.  Nym, the maid, came in and kept shifting around the coals and I was afraid something more was going to happen there.

The funeral for Marx's young song, Foxy, was a serious moment.  Marx told the grave digger to join the funeral and not be ashamed of the worker's clothes, which showed that he was always aware of his philosophy.

Having the show end  by demonstating that Marx might not have written the book himself, but that he played his ideas off of Nym, Jenny and Engles, was a good idea.

We could see that when Engles said he would support Marx and his family with 5 pounds a week, that truly Engles saw the value in Marx's ideas and that was important.

I like the stage setting.  As the director was saying, he created this theatre to have the theatre adapt to the needs of the play.  We saw rooms and scenery on one turntable of a building, so the the doors opened up into each other.  The scenery was dark.  It was never really light, though we had the street lamps.

There was always something to laugh about which was a good way to keep interest up.  I am not good with historical terms, so I was wondering if I would get the communist / capitalist dichotomy.  But the way they presented it made it easy to understand.  When it is personal and working through the characters it makes more sense.

The Soho video was helpful at the intermission.  By the end of the first act, we really hadn't seen what the district of Soho in London was like.  But when the historian talked about the context of Soho with these characters, the stage was set for the second portion of the act.

By that time we knew who was whom, and what they stood for.  We saw how important Nym was.  She was the maid who ended up being like family for she was a gift to Jenny when Jenny married Marx.  The fact that she is named on the gravestone makes her family.  The gravestone says Workers of all lands unite.  When Grandma and I got home we checked on wiki to see what it costs to visit the grave:  $6.  Apparently the cemetery is on private property and it costs money for upkeep.

Engles had sophisticated clothing.  Marx's shirt was rarely tucked in and his hair was all over the place.  You could tell by the costuming, the social place people had in society.  You could see the class from the clothing, though Marx was working to change that.

Someone warned Marx that he would fight him to the end of eternity.  Marx explained that eternity has no end, so what he was saying made no sense and so could not be true, which establishes the fact that humour was always present in the play.

And this is the end of my review.


Musee des beaux-arts du Canada - permanent collection

Finally a chance to sit and rest
in front of a stained glass window.
Thursday is the day that the Musee des beaux-arts is free for people over 65 years old.

I am familiar with taking the bus down to the museum now. I was hoping to stay there most of the day.

 There was no Mary around to pack me a lunch. I wish I had thought of doing it on my own.

When I arrived I went straight to the fourth floor for the first hour.

 I wanted to look at their Inuit art collection.

I walked slowly and enjoyed about 2/3rds of it.

Couldn't help but fall in love
with the Swan element of this chair
When I got off of the elevator on the fourth floor, I couldn’t go straight to the collection for I had to gaze out of the windows at the beautiful setting – Montreal at its best seen through those windows: the mountain, charming apartment buildings, gracious homes, the sculpture garden below me.

I thought I was going to cry. I may have done a few quiet heaves of the chest as I looked out of the window. I tried to remember that in the heart clinic someone told me that if that happens, just let emotion overwhelm me. I did take some long breaths.

I looked for the tour of the day.

It was a 45 minute tour of the new Peace Pavilion.

Most of the patrons there were wanting the French tour which was good for me, since only three people came with us to see the four floors through the eyes of the English translator.

Ruby Pineapple Chandelier
Chihuly Glass Collection
On my tour later, I was to discover that the architect designed the outer gardens so that people would have an emotional reaction to them.

The woman pointed out how the aluminum beams are the only structure between us and lovely Montreal.

I loved my time in that museum.

Now I am trying to figure out with the days I have left, should I just buy a museum pass for the year?